Whenever someone mentions New York City, what do you think about? You think about the bright lights, the skyscrapers, and screeching subway. You think about the iconic Times Square, Grand Central, Empire State Building, and Rockefeller Center. These are highlights of NYC that are must-sees no doubt but what if you’ve been to The Big Apple a few times and you’re looking to go off the beaten path. What are the “new school” things that are catching on and where are some places that are just itching to get discovered that will make your friends go, “where the heck is that?”
Here are ten spots that you’ll want to make sure you add to your next trip itinerary to New York City.
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1. Greenacre Park
Manhattan is a city of hustle and bustle and what better way to drown out the cacophony of noise than a beautiful and serene waterfall. In the midst of midtown is Greenacre Park which is nestled in between 2nd and 3rd Avenues and on 51st St. This unassuming park is home to the lunch crowd and to passerby’s that discover this little bit of paradise. Grab a coffee and pastry from your favourite cafe and come here for calm and relaxation.
2. Stone Street
In the middle of the Financial district is a slice of Europe that will have you doing a little bit of a double-take. This narrow street becomes more of an alley especially in the summer time when a grid of chairs and tables fill the cobblestone. This makes for a perfect food break where you’ll find anything from crepes, fish tacos, pizza, and enchiladas.
3. Fort Wadsworth
If you truly want to go off the beaten path, you have to start exploring the other 4 boroughs of New York – Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island. Staten Island is particularly interesting because #1, the ferry there is a fraction of the cost of the one that takes you to Statue of Liberty or any boat cruise, and it gives you just as good of a view. #2, there’s a little known fort that is one of America’s oldest military site. Lasting 200 years, this fort was built to protect New York Harbor at a time when seacoast fortifications were a main method of defence. Entrance to Fort Wadsworth is free!
Take the S51 Grant City bus and stop off at Lily Pond Av / MC Clean Av (15 minutes one way) to get you right in front of the fort.
4. Brooklyn Flea
Smorgasburg has gotten critical acclaim over the past few years so I’ve skipped it over in favour of Brooklyn Flea which is kind of it’s first cousin. Here, antiques and vintage are the mainstay as opposed to food. Every weekend, vendors from all over the city share their curated goods with locals and visitors. It’s an urban experience like no other.
There are locations all over the city and in various boroughs. Make sure you check their schedule before going.
5. Roosevelt Island
Technically part of Manhattan, this island is connected to by a tram which in itself is a reason why you should head towards Roosevelt Island. I particularly like taking the tram in the evening when the city lights are lit around the Upper East Side. All it takes is a swipe of your metro card at 60th St and 2nd Ave.
Once home to insane asylums, prisons, and welfare housing blocks, sure it may seem to be bit drab and dreary here, but with its recent gentrification, there are lots of reasons to come here. Come to the island to explore North Point Lighthouse, the Octagon, Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, and the Smallpox Hospital ruins.
Oh and did I mention that the Red Bus that circumnavigates the island is free?
6. Red Hook Piers
Queens is an enormous borough that has a lot to offer. While seemingly out of the way, Red Hook Piers is somewhere you’ll want to add to your itinerary if you enjoy good views, good art, and good food. Along the cobbled streets of the pier, you’ll be rewarded with magnificent views of Manhattan, the East River and the Statue of Liberty. On the food front, you’ll find Red Hook Lobster, Hometown Bar-B-Que, and Steve’s Key Lime Pies. For art lovers, you’ll find enough galleries and studios to fill your day.
7. Abandoned City Hall Subway Station
The first subway station ever built in Manhattan was the City Hall station, opening in 1904 and closing in 1945. This ushered a new era of rapid transit in the city but due to the popularity and convenience of the nearby Brooklyn Bridge station, traffic eventually declined. Despite being abandoned, you’d never be able to tell as it retains all the original tile work, curved archways, and vaulted ceilings.
Now how do you catch a glimpse of this abandoned station? One way is to take the 6 train downtown and when it makes its final stop at “Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall”, duck down and wait for it to pass through the station to turn around. Now the more legitimate way to see it is to do the proper New York Transit Museum tour which offers its members a chance to do a walking tour several times a year. What you’ll need to do is sign up for an annual membership ($50), wait for dates and availability to be announced, and then jump on tickets right away (additional $50).
8. NY Botanical Gardens
These gardens are arguable the best maintained garden in the city. From a cactus-filled dessert to lush tropical rainforests, these gardens will walk you through a wonderland of everything that grows.
9. Louis Armstrong’s House
Betcha didn’t know that Louis Armstrong’s house was in Queens! Home to the legendary soul singer and trumpeter, and one of the single most influential figures in jazz, taking a tour of this historical monument will offer a glimpse into his life and his works.
Admission is $10 and includes a guided historic house tour which should not be missed.
Coming to this museum also gives you a chance to metro up to Astoria which features The Arepa Lady, Bohemian Beer Garden, and Museum of the Moving Image just to name a few.
10. Spa Castle
If you’ve ever been to Korea, you’ll know about the jjimjilbang. I had a chance to explore one during my trip to Seoul and wow is it an experience or what. The concept is this: take a large multi-story building and fill it with a pool, steam room, massage therapy, sleeping room, fitness room, restaurants, and every single type of sauna known to man and give customers access to everything with the purchase of a day pass. Massages, food, and drink are extra of course.
Spa Castle has adopted the idea of jjimjilbang to North America so it’s slightly different but it is still a worthy $40 activity during the weekday in Queens that will have your whole body feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.
So these are my 10 picks for fun and different things to see and do while visiting New York. This is just the tip of the iceberg and you’ll quickly find that the other boroughs outside of Manhattan are they key to everything.
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