New York’s Underrated

By J.L. Soto

As anyone who’s visited or lived in New York City will tell you, there really is a ton of sights and things to do. Truth be told, depending on your taste, you can’t possibly see or do everything within a two-week period let alone a standard vacation week or weekend excursion. All too often, after talking with someone who has visited the Big Apple, I find out there wasn’t enough time to visit a particular place. These same people seem aghast when they find out about spots they passed up and instead went for the typical tourist traps. It seems as if places like Times Square or the Statue of Liberty suck up all the attention and visitors wind up leaving the city without experiencing all it has to offer. Part of that reason probably has to do with location or convenience. Seeing these spots sometimes requires going to the other boroughs and usually there isn’t time or misperceptions keep visitors from taking the extra effort to venture out of their comfort zones.

These are just some places that in my opinion should be visited since I feel they’re usually passed over and are worth the effort even though too many tourists pass up the chance to check them out. It may be useful for veteran visitors who are looking for something else to do besides fighting pedestrian traffic in Times Square. By no means is this a complete list nor will it cater to everyone’s taste. Check out the official NYC websites which have more complete listings of attractions and interests that cover all kinds of interests.

Brooklyn Bridge: While San Francisco’s Golden Gate gets all the hoopla as far as monumental bridges go, the one connecting the boroughs of Brooklyn and Manhattan is just as deserving of that fanfare. One of the earliest suspension bridges ever built, this bridge has panoramic views of downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn. Many would just zip through the edifice while driving but visitors should try the pedestrian walkway that is usually laden with bikers and joggers. Don’t worry there’s plenty of space for gawking at the skyscrapers. It takes about an hour to cross by foot and it’s free to boot. Then again there are walking tours that give visitors the full history lesson, etc. for a fee. For a different view of the bridge try one of the many boat or air tours. But visitors who go by foot will find that both ends of the bridge provide nearby walking access to places of interest like City Hall in Manhattan and the Fulton Mall in Brooklyn. To reach it by train, take the number 4 or 5 trains to the City Hall stop in Manhattan or in Brooklyn, the Borough Hall stop by the same trains as well as the 2 and 3 trains.

The Brooklyn Museum: This art museum often gets overlooked by museum patrons busy visiting the Met which is a shame. It’s located on Eastern Parkway just behind the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and has an impressive collection of traditional and modern art, some temporary, some permanent. Visitors will even find art and artifacts dating back to ancient Egypt, Africa and Asia. Also on the first Saturday evening of the month, admission is free as a festive atmosphere takes over the place. Drinks and food are served as the museum becomes a unique place to mingle. It’s very popular with the locals. In addition to the just-mentioned Garden, the museum is in walking distance to Prospect Park (with its own zoo and playgrounds), Grand Army Plaza (an elaborate arch dedicated to Civil War veterans that serves as an entranceway to the park), and downtown Brooklyn can be reached quickly from the museum through public transit. The number 2 and 3 trains have stops just outside the museum. The station is called Eastern Parkway/Brooklyn Museum.

Central Park Zoo: First of all, the best zoo in the city is the Bronx Zoo. But that is an all-day affair that is worth the visit but unless there’s time to spare go with the small zoo in Manhattan. Just inside Central Park and off Fifth Avenue between 63rd and 66th Streets, the zoo boasts more than 130 species of wildlife. Basically it’s divided into three environmental areas and they are the Tropic Zone (with a recreated tropical rainforest complete with free-flying birds), Temperate Territory (featuring red pandas and macaques) and the Polar Zone. The last spot is home to one of the zoo’s main attractions, the polar bears that delight many with their playful underwater antics. What probably makes them popular is that they are displayed so close to spectators and that sense of display is prevalent throughout the zoo making a visit to be a more intimate experience. Expect to spend a couple of hours or more if you have children. Take the M1-4 buses on Fifth Ave. to 64th St. or the N and R train to the Fifth Avenue station and walk four blocks to 64th St.

Chelsea Piers Sports & Entertainment Complex: This 30-acre sports village is located on the historic Piers 59-61 between 17th and 23rd Streets in Manhattan facing the Hudson River. The waterfront center is perfect for sports fans who want a more hands-on experience aside from catching a major league game. Sports-related activities include bowling, golf, ice and roller skating, and there’s a field house with facilities that allows youngsters and adults to play their favorite sports from soccer to baseball. If all these activities have you tired, there’s a spa at the Complex to let you unwind and relax. But even if you’re not a sports fan, there are shopping and dining venues options, a marina where boat and yacht tours are available, plus live bands play at the Piers during weekends. The M23 and M14 buses make direct stops at the northern and southern entrance of the Complex.

The Cloisters: New York is synonymous with world-class museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim and the American Museum of Natural History. But this branch of the Met is hardly ever mentioned in brochures and that is a shame. Devoted to medieval art and architecture, the four-acre museum overlooks the Hudson in Fort Tryon Park, Manhattan. Featuring about five thousand art pieces dating back to A.D. 800, the museum’s collection includes tapestries, manuscripts, metalworks, and stained glass pieces. Walking through the medieval-inspired rooms will take any visitor back in time to Europe. It’s hard to think of another museum in the city quite like this one. To reach the Cloisters take the A train to 190th St. and walk north for ten minutes along Margaret Corbin Dr. or take the M4 bus to the last stop (Fort Tryon Park).

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