Going to NYC and exploring everything it has to offer is a bucket list item. The city is so vast and full of wonderful people, places, and potential activities that not even native New Yorkers could possibly see, feel, and visit everything. But the goal isn’t to see everything, is it? It’s to experience authentic New York, if possible.
That’s why going off the beaten path is the best way to be a tourist in NYC. Sure, we all know that visiting Grand Central Terminal and going to Central Park are a must for first-time visitors. But what if this is your sixth or seventh time in NYC? Alternatively, what if you don’t want the typical experience all tourists have?
Well, then you need to do something different. NYC is slowly recovering after the pandemic, but if there ever was a time to visit it and not get swarmed by crowds, it’s now. So here are some examples.
You CAN See the Entire City
Yes, seeing the entire NYC is practically impossible, especially in one trip. However, if you’re willing to downsize (and see a breathtaking view), head to the Queens Museum of Art. There, you’ll find a miniature version of the entire city — the Panorama of the City of New York. The exhibit has been around since 1964, and it’s a unique way to experience the city. It even has an Adopt-a-Building program that lets you “purchase” a building that’s a part of the Panorama and sponsor it.
A Different Look at Manhattan
Manhattan has always been a hot spot when it comes to tourist activity. It’s overcrowded, fast-paced, and a once-in-a-lifetime experience. However, instead of walking around the borough aimlessly or doing a bus or on-foot tour, try a different approach. Book a sailing tour on a Schooner Adirondack and see Manhattan from a different angle.
You’ll sail around the entire island and leave the noisy Manhattan lifestyle behind. There are a few different tours, so, depending on how much time you have on your hands, you can enjoy an hour or a few on the water.
Broadway, But Make It (Even More) Exciting
Although Broadway won’t reopen until the fall of 2021, it’s still a must-see when it comes to NYC attractions. It’s one of the most popular spots partially because it houses the famous Theater District or the Great White Way.
Now, going off the beaten path doesn’t mean you should skip everything that’s so famous everyone and their mother has heard about it. It just means that you might want to do things a bit differently. So, instead of just walking up and down Broadway or agonizing about which play or musical you want to see, try playing the Broadway Roulette. If you know when exactly you’re coming to NYC (and it’s a few months away), you can buy tickets for a specific date. The twist is that you won’t know what you’ll be watching until the morning of the show!
Alternatively, if you’re looking for a more affordable way to experience the Theater District, you can book tickets for a taping night for one of the late shows.
Follow the Music
New York was the birthplace of many music genres. Since it’s a hub of activity and a place of convergence of many cultures, artists have flocked to NYC for decades. And with so many creative people in one place, it’s no wonder that NYC was and still is the birthplace of music and art genres. Rock, glam rock, and punk were all born in the bosom of NYC.
If you’re looking to see a piece of New York’s rich art history, but you’re looking to see much more than just the famous CBGB, then consider booking a rock’n’roll walking tour in the East Village. See the streets that the famous Ramones, Talking Heads, and Blondie walked, visit the studios and clubs they played, and hear all about the time rock’n’roll was in its infancy.
But artists of all genres have NYC to thank for their existence. There are plenty of music-oriented tours in New York, so head to Harlem for a jazz and blues tour, or relive the Disco era in Studio 54.
Grand Central Has So Much More to Offer
Grand Central Terminal is a marvel of architecture and a sight to behold with bated breath. However, just seeing it isn’t enough. The tourist attraction has some hidden gems that you should explore to experience that true New Yorker feeling.
If the path leads you to Grand Central, make sure to visit The Whispering Gallery. This secret spot is located right in front of the famous Oyster Bar & Restaurant. It’s an architectural marvel and if you’re traveling with a partner, a potentially romantic spot.
The Whispering Gallery has specific acoustics that allow the sound to travel along the curves of the domed ceiling. Thanks to that, two people can stand in opposite corners and hear each other’s whispers of sweet nothings.
There’s More Than One Park
Suppose you think that you’ve already seen everything that Central Park has to offer (you’re probably wrong, but that’s beside the point). Well, then head to Randall’s Island Park. It’s a perfect spot for a picnic that won’t get interrupted by dozens of tourists. There are also quite a few attractions there, like the circus in Icahn Stadium or art displays.
And if you’re really into seeing more sculpture displays, then head straight to Queens for a free exhibit in the Socrates Sculpture Park.
And More Than One Burrow, So Head to Brooklyn
A lot of tourists think they’ve found a hidden gem in the Manhattan Highline. Although that is a potentially gorgeous spot, we suggest walking along the Brooklyn Bridge instead. However, to ensure you get the most authentic experience, get up a bit earlier than you would and head straight there.
The bridge is nearly empty in the early morning hours, which means you’ll be able to properly see how magnificent it is. You’ll also be able to take lots of pics without anyone photobombing you.
And when you do cross the bridge, don’t look back. Brooklyn is a part of NYC that many tourists look down on, especially if all their knowledge on NYC comes from pop culture. However, the entire borrow is not only beautiful but also a specific experience. It’s not something you want to miss.
So instead of returning to Midtown, head to Bedford Ave. Take a walk through the heart of Williamsburg and experience the convergence of cultures. The walk will feel otherworldly because you can see people from different walks of life and cultures living together in harmony. For example, while walking through Williamsburg, you’ll see urban street art. However, if you continue south, you’ll come across a Hasidic Jewish neighborhood. The transition feels like walking through a portal into another world.
A foot tour of this place is truly unique, and experiencing it will make you want to move to Brooklyn.
On Wednesdays, We Head to the Bronx
If you have some free time on a Wednesday, head to the Bronx Zoo since admittance is free on Wednesdays. And, while you’re there, make sure to experience an authentic Little Italy. We know that Little Italy in Manhattan is more famous, but the one in the Bronx has more heart and is a bona fide experience.
A Few Parting Words
There are no right or wrong ways to experience NYC. No matter where you go and what you see, it will be a trip you’ll never forget. With so much to offer, NYC is also a destination you’ll come back to as many times as you can. So, do as much as you can fit into your schedule and whatever you think is most captivating. You can always visit again!