10 Terrific Tours to Take in New York City for an Unforgettable Family Vacation
Tours can provide a unique perspective to any city, and of course, New York City is no different. There’s a wide array of exciting, engaging, and even eccentric tours available to cater to everyone’s unique interests, including hard-to-please teens! Here’s an eclectic list of some of my favorites.
KidTripster Tip: As a general rule, most tours are conducted “rain or shine” and normally won’t give refunds. So when booking, make sure to check the weather forecast or be prepared to brave the elements, if necessary!
1. Watson Adventures
For budding detectives out there, Watson Adventures offers a completely different way to tour some select sights around New York City via a scavenger hunt! Here’s how it works: each team gets a list of riddle-like clues to decode in order to identify an object at a number of locations and a 90-minute time limit to unearth the answers. When time’s up, the teams reconvene with their Watson guide who reveals the correct responses. Your team earns a point for each correct answer, and the team with the most points gets a special prize. Because I’m sure that Sherlock Holmes and I would have been totally besties, this tour is one of my favorites! Themes for hunts range from Harry Potter at The Met to Daring Dash through Grand Central Station. It’s seriously fun and surprisingly tricky. So bring your razor-sharp intellect and your sneakers for some sleuthing! Cost: Varies depending on tour.
KidTripster Tip: You’re asked to pick a team name at the start of the hunt, and your guide may award extra points to the team with the best one. So brainstorm in advance to edge out the competition.
2. Federal Reserve Bank of New York Museum & Gold Vault Tour
Photo courtesy: Federal Reserve Bank of New York Museum
Did I have you at gold vault? The Federal Reserve Bank of New York is housed in a fortress-like structure appropriately nestled in the heart of the financial district and is one of only 12 Federal Reserve banks. Perhaps surprisingly, this high-security government bureau offers tours to the public. The friendly and informative staff will guide you on an hour-long experience through a handful of exhibits about the history of the Federal Reserve and how the American banking system works. After a session of questions and answers, you’ll be ushered five floors below ground to see the marvel of engineering that is the gold vault. Here, you’ll get to glimpse a portion of the nearly $241-billion in gold that’s currently kept here. It’s truly an amazing sight to see and definitely the highlight of the tour! The icing on the cake is the souvenirs that visitors receive on their way out – small bags of shredded money! Cost: Free.
KidTripster Tip: Though this tour is free, tickets are a bit tricky to secure because of the limited number of spaces available for each tour. Blocks of tickets are released a month in advance, so plan ahead and be sure to make a reservation early.
3. New York Ghost Tours
Photo courtesy: New York Ghost Tours
If you’re traveling with fans of the paranormal, sign up for a tour with New York Ghosts to see the best spots in Greenwich Village for a ghoulishly, good time. To prompt apparitions and supernatural activity, this venture is only conducted at night. The 90-minute tour will have you stalking the eerie streets, as your guide provides bone-chilling details about the sites where the area’s most gruesome deaths and malicious murders occurred and also shares well-documented stories about the spooky spirits that still linger here. Be warned, this tour is so spine-tingling that afterwards, you may find yourself sleeping with the lights on! Cost: Youth (12 & under) $14; Adults $25. Recommended for ages 10 and up.
KidTripster Tip: Unless you’re touring in the “dead” of summer, be sure to layer up or risk being colder than the deceased that surround you!
4. Superhero Tour of New York
Photo courtesy: Best Tours
Calling all cape-wearers and Comic-Con crusaders! This is your chance to find out everything that you ever wanted to know about your favorite superheroes. This tour was created by one of DC Comic’s former cartoonists who used to draw Batman and Superman! In 1-1/2 hours, you’ll hear the history of the golden age of comics and discover details about the epic rivalry between DC and Marvel. As a huge Avengers fan, I was completely geeking out when we visited the spot where Captain American and the crew fought their first battle together. The guide gives you time for a photo op, so you and your tribe can strike your most heroic poses! If you or your family love superheroes, this tour is a must-do. Cost: $35.
5. Graffiti Tour
Photo courtesy: Graff Tours
Graff Tours showcases the street art and graffiti scene in New York City. The tour is given by actual graffiti artists, so you’re getting the real inside scoop. By the end of the 1-1/2 hours, you’ll know the difference between a throw-up, floater, and burner (that’s graffiti lingo). You’ll also learn some theories about how and where graffiti art originated and hear stories about several prominent artists, as well as see examples of their amazing work. I’ll caution you that after taking the tour, you may feel the urge to pick a spray can yourself. If that’s the case, you can sign up for the graffiti art lessons that they also offer! Cost: Youth $15; Adults $20.
6. Hamilton’s New York Tour
Photo courtesy: Hamilton’s New York Tour
If you’re as obsessed with “A Dot Ham” as the rest of the country is, you’ve gotta do this tour. Jimmy Napoli, the tour’s creator, is a self-proclaimed “edutainer” with a seemingly infinite knowledge of American history and all-things-Hamilton. He and the other guides fuse history and humor to present a fully engaging and entertaining tour devoted to the man that inspired the musical. I loved learning all the little-known facts that they shared. And they stole my musical-theater heart when they inserted lyrics of songs from the show during the highly informative, three-hour tour. (Sometimes our group would even break into a full chorus which, as you can imagine, attracted stares from strangers on the street!) There are two Manhattan tours that you can take – Hamilton’s Wall Street and Hamilton’s Harlem. Both are fascinating and informative but cover different aspects of his life. If your feet tend to give out easily, definitely take the Harlem tour, as there’s less walking involved. Cost: $50.
7. Scott’s Pizza Tours
Photo courtesy: Scott’s Pizza Tours
You probably won’t find folks more passionate about pizza than these guys. In fact, the founder of the tour, Scott Weiner, holds the Guinness World Record for the largest pizza box collection – 595 to be exact. (Mama mia, that’s a lot of pizza!) The business offers several different walking tours where you visit three pizzerias and sample a slice from each, all while listening to your guide explain the distinctions between wood and gas ovens and different types of doughs and how these things and more affect how your pizza tastes. I recommend the Original Crosstown Pizza Walk as it originates in Little Italy, where this country’s love affair with pizza all began. Cost: $45.
KidTripster Tip: If you have an allergy or dietary restriction, let them know ahead of time, and they’ll do their best to accommodate you. However, if you want to ensure a fully, allergy-free experience, schedule a private tour and mention your allergy. They’ll take you to the best pizzerias for gluten-free, vegan or any food challenges that you may have.
8. Yankee Stadium Tour
Photo courtesy: New York Yankees
No sports fan’s stay in New York would be complete without a trip to the home of the most storied franchise in baseball. The new Yankee Stadium has only been in use since 2009, but it still has a ton of memorabilia that pays homage to the history of this celebrated team and its past players. Though the itinerary may change depending on the day and time of your visit, the hour-long tour gives you exclusive access to some of the coolest parts of the ballpark including the Yankee Museum, the press box, and even the dugout. For true baseball fanatics, it’s sure to be a hit! Cost: Youth (under 3) Free; Youth (under 14) $23; Adult $25.
KidTripster Tip: If you happen to visit when the team is in town and plan to see a game, take the pre-game tour. You’ll most likely end the tour by watching batting practice from section 105. Sometimes the players will even come say “hi” to the crowd. If you’re a die-hard fan, it’s totally worth the higher price tag! Save money by buying your tickets online before you head out. The online cost is the same for all ages – $20/ticket.
9. NYPD Crime Tour
Photo courtesy: Walks of New York
Have a future crimefighter in your midst? This tour is definitely for them! These excursions are led by retired NYPD cops, and boy, do they have stories to tell! While giving the history of some of the biggest corruption cases in the city over the last two centuries, they also add some stories about their own crazy experiences from their time on the force. During this 3-hour outing, you’ll learn about all the dirty deeds done by different gangs and politicians as you visit the “scene of the crimes.” Be advised, they often offer up some pretty gory details, though the guides say they’ll paint a less vivid picture if younger kids are present. Cost: $59. Recommended for ages 10 and up.
10. The Ride
Photo courtesy: The Ride
For those who are up for something unique, try this experience that takes the traditional tour bus to a whole new level. The vehicle itself is like nothing that you’ve ever seen before. From the LED light show and stadium seating to the floor-to-ceiling view, you’ll see the city in a whole new way. Oh, and did I mention, this bus also talks? The streets become the stage on this 75-minute trip, as you cruise through midtown Manhattan learning about some of New York City’s most famous sites while watching dramatic dance and music performances along the way. This highly stimulating tour is truly a one-of-a-kind experience. Nothing can really prepare you for what’s about to happen, so just kick back and enjoy The Ride! Cost: $55.
KidTripster Tip: No food or drinks except for bottled water are allowed on The Ride.
Laine Messier is a teen writer for KidTripster. She’s a homeschooled high school student, who previously was splitting her time between Los Angeles and New York City but is now living temporarily in Abu Dhabi. Want to hear more from KidTripster Teens about their travel recommendations? Click here.