New York City is a bustling metropolis, but it also has its fair share of hidden gems and secret spots. From the Whispering Gallery at Grand Central Station to the charming neighborhood of Tudor-style houses in Queens, there are plenty of places to explore. Central Park has many little known sections, including “The Ravine”, a 40-acre section of the North Woods Creek valley with at least five artificial waterfalls. Park designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux wanted New Yorkers to feel like they had escaped the city to go to the Catskills or the Adirondacks, even if they couldn't afford a vacation in those places.
For an incredible view of New York, take a ride on the Roosevelt Island streetcar. This unique gondola-shaped streetcar was built in 1976 and climbs 250 feet above the East River at its peak. It was originally created to serve those who live on the island, but now everyone can enjoy it. The Andrew Carnegie Mansion is a historic site that now houses the Smithsonian's Cooper Hewitt Design Museum.
The mansion was originally completed in 1902 and achieved monument status in 1974, although it has undergone many changes over the years. The grounds of the mansion have a large garden and cafeteria for visitors to enjoy, as well as a small opulent oasis in the center of Manhattan. The Morgan Library feels like a trip to a Harry Potter library or to old world Europe. The historic site was built as a private library between 1902 and 1906 for the financier Pierpont Morgan.
He began collecting manuscripts and other historic materials as early as 1890, and now they line the walls of the museum. There you can find some of the rarest musical manuscripts in the country, books for young children, American books, early printed books, and more. Stone Street is one of the few cobblestone streets in New York, which gives a more old-school European touch to the more modern urban buildings that surround it. According to Untapped Cities, the street was one of the first to be paved with paving stones (in 165) in the neighborhood of Nieuw Amsterdam, hence its name.
Nowadays, cars are not allowed to pass through and, in good weather, because there are outdoor seats, it is one of the few places in New York where drinking is allowed on the streets. Tucked away at the end of 42nd Street (between Second Avenue) and United Nations Plaza is the Ford Foundation's Center for Social Justice – a true hidden gem of New York City. With sunlight pouring in from several sides, this 160-foot-high atrium is home to 39 species of plants and features a reflecting pool and a sensory garden with plants that are recommended to touch and smell. If you're looking to be surrounded by nature instead of the concrete jungle, head over to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. On more than 9,155 serene acres, you can hike, birdwatch, explore turtle nesting, and admire the wide variety of wildflowers, moths and butterflies. The Van Cortlandt Museum (an 18th century stone house) is another gem. Take the A train to its last stop and then get on the BX 29 bus.
The museum is right in Van Cortlandt Park in northern Manhattan. The New York Historical Society on the Upper West Side is also worth visiting. Across from Central Park and close to the Natural History Museum, this museum showcases some of New York City's unique architecture as well as its infrastructure and hidden history. At the end of a small alley between Second Avenue and Second East Street is another hidden gem – The New York Marble Cemetery. This fabulous secret isn't open to the public but it's in great working condition. The Cloisters is another must-see spot – you might never have believed that there was a medieval castle in the center of New York City!Finally, don't forget about “Life Underground” – a series of whimsical bronze statues that make up “Life Underground” which illustrate life in New York City.