I wasn’t exactly sure what my family and I were getting into when we secured tickets to experience THE RIDE. I tried explaining what little I knew to my mom, who’d planned to accompany me on the tour: “We get on a bus, with stadium-style seating, so we’re sitting sideways and looking out at Manhattan through huge windows. There will be people who will entertain us on the streets. — sort of like an improv show.”
Indeed, THE RIDE is a little hard to understand and explain before you set foot on the huge, $1.3 million, retro-fitted motorcoach. Even after I experienced it with my mom, kids and husband during our Thanksgiving vacation last year, I’m hesitant to share all the details about our 75-minute midtown tour, since the element of surprise — “What’s coming up next?” “What wacky person will we meet now?” — is so fun!
Upon entering the bus, we made our way to the top of three rows of theatre-style seats. Not only could we see the cityscape in front of us, but also the early evening sky via windows above. We were greeted by two upbeat hosts, who started cracking jokes and interacting with the riders immediately.
We certainly attracted a lot of attention as we made our way from Times Square toward Rockefeller Center and up toward Columbus Circle. The bus is the tallest mode of transportation allowed in New York City, and the exterior is brightly colored and illuminated. Of course, the moving theatre is hard to ignore when THE RIDE hosts turn on the speaker so that people outside on the streets can hear them. Couple that with a a few dozen strangers waving from the bus, and innocent bystanders must be thinking, “What the heck is this?”
Along the way, hosts introduced us to key landmarks in midtown Manhattan — sharing historic facts in an entertaining way, namely by talking to the bus (aka the personified “THE RIDE,” which spoke in a booming voice) and detailing trivia via interior screens.
The highlight of the entertainment, though, was definitely when we encountered professional performers planted on the streets. Again, I don’t want to spoil all the fun by sharing too many details, but chances are when you go on THE RIDE, you’ll meet singers and dancers who let it rip on city sidewalks. The most entertaining part? Watching nonplussed New Yorkers stride right by the break dancers and tap dancers, as if nothing out of the ordinary is going on!
I’d say the only drawback of THE RIDE is that at times it felt like we were going in circles, passing some of the same buildings and Times Square billboards. It would be cool if THE RIDE could have taken us a bit further afield. I recognize, though, what an endeavor it is to put together such an intricate itinerary, with performers on the streets waiting for the big ol’ motorcoach to appear to do their thing. The logistics of what might happen if a traffic accident occurred in the midst of a tour could also get messy if we were many blocks away from our startend point of Times Square. Plus, if the tour ventured into other neighborhoods, it would be longer, and the cost would escalate.
Indeed, THE RIDE is a pricey experience for NYC visitors — $69 per person for the 75-minute event (no discounts for children; with no toilets on board, the tour is recommended for children ages 9 and up). That said, what isn’t pricey in New York City? If you’ve already been-there-done-that on typical Manhattan sightseeing attractions — like the double-decker bus tours — I would indeed recommend THE RIDE.
THE RIDE operates mainly on the weekends for the next couple months, with more weekday times added in March and April. Check out the schedule to see if there’s a tour that might fit in with your next visit to the Big Apple.
Thanks to THE RIDE for providing tickets for me and my family to experience this unusual attraction in New York City!