Exploring Lower Manhattan, New York, NY with the Free LaGuardia (LGA) Airport Shuttle Walking Tour

New York City?  Ho hum.  Been there, done that.  For years, decades actually, New York was only a place where I connected to mostly international flights.  So when I booked a Manhattan hotel for an overnight layover returning from Madrid, I had no thoughts of seeing any sights.

But when I purchased a NYC Airporter Shuttle ticket from LaGuardia to Manhattan, I saw that the $28 round-trip fare included a free walking tour of lower Manhattan and a free bicycle tour in Central Park.  What the hell, I was meeting an old friend the next day in the afternoon, so that left time for the walking tour that started at 10am.

The walking tour starts at the NYC Airporter pick-up point at 41st & Lexington.  You cannot miss it.  There are uniformed agents present.  They will answer any questions about the shuttle service or walking tour.  One other person was waiting for the walking tour.  She was from Fremantle, Australia.

A tour company representative, Alex, met us just after 10am.  He assisted us in purchasing metrocards for the roundtrip subway ride from the nearby Grand Central Station to Bowling Green station near Battery Park.

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It took about 25 minutes to go from Grand Central to the meeting point at Bowling Green Park.
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A clean subway car.  Not what I remembered.

We met a larger group at Bowling Green Park and were divided into english and spanish speaking tours.

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Bowling Green station is adjacent to Bowling Green Park and the National Museum of the American Indian which occupies the old US Customs House.

Alex went with the spanish tour, and we met a new guide who took the eight people on the english tour across the street to Battery Park where the tour began.  I was the only one in the group from America.

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1 World Trade Center Tower from Battery Park

The tour guide had a very detailed knowledge of the history of lower Manhattan as well as history in general.  His knowledge went far beyond what would be expected.  It seemed that he must have had  a graduate degree in American history.

Battery Park affords great views of New York harbor, Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty and Staten Island.  Our guide spent about 30 minutes here describing the features and history of the area.

Of course the most famous spot in New York Harbor is the Statue of Liberty.

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Statue of Liberty from Battery Park

The statue sits on what is now called Liberty Island.  Liberty Island lies much closer to the New Jersey shore than to Manhattan.  Due to poor drafting of the New Jersey colonial charter, however, in 1834 New Jersey formally recognized New York’s claim to Liberty and Ellis Islands.

Tours to the Statue of Liberty depart from Battery Park .20170806_191356

The people of France gave the statue to the people of America.  It was dedicated in 1886 rather than the centennial in 1976 because it took 10 years to raise funds for the pedestal.

Ellis Island was the primary inspection station for immigrants entering the US between 1892 and 1954.  In 1998, the US Supreme Court ruled that most of Ellis Island, the part added by landfill post the 1834 agreement, was actually in New Jersey.

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A frigate passes in front of Ellis Island

From Battery Park, the tour headed towards the Financial District.  We stopped for 20 minutes for bathrooms and refreshments at a cafeteria across from the oldest tavern in New York City.

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Fraunces Tavern & Museum on Pearl Street.  Samuel Fraunces, a black immigrant from the Caribbean, opened this tavern in 1762.  George Washington was a patron.

The tour then proceeded up Broad Street to the New York Stock Exchange.

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New York Stock Exchange

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We then turned onto Wall Street for another stop by Federal Hall National Memorial.  Federal Hall was the site of the first United States Capitol.  George Washington was inaugurated here.

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Federal Hall National Memorial with George Washington statue.

In 1920, a terrorist exploded a wagon full of explosives in front of the J. P. Morgan bank at 23 Wall Street.  The bombing killed 38 people and remains unsolved.  Damage from the blast is still visible.

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Bomb damage on a Wall Street structure

The tour then headed back down Wall Street towards Trinity Episcopal Church.

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Looking down Wall Street, Federal Hall (right) and Trinity Church (center).

Trinity Church, established in 1698, is one of the oldest churches in New York.  Many famous folk are buried here including Robert Fulton and Alexander Hamilton.

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Hamilton’s grave

We continued to the World Trade Center complex.

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1 World Trade Center.  The tower tops out at 1,776 feet.
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4 World Trade Center

We stopped for 30 minutes at the memorial that was the site of Tower 2.

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9/11 Memorial Plaza

Our guide gave a detailed account of the history of the original World Trade Center and the events and aftermath of September 11, 2001 and answered questions.  The tour concluded at 1:30pm.

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Conclusion of tour at 9/11 Memorial Plaza

Final Thoughts

I thoroughly enjoyed this informative tour.  The tour lasted for 2 1/2  hours, a lot longer than I had expected for a free tour.  The guides were extremely knowledgeable and accommodating.  It was a pleasure to be a tourist again in NYC.

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