Top 5 Lesser Known Places to See in New York City

Top 5 Lesser Known Places to See in New York City
| 3 min read

New York City is not just about the Downtown and Midtown areas. It’s all about other undiscovered places within the metropolis that city buses may just show you glimpses of, but not exactly guide you to. I have narrowed down five lesser known places to see while you are in the Big Apple, in the hopes that you’ll feel like a local, and see a more quieter side of the city that’s not all neon lights, glitz, and glamour.

1. Roosevelt Island

The Roosevelt Island Cable Car

Within Midtown, there is a big red cable car that takes you to an island in the middle of the East River called Roosevelt Island. Oddly enough, the island was known for its insane asylum, originally opened in 1841, and is still a beautiful historic building listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and is now a luxury apartment complex called the Octagon. Although there really isn’t much to see on Roosevelt Island, except for the beautiful, historic buildings, and also the cable car ride, take a stroll along the banks of the island to see a different view of Manhattan from the river, and try to imagine yourself as a resident living there. it’s easy to envision, right?

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2. Staten Island

The Staten Island Ferry

Most visitors have only heard of Staten Island from the free ferry that gives you great views of the Statue of Liberty without paying the big bucks. Aside from that being a big plus, Staten Island has its own sets of charms that may involve you deboarding the ferry to spend a few hours walking around and exploring; without immediately turning back to Manhattan. The island is mostly residential, and is a much less busier version of its neighbors. If you’re only there for a few hours, walk from the ferry, and head to the Staten Island September 11 memorial honoring the victims of the World Trade Center who lived on the island. By early 2017, expect the New York Wheel to be opened, which is also within walking distance from the ferry terminal – it’s a giant ferris wheel giving great views of the buildings of Manhattan and of Staten Island as well. Ferries go to the island every hour, so plan your visit accordingly.

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3. Harlem

A hospital in Harlem, NYC

Harlem is a neighborhood that doesn’t really have a great reputation, yet its history is outstanding. Take a free walking tour to know more about the history of the neighborhood as well as being shown the points of interest, such as the Apollo Theatre - a famous music hall. You can also see some historic churches, such as the Abyssinian Baptist Church, and eat some ‘soul food’ at Sylvia’s Restaurant. Harlem also has its fair share of other great shops, and pop up vendors that line up the streets, where you may get great bargains on souvenirs and other things you may or may not need! Harlem is best explored during the daylight hours, and is easily accessible through various metro lines (stop at 125th Street).

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4. The Cloisters (Upper Manhattan)

Inside the Cloisters

The Cloisters is like a medieval castle that looks out of place. Inside, it holds various medieval art and artifacts from Medieval Europe. You can pay as you like if you want to go in, with a suggested donation of 25 USD. The core of its collection revolves around the Unicorn Tapestries - a series of tapestries that depicts noblemen in pursuit of an elusive unicorn. If you don’t want to pay for admission, the park where the Cloisters is located (Fort Tyron) is a great place to walk around and hike in, offering great views across the Hudson River of New Jersey and the George Washington Bridge.

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5. Columbia University/Morningside Heights

The Church inside Columbia U

Who would have thought that a university would make it to the list? Morningside Heights, where Columbia University is located, is a hidden gem that most people in the big bus tours don’t even bother to go down and see. Two big parks line the area: Riverside Park & Morningside Park, as well as the General Grant Memorial, and the Riverside Church. The campus is also open to the public, and you’ll be able to see some steps that lead up to the great library, while admiring the architecture of other buildings along the way. There are numerous food trucks that line Broadway Street if you are looking for something to nibble on, and you can opt to pick up Columbia University souvenirs at their bookstore, located on 116th and Broadway.

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New York has more in store than meets the eye

New York is one of those places that you’ll just love to visit again and again.If you want to stay away from the crowds and find yourself in the midst of locals, while continuing to stay off the beaten path, this city will always have something in store for you. May this guide empower you to just pick up a subway card (or ride a bus), and go to the places that are not really part of the big bus tour agendas, allowing you to feel more embedded in the city as a whole.

Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!
Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.


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Ruby is an avid traveler and adventurer, having lived in three different countries in three different continents. In her spare time, she explores near and far destinations, or reading about far...Read more

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