I went to New York City for the first time two years ago, at the beginning of our 3 months road trip across the USA. I had big hopes for New York. I thought it would be my favorite city in the whole world, the place I aspired to live in and where I’d become a badass woman with a loft overlooking the buildings. But instead, I found myself overwhelmed by the city – so much bigger and tougher than Paris than I could have ever imagined. As a result, I didn’t feel good, and didn’t like it too much. That’s the reason why Simone (who had already been multiple times to NYC) immediately settled to make me discover these 9 off the beaten path things to do in NYC, which honestly saved my trip!
9 Off the Beaten Path Things to do in NYC
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1. Coney Island
You’re going to want to find off the beaten path things to do in Manhattan, I get it. But if you can find at least an afternoon to spare, do not miss Coney Island. It is such an underrated place – one we always recommend when someone asks us about New York. Yes, it does take time to reach it with the subway [D, F, N and Q trains] from the city center. But trust us, it is worth it. You’ll step in a different world, wide open, with the beach. The beach! The boardwalk, the rollercoasters, the easy pace… It contrasts so much with the city it could actually be California. But it’s not, it’s in New York, and you have to go.
Want to enjoy a day of unlimited rides at Coney Island’s Luna Park? Buy your tickets on TripAdvisor
2. The Upper West Side & Columbia University
We’re doing a complete flip here and going to the North part of Manhattan to explore the Upper West Side. We discovered that part of town on our quest to find Columbia – as I am a total university nerd. Columbia in itself is beautiful and worth the detour [stop at the 116 Street Station], especially if you need some calmer atmosphere after spending some time in Midtown (I know I did!). The whole area is pretty residential and it almost felt like I was back in some family friendly neighborhoods in Paris. Once you’re done strolling around, have a go at the swing if you can find it and walk along Central Park.
3. Find a quiet spot in Central Park
Central Park is the much needed oxygen hub of the city. When you find yourself shaking because of the noise, the smell, the giganticness of the city, a quick trip to Central Park is what gets you back on track. Just hop in whenever you can and look for a quiet spot off the beaten path to sit on a rock and look at the turtles swimming around you. Peace guaranteed.
Click here to book your ticket for a Central Park TV and Movie Site Walking Tour to get an even cooler experience!
4. Greenwich Village
Let me give you some seriously confidential info here. The first time I learned about Greenwich Village (and how to pronounce it right) was when I was in 7th grade, by reading The Princess Diaries. There. And what brought us to the Village this time? NYU. As already mentioned I am a university nerd and wanted to check out New York University [stop at 8th Street Station]. Trust me to find the French House right away – and I wasn’t even looking for it! I discovered fast that “village” is a pretty good way to describe the area and I was somewhat relieved to find my marks in this European looking neighborhood. Everything looked way more “human-sized” and easier to navigate than Midtown. I was home, kind of.
If you have a case of fear of missing out, why not book this Greenwich Village 2-hour organized tour?
5. Take the ferry from NYC to New Jersey
Tired of hearing about Staten Island? On top of your list of off the beaten path things to do in NYC should be : take the ferry to New Jersey [take it from the East 35th Street port]. Bonus point: you’re hitting another state! Seriously: it’s farther and takes longer than going to Staten Island, but the reward is pretty cool too. You get to have an incredible view of Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty, and see some pretty nice place in New Jersey. Both Atlantic Highlands and Highlands have shops and restaurants easily reachable from the ferry pier, and there’s a beach by the ticket office at the Highland stops! We recommend to take the ferry at the end of the day so you can watch the sunset on Manhattan. You can thank us later.
6. The New York Public Library
If you still had any doubts about my nerdiness, it stops here. The Stephen A. Schwarzman Building of the New York Public Library [at 42nd St and Fifth Ave.] is a gorgeous place to visit, and it’s free! Do stop at the shop but try not to spend all of your money.
7. Grand Central Terminal
Visiting a train station might not be your idea of the best “off the beaten path things to do in NYC”, since the path is pretty beaten all the damn time. But Grand Central [42nd St. and Park Avenue] is gorgeous and it would be too bad for you to miss it! Of course if you’re a Gossip Girl (secret) fan, do your best to let out the Serena Van der Woodsen in you (or the Dan Humpfrey, if that’s more your thing).
Wanna know all of the secrets of Grand Central? Book this 90min tour on TripAdvisor!
8. Chase the NYC restaurants with vegan options
Good thing is that if you’re vegan, you have a decent amount of options in NYC. We did our best to taste as many veggie burgers as possible, and we stopped at this Mexican vegan-friendly place in the Village that was amazing (they had delicious vegan cheese to put all over our food- YES!). Since we haven’t been for a while, we’d advice you to have a look at what HappyCow has to say.
9. Party hard at the Korean Fat Buddha bar
The Fat Buddha is a pretty cool place – be sure to have your ID and be on the list on busy nights. Cool island bar, things to eat, and oldschool hip hop nights. I met the owner when I was working as a barmaid at Wos in Paris, as he suggested we put on one of his cool playlist on. I said I wanted to visit his bar when in New York, he put us on the list, and we had a blast. At that time there was a cheap pizza place just across the street open all night. It honestly saved us from the hungover of death!
I’m sorry but Central Park, Grand Central, NYPL, Greenwich Village are definitely not off the beaten path. As a NY native (I actually went to NYU so it was funny to see it mentioned here, it is a beautiful university), I’d recommend Queens to really get off the beaten path. Few tourists go there but there is great street art, some of the best food in NYC (it’s one of the most multicultural areas in the world), and some great parks.
I absolutely love NYC (and Central Park!) but we haven’t done most of the things on your list. I’ll absolutely be saving this for later!!
Your blog makes me homesick. New York is my home town – though I’m in London now. And Nathans Famous Hot Dogs, along with their french fries cooked in peanut oil, are among my nostalgic favorites. Glad you found my city.
These are some cool things to do outside of the major tourist attractions. I enjoy reading articles like this. Coney Island seems so cokourful and makes for great photo opportunities. I love the name of the buddha bar too. So quirky. Thanks for the read.
As a New Yorker I found this guide very helpful. Good job!
I love Coney Island that was one of my first stops in the area.
thank you! i always loved off the beaten paths and hidden gems. NY is no doubts a beautiful place. hope to be able to see it one day