Alternative Things To Do And Ways To See New York City
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While there's certainly no shortage of incredible things to do and places to see in New York City the question of what to experience next is an all too common issue for regular foreign visitors. I think that we sometimes look at a place as bustling and romanticised as NYC and assume that the itinerary check-list will just write itself as soon as we leave the airport. This isn't a bad strategy, in fact it's one of the few sure-fire ways to guarantee your trip stays original. But I believe that even for the most seasoned New York City traveller a healthy dose of advance planning goes a long way, lest they fall victim to the burden of choice. And there's a lot to choose from!
Putting myself in the position of a regular visitor strapped for ideas I took to Twitter and asked a wonderful bunch of travel bloggers for their opinion on the Big Apple's most unique offerings beyond the main attractions. The suggestions were fantastic, most of them I'd never heard of bar one. So if you're a person who claims to have 'done it all' and are seeking activities to freshen up a future visit read on and get inspired.
Our Alternate NYC:
Allow me to start off on the New York City art scene, as two of the recommendations I received both centre around two very different museums. You'll probably have heard of the Metropolitan and MoMA, but have you considered the Frick Collection and the PS1?
1) The Frick Collection:
The Frick Collection was suggested by travel blogger and New York City specialist Katie Lara via Twitter (@TravelPanties). It's an institution located within the Henry Clay Frick House on the lower east end of Central Park (1 E 70th St, New York, NY 10021). Once owned by a millionaire industrialist of the same name this stunning neo-classical mansion houses his eponymous collection of timeless masterpieces. Inside you'll encounter major works by European artists from the 17th-19th centuries. See El Greco's 'Purification of the Temple', Francisco Goya's 'The Forge', three paintings by Johannes Vermeer, and numerous canvases by Flemish Baroque artist Anthony van Dyck. Another wonderful aspect of the Frick Collection is its sculptures, mostly created by master sculptors from the Italian Renaissance and many more by French sculptors working in the mediums of bronze, marble and terracotta.
2) MoMA PS1:
The MoMA PS1 is an affiliate of the New York Museum of Modern Art located in Long Island City. It was suggested by traveller and photographer Dani via Twitter (@GlbetrotterGrls), who previously helped me find one of Munich's loveliest restaurants. The PS1 is dedicated solely to contemporary art, and as such its exhibitions are constantly being renewed with fresh, highly experimental content. The obvious aim is to keep discourse flowing, develop new and entertaining ideas, and serve as a platform for emerging artists. Even if you've visited the PS1 before rest assured that it won't be the same as last time.
3) Gantry Plaza State Park:
Another thing Dani notes about her first recommendation is that it lies only a short walk away from Gantry Plaza State Park. Take a moment, either before or after your trip to the PS1, to stroll through this beautiful 12-acre green space. It huddles along the edge of the East River, offering spectacular views of lower Manhattan's towering skyline. A couple of prominent features likely to pique your interest are the planned gardens, the mist fountain, and its four publicly accessible piers (fishing allowed on one). There's even playground facilities for younger children as well as basketball and handball courts for the sporty amongst us.
4) Roosevelt Island Tramway:
Dani's 3rd recommendation was one I had no idea existed and was delighted to be informed of. The Roosevelt Island Tramway is an aerial cable car system that ferries passengers between a station on the east side of Midtown Manhattan (Tramway Plaza, E 59th St & 2nd Ave, New York, 10022) and another on Roosevelt Island (Main St, Roosevelt Island, NY 10044). What caught my attention most about the tramway was the view. From a height of 250 ft you drift past the Queensboro Bridge, absorbing Manhattan's lofty scenery as well as the markedly flatter vistas of Roosevelt Island and Long Island City. While a 4-5 minute commute on the tramway is a unique treat in and of itself, Roosevelt Island also offers few a casual sightseeing gems. Have a gander around Southpoint Park, snap a few pics of the Octagon, and see the ruined 19th century Smallpox Hospital.
5) Brooklyn's Red Hook:
Finally, Dani suggested an exploration of Brooklyn's Red Hook neighbourhood. It's a section of New York City which once boomed with shipping activity and this legacy is still visible in its numerous brownstone factory buildings and storehouses. Today a lot of these structures have been taken over by an eclectic array of restaurants, bars, shops, galleries and more. Defiantly a place to be if you're looking for a genuine bohemian atmosphere.
6) Brooklyn Winery & Big Gay Ice Cream Shop:
Just while I'm on the subject of Brooklyn I'd like to hone in on a suggestion I received from travel enthusiast and blogger Karisa Klee (@FlirtWithGlobe) as part of her '36 Hours In NYC' blog. During her trip to New York she walked the Brooklyn Bridge (another fun idea) and visited the Brooklyn Winery, which I'll let you read about over on her blog. The recommendation I most liked the idea of, however, was grabbing an exotic Ice Cream Cone at the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop in the heart of East Village. On a warm Summer's day order one of their special frozen treats before having a wander around nearby Tompkins Square Park.
7) Sleep No More:
I'd like to quickly return at this point to Katie Lara (@TravelPanties), who followed up her original recommendation by drawing my attention to a unique theatrical experience. 'Sleep No More' is an adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth set in 1930s America. The action mainly takes place within the fictional "McKittrick Hotel", and patrons are required to don white carnival marks, keep silent, and follow the action on-foot in a stunningly choreographed feat of promenade theatre. If this sounds like your kind of thing then head along to the 'set' at: (530 West 27th Street New York, NY 10001). Expect to be fully immersed in the dark, dingy tragedy.
Katie has written for numerous news and tourism organisations from Fox News and the Huffington Post to Fodor’s and Forbes. Check out her blog for even more hints and tips that'll help you conquer the Big Apple.
8) Foods Of New York Tour:
Our next idea comes from Canadian filmmaker and travel blogger Cailin O'Neil via Twitter (@CailinONeil). She suggested taking a 'Foods of New York Tour'. This is a group that first started operating in 1999 with an ambition to draw in foodies from all across the world and let them experience the true culinary diversity of NYC's historic neighbourhoods. Today they feature more than 100 restaurants and a passionate team of experts who collectively guide thousands of happy (and hungry) visitors each year. After asking which tours they'd most recommend I was told about the 'Original Greenwich Village Tour', and the 'Heart of the Village Tour'. Follow the links for more information on both.
Also note that Foods of New York have a tour of 'Chelsea Market, The Highline and The Meatpacking District'. As of 2015 they are the only company allowed to take tour groups inside Chelsea Market, after an exclusive deal was struck to minimise overcrowding and maximise quality for visiting tour groups.
9) Walks Of New York Tour:
Cailin's second suggestion keeps our feet moving and our minds open on a 'Walks of New York' tour. This passionate group believes in donning a good pair of walking shoes, taking to the streets and discovering the facts and stories behind the City That Never Sleeps. As done previously I contacted the operators and asked which of their tours they'd most recommend to a first timer. I was pointed towards the 'Lower East Side Stories Tour' and the 'Extended Met Museum Tour'. The former gives visitors exciting insights into the traditional home of New York's Jewish community, and well as other fascinating cultural enclaves. You'll receive a guided tour of the Eldridge Street Synagogue, and will encounter a Buddhist temple plus the Chinatown ‘Dragon Fighters’ fire station.
The latter tour offers a more detailed look into the sprawling Metropolitan Museum of Art. Don't think of it as a plain museum tour, it's a historical journey that incorporates 5,000 years of art into just over 3 hours. Your guide will flesh out the experience by presenting highlights from the collections such as: ancient Roman frescoes, selected works by Vincent van Gogh and Rembrandt, and 'original' designer's models of Egypt's ancient tombs!
Note that Walks of New York like to keep their tour groups small and intimate, that is 12 people or fewer.
10) On Location Tours TV And Movie Sites Tour:
Finally, I'll leave you with a tour I actually knew about, because we sell it on this site! On Location Tour's 'TV and Movie Sites Tour' was suggested by adventure travel enthusiast and blogger Megan Claire via Twitter (@mappingmegan). On Location Tours offer stacks of fun film and television related sightseeing tours in New York City, such as Sex and the City and The Sopranos, but this is their main excursion. By both foot and coach you'll explore shooting locations from big screen classics such as North by Northwest and Ghostbusters, plus famous shows such as Friends and Law & Order. If it sounds like something you'd be interested in then read more by following the above link.