Clusters of tourism sites in Manhattan

Manhattan is 13 miles or 21 km long and around 2 miles/3km across. Places are clustered, sort of.


MIDTOWN includes the Public Library main branch, Grand Central, Empire State Building, Macy’s, Bryant Park, Times Square, Rockefeller Center and St. Patrick’s.


CENTRAL PARK is north of Midtown.


THE FINANCIAL DISTRICT is close to the Statue Of Liberty and Staten Island ferries, National September 11 Memorial, Wall Street, South Street Seaport, the Brooklyn Bridge, and it’s fairly close to Chinatown.


My company does walking tours that may go through up to 3 districts in a tour:


SoHo, Little Italy and Chinatown.


Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn Heights, and DUMBO.


Brooklyn Heights, ferry boat to Wall Street, and African Burial Ground.


Grand Central, Saint Patrick’s, Rockefeller Center, and Times Square.


Brooklyn Heights, ferry to Manhattan, Murray Hill, and end at customer’s choice of Grand Central or Empire State Building.

IT’S SAINT PATRICK’S DAY!!

IT’S SAINT PATRICK’S DAY!
Parade tips:

I’ve walked the parade 20 times, and have been caught in crowds in other years.

There will be tremendous, tremendous numbers of people on 5th Avenue sidewalks in Midtown, as you can see from my 2018 photo. You can bypass all that by going up to the expensive apartments and mansions of upper 5th Avenue.

The best place, in my opinion, to view the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade is on 5th Avenue North of 59th street.  That’s across 5th from Central Park. Don’t stand in the park. There’s a wall and you might not be able to see over it.The parade will march northward from 44th street up to 79th. You might get a good spot right at the railing.

This photo was taken at the corner of 51st and 5th looking South. Saint Patrick’s would have been to the rear left. The building in foreground is the British Empire Building of Rockefeller Center. If you need to get down to 48th street and don’t want to walk sideways very slowly, go west – right – on 51st to Rockefeller Plaza. Walk through it to 48th or whatever, then wade back to 5th.

It’s virtually impossible to cross 5th Avenue except at the wider, 2 way traffic streets like 72nd and 57th.

PARADE HACK: if alone, you may be able to inveigle yourself into marching the whole way by buying a big (at least 6′ x 4′) tricolor flag on a flagpole, then walking amongst the AOH groups from 44th to 48th streets before 10 AM. Ask them, while displaying your flag, if they happen to need a flagman/woman in their group. You must commit to walking the entire route of nearly two miles. This hack worked for me 15 years in a row.

Trust me, I’m not only an O’Connor: I was related to Cardinal O’Connor.

Favorite Rooftop Bars

The Knickerbocker Hotel rooftop (actually a setback) bar has a great Times Square view. 100 years ago the bartender’s name was Martini. Not gonna tell you what he invented.

For a quieter vibe, you might try the Library Hotel at 41st and Mad. Not great views, but it’s quiet and sunny.

1 Hotel in Brooklyn near Pier A has a FANTASTIC harbor view. Very impressive.

Great harbor views from 1 Hotel Brooklyn

However, when I last went up in 2020, it had been ‘discovered’ by the DUMBO set, who seemed to require very loud music. I hope that’s changed.

Personal Favorite: 50 Bowery. Music isn’t too loud. Largely young office-worker non-Asian people, though it’s in the heart of Chinatown. I like taking my Chinatown tour customers up, post-tour.

Friday at 6


Nearly a 360° view. That means perfect views of the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, as well as Midtown, the Financial District and both rivers. Great views of Canal Street (which is more interesting than you’d think). You can see DUMBO, much of the Lower East Side and Little Italy.

Get the RIGHT train, not the CLOSEST train

The other day a tourist who hadn’t hired a guide asked me a question that could have taken them miles out of their way: “Where’s the nearest subway?”

Brooklyn measures around 13 miles north-south by 13 miles east-west. That’s 169 square miles. And that’s just Brooklyn! Imagine if I had told them where the NEAREST subway was, without knowing what the RIGHT subway is!

The gem by the Statue of Liberty

Around 7000 to 8000 people visit Battery Park at the South end of Manhattan every day, to visit the Statue Of Liberty. Only very few come to Bowling Green, just across Broadway. It’s our city’s oldest park, here since 1738.

Back in 1770 city officials decided to erect an iron fence, painted gold, around Bowling Green. And to commission and install a 2-ton statue of the the king of England at the time, George III. That statue lasted only 6 years.

The Declaration Of Independence, the document by which Americans date the beginning of our nation, was signed on July 4, 1776.

Here’s my photo of an earlier version that was voted down on July 2, because it guaranteed freedom to enslaved people. If only.

The July 4 version was brought here by horse courier over five days and nights. It was read aloud at City Hall up on Wall Street. Then a troop of Army men went down to Bowling Green and destroyed the king’s statue. Its takedown was for 2 reasons:

One, the Sons of Liberty hated the king.

Two, the statue was made of lead. Bullets are made of lead, too. That lead was later melted down into 40,088 musketballs for the Revolution.

The British Tour, from Isle Of New York Tours, stops at Bowling Green so that guests can have a moment to actually touch history. Look at this!

Here’s a similar iron fence of the same era as Bowling Green’s. It’s at the Palace of Versailles! I photographed it realizing that the Bowling Green fence must have looked very similar in 1770–1776. The thicker fenceposts are topped with royal crowns. All of this has been gilded, painted gold.

Bowling Green fence was also originally gilded. And it was originally topped with crowns of lead. See how the iron legs holding up the oil lamp are bowed outwards? That was to allow room for the crown that was once there.

On the night of July 9, 1776, all the lead crowns were cut down as well, to add into the musketball supply. Lead is a soft metal, so the revolutionaries were able to saw the crowns off, all 100 of them.

Why should YOU visit Bowling Green? For one thing, it has plenty of seats after you’ve spent 4 hours standing in the ferry, standing at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island and standing in the boat again. You need to rest.

For another, you are TOTALLY surrounded with American history. Buildings to the west were major ocean liner companies before jetliners replaced them. The building on the east was the oil company that supplied all those ocean liners. The building to the South is the old Customs House named for Alexander Hamilton, and the National Museum of the American Indian is inside.

The fenceposts surrounding the park are available for you to actually feel marks of the saws that worked to take off those crowns back on July 9, 1776!

NYC movie scenes in walking tours

Does this look familiar? Lyra Belaqua, played by Dakota Blue Richards, ran down this Manhattan block in the film The Golden Compass. The block of identical wooden houses is on my Washington Heights tour.

Same block in the movie!

This block is on my Brooklyn Bridge  & Brooklyn Heights tour. Why the studio decided to use the blue Brooklyn house as the Washington, DC home of Kay Graham, played by Meryl Streep as the former owner of The Washington Post in the film The Post, is beyond me.

Riffing off Mystery Science Theatre 3000, I call these posters ‘moviesign.’  Printed by the Mayor’s Office of Film and Television, they warn car owners to stay away on certain days so that movie or tv trucks can park there. It’s a great way to learn what movie or TV show is filmed where and when. This one was for the 4th season of the TV show Power, in 2017.  Watch my @tourguidestan Twitter for #moviesign mentions.

Movie directors love to use icons as backdrops.Washington Arch is a New York City icon. Consider every ‘famous city’ movie you’ve ever seen. Are some scenes within sight of a famous icon in that city? You bet.  Because moviegoers will remember their own experience in that spot. That’s a big selling point, so directors use the icons. Washington Square arch has been used for many films. Here is a link to a short YouTube video of mine. In 20 seconds it shows you the exact locations near the arch where scenes in four films were made: https://youtu.be/8BHhRgjVeeI

McSorley’s Old Ale House was used in an episode of The Marvelous Mrs Maisel. It’s one of my favorite bars in town, for many reasons, one being
MCSORLEY’S DOESN’T BLAST LOUD MUSIC.
I take customers here when we ‘do’ the East Village, and at the end of Mrs Maisel’s Marvelous Greenwich Village. https://youtu.be/zJQtj48uKT4

At the poet’s walk, or the literary walk, in Central Park, film Scenes have been shot here since at least 1979, when Meryl Streep stood by the statue of Robert Burns and Dustin Hoffman took up the opposite spot by Walter Scott. Kramer vs. Kramer.

But that’s only the earliest Literary Walk film scene I can think of. How about some more?

Enchanted

Autumn In New York

Home Alone II: Lost In New York

Icons, baby. It’s all about the icons! And New York holds sooo many icons that it’s the perfect city to shoot in. That’s why as many as 400 movies and TV shows are shot in New York annually. Take some of my tours and stand exactly where the stars stood. Go to http://www.isleofnewyorktours.com or write the email address in this video: https://youtu.be/SKTNhcJRjwQ

We Will Keep Teaching About 9/11

In 2001, September 11 was considered the great tragedy of the modern world. And so it remained right up until 2020.
The 9/11 story has to remain a part of our curriculum, although it pales in comparison to the hundreds of thousands of deaths in the US, and the millions worldwide, this year.


There’s a significant difference. The deaths of Covid destroyed families and ways of life, but not physical things.  September 11 destroyed the neighbourhood around the twin towers. It engendered the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. The upscaling of the US military. Years of anti-Iraq propaganda which led to general anti-Muslim hysteria and bigotry.

American kids assume that the hero worship and veneration of the military that they’ve grown up with are normal. They actually are outgrowths of the buildup of popular military support in the run-up to a war that went on for years.

Towns and cities nationwide have had generations of statues and memorials for military heroes. It was not until 2020 that the heroism of healthcare workers has been recognized and applauded to at least the same degree. It’s time they, as well, are venerated with statues.

Just a few blocks away from the National September 11 Memorial is Fraunces Tavern. It was there that General Washington held a farewell dinner after the Revolution as the military was disbanded. America therefore has gone from a nation that got rid of its military after war, to one that keeps a strong military.

Kids need to have this historical context to make sense of their lives up until this point. And to go forward, soon taking their places as adults in United States culture, and changing the culture by voting at each election.

So yes, New York City tourguides will keep bringing middle- and high-school students to the memorial, and giving them all this necessary background.