You’re headed to the Big Apple, and you’d love to take in a show, but you’re limited on time and budget. You want to explore Lower Manhattan, but the weather isn’t exactly cooperating.
Or maybe you’ve got your kids with you and they are not interested in hiking all over looking at old buildings and statues while you read from a guide book. Let’s be honest, you’re fed up from wrestling the devices out of their hands when they get even slightly bored.
I could list dozens of reasons why you might be interested in The Downtown Experience, Powered by The Ride. Any one of them would be valid, but it would be window dressing for the real reason: It’s a blast.
Let me back up a little bit. I have spent have my life in New York City, both as a child, and the nearly 20 years since college. I’ve joined friends and relatives on a wide variety of sightseeing excursions, and mapped out “real New York” experiences for countless others.
I’ve truly never come across anything like The Downtown Experience before. There are very few “touristy” things that I’d recommend to locals, but I’d recommend The Downtown Experience to anyone, to everyone who can sit through a 90 minute movie or play.
First, there is the tour bus itself. This is not an old-school double-decker bus, with the best views are had riding on the seats on top. The busses where you’re exposed to not only all the elements, but also ALL the sounds and smells of a NYC street. If you’ve been to any metropolis you know as exhilarating as that can be, it can also be overwhelming, not to mention difficult to hear the tour guide. None of that applies on any of the buses from The Ride.
Get this: the buses are fully enclosed, BUT the top and one side of the bus are fully windowed. Seating is arranged stadium-style. These aren’t bench seats, ether. We are talking comfy, padded, roomy seats. Not only do you have a remarkable view, there are also dozens of LCD screens upon which videos and photos are periodically displayed. Oh, and there are the virtual reality headset.
I admit I was both intrigued and apprehensive when I read The Downtown Experience is highlighted with the Timelooper virtual reality app . Honestly, I’m the gal who really can’t look at her phone when my husband is driving, so being on a moving bus, riding sideways, with my eyes in a VR headset seemed like a particularly good way to induce motion sickness. Nothing could be further from the truth for me. My stomach was not upset by any one of those things, and certainly not by all of them put together. However, even if I had found myself unable to watch the VR portions, I would still have thoroughly enjoyed The Downtown Experience.
I’m getting ahead of things again. The experience really begins before you ever get on the bus, when you meet up with your guide. Actually, let’s call him the storyteller. You see, this really isn’t a tour at all. The Downtown Experience is as a unique blend of theater, mixed with a multi-media museum exhibit. The Storyteller weaves the original narratives of historical fiction with a bit of improv and drizzles it over the backdrop of modern day New York.
In a city where street performers are as ubiquitous as the tourists, there were moments when I was watching what was happening just outside the window and it was impossible to tell where the story’s players ended and the real every day life of lower Manhattan took over.
Disclosure: I received complimentary passes to review this experience, but all opinions are mine.