If you tend to stay away from cheesy double decker bus tours while on vacation, well…we can’t blame you. Often, the only real way to get to know a city is to just walk it, unguided, and let the adventure unfold as you go. But there’s something irresistible about surrendering to a nighttime tour: cruising down busy avenues, letting yourself be dazzled by marquee lights as they whiz by, and getting a birds-eye view of a city just as its restaurants, bars, and nightclubs begin to come alive. Just remember to put down the camera once in a while; for posterity sake, you won’t want to let the whole evening go by with your face behind a lens!
Though not as well known as its neighbor to the south, the city of Sharjah in the UAE has managed to carve out a reputation independent of Dubai and Abu Dhabi – for starters, it is a burgeoning art destination, with over 15 museums to its name, and even has its own observatory wheel. Now, thanks to a brand new night tour, visitors can now be guided through the city’s most dazzling features after the sun goes down. The Buhaira Corniche, Al Qasba (a prominent theater and exhibition space), Mega Mall, the Central Souk, and Al Noor Mosque (a destination in its own right) are just a few of the spots accessed on the new tour, which runs from 8pm to 11pm every night. $25.75 per person; for more information, click here.
Cape Town’s night tour starts at 5:30pm, so you still get to enjoy a little daylight, and, even better, experience the dramatic transition from dusk to night. The bus swings up to Signal Hill – whose plateau soars up 1,148 feet above the city – in order for sightseers to watch the sun set over the Atlantic Ocean (and maybe even spot a few whales!), while enjoying a scenic dinner picnic (the tour company advises guests to bring their own supplies). The three-hour route also includes stops in vibrant Adderley Street in the city center, where visitors can get a taste for the local flower marks, shops, and restaurants, and possibly be inspired to return later in the evening for a post-tour drink. $9.70 per person; for more information, click here.
A day trip through the ancient city of Petra has been on our bucket list for a while now, but it turns out the best sightseeing there gets done after hours. Jordan’s archaeological marvel indeed opens up for a “Petra By Night” guided tour each Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 8:30pm to 10pm. Beginning at the Visitors Center main entrance, guests get to see the gorgeous rose-tinted rock walls glow under candlelight as they amble from the Siq to the Treasury and beyond. Prepare to get goosebumps, as the whole event is serenaded by local Bedouin musicians. For more information, click here.Discover Hong Kong, the city’s official tourism website, offers several options for folks who do their best work (and by work, we mean sightseeing) at night. Take, for example, the “Open-Top Starry Bus,” a two-and-a-half hour ride that begins in Temple Street Night Market, a gritty strip in central Kowloon that TIME rated as one of their “Top 10 Things To Do In Hong Kong“. After breathing in the smell of sizzling street meat, and picking up a souvenir or two, sightseers jump back on the bus for a tour that showcases the glittering Hong Kong skyline; eventually, everyone ends up at the Star Ferry Pier, where, if you choose, the adventure can continue with a boat ride across the harbor. $36.10 per person; for more information, click here.
Tinseltown’s garish roadside donut shops and strip malls may be an eyesore to some, but for the acclaimed Museum of Neon Art, they’re just part of the scenery. Each summer, the museum organizes a series of after-dark tours known as the “Classic Neon Cruise,” held every Saturday through the end of September (though if you’re not planning a winter visit, worry not – there’s also a special holiday-themed cruise organized in late December). Taking place in an open-top double decker bus, the specific stop-off points change with each date, though you can expect a hearty, artificially-lit adventure around main hubs like Chinatown, Downtown, and, of course, Hollywood. $55 per person; for more information, click here.