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The best tours of off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods in NYC

Go outside your comfort zone to visit off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods like Washington Heights or Forest Hills

Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Complicated

To really get to know a city, you need to venture outside the well trafficked neighborhoods, like the East Village, Lower East Side and Chelsea in NYC; in other words, you have to go off the beaten path. Discover what some might call the secret New York on these tours of neighborhoods that few tourists ever visit. You’ll explore some of the lesser-known NYC attractions on walks through the South Bronx, Long Island City, Hamilton Heights and other nabes. And who knows? You might just find your new favorite spot while you’re out adventuring.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best New York attractions

Best tours of off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods

Sugar Hill and Washington Heights

Sugar Hill and Washington Heights

Sugar Hill got its name during the Harlem Renaissance, as “life was sweet” for the wealthy African Americans who lived in the district. Thurgood Marshall, Langston Hughes and Duke Ellington all spent time in the row houses here. Peep the stunning Queen Anne–style architecture and immerse yourself in the vibrant community on this walking tour of the area. $25 per person

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Hamilton Heights and West Harlem

Hamilton Heights and West Harlem

Alexander Hamilton moved uptown to a country estate in what is now Harlem in the last two years of his life. Today, his home, now known as Hamilton Grange, still stands in the same neighborhood, though it was moved to St. Nicholas Park in 2011. Turn-of-the-century architecture seems to lie around every corner in this lush, tree-lined neighborhood. See why this historic area makes such an appealing escape from lower Manhattan on this two-hour walking tour. $25 per person

Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Mike

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Mount Morris Park

Mount Morris Park

The area around Mount Morris Park in central Harlem boasts some of the most gorgeous Gilded Age architecture in the five boroughs. Even more rare, the early 19th century streets still remain almost entirely unaltered—a sight you won’t see elsewhere in Manhattan. Learn about the neighborhood’s history from the earliest Native American settlement to the Revolutionary War on this three-hour walking tour. Come hungry—lunch is included! $65.35 per person, including lunch

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Forest Hills

Forest Hills

It’s no surprise to hear that the Tudor homes and lush yards in this Queens district were modeled after British garden communities. Forest Hills also has its fair share of notable residents: Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel and the Ramones all grew up here, and the area also hosted the U.S. Open for many years. You’ll find out why this neighborhood has such a reputation for exclusivity and see some breathtaking landscapes on this tour. $25 per person

Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Complicated

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Long Island City

Once an industrial hub, Long Island City has turned empty warehouses to desirable condos and apartments in the last several years. You can see both the old infrastructure—train tracks, bridges and forgotten factories—and the new Queens springing up. Walk through the neighborhood that’s slowly becoming an attractive option for city dwellers looking to escape sky-high rents on this tour. $32 per person

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South Bronx

Yes, the Bronx is home to Yankee Stadium, but that’s not all this borough should be known for. It’s also the birthplace of hip-hop and the one-time residence of Edgar Allen Poe, and offers tourist attractions like the Bronx Zoo and several Depression-era murals funded by the Works Progress Administration. Explore a side of the Bronx that few tourists ever see on this walking tour. $35 per person

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North Shore Staten Island

Residents of the other four boroughs like to poke fun at Staten Island: “You have to take a boat to get there! Never date someone from Staten Island!” and so on. What they don’t know is that the community southwest of Manhattan offers plenty of tempting attractions, like the Snug Harbor Cultural Center, art galleries and museums. Give it a chance on this three-hour private tour of the underappreciated borough. $90 per person

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Cobble Hill and Brooklyn

Cobble Hill and Brooklyn

These days, Williamsburg and Bushwick are just as mobbed by tourists as Soho and Chelsea. Those aren’t the only Brooklyn neighborhoods worth exploring, though. Take this tour of DUMBO, Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill and Brooklyn Heights to discover some lesser-known spots, like the Mosaic House and Love Lane. $80 per person

Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Jay Woodworth

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Hoboken, NJ

Hoboken isn’t technically a part of New York City, but since it lies just across the Hudson River, why not check it out? You’ll catch a few stunning views of the Manhattan skyline as you take a ferry across the river. Once you’ve set foot in New Jersey, you’ll see the street where the first game of baseball was played and scope out Frank Sinatra’s birthplace. There’s even time to grab a cannoli from Carlo’s Bakery (of Cake Boss fame) before heading back into the Big Apple. $395 for five people

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Roosevelt Island and Manhattan

Most Manhattanites probably don’t know that you can still spot a few Dutch colonial homes downtown. Fewer still know about Greenacre Park, a secluded oasis in the heart of Midtown East. You’ll tour some of these hidden gems before taking the tram to Roosevelt Island, a secluded residential community that feels worlds apart from the rest of the city. $98 per person

Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Sopasnor

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By: Tazi Phillips

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