A Wealth of Free Tours Exist in New York City. You Just Have to Know Where to Look.
Information imparted with wit and eloquence always seems to sink in to my head better and longer, and so I will forever remember the details provided by Peter Laskowich on the Grand Tour of the Grand Central Terminal neighborhood. Buildings tell us things was the theme of the tour; illustrated repeatedly as Peter lead us around the neighborhood, for a rare glimpse deep inside the Chrysler Building lobby, and throughout the terminal. His comedic timing, depth of knowledge and interactive style easily kept us engaged for 1.5 hours.
Although I live here, I occasionally join tours of my own city and this one did not disappoint. Amid the largest tour group I’ve ever been in since grammar school, Peter herded us around what I never knew was Terminal City, the multi block development around Grand Central that was the place to be after it was erected. Few of the original Terminal City buildings remain. Yet, the elite moved to Park Avenue and never left despite the Metro North trains rumbling below their million dollar real estate.
One of the best things about this tour? Free. Well, let’s say free with a tip. Offered on Fridays at 12:30 by the Grand Central Partnership, it is just one of many excellent, free touring options available in New York. On any given day, an industrious person can find free tours throughout the city. I found the Grand Tour listed in the pages of Time Out New York, but others I overheard discussing it found it via the internet. Google: “Free Tours New York City” is a good way to start.
Here are just a few I’ve found:
The Lower East Side Business District has 3 walking tours. They also offer a variety of podcasts on their site. Other districts, like the Downtown Alliance offer do-it-yourself walking tour guides. The Village Alliance lists several itineraries on their site, that include restaurants and shopping ideas.
The Central Park Conservancy offers 10 different tours throughout the year that highlight different areas of the park.
Brooklyn Brewery has free tours from 1-5 PM on the hour, on Saturday and 1-4 PM on the hour, on Sunday. These are no reservations and popular. Getting there early is a good idea. Wear closed shoes, not sandals. There is also a tasting room. Small batch tours are also available during the week by reservation on their site.
Free Tours by Foot are pay as you wish tours with a lot of choices. Mostly neighborhood, they also offer food focused and sunset tours.
Big Apple Greeters are highly recommended volunteer guides, screened and trained by the organization. Reserve well in advance. Each guide has areas of expertise, and you can arrange a highly customized tour. 300+ guides visit 114+ neighborhoods. Guides are free, tips are not allowed – a donation to the organization is appreciated.
It’s stating the obvious that NYC can be expensive, but a little advance research and planning can save money and enhance your trip. Free does not equal mediocre. The Grand Central tour with Peter Laskowich was one of the best, most informative tours I’ve ever taken.
NYC Walking Tours on Amazon:
City Walks: New York – 50 Adventures on Foot on individual cards with maps
New York: 15 Walking Tours, An Architectural Guide to the Metropolis
Radical Walking Tours of New York City – for those interested in a political and historical view to NY.
This article originally posted May 13, 2013.