5 Wonder Wheel
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 the 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. The author happens to be in the former category: she thinks the Wheel is great fun, and hopes you will check it out.
4 Flushing Meadows Corona Park
This park, out in Queens, 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 (literally) 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 several entertainment and cultural facilities, such as the Queens Museum and the wavy, groovy looking Hall of Science.
3 City Hall and Other Abandoned Subway Stations
No, no, not the “City Hall” on the 4/5/6 train route… the real one, just 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 other 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 very spooky when they emerge from the darkness of the tunnel.
2 Atlantic Avenue Tunnel
The Atlantic Avenue Tunnel is the oldest subway tunnel in the world, it’s hidden under a nondescript street in Brooklyn, and you can only access it by climbing down through a manhole. The Tunnel was closed, and considered an urban legend, until native Brooklynite Bob Diamond rediscovered it in 1981. Bob himself guides tours through the Tunnel. Currently Tunnel tours have been halted by the NYC Department of Transportation, which is a terrible shame. It’s worth bookmarking Bob’s page and checking back periodically to see they’ve had a change of heart.
1 Governors Island
For many years Governors Island was totally verboten to the average New Yorker: it was a military base with its own school, hospital, shops and hotel. After the base was decommissioned, the island was left to rot and became NYC’s very own ghost town. It has been slowly but surely re-opening to visitors over the past decade, and has been reinvented as an art and leisure destination for all New Yorkers. Some of the historic buildings have come down, but most remain just 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 just enjoy the skyline and the odd combination of activity on an abandoned island.