Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock

Secret NYC: Cool places that you probably didn't know exist

Secret NYC spots are everywhere, you just have to know where to look. We'll help you track 'em down!

By Danielle Valente

UPDATE: Events are changing fast. Read the latest advice and see closures in New York here.

Psst: Can you keep a secret NYC? These hidden gems might be under the radar, but they're totally worthy of your attention.

Have a look at our favorite family attractions, kids' museums and other beloved destinations that sport some hush-hush facts only real New Yorkers know about. (Don't sweat it: We're happy to fill you in!)

Which spots are you most surprised about? (That bowling alley in the Frick threw us for a loop!) Have a look and test your NYC knowledge with these interesting tidbits. (And note that some of these locations are not open to the public.) 

Secret NYC Places

Photograph: Courtesy Rana Faure

1. Radio City Music Hall's Roxy Suite

Theater Midtown West

You know Radio City is a go-to destination come Christmastime, but did you know that the home of the Rockettes is also home to an impressive art deco apartment? Director Samuel "Roxy" Rothafel's digs were a go-to gathering spot back in the day for many a celebrity, and there's an autograph book to prove it! Visitors can take a trip back in time and experience this nod to old-school NYC for themselves while on the Radio City Stage Door Tour ($31, $27 children 12 and under). 

Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock

2. Old City Hall Station

Trust us, if trains were still in service at the Old City Hall Subway Station, you wouldn't mind commuting. Architect Heins & LaFarge and artist Rafael Guastavino's handiwork is nothing short of phenomenal and iconic—the city's debut subway ride left from this station back in 1904, after all. Heck, there's even a chandelier! (We don't recall seeing any of those lately.) Trains no longer stop this station, although the tracks are used for a turnaround for the 6 line. The New York Transit Museum offers a highly-anticipated tour of the grounds ($50) for those 10 and up.

Harry Houdni Museum of New York
Harry Houdni Museum of New York
Photogrpah: Couretsy Houdini Museum of New York

3. Houdini Museum of New York

Museums Special interest Midtown West

If you're thinking about taking a break from your normal gallery visits, venture to the magical Houdini Musuem of New York to see pieces from the illusionist's personal collection. The venue also hosts magic classes, lectures and even private parties if your magician-in-the-making is thinking about a mystical type of birthday celebration!

Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock

4. Central Park's "Alice in Wonderland" statue

Attractions Parks and gardens Central Park

Take a trip down the rabbit hole right in Central Park. NYC's communal backyard is home to an adorable bronze Alice in Wonderland statue by artist José de Creeft, which has been on display since 1959. Find it north of the Conservatory Water at E 74th St. If you're curious about other lesser-known attractions within the park, sign up for this secrets walking tour ($25). 


5. Columbia University's Alma Mater statue

It might be quite some time before your little scholars walks the halls of Columbia University, but when they do, be sure to stop by the notable Alma Mater statue on the campus near the library. WHO do you notice hidden in the cloak? You can find a small owl, which represents learning and knowledge—an appropriate symbol for the Ivy League. 

Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock

6. Grand Central Terminal's Whispering Gallery

Attractions Railways Midtown East

It comes as no surprise that Grand Central Terminal is home to some of NYC's best-kept secrets, including—fittingly—the Whispering Gallery. To experience the hear-it-to-believe-it phenomenon, venture to the Terminal's lower level near the Oyster Bar restaurant. When you whisper a juicy secret into the corner of an arched entryway, a pal on the opposite end will hear what you say, clear as day, despite the commotion. The kids are going to have a ball testing this one out! 

Photograph: Marielle Solan

7. American Museum of Natural History's secrets

Museums Science and technology Upper West Side

It's easy to get wrapped up with the prehistoric dino fun at the American Museum of Natural History (it's arguably the attraction's claim to fame), but did you know that the destination houses over 33 million pieces, and 90 percent of artifacts are actually kept in restricted areas, according to Business Insider? This includes the prehistoric fish, coelacanth, which scientists originally thought went extinct up to 65 million years ago! Anyone who thinks a museum trip is boring clearly has a lot to learn about NYC's beloved UWS venue. 

New York Public Library Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
New York Public Library Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
Photograph: Virginia Rollison

8. New York Public Library's secrets

Attractions Libraries, archives and foundations Midtown West

The main branch of the New York Public Library is home to many great stories and secrets. Did you know there are roughly 4 million books underground at this literary hotspot? Plus, the architectural gem also has doors on its exterior that lead nowhere. (Pro tip: Stick to the main entrance!)

Greenacre Park
Greenacre Park
Photograph: Courtesy Sasaki

9. Greenacre Park's waterfall

For a little taste of nature right in the concrete jungle, venture to Greenacre Park, home to a 25-foot waterfall. Find the park on E 51st St between 2nd and 3rd Aves. It reopens to the public on April 6, 2020! 

Photograph: Courtesy Pixabay + marijana1

10. Vanderbilt Tennis at Grand Central Terminal

Attractions Railways Midtown East

It might be difficult to focus on anything other than catching your train while at Grand Central, but believe it or not, the transportation hub is also a great place to practice your tennis serve. Before your evening commute, stop by the fourth floor of the terminal and test out those skills at Vanderbilt  Tennis. Little Federers-in-training will receive personalized attention that will put them one step closer to the US Open. 

Photograph: Courtesy Michael Bodycomb

11. The Frick Collection's bowling alley

Museums Art and design Lenox Hill

Though inaccessible to the public due to fire codes and restrictions, The Frick's old-school 1914 bowling alley is one of its best-kept secrets. Neat, right? If you're feeling a bit bummed that you can't aim for a strike at this iconic NYC institution, take a peek at our go-to kids' bowling alleys in the five boroughs. If you're up for a day trip, this bowling alley aquarium hybrid in Connecticut will do the trick! 

Note that The Frick is open to those ages 10 and up. 


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