When it comes to exploring beneath the surface, New York is hands down one of the most exciting travel destinations in the world. That is to say; while the Empire States Building, Ellis Island, Times Square and Broadway offer an incredible experience, the hidden gems in New York are often the highlight for visitors who manage to find them. After all, what is the meaning of adventure without stepping away from the main attractions and off the beaten path?

With this in mind, here are five of our top picks for unique, obscure and lesser-known experiences in New York:

5 Lesser Known Encounters in New York

  1. Encounter Authenticity in Greenwich Village

While Washington Square Park is one of the more popular places to visit in Greenwich Village, this vibrant district has a distinct sense of character beyond the exterior. In other words, this is one part of New York where getting lost is nothing less than enjoyable and where the Minettas offer an intriguing insight into the life of locals. From quaint café’s and busy bars, this is one of the more authentic corners of the city, far from the tourists and close to the melting pot of cultures which co-exist in “the Big Apple”.

However, there are many more ways to encounter such authenticity in Greenwich Village, and one of these is to take in a play Off-Broadway which is a much more personal experience in comparison to the big theatres near Times Square. Furthermore,

  1. Witness the Small Pox Memorial Hospital

Did you know that smallpox has been around for more than three thousand years? In fact, there was a time when smallpox was thought about in the same way as HIV or Malaria in the present day. During the 18th Century, smallpox was responsible for the death of one in ten children for some years until a vaccine was established in 1796.

Anyway, the disease was lethal, and during the Nineteenth Century, Roosevelt Island was home to Grace Church on Broadway which was a smallpox hospital with a very distinct Gothic Style. In many ways, the abandoned appearance of this enchanting structure feels strangely appealing, and it is now a city landmark as declared by the Landmark Preservation Commission of New York. Having taken the ferry to Roosevelt Island, you now have the chance to get up close with this remarkable structure and marvel at a time which is now firmly in the past.

  1. Enter City Hall Station

Many attractions in Manhattan and New York are a little overrun, but City Hall Station is certainly lesser known and less busy than most points of interest. Featuring some stunning architecture and impressive chandeliers, this was one of the original stations in New York and full of historical intrigue. Over time and for various reasons, the use of City Hall Station by passengers was in decline and eventually, the station was closed about being a working station.

In the time since, the trains continued to pass through this station, but for greater insight, you can take a tour of this abandoned station with the New York City Transit Museum. All considered, this is a hidden treasure in New York which offers a wonderful insight into the incredibly fast nature in which the city continues to evolve.

  1. Remember Titanic and the Pier of Ghosts

Pier 54 may seem like little more than a dilapidated dock, but this was, in fact, the place at which the Carpathia Cunard Line ship arrived in the wake of the Titanic disaster. Of course, White Star Line was the owner of this pier, and the Titanic never did make it to the shores of America, but many of the survivors from this disaster arrived at Pier 54 with thousands of people waiting anxiously for the arrival of their loved ones.

There are places to restore many parts of the pier along the Hudson River, but today, this empty dock is almost symbolic of the devastating loss which most of these families experienced. On the way to the dock, you will see a very old and rusted sign labeled “Cunard White Star”. Interestingly, this dock was also the departure point for another ill-fated journey, for pier 54 was also the last sighting of the Lusitania ship which was sunk by a German U-boat back in 1915.

  1. Step inside the New York Federal Gold Vault

Another interesting thing to do in New York which is mostly unknown to visitors is the opportunity to visit the federal gold vault. Located in the financial district of Manhattan, the New York Federal Reserve Bank is embedded into the rock almost one hundred feet beneath the ground. Consisting of deposits from banks all over the world, the reserve is home to more than seven thousand tons of gold which is thought to be five percent of the total mined since the beginning of time.

Believe it or not, you can enter this reserve and take a free tour which allows visitors to catch a glimpse of the gold inside. Separated into smaller vaults, the layout of the reserve is similar to a library but taking a walk through such a secretive and mysterious place is unforgettable, regardless of what you do or do not see. In case you might be asking yourself, foreign nations opt to store their gold in the New York Reserve for centralization and for this reason it is also easy for them to exchange this gold with each other without having to move the gold out of the reserve.

As you can see, there is much more to this bustling city than the main attractions, and these are just a few of the hidden treasures beneath the surface. Direct flights to Johannesburg make this quite a straightforward choice regarding destinations, but it must be said, the longer you stay to explore beneath this busy exterior, the more reward you are likely to find.

Mark Buck is the Managing Director of United Europe Travel Services (Pty) Ltd, a travel wholesaler based in South Africa

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