If you have been following me for a while, you will know that I just spent some time living in NYC. While this city has been written over more than enough, but here are some unusual things to do in NYC that you will not find in every guidebook. I love that city, so today I want to share with you some of the unusual events I have found.
General Guidelines for NYC
Staying in New York City is super expensive, so it is worth going outside of Manhattan. Brooklyn, Queens, and even New Jersey are great options with a steep price decline. It is still expensive compared to most other cities, but cheap for NYC. Be careful staying in AirBnBs in New York City, especially Manhattan, since the government is trying to shut them down so they don't take up as many of the rentable apartments.
Understanding the New York City grid system is very simple since so many people have to do it daily. The avenues go from East to West interrupted by Lexington, Park and Madison Avenue. The streets are numbered from South to North above downtown. If you see the East or West that shows which side of the island it is on. The numbering starts from Broadway or Central Park. It sounds a bit complicated now, but you will get the hang of it very quickly.
Getting around the city can easily be done with public transport or taxis. The Metro was my best friend while living there. You can get almost anywhere using one of the metro lines. Be aware of the express trains though. These are lines that run the same path as others but only stop at about half the stops. For example, the red line has 1, 2, and 3 running on this line. While the 1 is a local line and stops everywhere, the 2 and the 3 only stop at certain stations. So it is important to know if the stop you are going to is serviced by all trains or only local ones. You can also use the busses around, especially down 5th avenue. They usually run on the same Avenue, so they are not hard to navigate.
Time to visit New York City
I would always suggest coming either in the spring or in the fall. The summer is very uncomfortable because of the heat and the crowns. Winter is too cold and the weather is unpredictable. the spring and fall have nice weather and still enough activities going on to be able to enjoy everything New York has to offer.
Baptist Service at the Abyssinian Baptist Church
This is one of the most amazing experiences I got to enjoy while in New York City. This church has one of the most well-known gospel choirs in NYC and therefore it is amazing to go see them. The choir is wonderful, but the church, the community, and the priest all make this experience memorable. When I went, there were many people interested and when I arrived one hour early there were already people in line. They will hand you a yellow paper, which is like your ticket, to hand to the lady at the entrance when you get let in. This is what they use to count the people.
A couple of house rules. This is a proper service you are visiting, so make sure you are dressed appropriately for such an event. This means shoulders covered and parts or skirts past the knees. You are also not allowed to take in backpacks into the church. If you need any more details to the service or the guidelines, you can visit their website.
Opera on Tap
Opera on Tap is one of the most awesome ideas for bringing the arts closer to the people. This crew is trying to make opera more accessible by performing it in bars. They perform different songs in a setting that is more comfortable for them. I attended a couple of events in different parts of the city. The singers are really good and the crowd is super into it. You don't have to know any of the songs or stories, but if you think you might like opera but going to one seems intimidating, this is a great idea. This is one of the most unusual things to do in NYC and I loved the experience. Check out their Facebook page for future events when you are in town.
This cute neighborhood just across the Hudson River in New Jersey is worth the trip. Most famous for the bakery of Budy from Cake Boss, Hoboken offers a great break from the bustling of Manhattan. It is a more residential neighborhood with more green and space than the crowded city. You can enjoy a day in the park with a gorgeous view of the Manhattan skyline. There are many cute restaurants for brunch or lunch. And just walking along the main street will give you a feel of more history than Manhattan. I lived close by here and loved coming to Hoboken. You just need to take the New Jersey Transit to Hoboken station and then take a walk. You will need to have money on your metro card, but the ride should cost you no more than 3$. While maybe not the most unusual thing to do in NYC, it is definitely worth the trip.
Do you want to know more about my time living in New York City and what you should know before moving there, you can read all about that here.
Spoken Word Poetry events
I love spoken word poetry and love going to live events when I am in a country where I understand the language. If you have not discovered this amazing art form yet, I will link one of my favorite videos here, so you can go enjoy it. Since New York is known to be the city for arts, you can find many performances around the city. You usually have to pay a small entry fee, probably around 10$. The locations where these events are held are also usually fun and interesting, so try to arrive a bit early to enjoy the unique event spaces.
The one I went to was organized by Secret Loft. They are a group that does different types of events from poetry events to dance shows. They do a great job organizing them and some of the artists are really good. You can totally attend alone. Since it is theater-style, there is no need to talk to anyone and the room is usually dark. You can check them out here.
This is a still unknown corner of New York City. Most of you have probably heard of Chinatown in the center of Manhattan, but it has become very touristy over the last couple of years. You can still find some of the traditional food and Chinese restaurants in this area. However, if you want a true feeling of China these days, you need to head out to Flushing. This area in the East of NYC will make you feel like you are in China. You can find all the typical products and food, as well as signs in Mandarin. It is a lot of fun to try and find your way around this area, especially if you come with a Mandarin speaker. I loved the nostalgia it brought me from the time I lived in China and, of course, the food was delicious
There are two ways to get to Flushing. You can take the Metro 7 all the way to the final station Flushing main street. This costs the same as other metro rides, but it can take about one hour. The other way to get there is to take the Long Island Rail Road to Flushing. This way may cost you about 9$ return, but will only take about 20 minutes max. You can grab these trains at Penn Station in Manhattan.
Activities in Bryan Park
If you come closer to summer, you might be able to take advantage of all the fun activities happening in Bryan Park. They do anything from dance performances, acting, free movie projections, and many many more. I have attended many of their events after work or during lunch break. They are a lot of fun to go with friends. The planners are very prepared with chairs and blankets but feel free to bring your own. Check out their Facebook page for information about the next events they are running.
Those are my unusual things to do in New York City. They are a bit off the beaten path but they were some of my favorites. Regardless of you are a tourist or a local, you should check them out.
Do you have any favorite unusual spots in NYC? I would love to hear about them in the comments or on social media.