Provider: Shop Gotham
Length: Half day
Price: $36 to $63
Some people come to New York for theater and the arts; others come to see the sights, to eat at trendy restaurants, or to explore the city's diverse neighborhoods. But for many women, New York's legendary shopping is the main (or even sole) draw.
New York might be a shopper's paradise, but finding good deals on fashionable designs can be a challenge. If you're a Manhattan neophyte, it's easy to wind up wasting your time lost in massive department stores, pondering why anyone would want to spend $50,000 on a dress made of feathers or a diamond-encrusted cell phone.
That's where Shop Gotham comes in. Owned by New Yorker Marla Hander, the company runs two- to three-hour walking tours of some of the city's top shopping districts, including SoHo and the Garment Center. "Insider" guides lead shoppers to hidden boutiques, showrooms, and sample sales where it's possible to nab designer accoutrements discounted by as much as 50 percent. The tours are co-ed, but the vast majority of people who sign up are women.
"Each tour offers something different," says Hander. "In the Garment Center for instance—be it the showrooms or the sample sales we visit—the discounts are a minimum of 50 percent off current-season goods. Visits are to a combination of wholesale showrooms, which give us exclusive access. In SoHo, the discounts are from retail stores (12 specially chosen boutiques) and they run from 10 to 20 percent off. However, we also know and head for the worthwhile sales in the area." Tours include a bit of historical and architectural insight as well.
The two-hour SoHo tour ($36) runs Fridays through Sundays and the three-hour Garment Center tour ($63) runs Wednesdays and Fridays from September through June. Private, custom tours can be arranged with advance notice. Tours include guides and shopping discounts. All other travel expenses including accommodations and transportation are extra. Rates for three-star hotels in Midtown Manhattan in mid-February start around $147 per night. If you're flying to the city, you should check rates at all three New York area airports.