NYC weird stuff to do for visitors.
August 16, 2010 8:03 PM   Subscribe

NYC is large and overwhelming. Romantic partner and I are going for vacation for 4 days (sept 16-20ish). Only things on the agenda so far are: Doughnut Plant and Pickle Guys. What else should we do? (Also,where should we stay?) [snowflake details inside]

I realize this has been asked millions of times, and the VRBO seems like a good choice, but there are a million listings!

Things we find neat:

* free stuff
* kinky, pervy things (and other sexytimes, pm if you need more specific details!)
* weird museums
* nature in the city?
* veg*n food, etc., weird foodie stuff.
* bike punkiness
* diy/craft/steampunk/etsy/make etc.
* low stress. We're trying to be flexible.
* queer stuff (though we're a cis-guy and cis-woman, if it matters)
* tmbg-related pilgramages, if any exist.

Not so much:

* night time / club stuff
* fancy bars (unless they're really bizarre/interesting for some reason!)

Must sees? Make a plug for your favorite 'hood. We're looking for quality of experience, not the whirlwind tour of the city!

Snowflake details: we're 30s, very fit, anglo, understand transit and maps, edumacated, coming from Minneapolis.

We're looking for a "1 thing per day" kind of trip. While that thing *could be* Central Park, I'd like different options. We're open to ideas like "ride the subway for a while" if people are willing to give a bit of guidance!

Accommodation advice also welcome, if there is a great boutique or otherwise interesting idea (not sure if we're ChelseaArms level of interesting or not!). We're looking to spend

Thanks in advance! PM's also welcome.
posted by gregglind to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (24 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: also, Best-weirdalternative-places-to-go-in-NYC seems to cover a lot. I want fewer anarchist bookstores, more weird ray-guns.
posted by gregglind at 8:05 PM on August 16, 2010

Museum of Sex
Foraging with the "Wildman" (since going on a tour with this guy, I haven't been able to stop picking and eating black cherries off the trees in NYC parks! who knew they were everywhere?)
posted by sashapearl at 8:11 PM on August 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Suggesting you don't go to the Museum of Sex. It's not only tame, but overpriced and dull.
posted by greta simone at 8:13 PM on August 16, 2010 [3 favorites]

Bike to the Cloisters..
posted by thejoshu at 8:18 PM on August 16, 2010

Perhaps a class at Toys in Babeland?
Coney Island? (Much weirdness to be had.)
You'll find more weird in the East Village, SoHo, Chinatown etc in general. I wouldn't bother going north of like 15th St. Avoid both upper sides.
posted by hansbrough at 8:23 PM on August 16, 2010

I had a good experience using AirBnB to find a room to rent in someone's apartment in the NYC-area. It's a lot cheaper than a hotel, and you can stay in a cool area and get tips from the hosts on places to go. Maybe I'm just a hipster or something, but I liked Brooklyn a lot, and has a lot of the things you're looking for. The Brooklyn Heights Promenade has an amazing view, and there are tasty eateries near there.
Riding the subway is fun, but the platforms are pretty warm and muggy this time of year (it doesn't seem that bad to me, because I'm from the seventh layer of hell, a.k.a. Texas, but my more northerly friends seem to find it pretty unbearable), so keep that in mind.
You'll probably also like Greenwich Village. It is pretty cool (don't remember specifics as it was a long time ago).
posted by elpea at 8:25 PM on August 16, 2010

If you're not veg*n, then I'd say you must go to any of the Momofuku restaurants for foodie points.

If you are veg*n, then here's a ton of places recommended in my own question.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 8:36 PM on August 16, 2010

Best answer: Bike to the Cloisters..
100000% do not bike to the cloisters if you're from out of town. Taking the A train up there, however, is highly recommended.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 8:37 PM on August 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

Read the Songlines to learn some interesting history about the city, like the fact that 213 South Park Avenue used to be Max's Kansas City. For example, it says this about Wo Hop, a restaurant at 17 Mott Street:
On August 15, 1909, 16-year-old Bow Kum was murdered at this address by a Four Brothers gang assassin. The gang maintained that Bow was their property; her killing touched off a war between the Four Bothers and the On Leong Tong, to which her husband belonged. Earlier, in 1883, the Lung Ye Tong's Tom Lee was indicted for running a gambling establishment here.
posted by billtron at 8:49 PM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Brooklyn Superhero Supply Shop is a fun way to kill an afternoon.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:52 PM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Okay, okay, so it is on the Upper West Side. Still, the Museum of Natural History is not to be missed. Ever. By anyone who has never been to NY before. (Forget about that movie.)

There is plenty of authentically, anthropologically "weird" there to be had. And walking through CP is fun too.
posted by emhutchinson at 11:24 PM on August 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

And re: "free stuff"

Wherever you go, bear in mind that the "suggested donation" at such venues as the aforementioned Museum of Natural History or the Metropolitan Museum of Art is exactly that.
They might make faces but probably won't when you offer them fifty cents (or less) in lieu of nine or twelve or however many dollars they are currently suggesting. Pay what you want/can, stay as long/short as you like.

(I did grow up there, leave, come back in early adulthood, and leave again. I know whereof I speak. I hope you have fun!)
posted by emhutchinson at 11:29 PM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: tmbg-related pilgramages, if any exist.

Heh. Well, I've done two:

Bethesda Terrace in Central Park, where they made the video for They'll Need a Crane.

The cruddy docks in Williamsburg, Brooklyn where they sit on the couches at the beginning of Gigantic, which I think also appear in a video but I can't remember which one it is, are publicly accessible if you walk down to the end of...I think like North 7th Street?
posted by clavicle at 5:17 AM on August 17, 2010

Best answer: There is a Church of Craft on (I believe) Saturdays at Etsy Labs in Brooklyn. They have everything you need to do a small project in a little time, including sewing machines. It's a eclectic crowd and open to the public, so I love going whenever I'm in New York and listening to people talk.

Actually, there is a really nice walk from the Donut Plant down through China Town and over the Brooklyn bridge. Etsy headquarters is just a few blocks from there. The views are great and the walk is a relaxing one.
posted by Alison at 5:43 AM on August 17, 2010 [3 favorites]

Best answer: My standard "off the beaten path" recommendation in these threads is to take a free tour of the Grand Lodge of Masons on W23rd street, not far from the Flatiron building.

Craft-wise this might be a stretch, but Art Brown Pen Shop has a lot of nice stationery, blank journals, some art supplies (I think) and of course pens! Fountain pens in all price ranges and a deliciously huge selection of bottled ink.
posted by usonian at 6:27 AM on August 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If you go to the Museum of Natural History, you're right in the same neighbourhood as my favourite transfixed insect and ethically-sourced spare human kneecap store, Maxilla and Mandible.

You'd also be just a few blocks north of the Dakota, which is only one of many spectacular residential buildings in the neighbourhood.

You said Chelsea Arms; are you gently fending off suggestions for both the Chelsea and the Carlton Arms? If so, consider the Jane. (I forgot the name, and was successful with the search string "fun hotel sailor manhattan" which, uh, well. I was lucky.) They have free wireless, and complimentary bicycles! Or there is the Pod.

If you're going to be in Brooklyn, and want some nature, go to the Green-Wood Cemetery. It's huge, full of birds and flowers, and has a trolley tour once a week. Also: dead people, many of whom were interesting.
posted by Sallyfur at 6:31 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Still processing, but y'all rule!
posted by gregglind at 6:46 AM on August 17, 2010

Best answer: I recommend a morning walk on the High Line. Also seconding The Cloisters, but for god's sake, don't bike there.
posted by TrialByMedia at 6:48 AM on August 17, 2010

Response by poster: Sallyfur, I did mean Carlton Arms! Looked at the Pod, the Jane as well... with two people, private bathroom, they're just as much as a place like Ink48!
posted by gregglind at 6:52 AM on August 17, 2010

Oh! Foodswings on Grand in Brooklyn for vegan junk food! And Teany does a vegan-compatible tea service. School Products, Purl Soho, and definitely Habu Textiles! Also because I am a dork I loved the transit museum in Brooklyn.
posted by clavicle at 7:26 AM on August 17, 2010

I can't second the High Line hard enough. Just went there for the first time after living here for a while; it's a little overcrowded but so, so cool.

I also have stayed at the Gershwin and it might be right up your alley. I loved it. It's right next to the Museum of Sex ... which I agree is overrated.
posted by good day merlock at 8:08 AM on August 17, 2010

You'd also be just a few blocks north of the Dakota, which is only one of many spectacular residential buildings in the neighbourhood.

The Dakota is also where John Lennon lived & died.

nth'ing the High Line. It's fantastic.

Have you checked the listings for Burlesque shows? There are a lot of them going on in the city these days.
posted by swngnmonk at 8:54 AM on August 17, 2010

The Gershwin was fine the first time I stayed there but two years later it was a bad experience and extremely noisy. I didn't get a night's sleep.
posted by essexjan at 10:24 AM on August 17, 2010

Best answer: If you're NOT vegan, my food suggestions count. If you are, then eh...

- Hit Rice to Riches for dessert if you're near LES/Chinatown/Little Italy. It'll be well worth your trip; quirky and amazing.

- Check out Kashkaval in Hell's Kitchen (9th Ave in the 50's) if you're looking for a reasonable, fantastic, highly romantic meal. Mediterranean fare, the most amazing fondue I've ever had, a great wine list. Definitely off the touristy beatin' path.

- Pasita in Chelsea/West Village. Venezuelan appetizers and flair on scrumptious brick-oven pizzas. Great wine list. Cute, tucked away, romantic.

- Pio Pio -- dirt cheap phenomenal Peruvian. Great sangria. If you're not a vegan/vegetarian, try the salchipapas. Pretend it's your birthday, too: we always do.

- If you want cupcakes, skip the Magnolia BS. I lived in NYC for several years and Magnolia cupcakes were some of the worst I had. Check out Crumbs, Sugar Sweet Sunshine, or Buttercup instead, IMHO.

Besides food:
Babeland is a lot like your Smitten Kitten, but still adorable. The sex workshops are great. If you're looking for something more fetishy, maybe check out Paddles in Chelsea. Cubbyhole is my favorite gay girl bar, but boys are very welcome. UCB Theatre is around there, and if it floats your boat you've got a fair shot of seeing Any Poehler/Horatio Sanz/Bobby Moynihan/etc if you go to a Sunday evening ASSSSCAT show. Continental Bar in the East Village is grungy NY at its best/worst, and has 5 shots of anything for $10, always. Check out Vol de Nuit for your West Village Belgian beer bar immersion. You can kayak on the Hudson for free, which is admittedly more enthralling than my jaded self expected it to be.

I concur re: Cloisters on bike, High Line, Coney Island (Shoot the Freak and the bumper cars at El Dorado!) I'd suggest hitting some off beat museums instead of the big ones: the Tenement Museum jumps to mind immediately; the Museum of Sex isn't too bad. If you want a quirky evening experience with a few drinks in hand, try Barcade (it's exactly as it sounds) in Williamsburg or Crocodile/Alligator Lounge --- in East V/Gramercy and Williamsburg respectively.

Go up to the Brooklyn Bridge with a bottle of wine.

etc etc etc...
posted by scwebd at 10:54 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

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