New York City Secret Spots the Locals Don’t Want You to Know About

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Bucket List Worthy  

175117011 If you’ve been to the Statue of Liberty, eaten a giant slice of thin-crust pizza and cheered on the home team at Yankee Stadium, you still haven’t scratched the surface of all there is to see and do in New York City. In fact, even if you spend weeks in the city visiting museums, dining at critically-acclaimed restaurants and snapping photos of famous sites, the locals would still be grinning.

Next time you pay a visit to the Big Apple, skip your concierge’s recommendations and visit these 15 secret spots that the locals definitely don’t want you to know about.

The Berlin Wall

Five pieces of the former Berlin Wall sit at 520 Madison Avenue in a small plaza where they are open to viewing by the public. One side of the 20-foot-long display has been painted by the famous German artists Kiddy Citny and Thierry Noir while the other side remains unpainted as a representation of East Germany’s formerly oppressive regime. Most tourists assume this display in Paley Park is just another display of New York City street art.

Photo credit: Garrett Ziegler
Photo credit: Garrett Ziegler

The Frick Collection

This former residence of 19th-century industrialist Henry Clay Frick now serves as one of New York City’s most unique art museums. But it’s not just the 1,100 pieces of artwork that make the Frick Collection so incredible, the building itself is architecturally beautiful, and it even contains an antique underground bowling alley that Frick commissioned in 1914. The Frick Collection is open to viewing by the public, but the bowling alley is still rarely seen.

Photo credit: Paul Gorbould
Photo credit: Paul Gorbould

First Street Garden

When this vacant lot became a garden well over 30 years ago, its surrounding neighbors thought it would stay forever. But in 1999, the city made plans to destroy this beautiful garden and put condos in its place. The local neighborhood then collaborated with Green Thumb to preserve this space as a community green space also known as Garden 48. This pleasant garden is now featuring the mural theme, “Women Who Change the World,” presented by the Lower East Side Girls Club.

Photo credit: Garrett Ziegler
Photo credit: Garrett Ziegler

 

The Garden of Stones

The Museum of Jewish Heritage is home to one of the most unique gardens in the city. The Garden of Stones features large boulders with trees planted inside them by Holocaust survivors and their families. As the plants continue to grow, the rocks will break apart and form a beautiful and symbolic landscape.

Photo credit: Dave Pinter
Photo credit: Dave Pinter

The High Line

Locals love cruising the High Line Park and even catching live events there in the summer time. This 1-mile-long stretch of the former elevated West Side Line rail line has been turned into a scenic park that runs from Gansevoort Street all the way to West 34th Street. If you’re visiting this summer, mark your calendar for one of the many free evenings of music and dancing on the High Line.

Photo credit: Nick Harris
Photo credit: Nick Harris

Cafe Wha?

Music junkies must pay a visit to Cafe Wha? (also known as “The Wha”). Cafe Wha? has been a hangout for up-and-coming talent since it opened in the 1950s, playing host to musical prodigies like Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan. World famous musicians and comedians including Bruce Springsteen, Kool and the Gang and Richard Pryor started their careers at The Wha?, and the stage continues to host up-and-coming artists seven days a week.

Photo credit: NilsPix
Photo credit: NilsPix

Graffiti Wall of Fame

It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve visited New York, the Graffiti Wall of Fame at East 106th Street and Park Avenue is constantly changing. And if you get really lucky, you may even catch the artists in the act of updating the wall. The park is open to the public for limited hours every day, but you can still take some amazing photos through the fence if it’s closed.

Photo credit: Miero
Photo credit: Miero

The Whispering Gallery

Although the Whispering Gallery has gained fame as a popular spot for marriage proposals over the years, it’s something you must do when visiting Grand Central Station. Locate the archway in front of the Oyster Bar Restaurant, stand at one end and have a friend stand at the other. Simply whisper into the archway and your message will be transmitted to the other end. It’s not entirely private though, so be careful not to spill your deepest secrets.

Photo credit: Matt Blaze
Photo credit: Matt Blaze

 Rooftop Gardens at Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center may not be much of a secret spot in New York City, but what’s on the roof of Rock Center actually is. The five hidden rooftop gardens maintained by the Rockefeller Center were designed by famous landscaper Ralph Hancock in the early 1930s. And although the gardens are rarely open to the public, you can still view them from the Top of the Rock observation deck.

Photo credit: vipnyc
Photo credit: vipnyc

The South Street Seaport

Whether you’re seeking a place to shop, dine or even enjoy some free outdoor yoga, the South Street Seaport offers it all and tons more. This historic Manhattan waterfront area features the former Fulton Fish Market, which is now home to a wide variety of shops and eateries, as well as tons of events like live concerts, outdoor movies, magic shows and more.

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The Elevated Acre

There’s no better place to take in the New York City sights than from a rooftop, and the Elevated Acre is one of the most beautiful rooftops in town. This acre of green space on a Lower Manhattan rooftop at 55 Water Street is the perfect place to enjoy a picnic or just browse the gardens and admire the river views.

Photo credit: Dan Nguyen
Photo credit: Dan Nguyen

The Coney Island Cyclone

Why don’t locals want you to ride the Coney Island Cyclone? Because the line will be longer of course. The Coney Island Cyclone is one of Brooklyn’s favorite old-time attractions dating all the way back to 1927. This National Historic Landmark is a must-ride for adrenaline junkies and history buffs alike.

Photo credit: Keith Putnam
Photo credit: Keith Putnam

Union Square Greenmarket

The North and West sides of Union Square Park come alive every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. for the Union Square Greenmarket. Not only is this year-round market home to the freshest produce and other food products in the city, it’s a great place to take in the true culture of the city.

Photo credit: Ed Yourdon
Photo credit: Ed Yourdon

The Brooklyn Academy of Music

You don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to see some of the best shows of your life in New York City. The Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) offers an exciting and unique theater atmosphere with a wide variety of performances from opera to visual art, dance, concerts, theater and even kids performances. See a different side of the New York City theater scene at the ever-changing Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Photo credit: Saundi Wilson
Photo credit: Saundi Wilson

The Lower East Side

The Lower East Side may not be Manhattan’s most glamorous side, but it’s one of the best for dining and drinking with the locals. The Lower East Side is home to some of the best low-key eateries and watering holes in New York City including Two Bit’s Retro Arcade, where you can reminisce over cocktails while playing video games from the 80s and 90s. And if it’s unique NYC shopping you’re seeking, the Lower East Side is home to some of the best vintage hot spots and fashion boutiques in the city.

Photo credit: Mr. Seb
Photo credit: Mr. Seb

About the Author: Courtney McCaffrey

Courtney McCaffrey is a travel writer and editor based in Wilmington, N.C. In addition to writing, she lives for travel - seeing new places, experiencing new cultures and surfing new waves.

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