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Walk and Learn

The City’s Best History Tours

Explore the city’s rich and colorful past on one of these top walking tours

New York City is one of the oldest and most diverse cities in America, and there’s no better way to explore it than on foot. But to uncover the city’s rich past of artists, immigrants, presidents, moguls, architecture and occasional notoriety, you’ll need a knowledgeable guide. Here’s a roundup of the best history tours in New York City.

 

The Bull of Wall Street on Wall Street Walks

The Bull of Wall Street

Wall Street Walks
Tour Length: Approximately 90 minutes

From the New York City Stock exchange to Zucotti Park, (the epicenter of the Occupy Wall Street Movement) Wall Street Walks reminds visitors that the Financial District is where modern New York City began. Neighborhood highlights include pedestrian-only Stone Street, the site where President Washington was inaugurated, and the first home of the New York Stock Exchange.

 

The “Official” Gangs of New York Tour
Tour Length: Approximately two hours

Explore the myths and truths that led to Martin Scorsese’s popular film, “Gangs of New York.” From “Murderer’s Alley” to the 1863 Draft Riots, guides will help you figure out what really happened on the streets of New York and what’s the stuff of Hollywood. This tour is so good, it was commissioned by Miramax Films as the historical companion tour for the film by the same name. www.bigonion.com

 

Lower East Side Tenement House: Then & Now
Tour Length: Approximately two hours

The Lower East Side Tenement Museum is a little piece of living history in one of New York’s most exciting neighborhoods. Visitors can take a guided tour in an authentic domicile that once housed hundreds of poor Jewish workers, living in the worst conditions. Still, they persevered—building businesses, congregations and schools, until the government put an end to dangerous tenement living. www.tenement.org

 

The Abolitionist Church on Inside Out Slavery and Underground Railroad Tour

The Abolitionist Church

New York City Slavery and Underground Railroad Tour
Tour Length: Approximately two hours

Traditionally, one wouldn’t think of Yankee New York City as an important part of the Underground Railroad, but this tour takes visitors on famous and lesser-known sights of New York City’s slaveholding (and eventual civil rights promoting) past, including a coffee-shop that was once home to a conductor who helped Frederick Douglas escape slavery. Other highlights of the New York City Slavery and Underground Railroad Tour include a Colonial burial ground and a lesson in our nation’s legacy of slavery.


America’s Museum: Art and History of the Metropolitan

Tour Length: Approximately two hours

Get the inside scoop on the Metropolitan Museum from PhD candidates in art history and learn how a small building with only 174 paintings became a world-famous art gallery the same size as the Empire State Building. Find out which Met benefactor was eaten by cannibals and see an enormous selection of superb art. www.bigonion.com

 

Alexander Hamilton Financial District Tour
Tour Length: Approximately two hours

The New York Stock Exchange on the Alexander Hamilton Financial District Tour

The New York Stock Exchange

A prime example of the American Dream, Alexander Hamilton went from rags to riches as a young immigrant in New York City. The Alexander Hamilton Financial District Tour focuses on the neighborhood where countless others just like him made their own dreams come true. Visitors will have a chance to see views of the iconic Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, while strolling through The New York Stock Exchange and Battery Park.

 

Crimes of the 5th Avenue Gold Coast
Tour Length: Approximately 90 minutes

After Central Park was built in the 1870s, Fifth Avenue became one of the most desired addresses in the world. Find out exactly what kind of notorious and unethical activities (private armies, financial sneakiness, and violent crimes) were happening in some of the city’s most expensive and impressive homes. nyctours.com

 

Rock Junket: East Village Rock n Punk Tour
Tour Length: Approximately two hours

The East Village was integral in creating America’s rock, punk, and glam scenes. Walk in the footsteps of Andy Warhol, The Ramones, Led Zeppelin and more while getting inspiration from famous music landmarks. Led by a rock n’ roll historian, visitors will see Madonna and Lady Gaga’s former NYC apartment buildings, the St. Marks Hotel, and the former CBGB music club. www.rockjunket.com

 

Historic Brooklyn Heights
Tour Length: Approximately two hours

It’s hard to believe Brooklyn was once an agricultural suburb to Manhattan. Today, the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood is renowned for it’s waterfront, brownstone architecture and famous past-and-present residents. Brooklyn has undergone a dramatic regeneration into one of the most popular places in America to live and work, and this tour will showcase why. www.bigonion.com

 

Washington Square Arch on the Edgar Allan Poe Greenwich Village Tour

Washington Square Arch

Edgar Allen Poe Greenwich Village Tour
Tour Length: Approximately two hours

San Francisco gets much of the credit for the swinging ’60s, but the Edgar Allen Poe Greenwich Village Tour proves that the Village has been doing the sex, drugs, rock n’ roll and literary talent thing since the 1800s. Of course, before the neighborhood was hip, it was historical. See where George Washington lived and the house where Thomas Paine died.

 

Broadway Up Close
Tour Length: Approximately two hours

Get the star treatment with a Broadway tour given by professional working actors. In only two hours visitors learn the exciting history of Broadway and what it takes to be on stage with the likes of Judy Garland or Katie Holmes. Tour guides act as storytellers, and share just how the industry works, the players that make it happen, and Broadway from a whole new perspective. www.broadwayupclose.com

 

Harlem Civil Rights Walking Tour
Tour Length: Approximately 90 minutes

All tours are led by guides who were born and raised right in Harlem. They share firsthand knowledge of how civil rights leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King and Minister Malcolm X shaped the neighborhood, and the future. Visitors will walk away feeling like they’ve spent an afternoon with an old friend who enthusiastically shared their neighborhood and culture. www.harlemheritage.com

 

NYC Ghost Tours
Tour Length: Tour Length: Approximately 90 minutes

This historical walking tour focuses on New Yorkers who are no longer with us, but buried under our feet, and the buildings and landmarks long closed and built over. Discover a popular park built on top of an old graveyard and the city’s, rumored, haunted past. Spine-tingling fun! www.walkingnyctours.com

Discover more of top places to see and things to do while in New York City with our Best of New York series.

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