While the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty and
Metropolitan Museum of Art are all worthwhile attractions, sometimes it’s
necessary to explore beyond the popular NYC tourist sites to see a side of the
city not made popular in guidebooks. Whether you’re interested in free comedy
shows, quirky museums, lesser-known views, unusual chocolate experiences or
something more you can find it in New York City. To help you plan your trip,
here is a guide to NYC beyond the tourist sites.
History At The City Reliquary
Located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, this unassuming museum
showcases New York City history in a quirky fashion. Admission is a suggested
donation of $5 to enter this small but rich museum, which displays unusual
artifacts you don't get to see in more prestigious museums like rat bones, a
rotting birthday cake, water from old aqueducts, L-train paint chips,
geological core samples, antique subway maps, a vintage subway turnstile, an
old newsstand, Coney Island memorabilia and more. The City Reliquary also
features rotating exhibits that showcase NYC culture. For example, their latest
installment, Keep Your Eye Upon the Donut
runs from December 2013 to February 2014 and focuses on the Big Apple’s rich
donut culture. They’re also known for
hosting a number of community events, like pop up shops, concerts, lectures,
show-and-tells, holiday parties and more.
2. See A Free
Improv Show At The PIT
While NYC is known for its entertaining but expensive
Broadway shows, one can find a number of smaller venues offering free live
entertainment. One of the greatest of these is the Peoples Improv Theatre
(PIT), offering free improvisational comedy shows that range from free to $10.
They also host insanely cheap improv classes ($10 to $40) for those who want to
learn the art of acting. Other NYC venues offering insanely cheap laughs
include the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre and Magnet Theater.
3. Savor Free
Chocolate Samples At Mast Head Brothers
Brooklyn’s Mast Brothers Chocolate shop and factory is a
treat for visitors in more ways than one. Not only can you see how their
artisanal dark chocolate is made in their open factory, one can also enjoy free
samples of their high-quality bars. Chocolate is sourced from small farmers
from places like Madagascar, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic and Ecuador,
with chocolate bars crafted in flavors like “Papua New Guinea,” “Brooklyn
Blend” and “Serrano Pepper.” If you’re sweet tooth still isn’t satisfied, NYC
is home to a number of other worthwhile chocolate experiences, like a
chocolate-themed walking excursion with New York Chocolate Tours,
chocolate-infused bacon goodies at The Baconery, and chocolate wellness
treatments at Madison Spa.
Music-Hop Around The Lower East Side
While New York City is home to an array of performance
venues, nowhere is setup better for a live music crawl than the Lower East
Side. Here you’ll be able to walk from venue-to-venue listening to free or extremely
cheap shows from a variety of genres. Some top live music venue picks for the
Lower East Side include Rockwood Music Hall, Bowery Ballroom and the National
5. Ride The
Tram To Roosevelt Island
While the Empire State Building and Top of the Rock are
renowned for their impressive aerial views, a lesser-known and more affordable
option is riding the tram to Roosevelt Island. You can access the tram using a
MetroCard swipe ($2.50) from 59th Street & Second Avenue Station in
Manhattan. Once in the air, you’ll enjoy a panoramic gondola ride over the East
River along with views of the Empire State Building, Randall's Island, United
Nations Building, Queensborough Bridge and well-known city neighborhoods.
Insider Tip: For a free and unobstructed view of the Statue
of Liberty, take a ride on the Staten Island Ferry. This also allows you to
take faraway photographs of the iconic Manhattan skyline.
6. Enjoy High
Tea At Lady Mendl’s Tea Salon
You don't need to fly to England to have a proper afternoon
tea. With its Victorian architecture, fringed lights and chinoiserie, Lady
Mendl’s Tea Salon transports guests back to a time when refined elegance was
the norm. Sample a five-course menu of items like smoked salmon finger
sandwiches, scones with Devonshire clotted cream and jam, and Mille Crepe Cake
while high-quality and rare teas are poured from whimsical tea pots. If you
wish, don bowler hats and Downtown Abbey-inspired attire as the setting is
appropriate. While $40 may seem a little pricey, it's worth it for an afternoon
of refined indulgence, pampering and seamless service.
Have you ever been to any of these unusual non-tourist destinations?