Escape the tourist traps! 5 “alternative” attractions in New York City

Escape the tourist traps! 5 “alternative” attractions in New York City

New York City, otherwise known as the ‘Big Apple’ or ‘The City That Never Sleeps’ has imprinted itself on the global consciousness. A large and varied collection of TV shows, movies and novels have ensured that New York City (NYC) is one of the first cities that spring to mind when people think about a holiday to the United States of America. Every year millions of tourists flock to NYC and at the top of everyone’s ‘must see’ list is without a doubt, the enigmatic Statue of Liberty on Ellis Island with the Empire State Building, Times Square and Downtown Manhattan not far below it. While these sights are certainly fantastic, we feel as though a combination of commercialization and overcrowding means that they don’t necessarily imbibe the true essence and spirit of a city as magnificent as New York City! Furthermore, the hallmark of any journey or holiday is to experience something that is wholly unique. It is very difficult to do this when you visit the exact landmarks that almost everyone and their mother has visited too 🙂 With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of alternative landmarks, hot-spots and destinations in New York City, that while popular with those in-the-know, are just obscure enough to ensure that you don’t have to deal with the horrifying crowds that throng the more touristy attractions. While we’re well aware of the charm of more typical landmarks, we can assure you that a visit to any of the places on our list will provide you with one-of-a-kind experiences guaranteed to last for a life time!

Escape NYC's tourist traps: 5 alternative attractions in New York City 

1. Visit Chelsea Market instead of 5th Avenue 

Chelsea Market
While 5th Avenue certainly has its perks it can be awfully chaotic and crowded as well as moderately limited in terms of variety. Chelsea Market on the other hand is a collection of enormous, yet delightful, refurbished warehouses that are a combination of a food halls, shopping malls, and office buildings which also double as television production facilities. It is located in Manhattan within the complex that once housed the inventors of the Oreo cookie – Nabisco. With plenty to do, see and shop for you could spend an entire day here and not get bored! Discover a new street food favorite, sample a fine artisanal beverage or find a rare piece of vintage clothing; the sky is well and truly the limit in Chelsea Market. Art lovers can also partake in exclusive tours of various art galleries in the greater Chelsea area. Famous shops and restaurants in Chelsea Market include clothing retailers Anthropologie and the world renowned Buddakan restaurant.

2. See the Tenement Museum instead of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Tenement Museum
While the Metropolitan Museum of Art is a beautiful sight to behold, we feel that there are better alternatives particularly in the climate of mass worldwide immigration that we currently live in. The Tenement Museum is the perfect place to learn about the lives of the millions that have immigrated to New York City since the turn of the 19th century. Immigrants are the lifeblood of a city as large and diverse as New York and they were instrumental in shaping the legacy of economic prosperity and manifest destiny that the United States is most well known for. The museum aims to celebrate this immigrant legacy by providing visitors with a glimpse into what life was like for these communities during their initial as well as later years in the city. In doing so, it hopes to showcase their struggles, triumphs and celebrations and highlight the importance of diversity in these particularly trying and divisive times. Located at 97 and 103 Orchard Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, the museum’s numerous exhibits are a combination of restored apartments and shops in the area. It is open daily to the public in the form of guided tours.

3. Pick Harlem over Soho

While SoHo may be in vogue due to its popularity with the New York City elite it doesn't quite capture the essence of NYC. If there’s one neighborhood in New York City that personifies an uncanny indomitable artistic spirit it is without question, Harlem. While the area started off as a largely Dutch community it quickly grew into a thriving borough comprised of the very best African-American poets, writers, artists and musicians. The neighborhood experienced a fair amount of turmoil during the civil rights struggle as well as at certain points during the 70’s and 80’s but persevered through it all. Today, Harlem is gaining popularity as one of the city's most prominent heritage neighborhoods with countless visitors flocking there in order to imbibe the remnants of old American urban Bohemia that are ever present. There are countless eateries, cafes as well as night spots to enjoy, with each providing a different slice of the delectable cultural ‘pie’ that is Harlem. There are numerous guided tours that provide participants with an in-depth understanding of the borough’s storied past while showcasing the very best that the neighborhood and its people have to offer.

4. Spend time at High Line instead of Central Park

High Line
The enigmatic Central Park is without a doubt a staple of the New York City experience but it offers little more than any other park in New York City though with double the crowd! Instead, you must head to the High Line - one of those attractions that started out as a relatively well-kept secret but whose popularity has now reached a point where its footfall rivals most mainstream attractions. However, considering that it still retains the majority of its ‘hipster’ charm, we felt it would be a shame to not include it on this list. The High Line is essentially an elevated linear park that has been built on disused train tracks on the west side of Manhattan. It is designed to be a park that is a ‘living system’ that combines disciplines such as architecture, urban design and ecology. The park is home to numerous attractions ranging from food and drink stalls, to music performances to full fledged shops and stores. Community activities such as Tai Chi and meditation also take place here regularly and tend to cost nothing at all for any visitors who wish to participate.

5. Choose to explore Queens over Manhattan  

While most people who visit New York for the first time flock to Manhattan, we would recommend taking a chance on Queens instead. While Manhattan has a certain mainstream appeal, a trip there can be a hit or miss depending on its heavy traffic and large crowds. Queens, on the other hand, offers a similar experience to Manhattan without the worry and anxiety of being stuck in congestion for hours at a time. Queens combines exceptional food, fantastic cultural events and extremely friendly locals (by New York standards anyway) and is guaranteed to provide you with a unique and slightly more intimate experience than most other areas in New York City.

If you still prefer to opt for the popular route, here are the top things to do in New York City.

Travelling to New York on a budget? Check out free things to do in NYC

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