New York City is one of the most popular tourist cities in the world. Even if you've never been to 'The Big Apple', chances are you would have heard of some of the more common adventures you can have on the city streets.
Perhaps a walk through Central Park, saunter up the Empire State Building or get dazzled by the bright lights of Times Square. We're not here to focus on those ones.
There are billions of articles out there about that. Instead, we want to focus on weird New York, The adventures that don't often attract many tourists. The odd and whacky side of NYC!
If you're after unique NYC experiences, then we've got you covered. We've gone through hundreds of places and reckon we have put together the ultimate guide to unusual things to do in NYC.
Are you ready? Great! We have a lot to cover.
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We’ll start by easing you into the unique New York experience with the Color Factory museum.
Yes. We know! Some of you are going to turn your noses up at the idea of a museum, but bear with us. There are a lot of them on this page, and each of them offers something completely unique.
The Color Factory is an art exhibition that celebrates (wait for it) color. Every room in this building is a colorful treat for your eyes.
As you walk through the museum, you'll be covered in confetti (designed to mimic the seasons), dance at a silent disco, and even swim through an insanely large ball pit.
Throughout the museum, you'll even get offered a variety of sweet treats and maybe the odd artist-created gift you can go home with.
The Color Factory is perfect for both adults and children alike. It is a must-visit for those interested in modern art and who want to feel as if they are part of the exhibit. In our opinion, this is one of the true hidden gems in NYC.
Address: 251 Spring St, New York City, NY 10013
Oh boy. Where do we start with Spyscape? Well, it is best known as a museum of spycraft, with plenty of exhibits from spy history within the walls.
Yeah. We know. We can hear you audibly groan at that. Don't worry, though. Once you've gone through the museum, you'll be diving into two of the most amazing exhibits in New York City. Ever wanted to be a spy? Well, now's your chance!
Experience one is SPYGAMES, designed with the CIA. This is a fitness and mental endurance test. You'll be running through an obstacle course and dabbling in a few mental exercises here and there.
All the while, you'll be picking up techniques used by the CIA. Who knows, if you perform well, you could be America's next spy (we can neither confirm nor deny that will happen!)
SPYHQ is designed by MI6, the CIA equivalent in the UK. You know, the fellas that James Bond works for. There’ll be far less physical endurance here.
Instead, you’ll be using the tools of the spy trade to detect liars, carry out surveillance, and crack codes. Extreme amounts of fun, and you really do feel like a spy while you’re doing it!
Recommended: Spyscape Spy Museum Admission Ticket
Address: 928 8th Ave, New York City, NY 10019
Have you ever been wandering around New York City and thought, "Man, I wish I was in Medieval Europe instead"? No? Well, we haven't either. Still, whenever we wander around the city, we do have to head over to the Met Cloisters.
Started in 1933, The Met Cloisters has been designed to look like an old medieval nunnery. A place for relaxation. And, you know what? Having been to Europe, we must say that the designers behind this building did a brilliant job.
As you wander through the Met Cloisters, you’ll see stunning pieces of replicated medieval art (they went all out on this place), with tombs (empty, thankfully), tapestries, and more.
Sure, it isn’t one of the most unusual things to do in NYC, but we love that it feels like a little part of Europe. Plus, it is a nice break from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the city.
Address: 99 Margaret Corbin Dr, New York City, NY 10040
Edgar Allen Poe is the king of the weird, so why not visit his old home? It’s out in the Bronx, so not too much of a hefty trip from the center of the city.
We must admit Edgar Allen Poe's cottage doesn't look like much. It is a museum, but it is absolutely tiny. A quaint building that does look a little rundown.
Pass this on the street, and you won't know that one of the greatest authors in the world's more mediocre pieces of work were written here (he couldn't really focus, his wife was seriously ill at the time).
There are some unique things to see inside. Much of Edgar Allen Poe's stuff is preserved here. You'll see his desk, writing chair, and, oh, his wife's deathbed (which contributed to his darkness).
Address: 2640 Grand Concourse, Bronx, NY 10458
Now we're really starting to get into the creepy stuff. Renwick Smallpox Hospital is located on Roosevelt Island.
As you can probably imagine from the name, many deaths happened here. In fact, it is regarded as one of the most haunted places in New York City. Spooky!
Back when Renwick Smallpox Hospital was built in 1903, smallpox ran rampant throughout New York City.
In a bid to control the outbreak, anybody suffering from smallpox was carted off to various isolated hospitals. Renwick Smallpox Hospital was one of them.
The Renwick Smallpox Hospital is nothing but ruins now. Decades of neglect left it to become nothing more than a hollow-out shell of its former self.
However, the building still looms over the East River. It is also one of the more unique buildings in this area, with a Gothic Style that wouldn't look out of place in old Europe.
So, why do we think this is one of the weird things to do in NYC? Well, for starters, we doubt many of your friends will have said they have visited a ruined smallpox hospital.
Plus, we’ve heard more than our fair share of creepy stories from the area. Perhaps if you’re quiet, you will hear the painful screams of a long-departed smallpox sufferer.
Address: E Rd, New York City, NY 10044
Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in New York City
No. We didn’t spell that incorrectly. In a bid to become one of the more unusual things to do in NYC, MMuseumm has decided to completely misspell the word museum.
This isn't a place that you'll be spending the whole day at, though. It is a tiny museum (just 36 square feet), and it is open 24 hours a day.
Actually, scratch that. We're not even sure if it is a museum. The team behind it isn't. It is that unique. We would like to consider it a hybrid blend between art and museum.
So, what can you find in Mmuseumm? Well, it changes depending on the season. The museum is located in just 2 rooms (one of which is an old elevator shaft) and is viewed through peepholes.
So, there's not a whopping amount here. It is just the sheer craziness of the museum that catches our attention.
There are coins from terrorists, weird objects that have saved people’s lives, a collection of cornflakes, product packaging from around the world, and, at one point, a shoe that hit President George Bush Jr. in the head.
One of the things that we really love about this museum is that while it may seem like a hastily assembled collection of items pulled out of a storage locker somewhere, it isn’t.
Each object in the building has a big story behind it. You won’t learn all of them, but it is nice to be among modern history.
Address: 4 Cortlandt Alley, New York City, NY 10013
Also Read: Best Museums in New York City You Must Visit
It’s no secret that New York City has a lot of rats wandering around the streets and sewers. Trust us. If you’re in NYC for more than a couple of days, you’ll see your fair share of rats.
There aren’t many places in New York City that celebrate the ghastly things, though. The only place is the Graybar Building, which has a few statutes of rats..although you’ll need to look hard for them.
The Graybar Building was built to celebrate the transportation history of New York City. It’s right next to Central Station.
One of the design elements of the Graybar Building is ‘nautical’. So, the various design elements kinda look like a ship, and this is where the rats come into place.
Centuries ago, rats had no issues climbing up riggings and getting into ships. As a result, a lot of 'inventions' were developed to try and keep the rats out.
One of these was baffles, which essentially filled up any holes to stop the rats from climbing the ropes and invading the ship. The statues are a tribute to that. The rats and baffles go together, showing that, under no circumstances will rats get into the Graybar Building.
Yes, we know that we wrote a whole lot about statutes that you will probably glance at for no more than a few minutes.
Statues that most people won't even realize are there, but, honestly, many of the unusual things to do in NYC are like this. They are not big exhibits. Just tiny things that are part of the NYC culture, and we love it.
Address: 420 Lexington Ave #2500, New York City, NY 10170
This is one of the cool things to do in NYC that you’ll need to book in advance.
Now, if you visit New York City, you’ll probably stumble across the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral. It is a stunning building that is well worth wandering around.
However, did you know that underneath this building are catacombs? Beautiful tunnels adorned with artwork…and the dead.
A trip into the New York Catacombs isn't for the faint of heart. It's beautiful but can get a little bit creepy.
As you wander through the catacombs, you'll be up close and personal with some famous dead New Yorkers while also learning about the history of the cathedral. Oh, and you'll be doing it all by candlelight, just for the extra creepy vibe.
We love this place because even many New Yorkers don’t know it exists.
Recommended: Book NYC Catacombs by Candlelight Tour
Address: 266 Mulberry St, New York City, NY 10012
You can't go to New York City without doing a bit of shopping, right? Some of the largest brands in the world have their flagship stores here. But we don't want to focus on them.
This is a page about the unique places to visit in NYC, and The Evolution Store is undoubtedly one of the most unique shopping experiences imaginable.
The Evolution Store is filled with incredibly unique pieces. You have fossils, preserved insects, taxidermied animals, books, and more.
It is a place for those who want to outfit their homes with more unique objects imaginable. For example, you can pick up a taxidermied raccoon, buy a T-rex skull, or even a tiger rug. There's something for everybody…if you like the creepy factor.
This place isn't cheap but worth walking around if you're after an incredibly unique souvenir from your trip to New York City.
Address: 687 Broadway, New York City, NY 10012
Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in New York State
Yep. Rudy's is just a bar. An old bar (founded in 1933 and operated as a speakeasy for a while), but a bar nonetheless…or is it? Well, OK. It is just a bar, but it has a unique twist, and we feel that the twist celebrates New York City and is one of the true hidden gems in NYC.
With every purchase at Rudy's, you get free hotdogs. How is that for a celebration of the city? If you fancy something a bit different from, to be honest, rather average hotdogs, they also have a full grill menu. But we love the free stuff. It goes great with the beer!
Address: 627 9th Ave, New York City, NY 10036
Yep. We have included some bathrooms on this list. We doubt there are many other places in the world, let alone the US, where a bathroom has become a tourist attraction.
Bryant Park Bathrooms always have a massive queue in them, so probably not a place you will want to head to if you're desperate to use the bathroom.
However, the wait is worth it. Walk into the building, and you'll be greeted by beautiful artwork, fresh flowers, and bathroom attendants. It is all free too (although we suggest you tip the attendants).
Honestly, there isn't a place more luxurious in NYC to 'do your business'; plus, if you want unique things to do in New York, you probably aren’t going to beat a luxurious public bathroom, right?
Address: 58 W 42nd St, New York City, NY 10036
Also Read: Most Unusual Places to Visit in the USA
As we continue our journey into weird NYC, we want to take you to a place that isn't wholly unique but very educational…and a lot of fun.
Even if you don't know math (which is probably most of the people reading this), the National Museum of Mathematics is still fascinating and a fun place to wander around.
As the name suggests, this place is a celebration of math. There are interactive exhibits inside that will stimulate the mind.
While there are certainly far more weird things to do in NYC, a lot of them won't be appreciated by children. This place will be. It is an incredible educational experience.
Address: 11 E 26th St, New York City, NY 10010
Also Read: Best Science Museums in the USA
If you are looking for hidden gems in NYC, you won't find something more hidden than Please Don't Tell. It is an old speakeasy cocktail bar still trying to remain secretive…and is incredibly tough to find.
You must head to East Village to get to Please Don't Tell. From here, watch for the Crif Dogs (a hot dog stand). Inside, there's a phone booth. Make a call. Somebody will be up to take you into this ultra-secretive cocktail bar.
Unfortunately, this isn't the sort of place you can waltz right into, the secretive nature notwithstanding. It is a tiny bar, so you'd need to book 7 days in advance. Still, once you're inside, you can enjoy some brilliant cocktails.
Address: 113 St Marks Pl, New York City, NY 10009
If you’re after crazy things to do in NYC, say hello to 'The Escape Game'. Yes, we know that escape rooms are no longer all that unique, but honestly, The Escape in New York City is more than worth a visit. It is far better than some of the other escape rooms that we've visited.
There are 7 unique escape experiences in The Escape Game, and if you have the time (and the money), you'll probably want to check them all out.
The games are wonderfully designed, and they each have their own skill level, so you can try and choose something that meets the experience/intellect of your group.
Here, you'll escape from underwater bases, prisons, playgrounds, gold rush homes, and more. You'll have a ton of fun with everybody that you bring along!
Recommended: Book 1-Hour Escape Room Adventure
Address: 295 Madison Ave, New York City, NY 10017
Also Read: Best Escape Rooms in the USA
There's street art all over New York City. You don't really have to look too far to see it. However, some of the best street art can be found in the 191st Street Tunnel.
Some of the best graffiti artists in the country (and perhaps the world) have made their mark on this tunnel, and it is a unique, evolving art exhibit. Every time you walk through Graffiti Tunnel, there is something new.
Recently, the NYC government wasn't a massive fan of it. They whitewashed the whole thing, so for a few months of 2023, the tunnel was completely devoid of art.
Thankfully, the decision has now been reversed. If you head into Graffiti Tunnel now, there is a whole load of new artwork to discover.
Recommended: Book Brooklyn Graffiti Workshop
Address: 191st Street Tunnel, NYC
We told you there was a museum for everything! (just wait until the museum that we share after). If you’re after unique things to do in NYC and one of the cool places in New York City, then say hello to the Museum of Ice Cream.
Head in here, and you'll discover the history of ice cream (which is surprisingly fun) but, let's be honest, you aren't heading to a museum about ice cream to learn. You're heading to a museum about ice cream to feast, and feast you shall.
All entrants have access to unlimited ice cream while there. There are also some fun, interactive exhibits in the Museum of Ice Cream, but nothing even comes close to the massive sprinkle pool, where you can swim among ice cream sprinkles (sadly, not real ones).
We're sure that this will be you living out the fantasies of many children and adults.
Recommended: Book Museum of Ice Cream Entry Ticket
Address: 558 Broadway, New York City, NY 10012
Also Read: Best Shopping Malls In and Around NYC
Yep, this isn’t one for the kids, but if you’re looking for unique things to do in NYC as an adult, then it certainly delivers.
The Museum of Sex is home to over 30,000 different objects that celebrate sex and the history of it. You’ll also find exhibits dedicated to various sexual subcultures, including BDSM.
Part of the museum is the RuPaul-designed ‘Super Funland’, which is a carnival. Sort of. It is a sex carnival (no sex involved, don’t worry). It is bright lights, fun, games, and more.
Oh, and if you’re looking for something to give you a bit of pleasure once you’re back at your hotel (perhaps you may pick up some tips from the museum?), then there is a massive sex toy shop attached.
Recommended: Museum of Sex Entry Ticket
Address: 233 5th Ave, New York City, NY 10016
This is another one of the more ‘hidden’ locations in NYC. You’ll need to look for a simple black door on Church Street in Tribeca that says ‘DREAM HOUSE’.
The Dream House isn't some lavish house, though. Oh no. It is in Tribeca, so you know it will be an incredibly cool art exhibit. It is a simple room. During the exhibit, you'll be treated to an array of sound and light. It is a treat for your senses.
While this will certainly not be for everybody, we've loved it every time we've entered the Dream House. It is a nice break from the rest of the city.
Address: 275 Church St, New York City, NY 10013
Do you fancy having the pants scared off of you? Well, check out Boroughs of the Dead. This isn’t a location to visit, but a tour company.
This tour company will take you through some locations from the grisly history of NYC, including murder sites, locations of suspected hauntings, and more.
There are multiple tours that will take you through various parts of NYC, so look to see if anything is running in your area. We don't think you'll find a better set of tour guides than these guys.
Address: 9 E 8th St. Ste 285. New York, NY 10003
In Battery Park, you'll find the Seaglass Carousel, perhaps one of the most unique carousels you'll ever ride. Not only will it be fun, but it is a beautiful work of art.
On the SeaGlass Carousel, you’ll be riding some light-up fish (it is best ridden at night), where you’ll move 360 degrees as you listen to amazing music and watch a light show.
It is meant to be a tribute to an aquarium that once stood in this area, and we think it works very well.
This is definitely a place you'll want to visit with your kids. It is a hefty price tag for a ride, but that's New York City for you!
Address: Water St &, State St, New York, 10004
New York City certainly isn't hurting for crazy things to do at night. Why not visit The Sex Museum (and the associated art exhibit), buy a cupcake from a cupcake ATM, or visit a pinball laundromat? Plus, you have plenty of party options at speakeasies and lavish bars.
'Please Don't Tell' is one of the most hidden locations in NYC. This bar can only be accessed by making a phone call from a phone booth. Somebody will then come up and collect you. Once you're in, you'll be drinking at an ultra-secret cocktail club.
There are few things cooler than being a spy, so why not head to Spyscape and put your spying skills to the test through CIA and MI6-designed exhibits?
As you can see, if you're looking for unusual things to do in NYC, you have a ton of options. You've got cool museums, public bathrooms, and even indoor rainforests! Why not head to one of these instead of the traditional tourist staples like Central Park and The Empire State? Trust us; they'll make your NYC trip so much more fun.