While many travel to the Big Apple to get a taste of New York City’s top sights and monuments, travelers are missing out on the true excitement of secret treasures that take a bit of digging to find. With an endless amount of mystery and surprises waiting to be discovered, here are seven must-see hidden gems in NYC that will have you awe.
The Elevated Acre
The Elevated Acre of the Financial District
Escape the chaos of the busy city streets with a trip to the Elevated Acre, a park in the sky. Between two skyscrapers you will encounter a grassy space resting above the busy streets of the Financial District. Situated on Water Street, this small park features astonishing views of the Brooklyn Bridge and Hudson River as well as a 50-foot light sculpture. This urban oasis has many unique features and world-class landscaping. Recently, this spacious acre added a full Beer Garden, now open for the public’s enjoyment with several craft beers on tap to enjoy while taking in the best view in the city.
While considered one of the most popular hidden gems, the Whispering Gallery is also on the list as one of the most romantic secret treasures NYC has to offer. Within Grand Central’s magnificent architecture lays an acoustic sensation. The secretive walls allow sounds to travel across the domed ceiling. Therefore, when two people stand at diagonal arches, they can hear each other’s whispers. According to experts, this occurs because the whisperer’s voice trails the curve of the domed ceiling. Located in the terminal’s dining concourse, in front of the famous Oyster Bar & Restaurant, travelers can witness the elaborate beauty of Grand Central’s murals while trying out the whisper gallery.
On the southern tip of Roosevelt Island in the center of the East River rests the ruins of an ivy-clad Gothic Revival building, also known as the Renwick Hospital. Once housed the Roosevelt Island Smallpox Hospital, the architectural gem was the top center for smallpox treatment in NYC until the 1950s when the building was forced to close. In 1975, the Landmarks Preservation Commission took interest in the decrepit structure and declared it a city landmark. They reinforced the walls to prevent it from entirely falling apart but have not renovated it or opened it for tours. Only some of the outer walls and the foundation stand today. While restoration of the hospital is definitely underway, there’s still time to catch this beautiful organization in its naturally-aged state before another chapter in the history of the famous smallpox hospital begins.
High about the streets of the Financial District rests a hidden airplane runway along with an old rusty World War I fighter plane. Although the runway is not functional, the rooftop turns the light switches on for night time viewers. 77 Water Street was built in 1970 and unveiled as a bold concept that redefined the traditional image of an office building as a sterile environment. This inviting, exciting, warm and friendly plaza will make you forget number 77 is just a regular old office building.
Rockefeller Center is a hotspot for travelers coming to NYC. When individuals arrive to the plaza, they see the ice skating rink, the Christmas tree and Jeff Koon’s massive flowering sculpture. But what people don’t see is the little green gem hidden high above the streets of NYC. Scattered about the rooftops of this art deco building, you will encounter 620 Loft and Gallery. This open space offers a gorgeous private garden that boasts perfectly-shaped greenery and incredible views of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Rockefeller Center maintains five spectacular roof gardens originally designed by English landscaper Ralph Hancock between 1933 and 1936. The gardens have been closed since 1938, but three can be spied from the Top of the Rock observation deck. You can also check out the scenic view in the original Spiderman movie.
While many mistake this historic 12 x 20 foot remains for just another NYC street mural, this dazzling masterpiece by German artists Thierry Noir and Kiddy Citny is made up of five concrete slabs of the original Berlin Wall. You can find this secret treasure nestled in a small Midtown plaza at 520 Madison Avenue. The piece was donated in November 2004 by the city of Berlin to Manhattan’s Battery Park City, according to a plastic information guide affixed to the metal fence enclosing the slab.
While once an energetic station, the long-standing city hall subway stop located along the 6 line shut down in 1945 due to its failure to be restructured and the low amount of traffic it received. The subway’s architects, George Lewis Heins and Christopher Grant LaFarge, were the men responsible for the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Aside from tiled signs with station names and directions, there is minimal architectural about the network’s contemporary trappings. During the ‘City Beautiful’ movement around the turn of the last century, during which Grand Central Terminal and Washington Square Park’s arch were both completed, New York City’s first subway station opened to the public. It had a single platform and is now part of the loop that 6 trains make going from the Brooklyn Bridge downtown local platform back around to the uptown local platform. Although this beautiful station is not open to the public, guided tours are provided periodically, or you can get a sneak peek if you stay on the 6 train after its final stop.