Walking tours are a fun and interesting way to see the city. There are a wide array of options available. Asking the right questions will help narrow down the choices.
1-Do you want to see the whole city or just a section?
Tours that focus on a specific section of the city such as the village will provide more detail. Visitors with a limited amount of time may want to see the city's landmarks. Have a loaded metro card for city-wide tours since subways are usually the mode of transportation.
2-How much time do you have and how far can you walk?
Tours vary in length but know whether you can really walk for 6 hours? Groups keep moving and will not wait for people who are unable to keep up the pace or need frequent bathroom breaks. Wear comfortable shoes, bring/wear weather appropriate clothes, bottled water and go to the bathroom prior to the start of the tour or when a break is offered.
3-Do you want a private or a group tour?
Private tours proceed at your own pace and and according to your needs. Group tours vary in size. The smaller the group, the more nimble and easier it is to meet people. Free tours tend to be larger. Confirm a large group doesn't dominate a group tour prior to booking to avoid feeling like the fifth wheel.
4-Do you speak English?
Tours are generally, in English unless they specify another language or are arranged in advance.
5-Do you have children?
Policies vary but be realistic. Don't bring children who aren't interested in the topic or who won't behave on the tour. Guests will not find your children as adorable as you do. You don't want the evil eye from other tour members.
6-Will the tour be cancelled in inclement weather?
This is important to consider if you are prepaying for your tour. Some tours cancel and others proceed. It is not pleasant walking around The City in the pouring rain for 3 hours.
7-What day of the week are you available?
The tour offerings may be limited depending on your availability. Some tours are only offered on select days.
8-What is the charge for the tour if any?
The fees fluctuate based on what is included such as transportation, size, food, length of tour, the guide's level of expertise and whether it is underwritten by an organization.
Some tours are organized by an arts society such as the Municipal Arts Society and have reduced fees.
Free tours are often subsidized by a groups whose goal is to promote their district. They have a vested interest in providing excellent guides to advance the organization but the information can be somewhat biased. Many of New York City Business Improvement Districts (BID) provide free guided tours.
Other tours may be free because the guide relies solely on tips.
9-What is the guide's background?
Some guides work part-time as a docent to augment their education or teaching salaries. They provide a more historical approach to the neighborhood. Other guides may have worked in the area. For instance, the Garment Center's BID offers a free tour by Mike. Mike's knowledge of the Garment Center is based on working there for many years. His insight is unbeatable and could never be obtained by studying it.
10-Do you want a tour geared to an interest?
Tours devoted to topics such as architecture, television show locations, Broadway or food provide focused information. It is a terrific way to meet people with similar interests.
Food specific tours such as Scott's Pizza Tours provide an opportunity to sample a range of New York pizza styles, visit iconic pizzerias while simultaneously learning pizza history. Some pizza parlors such as Lombardi's Pizza only sell whole pies and not individual slices which makes visiting multiple locations alone impossible.
11-Does the tour include food?
Tours that include food efficiently, tend to call ahead to preorder. The food is ready and cut when you arrive. Free tours tend to have each person order and pay for their own food. This is time consuming and requires tour members to coordinate sharing food.
Small bites make it easier to sample an array of food rather than filling up at the beginning of the tour on a full order. Confirm ahead whether the tour can accommodate food allergies or dietary needs.