In an 1863 tenement building, the captivating Tenement Museum provides insights into the hardscrabble lives of newly arrived immigrant families in New York City’s Lower East Side during the 19th and 20th centuries. Guided tours demonstrate the challenges newcomers to America faced and show how migrants helped shape the area.
The Tenement Museum can be visited only as part of a guided tour. Tours fall into three categories: tours of restored and re-created tenement buildings and businesses, neighborhood walking tours, and tours led by costumed interpreters portraying former residents. All tours begin at the visitor center, where a video provides some background information on the tenements and the people who lived in them. For a deeper understanding of the immigrant experience, opt for a private guided tour that includes a cruise around the Statue of Liberty, a trip to Ellis Island, and a walking tour of the formerly immigrant-heavy Lower East Side and East Village neighborhoods. The Tenement Museum also features on some food-focused neighborhood tours that show the big influence multiethnic inhabitants have had on local cuisine.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Most guided museum tours last one to two hours.
- Some tours require participants to climb several flights of stairs so are not accessible to wheelchair users.
- Tours often sell out, so book in advance to ensure a spot on your preferred date and tour.
How to Get There
While the tenement building is at 97 Orchard Street, all tours begin and end at the visitor center at 103 Orchard Street. The nearest subway stops are Delancey Street (F train), Essex Street (J, M, and Z), and Grand Street (B and D), all of which are within five minutes’ walking distance of the museum.
When to Get There
The Tenement Museum is very popular and tours frequently sell out during summer, so it’s best to book in advance. Arrive at least 15 minutes before your tour’s start time so you can check in and store your bags. Allow more time if you want to watch the 30-minute movie at the visitor center before the tour.
How to Choose a Tenement Museum Tour
Hard Times, a building tour that encompasses tours of two apartments—one belonging to the German-Jewish Gumpertz family and the other to the Italian-Catholic Baldizzi family—provides a captivating introduction to life in the tenements, while Irish Outsiders follows the Moore family as they prepare for St. Patrick’s Day in 1869. For children 5 years old and under, Meet Victoria Confino—an interactive tour with a costumed guide—is recommended. Shop Life, a tour that focuses on immigrant businesses, is the only wheelchair-accessible tour to enter 97 Orchard Street.