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Uncle Sam's New York - An Intoxicating Bit of History

May 31, 2009 - by Kristopher Carpenter
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Welcome to New York -- you’ve survived the Disneyland-like taxi ride and found your way to the accommodations that you’ve provisioned for your trip. Perhaps you’re thinking of walking around Manhattan, planning on taking in a few of the sights, maybe stopping at a bar or two, and going to the top of the Empire State Building. With so many options and so much to see, why not kill a few birds with one stone? Uncle Sam’s New York Tours will take care of several of these desires at one time with their Empire State Pub Crawl -- offered every Saturday at 5:30pm. The meet up is Heartland Brewery’s fantastic location, actually in residence at 350 Fifth Avenue (better known as the Empire State Building). Heartland is a must for any visitor to NYC, especially if you enjoy good beer. Offering a great variety of signature and seasonal handcrafted ales -- from the award-winning Farmer John’s Oatmeal Stout to the Not Tonight Honey Porter -- and, in one of the funniest coincidences ever, upon reaching the bottom of the staircase, welcoming guests to the Empire State Bar Crawl is none other than Uncle Sam himself!

Besides what will almost certainly prove to be a more rollicking experience than you might get on another tour, Uncle Sam’s also offers a significant value to their patrons. For the sticker price of $90, the Empire State Pub Crawl includes three cocktails, admission to the Empire State Building’s virtual rolle rcoaster --  NY SKYRIDE -- and fast-tracked access to the world famous observation deck, the highest land-bound vantage point in Manhattan. Individually, these components would set you back at least $70, so for an extra $20, spread out over 4.5 hours, you get your own private guide to the city and trust me: they know a lot about this town. Even a New Yorker can learn a slew of fun new facts about Manhattan. Here are a few that I picked up:

• Broadway is the oldest north-south thoroughfare in the city. So old, that it was in fact a trading route for Native Americans. It earned its nickname, “The Great White Way,” when nearly a mile of Broadway was illuminated in 1880 by Brush arc lamps, making it among the first electrically lighted streets in the United States.

• The Empire State Building commenced construction during the Great Depression, in 1929. Workers sometimes worked triple shifts with amazing efficiency, finishing the building in only 410 days, months ahead of schedule, and $5-$20 million under budget.

• In another odd coincidence, Henry Hudson, namesake of the Hudson River discovered Manhattan on September 11th, 1609 and made landfall within a mile of where the World Trade Centers stood.

Thirsty yet? I hope so boys and girls, because after the observation deck it’s just a stroll across 33rd Street to Jack Dempsey’s. In yet another interesting bit of NYC history, Jack Dempsey was a boxing legend, and from 1919-1926 he was the reigning world heavyweight champ before he opened his own restaurant and bar in 1935. After a few Guinness or maybe a spot of Jameson, head south under the banner of Uncle Sam’s as your tour guide entertains with amusing anecdotes, answers questions and leads everyone to the front of one of the best rooftop bars in town named, simply, 230 5th which happens to be the address. Jump in the elevator and take it to the top where a lounge and upstairs rooftop awaits. Be sure to look up while stepping onto the plush rooftop patio for one of the best, free views of the Empire State Building to be had. This is the decompression part of the evening, so gather round and socialize or huddle up with your tour guide for a few more history lessons. This trip is a one-of-a-kind journey covering about a mile amidst the imbibing of cocktails in exciting, historic, and exclusive locales.

The Empire Pub crawl isn’t the only option. For the theatre buff, the Hell’s Kitchen Bar Crawl takes you through the Theatre District, to bars where famous stars and playwrights used to relax and talk shop. From there you’ll head west to the infamous headquarters of the Westies gang members. Discover the hidden stories that lurk beyond the pristine confines of Times Square in this classic Irish immigrant that earned this neighborhood the moniker "Hell's Kitchen." Or, if it’s the glam nightlife of the Meatpacking District that you’re craving, take the Marilyn Monroe Nightclub Tour with VIP admission and no lines included in the price of the tour. If you’re looking to really tear-up the town in style then it’s time for the good life with Frank Sinatra’s Limousine Tour. It's a 10-hour cruise in the lap of luxury like “Old Blue Eyes” used to do for just $160.

In addition to bar crawls and nightlife, Uncle Sam’s offers several walking tours sans alcohol daily. So if it’s a family vacation, take the kids on the Edgar Allen Poe Greenwich Village Tour and discover the myriad stories within the winding streets of New York’s hotbed for art and poetry. There are several other walking tour options, all priced at just $20 for adults and $16 for children. Private tours are also available for parties of ten or more, as are multilingual tour guides.

As their slogan says “Uncle Sam wants you to see the real New York” and not only do they deliver it in a unique and exciting way – the options are suited to serve every appetite and price range so take a look at and book your way into the heart and soul of the city with good ol’ Uncle Sam.

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