New York City never ceases to amaze me. No matter how many times I’ve visited, there’s always something new to explore. Whether it’s a hot museum that’s just opened or a weekend festival to check out, NYC holds something for everyone – no matter how often you visit.
For those who have conquered the city’s most iconic sites, there are still plenty of amazing places to go and things to do. In this article I’ve listed 10 of my favorite off the beaten track sites to see in New York City. Even if it’s your first trip to New York, you can sprinkle some of these sites into your itinerary to get a better appreciation for the diversity of the city.
Said simply, the Guggenheim museum is art within art! The building was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and even without all of the amazing art, the building is a joy to discover. The layout is circular in design, allowing visitors to ascend to the top via a continuous ramp around the outer walls, while enjoying the open atrium in the middle. The artwork is displayed on the outer walls, and while the main collection’s theme is non-objectivity, you can still see works by some of the Old Masters.
2.) Brooklyn Botanical Garden
The Brooklyn Botanical Garden in Brooklyn is smaller than the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, but it’s still big enough to spend a few hours exploring. Located in beautiful Prospect Park, it has giant greenhouses with interesting sections of extreme climate like tropical, warm temperate, and desert. There’s also large bonsai, rose, and herb gardens that will set your senses (and your camera) in high gear.
3.) Bronx Zoo
Just an easy train ride and walk away from Manhattan is the Bronx Zoo. It’s one of the largest zoos in the world at 265 acres, and it was opened in 1899! In addition to your typical zoo exhibits like a reptile house, multiple aviaries, and other animals sorted by geographical location, they also have a centerpiece sea lion pool, bison range, Madagascar exhibit, and butterfly garden. Make a whole day out of your journey to the Bronx and visit the nearby New York Botanical Garden.
This public park is different than any other park I’ve experienced. First, it’s built on an abandoned railroad line that’s elevated above the street. Next, it’s a linear park that goes nearly 1.5 miles. And lastly, it is beautifully landscaped and provides great views of the NYC skyline. It’s positioned on the lower west side of Manhattan between the Meat Packing District and Chelsea, and is an absolutely perfect place to take a stroll and get some amazing photos.
5.) Tenement Museum
One of New York City’s newer museums, the Tenement Museum is located in a former tenement house that was built in 1863. A few of the apartments as well as the street level shops have been restored to tell the stories of the immigrant families who lived and worked there in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Inside the museum can only been seen by tours that focus on many aspects of the difficult times in the tenement house, which is a real treat because the tour guides are great story-tellers with a wealth of information.
6.) The Cloisters
The Cloisters is a museum is built from reconstructed monasteries and abbeys shipped from France in the 1930’s. Complete with beautiful medieval gardens, you will feel like you’ve been transported to a serene monastery in Europe while visiting. It houses a grand collection of artwork from the 12th to 15th centuries, including frescos transferred to canvas, intricate tapestries, stained glass, amazing altarpieces, manuscripts, and much more. The Cloisters is part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which means you can visit the Met for free the same day you visit The Cloisters.
7.) New York Public Library
The Stephen A. Schwarzman building of the New York Public Library is much more than your typical book-sharing joint. The building was built in 1911, sits in front of Bryant Park, and has two majestic Lions guarding the entrance. Once inside, the grand entryway full of detailed architectural elements as well as circular staircases to the left and right is your indication that this library experience is unique. Follow the signs to view the popular Rose Main Reading Room on your own, or take a docent-led tour.
8.) Dumbo Flea
Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass (DUMBO) there’s a flea market that takes place each Sunday from April through October. It’s the largest flea market in Brooklyn and hailed as one of the best in New York. You can find an eclectic mix of vintage items, unique decor, and tons of food. While in the DUMBO neighborhood, head one block away to Main Street Park along the river for perfect photos of the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges.
9.) East Village
The East Village probably isn’t where your grandma would want to purchase her retirement home, but it’s a great place for an evening out. Simply walking through this ultra-hip and trendy neighborhood is an adventure because of all the run restaurants and shops to peek in. There are tattoo parlors, vintage clothing shops, cool restaurants, boutique food shops, and stores that I have no idea what they sold because I was literally too scared to enter. Like I said – it’s an adventure!
10.) Coney Island
Experience New York’s year-round carnival at Coney Island. For well over 100 years, vacationers have traveled to Coney Island to partake in its amusements like the carousel, carnival games, and the famous Wonder Wheel. Ride the Cyclone, a wooden roller coaster that opened in 1927, eat a hotdog at Nathan’s Famous hotdog restaurant where the world famous hotdog eating competition takes place, or romp in the water and relax in the sand on the 2 mile long beach. This is a great place to take the family for a day.
During my last trip to New York I built my entire itinerary around these less popular New York attractions, and I had a freaking awesome vacation!
Even without visiting one of the major sites like the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building, a trip to NYC built on seeing off the beaten track sites like those above still beats the pants off a trip to many other major cities in the whole United States!
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