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Travel guides / USA

Hidden Gems of NYC - The Top Spots to Include on Your New York trip

Guest author Caoimhe gives us the low-down on the lesser-spotted parts of the Big Apple.

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Thinking of heading across the pond? New York City must be high on your list as one of the most vibrant and bustling places in the world.

I’m sure you’ve seen at least one of the countless movies set in the Big Apple. However, to truly see New York you have to go to the places the New Yorkers go to – here is your guide to the hidden gems of NYC.

1: Little Island New York

Little Island is situated on the ruins of Pier 54 which saw many trans-Atlantic cruise liners come and go, including the survivors of the Titanic who arrived on the rescue liner RMS Carpathia. After the Pier fell to disuse in the 1970s, it soon became a safe haven for New York’s LGBTQ community. It became a venue for vibrant events and pride festivities. However after Hurricane Sandy, the Pier was severely damaged, so in 2013, it was converted to a park for the future. The park is now a captivating collection of art and nature. Entry is free but make sure you reserve as the number of visitors is limited for safety.

#2: Williamsburg

Over the river in Brooklyn, you’ll find the trendy neighbourhood of Williamsburg, filled with chic vintage boutiques, bars and cafes, and one of the largest weekly open-air food markets in America, Smorgasburg. Every Saturday the open-air market comes to Williamsburg providing New Yorkers with food from dozens of local vendors. The New York Times called it “The Woodstock of Eating”.

#3: Speakeasy Bars (one for the 21+ visitors)

The definition of a hidden gem, New York speakeasies are the stuff of legends. Please Don’t Tell in the East Village is famous for its cocktails. To get in, you have to call from a payphone inside Crif Dogs, the subterranean hot-dog vendor next door. Attaboy Bar is hidden in plain sight on an obscure bit of Eldridge Street – it was ranked number 8 by The World’s Best Bars. Le Boudoir, inspired by Marie Antoinette’s private chambers in Versailles, is a stunning speakeasy with excessive cocktails and all the frills. You can’t leave NYC without visiting one of these.

#4: Walk the High Line

The High Line is a repurposed old railroad that has been transformed into an elevated linear park. The 1.5 mile long walk is something everyone in New York needs to do. It is a beautiful example of how modern urban design and ecology fit seamlessly together. Inspired by the Promenade Plantée in Paris, each section of the High Line has a slightly different design, making it continuously intriguing. Have you got a free afternoon? Head down to the Meatpacking District for an enchanting wander.

#5: Central Park with a twist!

Although Central Park isn’t exactly a ‘hidden’ gem, it’s all about the way you travel around it. Cycling the famous full Central Park loop really gets you into the mindset of a New Yorker. What other city has such an amazingly beautiful park bang smack in the centre of the city, bigger than the principality of Monaco. Not into cycling? Get a horse-drawn carriage to bring you around instead. Every carriage driver has enough stories to keep you going for the entire ride!

#6: The Smallpox Hospital

For those history buffs, a trip to Roosevelt Island is just the place for you. The island is home to the architectural marvel which served as the city’s top smallpox treatment facility. Steeped in history the ruin looks like something out of a movie set. A small boat ride away from the city, the smallpox patients were kept away from the city’s population. From 1856 until 1875, 7,000 patients were treated each year at the hospital. Unfortunately, you are unable to go inside the ruins however there are plans to make it into a memorial and open it to the public.

#7: See the Yankees or the Knicks

There’s no better way to get into the headset of a New Yorker than seeing their passion for their team. Whether it’s the Yankee Stadium or Madison Square Gardens, watching sport in NYC is unlike anything else. It’s nearly compulsory to buy a foam finger and those amazing nachos you see in all the movies.

#8: Visit a Roof Top Bar

Lastly but most definitely not least – you cannot say you’ve been to New York City without going to a Roof Top Bar. While they’re not cheap, you’re paying for the experience. Seeing the skyline at night from above is something you won’t forget. Westlight has a panoramic skyline view of Manhattan from just over the river in Brooklyn. Electric Lemon is a veggie-forward restaurant and bar with a stunning terrace. However 230 Fifth tops them all with its chic penthouse bar, rooftop garden and live music.

So there you have it, 8 of New York’s hidden (and not so hidden) gems. Hit up the more touristy places too, but don’t leave these off your list!

Follow the author on her travel adventures @caoimherandrews

Thinking about how you might get to New York? Maybe a Grad Visa USA, or even a J1 or Camp USA for summer 2022? Get in touch with us today to check out your options for heading stateside.

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USIT Staff

Our content is shaped by our community. If you also have a way with words and a travel tale to tell, DM us about writing for USIT.

"The definition of a hidden gem, New York speakeasies are the stuff of legends."

USIT Staff Blog Image.png


USIT Staff

Our content is shaped by our community. If you also have a way with words and a travel tale to tell, DM us about writing for USIT.

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