I have always loved exploring New York City on my own… and showing it off to family and friends from out of town. I had made it a goal years back to visit every neighborhood in the city, and I’ve made great progress. There is so much to see in NYC (every day!), even for locals.
Translating my passion for the city into a career eventually seemed like the logical next step in my life.
How did you make the transition to becoming a tour guide?
Once I knew I wanted to be a NYC tourist guide, I jumped right in. I took the city sightseeing guide exam (and passed!), then founded my own company, Custom NYC Tours. I knew that I wanted to be my own boss, and create my own tours. The goal of the company was to not only show people the highlights– Central Park, the Brooklyn Bridge, etc– but also to create custom tours tailor-designed to a customer’s passions. When people send me requests or ideas, I love translating that into a tour.
I also became a member of the Guides Association of NYC, where I serve as the Chair for their PR Committee. It is a pleasure to be a part of this community.
What does a typical day look like for you?
On an average day, I do one tour, often two. I start the day by responding to emails & queries from customers, and by posting my photos from around the city on my Instagram (I view my Instagram as a way of showing customers my passion for all aspects of the city). Then, after a subway ride from Brooklyn the most important… leading the tours!
I do different tours on different days, so every day is unique.
Have you got a certain style of guiding, or do you just run with it on the day?
All of my tours are walking tours, as I believe the best way to see New York is on foot, and up close. My style of guiding is very personal and conversational… I keep almost all of my tours limited to 10-12 people max for this reason. I’d rather give a great tour to a few people than an okay tour to a lot of people.
Too often, tours are static, overloading you with information, while covering very little ground. I prefer show versus tell. I will show you what you really want to see, give all the key facts and hidden secrets, and take questions as we go. This city is vibrant and alive… your tour should be as well!
(And, of course, since every group is different, a good guide must be prepared to adjust accordingly.)
I love meeting people from across America, and from around the world. Even when I do a regular tour, it feels different every time, because each customer(s) is bringing something different to the tour themselves… different questions & passions & perspectives.
And if I can leave them at the end of a tour with that passion for NYC that I have, then I have done my job.
What’s the most memorable experience you’ve had on a tour or trip?
I love when I do a tour for a New Yorker (yes, even locals take tours!), and they tell me that I showed them things about a place that they hadn’t know about or seen before. That’s an amazing feeling.
In terms of my own personal travels, my most memorable experience was visiting the nation of New Zealand, which is an amazing and gorgeous country. My fiance and family and I did a day-long hike/trip called the Tongariro Crossing… I will treasure that day forever, as exhausting as it was.
Travel is the best way to learn about the world.
Every job has its ups and downs. Are there any aspects of your job that you don’t like or aren’t that keen on?
Bad weather can always dampen a tour (pardon a pun). When you work outdoors, it comes with the territory. And you cannot control it. Weather-wise, I personally prefer chilly days to very hot ones… you can dress for the cold, at least!
But the tour must go on!
A good tour guide should have some basic qualities: Friendly and knowledgeable, with a good command of the layout of their route. But a good guide should also be able and willing to improvise, depending on different types of groups or weather or extenuating circumstances. A good guide should also keep up with local news and development, as the city you work in is always changing and updating (particularly true in NYC, where new buildings are rising up every day).
Make people feel at home in the place where you lead tours. That is also very important.
As an experienced guide yourself, can you explain what the benefits of hiring a guide are?
On paper, anyone can grab a map or guide-book, and hit the streets of a city themselves. But you will miss so much. You will see many wondrous things & places… but will you know the context of them? Their history and little stories that make it interesting? Now, maybe you can look that up online or in a book. But do you want to be stopping to read websites or books while you’re exploring?
Hiring a guide allows you the comfort of exploring the city without having to stop and look down. You can focus on seeing the city, and getting some great photographs, while your guide provides the information and context that you need. And then when you have questions about anything, that is what your guide is there for too!
It just takes the stress out of seeing a place.
Without giving away your secrets, tell us the types of things about your area/activity that only a guide would know.
Here is a fun Central Park fact that I always show at the start of a tour, that I’m happy to share: Every one of the gorgeous old lampposts in the park has a numeric code # on it. They can help you find your location in the park. The first two (three, on the very northern end) numbers tell you the nearest cross-street. The back two numbers tell you where you, relative easy to west (even numbers= east side; odd numbers= west side). So if you are lost, and the closest lamppost says 6712, you are near 67th St, closer to the east end of the park.
I have secrets and tidbits like this on all my tours!
And finally, have you got any tips for people who are interested in booking a guide like yourself, but aren’t too sure what to look for?
Just ask! Most tour guide websites have a contact page. Curious about a guide’s tour, or just general questions, to make sure you will get what you need from the tour? Send an email!
Personally, I try to keep my website as user-friendly as possible… I have my Contact page, all my tours listed, a FAQ, a calendar of set tour dates & availabilities, etc.
Thank you for reading!