Oh, New York: There really is no other place like it. It’s big, it’s brash, it’s (sometimes) beautiful, and whether you love to hate it or hate to love it, it’s pretty much guaranteed there’s something for everyone just waiting. only to be discovered. It’s one of those cities where you could live a lifetime and still find something new to see, do, or experience every day. But, if you’re a tourist looking for something a little different, or maybe you’re a local on your last legs, here are some tips for the weird, wacky, unusual, and unheard-of things to do for your next Big Apple adventure.
More than 100 blocks north of Central Park, the Medieval Cloister, located in Washington Heights, is actually a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The museum specializes in art and artifacts from the Middle Ages, including original stained glass windows, illuminated manuscripts and, most famously, a remarkable collection of tapestries, including the 16th-century Hunt of the Unicorn tapestries. Of course, the main event is the cloister itself, which is original and sourced from medieval abbeys and monasteries in France and Spain, dismantled, shipped to New York and then resurrected, with astonishing precision and attention to detail. . After your tour, take a stroll through beautiful Fort Tryon Park, then, when you’re hungry, head to nearby Arthur Avenue and eat through authentic Little Italy in the Bronx.
Tucked away on Church Street in Tribeca is Dream House, a sound and light installation and occasional performance venue. While iterations of the space have been around since the 60s, the current version was created in 1993 by visual artist Marian Zazeela and minimalist composer La Monte Young. Dream House is the culmination of their two works, featuring Young’s continuous sine wave composition and Zazeela’s own lighting, illuminating rooms with a neon pink and purple glow. Set inside an unassuming apartment, with just a white neon sign on the front door reading THE DREAMHOUSE as a guide, the space offers a fully immersive meditative experience and allows visitors to stay as long as they want it.
Designed by the inimitable Isamu Noguchi himself, the Noguchi Museum in Queens is a must-see for any true lover of art, architecture or design. The museum is entirely dedicated to the preservation and presentation of the sculptures, furniture designs, drawings and architectural models of the famous Japanese-American sculptor, best known for his geometric light sculptures made of Akari bamboo. Housed inside a converted factory building, the museum also houses a peaceful outdoor garden, showcasing Noguchi’s sculptures and illustrating the artist’s exploration of the world of Japanese garden design. Don’t forget to buy yourself something nice from the museum’s cleverly curated shop on your way out. If your day still has room for a bit more art, pass by the Socrates Sculpture Park across the road before stopping.
Rooftop Reds, located atop a building in Brooklyn’s Navy Yard, is the world’s first commercially viable rooftop vineyard. Since the spring of 2016, they have disrupted the New York State wine market with their unprecedented levels of innovation and viticultural expertise, creating wines of excellent quality. For all the wine lovers out there, you no longer need to travel to a remote corner of the globe to enjoy a world-class winery. Instead, enjoy sweeping views of Lower Manhattan while sipping on some of their finest red wines, with grapes grown right here. If you want to learn a bit more about the process and their different wines, attend one of their tours and tastings. They even have regular pizza, wine and movie nights!
The Alice Austen House Museum in Staten Island is an iconic and important site for LGBTQ+ history and also the history of photography. The Victorian Gothic Cottage, also known as Clear Comfort and now a National Historic Landmark, was once the home of Alice Austen, a wealthy lesbian who became one of America’s first and most prolific female photographers. Austen was one of the first female photographers to work outside the studio, capturing life on the streets of New York during the Victorian era. She was a rebel who broke free from the rigid expectations of her time and captured images of her private life and women’s intimate relationships. She even spent 30 years living with her partner Gertrude Tate in the house. The museum features rotating exhibits as well as a permanent exhibit dedicated to Austen’s life, work, and the home that became his darkroom, refuge, and endless source of inspiration for generations of New Yorkers. .
Midnight Moment is the world’s largest and oldest digital art exhibition in New York’s most iconic venue, Times Square. Every evening, from exactly 11:57 p.m. until midnight, the billboards take a break from their regular programming and instead spend three minutes showcasing digital works by a variety of contemporary artists. Sure, Times Square isn’t an unusual or unfamiliar place to visit in the Big Apple, but Midnight Moment is something special; if you have planned a late night it is worth stopping by.
Hidden inside an old freight elevator on Cortlandt Alley in midtown Manhattan, you’ll find the Mmuseumm, New York’s smallest museum. The tiny space, first opened in 2012 by Alex Kalman and the Safdie brothers, the filmmakers behind Uncut Gems, is considered a “modern natural history” museum that focuses on exhibiting objects that shed light on the human condition and current events. Although the collection changes every year, notable items include death row meal receipts, prisoner crafts, censored Saudi pool toys and handkerchiefs used by world leaders. The museum’s entire 2020 collection has also been commemorated in a coffee table book and is available for purchase. Drop by anytime to view the collection through glass or, if you’re feeling extra curious, private tours are available by appointment.
If you’ve been through this list and are still looking for something else, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to add these honorable mentions: Tenement Museum, The Frick Collection, The Basilica of St Patrick’s Old Cathedral, Evolution Store, City Hall Station, Morgan Library and Museum, Shakespeare in the Park, Elevated Acre, City Island and Cooper Hewitt. Enjoy!
Photo of the Cloister from Unsplash
Photo of Alice Austen’s house by Elise Rolle under Creative Commons License
Bryony Parker is a writer and artist currently living in São Paulo, Brazil, working on her Masters in International Affairs. You can find it on @by666ker on all social networks.