Traveling with Kids | New York City’s Big Apple Greeter Tours
A few months ago some friends were over for dinner and we were casually discussing their recent trip to New York City when they enthusiastically mentioned how much they especially loved their Big Apple Greeter Tour. I was enthralled as they described their 4 hour tour through NYC—especially Central Park—with a local volunteer that catered their tour to the fact that they were traveling with two small kids. And then they told me that it was free of charge. Yes, absolutely free of charge!
I don’t know if I’m the last person invited to the party but I had never in my life heard of Big Apple Greeters which is a free public service that helps tourists and visitors experience New York’s ethnically and culturally diverse neighborhoods through the eyes of locals who graciously donate their time to the cause. It was started in 1992 by Lynn Brooks as a way to build bridges between people and cultures and to motivate interested, but slightly intimidated, visitors to New York City. Here are some facts about the Big Apple Greeters:
-There are over 300 volunteer Big Apple Greeters. They aren’t professional tour guides but passionate New Yorkers who want to share their love of NYC.
17,000 visitors experience the Big Apple Greeter Tours each year and since the beginning of the initiative over 120,000 visitors from all over the States and 124 countries around the world have been welcomed and given tours in over 20 languages
-Visitors are taken on tours of 2-4 hours in 114 neighborhoods around the city
-Tours are free of charge thanks to the support from various donors
-Tours have a maximum of 6 people and at least one in the group has to be over 18 years of age
-Tours are by foot or using public transport, which, is a great way to familiarize yourself with how it all works!
-You must stay in accommodations for a minimum of 2 nights within the 5 boroughs of NYC
-97% of people who have participated in the Greeter program say that the experience made their NYC trip much more successful. You can read testimonials here.
To book a tour, all you have to do is fill out a visitor request form at least three weeks prior to your arrival in NYC. During busy holiday periods the greeter tours tend to fill up quickly, so it’s best to send in your form as early as possible. In the form you can include any specific areas you are interested in visiting as well as include information on the group you’re traveling with (kids, seniors, disabled). Read their Know Before You Go page here.
For me, the whole idea of tagging along with a local to see their favorite neighborhoods, museums, restaurants and shops seems like the perfect way to familiarize yourself with a city and have an authentic experience. And booking the tour at the beginning of a trip would be an ideal way to learn how to use and become comfortable with public transport and find out all the little insider tips and money/time savers that only the locals know about.
After scouring their site and reading all about the Big Apple Greeters I realized that this program inspired other cities and countries around the world to offer free Greeter Tours as well (I feel like finding out about this is like winning the Jackpot!). The Global Greeter Network can be found in cities in China, Belgium, Argentina, France, Australia and Togo to name a few and is expanding quickly (read full list of destinations here).
I even noticed that they just started greeter tours in Torino which is a city close to us and one I absolutely love. So it looks like a few nights in Torino are in order for the sake of “research” about the initiative. What I have to do for you readers! I’ll tell you all about it soon.