Last week, I was invited to go on the Ultimate Beatles Tour in New York through Hip Host, a marketplace for socially-hosted things to do, lead by locals in various cities at an affordable price. My tour guide was a really down to Earth guy named Frank, who seemed to know everything there was to about The Beatles.
Our first stop on the tour was the Ed Sullivan Theater at 34th and Broadway. The Beatles had first come to America in February of 1964 to play here. John F. Kennedy had recently been shot, and The Beatles gave people away to escape from the sadness. The band ended up playing in front of an audience of 73 million.
Our next stop was Carnegie Hall at 7th Avenue and 57th. This was considered the site The Beatles first concert in New York, which is funny because Carnegie Hall is a classical music venue. It was the first time a rock band had played in this setting. As Frank described the concert that took place in detail, even knowing times, dates, and set lengths, I felt as though I were talking to John Lennon himself.
Next we went over to The Plaza Hotel at Fifth Avenue and Central Park South. This is where The Beatles would stay when they visited New York. People would actually camp out, creating a chaotic scene of 10-15,000 screaming fans just trying to catch a glimpse of a Beatle. Frank told us funny stories about pranks the hotel staff would play on the campers, like putting a wig that resembled a real Beatles hair, putting it on the end of a broomstick, and poking it out the window to evoke hysteria in the mass.
Now this is where the tour turns grim, at the Dakota Apartments on Central Park West and 72nd. This is where John Lennon lived with his wife Yoko (who still owns the apartment) raised their son Sean together. It is also the site where Mark David Chapman, a deranged fan who began to think that he himself was the real John Lennon, shot and killed the Beatle. Even though it happened in December of 1980, the tragedy can still be felt in that area today.
Right inside Central Park (near the Dakota), you can walk through Strawberry Fields and visit the Imagine memorial, a site dedicated to John Lennon. There are still memorials held there, and at times you can watch musicians playing Beatles songs as a crowd bursts into an impromptu singalong.
While this post gives you a taste of what you will learn about on the tour, it is only skimming the surface. Frank is literally a wealth of knowledge, telling us stories of fights the guys had, family problems, fun facts, and even quoting the musicians as if he knew him personally. If you are a Beatles fan or just enjoy learning interesting history about New York, this is a great tour to take (especially at only $20 a person!).