You should hire only a licensed guide if you want a good tour. An unlicensed guide is only as dependable as an unlicensed plumber or electrician.
The following are tidbits taken from tourguides of New York; people whose life’s work is making visitors feel at home here. All these notes come from licensed sightseeing guides. Most are seasoned independent guides. A few are from newbies, known in the trade as “line guides.” Most of these people are members of the Guides Association of New York, which can be found on the web at www.ganyc.com.
Telling a group of Americans that The World Trade Center had 50,000 workers in the seven buildings. That those people came on the N train, the E train, the 7 train, and about a thousand at a time would come in through the PATH train. Then someone asked, “Where did they park?”
Carrying a couple through Central Park at night in the pedicab and having them ask, “Is it safe at night?” And then they see the Saturday-night candlelit tango dancing around Shakespeare’s statue, and they marvel.
Smelling whatever they’re grinding this morning (cocoa, coffee, saffron or ginger) in that mill under the Brooklyn side of the Brooklyn Bridge as you bike over it.
Reading in Times Square at night, in ambient light.
Spending so much time in Times Square that you regularly say hi to the Midtown North sergeant, hotel doormen, the manager of a Broadway theater, street hustlers and a schizophrenic.
Seeing the Yankees win The Series for the seventh time in 25 years, then getting your bike stolen for the seventh time in 25 years.
Walking through the set of a Hollywood movie, not because you want to be in the movie, but because you’re in a hurry.
Learning how to get from 47th & Mad to 41st & Lex all via Grand Central’s tunnels.
Taking photos of the Hudson River and Palisades cliffs from the Cloisters.
Riding atop an empty double-decker on the West Side Highway at 60 MPH, and standing at the front upper window to let the wind whip your hair, fifteen feet in the air. There’s nothing like it.
Finding charred artifacts from the Great Fire of 1838 in the dirt piles, when they dig out water mains on Pearl Street.
Seeing the opening of Damages, and knowing that, while the first set of columns are at Deutschebank on 52nd, the second set are from the Sub-treasury on Wall.
Seeing confused out-of-towners with maps look one way after another, asking them if they’d like directions, then being rebuffed with a shouted, “We’re FINE,” as if you were attempting to sell them something.
Participating in a contest in Shubert Alley, in which Joel Gray awarded you a pair of thermal boxers.
Biking through Central Park at night and seeing a barn owl sitting nonchalantly on a fencepost, backlit by skyscrapers.
Sitting by the little waterfall near the Music Pagoda in Prospect Park, in a boro of 2.5 million, and being the only person within earshot.
Eating hot unspicy beef patties at Paradise Eats on Flatbush Avenue.
Russian finger food on the boardwalk in Brighton Beach, also known as “Little Odessa-by-the-sea,” Washed down with a Russian beer called (no kidding!) “Bile.”
The annual sand-sculpting contest after The Mermaid Parade.
Having an egg cream at Sammy’s. Egg creams have neither eggs nor cream.
Marching in — rather than being in the thick crowds watching — the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
Biking the 2-lane bike lane between the WSH and the Hudson.
Partying aboard The Frying Pan.
Going to the Statue Of Liberty for the fifth time this week.
Looking forward to meeting guide colleagues on the Statue of Liberty Ferry.
Free sandwiches and ice cream at Ellis Island, where you can converse
with a re-enactor playing Gustav Eiffel, who hangs out there.
Ballroom dancing on New Year’s Eve at Grand Central.
Summer nights at rooftop lounges, gazing out over Midtown at night.
Going to Danceteria back in 1981 and giving your coat to the coat-check
girl, who would be known a year later as Madonna.
Ordering arroz con pollo from a Mexican deli, then telling a Chinese
friend you were getting “gai fon,” without thinking of it in English in the meantime.
Meeting William Hurt on Halloween night in Madison Square and asking him why he was out there. “Aren’t you afraid of hordes of fans?”
“No,” he replied, “if you’re not wearing a costume tonight, no one looks at you.”
Seeing shiny new subway cars that ride on the backs of flatbed trucks on upper Broadway, in
the middle of the night.
Having angry people from around the world demonstrate in front of your First Avenue office building whenever the UN is in session.
NOT entering a contest because the first prize is a trip to New York!
This column is to spread information and answer questions about the City of New York’s tourism activities and venues. Please ask before you come to New York City.