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10 BEST New York City PRIVATE Tours (2024 First-Timers’ Guide!)

10 BEST New York City PRIVATE Tours (2024 First-Timers’ Guide!)

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New York City is one of those places you could probably visit a hundred times and still see something new each time you go. Most of us don’t have that luxury, so when you do finally get the chance to visit, you’re going to want to make the most of it!

We spent 5 days in New York City and had tons of amazing experiences, such as taking a Premiere Dinner Cruise, seeing a Broadway show, and going on a food tour in Chelsea Market! But perhaps some of the most memorable things we did were on our private tours of the city. 

These tours were super convenient, especially if you only have 1 day in New York. On our private excursions, we were able to visit the top sites and the best observation decks in NYC and even enjoy a helicopter ride over Manhattan!

With so many private tours, it can be hard to know which are the best or if they are right for you. That’s why we created this list of the 10 best New York City private tours! Keep reading to learn all the details of each and find one that suits your needs.

Don’t have time to read the full article? Our absolute favorite private tours in NYC include:

  1. Seeing the sights and skyline from above on this Private Helicopter Tour.
  2. This Private Walking Tour that took us to the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and Manhattan’s top landmarks.
  3. Sightseeing in style on this 3-hour Private VIP Luxury Limo Tour, which includes champagne and is customizable.

Why Book a Private Tour in NYC?

Views of New York City from the Empire State Building
New York City is huge, so a private tour makes your trip personal and convenient!

With so much history, culture, and things to see and do in New York City, we believe the best way to make the most of your time is with a private tour. These personalized experiences ensure you get the most out of your visit without the hassle.

Local guides can accommodate your specific needs and give you an experience you can’t have on a tour bus or large group setting. These tours are also much more intimate. To put it plainly, we just find it more fun and comfortable when it’s just you and the people you know. I’m sure you would agree!

Viator also has a great cancellation policy. You can book most of the experiences on this list in advance to hold your spot. However, you get a 100% refund up to 24 hours before if your travel plans change – which we know they do! Ultimately, booking with Viator can make your time in the Big Apple as stress-free as possible. 

Best Private Tours in NYC

1. Private Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Tour

The Statue of Liberty as seen from a cruise in New York City
We loved the Statue of Liberty cruise in NYC!
Building on Ellis Island on tour in New York City
Ellis Island!

The Statue of Liberty is the most iconic structure in America. It was the first thing immigrants saw on their way to Ellis Island, and we loved retracing their steps during this half-day Private Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island tour

After meeting our guide at a designated spot, we began walking through Battery Park towards the ferry to Liberty Island. The area around the dock can be chaotic and Battery Park is known for aggressive scammers selling overpriced tickets to tourists. However, this tour included the ferry tickets and priority boarding, so we were able to skip the line and the hassle! 

You will spend the bulk of your time on the island and in the museum viewing memorabilia while your guide gives you in-depth history lessons. There are plenty of opportunities to take photos of the statue and the New York City skyline as well! It’s important to note that this tour does not take you inside of the statue itself. 

With a new perspective of the Statue of Liberty, we took the boat to Ellis Island. We learned our guide’s family once came through here, so it held a special significance.

Over 12 million immigrants once walked through the great hall on Ellis Island. As we headed down the exact same corridor, we learned about what it was like to cross such long distances by boat and the process of immigrating to America at that time. All of this is accompanied by interactive exhibits, photos, and a fun little museum. You can even trace back your family history here! 

The tour ends on Ellis Island and you can stay there longer or go with your guide back to Battery Park. The tour lasts 3.5-4 hours, with start times between 9:30-11 am every day of the week. It costs $190 USD per person and usually requires a minimum of two per booking.

You can book your private Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island tour here!

2. Private Empire Helicopter Tour of New York City

View out the front windo on a helicopter on a helicopter ride in New York City looking down at Manhattan
New York City from the air!
A passenger takes a photo from our New York City Helicopter ride
The entire flight is a highlight!

Seeing New York’s most iconic structures from a helicopter is arguably one of the best ways to experience the city. That’s exactly why this Private Helicopter Tour is sure to be the highlight of your trip! It’s a bird, it’s a plane, nope! It’s you flying over New York City!

We arrived at Charm Aviation slightly before our tour time of 9:30 am. This tour has multiple departures, but we decided to take the earliest tour possible to see the city while there was still some morning glow! 

The staff were incredibly friendly and made the whole process smooth and comfortable. They explained what the 30-minute helicopter ride would consist of. And the next thing I knew, we were strapped in and taking off! 

Once in the air, the pilot began pointing out landmarks and telling us some fun modern and historic knowledge of the city. Their narration was also very entertaining! Since this was a private tour, we were able to ask lots of questions and talk with the pilot which would have been difficult if it was a public group tour. 

Helicopter tours over New York City are truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Flying up close to structures like the Chrysler Building, the Statue of Liberty, and the Brooklyn Bridge was unforgettable, but the Empire State Building was my personal favorite. I couldn’t help but imagine King Kong swatting at us from up there! You will fly by many other iconic landmarks during the tour as well. 

After we landed, I don’t think I stopped smiling all day! It was just that much fun.

This private helicopter tour is offered every day but Sunday. It costs $2,134 USD for a group of up to 5 people, plus a $40 USD per person helipad fee. There is no hotel pick-up or drop-off, so you will need to arrange transportation to and from the helipad

If you’re a sucker for epic views, secure your private helicopter tour now!

3. Deluxe Private New York City VIP Tour by SUV

Bailey in Brooklyn heights, New York with views of Manhattan
Brooklyn Heights Promenade
Empire State Building as seen from the streets of New York City
It’s a great way to get around Manhattan!

Explore Manhattan like a local but avoid the hassle of getting around New York with this Best of New York Private SUV Tour. Experience the city through the eyes of your guide, get off the beaten path, and learn how each area of this city is unique in a truly memorable way. 

Getting picked up from our hotel and beginning the day, we realized we knew very little about NYC. Of course, this driving tour took us past some iconic spots we recognized. However, having our local guide explain the city’s many distinct neighborhood cultures and significance to the city really enhanced the experience. What would have just been buildings we drove past on our way to another destination became living history. 

Going through the neighborhoods of Lower Manhattan, we would hop out of the car whenever we wanted to take pictures. Greenwich Village is especially fun for music lovers as many of the greats like Bob Dylan and Jimmie Hendrix got their start there. 

When you book this tour, you can choose to go for either 3 or 5 hours. Since we did the 5-hour tour, we got to explore Upper and Mid-Manhattan too. We also had the chance to go by numerous locations used for both movies and TV shows.

Our driver was incredibly knowledgeable about the entire city and loved pointing out places that we should eat at or visit. New York-style pizza is a thing, after all! This is why taking this tour early on in your visit could come in handy. You’ll know all the best places to return to.

The best part of this tour is how much it made us feel like New Yorkers. There are many intricacies to the city and lots of history that’s important to understand. You stop at local spots, learn things only locals would know, and not just see but feel how Upper, Lower, and Mid-Manhattan are all unique. This is exactly why we consider it one of the best sightseeing tours in New York City!

This tour is available daily and has 3 and 5-hour options that start in the morning, afternoon, and evening. SUV tours can fit 6 travelers and it’s group pricing, so 3-hour tours are $775 USD while 5-hour tours are $1,195 USD. If you have a bigger group, you can opt for a van tour which accommodates 13 people, with the 3-hour option costing $995 USD and the 5-hour tour costing $1,495. All options include pickup and dropoff at your specified locations.

To really get a feel for the city, be sure to book your private SUV tour in advance here!

Related Read: If you’re visiting multiple landmarks in the city, read our guide on the best NYC attraction pass. Why not sightsee and save money?!

4. Private Walking Tour of Manhattan

The Charging Bull of Wall Street, New York City
The Charging Bull of Wall Street, New York City

This Private Walking Tour of Manhattan is a great way to experience the city if you don’t want to deal with traffic, cabs, or subways. Instead, you’ll experience it with a local guide at a slower pace while getting some exercise. I recommend bringing good shoes because you will walk 5 miles (8 kilometers) over the next 5-6 hours! 

Your day starts at 10:15 am by meeting in front of the Alexander Hamilton Customs House. Then, you’ll make a quick stop at the iconic Charging Bull statue before heading to Battery Park. From here, the tour includes a ferry ride to Liberty Island, where you’ll learn all about the Statue of Liberty. This is the exact statue immigrants saw when they first arrived in America!

As you continue to Ellis Island, you’ll follow in immigrants’ footsteps and experience what 12 million others did as they started new lives in America. We love the rich history of this place and how significant it is to the city. You might even be able to trace your family history here!  

Afterward, this tour heads back to Manhattan to explore the Financial District, visiting Wall Street and the New York Stock Exchange. We found the architecture in this part of the city was especially beautiful, our favorite being Trinity Church – a gothic revival building that stands out amongst its neighbors.

Reaching the end of the tour, you will have the opportunity to pay your respects at the 9/11 Memorial.

We also opted to buy the upgrade, which ends the day at One World Observatory (located on the 102nd floor of the One World Trade Center). This is one of the best observation decks in NYC, so get ready for some spectacular views!

This tour operates every day of the week and is $290 USD per person with the One World Observatory included. However, if you want your day to end at the Memorial instead, it’s $230 USD per person. Just a heads up, this tour generally requires a minimum of two people to book.

For a comprehensive walking tour of NYC, you can secure your spot right here.

5. New York NYC Private Tour by Stretch Limo, SUV, or Luxury Van

Bailey and Daniel take a selfie on a guided bus tour of New York City
On the bus!
bailey walks along the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City
A must-do!

See New York City like a celebrity with this 3-hour Private VIP Luxury Limo Tour. Get picked up anywhere in the city in style as you relax in a luxury vehicle and see all the top sites with a knowledgeable guide. Why not enjoy some champagne as well? This customizable tour has it all.

You can book this at any time of the day, all days of the week, making it super easy to fit into a 1-day or 2-day New York City itinerary. However, I think most people will appreciate seeing the city lights at night from inside their colorfully lit SUV or limo (while enjoying complimentary beverages, of course!). 

You will get some amazing pictures of you and your loved ones or friends while visiting top attractions and local spots. With the free Wifi onboard, you can also post those epic stories straight to Instagram.

This tour offers also opportunities to make short stops for shopping or at foodie favorites. Enjoy a slice of famous New York-style pizza while driving over the Brooklyn Bridge. And since your guide is a New York native, you can be confident that you will see what you want and experience the city like a local!

Since this tour is customizable, you can call ahead to let them know what you would like to see or get out of your experience. This makes it more personal than something like a bus tour that has a more rigid schedule. Regardless of where you want to go in the city, you will be treated like a celebrity and have an unforgettable experience.

They have vehicles that accommodate groups of up to 13, but the limo tour is their most popular option at $999 USD. And since the luxurious limo is half the fun, it also makes for a great rainy-day activity in NYC. The limo can accommodate a group of 7 people, so the more the merrier! The tour includes roundtrip transit from your hotel, your friendly guide, water, soda, and alcoholic beverages.

It’s not every day you visit NYC, so go ahead and treat yourself by booking this limo tour online here

Money Saving Tip – Some of NYC’s best attractions unfortunately aren’t free. But that doesn’t mean you have to blow your budget to see them! We purchased a New York City attraction pass during our visit and it helped us save 30-40% on admission fees to top attractions like the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty. There are a few different options, but the top three are the New York CityPASS®, the New York Pass, and the New York Explorer Pass by Go City.

6. Private Central Park Pedicab Tour

Views of the city of New York as seen from Central Park
Views of New York City as seen from Central Park

We loved how much we saw during this Private Central Park Pedicab Tour. We went to many famous movie and TV scene locations, visiting celebrity homes, learning history, and more during this delightful and relaxing 2-hour experience. 

For those who don’t know, a pedicab is a small semi-covered carriage pulled by a bicycle. This is a great option for those who want to see all that Central Park has to offer without having to walk everywhere. Our feet certainly appreciated it! Plus, we consider it one of the absolute best tours of Central Park.

You’ll meet your driver anytime from 8 am to 8 pm, but we enjoyed going early so we could explore more of the city afterward. In total, it took 2 hours to see all 7 different sites. This makes sightseeing super efficient, especially if you’re only in NYC for 3 days or less.

If you enjoy Christmas movies like I do, you’ll love seeing where Buddy the Elf had his snowball fight! Sadly there was no snow when we went. However, if you are visiting during the holidays, we think the pedicab would make an excellent Christmastime tour of NYC.

Our guide was incredibly knowledgeable when it came to the different historical sites we visited such as the beautiful Bethesda Fountain. He also explained significant historical events that happened in the park, which were super fascinating. We learned a lot by asking questions and it’s easy to see why so many people love this park!

Another highlight of this tour was seeing Manhattan’s Upper West Side, famous for having housed big-name celebrities such as John Lennon, Madonna, and Lady Gaga. Here you can also have your photo taken next to the fountain where the credits of “Friends” were filmed! But we wouldn’t hop in and splash around like they did!

There is a lot more that we saw, but I think it’s best if you just see it for yourself! I recommend the 2-hour option at only $100 USD a person because you see more. However, they also offer a 1-hour option that visits 4 sites for $50 USD a person. It requires a minimum of 2 people per booking, so grab a friend or partner and hop in that pedicab!

You can pick a date and reserve this tour online here.

Why We Book Tours with Viator

Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:

  • Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
  • Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
  • Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
  • Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.

Check out the Viator website here! Or, for more info, read our detailed review about Viator here.

7. Private Custom New York City Tour by SUV

Inside the St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City
Inside the St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City
Cute door at Greenwich Village New York City
So cute!

There is a lot to see in New York. If you’re like us, you will want to experience the city like a local, learn unique things about its history and trends, and go to some more off-the-beaten-path locations. That’s why I think this Private Custom New York SUV Tour is a fantastic option. It’s perfect for those who want a guided and personalized experience of the Big Apple that is completely unique! 

You will be picked up and dropped off in a luxury SUV at your desired location for your 4, 5, or 6-hour tour. Your guide will ask you ahead of time what you would like to see, eat, or visit during your time and would be happy to offer recommendations if you prefer a surprise! The guides are passionate about the city and love to share it with their guests, as you’ll immediately notice. 

You can visit anywhere you would like while learning new things and hearing new stories about the city. What stands out about this private tour is the knowledge and enthusiasm your guides have about every location. They can also answer anything you want to know during your custom-tailored experience.

With this tour, NYC really is your oyster! If I were you, I’d be sure to include some time for some famous New York-style pizza! As you can tell, we really love the pizza here! But trust us, you won’t regret it. 

This fantastic custom NYC tour accommodates up to 13 and you can choose your start time for complete flexibility. 4-hour tours are $1,396 USD, 5-hours $1,646 USD, and 6-hours $1,886 USD.

You can check all available options and book this tour in advance here

8. New York Private Full-Day Tour with a Local Guide: 100% Personalized

Bailey poses for a photo at Times Square in New York City
Times Square!
The Rockefeller Center in New York City
The Rockefeller Center in New York City

This Private Full Day Tour is the perfect option if you have limited time in New York and are on a budget, but still want to experience all the city has to offer. It is completely customizable to ensure you see, eat, and learn everything you want on your visit to the Big Apple.

Depending on where you are staying, your guide will meet you at your hotel or somewhere nearby to begin your day. There are 3 and 8-hour tours available daily, starting between 8 am and 7 pm. It’s easy to book, so if you only have 3 or 4 days in NYC, this tour can help you maximize your time!

We enjoyed how safe we felt as we walked with our guide through the city and took the subway to The Village to learn about the famous musicians who got their start there … Bob Dylan and Jimmie Hendrix, to name a couple! 

As foodies, we asked our guide for a local pizza recommendation, and nearby was some of the best we’ve had in New York! John’s of Bleecker Street is not to be missed. It was an excellent lunch stop as we continued to learn about the history of the area.

Our guide was knowledgeable about all aspects of the city. This is something only a seasoned local can offer, which is why we love private tours. Overall, you will gain a unique appreciation for wherever it is you decide to go.

Depending on your interests, you can tailor this experience to what you want to see. However, we think the 9/11 Memorial and Museum and the Empire State Building are not to be missed, especially with a local guide!

Prices differ depending on group size, but for 2 people, you’ll pay $434 USD for 8 hours or $168 USD for 3 hours. Tickets for experiences, food and drink, and transportation costs are not covered.

For a day in New York your way, book this 100% personalized tour here!

9. Private Tour of the American Museum of Natural History NYC

A dinosaur at American Museum of Natural History in NYC
Kids will love this!
A mountain goat at the American Museum of Natural History in NYC

If you enjoy museums, you’ll love taking this Private Guided Tour of the American Museum of Natural History. This is one of the best museums in the United States! It boasts over 40 permanent exhibits and millions of artifacts and specimens to observe. And with this tour, you’ll see the best it has to offer during a customizable 2-hour experience with an expert guide.

You will meet your guide at the north entrance of the museum at your chosen time of 10 am or 12:30 pm any day of the week. Please note that this tour does not cover entrance fees, and you will need to reserve your own tickets in advance from the museum’s website. However, this tour does give you express entry, so you won’t have to waste precious tour time waiting around.

If you are unsure what you want to see, your guide will take you on a curated tour of the museum that includes treasures from all over the world. Throughout this tour, we loved hearing the stories behind the artifacts that the informational plaques don’t tell you. Our guide helped us understand how significant everything we saw was and really brought it to life! Hypothetically speaking of course, not like the movie!

However, if there is an exhibit or specific subject you want to learn more about, your guide will be more than happy to take you wherever you would like to go. Seeing as the museum is 2 million square feet (185,000 square meters), there’s lots to discover! We loved how much we were able to learn and the unique insight provided, and we’re sure you will too. 

Prices vary depending on group size, but for 2 people, it was $150 USD a person. Admission ticket prices are $28 USD for adults (you must reserve tickets in advance online). Residents of NY, NJ, and CT pay what they want for general admission.

Museum and natural history buffs won’t want to miss this one and can book their private tour here.

10. New York City to the Hamptons Private Day Trip

Montauk Lighthouse - Long Island, New York
Montauk Lighthouse – Long Island, New York

Experience the beauty of the Hamptons and live like the rich and famous do during this New York City to Hamptons Day Trip. Wine, dine, and shop during this VIP experience as you make your way through one of the most prestigious areas of New York State. 

The day begins at 7 am when you are picked up from where you are staying in the city. From there, your private minivan begins the 2-hour ride out to Long Island. Take pictures of the many farms, lighthouses, and green pastures as you make your way to Southampton.

Founded in 1640, Southampton is known for its boutique shops and gourmet cafes. What used to be a whaling town is now home to actors, astronauts, authors, and billionaires. Your guide will point out local hotspots where celebrities eat and shop – in case you want to step into their shoes! All the while, you’ll be enjoying the town’s quaint colonial charm and learning more about its history.

Your day continues as you make a stop in Sag Harbor, another historic seaport. Here you can choose to eat lunch at one of its many restaurants or enjoy views of the boats and ocean at the marina. If you and your group like wine (like us!), there is an optional stop at Wölffer Estate Vineyard, where you can sip on a glass of their award-winning White Horse wine.

Making your way to East Hampton, you’ll walk the beaches, shop, and see the homes of the famous who vacation here during summertime in NYC. Before being escorted back to the city, end your day by seeing the lighthouse George Washington had commissioned in Montauk. And don’t forget to eat fresh-caught seafood at the eastern edge of Long Island. An experience you won’t soon forget!

This exclusive tour operates Monday, Tuesday, and Saturday. The cost for this group tour is $1,199 USD, and it can accommodate 6 people. You will need to cover the cost of all food and beverages and be prepared for a 12-hour day, depending on traffic. 

This tour sells out fast, so book it online in advance!

Related Read: For all those foodies out there, here’s everything you need to know before heading to Chelsea Market, NYC. This place seriously has it all, from donuts and noodles to tacos and pizza.

Where to Stay in New York City

the bed inside TBA Times square hotel in a modern room
The room we stayed in at Delta Hotels by Marriott New York Times Square
Bailey with her luggage in New york City
Ready to check in!

New York City is huge – there is just no other way to put it! Even Manhattan (the area you’ll want to base yourself in) is a lot bigger than you think. That’s why choosing the right hotel in the right location is so important during your stay in New York.

Below, we’ve simplified it all for you by choosing a couple of the very best hotels available in the city. All three of these options have ideal locations close to attractions and the subway system. They all have amazing reviews, too, so just choose the one in your budget category, and you’ll be ready to pack your bags!

Motto by Hilton – $$$

Motto by Hilton is a gorgeous hotel located in the Chelsea neighborhood, only 600 meters from the Flatiron Building. The hotel features modern decor that has “speakeasy vibes.” In fact, they have a beautiful bar onsite that looks like the perfect place to sip an old fashioned. There are a variety of rooms, including some that are a little more budget-friendly and some that are pure luxury with city views!

Prices start from about $400 USD per night. You can check prices and availability for Motto by Hilton online here!

Delta Hotels by Marriott New York Times Square – $$

Delta Hotels by Marriott New York Times Square is where we stayed the last time we visited New York, and honestly, we loved it! This hotel is the perfect combination of comfort and value for money. It was clean, modern, and our room had all of the amenities we needed for an enjoyable stay (air conditioning, k-cup coffee maker, steamer, large shower, big windows, etc). Plus, the location is ideal – it’s only a couple blocks from Times Square!

Prices do range, but they do go as low as $200 USD per night plus tax depending on the time of year and day of the week. You can check prices and book online here!

Nap York Central Park Sleep Station – $

For those traveling on a tight budget, Nap York is a budget hostel that’s an ideal choice. Although affordable, this property is immaculate and offers a ton of amenities for a great stay, including air conditioning and a shared kitchen. The rooms are modern, and the location is about as central as it gets! This property only offers dorm rooms, but they are affordable at as little as $100 USD per night.

You can check prices and book Nap York online on either Booking.com or Hostelworld.

Thanks for reading!

Daniel and Bailey take a selfie on the 86th Floor Observatory in New York
Thanks for reading!

There are so many awesome things to do and see in New York City, and a private tour is one of the best ways to maximize your time. You often get to customize these experiences, and it’ll be much more intimate with just your group and your private guide. Plus, there are plenty to choose from, including museums, limo rides, and walking tours. Ultimately, we loved the private tours we took in NYC, and we hope you do too!

If you want to learn more, check out our blog about traveling through the United States. We’ve also visited many places in Canada (where Bailey is from). To get an idea of what we write about, just click on one of the links below.

The 3 BEST Niagara Falls Tours from New York City

25 Best FREE Things to do in New York City

What is the CityPASS® NYC and is it worth it?

15 Things to Know BEFORE Visiting The Edge NYC Observation Deck