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Residents and tourists alike can’t be expected to know about all of the cool and unique things to do in New York City. We’ll help you keep track by breaking down hip spots to visit.
New York City is renowned for its cultural institutions, including world-famous museums, opera houses, clubs, restaurants and parks – plus incredible shopping. And while the Empire State Building is worthy of admiration, there are so many places off the beaten track that a bus tour will never bring you to. From La Monte Young’s Dream House installation to a restaurant that’s hidden behind a pawn shop storefront, we break down the most cool and unique places to visit that you can’t see anywhere else.
You don’t have to be a lepidopterist (someone who collects butterflies or moths) to enjoy the collection of curios at Greenwich Village’s Evolution Store. Part-museum, part-enthusiast shop, the store opened in SoHo in 1993 and moved to its current locale in 2016. It’s best described as if The Natural History Museum had price tags affixed to its displays. Here, you’ll find taxidermied alligator heads, scorpions safely housed in glass paperweights, bat skeletons in domes and all sorts of other eerie and interesting natural gifts. If a preserved piranha doesn’t do it for you, perhaps minerals, such as the Brazilian agate coasters, will.
With Manhattan rent prices as they are, operating a dim sum restaurant is not a foolproof plan. China Chalet, a FiDi food staple since 1975, closes its kitchen at night, clears the tables and turns into a raucous nightclub. Two bars, disco balls and a dance floor pop up and the 800-capacity venue goes from the Chinese spot next door to Studio 54. Partygoers line up hours before doors open on weekends to boogie down. At its launch, Steve Buscemi, Debbie Harry and John Waters joined the revelers for a throwback to the long-lost heydays of the Manhattan ‘it-club’.
Looking in as a passerby on the Lower East Side’s Essex Street, you might see this unassuming storefront as nothing more than just another pawn shop hawking boomboxes and used instruments. But for those in the know (you after reading this), it’s also a hip cocktail bar and restaurant hidden behind a secret door. Once inside, a staircase will lead you to your table where chef Chris Santos’ small plates can be shared, from chile relleno empanadas to grilled cheese and tomato soup dumplings. Signature cocktails include the Beauty Elixir (gin, cucumber, strawberry and sparkling rosé) and the Earl of Pearl (vodka, earl grey tea, lemon and mint syrup).