11 New York Secrets: the less well known must see sights of New York City!

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New York is full to the brim of secret sights and surprises and we made it our mission to find the best of its hidden gems! Here’s our guide to 11 of the best and less well known tourist attractions in New York City!

New York Secret Sights
The New York City Skyline

1 | Berlin Wall, Manhattan

We were definitely surprised when we stumbled across remnants of the Berlin Wall in the middle of a Manhattan courtyard!

There are pieces of the Berlin Wall scattered all over the world and New York has secured its own piece of German history with two sections of the Wall currently on public display: one at Battery Park and the second in the UN plaza.

It was fascinating to see sections of the wall on display as public art and a poignant reminder of such a monumental period of history.

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The Berlin Wall, 53rd between 5th and Madison (this section is currently under restoration and not on public display)

2 | Life Underground, New York subway

The New York subway is never dull but make sure to keep your eyes peeled for the whimsical bronze statues which make up ‘Life Underground’, a series of cartoonish people and animal sculptures illustrating the impossibility of understanding life in New York.

The statues depict business men, construction workers and even a sewer alligator dressed in a shirt and tie.

Their surprise appearance is sure to brighten up any trip underground!

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Life Underground, 14th Street and 8th Avenue subway station

New York City Pass

The NYC Pass is a great option for visitors to NYC and gives you over 40% off entry (including expedited entry to some) to 6 of the city’s most popular attractions- check prices here!

Click here to buy a New York City Pass

3 | A birds eye view of Times Square!

There’s nothing secret about Times Square but these panoramic views of the crossroads of the world have to be seen to be believed!

Above the crowds and craziness of Times Square, the hidden cocktail bars (our favourite is the R Lounge in the Renaissance Hotel where we often stay) offer incredible views of the bright lights and yellow cabs the city is so famous for! Click here for latest prices

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The best view of Times Square! R Lounge, Renaissance Hotel, 48th and 7th

Where to stay in New York

We’ve stayed all over the city during our trips to NYC. Here’s some of our faves:

  • Pod 51:  an awesome and funky option close to the Rockefeller Center. A great budget friendly choice in the city – click here for latest prices
  • Renaissance Times Square: for its Times Square location, spacious rooms and the stunning R Lounge bar. Enjoy cocktails in the evenings overlooking the iconic Times Square lights! – click here for latest prices
  • SIXTY Lower East Side: when we want explore downtown with an incredible rooftop pool! This one is not to be missed. – click here for latest prices
  • Hi NYC: on the Upper West Side is a great hostel option – click here for latest prices

Click here for the best NYC hotel prices

4 | Alice and Wonderland, Central Park

Dreams are made in New York city and the Alice in Wonderland statue tucked away in Central Park perfectly indulges childhood dreams!

The Mad Hatter, the March Hare, the Cheshire Cat, the Dormouse and Alice are all in attendance at this tea party and we were delighted to join as a guest!

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Alice in Wonderland statue, East 74th Street, Central Park

5 | The Morgan Library

The Morgan Library is one of the most beautiful places we’ve come across in New York City. It began as the private library of financier Pierpont Morgan and his son, J.P. Morgan, transformed it into a public institution.

The stunning library is a book lovers dream and the personal study is incredible.

The library also houses temporary exhibitions and we were lucky to chance upon Lincoln Speaks, an exhibition illustrating how Lincoln’s words changed the course of history.

Our highlight was Walt Whitman’s handwritten copy of ‘O Captain, My Captain’, his mourning poem written in honour of Abraham Lincoln. And no, I can’t stop reciting it either!

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The Morgan Library, 37th and Madison
New York secret sights ©thewholeworldisaplayground
A piece from the collection

6 | Irish Hunger Memorial

Under the beautiful backdrop of Lady Liberty and One World Trade Center, the Irish Hunger memorial is a reminder of both the famine and the fact that hunger and poverty continue to exist today.

We were stunned by its elegance from the moment we walked through the entry tunnel filled with poignant quotes and the journey through the memorial is serene and peaceful.

Over 1 million people died as a result of the Famine in Ireland between 1845 and 1852 and around 1 million more emigrated.

The memorial contains stones from each of the Irish counties and represents a rural Irish landscape with an abandoned stone cottage and fallow potato fields.

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The abandoned cottage
New York secret sights ©thewholeworldisaplayground
County stones

7 | Whispering Galleries, Grand Central

Separated by a stream of commuters I was a little sceptical as we stood in diagonally opposite corners of the Grand Central concourse attempting to whisper sweet nothings to each other across the hallway.

That was until I heard the husband’s voice, clear as day, apparently travelling through the ceiling.

It’s all down to the sound waves clinging to the walls but, to us, it was New York magic! It’s the simple things in life!

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Whispering Galleries, in front of the Oyster Bar, Grand Central
Photos like this are an added Grand Central bonus!

8 | Pomander Walk

As we caught sight of Pomander Walk on the Upper West Side it felt like we’d stepped onto an old England street. The colourful Tudor style buildings seem like a miniature movie set in contrast to the high rises that surround the tiny complex.

It’s now a National Landmark and Pomander Walk is locked and gated so a view from the sidewalk may be the only chance of catching a glimpse these days!

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The entrance to Pomander Walk
New York secret sights ©thewholeworldisaplayground
Pomander Walk, West 96th between Broadway and West End Avenue

9 | Roosevelt Island Aerial Tramway

Beautiful views of Manhattan and the East River together with the novelty of a cable car ride and all for a single swipe of a Metro Card: the Roosevelt Island tram ride is a win win trip in New York City!

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East River views
New York secret sights ©thewholeworldisaplayground
Roosevelt Island Tram, 59th and 2nd

10 | A waterfall and a 1/2 avenue!

Every New York office worker knows the secret shortcut down 6 1/2 avenue from 51st to 57th street, a pedestrianized escape from the craziness of midtown Manhattan.

Paley Park, with its 20 foot waterfall, is situated close by as is the glass waterfall tunnel. Who would have thought Midtown Manhattan could double up as a tropical oasis?!

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Paley Park, 53rd and 5th
New York secret sights ©thewholeworldisaplayground
Waterfall Tunnel, 48th between 6th and 7th
New York secret sights ©thewholeworldisaplayground

11 | Love quotes in Central Park 

On a morning run in Central Park we stopped to tie our laces and noticed a plaque inscribed on the bench: ‘this is a place to dream things that never were – and ask why not’.

And so began our love affair with the Central Park benches! Around 1/3 of the park benches have been ‘adopted’ and inscribed with a personal quote. Let the search begin for your favourite!

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We love!
New York secret sights ©thewholeworldisaplayground
Located throughout Central Park

What are your favourite secret sights in New York? Let us know in the comments!

38 thoughts on “11 New York Secrets: the less well known must see sights of New York City!”

  1. I loved this post! I recently spent three months in NYC, and on my days off I would try to tick off a ‘hidden secret’ from my list! I wish I had seen the waterfall – guess I’ll have to go back!

  2. I thoroughly enjoyed this post! Thank you so much for sharing:-) I am traveling to NYC for the third time and this was exactly what I was looking for. Such lovely unexpected places you’ve shared…looking forward to exploring some of these:-)

    • Thanks Andele, we’re so glad you liked the article. NYC is so fab for keeping finding things to do. We lived there for 2 years and still didn’t get to do everything! Enjoy your trip!

  3. These are some very cool ideas. I had no idea about any of them. I love the idea of the cable car especially. Do you have any photos of the view from the cable car?

  4. My favorite ‘secret place’ is the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in Morningside Heights! The grounds are gorgeous and there are peacocks roaming around!

  5. wow! I just know new 9 things about NYC from ur article. I just moved to NYC in January and I think its hard to cover all NYC has to offer. Phew.. better start moving! really love ur blog

  6. Thank you so much for sharing those secrets! 🙂 I was looking for secret gems for a while and your post was the first one that captured exactly what I was looking for. I am so excited to travel to NYC in August and discover all those places.

    • Thanks so much for the lovely comment Carolin, it’s so nice to hear that the article is useful! After so many visits and living there we wanted to find some new places to take our visitors and that’s how the list came about! Let us know how you get on in August and if you discover anywhere else for the list!

  7. I am from South Africa and have visited NYC 3 times now and one of my favorite spots and less know touristy places is The Cloisters with its medieval herb garden…peaceful and very special! Next trip I will certainly try a few on your list – these kinds of places are always more exciting to me than the hot spots!

    • Great suggestion Clare, the Cloisters are fab! Hope you get to try a few more of the spots on the list, I’m going back in the summer and now on the hunt for some more!!


  8. The van cortlandt museum (an 18th century stone house) is another gem. Take the A train to the end. It is right at van cortlandt park in northern Manhattan. I also love the New York historical society on the upper west side, across from Central Park and near the museum of natural history.

  9. I loved this post and I live in NY, right next the city. Sometimes you don’t notice things even when it’s under your nose. Thanks for your unique article and more for sharing it with all ! Xoxo

  10. We are going to NYC for the first time…..ever this week!! Overwhelmed at all there is to do. This list helps, thank you for posting!

  11. Leaving tomorrow to head out there for a third time in 2 years with our daughter, but my like 12th! Loved stumbling across these type of recs. Always nice to find hidden gems I have not already explored in my many trips to NYC.


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