ABOUT

BQE Tours: The Brooklyn Queens Experience proposes the ultimate “anti-tourist” tours of NYC’s burgeoning boroughs. Experience the cultural, culinary, and historical character of vibrant neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens in the company of a NYC native guide, who weaves together historical and contemporary insights with personal perspectives.

Small-group walking tours cover carefully curated, slice-of-life itineraries in DUMBO, Williamsburg, or Long Island City. Experiential by design, guests not only see the sights, but engage in cultural connectivity via encounters with local artists, “makers,” and entrepreneurs, and stops to sample neighborhood food and drink. Customizable private tours for groups and individuals can also be arranged throughout Brooklyn and Queens.

Don’t just visit NYC, connect with it—let BQE Tours show you the way!

What Can I Expect From a Tour?

Let’s face it, if you come to New York City and only visit Manhattan, you really don’t know the city at all.

Our multilayered neighborhood walking tours in Brooklyn and Queens are experiential and educational by design, affording guests far more than just superficial facts and figures. The colorful stories told by our NYC native guide are combined with itineraries centered on cultural encounters, leaving participants enriched by a wealth of information, entertaining memories, deeper appreciation for NYC’s boroughs, and, very likely, a newfound friendship or two!

At BQE Tours, we don’t herd you around like cattle on tour buses, or walk around with a yellow flag held high, pointing at attractions and talking at you. Our tours are small-group affairs, where neighborhoods are intimately explored on foot in the company of fellow like-minded travelers, as the story of the streets, people, culture, and industry is revealed through conversation and immersion.

We bring you to creative community spaces to meet artists, “makers,” shopkeepers, restauranteurs, and other interesting locals, where you’ll experience a behind-the-scenes peek into the very core of these radically transformed borough neighborhoods. Plus, sample some satisfying selections of signature neighborhood food and drink while you’re at it!

Who Runs BQE Tours?

BQE Tours is a family-owned and -operated walking tour company, featuring tours and concepts designed by co-founders John Garay (a licensed NYC sightseeing guide) and Elissa Garay (an established travel journalist and tourism expert). As lifelong New Yorkers, we have witnessed firsthand the city’s ever-changing nature and incarnations: the grit, grime, gentrification, and glamour. Plus, having visited or lived in more than 60 countries between us, we especially understand the needs and wants of the traveler. For more about us, please read up on the BQE Tours team here.

BQE Tours: What’s in a Name?

The Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (known locally as, simply, “the BQE”) marks a rather unattractive stretch of highway (short of some pretty fantastic Manhattan skyline views), bulldozed through the two boroughs that have lent it its name.

You may wonder: Why on earth would we name BQE Tours after an ugly highway?!

In some ways, the BQE exemplifies what makes us sad and angry, a display of overdevelopment, the wreckage of historic working-class neighborhoods, and ever-constant traffic. To many, the highway is the manifestation of the strong and unrelenting will of Robert Moses, the most polarizing urban planner in NYC history.

But, it’s also, along with our subway system, a network for practical access between, and throughout, the boroughs. Whatever opinion you have of Moses, the cars were always going to be stuck in gridlock, horns blaring, either on the local streets or on the highway.

So, hey, what can we say but, as natives, we are also puzzlingly fond of the BQE, a roadway that is both symbolic and personal to us. We love the distant views of Manhattan as we skirt the East River alongside Brooklyn Heights, or as we cross between the two boroughs on the Kosciuszko Bridge, which passes over grimy Newtown Creek. The creek below, a polluted estuary, partially separates the counties of Kings (aka Brooklyn) and Queens with a toxic sludgy waterway (a reminder of the boroughs’ once-booming and under-regulated industrial past), marking the physical and cultural divide between two boroughs with different histories, yet similar evolutions.

Moreover, the Expressway, which forever changed the landscape and amplified the bond between the two boroughs when it was completed in the ’60s, is an overt physical representation of the constantly changing face of Brooklyn and Queens, and the interconnectedness of all the neighborhoods and subcultures that dot its path.

BQE Tours: The Brooklyn Queens Experience likewise serves to connect Brooklyn and Queens, not for cars and trucks, but for independent-minded “anti-tourists” who are interested in high-quality, authentic interactions with the cityscape, people, history, food, and culture of the two boroughs.

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