Real New York Tours

When I started planning our kid-free trip to New York City earlier this year, I got a bit overwhelmed. I love planning our trips, but there are so many places to explore and things to do in New York City. I was worried we wouldn’t have time to see even half of what was on my list. So, I started researching guided tours of New York City. I checked TripAdvisor, Google, and asked for the best New York City sightseeing tour in my Facebook groups. Real New York Tours is the name that kept popping up.

Launched in 2007, Real New York Tours is run by native New Yorker Luke and his wife, Amber. Both of them are passionate about sharing their vibrant city with people from all over the world.

Their goal is to offer guests an immersive tour experience. And they want to disprove the belief that all New Yorkers are rude. They are a small family business with a select number of tour guides that also want to connect with people visiting their amazing city.

NYC in a Day Group Tour

The tour that seemed like the best sightseeing tour for our first trip to New York City was this NYC in a Day Group Tour. It was 6.5 hours long and hit up all the main tourist attractions in Manhattan.

The itinerary included: Times Square, Central Park, Greenwich Village, Soho, Chinatown, Little Italy, Wall Street, and the World Trade Center site.

REASONS WE PICKED THE NYC IN A DAY TOUR:

  • It started at 10am, so we’d have time to get coffee and get over jetlag.
  • We could practice using the subway with a local.
  • It covered many Manhattan tourist attractions much faster than we could on our own.
  • It’s a small business run by a family with 2 little kids.
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Highlights of our NYC in a Day Sightseeing Tour

While 6.5 hours seems like a long tour, it went by in a flash. Part of the reason is that we walked quickly and hopped in and out of subway stations. We covered a lot of ground, asked a lot of questions, and were totally immersed in the magic of New York City!

I tried to take notes during the tour, but there was just so much to see and do. Here’s some of the highlights:

TIMES SQUARE

We met at Paramount Plaza where our tour guide Trey checked us all in and made sure we were paid up. He came to NYC to become an actor and has been with Real New York Tours for years and years. He was originally from Alabama, but New York City is definitely his home.

Photo of Times Square in New York City as part of the NYC in a Day tour #realnewyorktours #nycinaday #timessquare #newyorkcity
Times Square is a chaotic place visually. Photo credit: Darren Cheung

He walked us over to a spot in Times Square right next to the TKTS booth. That’s where you can get discounted Broadway tickets. We wanted to know where that was, so it was pretty cool that was our first stop.

Trey talked about how Times Square used to be a shady part of town until the city encouraged family friendly businesses like M&Ms, Toys R Us, McDonald’s, etc to come there. Now, it’s one of New York City’s top tourist attractions.

We got a quick overview of the area and then headed out of there as quickly as possible. Personally, I was glad to get out of there!

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NYC SUBWAY

We all headed down to the subway and Trey made sure we all had metro cards. Most of us did, but he helped the rest figure out which pass to buy. Then, he explained how the NYC subway system worked and answered our questions.

Photo of the NYC subway map during a guided tour of New York City #nyc #subway #nycsubway #realnewyorktours
Trey gave us a brief overview of the NYC subway system before we hopped on. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Trey did a great job of telling us which stop we were getting off at. And while we were on the subway, he made sure he had eye contact with everyone. In all the years he’s been providing tours of NYC, he hasn’t lost a single guest.

And with how quickly this tour moves, that’s pretty impressive.

SOHO

We were very excited to explore Soho. That’s where our hotel was located, but we hadn’t had time to walk anywhere except the subway station. We had always heard it was a “cool” area, but we weren’t sure exactly why.

Photo of the world's first elevator, which is a fun thing to see in New York City #nyc #firstelevator #elevator
This is the first modern elevator in the world! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Soho is a neighborhood filled with details you’d probably overlook if they weren’t pointed out to you. For instance, most of the facades are made up metal that has been painted to look like stone.

We stopped at the world’s first modern elevator. It’s a doorway we easily would have walked passed without giving it a second thought.

Photo of NYC fire escapes, which is an iconic thing in New York City #nyc #newyorkcity #fireescapes #nycarchitecture
Fire escapes are truly iconic of NYC. Photo credit: Darren Cheung

We also stopped for a moment to talk about fire escapes. When you see a fire escape, you immediately thing of New York City.

Trey told us that he had a guest from another country ask what it was. He explained the history of New York City’s overpopulation during the industrial revolution and how the fire escapes were put in give families a fighting chance of escaping in case of a fire.

That’s when I realized just how iconic fire escapes are. I mean, they’ve been so ingrained with most movies, TV shows or Broadway shows set in New York City. It was nice to take a moment to really look at them.

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LITTLE ITALY

Another area I was interested to see was Little Italy. I’d been to North Beach, San Francisco’s Little Italy many years ago. But, I’d heard so much about Little Italy in New York City from movies and TV that I just had to see it for myself.

Photo of Little Italy in New York City, which was a stop on our New York City Sightseeing tour #nycsightseeing #littleitaly #nyc #littleitalynyc #newyorkcitytour
There were a few Little Italy signs around to highlight this neighborhood. Photo credit: Darren Cheung

Being hobby genealogist, I had to take a moment to think about the people who lived here when it was truly bustling. I imagined people speaking Italian as they shopped for groceries, kids playing in the streets and the smell of food in the air.

While times have changed a bit for Little Italy, the smell of delicious food still fills the entire neighborhood!

Photo of an Italian Restaurant in Little Italy in New York City that's been a NYC filming spot #littleitaly #italianrestaurant #newyorkcity #nyctour
This is a famous Italian restaurant in Little Italy that’s been used in many movies. Photo credit: Darren Cheung

While it was a bit too early for lunch and we just didn’t have enough time to sit down to eat, I’m glad we got to peak inside a few Italian restaurants. I may have geeked out a bit when we came across Mulberry Street Bar. It was the filming location for The Sopranos and many mob movies.

Trey told us that Little Italy used to be huge, but now only takes up 3 city blocks. It’s quickly being absorbed by Chinatown. And there’s no transition between Little Italy and Chinatown. It’s literally cannolis on one corner and roast duck on another.

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CHINATOWN

Being Chinese and visiting Chinatowns all over the world, my husband was pretty curious about seeing New York City’s Chinatown. His dad actually lived in NYC Chinatown briefly in college. As we cross the street from Little Italy, it felt like we had traveled across the globe.

Photo of Chinatown in New York City as part of a New York City Sightseeing tour #chinatown #nyc #nycchinatown #newyorkcity #nyctour
I loved walking the streets of Chinatown and just wished we had time to stop and explore. Photo credit: Darren Cheung

As we walked around, it reminded me of the first time I went to Hong Kong. The side streets were winding and it almost felt like a movie set. That’s no surprise, as many movies and TV shows have been filmed there. But, you could just feel the history pouring out of the buildings and streets.

My husband heard Cantonese as soon as we entered Chinatown, but as we got closer to the edge of this neighborhood, people started speaking Mandarin. It was an interesting observation to us.

Being from the West Coast, most of our Chinese restaurants are Cantonese. But, we’ve been hearing more and more Mandarin with new businesses.

Photo of a street in Chinatown in New York City as part of a Guided tour of New York City #nyc #chinatown #newyorktour #tourofchinatown
Chinatown in New York City is full of shops and restaurants. Photo credit: Darren Cheung

We could have spent a few hours walking around Chinatown in New York City. Trey pointed out a foot massage place that sounded perfect for our aching feet. And I would have liked to stop in at a few of the Chinese bakeries to sample their treats.

But, the point of this tour is to keep moving and see as much as we can, so we soldiered on!

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WALL STREET

I didn’t know much about Wall Street, except from TV shows. I envisioned really tall buildings with people in business suits walking around quickly talking on their cell phones. That wasn’t exactly the case. I mean, who talks on their phone anymore?

Actually Wall Street is filled with some of the most beautiful architecture. And there’s a bit of artwork, which is nice. But, contrary to belief, the famous statue of the bull is not located on Wall Street. It’s a few blocks away and no, we didn’t see it.

Photo of the New York City Stock Exchange in NYC #nyse #nyc #newyorkstockexchange #nycattraction
Yes, the New York Stock Exchange is now on Pinterest! Photo credit: Darren Cheung

The first stop was the New York Stock Exchange. Trey probably said some really important stuff about it, but I couldn’t get over that hanging from this incredibly ornate building was a massive banner asking people to follow them on Pinterest!

I had just been to the Women in Travel Summit where I was in a session about how to use Pinterest strategically. As a family travel blogger, I spend many hours on Pinterest researching my trips and getting my content out there.

So, I thought it was funny that even the NYSE realizes the power of Pinterest!

My husband is a HUGE Hamilton fan and he was pretty giddy seeing Trinity Church, where Hamilton is buried. Thankfully, we had just seen Hamilton when it came to Seattle or I wouldn’t have realized just how much American government started in New York City.

Photo of the Federal Building in New York City, famous stomping grounds for Alexander Hamilton #nyc #newyorkcity #federalbuilding #hamilton
Hamilton fans will geek out over seeing the Federal Building. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

The Federal Building was another top thing to see in New York City. We stood at the bottom of the stairs while Trey talked to us about the history of Wall Street.

Apparently there used to be a real wall there, hence the name Wall Street. But, I couldn’t stop looking up at the Federal Building. To see the statue of George Washington in front of such an important place in American history was truly awe-inspiring.

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WORLD TRADE CENTER SITE

In a completely different way, the World Trade Center site also was a powerful place to visit. In all frankness, I wasn’t sure I wanted to visit. I’m not someone that likes to visit memorials or hear about atrocities. You won’t find me touring these places on vacation.

Photo of the memorial fountain a the 9/11 Memorial at the base of the Twin Towers in New York City #worldtradecenter #september11th #sept11th #nyc
This is one of two memorial fountains at the 9/11 Memorial. Photo credit: Darren Cheung

So, I was a bit torn about stopping at the World Trade Center site. We stopped briefly at one of the memorial areas. They have created massive fountains that take up the footprint of each tower. Along the fountain are the names of the people who died in the 9/11 attacks.

Trey told us that the names aren’t alphabetical, but grouped so that co-workers are listed with the people that sat next to and worked with on a day to day basis.

And white flowers are placed by their names on their birthdays. I thought both of those were really thoughtful touches.

Photo of the Freedom Tower at the 9/11 Memorial Site near the World Trade Center in New York City #freedomtower #worldtradecenter #sept11 #nyc #newyorkcityattraction
This is the new Freedom Tower in New York City. Photo credit: Darren Cheung

If you look up from the World Trade Center site, you’ll see One World Trade Center aka Freedom Tower. It’s the tallest building in New York City for symbolic reasons.

You can buy tickets and go to the observation deck at the top. We didn’t have time to go up during this trip, but I know my husband really wants to do that in a future trip to NYC.

THE OCULUS

We walked up to a huge white building and Trey asked us if we knew what it was. No one had any idea. It turns out it’s a train station that also has high end shopping inside. It’s fairly new and it’s a very bright place. But, don’t be fooled, it’s not as awesome as it sounds.

Photo of the Oculus near Ground Zero in New York City, which is a top photo spot in NYC #oculus #nyc #groundzero #fultonstation
The Oculus is a new train station/mall near the World Trade Center. Photo credit: Darren Cheung

For the most humorous part of the tour, Trey points out many reasons why New Yorkers HATE the Oculus. He talks about how people stand at the top of the stairs to take photos (like I am above), which blocks the flow of traffic (yikes, sorry!)

Then he shows us places where the building is still unfinished. He goes on to show us places where the marble is already stained due to spilled drinks and how the marble is so slippery with wet shoes that they had to scuff it all up for safety.

The real kicker is when he shows us how the old part of the station (from the 1970s) has ramps, but the new part only has stairs. There’s a spot where the ramp ends and it’s just stairs.

As a Mom who travels with a stroller, I can imagine how frustrating that would be. It’s so strange that no one realized (or has remedied) this major oversight.

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GREENWICH VILLAGE

We took to subway to Greenwich Village for lunch. Trey took us to a spot where we could get pizza, sandwiches, bagels, bakery items, and more. My husband and I decided to grab a slice of pizza and go sit in the park.

We looked around and it was really cool to see people from all walks of life also eating their lunch at this park. We still had a bit of time before we needed to meet up with the group, so we grabbed sorbet from Grub. It was super tasty and just the sugar boost we needed to keep walking!

Photo of the Greenwich Village fountain and Washington Park Arch in New York City, which is a top instagrammable pot in NYC #greenwichvillage #washingtonparkarch#nyc #nycphoto
Washington Park Arch is probably the most recognizable spot in Greenwich Village. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

When I was younger, I really wanted to go to NYU. I remember stalking their website and seeing the Washington Park Arch. It looked like such a cool place to go to college.

But, Sept. 11th happened during my junior year of high school and NYC didn’t seem in the cards anymore. However, I was thrilled to get to walk through this park and see people taking their graduation photos!

We also walked passed the building that was featured as the apartment in Friends. I only had time to snap a pic on my phone to send to my friend, who is a huge Friends fan!

But, I think my favorite part of our tour of Greenwich Village was seeing this sign on Commerce Street:

Photo of a plaque in Greenwich Village New York City #greenwichvillage #nyc #nyctour #tourofnyc
This sign is funniest when you get the context. Photo credit: Darren Cheung

See, this building is situated between Aaron Burr’s house (you know, the guy who shot Hamilton) and a famous writer. This entire street is filled with historic homes. Most of them have plaques out front stating who lived there and why it’s significant.

Trey told us that the owner of this home got fed up with people stopping to take photos of everyone’s house on his street that he put up this sign. Who knows if that’s actually true, but apparently similar signs have been spotted all over NYC. We love little details like this!

CENTRAL PARK

This NYC in a Day tour ended in Central Park. At that point, I believe it was around 4pm, so ending at Central Park was pretty brilliant. People could spend as much time as they’d like exploring the park on their own time.

Photo of the John Lennon Memorial at Central Park in New York City near the Strawberry Fields garden #johnlennon #johnlennonmemorial #centralpark #nyc #strawberryfields
This is the John Lennon Memorial near an entrance to Central Park. Photo credit: Darren Cheung

We walked right past the doorway where John Lennon died before heading into the park. The first thing we saw was a memorial for John Lennon in the Strawberry Fields section of the park. It’s supposed to be a quiet area for reflection, but someone was singing loudly and playing the guitar.

With all the people gathered around to see this, I wouldn’t imagine it being a very quiet spot most of the day.

Photo of the fountain at Central Park in New York City, as part of a Real New York City tour #nyctour #centralpark #centralparkfountain #newyorkcity
This is one of the most filmed areas of Central Park. Photo credit: Darren Cheung

One of my favorite scenes from a Disney movie is when Amy Adams is dancing around this fountain signing “That’s How You Know” in Disney’s Enchanted. Part of the scene is Patrick Dempsey wondering how everyone suddenly knows the lyrics to this song as they join in.

My husband and I quote this all the time, so we both thought it was pretty cool to see this Central Park photo spot.

Photo of a man breakdancing in Central Park in New York City #breakdancing #centralpark #nyc #newyorkcitytour #tourofcentralpark
Central Park was vibrant with music, dancing, and art. Photo credit: Darren Cheung

Something else that was cool was seeing people just enjoying the park. We saw people break dancing, playing music, painting, strolling on a romantic walk, pushing strollers, etc. It’s a “working” park and people use it like they would any park in the U.S.

The tour ended as we exited Central Park. We later looked at a map to see how much of the park we covered and realized we basically just walked across a tiny section of the park. And we walked quite a bit, so it just goes to show how incredibly huge Central Park is!

At the very end of the tour, Trey asked each of us where we were headed. Then, he gave personalized directions to make sure everyone knew where they were going. He gave us a few tips about where to eat, which was helpful.

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REVIEW OF NYC IN A DAY TOUR

Ok, so at the end of our NYC in a Day tour, I was left with these final thoughts:

  • Perfect for adults: We specifically picked this tour because it’s ambitious. However, if we were coming with our little kids, we probably wouldn’t pick it. It would be cumbersome to do with a stroller and there aren’t a lot of bathroom breaks. But, if you have a baby, it would be easy to do with a baby carrier and a backpack.
  • Do it at the beginning of your trip: It would be perfect for someone’s first day in NYC because you learn the subway system and get a feel for Manhattan.
  • Wear comfortable shoes: We walked close to 10 miles during the tour. We only sat for lunch and on the subway (when we could get a seat.)
  • It’s fast-paced: This tour moves very quickly and there’s not much time to take photos or really look around. So, if you are hoping to have time to leisurely explore, this isn’t the tour for you. But, if you want to get an overview of Manhattan and see as much as possible, this is the right tour!
  • Great tour length: For a New York City sightseeing tour, 6.5 hours is enough to see a lot of the city without being exhausted. I appreciated that this tour ended at 4:30pm, because we still had time to explore the city on our own. And we had plenty of time to eat something, head back to our hotel to rest, and then go to a Broadway show.

Real New York Tours provided me media passes to review this NYC in a Day tour. All opinions are my own.

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See why Real New York Tours is one of the top New York City sightseeing tours #nyc #newyorkcity #nyctour #newyorkcitytourVisit Times Square, Greenwich Village, Wall Street, Little Italy, Chinatown, Central Park and Soho on thiss NYC in a Day tour by Real New York Tours #timessquare #soho #greenwichvillage #littleitaly #chinatown #wallstreet #nyctour #realnewyorktoursSee Manhattan's top sights on Real New York Tours' NYC in a Day sightseeing tour of New York City #nycinaday #tourofnyc #tourofnewyorkcity #nycattractions #nycsightseeingtourChoosing the right New York City walking tour can be hard. See my thorough review of the NYC in a Day guided tour of New York City through Real New York Tours #nycwalkingtour #nycguidedtour #nycsightseeing #thingstodoinnyc #thingstoseeinnyc

Author

Marcie writes the family travel blog Marcie in Mommyland. When she's not traveling the world, she's home in Seattle with her husband and two little boys.

28 Comments

  1. Wow, you covered a lot of ground! I love the idea of riding the subway with a local, lol. The last time I was in New York, I had to find my way back to Manhattan from Brooklyn via subway, and I was terrified. It worked out, but I was so nervous!

  2. I feel so lucky I only live an hour commuter train ride to NYC from Philadelphia – so I can even go for the day. I’m taking my niece & nephew to see Frozen on Broadway next week! The only place I haven’t been to multiple times on your list is the Oculus & it sounds like I’m not missing anything!

    • Haha! Yeah, you’re really not! BTW totally jealous about Frozen! My husband and I were tempted to go ourselves, but we’re crossing our fingers we can bring the kids in a year or two 🙂

  3. What a great post! I’m headed to NYC for the first time in the fall, so I’ll definitely pin this for later. I want to spend a whole day in Chinatown! I loved the one in San Francisco.

    • Oh, NYC in the fall will be gorgeous with the leaves changing! We love the one in SF, too! This one is less hilly!

    • It’s such a vibrant and incredible city! And we met a lot of really nice people, contrary to popular belief!

  4. I’ve been to NYC three times now and still have not made it to several of these locations. What a great way to experience the city!

  5. I haven’t been to New York since I was a teenager! This is making me want to go back asap. I bookmarked this post & will definitely reference to it if we decide to make it out there. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  6. I’m a born and raised Jersey girl, but I LOVE NyC. And like you, I always think about that song from Enchanted whenever I’m in Central Park. That was such a great movie

  7. I wish I had taken this tour the first time I visited NYC. I desperately needed an overview of the summary, ha. This is a great option for a lot of people though, thanks for sharing 🙂

  8. I haven’t been to NYC in about 20 years!!! I, like you, wouldn’t be sure about visiting the site of the World trade centre, but I think the way they have ‘developed’ it and remembering those who died, is a really beautiful way to deal with tragedy.

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