Free Tours in New York City
If ol' Blue Eyes could do it his way, so should you. When you take Manhattan, use these free tours so it doesn't take you
Times Square Times Square Visitor's Center, 1560 Broadway, Phone: 212/869-1890, timessquarebid.org/
Even when Dick Clark's not presiding over New Year's Eve, Times Square is teeming with people. With two police precincts, 40 theaters, 12.5 thousand hotel rooms, and almost two million passer-bys each day, it is the overtaxed heart of Manhattan. With all this to cover, The Times Square Business Improvement District's tour picks its targets carefully--it's more of a walk an inch-stop-walk an inch-stop tour instead of a walking tour. The tour can last up to two hours and focuses on the old vs. new: from the history of landmark theaters where vaudevillians performed to the spectacle of massive Trinitron video screens. Its guides lead the way through the human traffic every Friday at noon at the Times Square Visitor's Center.
Lower East Side Talking Street tours, 800/644-3545, talkingstreet.com/
If you were hoping to tour New York while taking part in a new use of technology and hobnobbing with celebrities, this definitely the walking tour for you--sort of. Talking Street's tour "The Lower East Side: Birthplace of Dreams," is the first-ever call-in cell phone tour, and is guided by LES native Jerry Stiller (George's dad on "Seinfeld," and real-life dad to Ben) with music by Irving Berlin and Eddie Cantor. Stiller takes you through the neighborhood where Easter European Jews immigrated, gangsters organized, and actors and artists strived. The tour works by having you call the 800-number above when you are at a selected stop. Then Stiller gives information about the site and directions to the next of 13 stops. The entire tour takes about an hour if you go from the first to last stop, and Stiller's audio segments are each under three minutes. The fun of the tour, however, is picking and choosing which sites appeal to you the most, and with a downloadable map from the website, it's easy to do. While the tour is free, it's important to note that regular cell phone charges do apply, so call when you have extra minutes to spend.
Big Apple Greeters 1 Centre Street, Suite 2035, 212/669-8159, bigapplegreeter.org/
You want see New York like a real New Yorker would? You want to eat soul food in Harlem, see the Statue of Liberty for free, and maybe even explore those other boroughs outside of Manhattan? If yes, then Big Apple Greeters is the volunteer group for you. BAG's mission is to show that New York is a friendly city, and her denizens aren't so bad either. By contacting them in advance, BAG will pair you with a knowledgeable "greeter" that suits the kind of experience you want to have in the city. In addition, these ambassadors of goodwill give you a free one-day subway pass and show you how to navigate the city's public transportation system. Your visit with BAG can be as long or as short as you wish, and the only requirement is that you have two or more in your group.
A few more
If you STILL haven't gotten the compulsion to tour New York for free out of your system, here are a few more worth considering.
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