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Brandon and I have had the opportunity to ride the CitySights NY hop-on hop-off double decker bus three times since we’ve moved to New England, each time with different family members visiting from out of town.  We’ve always chosen the same route, the Downtown Tour, because we felt that this route shows the best highlights of NYC for first-time visitors.

CitySights ticket pick-up is conveniently located in Madame Tussaud’s on 42nd St, about half a mile from Grand Central station.  We usually walk there but you can take public transportation as well.  The line for picking up tickets can be quite long so I recommend only having one person go in to pick up the tickets and the rest of the party can hang out at the McDonald’s next door.

The double decker buses are a super easy way to see everything in New York City.  The hop-on hop-off option lets you visit the areas of the city that you want to see in more detail.  Sure,the subway gets you from place to place but it doesn’t offer the views that a double decker bus does.  Each bus has a guide that announces interesting information about each major attraction or district but some guides are better than others.  We’ve had one that was excellent and humorous and one that sounded like she was simply reading from a script.  The kind of guide you get on your bus can pretty much make or break your experience on the bus tour.

One of the better guides.  I don’t recall his name

Because we took the Downtown Tour three times Brandon and I tried to make each tour seem new by hopping off at different locations to check out the sites.  Our first trip on the tour we ate lunch in Little Italy, our second trip was combined with a ferry trip to see the Statue of Liberty and our third tour was mostly spent near Rockefeller Center and Central Park.

Stopping in Little Italy for lunch

The Verdict:  The double-decker bus tour is a must-do if you’re visiting New York City for the first time, especially if it will likely be your only visit to the Big Apple.  Does that mean you have to choose CitySights?  Not necessarily.  We saw Grayline and Big Bus Tours doing the same routes and probably for around the same price so take your pick.  We really enjoyed the Downtown tour combined with a trip to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island but now that all of our family has been to NYC at least once we probably won’t do the bus tour again.

When to Go:  Any time is a great time to see New York City.  Christmastime has the beautiful tree at Rockefeller center and you can visit Macy’s Santa Claus.  Summertime is warm and sunny, perfect for picnics in Central Park.

Other Tips and Tricks:  Book your bus tickets online for a better rate than in person and remember to wear sunscreen!  Moving around the city on the top deck may feel breezy in the summer but that sun is still beating down on your head.

Child Friendly?  Yes but I wouldn’t recommend bringing infants or toddlers.  Presuming you have a stroller it would be a pain to get on and off the bus plus the microphones that the guides use can be quite loud.

Pet Friendly?  No

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