The Best Tours to Learn All Things New and Historic in Lower Manhattan

01/11/2022 in
The Best Tours to Learn All Things New and Historic in Lower Manhattan

Lower Manhattan’s rich history dates back to the very founding of the country, and is dotted with major moments spanning from the American Revolution to how New York lost Congress. You can learn about all these events and everything in between thanks to the cornucopia of walking tours offered in the neighborhood. 

These aren’t just for tourists, either. Tours cover the hidden remnants of New Amsterdam, the fight for reproductive freedom in Lower Manhattan and the real history of Five Points that Martin Scorsese left out of “Gangs of New York.” You can even take a tour themed around the 2008 financial crisis! Here’s a rundown of the best tour walking, biking and boating options below Chambers Street.

Remnants of New Amsterdam Tour (Untapped Cities) 

Untapped Cities specializes in the hidden and forgotten parts of Gotham, and this tour will take you where it all started. You can tour Lower Manhattan’s original coastline before it was extended, see the remains of the first City Hall, discover the original Dutch fort and trace the original 1667 streets of the borough. $29 to $35.

Hidden Gems of the Financial District Walking Tour (Untapped Cities)

This tour takes you a little deeper, literally. It includes decoding a cryptic grave site at Trinity Church, plus visits to the oldest standing structure in Lower Manhattan, a 19th century candy store hidden in an office building and the site of the city’s market for enslaved people. $29 to $35.

Lower Manhattan Walking Tour (Free Tours By Foot) 

This tour is the “shut up and play the hits” of neighborhood sightseeing. It covers all the classics that tourists love, including the Charging Bull statue, the Stock Exchange, Battery Park, Zuccotti Park, the World Trade Center, the Woolworth Building, Fraunces Tavern and more. This one is pay-what-you-wish, too.

Alexander Hamilton Tour (Free Tours by Foot) 

If you still can’t snag tickets for the musical, or want to relive it, walk in Hamilton’s shoes with this tour that takes you through Revolution-era Manhattan. It covers sites that were part of Hamilton’s life, including St. Paul’s Chapel, Federal Hall and Trinity Church, which are some of the oldest remaining historic sites in New York City. $40. 

Revolutionary War Walking Tour (Patriot Tours) 

This is a look at when Manhattan was the “island at the center of the world;” well, it still is of course, but the world was a bit smaller back then. You’ll hear about feuding families that pitted neighbor against neighbor during the Revolution; and listen to stories about people like John Holt, the “Liberty Printer,” Alexander McDougall, leader of the Sons of Liberty, The Wicked Triumvirate and the Odious Six. Sites include St. Paul’s Chapel, built in 1766 and still intact today, and the spot where George Washington’s army escaped the Battle of Long Island. $40 for adults, $25 for children. 

Financial Crisis Tour (The Wall Street Experience)

The most dramatic financial collapse in our lifetimes is only a decade-and-a-half old, but it was so significant it already qualifies for a historic tour. This tour, led by actual Wall Street traders and bankers, will teach you how the financial crisis unraveled and how some traders walked away with billion-dollar profits as banks, and the overall American economy, collapsed. It covers what really brought down the “too big to fail” banks, and gets into the historical origins of the New York Stock Exchange, Federal Hall, the House of Morgan and more. $50. 

Wall Street Insider Tour (The Wall Street Experience)

This outing covers 400 years of history that shaped today’s Wall Street, including its origins as a Dutch trading post. You’ll see where high-powered meetings that determine the fate of our economy take place, learn about the immigrant roots of large financial institutions and get a glimpse of where the “captains of industry” live and work. $35. 

Social Justice Tours

This tour company aims to engage New Yorkers in “critical dialogue about the past, present and future of our city from the perspective of marginalized populations,” with the goal of assisting movement building and exposing inequality. Current tours offered include a Reproductive Freedom in Lower Manhattan Tour, a People’s History of Wall Street and a tour about Policing Public Space in NYC. Sliding scale.

Brooklyn Bridge bike tours

The Brooklyn Bridge has a brand-new bike lane, which means you can finally bike to Brooklyn and back without dodging 100 engagement photo shoots and tourists wandering into the bike lane. Lots of other bike tours are offered around the neighborhood and the rest of Manhattan, including some e-bike tours that will make seeing the city a real breeze. Tours start at $40. 

Financial District (Big Onion)

Start at Trinity Church and wind through the streets of banking giants and historic figures, with stops at the Federal Reserve, Stock Exchange and sites associated with Alexander Hamilton, John Rockefeller and Victoria Woodhull. $30, $20 seniors and full-time students. 

Forging the Historic Metropolis (Big Onion)

Take a trip in the footsteps of George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and more on this broad-reaching tour of today’s Financial District. The tour will explore just how New Amsterdam became New York, and how New York lost Congress, but gained Wall Street. $30, $20 seniors and full-time students. 

Gangs of New York Walking Tour (Big Onion)

Explore the legends of Five Points and Herbert Asbury’s 1927 classic “The Gangs of New York”, — later adapted to the screen by Martin Scorsese — on this tour that tells the real history of the first multi-ethnic urban neighborhood in America. Stops include: Paradise Square, “Murderer’s Alley,” the African Burial Ground, the lost intersection of Five Points and sites associated with Bill “the Butcher” Poole, Pierre Toussaint, William M. Tweed, “Master” Juba and the 1857 police and 1863 draft riots. $30, $20 seniors and full-time students. 

Secrets and History of Lower Manhattan (Metro Tours)

The small group sizes here give you more time to walk around sites like the 9/11 Memorial and other landmarks, as well as enjoy a slice of pizza. $45.

Secrets of the Past Walking Tour (Revolutionary Tours NYC)

Travel back in time and discover the forefathers’ time spent in Lower Manhattan. The walking tour is led by licensed tour guide Bruce Racond, who brings history alive in remarkable and little-known Lower Manhattan locations meaningful to the lives and partnership of Hamilton and Washington and the dawn of the United States. Tickets are $39.95 for adults, $28.95 for children (11 and under) and $31.95 for active and retired members of the military.

Boat Tours 

If you don’t feel like walking but still want to see some sights, you can’t really beat the Staten Island Ferry. Not only is it free, but the snack bar is one of the most underrated (and cheapest) dive bars in the city. The 25-minute trip passes right by the Statue of Liberty and offers a great view of the skyline. The NYC Ferry will cost you $2.75 a trip but also offers great views, and will take you all over the city.. 

photo: Josh Katz

Tags: evergreen, walking tours

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