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Top Ten Things To Do In New York Off The Beaten Path

Updated on June 25, 2012
Staten Island Ferry ride
Staten Island Ferry ride

Everybody knows New York’s famous attractions such as the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty, Central Park and Times Square, Wall Street, Brooklyn Bridge and etc. They are all great and worth seeing. However, if you’ve seen all them and want to do something more unique or see more of New York, the following top ten things to do in New York off the beaten path will help you to get started. Most of these activities are free and can be easily included in your itinerary if you visit New York City on a budget.

Staten Island Ferry Ride

The 5 mile, 25 minute ride on Staten Island Ferry is a great way to enjoy the views of Downtown Manhattan and New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island absolutely for free at any time of the day or night. Manhattan South Ferry Terminal located at South Street in Manhattan Financial District, very close to popular New York attractions, such as Battery Park, Wall Street and South Street Seaport.

Roosevelt Island Cable Car ride
Roosevelt Island Cable Car ride

Roosevelt Island Cable Car Ride

If you’ve already seen the skyline of Manhattan from the water, then why not to get a view of the city from the sky? The Roosevelt Island Tramway will quickly bring you from Manhattan to Roosevelt Island and on a way you can enjoy breathtaking views of East Side of Midtown Manhattan, East River and The Queensboro Bridge. Great fun and very cost efficient – the ride costs the same as the subway ride.

The Cloisters Museum and Gardens
The Cloisters Museum and Gardens

The Cloisters Museum and Gardens

New York City has dozens great famous museums worth visiting, but the Cloisters is the truly unique experience and great combination of art collection and setting. Being the branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cloisters museum is devoted to the art and architecture of medieval Europe. Located in Fort Tryon Park in the north of Manhattan, the building of the museum and gardens are treasures in themselves and well part of the collection housed there. Five medieval French cloisters were disassembled and brought to New York in 1934 and reassembled here in a setting with gardens planted accordingly to medieval traditions, creating European atmosphere of the Middle Age right in a modern city of New York. You can easily spend all day here, enjoying art collection, serenity of gardens and great views of the Hudson River.

Bryant Park ice-skating rink and New York Public Library
Bryant Park ice-skating rink and New York Public Library

Bryant Park

New York City parks, with Central Park most famous, are fabulous spots to visit at any occasions. Bryant Park is small green oasis right in a middle of busy midtown Manhattan. During the winter Bryant Park is home to a fabulous and free ice skating rink. In the summer enjoy movies and picnics sitting right on a park lawn under Manhattan sky. Till this year Bryant Park hosted the most glamorous New York City event – New York Fashion Week. And New York Public Library, another place in New York off the beaten path, is right here in Bryant Park.

New York Public Library in The Day After Tomorrow

New York Public Library

The New York Public Library is one of the leading public libraries not only in the United States but in the world. However, not even every New Yorker was inside of this magnificent building right on Fifth Avenue between 40th and 42nd streets. Meanwhile the building is one of architectural jewels of Manhattan and National Historic Landmark. The Library’s grand entrance with two famous stone lions (nickname “Patience” and “Fortitude”), majestic steps and glamorous rooms with high ceilings have been appeared in many movies such as Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Sex and the City, Spider-Man, The Day After Tomorrow, Escape from New York, Regarding Henry and etc.

Grand Central Terminal New York
Grand Central Terminal New York

Grand Central

You don’t have to travel outside of New York City in order to visit Grand Central, just stop by there and walk around! Start your tour at the famous four-sided clock on the Main Concourse, this is a perfect spot to see most everything on the Main Concourse. Look up and around, and you will see the great astronomical mural painted in gold leaf on cerulean blue oil, beautiful melonshaped chandeliers, grand stylish staircases and many small interesting architectural details. Grand Central is home to many stores including famous Grand Central market, and quite noticeable restaurants such as Oyster Bar with the biggest selection of oysters in New York. And just for fun, stop by at unique Whispering Gallery. This one of the biggest attractions of the Terminal offers a phonic treat. Get two volunteers and put them in opposite corners facing the walls. A person can whisper into one of its corners and be distinctly heard diagonally across the gallery on the other side.

Koreatown in Manhattan New York
Koreatown in Manhattan New York


New York City being a very ethnically diverse city has plenty of interesting ethnic neighborhoods with Chinatown and Little Italy are probably most popular. But if you want to try something different and less touristy, then visit Koreatown (or Little Korea) located in Midtown Manhattan between 31st and 36th Streets and Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenues. The area is close to popular destinations like the Empire State Building and Macy's and will indulge you with very authentic Korean culinary experiences and night entertainment. Here you will find a lot of great Korean restaurants and stores, quite fancy karaoke nightclubs and fabulous Korean spas.

Union Square Farm Market, New York
Union Square Farm Market, New York

Union Square Greenmarket

Union Square is a very popular tourist destination in New York. If you visit the square on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays you will get very New York experience. In these days, Union Square becomes New York biggest fresh farmer’s food paradise. You don’t have to buy anything, just mingle around and taste some local just-picked fresh fruits or vegetables, farmstead cheeses and artisan breads, jams, ciders and even local wine. You can catch local chefs from the city’s top restaurants shopping early in the morning for the freshest ingredients. Or take some time to chat with your local farmer and learn about their growing practice and don't be surprised if you rub shoulders with the celebrity – many of them are shop here!

The High Line, New York
The High Line, New York

The High Line

Probably one of the newest attractions in Manhattan, the High Line is a 1.45-mile New York City park built on a section of the former elevated freight railroad of the West Side Line, along the Hudson River. Opened to the public in June of 2009 the High Line runs from Gansevoort Street to 20th Street. The park welcomes visitors with naturalized plantings that are inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew on the disused tracks and with new great views of the city and the Hudson River. The Meatpacking District, located nearby, is trendiest area for shopping in New York, as well as the most popular for dining and one of best places to go out and have fun in Manhattan. 

Brighton Beach, Brooklyn New York
Brighton Beach, Brooklyn New York

Brighton Beach

If you really want to see New York off the beaten path, then get on a subway and go explore New York outside of Manhattan. New York boroughs have plenty of unique neighborhoods that really worth a visit. Brighton Beach is definitely one of them and one of best places to visit in Brooklyn. Here you will immerse yourself in an authentic atmosphere of Little Russia where most of sings and store names written in Russian language, where you would barely hear English speech, where you would find variety of Russian books, art, music and food. Local cozy cafes serve hearty ethnic foods, such as borsch, pirogues, chicken Kiev, beef stroganoff and etc. The extra bonus is seaside, so you can promenade on the boardwalk for the sea breezes or just go to the beach. There are a group of Russian restaurants on the Boardwalk between 4th and 6th Brighton streets with outside dining that gives a wonderful ocean view.

What are your favorite things to do in New York off the beaten path? Please share with us your New York experience.


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    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Back in the mid to late 1950's, when my now-deceased grandparents lived on Brooklyn's Prospect Park West, and my sister and I were both young pre-teens, our entire family would often make the 4.5-5 hour road trip down to NYC to visit them, and they'd often drive up to visit us, as well. Prospect Park was wonderful to walk around in, during the day, and we often went to Coney Island, spent the whole day there, and enjoyed many of the rides, as well. Going to the Museum of Natural History was great, as well. I and my siblings grew up in an idyllic suburb of Boston, but we always enjoyed our visits to New York. We even swam at Brighton Beach, sometimes, and enjoyed the ocean. As a fair-skinned, green-eyed person with reddish hair, getting a nasty sunburn wasn't much fun (and still isn't), but it didn't sink my enjoyment.

      New York City is also where many fabulous movies, including my all time favorite, West Side Story, was filmed (in part), as well.

    • Roxanne Lucero profile image

      Roxanne Lucero 

      3 years ago

      I've been to NYC several times and I have done all the tourist stuff. I've been looking for recommendations of things to do that aren't touristy but "must dos" in NYC and I think your list is awesome! I'll definitely include these places into my itinerary. I already visited some museums, Time Square and Statue of Liberty. I also went to a lot of diners and clubs and I watched free concerts at Central Park after checking out the NYC Parks website. By the way, I found a website listing free events in New York which is great because I didn’t have much of a budget. I think might be useful to people also visiting New York city who are looking for free events in New York.

    • supercibor profile image

      Hector Herrera 

      4 years ago from Dominican Republic

      I frequently visit NYC but you showed me new surprises

    • BernietheMovieGuy profile image

      Bernie Ment 

      5 years ago from Syracuse, NY

      I'm from upstate New York and have traveled a number of times to the city. I've taken the Staten Island Ferry, visited Brighton Beach and Grand Central Station, but will incorporate some of your other suggestions next time I visit. And I must return to GCS to try out the Whispering Gallery that you mention. That just sounds to cool not to try. Nice Hub. Voted up!

    • Suhail and my dog profile image

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

      5 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      Great article voted up and shared.

      I lived in NYC for 5 years in the 80s. Visited many off the beaten path destinations as a young student. The city has changed a lot. When I visit the city now, I always start with my alma mater (university) campus to first feel comfortable first before taking on its tourist attractions. Most of the places you mentioned, I have been to in the company of other students in the 80s or with family friends later. I personally agree with your list.

      However, when I go to NY state, I stay at the fringes of the city itself, mostly at state parks near by, watching its skyline from Stevens Institute of Technology (Hoboken, NJ), Gateway National Recreation Area / Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, etc.

      Thanks for sharing some places that I have never been to and must visit now :-)

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Great article!

    • profile image

      NJ Resident 

      8 years ago

      Very nice article on things to do in NYC that are not the main tourist attractions. The High Line Park now extends to 30th Street, so you might want to update that paragraph.

      Perhaps another suggestion for an off the beaten path idea is to visit Brooklyn Heights. It is a short subway ride from Manhattan and offers incredible views of lower Manhattan, and is a good place to grab a bit to eat.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Nice article. Great choices. I love "Little Russia" as well.

    • punacoast profile image

      Viet Doan 

      8 years ago from Big Island, Hawaii

      Thanks for these great tips! I'm going back to NYC in Sept and definitely will visit the High Line and Cloister Museum which I missed during last trip. Cool hub!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      All awesome ideas! The High Line is the coolest place ever. I know a guy named Garry who does the most incredible tours of New York. His tour of the High Line was fascinating! Check it out: I find that tours make things even more interesting for me.

    • Wanderlust profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from New York City

      Suki, I absolutely agree that visiting Botanical Garden in the Bronx is a great idea. Seafood at City Island is also fantastic - I remember a restaurant there right on a water and lobsters there are great. Great suggestions to the list!

      Thanks everybody for comments!

    • Suki C profile image

      Barbara C 

      9 years ago from Andalucia, Spain

      Great suggestions!

      I spent a couple of summers in the Bronx back in the 70s and have fond memories of the Botanical Gardens

      and also eating seafood at City Island

    • mhuze profile image


      9 years ago from USA

      Nice Hub! I've never been to NY. Hope to go there one day!

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 

      9 years ago from Chicago

      Thank you for these super tips. I've been to Grand Central but none of these others. I'll be sure to check them out. Great Hub!

    • dirnewyorkcity profile image


      9 years ago from New York City, NY

      Those are really great ideas on things to see in NYC. It's easy to get stuck on all the big musts.

      I've never taken the cable car to Roosevelt Island. I'll have to do that it summer. Great hub!

    • Lorraine328 profile image


      9 years ago

      ....Going to the city on July and I LOVE the cable car ride and the high line! THNKS a lottt!

    • prettydarkhorse profile image


      9 years ago from US

      wow, I have never been to NY, this is a helpful hub, thank you for commenting in my English actors hub, but I wrote a hub about Scottish actors and I put Sean Connery there. I also put Damiel Craig who played James Bond in the English hubs, and that is because of your comment, thank you so much, Maita

    • ethel smith profile image

      Ethel Smith 

      9 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      I have never visitied New York so thanks for the guided tour

    • Wanderlust profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from New York City

      Elena, good suggestions! I have to agree that the Brooklyn Heights Promenade with an incredible view of lower Manhattan is a great idea and off the beaten path. Top of the Rock and helicopter ride are both great but well-known and popular. In any case, I am glad you've done all of them, and I have to find something to do in New York off-off the beaten path for you :)

    • Elena. profile image


      9 years ago from Madrid

      Oh my god, I've done all 8 of them save the Public Library (been in front but not within) and The High Line (wasn't there yet last time I visited!). Boy, do I feel like a connoisseur or what!! Laugh!

      Aside from that: I think you nail it with this off the beaten track advice! At least for visitors that have been to New York on more than one occasion, as I can see first timers wanting to see the known attractions.

      Mind if I add a couple of additional alternatives? I hope you don't mind:

      - Top of the Rock, not as typical as ESB but gives one an incredible view of Central Park and midtown.

      - Picnic at Central Park on a weekend

      - Chooper ride for an up in the air perspective of the skyline

      - A stroll in the Brooklyn broadwalk

      - The piers. OK, maybe that's a bit more on the beaten track, but just in case! :-)

      Great article, great recommendations!

    • Wanderlust profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from New York City

      juneaukid, thank you for stopping by! Yes, I did visit the Museum of the American Indian, very interesting and educational place. There are also other museums in New York, which are slightly underrated and really worth a visit.

      Everybody, thanks for your comments and iZeko, have a great trip to New York.

    • juneaukid profile image

      Richard Francis Fleck 

      9 years ago from Denver, Colorado

      Thanks for these great suggestions Wanderlust. I have done many of these but not the cable car to Roosevelt Island! I'll do that the next time I'm there. Have you visited the Museum of the American Indian in the Battery?

    • iZeko profile image


      9 years ago

      Thanks for the info! I'm planning a trip to NY and I'm definitely going to check out the High Line and the view from the cable car.

    • rls8994 profile image


      9 years ago from Mississippi

      Last Oct. I came to NY for a training class in White Plains. I arrived a day early so I would have time to go into NYC. Because I was alone, and had never even rode in a taxi or a train, I was a little scared. Somehow, though, I made it to Grand Central Station and was just so amazed! I absolutely loved it! I wish I would've had someone like you then to tell me the best places to go. Because I wasted so much time wondering around, not really knowing where to go, I did not get to see everything I had wanted. I did, however, fall in love with this city and hope one day soon to be able to visit again. Thanks for sharing your knowledge about this wonderful city!

    • lilian_sg profile image


      9 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks for the tip. Have saved it to my bookmarks.

    • DynamicS profile image

      Sandria Green-Stewart 

      9 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Wow! Very neat hub! My family and I go to NYC at leat once per year and like you mentioned, we often visit the same place over and over again. We'll definitely be checking out some of the places mentioned. The Ferry ride will def be a must.

      Thanks for sharing such useful information.

    • breakfastpop profile image


      9 years ago

      Nice hub. I'm from New York, so I agree your choices are different and interesting. New York is a fabulous city.


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