10 great guided walking tours of NYC
By design, New York is made for walking. From Times Square to Tompkins Square, Central Park to Battery Park, the Bronx to Brooklyn, New Yorkers are constantly in motion. Ask any of the city's 8 million residents and they'll tell you that the best way to get to know New York's hidden alleyways, secret storefronts and illustrious past is to walk around and discover them on your own.
With autumn approaching, there's no better time to take advantage of New York on foot. Whether you want to sample culinary treats, learn New York history, navigate the art or music scene or merely shop, these 10 guided walking tours help you make the most of the Big Apple.
1. CROSSTOWN PIZZA WALK
There are few foods more closely associated with New York than pizza. Just ask Scott Weiner, pizza fanatic and energetic narrator of one of New York's most popular food tours. With a focus on the history of the New York slice, Weiner begins the Crosstown Pizza Walk at the East Village location of Lombardi's, America's oldest pizzeria. After a peek in the oven and taste of the goods, Weiner steers guests on a hike to Greenwich Village that includes stops at three famous shops for hot-from-the-oven samples. Weiner also offers a Greenwich Village Pizza Walk.
LENGTH 3 hours
WHEN Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 11 a.m.
INFO $35 (includes three slices), scottspizzatours.com
2. EAST VILLAGE ROCK TOUR
"Let's take a walk," says former music executive Bobby Pinn, as we kick off a tour at the St. Marks Place condo where Joey Ramone (aka Jeff Hyman) once lived. Pinn, the able and easygoing guide of Rock Junket's East Village Rock Tour, chronicles how the neighborhood emerged as the birthplace of punk rock, calling on bands and venues like The Ramones, New York Dolls, Fillmore East, Gem Spa, Velvet Underground, The Clash, Led Zeppelin, and CBGB for both reference and color. Other neighborhood rock tours are also available.
LENGTH 2 hours
WHEN Weekdays at 1 p.m.; weekends at 11 a.m.
INFO $29, 646-515-7874, rockjunket.com
3. BROOKLYN BRIDGE AND BROOKLYN HEIGHTS TOUR
Most New York bucket lists include a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. And Big Onion Walking Tours, a programming partner of the Brooklyn Historical Society, is the company to seek out if you're craving historical narration during that picturesque trek. Offered at midday and sunset, the tour begins at Broadway and Chambers Street in Manhattan and finishes in fabled Brooklyn Heights, the stamping ground of literary legends such as Walt Whitman and Norman Mailer. Big Onion tours are offered daily through many other Manhattan and Brooklyn enclaves, too.
LENGTH 2 1/2 hours
WHEN Times vary
INFO $18, 888-606-9255, bigonion.com
4. ART GALLERY TOUR
With more than 600 galleries around the city, the New York art scene can feel intimidating to the uninitiated. New York Gallery Tours makes contemporary art accessible by guiding visitors to buzzworthy exhibits and popular galleries that highlight painting, sculpture, electronic media and photography by both American and international artists. Covering gallery-specific neighborhoods like Chelsea, the Lower East Side, SoHo, midtown and the Upper East Side, this is the way to dip your toe into the elite world of fine art.
LENGTH 2 1/2 hours
WHEN Saturdays at 1 p.m.
No matter what neighborhood you find yourself in, guide Myra Alperson knows what and where to eat. On a recent Sunday afternoon, hungry walkers wandered the Sephardic Jewish neighborhood of Kings Highway in Brooklyn, sampling warm pita bread from a kosher bakery and nibbling delicious cheese-stuffed pastries called bourekas. Alperson offers 35 tours across the five boroughs; upcoming noshwalks explore South Asian Jackson Heights, Brighton Beach and Washington Heights.
WHEN Times vary
LENGTH 3-4 hours, depending on tour
INFO $49 (beverages not included), 212-222-2243, noshwalks.com
6. CENTRAL PARK MOVIE TOUR
Central Park has often played a minor character in films, from "Hair" to "Home Alone 2." Led, appropriately, by actors, the Central Park Movie Tour offers a chance to see where your favorite scenes were shot, and familiarize yourself with many of the park's landmarks, such as the lake (seen in "The Manchurian Candidate"), the Bandshell ("Breakfast at Tiffany's"), the Bow Bridge ("Manhattan") and Columbus Circle ("Taxi Driver"). The tour company, On Location, also offers "Sex and the City," "Sopranos" and "Gossip Girl" tours.
LENGTH 2 hours
WHEN Fridays and Saturdays at noon
INFO $23, 212-683-2027, screentours.com
7. STRAY BOOTS INTERACTIVE TOUR
Part walking tour, part scavenger hunt, a Stray Boots adventure is great for both kids and adults. Using text message technology to send clues to a designated mobile phone, the tour guides participants through one of 10 city zones, including Times Square, Rockefeller Center, Harlem and Wall Street (with a Brooklyn tour debuting soon). Created to adapt to player pacing, each correctly answered clue is rewarded with a city fact. A Times Square hunt took players to the Toys R Us store, the Hard Rock Café, the Winter Garden Theater and Sardi's.
WHEN No set time
INFO $20, 877-787-2929, strayboots.com
8. GREENWICH VILLAGE LITERARY PUB CRAWL
Curious about the antics of authors like Dylan Thomas, Edna St. Vincent Millay and Jack Kerouac? You're in luck; New York is awash in historical drunken debauchery. Through a mapped route in the West Village, with stops at spots like White Horse Tavern, Kettle of Fish, Stonewall Inn and Marie's Crisis, you'll learn the wayward ways of New York City's literati. All proceeds benefit the Bakerloo Theater Project, and volunteer guides enhance the experience with readings by featured authors. Adults only.
WHEN Saturdays at 2 p.m.
LENGTH 3-3 1/2 hours
INFO $20 (drinks not included), 212-613-5796, bakerloo.org/pub-crawl.html
9. SHOP GOTHAM WALK
Tired of paying retail for the latest runway trend? Want to go behind the scenes in the fashion world? Shop Gotham Walks take guests on a spree to private women's wear showrooms inaccessible to the public and daily sample sales where discounts of up to 70 percent off store prices can be had. Though each day is different, a recent tour began at a Vivienne Tam sample sale, and then featured an array of showrooms highlighting jewelry, outerwear, trendy fashions and classic wardrobe staples. Tours for men, teens and special occasions also can be booked.
WHEN Wednesday and Fridays at 10 a.m.
LENGTH 3 hours
INFO $66 (plus spending money), 917-599-6650, shopgotham.com
10. REVOLUTIONARY WAR HISTORY TOUR
From the inception of the colonists' rebellion to George Washington's inauguration at Federal Hall in 1789, New York City played a major role in America's war for independence. Beginning at City Hall and winding through lower Manhattan, Patriot Tours stops include Fraunces Tavern, where the original tea parties were planned; Trinity Church, where Revolutionary notables such as Albert Gallatin and Alexander Hamilton are buried; and Battery Park. Ideal for history buffs, the guides use broadsides and newspapers to provide historical context at various stops.
WHEN Daily (except Sunday); times vary
LENGTH 2 1/2 hours
INFO $25, 917-716-4908, patriottoursnyc.com
Adam Wagner and Tom Beer contributed to this story.
I have done three walking tours -- Grand Central Terminal, East Village and Greenwich Village -- with Joyce Gold History Tours of New York (212-242-5762, joycegoldhistorytours.com). Tours lasted about two hours, and they were doable for people of various ages. The tours are a good value for the money. They also whet one's appetite for more -- we have subsequently returned to the various areas on our own for more investigating.-- Linda R. Kay, Kings Park
BE A TOUR GUIDE
Want to narrate your own walking tour of the Bronx Zoo? Your favorite restaurants in Chinatown? Locacious, a cool, new iPhone travel app, allows people to create, share and download tour experiences from all over the world. Once a walking tour is recorded, it becomes available for public consumption. Free on iTunes or at locacious.net.