The Ride’s Downtown Experience Is Virtually the Best NYC Tourist Attraction

It’s a bus ride, it’s 3-D history, it’s moveable theatre. The Ride is opening up the door to a new world of tourism and historical entertainment, and it’s doing it right.

You may have seen The Ride taking on passengers at its Times Square departure corner. It’s a big bus, seemingly windowless and inside, there’s a lot of good fun going on with trivia, songs, waving at passersby, and silliness. Now, The Ride has gone downtown for a virtual glimpse into the beginnings of our favorite Island, purchased for nearly nothing by the Dutch from the Manhatto Indians.

Rory is our hostess for the tour, a bubbly performer who greets us on the corner of Water and Fulton Streets, and escorts us to the bus.  Inside, on comfy seats, we’re told that a unique adventure awaits. Not your typical tour, but 516 years of history waiting to be shared.  We learn that there was no secret code in how streets were named, like Wall Street, so named because of the WALL that was there at the time; Water Street, so named because there was WATER over there.  The Flatiron section was called that because the streets were FLAT, and the corners came together like an IRON. Too funny.

The amount of some very cool information about SoHo, Tribeca, Wall Street, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Holland Tunnel, how the island’s borders were altered six times over its history, and oh and why Battery City is so named. Now, that alone makes for a very engaging and entertaining 90 minutes. But, no, there’s more.

Rory Lipede says we aren’t just going to hear the stories, and see the sights, we are going to EXPERIENCE it. “Put these on,” she says, and a helper hands out virtual reality glasses. From this moment on, the bar for historical tours has just been raised. The glasses fit via Velcro straps, and yes, if you wear glasses, you can keep them on. We watched a variety of 3D, totally immersive videos, with 360 degrees of action going on around us..sort of.  We were right there on the boat when it entered New York Harbor after a month’s voyage, we were right there when George Washington entered Federal Hall to take the first presidential oath, we witnessed what happened to one executive when the Stock Market crashed in 1929, we flew up to the top of the Freedom Tower by helicopter and saw four states from its grand view. Wait, was this just a 90 minute ride?

There’s no way I can recount all we learned, all the “oohs” and “ahhs,” and rightly so. One must experience this ride in person, with your visiting family and friends, or on your own. Everyone is family once you’re on the ride. A good deal of credit has to go to our hostess who was filled with history, not just dates and facts, but heartfelt stories. (Ask her about the Brooklyn Bridge. Let’s hear it for Elizabeth Roebling! Enough said.)

And, if there is one moral to this whole story, it is that we ARE all immigrants, we’re ALL members of this great country, and more bonds us than divides us.

This was not just a bus ride.

The Downtown Experience is a brand new historic adventure of Downtown Manhattan, enhanced with the magic of TimeLooper virtual reality. It’s the first sightseeing tour to have a fully integrated virtual reality experience that allows guests to witness full- scale, 360 degree reenactments of some of NYC’s iconic moments as if you’ve traveled back in time. For information, tickets, and dates, visit the website.  

About MJ Hanley-Goff (85 Articles)
MJ Hanley-Goff has been contributing to WomanAroundTown since its inception in 2009. She began her career at Newsday and for ten years wrote for the Sunday Real Estate section. A move to the Hudson Valley brought her to the Times Herald-Record where she continued to write for a Sunday Real Estate section, and also joined the writing team at the monthly Orange Magazine. MJ then became editor of Hudson Valley Parent magazine, and contributed articles to Hudson Valley Magazine, AAA’s Car & Travel, and Tri-County Woman. After completing her novel and a self-help book, she created MJWRITES, INC. and conducts writing workshops, and as a self-proclaimed book “whisperer,” works with new writers on their books. Now back on Long Island, she continues to enjoy the opportunity to write for Woman Around Town, and the amazing adventures it offers, including reviewing concerts, events, and tourist attractions in New York, and around the world. “I particularly enjoy drawing attention to the off the beaten path kinds of events and experiences,” she says. “It’s great big world out there, with so many talented and creative artists, doers, and thinkers.”