Blog · New York · Meet Our Tour Guides: Faces of New York

Meet Our Tour Guides: Faces of New York

June 11, 2024
NYC tour guide talking to guest

When you’re exploring on one of our popular NYC tours, who’s leading the way? It’s a local who knows this city better than your average New Yorker. It’s someone who wants to share with you its best landmarks, hidden gems, recommendations for where to grab a great meal, and the secrets of its 400-year history. We love our city!

But who’s actually leading your tour? We have dozens of top-rated guides at ExperienceFirst, so it depends on when you sign up and what tour you take, but we wanted to let you meet some of them personally. 

In this Q&A, a few of our NYC guides will share why they love guiding and what makes New York special to them.

And we have some insider travel tips from our local experts, so keep reading!

How did you become a tour guide with ExperienceFirst?

ExperienceFirst New York tour guide
New York tour guide, Laura

I had already been a licensed tour guide for a while and was looking for a company that had a passion for showing different parts of New York while still having enough flexibility to pursue my acting career. They have been great, and I met some of the nicest people at the company too. — Laura

I joined ExperienceFirst because of the opportunity to earn a living using my personality and talents to welcome people from all over the world to my city and give them a truly unique experience! — Anthony

As a self-described history buff, one of my favorite things to do when traveling is take tours and explore historical sites and landmarks. When a friend told me they had started work as a tour guide with ExperienceFirst, I knew I’d enjoy giving tours of New York City. — John

Can you share a memorable moment from one of your tours?

ExperienceFirst tour guide, Theo
New York tour guide, Theo

I think my favorite moment that happens again and again is when guests from around the world see the Statue of Liberty for the first time. Gasps, smiles, tears, whatever the reaction is, I always look forward to that moment. — John

An older guest was hanging back a bit with tears in his eyes. It’s not uncommon for people to cry on the Ground Zero tours, but this was unusual. Finally, his wife took me aside and said, “They pulled [my husband] from the wreckage that day.” He had been a New York City firefighter and had never been back until that tour day. With his permission, I introduced him to the group and then everybody had tears in their eyes. Me included. — Richard

Once my tour group and I met the owner of a pizzeria who offered us all a free slice while telling us the history of his joint. — Laura

My fondest memory is when I guided an 84-year-old great-grandmother, her daughter, her grandson, and her great-grandson. I was so pleased to be a part of their NY experience and to share in their family’s special celebration. — Jim

What advice would you give to someone considering an ExperienceFirst tour?

ExperienceFirst New York tour guide Solange
New York tour guide, Solange

Take the tour early in your trip! You will walk away with so many recommendations for things to do and see, places to shop, and delicious foods to eat. You will want the time to go back to the neighborhoods you’ve toured, and explore for yourself. — Angela

Each tour guide in this company has a unique perspective on the city and its attractions. You can expect to get your money’s worth with us! — Anthony

The great thing about ExperienceFirst tours is that the groups are always small, which means your tour guide is accessible! So ask questions, get recommendations, plan the rest of your stay, and have fun! — John

Beyond the typical tourist spots, can you share a hidden gem or lesser-known favorite place in New York?

Bronx eagle MLK Obama mural

Let me show you my favorite street art pieces in Bushwick on a Brooklyn, Bronx, and Queens tour! — Kevin

Castle Clinton is the bonus on my tour! The Statue and Ellis Island are the main focus, but I get tremendous satisfaction out of being able to explain the history behind Castle Clinton. It is a true bonus to the tour. — Anthony

I don’t know if every guide points out O’Hara’s, but it is pretty amazing — a bar with walls entirely covered in chest and sleeve patches from emergency responders from all over the world. — Richard

For guests staying in midtown Manhattan looking for a classy place to have a cocktail, I always recommend the Campbell Bar in Grand Central Terminal. — John

The Campbell Bar in NYC

It’s a big city. See Brooklyn, Staten Island, Governors Island. See an ethnic neighborhood. Eat their food. The crowds are usually smaller. — Marc

The 1933 Barry Faukner mosaic at the 6th Avenue entrance to the RCA building (1250 6th Ave.)

The JP Morgan Library on Madison Avenue and the New-York Historical Society on Central Park West are spectacular but not on most tourists’ radar. I would also include Bigelow Pharmacy in Greenwich Village which is the oldest continuously run pharmacy in the US. — Jim

In Greenwich Village, Henrietta Hudson’s is a queer ladies’ bar that I recommend to guests who specifically ask for this type of recommendation. The DJ is always awesome, the drinks are reasonably priced, the atmosphere is fun and welcoming, and it’s small enough that it has an authentically village vibe. — Angela

I love Tokyo Record Bar. No sign on the door. Less than 20 seats at a time. — Laura

What is your favorite part about being a tour guide?

If you ask most guides, they’ll tell you it’s meeting people. Our guides love people! That’s Solange’s favorite thing about being a tour guide (watch the video below), and Jim and Kevin said the same.

I really enjoy telling the fascinating stories of New York in the actual locations where they happened. — John

I enjoy sharing my love of NYC and meeting people from all over the world! — Jim

My favorite part of being a tour guide is that I get to meet people from around the world who share with me their impressions of NYC and invite me to visit their corner of the world in turn. — Kevin

My favorite part is combining everything I studied for my acting career with my never-ending love for this city by making the streets of New York my stage. — Laura

What sets ExperienceFirst tours apart from others?

Our staff is incredible. I have met some beautiful people in the last year that are talented and dedicated to making sure everyone has a memorable experience. — Anthony

We aren’t just following a script, rattling off the same facts you can find in any New York City guide book. We are locals who have lived in these neighborhoods, performed in these clubs, bartended at these bars, danced on these rooftops, and fallen in love in these parks. — Angela

Our customer service team is very responsive, and ensuring our guests’ expectations are met or exceeded is important to us. We restrict the number of guests each guide has on their tours to ensure everyone can participate actively. — Jim

What’s your go-to recommendation for a local dish or delicacy in the destinations you guide?

Katz Deli NYC

If I’m asked for a great recommendation, I always tell people about Katz Deli, a place that opened a few years after the Statue of Liberty arrived in 1888 and is still a staple in the Lower East Side. — Anthony

One of my all-time diner favorites is the fried kreplach at Sarge’s Deli on 3rd Avenue! — John

My No. 1 restaurant recommendation for a truly NYC experience is Katz’s Deli on Houston Street. My No. 2 is The White Horse Tavern on Hudson St in the West Village. — Jim

I’ve never seen this in another place in the world: search out an “egg-cream” … at places like Katz’s Deli. — Kevin 

O’Hara’s. — Richard

The Nonna Maria slice of pizza at Bleecker Street Pizza is every bit as good as the hype says it is. I’ve taken all of my visiting friends and family there for a slice. — Angela

Bagels for sure. It’s the thing I miss most when traveling. — Laura

How do you handle personalized requests or interests from guests during a tour?

ExperienceFirst New York tour guide Madelein
New York tour guide, Madelein

I usually start the day by letting guests know that if there’s something they’ve always wanted to see or do, that I will try to help them do it. If not during the tour, I can certainly help them plan it later on! — John

I tell my guests to ask me questions between stops, and this often encourages them to ask for recommendations. As a rule, I never like to give generic recommendations that I haven’t tested myself. If it’s something more specific that I don’t have a tried-and-true recommendation for, I tell them straight-up that I am going to ask an expert colleague and get back to them either by the end of the tour or by the time I send them an email later. — Angela

I make sure I have enough knowledge of every neighborhood to make the tour three times as long as it actually is. That way I can adjust which bits of information I share with each group based on their interests. — Laura

I always ask my group If there’s anything they need to make their afternoon more comfortable to please let me know. I always do my best to handle all of their requests no matter what it is. — Anthony

At the beginning of my tours, I ask my guests what’s important to them. If there is something special that they are interested in or want to know more about, then I do my best to incorporate these requests as part of my tour. — Jim

If you could have dinner with any historical figure from New York, who would it be and why?

Bayard Rudin. Look him up! — Kevin

Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi would be my choice. I would speak to him about his life and career as a sculptor, and all of the inspirations that led him to create the Statue of Liberty. — Anthony 

Frederick Law Olmstead. I would love to hear stories about the origins of Central Park and Prospect Park. — Jim

As a theater artist and theater-goer, I’d love to have a conversation with George M. Cohan and hear him talk about what Broadway was like during his lifetime. — John

Thomas Jefferson, the smartest man to live in the White House. — Marc

Jackie O, to ask her to borrow some clothes and take a walk around the reservoir with her. — Laura

FBI agent John O’Neill. — Richard

Eleanor Roosevelt has always been a personal hero of mine, even prior to leading my tour in Greenwich Village. I admire her strength after suffering so much trauma in her childhood as well as her commitment to redefining the role of First Lady to be an advocate for change. — Angela

How do your hobbies influence the way you approach guiding and connecting with tour participants?

ExperienceFirst NYC tour guide Jason
New York tour guide, Joseph

I have traveled extensively all over the world and to 46 of the 50 United States. It is rare for me not to have some connection to my guests that helps them to feel welcome. — Jim

I infuse all of my tours with comedy and storytelling techniques. I am also constantly updating my tours based on places I’ve visited or books I’ve read. — Angela

Being a writer, a performer and a fan of history, I think all influence my guiding style. It’s not just accuracy that makes a great tour guide but also clarity in storytelling. — John

Football and other sports are so popular, it’s often an ice-breaker as we connect with the tourists. — Marc

My acting training taught me how to project, memorize, and bring a lot of energy to what I want to convey. — Laura

Come meet us in NYC!

ExperienceFirst Succession tour

Our guides would love to meet you face-to-face in their favorite city. We can guarantee we’ll make your visit one you’ll remember for years to come.

We’ll wrap up this NYC guide Q&A with a quote from Angela as she shared with us about what makes guiding special to her.

“The moments I cherish the most when I’m guiding guests through my favorite neighborhoods are the moments I see people truly moved by what they are experiencing in my favorite city in the world. 

“When we turn a corner, and I hear gasps at the architecture of the Satin Exchange building on Broome Street, when I see people wipe away tears at the stories of the Stonewall Inn Riots of 1969 in Greenwich Village, when I turn around to find my entire group has stopped in their tracks to marvel and photograph the beauty of the Chinese lanterns on Mott Street.  

“The joy on their faces reminds me of why I fell in love with New York City in the first place, back when I was swept off my feet by the chaos of Times Square as a middle schooler on a field trip seeing my first Broadway show. 

“To watch other people make those kinds of brain-chemistry-altering memories that I believe NYC is uniquely designed to do is a delight for me and reminds me of what a privilege it is to live here.”