FACT: New York is full of cool shiz to do. So why do people end up visiting the same sights on their third visit as they did on their first? Yes, everyone should experience the Statue of Liberty and take a ride to the top of the Empire State Building at least once in their lives, but once you've ticked those off the list it's time for the real fun to begin! What kind of fun, you say? Well it just so happens that I've compiled a list of the top 10 alternative things to do in NYC! Why not give one of them a go the next time you're in the Big Apple?
1. Join the Circus
New York has a surprisingly vibrant circus scene, so why not try your hand at an aerial silks class or a bit of trapeze? Who knows, maybe you're a natural-born circus freak! There are lots of classes around the city to choose from, or you can check out the New York Trapeze School where those brave enough can hurl themselves off a platform 23 feet in the air. Word of advice: maybe consider eating lunch afterwards.
If you're more of a watcher than a doer (*teehee*), why not check out the circus and burlesque acts at The Slipper Room?
2. Enjoy an Indian rave with your meal
For over 25 years, there's been a battle raging in the East Village between two warring Indian restaurants: Milon and Panna II. Sitting side by side and sporting pretty much the exact same decor/ menu, you'd be forgiven for thinking they were the same place. But as you arrive at the bottom of the steps leading up to the two restaurants (the two ground-floor restaurants are for the suckers who can't handle the competitive heat - stay strong, people!) you'll suddenly find yourself pulled (often literally) in opposite directions, with one man trying to pull you through Milon's doors and another man guaranteeing you immediate seating in Panna II. Just go with it and don't worry too much about which one you end up in as they're pretty similar!
Once seated, you'll be rushed through the fastest meal of your life (on our visit the waiters literally took the table cloth out from under us in an attempt to get us out the door), but it's all part of the chaotic fun. And chaotic it most certainly is! The decor alone, with the ceiling and walls completely covered in millions of Christmas tree lights, is enough to give even the strongest-willed an epileptic fit. And then suddenly the lights go down, the music starts thumping and everyone around you starts WHOO-ing. Because at Milon and Panna II, it's EVERYONE'S birthday. And a birthday here will get you a half-melted dollop of ice cream, a candle, and a whole lot of tacky spectacle. WHOOOOOO!
My best advice is to leave your inhibitions at the door, brace yourself for a crazy evening, and don't forget to tell the waiter that it's your birthday!
An additional heads up: both places are cash only and it's BYOB.
3. Forget everything you thought you knew about shuffleboard
Shuffleboard is a game that's usually associated with cute elderly grandpas in flat caps. But not anymore. Only Brooklyn could make something as "lame" as shuffleboard cool again, but make it cool they have, with the Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club. Basically, it's shuffleboard for hipsters.
In addition to the giant shuffleboard courts, there's also a well-stocked bar serving craft beer in mason jars (like I said, shuffleboard for hipsters), giant Jenga, and several other games to keep your group occupied while you wait for a lane to open up. Courts can be rented out by the hour for $40 on a first-come first-served basis. I'd advise going on a weekday or on Sunday when the waits tend to be less insane (on Saturdays the wait time for a lane can easily reach 4+ hours).
4. Be transported to a different world on Governors Island
I like everything about Governors Island. First of all, you have to take a ferry to get there, and I find traveling by boat to be super luxurious. Secondly, it's home to some of the best summer events. There's the Jazz Age Lawn Party where everyone dresses like characters out of The Great Gatsby and pretends to know how to do the Charleston, and then there's Figment, a huge art festival where all the hippies and thespians of New York can proudly fly their weird flag.
Whatever you're going for, it's pretty much guaranteed that you're in for a great day away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
5. Have cocktails in a phone booth
Your first task, should you choose to accept it, is to start calling the booking line the second the clock strikes 3pm. On my first attempt, I called 200 times (thank goodness for the redial button), only to get through to someone at 3:12pm and be told that they were already fully booked. The next day, however, my 86th dial resulted in sweet success!
What's the cause of all this madness, you ask? The answer is New York's most popular and nearly-impossible-to-get-into speakeasy, Please Don't Tell. The bar is pretty tiny and bookings are only taken on the day with phone lines opening at 3pm. The demand for spots is crazy high, so you've just got to cross your fingers and keep hitting that redial button.
Once you've managed to snag a booking, head to Crif Dogs in the East Village. From the outside, it looks like an ordinary New York hot dog shop. But once inside, you'll see a small phone booth on your left. Jump inside, dial 1, and before you know it a wall inside the phone booth will open up to reveal the hidden speakeasy that lays beyond.
Once inside, you can drink to your hearts content. Amazingly, if you have a slightly later booking, they won't rush you out. Considering how high the demand is here, this is both impressive and much appreciated. So sit back, sip your cocktail, and enjoy your time in the most luxurious phone booth ever.
6. DRAG QUEEN BINGO!
Need I really say more? It's DRAG QUEEN BINGO! Check out Le Bingo at (Le) Poisson Rouge, or several of the other nights around town. Go now, thank me later.
7. Drink on a boat
I'm a firm believe that drinks are best consumed at sea. So why not check out the Frying Pan, a floating bar at Pier 66 Maritime on the Hudson River. There's beer, there's food, and it gives you a perfectly good excuse to yell "I'M ON A BOAT!" every ten minutes. Just don't forget your nautical-themed pashmina afghan.
For a slightly more decadent experience, check out Grand Banks, with it's oyster bar and nautically-inspired cocktails.
8. Check out New York's more, er, alternative art scene
Yes, there's the Guggenheim and the Met, but there are also tons of little independent art galleries and exhibitions scattered across the city. Just give it a google and pick one! Gallery openings are particularly great to attend if you can manage to snag a spot on the guest list (free drinks and nibbles!). And who knows, you might just discover the next big thing in the drag-queen-ballerina-bondage art world!
9. Take the tram to Roosevelt Island
Just a couple blocks from the Lexington Avenue subway station is a red tram waiting to take you to an oasis of peace and quiet. Enjoy the (slightly terrifying) ride over the East River and then relax to the max as you stroll around the narrow little island. For the full getaway experience, consider packing a picnic.
10. Get in touch with your inner Bohemian at the Bohemian Beer Hall
Nestled away on a quiet street in Astoria is the Bohemian Beer Hall, the oldest beer garden in New York. With a giant outdoor space filled with picnic tables, it's the perfect place to spend a sunny afternoon with friends. Drinks can be purchased by the mug or by the pitcher, and there's often live music on their large outdoor stage.
Oh, and did I mention that Astoria is also home to some of the most breathtaking sunsets in New York? Once you've had your fill of beer, be sure to wander over to the river and take in the spectacular views.
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And there you have it, my list of the Top 10 Alternative Things to Do in NYC!
Now go forth and rock out with your weird and wacky selves, you saucy minxes!
Pssssst, wondering what not to do in New York?
Drink bubble tea. Seriously, it's like drinking ground-up unicorn guts.