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103 Orchard St., nr. Broome St. (Lower East Side)
New York, NY
(1) 212-982-8420 | www.tenement.org
ATTRACTIONLiving History Museum
HOURS/TIMESDaily: 10:00am-6:00pm; Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day: Closed
PRICEAdults: USD 22; Students and Seniors (65+): USD 17; Members: Free
POPULAR TIMESSummer; weekends
RESERVE IN ADVANCEYes - book online or call (1) 866-606-7232
WAIT TIME WITHOUT RESERVATIONNo entrance without advance booking
HIGHLIGHTS"Getting By" tour; neighborhood walking tours
SUBWAYDelancey St. (F); Essex St. (J, M, Z); Grand St. (B, D); Bowery (J, Z)
Housed in a meticulously restored 1863 tenement building, the Tenement Museum runs a series of lively tours peppered with real-life anecdotes from the building’s former residents that give interesting insights into the experience of poor immigrants in New York in the late 19th and early 20th century. In order to fully convey their rich material, the museum requires that all visitors join one of their expert-led tours, each focusing on a single family or group of families from the period; options range from “Getting By” (the story of Jewish and Irish Catholic families surviving the panic of 1873 and the Great Depression) to “The Moores: an Irish Family in America” (a visit to the 1869 family of Irish immigrants coping with the loss of a child) to “Immigrant Soles” (a neighborhood walking tour that discusses the city’s past and present immigration). Even if you haven’t booked a tour, the small gallery and gift shop down the block at 103 Orchard Street are still worth a look.
GO HERE WITH
History buffs; family; kids
WHY WE LIKE IT
Between the authentically restored apartments and the excellent, anecdote-laden commentary of the guides, the team here really makes New York’s immigrant history come to life. For first-time visitors, we’d recommend the “Getting By” tour because it’s the most general, but frankly they’re all fantastic. For those particularly interested in immigrant history, consider pairing a trip here with a visit to Ellis Island. The gift shop, where the tours start and end, is one of the best we’ve seen, offering high-quality trinkets, accessories, and picture books on past and present New York City (great for gifts or interesting souvenirs).
WHAT WE WOULD CHANGE
It would be nice if there were some areas of the museum (besides the gift shop) that you didn’t have to pre-book. Also, and perhaps to keep it authentic, the tours inside the building itself are unbearably hot during the summers.
GOOD TO KNOW
The museum also leads weekend walking tours of the Lower East Side from April to December. Tours often sell out, so definitely book ahead (a requirement)–but, given that there are no exchanges or refunds permitted on tickets, book prudently. Also, those traveling with children should note that there are age restrictions on some of the tours (minimum age requirments range between five and twelve years old, depending on the tour). That said, the child-friendy “Confino Family Living History Program,” which tells the story of a Greek Sephardic immigrant teenager, gets rave reviews from family travelers; it offers tons of nifty kid-focused activities (like getting dressed in period costumes), and children are allowed to get hands on with the artifacts on display in the apartment.
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