New York City is chock full of famous attractions — the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, The Museum of Modern Art, and the Highline, to name just a few. Of course, you can focus on the highlights and have a wonderful trip to the Big Apple. But there is another New York that is less well known. Getting off-the-beaten track can give you a fresh perspective on the city.
Explore these eight excellent New York City hidden gems. Some are off-the-beaten path, and others right in front of your nose.
1. New York City Subway Art
The New York City subway is one of the oldest in the world. At some point, you will definitely be traveling on it. Stop and look. There are some beautiful subway stations, including the Old City Hall Station. Two of my favorites are the passageway between the 1/2/3 and A/C at 42nd Street and the Life Underground sculptures in the A/C/E subway stop at 14th Street.
In the 42nd Street passageway, you will find Losing My Marbles by Lisa Dinhofer and The Revelers by Jane Dickson. If you want to see the best parts of Life Underground, make sure to go all the way down to the platform at 14th Street (there are also sculptures on the first level). The whimsical figures are sure to bring a smile to your face.
For the cost of a subway ride (currently $2.75), you can see some amazing art. Keep your eyes open. Life Underground by Tom Otterness is located on the platform of the subway station for A, C and E trains at the 14th Street Station (open 24 hours).
Want to know more about the subway system? Read up on what New Yorkers say travelers need to know about transportation in the city.
2. Greenacre Park
Did you know that there is a 25-foot waterfall in the middle of Manhattan? Greenacre Park is a tiny oasis in the middle of Manhattan just a few blocks away from The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and other attractions. Frequented mainly by New Yorkers, the small park has seating and a cafe with a surprisingly extensive menu. It’s great for a moment of reflection and tranquility in the midst of the intensity of the city.
Greenacre is located at 217 East 51st Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues. It is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily and is free to enter. The closest subway is the E or M to the Lexington and 51st Street station.
3. Museum Of Street Art (MoSA)
New York’s African American and Latino young people gave birth to the worldwide street art community. You can see world-class street art in Bushwick, Harlem, the Bronx, and elsewhere in NYC. One of the most interesting places to see street art is at the Museum of Street Art, located inside a stairwell at the citizenM hotel. It’s NYC. We have a park on a train track. Why not have a museum in a stairwell?
From the early 1990s to 2013, there was a huge building with amazing street art in Queens called 5Pointz. The building was whitewashed by a developer, destroying the murals. After a long legal battle, the courts sided with the artists. It was the first time that a U.S. court ruled street art was legally protected. Twenty-one of the 5Pointz artists came together to paint the MoSA murals.
There are 21 floors of street art. As you walk down the stairs, every turn brings a new visual delight.
Don’t worry, you’ll take the elevator up and then walk down. It’s not too strenuous, especially since you’ll be stopping to look at the art on every floor. Afterward, you can have a well-deserved drink on the roof top bar and enjoy spectacular views of the city.
MoSA is located at 189 Bowery, New York (inside citizenM hotel’s stairwell), between Delancey and Rivington. It is open from 10 a.m to 4:30 p.m. daily. It’s free to enter but it is recommended that you register online for time slot tickets. The closest subway is the J or Z to Bowery (around the corner from MoSA) or the 6 to Canal Street (a 4-block walk).
4. See Hamilton (Sort Of)
Alexander Hamilton was laid to rest in the Trinity Church Cemetery on Wall Street and Broadway, and while Trinity Church is currently undergoing renovations, the cemetery is still open. There are signs that will direct you to Hamilton Memorial. Eliza Hamilton, Alexander’s wife and a power in her own right, is nearby. Wander around and you’ll find other notable revolutionary war heroes and others from the late 1700s and early 1800s. It’s an easy walk and rather peaceful for being in the middle of the city. The famous Wall Street bull sculpture is nearby.
The Trinity Church has three separate burial grounds, so make sure to go to the one at Wall Street and Broadway. The nearest subway is the 4/5 at Wall Street.
5. New York City Aids Memorial Park And Stonewall Monument
The Village will most certainly be on your list of places to see while in New York. The Village has plenty of history. Drop by the Stonewall Monument — the Stonewall bar is still open — where the 1969 uprising gave birth to the modern movement for LGBTQ rights. A few blocks away is the NYC AIDS Memorial Park, where you can take a moment to honor the more than 100,000 lives lost to AIDS in NYC and the 30+ million lost worldwide.
The Stonewall Monument is located at 38-64 Christopher Street, bordering 7th Avenue, Christopher, and West 4th streets. It is open 24 hours a day and is free to enter. The Stonewall is across the street. The closest subway is the 1 to Christopher Street.
NYC AIDS Memorial Park is located at 76 Greenwich Avenue on 7th Avenue between 11th and 13th streets. It is open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily and is free to enter. The closest subway is the 1/2/3 to 14th Street.
6. The Church Of Saint Mary The Virgin In Times Square
Times Square is full of crowds, lights, and New York City energy. For a step off the beaten track, stop by The Church of Saint Mary the Virgin on 46th Street. Originally located on 45th Street, The Church was founded in 1868. At that time, Times Square was a residential neighborhood called Longacre Square. Despite the name, Saint Mary’s is an Episcopal Church inspired by the 1800s movement within the Anglican Church to reclaim its Catholic traditions. The outside of the Episcopalian church is currently undergoing restoration, but the inside has already been restored. Take a moment to walk inside the church. You’ll likely smell the incense that is used during services. The French gothic church has lovely stained glass windows and a marble altar. Inside the church, you won’t even know that Times Square is just a few steps away.
The Church of Saint Mary the Virgin is located at 145 West 46th Street (between 6th and 7th Avenues). The nearest subway stop is B/D/F/M to 42nd Street (Bryant Park Station).
7. Grand Central Station
Grand Central is known for its beautiful main concourse, restaurants, and shops. The outside is equally noteworthy. Many people miss seeing the Tiffany clock and, right above it, the Transportation statue by Jules-Felix Coutan on the southeast side of the concourse. The Tiffany clock is the largest of its kind in the world (13 feet across). The Greek gods on the Transportation sculpture are Mercury, Hercules, and Minerva. It weighs 1,500 tons and took seven years to build. In order to see this spot, you must go outside to 42nd Street and Park Avenue. Be careful of the traffic. And, to get a good picture, take a camera with a zoom lens.
The nearest subway stop is 4/5/6/7/S to 42nd Street or Grand Central Terminal.
8. Central Park Conservatory Garden
Central Park is 2.5 miles long, and it’s not a hidden gem. But one of the many gems in Central Park is the Conservatory Garden located near 105th Street on the east side. There, you’ll find French, English, and Italian formal gardens. It’s a nice relaxing walk, free from the crowds, bikes, horses, and runners who crowd the southern end of the park. The garden is best visited in spring, summer, or early autumn. In spring, it comes alive with daffodils, hyacinths, irises, Japanese lilacs, tulips, and many other flowers. And it stays alive right into the fall colors.
Don’t miss the Untermyer and Burnett fountains. The Burnett Fountain memorializes children’s book author Frances Eliza Hodgson Burnett. The Untermyer fountain features the Three Maidens Dancing sculpture by Walter Schott. The garden is paved and is a very easy walk.
The nearest subway stop is the 6 train to 103rd Street; from there, you’ll walk three blocks east to the park.
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