Besides a myriad of attractions, Manhattan also offers its visitors a great variety of guided tours. Some are more general, great for first-time visitors to the city, and some more specific, focusing on a particular area, neighbourhood or topic (such as films, arts, food, etc). Some tours include physical activities such as bike riding or walking, while others are more passive and include bus, trolley or boat rides. Some tours are a full day, others half a day and others still are just two or three hours long.
There is such a huge selection of tours that picking the ones that are just right for you can be very difficult, especially if your time in the city is short.
Here is a list of especially recommended tours in several different categories:
On Board Tours
A tour particularly suitable for first-time visitors to the city who don’t have a lot of time there. The tour includes a tour bus ride to Manhattan’s most famous tourist destinations. Along the way your guide will tell you important facts and interesting details about the places you pass through. At certain destinations the bus will stop to let you off for a guided tour on foot (this tour won’t include going up any towers or entry to any tourist attractions, however). Unlike with many other tour companies, in this one your guide will get off the bus with you at every stop and show you around himself. He will show you the best spots for taking photos of the popular destinations and enrich your knowledge with colourful little anecdotes.
In South Street Seaport you will board a boat and go on an hour-long tour around Manhattan, passing under the famous bridges and coming close to the statue of liberty and Ellis Island. This boat rode allows for some excellent viewing and picture taking of Manhattan and the statue of liberty.
This part of the tour is also accompanied by interesting explanations about the city. This tour takes place twice a day and is five hours long. This company also offers other more specific tours, such as a shopping tour of New York or a night tour of the city.
Uncle Sam’s New York Tours
This company specialises in quality tours on foot which focus on interesting neighbourhoods or specific areas such as Broadway, the financial district and Greenwich Village. Their most fascinating and touching tour is one about the heroes of the World Trade Centre. This is a tour on foot in the Ground Zero area which tells the story of some of the people who acted with great bravery and saved lives during 9/11. It takes you around the site (where new buildings are currently being built), between the memorials and monuments, to a few viewpoints and to the visitors’ centre. The tour starts at the nearby St. Paul’s Chapel, which was one of the only buildings in the area to escape harm during the disaster and served as a shelter for survivors, a resting place for the rescuers and a memorial for those that didn’t make it. The tour is two hours long. The company also offers some good night tours of pubs and clubs of different areas of the city.
Wall Street Walks
A small but excellent company which specialises in foot tours in the Wall Street area. Since 9/11 the Stock Exchange building itself has been closed to tourists, but you’d be surprised to find out how fascinating the entire area is. The tour will take you through how this street that served as a simple marketplace in the 18th century turned into the financial centre of the world. It will tell you about the dark side of Wall Street, including crises and scandals. It will take you around impressive buildings where history happened and show you historical sculptures. It will bring you to the nearby Trinity church and show you where the stock exchange workers eat. I recommend wrapping up the tour with a meal in the lovely Stone Street where there are many great restaurants. This is a wonderful, laid-back tour which takes an hour and a half.
Recomended Hotels in New York:
Hyatt Place New York
A 3 star Hotel Just 5 minutes’ walk from the Empire State Building, offers free Wi-Fi, a corner sofa, refrigerator, work desk and coffee making are included in each room.
A 4 star Hotel in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, 3 blocks from Central Park. Free Wi-Fi.
The New Yorker Hotel
Historic Midtown Manhattan 4 star hotel located 2 minutes’ walk from Madison Square Garden and opposite Penn Station. Times Square and the Theater District are 10 minutes’ walk away. Free Wi-Fi .
3 star hotel located 3-minute walk to Grand Central Station, offering easy access to Manhattan shopping and dining. Flat-screen cable TV and desk along with a safe. Each room is equipped with a microwave, refrigerator and coffee maker. free Wi-Fi.
TRYP by Wyndham Times Square South
3 star hotel. Located 5-minute walk from Penn Station. Free Wi-Fi.
Organised bike tours:
For sporty types and bike lovers I recommend joining one of the organised bike tours in Manhattan. This big busy city is full of safe and organised bicycle roads.
Bike and Roll NYC
Bike and Roll NYC has two particularly good biking tours:
Brooklyn Bridge & Hudson River bike tour – cycle along the Hudson river, overlooking beautiful views, parks and a promenade all the way to Battery Park, from which you can see the Statue of Liberty. From there you continue cycling to South Street Seaport where you can see three of Manhattan’s famous bridges. Next you ride through Chinatown and onto Manhattan Bridge all the way to Brooklyn and return via the impressive Brooklyn Bridge.
Central Park and Greenway Bike Tour
Cycle along the northern part of the promenade along the Hudson River with a view of the skyscrapers of Manhattan and from there to the most famous park of all, Central Park. The tour goes through popular destinations such as Shakespeare Gardens, the strawberry fields, Belvedere Castle, the zoo, and others.
Both tours leave from Dock 84 and are each 3 hours long. Along the tour you will stop several times to rest, see things and hear explanations about the places.
Bike the Big Apple
Another good tour company is Bike The Big Apple, which has several set tours through different areas of the city (a different tour every day of the week) ansd a few special tours on special occasions, such as a tour to Flushing Meadows in Queens during the US Open Tennis Championships, a tour of haunted locations on Halloween Weekend and others. An especially good tour of theirs is a Brooklyn tour, from Prospect Park to Coney Island.
Without a doubt, this sort of tour is the most popular kind in the city. Many tours offer a variety of food-related tours, from tastings to full meals. Some specialise in certain areas, such as Harlem or China Town, while others specialise in certain foods, such as pizza.
Two particularly good food tour companies with distinctively different styles are:
THE ENTHUSIASTIC GOURMET
THE ENTHUSIASTIC GOURMET organises tours of delicious ethnic foods in southern Manhattan. Its three main tours are ‘Chinatown Discovered’, ‘Melting Pot’, and a tour of Jewish foods called ‘NY Nosh’.
During each tour you will taste samples from restaurants, stalls and food shops in the area you travel in on foot. For example, in the Melting Pot tour you will get to taste Italian cheeses in ‘Little Italy’, pickles and kosher bread in the Jewish area, Chinese dumplings in Chinatown and sweet American muffins. Besides tasting samples you will also learn about life in these neighbourhoods, their culture, history, and customs. An enriching and tasty experience.
Food on Foot Tours
Food on Foot Tours is a new kind of tour, created by Cory, a New Yorker who lost his job during the financial crisis and decided to try out something new. As a lover of food who knew Manhattan’s restaurants well and always recommended restaurants to his acquaintances, he decided to turn his hobby into his job and introduce tourists to all the lovely smaller restaurants only known to locals. Food on Foot Tours offer a tour of a different quarter every day, each one unique. For example: an international food tour in Queens; a tour of Hell’s Kitchen, a tour of Brooklyn, a tour of sweets and more. After a joint ride on the subway to the destination of the tour, the guide will take you to small restaurants and bakeries and recommend things on the menu. You will purchase the meal with your own money (it is best for two people to share one small meal to avoid filling up too quickly). You will visit another five or six restaurants in this manner while receiving recommendations for other restaurants from your guide, as well as some background information about the area.