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The Best NYC Tour

THE BOOK TOUR Frommer's Memorable Walks in New York

John Wiley & Sons, $12.99.

OVERVIEW A slim, pocket-sized volume that covers the basics of 11 New York neighborhoods and comes with well-designed maps, sidebars, and transportation tips.
HOW IT WORKS The Lower Manhattan/Financial District trek snakes a circuitous trail from Bowling Green to City Hall—beginning and ending near subway stops—and is the only tour I tested that brought me past St. Paul's Chapel to City Hall.
THE EXPERIENCE Although the entries are brief (the whole of Wall Street is allotted less than two pages), they provided just enough background to inspire me to explore on my own. Prompted by the book, I checked out the second-floor rotunda in the Beaux-Arts–style U.S. Customs House, and visited the museum of historic land grants and architectural drawings in the back of Trinity Church. Of all the tours, this one seemed most suited to a walking pace—gentle and contemplative.
BEST FOR Bookworms willing to dig a little deeper on their own.
ALSO AVAILABLE Editions for Chicago, San Francisco, London, Paris, and Rome.

THE GROUP TOUR Big Onion Walking Tours: The Financial District

212/439-1090; www.bigonion.com; $15 for a two-hour tour.

OVERVIEW The granddaddy of New York City walking-tour companies, with a rotating roster of nearly 30 history-based neighborhood tours; group size can range from one to a few dozen.
HOW IT WORKS Tours run at least three times a week, year-round, rain or shine; travelers just need to check the company's Web site and show up at the designated time and place. Most walks cover one to two miles. The rigorously trained guides, all of them grad students in history, employ a mix of erudition and wit and are comfortable improvising to suit a group's needs.
THE EXPERIENCE The day was cold and our group freakishly large (almost 60), but our plucky guide, Josh, was up to it. We cut a slow-moving triangle through downtown, pausing in sunny spots to hear Josh's detail-rich stories about shipping titans, robber barons, and revolutionaries. Because of the group's size, we skipped some stops, but I was so captivated that I didn't mind.
BEST FOR The curious, amiable stroller.
ALSO AVAILABLE One or two neighborhood tours are added each year.

THE SPECIALIZED TOUR Savory Sojourns: Financial District/Downtown

888/972-8679 or 212/ 691-7314; www.savorysojourns.com; $165 per person for a five-hour tour, including breakfast and lunch.

OVERVIEW High-end, food-centric neighborhood jaunts (Harlem, Greenwich Village, Arthur Avenue) led by Addie Tomei, a passionate native New Yorker (and mother of actress Marisa Tomei).
HOW IT WORKS Tours begin with breakfast and end with lunch, with time between given over to food, food, conversation, and food. Groups rarely top 10 people, and tours are less about historical investigations than enjoying a day on the town.
THE EXPERIENCE Like spending time with a favorite, fun-loving aunt. Tomei's connections got us into J. P. Morgan's former pied-à-terre on the 31st floor of 14 Wall Street for a peek around, even though it was closed that morning, and before our fireside lunch at India House (a private club since 1902) we poked around the rest of the stately building. We zigzagged to take in landmarks of note: the Woolworth Building, Century 21, and the excellent Financier Patisserie on Stone Street.
BEST FOR Bons vivants who enjoy a healthy dash of sightseeing.
ALSO AVAILABLE Twenty New York City tours; more are in development.

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