Ask anyone what to do in NYC and you'll get a comprehensive list of famous museums, events and restaurants. But what if you want to spend a day away from the crowds and go off-guidebook for a while? Try these lesser known sites and activities to get even more New York flavor.
Little Red Lighthouse
I'm enchanted with this retired vintage lighthouse tucked away under the George Washington bridge. It's situated on a beautiful strip of riverfront park and completely worth the low-key hike from the subway. Bring a picnic, your tennis racquet or your bike! There's tons to do before and after your photo op here.
This fascinating tour takes your through a preserved LES tenement building, still filled with furniture and personal items from the families who lived there around the turn-of-the-century. It's one thing to know the facts about the cramped quarters and challenging lives of many NYC immigrants; it's another to crowd into their tiny spaces and see their realities for yourself.
Roosevelt Island Tram
Wanna get outta town (sort of)? Swipe your Metrocard for access to the aerial tram with express service to Roosevelt Island — a journey of less than five minutes. Once there you can check out the remains of the smallpox hospital, hang out at the north point lighthouse or just stroll the 35-block length of the island and take in the views.
Merchant's House Museum
For an older and more aristocratic snapshot of historic NYC daily life, check out the Merchant Museum. This four story home of the well-do-to Tredwell family was built in 1832. It's preserved with the family's original furnishings and visitors can also tour the private garden. This home is especially interesting for its location: Bond street. The neighborhood was booming when the house was built thanks to its "uptown" location (this was before the Upper East Side became what it is today), but a few decades later began to transition to mostly workshops and saloons. Now, of course, this area is trendy again (in fact, this museum is blocks from the Apartment Therapy offices).
Flushing Meadows Corona Park
Head to this public park in Queens (the former home of Shea Stadium) to see the cool, space-age remnants of the Unisphere and pavillion which were built in honor of the 1964 World's Fair. Afterwards, hang out and enjoy the greenery and the lake (you can even rent a boat!) or visit the Queens Zoo. It's a nice change from the crowds in Central Park.
Okay New Yorkers, what other little known sites are your favorites?