Sure, hopping on a tour bus might be the most obvious choice for checking out New York City, but there’s more than one way to explore the Big Apple—especially with kids. With limited attention spans, children are a special breed of tourist, and their needs trump all. Luckily, there are plenty of great ways to discover the city while keeping the younger set entertained and engaged. Families who like to bike, boat, walk—or even fly—can get the most out of a city visit with a tour that meets their specific sensibilities.
Below, our hand-selected picks for the best family tours on wheels, water, foot or chopper.
This easy one-hour tour is ideal for fidgety types. Climb aboard the Circle Line Downtown’s luxury cruiser for river views of some of the city’s most notable sites. Your tour will include The Statue of Liberty, The Brooklyn Bridge, The World Trade Center site and The Empire State Building. And this is not your average boat ride. The Zephyr features a bar and climate controlled decks for the ultimate in boating enjoyment—all year long.
The Liberty Cruise
Circle Line Sightseeing does it again with the Liberty Cruise, a 75-minute express excursion that takes you and your family right to the Statue of Liberty, passing Ellis Island, the historic immigration center, the rising Freedom Tower, and the World Financial Center along the way. Kids will dig the lively narration run by seasoned NYC guides—and the snacks, which are available for purchase on board. In addition, Circle Line Sightseeing offers a Kids Cruise Series during the summer months that also has great views of the Statue, plus kid-friendly tour guides.
Adventure seekers will love Circle Line Sightseeing’s wild ride. The Beast is a 70-foot offshore racing powerboat that takes passengers on a 30-minute ride to the Statue of Liberty. Thrill-seeking passengers will cruise down the Hudson River at speeds up to 45 mph. Kids will particularly enjoy cruising on the bright green boat adorned with sharp fangs. Circle Line Downtown also offers it’s own 30-minute speedboat thrill ride across New York Harbor called The Shark, which leaves from South Street Seaport’s Pier 16.
Flavors of NY Tour
Get your taste buds and your feet moving on this East Village-based food tour that is as diverse as the melting pot that is New York City. The walking tour crisscrosses through the artsy and historic downtown neighborhood and includes tastes of kid-friendly fare like Polish pierogis, the classic NY hot dog, a slice of the city’s famous pizza and locally-crafted ice cream and cookies. Yum!
Cowboys and Cookies: The High Line Park Tour
Check out the High Line Park as more than a mere spectator. This dynamic walking tour will help kids understand how the elevated rail line was transformed into a modern park and includes stops by the White Start Pier where Titanic survivors disembarked, and the former Nabisco Plant where the Oreo was invented.
NBC Studio Tour
Parks & Recreation, Today, Saturday Night Live—NBC is behind many of your favorite shows. And now is the chance to get behind the scenes of prime time TV with this long standing (since 1933!) tour that will take you to Broadcast Operations and the Make-up Room. You’ll also get to produce your own news and weather program in the High Definition Mini-Control Studio.
A Slice of Brooklyn Pizza Tour
New York City is famous for many edible treats and pizza is at the top of the list. Kids will learn about pizza’s journey from Italy to Brooklyn in this 4.5 hour tour of all that is warm and cheesy. The tour includes stops by notable Brooklyn sites like Brooklyn Bridge Park, Coney Island’s boardwalk and amusement park and locations from famous films like Goodfellas, The French Connection, Annie Hall and Scent of Woman. And no pizza tour would be complete without a taste of the pie itself. Each participant will have the chance to indulge in several slices of authentic NYC pizza.
There are bus tours and then there is The Ride. This is not your average cruise through the city. Get ready to laugh during this unconventional experience that includes on-street entertainers like rappers, break dancers and tap dancers who interact with NYC passersby. And you’ll be riding in style. Passengers on The Ride cruise through city streets in a “technologically advanced moving theater motorcoach.” New York is about the people and the action—The Ride gets you involved.
Inside Central Park Bike Tour
Check out one of the world’s largest and finest urban public parks on one of the best methods of transportation. This six-mile bike tour will wind you and your kids through a large swath of the park’s 843 acres while teaching you about its history and its most interesting landmarks (Strawberry Fields, Cleopatra’s Needle, the Swedish Cottage and more). Beginner and experienced riders can join in on the fun.
New York, New York Helicopter Tour
Always wanted an aerial view of New York City? Is your kid an adrenaline junkie? If so, this is your tour. Check out NYC’s greatest sites from above. This exciting helicopter tour begins by flying down the Hudson River toward Manhattan’s financial district. Along the way you’ll pass the Statue of Liberty, Governors Island and Ellis Island. The tour then flies up the river past the Empire State, The Met Life, Woolworth and Chrysler buildings with sightings of Central Park, Yankee Stadium, the George Washington Bridge and more. libertyhelicopter.com