Undiscovered New York: 10 unique NYC sights

It’s been exactly 10 months since our very first feature here at Undiscovered New York. Given the occasion, it’s the perfect time to look back at some of our “greatest hits.” When we first started the Undiscovered New York series, our intention was to provide an insider’s look at the hidden places, history and overlooked spots in this huge city, the very spots many visitors don’t have a chance to visit.

Along the way we’ve taken you through all five boroughs of the city, from the far reaches of The Bronx, to the the rich cultural tapestry of Queens, to the quiet waterways of Staten Island. We’ve revisited some familiar sights with a fresh look and discovered hidden gems begging for exploration.

If you ever wanted a chance to check out the “undiscovered” side of New York, this week you’re in luck. We’re counting down the top 10 unique New York City sights, reviewing our favorite unexplored and lesser-known Big Apple experiences. You may find spots you know and love and a plenty more you’ve never heard of. Ready to go exploring? Let’s take a look.

  • Number 10: Staten Island’s Snug Harbor – New York visitors need not go far from Manhattan to get a unexpected look at this huge city. In fact, just a 25 minute ferry ride away is Staten Island, home to Snug Harbor, a former complex for elderly sailors. In addition to some wildly beautiful harbor views this quirky compound has modern art and a botanic garden complete with its own hedge maze.
  • Number 9: Secret Eating + Drinking – A city the size of New York is bound to have some hidden spaces. In fact, as we discovered, it’s filled with Prohibition-style speakeasies, secret burger joints and unassuming taco spots ready for some clandestine enjoyment. Places secret enough, in fact, that we got a few people angry for giving away their hidden favorites. See what we uncovered.
  • Number 8: East Village + Japan – New York’s East Village is a neighborhood best known for St. Mark’s Place and the youthful rebellion of Punk. But in 2009, the East Village is less the home of mohawked-rockers than ground zero for some first rate Japanese food, shopping and culture. Find out how to experience Tokyo without ever leaving the Big Apple.
  • Number 7: Best NYC Pizza – New York is a pizza-lover’s dream. Nothing better embodies the city’s frantic energy and high culinary standards than the simple New York slice. We investigated some of the best slices from here to Brooklyn and Staten Island (and back again) to crown New York’s pizza champions. See who came out on top.
  • Number 6: Graffiti Culture & 5 Pointz – the 1970’s and 80’s presented New York with a unique confluence of events: as the city fell apart due to massive budget problems, a golden era of hip-hop and street art came of age. We investigated New York’s wild graffiti history, even pointing a spot in Queens where you can see some awesome street art on a massive scale.
  • Number 5: Bronx Little Italy – many New York City visitors know about Manhattan’s Little Italy. But not very many are familiar with Arthur Avenue, a second Little Italy in The Bronx, site for some of the city’s most authentic Italian meats, cheeses and pastries. Italian food lovers will want to check this little-known spot out.
  • Number 4: Staten Island Graveyards – Staten Island is frequently regarded as New York’s “forgotten” Borough, an island that provides a shocking variety of unexpected attractions and great food. We investigated the ghostly boat graveyards just off Staten Island’s coast and then stopped off to visit another more human burial ground dating back to the Revolutionary War.
  • Number 3: Hudson River Valley – there’s a lot more to New York than its bustling metropolis. In fact, just north of the city that never sleeps lies one of the United States’ hidden treasures: the Hudson River Valley. Along the shores of this majestic waterway lie stunning views, contemporary art and regal Presidential mansions.
  • Number 2: Corona Park, Queens – Corona Park, located just South of Citi Field and LaGuardia Airport is quite possibly New York’s most outrageous hidden attraction, albeit one hidden in plain sight. Site of not one but two World’s Fair, Corona Park boast huge deserted stadiums, a 140-foot-tall globe, the temporary home of the United Nations and some of the best Lemon Ice ever.
  • Number 1: 7 Train to Latin America – New York is home to a huge range of immigrants, representing every corner of the globe. Nowhere is this more true than in Queens, a Borough home to a wildly diverse range of cultures, foods and attractions. Along Roosevelt Avenue you’ll find a rich mixture of authentic culture from around South and Central America boasting Mexican taco stands, Cuban food, Ecuadorean street carts and Argentine bakeries. It’s the equivalent of backpacking south of the border for 3 months, all less than an hour from Manhattan by subway.

Undiscovered New York: King of Corona Park

It’s good to be the king. All the world lies before your gaze, waiting to be discovered. You entertain visitors from far-away lands. Someone is ready with refreshments whenever you desire. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Then we suggest on your next trip to New York, you stop in Queens, home to an area little-known to tourists called Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

Corona Park is staring New York visitors in the face every time they visit, yet most don’t even know it. Ever been to Shea Stadium or to the National Tennis Center for the U.S. Open? Corona Park is literally across the street. Caught a flight at LaGuardia Airport? Those crazy looking towers you saw on the highway are part of Corona Park.

Yet this little known attraction is jam-packed with enough crazy monuments, open green space and hidden Summer fun to ensure the royal treatment for just about any visitor. This is an area, after all, that’s been home to two World’s Fairs: one in 1939-40 and another in 1964-65. Did we also mention it was the temporary home for the United Nations from 1946 to 1950? AND it has two museums and its own zoo? To top it all off, Corona Park is increasingly an area that’s home to a diverse patchwork of immigrant communities, each showcasing its own unique culinary pride – who could forget to mention the self-proclaimed “King” of Lemon Ice?

Have you ever wanted to feel like king for the day? This week is your chance. Come along as Undiscovered New York takes you inside the amazing ruins, interesting museums and lush greenery of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.
New York State Pavillion and Unisphere
Two giant landmarks dominate visitors’ view of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park: the New York Pavillion and The Unisphere, both remnants of the 1964-65 World’s Fair. It was one of the largest World Fairs ever organized, boasting an early version of Disney’s famous “It’s a Small World” ride, a showcase of Michelangelo’s Pieta on loan from Italy, and a life-sized robotic Abraham Lincoln among its exhibits.

Though the exhibits have long since packed up and been moved back to Italy and Orlando, you can still get a sense of the site’s greatness and scale. The giant Unisphere rises 140 above the park, still a popular meeting place for park explorers and local skateboarders. Looming nearby is the ominous New York State Pavillion. The modernist structure was designed as a showpiece of local culture, including a huge mosaic map of the state of New York, three observation towers and a theater called “The Circarama,” showing a 360 degree film. Today the entire structure sits decayed and rusting, a lonely ghost of a future that never came to pass. Haunting and beautiful.

Museums, Zoos and Halls of Science
Flushing Meadows-Corona Park isn’t just a place to dig up the glories of the past. It’s also the site of some great Queens-based culture. Onsite at the park are great local institutions like the Queens Museum of Art. The museum, which was the temporary home of the United Nations from 1946-50, houses works of art by Salvador Dali as well as an amazing Panorama of the City of New York composed of over 890,000 scale-size buildings.

If you have any kids, make sure to stop by the New York Hall of Science. In addition to two huge rockets donated by the U.S. Space program, the museum contains around 400 hands on exhibits focusing on physics, chemistry and biology. After all that if you’re still looking for things to do, check out the Queens Zoo featuring a collection of animals native to North America and a geodesic dome designed by Buckminster Fuller.

The Lemon Ice King of Corona
Word has spread far and wide of Queens’ reputation for delicious, unique food. In addition to an amazing selection of delicacies from across South America, Corona Park also boasts an establishment better known as the Lemon Ice King of Corona. The famed Benfaremo Family, who started their local business more than 60 years ago, churns out the most refreshing Italian Ices this side of the Atlantic Ocean.

Each paper cup is scooped full of one of the Lemon Ice King’s 30 plus flavors, each made with real pieces of fruit. It’s a refreshing treat to finish any hot summer day, one that is best enjoyed on a bench in the nearby park watching old gentlemen hurl Bocce on the local court. It’s exactly the kind of unique New York experience you’ll find in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park – a wealth of options fit for a king.