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10 of the Most Unique Things to do While Visiting NYC

By Kacey M. Bradley
Lifestyle Blogger and Freelance Writer The Drifter Collective

When visiting one of the biggest tourist centers of the U.S., and the world, you don’t want to be tied down to the traditional tourist sites.

Get off the beaten path and check out some of these unique New York activities:


A spinoff of popular flea market Brooklyn Flea, Smorgasburg brings together over 100 food vendors from New York and the surrounding area in one food market extravaganza. Vendors include nationally recognized food brands like Pipcorn (seen on Shark Tank) and Ramen Burger, as well as regional favorites like Red Hook Lobster Pound and Milk Truck grilled cheese. Check out their outdoor locations in the summer, or in the colder months, visit their indoor locations in Queens and Industry City, Brooklyn.

P.S. 1

For those looking for some art outside of the famous Museum Mile, head to Long Island City, Queens, to MoMa’s sister museum: P.S. 1. Home to installations done by some of the world’s foremost artists you’ve never heard of, P.S. 1 is on the cutting edge of modern art in New York City. If you’re in town over the summer, head over on Saturdays for the Warm Up Session, an open dance party you can participate in for free.

Improv Show

Skip the Broadway lights and head to the comedy club basement instead. A comedy or improv show is a great way to get laughing, and to discover new talent. It’s well known that a lot of comedians on shows like Saturday Night Live get a their starts at the Upright Citizens Brigade. With two locations in Manhattan, and many shows that cost just $5, it’s definitely worth a visit.

Live Music

If you’re into music, New York City is full of great spots to see live bands and musical acts. Check out any one of a number of bars that offer regular live music, like The Delancey and Pianos on the Lower East Side, or Union Pool and Pete’s Candy store in Brooklyn. Summertime is prime outdoor concert and festival time, so be sure to check out the free concert series in Central Park or Governors Ball, held on Randall’s Island.

Gotham West Market

You’ve heard of Chelsea Market, but what about Gotham West? This Hell’s Kitchen market is foodie heaven. Even though you have to trek out to 11th avenue, Gotham West’s selection of delectable eats, along with its on-premise bike shop, is worth the walk. With just eight carefully chosen artisan vendors, you’ll have trouble deciding whether you should have a cuban sandwich or a bowl of rye ramen first!

The Strand

Book lovers from far and wide flock to The Strand, on Broadway and East 12th Street, for its boasted “18 Miles of Books” on three floors. This historic bookstore carries new releases, used books, dollar book racks, and more, in addition to its rare books room. With bookshelves floor to ceiling and regular talks and book signings by prominent writers. Check out the staff recommendation tables, and browse their online schedule for upcoming events.

Rough Trade

While music and record stores in the city are fast becoming a thing of the past, a visit to Rough Trade, in Williamsburg, will make you forget all of that. An outpost of a legendary London record shop, Rough Trade Williamsburg has rows of vinyl you can browse, in addition to books, art, ping-pong tables, and even a concert venue.

Coleman Skatepark

Even if you aren’t a skateboarder, Coleman Skatepark, on the Lower East Side, is worth checking out. As one of the only official skateparks in New York City, Coleman is home to a bunch of contests every year, daily skate sessions for kids, and unofficial jams and competitions as they arise. Bring your board and get on the numerous ramps and ledges, or just sit on the sidelines and watch skaters do some crazy tricks.

Tom’s Restaurant

You’ll surely recognize the iconic blue and orange neon sign above this diner in Morningside Heights. Just a few blocks from the picturesque Columbia University campus, Tom’s Restaurant is a must-have photo opportunity for any Seinfeld fan visiting the city. Snap a picture outside and then head in for a cup of coffee and some classic diner fare. But make sure you visit the ATM first; this sitcom set is cash only.

Paley Center for Media

If you’re looking for a change of pace from the traditional art museum, check out the Paley Center for Media. This homage to popular culture and media of all kinds, the Paley Center hosts nearly 150,000 clips from television, radio programs, and podcasts, among others. In the heart of midtown, the Paley Center is easily accessible from anywhere in the city, and hosts public programs and events throughout the year.