Forget shows on Broadway and getting fat on pizza, there are far more interesting things to do in NYC. From discovering a rabbit-riddled underground beer bar to dancing in a fountain outside a Queens museum, to attending a lecture on taxidermy in a museum (yes really), we look into the top 10 fun but bizarre things to do in New York.
1. Eat in a hidden loading dock
Get too distracted by the sparkling clothing and trimmings adorning the storefronts outside and you might just miss the restaurant El Sabroso. It’s tucked away behind industrial doors and looks like every other loading bay in the Garment District. Make your way through (you might have to wait in a not-so-hidden line outside) and you’ll find owner Tony Molino serving his $6-$7 Latin American lunches to a gaggle of hungry in-the-know patrons.
El Sabroso – 265 West 37th Street, NY
2. Visit an indoor rainforest
In New York anything’s possible, including it seems the growth of a tropical rainforest in an office building. Open to the public all year long, this twelve-storey high glass and steel building houses giant magnolias, sparkling water pools, shrubs and enormous trees, all in the middle of the Ford Foundation’s open offices.
Workers can even wave to each other from opposite sides. Real rainfall from the roof, plus the condensation from the inside keeps this manmade greenhouse active – all they need now is the howler monkeys.
Ford Foundation – 320 E 43rd St, New York, NY 10017
3. Follow the rabbits to an underground bar
124 Old Rabbit Club makes a big thing out of bunnies – you’ll spot them everywhere in this underground bar, which at times is so dark you’ll have to reach for your friend’s face to make sure it’s still them you’re talking to.
The weirdness is all worth it when you get to sampling the beers served in this Greenwich Village speakeasy/dungeon – from English, to German to Belgian. Count the rabbits, get cosy and pretend it’s not still daylight up there in the real world.
124 Rabbit Club – 124 Macdougal St, New York, NY 10012
4. See some hidden dirt in the Earth Room
Doesn’t come weirder than this folks. Hidden on the second floor of a seemingly ordinary apartment building in Soho is just under 300,000 pounds of dirt in a 3600 square-foot room. And that’s it. Nothing more, nothing less.
It’s free to see this fascinating filth – a living sculpture by Walter Marina – and it’s been on display since 1980, irritating all who pay a million dollars to live in similar spaces nearby.
The Earth Room – 141 Wooster St, New York, NY 10012
5. Whisper in a crowded train station
It’s a loud city in general but if you stand outside the entrance to the Oyster Bar at Grand Central Terminal you’ll see a small vaulted area that is actually the perfect place to share a secret.
Stand in one corner and you’ll be able to hear whoever whispers at the opposite corner, in spite of how much honking, yelling or busking is going on around you!
Whispering Gallery, Grand Central Terminal
6. Stuff your face with dosas at a Hindu temple in Queens
Don’t know what dosas are? Think giant crepes stuffed with yummy spices and other oozing ingredients. The chilli masala dosa and the masala dosa with coconut chutney come highly recommended but what’s best about Ganesh Temple Canteen is just how bizarre it is.
Nothing from this menu – featuring food from Tamil Nadu in the south of India – will set you back more than $7 (weird in itself in these parts) but you’ll get to mingle with the local Indian community in a space full of Asian artefacts. Warning – there will definitely be an elephant in the room.
Ganesh Temple Canteen – 45-57 Bowne St, Flushing, NY 11355
7. Get nostalgic in Williamsburg
Can’t help wishing you could see New York the way it used to be? You’ll get a pretty good picture of it here at this tiny, slightly off-the-beaten-path museum in Williamsburg. The whole thing will take you half an hour to explore, as there are only two rooms; one with a permanent exhibition and one that you pay to see.
Old coffee cups, subway ticket stubs, Statue of Liberty memorabilia from decades ago and a pizza box exhibition will all whisk you back to days gone by before you hit the streets again in modern-day, funky Brooklyn, wondering what just happened.
The City Reliquary – 370 Metropolitan Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211
8. Dance in a fountain in Queens
There’s a lot of weird art in NYC – just walking through North Brooklyn on a Saturday will attest to that – but MoMA is something else. Founded in the early 70s by an organisation devoted to setting up exhibitions in abandoned spaces across NYC, MoMA PS1 transforms itself on summer weekends into a giant party, with open bars and live DJs.
The exhibitions are everywhere, from the fountains you can dance in, to the artwork on the stairs, in the bathrooms and behind all doors. If you’re there in winter and the fountain’s frozen over, you’ll find daily gallery talks and Q&As with contemporary artists, writers, and scholars.
MoMA PS1 – 22-25 Jackson Ave, Long Island City, NY 11101
9. Sleep No More with Punchdrunk
There are hundreds of opportunities for theatre in New York, many of them in-your-face and glimmering around Broadway signs, but for a wonderfully wacky and slightly less mainstream affair, Punchdrunk’s Sleep No More is your show. This is immersion theatre at its very best, but to say much more (other than that it’s loosely based on Macbeth) would be giving it away. Paying guests are admitted into a hotel at allocated times and advised to allow up to three hours to be suitably blown away. You won’t forget this one in a hurry.
Sleep No More, The McKittrick Hotel – 530 West 27th Street, NY 10001
10. See the Berlin Wall
Snapped up in 1990 by real estate mogul Jerry I. Speyer, five whole sections of the Berlin Wall are on display in the lobby of the office building at 520 Madison Avenue. The pieces, measuring 12 feet in height and 20 feet in length all feature work by German artists Thierry Noir and Kiddy Citny. On the other side? Nothing but a blank slab of concrete to remind us of East Germany’s oppressive political climate. View it 7 days a week.
520 Madison Avenue, NY 10022
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