A trip to New York City is sure to include visits to the city’s popular sights like the Empire State Building, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Times Square. But if you want to get a real taste of New York, here are a few ideas off the tourist-beaten path.
- Central Park Benches- The city’s largest park has thousands of benches, and each tells a story. Quotes about anything and everything are written on the benches through the Adopt-a-Bench program, which began in 1986. With a donation of $10,000, the donor is able to get a quote engraved on a bench. While you are in Central Park, check out the statue of Alice in Wonderland, which has been there since 1959. The statue is located on 75th Street, East. It was commissioned by George Delacorte, who had it built in memory of his wife.
- Grand Central Station’s Whispering Arch- If you are traveling through Grand Central Station, make sure to visit the lower concourse, which is home to the Whispering Arch. It is located right in front of the Oyster Bar and Restaurant. Two people stand in opposite corners of the entryway and whisper into the wall. Each will be able to hear as if the person was right next to them. This is a popular spot for marriage proposals.
- City Hall Subway Station- This is one of the most beautiful subway stations in the city. Even though it closed years ago, it is still able to be seen from the 6 train as it turns around after the Brooklyn Bridge stop (this is heavily frowned upon, however, so try the tour led by the New York Transit Museum). The ornate arches, vaults, skylights, and stained glass windows give a glimpse into New York City’s history.
- The Frick Museum’s Bowling Alley- The infamous Frick art collection is in the former home of Henry Clay Frick, but did you know that it also houses a bowling alley? The bowling alley was added to the cellar of the mansion in 1914 and has since been restored to its original design. The only caveat is that you have to be a member of the museum to have access to it.
- Meditation Room at the UN- Looking to take a break from the hustle and bustle of New York City? Look no further than the UN. Very few New Yorkers even are aware of the Meditation Room at the United Nations. It is open to the public, after some security checks. Inside, the room is dimly light except for a narrow beam of light that goes down to a stone altar.
- Rooftop Gardens at Rockefeller Center- Most tourists at least pass by Rockefeller Center during their trip to New York City, but little know about the garden hidden on the rooftop. The garden has plants, flowers, and a reflective pool plus a spectacular view of the city’s landscape. You can see the space on the official Rockefeller Center tour.
- Smallpox Hospital on Roosevelt Island- The Renwick Smallpox Hospital built in the 19th century has been long-abandoned but is still a relic worth visiting. New York City suffered longer with the disease due to the city’s dense population, so the hospital was built on Roosevelt Island to satisfy the quarantine factor. The gothic architecture is still somewhat intact, but plans are in the works to refurbish it. Getting there is easy too—just hop on the Roosevelt Island Tram at East 60th Street and 2nd Ave, and enjoy the views along the way.
- 77 Candy Store- Right outside Melvyn Kaufman’s high rise in the Financial District on Water Street is a penny candy store with a red and yellow awning---completely out of place among the tall gray buildings. It has a soda fountain with an antique cash register and glass candy jars on the counter. Quirky Kaufman also installed a World War I fighter jet replica and runway on the roof.
- Sea Glass Carousel- Battery Park is home to 30 fiberglass fish that run on individual motors in the Sea Glass Carousel. The carousel was designed by Broadway artist George Tsypin to include 12 different fish species such as angelfish and clownfish. Each has speakers that broadcast ocean sounds and a seat so you can take a ride as well.
- High Bridge- If you are heading out to catch a game at Yankee Stadium, take a walk on this footbridge that runs from Washington Heights to the Bronx, over the Harlem River. Constructed in 1848, it is the oldest standing bridge in New York. After many years of use, it closed due to disrepair but after being refurbished in 2015, it is back open for business.
These hidden gems give a glimpse into the history of New York City’s beyond the usual tourist attractions.