10 Most Underrated New York City Attractions, through the Eyes of a Local
June 20, 2017
Many sites in New York City are totally over done, so what are the 10 Most Underrated New York City Attractions
Oh so you’re planning a trip to New York City? Well, I bet you’ve NEVER heard this before but you need to see the Empire State Building, Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, Grand Central Terminal… And by now you’re snoring because ANYONE could spout off these places as must see attractions when visiting New York City. So let’s not do that because well, it’s been done about 10,000 times before. Instead, if you need info about any of those things, there are about a billion New York City, Top Ten Lists on the Internet that you can comb through. No, this list isn’t gonna be like that. Instead, I want to look at the 10 most underrated New York City attractions. You know, the hidden, ignored, and often under-appreciated corners of New York City that many locals frequent, but that most tourists never dare to explore because these places are no where near Times Square. So grab a cup of joe (mine’s Gevalia because I roll like that) and sit back, relax, and take in all of the New York City treasures that are hidden amongst the multitude of overbearing tourist traps.
1. The Cloisters
Perched atop a hill, in Fort Tryon Park, overlooking the majesty of the Hudson River and the George Washington Bridge, lies the Cloisters. This place is without a doubt, one of the most beautiful places, in New York City, that I have ever seen. But what many people don’t know is that it is actually an extension of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Therefore, a ticket for one will also grant you access to the other, provided you visit both in the same day.
Built in 1917 by John D. Rockefeller Jr. (someone has lots of dollar dollar bills y’all), this peaceful place is a rag tag, aggregation of
architectural pieces from European monasteries, as well as other historic buildings. Originally built to house an overflow of the Metropolitan Museum’s medieval treasures, the cloisters has now become a treasure of New York City, in its own right.
Within the hallowed walls lie frescoes, tapestries and paintings a plenty; all of which surround a roma
ntic courtyard that is interconnected with grand archways that are topped off with Moorish inspired, terra-cotta roofs. However, the crowning jewel of the entire facility is The Hunt of the Unicorn, a 16th-century tapestry that is awe-inspiring in it’s timeless, effervescent beauty. Also leave some time to meander through the well-preserved 15th-century Annunciation Triptych (Merode Altarpiece), the illuminating 12th-century Saint-Guilhem cloister, and the Bonnefant cloister, which houses an assortment of medieval botanicals that were used in medicine, magic, and in various ceremonies, as well as arts.
Admission: $25 suggested donation for adults and children are free.
Hours: Open from 10am – 5:15pm daily
2. Brooklyn Flea
Are you a hipster in training, looking for some place to call your own? Then look no further than the Brooklyn Flea, founded in the ye olde year of 2008. Operating every weekend of the year, this amalgamation of good and bad, Brooklyn stereotypes alike, features hundreds of vendors selling any thing and everything from furniture, vintage clothing, antiques, as well as jewelry or artisanal anything, (think ramen burgers, crafts, and upcycled clothing) to meet all of your wannabe Brooklynite needs (Just kidding. It’s a really neat place that is filled with a ton of innovative and creative, local products). But really, it’s so awesome that travel + Leisure, Country Living, Budget Travel, and Fodor’s all ranked this flea market, on steroids, as one of the best markets in the entire United States.
Starting the first weekend in April, and going all the way until October, the Brooklyn Flea hosts a series of outdoor, Sunday markets, right in the ultra scenic DUMBO neighborhood (while there, get an awesome photo of the Brooklyn Bridge
and some Juliana’s pizza). Additionally, the Flea operates Smorgasburg, an enormous, all-food market that is held on Saturdays in Williamsburg and on Sundays in Prospect Park’s Breeze Hill. This food showcase is like the food Olympics and contains all the most delectable, food novelties that the artisanal food scene has to offer. So with all this, and over a 100 local vendors that are spread throughout a gorgeous, outdoor setting, how can you possibly go wrong (And don’t be scared because from November through March, the market moves indoors, to another location)?
Brooklyn Flea DUMBO
Address: Manhattan Bridge Archway (80 Pearl St.), New York, New York
Hours: 10am-6pm on Sundays
Brooklyn Flea Soho
Address: 100 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York
Hours: 10am-6pm on Saturdays and Sundays
Can’t find what you’re looking for at the flea market? Check out some of the shoes I wear around New York City.
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3. Midnight Movies at IFC
So obviously IFC is not your average movie theater. If it was then it clearly would not be on this list. But this movie theater is one
of those magical places that actually makes going to the movies fun again, even if your wallet may not agree (Come on, sacrifices need to be made when visiting New York City).
But what makes this place so special? First of all, there is no need for popcorn because you can grab an epic slice of pie at either Keste or John’s, on your way over. After devouring your pie, and licking the plate for good measure, head to the IFC Center, in the West Village, to enjoy an eclectic variety of late night shows, that will transport you back to a simpler time (I don’t know about that. I only say it because I feel like everyone yearns for some simpler time that never really existed). They show everything from cult classics to the blockbuster megabits of decades past, like Jurassic Park. So, like the city itself, no matter who you are or what you like, there something for you at IFC.
Address: 323 6th Avenue, New York New York
Admission: Adults are $15, Seniors are $11, and members are $10
4. Flushing’s Chinatown
Look, there are about a billion different Chinatowns across the globe, so what sets Flushing’s Chinatown apart from the rest? Well, to be completely and totally honest, it all comes down to food, glorious food. And that makes sense when you find out that the Chinese-immigrant population of Flushing, Queens, surpassed that of Manhattan’s Chinatown many, many years ago. Sprinkle in a local population that is nearly two-thirds Asian and foreign born and you get a neighborhood that is a perfect storm of Asian, cultural awesomeness. So whether you want authentic Asian cuisine, an ancient herbal remedy, or an ultra rare, Japanese comic book, Flushing has it all.
But if deliciously spicy a
nd authentic Asian style food is what you’re really looking for, then head over to the New World Mall food court, where you can create your own buffet of awesomeness, at a great price. Also stop by Hunan House or Spicy and Tasty, and order the mapo tofu (completely different and way tastier than the Chinese-takeout version). If killer dim sum is what you’re after, then head over to Jade Asian for a culinary delight unlike any other. Also check out the New Imperial Palace if you are into Cantonese, seafood dishes (I’m a vegetarian but I heard that the Dungeness crab with sticky rice is legendary here).
5. The Bronx – All of It
Like most cities and countries across the globe, parts of the Bronx well, kind of suck and are pretty dangerous. However, these areas do not define the Bronx as a whole. Dispersed throughout this borough is a series of cultural icons and treasures that are worth exploring like the Botanical Gardens, the Bronx Zoo, Yankee Stadium (hence the name Bronx Bombers), and even a series of awe inspiring, historic mansions.
All this to explore and we didn’t even get to the food! Between Arthur Avenue, Kingston Tropical Bakery with fresh baked coco bread everyday (4000 White Plains Road), Green Garden Health food for Rastafarian smoothies, Feroza’s Restaurant and Roti for Trinidadian chicken roti sandwiches (716 Burke Avenue), Com Tam Ninh Kieu for Vietnamese broken rice (2641 Jerome Avenue), Lloyd’s Carrot Cake, and Seis Veciones with Central American specialties like pupas (Salvadoran savory pancakes), your heart and stomach will be sure to forget about Manhattan entirely. That’s why you need to take a chance and try out a new borough that is not only a lot less crowded but also a lot more reasonably priced.
6. Lower East Side
Strip away the hordes of tourists and tourist traps in Times Square, and replace them with everyday bakeries, restaurants, and low key music venues, and you get the Lower East Side of New York: an unfiltered, authentic New York experience that many fail to see simply because they dare not venture from the all too familiar confines of Manhattan.
Just for fun, throw in some ultra-modern flair from the neighborhoods multiple contemporary art galleries, mixed with a splash of history from the Tenement Museum, and you get an amazingly dynamic and exciting neighborhood that is not to be missed. Oh, and if you’re looking for some authentic, New York City night life, check out the Delancey, a great bar with a bonus rooftop view.
7. The Tenement Museum
One of my absolute most FAVORITE museums of all time. I mean, I visited in high school but I still remember this place so vividly and so fondly. While here, I was plunged, head first, into the world of a tenement resident at 97 Orchard Street. The entire building is recreated to mimic living conditions for American immigrants on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in 1863. And this was not an easy life. Conditions were cramped, access to necessities like plumbing and clean water was mediocre at best, disease spread like a wild fire, etc. Yet, these people survived . You begin to feel how difficult survival was, as you walk through the living space of ordinary, everyday citizens, who were trying to make a new life and starting a family, with limited means. Therefore, this museums a unique and special place. The Tenement Museum doesn’t just display the past, it allows you to become
a part of the story but thrusting you back into the enduring difficulties of the past. As a result of this unique experience, you begin to appreciate the extensive hardships that immigrants of the past, and present face. And this important because it is these, ordinary people that shape the social and moral fabric of our society today. And by recognizing the importance of this seemingly ordinary building, we recognize that immigrants, of the past and present, are in and of themselves important as the shapers of our future.
Therefore, this museum helps instill a sense of love and compassion for people, who live you, struggle to make a life for themselves, in a foreign land; a tolerant and accepting viewpoint that many in the United States would do well to remember, given the current political climate of our nation.
How to Get There: Take the B or D Subway to the Grand Street stop. Once you get off the subway, walk two blocks away from the Williamsburg Bridge on Delancey Street and turn left on Orchard Street. Walk a 1/2 block south to the Museum Shop, between Delancey and Broome.
Address: 103 Orchard Street, New York, New York
Admission: This museum is quite popular and tours do sell out, so i recommend purchasing tickets here. Tickets are $25, and you can select from a multitude of really neat tour options like shop life, sweatshop workers, hard times and Irish outsiders (They also offer a cool looking, foods of the Lower East Side tour for $45).
Hours: Tours run for about 90 minutes and have set times between 0:00 am – 6:30 pm Friday – Wednesday, and 10 am – 8:30 pm on Thursdays.
8. Underwest Donuts
Why this place isn’t packed to the gills, I’ll never know. Maybe it’s because this donut shop isn’t fancy at all. In fact, it is actually located in a carwash, right by the Intrepid. That’s why, if you judged this place by it’s unassuming exterior, you would have no idea of the donut genius that lies within. But the absolute best part is that not only is it cheap, but it’s quiet! I went on a Saturday morning and there was literally no one there. I just devoured (I tried to be dainty but it was too good) my vanilla, lavender doughnut in peace, as I watched the cars roll through the carwash. And I would come back in a heart beat because the doughnuts are light, moist, sweet, cake doughnuts that have no trace of grease. Seriously some of the best doughnuts I have ever had (with some super cool flavors too).
Address: 638 W 47th St, New York, NY
Hours: Mon: 6:30am – 3pm, Tue-Fri: 6:30am – 5pm, Sat: 7:30am – 5pm, and Sun: 7:30am – 3pm
9. Trinity Church
Squished in between the melancholy of the September 11th Memorial, and the cut throat, larger than life, economic mecca of Wall Street, lies a beautiful church that seemingly goes unnoticed by both locals and tourists alike.
Completed in 1846, this Episcopal Church started off as the island’s tallest structure. Today however, this place of worship is known for both it’s stunning, Northern gates, and its cracked, faded tombstones that are dedicated to the memory of signatories of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
There is also an intriguing, Trinity Church Museum that displays an assortment of historic artifacts like diaries, photographs, sermons and even burial records. It is also worth noting that the Trinity Churchyard is the burial site of such noted Americans as Alexander Hamilton, who died from wounds received during one of the most famous duels in US history (In case you didn’t know, this is what the musical Hamilton is about. Or at least some of it. Bot good luck getting tickets, unless you’re a Rockefeller).
Address: 75 Broadway, New York, New York
How to Get there: Take the R or 1 to Rector Street or take the 4 or 5 to Wall Street
Hours: Open 9am – 4pm from Monday – Friday
10. Boroughs of the Dead – Macabre New York City Walking Tours
You know you’re onto something good when locals make up about 80 – 85% of your clientele. And Boroughs of the Dead is epically good. Led by expert storytellers who have thoroughly researched the darkly unusual history of the area, this tour company inspires fear through a chilling reality that is undoubtedly scarier than fiction. But what really makes this walking tour unique, besides the fact that it is the only ghost tour company in New York City, is the dedication of these meticulous, professional, tour guides to creating a one of a kind experiences that you will never forget; plus you will never really look at New York City the same way again.
Depending on the season, Boroughs of the Dead offers an exciting assortment of tours in each of the boroughs, each with a different meeting point and ending location, depending on the subject matter of your tour. For the borough of Manhattan, tour options include the Ultimate Greenwich Village Ghost Tour, Weird Tales of the West Village, and The Forgotten Dark Histories of Lower Manhattan (Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door and the tour usually runs for two hours). So what are you waiting for? Go now! Its fun and unusual! Don’t be scared. Okay, i’ll stop now.