New York is an experience in itself: the frenetic rhythm of Wall Street that contrasts with the peace breathed in Central Park, the blinding neons of Times Square, the urban art that surprises us in the streets, the museums and galleries that feed the soul, skyscrapers that force us to look at the sky… it’s an incredible city! The song says NYC is “what dreams are made of and there’s nothing you can’t do here… the streets will make you feel like new…”. It is true that things to see and do in New York you will not lack, but here I propose 10 original plans to do in New York.
🌟10 Original plans to do in New York
If you have never been to “The Big Apple”, I recommend that you read the article I wrote about “What to See in New York: A Beginner’s Guide” where I explain how the island of Manhattan is divided, what to see in each area (this way you organize a meaningful itinerary), with the prices and schedules of the main attractions and I explain how to move around the city.
I also published an article with the 25 free things to do in New York, if you want to see what you can do in the big metropolis without spending a dollar.
Now, in addition to seeing the basics, you can always live unique and totally original experiences in New York. Things that very few people do and I’m sure you’ll love. Here are 10 things you can do in “The City That Never Sleeps” to make sure you come home with a lot of unforgettable experiences.
1. Singing and clapping at a Gothic Mass
You don’t have to be a believer to attend a gospel mass. Just want to live something different and that will dazzle you and fill you with energy. Come to the Harlem area on a Sunday (although there are churches with gospel choirs all over the island, but the ones in Harlem are very authentic) and, in addition to wandering and feeling the great contrast with the rest of the island of Manhattan, dedicate a few hours -or at least a rat- to a mass.
You will see that there are many churches in Harlem as they are part of the daily life of the local people. Go near any one of them and don’t be shy. Come in and enjoy, always with respect, remember that it is not a “tourist attraction”, but a place of religious worship. Being part of a gospel mass is a real pleasure and you will be able to sing and clap with the local people, where the whole atmosphere is filled with a very special energy.
Not all churches offer masses at the same time nor do they all include the choir (which is the most spectacular and the reason to go). I advise you to check each church’s website before you go to make sure that when you arrive there will be gospel.
Góspel via Shutterstock
My recommendations from churches, if you want to go with a shot and not go around are: First Corinthian Baptist Church (is at 1912 7th Av. Masses are on Sundays at 7.30 am, 9.30 am and 11.30 am. Try to go to 7.30 as there will be no tourists, only locals), Canaan Baptist Church (address is 132 W 116th St. and offers Sunday Mass at 10am), Bethel Gospel Assambley (address is 2-26 East 120th St. and Mass is Sunday at 10.15am. They also offer a gospel mass on Wednesdays at 7pm).
If you go to Brooklyn instead of Harlem, I recommend the gospel mass at “Brooklyn Tabernacle” (address is 17 Smith St, Brooklyn and has mass on Sundays at 9am, 11am and 1pm).
In all cases the entrance is free, but it is advisable to leave a donation.
✏️ If you prefer to go on a tour instead of going for free, there is a very cool one that includes: tour of Harlem with a guide in Spanish and attend a gospel mass. All the information of the tour you have here.
2. Have Manhattan at your feet (literally)
It used to be prohibitive, but today one of the original plans to do in New York is to see the island from the air (day or night) flying by helicopter for about 200€.
If New York, like many other big cities, is not the same by day as by night, imagine if you can change your perspective and see the skyscrapers, the great Central Park, the river, the bridges, the Statue of Liberty and the avenues from the air.
Without a doubt, it will be the great experience of your life and something you will never forget again. Here’s all the information you need to fly a helicopter in New York.
Views of NYC from the helicopter by Oscity / Shutterstock
3. Take a dinner cruise on the Hudson.
After a whole day of walking and touring the corners of The Big Apple you can indulge in a sunset cruise over the river and enjoy dinner aboard one of the boats sailing in Hudson.
On the 3-hour tour, you’ll see the New York skyline illuminated, enjoy music and a delicious dinner (there are vegetarian and vegan options) as you approach the Statue of Liberty and recognize the skyscrapers from another perspective.
If you want to live this unique and unrepeatable experience, here you have all the information about the Hudson dinner cruise.
NYC from the river by quiggyt4 / Shutterstock
4. Watch a musical on Broadway
There’s nothing more magical than spending a night in the Broadway theatres enjoying shows with the best artists of the moment. On the billboard you will always find the classic musicals such as Chicago, The Lion King, Moulin Rouge, Aladdin or The Phantom of the Opera.
Although in a city made for the show, there’s never a lack of premiere musicals (such as Blue Man Group or King Kong) and you’ll be able to see plays before anywhere else. Don’t miss the chance to see a musical on Broadway!
Broadway by Sociopath987 / Shutterstock
5. Enjoy a night on Coney Island
One of the original plans to do in New York is to visit Coney Island, located in Brooklyn, and feel like you’re in one of the many movies and series you’ve seen in your life. With a bit of a retro twist, the two Atlantic Ocean theme parks (Luna Park and Deno’s Wonder Wheel) with their huge Ferris wheel and adrenaline-filled roller coaster await you less than an hour from downtown Manhattan!
During the warm months Coney Island is full of families, couples and groups of friends sunbathing on the beach, walking along the promenade, enjoying the attractions of the parks or tasting a fast food proposal at the street stalls.
Discover Coney Island and feel like a real New Yorker.
Coney Island by Alessio Catelli / Shutterstock
6. Visit Manhattan’s last lighthouse
Although no boat would be disoriented today as it sailed the waters of Hudson with all the lights of New York, this was not the case some time ago.
At the beginning of the 20th century “The Big Apple” was not illuminated as it is now, so a small red lighthouse was placed under the George Washington Bridge, which links Manhattan with New Jersey. Today its function has become obsolete, but it is an almost unusual visit to NYC and it is the only lighthouse on the island!
Don’t miss the opportunity to walk to the Little Red Lightouse which rises 12 metres and take a picture there.
NYC Lighthouse via Shutterstock
7. Dinner at the cinema (neither before nor after: during!)
A normal Saturday night plan would be to go to dinner and then go see a movie. Or go to the movies before dinner and have a popcorn binge, but isn’t it tempting to have dinner or a cocktail while watching a movie?
At the Alamo Drafthouse cinema in Downtown Brooklyn it’s possible. What’s more, they have matinee sessions so you can also go to lunch and choose between their varied line-up of premiere films or independent films.
You sit down and the waiters or waitresses come and serve you directly in the comfort of your armchair. Don’t you fancy the plan a lot?
8. Listen to live jazz in Harlem
I have to confess that I like jazz only in small doses and live. In my house, I rarely play jazz for the sake of it. However, both in London and New York I have had the luxury of going to bars where they played live jazz and I found the experience wonderful.
The good thing about Harlem is that it has mythical bars where the greats of this musical style have played, like Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Charlie Parker or Duke Ellington.
My three recommendations to pay tribute to you, to drink something to the sound of jazz is Bill’s Place (here you are not allowed to drink alcohol), Minton’s or Shrine.
9.Have a drink in a real hidden bar – Speakeasy
The “Speakeasy” emerged in the era of the dry law and were clandestine bars that very few knew and used to be hidden, with the requirement of codes to be able to access. Today, “pseudo-speakeasy” have proliferated in the world, but in reality they were never clandestine bars, but they call themselves “sepeakeasy” for marketing reasons.
However, it is still possible to find some of the real speakeasy in New York, the ones that were created during the dry law and here I tell you about one of them (but shhhh, don’t tell anyone else).
“The Back Room” is one of only two clandestine bars in NYC that really worked during the Dry Law (in the 1920s) and exists today. It is said and told that some of the most famous gangsters, such as Lucky Luciano or Bugsy Siegel, passed through here. Today it’s no longer a secret, but it maintains the atmosphere of yesteryear. It’s at 102 Norfolk Street. More information on their website.
Speakeasy via Shutterstock
10. Feeling like you’re changing centuries in Williamsburg
Williamsburg is a seventeenth-century neighborhood that has two very distinct and opposing zones: a total hipster zone, with urban art and cool shops; another zone that is like changing century without having a time machine.
In the southern part of Williamsburg you will find the largest ultra-orthodox Jewish community in the country. An area where conservative culture is maintained, where women wear conservative, dark wigs and clothes; and men wear long black tunics, curls on each side of their faces, and typical hats.
For them, more than a neighbourhood, it is a universe, given that they practically do not come out of it. There they are born, reproduce (a lot, as they usually have large families) and die. Despite owning luxury stores such as jewelry stores, the neighborhood seems rather humble.
To tour it and discover the history and legends, the best thing is to do it with the “Tour de Contrastes”, the most successful and best valued tour by travelers who have been in the city.
Williamsburg by agsaz / Shutterstock
💤 HOTELS in New York
💤 A very good option is the Pod 39 hotel, which is in Midtown Manhattan (5 blocks from Grand Central Station), and offers comfortable rooms, a beautiful terrace and an excellent value for money.
💤 If you’re on a low budget, then you might want to stay in a hostel with shared dormitories. Hi NYC Hostel is located in the west of the “Upper Manhattan” area, just a few blocks from Central Park. Well, nice and cheap!
⚠️ No Uninsured Travel to the United States
One thing you know for sure is that in the United States of America medicine is prohibitive. Seriously, if you’re unlucky enough to have to go to the doctor in this country and you don’t have insurance, you’d better be rich, because the prices are ridiculously high.
My advice (and that of anyone with common sense) is to save yourself a lot of trouble and get a good insurance that covers you in case of need or emergency. I recommend you Iati’s insurance, with excellent coverage and at a very good price! In addition, if you buy through this link you will get a 5% discount. Yeah!
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