This post is by Jessica Tiare Bowen, one of our contributors.

One of my favorite things to do in New York City is explore it via Soundwalk. For those of you who haven’t heard of Soundwalk, get your walking shoes on and your iPods charged. It is perhaps one of the most innovative ways to explore neighborhoods in NYC (and a few other cities), and lets you feel like a true local.

Soundwalk started in the early 2000’s, and “made its name by producing cutting-edge audio guides, mixing fiction and reality to provide an exclusive and poetic discovery of a city, on the bridge between Baudelairian stroll and cinematic experience.”

You start by downloading your tour of choice to your iPod.  Then just hop on the subway and head to the starting point of the tour. The narrator is usually a native of that part of town and leads you through the streets of his neighborhood.  You’ll visit cafes, stores, parks, religious institutions, lofts, bakeries, and even apartments. While walking, your guide gives you a bit of history on the area and explains to you (in vivid detail) what makes the neighborhood tick.

Thus far, I have embarked on the following tours, all of which I would highly recommend for not only a one-of-a-kind city adventure, but also culture like you’ve never seen before:

  1. Woman’s Hasidic Walk in Williamsburg, Brooklyn:  Wander through yiddish bakeries and specialty  hardware stores that bless the silverware before you take it home.
  2. The Chinatown Walk: This tour urges you to peek through the crack of the door, almost making you feel like a trespasser.  You’ll end by heading inside a Buddhist temple.
  3. The Meatpacking Tour: A merge of the grotesque history of slaughtered animals with the fashion savvy night clubs gives you the building code for an artist’s studio.
  4. Little Italy: Perfect for anyone in search for the oldest cheese shop and the best cannoli shop in town.

I would pinpoint the Hasidic Walk in Brooklyn as my favorite simply because the content of the walk was the most foreign to me, and I really felt as though I gained insight into Hasidic history. Completely immersing yourself in another culture just a few short miles from your apartment is one of the wonderful things about NYC, and Soundwalk gives you an hour to really walk in the shoes of that culture, so to speak.

Image via @l+q‘s flickr stream