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10 BEST Sightseeing Tours in New York City (2024 Guide!)

10 BEST Sightseeing Tours in New York City (2024 Guide!)

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New York City is one of those cities brimming with incredible tourist attractions, eclectic neighborhoods, and delicious food around every corner. It’s hard to know where to begin, especially if it’s your first time in NYC. For tourists like ourselves, we highly recommend a sightseeing tour to show you the best of the city in a short time frame.

We spent 5 days in New York City, and sightseeing tours really helped us get a lay of the land quickly. They also clued us in on places we’d like to return to later on, which is why we suggest going early in your trip! Luckily, there are plenty of tours available – which is why I created this list of the 10 best sightseeing tours in New York City, including tours I’ve personally done and recommend.

You can choose your own adventure with a hop-on, hop-off bus, take a New York City food tour, or explore boroughs to see how locals live. No matter your choice, you’re bound to have a fantastic time in “The City That Never Sleeps.” So keep reading to learn the ins and outs of each tour and find one that calls your name.

Don’t have time to read the full article? Our absolute favorite sightseeing tours in New York City include:

  1. This 6-hour tour that takes you by minibus to all the top landmarks, including Times Square, the Financial District, Greenwich Village, and the 9/11 Memorial.
  2. Hopping on ferries and delving into New York’s history on this guided Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Tour.
  3. This NYC Walking Food Tour that explores either Greenwich Village or Chinatown/Little Italy, sampling a plethora of local cuisine along the way.

Top Sightseeing Attractions in NYC

A close up of the Statue of Liberty as seen on a Ellis Island and Statue of Liberty Cruise in New York City
Lady Liberty!

New York City is not in short supply of famous landmarks. Some of these sightseeing attractions include Times Square, Central Park, the Empire State Building, and the Rockefeller Center. But quite possibly the most iconic of them all is the Statue of Liberty.

If you’re only visiting New York for one day and want to see many of these sites in one go, we recommend this Big Bus New York Tour. This is a hop-on, hop-off bus service, so you can pick and choose which attractions you want to see. You can also get a New York Pass which gives you access to over 100 attractions for up to 10 days.

But ultimately, the best sightseeing attractions also depend on your interests. Foodies will love exploring Little Italy, Chinatown, and Greenwich Village on this NYC Walking Food Tour. History buffs can take this guided tour to visit both the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in one go. And to get off the beaten path, visit the Bronx and Brooklyn on this Boroughs of New York Tour.

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.

Best Sightseeing Tours in NYC

1. New York in One Day Guided Sightseeing Tour

The 911 Memorial outside the 911 Museum in NYC
The 911 Memorial outside the 911 Museum
the outside of St Patricks Cathedral in New York
It’s a stunning building!

If you only have one or two days in New York City, we suggest this guided sightseeing tour. It’s perfect because you’ll get to see over 20 of New York’s top sights in just 6 hours. Settle in on your comfortable climate-controlled bus as your guide leads you on a jam-packed tour of NYC’s best attractions.

Tours start at 9 am or 10 am, and you’ll check in at the meeting point 20 minutes prior. Once your tour takes off, there’s a mixture of seeing things in passing and making stops. I think it’s the perfect balance since you can get out and walk around but won’t get too tired.

To start the day, you drive past Times Square and other iconic Manhattan sights before stopping at the Dakota Building (John Lennon’s former home). From here, you go on a short guided tour of Strawberry Fields in Central Park, where you’ll see the Imagine mosaic dedicated to John Lennon.

On this sightseeing tour, you’ll also stop at Rockefeller Center and Fifth Avenue. Here, you can snap those Insta-worthy photos of the Empire State Building. If this site really draws you in, you can always return to visit the Empire State Building Observation Deck. The city views from atop this building are absolutely epic!

I loved the next part as we drove through neighborhoods I’d only seen on TV! This includes Greenwich Village, SoHo, Chinatown, and the Financial District. The guide shared lots of interesting info and stories about these areas, which really brought the city to life.

Next up was lunch at Gansevoort Liberty Market. You’ll have your pick of delicious eateries, but we absolutely loved the tacos from Sammy’s Taqueria. Just a heads up, food isn’t included, so plan to spend extra on this bit.

After a tasty meal, we visited the 9/11 Memorial to pay our respects. Lastly, we finished this tour with a trip on the Staten Island Ferry to say hi to Lady Liberty. The Statue of Liberty was one of the first things immigrants saw when arriving in the city and cannot be missed!

As you can see, this tour packs in a lot in just 6 hours – and we didn’t even mention everything!

When booking this tour, you have 2 transport options. The first costs $99 USD and is a basic minibus. The second is $139 USD for a glass-top minibus, so you can see the top of those towering buildings from your seat. Both options start and end at the same point in Midtown Manhattan and include all transport, your guide, and bottled water.

For a super comprehensive city tour, book this guided experience right here!

2. 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 on Viator!
Building on Ellis Island on tour in New York City
Ellis Island!

If you want to learn more about New York City and its immigration history, this Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Tour is for you! Not only will you take ferries to both locations, but your guide will share fascinating facts along the way. It’s ideal for history buffs and those who want to visit New York’s most iconic destinations on a budget.

You meet your guide inside Battery Park before boarding the ferry to the Statue of Liberty. Bring that camera because you’ll want to take photos of the beautiful NYC skyline.

Once you reach Liberty Island, you go on a guided tour to learn all about the creation of this larger-than-life lady. You’ll also have time to visit the new Statue of Liberty Museum. I enjoyed the museum because you’re not simply reading plaques. They had interactive galleries, and the whole place really painted a picture of Liberty Island.

Then, it’s off to Ellis Island! Our guide showed us around the grounds and told us what it was like for immigrants back in the day. You can even trace your history here if your ancestors immigrated through this route. I also like that the tour ends at the Immigration Museum. This way, you can take your time before returning on the ferry whenever suits you.

When booking a tour, you have 3 options. We’ve focused on the comprehensive 4-hour tour for $79 USD, which includes Reserve Line access, round-trip ferry tickets, and guided tours of both the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

For $44 USD, you can get a 30-minute guided tour of Battery Park before boarding the ferry with your included round-trip tickets. The final option for $69 USD includes a 2-hour guided tour of Liberty Island only, with round-trip ferry tickets.

Click here to learn more about each option and pick your favorite!

3. Boroughs of NYC Tour

Daniel on the Brooklyn Bridge
Daniel on the Brooklyn Bridge

Step away from the top attractions and see how regular New Yorkers live on this Boroughs of New York Tour. Experience the inner workings of famous neighborhoods like Harlem, the Bronx, and Brooklyn. You’ll learn what makes each outer borough unique and visit the top sights in each.

Your day starts in Harlem, where you’ll learn about the diverse neighborhood’s gentrification as you pass historic sights like the famous Apollo Theater. Then it’s onto the Bronx, home to Yankee Stadium. In this area, we got to stop and see the Big Pun Mural, which pays tribute to the legendary rapper.

You have to cross the Bronx-Whitestone suspension bridge next to get to Queens. Here, we stopped at Flushing Meadows Park. This spot is home to the US Open, which sports fans would appreciate!

The final (and my favorite stop) was Brooklyn. We got to pass by Williamsburg and Crown Heights before stopping in Dumbo for incredible Manhattan Bridge views.

Throughout the whole day, our guide shared interesting insider info about these neighborhoods. We really got a feel for each! They also gave us great tips for places to visit and where to eat. So, if you’re staying in NYC for a few days, take note!

If you visit from spring to fall, you can add Coney Island to your borough tour. You can end the tour here and enjoy the island on your own. This way, before returning to Manhattan, you can explore the boardwalk and grab a hot dog from the iconic Nathan’s for lunch.

This tour has both a private and group option. We prefer the group option, which is a very affordable 5-hour tour that leaves at 8:30 am and starts at $71 USD per person. Adding Coney Island to the mix is a 7-hour tour from $99 USD per person. Both tours include a guide and transport from the central meeting point.

This tour is likely to sell out, so secure your spot online ASAP!

Related Read: If you’re looking to get out of the city, check out the best Niagara Falls tours from NYC.

4. Big Bus New York Hop-On Hop-Off Open Top Tour

Binoculars and a view of New York City from the Empire State Building
The Empire State Building!
The High Line Trail with views of the skyscrapers in NYC
Walking the High Line was so much fun!

If you’ve traveled to any significant worldwide city, you’re probably no stranger to Big Bus and hop-on, hop-off tours. There are two routes around Manhattan to enjoy on this particular Big Bus New York Tour. The best part is that you can hop off wherever interests you. I love the flexibility because you can control your schedule but still see all the city’s best sites.

The two Manhattan routes are Downtown and Uptown.

Downtown Manhattan includes places like the Empire State Building, Times Square, the Financial District, and Greenwich Village. One of my highlights on this route was the High Line, which you can see in our photo above! We got out and walked here, which made for a great city photo shoot.

On the Uptown route, you’ll pass Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Grand Central Station as well as Times Square. I definitely suggest getting out and strolling around or taking a tour of Central Park. This lush green oasis in the middle of the city has pathways, museums, a zoo, and a large reservoir.

Mind you, this is not an exhaustive list – merely the highlights! So, if there’s a Manhattan attraction on your bucket list, you’re guaranteed to see it or be able to stop near it on this hop-on, hop-off tour. Plus, you’ll get audio guides to learn about the important places you pass.

Both routes take just under 1.5 hours (without stops). The Downtown route runs from 9 am – 5 pm, and the Uptown route runs from 10 am – 4 pm. You can expect buses at least once an hour, but downloading the Big Bus app can help you track all the buses and their schedules easily.

To see the most, I recommend starting with the Downtown bus early in the morning, then moving to the Uptown one. If you’re visiting NYC for 4 days or longer, you can opt for a 2-day pass to take things a bit slower.

Tickets for the Downtown route cost $54 USD per person. If you want to do both the Downtown and Uptown routes over 1 or 2 days, it’ll cost $72 USD or $90 USD, respectively. This is an excellent option if you have the time and want to see as many attractions as possible without dealing with public transport. Mind you, these are weekday prices, and it’ll cost $6-$10 USD more on weekends.

Click here to check out all the options and pick the best one for you.

5. New York City Landmarks Circle Line Cruise

Day time cruise in New York city with views of the city skyline
Stunning!

Take to the water to see a different side of NYC on this Circle Line Cruise. Circle Line operates cruises worldwide and is known for its educational and entertaining live narration. They know how to make your cruise unforgettable while sharing many historical and fun facts.

This cruise includes comfortable air-conditioned seating with free WiFi and an outdoor deck if you prefer fresh air. You can purchase food, drinks, and souvenirs onboard. It’s not just about sightseeing, it’s a whole cruising experience! You can also download the free Circle Line App to listen to the tour in other languages like Spanish, French, and German.

You depart from midtown Manhattan and travel down the Hudson River. You’ll pass Battery Park, head up the East River, and under the Brooklyn Bridge. As you can imagine, that covers a lot of ground. Along the way, you’ll see sights like the Freedom Tower, the Empire State Building, and the Statue of Liberty.

We always enjoy harbor cruises in NYC because you can witness the skyline from a whole new perspective. And if you can’t get enough cruising, we also recommend taking a dinner cruise in New York. Why not see the sites in the daytime and the evening?!

There are departure times daily between 11:30 am – 3:30 pm, depending on the time of year. The 1.5-hour cruise costs $44 USD per adult and includes the live English narration. The Circle Line cruise can also be included in the price of a New York CityPASS®, which covers entry to other important landmarks.

For a different kind of sightseeing experience, book your NYC cruise right here!

Related Read: If you’re also visiting the nation’s capital, check out the best things to do in Georgetown, Washington, DC.

6. NYC Must-See Highlights of Manhattan Bus Tour

Bailey and Daniel take a selfie in Central Park, New York City
Central Park!
Bailey poses for a photo at Times Square in New York City
Times Square!

It says it in the title – you’ll see all the must-see highlights of Manhattan on this NYC sightseeing tour. Trust me, you won’t believe how much they pack into this 6-hour tour! Plus, you’ll get to see landmarks on foot, by bus, and from a boat for completely different vantage points!

You’ll meet your guide at 9:30 am at a designated spot, and your day starts with a walking tour of Rockefeller Center. This area boasts some famous venues like the NBC Today Show studios and the Radio City Music Hall. It also has an epic lighting ceremony if you’re visiting New York at Christmastime!

After stretching those legs, you’ll board the bus and drive down 5th Avenue. You’ll stop at Madison Square Park to take photos of the Flatiron and Empire State Buildings. Seeing the iconic architecture of this city is half the fun.

Then, this sightseeing tour will drive by some of the best of Lower Manhattan. You’ll pass places like Greenwich Village, SoHo, and Chinatown while your guide tells you all about each place. We really think this tour gives you such a good overview of the city!

Next, you’ll take to the water by hopping on a 1-hour cruise. Sail past Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty while soaking up the NYC skyline views. This is also your lunch break, and you can buy something on board or bring your own meal. We purchased snacks at the terminal just before boarding, as the tour wasn’t over yet!

The next stop is the 9/11 Memorial, where you’ll visit Ground Zero and see the largest man-made waterfalls. You’ll pass by several more attractions before visiting Central Park. You can walk to the Strawberry Field and take in the scenery. Finally, the tour ends in bustling Times Square.

This 6-hour tour costs $89 USD per adult, including air-conditioned transport in both the bus and boat alongside a professional guide.

To truly see it all in one day, book this New York City combo tour in advance!

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. Gangsters and Ghosts Tour in NYC

Historic street in Little Italy known for being home to gangsters
Little Italy, home of the gangsters!

It’s time to see the dark side of NYC on this Gangsters and Ghosts Tour. Your fun and knowledgeable guide walks you through Lower Manhattan while telling tales of New York City’s mysterious history. you can learn all about the ghosts, criminals, and mobsters that once called the city home. 

Some of the neighborhoods you’ll visit include The Five Points, NYC’s most notorious neighborhood. You might recognize it from Gangs of New York – I certainly did! Then there’s Chinatown and Little Italy, which was gangster central back then. Finally, you’ll see the haunted old mansions of the West Village. 

On this sightseeing tour, our guide passed on so much interesting information in an easy-to-follow way. It was so cool learning more about NYC’s mob history. We see it in movies all the time, but this tour brought it to life. If you enjoy dark tourism or anything spooky or corrupt, you won’t want to miss this unique experience!

This is a 2-hour walking tour leaving daily at 11 am and 3 pm. But for extra spook factor, we recommend doing the night tour that starts at 8 pm. All tours cost $35 USD per adult, begin in Lower Manhattan, and end at Washington Square Park. Since it is a walking tour, make sure to wear comfy shoes.

Head here to book your preferred time.

8. New York Walking Food Tour

The two doughnuts we got to try at Doughnuttery at the Chelsea Market on our food tour
So good!
Daniel eats a slice of pizza on a food tour in New York City
Yum!

Get your stomach ready because this New York Walking Food Tour is food coma central. You can choose between a Greenwich Village or a Chinatown and Little Italy tour. Both include top eateries, secret food spots, and lots of delicious samples. A local guide will give you foodie tips and pass on stories about NYC’s history.

I opted for the Greenwich Village tour. Are you ready to glimpse the tasty food we got to try? It included classic falafel, a cupcake, a New York-style bagel with schmear, and the best New York pizza. There was also a secret dish at the end, but I won’t spoil that! 

The Chinatown and Little Italy tour includes a secret dish, too. But you can also try handmade fried dumplings, a baked roast pork bun, mochi donut holes, fresh Italian deli meat and cheese, brick oven pizza, and New York-style cheesecake. As you can see, you’ll need to bring a big appetite!

I think adding a food tour of NYC is an absolute must! I also recommend doing this walking tour at the beginning of your NYC trip. That way, you can take advantage of your guide’s insider tips. Overall, I loved trying the delicious food while exploring a beautiful neighborhood and learning more about the city.

Both options for this small-group tour start around $85 USD per adult and last from 2.5 to 3.5 hours. If you don’t mind spending more, there’s also an option for a private food tour of Greenwich Village. All prices include all food samples and your local guide. The starting point depends on the tour, but they both end near Bleecker Street.

If you’re hungry just hearing about all those delicious foods, secure your spot on this NYC walking tour now

9. NYC Bus Tour of Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens

Bailey looks over at Manhattan from Brooklyn
Brooklyn Heights!

Explore four of New York City’s boroughs on this NYC Bus Tour. This sightseeing tour combines top NYC attractions with local neighborhoods that tourists often miss. It really showcases the rich culture of the city, with graffiti art and murals, and provides background into the communities that make up each borough. It’s a combination of walking and bussing, so you get the best of both worlds.

You meet the bus in the Theater District for a 9 am departure. The first stop is Harlem, where you quickly visit the Apollo Theater. Then it’s onto Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. We got to go for a little walk outside while our guide told us about this legendary team.

This sightseeing tour also took us to see incredible graffiti. We walked along the Bushwick Collective, which was packed with murals and street art. They (quite literally) paint a picture of local culture and politics and help you dive into the artists’ minds.

There’s also a guided walk through Flushing Meadows Park, which the Mets baseball team calls home. You also get to drive through Williamsburg before stopping at Brooklyn Bridge Park. This is the famous spot with an amazing view of the Manhattan skyline views across the river. It’s one thing to see it in movies, but it’s a whole other thing to capture it in real life.

The tour ends in Little Italy, so you can continue exploring Lower Manhattan afterward. After all, there are so many things to do and see in NYC. Don’t miss Chinatown and SoHo!

This is a very well-priced 6-hour tour. It costs $79 USD per adult and includes private transport and a professional guide. It’s a popular one (as it should be), so I recommend booking in advance.

10. Deluxe Private New York City VIP Tour by SUV

Empire State Building as seen from the streets of New York City
It’s a great way to get around Manhattan!
bailey walks along the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City
A must-do!

Want to treat yourself? Enjoy this Private New York City VIP Tour. In 3 hours, you’ll see the best of NYC and cross several things off your bucket list. The best part is you can get out at most locations to walk around and take photos.

I love private tours of New York City because it’s just you and your group. You get the full attention of your guide and can ask all those burning questions. There’s also no need to worry about logistics or transportation since hotel pickup and dropoff are included. And since you have the safety of a super comfy vehicle, you can even enjoy this tour on a rainy day in New York!

After being picked up, you start in the West Village, where you can feel the bohemian vibes lingering. You’ll stop at hip neighborhoods like SoHo and Tribeca, full of trendy shops and art galleries. Then it’s onto the World Financial Center before wandering the cobblestones of South Street Seaport. After crossing the Brooklyn Bridge, you can take photos of the Manhattan skyline from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. 

Then, depending on traffic, your driver may take you through Chinatown and Little Italy on the way back to your accommodation. If you choose the 5-hour option, you also stop in Midtown and Upper Manhattan. The guides do a fantastic job of explaining what each neighborhood is all about. Overall, it’s a great way to get your bearings in the city!

There are several options for this tour. The private SUV tour (up to 6 people) costs $775 USD for 3 hours and $1,195 USD for 5 hours. If you have a bigger group, you can take a private van tour that accommodates up to 13 people. It costs $995 USD for 3 hours and $1,495 USD for 5 hours. 

Each tour includes private transport, round-trip transfers from any Manhattan accommodation, and a professional local guide. You can choose from a few different start times, depending on which tour you go for.

So gather your friends and book this private tour today.

Related Read: For a more niche tour experience, read our review of the Chelsea Market food tour in New York City.

Why Book a Sightseeing Tour in NYC?

Bailey enjoys the view from the 86th Floor Observatory in New York at the Empire State Building
It’s a must-visit!

There are several reasons we recommend booking one of these sightseeing tours in New York City!

For one, New York City is massive, and tours make it much easier to see all the sights in a limited time. If you want to spend more time exploring and less time navigating the city, you need a tour. Also, knowledgeable local guides teach you about NYC’s past and present. Seriously, there is so much to know about NYC!

It’s so convenient to let someone else plan your trip. You just have to sit back and soak in the sights. Even as a travel blogger, I rely on guided tours to get me around and find out local secrets (always ask your guide!). They help you get your bearings, setting you up for success on the rest of your trip.

Lastly, sightseeing tours allow you to see a different side of NYC. This might be a cruise, a food tour, or a gangster tour. You can’t have these experiences anywhere else!

Related Read: If you have another iconic US city on your to-do list, make sure to read up on the best sightseeing tours in Washington, DC before you visit!

Where to Stay in New York City

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 in New York City
Thanks for reading!

There’s so much to see in New York City that a sightseeing tour is the best way to maximize your time. Getting from one place to another can be a hassle, but luckily, tours handle all those logistics so you can enjoy the experience and snap loads of photos. We loved all the sightseeing tours we took, from exploring the city’s outer boroughs to hitting up the top landmarks. So, if you’re heading to NYC soon, we hope you found some tours for that upcoming adventure!

If you’re exploring more of the country, you can read our blog about the United States here. We’ve also traveled extensively around Canada (Bailey’s home country!). To see what we write about, just click on one of the links below.

12 Things to Know BEFORE Visiting the Chelsea Market, NYC

25 Best FREE Things to do in New York City

15 Things to Know BEFORE Visiting The Edge NYC Observation Deck