Meet Joyce of Joyce Gold History Tours of NY

Meet Joyce of Joyce Gold History Tours of NY

One thing leads to another. For Joyce Gold, a New York City walking tour guide with a wealth of knowledge, that’s especially true. After finishing her undergraduate degree, Gold began her first career as an English teacher for the city school system. She then got into computers and became an analyst for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. After that, she started a stained glass business and, eventually, sold residential real estate. While those careers may seem quite different, they all built up to Gold’s current career of guiding locals and visitors alike through the streets of New York on her Joyce Gold History Tours.

“When I was a teacher, I liked stories,” explains Gold. “When I was a computer analyst, I liked data. When I had a stained glass business, I liked running the operation and not working for anybody. And then when I sold real estate, I liked buildings, which is a lot of what I talk about on my tours.” Through both private custom tours and scheduled public tours, Gold guides her clients through many facets of New York’s history. “Originally I thought that it would be very good for New Yorkers to know things that they pass every day,” says Gold. “It would make their life more interesting, and would also be good for the city for people to have a kind of deeper knowledge.” 

As interest in her Joyce Gold History Tours grew, the business became a full-time operation. And after more than 45 years, she does not intend to slow down. “I can’t believe I get to do this and call it work,” she says. “I never lose my fascination.”

History Tours Through the Years

It all started when Gold picked up a 100-year-old book detailing New York’s early colonial years and the American Revolution. Key events like the Battle of Golden Hill happened near her office at the Federal Reserve. “It was a very interesting mental exercise, to just imagine the different layers of time,” she says. 

Her first tour ran in the Financial District. “That has the most layers of time,” she says. “It was Dutch colonial for 40 years, then British colonial for 119 years, and [later] Ground Zero, 9/11, and all the different things that have happened there—I’ve been giving that tour for almost 50 years and I still update it every time I do it.”

Today Joyce Gold History Tours run in 45 different NYC neighborhoods, some with multiple topics from which to choose. In Greenwich Village she focuses on music, Italian history, Black history, the waterfront, food, the High Line, the Meatpacking District, and the buildings of NYU, for starters. “The Immigrant, Radical, Notorious Women of Washington Square is a popular tour,” she says. “And Greenwich Village is so endless that if anybody comes up with a theme, it’s usually possible to focus on that theme in Greenwich Village.”

This year (2024) marks the 400th anniversary of the Dutch settlement of Manhattan (spending their first year on Governors Island), a milestone Gold commemorates with a special tour. “We talk about why the Dutch were here and who the Dutch were in 1624,” she explains. “They were here to make a profit. They were not here for religious freedom, which meant, surprisingly, [New York was] much more diverse ethnically than Philadelphia or Boston.” During only 40 years of settlement, the Dutch affected the character of the city forever. “It’s why we’re different from really any other place,” says Gold.

Talks on Land and at Sea 

In addition to her NYC history tours, Gold gives illustrated talks with custom presentations for special events like college orientations and corporate meetings. You can even find her on the westbound voyage of the luxury Cunard transatlantic ocean liners. “I’m a destination speaker,” she explains. “People are coming to New York, and I do 45-minute PowerPoint talks.” Topics include the Dutch settlement of New York, the creation of Central Park, the creation of Grand Central, and the radical women of Washington Square. “I started doing that because none of the other speakers said anything about women,” she says. “There’s no other place like it in the world, with incredible women within about three blocks.”

Thanks to the nature of an ever-changing city, Gold never tires of her subject material. “One of the things that provides a lot of variety to me, is to figure out whom I’m speaking with,” she says. Her information for tourists fresh to the city differs from that for locals seeking to learn more about their own neighborhood. “I focus on the why of everything,” she explains. “For people in the city, they know what they pass every day, but I tell them why everything is: the street patterns, the street names, the roads, the angles.”  

“I wrote guidebooks [about] Greenwich Village [and] the Financial District, which I kept bringing out in new editions,” adds Gold. “It’s just endlessly fascinating.”

Methods and Advice

To ensure Joyce Gold History Tours remain current, Gold constantly researches. “I shred the New York Times,” Gold says. “If it’s an article that has a lot on an area that I do, I will cut it out and wait until I’m in the mood to really study it. And books on New York, I don’t read, I study.” Her personal library features more than 1,000 books. 

“My tours are as accurate as I can make them,” she adds. To design a tour, she’ll first print a map of the neighborhood. Gold aims for a big start and finish to keep it entertaining as well as informative. “When I come up with a route, I look at what I have in my sources,” she says. “Any book I’ve read in the last 50 years on New York, I’ve taken notes on it. And of course, there’s so much online that I fill in with.” 

For aspiring tour guides, Gold advises to be very careful about accuracy. It’s okay to say you don’t know. Another important aspect: entertainment. “People are in your hands usually for a couple of hours,” she says. “Make it interesting, but without disregarding the truth. Sometimes the best stories are the least likely, [but] give up the temptation to tell the wild story if it’s not the truth.”

Be on the lookout for Dreams Abroad’s ongoing Meet the Locals series. Follow our series to meet other global professionals sharing their stories from around the world.

16 thoughts on “Meet Joyce of Joyce Gold History Tours of NY

  1. I would love to have her as a tour guide. Her roots as a teacher seem like they’d make her really good at it, and being a story teller at heart only makes it better.

  2. Thats so amazing! Love that she puts so much time and effort AND keeps up with what areas are popular. So amazing you know you’ll get a really informative tour with Joyce!

  3. Looks like such an amazing tour this woman gives. I lived in NYC for many years and I know I would enjoy her hearing her perspective. Thanks for sharing.

  4. What a wonderful and inspiring story! Joyce Gold’s journey from an English teacher to a renowned New York City tour guide is truly fascinating. Seeing how she has blended her diverse experiences into creating engaging and informative tours is amazing. Keep up the fantastic work, Joyce! Your love for New York and its history shines through brilliantly.

  5. She sounds like an incredible person to have a tour with! I love historical guides and learning all about the past of a particular location.

  6. I believe Joyce has really enjoyed her time as a tour guide. It must be a fulfilling job. I’d love to know more about 9/11.

  7. omg I can’t imagine how interesting and exciting her stories would be. All this experience, wow…She is absolutely amazing.

  8. Joyce’s journey from teacher to tour guide is so inspiring ❤️. Her passion for NYC’s history shines through beautifully in her tours. I’d love to check out her guidebooks as well 😍.

  9. There is so much history that I can see how Joyce loves sharing her knowledge. I would love to be on one of her tours. And of course I love NY, so that makes it even better

  10. I have never been on a walking tour, but I really want to as you seem to always learn new things. Joyce sounds amazing and would love to have a walking tour with her

  11. What an amazing journey Joyce has had, I have always loved history and her knowledge must be so amazing and so interesting to listen too

  12. Joyce Gold’s tours sound incredible! It’s amazing how she weaves together centuries of history to showcase NYC’s rich, layered past.

  13. Sounds like Joyce provides an interesting tour, I can’t even imagine all the history she knows and shares with everyone. This has to be such an amazing experience.

  14. It’s nice to hear that Joyce looks for more current information about the area she tours! I would have thought it was primarily scripted.

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