5 cool New York tours you'll actually do
Ask any New Yorker the best way to see their city and they'll say 'on foot'. No surprises there, right? But shake up the walking with some authentic food, music, art and a whip-smart guide who can show you an under-appreciated side of the city along the way, and they've got your attention. These days, New York walking tours go far beyond giant buses and cheesy movie excursions. Now, thanks to late-night jazz crawls, street-art ambles and treks through abandoned subway stations, cultural tours are having a real moment with people looking for more educational and immersive experiences in the Big Apple.
If you've already... wandered around the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Fancy exploring a world-famous museum pretty much all by yourself? With almost seven million people visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art every year, that's a lot of jostling and queuing to see Vincent van Gogh's Cypresses or John Singer Sargent's Madame X. On this exclusive early-morning excursion (limited to 25 people), visitors can roam the galleries on a crowd-free, 90-minute guided tour and get up close to 5,000 years of art. Once doors open to the public, VIPs are welcome to stick around with added access to the museum's art offshoot, Met Breuer, and medieval wing, Met Cloisters. If you need more convincing that it's worth the price tag, check out #emptymet on Instagram.
Taking photos of the Egyptian Temple of Dendur or the main hall of the American Wing without a single person obscuring the view.
AN UNDERGROUND TOUR OF THE NEW YORK SUBWAY
If you've already... walked the High Line
This two-hour crash course into one of the world's largest rapid-transit systems is a huge hit with native New Yorkers. Designed to give a unique exploration of the city's subway – featuring the technological breakthroughs and infrastructure secrets overlooked by 5.7 million passengers every day – it will completely demystify how it all works. As well as taking in walks and rides through nine stations in Lower Manhattan, the tour is packed with New York travel trivia. Consider it an in-depth and well-narrated ticket to your very own time machine.
Discovering the ghost stations that people on the 4, 5 or 6 trains unknowingly pass through every day.
AN ALTERNATIVE STREET-ART TOUR OF THE LOWER EAST SIDE
If you've already... explored Ellis Island
We covered 13,000 steps while weaving through the graffiti-lined streets and taking in the dozens of expressive murals, tags and stencils that dominate the creative landscape of New York's diverse Lower East Side. The tour is packed with lesser-known sightseeing spots, so walkers will discover the difference between graffiti and street art while seeing the sidewalks, community gardens and even lampposts from a new perspective. Whether you're into art, history or want to delve deeper into one of the city's oldest neighbourhoods, it's a fascinating and visually rich three-hour insight into the area's Ellis Island immigrant roots, and how it evolved into an ever-changing, social and creative canvas.
Katherine, our friendly and passionate guide, who really brought the street art to life with stories about both the famous, and not-so-famous, artists behind the tags.
A HARLEM JAZZ CRAWL
If you've already... seen street performers in Central Park
Former jazz-club owner and historian Gordon Polatnick knows good jazz. The leading Airbnb Experience host has been seeking out must-see musicians and authentic jazz nights for 30 years. The result, for anyone joining his Harlem Juke Joint Tour, is an unforgettable night on the town. And, just like jazz, no two tours are ever the same. Based on Harlem's varying live-music schedules, each four-hour crawl involves some hidden jazz haunts - from a speakeasy with Prohibition roots to a 1960s dive bar. Gordon also encourages any guests who are talented players to jam with the band.
Learning about the evolution of jazz from dixieland through to bebop.
THE ORIGINAL GREENWICH VILLAGE FOOD AND CULTURE WALKING TOUR
If you've already... had a pastrami sandwich at Katz's Delicatessen
Take walking and eating to a whole new level with this tasty three-hour feast, which moves around the West Village. To be honest, it's less walking and more eating, but we weren't complaining with eight different foodie pit stops. Not only will you leave feeling super satisfied, but the Pied Piper-like tour will introduce you to the winding, tree-lined, cobbled streets of this bustling bohemian enclave. Turn up hungry.
Sampling delicious arancini balls at Faicco's. The pizza at Joe's. And the cannoli at Rocco.
Source: Condé Nast Traveller.