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Enthusiastic Experts Lead Walks of New York
Everyone has their preconceived “musts” when they visit New York City. For some, it’s the landmarks: Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty and Times Square. Others prefer the riches found in some of the best museums in New York, such as the Met, MoMA and the American Museum of Natural History. And there are those who find pure joy in getting to know the different boroughs, sampling the ethnic flavors, visiting quirky haunts and eating incomparable cuisine.
The fact is that there’s just no way to see everything in a visit or three. You’ll still just scratch the surface of what New York City has to offer.
For a fuller visitor’s experience, Walks of New York provides affordable walking tours led by enthusiastic experts. The groups are kept small, no more than a dozen per tour, so it’s easier for people to stay engaged and converse with the guide.
“This isn’t a ‘hop-on/hop-off’ charter bus, or a parade of Segways,” explained Stephen Oddo, who cofounded Walks of New York and Walks of Italy in 2009 with Jason Spiehler. “We’ve branded ourselves by offering a higher-quality touring experience, because our guides research their tours and they can speak with authority.”
Recently, Walks of New York achieved a coup by recruiting famed chef Mario Batali to craft the itinerary for its Greenwich Village Food Tour. Priced at $64 for adults, the three-hour tour takes walkers to Faicco’s for arancini, Raffetto’s to see pasta making, O&Co. olive oil store, and Grom for gelato. The tour includes stops at two Batali restaurants: Otto and Lupa Osteria Romana.
The Broadway Behind the Scenes tour is less about going backstage than being regaled by an insider who will share his or her secrets about life in New York’s famous floodlights. The tour explores the history of landmark theaters, how a show is produced and scuttlebutt about legendary performers. Walkers will see and learn about Times Square, 42nd Street, Rodgers & Hammerstein Way, Sardi’s and Shubert Alley.
“Our goal is to provide a diverse array of tours,” Oddo said. “Broadway is a perfect example. Because we have insiders in the theater industry, you can ask them how much performers make, how the Guild works and everything else that is involved in a show.”
One of the great New York experiences is just being out among the hustle and bustle of humanity. For that, journey to the different boroughs.
“Each of our neighborhood tours has a unique twist and includes places that are often overlooked,” Oddo said. “A perfect example is our Lower East Side tour, where visitors can tour the Eldridge Street Synagogue Museum, enjoy a bialy at a local, traditional bakery, and even sample pickles at the last pickle stand.”
The three-hour Lower East Side tour also has stops at Straus Square, a Buddhist temple, and the Chinatown fire brigade’s building.
A stop on many visitors’ agendas is the new 9/11 Memorial Museum. Walks of New York adds value to the experience with an explanation of the events and the important landmarks surrounding the World Trade Center. Led by a local, the World Trade Center Tour with 9/11 Memorial Museum Ticket tour starts with a visit to Trinity Church and Wall Street, and then to Chase Manhattan Plaza and the New York Federal Reserve Bank, where most of the world’s gold is deposited.
Next is St. Paul’s Chapel, where George Washington worshipped, and which served as the headquarters for the Ground Zero rescue and relief workers. Before entering the 9/11 Memorial Museum for a self-guided tour, walkers will stop at the firehouse of Engine 10, Ladder 10, where they will hear about the heroism of that fateful day.
Lastly, there’s also a Welcome to New York tour of Midtown Manhattan that encompasses landmarks such as St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Rockefeller Center, Bryant Park, Grand Central Terminal and a rooftop view of Times Square.