New York’s Hidden Gems: Unique Things to Do in NYC
Think you know NYC? Well, prepare to get excited! Sure, tourists flock to New York – and famous landmarks like the Empire State Building – in their masses; many of our own holiday packages include excursions to the city’s most prominent sites. But, because our tours also incorporate plenty of downtime in your day, you should make it your mission to find the best of NYC’s hidden gems and secret surprises.
Don’t know where to start? Don’t worry! Check out our picks to help you plan how best to visit New York’s hidden gems and have a truly unique Big Apple experience.
What better way to escape the hustle and bustle of busy city streets than by visiting a park in the sky? Resting above the fast-paced Financial District, the Elevated Acre is nestled between two skyscrapers. As well as offering astonishing views of the Brooklyn Bridge and Hudson River, this urban oasis also features a 50-foot light sculpture among its beautiful landscaping. Embrace the natural world in all its glory at this spacious, verdant veranda high up in the city so nice they named it twice.
Without a doubt, the Whispering Gallery is one of the most incredible secret treasures that New York has to offer. This acoustic sensation lies amid the magnificent architecture of Grand Central Station, and there’s an elaborate beauty to it that’s very special indeed. Sounds travel across the domed ceiling by way of the secretive walls; therefore, when two people stand at diagonal arches, it’s possible to hear each other’s whispers! Trying out the Whispering Gallery is an absolute must during your free time in New York while on holiday with Travelsphere.
Morgan Library & Museum
If you love books, you must visit the Morgan Library & Museum. Beginning life as the private library of financier Pierpont Morgan, it was transformed by his son J. P. into a public institution, boasting a rare and extensive collection of manuscripts and artworks, among other equally impressive items. The stunning library also regularly hosts temporary exhibitions, so be sure to find out what’s taking place during your stay. Oh, and don’t resist the chance to see the personal study, with its antique wooden ceiling and stained-glass windows. Honestly, the splendour and the scale of the whole place are just beyond anything that you can imagine!
Coming into prominence in the United States during the alcohol prohibition of the 1920s (when New Yorkers were forced to take their parties underground and behind closed doors), speakeasies are some of the most legendary secret places in NYC. Despite alcohol regulation being much more relaxed nowadays, the last decade has seen a new wave of speakeasies – essentially small cocktail bars with hidden and/or unmarked doors – strike it lucky in New York. Catch some of the city’s best vibes here, at one of these clandestine watering holes; it’s the perfect way to relax and enjoy the moment, which is exactly what a holiday with Travelsphere should be about!
A Piece of the Berlin Wall
We bet you never thought you’d stumble across remnants of the Berlin Wall in the middle of a Manhattan courtyard! In fact, there are pieces of it scattered throughout the world, and New York has managed to secure a whole bunch of them, on display across the city. Historically, it’s fascinating to see the wall as public art; furthermore, each piece serves as a poignant reminder of such a monumental (and recent) time for humanity. And now, you can even experience the birth of art from adversity, through a dazzling masterpiece by German artists Thierry Noir and Kiddy Citny painted across five concrete slabs of the original Berlin Wall. You’ll find this secret treasure nestled in a small Midtown plaza on Madison Avenue, so head there when you’ve got some time to spare.
Alice in Wonderland (in Central Park)
Even classic literature has found its way to New York City, in the form of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland; tucked away in Central Park, this large bronze statue depicts several characters from Lewis Carroll’s classic book, including Alice herself, the Mad Hatter and the White Rabbit. A favourite among children, who love to climb atop it and explore its varied textures and hiding places, Central Park’s Alice in Wonderland sculpture is also uniquely poignant; philanthropist George Delacorte, who commissioned the piece, meant it as a tribute to his late wife Margarita, who used to read Alice to their children. So, go ahead – indulge your passions for history and cartoons in a unique and compelling way by visiting the Alice in Wonderland statue in Central Park, and whatever you do, don’t be late (so you know, the White Rabbit doesn’t wait!).
Not too far from Times Square, you’ll find something truly special: a waterfall doubling as a pathway! Added to the little-known McGraw-Hill Park in Midtown Manhattan not long after construction was completed in 1970, it’s exactly the setting you want to check out for some much-needed r and r – there’s even the chance to get some backsplash if you lean in close enough (at certain areas). Partially housed in plexiglass, the Waterfall Tunnel feels like a local institution – many stop to take photos in and around this New York hidden gem. For all lovers of architecture, head here when you’ve got some free time to make lasting memories beneath the sound of gentle rain.
Museum of Ice Cream
If you fancy something a bit tastier, visit the Museum of Ice Cream for sweet treats hidden from the tourist trail. It has to be one of the city’s most unique experiences; offering interactive (and lick-able) exhibits, you’ll spend your time here bathing in a river of sprinkles, wandering through the chocolate room and sampling the enormous ice cream sundae they have on display. Opening in a different location each summer (pop-up style), make sure you’re the first to know where to find the Museum of Ice Cream so as to spend your downtime on your Travelsphere tour wisely. And with a line-up that includes a rock-candy cave, cookie carousels and unicorns, playtime never looked (or tasted!) so good.
Staten Island Boat Graveyard
During your free time on your Travelsphere tour, you may wish to venture to southwestern Staten Island for a sight you don’t see every day: a boat graveyard! Officially named the Witte Marine Scrapyard, it’s the official dumping ground for decommissioned ships and a great place to take some amazing photographs. There are around 100-odd boats in this family-run salvage yard, including many historically important vessels from the early 20th century. As such, it has become something of a pilgrimage site for maritime enthusiasts. Please bear in mind though that the area is a bit isolated, so we recommend this trip only for those who’re truly interested in getting an eerie look at the past of aquatic engineering.
If you find yourself visiting New York on an escorted tour of North America with Travelsphere, there’s no better way to discover the city’s hidden gems than during your downtime. There are so many unique things to do in NYC that capture a variety of interests, you’ll almost certainly be inspired to go places you never even knew existed. The city is there to explore, and we’re ready to help you see it!