If you’re new to New York, you’ve probably heard a laundry list of things you’ve just gotta do once you’re here. Eat at this restaurant, bike across this bridge, shop at this boutique. While the typical hallmarks of NYC are all, of course, worth experiencing, we want to share with you a few of the more unusual activities off the beaten path.
Visit a Tropical Rainforest
The “urban jungle” cliche is a little well-worn, so why not step out of it for a minute into a real one (or the best approximation of one you’ll find in a midtown office building)? The twelve-story Ford Foundation Building’s atrium contains a sky-high greenhouse where the public can step out of the city streets and into a lush, tropical mini-forest featuring towering trees, hanging plants, and a serene sitting pond. For New Yorkers in need of a brief getaway, it’s a tropical adventure minus the bug spray.
Play a Subway Station Like a Flute
Cost of admission to this offbeat installation is just $2.75-on your Metrocard, that is. Hidden in plain sight on the 34th Street-Herald Square N/R platform are two long, green metal bars that straphangers have easily mistaken for air ducts if they’ve noticed them at all since they were installed in 1995. In fact, they’re a larger-than-life musical instrument, part of an art installation called REACH: New York. To play a variety of preprogrammed musical tones and sound effects, simply reach up and place your hands over the holes, and the sounds will flow from REACH’s speakers.
Enjoy a Beautifully Landscaped…Graveyard
If you’re not easily spooked, a train ride into Brooklyn can take you to one of the city’s most underappreciated and aesthetically pleasing green spaces: Green-Wood Cemetery. Established in 1839 when Brooklyn was mostly rural farmland, Green-Wood has become the final resting place for NYC luminaries from Boss Tweed to Jean-Michel Basquiat. If you’re not into searching for famous graves, the cemetery’s picturesque layout and lack of crowds make it an oasis of solitude in the often-frantic city.
Stand on the City’s Smallest Private Property
A curiosity underfoot that most passersby won’t even notice, the Hess Triangle on the corner of Seventh Avenue and Christopher Street is the result of a century-old real estate dispute. Forced out when the city seized property to extend Seventh Avenue, the Hess family refused to give up a 27.5” by 27.5” by 25.5” triangle of land that the city accidentally left out of their plans. The David Hess Estate made good use of the spot, installing a mosaic reading “Property of the Hess Estate which has never been dedicated for public purpose.” Though Hess’ proclamation is still on prominent display, the truth is that the spot is actually owned by adjacent Village Cigars, who bought it in 1938 for a mere $1,000 (that’s $2 per square inch).