Go behind the scenes at the real look of NYC! On foot or in the climate-controlled comfort of a private bus, there’s no better way to soak up Manhattan’s iconic sites than with a professionally-guided tour. Go beyond typical tourist sightseeing and get a deeper appreciation for the city’s culture, history, music, and even food and drinks with one of these top options.
1. Midtown Manhattan Art & Architecture
Start Point: Food Emporium, 810 8th Avenue
Midtown is crammed with sites of historical and architectural interest, from Art Deco masterpieces to brilliant outsider-art murals. But few outsiders ever venture into the labyrinth of underground passages and above-ground atriums that connect buildings in an intricate network. These “privately-owned public spaces,” or POPS, make it possible to walk from Hell’s Kitchen to Tiffany’s on a rainy day without getting wet. On this 2.5-hour walking tour, you’ll explore Midtown both above- and below-ground and learn how Manhattan’s history of zoning has created this unique built environment. From $28; book online at viator.com.
2. NYC TV and Movie Tour
Start Point: Near Broadway and 51st Street
This is indisputably the most filmed city in the world, with immediately recognizable settings around every corner. On this three-hour bus tour, you’ll see more than 60 locations from beloved movies and TV series, from the apartment building home to Rachel, Chandler, Joey, and Monica in Friends to FDNY Hook & Ladder 8, the firehouse featured in Ghostbusters, Hitch, and Seinfeld. You’ll wrap up your journey with a stop at McGee’s Pub, the inspiration for MacLaren’s Pub in How I Met Your Mother. Are you a superfan of a NYC-based show like Friends, Sex and the City, or The Sopranos? Check out tours specific to these shows (and many others). From $45 adult/$31 child; book online at onlocationtours.com.
3. Municipal Arts Society Urban Tours
MAS Headquarters: 488 Madison Ave
For an in-depth, nuanced look at how New York’s history and urban policy have shaped the city’s built environment, join one of MAS’ thought-provoking tours. You’ll not only get an up-close look at beloved landmarks and vibrant neighborhoods, but your expert guide (many are working architects, authors, and historians) will provide an informed perspective on why you’re seeing what you’re seeing. An ever-changing list of options might include an exploration of the lives and influence of the Rockefeller family; a survey of the Art Deco gems of Civic Center/Tribeca; or a foray into East Harlem for a better understanding of this fast-changing area. Many tours are held on one date only, so book ahead at mas.org.
4. Disney on Broadway Walking Tour
Start Point: West 46th St between Broadway and 7th Ave
If you have a young thespian in your group (or an adult Disney-lover), this 2.5-hour walking tour offers an unmatched opportunity to experience the magic of Disney on Broadway. Your insider guides are current or former actors, crew members, or theater managers with firsthand experience from shows like The Lion King, Aladdin, and The Little Mermaid. Your exploration of the Theatre District culminates at Disney’s New Amsterdam Theatre, where you’ll get to see and touch props and costumes from your favorite shows and learn about the theatre’s storied past from an in-house historian. From $59; book online at broadway.com.
5. Harlem Sunday Morning Gospel Tour
Start Point: Near Times Square on Eighth Ave
Spend four hours immersed in the rich cultural and musical heritage of Harlem, from its earliest days as a Dutch settlement through its role at the heart of Black culture and music throughout the twentieth century. You’ll stroll past historic brownstones, see famous sites and landmarks including Columbia University, the Cotton Club, and the Apollo Theater, and thrill to a live gospel choir at a local church. As an optional add-on, wrap up your tour with lunch at Sylvia’s, the storied soul food restaurant that’s anchored the neighborhood since 1982. From $65; book online at nycgo.com.
6. Iconic Views of Central Park
Start Point: Dairy Visitor Center (mid-Park between 64th and 65th Streets)
This 90-minute walking tour leads you through the highlights of the world’s greatest urban park. You’ll see how the rocky, swampy terrain has been transformed into a beloved oasis that’s been a National Historic Landmark since 1962. Iconic sites you’ll visit along the way include the Dairy, the Lake, Bow Bridge, Literary Walk, and many more. Other tour options include an exploration of the Ramble, the 36-acre wild garden at the heart of the Park; the Memorial Walk, a series of sculptural tributes to America’s veterans; and the popular Hound Hike, where your four-legged friend can join you for a dog-friendly version of one of the signature tours. From $15 (some tours free); book online at centralparknyc.org.
7. Greenwich Village Literary Pub Crawl
Start Point: White Horse Tavern, 567 Hudson Street
Beginning at the favored hangout of Bohemian writers and artists like Dylan Thomas, James Baldwin, and Bob Dylan, this four-hour tour guides you from bar to pub to tavern, immersing you in local history along the way. Small groups and knowledgeable guides make for an intimate, friendly experience as you soak up both tidbits of literary lore and a series of adult beverages. (Bring cash: some stops don’t accept credit cards.) Destinations include a freshly reopened Chumley’s, a Prohibition-era speakeasy whose address at 86 Bedford St. is the origin of the phrase “86ed”: cops would tip bar staff off before scheduled raids, allowing patrons to “86 it” through the front door instead of the back alley. From $30; book online at literarypubcrawl.com.
8. Lower East Side Food and Culture Tour
Start Point: City Hall Park, Broadway & Chambers St.
Waves of immigrants from scores of countries have made Manhattan their home over the years, and each group has brought along its unique culinary traditions to add to the melting pot. On this three-hour walking tour, you’ll visit hidden gem restaurants and ethnic markets to sample dishes from a rainbow of cultures: Jewish knishes, fresh Italian mozzarella, and Chinese soup dumplings are among the highlights. You’ll also experience a slice of Lower East Side life a century ago at the Tenement Museum and have the opportunity to shop for global dishes (and ingredients) of your own at Essex Market. From $65; book online at urbanadventures.com.
9. Manhattan Street Art Tour
Start Point: Bowery and Bleecker Street
Join a working graffiti artist for this insightful exploration of the Lower East Side’s urban art culture. Learn more about this frequently misunderstood art form as you take in both ambitious (and officially sanctioned) full-size murals and smaller, more spontaneous pieces by artists like Shepard Fairey, TKID, and JCORP. If you’re feeling inspired, grab a spray can and create a masterpiece of your own at a Street Art Workshop. From $20; book online at grafftours.com.
10. Flatiron Food, Architecture, and History Tour
Start Point: Eataly, 200 Fifth Avenue
Discover two of Manhattan’s most historic and picturesque neighborhoods — Flatiron and Union Square — on this three-hour walking tour. You’ll fuel up for your journey with a breakfast focaccia and savor additional dishes along the way, from a classic deli sandwich (with vegetarian-friendly options) to a bountiful sampler of artisan cheeses. Learn the history of this area’s beautiful and iconic buildings, including the Met Life Building (once the tallest in the world) and the posh shops of the Ladies’ Mile, the Victorian-era high fashion hotbed. From $50; book online at behindthescenesnyc.com.