NYC is filled with endless possibilities of family attractions. So many, that it can seem overwhelming to plan how to get to and from all of them. One solution to consider is a Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour. There are many options for passes and you can choose one that best fits your family’s needs. The tour I took was the Grey Line bus tour and it had four options: downtown, uptown, Brooklyn/Bronx, and a night tour. With this type of tour you can set your own itinerary at your own pace.
If the weather allows it, the top deck of the bus offers the best views. Throughout the tour, guides give information about landmarks you are passing.
Like all guided tours, commentary is either hit or miss. Some were really funny and some felt like a boring lecture. Since a new bus passes about every 10-15 minutes, you don’t spend too much time waiting around. I bought the 48-hour pass and it came with a complimentary City Sightseeing Hop-On Hop-Off Ferry ride.
Here is a sample itinerary for using a 48-hour pass. Just to warn you…when we travel to NYC we try to cram in as much as we possibly can. Based on the ages of your kids and how much you’ve budgeted, you may want to skip some attractions. I allow time to run in Central Park, sit down for ice cream at Turtle Pond, and relax by the water at Battery Park. This way we can have a day full of fun activities with little whining.
DAY 1 (Take the Downtown Tour)
(We started in the theater district)
1. Get off in Times Square: Take in all the hustle and bustle.
If you have older children, they may enjoy the Madame Tussauds museum.
Younger children may enjoy taking a Ferris wheel ride at the Toys r Us store. I wouldn’t buy anything at the store since you’ll be lugging it around all day. (CORRECTION…I just heard that the store has closed. So sad! First FAO and now this. So Sad! You could always walk over to the M&M store and get your candy fix).
2. Next, get off at the 9/11 Tribute Center. I haven’t been there yet but it is one of the top things I will do the next time I’m in NYC. For young children, you may want to read them the picture book Fire Boat. It does a wonderful job discussing what happened on 9/11.
3. Head over to Rockefeller Center and go to the Top of the Rock. In my opinion, it offers even better views than the Empire States Building.
4. Walk over to get on a Circle Line Tour. It offers amazing views of the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge, and panoramic skyline views. They usually have good tour guides and it will allow you to sit down for a while.
DAY 2 (Take the Uptown Tour)
(Get an early start because this day is packed!)
1. Get off at the Museum of Natural History.
Stay on until the Metropolitan Museum of Art. (Both museums are favorites of our family.)
2. Walk around Central Park. Make sure to stop and see Belvedere Castle. My girls loved that the Smurf movie was filmed here. You can get some amazing pictures of the city from the top.
While you’re there, check out Shakespeare Garden. It is gorgeous in spring and summer.
3. Either walk or get back on the bus and get off at the Central Park Zoo stop. Before heading to the zoo, go have lunch at Alice’s Tea Cup. There’s a great one located at 156 E 64th Street.
4. Head back to the park and visit the Central Park Zoo and Tisch Children’s Zoo.
5. If you’re not completely worn out, take an evening horse-drawn carriage ride around the park before heading back to your hotel.