Offbeat New York City : our favorite spots
After discovering New York City’s essentials last week, we’d like to take you off the beaten paths. It is a well-known fact that a huge, lively and cosmopolitan city like New York City is filled with nice activities and places to discover and here is a small selection of unusual places to discover ASAP!
Back to childhood
If you are still a child at heart, you must go to FAO Schwarz, the biggest toy store in the world spread over no less than 3 floors! Picture it as a wonderful huge playground with huge teddy bears, more candy than you can eat and fun demonstrations! Just wandering in the store is a true wonder by itself and you can stroll around there for long minutes wanting to try out everything. Nath almost fainted when she got hold of the biggest gummy bear in the world (2,5 kg or 5lbs!) and we got speechless when the employee posted at the Muppets booth explained its concept to us: it is the only place in the world where you can have your own custom Muppet made, pretty cool huh?! Well obviously it’s not cheap but it’s still nice to see! Upstairs there are a lot of games distributed through many different themes. You will find life-sized Lego statues (where Seb took a shot with his doppelganger!), activities such as magic tricks or skill games you can try out and this is also where you will find the famous Big Piano seen in the movie “Big.” Unfortunately the children testing is were not as talented as Tom Hanks which turned out to be a beautiful cacophony. Also the line to try it was quite long! Good to know: for $40, you can attend a private visit of the store one hour before it opens where you can test the piano. Do not also hesitate to take a picture with the doormen dressed as toy soldiers, they love to make fun and crazy poses!
Some fresh air
It continues with a walk in Coney Island which is located at the south of Brooklyn. If your accomodation is in Manhattan, it’ll take you about an hour of subway to get there. Not ideal, of course, but well worth it! This area really has nothing to do with the skyscrapers you can find at the nerve center of the city and completely contrasts with the idea that we have of the frenetic New York City. Here everything is airy, colorful and you can even go swimming in the ocean. We loved to walk around on the wooden marina near the sea (so American!) and watch the New Yorkers go on with their businesses. They bathe, drink a shot with friends and even fish. In minutes, you feel on vacation and you take the time to enjoy this little lull. This is also where you will find a huge Luna Park with all the wildest attractions you can find that we unfortunately couldn’t test. There is an entrance fee just like in an amusement park and $35 per person was quite out of our budget. You should know, however, that entries are included in the New York Pass.
For a nice stroll in a park in the heart of New York city you can also go to the High Line, a disused railway track that was rehabilitated as a garden built on an elevated section that winds on 2,33km (1.45 miles). It’s really nice to wander amid the buildings on this path strewn with verdure and magnificent pieces of street art. There are even deckchairs to enjoy the sun quietly and read a book! You can also go to Carl Schultz Park, in the Upper East Side, that offers superb views over the East River and Queens.
A drink in a secret bar
Do you know what a speakeasy is? It is a type of bar dating back from the Prohibition. Between 1919 and 1933, alcohol was banned in the United States and therefore this kind of secret bars opened to allow New Yorkers to bend the rules discreetly. Today, there are still many speakeasies scattered throughout the city with their access being undetectable to the uninitiated. It is a really nice concept that we tested out in the East Village at the Please Don’t Tell bar. Its “front” is a hot dog place named Crif Dogs. Once there, you will have to enter the restaurant then go straight to the vintage telephone booth and enter in it. You must then pick up the phone and dial 1 then wait. After a few minutes, the background wall will pivot and you will find yourself facing a hostess, this is actually the entrance to the bar! The bar is really tiny, it should not be able to accommodate more than around thirty people. It is also one of the most famous speakeasy of the city so we strongly suggest that you make a reservation, we waited about 45 minutes to have a spot at the bar! Once inside, it seems that you’ve made a leap back in time as the retro decor and soft lighting contribute to the ambience. The place is chic and relaxed, there was music and several groups were talking and laughing sitting around round tables. We sat at the bar and, after great hesitation, we ordered a Paddington et un Benton’s Old Fashioned, cocktails respectively based on orange marmalade and bacon infused bourbon! Observing the bartender preparing our drinks was already a show itself and the cocktails were absolutely delicious. Good to know: the bar sells a cocktail book and also has an app filled with many recipes!
A unique collection
The Morgan Library & Museum is certainly one of New York City‘s best kept secrets. When planning our trip, this museum was often listed as one of the most overlooked museums of the city yet worth a visit and the least we can say is that we were not disappointed! The museum was founded by JP Morgan Jr. in honor of his father, the famous banker John Pierpont Morgan that died in the early 20th century. He owned an amazing breathtaking collection of rare objects, books and pieces of art his son decided to open to the public. This is simply one of our favorite museums, with the MET, with the displayed items being both rare and varied. The Gutenberg Bible, Lewis Carroll’s personal effects, a copy of the US Constitution written in French or a Beethoven hand-written and crossed out musical score ! The items of this collection are really impressive! The house also is a pure jewel of architecture and consists of large pieces with great care which contrast with a more modern and contemporary part. Good to know: access to the museum is free on Fridays from 7pm to 9pm.
Berlioz in the park
We end this roundup of offbeat New York City activities with an event that takes place there every summer: Concerts in the Parks. Where the weather gets warmer, the world-known New York Philharmonic Orchestra organizes a series of free concerts in the city parks. The point is to introduce classical music, which is often perceived as elitist, to as many people as possible. During our stay, several concerts were organized all around town and we finally chose to enjoy this show in the heart of Central Park. We are very far from being initiated to classical music so we were pretty eager to discover it thanks to one of the most famous orchestras in the world in one of the most famous parks in the world, no big deal! So we planned a small picnic and a blanket to be properly settled on the ground of the lawn but we got lucky and ran into one of the staff members who was looking for people to fill the forefront seats! A nice stroke of luck that really allowed us to enjoy the show the best way possible, really cool! After the self-congratulating speeches of local politicians, organizers and sponsors, it was time for some music. One that touches, moves and transports simultaneously. And because sometimes words are not enough, we leave you in the company of those notes from another time …
If you want more infos to help you set up your New York City trip, check out our New York handy guide!