BIG ONION: THE PERFECT NEW YORK CITY WALKING TOUR

NEW YORK CITY’S BIG ONION WALKING TOURS

I’m a native New Yorker, born and bred. I love my city. I enjoy learning new things about this wonderful metropolis. That’s one of the reasons why I find Big Onion Walking Tours to be such a fun activity.

I’ve been taking their tours for years now. I started off with their Revolutionary New York Tour. We met the guide on a freezing February day in front of the Customs Building in lower Manhattan. I didn’t think anyone would show up in that weather but there she was stamping her feet to keep warm and holding the Big Onion Sign. The guide took us to many historic sites including Fraunces Tavern, where the country’s revolutionary patriots conspired, and the recently rediscovered African Burial Ground. Sprinkled throughout the tour are interesting, little-known stories and gossip about larger-than-life characters like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and the ever fascinating, ultimate New York  immigrant, Alexander Hamilton. If you enjoy colonial history, this tour will take you where it all happened and make history come alive.

On Big Onion tours

Lower Manhattan sights

A WIDE SELECTION OF TOURS

We enjoyed the Revolutionary Tour so much that every so often, on a weekend or day off my husband and I book one of the tours and spend a pleasant morning or afternoon listening to the guides and wandering through the history of this great city. The guides are all doctoral candidates in history working their way through school at local universities so not only do they know their stuff, they love the topics and enjoy sharing them with others. Besides the history of an area or neighborhood, they also touch on architecture, cultural history, literature and cinema with a nice dollop of gossip thrown in.

We’ve taken the Central Park Tour on a beautiful spring day. We enjoyed the Prohibition New York tour where we discovered restaurants with hidden walls that once led to speakeasies. On The Upper West Side tour I listened to a guide from Iowa describe the neighborhood where I was born and raised. I was impressed with her grasp of the nuances and recent history of the area. This woman did her homework!

EXPERIENCE NEW YORK CITY HISTORY THROUGH ITS FOOD

I recently took the multi-ethnic eating tour because it focuses on the Lower East Side, an area rich in immigrant history which fascinates me. Also, I love food. This tour did not disappoint. The guide, Laura, walked us through the early immigration concentration points for Jewish immigrants, Chinatown, Little Italy and Puerto Rican New York. The samplings of ethnic food were both plentiful and tasty; Italian mozzarella and mini-calzones, fried plantains from the Caribbean, Vietnamese spring rolls, Malaysian beef jerky, Jamaican pickled pineapple…more than you can eat! Along with the food samples comes the rich heritage of the ethnic dish itself.

JUMP INTO THE MELTING POT

The most fun part of this tour is learning the interesting little tidbits of history and local culture that will make you say, “Oh, wow, no kidding!” A good example is the story of the pickle store named, “The Pickle Guys.” This is a long-established institution on the Lower East Side. It was owned and operated by Jewish immigrants and their descendants for generations until that group moved on to other areas and the store was purchased by two former Chinese employees who kept the name. Learn about the WWII contributions of the Italian American community emblazoned on the wall next to St. Genaro’s church in Little Italy. Or listen to how immigrants lived in the crowded tenements and advocated for housing laws that changed the face of the city. All this accompanied by 150 year-old photos taken of the very places being discussed as you stand in front of them.  These are the stories of how America became America.

The melting pot that is New York City comes alive in the sights, sounds, aromas and flavors of its streets. Walking a city’s streets is the fastest way to get a feel for the place. And the professional and pleasant guides at The Big Onion Walking Tours make it happen.

What’s the best walking tour you have ever taken?

PIN ME, BABY!

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