New York Hidden Gems: 14 Must-See Secret NYC Attractions

New York Hidden Gems

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New York City's rich heritage, design, and culture attract millions of tourists annually.

The city is home to breathtaking sceneries, historic landmarks, and iconic monuments like the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, and many more. Even if you've never visited, the New York skyline often depicted in Hollywood movies is enough to captivate you.

But these famous sites are not all there is to NYC. There are many hidden gems in the city that the movies do not capture. Some of them are so secret that many people do not know their existence.

These New York hidden gems offer an exhilarating tourism experience beyond visiting familiar places. Plus, tourist activities' buzz is less frequent here because they're less known. Here are some of the best-hidden gems of NYC.

1. Experience the Whispering Gallery in Grand Central Station

This NYC's magical spot is hidden in plain sight. In the lower concourse of Grand Central Station, just in front of Oyster & Bay restaurant, is an ordinary-looking archway. But this is no ordinary archway.

If you stand on one corner of the arch and speak to someone on the opposite corner, the person will hear clearly. Even when speaking in whispers, your voice transmits clearly to the recipient despite the buzz of commuters. Sound waves clinging to the wall are responsible for this phenomenon.

Known as the whispering gallery, It has become a favorite marriage proposal spot for New Yorkers. You will almost always find a couple whispering sweet nothings to each other.

2. Visit the Secret Garden of Rockefeller Center

The Rockefeller Center is a historic landmark in Manhattan and a popular photography spot. Home to NBC studios, Top of the Rock Observation Deck, Radio City Music Hall, shopping complexes, restaurants, ice-skating rink, and a giant Christmas tree, the 12-acre complex of 14 buildings is a tourist's dream. Especially during winter.

As you can imagine, the Rockefeller Center is one of the top things to see when visiting New York on Christmas. But, aside from its well-known spots, there's one hidden gem in it that not everyone knows about.

Right at the top of this famous landmark is a secret garden. The beautiful rooftop garden was initially designed to connect the rooftops of all the buildings in the center, but the plan wasn't eventually followed. The garden can be sighted from the Rock Observation Deck. You can also book it for a garden event.

3. Touch the Original Berlin Wall

Remember the Berlin wall? You don't have to travel to Europe to see this vital piece of 20th-century history. When the wall separating East and West Berlin was taken down, its parts were distributed across the globe. Five ended up in New York City.

A 20-foot segment of the wall was bought from the East German Government and brought to NYC by real estate mogul Jerry Speyer. The wall is on public display at 520 madison avenue. You can touch the wall and take all the photographs you want.

Artist Thierry Noir did the painting on the wall. He began painting the west side of the wall in 1980 to make it look less formidable.

4. Walk Through New York's Glass Waterfall Tunnel

New York is full of surprises. One of them is a glass waterfall tunnel right in the middle of Manhattan. The glass waterfall lies against the western side of the McGraw building and is a 4-minutes walk from the hustle and bustle of Times Square. The serene waterfall attracts lots of tourists.

The glass tunnel provides a pathway to walk right through the waterfall. It evokes the feeling of walking in a soothing rainfall. You can stand in the tunnel and enjoy the sound and feel of being inside a waterfall without getting wet. And don't forget to take pictures.

5. Get a Glimpse Into the Past at the Stone Street

New York City has a rich historical and cultural heritage. There are beautiful reminders of the past here and there, one of which is Stone Street. Tucked in downtown Manhattan's Financial District and hidden behind skyscrapers, Stone Street transports you back to old Europe. It is one of the historical streets in the city and the first to be paved with cobblestones. New York City was called New Amsterdam and was hardly a city at the time.

The old street is intact, and the cobblestones are well preserved. Cars are not allowed on the street, and most historic buildings have been preserved. Restaurants, bars, and cafes line the road, offering indoor and outdoor dining. Stone Street is one place you're sure to get great food in NYC. Plus, no cars mean no traffic.

6. Visit the Old CityHall Subway Station - One of the Prettiest NY Subway Station

Commissioned in 1904, the old city hall subway station in lower Manhattan was the New York subway's epicenter. Beautiful arches, vaulted tiled ceilings, brass chandeliers, and stained glass windows are some of the magnificent features of this station. The subway station's design incorporated Spanish architecture.

The old city hall station was closed off in 1945 when newer subway cars could not fit into its curved tracks. It is a true hidden gem and one of the hardest to see in NYC. But if you stay on the downtown 6 train when it turns around, you might be lucky to catch a glimpse of this station.

MTA Transit Museum runs an occasional tour of this museum. And yes, this old station remains one of the prettiest subway stations in NYC. You can enjoy its magnificent design better on tour.

7. Get Lost in the Book Lover's Dream at the Morgan Library

The museum & research library is situated in Murray Hill, Manhattan, a short walk from Grand Central. It was originally the private library of financier Pierpont Morgan and was formally called Pierpont Morgan Library.

Now a public institution, the library houses rare artwork, literature, and music collections. It also holds exhibitions of its collections, amongst which are speeches and poems of iconic figures like Abraham Lincoln.

The library was built in the Italian Renaissance palazzo style designed by renowned architect Charles McKim. It features grand tapestries, stained glass, a colossal marble fireplace, 3-foot ceilings, and three tiers of walnut and bronze bookcases. It is an incredible place and indeed the book lover's dream.

8. Take A Journey to the Middle Ages at The Met Cloisters

It's hard to imagine a medieval castle tucked amidst New York's glass and steel skyscrapers unless you have visited the Met Cloisters. The Met Cloisters is part of Fort Tryon Park in Upper Manhattan and overlooks the Hudson river. It is one hidden gem that wants to stay hidden.

The Cloisters take you on a trip to the middle ages. It is a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art devoted to European art history. It is constructed with elements of actual medieval cloisters all around Europe.

You can book to take a tour of the Cloisters. You'll enjoy the view of its stunning tapestries, manicured gardens, covered pathways, stained glass, manuscripts, and central square—all relics of the middle ages.

9. Don't Miss the Hidden Tropical Rainforest Surrounded By Steel and Glass- It's A Must See

It's hard to believe that a tropical rainforest can co-exist side by side with glass and steel skyscrapers. It becomes more intriguing when you discover the rainforest inside an office building. But that's what's magical about New York City - everything is possible.

This hidden gem is located inside the Ford Foundation building, a few blocks from the United Nations Building. You can pass the building a hundred times and never notice the wonder it houses. But once you walk in, you'll discover a fascinating tropical rainforest growing in the middle of the building, surrounded by 12-story glass and steel.

The rainforest comprises tall trees, hanging ferns, dwarf shrubs, a pool, and the soothing sound of trickling water. It gets its water supply from rainfall collected on the roof. Although privately owned, the forest is accessible to the public during working hours on weekdays. The forest offers a quick escape from the noise of Times Square.

10. Visit One If By Land, Two If By Sea - One of the Most Interesting Restaurants in the City

Your tour of NYC is incomplete if you've not dined in one of its charming restaurants. One if by Land, Two if by Sea is a restaurant you don't want to miss.

Known for its classic menu and signature dish, Beef Wellington, this restaurant is steeped in history, culture, and class. Its name is a historical event and operates from a 1767 Greenwich Village carriage house. One of the historic places in NYC, the restaurant's warm decor features a fireplace, candlelit tables, and a baby grand piano. It's said to be New York's most romantic restaurant.

One if by Land, Two if by Sea opens six nights a week at 5:30 pm, but you have to book a reservation at least one week ahead.

Visit the west village restaurant for a taste and feel of NYC's romance culture.

11. See the Warren Place Mews - The Architectural Hidden Gem of NYC

There are certain hidden gems in New York City you would never find if you didn't know they existed. The Warren Place Mews is one of them. It's a quaint neighborhood with brick townhouses joined together. You might forget you're still in Brooklyn.

Developed in Victorian gothic style, the neighborhood features red brick houses with peaked arch doorways that take you back to Old England. It was built between 1878 and 1879 as a working-class housing development.

Today the gated neighborhood is premium real estate owned by NYC's elite. You'll certainly find your dream house here although the homes are seldom up for sale.

12. Head to the Forest Hills Garden - Enchanting Old English Village Queens

The Forest Hills Garden is another neighborhood that exists in stark contrast to the skyscrapers of New York. The community was built in 1910 and modeled after a traditional English Village. You'd think an entire village was uprooted from the UK and planted in New York City.

True to its traditional village design, the neighborhood features Tudor houses, a town square, a post office, two parks, an inn, a garage, and a shopping village. It also has a town center with a train station.

You'll enjoy the gorgeous view of the charming neighborhood and the feeling of living in a village across the pond. One in Queens, NYC.

13. Enjoy the Stunning Views of Central Park from the Met Roof Garden Bar

Central Park is one of the biggest tourist attractions in NYC. The park covers over 700 acres with diverse secret spots. It's almost impossible to explore the Park in one visit thoroughly. However, you can enjoy a stunning view of the Park from the top of the Metropolitan Museum. That way, you'll cover as far as your eyes can see.

The Met Rooftop Bar provides a panoramic view of Central Park and New York City. You can drink in the fantastic scenery along with your wine or cocktail. The Gaden is only open when the museum is and often overflows with tourists during weekends. You can visit on a weekday if you want a quiet environment.

14. Experience the Gothic Revival Architecture at the Smallpox Hospital

Located on Roosevelt Island, the abandoned smallpox hospital is a sight to behold. Its intriguing history and Gothic revival architecture attract thousands of tourists.

This hidden gem is one of the best-kept secrets of New York City. Built in 1856, the hospital served as a quarantine center for smallpox patients. During its operation, the hospital treated over 7,000 smallpox patients annually. The hospital was relocated in 1875, and this castle-like building was converted into a nurses' dormitory and eventually abandoned.

Its ruins were designated as an NYC landmark in 1975 and have been well-preserved ever since. Although rumors of ghost sightings within the ruins abound, what you're sure to find there are a lot of cats.

You can get to this secret spot by taking the Roosevelt Island Tram on Upper East Side or the F-Train.

Travelling to NY: Do You Need a Visa?

If you’re thinking about visiting New York and exploring its well-known attractions and off-the-beaten paths, there are a few things to keep in mind. For starters, you’ll need to obtain some type of visa for New York.

If your trip to the US will be for 90 days or less and you come from one of the countries that are part of the Visa Waiver Program, you can apply for the ESTA for NYC. The application process is fast and simple, and it can be carried out online.

Keep in mind that it is possible to apply for ESTA as a group or a family. If you’re staying for more than 90 days, you will need to obtain either Category B1 (business purposes) or Category B2 (tourism) visa.

Best New York Hidden Gems and Alternative Sights: The Takeaway

New York is a city of wonder, magic, and surprises with lots of hidden gems and incredible places, as you've seen. Most of its streets and buildings have a rich history dating back to a different era. And many are still hidden.

To enjoy your trip to NYC, it's best to map out the gems you'll love to see and plan your trip around them. For the secret spots that are not always open to public display, it's good you call ahead to book a tour reservation. You might also want to add the Little Red Lighthouse which is hidden under the George Washington bridge to your list. Also, if you have plenty of time to explore the hidden gems of New York, you should consider adding these sights to your list:

  • The Pomander Walk on the Upper West Side
  • Visit the New York Harbor to see the Queens National Park
  • The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge
  • Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Remember to watch out for old buildings, quaint neighborhoods, and weird streets. That way, you won't miss any of NYC's incredible sights, sounds, and tastes.

Written by Abisola Fikayomi

Abisola is an accomplished writer interested in US Travel, immigration, passports and visas. She’s passionate about exploring new places and cultures and willing to share her experiences, expertize and findings with others. That is her primary drive for specialising in this industry.


The coolest thing about New York is its rich cultural and historical heritage. Its history, cultural diversity, unique architecture, and entertainment options attract tourists from around the globe. One moment you're in an ultra-modern street, and a few minutes later, you're in the middle of a rainforest, a waterfall, or even in the middle ages.
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