Are you looking for a literal inside view of New York architecture, outlandish thingamajigs from decades past, or unusual settings for art and music, but aren’t quite sure where to begin your search? Then check out our round-up of some of the best resources for hidden gems and special, insider events in New York City. Plan this weekend’s trip or book ahead for special opportunities with the suggestions found below.
The eccentric attractions detailed with text, maps and source citations in Atlas Obscura’s “compendium of wonders, curiosities, and esoterica” are potentially as limitless as the entries in Wikipedia. The compilation of interesting and odd places to visit are actually contributed by inspired explorers. Their tips are given an extra, curated spin by the site’s editors. All you need to do is create a user account to add your own suggestion of an obscure inspiration.
New York’s Atlas Obscura includes oddities such as the Troll Museum, a woman’s assortment of the mythical creatures who gained popularity in the 1960s. You’ll have to make an appointment to see them in her apartment. The Radio Guy’s collection of medieval head gear and zany contraptions is essentially an online experience. The site also includes locales in New York State, for example, the International Center for Electronic Games in Rochester, which studies the impact of video games on individuals across cultures, and the “Sacred Grove,” a field in Palmyra, where God is said to have appeared to a young farm boy — a future Mormon named Joseph Smith.
This online video series by Thirteen (the parent company of MetroFocus) pulls back the curtain on lesser known attractions in the New York area, be it nature areas or significant structures, from old bridges to former movie palaces. Consider the five-minute video portraits a preview to whet your appetite for travel. If you have a taste for modern ruins, try New Jersey’s Hinchliffe Stadium, overgrown with weeds and looking rather apocalyptic. You can ditch the chaos of New York City for a respite in the woods of Staten Island’s Greenbelt or explore the cairn-like sculptures built by one man on the beach of Mount Loretto State Park, also in Staten Island. The City Concealed offers these and many more things to see and do in New York and New Jersey.
The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC) enlivens the canyon-like streets of the financial district with cultural events, live performances, and art installations in areas both popular and overlooked. The nonprofit organization has transformed former banks, offices and storefronts into concert halls, art studios, and pop-up theaters on Wall Street, the Bowery, Battery Park and more. One block from the Holland Tunnel, Lentspace is a temporary open space lent to the LMCC by Trinity Real Estate for art installations and a tree nursery (it’s set to reopen in late spring). An LMCC program to satisfy curiosities both architectural and intellectual is Access Restricted, a free nomadic lecture series on the arts, set in places that are not normally open to the public. These events are quite popular so RSVP well in advance (consider signing up for the LMCC’s mailing list).
From former historic public school P.S. 90’s conversion to residential units in Harlem to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park directly across from the United Nations, Open House New York gives the inside scoop on architectural and design projects. The organization also provides access to buildings that have been closed to the public, like the TWA Terminal constructed for Trans World Airlines in 1962 at John F. Kennedy Airport. The site has been closed to the public since 2001, but thanks to OHNY, thousands of visitors have toured the terminal, which is currently undergoing renovations. This year’s OHNY Weekend in October will showcase rooftop farms, which produce crops atop New York City’s buildings, often without the use of dirt. OHNY organizes programs around the city and year-round, so check the site on a regular basis for events, or follow OHNY’s weekly blog, which highlights interesting places to see in the five boroughs.