Offbeat Things To Do In NYC

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New York City consistently ranks in the top ten of destinations for American travelers, and for good reason. With a population of over 16 million people and countless buildings and sights instantly recognizable by people all over the world, NYC is often a "must-see" destination for both US citizens and foreign travelers alike. And if you are still searching for cheap flights to New York, be sure to check out

Whether Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, or even Ground Zero, most visitors already have a long list of sights to see before they even arrive in the city. And while all those destinations are interesting for their own reasons, they are also rather predictable. There is so much more to NYC than just the stereotypical spots!

Recently I visited the Big Apple with a woman I had met only three days prior to the trip. While our fling was over as quickly as it had begun, at least I scored a free trip back to my birth city. Not only did I discover a few of the more obscure things that NYC offers but I was also able to experience the city itself from a whole new side: a Manhattan penthouse overlooking Central Park. Yup, the missus came from a rich family and apparently her parents were at the Paris house, leaving the entire place all to us. (Except for the maid, a fact I learned only after walking to the kitchen naked one morning.)

I am equally happy in a penthouse or a hostel. Still, it's nice to live in luxury every so often... ;)

My Favorite Offbeat & Obscure NYC Sights

Ripley's Believe It Or Not! Odditorium @ Times Square

Definitely more offbeat than obscure, this destination will leave you amazed, intrigued, confused, and possibly even a tiny bit grossed out. While the building exterior may not be as wild as some of the other Ripley's locations, inside it spans two massive floors and is a great way to kill an hour or two. If you have never tour a Ripley's museum before, well then you might as well start with what is arguably one of their best.

I think it's due to NYC building codes that this structure is not more extravagant...

View Ripley's official website

Night Court

Looking for a cheap date or a bit of one-of-a-kind entertainment? Go to night court!

Many know that crime in NYC has always been a problem, one that even to this day is not yet fully under control. (In fact the only modern metropolis to have effectively curtailed blue collar crimes thus far has been Tokyo). While America is infamous for its court cases and legal proceedings that can drag on for years or even decades, current laws mandate that those arrested be charged within 24 hours. Although increasing amounts of US citizens are unjustly being denied this basic right in the post-9-11 America, those suspected of petty crimes and misdemeanors are still afforded this right. In the Big Apple that equates to well over 1,000 people every day!

As such, the courts in NYC are forced to extend their hours just to cope with the sheer influx of new "suspects." Night court is like any other small courts session: there are judges and lawyers, defendants but no juries. However often there are also spectators from the general public getting their jollies in.

Things kick off half hour after the traditional courts close, at 5:30pm, and run until 1am, with a brief recess for the night shift lunch break. But you won't see any high profile murder cases here, as most individuals are represented by public defenders (aka court-appointed attorneys).

For once I was glad to be in the audience, instead of the one in front of the judge ;)

Admission is free, just be prepared to have to clear security. Oh and be respectable inside the courtrooms -- no photos or loud talking. But that should go without saying.

Museum Of Sex

Conveniently referred to as MoSEX

" were good, but not great." That was my take, at least. However Raquel absolutely loved this place. While it should go without saying that this is not a kid-friendly destination, most open-minded adults will enjoy the exhibits. Especially those who get a kick out of controversy or anyone fascinated by sex.

I recommend being drunk when you visit. Seriously.


You've Seen It In Countless Movies...Now See It In Real Life!

Yes, in one word Chinatown is AWESOME! From the unmistakable sights and smells pervading the area to the downright impressive "people-watching" that the region offers, there is nothing disappointing about a trek thru Chinatown -- especially if you are a fan of people watching.

Yes, it really is just that great ;)

The Abandoned City Hall Subway Stop

Dating back to 1904, the now forgotten City Hall station has always been an amazing site -- perhaps ever more so since it was officially closed down in 1945. However the glass skylights and impressive tile-work are still visible to this very day.

Because this station is at the "end of the line," it is characterized by its curve. Unfortunately it was this iconic curve that eventually led to the station's demise, as it proved to be an issue for the newer and longer trains running these lines.

Until a couple years ago the only way for the public to observe this long forgotten subway station was by riding the 6 train to its final stop, the Brooklyn Bridge, and then hiding when they cleared the train to turn it around and send it back along its course in the opposite direction.

Thanks to the sheer spectacle of this urban underside combined with the power of social media, the "train 6 turnaround" secret eventually got out. Due to the subsequent increase in people attempting to see this historic sight, the MTA now allows the public to ride the turnaround, instead of clearing everyone off at the last stop.

This spectacular photo is not mine -- it was taken by John-Paul Palescandolo and Eric Kazmirek.

Yes, whether you love it or hate it, the fact remains that NYC is an amazing city which offers up something spectacular around nearly every corner -- you just have to know where to look!

Speaking off, let me leave you all with one final recommendation to get your jollies in while visiting NYC: connect with a local and try some "urban exploring" -- NYC has a hidden underbelly to it that most never even see! ;)

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Do you have any other offbeat NYC recommendations?

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Derek Freal

" ǝʌıʇɔǝdsɹǝd ɹǝɥʇouɐ ɯoɹɟ sƃuıɥʇ ǝǝs oʇ ǝʌol ı "
Derek is a perpetual wanderer, cultural enthusiast, and lifelong traveler. He loves going places where he does not speak a word of the local language and must communicate with hand gestures, as well as places where he is forced to squat awkwardly to poo (supposedly its healthier and more efficient). Say Hello On Twitter!


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0 # Rich Grant 2013-02-07 20:21
Tour the Grand Lodge of the Masons -- it's a non-descript storefront on 23rd, but go into the middle of the full block building and take a free tour of the incredible masonic lodges
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0 # Derek Freal 2013-02-07 19:47
Thanks for the comment and tip Neala, I appreciate it. Moved away from NYC when I was only 8 so I am still discovering lots of new things with every trip :)
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0 # Neala 2013-02-07 19:10
I love NYC, too -- I'm also a born and raised New Yorker :)
You can take a tour of Grand Central offered by Municipal Art Society which is quite fun. Used to be free, now they charge :( but they do offer a whole lot of fascinating tours. And it benefits a good group.
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