Most New York tourists end up visiting world-famous sights like the September 11 Memorial, the Statue of Liberty, and Central Park. If you dig a little deeper, you can uncover some great lesser-known spots worth checking out. These unique and quirky attractions range from a park created in remembrance of a historic famine to a tiny street museum inside a freight elevator. Try to book a centrally located hotel for your trip to the Big Apple, and consider stopping by these often-overlooked spots.
The Hall of Fame for Great Americans
Located on the campus of Bronx Community College, the Hall of Fame for Great Americans was established in 1900, making it one of the first halls of fame in existence. The 630-foot open-air facility displays 98 bronze busts of individuals who made important contributions to the country. They include presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, authors Ralph Waldo Emerson and Harriet Beecher Stowe, and inventors Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell.
Irish Hunger Memorial
Not far from the new World Trade Center sits a parklet known as the Irish Hunger Memorial. Created in 2001 to remember the Irish Potato Famine that killed more than 1 million people between 1845 and 1852, the elevated park contains soils and vegetation imported from Ireland itself. This might be the only place in Manhattan that feels like western Ireland, thanks to its limestone cottages and rolling landscape.
Roosevelt Island Tramway
To get an aerial view of New York City, you could wait in line for hours at the Empire State Building, or just hop on the tramway between Manhattan and Roosevelt Island. The views from 250 feet above the East River provide a unique vantage point. You can use your MTA MetroCard, and the tram runs at least four times per hour from the intersection of 59th and 2nd, so it’s an affordable way to see a different side of the city.
As the setting for hundreds of movies and TV shows, the streets of NYC possess a vast pop-culture history. One of the most recognizable sitcom storefronts is Tom’s Restaurant on the Upper West Side. Seinfeld used the exterior of this cafe for its diner scenes. You’ll notice the familiar neon sign “Tom’s Restaurant” wrapping around the building. Tom’s also inspired Suzanne Vega’s 1990 Top 10 hit “Tom’s Diner,” giving it a pair of significant pop-culture references.
When it comes to unique museums, Mmuseumm might take the prize for its originality. Hidden away inside a street-level freight elevator on Cortlandt Alley in Chinatown, Mmuseumm’s small space focuses on the concept of “object journalism,” which aims to educate visitors and spark conversations via physical objects. While the museum’s exhibitions change regularly, recent items on display have included a random layout of Corn Flakes, fast food containers from Iran, and a hot water heater from Lithuania.
New York has so many attractions that it’s always difficult to pack everything into a short vacation, but hopefully some of these under-the-radar spots can liven up your next visit to the city.
All photos by the author