Eating local food, exploring hidden hot spots, and frequenting the joints locals flock to are some of the best ways to discover the soul of a city.
In New York, you can head to a Jewish cafe and taste Israel in Williamsburg, or, walk the streets of Brooklyn and enjoy pizza from a wood oven burning for over a hundred years. You can stroll past historic buildings in Brewer’s Row, or stop by Artists and Fleas to buy yourself a treasure.
Lauren Beebe’s, founder of Like A Local Tours, always felt that there was a disconnect between how tourists, even locals to some extent, experience NYC. She wanted to bring out the unique experiences centred around food, art and history. It was this desire that gave birth to Like A Local Tours. Today, her company is recognized as one of the most fascinating ways to dive straight into the heart of the city.
Exploring hidden bars, flea markets, gourmet food, street art, history, architecture and craft beer, Like A Local takes you to all the places that give New York its distinct cultural vibe. Straddling old and new, these walking tours cover the length of New York’s cultural history.
Lauren began her love affair with NYC in 2004, when she settled in the city after having grown up in Minnesota, Texas and Pennsylvania. It truly blossomed in 2008, when she moved to Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Lauren’s tours are not just loved by her patrons, they have also been recognized internationally as one of the most popular excursions in New York. Like A Local Tours has received the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence every year since it was founded in 2013.
Here, we catch up with Lauren and explore what makes all the experiences provided by Like A Local Tours unique.
What inspired you to start Like a Local Tours?
Like A Local Tours came about as a result of my passion for food, fashion, art and travel, my career experience in tourism and hospitality, and my network of contacts. The term “travel like a local” gets bandied about easily but I don’t take it lightly. Every tour we offer and experience we provide is truly offering up what the locals do. Plus some access that even locals don’t have!
What message do you have for our audience who is trying to figure out whether Like a Local experiences are a right fit for them?
Our tours are all about experiencing our favorite NYC and Brooklyn neighborhoods through food. Each tour features an opportunity to be shown a neighborhood by a local who has extensive knowledge of the history of NYC and Brooklyn, as well as interesting cultural anecdotes, a knowledge of who’s who and what’s hot and happening. Our tours are intimate, so it’s like spending a few hours with a small group of friends.
How have the tours evolved in the last 3 years?
We continue to dive deeper into each neighborhood, incorporating stories learned from our local partners and businesses. Unfortunately, businesses do close and sometimes quality level changes, so we are constantly on the hunt to make sure our experiences are the best they can be. We are also working on a few new tours which we hope to unveil this summer.
Given that tourists are generally busy consuming more popular NYC experiences like the Empire State Building, Central Park, Broadway shows, etc., would you recommend one of your experiences to get to know the real New York?
Our tour guides serve as a concierge to our guests. They share incredible stories about NYC and can make personal recommendations after the tour. All of our guides are working actors and actresses so they have the inside scoop (and big personalities!). While we certainly appreciate the Big Apple’s large tourist attractions, we feel passionately that for people who want to experience NYC from a New Yorker’s perspective, you need to get out of Times Square and check out the neighborhood’s that we New Yorkers love and spend the most time in.
If you had to suggest 3 of your favorite experiences among those offered what would those be?
I love to eat so our Flatiron Food Tour, Williamsburg Bites Brooklyn Food Tour, and for the beer and wine, our Sunday Funday Boozy Brooklyn Tasting Tour.
Can you walk us through what to expect in a typical Williamsburg or Flatiron Tour?
Lots of food! Our tours were designed to explore neighborhoods through food. We also provide an opportunity to meet the New Yorkers who make the neighborhoods so amazing. We give just enough history, see the sights and provide lots of photo opportunities along the way.
New York is known for it’s melting point culture. Do some of your local experiences bring out this diversity?
New York is certainly a melting pot and our tours are a perfect showcase for that. From a pizza parlor started by a local Brooklyn boy with strong Italian-American heritage, who is now host of a TV show, to an Israeli bakery that has expanded to several locations in NYC, our tours delve into the diverse food culture that makes the city so special (and delicious!).
Like A Local Tours has won many accolades, and in 2016, was awarded the “Unique Brooklyn Tour Operator of the Year” by Luxury Travel Guide. They have also worked with celebrities as well as major companies such as Heineken and Conde Nast.
These popular Like A Local Tours will take you through the heart of New York’s cultural districts, bringing exquisite culinary delights and hidden New York secrets to the surface:
Williamsburg Bites: A Brooklyn Food Tour
Williamsburg is one of New York’s liveliest and most popular neighbourhoods. It is where Lauren and Like A Local Tours journey started. On the Williamsburg Bites: A Brooklyn Food Tour, you will visit iconic establishments across the borough and sample dishes such as homemade ice cream and the “Best Pizza” in New York. There will be coffee tastings, incredible story-telling and a chance to view some of the best works of street art in New York
Flatiron Food, History & Architecture Tour
This tour will take you to two of the most iconic neighborhoods in New York – Flatiron & Union Square. With a local guide, you will visit some of the most unique food stops and experience six full portion tastings along the way. Highlights of the tour include visits to Obica Mozzarella Bar, Beecher’s Cheese, Union Square Farmer’s Market and Bread’s Bakery.
Sunday Funday – A Boozy Brooklyn Tasting Tour
According to Fodor’s, the world’s largest publisher of travel and tourism information, “…if you’re looking to feel like a hip local in Brooklyn, take the Sunday Funday tour of Williamsburg…”. Some of the highlights include Brewery Tasting and Wine Tasting, Hot Sauce Tasting, Insider Brooklyn Shopping experience with free gift, Local Eats & Treats and tons of stunning photo opportunities.