There's plenty to keep visitors and resident occupied in New York City (NYC) with its iconic attractions, soaring skyscrapers, famous eateries and historical spots. Instead of visiting the conventional tourist attractions of the city, why not explore the interesting and off-the-beaten-track sights? If you're interested in getting the 411 on what makes this world-famous city truly tick, here are 10 of the most interesting day tours to get you started. See the real NYC from the ground, air and sea.
You can't visit NYC without a trip to the world-famous Wall Street, the financial heart of the US and an important barometer for global financial health. And who better to give you the stories of the the hard-driving traders from the boom times to the meltdown, complete with charts and anecdotes, than the financial technicians at The Wall Street Experience. Founded by Andrew Luan who previously worked as a collateralized debt obligations (CDO) trader for Deutsche Bank until the financial crisis in 2008, he and his team offer former insiders' views of sacred institutions like the New York Stock Exchange and the Federal Reserve Board of New York.
Andrew had a front row seat in Wall Street's financial boom and bust and the first-hand context to explain the history visitors can't read in a book. International and US visitors including professionals, high school students, undergraduates and even bankers have been on his tours. Andrew also offers lessons on some of the trades that made him lots of money recently, including buying credit-default swaps on CDOs. His Grand Tour offers insights into the financial crisis and visits to the World Financial Center, Ground Zero and the Federal Reserve Bank over 4 to 5 hours. You'll certainly gain some Interesting perspectives on Wall Street but don't expect to learn all the secrets from this tour including how to mastermind the next financial meltdown. For more information, check out the tour website.
Although Harlem is one of the most culturally rich neighborhoods in NYC, it is often off the mainstream tourist route due to its rough-and-tumble reputation. Locals will tell you otherwise as the neighborhood, roughly defined as anything between Central Park and 155th Street, has grown in popularity with its music venues, lounges and influx of new restaurants. One of the best ways to enjoy Harlem is to eat your way through the rich history and diverse ethnic mix of Caribbean, African and Latin American.
Taste Harlem Food & Cultural Tours founded by Jacqueline Orange who moved to Harlem from Chicago in 2002, takes visitors through 13 miles of Harlem in search of the neighborhood's best soul food (classic Southern fare) and cuisine from Africa, the Caribbean and France. Not just a tour for foodies, visitors will also learn about its history through noteworthy educational, historical, architectural and artistic venues. Jacqueline's unique, reasonably priced and fun tours will change your impression of Harlem whether or not you're a resident. Just remember not to snack before the tour because you'll be eating a lot of food. To find out more about the tours, check out the company website. Don't forget to check out the Amateur Night events at the legendary Apollo Theater while you're in Harlem.
NYC is a literal treasure trove of art from galleries to events and even designer hotels. In addition to the more commonly known museums like the Met, Guggenheim or Moma, NYC has a palette of galleries, studios and street art that are unknown even to residents. To help art enthusiasts obtain a more complete picture of NYC's art scene, Artigo Tours offers behind-the-scenes guided tours through art-friendly neighborhoods including Chelsea, DUMBO, Bushwick and Long Island City.
Founded by art professionals and insiders of the New York art scene, Caroline Sodenkamp and Jo-Anneke van der Wal, each tour is customised and focuses on 'off the beaten track' venues including visits to private galleries and artist studio's, art talks and lectures by insiders, tours to renowned art schools and unique public and street art walks. Artigo's tours range from short trips of a neighborhood to extended outings that can span a few days across the city's art world. For more information, visit the company's website.
Helicopters are a common sight in NYC where people regularly spend a few hundred dollars to fly from Manhattan to JKF to avoid the near-impossible road traffic or visitors travel by the Hudson River for views of the west side of the city. The combination of intensive commuting and heavy tourism makes Manhattan one of the most intensive helicopter hotspots in the world. One of the best ways to take in all of Manhattan's famous skyline is undoubtedly with a helicopter ride.
Local company, Manhattan Helicopters, has been serving visitors since 2007 with a unique perspective of the one of the world's most exciting city through their comprehensive helicopter sightseeing tours. The 15 to 30 minute flights up the historic Hudson River offer stunning aerial views of all the world-famous landmarks of the Big Apple including the Empire State Building, Central Park and Lady Liberty. All flights are fully narrated with the choice of English, Spanish, French and German. Just don't forget your camera for the ride. To find the right tour for you, check out the company's website.
This special guided tour from Midtown Manhattan to the Bronx has been designed to offer visitors a glimpse of every day life in the city instead of tourist attractions. It tells the life story of The Bronx including the history, culture, architecture, sports, arts and cuisine. 2 of the most popular nooks and crannies of this culturally rich neighborhood are Little Ireland in Woodlawn Heights and Little Italy on Arthur Avenue.
Conducted by MCNY Tours since 2011, some of the highlights are the Yankee Stadium, Woodlawn Cemetery, The Bronx Museum of the Arts, Baroque buildings of the 1880s through the 1900s, Art-Deco mosaic work along The Grand Concourse, Mosholu Parkway and Edgar Allen Poe's cottage. For information about the tours, visit the MCNY website.
With Urban Oyster, visitors can embark on unique tours of discovering NYC's edible history and food culture, one neighborhood at a time. This Brooklyn-based tour and events company founded by David Naczycz serves up edible adventures across the city from craft beer crawls to the ethnic fare of many immigrants. For example, participants can become beer experts after visiting the old and new breweries, learning about the glorious history of America's favourite drink, discerning the different styles, how to pair beer with food, and tasting of 8 beers through the informative and entertaining pub and brewery crawls. Visitors interested in craft wine and liquor can meet the brewers behind the scenes of urban wineries and distilleries, tour the production facilities and enjoy generous tastings.
David's wide variety of neighborhood and culinary themed tours reveal the stories behind the people and places that make the city's neighborhoods unique and vibrant. Each tour aims to promote a deeper sense of appreciation for local business, history, diversity and sustainability in communities. In support of local business and communities ravaged by Hurricane Sandy, Urban Oysters are also introducing a foodies tour of the F&B businesses along the Manhattan and Brooklyn waterfronts where many historical buildings and piers still remain today. Visitors will have the opportunity to taste the wares from these small food operations and purchase some to take home. So if you're looking for a great day out with loads of drinks and food, visit the Urban Oyster website.
How often do you get escorted around a city with your own policeman, albeit a retired one? Well you can in NYC with Paul Murphy, retired NYPD Lieutenant turned licensed tour guide. His former occupation adds a different dimension to his walking tours, which combine historical, contemporary, criminal and folk stories of notable neighborhoods. He takes visitors to spots such as Grand Central Terminal, 911 memorial site, Wall Street, Greenwich Village building facade used in the Friends TV show, "Pigeon Man" in Washington Square Park, and NYC's smallest piece of private real estate.
A life long resident of NYC, Paul is able to share with visitors interesting, rare and off-beat facts about New York and its residents. His comprehensive knowledge of the City and the public transportation system as a former cop will also come in handy when navigating one neighborhood to another in the shortest time possible. To top it all off, Paul's tours are one of the cheapest in NYC. For more information, check out Paul's website.
Smart phone users can explore NYC in a interactive way with their cell phones as the guide. Founded in NYC by a couple of guys, Stray Boots combine mobile technology, clever content and scavenger hunt to create walking tour games that are fun, easy and engaging. Playable at any time of day, visitors can choose different games featuring iconic NYC attractions and secret spots off the beaten track. People of any ages and group size can play.
Playing is simple. after signing up, you receive clues asking you to find things, solve riddles, take crazy photos and answer trivia. You visit the cool spot, then send in your answers and receive points and learn fun facts. The games have been featured in the The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Fast Company, and profiled multiple times on TV by Fox and ABC. Think amazing race in NYC but with your smart phone. To start your scavenger hunt, visit the Stray Boots website.
While most harbour cruises offer pretty much the same package of sightseeing, dining and entertainment on board, Entertainment Cruises' lunch and dinner cruises on the New York Harbor departing from Chelsea Piers remain a popular way to take in the Manhattan skyline. The company is the largest harbour cruise company in the US, the result of merger between Spirit Cruises and Premier Yachts in 2007.
The company offers 3 vessels and a portfolio of dining and sightseeing cruise experiences on New York Harbour for visitors to choose from. They travel around the Hudson River, passing the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and Governors Island and under the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges before returning to Chelsea Piers. Irregardless of your choice, the best takeaways from any of the cruises are photographs with New York City's skyline and the Statue of Liberty as the background. So don't forget your camera. For more information, visit the cruise website.
Explore New York With Martha Lanzillotti
Photo from Explore New York and taken by Jim of J&C Tours
If you're still trying to squeeze all the unique experiences out of your visit to NYC, then you should have a chat with personal sightseeing guide company, Explore New York. Owned by Manhattan-based professional, Martha Lanzillotti, she focuses on providing in-depth tours of the city in the most comfortable and fun way possible. As a life-long New Yorker, she is able to share the life and pulse of NYC with visitors, weaving history and [personal anecdotes of this incredible city to make sojourns an experience. Whether visitors are looking for the spots where celebrities frequent, experiencing the subway uptown, midtown, downtown, east side and west side or learning how NYC dispose its waste, Martha can design numerous itineraries packed with amazing facts, sights and stories tailored to the needs of both groups and individuals alike. To speak with Martha, check out her website.
Photo from Explore New York and taken by Tom Misuraca of the University of Pittsburgh