Tour Schedules for 2019

Custom NYC Tours has been working to perfect our schedule(s) in order to better serve you. After this Fall, and going into 2019, there will be a few changes.

Our most popular tours-- Central Park, Landmarks of Midtown, High Line & Hudson Yards, etc-- will remain available several times a month. But several other great tours-- Brooklyn Bridge & DUMBO, Governors Island, Williamsburg, Long Island City & Roosevelt Island, Red Hook, our Queens Worlds Fair tour, etc-- will be by request only. We will also continue to be available on most dates for custom & private tours, or even full-day tours if desired. The goal is to be as accessible as possible, while stillproviding the amazing tours you've come to expect!

We look forward to leading you on your perfect NYC adventure!

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Dyker Heights Christmas Lights Tours!

One of New York’s favorite holiday traditions isn’t near Rockefeller Center… it’s way down in south Brooklyn. Dyker Heights is a beautiful, suburban neighborhood that becomes a huge tourist destination every December.

What started as a local decorating competition and fun for neighbors in the huge mansions has become a phenomenon. Dozens of blocks of some of the most elaborate Christmas decorations you will ever see in your life. Custom animatronics, singing snowmen, fake snow, an uncountable number of lights, and food trucks selling hot chocolate… it’s all part of the Dyker Heights experience. On my walking tour, we’ll meet outside the subway and begin our exploration of this mind-blowing holiday tradition. I’m offering most evenings in December.

Interested? It can be booked: HERE.

(I’m also offering a Manhattan holiday windows & markets tours most afternoons that month, bookable HERE.)

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Kobra's Ambitious Street Art Project

New York City has some of the world’s best street art, attracting artists not just from our 5 boroughs, but from all over the globe. Works of some of the world’s most famous street artists— Banksy, Invader, Crisp, Shepard Fairey, D*Face, ROA, & more— can be found on our walls.

Among them are Eduardo Kobra, from Brazil. Distinctive for his kaleidoscope theme, bold colors and lines, portraits & mash-ups, Kobra is one of the world’s greatest and most prolific muralists.

He has done work in the NYC area before, and some of those remain (a huge Bowie wall in Jersey City, and a Basquiat/Warhol wall in Williamsburg Brooklyn). But this summer, he returned on an ambitious journey to create a huge number of new murals. He and his crew have been ubiquitous, working on one mural after another in Manhattan and Brooklyn They started in late July in the East Village with a mural mashing up young and old Michael Jackson. They have been non-stop since, through October. At least a dozen huge murals have been completed so far. We can’t wait to see what comes next!

How many, if any, have you spotted yet? Do you a favorite?

Come discover some of these new walls on our Lower East Side Street Art Tour!

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NYC Street Smarts

The cliché old New York street hussle is a guy with a sidewalk table challenging passers-by to a game of three-card monte. But today's hussles involve homemade CDs, fake monks, and more.  They are based more on abusing your politeness to get your money. I'll outline the most prominent, so you know how to avoid them.

  1. The fake monks.
    While the Elmos and Doras of Times Square get more press, there are far more insidious costumed menaces roaming the city... the fake monks. You will spot them all over the high-traffic areas of Central Park, and occasionally in popular spots like the Financial District or the High Line. Dressed as Buddhist monks, these beggars will approach you, hand you a trinket, and then ask for money. They hope you will be too polite or embarrassed to just hand it back and walk away. But that's what you should do.

    Your best bet: When you see someone in NYC walk up to you, and attempt to hand you something, keep your hands at your side, and just walking. If they verbally attempt to demand your attention, just ignore it. No response is the best response here.
     
  2. The CD guys.
    That above advice goes double for the CD guys. The "monks" will at least treat your rejection politely. That's often not the case here. Here's how this goes down: a young man will approach you, telling you he's a breakout musician, and will practically shove a homemade CD into your hand. He will then demand payment for the CD. If you don't pay, the CD guys often become verbally aggressive, until you pay up, just to get away. They tend to congregate mostly around Times Square, but are ever expanding. If they insist, call the police!

    Again, your best is to never take anything someone attempts to hand you in NYC.
     
  3. The Battery Park ticket sellers.
    Battery Park is a lovely park in lower Manhattan, with views of the harbor, Statue of Liberty, and downtown skyscrapers like the World Trade Center. It is also your waterway portal to harbor cruises, the (free) Staten Island Ferry, boats to the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island, the Governors Island Ferry, & more. But in recent years, the park has become plagued by third-party ticket sellers, many unlicensed, who harass visitors into purchasing boat tickets. Many of them lie to, and scam, visitors about what the ticket they purchased is for. One dispute between two sellers recently lead to a shooting in the park.

    Your best bet: Do not purchase tickets from anyone on the street. Buy your ticket from the booth or building where the company is based. If you see aggressive ticket sellers, find and inform the nearest police officer.
     
  4. Street Dancers
    Street dance crews, most commonly seen around the City Hall/Brooklyn Bridge area, or in Central Park, can seem a fun distraction when wandering the city streets. But you're better off ignoring them, and keep moving. Often their "shows" begin by showing their impressive moves. This draws in the crowds. Then, the dancers pull in a few volunteers from the crowd. and line them up. This is where the show grinds to a halt. The dancers will stop, leaving the volunteers standing in the circle awkwardly, while they shake down the audience for "tips" (often requesting $20 or more). The volunteers will be asked for the biggest tips. Then, after several minutes of going around collecting money, and awkward homophobic jokes at the volunteers' expense, they will perform their stunt, and send everyone away a little poorer when they arrived.

    Again, best to keep moving.
     
  5. Pedicabs.
    Pedicabs congregate around popular areas like Times Square or Central Park. Many are reputable, but far too many prey on tourists. A recent investigation found pedicabs charging riders hundreds of dollars for fairly basic trips. NYC law requires pedicabs to charge a per-minute rate, and to display that rate prominently on their vehicle, and to make riders aware of that rate before beginning. Many flout this law in various ways. So if you take a half-hour ride on the pedicab and the driver charges $10 a minute (and you were not aware of that), boom you've got a $300 bill at the end.

    Tip: Never, ever ride in a pedicab where the driver is not in full compliance with a well-placed rate sheet on his/her vehicle. You can also try negotiating a set price with a driver before boarding (this advice also works for horse carriage rides). If you see a driver who does not comply, alert a nearby police officer.
     

  6. Times Square character photos
    In Times Square, you will see countless people in costumes (Elmo, Minions, Batman, Statue of Liberty, etc) coming up to tourists, having them take photos with them. This seems harmless fun, and kids of course love it, but please note these unlicensed performers expect a tip in exchange for the photo. Refuse to tip, and some performers may become angry. This is among the most harmless hustles... feel free to grab a fun photo, just be aware a dollar or two is expected in exchange.
     

  7. The Ground Zero street sellers.
    Technically, this is less a scam, and more just predatory sales. But it's a pet peeve of mine, so I'm including it here. Near the World Trade Center (usually on Church St, between Fulton & Vesey), street sellers gather to sell 9/11 photo books, and similar "souvenirs" to tourists in the area. They are not affiliated with any official organization, and certainly not with the memorial. They are vultures, who are profiting off a tragedy. Please do not buy from them.

    Interested in purchasing books related to the World Trade Center? The memorial & museum have an official gift shop & kiosks... where the money goes to a good cause.

But please don't let this scare you! 99% of New Yorkers are polite, helpful, and are happy to welcome you to our city! But it is important to be aware of these scams, and have the confidence to avoid them.

 Someone on the street trying to hand or sell you something? Just keep walking!

Someone on the street trying to hand or sell you something? Just keep walking!

Off The Beaten Path

In addition to our most popular tours-- Central Park, Brooklyn Bridge & DUMBO, High Line & Hudson Yards-- we offer a variety of specialized tours designed to highlight the most unique aspects of America's largest city. Upcoming dates include:

  • Central Park- Northern Edition: June 20, 2pm
  • Red Hook, Brooklyn: June 27, 11am
  • Queens- The Worlds Fair Borough: June 28, 11am
  • Greenwich Village & High Line: July 20, 2pm

Contact us for booking info.

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Alexander Hamilton and Historic New York

Since the infamous musical "Hamilton" has come out, there's been a resurgence of interest in the Revolutionary War-era history in New York, related to that specific founding father, and beyond.

It's not hard to understand why it took a blockbuster Broadway musical to make this happen. The other two cities of the holy trinity of colonial-era America-- Boston and Philadelphia-- are beautifully preserved historically. You can walk the Freedom Trail in the former, visit Independence Hall in the latter. The two cities are defined by their history. New York, by contrast, is defined by its progress. As such, its historic buildings are largely gone. Most of that is due to development... and first aided by a fire in September 1776 that destroyed a third of the city to date at that point. So most visitors to New York walk the same street as our founders and never even realize it.

My Alexander Hamilton & Historic New York tour is designed to remedy this. This 2-hour walking tour wanders through the oldest neighborhood in New York, to discover sites related to Alexander Hamilton and the American Revolution... including the few remaining colonial-era buildings.

For those who take the tour and are interested in following up with more of the Hamilton story, I've created this map of numerous key sites outside of the area the tour covers. From the Weehawken dueling grounds to the Greenwich Village site where Hamilton died of his injuries to his former uptown home, there's so much to see. I hope that this map will help you in your journeys!

Spring is Here!

Spring is (finally) here, and we are excited for a great season-- and then, Summer!-- of touring. From Central Park to Brooklyn Bridge to street art to the High Line and more, we have some great adventures planned.

We are also adding new tours, based on what we hope visitors would want to see. What tours would YOU want to see added? Let us know, and you may see a new adventure added soon!

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Black History Month

In honor of Black History Month, here’s a few sites in Manhattan to see (but certainly nowhere near a comprehensive list) of the history of African-Africans in New York City.

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These first two photos tell the story of Seneca Village, founded in 1825, the first settlement in NYC created by free black people. It had over 300 residents by mid-century, including Irish & German immigrants. It was demolished in 1857 to make way for Central Park (the overwhelming majority of the land that the park sits on was uninhabited). The stone foundation of one of its buildings-- believed to be the village church-- is visible in the park in between two playgrounds near the West 85th St entrance.

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Slavery was abolished in New York State in 1827. Prior to that, in the 1700s, a slave market existed on Wall Street. Much of colonial-era Manhattan was built using slave labor. Lower Manhattan has several monuments dedicated to this monstrous time in our history, including the African Burial Ground National Monument, on Duane St, where thousands of Africans were buried in the 1600s & 1700s.

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There were several stations in NYC for the Underground Railroad, including Brooklyn’s Pilgrim Church (home to pastor Henry Ward Beecher) and (pictured here) the Ruggle home in Manhattan, on Lispenard St in modern-day Tribeca. In 1838, Frederick Douglass arrived here. Ruggles estimated that he brought 600 runaway slaves to freedom through his boarding house.

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Originally a Dutch Village, Harlem became New York's premiere black neighborhood residentially and culturally starting around the 1920s. This was known as the “Harlem Renaissance”. Its most famous cultural landmark is the Apollo Theater. The theater opened as a burlesque venue in 1914, and was whites-only. It reopened as a new performance venue, the Apollo, in 1934, and opened to black patrons. It remains one of the city’s great theaters today.

These are just a few of the sites I visited this month in Manhattan.

You can find a more detailed guide-- and interactive map-- here:
Black History Month in NYC: 15 historic sites to visit

Winter Touring

New York City receives millions of tourists year-round, but visitors always worry about what options they will have for touring during the winter months. While the weather is always unpredictable (last winter was actually very warm & mild!), it's more likely than not to be cold.

So we are working to prepare for these months. Here are some tours that we offer that make good winter options:

1. Landmarks of Midtown tour: This tour travels through Midtown to see the area's most significant landmarks. It makes numerous indoor stops, including the Empire State Building, the New York Public Library, Chrysler Building, and Grand Central Terminal. A great chance to see major icons, while spending only a small amount of time outdoors.

2. Underground Winter NYC Tour: Lower Manhattan: This special winter tour is a great look at the rebuilding of lower Manhattan, without ever stepping foot outdoors. We journey from the Fulton Center through the World Trade Center Transportation Hub to Brookfield Place through a half-mile underground connection & retail complex. We've also added an option to add tickets to visit the One World Trade Center's observatory.

We also, of course, still offer all our tours year-round. Looking for a customized or private tour? Contact us to make arrangements!