Prepare to be 'Carried away' on one of New York City's most unique tours.
Please note: We were provided with complimentary media passes to participate in this tour and we thank On Location for their support. Some links in this post may be affiliate links, which means we are paid a small commission should you make a purchase.
There's nothing I love quite like a layover, the chance to discover a city and explore a destination all while you're in between flights. New York City is the perfect layover location. There are easy transportation connections to every nearby airports, there is plenty to see and do no matter the weather, and it's the kind of place that never gets old.
I've learned a bit about New York City and layovers since our first round the world trip in 2013. New York was our first stop! Once again, on this round the world trip, we were in New York first and, like last time, we had a scant 12 hours to explore. Fortunately, I knew exactly what to do. On Location Tours offers bus and walking tours that highlight television and movie scenes that were filmed in New York City. We boarded their signature TV And Movie tour several years ago and loved it. It was the perfect way to discover the city! This time, I knew I wanted to dig a bit deeper, discover some new neighbourhoods, but still enjoy all the amenities that their bus tours offer. Their Sex And The City tour was the perfect solution. I was a fan of the show AND it would take me into brand new areas of New York. Perfect!
As lead character Carrie Bradshaw might say "I couldn't help but wonder...." what I'd discover along the way. Turns out it was a lot! Here is everything I loved about On Location Tours' Sex And The City bus tour.
You won't be lost if you're just a casual fan (or even if you've never seen the show).
For more casual fans of the show, or former super-fans who haven't followed the franchise carefully in a number of years, or even folks who haven't really seen Sex And The City at all, I have some good news. You won't be lost on this tour! Our tour guide, Lou, went out of her way to make sure everyone on the tour felt welcome, offering up congratulations on birthdays and special occasions and making an effort to make the three men on board (Ryan was one of them!) feel included.
Clips from the show and the movies played on the several small screens scattered throughout the bus and Lou used them to illustrate her points, giving helpful "remember when's...." and putting things into context. As someone who has seen the Sex And The City movies and watched the original series, I would consider myself a fan but not necessarily a super fan. There were a lot of clips that I didn't recognize at first, as well as plot lines that I somewhat remembered but not well enough to have instant recollection of every detail. I found that Lou struck a really good balance of catering to everyone on the bus and making sure that everyone was following along.
As an aside, I should note that Lou also went out of her way to make sure we, as a group, were on excellent behavior when visiting residential areas of the city. In particular, when we walked down Perry St to see "Carrie's" townhouse, Lou made sure we didn't block the sidewalk or disrupt the neighbors. I think this really speaks to the quality of the tour and how they respect the neighbourhoods they visit.
No cookie cutters: You see New York City's highlights in a personal way.
There are hundreds of standard, cookie cutter tours of New York City designed to show travelers the city in just a few hours. While there's nothing with taking a classic approach, my experience with On Location's film and TV tours is that the city instantly feels more personal when you connect it with something you love. For instance, for Sex And The City fans, the New York Public Library isn't just a beautiful building - it's also part of a pivotal scene in the franchise's first movie. That sense of "wait a minute -I know this place!" is a powerful motivator to learn more about a building's history, architecture, and place in the city.
Another great reason to be part of the Sex And The City tour? You're not following the same route as all the other tour groups. That means having the chance to see some different streets and buildings, even if many attractions are the same. Best of all, as the tour goes by the filming locations from the TV show and the movies, that means visiting neighbourhoods such as Chelsea, Noho, and the Meatpacking District. You'll be driving in and out of residential areas, near small community parks, and generally in parts of the city that very few tours ever venture into.
Lou made sure to talk about the "real" lives and roles of buildings, streets, and monuments beyond their Sex And The City appearances. We learned so much about the world of film and television - how one location can stand in for another, how major shows negotiate the use of established restaurants, galleries, and public spaces, and what the experience is like on set for extras and actors. It was fascinating. Lou also gave fantastic foodie recommendations, telling us exactly what we could expect if we visited the restaurants and cafes featured on screen. (Added bonus: Lou reports that celebrity sightings are a regular occurrence on the tour! Alas, no famous faces were spotted when I was in town...)
You have a chance to shop, explore - and drink!
Sex And The City devotees will instantly recognize "Scout" - the fictional bar on Mulberry Street owned by the characters Aidan and Steve. In reality, it's a bar called Onieals and it's just one street over from Mulberry. ONieals is one of several stops where tour participants can get off the bus, stretch their legs, and drink, eat, explore, and shop. Of course, the huge appeal of this particular stop is the chance to have a drink, just like the cocktail loving gals of the franchise would do. A classic cosmopolitan will cost you $10, and there are non-alcoholic, beer, and wine options as well.
Onieals isn't just a cool establishment. It was once THE baddest bar in town. Located across from a former police headquarters, the bar was at times a speakeasy, a brothel, and a gambling parlor in its early days - and it was connected to the police by means of a secret underground tunnel! Today, the tunnel is (apparently) closed and Onieals uses it as a wine cellar, while the police building is a luxury condominium complex favored by celebrities. See what I mean about seeing something just a little bit different? The hop-on, hop-off style buses aren't exactly going to bring you here!
I don't want to ruin the tour by giving away the entire itinerary but we had four stops in total (including Onieals), where we could get off the bus, ranging from very quick 5 minute visits to longer breaks of 30 minutes to wander and explore (and grab some lunch - food and drink is okay on the bus). Travelers with a sweet tooth will be happy to hear that everyone on the bus receives a cupcake from Magnolia, arguably the most popular bakery in New York City and a favourite of the Sex And The City characters as well.
On Location = Easy Logistics
From the point of view of layover logistics, On Location tours always leave from an easy-to-find location (in our case, it was across from the Plaza Hotel) and provide detailed directions. While they don't encourage you to bring luggage with you and can suggest luggage storage facilities, our carry-on size backpacks were fine. Since the tour wasn't full, there was room for them on the bus but we also had the option of storing them in the lower section of the bus. There was a bathroom on the bus as well as several tour stops with restrooms and we had several chances for snack breaks. If you're in the city for a short layover like we were, you can rest assured that this is an awesome (and hassle free) choice.
While I'm sure a lot of travelers would say that their idea of a sexy New York City getaway would involve glam hotels and late night excursions, the Sex And The City tour wins for me. We had a fantastic, fun, fabulous time and we would highly recommend it to any fan of the show or anyone eager to have a unique New York layover experience.
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