While the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building and Times Square are nice, the real spirit and excitement of New York City lives beyond the tourist “traps.” So step away from the sightseeing shuttle, people. We’ve put together a list of hidden gems – some figuratively and some literally – to take your NYC vacation to the next level without conforming to the traditional must-sees and must-dos.
The High Bridge: Seeing a new side of the city doesn’t mean you have to reject history. While the Brooklyn Bridge is pretty, The High Bridge is New York City’s oldest standing bridge connecting Manhattan to the Bronx. While closed for over 40 years, the historic bridge was re-opened in 2015 and now welcomes you to walk, jog or stroll across its path while soaking up stunning views of the city.
Rooftop Garden at Rockefeller Center: Chances are you’re familiar with Rockefeller Center and maybe have even slipped on some skates and done a spin under the Christmas tree. But there’s a part of the famed NYC attraction a little less mainstream: the rooftop garden. This manicured green space offers unrivaled views of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Rockefeller Plaza. If you don’t want to see the rooftop on a tour, you can rent it out for a pretty penny and host a celebration under the stars.
The Elevated Acre at 55 Water Street: Seen enough of Central Park? This hidden gem in the Financial District is the perfect spot to spread out on the grass and enjoy a meal while savoring beautiful views of the Brooklyn waterfront. The urban oasis also plays hosts to weddings, outdoor movies and dance performances during the River to River Festival.
Bathtub Gin: Enter through an unmarked door at Stone Street Coffee and feel like you’ve gone back in time. Honoring the tradition of gin being the predominant drink in the United States during the Prohibition Era, this elegant speakeasy’s most well-known concoctions follow original recipes by infusing gin with the freshest fruits, juices and syrups.
The Raines Law Room: Ring the bell to get in. But don’t think about bringing your entire crew. To maintain its intimate feel and semi-secret atmosphere, The Raines Law Room only accepts parties of six or less (though if you really want to gather a crowd, private rooms are available).
PDT (Please Don’t Tell): Hidden inside of an East Village hot dog joint, PDT requires patrons to step through an old-fashioned phone booth, pick up the phone and press the buzzer. Once guests have been approved, the wall will open and grant access to one of the most creative cocktail lounges in NYC.
Beauty & Essex: Hidden behind the unmarked door of a classic pawn shop in the Lower East Side, Beauty & Essex offers a happening place to treat your taste buds with everything from hand-cut steak tartare and Hamachi sashimi to roasted bone marrow and grilled double-cut lamb chops.
Dinnertable: Disguised inside The Garret East (a retro bar in East Village), this reverse-style speakeasy provides a secret supper spot with an ever-changing menu of seafood. But be prepared. Dinnertable only caters to about 20 people at a time and takes a limited number of reservations, so singing for your supper may be easier said than done.
Employees Only: Make your way past the neon “Psychic” sign and fortune teller’s lair to experience a West Village restaurant known for its art deco décor, renowned cocktails and oversized portions of red meat and fresh vegetables. The notable eatery also features a late-night menu from midnight through 3:30 a.m., so you can pair your favorite spirits with a truffle grilled cheese, seared skirt steak or bacon wrapped lamb chops.
Community 54: Don’t let the vintage video games fool you. Community 54 is more than just an arcade. Walk in through the photo booth and discover a hidden boutique with an assortment of men’s apparel, mixing everything from nostalgic Nikes to new-age streetwear.
Story: While there’s no secret entrance to this retail space, it is a memorable one none the less. Unique to the staples of Fifth Avenue, this Manhattan boutique reinvents itself every four to eight weeks to honor a new trend, theme or global issue. Past stories have included everything from love and healthy living to holidays and technology.
Babel Fair: New York may be one of the “big four” fashion capitals of the world, but the offerings don’t stop there. Babel Fair features an international assortment of clothing and accessories. From Aussie street style to Korean denim, you’ll find endless options for revamping your wardrobe.
Moxy NYC Times Square: Looking for accommodations as unique as your agenda? While located just a short jaunt from Times Square, the Theater District and Madison Square Garden, this all-new hotel in New York City is far from cookie cutter. In addition to its funky fresh rooms (some complete with lofts and bunk beds), Moxy houses the largest all-season hotel rooftop bar and lounge in NYC.
The New York EDITION: Every aspect of your vacation should be memorable, including the moments when you’re just relaxing in your room. Originally built in 1909 as The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company headquarters, the 41-story clock tower now serves as a lavish hotel in Midtown complete with 360-degree skyline views and equally enjoyable services.
JW Marriott Essex House New York: You may have seen the Essex House sign shining near Central Park, but experiencing this urban escape from the inside is a whole new story. With beautiful rooms and restaurants overlooking the park, this hotel provides the perfect escape from New York City’s concrete jungle.