Many people who visit New York often have the same itinerary: Central Park, the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Staten Island Ferry. While all of these experiences are worthwhile and should be included in any first-time tour of the Big Apple, here are some fun experiences that can be added to the travel plan to make it a bit more quirky.
Create your own New York-style pizza
New York is world-renowned for its delicious pizza, with many tourists visiting just to sample a slice. Instead of simply trying the pizza, why not learn how to make your own? Pizza a Casa Pizza School will teach you how to make artisanal pizzas without using fancy ingredients or high-tech equipment. Instead, students will learn the school’s genius pizza recipe and how to bring the delightful art home to recreate again and again. Click here for a full class schedule and to order tickets.
Taste the best dumplings in Chinatown
For first-time visitors Chinatown can be overwhelming. Navigating the busy streets, and trying to find the best of what the area has to offer, is basically impossible without help from a local. If you have interest in learning about the history of the area as well as sampling different local specialties, I would highly recommend a tour with Ahoy New York Tours & Tasting. The tour takes you through Chinatown as well as Little Italy and the guide, Alana, is extremely knowledgeable about the area’s past and present. As you learn about the area’s murder-filled and difficult history, enjoy sampling delicacies and Chinese candy. Moreover, if you’d like to solely focus on eating delicious dumplings, for $20 dumpling connoisseur Mark Birch will take you on a dumpling tour to sample the best Chinatown has to offer.
Trying new things when traveling can make your trip fun and exciting. While many people attempt feats like skydiving, bungee jumping, scuba diving, and hiking, it’s not all that often that you hear a friend talk about how they learned the art of trapeze on their latest trip. Why not be the first? Trapeze School New York (TSNY) has an array of levels and class styles from flying trapeze to silks, and from trampoline to acrobatics. The classes are designed for anyone who has ever wanted to experience flying gracefully through the air. Click here to see a class schedule and sign up.
Explore the city through a scavenger hunt
New York is home to some of the world’s most quirky and unusual scavenger hunts, which are not only fun but an interesting way to explore the city. My favorite is Accomplice, which is “part game, part theater, and part tour”. Basically, participants are sent out on a mission through the city while receiving clues and encountering various cast members along the way. It’s a great way to be an NYC detective for a day while discovering some of the city’s most off-the-beaten path spots. Another great option is Watson Adventures, which sends participants through various neighborhoods, museums, and public spaces to answer tricky questions. Some of their hunts include “Murder at the MET,” “Secrets of the Jewish Lower East Side,” “Haunted Times Square,” and “SoHo Chocolately.”
Fifth Avenue isn’t the only place to shop in New York, as the city is also home to myriad boutiques, bazaars, and markets. One unique market is the Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market that is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 9AM-5PM. There are usually about 100 vendors selling vintage clothing, jewelry, antiques, furniture, art, housewares, decor, and more. It’s fun to browse and feels great when you come across an interesting find. Remember that bartering is standard practice here so bring your best negotiating skills.
Learn about NYC’s quirky history at the City Reliquary
While the MET, MoMA, and Museum of Natural History are all worthwhile museums, there is another more unusual type of museum that is definitely worth checking out on your next trip to New York– City Reliquary. Here you will find odd New York artifacts including everything from old photographs and videos to the bones of subway rats to pigeon feathers and bed bugs. On certain nights there are also events where collectors will “show and tell” their unique items. Best of all, there is no outrageous admission fee; instead, you can leave a donation and even grab a beer for $3.
While wandering around a cemetery probably isn’t what you picture when you think of your ideal vacation, Green-Wood Cemetery is worth the visit. The 478-acre Revolutionary War site was actually founded in 1838 as one of the country’s “first rural cemeteries” and, due to its international fame and beauty, came to be a “fashionable place to be buried.” In fact, it is Green-Wood that actually inspired the creation of many of New York’s famous parks, including Central Park and Prospect Park. Some features of Green-Wood include 19th- and 20th-century statuary and mausoleums, glacial ponds, picturesque paths, valleys, and hills, in addition to its rich historical background.
Check out an improv show
Instead of shelling out a ton of cash for a Broadway performance, a great and budget-friendly alternative is to check out an improv comedy show at one of the many great theaters in New York. For $10 or less, you can see up-and-coming comics try out their funniest, raunchiest, and most outlandish routines, while often inviting audience members on stage and incorporating them into the act. Some of the top improv comedy venues include: Upright Citizens Brigade, the Peoples Improv Theater, and Magnet Theater.
New York is home to many iconic Beatles locations and holds a lot of history for the band. Signing up for an Ultimate Beatles Tour can help you learn more about New York as well as Beatlemania while exploring sites like the Ed Sullivan Theater (shown right), Carnegie Hall, the Plaza Hotel, Strawberry Fields in Central Park, and the Dakota Apartments.
Explore art, nature, and design at the High Line
Built in the 1930’s, the High Line was once the site of an off-the-ground freight train system that was built in order to remove dangerous trains from the streets of the industrial district of Manhattan. Today, the site is an elevated park that is home to some of the most beautiful flora, public art, and architecture in the city. Walking on the High Line will allow you to not only see some great city views, but also, learn about the interaction of art and nature through exhibitions. Additionally, visitors can hike through “woodlands” and relax on aesthetically-pleasing park benches. Click here to check out a map of the High Line.