Four of the best New York walking tours for the first-time visitor inner banner

Four of the best New York walking tours for the first-time visitor

Exploring New York City can be an overwhelming prospect on a first visit, but the old adage of divide and conquer applies. Guided walking tours are an interesting and low cost way to break the city down into chewable chunks, and you’ll get to engage with passionate New Yorkers as part of the deal. Stephen Hodges checks in with feedback on some of the city's top options…
Four of the best New York walking tours for the first-time visitor
Four of the best New York walking tours for the first-time visitor

New York is one of the world’s easiest major cities to explore on foot.

For the most part the terrain is flat, and because the island of Manhattan is packed with things to see in a reasonably compact space, walking is a great way to explore. Plus, you can beat the traffic in the process!

During a recent visit to the Big Apple, I went on several guided walks to gain a better understanding of life in this incredible city. Here’s a selection of the best New York walking tours for the first-time visitor.

New York City travel guide

Four of the best New York walking tours for the first-time visitor
Four of the best New York walking tours for the first-time visitor

1. Manhattan Walking Tour

The Manhattan Walking Tour takes groups of no more than eight, which makes this a very personalised option. There are several tours on offer. We booked the High Line and Greenwich Village Food Tour combo. I didn’t know a lot about either coming into the day.

We met our guide Alex and four other guests, and proceeded up to the High Line, a disused elevated rail line that has been transformed into 2.3 kilometres of parkland and walking paths through the neighbourhoods of Chelsea and the Meatpacking District. Alex explained how the area was regenerated from a largely derelict zone into vibrant, picturesque community space. He was also able to delve deeper into the transformation, giving us a real sense of the community spirit and pride in the project, which residents voluntarily maintain.

Four of the best New York walking tours for the first-time visitor
Four of the best New York walking tours for the first-time visitor: Walk the High Line.

After coming to the end of the High Line we strolled into Greenwich Village to begin the food tour.

Greenwich is not at all what one would expect in the heart of New York. It’s quiet and peaceful, with mainly low-rise buildings. We stopped at five separate places to sample the variety of food on offer. All of it was different — from pizza and sub sandwiches, to chocolate and cannoli. Trust me, you won’t need any dinner that night!

Four of the best New York walking tours for the first-time visitor
Image courtesy of Manhattan Walking Tour

Where required, food was ordered ahead so that when we arrived it was freshly prepared and ready to be served. The food was delicious and each eatery we visited had a story, which made us truly appreciate the love that goes into their food.

2. Free Tours by Foot

Free Tours by Foot is a ‘pay what you wish’ service. You still get an informative tour of a specific part of the city, but chances are you will be walking with a larger group. I chose the Chinatown and Little Italy Tour and when I arrived at the designated meeting spot there were 35 people registered, so we were divided into two groups — each with our own guide. Our guide Michael was very knowledgeable about the area, but sometimes it was a bit of a challenge to gather round and hear the stories he was telling, while still letting foot traffic through.

Four of the best New York walking tours for the first-time visitor
Four of the best New York walking tours for the first-time visitor: Little Italy

At the end of the tour you are invited to contribute privately as you see fit. Michael stayed for a long time after the tour answering questions and giving people directions to where they needed to be next, which was great.

3. Big Onion Walking Tours

Big Onion Walking Tours provide in-depth historical and literary tours of New York, to help visitors gain an understanding of why a particular area is what it is today. Most of their guides are full-time graduate students who have studied American history, so they’re well placed to provide as much information as you want.

We booked Upper East Side: A Clash of Titans which focussed on wealthy families who changed the Upper East Side of New York from a farming district to an area of opulence, luxury and scandal around the turn of the 20th century. Our guide Zach shared stories about the Carnegies, Vanderbilts and Fricks, who were at the heart of the wealth that flowed through New York at that time. But money doesn’t always buy you happiness! I was totally engrossed for the full two hours.

Group sizes vary depending on bookings — there were only seven on my tour. Tours are very reasonably priced for what they provide, and cover many different areas of the city — including Harlem to the Brooklyn Bridge, and Central Park to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

4. Food on Foot Tours

If you want to eat like a local during your stay in New York, then a walking tour with Food on Foot Tours is a must-do. There are around fifteen different itineraries — several of which are included in the New York Pass.

Four of the best New York walking tours for the first-time visitor
Four of the best New York walking tours for the first-time visitor. Image: Adam Ford

One option is the eclectic East Village, where you’ll try a range of delicious and inexpensive eats and treats, including dumplings, home-made corn dogs, cupcakes and pastrami sliders, washed down with boutique root beer. You’ll also discover some great bars and restaurants to try at your leisure. Do this one early in your stay if you can.

Do you have any suggestions to add to our list of the best New York walking tours for the first-time visitor? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.

Additional images: Bigstock

Stephen Hodges

About the writer

Stephen Hodges was a teacher and a social worker before he left Australia for a three-year overseas adventure. While travelling, he worked as a grouse beater in Scotland, a chicken farmer on a Kibbutz in Israel and a camp counsellor in France. On his return to Melbourne, Stephen began working in the travel industry and set up a business, which he ran for six years. He still has a passion for travel and believes life is all about experiences — and that you can find them in the most unlikely places, if you look hard enough.

 

""
1
Need a place to stay?

The Big Bus now offers readers access to wholesale hotel rates. Simply email us the details of the hotel you want to book, your travel dates and the lowest rate you have found. We'll try and give you a better deal!

If you book a hotel with us in any of Australia's capital cities, you'll also receive 10% off our amazing range of tours and experiences. Some conditions apply†.

Your name (first and surname):
Your mobile contact number:
call
Where are you travelling to?
Number of adults travelling:
Number of children travelling:
Hotel name
Your preferred room type:
Check-in date:
date_range
Check-out date:
date_range
Number of rooms required:
The best price you have found:
The website where you found this price:
Is there anything else we need to know about your stay?
0 /
I also need:

Your details will not be shared with any third party. 

Please submit a separate form for each hotel you want to price beat.

†Applies to tours and experiences available on The Big Bus tour and travel guide website and does not apply to tours offered via affiliate websites, including Viator.

keyboard_arrow_leftPrevious
Nextkeyboard_arrow_right
FormCraft - WordPress form builder

 

Share

Please leave a comment

    1. Hi there Tony. Absolutely, especially the passes for three days or more. You should be able to get your money’s worth easily. Check out what’s included first and plan what you want to see to make sure it’s worthwhile. You can probably do two things a day — maybe three if you move pretty quickly. Here are some more tips for saving money: https://thebigbus.com.au/how-to-do-new-york-on-a-budget/. Have fun! Regards, Adam Ford (Editor)

Please Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *.

Your Cart
Your Cart Is Empty