New York may be one of the busiest and most-visited destinations in the world, but it is still possible to get off the beaten path. The state has dozens of underrated attractions, ranging from hiking trails and lakes in the Adirondacks, to quirky museums and hidden parks in the Big Apple. One can only visit the Statue of Liberty and Central Park so many times, so whether you’re a local who has seen it all or a traveler looking to blaze a new trail, we’ve put together a list of 30 great overlooked attractions in New York.
Avalanche Lake isn’t underrated due to its lack of beauty. Rather, it’s a difficult place to reach. Experienced hikers face a tough trek on Avalanche Pass and Avalanche Lake Trail — we are talking wooden ladders, ski trails, and bridges — but once they reach Avalanche Lake they are rewarded with some of the most stunning views in the gorgeous Adirondacks. Make the trip in the dry summer, or pack your snowshoes and brave it in winter.
During World War II, New York City was a major center for shipbuilding and this small but fascinating museum pays homage to the city’s maritime heritage. The museum, located at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, features permanent exhibits on famous ships like the USS Monitor (Civil War) and USS Arizona (Pearl Harbor) — both of which were built here.
Blue Mountain Lake
Make the trek up Castle Rock and be rewarded with some of the most stunning views in the entire state of New York. To get there, look for the Castle Rock Trail, a mile-and-a-half climb that ends about 700 feet above Blue Mountain Lake in the Adirondacks. The views of the lake, with its characteristic wooded islands, are truly astonishing.
Caumsett State Park
Caumsett State Park is a stunning 1,500-acre park located on a peninsula of Long Island Sound. Built in the early 1920s, the park was originally a lavish estate. Today, the original house still stands but the grounds have become a public place for hiking, fishing, bird-watching, and even polo matches. Head to the park to explore, or check online for various upcoming events.
Cave of the Winds
Niagara Falls is one of the most visited attractions in the world, and for good reason. While we definitely agree it’s a must-see, we also suggest skipping the famous Maid of the Mist boat ride in lieu of the much more underrated Cave of the Winds. This often-overlooked attraction, which can be found on the American side of the Falls, takes guests 175-feet into Niagara Gorge itself, right into the crashing waters of Bridal Veil Falls. The experience is absolutely thrilling, though fair warning: you’ll leave soaked!
Chimney Bluffs State Park
This otherworldly state park located along Lake Ontario makes for a perfect weekend escape into nature. The titular bluffs are indeed a huge wall of pointy cliffs, and provide quite the scenery. To fully enjoy, spend some time exploring the park’s hiking trails. They total approximately four miles and range from easy walks to more challenging climbs.
New York has multiple Chinatowns, and while the one in Manhattan tends to get all of the praise — and the tourists — we suggest Flushing’s Chinatown in Queens. Take a morning or afternoon and just explore. There are tons of authentic sights, and the food, ranging from Szechuan to dumplings, has become a culinary sensation.
City Hall Subway Station
New York City
Central Station may get all of the attention, but this stunning abandoned subway station is definitely one of New York’s most overlooked attractions. No longer used due to the fact that modern trains are just too large, City Hall Subway Station is a beautiful time capsule of mosaicked walls, domed ceilings, and artful window installations. To see it legally, book a public tour with the New York Transit Museum.
City Reliquary Museum
The City Reliquary Museum is the perfect pilgrimage site for lovers of NYC. This unique place holds all kinds of interesting and random pieces from the city’s long and varied history, from a vintage subway turnstile, to old postcards featuring major landmarks, to memorabilia commemorating the history of burlesque in the Big Apple. For an added experience, check the museum’s website, as it is always hosting interesting events and fundraisers.
New York City
A ticket to The Met, one of NYC’s most visited attractions, will also get you into this underrated one. The Cloisters, located in Washington Heights, is a beautiful and peaceful museum celebrating medieval architecture. Medieval architecture in New York City? Yes, and it’s authentic. The Cloisters are constructed from a number of European churches and abbeys which were disassembled and shipped to New York during the 1930s. Whether you visit for the history or the solitude, you won’t be disappointed.
Darwin D. Martin House Complex
Head to Buffalo to explore the overlooked attraction that is the Darwin D. Martin House Complex. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in the early 1900s, the house actually consists of six connected buildings, each of which is known for its own unique features. Sign up for a tour of the complex and learn why the Darwin D. Martin House Complex is considered to be one of Wright’s best works.
New York City
Take the short ferry ride to Governors Island and enjoy the large green space and even an artificial beach. The 172-acre park has a history that dates back to the 1700s, and visitors can still see the remains of Castle Williams, Fort Jay, and a few other historical sites. Rent a bike to ride around, grab lunch at one of the resident food trucks, or snap awesome photos of the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan skyline.
New York City
This tiny park in Midtown East is definitely not Central Park, but it is a local favorite and one of New York’s most overlooked attractions. Grab a picnic lunch and wander through this lush green space. The spot next to the impressive waterfall is especially charming.
It might seem odd to suggest a cemetery as an attraction, but this one is definitely worth a wander through. The beautiful 478-acre cemetery originated as the site of a Revolutionary War battlefield, and many of the participating soldiers have never left. Whether you choose to walk through at your own pace or hop on the historic trolley tour, keep your eyes out for some truly impressive old headstones and the famous names that are buried here. TimeOut New York even called Green-Wood New York’s most underrated park.
Located in the heart of the Catskills is the Kaatskill Kaleidoscope, the world’s largest kaleidoscope and definitely one of New York’s most overlooked attractions. The kaleidoscope sits in the ceiling of a converted silo, and revolves around to the sound of music to create an incredible light show that has been entertaining passers by for decades. To fully experience what has been called “better than the Fourth of July,” simply lay on your back on the floor and look up!
Museum at FIT
New York City
Fashion lovers will rejoice with a visit to the famous Fashion Institute of Technology. Though the fashion school is well known, its museum is definitely one of the city’s most overlooked attractions. The museum features rotating themed exhibits, and past exhibits have included “Triangle Factory Fire” and “Fairy Tale Fashion.” Best of all, the museum is free!
Museum of the American Gangster
New York City
1920s New York and the American gangster are practically synonymous, so it’s no wonder the Museum of the American Gangster is totally one of New York’s best overlooked attractions. Housed in a former speakeasy in the Lower East Side, this fun and unique museum — the only one of its kind in the world — is a great place to learn about the city’s extensive history of crime.
Museum of the Moving Image
New York City
Lovers of film and television will get a kick out of the Museum of the Moving Image. This museum dedicated to all things cinematic includes a state-of-the-art cinema which plays classic films, more than a dozen classic arcade games, and hundreds of props and other memorabilia from some of history’s most famous films and television shows.
The Empire State is full of wonderfully unique example of architectural styles, but there is none more unique than the Mushroom House. Designed to look like a mushroom and constructed in the early 1970s, this aptly named house consists of four flat-topped “pods” totaling more than 4,000 square feet. Though the Mushroom House might look odd in the suburbs, we have to admit it looks right at home amongst the woods surrounding it.
The National Museum of the American Indian
New York City
While the hordes of tourists head towards the Met, make a visit to the National Museum of the American Indian instead. Located in what was once the U.S. Customs House, this impressive museum has loads of Native American artifacts, plus an especially impressive domed ceiling with paintings of the earliest Americans.
Peekamoose Blue Hole
The Catskills are chock-full of beautiful sights, not the least of which is Peekamoose Blue Hole. This uniquely named attraction is the perfect place to visit on a hot New York day. Find a secluded spot, lay out your beach towel, and dive on in. Just be careful — the water here is so clear that it’s often deeper than it first appears.
Robert Louis Stevenson Memorial Cottage
Robert Louis Stevenson is one of the world’s most beloved authors, but his memorial cottage in Saranac Lake is one of the state’s most overlooked attractions. Stevenson stayed in this unassuming little cottage in 1887 while he recovered from tuberculosis. Despite him staying for just a short time, the cottage today holds more Stevenson memorabilia than anywhere else. Lovers of literature are sure to enjoy seeing the small details of the author’s life, from the ice skates he wore to skate on local ponds, to his stylish purple smoking jacket, complete with the sprig of Scottish heather he kept in the breast pocket.
The Salt Museum
If the topic of this underrated museum sounds less than thrilling, then you are in for quite the surprise. Overlooking Onondaga Lake and housed in a recreated salt block house, the Salt Museum tells the story of what was once the region’s main industry through fascinating exhibits and imagery.
The state of New York has an impressive collection of caves and caverns — Howe Caverns is perhaps one of the more famous ones. If you enjoy exploring caves, but want to get off the beaten path, then check out Secret Caverns. This overlooked attraction is absolutely stunning and includes a 100-foot underground waterfall.
New York City
Said to be the oldest paved street in the city, the pedestrian-only Stone Street is a great place for an evening (or heck, even an afternoon) in the city. The cobblestoned street is lined with old buildings that have been converted into restaurants and bars. If you’re lucky, you may stumble upon Stone Street during one of its many festivals.
Two garden-loving New Yorkers began this garden nearly two decades ago, and today it’s an awe-inspiring attraction that is one of the state’s most overlooked. The gardens have been described as a “Monet painting come to life,” and indeed, they are unusually beautiful. Visitors are invited to immerse themselves in the foliage, which changes from season to season.
Storm King Art Center
Just a little more than an hour north of New York City, one of the world’s most famous center for the arts, is the town of New Windsor and its totally overlooked Storm King Art Center. This unique sculpture park is nothing short of impressive, with 500+ acres dedicated to creative and eye-catching sculpture art. Bring your comfortable shoes and start exploring, or settle for a picnic somewhere amongst the gently rolling hills.
The Tenement Museum
New York City
A favorite museum of the locals, the Tenement Museum celebrates New York City’s long history of immigration. The museum, housed in an actual former tenement, is designed to look just as it might have for brand new Americans throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Though just walking through is fascinating enough, the museum also offers a variety of neighborhood walking tours.
Whether you’re a local or an off-the-beaten-path traveler, this charming neighborhood with the odd name is a great place to spend some time exploring. Consisting of five blocks forming a square, the whole neighborhood looks as if it has been preserved in the 1800s. Walk the cobblestone streets and find old buildings-turned-restaurants and stunning historic homes like the Commandant’s House. Be sure to bring your camera!
If you’re surprised to read that the Empire State has mountains, then you definitely need to make a visit to Whiteface Mountain. To fully take in this stunning natural landscape, head to Wilmington for the Whiteface Mountain Stairway Ridge Trail, a .2-mile trail that offers postcard-perfect views of the surrounding nature. For an experience just as exhilarating, get there in the morning, when heavy clouds hang especially low over the mountains.