Beyond Broadway: Non Touristy Things to Do In NYC In 2024

Searching for unique things to do in NYC? You’ve traveled to the top of the Empire State Building, taken a few selfies in Times Square, and eaten a (slightly questionable) hot dog from a street food vendor…now what? Sure, you could continue visiting the other touristy things in NYC, but what about going somewhere you won’t find in a typical guidebook? Although roughly 13 million tourists visit the city each year, there are plenty of non-touristy things to do in NYC. Let’s explore 15 unique places to add to your Big Apple itinerary.

Below you will find our list of unique things to do in NYC. You won’t find those tips in any guidebooks, so keep them secret and off the beaten path! 🙊

Non-Touristy Things to Do in NYC: A Few Secret Speakeasies

The Prohibition Era is long gone, but there are still dozens of speakeasies sprinkled throughout NYC. Don’t worry, all of these bars are legit and you won’t need a fancy password to get inside. All you need to know is where to find these well-hidden watering holes. Here are a few tips to get you started on your speakeasy search.

First, travel to 8 Stuyvesant Street in the East Village. Here you should find a Japanese restaurant called Village Yokocho. As you head into this restaurant, look for a nondescript side door near the entrance. This door will take you into Angel’s Share, one of the most celebrated speakeasies in the city. Be sure to try Angel’s Share’s famous Grasshopper as you enjoy a beautiful view of the Stuyvesant Triangle. Angel’s Share is open between 6 PM and 1:30 AM every day of the week.

If you’re looking for a more historic NYC speakeasy, visit Chumley’s at 86 Bedford Street. This iconic West Village dive originally opened in the 1920s and served the likes of E. E. Cummings, John Steinbeck, and William Faulkner. Although Chumley’s suffered significant damage in the early 2000s, it’s now totally revamped and open for business.

Practical information:

  • Operating hours are between 5:30 PM – 12 AM Mondays through Saturdays and from 11:30 AM – 3:30 PM on Sundays.
  • By the way, the apartment used in the sitcom “Friends” is only a short walk from Chumley’s, so be sure to take some pics before leaving the area.

Sensationally Smelly: The Flower District

When you live in a place like Manhattan, it’s difficult to stop and smell the roses…unless you’re in the city’s Flower District! Located on 28th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues, this tiny area has provided local New Yorkers with exquisite fresh flowers for decades. Delivery trucks usually arrive in the Flower District at 3 AM every day to drop off the freshest flowers imaginable.

The best time to visit this area is at 8 AM when most florists open to the public. Even if you’re not going to purchase anything, it’s well worth waking up early to see all the colorful flowers in this lovely area of the city.

Stuff Your Face At Smorgasburg

People visiting NYC between April and November can’t pass on the opportunity to visit Brooklyn’s most popular food flea market: Smorgasburg. With over 100 food vendors, this outdoor market is a haven for foodies interested in international cuisine. It’s a far better idea to visit Smorgasburg on the weekend than the more touristy (and crowded) Chelsea Market.

Practical information:

Smorgasburg takes place between 11 AM – 6 PM every weekend from April till November. You’ll find Smorgasburg in East River Park on Saturday and Breeze Hill at Prospect Park on Sunday.

Admire Street Art In Bushwick

The best place to appreciate the best of New York’s hot street art scene is in Bushwick Brooklyn near Flushing Avenue. Thanks to the efforts of the Bushwick Collective, graffiti artists are encouraged to express themselves on the many walls throughout this part of the city. There are about 100 blocks of street art to take in here, so definitely pace yourself. Anyone looking for the highlights should stick to the areas of St. Nicholas and Troutman.

The best time to have a more intimate viewing of these artworks is between morning and lunchtime, Mondays through Thursdays. For those who want to learn more about the artists and their work, consider taking one of the many guided walking tours.

Explore Victorian Architecture At Ditmas Park

When people think of Brooklyn, images of Victorian-era houses don’t usually spring to mind. Interestingly, Ditmas Park in central Brooklyn is home to some 2,000 exquisite Victorian-designed homes, some of which date back 100 years. This makes Ditmas Park one of the most unique places in the city to go on a quick architecture tour. In addition to Ditmas Park, be sure to stroll past the many wonderful houses in Prospect Park South and Albemarle-Kenmore Terraces, all three of which are now listed as official Historic Districts.

Take A Long Walk On The High Line Elevated Park

One of the most fascinating walks you’ll ever take in Manhattan is along the city’s High Line. Ever since it opened to pedestrians in 2009, this former railway track between Hudson Yards and north Chelsea has become a popular retreat for nature-starved New Yorkers. Measuring almost 1.5 miles long, High Line is especially beautiful in the warmer months and hosts many fabulous art installations throughout the year.

Practical information:

If you’re traveling by metro, High Line is only a few minutes walk from the 14th Street station.

Relax On The Elevated Acre

After you’ve taken your requisite selfies by the Wall Street bull, walk to 55 Water Street near the East River. Here you should find an elevator that will take you to a well-guarded garden retreat known as the Elevated Acre. In addition to stunning views of the East River and Brooklyn Bridge, this relatively unknown green space also features an amphitheater and a summer Biergarten. Although it’s only a short walk from the Wall Street metro, many people who work in the Financial District don’t even know about this fabulous acre!

Relive History At Fraunces Tavern

Another hidden gem in the Financial District well worth a visit is Fraunces Tavern at 54 Pearl Street. Established in 1762, this bar is one of the oldest in the city and was an important location for early revolutionaries. Famously, Fraunces Tavern was the location General George Washington gave his farewell address at the end of the Revolutionary War.

Practical information:

Be sure to visit this bar’s impressive museum to learn more about its incredible history. Fraunces Tavern is open every day from 11 AM till 2 AM and is only a 5-minute walk south of the Charging Bull statue.

Order A Drink In Tesla’s Pad: Patent Pending

The revolutionary 20th-century inventor Nikola Tesla called New York City home for most of his adult life. Anyone interested in the legacy of this great scientist should stop by the café Patent Coffee, which is located in Tesla’s former Manhattan residence. Inside this café, you’ll find many “electrifying” references to Tesla’s time here. If you’re visiting after 5:00 PM, then be sure to visit the speakeasy bar Patent Pending, which can be found through a hidden door near the café’s menu board.

Practical information:

Patent Pending is open from 5 PM till 12 AM on Sundays through Wednesdays and from 5 PM till 2 AM on Thursdays through Saturdays. You’ll find Patent Coffee at 49 W 27th Street near the 28th Street metro stop.

Haggle With Vendors On Canal Street

Looking for a deal? Don’t mind crowds? Do you have cash on you? If you answered “yes” to those questions, then you need to visit Canal Street in NYC’s Chinatown. Here you’ll find dozens of vendors selling everything from knock-off New York souvenirs and bootleg DVDs to designer brand bags and fancy perfumes.

This is a really gritty NYC experience, so be prepared to pay in cash and haggle with vendors. Also, keep your valuables close because this lively area tends to get crowded and petty theft isn’t an infrequent occurrence.

Get A Cone From The Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory

Once you’ve finished your shopping on Canal Street, you’ll probably need to take a break with some authentic Chinese ice cream. The best place to taste high-quality East-meets-West flavours of everyone’s favourite dairy dessert is at the Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory (OCICF). For four decades, the family-run OCICF remains one of New York City’s top ice cream parlours.

Some of the unique flavours you’ll only find at this well-established factory include ginger, green tea Oreo, and red bean. The OCICF is at 65 Bayard Street within walking distance of the Canal Street metro.

Explore The Queens Museum

The Queens Museum, a vital cultural institution in New York City, has a rich history and a diverse collection that makes it a must-visit destination. Founded in 1972, the museum is located in Queens, one of the most culturally diverse areas in the United States, and occupies the historic New York City Building, which notably served as the temporary headquarters of the United Nations from 1946 to 1950. The museum’s mission is to present high-quality arts and educational programming, reflecting the diversity of the communities in Queens and New York City at large.

One of the museum’s most iconic features is the Panorama of the City of New York, a detailed architectural model that spans 9,335 square feet and replicates every pre-1992 building in all five boroughs of New York City. The Panorama was commissioned by Robert Moses for the 1964 World’s Fair and took a team of 100 people three years to construct. It includes 895,000 individual structures and has been updated periodically to reflect the city’s evolving skyline.

In addition to the Panorama, the museum boasts a permanent collection of approximately 10,000 items, over 6,000 of which are documents and artifacts related to the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs. The collection includes works by renowned artists like Salvador Dalí and Mark Dion, as well as historical photographs and drawings. Another highlight of the museum is the Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass, which showcases a vast array of Tiffany glass items, including windows, lamps, and an extensive archive of glass pieces from the Tiffany Studios.

The Queens Museum is also known for its contemporary art exhibitions, which have featured works by significant artists such as Yayoi Kusama, Tania Bruguera, and Fred Wilson. These exhibitions often address social and political issues, fostering critical discussions and activism. The museum’s engagement with the community extends to organizing outreach programs, workshops, and events that connect residents with contemporary art, emphasizing accessibility and inclusivity.

Overall, the Queens Museum represents a unique blend of historical significance, artistic innovation, and community engagement, making it a vital part of New York City’s cultural landscape.

Enjoy The Scenery On Governors Island

Forget taking a ferry to the touristy Statue of Liberty. Instead, hop aboard a ship out of Battery Park that’s bound for Governors Island. You’ll find just as much history packed on this tiny island as there is on Ellis Island without dealing with huge tourist crowds. Located near Brooklyn Heights, Governors Island was originally used by the indigenous Manahatas tribe for fishing until the Dutch colonized the area.

The island gained notoriety during the Revolutionary War as an important strategic area for General George Washington. Although there are a few canons and museums to explore here, most New Yorkers like to visit Governors Island as a refreshing retreat from the concrete jungle. You can visit Governors Island by taking a ferry from Battery Park between May and October.

Travel Back To The Middle Ages At The Cloisters

Everyone who visits NYC takes at least one trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but few bother to visit the Met’s Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park. Yes, it’s about a 45-minute ride north of the Met to the Cloisters, but once you get here, you’ll be impressed by the serenity of these authentic French monasteries and the thousands of medieval works they contain. Take your time admiring the immaculately maintained gardens, incredible architecture, and overall peace of this magical museum.

Practical information:

The Cloisters are open daily from 10 AM – 5:15 PM between March and October and from 10 AM – 4:45 PM between November and February. Tickets to the Cloisters cost $25 for out-of-state adults.

Find Your Cure At C. O. Bigelow Apothecary

Feeling run down on your whirlwind tour through the Big Apple? Maybe you need to take a trip to the historic C. O. Bigelow Apothecary at 414 6th Avenue. First opened in 1838, the C. O. Bigelow Apothecary is considered the oldest of its kind in the USA and has served many famous clients throughout the years.

Just a few of the biggest names to walk through Bigelow’s doors include Eleanor Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and Thomas Edison. Amazingly, business is still booming at this old apothecary…so something must be working, right? Hey, it’s certainly worth a shot to stop by Bigelow on your tour of Greenwich Village.

Practical information:

C. O. Bigelow Apothecary is open between 7:30 AM – 9 PM Mondays through Fridays, 8:30 AM – 7 PM on Saturdays, and 8:30 AM – 5:30 PM on Sundays.

Visit A Spot Of England At Pomander Walk

Believe it or not, it’s possible to take a stroll through dear Old Blighy in the heart of New York City. All you have to do is visit Pomander Walk on West 95th Street from Broadway. This fascinating private community has over a dozen homes modelled on traditional Tudor designs. Initially, these were built in the 1920s as a way to build revenue for a hotel, but the owner of these homes passed away before he could realise his dream.

Please note, since Pomander Walk is a private community, you will need to gain an invitation to the neighbourhood. Even if you’re not allowed inside, however, you could get a good sense of this charming area from the surrounding houses and by taking a peek through the main gates.

Experience the Vibrant Asian Cuisine in Flushing, Queens

While Manhattan’s Chinatown is a popular destination for tourists, Queens, known for its unparalleled ethnic diversity, offers an equally vibrant Asian culinary experience. Flushing’s Chinatown, in particular, is larger than its Manhattan counterpart and boasts a rich array of authentic Asian eateries. From delectable Vietnamese dishes at Pho Hoang to mouth-watering Chinese dumplings at Zhu Ji Dumpling House, Flushing offers a gastronomic adventure that’s hard to match. Make sure to bring cash, as many places may not accept cards.

Practical Information:
Flushing’s Chinatown is accessible via various transportation modes. The most convenient is the subway, with the 7 train stopping at Flushing – Main Street, placing you right at the heart of this culinary paradise. For those driving, parking can be a challenge, so it’s advisable to use public transport.

Pedal Your Way Around Prospect Park

In the heart of Brooklyn lies Prospect Park, the borough’s equivalent to Central Park. Designed by the same architects, Frederick Olmstead and Calvert Vaux, this sprawling urban oasis offers a perfect spot for a quiet escape from the city’s hustle and bustle. One of the best ways to explore the park is by bike. Rent a Citi Bike and take a leisurely ride around the park, soaking in the beautiful scenery and serenity.

Prospect Park boasts a variety of attractions:

  • Long Meadow: A vast open space perfect for picnics and sports.
  • Prospect Park Lake: Offers boating and picturesque views.
  • The Boathouse: A scenic spot for events and relaxation.
  • Prospect Park Zoo: A family-friendly attraction with diverse wildlife.

The park offers several food concessions for quick bites. Picnic areas are abundant, so feel free to bring your food. Remember to clean up after your picnic to keep the park beautiful.

Getting There:

Prospect Park is well-connected by public transit. The F, G, and Q trains stop near the park, and several bus lines serve the area. For drivers, there is limited street parking available. Consider using public transit for convenience.

Immerse Yourself in the Arts Scene of Long Island City

Long Island City, a vibrant neighborhood in Queens, is home to a burgeoning arts scene. The neighborhood boasts a plethora of art galleries and installations that rival those in Manhattan’s Chelsea. The MoMA PS1, a contemporary art institution housed in a former public school, offers an unparalleled array of modern and contemporary art exhibits. During the summer, don’t miss their “Warm Up” series, featuring live outdoor music.

Uncover Street Art in Bushwick

For lovers of urban art, Bushwick in Brooklyn offers an open-air gallery of street art and graffiti. Wander around the neighborhood to discover colorful murals and artworks by The Bushwick Collective and various local artists. Feeling inspired? Consider taking a private graffiti workshop or lesson to create your own piece of street art.

Stroll Along the Brooklyn Heights Promenade

For an alternative view of the Manhattan skyline, head to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. This charming waterfront walkway offers breathtaking views of the city. It’s ideal for a leisurely stroll on a sunny day and offers a calm and peaceful atmosphere away from the city’s crowded tourist spots.

Relax in the Tranquil Snug Harbor Cultural Center

Escape the city’s hustle and bustle and find tranquility in the Snug Harbor Cultural Center. Once a retirement home for sailors, this peaceful spot on Staten Island now serves as a botanical garden and arts center. Explore the nine distinctive gardens, including the Chinese Scholar’s Garden and Connie Gretz Secret Garden, and soak in the serene atmosphere.

Visit the Lesser-Known Filming Locations

New York City has served as the backdrop for countless films and TV shows. However, instead of visiting the over-touristed sites like the “Friends” apartment, why not explore some of the lesser-known filming locations? For instance, the beautiful townhouse at 144th Street and Convent Avenue was the setting for the 2001 film “The Royal Tenenbaums.” Although it’s a private residence, you can still admire it from the outside.

Discover The Noguchi Museum

The Noguchi Museum in Long Island City, Queens, is a unique institution dedicated to the works of the renowned Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi. Established in 1985 by Noguchi himself, it was the first museum in the United States to be founded by a living artist to showcase their own work. The museum is located in a repurposed 1920s industrial building, complemented by a serene outdoor sculpture garden. This space reflects Noguchi’s interest in experiential art, where his works are displayed without barriers, inviting visitors to form personal connections with the art.

The museum’s collection is the largest assembly of Noguchi’s works in the world, featuring a wide range of his artistic outputs. These include his sculptures, models, drawings, and personal possessions, as well as a comprehensive archive. The first floor of the museum primarily showcases Noguchi’s stone works from different periods, reflecting his own curatorial decisions from the 1980s. The second floor features changing exhibitions drawing from the museum’s collection and Noguchi’s archives, illuminating his enduring influence on contemporary art and related artist projects.

Noguchi’s garden is a testament to his exploration of Japanese garden design, featuring plantings native to Japan and the United States. It provides a reflective space for visitors to enjoy in all seasons. The museum also offers a range of educational programs and activities, advancing the appreciation and understanding of Noguchi’s art and legacy.

The museum’s mission and vision focus on protecting and furthering the legacy of Noguchi’s vision, maintaining the intimate character of the museum while growing in programming capacity and public recognition. This mission is supported by public funds and various foundations, reflecting the importance of Noguchi’s work in the art world.

For more detailed information, you can visit the official website of The Noguchi Museum here.

Explore the City on Two Wheels

Exploring New York City on a bike offers a unique and scenic experience, with several notable trails that cater to both avid cyclists and those looking for a leisurely ride.

One such trail is the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway. Spanning about 26 miles, this route allows you to enjoy relaxed biking while discovering Brooklyn’s diverse neighborhoods like Red Hook, Sunset Park, and Bay Ridge. The trail passes through several city, state, and national parks, offering views of the Manhattan skyline, Brooklyn Bridge, Jamaica Bay, and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

Another exciting option is the East River Waterfront Esplanade in Manhattan, stretching approximately 10 miles from Battery Park to Harlem. Though interrupted for about 20 blocks, this path offers views of the East River, Brooklyn and Queens waterfronts, and significant landmarks like the Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Williamsburg bridges, and the United Nations Plaza.

For those interested in history and nature, Fort Tilden Beach in the Rockaways is an excellent choice. This ocean-front park, once a military site, is now part of the 26,000-acre Gateway National Recreation Area. It’s a longer ride, mostly flat, and ends at a serene beach, perfect for relaxation after a solid ride.

The Hudson River Greenway is another must-visit trail. It provides stunning views of the river and the New Jersey skyline, with a wide, clean path that accommodates bikers, runners, and walkers. This trail offers an excellent escape from the city, with opportunities for various outdoor activities like kayaking and sailing.

The Battery, located near the southern tip of Manhattan, offers picturesque rides with views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. It’s a well-maintained park, conveniently located near key NYC spots like Wall Street and the 9/11 Memorial, making it ideal for a peaceful ride along the harbor.

Lastly, the Hudson River Waterfront Greenway is a beautiful trail along the Hudson River, offering a tranquil escape and fantastic sunset views. It’s perfect for both cycling and walking, with paths for running and cycling.

These trails not only provide a unique perspective of the city but also allow you to enjoy its natural beauty and landmarks while getting some exercise and fresh air.

Enjoy a Boozy Brunch

New York City is famous for its food scene, and one local favorite that often goes overlooked by tourists is the boozy brunch. For a set price, enjoy a delicious meal with unlimited drinks. Consider visiting Maya in the Upper East Side, known for its Instagrammable decor and unlimited food and drinks option.

New York City’s boozy brunch scene offers a diverse range of experiences, perfect for a leisurely weekend indulgence. Here are some standout spots to consider:

  1. DiWine in Astoria, Queens: This wine bar and New American restaurant offers an upscale twist to classic brunch staples like avocado toast, eggs Benedict, and lobster BLT. They also feature an unlimited one-hour drinks package for $20 per person in a relaxed atmosphere with live jazz on Sundays.
  2. Sugar Freak in Long Island City, Queens: For a Louisiana-style, Creole brunch, Sugar Freak is a top choice. Their menu includes Southern comfort food like hush puppies, biscuits & gravy, and shrimp creole with cheesy grits. The bottomless brunch option includes cocktails like their Sugar Honey Iced Tea.
  3. The Trestle in Queens: Known for its American fare and New York-inspired decor, The Trestle offers a 90-minute bottomless brunch special including mimosas, bellinis, bloody marys, and more for $20.
  4. Mamajuana Cafe in Queens: This Latin American lounge offers a brunch buffet with unlimited mimosas and rum punches. Their menu includes items like eggs benedict, chuleta, and make-your-own omelets.
  5. The Shady Lady in Astoria, Queens: This Mediterranean-inspired eatery offers a bottomless brunch special with a selection of drinks including mimosas, bellinis, and bloody marys. Their brunch menu includes dishes like chicken and waffles and salmon benedict.
  6. Haven Rooftop in Midtown Manhattan: Enjoy a rooftop bottomless brunch with options like crab benedict, blueberry french toast, and farmers market omelette, paired with bottomless mimosas or bellinis.
  7. Agave in Manhattan: Offering a party bottomless brunch, Agave serves entrées like Silver Dollar Blueberry Pancakes and a Sunrise Fiesta Burrito, accompanied by two hours of unlimited margaritas, wine, and mimosas.
  8. Boqueria in Manhattan: This spot features a selection of classic tapas and brunch options like Paella and Pollo Rustido Feast, along with unlimited Mimosas and sangría.
  9. Poco in Manhattan: Famous for their bottomless brunch, Poco offers dishes like Lobster Guac and Poco Benedict, paired with bottomless mimosas, bloody marys, or sangria.
  10. The Crooked Knife: With multiple locations in Manhattan, The Crooked Knife offers a boozy brunch where you can choose from a variety of entrees like The Sizzler Omelet or Eggs Benedict ‘Salmon Hayek’, along with bottomless mimosas.

Each of these spots offers a unique take on the boozy brunch, blending delicious food with an array of unlimited drink options, making them perfect for a weekend treat.

Discover the Hidden Gems of Chelsea Market

While the Chelsea Market is a popular food hall, there are several lesser-known spots within the market that are worth exploring. From the artisanal food vendors to the rotating art installations at Artists & Fleas, this market offers a unique culinary and cultural experience.

Go Brewery Hopping in Brooklyn

Brooklyn is home to a buzzing craft beer scene, with numerous breweries dotted across the borough. From the industrial-chic setting of Brooklyn Brewery to the rooftop farm brewery of Brooklyn Grange, there are plenty of spots to enjoy a local brew. This is a great way to explore the borough and sample some of the city’s best craft beers.

Discover the Unique Culture of Staten Island

Often overlooked by tourists, Staten Island offers a wealth of cultural experiences. From exploring the Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden to riding the Staten Island Ferry for stunning views of the city skyline and the Statue of Liberty, this borough offers a unique perspective on the city.

Map of activities

Here’s a map so you can find everything easily!