By: Carly Blatt
If you’re looking to join a pub crawl with a dash of history, an Uncle Sam’s New York tour might be just the right fit. Offering walking tours, pub crawls and nightlife tours throughout various neighborhoods in Manhattan, Uncle Sam’s fits a niche for people looking for an enjoyable alternative to the double-decker bus tour experience.
Because the West Village is one of my favorite neighborhoods in the city, I decided to check out Uncle Sam’s New York West Village pub crawl. Our tour began at the White Horse Tavern and consisted of a mixed group, comprised of both tourists and locals. Four of the guys were from England and had joined the tour simply because the word ‘pub’ was in the name, while a couple from Queens signed up for the tour since they’d always been curious to know more about the West Village and thought it’d be a good way to play tourist in their own city.
Our tour leader for the night was the company’s president and CEO, Sam Cook. Sam explained that he started the company because he hadn’t yet found a tour in New York that fit what he was looking for. A self-proclaimed history buff, one of Sam’s motivations for founding Uncle Sam’s New York tours was to share his passion for the city’s history with both visitors and New Yorkers alike.
WHITE HORSE TAVERN
Once everyone in the group had introduced themselves, Sam gave us a brief history of the White Horse Tavern, including how it began as a longshoreman’s bar and later became a hangout for writers in the ‘50s. He talked about how the tavern played into the rumors surrounding Dylan Thomas’ death and shared a few stories about Jack Kerouac’s time at the famed bar.
After a few minutes of history, our group went inside to explore the tavern, see the white horse decorations inside and check out the old photographs adorning the walls. Sam bought beers for everyone and shared a few more stories about the pub and how his passion for history had gotten him into this business. He’d been in the army and lived all over the world and his enthusiasm for exploring cities has clearly spilled over into his tours.
Unlike many walking tours in which participants blindly follow a leader and rarely interact with each other, this experience was different: socializing with our fellow pub crawl members was as much a part of the tour as learning the history. Our group quickly transformed from an anonymous cluster of people into a collection of new friends who just happened to be on a pub crawl tour together.
KETTLE OF FISH
After about 40 minutes at the White Horse Tavern, Sam led us to our next stop: Kettle of Fish, another bar rich with literary history. Along the way, he talked about why the streets in the Village were so haphazardly placed and pointed out where the Stonewall Riots took place – as well as how the Stonewall Inn got its name.
The third and final stop was Kenny’s Castaways on Bleecker Street, a venue that’s hosted such artists as Bruce Springsteen, Aerosmith and Blues Traveler. Sam arranged for our group to skip the cover charge and we were able to catch one of the musical acts. By the end of the tour, our group was having so much fun that we all ended up staying for another drink and listening to a few extra sets.
Uncle Sam’s New York pub crawls are a good fit for history-loving visitors looking for a casual but organized way to check out some of New York’s bars. Although you could easily go to each of the bars on your own, the fun of the tour lies in hearing the history and meeting new like-minded people.
The West Village pub crawl is $50 per person and includes three drinks.Uncle Sam’s New York also offers an Empire State Pub Crawl, a Hell’s Kitchen Pub Crawl and an East Village Pub Crawl. If you prefer a regular walking tour, check out the Alexander Hamilton Financial District Tour, the Edgar Allan Poe Greenwich Village Tour or the George M. Cohan Theater District Tour. Nightlife fans can try the Chelsea Night Club Tour. Walking tours are $20 per person and nightlife tours range from $35 to $45.
If you have a New York Pass, you’ll receive $20 off the cost of a pub crawl and you can attend any of the walking tours for free.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
New York-based freelance writer Carly Blatt has extensively traveled, studied and worked abroad, covering 26 countries on six continents. Her travel adventures include swimming in Antarctica, bungy jumping in New Zealand, diving with sharks in South Africa, paragliding in the Alps, caving in Belize, mountain boarding in Colorado, camping with locals in the Australian Outback, and helping confused-looking tourists find their way in Manhattan.