No matter where I travel in the world, people light up when I tell them I live here. “Ohhh New York,” they say. “I would love to go there. It’s my dream.”

With its iconic skyline, towering skyscrapers, crowded streets lined with ethnic cuisine, theater, parks, and the fact it’s the backdrop for like 50% of the movies out there, it is no wonder that it has always been one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.

I remember the moment I fell in love with the city. It was on New Years in 1999. As the new millennium ticked over, I sat outside with friends, looked up Broadway, and watched the ball drop in the distance. When it came time to slow my travels, I knew there was no other city to move to. When I’m in NYC, I still feel like I’m traveling: languages I don’t know are spoken all around me and I can get food from any country in the world. To me, NYC is the heart of the world.

When I’m not on the road, I’ve lived in New York City and have used my personal, insider view to write this guidebook. I know the city like the back of my hand. I’ll give you local, insider knowledge to help you get off-the-beaten path and into the little secret spots free of tourists.

I know a visit to NYC can be overwhelming. There’s just so much to see and do that it’s easy to and miss some of the little out-of-the-way places and sites that make NYC unique. This travel guide offers an inside look into hostels, restaurants, bars, neighborhoods, and attractions so that you can get the most bang for your buck while visiting.

Too many people think NYC is “too expensive” but actors, writers, and everyday people manage to live in the city without going bust. They do so because there are TONS of cheap things to do here. You just have to know where to find them – and, in this guide, I’ll point you in the right direction!

Duffy square in Time Square, New York City. Vintage tones.


New York City has many walking tour companies — from free tours to food tours to neighborhood tours to expensive private walking tours. This place has it all, and with so much history and culture and so many nationalities represented here, it’s not really that surprising. New York seems to have a walking tour for everyone’s needs.

I love walking tours. I think they’re a wonderful way to see a city, get your bearings, and learn about where you are from a local expert’s point of view. After all, why visit a place if you don’t want to learn about it?

Over the last month, I decided to learn about my new home and took tours with most of the big historical walking tour companies (food tours are for another post) in order to find the best. My feet still hurt, but I learned a lot about NYC history.

Here’s a review of them all:

Free Tours by Foot

These free tours are offered throughout the city by volunteer guides, with multiple tours offered each day. You can find a wide range of tours (historical, food, cultural) that take you all over the city. The company really shines in its diverse catalog — there’s a neighborhood or tour type for everyone. Most of the guides are actors and other long-time locals. They add a bit of quirky history to each tour, and since there’s no set script, each tour differs based on your guide. (My SoHo tour guide waxed poetic on gentrification.) I’ve taken a number of their tours and wouldn’t hesitate to take more. You’re required to sign up for tours in advance, but unless it’s a major holiday, the tours are rarely full and you can just show up.

Context Travel

Group of people people on a Context Travel walking tour
One of my favorite walking tour companies, Context runs tours throughout the world, and I mention them on this website often. They offer a lot of tours in NYC, and I’ve taken three of them. Most recently, I took the Brooklyn walk, which taught me a lot about Brooklyn and the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge. I’m also a big fan of their lower Manhattan historical walk. If you want really intellectual and educational tours, this is the company to choose.

They aren’t the cheapest tour company in the city (tours run $70 per person), but luckily you can use the code “nomadicmatt” to get 10% off.