New York City, a vibrant space of culture, history, and innovation, offers a myriad of experiences that go beyond the usual tourist attractions. For the curious traveler looking to delve into the city’s more unique offerings, this guide unveils hidden gems in NYC that are some of the most unusual and intriguing activities to add to your itinerary.
Whether you’re a long-term resident renting in NYC or a first-time visitor, there’s much to see and do in the city. These unique things to do in NYC will offer a different perspective of the Big Apple.
Hidden Gems In NYC
Discover the City’s Secret Gardens
Amidst the concrete jungle, NYC hides several secret gardens that offer serene escapes. One of these hidden gems is the Elizabeth Street Garden in Nolita. This enchanting space, filled with intricate sculptures and lush greenery, is perfect for a quiet afternoon.
Explore the Abandoned City Hall Subway Station
If you’re a history buff or an adventure seeker, visit the abandoned City Hall Subway Station. One of the top hidden gems in NYC, this architectural marvel opened in 1904 only to close again in 1945.
With its beautiful arches and glass ceilings, this station is a perfect time capsule of the city’s past. Accessible through guided tours, you won’t want to miss out on this eerie yet fascinating glimpse into old New York.
Green-Wood Cemetery Tour
Another favorite among unique things to do in NYC is to step into the fascinating history of New York by taking a guided tour of the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. This National Historic Landmark is not only a peaceful final resting place but also home to stunning architecture, sculptures, and the graves of notable figures from New York’s past.
Visit the Museum of Interesting Things
If you’re on the hunt for hidden gems in NYC and museums are on your list, then a visit to the Museum of Interesting Things is a must. This traveling museum is a trove of the intriguing and the bizarre. From ancient typewriters to rare medical devices, the Museum of Interesting Things takes you on a journey through the oddities of technological advancements.
Explore the Art in the Subway
The NYC subway is a sprawling art gallery if you know where to look. Stations like 14th Street-Union Square and Times Square-42nd Street are adorned with intricate mosaics and sculptures, turning your commute into an art tour.
Hunt for Street Art in Bushwick
For art enthusiasts, Bushwick in Brooklyn is a mecca of street art. Take a walking tour of the neighborhood to witness an ever-changing canvas of murals and graffiti. The Bushwick Collective showcases the work of local and international artists, turning the streets into an urban art gallery.
Attend an Underground Supper Club
If you’re a foodie looking for an exclusive dining experience, NYC’s underground supper clubs are a culinary adventure. These invite-only events are often held in secret locations and offer bespoke menus by up-and-coming chefs.
Take a Ghost Tour of Greenwich Village
Greenwich Village, known for its bohemian past, is also home to some of the city’s most spine-tingling ghost stories. Join a guided night tour to explore haunted sites and learn about the ghosts that roam this historic neighborhood.
Ghost tours are a great way to experience the hidden gems of NYC while learning about the area’s history!
Visit the City Reliquary
Another favorite among offbeat things to do in NYC is the City Reliquary. This small museum in Williamsburg is a treasure trove of NYC ephemera. From vintage subway tokens to fragments of famous buildings, the City Reliquary celebrates the everyday artifacts that makeup New York’s rich history.
Kayak in the Hudson River
Take to the waters for a different view of the city and yet another among hidden gems in NYC! Many organizations offer free kayaking sessions on the Hudson River, giving avid travelers a unique perspective of Manhattan’s skyline.
Chinatown Ice Cream Factory
Satisfy your sweet tooth with a visit to the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory. This iconic ice cream parlor offers an array of unique flavors, including lychee, red bean, and sesame. It’s a delightful blend of traditional and exotic tastes.
Experience Sleep No More
Looking for something more immersive? Sleep No More is an interactive theater experience that reimagines Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” in a multi-story warehouse. Unlike a traditional play, the audience can freely explore the space and become part of the story. This may be one of your favorite hidden gems in NYC if you like literature!
Attend a Secret Speakeasy Event
New York’s Prohibition-era speakeasies are a thing of legend, and today, you can relive that era. A favorite night move among hidden gems in NYC is to visit a speakeasy. Hidden bars like Please Don’t Tell (accessed through a phone booth) or the Back Room (with its disguised entrance) offer a clandestine experience with a modern twist.
Unearth the Secrets of Grand Central Terminal
When it comes to hidden gems in NYC, you won’t want to miss Grand Central Terminal! It is more than a train station; it’s filled with secrets waiting to be discovered. From the hidden tennis courts to the Whispering Gallery, a guided tour can reveal these little gems found in the iconic building.
Attend a Performance at an Off-Off-Broadway Theater
Experience the raw and experimental side of NYC’s theater scene at an off-off-Broadway production. These intimate performances offer a glimpse into the city’s burgeoning artistic talent.
Transport yourself to medieval Europe by visiting The Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park. This branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art specializes in European medieval architecture, sculpture, and decorative arts, creating a serene and timeless atmosphere.
This one is usually only found by the locals for hidden gems in NYC. So don’t miss it!
Visit the Earth Room
In the heart of SoHo lies one of New York’s most extraordinary art installations: The Earth Room. Created by artist Walter De Maria in 1977, this single room contains 280,000 pounds of soil, transforming the space into an indoor earth sculpture. This quiet, meditative space contrasts sharply with the bustling city streets outside, offering a surreal experience that challenges the senses and perception.
If you’re searching for something unique among hidden gems in NYC, The Earth Room is certainly the place for you!
Explore The Elevated Acre
Hidden gems in NYC can be hidden in plain sight! Such is the case in the Financial District is a secret elevated park called The Elevated Acre. Accessed through an escalator on Water Street, this one-acre urban oasis offers spectacular views of the East River and Brooklyn Bridge. It’s a perfect spot for a peaceful lunch break or a serene moment away from the city’s chaos.
Roosevelt Island Tramway
Soar above the East River on the Roosevelt Island Tramway. Connecting Manhattan to Roosevelt Island, this aerial tram provides stunning panoramic views of the city skyline and the Queensboro Bridge, offering a unique and thrilling mode of transportation.
Governors Island Glamping
Experience luxury camping with a twist on Governors Island. During the summer months, visitors can indulge in glamping (glamorous camping) with breathtaking views of the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline, combining nature’s tranquility with the city’s vibrancy.
Discover The MMuseumm
Tucked away in a former freight elevator in Cortlandt Alley, The Mmuseumm is one of the smallest museums you’ll ever visit. This tiny museum specializes in modern life’s “overlooked, dismissed, or ignored” objects. Its collection, which changes annually, is a fascinating commentary on the modern world, showcasing items ranging from the mundane to the extraordinary in a space not much larger than a closet.
There is a labyrinth of hidden gems in NYC showcasing the unique and the unexpected. Whether you’re a visiting tourist or you’ve lived here all your life, these unusual activities will ensure your experience in the city is anything but ordinary.