We're heading to NYC next weekend, for my five-year-old's birthday present (his request). He's a very technically-minded child, and recently has loved asking questions about the history of buildings ("What is the tallest building", "What is the oldest building", "What was the tallest building before the Empire State Building", etc.). He also likes to learn about materials and methods used to build things.

In Chicago, where we're from, there are excellent architectural tours that are led by boat down the river (which bisects the main part of the city). Is a boat tour also the most effective way to see the NYC skyline and learn in detail about the history behind it? I'd also welcome specific recommendations, to the extent that's on topic around here, for short to moderate length tours (probably not more than 1.5-2 hours). For comparison, we did the Big Bus tour in London, and he tolerated that well enough, but by the end of it (90 minutes I think) was getting a bit bored.

For comparison, in Chicago the Chicago Architecture Foundation tour is excellent, and the tour guide gives a lot of specific information that was news to me even after ten years' residence in the city and nearby suburbs, such as insights into the construction of specific buildings, the spats between different architects, and why certain buildings are constructed how they are. Several competing companies offer similar tours. While there are other methods to learn about the history of Chicago architecture, boat tours are the most efficient and primary method. What I'm asking is whether this is also true in NYC or if walking/bus tours are better (or something else).

  • Though I've never been, I'm familiar with NYC from a generalist tourist's perspective - I'm specifically focused here on more in-depth architecture and history (and in particular, the combination of the two). Perhaps I don't spell it out well enough in the question, but my five year old asks very complex questions for a child of his age in this area and I'd love to give him the best chance to get the answers to the things I don't know.
    – Joe
    Aug 16 '16 at 6:18
  • Born in NYC. All my children have been on the boat tour that circles Manhattan. And my youngest has been on a Spiderman walking tour. Also the top of the Rockefeller Center. It's all wonderful!
    – Gayot Fow
    Aug 16 '16 at 10:43
  • @GayotFow I assume the boat tour you're talking about is the one linked in the duplicate? That sounds like what I'm interested in, but I just want to check that it's appropriate for children (the language in the website for it makes it sound like it's adult-oriented with drinks and such).
    – Joe
    Aug 16 '16 at 14:22
  • I always used this one. There were children crawling all over everywhere. Plus the galley serves 'tube steak' :) circleline42.com
    – Gayot Fow
    Aug 16 '16 at 14:34
  • 1
    As with Chicago's architectural community, the American Institute of Architects New York Chapter (AIANY) has great resources.main.aiany.org Its Around Manhattan boat tours might be a perfect for your 5-year-old, in addition to walking the city. Led by architecture professionals, the daily sailings offers four tour options (NYC architecture, lower Manhattan architecture,bridges & infrastructure, industrial waterfront and a 'Featured Guide' series). sail-nyc.com/browse-by-theme/architecture
    – Giorgio
    Aug 16 '16 at 14:59