GoNYC At a Glance

Take “The Ride” of Your Life on This NYC Tour


It seems that taking a ride 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” 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.

The Basics

The Ride is interactive and improvisedThe 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

MOMtravelchat co-host 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. But it’s true; The Ride is less about seeing the sights and more about experiencing the tour creators’ interpretation of the cityscape.

New Yorkers ignore The Ride's performers, just like they're supposed to.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.

Teens and tweens will love it. Grandparents will not.

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. But 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. Overall, Cat and I agreed on 10 as a good minimum age for The Ride.

I asked if they offer family tours where they lower the volume a little, but they don’t (I think they should consider it).

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.

Price 

Tickets are $74, with no discount for kids—another reason to skip it with younger children.

Conclusion

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.

* 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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9 Comments

  1. July 26, 2016 at 2:42 am — Reply

    This. Looks amazing I would like to do this one day

  2. July 17, 2016 at 10:55 pm — Reply

    An interesting concept for a tour bus. It sounds more like a stage performance with the city as the backdrop. Quite ingenious.

  3. July 16, 2016 at 11:31 pm — Reply

    Sounds like a novel tour.
    I like the sound of how the bus is set up, though think paying $74 to bypass street performers is a bit much. Maybe I’m too old fashioned I personally would rather see the sights then street performers I can see walking along the street for free.

    • July 18, 2016 at 1:16 pm — Reply

      This is NYC, though; you can barely leave your hotel lobby without spending $74! A similar tour in another city would probably cost $50.

  4. July 16, 2016 at 12:26 pm — Reply

    I always hate it when they turn the sound up too loud. Still, it could be an interesting tour for, as you said, a second time visitor.

    • July 18, 2016 at 1:18 pm — Reply

      i think i just have to remember to wear earplugs when i do things like this. At a theme park we visited we thought the stage shows were too loud, but they actually had recently turned the volume up based on customer feedback!

  5. July 16, 2016 at 5:36 am — Reply

    It just sounds weird to me. At least you were only subjected to the commentary in one language though. In Europe you would have got it in about six different languages – enough to give anyone a headache.

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