How Can I Blow My Sister's Mind in the Big Apple?
January 22, 2012 7:08 AM   Subscribe

My sister has never been to NYC before and I'm taking her for three days to celebrate her 32nd birthday -- help me find the best of quirky NYC.

Some of the things we love:
Unexpected places
Vintage stores (big, overstuffed places with low prices)
Tasty cocktails
Indian food
Any spot with a good story

A sample of what's already on the list:
The High Line
NY Public Library
A secret bar in the back of a takeout joint

Stuff we've done and loved on past trips:
The Shady Dell Trailer Park in Bisbee, AZ
Drank every 'signature' margarita in Asheville, NC (not that challenging, but fun!)
Wandered through old cemeteries & pointed out interesting stones
A double-header drive-in movie
posted by missjenny to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (40 answers total) 73 users marked this as a favorite
The Campbell Apartment
posted by mkultra at 7:11 AM on January 22, 2012 [9 favorites]

You should spend some time wandering around the east village and alphabet city, which I suspect you'll already be heading to if you're planning a visit to PDT/Criff Dogs (Which you should get reservations for, btw, as it's tiny and hard to get into.)

I'd also recommend walking across the manhattan bridge and exploring the Dumbo area a little, maybe wandering up toward Vinegar Hill.

Have you already been looking at Forgotten New York? It has LOADS of info about interesting, weird little corners of the city, as well as suggested walking tours.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 7:20 AM on January 22, 2012

Burger Joint at the Parker Meridien Hotel.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 7:22 AM on January 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

Also, if it's not too cold, go to Queens and visit the Queens Museum of Art, with the NYC Panorama. After that, walk to Flushing and have fantastic Chinese/Korean/etc. food.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 7:28 AM on January 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Greenwood Cemetery

City Hall Loop on the 6 train

There's a previous thread that might help.
posted by lunalaguna at 7:42 AM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, and the Film Biz Prop Shop.
posted by lunalaguna at 7:45 AM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

The whispering gallery at Grand Central.
posted by ElCuadrangular at 7:51 AM on January 22, 2012

The Tenement Museum.

Toy Tokyo.

The cheap vintage thing is probably not going to happen, unless you go to Brooklyn -- and even there they know the value of what they've got. Beacon's Closet in Williamsburg is huge and overstuffed though, with some great finds.
posted by hermitosis at 7:58 AM on January 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

nthing Greenwood Cemetary.
posted by Danf at 8:00 AM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

For shopping perhaps the Brooklyn Flea in the old Williamsburg Savings Bank building if you will be in the city over a weekend.
posted by plastic_animals at 8:04 AM on January 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

McSorley's Ale House down by Cooper Union. This was taken in the 1940s but it looks pretty much the same now. (Last year I sat the in the chair Woody is sitting in.) Good story: Ask about the wishbones hanging from the chandelier.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 8:06 AM on January 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

Definitely Beacon's Closet. It's not too far from the L train.
posted by wondermouse at 8:08 AM on January 22, 2012

You may like Demolition Depot, up in East Harlem -- enormous rooms filled with old and antique fixtures, doors, windows, and construction stuff.
posted by EmilyFlew at 8:18 AM on January 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

for indian food, walk on first avenue around 6th street, and enjoy the guys from the various restaurants yelling at you, offering you various freebies to choose their restaurant.

none of the restaurants are great, but it's definitely a kind of fun and quirky experience to have restaurants competing for your business.
posted by entropone at 8:26 AM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you're in or near SoHo, stop by The New York Earth Room. It will probably only take 10 minutes of your time but it's definitely worth seeing.

If you enjoyed trying every signature margarita in Asheville then you should also try every infused vodka at the Russian Vodka Room. Well, maybe not EVERY vodka, that might kill you. The horseradish is the best.

And if you're willing to venture into Queens, the best Indian food in the city is in Jackson Heights.
posted by Mender at 9:05 AM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would opt for Curry Hill Indian (Lexington and East 28th or so) over 6th Street Indian, but Jackson Heights is worth the trip. (The boroughs are really not that far! Lots of us do it all the time!)
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 9:10 AM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, I don't know if this counts as "unexpected places," but the Cloisters is a beautiful medieval building in a gorgeous park with amazing views up on the ass end of Manhattan, which, I dunno, I find kind of unexpected.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 9:14 AM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

nthing Forgotten New York as a very awesome resource indeed.

fyi calling nyc the big apple is one of the fastest ways to make new yorkers cringe with revulsion.
posted by elizardbits at 9:32 AM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Museum of Holograqphy, in Greenwich Village.
posted by Fferret at 9:36 AM on January 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you are able to splurge for pricy cocktails (around $13 the time I went there), Death + Co in the East Village is a speakeasy-style place that makes remarkable ones. And it is down the street from always-delicious Porchetta sandwich shop (home of my boyfriend's favorite food in the world) and the Little India of 6th Street. Banjara and Brick Lane are both tasty.
posted by mlle valentine at 9:56 AM on January 22, 2012

For shopping: The Strand!
posted by SisterHavana at 10:14 AM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co.
posted by entropone at 10:18 AM on January 22, 2012

Any spot with a good story

Get this book: City Secrets: New York City (or the Manhattan edition).
posted by John Cohen at 10:45 AM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Go see "Sleep No More".
posted by User7 at 11:04 AM on January 22, 2012 [6 favorites]

So when you say NY Public Library, I assume you mean the big main branch, but how about a stop at the Terence Cardinal Cooke-Cathedral Branch, which is underground, just outside the turnstiles of a subway station? Doesn't get much more unexpected than that!
posted by sigmagalator at 11:10 AM on January 22, 2012

i thought the museum of holography closed down (?)...
also, yeah, new york is kind of the suck as far as vintage shopping goes...too many savvy fashionistas :(
when is this trip? would suggest the cloisters, but it's kind of best in the spring/summer, what with all the gardens/outdoor spaces...
as far as mind-blowing, you really cant beat the (new-ish) planetarium at the natural history's inside of an 80 foot metal ball floating inside a giant glass cube and is a great spot to step outside the galaxy for a while...
touristy, sure, but the view from the top of the empire state is nice...
posted by sexyrobot at 11:46 AM on January 22, 2012

I'd second User7's recommendation for Sleep No More. It's definitely not for everyone and I think that it's suffering since it became the "must see" theatrical event in NYC. It seems more crowded, everyone has read the online spoilers and can be quite aggressive when following the actors, and the interiors seemed to be a bit more down in the heels and with less stuff lying around when I saw it the second time in December (as opposed to when I saw it for the first time last summer). But for all it's growing pains, it's still a unique and mind blowing experience (although as I stated up front, definitely not for everyone and despite all the raves, I've definitely heard some people leaving who were pretty "meh" about the whole experience).
posted by kaybdc at 12:07 PM on January 22, 2012

For the bar inside of a takeout joint I'm going to assume that you're talking about Please Don't Tell. The drinks are $15 but well worth it (along with the experience of entering a bar through a telephone booth in a hotdog joint.) Be sure to make reservations if you can, otherwise you might be in for a long wait.

For regular drinks, I love The Pink Pony in the Lower East Side. Great atmosphere.
posted by fso at 2:14 PM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Weird little museums:

Coney Island Museum
City Reliquary
Proteus Gowanus

And another vote for Sleep No More and for Green-Wood Cemetery!
posted by moonmilk at 3:16 PM on January 22, 2012

There's a speakeasy called Death and Company you would probably love. You can get absinthe and everything (well, you know, the kind you get in the U.S.). There's a ton of good Indian food on nearby 6th st., so you can eat first and just walk over. It's a place best visited either not on the weekend, as early as possible in the night or on a Sunday night 'cause it can get busy.

And you can see The Room which is the worst movie ever made in modern times on February 4th and 18th-- the full audience participation thing is a lot like Rocky Horror.

Coney Island. It'd the weirdest place in the world all closed down in the winter, basically a spooky eccentric's paradise. You could visit the The New York Aquarium. It's gonna take you about an hour to get out there, though- maybe slightly more, especially on the weekend so that's something to consider. And someone above mentioned the Coney Island Museum.

As far as thrift shops go, Beacon's Closet was mentioned and I totally concur. It's a big warehouse thrift store in Williamsburg (one stop away from Manhattan on the L Train) and Wiliamsburg is basically the hipster mecca of NYC, bohemian central, lots of quirky places to explore. Just get off at the Bedford L and walk around toward McCarren Park n Bedford itself, which is the main drag.
posted by devymetal at 4:12 PM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Antiques Garage Flea Market, Sats. and Suns. only though.

reviews, map, etc.
posted by DMelanogaster at 5:49 PM on January 22, 2012

For the bar inside of a takeout joint I'm going to assume that you're talking about Please Don't Tell. The drinks are $15 but well worth it (along with the experience of entering a bar through a telephone booth in a hotdog joint.)

Agreed. I took a sister and her friend and they LOVED it, especially because it had been featured on some TV show (Gossip Girl, maybe?).
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:00 PM on January 22, 2012

Quirky recs from a friend (dunno anything about prices):

Evolution Nature Store, SoHo
Obscura Antiques, East Village
Troll Doll Museum, LES (visits by appointment only; call 212-560-7235)
posted by junques at 7:21 PM on January 22, 2012

Kenka on St. Marks Place
posted by zennoshinjou at 4:34 AM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

These are all amazing -- thank you!

We'll be there from the 13th through 16th of February, so any time-specific suggestions are great too.

I'm so excited!

(And I'll never utter the phrase "big apple" again.)
posted by missjenny at 8:39 AM on January 23, 2012

You would probably adore The Dressing Room in the lower east side. Boutique clothing store with an awesome consignment shop in the basement, and a bar with adorable clothing-themed cocktails and a menu on a hand mirror. They even play old movies. It's never crowded, either.

I did my 30th birthday here, and also bought one of my favorite spring dresses from the basement thrift store.
posted by MsMartian at 10:05 AM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

It looks like Sleep No More is sold out for your dates; contact them ASAP via email for the Premium Access tickets (they will be pricey). Note also that they are doing a special Valentine's Day show, too, but that's also sold out.

PDT and Death & Co both open at 6pm. I suggest getting there right at six. D&C doesn't take reservations at all. PDT only takes them for tables, same-day, and there are only two tables for parties of two. I prefer to get to PDT right at 6pm and sit at the bar. The bar is first come, first served. Get a Benton's Old Fashioned or a Mezcal Mule. At Death & Co, I recommend the Meridien Daiquiri and the Grass Kilt.

Neither bar allows standing and they are both kinda small. You can also get excellent cocktails at Little Branch (also a faux speakeasy, basement level) or Pegu Club, which are both easier to get into (and consequently more loud/crowded).

You may wish to see my list of NYC oddities on Foursquare.
posted by kathryn at 3:32 PM on January 23, 2012

Eat in Koreatown, find a quirky karaoke bar after dinner, and then go relax ... at any hour.
posted by thinkpiece at 4:47 PM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Where's she visiting *from*? That seems pretty important here.
posted by talldean at 10:24 AM on January 24, 2012

@talldean We both live in North Carolina.
posted by missjenny at 11:47 AM on January 24, 2012

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