This weekend I took a whirlwind trip up to New York City with my brother. The goal was to cram as much into 24 hours as we could and get back before Monday. We experienced 700 Sundays, a heartwarming one-man show starring Billy Crystal and the time he spent with his Dad and how precious that bonding can be. In addition, my brother lost his Sleep No More virginity and got a chance to explore the McKitrick Hotel on his own after hearing me talk about it for years.
However, what impressed us the most was this little bus attraction called The Ride that takes you on a whirlwind tour of the Big Apple in 90 minutes. Long time readers of this blog will remember I previously wrote about The Ride on my last visit to New York City in the summer of 2013. As opposed to a traditional city bus tour that allows you to hop on and off, this a non-stop round-trip, action-packed scenic tour. It’s a Broadway show on wheels, where the city is the stage and you never know when you’re going to run across an actor hidden within the sidewalks waiting to perform just for your bus.
Each bus has stadium seating and is equipped with concert style lighting and sound. It’s truly an engineering marvel to see it in action. For the holidays, The Ride does a special version of their standard tour. My brother and I, in our quick decision to fly up to New York, had exactly two hours to kill and wanted to see as many holiday decorations as possible. On foot, it would have been nearly impossible to cover more than one or two sites. This was, quite literally, the perfect option for us to cover as much ground in the little time we had to spare.
It starts off innocently enough, with a video of a crackling fireplace on the video screens as everyone gets seated. The silver-tongued hosts take a little time to get to know the guests as we pull away from 42nd and 8th Avenue, the standard bus tour chatter. Then, it gets real when Julie, our female guide, decides to put on one of her “favorite holiday tunes,” which happens to be a festive jam done just for The Ride. Click the video below for a 30-second taste.
I have said it before and I will say it a thousand times again; it’s guides that take The Ride and bring it from a standard tour to a full-on show. The guides are, quite often, more entertaining than New York City itself, depending how bad traffic can get during the holiday season. Streets are often jammed this time of year, as it’s the busiest tourist season for the city. On the day I did the tour, they had to divert 20 blocks off their normal route, but at the same time, make it seem like that just a part of the show to the guests on board who will never know the difference.
This can get rather tricky with the performers who need to meet up with the bus in certain key locations along the path. They are notified via a special app designed just for them as to what’s going on with the busses and where they need to move to make their performance fit within the time allotted. On Saturday, The Ride did a total of 14 performances between public tours and corporate buyouts, using three out of the four busses they have in the fleet.
On busy days like that, they have a separate tech crew quietly scurrying the streets making sure the performers, such as the hip-hop Santa Claus, have working microphones and battery packs. I have to give credit to the street performers who do this during the winter season. Being from Orlando (where it was 82 degrees the same weekend I visited New York), I can’t even fathom how cold it must be on those streets waiting to do a three-to-four-minute routine for a bus that shows up every hour or so for eight hours a day.
However, they do it with class and style. Take, for example, this saxophone player and a “random stranger” doing a rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” in the video below. These guys are miked so the sound gets pumped right into the multimillion dollar sound system on The Ride. And while passersby get a free show, those of us on board have the best heated view from our window. Click the video below to see what I mean.
Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing like being on the streets of New York at Christmas time and seeing all the decorations, the lights and just being on the street and being a part of it is the charm of the city this time of year. However, being whisked from one hot spot to another in a fully-heated bus, complete with a multi-million dollar light and sound package, beats hitting the pavement any day.
The reason for this is the hosts of The Ride. These guys bring energy, laughs and fascinating facts to a tour that would be fairly tame and mundane otherwise. So this holiday season, if you find yourself looking to do something a little out of the box, check out the holiday edition of The Ride. Their box office is located next to Madame Tussaud’s off of 42nd and 8th or visit www.experiencetheride.com for more information.