Want to know what makes NYC so unique to live in and experience on a day-to-day basis? It’s those hidden gems and uncommon spots that make you feel more local. The sprawling metropolis of NYC is like a collection of multiple cities in one. Things move fast, places are open one year and out-of-date the next – it’s can be effortful to stay in-the-know.
In the thick of the hustle and bustle, there are some overlooked gems and less-visited mainstays and must-sees. From natural spaces to unmapped experiences, we’ve selected some of the best-hidden gems in NYC to discover in 2019.
Brooklyn is synonymous with hipster cliches and coffee shops. But it’s also on the coast with off-the-tourist-trail beaches. Nearby the amusements of Coney Island are Brighton Beach and Manhattan Beach. Brighton Beach is also known as “Little Odessa” due to its local Russian and Eastern European communities. With a clean beach and a peaceful promenade, it’s a million miles away from the craziness of Coney Island. Similarly, Manhattan Beach is a slower-paced residential area where you can BBQ on the well-maintained beaches. Or eat ice cream from the Carvel Ice Cream van in the shaded picnic table areas. For something more secluded, head to Gerritsen Beach. It’s a peaceful peninsula with the look and feel of a New England fishing village.
If you are a fan of the arts, you will love the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. A storied space with a bohemian atmosphere, it champions the Puerto Rican arts community in New York. Located on New York’s Lower East Side, it was founded in 1973 in an East Village living room salon. The founding members where playwrights, poets, and musicians of color whose work was unaccepted by the mainstream. Today, it’s a cultural gem that showcases local talent – from rising poets and actors to filmmakers and musicians. At this inclusive performance venue, you’ll see groundbreaking works of literature and theatre, plus lively open mics. Don’t miss their legendary Friday evening Slam Poetry!
Inside Radio City Music Hall is a “secret apartment” known as an art deco gem, meticulously maintained since 1936. The original home of theatre impresario Roxy Rothafel, it was often a place where the rich and famous were entertained. Many of the most famous guests – from Walt Disney to Alfred Hitchcock – are documented in exhibited photography. The opulent apartment is also a relic of how the other half lived in America during the Great Depression. The lavish interiors feature a 20-foot gold-leaf ceiling and custom-made theatrical furnishings. This VIP suite was once only accessible by invite. However, the apartment can now be seen by the public on a tour of Radio City Music Hall.
The most obvious place for escaping NYC’s skyscrapers and office buildings are greener spaces like Central Park. However, hidden away in Midtown’s concrete jungle is a lesser-known privately-owned publicly-accessible park – Green Acre Park. This restful, garden-like setting offers an oasis for local workers and residents alike. The jewel in the park’s crown has to be the 25-foot waterfall. It’s a spot where people often switch off with a book or enjoy a coffee under the canopy of trees. Benches and tables are plenty making it a perfect location for a retreat in your day.
Grand Central Terminal is an iconic NYC landmark well-known for its grand architecture. However, a little less well-known amidst the commotion of commuters is the so-called “whispering wall”. This auditory anomaly is located inside the station in the four arched entryways next to the Oyster Bar. This unmapped experience allows visitors to speak into the walled arches, where the sound travels diagonally to the other entryways. It’s a novel way to be heard in such a noisy place.
The Morgan Library & Museum showcases some of the best art and ephemera in town. However, it’s often overshadowed by neighboring attractions in the Murray Hill neighborhood like the MoMA and the Met. The cavernous Morgan Library is a must-see treasure trove of literature. The ornately decorated space displays historical documents. You can view original sheet music from renowned composers like Chopin and Schubert. Or look at autographs and handwriting samples from icons like Isaac Newton and Marilyn Monroe. Not forgetting the ancient artifacts from armor to tapestries – it’s a true cabinet of curiosities. We recommend visiting on a Friday night when admission is free from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
The free trip over to Staten Island is one of the must-do NYC activities to tick off the list. Though referred to as the “the forgotten borough” Staten Island is a destination for seriously authentic Sri Lankan food. The Sri Lankan community – nicknamed “Little Sri Lanka” – and restaurants are located in the Tompkinsville neighborhood. With the world’s largest Sri Lankan community outside the country itself, it’s a melting pot of authentic sit-down restaurants. Sri Lankan culinary staples we recommend tucking into are the saucy curries, string hoppers noodles, and fried lentil cakes.
For a more intimate concert-going experience Flushing Town Hall in Queens is definitely the place to go. This historic landmark-cum-performance space has an intimate stage framed with red velvet curtains. As a multidisciplinary venue, its diverse programming offers something for everyone. From Chinese Opera to Bollywood Mashups and more. In addition, they offer varied workshops from creating a Pop-Up Memory Books to Korean Pojagi papermaking.
Channel yourself into a real-life Ariel at the SeaGlass Carousel on the pavilion at The Battery Park Conservancy. A unique amusement ride for young and old, it has 30 different fiberglass fish to ride on. A multi-sensory experience, the attraction has under-the-sea like audio, over-head lighting, and water-like patterns – essentially a carousel-like no other. Plus, tickets are only $5, but children under 12 months old ride for free.
The Gutter is a vintage bowling alley for no-frills fun and games. Their original hardwood bowling spots are located in Brooklyn and Long Island City. It’s a hidden gem whether you’re with a group of friends or on date night. Cheap and cheerful, the atmosphere is comparable to an old-school dive bar. They don’t offer food, but take-out is welcomed. So you can knock back pitchers of New York craft-brewed beer and order in the pizza.
With so much to see, why not have the flexibility to move to a new neighborhood that you’ve fallen in love with? Staying with Blueground offers guests the freedom to move between apartments in different neighborhoods, pending availability. What sets Blueground’s apartments apart from the rest in New York is that you get premium furnishings and utilities pre-arranged on arrival. While staying on a flexible lease (meaning you’re not held down to a full year), you also benefit from direct app support for services like scheduled cleaning and maintenance requests. Sometimes hidden gems are hiding in plain sight!