10 Offbeat Places To Visit In NYC In 2015

Visiting New York City in 2015? Whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned tourist, there are always places to see that are new, that have changed or which you have not seen before. I have lived here my whole life and I still find sites that I have overlooked previously. 2015 will be a good year to swing by NYC and here are ten lesser known places that I recommend.


1. Inwood Hill Park. Manhattan has its share of wonderful parks. Central Park is considered the grand dame, due to its huge size and vast array of attractions. Madison Square Park has a lovely layout and nice statues. Tompkins Square Park has intriguing historical pieces and the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival in late August. Yet Inwood Hill Park is special. It is the northernmost park, with breath-taking views, loads of hiking trails, an Indian cave and more. Take the A train (cue up the music by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn) to the 207th Street station, which has lively wall decorations and a history of the neighborhood.
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2. Shepard Hall, City College. City College is a public college located in the Harlem-Hamilton Heights part of Manhattan. This is the most beautiful building on the campus, outside and inside as well. If you like neo-Gothic architecture, this site is a must-see.

3. 636 and 638 East 6th Street. The East Village neighborhood is not as gritty as it had been in the 1960s but it still has a lot of rough charm. These near-twin buildings were both synagogues decades ago, designed by noted architect Calvert Vaux, known for working on Central Park, parts of the American Museum of Natural History and more. Now #636 is a church and #638 is a rainbow-hued community center. Both retain Judaica on the exteriors and interiors.


4. Poe House. You like Edgar Allan Poe, don’t you? Come see his final home, a white wooden house in a public park. Located on the Grand Concourse, everyone should see this because it is a magnificent and lesser known boulevard with Art Deco buildings. Take the B or D train to Kingsbridge Road and walk a half block south to visit this gem.

5. Hall of Fame for Great Americans. Located on the pretty campus of Bronx Community College, in a colonnade designed by Stanford White, a visit to this site provides a history and art lesson that is unparalleled as well as quirky. Found here is a group of busts of prestigious Americans, known for achievements in politics, art, science, literature and more. Many you will recognize (Robert Fulton, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln) and others are obscure (Matthew Fontaine Maury, a scientist; Sylvanus Thayer, “the Father of West Point”).


6. Louis Armstrong House. This unassuming house in Corona, Queens was jazz legend Armstrong’ home in NYC. In fact, several African-American jazz and popular musicians lived in this middle-class neighborhood. Armstrong’s house is modest from the outside but has really nice interior features. My kids liked the elaborately decked-out bathroom, and the kitchen is a cool period piece.

7. The Unisphere. This wonderful metal globe sculpture is found in Flushing Meadows Park. I would call it a second-tier iconic image of NYC; not nearly as well known or as frequently visited as sites in midtown Manhattan, but an enduring symbol of the 1964 World’s Fair. Twelve stories high, with a fountain and gardens surrounding it, people love to pose with it, skateboard and bike around it, and more.


8. George Westinghouse High School. Downtown Brooklyn has a lot of interesting features, such as Borough Hall, the Court buildings, parks and shopping. If you are in the area, don’t overlook this large public high school building on John Street near Jay Street. Alma Mater of rapper Jay-Z, the Romanesque Revival front of this school is particularly stately.

photo by Ellen Levitt
photo by Ellen Levitt

9. The Carroll Street Bridge. So you’ve walked over the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, and enjoy spans? Check out the Carroll Street Bridge. Built in 1889, it is one of only two retractile bridges remaining in New York State. It goes over the Gowanus Canal, a Superfund site.

10. The Vitagraph Studios Smokestack. Before Hollywood there was Brooklyn, a film capital of the US. The major remnant of this industry is the Smokestack, a salmon-colored brick structure with the name “Vitagrah” written on it vertically. You can see it on foot or from the southbound Q or B trains, just before the Avenue M station. Currently the ‘stack is cloaked in scaffolding and rumors swirl that it may be knocked down. Visit it before it (possibly) is demolished or relocated!
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Happy trails! See you.

Ellen Levitt is the author of The Lost Synagogues of Brooklyn (2009), The Lost Synagogues of the Bronx and Queens (2011) and The Lost Synagogues of Manhattan (2013), all published by Avotaynu. She is a lifelong New Yorker, a veteran public school teacher, writer and photographer. Bird lover as well.