Where in NYC can I find literary/spooky/cinematic/weird places to visit?
September 13, 2011 5:19 PM   Subscribe

I will be holidaying in NYC this month for ten days and am staying near Union Square. Please tell me about literary/spooky/cinematic/weird things to do!

I’m an Australian who now lives in London, and I’ve been to NYC twice before, albeit briefly.

Some Things I like:

Horror, arthouse and cult films
Live Q&As with actors/directors/screenwriters
Interesting talks
Cinematic places and experiences
Antique prosthetic limbs, glass eyes, medical curios
Costume shops
Stand up comedy
Poetry performance (literary readings, though—not slam-style spoken word)
Art deco cinemas
Old library reading rooms
Taxidermy and Things In Jars
Astronauts and dinosaurs
Museums: maritime/medical/science/cinema/literary/nutty
Open-top tourist buses
Things that are cheap or free
Amazing conceptual art that breaks your brain
Boats and ferries
Grocery items that will delight or horrify a non-American

Places I’ve previously visited in NYC and loved:

Obscura Antiques & Oddities
ANHM—I loved the dinos, planetarium and Hall of North American Mammals and will be going back to see what else I missed
The High Line—I’ll be going back now that the second section is open
Staten Island Ferry
Central Park (but I've only explored a tiny bit of it)
Strand books

I'd be grateful for any suggestions for things I should do and see that would scratch any of my odd little itches. Thank you!

[Bonus question: My back is kinda screwed at the moment, and walking for more than a few blocks hurts like the dickens. Can you suggest strategies for getting around NYC that don’t involve huge amounts of walking/stair climbing? Or neat stuff to do/see/eat near Union Square?]
posted by hot soup girl to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (20 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
KGB Bar has readings although they are at the top of a flight of stairs. The various Barnes & Nobles have readings, too.

Cabs are really handy.

Buses require some standing and waiting, but not much stair climbing.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:23 PM on September 13, 2011

The NYFF is happening pretty soon. And...The Evolution Store in Soho is worth checking out.
posted by cazoo at 5:24 PM on September 13, 2011

Sleep No More.
posted by omarlittle at 5:28 PM on September 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

Check out 'The Ride' it isn't an open top tourist bus, but it looks way cooler.

Haven't actually been on it but I've seen it driving around enough, certainly looks fun.
posted by Funky Claude at 5:31 PM on September 13, 2011

Have you been to the Evolution store in Soho? (oh, I see cazoo just said that...so I second it).
posted by bquarters at 5:49 PM on September 13, 2011

"The Ride" is cute- you don't see much of NYC, basically Midtown Grand Central to Columbus Circle, but you get to ride in that neat bus and they have some little entertainment along the way.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:58 PM on September 13, 2011

Ride the Staten Island Ferry - it is free and a great view of the harbor.
posted by Flood at 6:05 PM on September 13, 2011

You would LOVE Sleep No More, but be advised that you'll be walking around, standing, and going up and downstairs pretty much the entire time. There are chairs and opportunities to sit down and catch your breath, but you don't get much out of it unless you're walking around.

I strongly second taking buses instead of subways for transportation -- they'll usually drop you closer to your destination, with virtually no stair climbing.
posted by telegraph at 6:18 PM on September 13, 2011

The Frick Collection (not modern art but a bit 'odd'/unusual)
Natural History Museum
Halloween Adventure
Ricky's (there are other locations throughout the city)

have fun!
posted by xiaolongbao at 7:45 PM on September 13, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions so far! Particularly the KGB readings—I didn't know about them and found two events on their calendar that sound great. Yay!

I've been to the Evolution store before (I bought a centipede there on my honeymoon)—and Sleep No More looks fascinating, but September's completely sold out, alas.

I just thought I'd mention that a couple of flights of stairs are totally fine; I guess it's more the relentless stairs of subway travel that kill me. I think buses are the answer.
posted by hot soup girl at 8:04 PM on September 13, 2011

You could check out the Museum of the Moving Image to see if something there appeals. Most of the screenings are free with admission, which makes it really worth it if you time it right.
posted by Jahaza at 8:47 PM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

I guess it's more the relentless stairs of subway travel that kill me.

Unfortunately, Sleep No More will be very physically difficult for you. To get the most out of it, you'll need to follow characters in and out of rooms. The space is three former nightclubs, joined together. There are five stories to the building and the actors/dancers in the production are at the height of physical fitness--sometimes leaping up or one an entire flight of stairs at once. I fear you'll become frustrated that you can't keep up. You'll end up missing pivotal scenes.

posted by kathryn at 8:53 PM on September 13, 2011

BTW, Sleep No More does hold some extra tickets each night for what they call premium access. Higher ticket price than the regular ticket, but you get guaranteed entry without waiting in line, so you can be first in the space at 7pm if you wish, plus free coat check. And somehow I scammed a drink ticket as well. It's not cheap though. Premium Access is $125 per person (Monday-Thursday) and $162.50 per person (Friday & Saturday). But it's the only way really to get into a sold out show.

Maxilla and Mandible is nearby the AMNH so definitely check that out when you're in the neighborhood.

Tours haven't started yet but this stillspotting thing looks potentially cool.

For a great library reading room, go to the main branch of the New York Public Library on 42nd Street.

You should also look up what is showing at the IFC Center and the MoMA movie theatre.

If you liked the Staten Island Ferry, see if you can catch the ferry to Governor's Island before it closes for the season.

Here's a list I put together on Foursquare of Strange Places and Oddities in NYC.
posted by kathryn at 9:49 PM on September 13, 2011

I see great fun can be had peeping on peepers in Union Square.
posted by HotPatatta at 9:54 PM on September 13, 2011

Amazing conceptual art that breaks your brain:

La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela's Dream House.

Not as brain-breaking, but also more affecting than it looks on paper is Walter De Maria's Earth Room. It feels simultaenously dated and very prescient.

Art deco cinemas:

Aztec deco theater, Elmhurst, Queens (call ahead)

Museums: maritime / Boats and ferries:

The Waterfront Museum. Also, though it's a little pricey ($45), the American Littoral Society has an event on 9/25 that will get you out onto parts of NYC's water that many tourists never see. Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge and the neighborhood surrounding it, Broad Channel, are also beautiful this time of year, and very off the tourist path.


Pick up a copy of Kevin Walsh's Forgotten New York - it lists hundreds of arcane, overlooked, history-soaked, and in some cases just plain weird nooks and crannies in NYC.

RE: Bookstores - if you're near Housing Works, stop by - I've found some great bargains there over the years.

RE: creepy - I recently stumbled on Hillside Mausoleum at Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery. It's a cross between a budget office lobby and "Phantasm", and an unsettling place. Green-Wood is also full of stunning traditional cemetery art, and offers some cheap-ish (~$15) tours that are generally very well done.
posted by ryanshepard at 9:25 AM on September 14, 2011

The Sunshine Cinema on E. Houston Street shows quirky/culty movies at midnight on Friday and Saturday. I went to see Speed last weekend and it was surprisingly fun. I hadn't thought of midnite movies since my Rocky Horror teenager days - this is a whole different deal unless they happen to be showing Rocky Horror by some chance.

Seconding Housing Works bookshop, PS1 (and nearby Five Pointz studios if you're up for grafitti spotting in the surrounding somewhat industrial area), and KGB.

Two of my favorite Manhattan bars are not far from Union Square - Old Town Bar, patina'ed with age and charm but with a stlightly bro-ish clientele, and Drop Off Service, the ultimate wonderful New York City neighborhood pub.
posted by Sara C. at 2:11 PM on September 14, 2011

Or neat stuff to do/see/eat near Union Square.

I'm a big fan of Pete's Tavern - despite its considerable history and location, it's not a tourist trap or ruined by a slick veneer of "historic preservation". It's just an old, non-nonsense, comfortable place to get a burger and a beer.
posted by ryanshepard at 6:08 AM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Such wonderful suggestions! Thank you so much; I've just landed in NYC and can't wait to try some of these places out.

Please feel free to post more ideas if you have 'em! I'm here until the 26th and am still watching this page!
posted by hot soup girl at 5:51 PM on September 15, 2011

There is a meetup on the 17th...!
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:59 PM on September 15, 2011

Let us know what you ended up doing!
posted by ryanshepard at 10:41 AM on September 20, 2011

« Older Rapid Los Angeles trip: What to see?   |   Is it possible to stay logged in to QQ chat on my... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.