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You have to be open to an adventure if you join conceptual walking-tour planners Elastic City on one of their rambles: You might find yourself stretching your physical and mental endurance in a mind-and-body boot camp or addressing passersby with lines of poetry. "I really like working with artists and seeing how we can adapt their talents to the walk format," says founder Todd Shalom. "It makes it easier [for participants] than going into a gallery and being like, What am I supposed to do here?" For example, composer Betsy Biggs' Through the Cracks led groups on a sonic experience of Tin Pan Alley, complete with iPods preloaded with the soundtrack for your jaunt. Visit elastic-city.com for reservations and a full schedule.
Three years ago, Nico Daswani and John Rouse launched Create Culture, a company aimed at bringing together artists and arts lovers for immersive cultural experiences. They now offer Creative Walks led by master artists (like meditation expert Josefina Baez) whose craft is incorporated into a group experience. Visit createculture.org for reservations and a full schedule.
Stephan Crasneanscki began recording audio guides to the Lower East Side in 1999. He founded Soundwalk in 2000, recruiting other New Yorkers to help him start a collection of first-person excursions through various neighborhoods. Now, the self-guided treks feature such narrators as Matthew Broderick (who leads listeners through Bryant Park) and legendary hip-hop artist Jazzy Jay (who incorporates early rap recordings into his Bronx hip-hop tour). Visit soundwalk.com for MP3 and iPhone downloads. $5.99.
Though Gowanus art space Observatory more frequently produces courses and lectures on a variety of macabre topics (taxidermy and mummification among them), it also hosts the Occult New York walking tour. Led by Mitch Horowitz (author of Occult America: The Secret History of How Mysticism Shaped Our Nation and a frequent Observatory lecturer), the spooky journey takes participants through midtown, where you'll spot supernatural symbols and hidden emblems on buildings. Horowitz will also divulge the secrets behind seance sites and houses of worship for actively practicing occult communities. Visit observatoryroom.org for updates and reservations. $25.
Life Labs New York
This Brooklyn company offers quirky, lifestyle-based classes. One sample option, the Williamsburg SMELLS (good) tour, functioned like a mobile classroom, where participants discussed their personal associations with neighborhood scents like Blue Bottle coffee and how closed nostrils affect tastings at Mast Brothers Chocolate. Visit lifelabsnewyork.com for reservations and a full schedule.
Real-life ghostbusters Pete and Stew Kandel take lovers of the supernatural through proven metaphysical hot spots (including Central Park and Grand Central Terminal), where they'll teach you how to use their heavy-duty spirit-detecting equipment, and how to spot specters. Be sure to bring a digital camera and snap some shots: The tools' infrared-sensing capabilities are able to capture ghostly forms that can't be seen with the naked eye. Visit ghostdoctors.com for reservations and a full schedule.