It seems that sitting on a tour bus and having an informed guide point out a city’s sites is no longer enough for the average tourist. Nowadays bus tours must have a theme – some might say a shtick – not to mention a really cool bus.
The tour must be tied to movies or TV shows, or food or drinks or ghosts or scavenger hunts. And of course, it must be interactive.
I got to try a more extreme rendition of this new generation of city tours when I took “The Ride” bus tour during a *conference in New York City recently. Based on the reactions of all the people on the bus with me I would say it’s a fun tour — with a few caveats for families to consider.
Here’s what we thought of The Ride and whether it’s worth it to try it with kids.
Review: Taking NYC’s The Ride Tour with Kids
Table of contents
What To Expect on The Ride
The bus itself is novel. It has floor-to-ceiling windows, a glass roof, rainbow LED lights and three rows of stadium seating that all face the same side of the bus (top). You can only see one side of any given street, but everyone can see really well.
There are two guides at the front and back who keep up a steady patter throughout the 75-minute tour. This is standard practice on a lot of tours these days, so people must like it. I would welcome some well-timed pauses now and then.
The route takes you around midtown and Times Square.
What You See
The novelty factor is that the tour is interactive and “improvised.” At a half dozen points along the way the bus paused and a seemingly typical New York denizen would break into a performance on the street.
On 8th avenue a rapper followed the bus for two blocks; on 43rd street a “UPS driver” put down his packages to break dance; a ballerina practicing her twirls in a white tutu bumped into a “tourist” in Columbus Circle and they danced together around the fountain.
The improvisation comes from the performers interacting with passersby — the rapper did this the most, followed by a Times Square New Years reveler who was sitting waiting for the ball drop five months from now.
And of course the bus riders interact with the performers and anyone else outside the bus who will wave to them.
Aside from a few tourists filming the ballerina on their phones, and a few craned necks for the breakdancer, the pedestrians around the performers almost completely ignored them.
The out-of-towners think this is a hilarious commentary on how jaded, self-absorbed or unfriendly New Yorkers are and for them this is part of the fun, too.
It’s hard to keep in mind that anyone who works nearby sees these performers daily; the novelty of someone doing the soft-shoe on 6th avenue wears off after the first few weeks.
What You Don’t See
Cat Jordan, a British Expat living in New York, joined me on the tour. She was disappointed it didn’t show more famous city sites. You do see Times Square, a few landmark buildings like Carnegie Hall and the Chrysler Building.
And it’s true: The Ride is less about seeing the sights and more about experiencing the tour creators’ interpretation of the cityscape.
Who It’s Best For
I would say this is a tour for your second visit to NYC. It’s the thing you do after you’ve done all the requisite tourist things and you want to try something a little different.
It’s also the tour for fans of shows like Glee, Smash and Fame, visitors who want to believe that New York City is a place where anything is possible and people really do burst into songs and dance routines right on the street.
Pop-loving teens and tweens will love it.
Grandparents will not. Older folks we know who took their teen grandchildren thought it was too loud and also wanted more traditional sightseeing with more famous stops.
There were a handful of kids on the bus ranging in age from 4 to 11. I asked a few of them afterward if they liked it and they all said yes.
Just know the volume on the bus is very, very loud. Every kid was covering his or her ears at least once (I covered my ears, too, once or twice). The youngest kids also needed help spotting the performer they were meant to be watching.
I asked if they offer family tours where they lower the volume a little, but they don’t (I think they should consider it). In the meantime, Cat and I agreed on 10 as a good minimum age for The Ride.
I have to say it’s probably a good bet for a large group, say a family reunion. Knowing other people on the bus fosters the interactive element.
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Tickets are more than $70, with no discount for kids—another reason to skip it with younger children.
The Ride had things I would tweak—the sound level first and foremost— but overall it was more amusing and better executed than other themed bus tours I’ve tried. If you fit the groups it’s best for, I would say give it a go.
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* We were given tickets to The Ride as part of Blogger Bash. We did not agree to review the tour in exchange for the tickets or to write any particular thing. Our opinions are always our own.
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