Unique New York City activities you just can’t do anywhere else abound in this great metropolis. New York City is a major destination in large part because of its unique, iconic sites; The Statue of Liberty, Times Square, Broadway, The Empire State Building and many more. These are the sites most visitors are familiar with. But there are other sites and activities that may not be as well known but are no less spectacular, poignant or just plain fun. From secret gardens to renovated speakeasies to the ultimate street fair, check out some favorite unique New York City activities here…direct from the travel blogging community.
VIEW MANHATTAN FROM THE SKY
Now here is the ultimate in unique New York City activities. To experience the ultimate view of the city that never sleeps, there is no better way than to take a helicopter ride over Manhattan. The highlight of your trip will be the bird’s eye view of Manhattan’s iconic skyline and its famous landmarks such as the Empire State Building, Central Park and, of course, the Statue of Liberty. While it’s definitely not a cheap way to see the city, you can’t beat the views! It’s an unforgettable experience so, whatever you do, don’t forget your camera! Learn more about this exhilarating adventure here.
Cindy Collins’ blog is Free Two Roam.
ATTEND AMATEUR NIGHT AT THE APOLLO IN HARLEM
Visit this legendary theatre where some of the music greats performed; Jimmy Hendrix, The Isley Brothers, James Brown, Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklyn, Ray Charles and many others.
On Amateur Night at The Apollo, you can cheer budding performers on their way up to stardom- or you can boo a bad performer off the stage. After the show, the stage briefly opens up to a dance venue. This experience is billed as “The most fun you can have in this town for under $30.” A night you won’t soon forget!
SAMPLE CELEBRITY CHEF MARCUS SAMUELSON’S CULINARY DELIGHTS IN HARLEM
While you’re in Harlem, have dinner at award-winning chef, Marcus Samuelson’s Red Rooster Restaurant. Red Rooster serves comfort food celebrating the roots of American cuisine and the diverse culinary traditions of Harlem. The food is so good you will want to stop strangers in the street and induce them to taste it.
JAZZ IT UP AT HARLEM’S GINNY’S SUPPER CLUB
After dinner in magical Harlem, end the night at Ginny’s Supper Club, “the place to be in Harlem.” This is one of Harlem’s best-kept secrets; a renovated Harlem speakeasy from the 20s featuring the legendary music of Harlem.
For more Harlem delights and other unique New York City activities, see my post, “Why No Trip to NYC is Complete Without a Visit to Harlem.”
GO ON THE PERFECT NEW YORK CITY WALKING AND FOOD TOUR
The best way to experience a city is walking its streets. The second best way is to sample its cuisine. Do both…at the same time…with a “multi-ethnic eating tour” at New York City’s Big Onion Tours. Learn about the city’s immigrants through their food. Tip: Come hungry! Want to know more? Check out this tasty tour of the Big Onion here.
DISCOVER WHAT REALLY LIES BENEATH NEW YORK CITY’S #7 TRAIN
The area around New York City’s #7 train in Jackson Heights, the most ethnically diverse place on earth. Learn what makes this neighborhood so exciting, vibrant, fun and why it counts as one of the unique New York City activities you just can’t do anywhere else. For a hint, check out this post.
EXPLORE THE CITY’S HISTORY AT THE MUSEUM OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK
This wonderful museum thrives under the radar and in the shadow of its big brother, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The exhibits showcase the history of the city with imaginative multi-media exhibits from the founding of Manhattan by the Dutch to the chaos of 9/11. The Museum of the City of New York is across the street from the Conservatory Garden in Central Park. Visit both of these unique New York City activities for a great day in New York’s uptown area.
Talek Nantes’ blog is Travels with Talek.
CROSS THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE
I had visited Manhattan many times before I crossed the Brooklyn Bridge. It is an easy bridge to cross as the pedestrian walkway is over the traffic. It is a free and easy way to get stunning views of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty.
Speaking of Brooklyn, it is only a bridge away from Manhattan, but a hipper, calmer world away. There you can visit the famous, but dated, Coney Island or the very current DUMBO area right over the bridge. Want to know more about Brooklyn, check out this post.
There is also the fabulous Brooklyn Botanic Gardens.
SEE THE U.S. OPEN
Some of the best tennis in the world happens just east of the city in Queens. If you buy a day pass early in the tournament, which happens at the end of August every year, you can see the biggest names in tennis play from short distances for not too much money.
VISIT NYC DURING THE HOLIDAYS
I know it is the holidays when I am ice skating in Central Park and eating roasted chestnuts from a street vendor.
EXPLORE THE AFRICAN BURIAL GROUND
The African Burial Ground in lower Manhattan is near the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge. Here you will learn the history of the African slaves that built much of lower Manhattan. Many were buried in unmarked graves. There is a very touching monument to them that you should be sure to visit. Near there is the Immigrant Museum so that you can learn about all the cultures that contributed to the melting pot the city is now.
Jamie Italiane-DeCubellis’ blog is Daily Adventures of Me.
NEW YORK TRANSIT MUSEUM
This museum is located inside a decommissioned subway station in Brooklyn. It provides an awesome look at the history of the transit system in NYC. I really enjoyed reading about how the transit system responded to emergencies in the past (Hurricane Sandy, 9/11, etc.). I also loved walking through all the vintage subway cars on display at the museum. The New York Transit Museum is definitely worth visiting on your next trip to NYC.
MUSEUM OF THE MOVING IMAGE
The Museum of the Moving Image is located in the Astoria neighborhood of Queens. It provides an excellent look at the moving image in a variety of ways. They have everything from classic movie props, screenings, sketches, advertisements, lighting systems, production equipment and arcade games. There are lots of interactive exhibits you can try and the exhibitions are always changing throughout the year.
I recommend going on Friday when the museum is FREE from 4pm-8pm.
Editor’s note: New York City sometimes gets a bad rap for being expensive. While that may be the case in some instances, there are tons of wonderful FREE things to do in the great metropolis. Check them out in this post, 12 free things to do in New York City.
Smorgasburg is the largest weekly open-air food market in the United States. The big event is every Saturday from April-October in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn and every Sunday in Prospect Park. There are hundreds of vendors set up offering delicious food, tasty sweets, hearty beers, unique crafts and much more. It’s a great place to spend an afternoon with friends and do some people watching.
Nathaniel Perlow’s blog is Nate Meets World.
One of the best experiences we had in NYC was attending a silent disco. What’s a silent disco? It’s when hundreds of people put on wireless headphones and dance to different styles of music through their headphones. People of all ages, races and music preferences dance and sing to each other at one of these events. It’s crazy!
The headphones glow in three colors; red, blue and green and YOU get to choose which style of music you want to hear. We have been to events where there are 3 live DJ’s on a stage battling for your attention and monthly dancing tours that take you through the NYC subway system. Each event is unique and you will miss out on the best time of your life if you don’t go to one of these events when you are visiting! To learn more about this cool and unusual experience, check out QuietEvents.com
Gina’s and Zeke’s blog is Jet Set and Forget
What is YOUR favorite New York City activity? We’d love to know.