There aren't many cities in the world where you'll find a better selection of tours lead by passionate guides ready to share their knowledge and experiences with visitors. See the city from a boat, fly over in a helicopter, explore by bike or go on fun walking tours while learning about New York City's history, culture, architecture, cuisine, theater and photography. Here are the best New York City tours.
1. Liberty Helicopters
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You can live a lifetime in New York City and still not see everything. With Liberty Helicopters Big Apple tour, however, you can come close, at least when it comes to the big picture. From Ellis Island to Freedom Tower, from Governor’s Island to the Empire State, you get to see most of the city landmarks from the perspective normally reserved for picture books or business tycoons. Everything looks different from above, and for about 15 minutes you will see New York City from a completely new perspective.
All tours start at the downtown Manhattan heliport. Check for combo packages that will take you on a continuing tour of the city by bus or boat after you land or that will allow you to do other interesting things to do once your flight is over.
2. Big Apple Greeter
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Coming to New York City for the first time can be a bit intimidating. If you do not have a friend or a relative to take you around and show you the ropes, you might feel lost. Seeing the city with a Big Apple Greeter is like having your favourite uncle or a cousin showing you around. There are about 300 of them, true New Yorkers, people who volunteer their time to help visitors enjoy their favorite city more. They are not professional tour guides, but they have life-long experience in the city and will show you parts not mentioned in any guide book.
They will take you to their favourite bagel shops or hot dog stands, and by the end you will fall in love with the place and see it the way they do: as a bunch of neighbourhoods, each unique, fun, diverse, full of history and culture, and full of people who, like your greeter, want you to feel at home and come back. Phone: 212-669-8159
3. 911 Ground Zero Tour
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No visitor will be able to take the 911 Ground Zero Tour and stay emotionally uninvolved. Depending on the tour you decide to take, you will visit Ground Zero, the 9/11 Memorial, the 9/11 Museum, and the Freedom Tower Observatory. You will also visit St. Paul’s Chapel, the site of a rescue center on the day of the event.
You will see the Firemen’s Memorial Wall and hear the stories of acts of extraordinary heroism and overwhelming tragedy that happened on that day. You will be able to see the new World Trade Center towers and the Freedom Tower rising into the sky, the tallest structure in the Western world. Phone: 646-801-9113
4. Circle Line Cruises
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Head out onto the water with a Circle Line Cruises. See the New York Skyline in style as you cruise past the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge and the famous Yankee Stadium. Take their landmark cruise and see the Chrysler Building, Empire State Building and much more in one easy cruise. There is nothing more beautiful than New York by night so if your schedule permits, take their Harbor Lights Cruise which departs at dusk.
Watch the sun set behind the Statue of Liberty during this magical hour and a half tour. Children under three cruise free, making a Circle Line Cruise a must do for the entire family. Phone: 212-563-3200
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5. Citifari Photo Tours
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There is so much to see in New York City, and it is tempting to take millions of photos to bring back memories or to share the adventure with family or friends. But how often do you come back from a vacation to find that your photos are so boring, out of focus, and poorly composed that not even you want to see them? Taking photos of such a magnificent city with so many spectacular sights with a professional photographer ensures some photos that will be show stoppers.
Citifari guides will help you improve your photography skills, point you to the most interesting sights, and show you the city in a new light. The tours last about two and half hours, and there are four different destinations, depending on what you are most interested in: Central Park, Landmarks, SoHo and New York by Night. Phone: 262-726-1201
More awesome New York tours: Free Tours by Foot, Get Up and Ride and Brooklyn Unplugged Tours.
6. SANDEMANs New York Tours
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For those on a budget, check out SANDEMANs New York Tours. They offer a free two hour tour around New York which will take you through Wall Street, Broadway and many other must see sites. Hear the history of New York and local stories that will remind you of just how special New York truly is. See old and new combined, in the city that never sleeps, with a local New Yorker as your guide.
SANDEMANs offers tours that are highly informative and entertaining. These tours are suitable for the whole family, making it a low cost family day out. Phone: 347-853-5713
7. Taste Harlem Food & Cultural Tours
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For most visitors to New York City, the city worth visiting stops north of central park. They have no idea what they are missing unless they cross 96th street. Harlem is an unique part of the city with fascinating history, architecture, and music as well as a mix of cultures and definitively interesting eateries. Taste Harlem walking tours will allow you to discover restaurants that range from classy places with white linen tablecloths to greasy spoons with delicious, finger-licking ethnic delights.
The tours last from two to four hours and take you slowly through four different eateries where you will get to go behind the scenes, talk to chefs, and sample their best offers. While walking between restaurants you will learn from your knowledgeable professional guides about interesting places, people that lived in them, and spots that have earned a place in history.
8. Uncle Sam's New York Tours
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Tourists walk a lot. Walking is the only way to really get the feel of a city, see the people, and poke into hidden nooks and corners. But, you might be passing by some really interesting spots that are not in your guide book. You need a knowledgeable Uncle Sam’s guide, a native New Yorker who has pounded the city pavement since toddlerhood and who will tell you stories that are not in any guide book.
They will take you on a pub crawl, shopping tour, a tour of the World Trade Center, and a nightclub tour, and for two to four hours you will feel like you are part of this crazy city that never sleeps. Your feet might hurt at the end but you will love every moment of your tour. Phone: 212-888-8769
9. Gotham SideWalks
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Gotham SideWalks tours show how important the role art plays in the life of New York City is. The tours are all custom tailored, and no two tours are the same. They will take you where very few tourists go. Native New Yorkers enjoy SideWalks too because so much changes daily. Two hour walking tours focus on the streets in Lower East Side and streets around the famous Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn.
They combine visits to the most interesting galleries, art studios, and street art spaces. Street art is thriving in both neighborhoods. You will also learn about the neighborhoods’ architecture and history, visit some interesting pubs and eateries, and get the feel of the real New York. Phone: 347-470-7181
Good to know: Best Time to Visit New York City
10. Rockefeller Center Tour
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No trip to New York would be complete without a visit to Rockefeller Center. Take the tour and learn the history of one of New York’s most recognized landmarks. Hear the story of founder John D. Rockefeller Jr, and his vision for Rockefeller Center. Marvel at the one of a kind art and architecture that you will find at every turn.
Head up to the Top of the Rock and stand 259 meters above the city where the views are unrivaled. Shop, skate and eat during your visit; it’s a perfect day out for the whole family.
11. Oscar Wilde Tours
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Oscar Wilde Tours will show you the gay side of New York City. New York is, and has been, home to many gay artists and notable gay figures who have played a huge role in shaping both American culture and gay history. The city is bursting with gay stories, and Oscar Wilde Tours is bringing them out of the closet. They offer a two-hour walking tour of the Metropolitan Museum where you will learn the museum’s gay secrets, from ancient Greece to Picasso’s portrait of Gertrude Stein.
You can also take a tour of Greenwich Village where the gay liberation movement was born, and where gay artists have lived and loved, from Walt Whitman to Andy Warhol. Special tours are also available: a walking tour of the East Village, with gay figures such as Allen Ginsberg and Quentin Crisp, and a bus tour of the complete gay city, from Harlem to Brooklyn Heights, covering New York gay history from the 17th century to today. All tours are a fascinating mix of historical facts, art history and city lore. Phone: 646-560-3205
12. Real New York Tours
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It is impossible to see the whole of New York City in a day unless you have a very good tour guide. Real New York Tours will take you on a whirlwind tour of the city that never sleeps with one of the native guides that have been exploring New York since they were toddlers and have all kinds of stories to tell you about it. You can choose group tours that will take you to all the main sites and introduce you to the New York subway. Or you can take one of the private tours where you can tell the guide what you are interested in and he or she will tailor it to your taste.
You will get to walk narrow neighborhood alleys, eat the best hot dogs, visit fabulous but unknown art galleries, and meet some very special people, who, like your guide, make this city so unforgettable. Phone: 917-572-7017
13. Saddleshoe Tours
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Saddleshoe Tours are tours of New York street art, which is everywhere. It is impossible to ignore it, and it is an important part of the city landscape. But, to understand what it all means, who did it, and why, you need expert help. Saddleshoe Tours will take you from the Lower East Side to Soho, from Meatpacking District to Chelsea, along Bushwick Street, and across Williamsburg Bridge, to show you the murals, graffiti, and street art that can’t be found in galleries, but that nevertheless paint a picture of the city, its residents, and their issues and stories.
You will walk along a few historic city streets and visit a number of colorful neighbourhoods, some that artists have claimed as their own. You can also take an art scavenger hunt organized in cooperation with Watson Adventures. You will have a unique adventure that will open your eyes and show you a different face of New York City.
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14. Broadway Up Close Walking Tours
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If you are a theatre buff, you must have dreamed of getting a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the hidden world of big theatre productions – all the drama, displays of ego, and passionate displays emotion that happen before the curtain raises. You can gain intimate knowledge of and a private visit to the Broadway theatre district with one of people who are part of it – real working actors and production managers. The Broadway Up Close Walking Tours will take you from the south end of the theatre district on 41st street all the way to 45th street between 6th and 8th Avenues.
You will hear stories about the big successes and tragic flops, get the inside scoop on big Broadway legends, and hear about some intimate experiences from your own guides. There will be a ghost story or two as well. The tours take a bit less than two hours. Be prepared to walk, be amused and entertained, and take some fabulous photos. Phone: 917-841-0187
15. New York Media Boat
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Some people like to take their sightseeing slowly in order to soak up the atmosphere. Others prefer to do it at full throttle. New York Media boat is for speed junkies – it will actually go up to 30 knots between stops at the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Freedom Tower, and everything else you will encounter along the Hudson river. You will go aboard the same type of boat CNN journalists and the Navy SEALs use on their missions.
Your captain Bjoern Kils is a former TV cameraman and has quite a few stories to tell. He is also full of knowledge and legends about the landmarks you will pass by. For about an hour and a half, you will have the adventure of your life. You might get a little wet, but you will love the thrill of the ride.
16. Ahoy New York Food Tours
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New York City is famous for many things, but there is no place on Earth with such a diversity of foods from every corner of the world. New York has everything from fancy five-course meals made by celebrated chefs to fabulous bagels and hot dogs from street vendors, and visiting this city without experiencing its rich food offerings is not an option. Ahoy New York Food Tours will take you to two of the most celebrated food districts – Chinatown and Little Italy. The three-hour food tours are a delicious mix of food, culture, and history.
You will get to visit and grab a bite to eat at the more than 100-year-old Italian cheese store – the oldest in America. You’ll also stop by a pastry shop with incredible Italian pastries, an authentic, colorful Chinese dumpling shop, and the oldest Chinatown tea parlor. You will get plenty to eat, an earful of stories, and a noseful of smells, and you will surely be back for more. Phone: 646-681-3994
17. Manhattan by Sail
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Tall ships played a big role in the history of Manhattan Island. You now have a chance to board one of them and take a 90-minute tour of the picturesque and fascinating New York Harbor. Manhattan by Sail offers all kinds of tours, including basic sails around the island to cocktail parties, wine tasting, sunset tours, weddings, and private charters on one of their two magnificent sailboats.
Shearwater, built from native hardwoods in 1929, is the 82-foot schooner, an elegant Gatsby-era yacht that can accommodates up to 48 passengers. Clipper City is a replica of schooners that used to haul lumber a century ago, a 158-ft. long sailing ship that is New York’s biggest and most elegant and can accommodate 134 passengers.
18. CityRover Walks
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Go off the beaten track and join the CityRover walking tours. With small, intimate tours and knowledgeable tour guides, get to know the real New York as you head to some of New York’s most famous landmarks. If you are short on time, take one of the seven half day tours on offer. Visit famous landmarks, wander around Central Park or try out the new Art in the City Tour, all in three jam packed hours.
With those who have more time on vacation, there are three full day tours to choose from. These small, local tours are perfect for the whole family.
19. Inside Broadway Tours
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When people think of New York City, they often think of Broadway. Take an Inside Broadway Tour through the New York Theatre District. Each tour guide is a professional actor, singer or director who is well informed to tell you not only the history of Broadway Theatre but also their secret backstage stories. Learn about the audition process and the journey to opening night.
On this walking tour, you will visit Hell’s Kitchen, Shubert Alley, Sardi’s, 42nd Street and much more. This two-hour tour is perfect for the whole family and those who adore theatre. Phone: 212-245-0710
20. Harlem Heritage Tours
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Harlem Heritage Tours is an authentic tour company that will take you on a unique tour through the streets of Harlem. Led by Harlem locals, the tours will introduce you to the authentic culture and history of this district. Choose one of the walking tours where you will hear world renowned gospel singing, or take the Harlem Civil Rights Tour and learn about Harlem’s impact on the American Civil Rights Movement.
For those with more time, there are day tours available that offer a full immersion into the fascinating Harlem history. Phone: 212-280-7888
21. Foods of New York Tours
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Each city that you visit will have its own set of unique culinary delights and New York is one of the most diverse destinations for food lovers. The Food of New York Tour offers fantastic food tasting and cultural walking tours through several of New York’s boroughs. Become a local for the day and try food from speciality food shops, ethnic eateries and local restaurants. Foods of New York offers six different food tours so there is something for every taste. If you have more time, check out one of their cooking classes or book a custom tour for your event.
22. Style Room
There is a new way to explore New York City if you are a visiting fashionista. It is called Style Room, and it is a tour of fashion designer studios and showrooms guided by fashion expert and shopper extraordinaire Karen Parker O'Brien. She will take you on a whirlwind tour of NYC fashion spots behind normally closed doors, accessible only to the invited and initiated. Not only you will meet fashion designers face-to-face and see some of the latest designs and trends, you will be able to buy all that your heart desires for up 65% off retail. During this private VIP tour that lasts five hours, you will be brought to up to five different fashion designers’ studios showrooms. Phone: 646-245-5316
23. The Wall Street Experience
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Step inside Wall Street with the Wall Street Experience Tour during which you will hear from industry professionals who have worked on Wall Street and have the inside scoop. With two tours on offer, you can personalize your itinerary to get the most out of your experience. Take the Financial Crisis Tour where you will hear about the events of the 2007/2008 and how some traders profited from the crisis while others landed in financial ruin.
The Wall Street Insider Tour is perfect for those who prefer a more general overview. Learn what life is like for a trader on Wall Street on this intriguing and unique tour. Phone: 212-608-0130
24. New York Tour1
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Be immersed in New York culture with New York Tour1; walk down the cobblestone streets of SoHo and sample the cuisine of Little Italy and Chinatown, in the SoHo, Little Italy and Chinatown Tour. Take a tour through Central Park and discover its incredible history, or walk the High Line in the Chelsea Tour. You can take the 9/11 Memorial Wall Street Tour where you will tour the financial district before visiting the breathtaking memorial.
If you have more time, go on the full day tour and see the very best New York has to offer. The company offers a diverse selection of tours so make sure you check out their website for a complete itinerary. Phone: 646-801-8692
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Streetwise New York Tours
Streetwise New York Tours will show you the New York that you won’t find listed in any guide book. Visit Manhattan, and see iconic buildings side by side with neighborhood treasures, learn where the locals eat, shop and play. Up and coming Brooklyn is well worth a visit; take a boat ride up the East River and stroll through Brooklyn Heights.
Streetwise offers a multitude of tours, so make sure you visit their website. With walking tours that are three hours, four and a half hours of six hours, you can build an itinerary that suits your whole family. Phone: 347-327-6063