I have been to New York City plenty of times in my life and I have visited all the big sites several times over – Times Square, the Chrysler Building, Columbus Circle and so on. I have been to the city enough to try and explore new things off the beaten path and visit the less touristy places. However, last week I experienced a unique bus tour that let me experience NYC in an entirely new way.
The Ride, based just off of 42nd Street near the world famous Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum is carving new territory combining a traditional sight-seeing tour with live theater in a multi-million dollar tricked out bus custom made just for them.
These babies are made by Prevost, the Cadillac of custom manufactured busses in the world. The Ride has a patented coliseum seating system that allows three rows of passengers to see out custom made windows. The windows stretch from floor across the ceiling, allowing for views of the city that no other tour bus can give you. How many shows that are located in NYC spend thousands of dollars to recreate Times Square or Central Park? For The Ride, it’s as if you in a traveling theater where the city is the stage.
The bus is also equipped with a patented custom lighting and sound package that is not only inside the bus, but outside as well. The exact same audio and lighting systems that are used to control all the big Broadway shows like Wicked and Book of Mormon are controlling all of the sound and lights on the bus via a live hidden operator. Unlike a Broadway show that can go onto the auto-pilot after the push of one button to start the show, the person calling the cues for this show has to be on their toes.
Along the roughly four mile bus route, The Ride will pull up alongside a street corner and magically stumble upon someone with a microphone that can interact with the bus’s onboard sound system. For example, we happened upon a saxophone player who was playing to passersby on the sidewalk. He plays a song for the bus to thunderous applause and then another tourist walks by and compliments him and asks him if he knows any other songs. He obliges and goes into Streets of New York by Alicia Keys on the sax, to which the passer by just happens to sing along. The next thing you know, not only are the passengers on The Ride clapping along – tourists on the street who are definitely NOT a part of the show are gathering around and getting in on the action. It may sound corny to you reading this, but for me and the 48 other passengers – it was true magic.
The Ride is not only a performance piece – along the way you learn some fascinating history about NYC that you have probably never heard before. For example, in March of 1998, 42nd Street was being revitalized and AMC wanted to build a 25-screen cinema complex and would use the old Empire Theater as it’s lobby. The problem was, the space for the multi-screen cinema complex and the old Empire were down the block from each other. So crews literally picked up the old theater and slid it down the block into the space it is in now next to Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum and The Ride shows pictures and explains the entire process.
The Ride bus itself acts as a character within the traveling show on wheels, which not only gives facts through “scanning” buildings along the way, but also takes on a personality of its own telling jokes and playing dance music through its state-of-the-art sound system.
However, for me, the real reason why I loved The Ride was the tour guides. Each bus has two high energy actors who really make the show truly special and unique. I can’t stress enough how important the guides are to this experience. Despite riding in the most tricked-out busses on the planet, if you took all of it away, the skilled performers would still make this attraction worth it. Unlike a normal NYC bus tour where the guides may be able to tell a few corny jokes along the way, The Ride hires skilled improv actors who can keep up the energy level and know how to stall when unique situations arise.
For example, most of 8th Avenue was shut down a few weeks ago when window washers for the Hearst Building were left dangling for hours when their rigging snapped. Rescue crews were there with all kinds of equipment who managed to save the workers who managed to walk away from the incident unharmed. However, The Ride had to change its route almost entirely due to the traffic that was backed up all over the city. Each performer that lines up with the bus on the street is given an app that is designed for internal use only – so if there are traffic problems and the bus can’t make it to them, the performer is notified where to meet up with the group. Regardless of weather or traffic conditions – the show must go on!
The tour also changes throughout the year and based on season. They have a spectacular holiday tour that reroutes the busses entirely and brings them near iconic Christmas decorations like Rockefeller Center. In addition, The Ride can even be custom designed for conventions, large groups and even birthday parties and can pick your large party up virtually anywhere in the city. How many shows in NYC can say they can bring the theater to you?
In the future, they plan to upgrade the busses to be able to project images onto the streets and the side of buildings. Anything from sponsors to corporate logos to a happy birthday greeting with your name on it on the side of a giant building! In addition, they are looking to expand rapidly and are currently in talks with three different cities. The first could be open as soon as the end of 2013!
Regardless of how many times you have been to New York City and seen the sights, you have never seen them in a format as entertaining, funny and charming as The Ride! For more information, check out their website at www.ExperienceTheRide.com.