The first time I came to New York City, I bought a ticket on the Big Apple tour bus. It cost $20 and was valid for 5 days. I was 22 and alone, and had never set foot on a subway platform. So instead, I used the double-decker tour bus as my personal chaffeaur, hopping on and off and learning the lay of this completely foreign land.
I was a frightened little bird, perched on the top level of the bus, scanning the streets below and the buildings above, feeling awed and overwhelmed. I still remember riding through Times Square with my mouth wide open. I remember being horrified by the bags of garbage stacked on sidewalks like pyramids. I remember crying to a woman from Georgia because I was so scared to be in New York alone and her sweet voice reminded me of home. Mostly, I remember seeing a naked guy puffing a cigar on his balcony. It was a weird, life-changing five days.
So when I was invited to take a spin on the Holiday Lights and Movie Sites tour — fourteen years after my last time on a New York City tour bus– let’s just say it was an offer I could not refuse.
But this time I wasn’t 22, alone, and brand new in town; I was a 30-something converted New Yorker tooling around the city with my husband and mother-in-law. Time has marched on. Mostly across my face.
Know what the best thing about being on a New York City tour bus is? You don’t have to walk with all the riff-raff on the sidewalks. Instead you float above all the peasants with their yoga mats and Barney’s shopping bags on cushy seats watching movie clips and eating gingerbread.
For tourists who don’t know their way around, a tour like this really is a great way to get a glimpse of the city without wearing down your shoe leather (or patience). The best part, I think, is that the bus drives past the granddaddy of New York City holiday highlights–the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. You have no idea how crowded this area gets–it’s insane. But if you’re on the bus, you won’t even have to use your elbows to get a peek. This is the way to go. My only suggestion would be to have a bus with a clear top to improve the views.
The tour also stopped at Lincoln Center, which is always beautiful. Might have to go back for the Nutcracker.
Vin showed his respect for the art installations by jumping through them like a 4-year-old. Pardon the blurry action shot.
Vin’s caption bubble if I did photoshop: ”Kid stole my move!”
It was interesting being a local on a bus filled with tourists. To hear the “oohs” and “ahhs” as we passed by the Plaza and the artfully decorated windows of the big department stores on 5th Avenue. The tour reinforced that I’m not a newbie here anymore, and their excitement reminded me of the way I first saw the city. But the truth is, it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve seen it. When it comes to Christmas in New York City, the magic never really goes away.
If you are coming to New York for the holidays, you can buy tickets for the Holiday Lights and Movie Sites tour here. Please be aware that the tour picks you up near Columbus Circle, but drops off in Herald Square. It was perfect for me, as it left us right in front of Macy’s on Black Friday weekend and I was able to pick up that memory foam pillow I’d been eyeing for the last few weeks.
It’s been a weird, life-changing 14 years. Time has marched on. Right across my neck.