The Usual Suspects
New York City history isn't all about Ellis Island and immigration. New York City history is not all about the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty or even the horror of 9-11. The culture and history of New York City too is defined by more than the Broadway Theater or the experience of a horse drawn carriage ride through Central Park.
Some New York City tours promise that you can see all of New York City in a matter of hours. This means, of course, that you'll drive by and look out the window at Ellis Island and the Brooklyn Bridge. Your tour guide will point out the standard attractions such as the Central Park Zoo, the Hudson and East Rivers, Herald Square, the Trump Tower and the Chrysler Building. If you're lucky, your New York City tour will also be able to show you SOHO and Tribeca, let you catch a glimpse of Greenwich Village, the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, and the New York Public Library.
Some NYC tours, your tour guide will stop at a number of landmarks as well. You'll be able to make a quick visit to Federal Hall, the World Trade Center site, Times Square, Rockefeller Center, Strawberry Fields at Central Park, and St. Patrick's Cathedral. These somewhat dry yet standard tours -as well as the tour guides who lead them- will provide you with a general sense of the city.
Nevermind The Mainstream
There are, however, people who are looking for more than what these ordinary New York City tours have to offer. These people are looking for more and often hope to be immersed in the culture of the city. They know that visiting museums and art galleries will give them a chance to soak in the ways in which NYC history continues to allow the arts to thrive. They know that visiting the five boroughs will give them a chance to see how different people within the city have come to live, divided along cultural lines, and welcoming the diversity of those who live in New York City.
This diversity and culture, they realize, is evident in the structure of the buildings - cathedrals reminiscent of those the Irish immigrants knew before leaving Ireland. New York City history and culture, they know is reflected in the city's neighborhoods, as well as in the wide variety of dining options that the city has to offer.
It's because of this that those visiting New York City are able to dine on everything from authentic pizza to fine Italian, Greek, or Pakistani cuisine. It's why Chinatown is home to restaurants that offer both traditional and innovative dishes, and why -as more and more Asian people become Asian Americans- Thai, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese fusion restaurants have opened.
New York Culture = New York History
The culture of New York City is to a large extent of product of its history, something that more and more tourists are recognizing cannot be experienced on the standard New York City walking tour. The culture and history of the city cannot merely be conveyed through the descriptions of a New York City tour guide. New York City history and culture is something that you must experience.
Rather than embarking on one of many traditional New York City tours, why not look for ways of understanding what the city is as well as what it has been in the past? Rather than listening to a tour guide tell you what it's like to visit Times Square at night, why not visit for yourself? Walk along the curves of the road. Really take a close look at the shape of a building and study its architecture.
So the next time you visit New York City, you'll find that there just may be too much to take in your typical walking tour. Despite what they will tell you during average NYC tours, you cannot capture the culture and history of the city in a tour that takes a couple of hours or an afternoon: you must immerse yourself in the Big Apple to see, hear, taste and feel all that it has to offer.