A city of 8 million people like New York will not generally have a single undiscovered square inch. And yet, there are plenty of really cool things here that most tourists will likely miss unless they know to look for them. Here are five we sought out on our most recent visit to the Big Apple:
Trapeze School New York
Fly through the air with the greatest of ease, or at least in the tightly controlled and totally fun environment of the Trapeze School New York. Offering two-hour classes suitable for everyone from first timers to advanced aerialists, the Trapeze School is a truly unique way to experience New York. Classes in trampoline, aerial silks, and a variety of acrobatic disciplines are also on offer at Trapeze School’s two New York locations.
A slab of history
Tucked in a small pedestrian plaza at 580 Madison Ave in midtown Manhattan is a most unlikely site: a 20 foot long section of the 96 mile concrete barrier that once divided East Germany from West. Once called the “Wall of Shame” by Westerners, this one-time implement of oppression now serves as a symbol of freedom.
Having stood for nearly 30 years, the Berlin Wall came crumbling down on November 9, 1989 when the East German government announced it would no longer prohibit westward boarder crossings. Crowds of East Germans scaled the wall to reunite with their countrymen in celebration. In the following weeks sledgehammers and heavy equipment and bare hands tore at the concrete reducing the feared barrier to mere souvenirs and historical artifacts.
Jerry Speyer purchased one such artifact (shown above) in 1990 and installed it in the plaza of his Madison Avenue skyscraper. Three other sections of the wall are on display throughout Manhattan. You’ll find them at the UN Headquarters, The Intrepid Museum and near the Gateway Plaza. Each and every one serves as both evidence and a reminder that while “the arc of the moral universe is long [and] bends toward justice” it does not bend easily or on its own.
Gotham’s hidden lair
You won’t see the beautiful arches and stained glass of the abandoned City Hall subway station during any regular commute. The stop officially closed in 1904 to both commuters and tourists alike. Still sealed to the public, this wonderfully preserved time capsule is nonetheless on view for those in the know. To catch a glimpse take the south-bound number 6 train to its final stop at Brooklyn Bridge. Instead of departing with everyone else, stay aboard for a trip back in time. When the doors close, the train travels through the City Hall station as it turns around, eventually stopping back at Brooklyn Bridge to pick-up north-bound passengers – most of whom have no idea what they just missed.
Kayak New York
Outdoor activity isn’t typically what people think of when they think Manhattan. And when they do, Central Park is usually the destination of choice. But if kayaking along the skyscrapers sounds as interesting to you as it does to us, check out the completely free programs offered by Downtown Boathouse. Each weekend, and some weeknights, from mid-May to mid-October the Boathouse provides all the gear you need to get out and paddle the Hudson River.
St Bart’s Church
St. Patrick’s Cathedral gets most of the tourists, but for our money St. Bart’s Episcopal Church is the city’s real treasure. Inside this Byzantine-styled chapel are some of New York’s most amazing works of art. Immediately through the magnificent bas-relief brass doors (reminiscent of the famous Baptistery Doors in Florence) is a five-domed narthex decorated with Hildreth Meiere’s stunning mosaics of glass and gold. Hildreth’s work continues throughout the church with a giant “Transfiguration” mosaic in the apse and four stained glass panels in the nave.
Located on Park Avenue and 51st, St. Bart’s is well worth a look.