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New York City: Off Broadway

The “city that never sleeps” is full of hidden gems waiting for intrepid travelers to discover them, including a number of unique tour experiences that offer visitors a deeper connection with the city’s rich history and eclectic neighborhoods. These are the places where NYC’s walking tours allow visitors to see deeper into the heart of the city’s lesser-known locales.

For groups looking to venture into the city’s hidden corners, these off-the-beaten-path experiences provide an intimate glimpse into the real New York, far from the tourist crowds.

A Scenic Self-Guided Stroll from Manhattan to Brooklyn

For a uniquely intimate perspective of New York City, groups can go on a self-guided tour across two boroughs.

The best place to start is in the Financial District of Lower Manhattan, where groups can spend some time discovering landmarks such as Wall Street, the New York Stock Exchange, and the poignant 9/11 Memorial before heading toward the historic Brooklyn Bridge.

The bridge itself is a marvel of engineering and offers plenty of photo-worthy moments, including unobstructed views of the East River, the Statue of Liberty, and the ever-evolving skylines of Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Once on the Brooklyn side, groups will find themselves in the charming streets of DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass). This trendy neighborhood greets visitors with its cobblestone streets, eclectic shops and an array of eateries that reflect Brooklyn’s vibrant cultural mix. The waterfront parks provide serene spots to rest and enjoy the scenery, including the famous view of Manhattan from the Brooklyn waterfront — a must-see finale to a memorable walk, especially as the sun sets and the city lights turn on.

NYC’s Iconic Film and TV Locations Uncovered

New York City has long been a canvas for the stories that light up both the big and small screens. In fact, Central Park is the most filmed location in the world, according to Erin Miller, PR, sales and marketing manager for On Location Tours.

Luckily for visitors, tours are available for groups wanting to discover some of those locations — whether that means seeing the iconic NYC apartment building where the “Friends” characters lived, catching some ghosts at Spook Central, the real building as seen in “Ghostbusters,” or snapping a photo at Monk’s Diner as seen in “Seinfeld.”

While several tour options are available, the East Village TV and Movie Sites Walking Tour is particularly popular.

“A few of my favorite locations on this tour include the Puck Building, which was the setting for Grace Adler’s office in ‘Will and Grace,’ Veniero’s Pastry Shop, which was featured in ‘Law and Order: SVU,’ ‘The Village’ and ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm,’ and Katz’s Deli, known for its infamous ‘I’ll have what she’s having’ scene from ‘When Harry Met Sally,’” said Miller.“ This walking tour is a great tour for groups because it allows them to explore one of Manhattan’s hidden gem neighborhoods. The East Village is a trendy, low-key area, filled with eclectic boutiques, cafes, bars, art galleries, music venues and restaurants — a vibe you don’t really get in the hustle and bustle of Times Square.”

Tours run year-round, rain or shine, but Miller recommends going at the peak of the cherry blossom season in the spring or during the beautiful fall foliage for an extra touch of magic.

Hidden Gems of Central Park

The sprawling green oasis at the heart of Manhattan, Central Park is an 843-acre sanctuary that attracts over 42 million visitors each year. Serving as both a refuge from the urban frenzy and a hub of historical and cultural activity, the park is an essential stop for any group exploring New York City.

For those looking to discover the park’s charms, the Central Park Conservancy offers a variety of guided tours. Their main Iconic Views of Central Park tour escorts visitors to the park’s most famous sights — including Sheep Meadow with its stunning skyline views, the grand American elms lining the Mall, and the picturesque Lake and its boathouse. The tour also includes a visit to Bethesda Terrace, a site often captured in films and photographs.

For a more intimate exploration, the 60-minute Heart of the Park tour takes groups through well-loved landmarks such as Strawberry Fields, the Bow Bridge and the whimsical Alice in Wonderland statue.

In addition to these regular offerings, the conservancy also offers specialized tours throughout the year. The Great Central Park Hike invites adventure seekers on a 3.5-mile trek through less-traveled paths, revealing the park’s hidden gems, while the Indigenous Central Park Tour explores the historical presence of the Lenape people in the area now known as Manhattan.

Birding enthusiasts can join seasonal tours in the Ramble, a prime spot for observing the park’s avian visitors and discovering New York City’s ecological and cultural layers.

Footsteps Through Time and Melody in Harlem

Harlem is the vibrant heart of Black culture in New York City. This lively NYC district, known for its significant contributions to music, art and Civil Rights offers an immersive historical experience through its historic streets and iconic brownstones.

Groups visiting NYC can immerse themselves in the essence of Harlem with tours that explore the cultural and social rebirth that defined the neighborhood in the early 20th century.

“For those drawn to the rhythmic beats and poetic expressions that Harlem is famous for, the Rhythm and Rhyme of Harlem tour captures the lyrical pulse of the neighborhood,” said Carolyn Johnson, president of Welcome to Harlem and Harlem Jazz Boxx, a boutique tour company. “Jazz enthusiasts have options too, with the Harlem Jammin Jazz Tour and the Harlem Afternoon Jazz Tour.” These tours feature a walking introduction to the legacy of Harlem’s jazz scene followed by live performances from world-class artists.

While the gospel and brunch tour may be the most popular among tourists, Johnson said that when it comes to educational value, the Harlem Renaissance and Civil Rights tour takes the lead. “While many are familiar with the significance of the Harlem Renaissance as a cultural awakening for African Americans, they are often taken aback by the influential role of Harlem in the Civil Rights Movement,” said Johnson. These captivating tours allow visitors to explore the extraordinary individuals, landmarks and events that have shaped Harlem’s history.