Walking is the most intimate way to get acquainted with Manhattan. There are an amazing number of walking tours conducted by a variety of people — from large companies to a single professor or writer talking about her specialty. These special-interest tours focus on a specific theme (such as a Seinfeld tour conducted by Kenny “the real” Kramer and one that covers knitting shops). Here is a representative sampling to get you started.
Amazing New York Tours
You can design your own tour or choose from a long list of suggestions. There is a $40 minimum for up to four people and $10 a person for every additional person. Of special note is the one-hour College Neighborhood Tour for $25 total for a family of up to five people. It's a great idea if you are considering one of New York's excellent schools.
Taking any kind of tour is the most efficient way to get to know a city, but choosing the right tour is important. You know your family better than anyone, and the wonderful thing about New York is the huge variety of tours offered. Shorter bicycle tours, individualized tours by Big Apple Greeters, self-guided tours using electronic devices, or tours by boat or helicopter may be good opportunities for your family.
Big Apple Greeters
This organization is one of the things that make New York great!The idea is simple — real New Yorkers volunteer to take visitors around a neighborhood on a one-to-one basis. The service is free — no fees, no tipping allowed. You can choose the neighborhood or leave it to Greeter's choice. It's a marvelous way to get a feel for a neighborhood while enjoying a personalized experience, as opposed to a boilerplate tour.
Big Apple Greeter started in 1992 as a way to make New York City more accessible to visitors. It was intended to counter New York's perception as a tourist's worst nightmare — an overwhelming, over-powering, overpriced metropolis.
There are about 300 greeters who speak twenty-two languages (including signing). Visits take between two and four hours, more if you agree, and can accommodate one to six people, including children. You will get a private tour and will never share with another party. Visitors with disabilities are welcome.
Big Onion Walking Tours
Big Onion has offered tours through historic and ethnic neighborhoods all around the city since 1991. Choose from a wide-ranging variety of tours. Adults $15, seniors $12, students with ID $10. There is a $5 extra charge for food on the Original Multi-Ethnic Eating Tour.
Knickerbocker's New York Tours
Experienced guides will work with you to plan the perfect tour for your family. Tours are offered in ten languages, and guides are knowledgeable about a number of New York-centric topics. Just in case you're curious, the tours are not affiliated with the basketball team.
92nd Street Y
The 92nd Street Y (a New York cultural treasure in itself) offers a wide selection of walking tours of different areas of the city and outer boroughs. The tours include journeys to areas of historic, social, artistic, and cultural importance. Walking tours include Madison Square Garden, Grand Central Station, Lower East Side synagogues, Brooklyn Bridge, Prospect Park, Van Cortlandt Park, and a Gracie Mansion tea tour. The tours run from two to four hours and cost $15 to $25. Call for more information and to register.
Just about any walking tour that involves food is a good value. You will get a tour of the city and a meal for a decent price. Your kids will enjoy the interactive experience, and the tastes and smells of the tour are more likely to stick with them than the trivia tidbits offered on a standard walking tour.
Susan Sez NYC Walkabouts
Susan Birnbaum goes where no man has gone before — well, almost. She takes you to neighborhoods that are usually neglected: City Island, the Bronx's Arthur Avenue, Astoria, Manhattan's crafts shops. But she also goes to the traditional places as well. Of interest are the neighborhood tours for people moving to the Big Apple. Tours are $18 to $40, except for the $75 knitting tour, which includes lunch and discounts on purchases.
If you arrive in New York without booking a tour beforehand, don't worry. You can find schedules for walking tours at visitor centers and local newspapers. Ask the concierge at your hotel for suggestions and recommendations.