Cool, Hidden, and Unusual Things to Do in New York City

City Hall Station

A beautiful and abandoned New York subway station from 1904, complete with chandelier.

THE FIRST NEW YORK CITY subway was built and operated by the Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT) and opened on October 27, 1904, to the joy of New York elevated train and streetcar riders.

The City Hall station on the IRT local track was lavished with fine architectural details, including glass tiles and large chandeliers.

However, the Gustavino vaulted ceilings and skylights were lost on busy commuters, and the stop was one of the least-used in the system.

It was the only station that did not have turnstiles installed by 1923, and the nearby Brooklyn Bridge stop was frequented by the express train and closer to connecting streetcars.

The Evolution Store, Manhattan

A terrific purveyor of natural history objects and curios.

EVOLUTION STANDS OUT AMONG THE clothing stores and restaurants in Manhattan’s SoHo art district as a truly distinctive and handsome shop.

Tucked into every corner and crevice of the store are unique natural history collectibles.

Framed butterflies and insects line the walls, fossils and seashells in jars crowd wide tables, tribal art fills glass cases, skulls and skeletons hang from the ceiling, and medical models and posters fill every spare space.

Dream House, Manhattan

La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela's "Dream House" will immerse you in an ever changing world of sound and light.

WHEN WALKING DOWN CHURCH STREET in Tribeca, keep an eye out for a black door with a cryptic white sign that reads THE DREAM HOUSE.

Although this is not your typical dream house with a 4-door garage, it guarantees to be a one-of-a-kind experience, with its completely absorbing, constantly fluctuating sound waves accompanied by neon pink reflections of light.

Roosevelt Island Smallpox Hospital Ruins

A crumbling hospital from the 1850s on Roosevelt Island.

FEW DISEASES HAVE HAD A greater impact on the history of human civilization than smallpox.

The bubonic plague certainly wins for its baroque presentation. Malaria and HIV are concurrent with our times and thus feel more real.

But smallpox takes the contamination cake. It has been around for more than 3,000 years in all parts of the world.


A tiny museum housed in a New York freight elevator specializes in the "overlooked, dismissed, or ignored."

PRONOUNCED “MUSEUM,” MMUSEUMM IS A curated display of artifacts housed in a freight elevator.

This tiny space features rotating and permanent collections, specializing in the “overlooked, dismissed, or ignored.”

Museumm offers a unique opportunity to engage with familiar and exotic everyday objects from around the world.

Past exhibitions include Personal Possessions found in the Pacific, Paper Works found in Copying Machines, and Homemade Weapons of Defense.

The Elevated Acre

Amid the bustle and noise of the Financial District hides a secluded garden oasis above the city streets.

ONE OF THE MOST DELIGHTFUL experiences in bustling Manhattan is finding a secluded oasis within it.

In a city where space is at a premium, there remains hidden away a lush garden of solitude, known to only a very few. Remarkably, this pleasant, quiet meadow can be found in the jostling streets of the busy Financial District in Lower Manhattan. Or more specifically, above it!

Explorers Club Headquarters

A treasure trove of artifacts, books, and artwork from the "golden age" of exploration.

BEHIND IMPRESSIVE HEAVY DOORS AND ornate turn-of-the-century stained glass windows lies the Explorers Club headquarters on East 70th Street.

Founded in 1904 by seven leading polar explorers of the era, the Explorers Club fosters the scientific exploration of land, sea, air and space.

The 1910 Jacobean revival mansion was originally built for Stephen Clark, grandson of the co-founder of the Singer Sewing Machine Company.

The Explorers Club purchased the building from the Clark family in 1960 after Stephen’s death.

It became the international headquarters in 1965. Prior to this, they had several locations in New York City.

5 Beekman Street

This beautiful building in the heart of Manhattan's Financial District was empty for decades.

IN NEW YORK CITY, WHERE space seems to be a luxury, as busy streets fill crowded edifices of offices and apartments, an abandoned nine-story building almost seems incredibly unlikely.

Located just one block from City Hall, 5 Beekman Street is more than just an awe-inspiring structure; it is more like an inside secret.

Tourists, businessmen and regulars pass it without knowing about the mystery behind its brick terra-cotta disguise.

Having been vacant for nearly a decade with parts of it shuttered since the 1940s, this elegant building does not accommodate a single soul.

Please Don't Tell

Dodge prohibitionists and slide through the telephone booth in Crif Dogs.

EVEN IN THE INTERNET AGE, finding much about Please Don’t Tell (PDT), a speakeasy on St. Mark’s Place, can be a bit difficult.

Its website is one page with only a phone number to make reservations.

Despite sharing space with Crif Dogs, a late night fried hot dog joint, its menu is unknown until entering (although there are still fried hot dogs that you can order from the adjacent restaurant).

More importantly, just to get in, one must know the number to dial in the nondescript telephone booth.

Lexington Candy Shop

The oldest family-run luncheonette in New York, last renovated in 1948, still serves food and drinks the old-fashioned way.

FOR THOSE LOOKING FOR A taste of old New York, the first port of call should be the Lexington Candy Shop. Located on the corner of Lexington Avenue and 83rd Street, the Candy Shop is the oldest family-owned luncheonette in the city.

American cities were once graced with luncheonettes, as common as Starbucks coffee shops are today. Luncheonettes were generally small, informal restaurants serving light lunches at affordable prices.

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