Fri-Wed, 10am-6:30pm; Thu, 10am-8:30pm
F, J, M, Z at Delancey St.-Essex St.; B, D at Grand St.
$25, $20 students and seniors
American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
A guided tour is the only way into the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, a five-floor landmark 1863 tenement with apartments that have been decorated to recall the lives of actual residents. The museum strives to promote tolerance, reminding visitors of the challenges facing modern-day immigrants by presenting the struggles faced by those in the past. Guides encourage discussion and often begin a tour by asking visitors about their own ethnic roots—and whether any of their ancestors passed through Ellis Island or lived on the Lower East Side. Groups cluster in the narrow tenement's dim, crumbling, and surprisingly ornate entryway before heading upstairs to visit select apartments. Choose to learn about the trials of the Levines and Rogarshevskys, who worked in the garment industry, or the experiences of the Gumpertz and the Baldizzi families during the Panic of 1873 and Great Depression of 1929. The family-friendly Confino Apartment tour allows children to touch things, try on clothes, and pester the “costumed interpreter” who plays a teenage Sephardic-Jew from Greece, and greets visitors as if they were immigrants just landed in America. Or visit a re-created German saloon (no beer is served) and learn about other immigrant-run businesses once located in the building on the “Shop Life” tour.Guided Tour
The museum offers twelve distinct guided tours, including visits to re-created tenement homes, neighborhood walking tours, discussion programs, and costumed interpretation programs. While focusing on different ethnic groups and time periods, the tours cover much of the same ground—a brief history of Manhattan and immigration, tenement conditions and regulations, and the challenges of adjusting to American life, supplemented by personal anecdotes and artifacts. If you only have time for one tour and want the broadest overview, opt for “Hard Times” (call in advance to arrange a sign language tour; the “Shop Life” tour is the only wheelchair-accessible tour).
Visitor’s Center & Gift Shop
Stop here to purchase tickets for the guided tour, but be sure to carve out extra time for the fabulous browsing: black-and-white historic postcards, journals, kids’ toys, hip souvenirs, and a slew of books on New York, cultural studies, urban studies, Judaica, travel, cooking, and more. Still have time to kill? A film about immigration produced by the museum plays continuously in an adjoining room.
In addition to the tenement tours, the museum offers five walking tours of the historic Lower East Side, including “Foods of the Lower East Side,” which includes tastings of local delicacies. They take place from April through December.
Check the website for information on space rentals and private events.
Classes & Lectures
The museum’s lofty mission extends beyond tours and archival work to encompass teacher training workshops and education programs on urban life and culture.