Last updated on Jan 27th, 2021 at 11:19 am
(Article by Lauren Mack, first published on Cheapflights.co.za)
The prospect of a trip to New York might have you humming songs about big yellow taxis and people riding a hole in the ground, but take it from us, NYC is best explored on foot…
But if the sheer size of New York City leaves you feeling a tad intimidated about planning your own walking tour, then we’re here to help.
Take a look below at our New York City self-guided walking tours. They range from half a mile to 2.5 miles and are curated by area and interest. So whether you’re looking for culture, shopping, food or art, or want to mix and match with tours that seamlessly blend together for a longer adventure, we’ve got you covered.
So, start searching for a flight to NYC (on Cheapflights.co.za, of course) and pack your walking shoes – it’s time to start your trip off on the right foot
1. Chinatown cultural tour
- Hydrate with an authentic bubble tea at Kung Fu Tea.
- See vendors hawk everything from inexpensive souvenirs to fruits and veggies to knock-off purses, wallets and sunglasses on Canal Street.
- Explore Mott Street’s herbal medicine shops, acupuncturists and tea shops (and stop in for a foot massage at one of the many massage parlours if your feet are feeling achy).
- Stroll through Columbus Park, that rewards walkers with the sounds of Chinese opera performances, the clacking of mahjongg tiles and the graceful movements of tai chi.
- Stop in for dim sum at Jing Fong – one of the best dim sum restaurants in the area.
- Learn more about the story of Chinese immigrants in the US at the Museum of Chinese in America.
2. Little Italy immersion
- Stop by the Shrine Church of the Most Precious Blood, that is home to the statue of San Gennaro, which is paraded through the streets of Little Italy each September during the San Gennaro Festival.
- Admire the red, green and white tenement buildings on Mulberry Street, that are home to restaurants like Angelo’s of Mulberry Street, which has served Neapolitan fare since 1902.
- Visit the Italian American Museum, which documents the struggles and achievements of Italian Americans.
- Stop for a coffee and a cannoli at Ferrara, which has been a local favourite since 1892.
- Shop at Alleva Dairy, which has been making and selling Italian cheeses for more than 120 years, and Di Palo’s, a family-run shop that has been selling Italian cheese, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and pasta since 1910.
- Stop for authentic gelato at M’O Il Gelato.
- Explore the Center for Italian Modern Art, a museum dedicated to promoting modern Italian art.
3. Shop ‘til you drop in SoHo
- Grab a slice at Lombardi’s, which claims to be the first pizzeria in the US.
- See New York City’s first cathedral, St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral.
- Explore the charming cobblestone streets in the area that are flanked with chic cafes and boutique shops and visit Spring Street for more high fashion shops.
- Nosh on Spanish tapas at Boqueria Soho.
- Visit the famed Dominique Ansel Bakery, home of the “Cronut” (the doughnut-croissant hybrid craze started here).
- Stop at City Winery, which boasts an on-site winery and live music.
4. Lights, camera, action from Koreatown to Times Square
- Start in Koreatown, where the high-rise buildings are filled with restaurants, bakeries, karaoke bars and spas.
- Do karaoke in your own private room at MK Karaoke.
- Tuck into Korean barbecue at Kunjip, a 24/7 eatery beloved by locals. Save room for dessert a few steps away at Grace Street Cafe.
- Browse the books on offer at Koryo Books.
- Unwind at Juvenex Spa.
- Visit the top of the iconic Empire State Building.
- In the Garment District, walk along the Fashion Walk of Fame, marked by bronze plaques embedded in the sidewalk in honour of various American designers. Along the way, stop to shop sample sales on the designer apparel.
- Go to iconic Times Square. Shop for souvenirs and admire the 115,000 square feet of LED billboards and kitschy charm of roaming costumed characters (note: these folks can be aggressive and taking a photo with them is not obligatory nor do you have to pay).
- Pause at West 46th Street to hear Max Neuhaus’ sound installation emitted from the grate in the sidewalk.
- Pop into The Drama Book Shop or visit Sardi’s, a favourite restaurant among Broadway actors.
- End the walk at the TKTS Discount Booth to save up to 50% off tickets to Broadway and off-Broadway shows.
5. Classic New York City tour in Midtown
- Stroll the colourful and lively Grand Central Market.
- Soar to the top of 30 Rockefeller Plaza for a 360-degree view of the city’s skyline at Top of the Rock.
- Take a slight detour west to Radio City Music Hall. Since 1932, Radio City Music Hall has hosted a variety of concerts and shows. Take the Stage Door Tour, a 75-minute guided tour that includes a behind-the-scenes look at the Art Deco theatre.
- Admire the Neo-Gothic St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
- Walk north up Fifth Avenue, window shopping along the way at luxury shops like Tiffany & Co.
- Tackle the 800-acre Central Park. Highlights include The Pond (where Holden Caulfield in J.D. Salinger classic “Catcher in the Rye” went in search of ducks), Central Park Zoo, the park’s Carousel and Strawberry Fields (a memorial to John Lennon). End your tour at the highest point in the park, Belvedere Castle, a miniature castle with great views over the park.
6. Do a museum crawl along ‘Museum Mile’
- Start your tour at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, home to 2 million works spans 5,000 years.
- Then head to Neue Galerie that features a collection of early 20th century German and Austrian art.
- The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum has one of the most well-known collections of modern and contemporary art housed in a circular Frank Lloyd Wright-designed rotunda.
- The Smithsonian design museum, Cooper Hewitt, is housed in the Carnegie Mansion.
- Explore The Jewish Museum, an art museum dedicated to the preservation of Jewish art and culture.
- Visit the Museum of the City of New York which, as you’d expect, tells the history of New York City,
- Finish at El Museo Del Barrio, an art museum dedicated to Puerto Rican, Caribbean and Latin American art.
7. Enjoy beautiful Brooklyn and Brooklyn Heights
- Do a spot of window shopping along Fulton Street, an alfresco pedestrian mall packed with outlet shops and the newly opened City Point, which features a cinema and Century 21, a mega department store filled with discount designer clothes, shoes and accessories.
- Walk along Montague Street, which is flanked by beautiful brownstones, boutique shops and chic cafes.
- See Brooklyn Heights Promenade, which offers a picture postcard perfect view of the Manhattan skyline. Grab lunch to-go along the way and enjoy it from the benches that line the boardwalk or enjoy the view from the vintage Jane’s Carousel.
- Go to DUMBO, an artsy, industrial neighbourhood whose acronym means Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.
- If visiting on a Sunday, the popular Brooklyn Flea has a collection of food and antique vendors to explore.
8. Cross the Brooklyn Bridge
- Before crossing the Brooklyn Bridge, stop for thin crust coal-fired pizzas at Grimaldi’s under the Brooklyn Bridge, a place where Frank Sinatra once frequented.
- Save room for ice cream at the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory.
- Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge via the pedestrian walkway, which takes about 45 minutes.
- Make time to pause by the two reflecting pools at Ground Zero and then visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.
- See the views from atop One World Observatory at One World Trade Center, the tallest building in the western hemisphere.
9. Lions, Tigers, and the “Real” Little Italy in the Bronx
- Visit the Bronx Zoo.
- Try some of the best Italian food in New York on Arthur Avenue. Stop for a bite at Catania’s Pizzeria and Cafe, an old-school pizzeria that has been serving New York-style pizza pie since 1949. Visit Calabria Pork Store to admire (and sample) the salamis hanging from the ceiling. Or stop in at Mario’s Restaurant, a family-run trattoria that is famous for its lobster ravioli and Neapolitan fare.
- Visit Arthur Avenue Market, a covered market with local butchers, bakers and pasta-makers, or, if you’re craving something sweet, the Madonia Brothers Bakery for cannolis and other Italian desserts.
- End the walk with a pint or 2 at the Bronx Beer Hall inside the Arthur Avenue Market, which serves local craft beer.
Which walking tour will you do first? Share with us in the comments, and find that flight to New York City on Cheapflights.co.za.