Escape the Crowds: A Local’s Guide to NYC’s Secret Spots

Roosevelt Island tramway – New York City Uncovered 5 Off-the-Radar Destinations to Visit Now

I have been living in New York City for over 13 years. Even though I solo traveled to 17 countries so far, New York City remains my favorite place in the world. Its energy is unparalleled. Plus, you can never get bored in this city. There’s always so much going on and so many new places to explore. In a way, it feels like you’re constantly living in a new city since there’s so much to keep up with.

New York City has some iconic tourist attractions like Central Park, the Empire State Building, and Times Square. They are all worth a visit if it’s your first time visiting the city that never sleeps. But if you’ve been here a few times you probably want to see the hidden gems so you can get a taste of living like a local.

I did all the hard work of finding the secret spots in the city over these last 13 years. And I want to introduce you to the 5 hidden gems in New York City that even most locals don’t know about.

1. Pier 57 Rooftop Park

Pier 57 Rooftop Park opened only in 2022. It’s still not that busy, maybe because it’s not located at street level, so unless you know about it, you won’t see it. 

The park is one of the largest in NYC and it has 360 views. As the name suggests it is located at Pier 57, which is very close to Chelsea Market and the Highline.

Little Island is right across the street, so you’ll have a fabulous view of it from Pier 57 Rooftop Park. You can also see the Downtown Manhattan area, including the new World Trade Center building. 

There are lots of benches where you can sit down with a snack from Pier 57 Market (my personal favorite is ice cream from Malai) and watch the view while catching up with a friend.

There are also multiple lawns where you can have a picnic or just lie in the sun. And it even has bleachers that can be used for movie screenings during the summer. 

The park is open from 7 am to 10 pm every day and it’s worth a spot on your itinerary.

2. A piece of the Berlin Wall in Manhattan

What if I told you that you don’t have to travel to Berlin to see a piece of the Berlin Wall? It’s true! There’s a small piece of it on display in Manhattan.

You don’t even have to go to a museum to see it. It’s located in Kowsky Plaza in Battery Park City and it’s free to the public. It’s a very short walk from the 9/11 Memorial. The exact location is 393 South End Ave, New York, NY 10280.

The piece was gifted to the Battery Park City Authority by the German Consulate in 2004 as a thank-you for their commitment to using street art as a means of education. It features one of Thierry Noir’s famous heads against a green background. It’s amazing to have such an important piece of history in New York City.

3. Rainforest inside the Ford Foundation building

 

When you think of New York, one of the first things that probably comes to mind is skyscrapers. That’s because there are over 7,000 of them in NYC. One of the last things that comes to mind is a rainforest. 

So, what did the designers of the Ford Foundation building think? We can’t have a rainforest in the city, so we’ll put it in a skyscraper instead. A jungle in the middle of the concrete jungle, the Ford Foundation Garden is home to about 40 different species of plants. It also has a small, square, reflecting pool. 

The Ford Foundation building has an art gallery next to the garden. Visiting both the garden and the art gallery is free.

The exact address is 320 East 43rd Street. The garden is open to the public from 11 am to 6 pm Monday-Friday and Saturday from 11 am to 6 pm only when the gallery has an exhibition on view.

4. Roosevelt Island tramway

Roosevelt Island is a small island between Manhattan and Queens named after the 32nd president of the United States, Franklin Roosevelt. Throughout its history, the island was mainly used for hospitals, and it currently houses the ruins of a smallpox hospital from 1856.

I recommend you visit it in the spring because it has a lot of cherry blossom trees and it’s gorgeous. While you’re there, get a drink at the Panorama Room, a rooftop bar with 360-degree views of New York City.  

This little Island is a great spot to visit, but how you get there is equally as cool: the Roosevelt Island Tramway. It is the oldest urban tramway in the United States that’s still operating today. You can take it from the Upper East Side and in a few minutes, you’ll be on the island.

The view is amazing, especially on the way back when you can see the Manhattan skyline in front of you. A ticket costs $2.90 one way, the same as taking the subway or bus in the city. 

5. Greenacre Park

Greenacre Park is a small, urban park located in midtown Manhattan, close to Rockefeller Center and the Museum of Modern Art. The exact address is 217 E 51st St, New York, NY 10022.

The park was opened in 1971. It has a waterfall made of granite blocks, colorful flowers, and trees. There are chairs throughout the entire park where you can sit down and take in the serene atmosphere. This little park is such a tranquil spot in the middle of the busiest part of town. I highly recommend it if you need to recharge your batteries for a bit.

The park is open from 8 am to 6 pm every day. 

Ioana runs The Solo Travel in Style Blog

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