Note: Some tour providers on this list have ceased operations through the end of March 2020 due to COVID-19. Check with your tour operator about availability before you book if you’d like to tour during this time.
Tourists journey from all over the world to experience New York City‘s top-notch cuisine, vibrant live music and theater scene, distinctive skyline and fascinating history. To see the Big Apple like a New Yorker, you’ll want to hoof it through the city on your own two feet. And with a local leading the way, you’re sure to learn more than you would going solo. Considering expert insight and tourist opinion, U.S. News determined that the following are the best walks in the city.
Rock Junket – East Village Rock n’ Punk Tour
Revel in New York’s famous rock music scene during Rock Junket’s walk through the East Village. The two-hour excursion visits venues where music greats like the Ramones, Blondie and the New York Dolls once performed. Among the tour highlights is a stop at CBGB, which closed its doors in 2006. Guides recount neighborhood history with special attention paid to lauded artists who once lived and worked there. Audiophiles find this a thoroughly enjoyable way to learn about the area and its colorful history and describe the guides as insightful. Tours take place Monday through Saturday at 1 p.m. and cost around $45 per person. Rock Junket leads a number of other music-oriented tours, including a Greenwich Village tour.
TopDog Tours – Marvel & DC Superheroes of New York
If you’re a fan of superhero comic books and the movies based on them, this might be your ideal tour. The approximately two-hour walk visits sites that have appeared in comics and films, such as the United Nations building, the Chrysler Building and Grand Central Terminal, as well as locations where some comic book creators worked. Enthusiastic guides share insights regarding both the real New York and the city’s portrayal in comics, which tour-takers appreciate. TopDog Tours offers this outing every day starting at 3:30 p.m. Tickets cost about $35 per adult and $26 for children 12 and younger. The company offers other specialty tours, including the Ghosts of Greenwich Village tour.
Manhattan Walking Tour – High Line Park and Greenwich Village Food Tour
On this 3 1/2-hour combo tour, you’ll explore Greenwich Village and the High Line while enjoying food and drinks at five different restaurants. Along the 2-mile stroll, your guide will share information about the High Line’s creation, and offer tips about where to find the best independent bookstores and underground jazz clubs in Greenwich Village. Reviewers love the intimate feel of the tour, which is capped at eight participants, and say the food portions are generous (you’ll want to come hungry). Travelers also applaud the friendly guides, who share plenty of historical and architectural tidbits. Tours depart daily at 11 a.m. Tickets start at $124 for all ages. If you’d like to explore more, consider booking the company’s combo tour of Chinatown.
Free Tours by Foot – Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO Tour
For a quick overview of Brooklyn, take this three-hour tour with Free Tours by Foot. The experience begins with a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge that includes both photo stops and educational interludes along the way. You’ll then reach Brooklyn Heights, a much sought-after residential area once home to numerous famous authors. It then proceeds to Dumbo (as in Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass), a former industrial area transformed into an artists’ haven. The tour ends at the Fulton Ferry Landing. From there, you can catch the East River Ferry back to Manhattan. Guides consistently win praise for their knowledge and candor. Though tours operate on a pay-what-you-wish basis, reservations are required. Tours commence at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, Friday and Sunday. Free Tours by Foot offers a number of other excursions around the city, including street art tours and food-themed outings.
Each of the 9/11 Ground Zero Tour’s guides have a personal connection to Sept. 11, which helps them to provide the passionate, informative tours visitors rave about. The 90-minute walking tours begin at St. Paul’s Chapel, which served as an impromptu rescue center during the attacks, and then moves to the 9/11 Memorial. Guides may also stop at different locales related to the events, as each guide gives a slightly different tour based on their personal experiences. Tours take place at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. daily. Tickets cost approximately $35 for adults and $30 for children 6 to 12. Tours that combine the 9/11 Ground Zero Tour with a visit to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, to the observatory atop One World Trade Center or both are also available.
Take a walk through the iconic Central Park, and learn a bit about its history, during a tour with the Central Park Conservancy.Getty Images
Central Park Conservancy – Iconic Views of Central Park Tour
Bethesda Terrace, the Bow Bridge, Cherry Hill, the Lake and Sheep Meadow are among the Central Park sights visited on this 90-minute, 1.3-mile walk. Along with the park’s iconic landmarks, the tour also highlights the park’s history, as well as insider secrets. Participants find the guides friendly and well-informed. Tours leave from the Columbus Circle Information Kiosk select days at 11 a.m. Tickets start at $15 for the general public. The conservancy also offers several other seasonal tours and walks devoted to specific areas of the park.
Broadway Up Close Walking Tours – Broadway’s Beginnings
Get the behind-the-scenes scoop on New York’s renowned theater district with the Broadway’s Beginnings tour. The nearly two-hour, half-mile walk visits several venues in the southern end of the district, starting with the Nederlander Theatre. All of the guides are professional stage managers or actors, and they share their personal experiences as well as Broadway history and legends. Tour-takers report learning a great deal about Broadway shows from the engaging guides. Tickets cost around $40 for adults and about $35 for anyone younger than 13. Tours occur every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at 11 a.m. Groups are limited to 15 participants. Broadway Up Close offers several other themed walking tours, including one all about the ghosts that purportedly haunt the district’s theaters.
Tommy’s New York – Catacombs by Candlelight Tour
Set beneath the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral (which is a different institution than St. Patrick’s Cathedral) is a series of catacombs that hold the crypts of past New York City residents and religious dignitaries, dating back to the early 19th century. Tommy’s New York has an exclusive arrangement with the basilica to show the winding catacombs to visitors. Travelers generally find these excursions and their guides both informative and highly entertaining. They also enjoy seeing the catacombs. Tickets for the 90-minute candlelit tour start at $37 for adults and $30 for children younger than 12. Tours depart Friday through Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Note: Tours may be canceled or postponed due to church activities.
Urban Adventures – Hamilton Tour
With renewed interest in Alexander Hamilton, no doubt due in part to the wildly popular musical based on his life, tourists may want to check out his old stomping grounds. The Hamilton Tour starts where the first secretary of the treasury’s journey ended: the cemetery at Trinity Church, where Hamilton is buried. The trip through the financial district also encompasses the New York Stock Exchange and Federal Hall. It concludes at Fraunces Tavern, where Hamilton (and rival Aaron Burr) once ate and where tour participants may opt for a post-walk drink or snack. Guides are regarded as adept and talented storytellers. Tickets for the two-hour outings, which are offered daily at 3 p.m., cost about $40 per person; there is no charge for children 5 and younger. Urban Adventures offers numerous other New York City tours with a variety of themes, including a food tour of the Lower East Side and a Brooklyn history tour.
Inside Out Tours – NYC Slavery & The Underground Railroad Walking Tour
This 2 1/2-hour tour explores slavery in colonial New York as well as the efforts of enslaved Africans to escape. During the tour, you’ll visit the sites of the city’s first slave market and view a former station on the Underground Railroad. The approximately 1 1/2-mile walk also stops at a memorial dedicated to enslaved people, a burial ground and a related archaeological site. Travelers regularly extol guides for their informative and thoughtful storytelling. Tours are offered at 1 p.m. on Saturday throughout the year. Tickets cost approximately $35 for adults with discounts for children, students and seniors. The company also leads tours highlighting the city’s art, architecture, gospel and food.
ExperienceFirst – SoHo, Little Italy, Chinatown Tour
Three adjacent, but very distinctive Manhattan neighborhoods together form the perfect route for a fascinating two-hour walk. Starting at the corner of Spring Street and 6th Avenue, ExperienceFirst’s tour navigates the blocks of SoHo, where high-end shops and upscale apartments came to occupy buildings that formerly housed factories and slaughterhouses. It then proceeds to Little Italy and Chinatown, where immigrants’ eventful histories continue to shape the neighborhood. Guides narrate the colorful, sometimes tumultuous backstories of the three areas. Participates consistently call the guides both entertaining and well-informed. Tours commence at noon daily. Tickets start at around $35, with reduced rates for children ages 4 to 12. ExperienceFirst also offers this tour in Spanish, in addition to tours that explore other parts of town like the High Line and Chelsea, as well as Wall Street.