LUNY! was just named Best Private Tour of NYC with US News and World Report!

Punk Rock to the Rockaways!

Over the past two months, I had the awesome opportunity to co-lead a Punk Rock School Bus tour, in concert with the recently closed HEY HO! LET’S GO! Exhibit on the Ramones at the Queens Museum. One tour was back in June and the other was last month. On each tour I got to take a yellow cheese bus chock full of Punk Rock fans on an awesome neighborhood tour of Forest Hills and Rockaway Beach in Queens.

The Levys’ Unique New York! (LUNY!) provides step-on, group and private tour guides for sightseeing in New York City, including a Punk Rock tour!

For those of you who have never heard of the Ramones, they were the first true punk band. Dressed in matching leather jackets and ripped jeans, they were terrible musicians who more often than not devolved into arguments with one another instead of playing basic three-bar-chord songs, mostly about girls and partying and being bored teenagers. But they were instrumental to MANY many teenagers who went off and started their own band.

The Levys’ Unique New York! (LUNY!) provides step-on, group and private tour guides for sightseeing in New York City, including a Punk Rock tour!I offer a tour, HEY HO! LET’S GO! Punk Rock on the Bowery which, while visiting various bars and shops, compares and contrasts the Gangs of NY of the 1850s with the punks of the 1970s. My whole theory is that the only thing separating these two disparate cultures is 150 years and electricity. And after a couple of pints, you believe me!

The Levys’ Unique New York! (LUNY!) provides step-on, group and private tour guides for sightseeing in New York City, including a Punk Rock tour!On June’s Punk Rock School Bus tour, I co-guided with former punk rocker Richard Adler, of the proto-punk band Tangerine Puppets. Richard was a fellow Forest Hills High School student alongside all four Ramones (hint – none were actually named Ramone.) and future folk superstars Simon and Garfunkel. We visited a number of punk rock cultural landmarks, including the apartment buildings in Forest Hills where they lived and the Law Office (formerly an artist gallery) where they first practiced.

On July’s Punk Rock School Bus tour, I co-guided with Monte Melnick, the Ramone’s touring manager of 20 years. I told stories about how NYC was the birthplace of punk a century before the musical movement actually started, as well as shared some interesting NYC stories and the city that helped to form The Ramones, Talking Heads, Blondie, etc. But the true star of the tour was Monte, with his extraordinary stories about putting up with the Ramones and all their antics. This tour ended in the Rockaways where we joined a punk rock concert-in-progress, featuring local NYC noise rockers Rattrap Bumpkin and the Unstoppable Death Machines.

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I Love The Bronx… Week!

I Love The Bronx Week Levy's Unique New York Family Of Tour GuidesA few weeks ago, Jonah Levy and I had the wonderful opportunity to TAKE a tour, instead of LEAD a tour. Better yet, we got to take a tour of The Bronx – probably the borough I know the least about. (For example, I’ve led Staten Island Bike Beer Blitzes and I’ve led Queens Foodie Tours with aplomb. But the Bronx is a beast. And besides, our Dad happens to be a native Bronxite, so we hand all Bronx tour requests to him.

Therefore, when I learned about I Love The Bronx Week, and the absolutely free guided tour of the Bronx by Borough Historian Lloyd Ultan, younger bro Jonah and I jumped at the chance to learn more about the amazing Northern Territory. Filled with so-bad-they’re-good jokes (whilst passing under the Highbridge, NYC’s oldest bridge, Lloyd quipped “people always ask what the bridge must be smoking!”) and beautiful views of awesome art deco apartment buildings and fun-filled facts about native Bronxites (Stanley Kubrick! DJ Kool Herc! Tony Curtis! Ralph Lauren!) we tootled through a truly diverse collection of neighborhoods and areas. From University Heights to Fordham, Morrisania, the Hub, Belmont and West Farms, everywhere we went Bronxites were happy to see us.I Love The Bronx Week Levy's Unique New York

And even though the views atop that double decker were beautiful, the most refreshing experience in The Bronx was that, while zipping around on a double-decker bus, local New Yorkers were actually waving and cheering our presence! If you’ve ever spent any time on top of a DD bus in Manhattan, the reactions (when you get any) from the locals runs the gamut from disgust to outright hostility. As a tour guide, I’ve heard rude New Yorkers shout “Go love your own city!” to busloads of tourists who take the whole thing in as an “authentic NY experience.” Which, unbeknownst to them, is hardly how most modern-day NYers act. We’re nice people! We’re just always in a rush. Same goes for Brooklynites – whether they’re dyed-in-the-wool natives or they’re recent transplants – they often BOOO! the passing double deckers packed with people itching to see what all the Brooklyn hubbub is about.

Which is why it was so nice to see Bronxites of all ages and colors waving to us and cheering to us and truly welcoming us to The Bronx. That kind of hometown pride, unadorned by cynicism or irony, just pure unabashed passion and pride for their hometown. And that’s what we like to see when touring around our own city. Hooray for New Yorkers! And we LOVE THE BRONX all year round!

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A Concert In My Living Room

A Concert in My Bushwick Living RoomI came home a month ago to find a concert in my living room.

Well actually, I came home a month ago to find 40-some-odd complete strangers, hanging out in my kitchen and living room, drinking beers and wine (they BYO’d,) chatting and mingling, talking and hanging out. But there was a palpable sense of anticipation in the air. And a considerable amount of energy was focused over on one guy, tall and reed-thin, with a floppy hat and oval glasses. This was the guy that everyone had come to see perform. Indie rock and roll music. In my living room. So after about 40 some-odd minutes of excited small talk, everyone took a seat on the floor, this rock and roller took a seat on my couch, and the concert began.


Alex Ounsworth is the former-and-sometimes-current frontman for a seminal lo-fi indie rock band from Philadelphia/Brooklyn called Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. They were huuuugge back in the early aughts. Sold out venues, headlined festivals, you get the pic. They also happen to be one of my wife’s favorite bands.

So when Jenny heard that Mr. Ounsworth was organizing a series of “Living Room Shows,” where he would show up and play his acoustic guitar, answer questions, and basically be an anti-rock star in our own home, she jumped at the chance.

Pictures of the “venue” (aka our living room) were snapped and sent to Alec, a standard contract was signed, tickets were sold (with 100% of the proceeds going to Alec – we didn’t make a cent) and the date was set!

That particular day I had an 8 hour tour (!!) and had to pickup the kid from daycare and drop her off at the folks’ place so I didn’t get to chat with Alec until after his 2 hour show had ended, but he was as gracious, generous and good tempered as you could imagine. And after he sold some merch and signed some records, and after everyone had cleaned up their own beer and wine bottles and tossed away their bags of chips, our very own living room rock star packed his own guitar into his car and drove back to Philly.

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In which Matt Levy takes a DIY Craft Cocktail Class

Matt Levy and Eben Freeman make craft cocktailsFor those of you that didn’t know it, I am a craft cocktail enthusiast. This is a combination of circumstances (having a 2.5-year-old means I don’t go out much after bedtime) location (NYC is an incredible craft cocktail city) and my compulsion to learn as much as I can (to a seriously geeky degree) about things that interest me.

For those of you who’ve taken my tours, you may have noticed that I try to learn EVERYTHING about NYC. For those of you who have been to my home in Bushwick, that means you’ll be stuck listening to intimate insider stories of what it means to be a proud Brooklynite and homeowner (anyone want to see the bedroom? OF COURSE YOU DO!) And for those of you who suffered through enough of that to end up drinking with me, that means you got to enjoy a (hopefully) well crafted cocktail, be it gin, whiskey, rum or mezcal.

Matt's Bar

But as with any hobby, I can always learn more!

So I decided to take a Do It Yourself Craft Cocktail Class, run by the eminent cocktail professional Eben Freeman, of AvroKO and formely of Altamarea, both very highly esteemed hospitality groups. The class took place in Genuine Liquorette, a sneaky underground bar done up to look like your father’s favorite self-service package store from the late 70s.

Eben Freeman Mixing

What should’ve just run two hours on Monday night instead ran past three and a half, in which Mr Freeman expounded, to an intimate class of less than 10 people, on the finer points of bartending. Insider tips such as better speed-pouring, the importance of always holding your liquor bottle with the label facing the customer, how to master the incredibly intricate art of stirring mixed drinks, and the controversial “hard shake,” it was a wonderful evening of learning how to make better mixed drinks anytime one is behind the bar.

Behind the Bar

So next time you book me for a tour, consider having it end at my house in Bushwick and maybe you can even get a tasty Happy Hour drink! Just don’t forget to tip the bartender!

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Panorama Challenge 9: Round 1 Questions & Answers

Thanks again to all of you who came out to the Queens Museum to make it a great night! There were no perfect scores, but there were no 100% stumpers, unlike ‘Ota Benga’ from last year.  At least one team got each of the answers,  both Challenger & Pro. Congratulations to all!

See you at the Panorama next year!


Used To Be

1 In 1853 the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations was held here.
What was the name of the sparkling structure it called home?
Across the street was the city’s tallest structure, another attraction of the exhibition.
What was the name of this 315 foot tall feature?

2 The park and this Bronx reservoir are named for the grandfather of a man who had nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.
What was the grandfather’s name?
The reservoir replaced what racy attraction?

3 This venue was built for the ‘64 Worlds Fair. Back then it was called a Bowl and its corporate sponsor had naming rights ‘all sewed up’.
What was its name in 1964?
Big changes lie ahead. What will be done to the stadium after the 2016 US Open?

Law & Order

4 This police show from the 70’s was set in this neighborhood.
What is the show?
This is not the 12th Precinct, as the show claims. What precinct is it?

5 When the theme music ended on this 80’s NBC show you’d be looking at a picture of the County Courthouse here, on Foley Square.
What’s the show?
Complete the George Washington quote carved above the columns of the courthouse: The True Administration of Justice is the Firmest PILLAR of GOOD Government.

6 This neighborhood has a street named for an actor from this show.
Try to Remember the name of the Tony Award winning actor.
The show shot hundreds of scenes in Foley Square. Give us the two word nickname of the Tammany big shot the square is named for.

Complicated Rocks

7 Arbitration Rock is here, in Ridgewood…. we think… actually, it’s complicated, let’s not get into it! What did this rock once mark?
The rock currently resides in the backyard of what historic home?

8 Here, you’ll find C Rock, named for the giant blue C painted above the Harlem River.
What is the name of this Bronx neighborhood to which it belongs?
Although it’s across the river from Columbia’s football stadium, another Columbia team claims the rock.
Which team does the painting?

9 This park has a straight forward enough name. It has a significant peak and is a bit stony. It’s also home to the headquarters of the Greenbelt.
Name this park.
The complication comes with the name of its 260 foot high man-made hill.
Give either common name.

Practical Parks

10 This valley has kettle ponds and salt marshes and is the second biggest park in Queens.
What is its name?
The park was once at one end of what Vanderbilt-built road?

11 There’s a nice pier here, but no big antenna and no pledge drive. Is this really the right park?
Give the official name of this Greenpoint park.
A block away are landmarked factory buildings. You might be holding, or chewing on, one of their products now.
Which Germanic family firm operated there?
EBERHARD FABER (pencil factory)

12 Not just barbeques and ballfields here, this former garbage dump also has a golf course with a highly impractical 200 million dollar pricetag. And it comes with a familiar name attached. Who manages the golf course?
What is the name of the park?

Speak Up!

13 In 1939 Fritz Kuhn addressed a crowd of 20 thousand at a rally in this neighborhood. He did not sing “Happy Birthday Mr President” or watch a hockey game. In which venue did he speak?
What German-American organization did he lead?

14 In 1860, Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln gave a speech here, by Astor Place. In what institution’s basement did Lincoln and in this clip, Sam Waterston speak?
Only days before, he thought he’d be speaking in which venue outside New York City?

15 Dr King gave a notable speech here, at Riverside Church, subtitled A Time to Break Silence
What is the common name of this speech?
Where was Dr. King exactly one year later?

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