Welcome to New York City! You’ve already seen the top 5 NYC attractions. You’ve done Times Square and the Statue of Liberty, walked up 5th Avenue, popped into the Met (and perhaps the Guggenheim and the Whitney or one the other NYC museums), walked the Highline, and maybe even grabbed a slice at Bleecker Street Pizza.
You may think you’ve done it all, but there’s so much more. Most New Yorkers haven’t even done it all! So what’s next? What are a few more off the beaten path attractions?
We’re here to help. Here are our top 5 favorite unusual New York City attractions. Go buy a Metrocard and check them out!
5.) Coney Island Wonder Wheel
If you want to take the subway to Coney Island, you’ll need to catch one of four trains: the D, F, N, or Q. Coney Island is about 45 minutes to an hour outside of NYC (depending on where you’re coming from) and is famous for its hot dogs, Mermaid Parade, and Deno’s Wonder Wheel.
If you’re looking to escape the city and see something completely different, we recommend heading down to Coney Island, checking out Deno’s Wonder Wheel, and then walking the boardwalk over to Brighton Beach.
There are two queues at the entrance to the Wonder Wheel in Coney Island. One of them will lead you to the white cars, which will take you high in the air and give you a gorgeous panoramic view of Coney Island and the Atlantic. The other goes to the red and blue cars, which also provide lovely views — when they’re not sliding down a steel track, sideswiping each other, and swinging back and forth.
There are currently only three places in the world where you can ride a Ferris Wheel like this, and Deno’s Wonder Wheel is the original.
People tend to have strong feelings about it. Either they love the Wheel, or they think it’s the most demonic, terrifying ride they’ve ever endured. Try it yourself and let us know what camp you’re in!
4.) Flushing Meadows Corona Park
Flushing Meadows Corona Park is in Queens and was the site of the World’s Fair in both 1939 and 1964.
Souvenirs from the 1964 Fair, such as the iconic Unisphere (you’ve probably seen it on a CD cover), still dot the grounds. Some, such as the Unisphere, are currently in good shape. Others, such as the crumbling New York State Pavilion, look as though they’d be at home in a dystopian film. As you walk around, you might see random statues, 1960s rockets, mosaics of Elsie the Cow, and time capsules.
The park also houses entertainment and cultural facilities, such as the Queens Museum and the wavy, groovy looking Hall of Science. Like tennis? We recommend visiting in September when the U.S. Open is in the park.
Want to hear a fun fact about the park? It was originally called Corona Ash Dump and was where the city’s coal-burning refuse and garbage was. It’s even referenced in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby as “valley of ashes.” That all changed in the 1930s when New York City Parks Commissioner Robert Moses conceived the idea of turning the land into a park (akin to Central Park) and when the site was selected for the World’s Fair.
3.) City Hall (and Other Abandoned Subway Stations)
No, no, not the “City Hall” on the 4/5/6 train route. The real one that’s beyond the tracks you can see.
The original station, which opened in 1904, was a gorgeous pantheon to mass transit with vaulted ceilings and enamel signs. How can you see it? Well, you have two options here. One we can’t officially endorse.
The best option, therefore, is to purchase a tour and membership from the NYC Transit Museum. The Transit Museum itself is housed in another abandoned station in Brooklyn, so you get a two-for-one deal there.
There are other abandoned stations in the NYC subway system you can view just by looking out the window: Worth Street and 18th Street on the 4/5/6 lines and 91st Street on the #1. They are typically covered in graffiti and look spooky when they emerge from the darkness of the tunnel.
City Hall is a cool, off the beaten path part of NYC that even most locals have never experienced.
2.) Cathedral of Saint John the Divine
When you think of famous churches in New York City, the first one that likely comes to mind is Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, the Mother Church of the Archdiocese of New York and the seat of the Archbishop (and where many celebs have been married). Across from Rockefeller Center on Fifth Avenue, St. Patrick’s is the largest Gothic Catholic cathedral in the United States and boasts five million visitors per year!
You likely haven’t heard of the Cathedral of Saint John, which is a bit further north and almost as majestic.
While Saint Patrick’s is a Catholic cathedral, Saint John’s is the cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese of New York. Located on at 1047 Amsterdam Avenue between West 110th Street and 113th Streets, the church is arguably the world’s largest Anglican cathedral (although some say the Liverpool Cathedral is the world’s largest).
Saint John’s is also the fifth largest Christian church in the world! If you love visiting churches and cathedrals, have seen some of the most beautiful churches in the world and would like to add one more, we highly recommend visiting.
1.) Governors Island
Want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city without having to go very far? Check out Governor’s Island.
For many years, Governors Island was verboten to the average New Yorker. It was a military base with a school, hospital, shops, and hotel. After the base was decommissioned, the island was left to rot and became NYC’s ghost town.
It has been slowly but surely reopening to visitors over the past decade. It’s been reinvented as an art and leisure destination for all New Yorkers. Some of the historic buildings have come down, but most remain as they were when the base was open. Many of the old houses now host art exhibits, and you can rent a bicycle, play miniature golf, get something to eat, or enjoy the skyline and the odd combination of activity on an abandoned island.
We hope this article introduced you to a few unusual New York City attractions you hadn’t heard of before and you get the chance to check them out the next time you’re in the Big Apple! Don’t forget to read about the NYC don’ts so that you don’t upset the locals