New Tour Company Offers the Greater New York City Experience
If you’ve been to New York City and you’ve only visited Manhattan, you’ve only experienced part of it.
A couple of New York City natives launched a new New York City tour company called BQE Tours targeting “anti-tourists,” who want to go beyond the tourist experience and dig into the marrow, where the people live.
BQE Tours, or the Brooklyn Queens Experience, is taking for its territory the greater part of Greater New York City that is ignored by nearly all the tours that are offered to tourists who visit New York.
BQE Tours claims to be the only tour operator offering exclusively tours of the boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn.
The millions of tourists who visit New York City every year are met with an array of tours of Manhattan, the only borough that technically goes by the name “New York, New York.”
But Manhattan is only one of five boroughs of Greater New York, and is home to fewer than one fifth of New Yorkers.
While it has most of the tourist attractions that visitors come from around the world to see, it is still only a small part of New York City. The New York experience is much more than just Manhattan.
When it comes to population, Manhattan (1.6 million people) is much smaller than Queens (2.3 million) and Brooklyn (2.6 million).
Brooklyn boasts that it is America’s fourth largest city, all by itself, not counting any of the other boroughs.
In land area, Manhattan is only 23 square miles, while Brooklyn is 71 square miles and Queens is 109 square miles.
As real estate prices have soared Manhattan has become an increasingly rarefied environment, affordable as a residence by only a shrinking number of affluent people. Manhattan is a showcase, but much of the life of the city goes on in Brooklyn and Queens.
“We decided to launch BQE Tours because although there are a lot of tour companies in the city, few explore Brooklyn and Queens,” said Elissa Garay, who owns the new company with her husband John. “And our feeling is that if you come to NYC and only visit Manhattan, you really don't know the city at all.
“Both being in the travel business, and avid travelers ourselves, we wanted to weave together what we love most about traveling into a unique experience that was less a point-and-talk sightseeing tour and more about interactive cultural immersion. For us, this means chatting with locals, tapping into the local arts scene, and tasting neighborhood treats, while also learning about the history and contemporary issues of a destination from a friendly guide with a unique insider's perspective.”
“Being New Yorkers, we’ve seen all the typical large-group tours, especially with my background in being a licensed sightseeing guide,” said John Garay. “We hate being lost in a crowd and shuffled around when we tour other cities, so for our own NYC outings, we set a maximum of 12 people per tour, and oftentimes have fewer than six participants. That way, guests get a really intimate experience, and a chance to share meaningful conversation with the locals they meet along the way.”
The tour operator launched with a series of four tours, two of the neighborhood known as DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge), and one each of Long Island City, Queens, and Williamsburg, Brooklyn, both areas that are just across the East River from Manhattan and have absorbed some of the population and culture that has overflowed from Manhattan.
The tours are:
- The DUMBO Tour: Art and Culture, Coffee and Wine
- The DUMBO Discovery Tour with Brooklyn Bridge Walk
- The Long Island City Tour: Queens Cool Uncovered (begins May 24)
- The Williamsburg Tour: The Hipster Safari (begins Aug. 14).
More by David Cogswell
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