Bee Scene: These Shoes Are Made For Walking

Now that the weather is mostly mild (if you ignore this upcoming rainy weekend), it’s time to think about taking advantage of all the ways you can spend your free time outdoors. As someone who has walked most of Manhattan and loves this city’s history, I thought it’d be nice to share my favorite walking tours.

At a recent dinner party, I met an animated group of guys who are the father-and-sons team known as The Levys’ Unique New York. They picked up on my fondness for New York history and reeled me in with stories about one of their most popular tours, which explores the Lower East Side’s seedy history. I jokingly suggested that they rename the tour: “Jews, Boobs and Booze.” They laughed nervously. Maybe I should leave the tour names up to them.

Anyway, on to the next tour! Perhaps the most well-known walking tours are given by Big Onion. They’re known for their wide array of tour offerings, with names like “The ‘Official’ Gangs of New York” and the “I’ll Never Go There Anymore: The Bowery.” Chances are there’s a tour for every neighborhood you’re interested in.

I plan to take my friend who just moved to NYC on the “Original Multi-Ethnic Eating Tour.” The description sounds decadent: “A tour that mixes history and gastronomy on the multi-ethnic Lower East Side. Learn about the Jewish East Side, Little Italy, and Chinatown as we nosh our way through the neighborhood sampling foods traditional to the Dominican Republic, Eastern Europe, China, Italy, and more.” Most of Big Onion’s tours do not require reservations and they’re easy on the wallet: adult tours are $15.

River to River NYC, a nonprofit that presents more than 500 free summer events in Lower Manhattan, offers an occasional free downtown walking tour during the summer months. I’ve attended many of these weekend walks, which usually begin at noon near Battery Park, and always come away with a new appreciation for the downtown neighborhoods. For example, how did Maiden Lane get its name? (Answer: women used to wash and dry clothes in the stream that once flowed there.) Sign up on their site to receive e-mail alerts about upcoming walks, as well as information about their other events.

It is customary to tip your tour guide a few dollars, a small and reasonable price to learn about New York’s fascinating past.

Do you have a favorite summertime NYC activity? Tell me about it at anthony at neighborbee [dot] com and we might write about it here!

original post – 5/2/08 @ 15:00

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