Undiscovered New York

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

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

Berlin Wall New York City

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

Kayak New York City

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.

St Barts Mosaic New York

 

What are your New York City favorites, whether on the beaten path or “undiscovered?”

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27 Comments on “Undiscovered New York”

  1. Honie Briggs September 7, 2012 at 9:09 am #

    Thanks, now I know not to miss these great finds next time I’m in NY.

    Like

  2. wildramp September 7, 2012 at 9:18 am #

    Having grown up in New Jersey, we went to New York often. I moved away from the area after college and my trips generally are family oriented but recently I have been making time to go to back street events and tours, to see things I had not known about. It is a huge city with so much to do!!

    Like

  3. nancyjrab September 7, 2012 at 9:20 am #

    I love your posts and getting the updates. But did you know that once I subscribed, I started getting the complete post in my inbox? Try changing your feed settings so that people just get the beginning of a post so that they have to click through. Much better for traffic.
    Oh, and keep ’em coming!

    Like

  4. Animalcouriers September 7, 2012 at 9:21 am #

    That ceiling at St Barts is quite magnificent.

    Like

  5. Brigitte Nioche September 7, 2012 at 11:47 am #

    Thank you for this information – it is surprising why some things are not mentioned in tourists brochures – I suppose that is why we need you!

    Like

  6. jasonexplorer September 7, 2012 at 12:46 pm #

    Great and unusual ideas for things to do next time we’re there…

    Like

  7. siskinbob September 7, 2012 at 2:34 pm #

    I’m secretly planning to take my wife to the US as a retirement treat and NY is high on the list of places to visit. Thanks for the tips. I am enjoying reading your blog and am going to follow.

    Like

  8. jgadrin September 7, 2012 at 5:03 pm #

    thanks for sharing! a couple places in my neighborhood we like: my kids and i went to the the eldridge street museum this summer. it’s an absolutely beautiful synagogue and the rich history from the tour guide was truly special. if you get a chance, take a tour at the lower east side tenement museum. it’s another place full of L.E.S’ history. they have tenement apartments that look untouched from a few time periods of nyc when waves of immigrants lived here.

    Like

  9. Susan Johnson September 8, 2012 at 12:59 am #

    Wow, I Love the kyaking New York idea . Looks like fun. Also love going into elaborate churches such as St. Barts … Amazing artwork for free and a humbled holy feeling comes with !!

    Like

  10. denisediscovers September 8, 2012 at 5:13 am #

    I love hearing about unexpected sights in well-known cities. St Barts looks beautiful, and looking at pieces of the Berlin Wall is a cool idea. Thank you!

    Like

  11. Holiday Rent Club September 8, 2012 at 4:14 pm #

    Thank you for sharing guys! Fresh and pleasantly surprising spots and activities all over NY. Now, we have more reasons to go and visit our favorite city. We totally loved the kayak idea! And the Berlin wall artifacts! Thank you again and we’ll be looking forward to your interesting and diverse adventures!

    Like

  12. Nancy Hayes (@NancyKHayes) September 8, 2012 at 7:12 pm #

    When I lived in the city in the 70s, St. Barts was the place to go if you were single. Inexpensive ski trips w/nice people! They were a haven when you were far from home in a city that at times, could be cold, cold, cold. Love St. Barts.

    Like

  13. Jennings September 9, 2012 at 2:37 pm #

    Love the Berlin wall segment! I haven’t been to NYC since I was 3 – maybe it’s time to visit!

    AND, I have nominated you for the Liebster Blog Award – you can check it out here: http://jenningswright.wordpress.com/2012/09/09/an-award-can-i-get-a-new-dress/

    Like

    • Brian September 11, 2012 at 9:47 am #

      Thanks so much for the nomination.

      Like

  14. Rhonda Sittig September 9, 2012 at 6:38 pm #

    My daughter and I did wander in to St. Bartholomew’s on a trip to NY– and went back for the morning service. So beautiful… Thanks for the other tips!

    Like

  15. Cheri Love September 9, 2012 at 7:59 pm #

    Wish I could travel cross-country for the City Hall subway station alone!

    Like

  16. rfljenksy September 10, 2012 at 6:33 am #

    Ironically I just saw the trapeze school for the first time on my last visit. It pays to drag your sister and cousin across town because you can’t find a cab.. great post.

    Like

  17. msdulce September 10, 2012 at 1:36 pm #

    This is fantastic! You got me re-excited about my own city!

    Like

    • Brian September 11, 2012 at 9:43 am #

      NYC is definitely a place locals can take better advantage of. So much to do there it is really incredible.

      Like

  18. Marcia Clarke September 11, 2012 at 5:14 pm #

    Love NYC, never a dull moment!

    Like

    • Brian September 11, 2012 at 8:58 pm #

      It is truly one of a kind.

      Like

  19. The Open Suitcase September 12, 2012 at 6:28 am #

    You touched on one of my favorite drive-bys – The Trapeze School. Wasn’t that featured in an episode of “Sex and the City”?

    Like

  20. Arizona girl September 13, 2012 at 5:46 am #

    I still have never really been to New York, but this is a great list of off-the-beaten-path things to do. Thanks!

    Like

  21. Cayla September 14, 2012 at 9:48 am #

    love this post! it’s also so incredible all of the things you can discover in NYC…. even if you have lived there your entire life, you’ll never stop learning and discovering new things!

    Like

  22. NewLifeOnTheRoad (@NewLifeOnRoad) September 25, 2012 at 9:37 am #

    Its good to have a look behind the scenes of the normal tourist New York attractions, and find things to do that not everyone has seen 🙂 Love the idea of the train ride, and the paddle in the Huddson River 🙂

    Like

  23. Deano October 1, 2012 at 6:56 pm #

    Next time I am in NYC I am going to check out that City Hall station for sure!!!

    Like

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    […] as tourists, I see the city in a completely new light – exploring old favorites, and uncovering lesser known gems as […]

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