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NYC Guide

5 places in New York City that you never knew existed

One of the main pillars of my content here on the blog is to show people that New York City goes beyond the Empire State, Times Square, and the Statue of Liberty. In fact, New York City goes beyond Manhattan. This city is always reviving itself, it is a different city every season, it has new things every month. It is no wonder that most travelers, after visiting the city for the first time, keep coming back here. As a content creator and passionate about the city, I love to discover, explore, and share these spots outside the tourist area. If you live in New York City and are looking for different things to do or if you are coming here and want to skip the traditional route, here are some tips for places that are worthwhile!

Flushing, Queens – It is a neighborhood in Queens which is about 30-40 minutes from Manhattan and provides an incredible cultural immersion. To give you an idea, the Chinese-immigrant population of Flushing surpassed that of Manhattan’s Chinatown years ago. Approximately two-thirds of the residents in this Queens neighborhood are foreign-born—the vast majority of them coming from Asia. You will probably feel like you are not in New York City. Unlike Manhattan’s Chinatown, I think Flushing is a much more cool and authentic region. And with several things to do.

My top picks:

  • Spring Shabu-Shabu, hot pot restaurant – I really enjoy exploring different cuisines and I particularly love Asian food. I found Spring Shabu Shabu on FourSquare and what a delicious surprise! It is a Hot Pot restaurant – you cook your food. You choose the type of broth – fish, spicy, or vegetables – and the tables have a structure that keeps the soup boiling – you can control the temperature. Spring Shabu Shabu has a buffet, with several choices of fresh noodles, dumplings, mushrooms, all types of vegetables and salads and you cook it all in the water. And of course, you can add some sauces, available in a huge variety at the buffet. The price for the buffet is $12. Meat portions – including seafood – are available and start at $4. Address: 136-20 38th Avenue, 2nd Floor. 
  • Queens Museum, to check out Panorama, a room-sized scale model of the five boroughs originally built for the 1964 New York World’s Fair, and repeatedly updated since then. See, I am not a museum fan, but I recommend this visit. And this is because of Panorama. It is the jewel in the crown of the collection of the Queens Museum and a locus of memory for visitors from all over the globe. Conceived as a celebration of the City’s municipal infrastructure by urban mastermind and World’s Fair President Robert Moses for the 1964 Fair, the Panorama was built by a team of more than 100 people working for the great architectural model makers Raymond Lester & Associates over the course of three years. In planning the model, Lester referred to aerial photographs, Sanborn fire insurance maps, and a range of other City material as the Panorama had to be accurate, with the initial contract demanding less than one percent margin of error between reality and the “world’s largest scale model.” Comprising an area of 9,335 square feet and built to a scale of 1:1200 where one inch equals 100 feet, the Panorama is a metropolis in miniature. Each of the city’s 895,000 buildings constructed prior to 1992 and every street, park and some 100 bridges are represented and assembled onto 273 individual sections comprising the 320 square miles of New York City.  Without a doubt, it is one of the most amazing things I’ve seen here in New York.  Queens Museum opens from Wednesday to Sunday from 11am to 5pm. Suggested admission is $ 8 (but you can pay what you want). Address: Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Meridian Rd, Queens.
  • Corona Park, to see the Unisphere. Queens Museum is located at Corona Park and behind the museum is the highlight of the park and one of the most beautiful places in the city, in my opinion: Unisphere. It was designed by the architect Gilmore D. Clarke for the New York World’s Fair of 1964-65, 120-foot-diameter. During the summer, the fountain is turned on and the monument is even more beautiful. It is also worth remembering that Corona Park is a super large park area – there is also a zoo there – and that’s where also the US Open takes place. The New York Hall of Science is also located at Corona Park.

Red Hook, Brooklyn – the area is home to smaller, artisanal businesses and factories. If you never heard about it, it is where Ikea is located – but there is more than the famous furniture shopping at Red Hook! The quiet streets with cobblestones make you feel in a small country town. The area has restaurants and factories perfect for a day of tasting many delights. Because of the lack of nearby subway stations, the most convenient and fast way to get to Red Hook is using Water Taxi or NYC Ferry. Also, the views to Manhattan are fantastic! I would definitely recommend this place for a summer day, but you can also explore Red Hook during wintertime.

My top picks:

  • Wine tasting at Red Hook Winery – New York state has many vineyards and wineries, especially in Long Island. What I did not know was that it was not necessary to go so far as to visit a winery – you can go to Red Hook and visit Red Hook Winery. Located on the banks of the river, its focus is on viticulture in the state of New York. That is, the grapes used for the production of wines are all from the NY state, from 15 different producers located in North Fork, Long Island, and Finger Lake. One of the differentials of The Red Hook Winery is that they have three winemakers – Robert Foley, Abe Schoener, and Christopher Nicolson – and they use their know-how to produce the wine, resulting in many variations. The place has a social area, rustic decor, where you can taste wines from a wide selection. You can order a glass or a bottle or even get a tasting. The menu also has a selection of cheese and chips. The atmosphere is very cool, the staff is super attentive and the wines are a delight. The Red Hook Winery offers free tours every Saturday and Sunday 1pm – only for customers. We had the opportunity to do the tour and check the winery facilities and know a little more about the process of making wine. It was very interesting! Address: 175 Van Dyke St.
  • Authentic Texas-style BBQ at Hometown Bar-B-Que – some people say that this is the best place to have an authentic barbecue in New York. Bar-B-Que Hometown opened in 2013 and the special here are the smoked meats prepared with a common technique from the South. That is the best Texas-style. The meats include lamb, pork, chicken, and turkey. Of course, one of the place’s best-selling and best option is the rib. The meat melts! Everything is prepared only with salt – and then you can spice up your dish with the classic barbecue sauce. The price of meat varies from $ 11 to $ 30. The ribs are sold by weight – $ 26 a pound – which is quite enough for two people. Worth every penny. No doubt, it was one of the best steaks I have tasted here in New York. The menu also includes sandwiches – burgers style – $ 12 on average. Side dishes include the classic mac’n cheese, potato salad and even tacos – all in the range $ 4 to $ 12. You can click here and check out the full menu. It’s a walk-up service to counter on a first-come, first-served basis. Address: 454 Van Brunt St
  • Ice cream at Ample Hills Creamery Factory and Museum – this is one of the best ice creams in the city. Ample Hills Creamery was founded in the spring of 2011 by a married couple, Brian Smith and Jackie Cuscuna. Clocking in at 15,000sq ft, the Red Hook Factory is the largest ice cream production facility in New York City and besides that, the place features an interactive ice cream museum. The factory churns over 500,000 gallons of ice cream a year. The ice cream is creamy and delicious and besides the variety of flavors, they also offer an exclusive flavor called The Hook, a burnt sugar ice cream mixed with salty fudge bites and Dutch stroopwafels. Address: 421 Van Brunt St.
  • You can catch Water Taxi or NYC Ferry at Pier 11 to go to Red Hook

City Island, The Bronx – City Island is a small island neighborhood approximately 1.5 miles long and 0.5 miles wide, with a population of more than 4300 people. This island is part of The Bronx borough. Visit this place is to be transported to a small town with super beautiful landscapes and a great atmosphere – it’s known as the Cape Cod of New York City.  Because of its proximity to Long Island Sound, City Island played a significant role in shipbuilding during the 19th and 20th centuries. It serviced boats traveling to and from the city, and its factories were instrumental in assembling minesweepers and tugboats for both World Wars. Today, the nautical history is preserved through the City Island Nautical Museum, which features artifacts and documents that detail the neighborhood’s past. City Island has retained a unique small-town, atmosphere frequently compared to that of a New England fishing village. The island is super famous for its seafood restaurants and antique shops.

My top picks:

  • Lunch at one of the seafood restaurants – my suggestion: The Original Crab Shanty, with great portions and price – I was shocked by the number of restaurants in City Island, a fact that makes the place famous. The restaurant atmosphere is very friendly and the waitress who served us was an odd sympathy. Don’t expect a fancy place or Insta-worthy experience – but the food is good and the price is even better. The menu is huge (see photo above) with choices of dishes with lobster, crab, shrimp, calamari, oysters, and fish. A combo is good for two people. Also, as a courtesy, they serve delicious garlic bread. It is worth mentioning that the place also serves pasta – and the portions are huge!
  • Walking through the streets and seeing the charming houses – City Island has a main street, City Island Avenue, which goes from end to end. Along the avenue, there are two small supermarkets, a gas station, a pharmacy, a bank, and a variety of other small shops. Parallel to the main avenue you can see the residential streets. Full of charming houses, one more beautiful than the other, these streets make us feel in an American movie. Impossible not want to live in one of those houses.
  • Seeing the views from the end of Horton Street – Walking through the residential streets of the island, we also can see the views of the bay, and then, on a sunny day and blue sky, it is impossible not to want to enjoy the view from each of these streets. Most of them, unfortunately, have fences and protective walls. But, don’t give up: walk to the end of the island and you have a super cool space to enjoy the waterfront and a breathtaking sunset. You can enter the parking lot of Johnny’s Reef and take some pictures too. But for me, the most extraordinary view from City Island is at the end of Horton Street. This is one of the only streets where the fence is not high and you can enjoy a fantastic view of the water and even the Manhattan skyline as the background. It was one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen. And there are the super charming houses by the water.

To get there, use the 6 subway line until Pelham Bay Park. Get the Bx29 bus.

Governors Island – it is a 172 acre island in the heart of New York Harbor. It’s only 800 yards from Lower Manhattan, and even closer to Brooklyn. It is a world unto itself, unique and full of promise. Governors Island is an island that opens only during a period of the year (between May and October). This place has served as a military base for almost 200 years and now it is an amazing place for picnics, sports, and, why not, sightseeing. The view is privileged: you can see Manhattan’s skyline and even the Statue of Liberty. The structure is great: there are restrooms, playgrounds, food trucks, and bike rentals. Undoubtedly, a great place to spend a summer day! There are always special events there as well.

My top picks

  • Renting a bike to explore the island – there are CitiBike stations there – especially during a hot day, the best way to explore the island and see everything is renting a bike. CitiBike has some stations and you can rent a bike for up 45 minutes if you have a membership (30 minutes if you don’t have it). There is another company at the island that also offers bike rentals.
  • Visiting the South of the island, known as The Hills – located in the south of the island, this area has artificial hills up 70 feet above sea level, providing a 360-degree view. One of the hills has a lookout, with a view overlooking the Hudson River and the Statue of Liberty, and, of course, the view of the Manhattan skyline with the One World Trade Center and the other imposing buildings. The area of The Hills has paved lanes, where you can ride, as well as some extensive grassy areas to sit and relax. Check it out Slide Hill as well: rising 40 feet, is home to four slides, including New York City’s longest slide at 57 feet!
  • Having a picnic or event a drink at Island Oyster – Island Oyster was recently nominated for a James Beard Foundation award for Best Restaurant Design. Featuring easygoing summer fare, a tropically inspired cocktail program and panoramic views of New York Harbor and downtown Manhattan, is a perfect spot for a summer day. Not in the mood for oysters and drinks? Bring your snacks and have a picnic in one of the several areas on the island.

How to get there? There is a ferry every day during the season and the ticket (round trip) costs only $ 3! The place from where the ferry leaves – and where you buy the ticket – is next to the Staten Island Ferry.

Coney Island, Brooklyn – perhaps this place is known among everybody, but I thought it was worth the mention! Coney Island is a beach located in Brooklyn – and was featured on Beyonce’s video clip Xo (as well as movies and series). I’m from Brazil, so, I’m used to beautiful beaches (sorry, guys!), but Coney Island, for me, is cute and it has something like a vintage vibe. What makes the place special is the amusement park by the sea, with its iconic Ferris wheel, the environment, the vibe, the food. An unmissable thing to do in the spring/summer. I simply love it!

My top picks:

  • Walking at the boardwalk – especially at the end of a summer day! You will feel the breeze from the sea and you will be amazed by the ice cream shops and the amusement park that is part of the scenario. It is a delight to walk and enjoy the views. Also, go to the Fishing Pier to see the beach from there. Is it very special – and kind of crazy to realize how New York City is so diverse!
  • Trying the famous hot-dog from Nathan’s – a trip to Coney Island is not complete if you don’t try the most famous hot dog in the city – or even in the USA! Besides the classic hot dog, they have a full menu with a lot of options, like burgers and fish and chips. It is worth to notice that this is Nathan’s oldest location, from 1916! Every year, on Independence Day, a hot dog contest takes place there where the winner has to eat as many hot dogs as he or she can.
  • Have fun at the amusement park – or ride the Ferris wheel, if you are not brave (I don’t blame you, I’m not!). But the Ferris wheel is nostalgic, is fun and you can even see Manhattan from there. If you have an adventurous soul, try the Cyclone, a wooden roller coaster – and an old one: it opened to the public on June 26, 1927. You should also try Thunderbolt, the first-ever major steel roller coaster and the first of its kind,  that pays homage to the historic Thunderbolt roller coaster that was originally built in 1925, operated into the early 80s and was demolished in 2000. It features a nine-seat car with a state-of-the-art restraint system, an audacious 90 degree drop, with inversions, turns, and enough G-force to captivate the most intrepid visitors. For the kids, the park also offers calm rides, like carousels.

To get there, use D, F, N or Q subway lines.

Plan your day:

How did you like this post? What are the other not obvious places in NYC that you recommend? 

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