There are many ways to tour a city. Sure, you can just drive through the city in your car but then you have to deal with traffic and parking as well as miss out on the opportunity to really get to know the city. If you are planning a city trip and looking for some options other than doing your own driving, here are some fun ways to consider and of course, some tips to help make your city tour the absolute best experience ever!
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Best Ways to Tour a City
When we visit a big city, we prefer to park our vehicle at the hotel and leave it in overnight parking. By relying on other means of transportation, we are able to all get out and really focus on experiencing the city instead of having to focus on traffic and parking.
Our favorite way to tour a city is on foot. There’s just nothing like the feeling of getting out in the crowds and walking around on a city adventure. You don’t have to worry about parking passes, full garages, or train delays.
Horse drawn carriage
There are some cities where carriage rides are the best way to experience the city. Historic cities like Charleston are famous for their horse drawn carriages. Plan your schedule so you can enjoy a ride through the streets of the historic city and learn about the area without all the commotion of cars and buses.
Many hotels will offer shuttle service to the main nearby attractions. Check with the front desk to see which areas of the city they service. This allows you to do a walking tour but not tire you out completely getting to the areas you want to explore.
Don’t forget to tip your shuttle driver. Sure, the service is often free, but tips are always appreciated.
Hop On Hop Off Trolley
Trolley Tours that offer hop on/hop off priviliges are a great way to get get local tour guide information as well as a ride to the city highlights.
Train, Metro, Subway
Many big cities have train systems that allow you to navigate the area. Each city has it’s own name and quirks. Some places call it a subway, others refer to their public transportation as the Metro, the BART, T or Marta. Whatever it’s called, they work on the same principals. If you are not comfortable navigating public transportation, check out these tips for how to ride the Washington DC Metro.
Firetruck, Helicopter, Hot Air Balloon
Yes, you can tour a city in some pretty unique ways. San Francisco offers tours by vintage firetruck. Helicopters and hot air balloons are great ways to get a birds eye view of cities as well as scenic areas. Check out Groupon or the local city website for deals and coupons.
Many cities have provided city bikes that are available for free or a small fee. You can pick them up all around the city and drop them off across town. These are an affordable, healthy option for touring the city!
Boat or Cruise Ship
Cities that are surrounded by water are best viewed by boat. You can get up close to the scenic bridges and landmarks while enjoying the spray of the water. In NYC, you can get a great view of the Manhattan skyline plus Lady Liberty for FREE on the Staten Island Ferry!
For distances too far to walk but not really practical to take the trains or buses, you might want to call a taxi or uber. You can usually get a coupon for your first uber ride when you sign up!
Some people love exploring the cities but can’t walk very far. That means that public transportation is not the best option. I have some family members who hired a private car when they visited New York City. They were able to experience local shows, special restaurants and attractions with very little walking. Their private car was ready to leave the hotel each morning and waiting for them after each of their visits.
How can you find a private car? Call the local tourism office and ask for recommendations of private car companies.
Tips for Touring the City
- Do your research: Check the city website and see what the public transportation options are.
- Ask the Experts: We always check with the local tourism offices and hotel staff before heading out to explore a city. They live in the area and know the best ways to tour. Their expertise has saved us multiple times when it came to subway maintenance, and weekend changes to scheduled routes.
- Don’t overdo it! It’s tempting to try to see everything in one day and overfill your schedule. Allow time to stop and explore the unexpected.
What is your favorite way to tour cities? By foot? By helicopter or by public transportation? I’d love to hear!
Looking for tips when exploring new cities? Check this out!