Fantastic 1982 story from CBS News about Keith Haring:
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 (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!
We really love this video that a tourist made of NYC spots made famous in movies & TV.
These places help create a familiarity with the city that many visitors experience before they even arrive.
New York has many gorgeous buildings... inside and out. Some of the city's most stunning architecture can be found in its lobbies, many of which are themselves landmarked spaces. Over the next week on our Instagram, we will journey inside and highlight some of our favorite NYC interiors.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Here's a few articles/lists that may be of interest to NYC visitors (or locals!):
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!
Many people do not know how much of modern Christmas iconography and traditions are rooted in New York's history.
Prior to the early 19th-century, Christmas in America was a far more low-key holiday than it is today… a quiet religious holiday for families, celebrated differently (if at all) across the young nation.
The first major connection between New York and the global Christmas mythology comes from writer Washington Irving (of "Rip Van Winkle" & "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" fame). Upset that there were few unifying holidays in early America, Irving worked to change that. In his 1809 “A History of New York” (a comical retelling of the city's Dutch era), he declared the European gift-giver St. Nicholas to be the state’s patron saint, claiming that his image appeared on the masthead of the first Dutch ship to arrive in New Amsterdam.
St. Nicholas Day, or the Feast of St. Nicholas, was for much of history a separate holiday in on December 6 associated with the gift-giving saint. One way this holiday was celebrated was placing shoes in the foyer before bedtime the night before. The origin of Christmas stockings?
(And how did the Dutch say Saint Nicholas? Sinterklaas. Later Anglicized to, you guessed it, Santa Claus.)
St. Nicholas then himself became tied to the Christmas holiday thanks to another author, Clement Clarke Moore, who lived in a mansion on Manhattan farm land in what later became the Chelsea historic district. In his famous short story, “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas", originally published in 1823, Moore described the saint as “a right jolly old elf,” based on “a portly rubicund Dutchman,” in the neighborhood, with his “eight tiny reindeer,” with some other elements borrowed from Irving’s version of the Saint. St. Nicholas Day is traditionally celebrated in early December, but Moore’s poem set his visit on Christmas Eve, informally tying St. Nicholas to the holiday for the first time. This, in turn, ties the concept of gift-giving to the holiday.
It cannot be overstated how much of our modern Christmas mythology originates from Moore’s story and depiction of “St. Nick”.
Then, in the 1860s, American political cartoonist Thomas Nast further cemented this depiction with drawings in the NY-based publication Harper's Weekly depicting St. Nick/Santa Claus as a jolly, bearded, fat man in a fur-trimmed cap. This iconic look is the one that since became the default style worldwide for depicting him.
More traditions kept piling up throughout NYC history... Santa's inclusion in Thanksgiving parades, public Christmas trees, decorated store windows, and more.
Today, Christmas remains New York's most enchanting season, and is the busiest tourism season for the city. Holiday markets, elaborately-decorated trees everywhere, bell-ringers... between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day itself, you are hard-pressed to find anywhere in Manhattan where the holiday is not front and center.
Looking to experience this magic? Contact us for a custom tour!
Several years ago, 5Pointz, the original NYC graffiti "mecca" was lost when the building's owner decided to sell the building to developers. The artists have demanded justice for years, and yesterday a Brooklyn jury agreed the destruction of the art violated the artists' rights. Here are my thoughts on all this:
First, this is a more complicated story than many realize. Contrary to the chaotic, lawless nature of graffiti many artists still cultivate, this was all super organized. The 5Pointz artists were not vandalizing this building. The curator*-- Meres (whose signature art involves lightbulbs)-- sought out this building for a graffiti gallery and asked the owner's permission. The owner, Mr. Wolkoff, agreed, as at the time the neighborhood was undesirable, so who cared. The inside he rented as artist studio space, etc, at low cost. He was known as being very generous, in this regard. So it wasn't even encouraging or allowing the graffiti, it was an active partnership, albeit one where no $$ exchanged hands. So their claim is that they had legit ties to the building, and deserved a say in all this. And that much is fair.
So I sympathize with all this. But my concern is how this ruling will ultimately come back to hurt this community of artists.
The Bushwick Collective-- today's NYC graffiti "mecca", and where I do my Brooklyn art tour-- happened because lots of Bushwick commercial property owners agreed to the same as Wolkoff had years ago... allowing artists to use entire blocks as a canvas, for free. And that has a strict curator as well, local businessman Joseph Ficalora. After seeing this case play out, how many building owners of the next Bushwick Collective or 5Pointz will say "no" when asked, because they fear a future lawsuit? I worry about that.
Many of these artists benefited immensely from 5Pointz, more than any legal compensation can offer. Popular NYC street artists, such as Jerkface or Danielle Mastrion, made their names there. It helped legitimize graffiti, aerosol art, and mural as legitimate forms of art. They had a great deal there and, eventually, it ended.
Moreover, the destruction of 5Pointz, while genuinely sad, helped spread out the NYC street art scene, thus allowing more artists to prosper. Its destruction led to the creation of the Bushwick Collective, the Welling Court Mural Project, The New Allen, and so many other art collectives inspired by 5Pointz. This growth has benefited hundreds of amazing artists. Ultimately, I argue, the destruction helped the community more than it hurt.
Ideally, this ends with property owners respecting artists more, and fostering better, clearer partnerships.
The artists all insist today that this ruling will change the graffiti world. But maybe not in that way they expect.
Click on the image below for a link to my gallery of the final art days of 5Pointz:
[*And heavily curated it was. No one painted on 5Pointz's walls without going through Meres, and getting his blessing. There were signs all over the building that insisted any (commercial) photography must get a permit from Meres, and his contact info printed thereon. It was as organized as an art gallery, albeit all outdoors.]
Years before I became a full-time tour guide, I've been visiting Bushwick, Brooklyn, to photograph & document its vibrant street art scene. I've been collecting my photos in a Flickr album for 3 years. Many of these pieces are long gone, replaced by new murals and new artists. Such is the transient nature of street art... and what makes visiting these areas such an adventure, there's always new art to discover!
Click the image below to view a gallery of years-worth of Bushwick street art.
And interested in discovering the area's current art? Check out my walking tour!
We are extremely honored & proud that our Victorian Flatbush walking tour has been included in Time Out New York's list of "10 fascinating architecture tours in NYC". They write:
This is a fantastic, truly local tour that explores a neighborhood that is both a microcosm of the rich history of Brooklyn, but also features some of the most stunning residential architecture in the borough. We have several available dates this Autumn, which is the perfect time to take a stroll through this dynamic area.
Come discover for yourself what is so special about Flatbush!
Most street art fans are familiar with the work of French artist Invader. Taking his name from an early arcade game (and his style from those early 8-bit graphics), Invader began a global project in 1998 called Space Invaders, affixing tile mosaics to the sides of buildings. Today, his work can be found in large cities in dozens of major countries. He is one of the world's most famous (and still anonymous) street artists.
Invader has visited NYC several times and left behind numerous installations. Many, as happens often, have been removed, vandalized, or stolen. My aim is to create a list of all remaining pieces in NYC (as of 2018) that I have personally verified. If I am missing any, or if any are gone since I last saw them, please comment below!
Lower East Side: On Ludlow St, between E. Houston & Stanton, look across from the Hotel Indigo, for a classic Invader
Lower East Side: Also on Ludlow, between Delancey & Broome, look up on the east side of the street for a crowned Invader.
Lower East Side: On Broome St, between Allen & Eldridge, look above the pizza shop awning for Leonardo of the TMNT.
Lower East Side: On Bowery, between Broome & Delancey, look up on the east side of the street for Michelangelo of the TMNT.
Lower East Side: On the intersection of Kenmare & Mott, look above the doorway for a spray-can piece.
Lower East Side: On Mulberry St, between Grand & Hester, look up on the east side of the street for superhero character.
Lower East Side: On Bowery, between E. Houston & Stanton, look up on the east side of the street for a drinking Invader.
Lower East Side: On Lafayette St, between Prince & Spring, look up on the east side of the street for a flowery Invader.
Lower East Side: On Orchard St, between Stanton & Rivington, look up on the west side of the street for a soda can.
Lower East Side: On Bowery, between Hester & Canal, look up on the fire escapes on the west side of the street, for a strip of Invaders.
Chinatown: On Division & Orchard, look up on the west corner, for Raphael of the TMNT.
Chinatown: On Canal St, btwn Rutgers & Ludlow, look up on the south side of the street for a classic Invader.
East Village: On Avenue A, between E. 9th & E. 8th, look up on the corner for a classic Invader.
East Village: On St Marks Place, look above Crooked Tree for a mosaic of Lou Reed.
East Village: On Avenue A & E. 3rd, look up on the northeast corner for a classic Invader.
East Village: On Bowery & Great Jones St, look up on the southwest corner for a beat-up Invader.
East Village: On Houston & Bowery (to the left of the Bowery Mural), look up for a colorful Invader.
West Village: On 6th Ave & Waverly Place, look above the diner for a burger-chomping Invader.
West Village: On Minetta & Bleecker, look up above the cafe for two classic Invaders
Chelsea: On W. 14th St, between 8th & 9th Aves, look up on the south side of the street for a large Big Apple Invader.
Chelsea: On W. 22nd St, btwn 10th & 11th, look on the south side of the street for a Pac Man ghost-style Invader.
Chelsea: On W. 38th St, btwn 10th & 9th Aves, look on the north side of the street for a red Invader with mirror eyes.
Meatpacking District: On Washington St, between E. 13th & Little W. 12th, look up on the west side, under the Standard hotel, for Buster Bunny
Meatpacking District: On 10th Ave & W. 17th St, look above Artichoke Pizza for Donatello of the TMNT.
Tribeca: On Thompson St, between Broome & Watts, look up, on the west side of the building, for a rainbow Invader.
Hudson Square: At Pier 40, look on the south end of the building for a classic Invader.
Hudson Square: On Varick St, between Downing & Clarkson, look up on the west side of the street for a classic Invader.
Upper East Side: On E 61st St, between 2nd & 3rd Aves, look up above a doorway on the south side of the street, for a key-holding Invader
Upper East Side: On 2nd Ave, between E. 94th & E. 95th, look up on the west side of the street for a flowery Invader.
Williamsburg Bridge: On the pedestrian path of this bridge, closer to Manhattan, just before the FDR Drive, look to the right on the tower. On the arch, there is a small Invader facing west.
Bushwick: On Troutman St, between Wyckoff & Irving, keeping looking up on the west side of the street for a tribute to Cost & ENX.
Bushwick: On Gardner St, between Johnson Ave & Randolph St, look up on the west side of the street for Joey Ramone.
Williamsburg: On Bedford Ave, by S 5th St, look up on the NE corner for a beat-up orange Invader.
Williamsburg: On the SE corner of Metropolitan & Wythe, look up for a tribute to NYC graffiti legends Rev & Cost.
South Williamsburg: At Broadway, between Keap & Rodney Sts, look above KidSuper for a classic Invader.
Greenpoint: At the corner of Nassau & Kingsland, look above Vinnie's Pizzeria for pizza-munching Invader.
Bed-Stuy: On St. Johns Place, between Utica & Rochester, look up on the south side of the street for a speeding Invader.
Any questions? Please comment below!
Ask any New Yorker what the city's best ice cream is, and the two words you'll hear most are: Ample Hills. The Brooklyn-founded company (their name derives from a Walt Whitman poem about the borough) has several locations around the city... plus one at the Walt Disney World resort. For the past two Summers, the company has offered a challenge: visit all NYC locations in one day, and join the ranks of their illustrious Hillionaires Club (with glory and swag as your prizes). And for the past two Summers, I have completed this challenge.
I love challenges like this-- such as the recent Wave Walk-- because they encourage New Yorkers to explore their city in fun ways.
Of the 7 NYC Ample Hills locations, the hardest to reach is their summer pop-up at Riis Beach, way out on the Rockaway peninsula in Queens. I began my journey, this year with a friend, around 11am in lower Manhattan, where I boarded a ferry to Rockaway Beach (*cue Ramones song here*). This hour-long ferry ride has some scenic views...
We then take the complimentary shuttle bus from the ferry over to Riis Beach. At stop #1, we were given our Tour de Hills card which would be stamped and signed by an employee at each stop after purchasing one scoop. I opt for the location's exclusive flavor, the cherry lime rickey sorbet.
From here, we board the Q35 bus from the Rockaways up to Brooklyn. Once we reach that borough, there will be less distance to travel. In Brooklyn, we board a subway at Brooklyn College up to Prospect Heights, where we make our second stop at the company's original location. At this point, it is about 2pm. Here, I get their exclusive flavor, the Commodore (salted honey vanilla ice cream with homemade honeycomb candy and chocolate-covered potato chips.)
For the remainder of the Brooklyn locations, we walked from one to the other. We started by walking down historic Flatbush Avenue, through downtown Brooklyn, to the new Dekalb Market Hall, where Ample Hills is one of many vendors. Their exclusive flavor here is Harry & Eigel's Marbled and Malted (chocolate malted ice cream with crushed malt balls and chunks Juniors cheesecake).
From here, we wandered past Borough Hall (built in 1848!) and wander through NYC's first historic district... Brooklyn Heights. I showed my friend Steve the historic Plymouth Church, which under the leadership of preacher Henry Ward Beecher, was a key abolitionist site in the mid-1800s. We then take the newly reopened Squibb Bridge down to Brooklyn Bridge Park. At the park's Pier 5, we find one of Ample Hill's other seasonal shops. Their special flavor? The Coffee of Kings.
From the park, it is a half-hour walk over to their flagship Gowanus location, where all of their ice cream is also produced. Their special flavor pays homage to the nearby Gowanus Canal, which is one of the most polluted canals in the United States. (Believe it or not, that "honor" is helping draw lots of new residents and development to the area).... This flavor-- 'It Came from Gowanus'-- is salted dark chocolate ice cream with hazelnut crack cookies topped with white chocolate pearls and orange-scented brownies.
Finally, we were finished with Brooklyn and rewarded ourselves with a long (and air-conditioned) subway ride to Manhattan. We get off the train at Times Square where we walked over to Hells Kitchen, to the Gotham West food hall. This is the final stretch. Their special flavor is the Hells Kitchen Sink (dark chocolate and Guinness extra stout with chili-spiced brownies and toffee bars). This was the only exclusive flavor that was a mixed bag.
One more to go! From Hells Kitchen, we walked down to 34th St and headed down the High Line. This 1.5-mile long park is just the breather we need before our final stop. At the end of the Line (literally), we enter the Meatpacking District, where we encounter our 7th stop of the day... Ample Hills' location next to Bubby's on Gansevoort Street. At this point, it is about 7pm. I go, of course, for their exclusive flavor, 'Floating Along the High Line' (root beer ice cream with mini-marshmallows and chocolate sprinkles). Here, the employees validate our cards and present us with our prize pack.
This was followed by a subway ride home with a stomach full of ice cream. See you again next Summer, Ample Hills! In the meantime, if anyone knows of any other crazy NYC challenges, send them my way. There's nothing more I enjoy doing on my days off from touring than racing from one end of New York to the other!