For sightseeing with a twist, “The Ride” and “The Tour” boast facts, comedy and performances from New York City’s busy streets while riding sideways in a “Knight-Rideresque” bus.
Yes, sideways—in a vehicle fitted with stadium style theater seating looking out the virtually all-glass side of the bus. As an audience member, you’ll see the sites, and you also, in effect, become one of them for anyone (and there are plenty) who chooses to watch or photograph you looking outwards.
There’s no doubt these New York City attractions have “tourist” written all over them, but for a family looking to see a portion of the city’s most popular terrain, while making sure the kids can’t complain their feet are hurting, “The Ride,” and “The Tour” offer a new type of sightseeing. For a lesser price than a Broadway show, and they run rain or shine.
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Sights Seen on The Ride in Times Square and Midtown
Billed as “part tour, part entertainment,” by its creators, The Ride starts off in the heart of Times Square New York, NY, where you meet your tour guides or “ride operatives,” on the bus.
Part scripted, part improvised, Scott and Jackie, our guides, made the crowd feel right at home, and explained the state-of-the-art technology involved in the bus, while adeptly commenting on both those inside and those outside. For instance, my husband, who’d chosen to take photos of our family sitting inside the bus, while standing outside in the middle of the street, was quickly pointed out by Scott as “a New Yorker who felt he was too good for sidewalks.”
We immediately learned Times Square in New York is the number one tourist destination in the United States. We also learned, for instance, the entire Empire Theater building (across from where the bus had been parked) was actually picked up and moved 170 feet to preserve it. As we gleaned the details, “The Ride” (the name of the “talking” bus) also showed us historical photos on multiple screens of the building as it was moved.
Heading through Times Square, hearing trivia about the ball drop, we encountered one man who was still celebrating the New Year’s festivities with those around him.
Bus Tour Spoiler Alert
In the show vein, and without giving all the details, riders encounter a number of performers during The Ride. From a reveler, to a dancer, a la Fred Astaire (this modernized version finishes with a selfie), to a delivery man who’s not, you’re never quite sure which of the people you see on the street may turn out to be one of the 5-7 performers who are part of the interactive show.
You may find yourself singing a song from the musical, “42nd Street,” or have a chance to take “The Ride” quiz, where you’ll be asked general knowledge questions about New York City and its attractions. You’ll have a chance to learn both real facts and movie facts about the Chrysler Building (and others), enjoy the architecture of the Mobil Building, and will learn the main branch of the New York Public Library has more than 20 million books inside.
You’ll discover that Bryant Park offers free ping pong, free juggling lessons, free yoga, and free films in the summertime, not to mention Thursday afternoon’s “Broadway in Bryant Park” where Broadway performers come out for free as well. And then there’s the unexpected, because after all, it’s New York City.
Unexpected Bus Tour Features
To our surprise, and much to his, actor Alec Baldwin was stepping into a black car in the middle of the street (not far from 30 Rock) when our bus turned the corner. One astute guide pointed him out, and as he saw us, and we all saw him, he was faced with the reality of having to wave and acknowledge us all—theater verite. Our guide Jackie pondered whether we should follow him, and answered her own question with a ”No, that’s probably not a good idea as he may think we’re the paparazzi. And you know what he does to those guys.”
We learned soon afterwards, that one of the tourists on The Ride with us, was actually an actress from Australia who was in town after having finished shooting her scenes in “The Avengers: Age of Ultron.”
Guides and performers improvised, interacted and reacted with those of us on The Ride as well as those on the streets. We finished The Ride with a rousing karaoke version of “New York, New York.”
Different Options to See New York
There are differences between The Ride and The Tour that should be noted. The Ride is more expensive (although you can find Groupons and other discounted tickets online for both). Or make sure to pick up tickets in person at their box office to save on “processing fees”.
The Ride has comedic hosts, The Tour has a licensed tour guide (although there are laughs to be had on both). The Ride lasts 75 minutes VS 90 minutes for The Tour. The Ride takes you through midtown including Times Square, The Tour hits midtown and the Upper West Side. But on both trips, you’ll have a unique learning experience geared to the entire family.
What’s your favorite New York City attraction to do with your family? Let us know in the comments below.