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8 Unusual Places You Should See in New York City, Part 1

Dominique is the author of Walk in Boston & Walk in NYC, two sites with 18 self-guided tours to visit Boston or New York on foot.


To create New York Citywalks, I explored nearly every corners of the city.

This allowed me to come across many unusual places, often far from the beaten path but sometimes just under my nose.

It's some of these places that I invite you to discover today.

I chose 8 of them but there are more to see when you follow or read each walk.

The 4 ones here are in Queens, Lower Manhattan and Midtown. The 4 others are in Central Park and Upper Manhattan and they are described in Part 2 of this article (the link is at the end).

Socrates Sculpture Park, 30-01, Vernon Blvd, Astoria

Walk in NYC # 6, along the East River, part 3

Walk in NYC # 6, along the East River, part 3

This small park, free and open everyday from 9am to sunset, is on the Astoria side of the East River.

In it, contemporary sculptors have a chance to show their work and you'll have nice views of Upper Manhattan on the other side of the river. It even looks like there's a workshop on location.

Spend 30 minutes there, then go next door to the Noguchi Museum and outdoor garden created by the Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi. It host his sculptures, drawings, and models.

A bit further, don't miss the 150 Welling Court Murals, born from a project in 2009 to spice up the neighborhood. They have since become one of the best display of contemporary murals in the city.

Finally and to end this visit in style, go to 31st St. in Astoria and find Greek restaurants that are a specialty of the neighborhood.

Lighthouse, Roosevelt Island

Walk in NYC # 5, along the East River, parts 1 & 2

Walk in NYC # 5, along the East River, parts 1 & 2

In 1872 the city decided to build a lighthouse on what was Blackwell Island at the time, a little piece of land off Roosevelt Island but now part of it. The waters in the area were called the "Hell gate" and boaters needed to be warned.

The legend is that one of the patients in the next door Lunatic Asylum had built a seawall there. Then another one had built a fort on it because he feared a British invasion. They had to be convinced to cede their dwellings in order for the lighthouse to be erected!

In any case, the inmates of the now closed Roosevelt Island Penitentiary carried the stones used to construct it.

You can pair this visit with a visit to the other tip of the island. It will be a quiet respite from the sounds of Manhattan.

Take the tramway on 59th St. and once on the island, go first toward the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedom Park. Then walk toward the lighthouse, passing the South Point Park, Cornell Tech and its audacious buildings, the Roosevelt Island Library and the Octagon, all worth a look or a visit.

If you remembered to bring a picnic, the lawn next to the lighthouse will reveal itself to be a excellent place to have it. Then why not reading Roosevelt Island (images of America) to see and learn how was the island before you came here?

Statue of Lenin, 178 Norfolk St. rooftop, Downtown Manhattan

Walk in NYC # 9: Bohemian East Village

Walk in NYC # 9: Bohemian East Village

It stands like the Statue of Liberty but yes, it's a real statue of Lenin, made in USSR around 1988.

By the time it was finished, the Soviet Union had collapsed and no one had any use for such a statue. It ended up in a rural Russian estate, then found its way to NYC, bought and shipped by the owners of the Red Square building, the building you'll see at the end of the street with an unusual clock.

When this building was sold, the statue eventually found its actual location, still looking toward Wall Street in a nod to the tradition of anti-conformism of the neighborhood.

Not far from it, you'll find many museums to occupy your time: the Tenement Museum, the New Museum, the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Spaces and the International Center for Photography. All are quite interesting and after their visit, you'll have a large choice of restaurants waiting for you in the neighborhood.

The Morgan Library and Museum, 225 Madison Ave, Midtown

Walk in NYC # 7, Midtown from Grand Central to Union Park

Walk in NYC # 7, Midtown from Grand Central to Union Park

The Morgan Library and Museum is not far from Grand Central and the Empire State Building and it could be why it seems to be overlooked.

Don't overlook it, though!

Built by financier Pierpont Morgan around 1906 to house its private library with rare books, manuscripts, prints and drawings bought all over the Western hemisphere, it became, according to his will, a place open to everyone in 1924.

Since then, additions have been made to the main building designed in Classical Revival style, the latest one being a modernist entrance achieved in 2006.

The buildings themselves are impressive but the riches they contain and the setting they are in are also quite a sight.

You'll also find there a reading room and an exhibition hall often dedicated to contemporary prints (as the museum extended the scope of its initial collection).

And if all this art made you hungry, try Koreatown and its restaurants, they are on 32nd St., just a few steps away.

NB: the entrance of the library is free on Fridays from 3pm to 5pm.

And now

It's time to go to part 2 of this article and read about the 4 more unusual places I found in New York City.

However, if you'd rather go directly to the Walks and see what else they offer, they are at NewYork.Citywalks.Space.


Dominique Lecomte (author) from Medford, MA, USA on December 02, 2020:

Hi Peggy, I'm not sure you got my replies on this article and the other one you commented on -I don't understand yet how the comments works, so I thought I would send you a note from here now that I found this place!

Dominique Lecomte (author) from Medford, MA, USA on December 02, 2020:

Thanks Peggy. The library is indeed a gem!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on December 02, 2020:

You have pointed out some interesting places in NYC. That library looks magnificent!

Liz Westwood from UK on December 02, 2020:

This is a useful travel guide for visitors.