When it comes to sightseeing in New York, there is invariably an endless list of things to see and do; Central Park, The Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building etc, and all are obviously well worth seeing. Though there’s a lot more to The Big Apple that is often overlooked, and many old-hands will pledge that most of these sites offer tourists far richer and more culturally rewarding experiences. Moreover, exploring such ‘off the beaten track’ spots will often save you bags of time (i.e. no queuing) and money especially if you know where to stay in New York. Here are five for you to consider:
One: The Tenement Museum
This is the perfect place for gaining a thoroughly interesting insight into the hardships of NYC’s immigrant community over 150 years ago. The building in which the tour takes place housed nearly 7000 working class immigrants and has been transformed to re-create the lives of its previous occupants. It’s a real trip back in time with no gimmicks or special effects. Highly recommended.
Thriving with colour, character and countless different types of Oriental cuisine, Chinatown is an area not to be missed.
Although you may at times struggle to breathe here, it most definitely hasn’t let itself become a sterile, Disneyland-like tourist trap. In fact, it’s about as gritty and authentic as it gets- look no further than the grease-stained windows displaying cooked ducks hanging from their necks, or devour one fried dumpling after another along Mulberry St and Eldridge St. Just make sure you take a map!
Three: Gallery Crawl
Ever been on a crawl that doesn’t actually involve drinking? Nor have I, but this little gem is quite possibly NY’s most underrated helping of fun. Unofficial tours of the city’s best artwork take place mostly along 10th and 11th avenues in the Chelsea area, and it’s all for free. Of course you can still get smashed if you want to stick to traditional bar-crawling principles- just don’t go making any drunken million-dollar offers for a painting because it matches your living-room curtains. They won’t find it funny.
Four: Scavenger Hunt
If the thought of traipsing around a museum for hours with no real purpose or direction doesn’t grab you, then you might want to consider booking yourself onto one of these magical mystery tours. Watson Adventures offers participants the chance to discover neighbourhoods, museums and hidden landmarks whilst taking part in a fun, fast-paced Shirlock (and Watson)-style competition. There are plenty of tours to choose from, including: ‘Murder at the MET’, ‘Haunted Times Square’ and ‘SoHo Chocolatey’. Prices start at $20 but it is well worth the money.
Five: New York Public Library
New York is a noisy place, and there will inevitably come a point when you just need to escape the hustle and bustle. Libraries, thankfully, are quiet places- even in New York City. And I scarcely expect I need to remind you that this particular library is a pretty big deal. Now 101 years old, the building is open all day, every day and offers free (only-whispering-allowed) tours from 11am-2pm. You can also feast your eyes on the original Declaration of Independence here, or just have a good read.
There is an abundance of boxes to be ticked in NYC, and the aforementioned suggestions are just five drops in the ocean really. Check out this great Lonely Planet article if you want to know more…