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15 things you can only do in NYC

Where else in the world could you drink at a Revolutionary War–era bar and visit the country’s first sex museum in the same day?

Photograph: Shutterstock

There’s really no place in the world quite like New York City. Thanks to its dense population (one in every 38 people in the United States live here) and storied history, NYC offers plenty of things to do you won’t find anywhere else. Whether you’re a local or only here for a few days, don’t squander your time on run-of-the-mill attractions. To discover the most unique parts of the city, you have to tear yourself away from the best New York attractions to go off the beaten path. You might even uncover some of what locals call the secret New York while you’re at it. As the saying goes, when in Rome…

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best things to do in NYC

Things you can only do in NYC

Drink at the bar George Washington and Alexander Hamilton frequented

Samuel Fraunces first purchased the property at 54 Pearl Street in 1762, and revelers have been drinking their cares away at Fraunces Tavern ever since. There’s plenty of history within these hallowed halls: British forces shot a cannonball through the roof in 1775, George Washington raised a glass here on several occasions and the bar even served as the headquarters of the Department of Foreign Affairs for a time. Whether your order one of Fraunces Tavern’s 130 craft beers or 200 whiskeys, make sure you raise a glass to the revolution!

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Financial District

Get lost in the largest art museum in the country

If the Metropolitan Museum of Art is on your must-see list, you’re not alone: A record-breaking 6.7 million people visited it in 2016. Escape the crowds by taking an EmptyMet Tour before the museum opens for the day. The early morning sun streaming into the galleries is truly spectacular.

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By: Howard Halle

Hear hundreds of languages in one neighborhood

New York is the most linguistically diverse city in the world, with more than 800 languages spoken across the five boroughs, according to Endangered Language Alliance. Nowhere is this more obvious than in Queens, where you can hear snippets of Urdu, Croatian, Indonesian and Coptic over the span of a few blocks. Explore the beautiful mosaic of neighborhoods that make the borough so diverse on a guided New York City International Express Tour.

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Order a hot dog at what is (probably) the first hot dog stand

There’s some disagreement among hot dog historians about where the favorite ball-park food originated, but many claim that German baker Charles Feltman first sold them at a Coney Island stand in 1871. Guess who worked for Feltman? Nathan Handwerker, who opened his eponymous sausage business a few years later. Order up one of the snappy all-beef dogs at the original stand on Coney Island—and take a spin on the Cyclone, while you’re there.

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Brooklyn

Visit a medieval abbey in the middle of the city

At the northern tip of Manhattan, footpaths wind through Fort Tryon Park to what appears to be a castle from Medieval times: the Cloisters. In actuality, this museum dedicated to the art of the Middle Ages was built less than 100 years ago, though the architects did use material from five medieval French cloisters. The incredible architecture and awe-inspiring artifacts—including the famed unicorn tapestries from John D. Rockefeller Jr.’s collection—have to be seen to be believed.

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Washington Heights

See a real Broadway show

Sorry folks: If it’s not in New York City, it’s not Broadway. Even if your home town has the most gorgeous, 900-seat theater that hosts only the best touring companies, it doesn’t count. To see a real-deal Broadway show, you have to do it here. Whether you shell out the big bucks for Hamilton or go for a newer addition, like Come From Away, you'll be amazed at the caliber of the production. 

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Dine on invasive species and exotic meats at the Explorer’s Club

Like many New York social clubs, the Explorer’s Club holds an annual gala and dinner. The menu, though, isn’t the usual filet mignon and caesar salad. Past dinners have included everything from wooly mammoth steaks found preserved in Siberian permafrost to fried tarantulas. Though the club only offers membership to a select group of adventurers—think Neil Armstrong and James Cameron—the annual gala is open to anyone who can afford the four-figure ticket price.

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Lenox Hill

Shop at the world’s second largest department store

With 11 floors and more than 2 million square feet of retail space, Macy’s Herald Square location is the largest department store in the country and the second largest in the world. Come in December to catch a glimpse of the famous holiday windows or in the spring to peep the annual flower show. No matter what time of year you visit, you can always take a historic tour to learn how the popular chain got its start and ride the original wooden escalators.

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Midtown West
See the real-life haunts of Spider-Man, Superman and Batman

See the real-life haunts of Spider-Man, Superman and Batman

Peter Parker, Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent all lived in the same city—although it was called Gotham City in Wayne’s world and Metropolis in Kent’s. See the real-life inspiration for the Daily Bugle offices and Green Goblin’s Gothic mansion on a superhero tour of Manhattan.

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Get freaky at the first sex museum in the U.S.

Ready to jump in a boob-themed bounce house or learn the history of sex toys? You’ve come to the right place: the Museum of Sex has been educating New Yorkers and tourists on all things X-rated since it first opened in 2002. Don’t forget to check out the epic museum store for all your adult shopping needs.

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Midtown
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Ready to explore more of the city?

The 100 best things to do under $100

New York consistently ranks as one of the most expensive cities in the world, but it doesn't always have to be so tough on your wallet.

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By: Time Out contributors

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