Recently we were lucky enough to spend 5 days in New York, and thought that we'd take the opportunity to do some proper exploring, as well as some proper eating and drinking (more on that in future blog posts).
We did a bit of research beforehand and found out about Big Onion Walking Tours, who are really well reviewed by everyone who's taken them. Big Onion have been around since 1991 and lead walking tours through NYC's historic districts and ethnic neighbourhoods. Their tours combine the history, architecture, people and events that make NYC one of the greatest cities in the world.
You don't have to book in advance for their tours (except the Multi-Ethnic Eating Tour - YUM!), you just turn up at the right time in the right place, pay your ticket price of $US20/each (concessions available for students and seniors) directly to your guide (cash, correct change appreciated), and you're good to go. The tours are roughly two hours long and the guides hold advanced degrees in American history from leading universities, including Columbia, CUNY and New York University.
We did two fab tours with Big Onion - the Historic Times Square, and the "Official" Gangs of New York. We had two good female guides, but the Times Square guide was better than the Gangs of New York one, despite the fact that she was VERY pregnant and walked and chatted with a bunch of strangers for two hours on quite a hot day (I was jiggered by the end and I wasn't pregnant!).
Historic Times Square Tour blurb:-
Before it was known as "The Crossroads of the World", Times Square was "Longacre Square", an area best known for the harness shops and horse stables. Come see how much has changed as we visit a potter's field turned reservoir then elegant city park; the one time centre of the city's vice district, as well as a host of legendary theatres, grand hotels, and movie houses. We will see how redevelopment has changed the neighbourhood and we'll look for traces of "old" Times Square hidden in plain sight. Stops may include The New York Public Library, Astor Hotel and sites associated with the Shubert Family, Flo Ziegfeld, George Gershwin, Elvis Presley, and Damon Runyon.
Official Gangs Of New York Tour blurb:-
A tour that goes beyond Martin Scorsese's landmark film "Gangs of New York" or the current BBC America series "Coppers". Come explore the legends and lore of Five Points and Herbert Asbury's 1927 classic "The Gangs of New York" - the inspiration for the film - and learn about the REAL history of the area. Stops could include Paradise Square, "Murderers Alley", the African Burial Ground, the lost intersection of Five Points, and the sites associated with Bill "The Butcher" Poole, William M. Tweed, Master Juba, and the 1857 Police and 1863 Draft Riots.
So if you find yourself in NYC with a bit of time on your hands and you want to find out something more about this amazing place, as well as getting just a teensy bit of exercise to walk off those Cronuts and Shake Shack frozen yoghurts (you know you want to!), get yourself on one of Big Onion's tours. They really are quite fascinating and we'd definitely do some more if we're lucky enough to visit again. At the time of our visit, they were offering 27 different tours - you WILL find something to rock your boat.
Big Onion Walking Tours
Phone:- 212 439 1090, or 888 606 WALK (9255)