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The 15 Best Tours and Activities in New York City

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Amar Hussain

Amar Hussain

Senior Content Contributor

Countries Visited: 63U.S. States Visited: 9

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications incl...
Edited by: Keri Stooksbury

Keri Stooksbury


Countries Visited: 41U.S. States Visited: 28

With years of experience in corporate marketing and as the Executive Director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Qatar, Keri is now Editor-in-Chief at UP, overseeing daily content operations and r...
& Kellie Jez

Kellie Jez

Director of Operations & Compliance

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In “The City That Never Sleeps” there is always somewhere amazing to be. From the iconic landmarks of Manhattan to the hip and trendy bars of Brooklyn and everything in between, New York City is one of the most exciting cities in the world.

With so much to see and do, a tour might be one of the best ways to get a grip on the city while also learning from an experienced guide. Below are our top picks for the best tours and activities in New York.

Statue of Liberty Pedestal, Ellis Island, and Pre-Ferry Tour

Duration: 4-6 hours

Rating: 4.3/5

Get up close and personal with the Statue of Liberty, on this half-day tour of some of New York City’s most famous icons. A 30-minute guided tour of Battery Park will introduce you to the area’s unique history, including the Battery Cannon, Battery Oval, Coast Guard Memorial, Bosque Gardens, and Castle Clinton.

You will then head off on the ferry to visit Liberty Island itself, where you will be able to access to the pedestal and Pedestal Museum and take a self-guided audio tour using the headset provided. Finally, cross over to Ellis Island to see the Ellis Island Museum where you can find out more about the facility that originally processed new arrivals at the start of their lives in America.

Want to learn more about the Statue of Liberty tour, along with prices and availability? Click to check prices and availability.

Tour of 9/11 Memorial and One World Observatory Ticket

Duration: 2.5 hours

Rating: 4.8/5

See how New York City has recovered following the tragic events of 9/11. This walking tour takes you to the site of the former World Trade Center where you can pay your respects at Ground Zero and visit the 9/11 memorial. You can also spend a quiet moment at the Reflecting Absence Memorial, the largest human-made waterfall, inside the 9/11 Memorial, that was designed to symbolize the vast void left by the tragedy.

The second part of the tour takes with a visit to the Freedom Tower Observatory, where you can capture amazing views out across the city, and visit the Freedom Tower with Voices exhibition which features a film dedicated to the men and women of the World Trade Towers.

Learn more about the 9/11 Memorial tour, along with photos, prices, and availability.

2-Hour Harbor Lights Night Cruise

Duration: 2 hours

Rating: 4.4/5

This 2-hour twilight cruise of New York Harbor offers spectacular views of Manhattan as the sun sets, and the chance to enjoy cocktails as you listen to your expert guide tell you all about the Big Apple. Cruise on by close to the iconic Statue of Liberty before cruising under some of the city’s most iconic bridges, such as the Brooklyn Bridge and the Williamsburg Bridge.

Your tour narration app will tell you all about the famous sites that pass you by, while the onboard bar serves up hot and cold beverages, beer, wines, and cocktails.

If you’re looking for socially-focused tour, this may be what you’re looking for. Click to check Harbor Lights Night cruise price, photos, and availability.

Superheroes of New York: 2-Hour Guided Tour

Duration: 2 hours

Rating: 4.4/5

New York is home to some of the most iconic superhero scenes ever created. In this short tour, visitors will learn where Batman was saved from being just another canceled show, and where Christopher Reeve first flew as Superman, among other fascinating comic insights.

Starting at the Headquarters of the United Nations, your tour will take in the Green Goblin’s apartment, the Chrysler Building, Grand Central Terminal, and the site where Stark Tower is supposed to be located. You will also get the opportunity to go inside the Daily News building, as well as historic Publishers Row where some of the world’s most iconic comics were first created, and the offices of Will Eisner and Bob Kane.

This short walking tour is an absolute must for comic fans visiting New York. Learn more about the Superheroes of NY tour, along with photos, prices, and availability.

Hot Tip: For more family-friendly activities, check out these things to do in New York City with kids.

2-Hour Cupcake Tour of Greenwich Village

Duration: 2 hours

Rating: 4.4/5

If you love cake, then this tour is baked just for you. This 2-hour walking tour will take you through some of the best boutique bakers in Greenwich Village, where you can sample a variety of sweet treats before baking your own. Cupcake tours are one of the hottest new trends in the city, and this tour will take you to some of the very best venues including Baked by Melissa, Crumbs Bake Shop and Milk & Cookies in the West Village.

Later in the tour, you and your small group of fellow bakers will head on over to Molly’s Cupcakes to whip up your own unique flavors to take away with you. Finally, you will stop off at Amorino in Greenwich Village, where you can sample 22 different flavors of gelato in just one bite!

The best way to experience a city is through the food and this tour is here to help you experience NYC. Click to check the Cupcake tour’s prices & availability.

New York City Helicopter Tours

Duration: 15-30 minutes

Rating: 4.4/5

See the city from the air in a helicopter that comes complete with floor-to-ceiling convex windows to give you heart-stopping views out across the Big Apple. Your short flight will give you a birds-eye view of the beautiful Central Park, the Hudson River, the New York Harbor, and the Intrepid Sea Air Space Museum.

You will also see some of the city’s most impressive buildings including the Rockefeller Center, the Empire State Building, the World Financial Center, and the Chrysler Building. No aerial tour of the city would be complete without flying past the Statue of Liberty herself and the historic splendor of the Brooklyn Bridge.

This is a must if you want to experience the city like few get to. You’ll be fascinated by how 1.6 million people occupy such a geographically small area. Click to read more about the NYC Helicopter tour, along with prices, photos, and availability.

Beast Speedboat Ride

Duration: 30 minutes

Rating: 4.8/5

A ride on The Beast is not your average boat tour, as this adrenaline-fueled 30-minute tour comes complete with an upbeat soundtrack and speeds of up to 45 mph. The Beast is a jet-powered, custom-built, 70-foot offshore racing powerboat that will take you from the New York Harbor out past the Statue of Liberty and back again, passing by a number of iconic sights along the way. Fast-paced and super exciting, this high-octane boat tour is one of the more thrilling ways to see the city.

Sound of interest? Click to check prices and availability for the Speedboast tour.

Hot Tip: When you use points and miles for your hotel and flight to New York City, you’ll have extra money to splurge on tours and activities.

Brooklyn Bridge and Dumbo Walking Tour in NYC

Duration: 2 hours

Rating: 4.6/5

Nothing to do with the elephant of the same name, this walking tour takes you on an informative tour across the Brooklyn Bridge and into the trendy Brooklyn neighborhood known as Dumbo. Chock full of art galleries, high-end boutiques, cozy pizzerias, and friendly bars, this tour takes you across cobblestone streets that are still steeped in history.

Old converted warehouses look sleek and inviting, while the Brooklyn Bridge Park is a great place to stop and enjoy the endless waterfront views of the Manhattan skyline and the Brooklyn Bridge that stretch out ahead of you.

Sound of interest? Click to check prices and availability for the Brooklyn Bridge and Dumbo Walking Tour.

Harlem Gospel Tour in New York City

Duration: 4 hours

Rating: 4.6/5

See a different side to the city with this 4-hour tour of both Harlem and the Upper West Side. Take in some of the most iconic landmarks in the neighborhood as you pass by The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Columbia University, Sugar Hill, Morning Side Heights, and Hamilton Terrace, before arriving at church service that offers some of the most inspirational gospel music in the city.

This is a unique opportunity to take part in a community mass service that will touch your heart as you sing along with the worshiping choir. A morning filled with uplifting gospel music is the perfect way to start your day here in the Big Apple.

Interested in seeing a historical area of NYC? Harlem is a gem in the historical fabric of not only NYC, but also the U.S., making this a fantastic option to explore. Learn more about the Harlem Gospel Tour, along with prices and availability.

Gossip Girl Sites Tour

Duration: 3 hours

Rating: 4.6/5

Hello, Upper East Siders! Fans of the hit TV show “Gossip Girl” will love this 3-hour bus tour that shows you some of the most famous sights in the upscale playground of the Upper East Side as depicted by the characters in the show.

Follow in the footsteps of fan favorites Blair and Serena as you pass by over 40 Manhattan locations where scenes were filmed, including the iconic Empire Hotel.

If you’re looking for an entertainment-focused tour (especially for any Gossip Girl fan), this may be the one to explore. Click to check Gossip Girl prices and availability.

Greenwich Village 2-Hour Tour

Duration: 2 hours

Rating: 4.9/5

The legendary neighborhood of Greenwich Village has long been the home of New York counterculture and all things artistic. In this 2-hour walking tour, you can take a stroll out from Washington Square Park to explore the old haunts of such luminaries as Dylan Thomas and Jimi Hendrix, as well as hearing stories about how the Beat Generation flourished here.

Imagine yourself in the smoky old bars and cafes where free-thinking beatniks like Upton Sinclair and John Reed hung out, or learn about the birth of gay rights at the Stonewall Inn. This part of town is also home to the apartment building used in the smash-hit TV series “Friends.” In 2 short hours, this tour gives you an insight into some of the coolest hot spots the city has to offer.

If the intersection of culture and history interests you, this tour may be right up your alley. Learn more about the Greenwich Village tour, along with photos, prices, and availability.

Hot Tip: Looking for a place to stay in NYC? Check out our guides to the best cheap hotels in Manhattan and the best New York City hotels to book with points.

New York City Graffiti & Street Art 2-Hour Walking Tour

Duration: 2 hours

Rating: 4.7/5

In a working-class district just north of Brooklyn lies some of the best examples of street art to be found anywhere in the city. The industrial landscape of the neighborhood attracts a wide number of graffiti artists, and new and exciting examples are continually emerging. Walls and entire buildings have been brought to life by urban artists, and this tour will show you some of the most eclectic and impressive examples the city has to offer.

Featuring the work of artists from around the world who flock to the Big Apple to share their vision, this is a unique and inspirational way to see the creative side of the city, away from the main galleries.

If you’re looking for a tour focusing on art and culture, be sure to check out this tour. Click to check Graffiti & Street Art prices and availability.

New York Slavery and Underground Railroad Tour

Duration: 2 hours

Rating: 4.7/5

Take a journey back in time to discover how slaves built vast swathes of the city, and learn about brave New Yorkers who fought to rescue fugitive slaves. This 2-hour walking tour will take you along the Freedom Trail, while your tour guide tells the stories of the brave men and women who built an underground network of railroad tunnels that linked Brooklyn to Manhattan.

You will also get the opportunity to visit an archaeological site and memorial dedicated to the memory of enslaved Africans in colonial America, as well as learning in detail about the riots and revolutions that have taken place during the long years of slavery. Far from being a morbid or depressing tour, this is a great way to learn more about the cultural history of a city that never stands still on progress.

For those looking for a tour steeped in history and appreciation for the unsung heroes of the U.S., this is a must. Explore more about the Slavery and Underground Railroad tour, along with photos, prices, and availability.

Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn Half-Day Tour

Duration: 4.5 hours

Rating: 4.5/5

Most tours in the city are centered around Manhattan, but in this half-day bus tour, you will be immersed in the real-life communities of the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn for an authentic look at the city. Your local guide will be delighted to show you some of the hot spots and coolest places in the cultural melting pot that is NYC.

You will explore culturally diverse neighborhoods made great by vibrant communities of Orthodox Jews, Greeks, Italian-Americans, Caribbeans, Middle-Easterners, and Russian-Americans. Take a trip away from the tourist traps and experience the real New York with genuine New Yorkers.

If you’re looking to explore the boroughs of NYC, this is for you. Learn more about the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn tour, along with prices, photos, and availability.

SoHo, Little Italy, and Chinatown 2-Hour Guided Walk

Duration: 2 hours

Rating: 4.8/5

Experience some of the most diverse and exciting neighborhoods that the city has to offer in this 2-hour guided walk that takes you into the beating heart of NYC. Learn the stories of the immigrant fathers, and sample some of the rich and varied cuisine they brought with them. You will also be told about the history of each of these districts and the sometimes dark twists and turns that have happened there along the way.

On this tour you will take in iconic sights including the Cast Iron District, the Ravenite Club, Mulberry Street, Umberto’s, Columbus Park, and many more landmarks that have links to some of the gangs, mobs and fascinating underbelly that can be found throughout the city.

This tour is for those who want to stay and explore Manhattan, but get immersed in the culture of the specific neighborhoods. Click to learn more about the SoHo, Little Italy, and Chinatown tour, along with photos, prices, and availability.

Final Thoughts

Any visit to New York City is a special occasion but can feel very overwhelming if you don’t know where to start. Tours are a great way of finding unique experiences both the main tourist drag and the hidden gems just outside will make your trip even more exciting. Any one of these tours will help you do just that.

Looking for more tours in different cities? Explore our tour recommendations for London and Rome.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best tour in New York City?

It can be difficult to pick just 1 tour that is the best tour in New York City. Here are a selection of tours that are highly rated:

  • Statue of Liberty Pedestal, Ellis Island and Pre-Ferry Tour
  • Tour of 9/11 Memorial and One World Observatory Ticket
  • Harbor Lights Night Cruise
  • Superheroes of New York Guided Tour
  • Cupcake Tour of Greenwich Village
  • New York City Helicopter Tours
  • Beast Speedboat Ride
  • Brooklyn Bridge and Dumbo Walking Tour in NYC
  • Harlem Gospel Tour in New York City
  • Gossip Girl Sites Tour
  • Greenwich Village Tour
  • New York City Graffiti & Street Art Walking Tour
  • New York Slavery and Underground Railroad Tour
  • Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn Half-Day Tour
  • SoHo, Little Italy, and Chinatown Guided Walk

Where can I buy tickets for NYC attractions?

You can buy attraction tickets directly with the attraction itself but it may be more cost-effective to purchase a New York Pass which starts at $134 for a 1-day pass and gives you access to over 80 attractions. How many attractions you want to see and over what period will determine if an attraction pass is worth it.

Which bus tour is best in New York?

A great option for touring New York by bus is Big Bus New York which offers a hop-on hop-off service. It will give you a flexible way to travel the city at your own pace. Tickets start at $49.50.

About Amar Hussain

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications including Forbes, the Huffington Post, and more.


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