"I believe that whatever it is that makes a city a city, there's more of it in New York than anywhere else on earth." Barry Devolin
I know it's cliche, but I love New York. While I appreciate nature, I have always found people and what they build to be the most fascinating things on earth. That's why my vacations are usually to Great Cities, and when I think of Great Cities, the greatest of them all is definitely New York!
I made my first solo trip to Manhattan when I was 18 years old. Subsequently, as a graduate student living on Long Island for three years in the 1980's, I learned there's a lot more to New York City than Times Square and Broadway. It's a city of neighbourhoods, and is best seen on foot. Over the years, I've made dozens of pilgrimages, and every time I've walked and walked and walked.
As a tour operator, I know there are dozens of tours to New York available, mostly geared to first-time visitors. While these tours may offer good value and require little of their guests, they don't cover much beyond the famous tourist sights. Guests rarely interact with New Yorkers, or go to the places they frequent.
But what about people looking for something more authentic? What about walking out of your hotel directly into the New York you've seen in the movies? And where are all those neighbourhoods - Greenwich Village, Soho, the Meatpacking District, Little Italy, and Williamsburg? Where did Babe Ruth drink beer? And, what about the people who actually live in Manhattan today - where do they go on Friday night or Sunday afternoon?
It is for the curious that NEW YORK CITY - Bohemian Walking Tour was created. On this tour we'll ride the subways and buses. We'll visit the famous sites, but see them from a different perspective. Beyond the sites, we'll walk through neighbourhoods and rub shoulders with native New Yorkers. We'll see the oldest parts of the city, but also explore Hudson Yards, it's newest and possibly most controversial neighbourhood.
Our New York experience will be based at the four star Art Deco Washington Square Hotel in Greenwich Village. Famous guests at this historic hotel include Ernest Hemingway, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and the Rolling Stones. It is old and the rooms are small, but it has loads of character and is a great base for exploring lower Manhattan on foot.
For those comparing tour options and prices to New York City, it's important to note that TravelMaven walking tours are limited to 12 guests. As a result, we can do things and go places that larger groups could never manage. We waste less time, and I can adjust the schedule on an ongoing basis to manage around weather, accommodate special requests, and take advantage of unexpected opportunities that pop up along the way. For the same reason that private cars are more expensive than buses, small groups aren't cheap but they are better.
In addition to wandering the streets of lower Manhattan, we'll also walk through Central Park, across the Brooklyn Bridge, along 5th Avenue and on top of the High Line. We’ll see amazing architecture at the Public Library and Grand Central Station, enjoy a cold beverage at the oldest bar in America, and see where the hipsters hang out in Williamsburg.
One of the challenges when planning any tour of New York is deciding what to see and what to leave out. However, with our 'a la carte' days, I think we've come up with a way to minimize this problem. By picking their own priorities, guests can experience the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island, the entirety of Central Park, world-class museums, or a Circle Island boat tour. Special activities such as carriage rides, Broadway shows, 'The Ride' bus, or visits to the Top of the Rock or Empire State building can also be arranged upon request.
In the end, I hope our Bohemian Walking Tour will offer something for everyone, appealing to first timers as well as previous visitors. Here’s hoping you will join me for a week in my favourite city. Maybe you will learn to love New York too. Don't forget to bring your most comfortable walking shoes!
TYPE: Great City
HOTELS: 4 Star
LENGTH: One week
GROUP SIZE: 12 guests
Washington Square Hotel (4*)
Washington Square Park
Broadway & Times Square
New York Public Library
Grand Central Station
The High Line Park
Starbucks Reserve Roastery
Bedford Street (Williamsburg)
Metropolitan Museum of Art*
St. Patrick's Cathedral
Statue of Liberty*
Ellis Island Immigration Museum*
9/11 Memorial & Museum
(*denotes optional activities)
6 nights at 4 star Washington Square Hotel with continental breakfast; 1 brunch; 2 dinners; daily walking tours; admission to all group attractions; TravelMaven concierge (Barry); all ground transportation; all taxes.
This tour is guaranteed to depart, regardless of group size. Prices are quoted in Canadian dollars, based on double occupancy and guaranteed once a $250 deposit has been received.
Day 0 (Saturday) Arrive in Toronto
Given our early start Sunday, you may want to arrive in Toronto Saturday night. If you're interested, we've arranged a group rate at Crowne Plaza Hotel that includes 7 days parking. Ask for details.
Day 1 (Sunday) Depart Toronto (B,L)
We'll fly in the morning to New York, arriving at Washington Square Hotel about noon. We'll enjoy their Jazz Brunch together before our first walking tour of Greenwich Village. In the evening, you may want to attend a local comedy or music club (Barry to help with tickets).
(B-breakfast; L-lunch; D-din
Day 2 (Monday) Heart of the Big Apple (B)
Our second walking tour will include Broadway, Times Square, the New York Public Library, the United Nations and Grand Central Station where we will have lunch. After a beer (on Barry) at McSorley's Ale House in the East Village, we will walk back to our hotel where guests will have a free evening.
Day 3 (Tuesday) Tour of the West Side plus Williamsburg (B,D)
Our third walking tour will start at the 911 Memorial and Museum. After a stop at Starbuck's Roastery, we will have lunch at the Chelsea Market, then walk the High Line Park to Hudson Yards. After a break at the hotel, we will head to Brooklyn to check out the hipsters along Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg and enjoy a raucous dinner at the Radegast Hall & Biergarten..
Day 4 (Wednesday) Walk along Fifth Avenue (B)
Our fourth walking tour will focus on Fifth Avenue. Starting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, we will walk through Central Park before arriving at the Plaza Hotel. At that point, we will head south through the most famous shopping district in America, seeing St Patrick's Cathedral, Rockefeller Center, Macy's and many other icons of New York. Once back at the hotel, guests will have a free evening.
Day 5 (Thursday) "A LA CARTE" DAY #1 plus Chinatown & Little Italy in the evening (B)
On this day, Barry will help guests plan their own activities. For example, Barry will escort those interested to Battery Park to tour the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island Immigration Museum. A second option is a One Day Pass for the Hop On Hop Off bus. Alternately, guests may prefer to visit one of New York's world-class museums, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art or the American Museum of Natural History. In the evening, Barry will lead a walking tour through Chinatown and Little Italy, where we'll try to find a slice of real New York pizza...
Day 6 (Friday) A LA CARTE" DAY #2 plus Lower East Side in the evening (B,D)
On our second 'a la carte' day, tours of the major museums will be offered again. Guests may also be interested in the Circle Line boat tour around Manhattan Island at noon. In the afternoon, Barry will lead a bike tour around Central Park . In the evening, join Barry on a walk through the Lower East Side, including dinner at his favourite Bangladeshi restaurant.
Day 7 (Saturday) Free Day plus return to Toronto (B)
Those interested can join Barry for a very early morning walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. After breakfast and check-out, guests will be free to enjoy their last day in Manhattan. The group will depart the hotel at 3 pm for a 6 pm flight back to Toronto.