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  1. Spotlight on GANYC Guide: George Barabas


    Introducing GANYC guide: George Barabas

    Company: New York City Discoveries

    Social Media: Instagram

    Phone: 516-446-7111

    Email

    =====================================

    How long have you been a tour guide?

    Over 15 years.

    What drove you to become a tour guide?

    Ever since arriving in New York at age thirteen, many years ago, I have been fascinated by the city's infinite variety of attractions and its constant evolution. Exploring the city has been  my hobby ever since.  I love sharing my love of the city with visitors. I have been a New York City teacher for over 30 years and am currently a college professor;  the interaction with the visitors is a delight as they discover with me what makes New York City so special.

    What types of tours do you offer?

    I offer walking, public transportation, bus, limo, private, groups and tours in Hungarian, as well as English.

    Do you offer Niche Tours?

    I specialize in introducing the city to first time visitors; Hungarian language tours are also offered, in addition to English. I also do tours customized to the interest of visitors.

    What is the most gratifying part of your work?

    It is a pleasure to see my visitors happy with what they see and learn about New York as they tour with me.

    What time of year would you consider your busy season?

    The summer season is the busiest.

    Have you or your company received any awards?

    My most important and valued awards are the many thank you letters I receive from my clients. It gives my joy to know that exploring the city with me gave them  happy memories of New York that will last a lifetime.

    What upcoming or annual events, promotions or sales would you like to promote? 

    New York is especially festive around New Year's and the holidays. The summer season also offers many great events. New York is a great place any time of the year!!!

    How long have you been a member of GANYC?

    Many years.

    How did you hear or learn about GANYC?

    One of my colleagues told me about it when I worked at Grayline many years ago.

    How has GANYC helped you and your business?

    My GANYC profile page is very helpful, and my membership in the organization provides confidence to potential clients.

    What's your advice or Tour Guide tip you love to share to people visiting New York?

    Experience the city with someone who lives here. Use public transportation; get to know the city up close, rather than only from a bus.  Be open to new things and have lots of fun discovering the real New York as only a licensed, professional,  knowledgeable, enthusiastic, GANYC guide can show you!!!


    (For more info or to book a tour with George, check out his GANYC profile by clicking here.)

  2. Remembering Lee Gelber



    It is with deep sadness that GANYC announces that former GANYC President, and the dean of New York City tour guides, Lee Gelber has passed away.

    Lee was truly a living embodiment of the spirit of this great & dynamic city. It is for these reasons that he was our first honoree of the Guiding Spirit Award, at the Apple Awards ceremony in 2016, designed to honor a professional tour guide who had mentored others, led by example, and been a pillar of the guided tourism industry in New York. Starting this year, it has been renamed The Lee Gelber Award for Guiding Spirit in his honor.

    His legacy lives on forever in the thousands of guides that he trained or inspired for several decades. How long had Lee been training guides? Here is a 1996 New York Times article talking about Lee's work in that regard. Countless guides have already this week recounted lessons they learned from Lee, or the many stories and jokes he loved to tell.

    So many New York guides have great stories and memories of Lee, and we look forward to hearing and sharing them. Thank you, Lee, for everything.



  3. GANYC Apple Awards coming on March 2!

     



    What are the GANYC Apple Awards? Here, some of our members explain. In short, these Awards are when GANYC celebrates not itself, or its guides, but the people and institutions that make New York so great, and in turn, make our work so fulfilling. 

    This will be the 6th year in which GANYC organizes these Awards, our most fun and exciting event of the year. Featuring dozens of nominees and amazing presenters, it is a celebration not to miss! We will once again be at the SVA Theater, and hosted by the fabulous Bowery Boys. We are also proud to announce that Red Hook Lobster Pound will be our main food sponsor for our pre-ceremony VIP reception. Come join us as those who know New York best honor the best of New York.

    You can see all of our nominees here: https://www.ganyc.org/2020-ganyc-apple-awards

    And ticket pricing and information is now live: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/6th-annual-ganyc-apple-awards-tickets-86277068033?discount=EarlyPublic

     

  4. Spotlight on GANYC Guide: John Semlak


    Introducing GANYC guide: John Semlak

    Company: Explore New York History

    Social Media: Instagram / Facebook

    Phone: 347-283-7817

    Email

    =====================================

    How long have you been a tour guide?

    8 years.

    What time of year would you consider your busy season?

    Summer.

    What drove you to become a tour guide?

    Passion for the city.

    What is the most gratifying part of your work?

    Teaching people things about that city they didn’t know.

    How long have you been a member of GANYC?

    5 years.

    How did you hear or learn about GANYC?

    Through friends/fellow guides.

    What types of tours do you offer?

    Walking, bike, and coach tours.

    Do you offer Niche Tours?

    Historical tours.

    What's your advice or Tour Guide tip you love to share to people visiting New York?

    Take a tour!


    (For more info or to book a tour with John, check out his GANYC profile by clicking here.)

     

  5. Year End Odds + Ends

    GANYC wants to thank all of its members & industry partners for a wonderful 2019, and we look forward to working together more in 2020 to show the world why our members are your surest bet to the best New York City experiences.

    A couple of odds & ends as we reach the end of the year:

    • On January 1st, our new Executive Board begins their 2-year term! Thanks to all our full, voting members for what was our biggest turnout in an election yet. And thanks to our outgoing Board members for their years of service to our organization. Your new GANYC Board is:
      President: Emma Guest-Consales
      Vice-Presidents: Michael Morgenthal & Bob Gelber
      Treasurer: Jeremy Wilcox
      Secretaries: Patrick Casey & John Semlak
      Members at Large: Cristina Lombardi, Deborah Blau, Kevin Lawrence
       
    • GANYC will be starting off 2020 with the next round of our certification course. It is designed to test, enhance, and certify your skills and versatility as a guide. The course begins January 6th, and runs 3 times a week for 3 weeks. It is open to all members, and you can register here. Registration closes on January 2. Several past graduates have already sold the tours they created in the course to clients, making their tuition pay for itself!
       
    • GANYC is also hard at work preparing for the 6th-annual GANYC Apple Awards. The full list of our nominees is: here.  These awards honor individuals and organizations that encourage and promote New York City tourism, culture and preservation while supporting the work and contributions of professional New York City tour guides. Tickets are now on sale (members get an even further discount, and can email the Awards Committee for that link). The ceremony will be March 2 at the SVA Theater.
       
    • We will also be furthering our organization's radius with participation in a number of 2020 events. In February, GANYC has numerous members attending the National Federation of Tourist Guide Associations (NFTGA) conference, in Charleston. You can find more information about the conference: here. Representatives from guide associations across the US will be in attendance, with GANYC having more registrants than any other! Later in February, on Friday the 21st, we will be organizing events for International Tourist Guide Day... stay tuned for more details soon! And we will also once be sending members to represent us at Destination Capitol Hill, in April, which is the travel industry's top lobbying event and conference.
       
    • Finally, in addition to numerous fam tours (see the members calendar for dates + registration options), we will also work to offer more PDPs, Professional Development Programs. Our next upcoming one is on January 29: "Tour Guides and Taxes- Don’t Miss Deductions", with CPA William Caldwell. Learn how to manage your finances from a certified professional! Registration: here. And stay tuned over the winter for more PDPs to be announced!

    Thank you, and Happy New Year!

  6. Happy Holidays from GANYC

    The Guides Association of New York City (GANYC) wants to wish happy holidays to all of our members, industry partners, and everyone involved in helping represent our great city to the world.

    GANYC has had a wonderful 2019 and we thank you all for being a part of it.

    From the twinkling lights of Dyker Heights to the iconic 5th Avenue displays and beyond, GANYC tour guides are always there to bring you unparalleled hospitality, wisdom and cheer all year round! Despite the crowded “city sidewalks, busy sidewalks”, remember to listen for the “silver bells” and enjoy “Christmas time in the city!” On behalf of all our highly qualified guides, we wish you and yours a very happy holiday season and can’t wait to work with you in 2020!


  7. GANYC Members In The News Again!

    It's been a good week for GANYC members in the spotlight!

    First, Chris Barron was featured in a PIX11 News segment about the new energy efficient LED bulbs that are brightening up Grand Central Terminal. The 106 year old landmark continues to be maintained and preserved as one of Midtown's must-sees.

    And Robin London was spotlighted on Cosa Nostra News about her NYC gangster tours. Robin offers private tours centered around the mobster & gang history stories to be found around the city.

    Finally, GANYC member, historian, and author Kevin Fitzpatrick was on WNYC radio to discuss his most recent book, "111 Places in the Bronx That You Must Not Miss". Fitzpatrick's book seeks to draw attention to an amazing borough that is often overlooked by visitors to the city.

  8. Pix11 Spotlights GANYC's Fight Against Tourist Scams


    Pix11 News interviewed GANYC Vice President Emma Guest-Consales yesterday, to discuss the work professional guides have done to try and protect visitors from the duplicitous boat tour ticket sellers plaguing lower Manhattan.

    Hustles should not be considered just another part of the NYC experience. We urge the city to further these crackdowns, revoke the licenses of all ticket sellers working for these companies, and to overall ensure a pleasant, harassment-free experience for both visitors and locals.
     

     

  9. Guide Book vs. Guide

    Guide Book vs. Guide
    How an Expert Can Help You Read Between the Lines

    I have a confession to make: I spent my first year in NYC with a copy of Frommer’s Guide to New York in my purse at all times.

    It was my anchor in a concrete ocean. It kept me from drifting away.

    I pretty much memorized that book. I knew the addresses and hours of operation for all the major attractions by heart. I could tell you where to find the best Black and White Cookies (R.I.P. Glasser’s) or which dive bar was the best (Rudy’s in Hell’s Kitchen). But I also became fascinated with the history of the city, with the remarkable stories of New Yorkers past whose lives had so shaped my present. I owe a major debt of gratitude to that paperback. Were it not for Frommer’s, I might never have been inspired to take the DCA exam and become a licensed guide. 

    So, I feel a bit like an ungrateful hack sitting here at my keyboard telling you why having a Tour Guide is superior to having a Guide Book. The fact is, there are some great Guide Books out there. And if you’re the sort of person who likes to do some pre-travel planning (FYI- a bit of advanced preparation goes a long way in a city like New York) then picking up a guide book and familiarizing yourself with the logistics of New York, as well as narrowing down places of interest you can reasonably expect to cover during your stay, is incredibly beneficial.

    That said, there are some things a real, live New Yorker can do that no guide book, however thorough, can hope to accomplish.

    To illustrate this point, I turned to Fodor’s Travel New York City 2020 edition and my old buddy Frommer’s Easy Guide to New York City 2019.

    (A quick note: If and when you decide to get yourself a guide book, make sure you’re getting the most up to date edition! Turn over happens quickly in the city and what was there a year or two ago might be a thing of the past by the time you’ve touched down at JFK.)

    Let’s start with Fodor’s. This guide book is remarkably user friendly. Lots of beautiful pictures, maps, information about transit and hotels, ways to score discounts, you name it. It also has a lovely feature breaking the city down neighborhood by neighborhood and listing some of the highlights of each area that help to make it unique and memorable. So, Kudos to Fodor’s for that!

    Unfortunately, it’s suggested itineraries leave something to be desired. On page 84, Fodor’s has suggested One-Day and Five-Day Itineraries. The One Day begins downtown in the financial District with stops at Battery Park, Liberty Island, Ellis Island, Bowling Green, Wall Street, Trinity Church, Federal Hall, The New York Stock Exchange, National 9/11 Memorial and Museum, and One World Trade Center.

    It then suggests that travelers, “Take the subway uptown” to visit The Metropolitan Museum of Art or Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), followed by a quick stroll through Central Park and finally a visit to Times Square for a Broadway Show.

    OK, Fodor’s. That’s a great day in theory. But in practice it’s probably going to be harder than it sounds. Never mind the fact that the itinerary fails to mention where guests might consider eating during this marathon of a day or that subway directions are omitted entirely. The sheer amount of suggested attractions in the Financial District has the potential to eat up precious hours of time a traveler doesn’t have to waste. I mean, this is One Day we’re talking about!

    I’m not saying I don’t think it’s worth it to see all those places. It is. And, to be fair, Fodor’s has extensive lists of restaurants, many of which I love and can vouch for personally. And it also provides a decent explanation of how best to navigate the subway system.

    But a good Tour Guide might break it down a little bit more like this:

    Take the subway downtown- we’ll pretend the traveler is coming from Times Square and suggest the #1 Train downtown to South Ferry

    Ignore the ticket vendors in the street! Fodor’s doesn’t mention these guys but South Ferry is crawling with them. They are scam artists. They are selling fake tickets. Or else they are selling tickets that will get you a boat ride to New Jersey. Don’t get taken!

    Head for Castle Clinton in Battery Park and board your ferry to Liberty Island. Consider getting your ticket online in advance so you can skip the ticket queue and save time.

    Now, for some Tour Guide Tough Love- if you only have one day to spend in the Big Apple, don’t get off the boat on Liberty Island. Take pictures of the statue from the ferry but only disembark at Ellis Island and plan to spend about an hour in the Immigration Museum there. The Statue is breathtaking, a marvel of engineering and design. If you somehow managed to score tickets to the crown (which you would have had to get months in advance) then sure, go up. By all means. But otherwise, Ellis Island is the place to go. 1 in 4 Americans can trace their families back to this slender slip of land in New York Harbor. A visit here is an American Pilgrimage and, in my humble opinion, this is where you should be spending your time.

    When you return to Manhattan, you can head over to Fraunces’ Tavern on Pearl Street if you’re famished and want a proper, sit down meal in a gorgeous, historic setting. Otherwise, save the food for later and walk North on Broadway past Bowling Green Park (This is the oldest park in New York and it has a remarkable connection to the Revolutionary War. Fodor’s doesn’t mention the story but any guide worth her salt sure will!). You’ll see The Charging Bull and Trinity Church. Take a moment to get a picture of Alexander Hamilton’s grave (the white, pyramid like monument at the far left of the church yard, visible from the street) before making a right onto Wall Street. Here, get pictures of The NYSE and Federal Hall before doubling back to Broadway and making a right to continue North. (Note: Wall Street was the sight of the first major terrorist attack on New York way back in September of 1920. The scars of that attack are still visible, if you know where to look!)

    At Saint Paul’s Chapel, hang a left and continue straight until you see the 9/11 Memorial.       

    More Tour Guide Tough Love- don’t visit the 9/11 Museum and don’t visit the top of One World Trade. I know, I know. But you have one day!

    Instead, pay your respects at the Memorial, then head into The Oculus (the glittering, white spikes of this “Bird in Flight” are impossible to miss). If you haven’t eaten yet, this is a good place to do it. Or just catch the subway uptown from here. Lots of subway lines converge in this location so you can head almost anywhere you like. But, since Fodor’s suggests a museum, we’ll work with that. Take the 4/5 Uptown to 86th Street and visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art. (MoMA is actually closed for renovations right now so that isn’t an option for our day in the city. Sorry, Fodor!) The Met is enormous, far too large to see in a single day. Fortunately, the museum offers free, docent led tours all day long. This is the perfect way to make the most of your visit. Look up the schedule online ahead of time and pick one or two that look interesting to you! And, season and weather permitting, stop by The Iris and Gerald B. Cantor’s Roof Garden. Yes, the drinks are pricey, but the views of Central Park are so beautiful and you only live once!

    (Note: if you’re travelling with kids, they’ll probably prefer The Museum of Natural History. Take the C train uptown to 81st street. Spring for the Planetarium and/or Butterfly Garden tickets!)

    Both museums have cafeterias but since you’re headed into Central Park after your museum visit, get yourself a hotdog while you stroll! That’s about as New York as it gets! Move south through the Park until you arrive at 59th Street. If you’re on the west side of the park, you’ll find yourself in Columbus Circle. On the east side, you’ll be in Grand Army Plaza. Either way, take the subway downtown to Times Square for your Broadway Show. Any Red, Blue, or Yellow train will get you where you want to go.

    You should have gotten your Broadway tickets ahead of time but if you didn’t you might still be able to score a last-minute ticket at the TKTS booth. Look for the “Big Red Stairs”. Alternatively, there are so many wonderful Off-Broadway venues you can consider patronizing. The performances are Broadway caliber, just in smaller venues with (often) less expensive seats! Have a look at The Signature Theatre, Theatre Row, or New World Stages.       

    If you’re planning to do dinner in midtown, Restaurant Row on 46th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues is full of solid options. I like The Hourglass Tavern and its cozy upstairs speakeasy Betti Bar. Joe Allen’s is a another favorite.

    Please, don’t eat in The Olive Garden or The Hard Rock Cafe. You’re better than that.

    I would add to this itinerary that a nice, late night, last hurrah might be a visit to The Empire State Building which is open until 2am and has much shorter lines later in the evening. Or, if you’re feeling fancy and want a great view of the New Year’s Ball, you can grab a (expensive but delicious) night cap at The Knickerbocker Hotel’s Rooftop Bar, St. Cloud.   

    That’s it for Fodor’s. Let’s look at my friend Frommer.

    My sentimental favorite starts its guidebook with a helpful list of “The Most Unforgettable New York City Experiences.” They are:
    *Seeing the City from On High
    *Walking the Brooklyn Bridge
    *Going to a Big, Splashy Broadway Musical
    *Staying Out Late
    *Touring Ellis Island
    *Travelling Underground (aka Riding the Subways)


    As you might have guessed, I’m basically on board with this list. If anything, I’d say it’s too short. I’d add:
    *Visit the Other Boroughs (I see you, Queens!)
    *Catch a Yankees Game
    *Eat the Best Damn Pizza on Earth


    They also provide lists for The Best Free, Best Off-Beat, and Best Family Friendly Activities in New York. They have lists of the Best Museums, Buildings, Parks, Neighborhoods to Stroll in, Best Food and Best Nightlife as well. It’s comprehensive if a little bit overwhelming.

    And, like Fodor’s, Frommer’s provides a suggested One Day Itinerary. They recommend you start your day at The Empire State Building, followed by a trip to The New York Public Library. Then it’s off to Rockefeller Center, Grand Central Terminal (have lunch in the Oyster Bar), The Metropolitan Museum, and you’ll end the day in Times Square for a Broadway Show.

    I both love and hate this itinerary. Here’s why.

    First, don’t start your day at the Empire State Building. Everyone else has the same idea you do. And the views in daylight aren’t nearly as good as the views after dark when the city is lit up and sparkling. If you want a daytime view of New York, and you’re headed to Rockefeller Center anyway, you’re much better off with Top of The Rock.  

    I love the New York Public Library. It’s such an iconic place and they offer daily, free tours! But if you have one day I’m not sure this is where I’d send you. Even the most hardcore bibliophiles might be better off checking out The Morgan Library and The Strand.

    I’m all about Grand Central Terminal. Seriously, go have lunch in The Oyster Bar. It’s an NYC institution in the best possible sense of the word. And there is an audio tour you can utilize while you’re there. But a guide would make the visit more seamless and provide a greater degree of nuisance and historical context.

    We’ve already been over The Metropolitan Museum, Times Square, and Broadway so I won’t rehash those. However, it’s worth noting that both of these One Day itineraries confine themselves (largely) to the same general areas. This is understandable to a point. You want to see the most well-known places. The sights you’ve seen in the movies. I get that. But having a guide with you who can expedite your adventures and steer you toward the places and things that most interest you is always a solid investment.

    Seeing a city with a guidebook is akin to visiting an aquarium. It’s all there to see, but it’s safely tucked away behind glass. Seeing a city with a tour guide is more like scuba diving. You’re all in.

    You’ll recall how I mentioned the fence at Bowling Green? Without a tour guide, it’s just a fence. With a guide, it’s a Revolutionary relic.

    And that’s the crux of this article, isn’t it? Your guidebook gives you a window into the city but your tour guide flings the doors open wide and invites you to the party.

    Fodor’s and Frommer’s are indispensable tools for the savvy traveler. But even they have listings of the best tours in the city. That’s because they recognize that a guide book, however well compiled, can only take you so far. Guides pick up where the books leave off.

    Incidentally, I didn’t see GANYC mentioned in either of the guidebooks I referenced for this article. A gross oversight, I’m sure. Come on, Frommer’s! Don’t let me down.

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GANYC is an association of independent tour guides. Each member is licensed by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs. GANYC provides a listing of all member guides to the public. GANYC is not liable, or responsible, for contractual obligations made between clients and tour guides. GANYC stands for Guides Association Of New York City.
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