Visiting the most populous city in the country can be an overwhelming prospect, especially for those with limited time. But New York City is one of the easiest to navigate on foot, and summer is an excellent time to check out walking tours that reveal a small swath of this complex city. There are jaunts focused on everything from the city’s iconic buildings to the social history of its many neighborhoods to the culinary riches of this immigrant-friendly town.
Here are eight walking tours for all ages that can make sightseeing manageable.
‘HAMILTON’ MUSICAL WALKING TOUR
Staten Island Ferry Terminal, Manhattan
Refresh your American history and rap your way through dozens of smash-hit songs in the musical “Hamilton” while visiting 20 locations germane to Alexander Hamilton’s life. This 2 1⁄2-hour tour is designed for those who’ve seen or plan to see the Tony Award-winning musical. It stops at Fraunces Tavern, Battery Park, Federal Reserve, Thomas Jefferson’s house, Golden Hill, Federal Hall, Bowling Green and the Bank of New York, among other historic sites relevant to the Founding Father. Participants are given earbuds, and “Hamilton” songs ranging from hip-hop to R&B to traditional show tunes accompany tour-goers as they stroll along.
INFO $49, 646-801-8503, hamiltonthetour.com
THE SECRETS OF GRAND CENTRAL
89 E. 42nd St., Manhattan
The shadowy, history-filled passageways and corners of Grand Central Terminal are intriguing enough, but imagine learning about them while participating in a scavenger hunt. Participants use their smartphones to seek answers to tricky and humorous questions. Almost entirely indoors, the 2 1⁄2-hour tour exposes hidden art, mysterious markings in the constellation ceiling, times for “ghost” trains in the former arrivals room, and unusual murals and carvings in the Graybar Passage. You’ll visit the architectural marvel of the Whispering Gallery, the exhibits of the Transit Museum Annex and the Art Deco lobby of the Chrysler Building. And, of course, you’ll stop to peruse the Grand Central Market and the Dining Concourse.
INFO $24, 877-946-4868, watsonadventures.com
GREENWICH VILLAGE GAY HISTORY WALKING TOUR
The Stonewall Inn, 53 Christopher St., Manhattan
Greenwich Village is so quaint and walkable it’s one of the world’s favorite places for excursions. One tour that targets a specific slice of history is this two-hour gay history walk, which explores the heart of the West Village, where the gay liberation movement took off. The Village’s gay history didn’t start with the 1969 riots at the Stonewall Inn, where the tour begins and ends. It goes back to Walt Whitman reading from “Leaves of Grass” in bohemian salons of the mid-19th century. You’ll get a taste of gay history from Herman Melville to Harvey Fierstein, with visits to where Oscar Wilde stayed while on tour, the apartment Eleanor Roosevelt rented and where James Baldwin wrote “Giovanni’s Room.”
INFO $35, 646-560-3205, oscarwildetours.com
CHINATOWN: A WALK THROUGH HISTORY
Museum of Chinese in America, 215 Centre St., Manhattan
The Museum of Chinese in America leads this tour that unlocks Chinatown’s secrets with stops at such places as Columbus Park, Confucius Plaza and Doyers Street, often referred to as the “Bloody Angle” because its sharp curve enabled Chinatown’s gangs to ambush one other. Doyers Street also has Chinatown’s oldest dim sum restaurant, Nom Wah, dating to 1920, which has been updated as a younger generation has taken over management. It once served Chinatown’s bachelor community, which was created by the Chinese Exclusion Act banning immigrants from bringing their families. Take a peek into Chinatown’s oldest gift shops on the tour, and also learn a bit about other immigrant groups that contributed to Chinatown’s history.
INFO $25, 855-955-6622, mocanyc.org
CENTRAL PARK TV AND MOVIE SITES TOUR
59th Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues
Have you ever wondered what bandshell is featured in the film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”? Or where the park terrace is that appears in the movie “Hair”? (Hint: They’re in one of the most filmed park locations in the world.) This two-hour tour visits Central Park sites that appear in classics like “Kramer vs. Kramer,” “When Harry Met Sally” and “You’ve Got Mail.” Contemporary films like “Trainwreck,” “Friends with Benefits” and “The Avengers” also have locations on the tour, as do TV shows such as “Gossip Girl,” and “Sex in the City.” Tours in English, Spanish, German, French.
INFO $25, 212-913-9780, onlocationtours.com
CORONA/ELMHURST CULINARY TOUR
Corona Plaza, Queens
Eat your way through two of the most colorful immigrant neighborhoods in Queens, a borough of 2 million people, half of them originally from outside the United States. Visit a family-run Mexican bakery in Corona Plaza, while just a few steps away you can sample handmade tortillas and pit-roasted goat. You’ll visit other vendors representing Ecuador, Argentina, Uruguay and Colombia. In Elmhurst, home to a number of thriving Asian immigrant communities, tour-goers will sample Tibetan dumplings (momo) and visit a Thai grocery and community center, along with a shop that serves Chinese dumplings and hand-pulled noodles. The full-day jaunt concludes with drinks at a Mexican cantina.
INFO $150, culinarybackstreets.com
ART GALLERIES OF CHELSEA
These three-hour walking tours are led by artists, curators and art critics through the top art galleries in Chelsea, a former industrial neighborhood that was transformed very deliberately into a hip artistic bohemia in the late 1990s. The area is now home to world-renowned art dealers such as Mary Boone and Matthew Marks, as well as up-and-coming gallerists like Zach Feuer and Oliver Kamm. The tours, for neophytes and collectors alike, change regularly, depending on what’s on show, but always include a history of the neighborhood and examination of the economics behind its development as an art haven.
INFO $85, contexttravel.com
THE GENIUS AND ELEGANCE OF GRAMERCY PARK
Lexington Avenue and 21st Street, Manhattan
Learn the history of Manhattan’s only private park, which is surrounded by tranquil blocks reminiscent of London’s West End and is accessed by keys given only to people residing around the park who pay a fee. In the decades after this charming, two-acre park was developed in the 1830s, it became home to some of America’s greatest inventors, architects, actors, writers, painters and presidential candidates. Joyce Gold, an NYU instructor and guidebook author, leads tour-goers on this stroll to the National Arts Club, Players Club, Salon of Elizabeth Marbury and Elsie de Wolfe, O. Henry’s home and a bar he frequented, along with the homes of Peter Cooper, Edwin Booth and Stanford White.
INFO $20, joycegoldhistorytours.com, 212-242-5762