9 Alternative New York Attractions

Check out these lesser-known New York sightseeing gems, from Manhattan’s last natural salt marsh and 18th century farmhouses to a remote Buddhist museum.


Think the City is all about the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty and the Metropolitan Museum of Art? Fughedaboutit! Here are some alternative, lesser-known things to see in the city and the outer boroughs that you may not have heard about.

New York Open House Day

Start your alternative attractions explorations this year with this event that happens each fall, when hundreds of city landmarks, parks, buildings, museums and other sites that are usually closed to the public open their doors for two days of exploring some of the city’s hidden treasures. Travel to the closed-off City Hall subway station, where a crystal chandelier still hangs; tour the Chrysler Building’s Art Deco elements; and take a peek into some penthouse apartments.
6th Annual Open House New York, Oct. 4 and 5, 2008. Free. Special sites are available for those who make a tax-deductible $150 donation.

New York Transit Museum

Kids love New York subways and this museum, the largest in the country devoted to urban public transportation history. It makes its home in a decommissioned 1936 Brooklyn subway station and houses 19 vintage subways that visitors can board, as well as a simulated traffic intersection that kids love to explore. Complete the experience by taking the subway here: the A, C, G and F trains come here from Manhattan.
Corner of Boerum Place and Schermerhorn Street, Brooklyn Heights, tel. 718-694-1600, Open Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday noon to 5 p.m. Admission: $5 adults; $3 seniors and kids 3-17 years old.

Historic Houses

Those who love to study the architecture and furnishings from the 18th and 19th centuries can do so in New York by visiting any of 22 homes that have been saved and preserved from New York’s early history by the Historic House Trust. Poetry lovers can head to the Bronx to the restored home of Edgar Allan Poe, where he wrote "Annabel Lee," and other poems. Also don’t miss the Morris-Jumal Mansion Museum in upper Manhattan, the Pieter Claeson Wyckoff Farmhouse Museum in Brooklyn.

Central Park Zoo Sleepover

Nocturnal sorts will feel right at home at the Central Park Zoo’s sleepover program, “Snooze at the Zoo.” Offered three times a year between October and February, participants can make zoo-themed arts and crafts, learn about the animal habitats and, the best part, help tuck the animals in at night. In the morning, sleepover guests get to watch the zookeepers prepare the animals’ breakfast, as well as eat breakfast themselves.
Cost: $160 each adult/child pair. 839 Fifth Avenue (between 63rd and 66th streets), tel. 212-439-6500, For more information or to make reservations for the sleepover, call 212-459-6583.

Louis Armstrong House Museum

Take the 40-minute tour of the trumpet great’s home to see his living quarters and garden as well as an exhibit area in the basement where his letters and trumpets are displayed. You can also get jazzed with a visit to the Louis Armstrong Archives in the Benjamin Rosenthal Library on the Queens College Campus (for an appointment, call 718-997-3670).
34-56 107th Street (34th to 37th avenues), Corona, tel. 718-478-8274, Open Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday noon to 4 p.m. (last tour is at 4 p.m.). Admission: $8 adults; $6 seniors, students and kids.

Inwood Hill Park

Head up to the northernmost tip of Manhattan to one of the few natural parks in New York. Find Manhattan’s last natural salt marsh and primordial forest, as well as spot bald eagles, which were reintroduced to the park in 2002. There’s also evidence of its prehistoric roots in dramatic caves, valleys and ridges left as the result of shifting glaciers.
Dyckman Street at the Hudson River.

Water Taxi Beach

Located at Hunters Point in Long Island City, Queens, this spot comes complete with sand, snacks (including soy hot dogs!), picnic tables, volleyball, sporting events and music. Open each season until mid-October.
Free during the day and on Sundays, various charges evenings. 2nd Street and Borders Avenue, Long Island City.

The Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art

Located in a residential section on top of hill in the middle of Staten Island, it takes a commitment to get to this peaceful oasis. There are revolving exhibits, lectures and a lovely garden.
338 Lighthouse Ave., Staten Island. Tel. 718-987-3500.

Socrates Sculpture Park

The pride and joy of Queens residents, this park and outdoor museum is a showcase for contemporary sculpture with commanding East River views. Bonus: Kids are welcome to climb the sculptures. Another bonus: a weekly outdoor cinema series.
Broadway at Vernon Blvd., Long Island City, tel. 718-956-1819, Open 10 a.m. to sunset, year-round. Admission: Free.


Written by Laurie Bain Wilson and Donna M. Airoldi.

Destinations: New York City

Themes: Historical Vacations, Urban Endeavors

Activities: Museums, Sightseeing

User Comments

Across from the Socrates Sculpture park is the Noguchi Museum (, which is well worth a stop. In queens you might also want to go to the American Museum of the Moving Image ( If you are looking for interesting things to do in Manhattan there are tons of things great for New Yorkers but only advertised for tourists like the a photo safari ( ) or a chocolate tour ( )

Nice options but please visit New york aquarium. it's best in summer its home to 98 sea creatures, but my favorites are the beautiful whales.they also offer good food.

Great! These are options I would never have thought of looking up ie. "Snooze at the zoo" and Louis Armstrong history...I may even consider squeezing these into my itinerary. Great!

Check out the Brookly Botanic Garden Beautiful -- and warm in winter! And smells great, too!

Surprising options — even for a New Yorker. I've lived in NY my whole life and like unusual places. This article suggests many I've never even heard of. Will definitely go to the Louis Armstrong house, along with several others. Thanks for the great ideas!

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