New York Sightseeing Tours – The Best Ways to Explore NYC for First Timers

There’s so much to see and do in New York City that it can be really overwhelming, even a little intimidating, to try to explore on your own.

Guided tours are some of the best ways to experience New York City – there’s so much to see and do that sometimes it’s best to get a little guidance from the pros.

We put together a list of the best New York sightseeing tours in the city to help you choose one tailored to your interests.

Save on Popular New York Sightseeing Tours & More

Admission to a bunch of these attractions are available on the New York City Explorer Pass®.

Choose as you go from dozens of top attractions and save up to 50% on combined admission vs paying at the gate.

See all available New York passes, attractions & prices.

A few of the available sightseeing activities include…

  • Hop On Hop Off Big Bus New York Tours
  • Empire State Building Observation Deck
  • Central Park Walking Tours
  • Yankee Stadium: Classic Tour
  • and more!

Hop On Hop Off Big Bus New York Tour

new-york-Classic-Tour-2-day-ticket-by-Big-Bus-5

A comprehensive overview of the city, like the hop-on hop-off tour, is one of the best ways to start your New York City trip.

You’ll get a good feel for the layout of the city and can start to plan your sightseeing itinerary and make a note of attractions you want to go back to.

If you already know where you want to explore, or decide while you’re on the tour, take advantage of the flexibility to hop off at the stops that interest you and explore the area by foot.

Many of the attractions along the way are included on the New York City Explorer Pass.

Major landmarks and neighborhoods you’ll see on this bus tour include Times Square, Madison Square Garden, the Empire State Building, Chinatown, the Broadway Theatre District, and more.

Getting In: Hop On Hop Off Big Bus New York Tours are available on the New York City Explorer Pass.

Night Tour by Big Bus New York

Night-Tour-by-Big-Bus-1

Experience the sights of New York City on the Night Tour by Big Bus, a panoramic tour of the city at night – while its iconic buildings and bridges light up the night sky.

The tour strategically passes some of the best spots in the city for Manhattan skyline views, so be sure to bring your camera!

Getting In: Night Tour by Big Bus New York tickets are available on the New York City Explorer Pass.

Popular Observation Deck Sightseeing

Top of the Rock Observatory

Top-of-the-Rock-Observation-Deck-4 - Copy

Get above it all for a different perspective on New York City with an iconic visit to the Top of the Rock for open air views from the observation deck on the 70th floor.

You’ll get sweeping views of Manhattan and beyond at this New York City must-do. Be sure to check out our tips for visiting the Top of the Rock to help make the most of your visit.

Spend some time exploring the art deco skyscraper itself, too where you can pose for a photo opp, the interactive Beam Walk, and recreate your own version of the iconic photo of construction workers having lunch on a beam during the construction of the building.

For those who enjoy more luminous attractions, the Top of the Rock is also home to the “Joie”, a fiber-optic illuminated chandelier crafted by Swarovski with over 14,000 crystals.

Getting In: Top of the Rock Observatory tickets are an available on the New York City Explorer Pass.

Empire State Building

Empire-State-Building-Observatory-2 - Copy

Another great observation deck – the iconic Empire State Building, is an essential stop for visitors to New York City, for unparalleled views of the city from its 86th-floor observation deck over 1,000 feet above the ground.

Check out the Empire State Building’s historical exhibits, restaurants, and shops.

For those interested in the history of this monument to the American Dream itself, the Dare to Dream exhibit includes original documents, architectural sketches, and reproductions of photos and mementos from the workers that worked the building.

Getting In: Empire State Building tickets are an available option on the New York City Explorer Pass

Popular New York Walking Tours

Central Park Walking Tour

By Ingfbruno (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Ingfbruno (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Central Park is an urban oasis right in Manhattan with lots of famous sights.

It can be difficult for visitors to plan the best way to get around the park to all of the sights they want to see, so the Central Park Walking Tour is highly recommended.

This two-hour sightseeing tour is comprehensive and easy paced. You’ll get to see the most iconic and popular places in the park itself, including many familiar settings from films and TV shows.

With the assistance of tour guides, you’ll leave feeling like you saw everything there was to see in this New York City landmark.

Getting In: Central Park Walking Tour tickets are available on the New York City Explorer Pass.

Brooklyn Bridge and DUMBO Walking Tour

Bike across the Brooklyn Bridge - Things to Do in New York City for Labor Day Weekend

Another essential New York City experience is crossing the Brooklyn Bridge.

Take the opportunity to walk across it and learn about its distinctive architecture and iconic silhouette on a guided tour of the Brooklyn Bridge and DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) neighborhood.

You’ll learn about the storied history of the famous bridge as you cross over into the DUMBO neighborhood of Brooklyn, known for art galleries, boutique shops, and foodie-centric restaurants.

Getting In: Brooklyn Bridge & DUMBO Walking Tour tickets are available with the New York City Explorer Pass.

9/11 Tribute Center & Walking Tour

911-TributeCenterMemorial-web-rgb

A truly emotional experience, the 9/11 Tribute Center poignantly tells the story of that tragic day through the voices of those who survived it.

Walk through its galleries featuring artifacts and objects from ground zero, listen to first hand descriptions of the day and its aftermath from volunteers, and pay tribute to the legacy of this horrific event.

Getting In: 9/11 Tribute Center & Walking Tours are available on the New York City Explorer Pass.

Also, for those interested in further exploration, the Ground Zero Museum Workshop: Hands-On 9/11 Tour tickets are another included attraction choice on the New York City Explorer Pass.

Food On Foot Tours

Food-On-Foot-Tours-4

Experience New York City’s trendy food scene like a New Yorker with the Food On Foot Tours. You’ll get a tour of the largest buffet in the world: the city itself.

New York City’s food scene is an integral part of its culture. As the ‘melting pot of the world,’ its selection of cuisines greatly varies and changes by the season.

On Food On Foot Tours, you’ll see the hidden spots where New Yorkers like to go, and travel the way New Yorkers do: by subway and on foot.

Your tour will get you off the beaten path and take you to the non-tourist neighborhoods of Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens.

Getting In: Food on Foot Tour tickets are available as an attraction choice on the New York City Explorer Pass.

Popular Landmark Tours

Yankee Stadium: Classic Tour

NYC Yankee stadium (3)

Learn all about the New York Yankee franchise and notable sport history with a guided tour of the legendary Yankee Stadium.

Your tour guide will take you through Yankee Stadium where you’ll get access to places you’ve seen on TV, learn about the history of the stadium itself, the Yankee dynasty, and some of the greatest players in history that have called themselves Yankees.

Getting In: Yankee Stadium: Classic Tour tickets are available on the New York City Explorer Pass.

Madison Square Garden®: All Access Tour™

Madison-Square-Garden-Tour-1

Get insider access to The World’s Most Famous Arena® on the Madison Square Garden All Access Tour, a 75-minute guided tour where some of the greatest events and concerts have taken place.

On the tour, you’ll learn about everything that goes into transforming the Arena floor from a basketball court to a hockey rink in just a few hours and get to see inside the Knicks® and Rangers® locker rooms.

Getting In: Madison Square Garden®: All Access Tour™ tickets are available on the New York City Explorer Pass.

Rockefeller Center Tour

Rockefeller-Center-Tour-5 - Copy

Known as ‘the hub’ of New York City, Rockefeller Center is home to 19 commercial buildings and major landmarks in the area between Fifth and Sixth Avenue such as: the Rink at Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall, Top of the Rock, the Comcast Building, 30 Rock, and more.

This is a comprehensive tour of a compact but diverse little corner of midtown Manhattan and one of the best ways to learn more about New York City’s rich history and culture.

Getting In: Rockefeller Center Tour tickets are available on the New York City Explorer Pass.

Radio City Stage Door Tour®

new york radio city music hall

Get behind the scene access to one of the most famous theaters with this 75-minute Radio City Stage Door Tour®.

You’ll get up close looks at areas and features of the theater that make it such a unique and important cultural destination.

Your tour even includes a chance to take a photo with one of the world-famous Rockettes.

Getting In: Radio City Stage Door Tour tickets are available on the New York City Explorer Pass.

Lincoln Center Tour

Lincoln-Center-for-the-Performing-Arts-1 - Copy

Take a behind the scenes tour of of one of the world’s most famous performing arts space, Lincoln Center.

No other establishment in the world has bred and hosted so many talented world-class performers as the Lincoln Center.

You’ll learn about the building’s fascinating history and get inside information about the stars who have performed on its stage. You might even have the chance to see a live rehearsal while you’re there.

Getting In: Lincoln Center Tour tickets are available on the New  York City Explorer Pass.

Popular Bike Tours

Central Park Bike Tour

Central Park bike rental BIKE TOUR 1

Go on a guided tour of Central Park and see the sights via two wheels.

You’ll get to see and learn about popular sights within the park, like the Cherry Hill fountain, Strawberry Fields, the Imagine Mosaic, and many more with the guidance of your tour leader.

Getting In: Central Park Sightseeing Bike Tours are available with the New York City Explorer Pass, or go on a self guided tour with a full day Central Park Bike Rental.

Brooklyn Bridge Bike Tour

Central park bike rental People-cycling-and-walking-on-Brooklyn-Bridge-000046325748_Medium

Cross the Brooklyn Bridge and learn about the iconic landmark on a guided bike tour.

You’ll begin your tour by climbing uphill into the City Hall area.

You’ll make a stop at the Brooklyn-side tower of the bridge to take in this stunning vantage point, which encapsulates the entire New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Staten Island, and more.

Once you descend into Brooklyn, you’ll see the Financial District, historic Brooklyn houses in the ‘Heights’, before you turn around and head back over the bridge.

Getting In: Brooklyn Bridge Bike Tour tickets are included on the New York City Explorer Pass.

Popular TV & Movie Tours

Central Park TV & Movie Sites Walking Tour

On-Location-Tours-Central-Park-Movie-Sites-Tour-3

Go on a guided tour of over 40 TV and movie locations housed within Central Park and see why it’s the setting for so many famous scenes from your favorite movies and shows.

This tour offers a unique way to explore historic Central Park, beyond its movie locations, with a knowledgeable guide.

Visit the ice skating rink from Serendipity and where the cast of Glee sang “I love New York.” You’ll see locations featured in Trainwreck, Home Alone II, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, When Harry Met Sally, The Smurfsand so much more.

Getting In: Central Park TV & Movie Sites Walking Tour tickets are an included attraction option on the New York City Explorer Pass.

Sopranos Sites Bus Tour by On Location Tours

Sopranos-On-Location-Tours-3

This tour takes off from Midtown Manhattan and heads to New Jersey to begin a guided tour of “Sopranoland.”

See all the places where Tony Soprano (who was played by the late James Candolfini) Carmella, Meadow, AJ, Paulie, Syl and the rest of the cast acted out scenes from the hit series.

Getting In: Sopranos Sites Bus Tour by On Location Tour tickets are included on the New York City Explorer Pass.

When Harry Met Seinfeld Bus Tour by On Location Tours

When-Harry-Met-Seinfeld-1 - CopyThe best way to see the most recognizable sights from your favorite TV shows and movies is on a guided tour, like When Harry Met Seinfeld Bus Tour by On Location Tours, which takes you to dozens of film locations, from Columbus Circle to Trump Tower and beyond.

While you may recognize some of the more famous locations – like Pulitzer Fountain from Friends or “Tom’s Restaurant” from Seinfeld – you’ll get to see lots more sights under the direction of your tour guide.

With so many locations throughout the city, each tour may be different. If you have a specific sight you’d like to visit, be sure to request it from your guide and they will try to fit it in.

Getting In: When Harry Met Seinfeld Bus Tour by On Location Tours tickets are an available attraction choice on the New York City Explorer Pass.

Gossip Girl Sites Bus Tour by On Location Tours

gossip girl tour

Curious about luxurious world of Serena and Blair? Gossip Girl Sites Bus Tour by On Location Tours explores more than 40 iconic locations from the CW hit, Gossip Girl.

Your licensed New York tour guide (a TV industry insider) will include lots of behind-the-scenes information about the filming of Gossip Girl, including little known facts about the cast.

Tour highlights include:

  • The hotel that’s home to the Bass and Van der Woodsen families
  • Constance Billard and St. Jude’s schools
  • The Upper East Side mansion that was the site of Lily and Bart’s wedding
  • The Fifth Avenue building that’s home to Blair Waldorf
  • The Met steps
  • And more

Remember to Save on Sightseeing Admission

So there you have it. Our list of some of the best New York sightseeing tours and other fun ways to explore this humongous city – from walking tours to movie bus tours and everything in between.

With five boroughs, 304 square miles of land, and 8.5 million inhabitants, there’s no doubting New York City is a big place. It’s no wonder that tourists have so much trouble deciding what to do and see in the city—it’s hard to even know where to start!

Remember, many (if not all) of these options are included on the New York City Explorer Pass, where you can save up to 50% on combined admission vs paying at the gate.

We hope you plan to add a few of these fun touring options to your vacation itinerary.

New York City Explorer Pass

Please leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*