Top New York City Tours

Broadway, credit: Meryl Pearlstein
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What Good is Staying All Alone in Your Room? It’s Time to Get Out and See New York City

Spring gives added impetus for getting outside. These tours of New York City are guaranteed to show you aspects of the city that you may have forgotten, so lace up your walking shoes, put on your sunglasses – it’s time to explore!

The Music Inn (c) Meryl Pearlstein

Broadway Up Close

We’re still so many steps away from having Broadway back and running. In the interim, Tim Dolan has put together a series of tours designed to make you ask for an encore. A true Broadway savant, Dolan knows a thing or two about the Great White Way and has made it his life’s passion to uncover the Theater District’s dirty little secrets, or even those that aren’t so dirty. Broadway Up Close is led by the Green Team, all working actors quite intimate with the “secrets” and stories of Broadway. 

Broadway Up Close sign courtesy Broadway Up Close

A range of tours will show you the interiors and hidden gems of great theaters of the past like the splendid theater that is now the Times Square Church. You’ll learn fun facts like how the Tony’s got their start thanks to some very determined women and about the architect of many of the theaters, a gentleman named Herbert J. Krapp. At every stop, there’s more to absorb and you’ll also find out why some theaters are better suited to certain types of shows. 

Dolan has researched so much about Broadway that he seems to channel the ghosts of the Gershwins, Rodgers and Hammerstein, and the Schuberts as he describes their role in Broadway history. He also has a vast assemblage of rare photos that are truly amazing. Broadway Bar Crawl, Hudson Theater, and Broadway Ruins are three of the tours currently offered, accompanied by Dolan’s mascot Belasco, named after one of the theaters. Virtual tours are also offered.

F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Clapboard courtesy On Location Tours

On Location Tours

On Location Tours has pivoted during the pandemic and is now offering private tour versions of all of their TV and movie-themed bus and walking tours. Some of the popular tours include the Sex and the City Hotspots Tour, NYC TV & Movie Tour, Gossip Girl Sites Tour, and Central Park TV & Movie Sites Walking Tour. In addition to offering private tours to small groups, On Location Tours has also launched their first virtual tour: The F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Virtual Tour Package, which includes a 40-minute virtual tour featuring 18 locations from the series, along with free admission to a virtual trivia night held once a month. 

Mrs. Maisel tour courtesy On Location Tours

Of their many tours, the newest has been reconfigured to give you a private experience in a 1957 Studebaker, the car seen in all three seasons of the popular Marvelous Mrs. Maisel TV show. Mrs. Maisel’s Marvelous Tour of NYC is led by a “marvelous” tour guide, who looks like one of the characters from the show, wearing the colorful coats that Midge Maisel famously wears. If you’re a fan of the show, the sites visited will be very familiar to you. Sort of. You’ll hear how these locations were disguised to make modern-day New York City appear as the 1950s. Among the landmarks visited are Washington Square Park where Midge joined in a protest, Old Town Bar where Joel and Archie knocked down a few, Café Reggio where Tony Shaloub meets with his lawyer and the music store (still unchanged) where Midge picks up “dirty” comedy albums to help with her routines. You’ll also pass landmarks that have taken on new lives today like the former B. Altman’s where Midge worked in Season One and the comedy club where Midge did her first stand-up. 

As Mrs. Maisel enters its fourth season,  it’s a wonderful time to re-acquaint yourself with the landmarks that were important to Mrs. Maisel’s development as a stand-up comedian and to important moments in her marriage. Fittingly, you end at the La Bonbonniere which was transformed into The City Spoon, the scene of many important Midge-Joel moments.

The High Line (c) Meryl Pearlstein

NYC Ghosts

You can bet that New York City is filled spirits just waiting to meet you at every corner. With a history so colorful, the city’s departed residents are equally colorful. And many are lingering in some of the most historical landmarks in the city. NY Ghosts will lead you on a one-mile sojourn to some of these locations that are truly strange and twisted. You don’t need to be a fan of Hamilton to know about the duels that took place in the city, but there will be other surprises that emerge as you travel from neighborhood to neighborhood. 

Tours by Frieda

Tours by Frieda is the only tour in NYC that gives you an in-depth look at the city’s orthodox Jewish culture with a visit to Hasidic Williamsburg. Resuming this spring, this is a walking tour into an area of Brooklyn that  is like a visit to the Old Country. It’s a must for anyone wanting to get an insider’s look at one of the city’s most distinctive neighborhoods. Virtual tours are also offered.

Context Tours

Known for taking a more docent-like approach to their tours, delving deep in history, architecture and more with a more scholarly focus than you might see in other tours, Context Tours NYC experiences are now both virtual and IRL.

Helicopter tour courtesy Wings Air helicopters

An Aerial View

A helicopter tour of NYC is a great way to a lot of New York in a short amount of time. Comfortable and designed for your private group, Wings Air helicopters  take you up and up to see the drama of the city from the sky. The helicopters are sanitized before and after your trip as are headsets which are optional, if you prefer. Your pilot and narrator will be the only other person on your flight and masks are required.  45-minute and 30-minute version are offered. Depending on which length you choose you’ll see views of Central Park, the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, Madison Square Garden, Harlem, the George Washington Bridge and Yankee Stadium. The longer tour adds Downtown with the Freedom Tower, Financial District, Battery Park, Ellis Island and Statue of Liberty.

Moulin Rouge on Broadway (c) Meryl Pearlstein

Insider Knowledge

ToursByLocals has continued operating through the pandemic with excursions including in-person walking, driving, or caravan tours with masks and social distancing as well as new virtual experiences.  In-person and virtual tours are available to cover pretty much any area of interest and geographical area that might intrigue you. You could plan an entire visit just booking one tour after another, and you’ll get insights that truly come from those who live here.

A popular tour is to Upper Harlem which shows you the most important landmarks in New York’s vibrant Black history. You’ll visit music landmarks like the Apollo Theater. Virtual tours are also offered.

Chinatown courtesy Sherpa Tours
42nd St. (c) Meryl Pearlstein

Sherpa Tours

Sherpa Tours has put a novel spin on the in-person walking tour, creating a GPS-directed-tour with an AR component. You’ll walk by a series of landmarks and point your camera to activate the AR avatar guide, who shares the tour information. All tours are created by longtime guides and experts. Among the tours offered are LGBTQ+ West Village which visits The Stonewall Inn, a site of major importance in gay rights; The Upper West Side where John Lennon was shot; Little Italy and Chinatown and New York’s 42nd Street

Grand Central Terminal (c) Meryl Pearlstein

New York Adventure Club

The New York Adventure Club creates experiences geared for locals and curious visitors, built around the interesting people and places in the NYC area. With their mind-boggling array of in-person tours starting this spring, you’ll have a tough time deciding which to book. The people leading these tours are some of the most knowledgeable that I’ve seen anywhere. Consider, for example, the “Steinway Piano Factory” tour, an exceptional exploration of the world’s most famous piano, which has its historic factory in Astoria, Queens. Or the “History of NYC Jazz” series, a combination of blues and jazz history which definitively points to New York’s importance in the development and popularity of this music form.  If you’ve ever wondered about “Grand Central Terminal” and its many secrets, the tour of Manhattan’s busy train and subway hub is for you.

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