Offbeat New York City: secret flavours in the Big Apple

by Ellen Curham

New York CityThe entire population of New York City seems to step to a different beat but visitors can easily fall into tourist traps. If you’ve been to the city before or don’t want to be a typical tourist, follow HostelBooker’s guide to some of the more unique attractions of the Big Apple.


Unusual museums…

Cities often involve museum visits but all that art and history can become a bit monotonous. Check out these museums with a difference.

New York Transit Museum

Dance at the Transit MuseumSure, the Met and the American Museum of Natural History are worth a visit but if you have an appetite for learning about a new city without having to line up for ages then head to the New York Transit Museum. After all, the subway system in the city is one of its defining characteristics, good or bad.

This museum is located in Brooklyn and you enter through what looks like a subway stairway. Inside you’ll find transit-related artefacts, such as old fashioned turnstiles and old subway cars that will take you from the early 1900s to present day. It’s an interesting way to look at the evolution of the city and particularly fun for kids and kids at heart.

The New York Transit Museum is open Tuesday-Friday from 10am-4pm and weekends from 11am-5pm. Entry is $7 for adults.

City Reliquary

Get a taste for New York nostalgia in the City Reliquary. This Brooklyn-based museum has been open since 2002 and is described as a not-for-profit community-based museum.

It is an ode to New York’s thriving and ever-developing urban culture showcased through seemingly everyday objects. These artefacts are everything from old newspapers to baseball caps to subway cards—the small things that make New York what it is. There is a permanent display of relics as well as temporary exhibitions and events like talks and film screenings.

If you want to get a feel for what it is like to be a New Yorker then the City Reliquary is for you. Take note of the limited opening hours as you can only visit Thursday-Sunday from 12pm-6pm.


It’s show-time…

Music, comedy, dance—New York is the epicentre of the arts world. It would be a shame to visit the city and not check out a show or two. Try these options for something a little alternative to the usual.

The Juilliard School

Onstage at the JuilliardIf Broadway is a bit out of your price range then how about checking out some student performances at The Juilliard School in Manhattan? They may still be in education but this conservatory of the arts is one of the most prestigious in the world and where many future stars receive their training.

Different departments like jazz and theatre put on regular shows that are either free or very affordable. You never know, you might be witnessing the next Philip Glass, Nina Simone, Robin Williams or Viola Davis, who are all alumni of this famous school. Check their online calendar for listings and you’ll be sure to find something that tickles your fancy.

Marie’s Crisis

Become part of the show at Marie’s Crisis. This beloved piano bar is a favourite with performers who go there to unwind. Its tagline is ‘where show tunes go to die’, which says it all, really. Based in the West Village, New York’s historically gay neighbourhood, this is one of the most fun places in the city.

Gather ‘round the piano with a cocktail and friends and drunkenly belt out some of your favourite musical numbers. Cheap, cheerful and a guaranteed good time, this is one of New York’s best hidden gems.


Secret gardens…

Central Park is one of the main attractions in New York City but it can be hard to feel like you’re escaping the concrete jungle with so many tourists about. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t chill out in a beautiful garden; you just need to look a bit harder.

Greenacre Park

In Midtown you’ll find this gorgeous little park with tropical flowers, outdoor furniture, and—most impressively—a waterfall! Sandwiched between buildings, this urban oasis was set up by the Greenacre Foundation in 1971 and has provided a haven to New Yorkers since then.

Staten Island Greenbelt

Moses MountainFor a real adventure, hop on the Staten Island Ferry and take a bus to the Greenbelt, the borough’s parkland. This consists of trails covering 2,800 acres including the Yellow Trail, an eight-mile trek up Moses Mountain which offers amazing views of the area. Look out for the wildlife that reside here such as deer, turtles, water snakes, bullfrogs and chipmunks. The Greenbelt is a wonderful way to fit in a hike without venturing too far from the city.



Where to stay?

HI NYC HostelHI NYC Hostel is one of the city’s highest-rated hostels and offers aircon, free Wi-Fi, lockers and even a huge outdoor terrace with a BBQ! We love their spacious loft style; this is the perfect place to chill out if the Big Apple feels a bit too busy sometimes.
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