New York City is a bustling metropolis that never ceases to amaze. With iconic sights such as the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, and the Empire State Building, it’s a city that has captivated the hearts of millions with the famous “New York Attractions“. However, beyond the well-trodden paths of its famous landmarks, New York offers a plethora of unusual and offbeat activities for the urban explorer. In this blog post, we’ll uncover the top 15 unusual things to do in New York that every adventurous traveler should consider when visiting the Big Apple.
This list of unusual things to do in New York City is for you if you wish to avoid those same old-known attractions and are looking for some thrilling and adventurous fun. We’re about to depart from the typical tourist routes in New York City and examine some of the top off-the-beaten-path activities in our very own dream city. Let’s get started then!
- What is New Jersey known for?
- 4 Important Tips for Moving to NYC
- Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR): Guide, Facilities & Nearby Hotels
- City Hall Station, Manhattan New York
- The Elevated Acre, New York
- Whispering Gallery, Grand Central Terminal New York
- High Bridge, Bronx New York
- Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn New York
- Mmuseumm, Cortlandt Alley New York
- 5 Beekman Street, Nassau St New York
- Mysterious Bookshop, Warren St New York
- New York’s Hidden Tropical Forest, East 43rd Street
- The Ramble Cave, 79th St Transverse
- Greenacre Park, 217 E 51st St New York
- Roosevelt Island Tramway New York
- Trinity Churchyard New York
- Campbell Apartment
- The New York Earth Room
1. City Hall Station, Manhattan New York
While many are familiar with New York’s extensive subway system, few are aware that a hidden gem lies beneath the city’s streets. City Hall Station, which opened in 1904, was closed to the public in 1945 but remains a stunning piece of architectural history. The station lights have been turned back on, and the skylights have been reopened. Passengers can stay on board as the train loops around on those tracks and heads back north, even though they are unable to exit the vehicle and visit City Hall Station as they once might have.
However, you must be a member of the New York City Transit Museum to take one of the occasionally offered tours of the defunct station.
Take a guided tour through the New York Transit Museum to marvel at its ornate design, complete with skylights, chandeliers, and beautifully tiled walls. As you traverse the historic City Hall Station, don’t forget to look up and admire the intricate Guastavino tilework adorning the arched ceiling, which adds an artistic touch to the underground gem.
2. The Elevated Acre, New York
Escape the concrete jungle and find solace in a hidden oasis above the city streets. The Elevated Acre is a beautifully landscaped park situated on an elevated platform between two skyscrapers in the Financial District. With stunning views of the East River and the Brooklyn Bridge, this peaceful retreat offers an idyllic escape from the bustling city life below. Pack a picnic and enjoy an alfresco meal in this solace.
Capture the lush greenery, modern sculptures, and wooden boardwalks that create a delightful atmosphere in this hidden sanctuary.
The secluded urban retreat includes a lawn, an amphitheater, a summer beer garden, winding Brazilian hardwood pathways, breathtaking views of the East River, Brooklyn, and the Brooklyn Bridge, and above all, peaceful seclusion. This is one of the most tranquil spots in New York.
3. Whispering Gallery, Grand Central Terminal New York
Nestled within the walls of Grand Central Terminal lies an acoustic marvel known as the Whispering Gallery. This unassuming alcove, located outside the Oyster Bar & Restaurant, boasts a unique architectural feature that allows whispers to travel clearly from one corner to another. Share a secret with a friend or loved one as you stand in opposite corners of the gallery and experience this acoustic phenomenon firsthand.
Even above the din of the crowds, the sweetest nothing, softest song, or whispered threat can be heard due to the gallery’s unusually perfect arches that give this amazing acoustic oddity.
As you experiment with the Whispering Gallery’s acoustics, be sure to observe the stunning Guastavino tilework that lines the ceiling, another example of the architectural brilliance found throughout New York City.
4. High Bridge, Bronx New York
As New York City’s oldest standing bridge, the High Bridge offers a unique opportunity to travel back in time. Originally built in 1848 to carry water to the city, the bridge now serves as a pedestrian walkway connecting Manhattan and the Bronx. With breathtaking views of the Harlem River, the High Bridge provides a serene and historic escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.
While crossing the High Bridge, take a moment to appreciate the intricate stonework and elegant arches that reflect the engineering prowess of the 19th century, making this historic structure a true marvel.
From Manhattan Side, enter via Highbridge Park and then east of the High Bridge Water Tower Terrace. If you enter from the Bronx side, move from University Avenue to 170th Street.
5. Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn New York
Spanning over 478 acres, the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn is a labyrinthine oasis of art, history, and nature. As the final resting place of numerous notable figures such as Leonard Bernstein and Jean-Michel Basquiat, the cemetery is a treasure trove for history buffs.
Wander the picturesque grounds and discover ornate monuments, mausoleums, and sculptures that tell the stories of those who have come before. In addition to its storied residents and breathtaking monuments, Green-Wood Cemetery is home to a variety of wildlife, including over 200 species of birds, which make this urban oasis a haven for every nature enthusiast and lover.
The white marble obelisk in Green Wood that reads, “Here Lie the Secrets of the Visitors of Green-Wood Cemetery,” does not contain a body. Instead, a slot in the tombstone allows visitors to place pieces of paper with their darkest secrets within. Now how awesome it is to have a place where you can just bury your secrets and take a new step towards a healthy life.
6. Mmuseumm, Cortlandt Alley New York
You might have visited many museums that exhibit various precious collections from all over the world. But have you ever visited a museum that displays your day-to-day used and neglected things and forgotten historic relics in an exotic manner? If not, then the Mmuseumm is definitely a must-visit spot for you. The rotating exotic display of overused and neglected appliances deserves to be on the list of unusual things to do in New York.
It is a tiny space that fits 3 people at a time with a special featured audio tour guide to enhance the experience. The exhibition is renewed every year and contains some unique collections including:
- Minister’s Palace in Baghdad
- Paradise Valley Remains
- Kaunas Coil Heater
- Wonder Cabinets
7. 5 Beekman Street, Nassau St New York
In a city like New York, where free abandoned spaces are as hard to find as Gold, stands 5 Beekman Street abandoned nine-story building harboring the beauty and skill of its architecture. Located near City Hall, it is an awe-inspiring mystery with a brick terra-cotta design.
Architecturally speaking, it is the third structure in the city to have a lift, making it a physical representation of some of New York City’s first and still-standing pre-skyscraper office buildings. One of the rare buildings in Manhattan with an atrium and skylight, as well as intricate cast-iron railings and ceilings, is this late 19th-century Victorian structure.
The once vacant and shuttered building is now a high-end hotel inviting visitors to experience the beauty of the building mixed with the interior designed for the hotel along with a comfortable and affordable stay.
8. Mysterious Bookshop, Warren St New York
Even though mysteries have always been around and popular, they haven’t always been treated with respect. That transition has been significantly aided by Otto Penzler. He is arguably the most significant author who has never published a mystery novel in the history of mystery fiction.
The Mysterious Bookshop, the world’s oldest and largest bookstore specializing in thrillers, mystery, crime fiction, and espionage, is where you enter Otto Penzler’s New York headquarters. The door is barred with a large X made of yellow tape assembles as of the police that says “Do Not Enter.”
These shelves are filled with anthologies, thrillers, fiction, and first editions as well as a haphazard assortment of mass-market hardcovers and paperbacks. The office would rank as the very second-best mystery bookstore after the main area itself if it were a standalone establishment.
9. New York’s Hidden Tropical Forest, East 43rd Street
When it comes to connecting with nature, New Yorkers are in general in good shape. Bryant Park and Riverside Park are only two examples of the city’s many outdoor areas that offer welcome respites from the urban jungle. Other notable parks include the enormous Municipal Central and Prospect Parks. The true tropical jungle tucked away on East 43rd Street, however, is far less well known. The fact that it can be located within an office building is what makes it so unique.
The twelve-story structure resembles a massive tropical greenhouse and is made of glass and steel. Magnolias, miniature bushes, magnolia trees, and garden terraces that slope down to luscious water pools may all be found in the odd landscape. The Ford Foundation’s open-plan offices, which extend to the roof on two sides, allow employees to peer into one another’s offices while overlooking the tropical forest.
The two enormous glass walls and roof serve as a large-scale greenhouse, providing the tropical environment necessary for year-round plant growth. In order to water the plants and fill the swimming pools, even actual rainfall is collected on the roof and combined with the steam condensation from within.
10. The Ramble Cave, 79th St Transverse
Hidden from the eyes of the world in Central Park lies a secret heaven in the form of heavily wooded areas with narrow trails and dotted boulders known as Ramble Cave. Its 36 acres have winding walkways, rustic bridges and creek, striking rock outcroppings, and lush vegetation. They were created to resemble the forests of upstate New York.
It is one of the best spots in the Park for birdwatching, The Ramble is a well-liked location for getting out and appreciating nature and is located in the area described as the Park’s “heart,” which is close to some of Central Park’s most significant picturesque areas.
The Ramble was purposefully designed with a complex layout and winding trails that not only inspire wandering and a sense of mystery and surprise but also make it difficult to navigate. Some of the Ramble’s most breathtaking beauty may be found near its shoreline, which is situated alongside the Lake. The Cave, a geological formation that parks visitors might enter from a boat on the Lake, and the Ramble Stone Arch, a bridge made with rough-hewn stones to look as though it spontaneously developed, are further noteworthy attractions. Azalea Pond, named for the blooms that bloom along its side in the spring, is another.
11. Greenacre Park, 217 E 51st St New York
One of the tiniest secret parks in the city, Greenacre Park is only 1/7 of an acre in size, but it offers a peaceful, loving retreat for the metropolis.
The 25-foot waterfall, the park’s most impressive feature, drowns out the city’s noise and transforms the area into a tranquil oasis. The park was built in 1971 by the Greenacre Foundation based on a Hideo Sasaki design, but it still looks new, thanks to the honey locust trees and unusual Midtown calm.
Greenacre is a vest-pocket theme park. A “vest-pocket” park is a type of urban open space that became popular in the 1970s in order to overcome the high cost of land in city centers, and the requirement to secure the park after hours.
12. Roosevelt Island Tramway New York
Roosevelt Island Tramway is one of only two aerial tramways that are commuter operated in the United States.
The only way to travel across the Queensboro Bridge prior to the trolley’s introduction in 1909 was via boat. The small town was once again virtually cut off from Manhattan after the tram ceased operation in 1957.
That’s when the Roosevelt Island Tramway came to the rescue. The tram started running in 1976, from Manhattan above the East River at 250 feet height. It still connects Manhattan and Roosevelt Island even though it was only meant to be a “temporary” fix until the connection could be made.
It served as the only aerial tramway in the nation with a commuter service for around ten years. The outdated system was updated in 2010, and new cars are now driven on a regular basis.
13. Trinity Churchyard New York
Trinity New York City Church was originally the tallest structure in New York City when it was finished in 1846, but it is now dwarfed by the nearby Wall Street skyscrapers. Many of the stones in the area date back to the 17th century, making them even much older than the church itself.
There is the two-sided grave marker for Richard Churcher, a little child who passed away in 1681. His gravestone has a three-dimensional hourglass, a skull, and bones on the back, making it the oldest gravestone in the city with carvings.
James Leeson has a pretty unique stone as well. The 18th-century gentleman asked for an unsolvable message to be written on his tombstone in addition to traditional Masonic symbols and funeral symbolism.
Richard Churcher and James Leeson are only two among the many stories of Trinity Church. Visit the church for many such interesting stories.
14. Campbell Apartment
The Campbell is a small hotel tucked away in the southwest corner of Grand Central Terminal. It is divided into three main areas: The Campbell Bar, The Campbell Palm Court, and The Campbell Terrace, each of which offers a unique guest experience.
The Campbell Bar:
The Campbell Bar is a classic workspace that includes a spectacular bar with a green quartzite top, hand-made brass sconces that perfectly compliment the hand-painted ceiling and furniture made of mohair and leather.
The Palm Court:
The palm court comes with a high-top cafe table and rattan bar chairs in an indoor lounge with a view of the main terminal and towering palm trees.
The Campbell Terrace:
Visitors can take advantage of the nice weather on the Campbell Terrace, a sizable outdoor covered veranda with a full bar.
15. The New York Earth Room
The Earth-room is a 3,600-square-foot space-shaped gallery in the heart of Soho covered in a 22-inch layer of soil.
It was built by Walter De Maria, the great American artist in 1977, and over the past three decades it has served as a tranquil haven away from the bustle of the street below, where the variety of aromas from New York’s streets are condensed to just one: the rich smell of soil. Currently, this is the only Earth room present in the entire world but initially, there were two more in Germany which sadly couldn’t be saved.
The dirt in the Earth Room needs to be watered frequently by curators to maintain it healthy. In the 280,000 pounds of earthy soil, occasionally mushrooms have been discovered to be budding. Although it would be challenging to move and reinstall it somewhere else, it is thought to be worth at least $1 million. In the fashionable SoHo district of Manhattan, the space itself is certainly worth much more.
So, embark on your urban adventure and uncover the secrets of the dream city with these top 15 unusual activities to do in New York. Happy Exploring!