Get the Most Likes on Social Media with Sights by Sam Tours

With a city as large and diverse as New York, residents and guests love to share their home with those outside of the five boroughs. In this age of social media posting, this has never seemed easier. Picture-aggregation site Instagram has consistently rated the city as the most pictured place by its users. Other media services also record high numbers of New York attractions appearing in its collections. With so many places to see, Sights by Sam is the perfect way to snap that selfie or get that perfect photo of New York. Among some of the sites Sights by Sam can show:

Times Square can be seen on a tour of “Midtown Manhattan”, by day or by night. In addition to seeing the bright lights and the waves of people and traffic flowing through the bowtie-shaped intersection, guests will also be able to take their pictures with WWI hero Father Francis Duffy or with Broadway composer virtuoso George Cohan. Guests will also learn why this intersection is called “Times Square” and be able to understand the rise, fall, and new rise of this storied junction.

For those who like nature in the city, Central Park is often a great spot to snap and share photos. Sights by Sam’s “Central Park” tour shows off the emerald jewel of Manhattan in all its glory. Guests will learn about the purpose behind the formation of the park, its decline, and its great resurgence that continues to this day. In addition to learning about the park’s history (and the plants and critters that make the park their home), guests can also get pictures on the Oak Bridge, Bethesda Terrace/Angel of the Waters, and the Mall, among other iconic spots. For something different, visitors on Sights by Sam can even snap pics with a castle in the middle of Manhattan or with some of the most pampered trees in the city.

On Sights by Sam’s “Architecture: Building New York” tour, guests will learn about New York architecture, including some of Midtown’s highest peaks, and learn a bit of environmental and industrial history along the way.. Perhaps the biggest star of the tour is the ground the group actually walks upon—the High Line linear park, a repurposed train viaduct through the Far West Side and the Meatpacking District. This park has quickly become the new star attraction in Manhattan, connecting the new Hudson Yards area with the Whitney Museum of American Art. There is no perfect spot for selfies and pics; indeed, the entire tour is perfect for them.

In addition to all of these main sites, Sights by Sam provides a plethora of great places to photograph such as the Unisphere in Queens, Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn, or the birthplace of hip hop in the Bronx (along with the NYC version of the Champs Elysees). Find your perfect spot with a Sights by Sam walking tour.

Subway Shuttles of New York City

New York, like London and Hong Kong, has subway shuttle lines.  These lines, unlike the others in the system, shuttle between only two (or sometimes up to five) points on the system.  While many of the regular numbered and letter trains of the NYC subway system function as shuttle trains after hours, there are three dedicated shuttle services on the system: one in Brooklyn, one in Queens, and one in Manhattan.  The three services also correspond with the former subway companies that serviced the city: the BMT, IND, and IRT.

The Brooklyn service is the Franklin Avenue Shuttle.  This line links about two miles between Prospect Park and Franklin Avenue.  The train links BMT, IND, and IRT services together between four stops and provides a great way to get to Prospect Park and Bedford-Stuyvesant.  Once part of a late 1800s railroad, this shuttle was truncated in 1963.  Known for most of its history for its low ridership and accidents from time to time, the Franklin Avenue Shuttle was rebuilt extensively and is unique as it is the only line on the system that is single-tracked.  The service also uses two-car trains due to its diminutive ridership levels.

The Queens shuttle is important, linking a stop on Broad Channel to Rockaway Park, a distance of two whole miles being covered with only five stops.  This shuttle has been in operation since 1956 and connects some of the farthest-flung communities in the city to the rest of the system.  While the shuttle could be impacted by hurricanes (as happened during Hurricane Sandy), the Metropolitan Transportation Authority worked hard to bring the line back up to code and operational again.

In terms of the shortest shuttle ride—and the most famous—there is the 42nd Street Shuttle.  This line operates at all times, excluding late nights, and covers 2700 feet in less than two minutes.  Originally part of the IRT subway line, the 42nd Street Shuttle was configured in 1918 and has kept its form since then. The shuttle’s line was part of the original IRT line that ran between City Hall and Lower Manhattan to 145th Street in Upper Manhattan via Grand Central and Times Square on 42nd Street (where the shuttle currently operates).  One of the more interesting proposals for the line that never came to pass was the idea to replace it with a conveyor belt system.  A fully automatic train was put into use on the shuttle for a brief time in the 1960s, but was withdrawn due to cost issues and a fire in the shuttle passage.  The shuttle today is known for its train interiors wrapped in advertisements, as it is one of the busiest in the system.

The shuttles on the NYC Subway are some of the more unsung heroes of the system.  Although they are not the subject of famous songs (such as Take the A Train), these lines help to alleviate pressure on the others of the network and to get people between lines more expediently.  The rides on these trains are also unique among the various subways of New York for their scenery and riders.  Catch the best tours of NYC (transit-focused upon request) with Sights by Sam.


Near the borders of New York City lies one of its fastest-growing neighborhoods.  Flushing, long a famous but sleepy area of Queensboro, has now become one of the most famous and popular parts of the city.  With the district becoming the largest of New York’s three Chinatowns, it is rising up as the center of Chinese life in town. In addition to its new cultural status, Flushing also has a storied history.

Founded in 1654 by the Dutch, the town was named after the town of Vlissingen in the Netherlands.  In 1657, Quaker settlers were prohibited from practicing their religion by the Dutch Governor of New Amsterdam, Peter Stuyvesant.  This action led to protests from the residents of the hamlet, petitioning the Dutch for the free practice of all religions.  The petition would later be called the Flushing Remonstrance (and serve as an inspiration to the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution).  The Quakers still meet at the Old Flushing Meeting House, the oldest continuously-used religious site in New York City.  After the English conquered the area in 1664, the name Vlissingen (like many areas of the city such as Harlem, Greenwich, and Gramercy) was anglicized to Flushing.  The town would be incorporated into Queens County, and after heavy settlement began in the late 1800s, the population boomed in the early 1900s when the IRT 7 line was completed.

Starting in the 1970s, Chinese immigrants from Taiwan and later Mainland China started to settle in the district, which was previously populated by Italians, Germans, and Jews.  These Chinese immigrants did not have much in common with the Hong Kong and Cantonese immigrants who had settled for over one hundred years in Manhattan Chinatown.  As people from all over China came to emigrate to Flushing, a Korean community developed as well, leading to a sizable Koreatown forming in the district.  In addition to having many great restaurants and shops with Asian goods, Flushing also has a beautiful library building that is the unofficial center of the community (and one of the busiest within the city).

Sights by Sam is happy to provide a tour of Flushing in conjunction with the nearby Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.  This is the type of information you will learn on a Sights by Sam tour.

Public Art

In addition to having some of the greatest museums in the country and the world, New York is blessed with an abundance of public art. Many artists are drawn to the city (and arts are funded by both private donors as well as the local government). This leads to many great public art displays (sanctioned by the government, companies, property owners, and some unsanctioned displays). Public art can be seen in all five boroughs.

The city has been the site of several large public art installations. These have proliferated since the early 1980s when the city passed a “Percent for Art” law in 1982 that mandated that city-funded construction projects must have a set-aside of one percent of the budget for public artwork. This is also supplemented by a similar program by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA Arts and Design). What this means is that there are many art installations and pieces in front of city-owned buildings and in subway stations. Over the years, several have been controversial, such as a sculpture in the Civic Center called Tilted Arc, which was a 120’ long block of cor-tenn steel across a plaza, which was removed after a court trial. One of the most famous pieces was done in 2005 by artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude in Central Park called The Gates, which contained 7,503 orange gates spread throughout the park.

Much of New York’s public art not found in front of city-owned buildings or sponsored by companies can be traced to the work of the city’s Public Art Fund. Founded in 1977 by Doris C. Freedman, the Public Art Fund is a nonprofit organization that seeks to bring public art to spaces across all five boroughs. The goal of the organization is to bring contemporary art to the population of the city. A popular space for the public art fund to exhibit its works are at the entrance to Central Park at Grand Army Plaza in Manhattan and at Brooklyn Bridge Park near the eponymous bridge. Some of the most famous/most talked about pieces include New York City Waterfalls in 2006 and the 2017-2018 Good Fences Make Good Neighbors sculptures by Ai Weiwei.

As New York is full of art, visitors are able to see art on any Sights by Sam tour. Reserve your place on one of the exciting Sights by Sam walking tour by calling +1 (917) 242-8421, or through today.

LaGuardia Airport

Visitors to New York come into the city in several different ways. For visitors coming from Denver and cities east of the Rockies, many will arrive at LaGuardia Airport. While many believe that the airport does not provide the best introduction to the city (some people say, “the only good thing about it is whom it is named for”), LaGuardia Airport has a storied history and is looking toward a better tomorrow.

In 1929, an amusement park in Queens on the water in Elmhurst was demolished to build a general aviation airfield. This airfield would later be pressed into commercial service in the 1930s when Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia of New York was returning from a meeting by airplane. His flight landed at EWR airport in Newark, NJ. LaGuardia was upset that his ticket had said “New York”, but the aircraft landed over 15 miles away in another state. LaGuardia had the pilots land their aircraft (after the other passengers had disembarked) at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, where he held a press conference exhorting the need for an airport in the city. It would not be long before the small general aviation field would be expanded and named after Mayor LaGuardia (against his wishes). LaGuardia Airport was sited on the Long Island Sound, as many flying boats flew internationally in those days (the Marine Terminal at LaGuardia is testament to this). Over time, LaGuardia grew too busy to handle the traffic and the city began quietly buying up land (and the Idlewild Country Club) in Jamaica, Queens to build a second, larger commercial airport (now the well-know JFK International Airport).

Today, nearly 30 million passengers fly into the airport. The cramped four terminals are often the subject of complaints by angry travelers and civic boosters seeking a larger, more orderly, and spacious facility. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (owners and operators of LaGuardia Airport since 1947) has planned a $4 to $5 billion construction effort to tear down three of the separate terminals and combine them into one continuous, modern facility. Additionally, the airport will be connected to the NYC subway’s 7 train via a people-mover system. Construction began in 2016 and is expected to conclude in the early 2020s. This is the type of information you will learn on a Sights by Sam walking tour. Alternatively, you can soar through Queens on a privately-led Sights by Sam tour of nearby Flushing Meadows-Corona Park or the Louis Armstrong House—to name but two great sites near the airport.

Queens Museum

Queens is the largest borough in terms of area and the second largest in population. The borough is one of the most diverse with regard to its inhabitants, and it contains such varied sites as wetlands, pro sports teams, and even beaches. One of the most interesting places in a borough of interesting places is the Queens Museum.

Housed in a building from the 1939 World’s Fair, the Queens Museum does a great job of explaining its past as the New York City pavilion in both the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs and as a temporary home of the United Nations from 1946 to 1950. This was the building where the U.N. deliberated about the formation of the State of Israel. Its site near the Unisphere of the 1964 Fair helps visitors find this unique institution. In addition to temporary exhibits relevant to residents of Queens, there are two main exhibits of note to visitors: the Panorama of New York City, which is an incredible exhibit showcasing the nearly 900,000 legal structures in the city (last updated in the early 1990s) and a map of the New York City watershed completed during the Great Depression for the 1939 Fair (but never displayed). Both the Panorama and map of the NYC watershed put the vastness of the city and the resources needed to keep it afloat into perspective. There is also an excellent collection of Tiffany lamps and memorabilia from the World’s Fairs.

In addition to the museum collection, there is also a small gift shop that has a great selection of goods about Queens and its history. The museum makes an excellent stop on an Outer Borough adventure. This is the type of information you will learn on a Sights by Sam walking tour and can be seen on a special request tour of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

Pizza in NYC

It is not surprising that since New York has people from all over the country and world, our food would match the uniqueness and variety of the city. The cuisine of the city consists of dishes and snacks like hot dogs, General Tso’s chicken, bagels, and coffee—among many others. Perhaps the quintessential New York dish is pizza. Owing to its status as the major entry point for many Italian Americans and as a major center of culture in the United States, pizza spread from New York in the late 1800s and throughout the country.

While there is dispute as to which great American city has the best pizza (Chicago and Detroit come to mind), New York has a style typified by a thin crust, tomato sauce, and mozzarella cheese. This type of pizza is also often cooked in a coal-fired oven. It has been said that the water in New York has unique properties that make the pizza dough tasty, although this has not been conclusively proven. In 1905, Gennaro Lombardi founded Lombardi’s Pizza, considered by historians and pizza enthusiasts to be the oldest pizzeria in the United States. Many pizzerias descended from Lombardi’s. One of the most prolific but unrelated pizza restaurants in the city is the preponderance of “Ray’s” locations throughout the city that are seen and patronized by natives and visitors alike.

For individuals looking for a New York experience, there are dozens of different and great options for pizza in the city. Some of the best pizza joints originated on Staten Island, but good pizza can be found throughout the other boroughs as well. To experience pizza the proper New York way, it is customary to fold the pizza slice inward and consume. Food tours can be requested through Sights by Sam tours, where you can eat and learn many things on a special request tour.

Commuter Rail– A Primer

New York is a major magnet for people coming in to work and visit. As I have mentioned before, Manhattan has a daytime population of over 4 million people. While the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s bus and subway services carry millions of people around the city, thousands come into the city by train from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut every day. Although some consider the Port Authority’s PATH trains to be commuter rail (this system is covered in another Sights by Sam blog article), this post will cover the three main commuter rail systems converging on New York City: the Long Island Railroad, Metro North Railroad, and New Jersey Transit railroads.

Carrying over 350,000 people into the city every week on 12 routes, the Long Island Railroad was founded in 1834 and is one of the oldest railroads in the U.S. (it is believed to be the oldest railroad retaining its original name). The railroad helped to develop Long Island and led to the increased settlement of Nassau and Suffolk Counties. While the Long Island Railroad was once an affiliate of the Pennsylvania Railroad, it is now an arm of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The railroad terminates at Penn Station in Midtown Manhattan in addition to major terminals in Brooklyn and Jamaica, Queens. In the next decade, the Long Island Railroad will begin to serve Grand Central Terminal as part of the massive “East Side Access” tunneling project.

Bringing commuters from Upstate New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, the Metro North System carries over 300,000 people into the city daily via three lines fanning out from Grand Central Terminal in Midtown Manhattan and two additional lines that go into Upstate New York (going through New Jersey and terminating at the Hoboken Terminal in nearby Hoboken, NJ). Metro North service has been improved in recent years with new rolling stock. Before being taken over by the MTA, Metro North services were operated by the New York Central Railroad and other services. This commuter system is known for its ornate terminals at Grand Central and Hoboken Terminal.

The third major commuter railroad serving New York comes from New Jersey. The New Jersey Transit system, carries 240,000 people into New York daily on ten of its 11 lines (one rail line goes from Philadelphia, PA, to Atlantic City, NJ). Commuters arrive from all corners of New Jersey through Penn Station. Other services arrive at Hoboken Terminal or terminate at the massive Secaucus Junction. New Jersey Transit, headquartered in Newark, NJ, was formed in 1979 and unified rail services previously run by other operators and the bus services of the Public Service Enterprise Group (a major electric company in the Garden State).

These three systems help to bring thousands into the city daily. Due to the high price of land and housing in New York, these commuter rail systems allow people to work in Manhattan (or in the outer boroughs) while living further afield. While these railroads help people come into the city and take thousands of cars off of the street, they are under increasing strain from high use and aging infrastructure. This is the type of information you will learn on a Sights by Sam Walking Tour, with major rail stations of the city being shown on tours of Manhattan and Brooklyn.

City Government, A Primer

New York City is by far the largest city in the United States. Overseeing hundreds of square miles of territory and providing for the safety of over eight million people is no small task. The city has a budget of well over $70 billion and an army of over 300,000 municipal workers (including but not limited to police, firefighters, sanitation workers, and park workers) to help maintain the city. So how does the city work?

The mayor is elected every four years by all of his citizens of the city and is responsible for executing their laws. The mayor is the nominal head of 32 city agencies and sits as a board member on 29 cultural attractions in town. Since the 1930s, the mayor has often delegated power to deputy mayors in an effort to run the city smoothly. If the mayor is unable or unwilling to perform his duty, the public advocate, a citywide elected position which functions as an ombudsman, would take that role. All city voters also elect a comptroller who is the chief financial officer of the city.

In terms of legislation, New York City residents are represented by 51 councilmembers. Each member has a district containing over 150,000 residents. The council is divided into several committees and passes legislation for the city. The council elects a speaker to act as the body’s leader. Like in the federal House of Representatives, bills are sent to the mayor for signature to become law. The council can also override a mayoral veto.

Because New York is made up of five boroughs, both the city and state of New York have courts in each of the five boroughs. The voters of each borough elect a district attorney. Federal courts are located in Manhattan and in Brooklyn. Each borough also has an elected borough president (who in turn has an advisory committee made up of council members and community members). While these offices are ceremonial, the borough presidents can introduce legislation in the city council and work as cheerleaders for their respective borough. Each neighborhood in the city is also part of one of 59 community boards that meet periodically to discuss local issues and recommend action, but are merely advisory in nature.

This is the type of information you will learn on a Sights by Sam tour. See where the city government meets on our “Foundation of New York” tour.

Citi Field

In the aftermath of the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants leaving New York for sunny California in the 1950s, New York sought to regain a team in both leagues. After an abortive attempt to gain a team through forming a new major league, the National League awarded New York with a new franchise, the Mets, in 1962. The Mets began play at the new Citi Field in 2009, after they had played in Shea Stadium for decades.

After moving into the new park in 2009, some Mets fans did not like the new park as its design harkened back to the old Ebbets Field, the home park of the departed Brooklyn Dodgers—instead of the team that would call the new stadium home. There was also controversy as the park’s naming rights had been sold to a bank during some of the worst years of the recent financial crisis. Although Citi Field holds less people than Shea Stadium (and never hosted the Beatles), it does have larger seats, more restrooms per guest, and restaurant options from famous eateries all over New York in addition to ballpark hotdogs and peanuts. In terms of on the field action, the Mets have been improving in recent years, including appearing in the 2015 World Series. The fans of the Mets remain some of the most knowledgeable and loyal in Major League baseball and are friendly to fans of visiting teams.

In addition to Mets games, the stadium also hosts concerts and rallies throughout the year. Aside from events at the stadium, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, the Unisphere, and the Queens Museum are also nearby. This is the type of information you will learn on a Sights by Sam tour.