In NYC for a few days, Nov 6-11, looking for a random, unique, off the beaten path experience? Into art, museums, music, graffiti and culture.
If you REALLY want an off the beaten path experience, then you'll have to leave Manhattan.
WHAT?! Leave Manhattan? Yes, because there isn't much in Manhattan that's not already well known.
Astoria is often called the most diverse neighborhood in the United States. Which also means it has a diverse set of cuisines and cultures to experience. A few notable places in Astoria are: Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden, the oldest beer garden in NYC, and Astoria Park, which has great views of the Manhattan skyline. Astoria also has some of the best Greek food in the city. King Of Falafel & Shawarma is one of my favorite street food carts in the city.
This may not be in Astoria, but it's totally worth checking out. It's probably my favorite cocktail bar in the city. Dutch Kills. Get there early and grab a booth!
Jackson Heights is a foodie's heaven. This neighborhood is the most diverse neighborhood in terms of food. You can find food from Pakistan, Korea, Philippines, and Nepal, on the same block. A couple places I like to go to are Jackson Diner - Jackson Heights, SriPraPhai, and Krystal's Cafe & Pastry Shop.
Flushing is the largest Chinatown outside of Manhattan. It is my favorite area to go for dim sum. It's also a bustling neighborhood, more a city than a suburb. Flushing is the home to Citi Field stadium where the Mets play, and the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, home of the U.S. Open. As for food, all you have to do is to walk down Main St around the 7 train station and follow your nose. A few places I really like are Biang!, which specializes in Xi'an cuisine, and Jade Asian Restaurant, which is great for dim sum.
So while you're in NYC, venture off the beaten path and see what Queens has to offer. You'll be pleasantly surprised.
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There is a good strip of Galleries in Chelsea you can walk around and make a day of it
David Zwirner Gallery 525 W 19th St
Gagosian Gallery 555 W 24th St
And then walk the HighLine High Line Park
Eat dinner - at Beauty & Essex - use to be an old pawn shop - the front is still a pawn shop with guitars and cool jewelry 146 Essex St.
make sure to make a reservation
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It's not cheap but I would go see Woody Allen play jazz at the Cafe Carlyle. He's in his late 70s so he's probably not going to be there too much longer and years from now you can say you saw him there. He'll be playing when you're there.
I'm not a graffiti fan myself but Graff Tours offer tours of the city's best.
If spending the day picking through a beach littered with horse bones and garbage from the early 1900's appeals to you, check out Dead Horse Bay.
Really cool old glassware is constantly washing up. I've found shoes, an unopened bottle of laxative, and even a Baby Brownie:
Go to see Sleep No more--it's an immersive theater experience that's unbelievable.
I HIGHLY recommend signing up for Jeff Stark's http://nonsensenyc.com/
What is Nonsense NYC?
Nonsense NYC is a discriminating resource for independent art, weird events, strange happenings, unique parties, and senseless culture in New York City.
What does that mean?
We send out an email every Friday about unique events occurring the following week.
What kind of stuff?
Street events, loft parties, puppet shows, bike rallies, costume balls, interactive art shows, movies in unusual places, parades, outlaw dancing, guerilla theater, burlesque and variety shows, loser open mikes, circuses and absurdist pranks. Nonsense covers the stuff that has no name, or a name that you feel really awkward and self-conscious saying out loud, like "underground."
Check out Sleep no More for interactive theater. Take a tour of Green-Wood Cemetery. And like one of the other contributors said, just walk through Queens along Roosevelt Ave — you'll move through all sorts of different ethnic neighborhoods with lots of good food (I second the rec for SriPraPhai!). You could also take the ferry to Staten Island for Sri Lankan food or go to Enoteca Maria and have Italian food from a cast of rotating grandmas. Ride the East River Ferry for a nice skyline view.
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The Lower East Side can provide you with all the music, graffiti and culture you could ever want. The bars and clubs are fun and unique and there's plenty of live music on any given night. I recommend Ivan Ramen 25 Clinton St for a fun dinner. If you get the chance you should also look into the speakeasy below Crif Dogs 113 St Marks Pl. It's difficult to get into (you have to call early in the day for a reservation) and it's pricey too, but worth it for the experience!
My favorite thing I did was to go to Dizzy's Club Coca Cola at the Lincoln center. We got in late so there was a late night show at 11:30pm. It's amazing to listen to talented Jazz groups. Must do!!
Sammy's--wear comfortable shoes and prepare to laugh your ass off while dancing and eating. Another NYC option is Jr's exhibit in the hi spiral of Ellis Island. It's for a limited time, you have to wear a hard hat--google it. Jr is an incredible French artist.
Take the L train to Brooklyn, get off at Jefferson stop, wander around to see the graffiti and stop by at Secret Project Robot for a local experience.