Sense & the City’s Top 29 Cool Things to Do in New York

  1. CONEY ISLAND, BROOKLYN 

    1 Coney Island Polar Bears
    Watch the Coney Island Polar Bears swim in the Atlantic Ocean, every Sunday from November through April. Gather on the Coney Island Boardwalk at Tenth Street, outside the Education Hall of the New York Aquarium, to see this motley crew of all ages and genders frolic in the winter waves. They have never missed a Sunday, so don’t let the temperature deter you. The race to the water begins between 12.30 and 1 pm.

    For more info: http://www.polarbearclub.org/polarbears/index.htm.
    Closest subways: F, Q to West Eighth Street.

  2. MIDTOWN

    2 shoe shine

    Get a classic New York shoe-shine in the high brass, leather, and wood pedestal chairs at Eddie’s in Grand Central Terminal. Watch commuters stream by as your shoes are buffed in signature New York style; the gestures of these bootblacks are choreography in themselves. Located in the Biltmore Passage near Track 40.

    For more info: http://www.grandcentralterminal.com/store/2137026141.
    Closest subways: 4, 5, 6, 7, and S to Grand Central Terminal.

  3. WEST VILLAGE

    3 blind diningTry a blindfolded dinnerat Camaje. Enjoy a delicious four-course French-American meal served with wine pairings and musical accompaniment without being able to see a thing! Your other senses come alive, and food tastes as it never has before. All dietary restrictions are faithfully adhered to. Dates vary.

    For more info: http://camaje.com/dark-dining/.
    Closest subways: A, B, C, D, E, F, M to West Fourth Street; 1 to Houston Street.

  4. BUSHWICK, BROOKLYN

    4 CB I Hate Perfume
    Take a scent journey at CB I Hate Perfume. Browse and sniff experiential scents ranging from “In the Library” to “Burning Leaves” at this Bushwick “scent library.” You can also buy them if the power of nostalgia overwhelms you.
    For more info: http://cbihateperfume.com/.
    Closest subway: L to Grand Street.

  5. TRIBECA

    5 Dream HouseVisit the Dream House, a long-term sound and light installation. Bask on a soft pillow or rug and let the shifting magenta light and immersive, pulsing sounds transport you out of the city—and into uncharted places in your mind.

    For more info: http://www.melafoundation.org/
    Closest subway: 1 to Franklin Street.

  6. KENSINGTON, BROOKLYN

    6 Buzz-a-Rama
    Try slot-car racing at Buzz-a-Rama, the last remaining slot-car-racing storefront in the city. Rent a colored plastic car and a throttle, stick the car into the slot, and let the racing begin! Open Saturdays from 2 to 7 pm and Sundays from 2 to 6 pm.

    For more info: http://www.buzz-a-rama.com.
    Closest subways: F, G to Church Avenue.

  7. MIDTOWN

    7 ChestnutsMunch on hot chestnuts from a street cart. During the winter holiday season, as you’re wandering around Rockefeller Center and taking in the shop windows, don’t pass by the street carts selling bags of hot roasted chestnuts from a tin-foil-covered pan, heated by a bare light bulb. A few carts are usually stationed around Fifty-Third Street and Fifth Avenue, but let your nose guide you.

    Closest subways: E, M to Fifth Avenue/Fifty-third Street.

  8. TRIBECA

    8 tugboat PegasusTake a ride on an historic New York City tugboat. Charter a ride on the tug Pegasus, a classic tug manned by the charming Pamela Hepburn, one of the few female captains in the business. From her berth at Pier 25, in Tribeca, she’ll take you on a trip along the Hudson River, let you tour the wheelhouse, and a cadre of volunteers onboard will point out the sights. The minimum number of people for a charter is twelve, but you can contact to her to see if you can tag fill vacant seats on an existing charter. The cost is $125 per person.

    For more info: http://www.tugpegasus.org/index.htm.
    Closest subway: 1 to Franklin Street.

  9. MIDTOWN

    9 Roosevelt tramRide the Roosevelt Island Tram. Don’t miss the chance for breathtaking views of New York and the East River—and a stomach-turning descent—all for the price of a MetroCard swipe. Explore the haunting wonders of Roosevelt Island while you’re at it. In Manhattan, board at Fifty-Ninth Street and Second Avenue.

    For more info and schedule: http://rioc.ny.gov/tramtransportation.htm.
    Closest subways: N, Q, R to Fifty-ninth Street; F to Roosevelt Island (to take the tram into Manhattan instead).

  10. INWOOD

    10 Inwood Indian caves
    Explore the Indian caves in Inwood Hill Park. Enter the park from Indian Road, cross the soccer field to the entrance to the woods just behind the field, take the left fork in the path, and the caves will be in the cliffs to your right, up well-worn but steep trails.

    Closest subway: A to 207th Street.

  11. RIVERDALE, THE BRONX

    11 Wave HillVisit Wave Hill Public Garden, one of the most peaceful and hidden corners of the city. Seek out the copper beech tree and stand beneath its rustling leaves—or lie down, if the spirit moves you, and listen to the day pass by.

    For more info: http://www.wavehill.org/.
    Closest public transit: Metro-North Hudson Line to Riverdale.

  12. MIDTOWN

    12 Rose Reading RoomRead a book in the Rose Main Reading Room at the main branch of the New York Public Library at Forty-Second Street and Fifth Avenue. Though plugs for laptops are available, the light in here is amazing on the printed page, and you will feel yourself in the company of great minds.

    For more info: http://www.nypl.org/locations/schwarzman/general-research-division/rose-main-reading-room.
    Closest subways B, D, F, M to Forty-second Street/Bryant Park; 7 to Fifth Avenue.

  13. EAST VILLAGE

    13 McSorley'sOrder the cracker-and-cheese plate at McSorley’s Old Ale House. Only two types of beer are served here, dark and light, and both go down easy in the company of the cracker-and-cheese plate: a humble sleeve of saltines, slabs of Cracker Barrel, raw onion and tomato, and horseradish mustard. Listen to the walls speak; this place has been here since 1854.

    For more info: http://www.mcsorleysnewyork.com/.
    Closest subway: 6 to Astor Place; N, R to Eighth Street.

  14. CHELSEA 14 sensory deprivation tankTry the sensory-deprivation tank at Blue Light Flotation. Suspend your body in a large soundproof, lightproof bathtub filled with a thousand pounds of Epsom salts and body-temperature water. The borders of your body will dissolve and you will feel weightless: a rare and liberating sensation.

    For more info: http://www.bluelightfloatation.com.
    Closest subway: 1 to Twenty-third Street.

  15. FLATBUSH, BROOKLYN

    15 wild brooklyn parrotsGo on a Wild Brooklyn Parrot Safari. Did you know there are wild parrots living in Flatbush, Brooklyn? Take a walk and observe these exotic birds in their “natural” habitat—and learn the story of why they are here.

    For more info: http://www.brooklynparrots.com/p/blog-page.html.
    Location is secret and will be revealed when you sign up for a tour.

  16. STATEN ISLAND

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    Go to Staten Island for Sri Lankan food. The hole-in-the-wall New Asha Café will serve you an unforgettable meal full of unfamiliar flavors and textures on a Styrofoam plate. Be sure to get the flaky, buttery roti to mop up all the spicy curry. 322 Victory Blvd., Staten Island, near Cebra Avenue.

    For more info: 718-420-0649. Open 10 am till 10 pm.
    Closest public transportation: Staten Island Ferry to S48, S61, S66 buses.

  17. CHINATOWN

    17 Magic Jewelry
    Sit in the “crystal chair” at Magic Jewelry. This Chinatown retail shop specializes in crystals and aura readings, but you can sit in its crystal chair, located in a corner window, for free. Place one palm on a white crystal and the other on a black crystal, close your eyes, and feel your energies realigning.
    For more info: 212-343-0663. Open 11.30 am till 7.30 pm at 238 Canal Street.
    Closest subways: J, N, Q, 6 to Canal Street.

  18. LOWER EAST SIDE

    18 Hua Mei Bird Garden
    Visit the Hua Mei Bird Garden in Sara D. Roosevelt Park. Every morning (but especially Sundays) in the warmer months, Chinese bird-owners bring their exotic songbirds to compete in singing competitions: the birdsong fills the corner of this park, as do their bamboo cages. Northern tip of the park, at Houston between Forsyth and Chrystie Streets.

    Closest subway: F to Second Avenue.

  19. UPPER EAST SIDE

    19 egg cream
    Get an egg cream at Lexington Ave Candy Shop. Try a classic incarnation of this classic New York drink, which contains neither eggs nor cream but seltzer, milk, and flavored syrup. The Lexington Candy Shop is old-school to the core, and will serve you a water chaser in a waxed cone cup: perfection.

    For more info: http://www.lexingtoncandyshop.net/.
    Closest subway: 6 to Eighty-sixth Street.

  20. CORONA, QUEENS. Get a lemon ice from the Lemon Ice King of Corona and bring it to “Spaghetti Park,” right across the street. Remember three house rules: don’t ask for a “scoop,” no mixing of flavors, and no exchanges.

    For more info: http://thelemonicekingofcorona.com/.
    Closest subway: 7 to 103rd Street.

  21. DITMAS PARK, BROOKLYN

    21 Church Ave
    Stroll down Church Avenue between Ocean Avenue and Coney Island Avenue for a smell of multicultural Brooklyn. This is apparently one of the most ethnically diverse zip codes in the entire United States. Take in the soul food and Chinese take-out, the storefront churches, discount stores and ethnic hair salons, fresh-mown grass of mansion lawns, fish stores, Laundromats, spice stores, and more.

    Closest subways: B, Q to Church Avenue.

  22. ROSSVILLE, STATEN ISLAND

    22 boat graveyard
    Visit Staten Island’s boat graveyard. For those with an adventurous spirit, a car, and a good pair of rubber boots, wade into the trash-strewn shallows to get amazing views of the rusting hulls of ancient half-sunken in the shadow of Fresh Kills Landfill. No hours—just park on the side of the road and find a good viewing spot: we recommend getting your bearings from the hill at Blazing Star Burial Ground, just down the road from Donjon Marine Salvage, 2453 Arthur Kill Road.

    Public transportation: Staten Island Ferry to S74, S84 bus.

  23. SOHO

    23 Earth Room
    Immerse yourself in the New York Earth Room, 250 cubic yards of fresh earth that has resided in a SoHo loft since 1977. Though you’re technically not allowed to touch the earth (we won’t tell), being in the presence of this much raw, fragrant dirt is rejuvenating. Just a twenty-inches-high sheet of Plexiglas separates you from the earth. It’s a real escape.

    For more info: http://www.diaart.org/sites/main/earthroom.
    Closest subways: B, Q, F, M to Broadway-Lafayette; C to Spring Street.

  24. MIDTOWN

    24 Bryant Park bathrooms
    Visit the public restrooms in Bryant Park. If you find yourself in need of a Midtown loo, look no farther than Bryant Park, which bears the 2002 crown of “the best bathroom in America.” In addition to the usual, the facilities feature fresh flowers, mosaics, wall sconces, wood and marble, Hygolet automatic toilet-seat covers, Xlerator air dryers, mousse soap—and immaculate cleanliness. Forty-Second Street midway between Fifth and Sixth Avenues.

    Closest subways B, D, F, M to Forty-second Street/Bryant Park; 7 to Fifth Avenue.

  25. GOWANUS, BROOKLYN

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    Canoe the Gowanus Canal with the Gowanus Dredgers Canoe Club. Attend one of their free drop-in canoeing clinics and take one of their six canoes out onto the waters to explore this Superfund site up close.

    For more info: http://www.gowanuscanal.org/.
    Closest subways: F, G to Carroll Street.

  26. ASTORIA, QUEENS: Get a pitcher of beer at the Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden, kicking back at the long picnic tables beneath the linden trees and trumpeter elms in the spacious backyard. You can easily while away an afternoon at the one and only beer garden in New York City, which also serves as a Czech cultural center.

    For more info: http://www.bohemianhall.com/en/Index.php.
    Closest subway: N to Astoria Boulevard.

  27. MIDTOWN

    27 Manhattanhenge
    Witness Manhattanhenge. If you happen to be in New York during one of the two times of the year when the setting sun directly aligns with the city’s east–west street grid, you are in for a treat. Look to the west from Fourteenth, Twenty-Third, Thirty-Fourth, and Forty-Second Streets, or for a great view (and big crowds) stand on the Tudor City Bridge, located between First and Second Avenues. For this year’s dates try Google.

    Closest subway varies by location, but take any line to one of the streets mentioned above.

  28. EAST VILLAGE

    28 Russian Baths
    Get a platza treatment at the Russian and Turkish Baths. It’s true that getting whipped with a broom make of oak branches in a nearly two-hundred-degree room is intense—but after you emerge and plunge into a pool of ice-cold water, then relax on the roof deck, your skin and your spirit will feel like never before. The least-crowded time to visit is a weekday afternoon.

    For more info: http://www.russianturkishbaths.com/.
    Closest subway: L to First Avenue.

  29. UPPER EAST SIDE

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    Eat a black-and-white cookie from Glaser’s Bake Shop. This yin-yang confection, sort of a cross between a cupcake and a cookie, is an iconic New York treat. Find out what all the fuss is about at this hundred-year-old bakery, ostensibly where the cookie originated. Don’t be tempted by the miniature versions: the large cookie is the only one with the correct surface-to-interior ratio.

    For more info: http://www.glasersbakeshop.com/.
    Closest subway: 6 to Eighty-sixth Street.

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