New York is one of the most iconic cities in the World, attracting over 60 million tourists each year. All hoping to catch a glimpse of the towering skyscrapers witness an outstanding performance at a top Broadway show or shop till they drop at 5th Avenue. It’s common for tourists to stick to the stereotypical NYC Itinerary, quickly forgetting about the amazing off the beaten path NYC attractions just waiting to be explored.
There is so much more to New York than just ‘Manhattan’ yet visitors rarely venture further afield. In today post we will do just that, venture a little bit out of the top things to do in New York City. So get ready for astonishing views, a secret cable car ride and even an opportunity to see Jimmy Fallon live on stage because below are the top New York Off the Beaten Path attractions.
Top 5 Off the Beaten Path NYC Activities
I wanted to kick start this list with 5 off the beaten path NYC activities, all of which should be included in your New York Itinerary.
1) Roosevelt Island, Manhattan, New York
Who knew there was a cable car running through New York City? I certainly didn’t.
Riding a cable car is one of my favourites off the beaten path things to do in NYC.
The moment I found out about the Roosevelt Island Cable Car I quickly began to research ways to ride it.
It’s actually pretty simple. The cable car station is located on east 60th street, 2nd avenue. A short walk from Central Park. The cable car ride is valid with the subway card and costs $4.50 for a return journey.
The cable car leaves you at Roosevelt Island, a small skinny Island located between Manhattan and Queens, with Manhattan on the west and Queens on the east.
Points of interests include four freedom park, a small pox’s hospital ruins, the Blackwell island lighthouse and the stunning views of Manhattan. Visitors have the option to walk around the Island or make use of the free shuttle bus to enjoy the views and explore. It is a really fun and unique thing to do in New York City.
2) Become an Audience Member of a New TV Show
Who knew that it is 100% completely FREE to go see a live taping of some of the world’s most popular TV show? Yes, FREE. You just have to be lucky enough to secure tickets.
I was a lucky studio audience member of a New York City TV Show. Not once, but… TWICE. That’s right, on two occasions I was able sit in on a live television taping.
The first being, Live with Kelly. This one was actually a complete accident. I initially had tickets to ‘the chew’ but due to NYC traffic, I missed the taping. Well, lucky for me, they were allowing people walking by to attend the live with Kelly show. Now, this was in January, So, I’d imagine in the peak season tickets would need to be reserved online.
But… the second show tapping I saw had me fangirling for days. I got tickets to JIMMY FALLON. Not only did I get tickets to Jimmy Fallon, but Blake Lively was the guest star of the show I attended. As a massive Gossip Girl fan, it was safe to say, my life was complete.
If you would like more information on getting FREE tickets to popular New York TV shows, be sure to check out my guide: Jimmy Fallon & Live with Kelly Tickets.
3) Take a Helicopter Flight over New York City
Contribution by Vivkli from Vicki Viaja
Without a doubt, New York City is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. With such a fantastic city, which grows so high, it is worth seeing the city from an entirely new angle.
Of course, you can go to one of the observation decks, but you won’t be able to see the whole city from there—the solution: a helicopter flight along the Manhattan skyline.
The flight usually starts just outside the city (e.g., from New Jersey’s Linden Airport). It offers you an absolutely unique view of the Manhattan skyline, the likes of which you’ve certainly never seen before.
Before you go, of course, you’ll get a safety briefing. This is especially useful if this is your first helicopter flight. The flight goes along the Statue of Liberty, and then you circle Manhattan.
Depending on the provider, you can choose between a closed model or one with open doors. If you are afraid of heights, you should definitely select the closed model. You can take one of those typical photos of you dangling your feet above the skyline with the open version.
Tip: If you purchase a New York Tourist pass, you might even get a significant discount on your flight.
4) Glamping at Governor’s Island
Contribution by Lindsay from The Purposely Lost
One of the most unusual things to do in New York City is to go glamping on Governor’s Island.
Just off the coast of Lower Manhattan, Governor’s Island was used for United States military operations for centuries through the 1990s.
Since then, it has been transformed into a public park for New Yorkers to visit in the warmer months. Although covered with various parks and green spaces on the island, Governor’s Island is not a place where you could stay overnight–until now.
Collective Retreats has opened a luxury camping experience, where you have the opportunity to sleep in a luxury tent, with views of Lower Manhattan, Jersey City, and the Statue of Liberty right outside your front “door.”
You might even see some stars since you’re just far enough away from the city’s bright lights.
Collective Retreats also has a restaurant on-site called Fire & Water at Three Peaks Lodge. With a unique, chef-designed menu, it serves brunch on the weekends and lunch and dinner every day. If you decide to make a reservation for dinner, they have a private boat that will pick you up in Manhattan and bring you to the retreat.
5) Exchange Place, Jersey City, New Jersey
What many people don’t realise, that while you can get some incredible views of the New York Skyline from the likes of the Empire State Building or the Rockefeller Centre, the most impressive view is actually FREE.
For this next stop on our Hidden Gems in New York list will lead us to New Jersey.
It’s possibly my favourite spot to view the Manhattan Skyline. It’s not too crowded, and weirdly peaceful (at times) depending on how many other people decide to visit.
Exchange Place is located in the centre of Downtown New Jersey and is often referred to as “Wall Street West” as many financial companies have set up there. It is a beautiful spot to watch the city lights glisten at night time or admire the sunset.
Noteworthy NYC Hidden Gems for your Bucket List
Next, is some off the beaten path places in New York that I think you should add to you NYC Bucket List. Some of these you may never have heard of, so get your note pads ready.
6) Washington Street, Brooklyn, New York
The next stop on our New York off the beaten path locations brings us to the streets of Dumbo.
One street that caught my eye and lead to many of my Instagram followers asking ‘Is that photoshopped’ was Washington Street. While strolling by the street I noticed the Manhattan Bridge inlines perfectly with the break in the buildings.
As I walked further down the street, I began to notice that the Empire State Building perfectly inlines with the structure of the Manhattan Bridge, supplying the perfect picture opportunity.
Now, this street isn’t completely free of tourists, as many flocks here to get an insta worthy pic with the Manhattan bridge. I did, however, notice, that most were unaware of the Empire States and the Manhattan Bridges alignment. To capture this picture it is all about the camera angle. Or, Just pretend your a 5ft 2 woman because I could see it from eye level 😉
Although, this little photo spot is starting to become widely popular in the Instagram world. At this moment and time, it still remains one of the best New York secret spots.
(Washington Street on Google Maps)
7) The New York Transit Museum
Contribution by Rachel from Rachels Ruminations
You’re very likely to take the subway at some point on your visit to New York City, but did you ever wonder how it got to be the vast system that it is today?
If so, check out the New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn.
Housed – appropriately – in a disused 1930s-era subway station, the Transit Museum tells all about how the system was built and developed and what it was like to work on the subways and buses.
It also displays things like old change dispensers and turnstiles. The highlights, though, are the vintage subway cars, parked along with the platform as if they’re about to leave the station.
The cars date from the beginning of the 1900s to the 1970s. Visitors are welcome to enter them, and each design is slightly different from the one before: whether it was built of wood or metal or a combination, the style of the seats and upholstery, the colour scheme, and so on.
The ads inside the train cars are fascinating as well. They’re posted on walls or on a strip of space above the seats just like in modern-day subway cars and they match the era of the car they’re in. So, for example, in a subway car that saw service during World War II, ads promote things like war bonds.
The New York Transit Museum is well worth the subway ride over to Brooklyn. You can read more about the museum at Rachel’s Ruminations.
8) Fraunces Tavern
Contribution by Megan from Your Brooklyn Guide
One of the best hidden gems in New York City for history lovers is Fraunces Tavern located in the historic financial district in Lower Manhattan.
Besides being a fascinating point of interest history-wise, this spot is also a fantastic restaurant and place to grab a drink.
Fraunces Tavern is the oldest tavern in New York City and one of the oldest in the entire country located at 54 Pearl Street.
This location is steps away from Stone Street which is the oldest area in NYC as well that being one of the oldest streets in New York City lined with 17th-century buildings in what was the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam.
The history of Fraunces Tavern that visitors find most fascinating is its ties to the Revolutionary War, in particular, General George Washington who would go on to be our first President of the United States.
This tavern served as the headquarters for George Washington and was where he strategized his moves during the Revolutionary War.
This is also the watering hole that Alexander Hamilton was last seen alive before his ill-fated duel with Aaron Burr. Some historians argue that this tavern could be the oldest surviving building in Manhattan too! Although, some argue that since it was partially rebuilt after fires that it’s not.
This historic landmark is on both the New York Freedom Trail as well as the American Whiskey Trail. Stay and enjoy a meal and a drink Besides being a fully functioning restaurant and tavern, there’s also a full museum here as well if you want to learn more about the historic events and figures that frequented this place.
9) Liberty Park, Manhattan, New York
For the next NYC off the beaten path location let’s jump on over to the financial district, to one of New York’s newest parks. The Liberty park is described as an ‘acre-long elevated oasis overlooking the World Trade Center’.
On a summers day, the newly opened park is the perfect place for those to enjoy some lunch, while admiring the sky-scraping buildings of the financial district. The park is a true New York Hidden Gem, it was designed to allow people to relax and reflect on the tragedy of 9/11.
Now, I must admit, I struggled to initially find the elevated gardens so I have attached its location on Google Maps. Hopefully, that will make things easier for you on your visit to NYC.
Non Touristy Things to do in NYC
Next, let’s take a look at some non touristy things to do in NYC, I’m talking less crowded parks, attractions and spaces.
10) Liberty State Park, New Jersey
Next on our NYC off the beaten path list is none other than Liberty State Park.
Although the park is in the state of New Jersey, Liberty State Park is the perfect place to escape the city but still have that city view.
It is the only place outside New York that offers boat trips to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. In fact, passengers can board the Statue Cruises from Battery Park in Lower Manhattan and stop off at Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty and Liberty State Park all in the one ticket. of
Other points of interest at Liberty State Park include the empty sky memorial for 9/11, the old New Jersey railroad terminal and in the evening time, it’s a popular spot to watch the sunset.
11) Brooklyn Bridge Park, New York
This is my favourite places to enjoy some peace and quiet.
Yes, that’s right. Who knew that it was possible to find a ‘quiet spot’ among the hustle and bustle of the big city.
Brooklyn bridge park is home to an astonishing views of the iconic New York Skyscrapers, the Statue of Liberty and of course the beautiful Brooklyn Bridge.
But… The park’s fun does not stop there, in the summer months free Kayak sessions are offered from the Hudson River, Pier 4 to be exact.
Even if you don’t want to take part in any activities, Brooklyn Bridge Park is a great place to sit back and enjoy the surroundings while escaping the loud atmosphere of the city.
(Brooklyn Bridge Park on Google Maps)
12) Empire Fulton Ferry Park, Brooklyn, New York
Ok, so let’s continue the theme of ‘quiet spots in New York’ and take a short walk over to Empire Fulton Ferry Park.
I think it’s ironic because the view of the Brooklyn Bridge is so much better from this park. Walkers can literally get up close and personal with the bridge without even having to be on it.
I personally fell in love with this park, just because of the endless photo opportunities. The Brooklyn Bridge looks fantastic from every angle. And then once you turn slightly to the right, you are presented with a phenomenal view of the great Manhattan Bridge.
To be honest it is easy to spend hours in this park taking in the views or sunbathing in the warm summer sun.
Points of interest in the Empire Fulton Ferry Park include the Empire Fulton Ferry Lawn, Jane’s Carousel and an interpretive satellite museum of Brooklyn Historical Society.
(Empire Fulton Ferry Park on Google Maps)
Related Post: California to New York Road Trip Itinerary
Unusual & Unique Things to do in NYC
Finally, let’s take a look at some attractions in New York that are a bit on the peculiar side, things you may not expect to find in the iconic city.
13) Play a Game of Accomplice in New York
Contribution by Nicole Go Far Grow Close
The Accomplice is a unique interactive theatre experience that takes place on the streets of New York City, allowing you to explore different areas, try different restaurants, and meet some very interesting people.
The game begins with a phone call the day before purchasing your tickets. You receive instructions from the “Wise Guy” about where you should meet making you feel like you have been thrown into a scene from a Godfather movie.
The following day it is time to meet at the designated meeting point along with a few other participants. Thereafter, you spend the next three hours solving clues and figuring out your next destination all the while collecting items along the way. You encounter at least 6 actors in character and walk around a minimum of 5 distinct parts of town. Every so often you get delicious food, beer and wine, at an amazing restaurant or bar that you would never have discovered if it wasn’t for the experience.
The game ends with a discovery of “who did it”. The whole experience is a complete blast.
14) Cloisters branch of the Metropolitan Museum
Contribution by Kelly of Travel New York Now
“One of my favourite NYC Off the Beaten Path activities is the Cloisters branch of the famous Metropolitan Museum of Art. It is perched high on a hill in Fort Tyron Park and offers visitors stunning views of the Hudson River below. It also features stunning, Moorish-style architecture that makes the structure look more like a castle than a museum.
However, it really is a museum that was first built in 1917 by John D. Rockefeller to house an overflow of art from the MET.
As a result, the interior features an eclectic collection of art that includes paintings, tapestries, frescoes, and more.
Although, the real highlight of any visit here is a stop at The Hunt of the Unicorn – a stunning tapestry from the 16th century that is one of the museum’s true masterpieces. And then afterwards, take some time to sit and admire the interior courtyard with its fabulous archways and terracotta roofs.
And while admission used to be “pay what you wish”, that option is currently only available to residents of NY, NJ, and PA who present a valid form of ID. Everyone else must pay $25 for adults, $17 for seniors, and $12 for children (kids 12 and under are free).
Also, because this is a true hidden gem, it’s a bit out of the way. Therefore, to get here, you’ll have to take the A train all the way to the Bronx and get off at Dyckman Street station.”
15) Visit Hamilton’s Grave
Contribution by Stephanie from History Fan Girl
One of my favourite hidden gems in NYC is the gravesite of Alexander Hamilton and his wife Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, known affectionately and musically as Eliza.
The graves are in the cemetery at Trinity Church, which is referenced in the last song of the musical Hamilton. Visitors come by to pay their respect, and the site has become more popular in the last few years because of the song and the musical.
Other notable figures in the Trinity Church cemetery include other famous contemporary figures from the show Angelica Schuyler, Hercules Mulligan, and Hamilton’s son Phillip.
A cemetery in this part of the city is quite unusual, speaking to the church’s age stretching back to some of the earliest days of the city.
It is closed to new burial sites since there was a law passed in the city in 1823 making burial sites below Canal Street illegal. While here, make sure to go inside and see the beautiful interior of the church. Nearby attractions include Wall Street and Battery Park.
If you decide to visit the Statue of Liberty, this is a great stop before or after leaving for your tour. If you are in town on a long weekend in New York City, make sure to set aside an hour to visit this lovely and unique corner of the city!
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