5 Unexpected NYC Gems That Are Changing the Sightseeing Game

Updated on May 11, 2018

Are you planning a visit to the Big Apple? Or, if you currently call NYC home, do you want to see the city from a new perspective? You might think you know all it has to offer, but chances are, you’re only hitting the highlights. Sure, Times Square is a must, as is the Statue of Liberty, but there are dozens of interesting, quirky, and unexpected places off the beaten path that are also must-sees. Today, we’re exploring five city locales that offer you a glimpse into the patchwork of people, hobbies, and talents that make this diverse city one of the world's greatest places to call home.

1. The Real Winnie the Pooh and Friends

You’ve heard the classic tales by A.A. Milne, but the real Winnie the Pooh isn’t quite as yellow and smiley as you might imagine. You can find him at the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue. Head on down to the Children’s Center and you can’t miss him. He’s older now, and a little ratty, but he still has the same soft tan and chocolate brown eyes.

He was purchased in 1921 at Harrods in London as a gift for Milne’s son Christopher. He remained a treasured personal teddy until 1987, when Milne’s American publisher E. P. Dutton presented him to the library. Don’t feel too badly for old Pooh, though. Dutton brought along Eeyore, Piglet, Kanga, and Tigger, too.

2. The Sidewalk Signatures at St. Mark's Place

Many people flock to NYC in hopes of seeing a celebrity or starlet out for coffee or walking to work. Yet, the real touch of Hollywood can be found in front of Theater 80, St. Mark's Place in the East Village. In 1971, actor Howard Otway opened the theater and dedicated it to a bygone era, showing movies from the 1930s to the 1950s.

The grand opening was quite a spectacle, with the city’s finest celebrities coming out to christen the new hotspot. In an effort to channel the Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard across the country, Otway asked the dignitaries to leave their handprints and signatures in the wet sidewalk cement. Take a stroll and find the imprints of the likes of Joan Crawford, Myrna Loy and more.

3. The Smallpox Hospital on Roosevelt Island

The name alone signals intrigue. Opened in 1856, the Smallpox Hospital is long since abandoned, but you can still imagine it in its heyday and visitors have reported seeing dark shadows and strange noises around the property at night. It’s located on Roosevelt Island, which is easily accessible by bus or subway, with picturesque views of the city provided via a quick tram ride. Spend a day strolling the island and be sure to stop for a picture in front of the now-decrepit hospital.

Covered in colorful weeds, it now stands as a symbol of times past. When it first opened, the hospital was the first in the country dedicated to serving patients inflicted with the disease. You can’t go inside the gate due to safety restrictions, but it’s still a sight to behold from any vantage point.

4. The Sisyphus Stones

You’ve heard of Stonehenge, but did you know there’s an equally impressive array right outside of the city? The Sisyphus Stones are located along the banks of the Hudson River in Fort Washington Park. First appearing in July 2017, these stones are arranged and balanced to look like a crowd of people.

Created by local artist Uliks Gryka, they stand in watch over the skyline, and due to the ebb and flow of the water, their form sometimes changes. As such, there are signs to keep away (especially children) as the rocks are not secured in place by anything except the magic of gravity.

5. The Bathroom at Bryant Park

You read that right. One of our top-five must-see, quirky things to in NYC is to visit a public restroom. As a general rule, when you see a public restroom while walking along the city, it’s usually in your best interest to frequent it, as they can be few and far between. This is especially true if you find yourself near Bryant Park. Tiny in scale with only two stalls for men and three for women, the bathroom is big on style and luxury.

Thanks to funding by private donors and a 2017 renovation, the bathroom boasts fresh-cut flowers, real paintings of the park created by local artists, a classical music soundtrack and attendants ready to help.

The oversized windows are decked out with frosted glass, creating a pretty light in the room and the bathroom fixtures themselves are the same style and brand installed at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). One rumor is that the attendants are regularly sent out to “scope out” the competition at other high-end hotspots, including the Waldorf-Astoria and the Met, to see how Bryant Park can keep pace with its powder room counterparts.

Delighting in the Different

The next time you find yourself wondering what to do in this fascinating city, know that you’re never at a shortage of culturally rich, intriguing, and exciting oddities. Whether you choose to see the city with others or opt for a solo adventure, there are plenty of hotspots to see, places to visit, and memories to make. Sights like these are part of the magic of NYC, so soak them up and include them in your itinerary, right alongside the Empire State Building and Central Park.

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