The best way to experience New York City is through its wealth of local experts. Instead of the many double-decker buses and boat cruises found in many cities, here you will come across many smaller, more intimate tours. Aficionados of all backgrounds, whether it be history, food, art or finance, local tour guides seek to educate visitors on New York City’s culture, culinary scene and architectural landmarks. Here are 9 New York tours which will give you the inside track.
Over the past two decades, Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood has quietly morphed from an industrial, warehouse-heavy center into a destination for impressive street art and graffiti. During this two-hour walking tour, you’ll navigate the streets of Bushwick – streets strewn with both abandoned and lived-in buildings painted with soaring murals and scrawled with colorful graffiti tags. Your guide will weave you through Bushwick’s eccentric streets, providing insight into the urban creatives behind the art (many of whom call Europe, South America and Asia home) and their captivating stories. The Bushwick Collective is one of the biggest groups of street artists roaming the neighborhood and has been credited with a slew of murals and art pieces. Meet at 30 Wyckoff Avenue, between Troutman and Starr Streets, directly in front of the coffee shop.
During this tour of Manhattan’s bustling Wall Street, you’ll not only get close to the action by seeing some of the world’s most famous financial landmarks, but you’ll also learn four centuries-worth of Wall Street history, starting from its humble beginnings as a Dutch trading post all the way to its present-day status at the heart of the finance world. Your tour guide will take you to the New York Stock Exchange, Federal Hall, House of Morgan, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, the Federal Reserve, the Charging Bull and Trinity Church. The tour will begin outside 15 Broad Street, which is next to the Hermes store and across from the New York Stock Exchange.
On the Mafia Food Tour, visitors can walk in the shoes of a retired New York City police officer. Dennis, the former police officer, takes those infatuated with crime, mystery and Italian food through historical Little Italy and the Lower East Side, dishing on real crime stories and the notorious five families. You’ll wander to the old haunts of Colombo and Gambino families – from red sauce joints to nightclubs – all the while making pit stops to nosh on cannolis piped with silky cream, fresh mozzarella and slices of pizza sprinkled with pepperoni cups. The meeting point for this tour is the W Hotel in Union Square.
Take a drive through the evolution of hip-hop in Manhattan and the Bronx, cruising past the Graffiti Hall of Fame, the Apollo Theater and a slew of other music venues. Each bus tour is led by a different musician; in the past, leaders have included GrandMaster Caz, Kurtis Blow, Rahiem and Reggie Reg. The artists bring groups past their old stomping grounds, providing personal histories about their experiences in the hip-hop world. The four-hour tour starts at 109 East 59th Street, by the Oxford Café.
Italian food and drink aficionados can revel in Little Italy by weaving through the neighborhood’s curling streets, home to red gingham tablecloths and moustachioed servers chirping away in Italian. Your tour guide will pair excellent Italian fare with a taste of the neighborhood’s deep-rooted immigration history. Feast on prosciutto-stuffed bread, mozzarella and creamy ricotta cheese from America’s oldest cheese shop, and coal-fired pizza from Lombardi’s, one of the oldest and most storied pizzerias in the country. You’ll also see the bootlegging depot from the Prohibition days, hear the stories behind some historical landmarks and peer into the ornate St Patrick’s Old Cathedral on Mulberry Street. Meet your tour guide by the Church of the Most Precious Blood at 109 Mulberry Street.
Just beyond the entrance to Central Park is a convenient bike rental shed, housing new Trek and Giant bikes. You can quickly and easily rent a bike (which includes a helmet and lock, and front and rear lights for riders renting at night) at the stand before pushing off into Central Park. The sweeping park is home to a slew of bike trails of varying lengths. Biking is one of the best ways to see Central Park; you’ll speed by the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, the magnificent Great Lawn and the picturesque lake peppered with pedal boats. Bike rentals can be found at 117 West 58th Street.
Manhattan is the most visited borough in New York City, but the other, often overlooked boroughs are just as worthy of a trip. This seven-hour tour gives visitors access to the wealth of culture and diversity in the outer boroughs. Travel from Yankee Stadium in the Bronx to Queens’ bustling Chinatown in Flushing. Breeze by the emblematic Brooklyn Bridge and finish up at Coney Island, home to boardwalks, amusement parks and beaches. The tour will begin at 8.30am outside the Grand Hyatt Hotel.
On this walking tour of Manhattan, you’ll travel to some of the city’s most visited landmarks. Each tour begins in the Financial District, with stops at the National Museum of the American Indian, Wall Street, the World Trade Center and the New York Stock Exchange. A quick trip uptown will deposit you in Times Square, where you’ll explore Broadway, the flashing billboards and storied theatres. The tour will end after a trip to Battery Park (with views of the Statue of Liberty) and the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. The walking tour will start from Bowling Green.
You haven’t seen New York City until you’ve seen it from a helicopter. Fly above the city in a helicopter outfitted with floor-to-ceiling windows, and be greeted with an unparalleled bird’s-eye view of Central Park, the Hudson River, New York Harbor, the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge, among other iconic landmarks. The half-hour trip includes a tour narration, replete with New York City facts and history. The helicopter will take off from the downtown heliport at Pier 6.