Alice in Wonderland on Wheels

It’s a pleasing novelty: elegance on a double decker tour bus. As Tea Around Town makes its way past Manhattan’s landmarks, a young woman serenades you with song in between pointing out the sights and a skillful waiter serves on-board food and drink without spilling a drop. Flavored drinks are paired with garden party classics and a premium menu even offers lobster and champagne.

| 22 Aug 2023 | 02:25

Let’s get this par-tea started!

Tea Around Town is “a journey of sight, sound–and of course taste” that lets you tour NYC in your own mobile tearoom (aka a double-decker bus) where flavored drinks are paired with garden party classics like cucumber dill and egg salad finger sandwiches as well as mini quiches. There are two menus, standard ($69) and premium ($109); the difference is that the higher-priced one includes lobster, Waygu, and champagne—oh my.

The moveable feast, one of the bus tours from TopView Sightseeing, is replete with A/C, a sunroof, and picture windows to take in the highlights of Murray Hill, the Diamond and Theater Districts, Midtown, and Columbus Circle. But it’s the bus’s interior that’s really a sight to see. Bright and floral with a white and pink décor that would make even Barbie envious.

The tour is for those aged 3 and up who love to keep their pinkies up.

I first became aware of this latest way to take in Manhattan when I was in a yellow cab riding up Madison Avenue. Along the side of the car came this Jitney-sized bus adorned with flowers that had a Lily Pulitzer vibe to it, and the tour’s name in whimsical lettering.

In my true cynical New Yorker way—especially when all I wanted to do was get through what looked like miles of midtown traffic—I thought, “What the hell is this?” At first blush, I figured it was an advertisement for a new tea store, but I Googled it to make sure since I had time to kill in my traffic-jammed taxi.

The Tea Around Town website had me at one lump or two? The whole gestalt of it reminded me of Afternoon Tea at The Plaza only updated, as though adventurous Eloise grew up and wanted to take her show on the road.

It’s A Brew-tiful Day In The Neighborhood(s)

The traveling tea party begins on West 42nd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. As previously described, the bus is hard to miss. There’s no dress code but most everyone—90 percent of the guests when I went were women—took extra care to look nice. I wore a LoveShackFancy outfit as that brand seemed cut from the same fanciful cloth as the touring company.

Our hot beverages were served in floral sippy cups with pink lids just in case the bus hit a bump, there would be no spills or splashes. And make no mistakes the ride can indeed be unsmooth. That has less to do with the touring company and more the fault of our local government’s lack of street upkeep.

Although there are no “crumpets,” your meal consists of a three-tier serving tray that includes the aforementioned mini-sandwiches, scones with jelly and butter as well as bite-size desserts--guess which was my favorite level of the serving tray.

There were two attendants whose uniforms fit right in with the décor: a young woman who serenaded us with standard classics such as “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” and “You’re Just Too Good To Be True,” when not pointing out landmarks like Saint Patrick’s and Radio City; the gentleman acted as the server and managed very impressively to pour the tea without incident while we traveled 25 mph over potholes. (And yes, there’s a bathroom on the bus.)

Is it a little touristy? Yes, indeedy. So what? Maybe if more residents got out there and saw our city as visitors do, they might be a little more appreciative of where they live and what we have here.

Right now, during daylight savings time, there are more seatings to choose from with morning, afternoon, and evening reservations; when we turn the clocks back, only lunch will be served.

The whole Tea Around Town experience takes about 90 minutes and I have to say it was a migh-tea nice time.

Lorraine Duffy Merkl is the author of three novels, her latest is THE LAST SINGLE WOMAN IN NEW YORK CITY