We at Group Tours are constantly sending groups to Manhattan, and each walks away from the experience happy, well-cultured, and full of new unforgettable memories. What can we say, the city is magic!
Manhattan is the most densely populated area of New York City, out of the five boroughs. There are endless learning opportunities in Manhattan, with all the historic, culturally authentic, and educational sights to be seen throughout the city, as well as such iconic sites as the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, Times Square, and Broadway. This being said, a visit to Manhattan can easily become a robotic tour of the most highly photographed, visited, and talked about places in the U.S., but it doesn’t have to be!
The following top 10 hidden gems of Manhattan provide excellent options for touring the sparkling city while standing apart from the crowd, literally!
- Berlin Wall - Maybe you’ve passed the vibrant art-covered wall along Madison Plaza, in Midtown East, or maybe you will during your visit without fully knowing the impact of this local historical treasure. This 12 foot wide, 20 feet long wall is a part of the five slabs used to divide Berlin from 1961 to 1989. This particular section was decorated by German artists Thierry Noir and Kiddy City, the east side being blank, of course. This hidden gem is nestled between the Jefferies buildings and Paley Park, a Manhattan treasure you won’t want to miss!
- Waldorf Astoria Train Station - Most locals and tourists already know quite a bit about the elegant and history filled Waldorf Astoria hotel, but perhaps not about what sits beneath it, a secret train platform dating back to 1938! Track 61 transported elite guests from the hotel to Grand Central Station, and vice versa, and has seen such visitors as Franklin D. Roosevelt and General Pershing, as well as Andy Warhol during his famous 1965 Underground Party! This is a really unique piece of Manhattan history!
- Koreatown - It seems as though almost everyone who visits NYC knows about, plants to visit, or has already been to Chinatown. However, there is another cultural niche neighborhood that is often overlooked in mid-Manhattan, Koreatown! Also known as Little Seoul, this neighborhood along 32nd street, filled with sweet-smelling pastries, spicy local veggie-filled dishes, and exotic fruits and herbs! This is a great place to immerse yourself further into the local culture and see something new while in Manhattan!
- 77 Water Street Rooftop - Welcome to 77 Water Street, the high rise in lower Manhattan that holds a hidden and historic airplane runway high above the familiar FiDi Streets. This hidden runway holds an authentic WWI fighter plane as well as not working, but still visible, runway lights that can be spotted at night, if you can look past the surrounding skyscrapers, that is.
- City Hall Station - This is one of our favorites in Manhattan for its historical impact and intricate architecture, the former New York City Hall Station. At this old train station location, you will find an extremely elegant, though extremely abandoned, NY subway station dating all the way back to 1904. See fine crystal chandeliers and all the expected accompanying class if you happen to catch a guided tour of this structure, or you can also just catch the 6 Train, which loops through the Uptown platform, providing a quick glimpse of the classy station closed in 1945.
- Columbia University Tunnels - Beneath Columbia University there is a system of creepy tunnels and extra rooms that have gained much attention, as the underground tunnels connect the entire campus. The initial purpose of the tunnels was said to have been for a mental asylum that used to be located on what is now the campus. This is an excellent hidden gem of Manhattan that you shouldn’t pass up, especially if you are a Columbia U fan!
- Roosevelt Island Tramway - Roosevelt Island landed a couple of amazing hidden gems on our list, the first being the scenic and semi-secret Roosevelt Island Tramway. With this cheap transportation option, you will catch the absolute best views of Manhattan and the East River, as well as get that authentic and unique cable car ride experience high above New York City! The best thing about this scenic ride through Manhattan? You can just swipe your Metro-card to ride!
- Green Acre park Waterfall - If you happen to get a little tired of all the hustle and bustle of the never-resting city of Manhattan then head over to 51st Street for a serene outdoor oasis getaway! Located in the small park of Green Acres, you will find a tranquil resting place, lush green scenery, and a spectacular 25-foot secret waterfall, the perfect place to unwind, take in the city, and grab some really great mid-Manhattan photos!
- Roosevelt Island Smallpox Hospital Ruins - Another great Roosevelt Island hidden gem in Manhattan is the old Smallpox Hospital. Now in ruins, the hospital was once known as the top treatment facility for smallpox in NYC. First established in the 1850s and closed down about a century later, today the site serves as a gorgeous piece of historic architecture in the form of ivy-clad Gothic Revival hospital in the middle of the East River. You’ll definitely want to snap a few photos of this architectural hidden gem!
- Burger Joint - We had to include this last hidden gem at a local eatery, the Burger Joint, simply for the experience of eating here. Burger Joint, located in Le Parker Meridien, in Midtown Manhattan, is the top spot to grab a classic combo of burgers and fries. You will get low prices, amazing taste, and the added ambiance of a graffiti-filled wall (be sure to sign your name!) within a well-known elegant hotel scene. Your stomach will thank you for this hidden gem stop, trust us.
Mostly Manhattan Must-Mentions:
- East Village Speakeasy PDT - What does PDT stand for? Please Don’t Tell, the main theme of this East Village Speakeasy, nestled deep in secrecy and full of amazing Manhattan cocktails. This has been labeled as the "best bar in the world," the only thing you have to do to enjoy it finds it! The last we heard, you could get in through a secret door in a nearby hot dog stand, but don’t tell anyone we told you!
- Secret Subway Exit - Brooklyn - Okay, okay, we know, this must mention isn’t actually in Manhattan, it is in Brooklyn, but we think it is so interesting it is still worth talking about. Located along Joralemon Street you will find a seemingly normal red brownstone building with blacked-out windows and a tranquil atmosphere. Right behind those windows, however, you will actually find an MTA ventilator, emergency exit, and passageways to the 4 and 5 train!