Worldwide icon-chevron-right North America icon-chevron-right United States icon-chevron-right New York State icon-chevron-right New York icon-chevron-right The best tours of off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods in NYC

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

Forest Hills
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Complicated
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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 other words, you've gotta get off the beaten path. Discover what some might call secret New York on these tours of neighborhoods that few tourists ever visit. You’ll explore some lesser-known attractions on walks through the South Bronx, Long Island City, Hamilton Heights and other intriguing but under-appreciated nabes. And who knows? You might just find your new favorite spot in the five boroughs while you’re out adventuring.

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Best tours of off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods

Washington Heights
Photograph: Shutterstock

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.

Hamilton Grange
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Mike

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.

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Harlem Courthouse
Photograph: Laura Gallant

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!

Roosevelt Island NYC
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Sopasnor

Roosevelt Island

Few visitors know anything about Roosevelt Island, a secluded residential community that feels worlds apart from the rest of the city. Once used for insane asylums and smallpox hospitals, Roosevelt Island is now home to a thriving population of about 14,000 residents. This tour starts in Long Island City, where you’ll check out the view of the Manhattan skyline from Gantry Plaza State Park before taking a ferry to Roosevelt Island. After you learn about the island’s history, board the aerial tram for a sky-high trip over the East River into Manhattan.

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Forest Hills
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Complicated

Forest Hills

Forest Hills has its fair share of notable residents: Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel and the Ramones all grew up here. But it's also a culinary hotbed, bubbling over with top notch eating, from hand-pulled noodles to flaky apple strudel. Taste your way around this Queens district and glimpse some breathtaking landscapes while you're at it on this combined sightseeing and food sampling tour.

Long Island City
Photograph: Shutterstock

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 and get to ride the city's only aerial tram on this tour. 

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Victorian Flatbush
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Troy Trolley

Flatbush

This central Brooklyn neighborhood was settled in the mid-1600s as one of the original six towns in Kings County, though it was originally called Midwood. It’s easy to get a sense of the nabe’s history on a walking tour: Victorian, colonial revival and neo-Tudor homes line the streets of Flatbush’s three historic districts. You’ll also visit the oldest high school in New York City and a church dating back to 1654 over the course of this two-hour tour.

Red Hook
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Sunghwan Yoon

South Brooklyn and Coney Island

Not one for the fainthearted, this. Lasting a full six hours, you'll be guided by bike from the base of Brooklyn Bridge all the way down to Coney Island and Red Hook. This route will take you past the beautiful brownstones of Fort Green, through Brooklyn's largest park (Prospect) and along America's first cycle path (Ocean Parkway), before stopping at Nathan's in Coney Island for the world famous dogs. Finally you'll venture into the neighborhood's industrial area, Red Hook, where you'll sip a hard-earned brew at Other Half Brewing Company.

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Snug Harbor
Photograph: Dan Q. Dao

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. 

184th and Grand Concourse
Photograph:Melissa Sinclair

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.

Ready to explore more of NYC?

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Photograph: Wendy Connett
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