The Ultimate Guide to Hidden Gems in NYC

April 22, 2019

From rooftop gardens to underground treasures, discovering NYC’s hidden gems is the perfect addition to any vacation itinerary.

Typical NYC tourists have a habit of secluding themselves to Midtown Manhattan. They’ll see Times Square, Rockefeller Center, and a Broadway show. Perhaps if they’re the curious type, they’ll venture out to the Upper West and East sides to explore Central Park or head to Lower Manhattan for a Statue of Liberty cruise.

But the truly adventurous travelers seek out the hidden gems in NYC. New York City’s local secrets and spots are full of history and intrigue.

The next time you find yourself in the city, seek out these secret spots.

1. The Whispering Gallery in Grand Central Station

Located near the Oyster Bar on Grand Central Station’s lower terminal, you’ll find an acoustic rarity. If you put your ear up against the title, you’ll be able to hear the faintest whispers in the gallery. This is caused by the shape of the gallery’s perfect arches.

Check it out and see what you can hear!

People inside Grand Central Station - NYC, New York, USA

photo credit: Stephen H via Unplash

2. 620 Loft and Garden

If you find yourself at Rockefeller Center, skip the crowds of tourists gawking at the statue, NBC tours, and ice skating rink. Instead, head inside to the 620 Loft and Garden. This rooftop oasis features jaw-dropping views of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, lush flowers and greenery, and a reflecting pool.

Also, due to its magnificence, it’s a popular wedding and event venue.

3. Atlantic Avenue Subway Tunnel

The Atlantic Avenue Subway Tunnel in Brooklyn was built in 1844 and is a half mile long. As an officially registered state and federal landmark, the historic tunnel is maintained by the Brooklyn Historic Railway Association (BHRA).

While you may be interested in exploring the tunnel, the NYC DOT, unfortunately, shut the tunnel tours down in 2010, citing safety concerns. Even though this is one of the most intriguing hidden gems in NYC, do not attempt to explore the tunnel!

4. New York Chinese Scholar’s Garden

The New York Chinese Scholar’s Garden is one of only two true outdoor Chinese gardens in the entire country. In this hidden garden, you’ll find a surreal escape from the city’s concrete jungle. Stroll by Koi ponds, waterfalls, bamboo forests, and so much more.

You’ll need to head over to Staten Island via the ferry to access this tranquil NYC hidden gem.

close up of staten island ferry on the water in new york city5. The Met Cloisters

Sure, tourists have heard of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. But they’ve likely never heard of the Met Cloisters. This section of the museum is tucked away in Washington Heights and is dedicated to medieval European architecture and art. Take a guided tour or simply stroll around the grounds in awe. Your choice!

Best of all, when you purchase tickets to the Met, you also receive access to this hidden gem!

6. Greenacre Park

Would you believe us if we said a waterfall was one of the top hidden gems in NYC? Well, you better believe it! Tucked away on East 51st Street, Greenacre Park is the ideal escape for locals and tourists alike. Sit down, take a breather, and enjoy this gorgeous little park with a waterfall, flowers everywhere, and ample seating options.

For those documenting their NYC experience, this is a fantastic place to capture a photo or two as well.

7. Randall’s Island

Accessed via Manhattan and the Bronx, Randall’s Island offers 60+ athletic fields, gardens, pathways, a farm, and so much more. This park is so huge, it shouldn’t be considered a hidden gem! On top of exploring the park, register for a tour and learn more about Randall’s Island’s history, landscape, and art.

If you plan to visit Randall’s Island, allow several hours to make the most of your trip to the park.

8. The Lightship Frying Pan

For visitors interested in maritime history, visit the Lightship Frying Pan permanently docked at Pier 66 Maritime. You’ll find Pier 66 in Hudson River Park. This historic lightship once sank and was underwater for three whole years before being rescued and restored.

While viewing the lightship, take time to also grab a bite to eat at the Pier 66 Maritime Bar & Grill next door.

Twilight evening view of SeaGlass Carousel at Battery Park with NYC, New York, USA skyline in the background

photo credit: SeaGlass Carousel at The Battery via Facebook

9. SeaGlass Carousel

Fun for kids and adults alike, the SeaGlass Carousel is among the top hidden gems in NYC for many reasons. You’ll find the whimsical carousel over in the Battery in Lower Manhattan. For only $5, you can hop on a glowing, pastel-colored fish and ride around and around!

Even if you don’t plan to ride, viewing the carousel’s intriguing seats are worth the trip alone.

10. City Hall Subway Station

One of the most lavish subway stations was unfortunately also the least used early on in the NYC Subway system’s history. As a result, the City Hall Subway Station was abandoned in 1945. Today, you can tour the historic station by being a member of the New York City Transit Museum. These tours allow you to marvel at the architecture while learning more about the station’s history from a knowledgeable tour guide.

11. The Berlin Wall in NYC

Throughout New York City, you have five opportunities to get a glimpse at the Berlin Wall. Head to these destinations (some hidden while others… not so much) for a chance to see a piece of global history:

front entrance to The Metropolitan Museum of Art with people walking up the stairs and taxis on the street in NYC, New York, USA

photo credit: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York via Facebook

12. Tulip Garden at Brookfield Place

Last on our list of hidden gems in NYC is nestled in Battery Park. Each spring, you’ll find a sprawling garden of tulips in full bloom at Brookfield Place. These gorgeous flowers are guaranteed to put a smile on your face amidst the honking of car horns, blaring of sirens, and constant chatter of passersby.

Those looking for that golden Instagram opportunity will find it at the tulip garden!

Visit the Top Hidden Gems in NYC

Instead of the typical tourist attractions, why not seek out NYC’s extensive list of hidden gems?

Did we miss your favorite hidden gems in NYC? Tell us which ones to add!

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