The Big Apple is full of surprises and most visitors have a list of must-see attractions when planning their visit. First-timers may put the Empire State Building or Rockefeller Center on that list. Repeat visitors may venture into one of the city's many museums, or take in a Broadway show.
But, what happens when you're looking for something different? When you want to discover something off the beaten path and venture out of your comfort zone of the tour guides.
Keep reading to see what many native New Yorkers may overlook when showing their out-of-town guests around. From an R-rated museum to beautiful medieval tapestries, New York City has it all.
10 The Tenement Museum
The American immigrant story comes to life at the Tenement Museum. Visitors can sign up for a one of a selection of tours that take place inside tenements built in the mid-1800s, or around the neighborhood on the Lower East Side.
Small tours make the experience feel personal, and sometimes interactive and you’ll definitely walk away having discovered more about the place immigrants on Orchard Street called home. Don’t miss the large gift shop where you’ll find an eclectic selection of unique items from posters, to books, to toys and games.
9 Obscura Antiques and Oddities
Fans of the reality TV show Oddities will love visiting this creepy store from the series located in the trendy East Village. Items such as a mummified cat, strange medical equipment, possessed ventriloquist dummies, and other macabre items can be found for sale here making this an attraction not for the faint of heart. However, Obscura Antiques and Oddities does stand out as one of the most unique stores in all of New York City. You almost expect to see Gomez and Morticia Addams walking through the door.
8 A New Take On a Walking Tour
New York City is home to many fine restaurants and due to its unique melting pot culture, many places are a destination for some of the best food in the country. Food tours are a fun way to experience a variety of different foods, and cultures without leaving the city.
You can explore Little Italy, Chinatown, Greenwich Village, or Hell’s Kitchen, to name a few, and sample the best noshes of each neighborhood while learning about the culture and history unique to that area. Treat yourself to a specialty tour such as a Pizza Tour, a Hydroponics Tour, and yes, there’s even a Cupcake Tour.
7 Go Down the Rabbit Hole at Alice’s Tea Cup
Billed as New York City’s most whimsical tea house, you will find over 140 teas from around the world, magical pastries, and fairy dust and wings for the kids at Alice’s Tea Cup. Alice in Wonderland themed murals and paintings adorn the walls and food from their extensive menu of hearty fare is served on mismatched china. Alice’s locations referred to as “chapters” can be found in two places in the city with a take-out location in the works. You’ll want to make reservations as this popular restaurant fills up fast.
6 The Museum of Sex
This adults-only (18+) museum is unlike any other. The Mission of this unusual museum is to “preserve and present the history, evolution and cultural significance of human sexuality.” Don’t worry. Such a serious mission statement does not mean you won’t have fun. Guests rave about the bouncy house for grownups filled with inflatable breasts for your jumping pleasure, and naughty artifacts, and photographs are around every corner.
In most hands-on museums you may find signs that encourage guests to touch the displays but at The Museum of Sex signs sternly warn visitors to not touch, lick, stroke, or mount the exhibits. The gift shop may heat you up after your visit but the bar has plenty in stock to cool you down.
5 Dun-Well Doughnuts
Vegans go crazy for these dairy-free, egg-free, doughnuts in tempting and creative flavors but even doughnut enthusiasts may not know that Dun-Well Doughnuts was named Best Doughnuts in NYC by the NY Daily News. Here you can choose from a daily variety of freshly made doughnuts in flavors like mango almond raspberry pie or matcha pecan.
Visit one of their two locations, on the Lower East Side, or in Brooklyn where you will feel as if you have stepped back in time with its old-timey wooden benches and antique pictures adorning the walls.
4 McSorley’s Old Ale House
McSorley’s Old Ale House was established in 1854 and continued operating, albeit secretly, right through Prohibition. This historic establishment has seen its share of famous people within its tiny confines. Abe Lincoln, John Lennon, among others are notable past patrons, and poet e.e. cummings even wrote a poem in 1923 about his visits to McSorley's. Make a statement by bringing the girls there to tip back a cold one at a tavern that only started allowing women to enter in 1970. But don’t expect to rest your feet here. There are no stools and sometimes the crowd is three people deep.
3 Accomplice The Show
Among the most unique tours of New York City, Accomplice The Show brings your tour group into an immersive theatrical experience you’ll never forget. Choose a tour in Chelsea, Greenwich Village, or Manhattan, and start gathering clues to solve a puzzle while walking the streets (and having a couple of cocktails) with your guide.
Check out their progressive dinner known as The Golden Spork where you’ll be treated to a three-course dinner as you uncover clues to solve the mystery.
2 Take It to City Hall
Yes, you can take it to City Hall, and by it, we mean the subway. The Old City Hall Station was where the very subway departed in 1904 and is still an active turnaround point for the 6 Line. Adventurous riders can easily find instructions online on how to surreptitiously view Old City Hall Station but due to safety concerns, this information is kept under the radar. If you want to follow the rules and put down a cool fifty bucks, check out the schedule of official tours put on by the New York Transit Museum several times a year.
1 The Cloisters
Many people visit New York City on a regular basis and have never heard of The Cloisters. A branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Cloisters is a feast for the eyes, a photographer’s dream, and an ideal spot for history lovers of any era.
Here you’ll see sections of French monasteries, stained glass, statues, and other artifacts from medieval Europe. Enjoy a scenic outdoor lunch at the Trie Café from April to October (weather permitting), catch a concert or performance, or take a guided tour of the magnificent gardens.