There are so many things to do in New York. In fact, there are too many. Unfortunately, so many of the most written about attractions are actually sort of awful. Here are some popular things in and around New York City that you can skip and plan instead for some lesser known alternatives.
1. Brooklyn Bridge
You already know this, but it has to be said. There are so, so many tourists. And bikers. Go at 3 am, in the rain, or walk the Manhattan Bridge and enjoy the view of the Brooklyn Bridge from afar..
2. Stone Pillars in Van Cortland Park
The park is unexpectedly lovely, just don’t pretend these stone pillars are an attraction. These were basically test stones used to determine which type of stone was used when building Grand Central Station. Yeah, that’s it. If I stumbled upon these on my own it might be exciting, but they’re just not worth the fuss. There’s also the slim remnants of an old Putnam Line station. There’s something about “finding” an abandoned station in the middle of a busy park that takes the thrill away. Instead, head to Pelham Bay Park and track down the abandoned Bartow station near City Island.
Van Cortland Park
There are so many cool places that should be turned into parks. This is not one of them. Turning this former railway into a park would take away any possibility of making it into a rail link that would connect the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn (aka the RX line). So, while I vote against turning this right of way into a park, I do encourage exploring the old Rockaway Beach Branch rail line in its current state. You can enter the pathway at the end of Trotting Course Lane in Forest Hills.
Rockaway Beach Line
4. Bannerman Castle
The castle was actually a warehouse for an ammunition company built in the early 1900s. Pollepel Island is tiny and most of it is theoretically off-limits. You can only access the island via kayak or a $30 tour through the Bannerman Castle Trust. When I went the tour boat dropped us off and was an hour late picking us up to bring us back to shore. The tour guide told us a bunch of “history” that offended the amateur historian in me . Color me unimpressed. You’re better off admiring it from Metro North or from the top of one of the mountains of the Hudson Highlands.
5. Statue of Liberty
I mean, cause really. It costs $25-28 per person, robs you of 3+ hours, and you’ll wait in line FOREVER. Take a free ride on the Staten Island ferry instead. You’ll get a killer view of lower Manhattan and the Statue without the hassle.
Statue of Liberty
Staten Island Ferry
6. City Hall station
I love trains, abandoned things, and especially abandoned train things. However, access to this station is only available to members of the NY Transit Museum which costs $50 AND you have to pay $50 for the tour. Instead, stay on the southbound 6 train at the Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall station while it loops to the northbound platform. When you’re travelling through the loop you’ll be able to see the City Hall station out the window. You should also visit the Transit Museum for just $7 where you can play around on old trains.
City Hall station tour
City Hall station from the 6 train
7. North Brother Island
The way a lot of local blogs write about this place, you’d think you can actually go there. You can’t. Access is completely restricted and illegal. I admit, it looks totally awesome and I’d love to go, but I don’t want to get arrested. Also, I don’t have a boat. There are plenty of accessible and not so illegal options if you’re in the mood for abandoned stuff in New York City like the old US Army base in Fort Totten.
North Brother Island