Taking a taxi or the subway around the city to get every attraction you want to visit, is not only expensive but you don’t end up seeing much of New York City itself. Hop-on Hop-off bus tours are great for exactly this reason, you can jump on or off whenever you want to. This way you discover the city from a completely new perspective while getting where you want to go.
Hop-on Hop-off Providers and Routes
There are four different operators of Hop-on Hop-off tours in New York. The two most popular providers are Gray Line (operate the bright red buses) and Big Bus (which use the dark red buses). These two providers have the largest fleet of buses and drive the routes at regular intervals. While these two operators do have slightly more busses meaning that you won’t have to wait as long at the stops, all of the hop on hop off bus tours on offer drive similar routes along with the same attractions.
IMPORTANT: Even though the hop on hop off buses pass most major attractions along their routes, they are not suited for regular transportation within the city. For simply getting from A to B, the subway is a much better choice.
Hop-on Hop-off ferry
Map of Routes
Hop-on Hop off Buses are great if you want to see a lot in little time
Overview of all Hop-on-Hop-off Loops
Both of the operators of the Hop-on-Hop-off tours are fairly comparable, the only difference being the higher popularity of the Big Bus tours. All hop-on-hop-off tours providers offer the same loops: Downtown, Uptown, Brooklyn, and the evening/night tour.
- Downtown Loop (2 hours)
The most popular tour is the Downtown loop. This tour includes sights such as Times Square, Madison Square Garden, the Empire State Building, SoHo, Battery Park, Radio City Music Hall, Little Italy, Wall Street, the Financial District, Lower East Side, the United Nations Building, Rockefeller Center, Carnegie Hall and many more.
- Uptown Loop (2 hours)
The Uptown loop takes you to the north of Manhattan. You will cross famous 5th Avenue, drive along Central Park in the direction of Harlem, and will see many other attractions on this tour including Lincoln Center, American Museum of Natural History, Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Grant’s Tomb, Apollo Theater, Harlem Market, The Museum Mile, the Guggenheim, and the Metropolitan Museum.
You can check out the Uptown and Downtown loops plotted on the map below. This way you can check what attractions along the way you want to see along with where you might want to stop to explore.
- Brooklyn Loop (2 hours)
The third option is the Brooklyn Loop. On this route, you will see the best spots of this beloved borough, for example, the Botanical Garden, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Antique Furniture District, Fulton Mall, the Brooklyn Museum, and many others. The new departure point for the tour is Old Fulton Street by Prospect Street in Brooklyn. It no longer connects to any loops in Manhattan.
- Night Tour (2.5 hours)
The fourth tour is the Evening/Night Tour. This hop-on-hop-off bus tour through NYC is also very popular because seeing New York at twilight and at night is truly something special. You will drive by all relevant attractions: you will have a chance to see Times Square and its nighttime glow, the Empire State Building, Central Park, Greenwich Village, SoHo, Chinatown, and Little Italy.
- Harlem Tour (1.5 hours)
You can also take the Harlem/Bronx Tour. This tour will take you way up to the northern part of New York City and covers such great sights as the Malcolm Shabazz Harlem Market, Sylvia’s & Red Rooster Lenox Lounge, the Harlem neighborhoods, and the Yankee Stadium.
Tickets for Hop-on Hop-off in NYC
Before purchasing your hop-on-hop-off tickets, you should first find out whether your sightseeing pass already includes tickets. Here’s an overview of what sightseeing pass includes what loops, for how long and by which provider:
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 or 10 days
72 hours with FLEX pass
24, 48, or 72 hours
Should you not want to make use of a sightseeing pass, you can find all ticket options by the two major providers, Big Bus and Gray Line. Note that all tours are offered in English, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, and Chinese!
1. Big Bus Ticket Options
- Classic (1 day): Uptown, Downtown
- Premium (2 days): Uptown, Downtown, Brooklyn, Harlem, Night Tour
- Deluxe (2 days): Uptown, Downtown, Brooklyn, Harlem, Night Tour, Sightseeing Cruise, Empire State Building Admission
2. Gray Line Ticket Options
- 1 Day: Uptown, Downtown, Brooklyn, Night Tour, Cruise
- 2 Days: Uptown, Downtown, Brooklyn, Night Tour, Cruise
- 3 Days: Uptown, Downtown, Brooklyn, Night Tour, Cruise
- New York Sightseeing Ferry: Hop-on Hop-off ferry
- Night Tour only: Hop-on Hop-off bus tour at night
You can even add attractions to those ticket options!
Where can I get a good deal on hop-on-hop-off bus tickets?
It is best to buy tickets online. They are cheaper if you buy them online in comparison to at the ticket counter (this is due to the fact that if you buy in advance, the operator can plan ahead). Buying tickets online is secure and fast. First, you choose the date you want to take a tour, and how many people will be on the tour. Then you choose which route you would like to book. You will be sent a voucher that you can redeem at any of the bus stops to hop on the bus!