There’s really no end of things to explore in New York City, but insiders know it takes some digging to uncover what’s hidden beneath the city’s surface. Citywide events like Open House New York and Jane’s Walk make urban exploration attainable to the masses. They feed our never ending curiosity by giving us access to sites and experts that would normally be out of reach.
— Mad Hatters NYC (@MadHattersNYC) May 10, 2017
Jane’s Walk is named for Jane Jacobs: journalist, author, activist and all-around local legend. She fought tirelessly to protect the authenticity of New York City neighborhoods. Jane was a pioneer in promoting diversity and supporting local economies. Tides Canada initiated Jane’s Walk to promote her ideas. The Municipal Art Society of New York organizes the event locally in New York City, and has done an amazing job shepherding its growth. One weekend a year, they offer a number of free walking tours led by local citizens.
On the most recent Jane’s Walks event, we joined licensed New York City tour guide Robert Brenner on a tour of Canal Street. Most people associate Canal Street with Chinatown, but locals know it’s a major thoroughfare that cuts through Lower Manhattan. Robert kicked off the tour with a cold open about the street’s sordid past, then led us on a walking tour of some of the city’s most amazing landmarks.
Robert’s tour included picturesque (read: Instagram-friendly) corners, as well as juxtapositions of the old and the new. The variety of architectural styles we came across in this short walk would thrill any urban architecture fan. As with all good tours, he included personal anecdotes and associations to long-forgotten landmarks. Robert also helped all of us cement our insider status by showing us a secret passageway in Chinatown. (We’ll be sure to show that one off the next time we have friends or family visiting.) He gives you homework too: he pointed out several places to explore later.
True lovers of New York City aren’t afraid of its grittier side. There are so many stories lurking in its cracks and crevices, and walking tours of the city are a great way to discover them. The Municipal Art Society of New York offers tours throughout the year hosted by historians, professors, and other qualified guides. Whether you’re a visitor looking for an in-depth tour, or a local looking to learn more about your neighborhood, their website is a great place to start. And Robert Brenner, our guide for this walk, hosts multiple tours, including one on Gritty Old Times Square. You can learn more about him and seek out his services here.
What secrets will you uncover?
Pair it with:
A meal at Aux Epices
When you move to New York City, you dream of having a neighborhood joint like Aux Epices. It’s a tiny space that’s easy to miss, but still manages to channel a ton of charm. They don’t advertise, it’s strictly word-of-mouth. Owner-operators Mei and Marc are the Malaysian and French couple behind the eatery, and the marriage of their cultures is reflected in their food. Located on Baxter Street right off Canal Street, where Chinatown and Little Italy meet, Aux Epices offers the kind of fusion fare that perfectly highlights the melting pot that thrives in New York City.
121 Baxter St
Daily: 11am – 10pm