58 Cool Things to Do in NYC That Turn Visits Into Epic Stories (revised!)

June 4, 2015

I’m always looking for incredible things to do in NYC—hidden gems and New York attractions that most people don’t know about (unless you hear it from “the natives”) that I can share with friends and guests at my shows.

I updated the list I posted in 2010 and have added more of the coolest, quirkiest things to do in New York that are guaranteed to not only keep you busy for years to come, but also leave you with stories to share for life.

Please enjoy and share these…

  1. Indulge in a Seared Rock Lobster & Asparagus Omelet or the “Donut Even Go There French Toast” breakfast, served every day until 3:00 pm at Norma’s.
  2. Great way to see the downtown skyline: the Ikea Express Shuttle. Free weekend service between Pier 11 near Wall Street and the Ikea store in Red Hook, Brooklyn. (Of course another free option is the Staten Island Ferry.)
  3. Tour Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery, a designated National Historic Landmark for its beautiful art and landscaping.
  4. Get spooked in Gowanus, Brooklyn at the Morbid Anatomy Museum.
  5. Go to a Brooklyn Cyclones baseball game on a Friday or Saturday night (check the schedule), stay for the fireworks show afterward, then walk the Coney Island boardwalk. Rides and funnel cakes optional.
  6. Spend an afternoon or a day at Snug Harbor in Staten Island. Performing arts, a maritime museum, a botanic garden, and a tiny castle are all within walking distance.
  7. The Millionaires’ Magician. Share a suite in the exclusive Waldorf-Astoria for a private Chamber Magic show with legendary magician Steve Cohen. (I hear this guy’s amazing, lol. C’mon, you know I had to throw my show “into the hat!”)
  8. Sample some real NYC pickles (and other pickled vegetables) at Brooklyn Brine, then stay for lunch at the Pickle Shack.
  9. Plan a visit to the Waterfront Museum in Red Hook, Brooklyn—a combination working houseboat, performance space, and mini-gallery.
  10. Take the Roosevelt Island tram from Manhattan for the price of a subway fare and stroll the skinny island’s length down to the impressive Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park.
  11. Hit the City Reliquary for a unique and personal collection of New York memorabilia packed into a cozy corner of Brooklyn.
  12. Socrates Sculpture Park. See large-scale sculpture & multimedia installations in a Queens waterfront park with unparalleled views of the Manhattan skyline at sunset.
  13. Catch an offbeat film in a small theater and get food and drink delivered to your seat at Williamsburg, Brooklyn’s Nitehawk Cinema.
  14. Soak up river views and a festive-yet-classy al fresco dining experience at the West 79th Street Boat Basin Café.
  15. Get a jump on the day with Morning Gloryville’s 6:30 am “immersive morning dance experience.”
  16. Late-night dim-sum in Chinatown at Wo Hop (they’re open 10:00 am – 7:00 am every day!).
  17. Habana Outpost. Sustainable Cuban fare in a cool, eclectic eatery and bar. Ride a stationery bike to power the blender for your frozen drinks and save $1 off the price!
  18. Cupcake Wars on foot! Walk between four legendary NYC cupcakeries; rate them (and burn off the calories) as you go: Billy’s Bakery, Cupcake Café, Magnolia Bakery, Butter Lane.
  19. Have a chocolate orgasm at Max Brenner. You can even make a reservation at their chocolate bar!
  20. During the holidays, no festivity can beat a walk around Dyker Heights, Brooklyn’s famous Christmas light displays.
  21. Tour the unique food landscapes of NYC with Foods of New York Tours.
  22. Sleep No More. Experience the award-winning, site-specific, interactive British theater production. Shakespeare like you’ve never seen it.
  23. Enjoy a night of master storytelling at The Moth.
  24. Go Funderground! Laugh off a long day at the Upright Citizens Brigade.
  25. The New York Earth Room. 3,600 sq ft of pristine dirt on display at a Wooster Street gallery.
  26. World’s Coolest Map Room. The Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division of the New York Public Library. A 7,000 sq ft map room; home of the largest map collection of any public library in the world, all in 1911 Beaux-Arts glory!
  27. Accomplice: The Show. Organize a group of friends and go on a unique NYC scavenger hunt/mission/game/tour with these stealthy professionals (I loved this!).
  28. Drink in the jazz on a floating barge in Brooklyn with Bargemusic.
  29. Martinis at the Roof Garden Café at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
  30. Trapeze School New York. Fly through the air 23 feet above ground!
  31. Kitchen Arts & Letters: Revel in 12,000 books on food and drink, including out-of-print, rare, and classic cookbooks.
  32. Harlem Gospel Walking Tour. Experience the wonderful sounds of gospel music and take part in a Harlem church service.
  33. The Mandarin Oriental Lobby Lounge. Stop by for afternoon tea, lunch, or evening cocktails and enjoy a stunning view of Central Park (one of my favorite spots).
  34. Nap it up! Tired after a tough day of touring? Take a “YeloCab” power nap at Yelo Spa.
  35. Sakagura Sake Lounge. Serving over 200 types of sake, Sakagura has become one of the top sake bars in the U.S.
  36. Rock music’s best pics. Check out legendary rock images at Soho’s Morrison Hotel Gallery.
  37. Urasenke Chanoyu Center. Learn the art of tea ceremony through demonstrations and classes.
  38. Radiostar Karaoke has original vintage high-end entertainment decor, and is located in the heart of the Fashion District. Belt out some tunes with friends in a private room and let your inner rock star sing.
  39. Kalustyan’s Spices. No matter what spice you’re looking for, you will find it here.
  40. Spa on Steroids. Wall-to-wall and rooftop whirlpools and much more water fun in the outer reaches of Queens at Spa Castle.
  41. Where comics come alive! The Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art.
  42. Kayaking NYC-style with Long Island City Community Boathouse in Queens.
  43. Drool over billions in gold. There are billions of dollars in gold bars below ground in NYC. Learn all about it at the Federal Reserve Bank (reservations required).
  44. Make a shopping stop at beloved emporium of Asian goods, Pearl River.
  45. Remember and honor 9/11 victims at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.
  46. Beer’s last stand. Grab a beer and visit the oldest beer garden in NYC—Bohemian Hall in Queens.
  47. The real Little Italy. Authentic Italian cooking and delicacies on Arthur Avenue, the Little Italy of the Bronx. Dine at Roberto Restaurant for dinner—it’s worth the wait!
  48. Historic houses of NYC. Visit a historic NYC home with the Historic House Trust.
  49. Explore the city’s skyline from the ground at The Skyscraper Museum.
  50. Brooklyn Flea outdoor market (& its food equivalent, Smorgasburg).
  51. Visit the only medical library open to the public in NYC at the New York Academy of Medicine library (appointment necessary).
  52. New York Philharmonic open rehearsals. Take a sneak peek and listen to the masters shape and polish classic works.
  53. The Frying Pan. Eat, drink, and explore on this historic floating lighthouse docked in Chelsea.
  54. Retreat to the first museum in the world devoted solely to Tibetan art, the serene Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art on Staten Island.
  55. Cake-baker’s heaven. Unleash your inner Martha at New York Cake Baking Supplies & Education.
  56. Get out the binoculars and discover a unique world of birds at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.
  57. This ain’t your grandma’s ping-pong. SPiN New York, a 13,000 square foot table-tennis social club located off of Park Avenue in Manhattan’s Flatiron District.
  58. The 100-year-old original City Hall subway station with arched tiles, chandeliers, leaded skylights, and Guastavino ceilings, designed by Heins & LaFarge. It’s been closed to the public since 1945, but can be seen by staying on the #6 local train after the end of the line riding southbound, and looping around to enter the Brooklyn Bridge station northbound (provided the conductor lets you stay on). The Transit Museum also runs sporadic tours.