New York is so huge, it has something for everybody. Still, many people visit the “must-sees” mostly. We think that’s a big shame because experiencing New York like a local is a much more rewarding experience.
That’s why our volunteer locals are sharing their favourite spots with you. We picked just a few of the most unique, local gems in New York, discovered by our very own team of Spotters!
Riding high above the city
When I want to ride in style, I don’t call a private car like a lot of Manhattanites. I take a hike down to the Roosevelt Island Tram station at 59th & Second Ave to hop on this sweet ride.
Either side of the tram offers sweeping views! My favorite though is the south side where you get an up-close look at the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge and a brief glimpse into some high-class NYC apartments.
Once you’re on Roosevelt Island you can take a jaunt around the island or visit the brand new Four Freedoms Park dedicated to FDR.
Outdoor art gallery
The Welling Court Mural Project started in December 2009, when the Welling Court community invited a team of muralists called Ad Hoc Art to beautify the neighborhood. It gets an update every year, with new murals painted in the early spring.
There are over 40 murals in total, extending from Vernon Boulevard to 14th Street. Some are political, others are beautifully immersive, with dreamy underwater scenes and vibrantly-colored jungles.
A rare, relaxing POPS
What New York lacks in public squares it makes up for in POPS or privately owned public spaces. They are meant to provide light, air, breathing room, and green space in the city’s most populated areas.
One of my favorite spaces is 60 Wall Street, a 24-hour atrium popular among the power-lunch crowd working in the Financial District, street kids, and tourists alike. It’s a great spot to eat a quick, casual lunch, but even if you’re just passing by, its interiors alone are worth the stop.
If you enjoy the pop culture of the 1980s, you’ll love the flashy marble walls and indoor palm trees!
No matter what the season in the city, getting outside is essential for a healthy body and mind. Lucky for me, just a few blocks away is the Conservatory Garden, one of my top peaceful escapes in Manhattan.
The garden is a perfectly manicured oasis where I like to read, take a stroll or just sit on a bench and enjoy the lush greenery. Green thumbs can check the blooming schedule to find the peak months for flowers.
Plan ahead because the park has limited hours, and don’t be surprised if you run into a wedding party or two!
Hoops & handball
‘The Cage’ is a chain link fenced, bagel-sized basketball court with adjacent handball courts. Located on Sixth Avenue at 3rd Street, across the street from Joe’s Pizza and the old Waverley movie theater in the Village.
Handball is a city game of which tourists might be unaware, a citywide spectacle with major tournaments. The action takes place on the court, beside the court, on the sidewalk, and everywhere within eyesight of the court.
You can go to Joe’s, buy a slice, cross the street and watch some basketball or some handball, it’s quite exciting!
There is no other venue quite like House of Yes, an indoor-outdoor space in Bushwick that houses everything from roller skating to trapeze artists. Originally, it was an art and performance community and event space, and it changed ownership and locations a few times.
Right now, House of Yes has evolved into a colorful and eclectic space. It serves the greater community well, with events throughout the week and weekend. Dancing, enjoying life, and expressing yourself is widely encouraged!
A castle for books
Jefferson Market Library is one of the oldest and most iconic buildings in Greenwich Village. Originally a Victorian courthouse, the building now serves as a branch of the New York Public Library.
You don’t need a membership to visit, so feel free to walk right in and browse the books. I like to visit in the afternoons when the sun streams in through the tall Gothic windows. It is the perfect place to relax with a book.
With its beautiful turreted Gothic exterior and cavernous reading room, it reminds our Spotter Paula of a castle in the middle of New York City!
Sailing with a mission
The North Brooklyn Boat Club is a non-profit organization that aims to clean Newtown Creek, which forms a border between Brooklyn and Queens and is one of the most polluted industrial sites in the United States.
As a non-member, you have to sign a waiver of liability and certify that you’re able to swim. Only then can you participate in a free paddle session with a trained guide that you won’t soon forget.
Check the calendar of events on their website for the schedule, including canoeing, kayaking, rowing, and more!
Second-hand estate jewelry
Icon Style is a vintage fashion boutique and antique jewelry located in New York City’s historic Upper West Side neighborhood. The shop specializes in a diverse array of costume, fine, silver, and designer jewelry spanning eras from the mid-nineteenth century to the present.
A former pharmacy that has been transformed into a charming shop filled with antique estate jewelry, accessories, and furniture. Wooden cases that originally held apothecary goods now house specially selected gems for you to browse.
It’s a wonderful place to pick up a unique souvenir or memento!
For the lovers of all things fashion
The Museum at The Fashion Institute of Technology is home to one of the largest collections of apparel in the world; it houses some 50,000 garments and accessories from the 18th century to the present.
FIT is great for both those who simply want to look at pretty clothes and for those who actually want to learn something about them. The lower level is dedicated to special exhibitions while the main floor houses the Fashion and Textile History Gallery.
Be sure to check their website for information about free lectures, guided tours and panel discussions!
Upon walking into Pink Olive you can’t help but smile, you’ve just stepped into a whimsical wonderland filled with playful stationery, adorable trinkets, and glittering jewelry.
They have a great selection of letterpress cards for any and every occasion making this my go-to place whenever I need a thoughtful gift for a friend. Most of the products come from small companies, which adds to the unique and down-to-earth feel of the store.
The words that come to mind when our Spotter Katya thinks of Pink Olive are sparkles, creativity, and imagination.
A thriving cultural hub
Although a bit of a trek from Manhattan, Industry City is worth the visit if you have the time to check it out. True to its name, it was once a warehouse and distribution center during the 19th century, located on the waterfront in Sunset Park in Brooklyn.
After years of decay, the complex was finally transformed into the community gathering space for art, fitness, food, shopping, and culture it is today. Over 400 companies are housed in this space, offering plenty to see, do, and eat.
With a distillery, art galleries, food hall, and more, Industry City ensures a full day of fun!
Want more hidden gems? Check out our New York City blog & app!