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Why hop-on hop-off is NYC’s favorite sightseeing experience

Exploring New York City can get a little overwhelming, even for seasoned travelers, thanks to its sheer scale, countless attractions, and bustling streets. Hop-on, hop-off bus tours provide a hassle-free way to experience the city's best sights, minus the navigation woes or taxi fares. But there's more to love! We're diving into why these tours are a must-try, unveiling hidden gems along your journey, and sharing insider tips to help you feel the true magic of NYC, one hop at a time!

8 reasons to pick hop-on hop-off tours in NYC

Get the full NYC experience

With strategically placed stops at major landmarks and attractions, you can easily visit all the top sites like Times Square, Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, and Central Park.

Hop on and off at your leisure

Create your own itinerary! Get on and off the bus at any stop to explore attractions, grab a bite, or do some shopping. When you're ready to move on, just catch the next bus.

Learn as you go

Live English commentary or pre-recorded audio in multiple languages provides insights into New York's history and culture.

Save money while sightseeing

Compared to taxis or individual attraction tickets, hop-on hop-off tours are budget-friendly, with some even including entry fees to various sites.

Flexible multi-day passes

Make the most of your trip with multi-day passes. Take your time exploring Manhattan one day, Queens the next, and the neighborhood of Harlem on another.

Ride in comfort

Relax on double-decker buses and soak in the sights sans the hassle of navigating public transportation or hailing cabs.

Perfect for families

NYC's hop-on hop-off tours, with kid-friendly stops at Central Park, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, will keep your kids entertained and engaged.

Discover hidden gems

Beyond the famous landmarks, you'll explore lesser-known spots like the vibrant street art in Bushwick, the cultural richness of Harlem, and the historic charm of the Lower East Side.

Schedule and duration of the tours

BigBus and TopView are the main hop-on hop-off tour providers in New York City, each offering both downtown and uptown loops. Here’s a breakdown of their schedules and durations.

BigBus
TopView

Downtown Loop
Covers lower Manhattan, including major attractions like the Empire State Building and Battery Park.
Duration: Approximately 1.5 hours
Frequency: Every 15 minutes from 9am to 5pm

Uptown Loop
Covers upper Manhattan, featuring landmarks such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Central Park Zoo.
Duration: Around 75 minutes
Frequency: Every 30 minutes from 10am to 4pm

Downtown Loop
Covers midtown and lower Manhattan, passing through sites like Times Square and Battery Park.
Duration: Approximately 2.5 hours
Frequency: Every 20 to 25 minutes from 8am to 5:45pm

Uptown Loop
Covers upper Manhattan, with stops at the American Museum of Natural History and Theater District.
Duration: Around 2 hours
Frequency: Every 1 hour from 10am to 4pm

Hidden gems on your hop-on hop-off tour

BigBus Downtown Loop
BigBus Uptown Loop
TopView Downtown Loop
TopView Uptown Loop

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Bryant Park Reading Room

Located adjacent to the New York Public Library’s main branch, this outdoor retreat offers over 4,000 books, from classic novels to the latest bestsellers. Its lush greenery and cozy seating make it a great spot to escape the city bustle while enjoying a light lunch or a coffee.

Stop name: Bryant Park

Drawing Center

The Drawing Center in SoHo is a niche art museum featuring works by renowned contemporary artists like William Kentridge and Trisha Baga. Don't miss their artist-in-residence program, where you can watch the creative process unfold.

Stop name: SoHo

Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA)

Learn about the rich history and diverse experiences of Chinese Americans at MOCA. Explore artifacts, personal stories, and interactive displays that highlight the community's impact on NYC’s vibrant cultural tapestry.

Stop name: Chinatown / Little Italy

Brooklyn Bridge Park

Beyond the iconic Brooklyn Bridge lies Brooklyn Bridge Park, offering waterfront views of the East River, lush lawns, and a variety of recreational activities like kayaking for river excursions and shopping at artisanal markets. If you’re visiting with kids, don’t miss riding the famous Jane's Carousel which was first installed in 1922.

Stop name: Brooklyn Bridge

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New York Public Library

Step into the grand New York Public Library, an architectural gem with high ceilings, shimmering chandeliers and marble walls. The library has a huge collection of over 50 million items, including rare books, old letters, and photos. Visit here if you’re drawn to exploring literary treasures in a serene atmosphere.

Stop name: Bryant Park

Russian Tea Room

Right next to Carnegie Hall, is the Russian Tea Room, a legendary restaurant that opened doors in 1927 frequented by celebrities, artists, and cultural icons such as Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, and Woody Allen over the decades. Treat yourself to their famous afternoon tea service that offers delicate finger sandwiches, freshly baked scones, and a selection of Russian-inspired pastries while admiring the stunning decor, featuring crystal chandeliers, gilded mirrors, and vibrant red banquettes.

Stop name: Carnegie Hall

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Museum of American Finance

Located in the former headquarters of the Bank of New York on Wall Street, this museum offers a glimpse into the history and inner workings of the U.S. financial system. You’ll find over 10,000 artifacts like the first stock traded on the New York Stock Exchange and the original stock ticker tape machine. What’s more? You can test your skills at the interactive stock trading exhibit, where you can try your hand at buying and selling stocks in a simulated market.

Stop name: City Hall

Brookfield Place Winter Garden

Housed in a spectacular 10-story glass atrium, the Brookfield Place Winter Garden in Lower Manhattan's Financial District features popular stores like Saks Fifth Avenue, J.Crew, and Lululemon. Stop by to dine at Le District, an upscale French market, Hudson Eats, a food court with options like Blue Ribbon Sushi, Dos Toros Taqueria, and Mighty Quinn’s BBQ.

Stop name: Brookfield Place

Chelsea Market

Housed in a former biscuit factory, Chelsea Market is a bustling indoor food hall and shopping destination located in the heart of Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood. Be sure to indulge in a slice of the famous Magnolia Bakery banana pudding, a New York institution known for its creamy vanilla custard, fresh bananas, and homemade vanilla wafers.
Stop name: Hudson Yards

The Intrepid Museum

Step aboard this historic aircraft carrier-turned-aviation and maritime museum. Explore the flight deck, and ‘Enterprise’, the first space shuttle prototype, and learn about the Intrepid's role in the Second World War. Don't miss the immersive flight simulators and the vast collection of fighter jets on the top deck.

Stop name: The Intrepid/West 42nd Street

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The Dakota Building

Learn about the fascinating history of this iconic apartment building, from its construction in 1884 to its role as a haven for New York's cultural elite, with its striking Gothic-style architecture and famous residents, including John Lennon, who was tragically shot and killed outside the building in 1980.

Stop name: Dakota Building

The New-York Historical Society

Located near the American Museum of Natural History, the New-York Historical Society offers a deep dive into NYC’s past with engaging exhibits. Explore collections ranging from colonial artifacts to modern pop culture, and discover how NYC became the iconic city it is today.

Stop name:
American Museum of Natural History

Neue Galerie New York

Neue Galerie hosts a rich collection of early 20th-century German and Austrian art, including Gustav Klimt's renowned Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I and other masterpieces from the early modernist period. Beyond iconic paintings, explore Viennese design through exquisite furniture, glassware, and jewelry crafted by the Wiener Werkstätte, a pioneering art collective known for its sleek geometric forms and luxurious materials.

Stop name: Guggenheim Museum

Irish Arts Center

As one of the few dedicated Irish arts venues in New York, this charming red-brick building provides a window into Ireland's vibrant artistic heritage through captivating traditional music performances by renowned Irish musicians like Eimear Arkins and Cormac Begley. You can catch rousing traditional music sessions, or theater performances.

Stop name: Theater District

Tips to making the most of your NYC hop-on hop-off tour

  • Grab a multi-day pass: NYC has so much to offer, and a multi-day pass lets you explore without the rush. Spread out your visits to major landmarks like the Statue of Liberty, Rockefeller Center, and the Empire State Building across different days for a more relaxed and enjoyable experience.
  • Download the NYC route map: Your online tickets include a downloadable route map highlighting stops like Times Square, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Carnegie Hall. Use it to plan your day and find nearby hidden gems, like the Chelsea Market or the East Village.
  • Plan your stops: Decide in advance what you want to prioritize. If you're into history, make the American Museum of Natural History a must-visit. Foodies should hop off at Little Italy and Chinatown. Art lovers won't want to miss MoMA and the Guggenheim.
  • Start with a full loop: While planning your stops is important, sit through the entire loop early in the morning. This gives you a lay of the land and helps you decide where you want to spend more time. Plus, you’ll hear fun facts and stories from the guide that might change your plans!
  • Top deck all the way: Weather permitting, claim a spot on the top deck. You’ll get better views of the landmarks, the buzz of Times Square, and the beauty of Central Park. It’s also the best spot for those iconic photos, just like Joey and Chandler.
  • Bring headphones: The tours include pre-recorded commentary, but NYC's streets can be noisy. Bring your headphones to ensure you catch every intriguing story and fact shared.
  • Chat with the driver/guide: NYC guides are a treasure trove of local knowledge. Ask them for their favorite pizza spot, the best viewpoints, or how to get to that off-the-beaten-path attraction you’ve heard about.
  • Explore early or late: Beat the crowds by starting your day early or exploring later in the afternoon. Popular stops like the Empire State Building or the ferry to the Statue of Liberty are less crowded and more enjoyable outside peak hours.
  • Combine with a Go City pass: If you’re opting for a multi-day pass, consider pairing it with a Go City pass. This combo lets you explore top attractions like the Empire State Building or MoMA at discounted rates, without the hassle of purchasing multiple timed tickets.

Lesser known facts about New York’s hop-on hop-off tours

  • Custom routes for events: During major events like the New York Marathon or Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, hop-on hop-off tours create custom routes to give riders front-row views of the action. This allows you to avoid the crowds and see the festivities from a unique vantage point.
  • Green fleets: Many of the hop-on hop-off buses in New York are hybrid or fully electric, reflecting a commitment to environmental sustainability. By choosing these greener options, you can explore the city while reducing your carbon footprint.
  • Illuminating night tours: Beyond the typical daytime routes, some hop-on hop-off services offer night tours between 6pm and midnight, that spotlight New York’s stunning skyline and illuminated landmarks. These tours provide a unique perspective on the city’s architectural beauty under the night sky.
  • Brooklyn Bridge experience: While most tours focus on Manhattan, some offer a Brooklyn Bridge loop where you can then hop off on the Brooklyn side to explore trendy neighborhoods like DUMBO or Brooklyn Heights. This gives you a chance to experience the city's vibrant outer boroughs.

Frequently asked questions

What's included in New York's hop-on hop-off ticket?

New York City’s hop-on hop-off bus tours include unlimited access to the bus routes for 1-3 days, depending on the ticket purchased. Your tickets include a downloadable route map, pre-recorded commentary in up to 6 languages, and optional upgrades for bike rentals. This allows you to hop on and off at any of the designated stops along the routes to explore the city's top attractions closely.

Are there places to eat near the bus stops?

Absolutely! NYC is a food lover’s paradise, and most bus stops are located in areas with a variety of restaurants, cafes, and food stalls. Stop by Magnolia Bakery at Chelsea Market, Lombardi's Pizza in Little Italy, the iconic Tom's Restaurant on Broadway, and Delmonico's in the Financial District. Use the downloadable map to find eateries near your stop.

Are there any limitations on how many times I can hop on and off?

No, there are no limits on how many times you can hop on and off within the validity period of your pass. The beauty of these tours is the flexibility to explore at your own pace.

Do the buses offer Wi-Fi?

Yes, both BigBus and TopView offer free Wi-Fi on their hop-on hop-off buses in New York City. However, the Wi-Fi's reliability may vary depending on the number of users and the cellular network coverage in different areas. Having a data plan on your phone is a good idea to ensure you’re connected throughout your ride.

Is bringing young children on a hop-on hop-off tour safe?

Yes, hop-on hop-off tours are safe for young children. Most buses have designated seating areas and seatbelts for children. However, with the constant hopping on and off, it's best to supervise young children closely to ensure their safety. Consider their attention span - a full loop might be too long for younger kids.