Unique gift-experiences for the New Yorker who has everything
January 30, 2022 10:14 AM   Subscribe

They've eated at neat places, they've seen Sleep No More, they know things faster than I do - what the heck do I get the stereotypical New Yorker Who's Seen It All?

What do you get as a birthday gift for a partner who has lived in NYC for the past 25+ years? Let’s say this person is your typical adult who has everything they need and has been to plenty of restaurants locally because they’re a bit of a foodie. They’re someone who loves culture (think Bushwick-type artsy more than formal gallery events or ‘couples dinner cruise around Manhattan’ type activities) and is definitely interested in experiences that are different, creative, underground and fun. I’d like to get a gift of less well-known things or places - are there off-the-beaten-path type events/things, more of an Atlas Obscura type site for contemporary events, new restaurants, interactive experiences etc. that are more ‘could be expensive-ish’ but are definitely memorable experiences? Thank you in advance for any help!
posted by rmm to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (17 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
Sometimes the best gift for the "Seen It All" crowd is something they never do because it's touristy. Then it turns out they love it. Maybe a trip up to the top of the Empire State Building, a Circle Line ferry tour around Manhattan, a visit to the Statue of Liberty, tickets to the Cloisters, a guided walking tour, things like that.
posted by mono blanco at 10:37 AM on January 30, 2022 [7 favorites]

membership to untapped cities!!!
here's an example of one of their upcoming events, they have both online & in person stuff a few times a week that are free if you are a member .
posted by wowenthusiast at 10:44 AM on January 30, 2022 [2 favorites]

Get some ideas from secret NYC?

I've lived in Astoria for 10 years and still come across stuff in my neighborhood that I never knew existed. Maybe take a deep dive into a single neighborhood (in like, the Bronx?) and plan a day of cool stuff there?
posted by gaspode at 11:09 AM on January 30, 2022 [2 favorites]

I did a Museum Hack tour of the Met a few years ago. I was a member at one point, and go there 3-4 times a year... but this tour was totally fun and interesting. Our guide took us to some nooks and corners that I had never noticed, and gave fascinating backstories on art and objects I had seen before. One great element of the tour was that our guide did a brief survey of the group, and tailored our tour to skip what we weren't interested in, and make sure we visited the areas people really wanted to see. Also, this tour is an experience in how museums work; you learn how collections are acquired, how curation decisions are made, and the people behind the museum (but all in a very entertaining way... not a dull moment, I promise). Looks like they've expanded quite a bit since I last looked at the website.
posted by kimdog at 11:09 AM on January 30, 2022 [3 favorites]

101 Spring Street
posted by boudicca at 11:31 AM on January 30, 2022

Don't know if they're doing it during these pandemic times, but the vertical tour of St. John the Divine is pretty cool. Also, it's pretty easy to get a tour of the absolutely bonkers NY Masonic Hall which has, like, twenty-three separate Masonic temples inside of it.
posted by phooky at 11:34 AM on January 30, 2022 [2 favorites]

(I guess this is all Cheap Date territory, but this is the kind of town where you can take a date to see a room full of dirt, so)
posted by phooky at 11:40 AM on January 30, 2022 [1 favorite]

What about Old York? You can book a ticket for the Jorvik viking museum for Birthday 2023.
posted by BobTheScientist at 12:08 PM on January 30, 2022 [1 favorite]

So, I have done Sleep No More and I have also done another immersive experience called Houseworld by a smaller group - and I liked the smaller one better. It was more "intimate", because it was smaller, and had more of an impact; with Sleep No More I got a little too distracted by following cast members around and trying to "follow the plot", so I didn't explore as much, but with Houseworld I was going from spontaneously jumping in on playing a board game with someone to getting a canape handed to me by a chef to finding myself asking some serious life-advice questions from a naked guy in a bathtub using a gong as a fig leaf. It was very cool.

The team behind Houseworld has a new show running now called Bottom Of The Ocean and I am seriously considering getting tickets for my own self.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:37 PM on January 30, 2022 [6 favorites]

Did they like Sleep No More? I found No Proscenium (nationwide, but especially good in centers of immersive theater/art like NYC) very useful in my Living in Brooklyn and Doing Things days. If you sign up for their newsletter you can choose for it to be NYC-specific. Keep an eye out for anything by Third Rail. The current thing that's on that looks genuinely interesting is Bottom of the Ocean—I saw an earlier piece by this group and it was chaotic but ambitious, reach mostly exceeded grasp but I admired the effort.

If Threesome Tollbooth comes back it could be just what you're looking for! Like many NYC things it is currently on hiatus, though. Not on hiatus: the Illuminati Ball, by the creator of Speakeasy Dollhouse, which was a not very good but extremely stylish immersive theater production. I have not been to this because it's expensive, but I suspect it will also be extremely stylish and definitely luxurious/gifty and possibly also a sex party? I'm not sure. I don't think it's primarily a sex party or I wouldn't be suggesting it.

I also recommend looking at the Nonsense newsletter, Shadow Traffic, and the FOMOfeed instagram. All will require some insight and analysis on your part—the failure mode of Nonsense and Shadow Traffic is embarrassing artsy shit by twentysomethings and/or Burners, and of FOMOfeed it's Instagram traps and sponsored corporate stuff. Finally, Atlas Obscura does in fact arrange events, although I don't think there's anything on the horizon for New York for covid reasons. Nonsense/Shadow Traffic tend towards the scrappy, so not as good for gift ideas, but worth a look.
posted by babelfish at 12:48 PM on January 30, 2022 [4 favorites]

Oh, and there are also other shows at the McKittrick! Speakeasy Magic is ongoing and Woman in Black is going for the month of February. I saw The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart there a few years ago and it was wonderful.
posted by babelfish at 12:51 PM on January 30, 2022 [1 favorite]

A VIP tour at the Holographic Studios is a very unique experience, and literally underground. You get to make your own holograph, and you’ll learn far more than you expect from tour guides that have been on the cutting edge of a very niche subject for many years. It’s definitely one of those only-in-NY experiences that barely any New Yorkers know exists.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 1:48 PM on January 30, 2022

One of the new tall buildings is advertising its observation deck. The novel feature is a transparent floor. I can guarantee you will not meet me there.
posted by SemiSalt at 4:04 PM on January 30, 2022

They may have seen it all, but I bet they have not had a tour of the Newtown Creek Digester Eggs, a wastewater recovery facility. The tour is inexplicably popular at Valentine's Day, and they say it doesn’t smell. Much.
posted by Liesl at 4:12 PM on January 30, 2022 [2 favorites]

Hello, ah, Kathryn from No Proscenium here.

I saw an early version of Bottom of the Ocean and found it excellent even in a nascent state; our reviewer who went to the premiere in October also loved it. Like. A lot. This would be a great pick for a gift an immersive theatre savvy person.

However, BOTO tickets go fast fast FAST, so follow them on Instagram and get on the mailing list and pounce. It’s sold out through mid April 2022 since it’s so low capacity. The pricier tiers also have extra content. Which could be a nice bonus.

I see that more BOTO tickets will go on sale Monday, January 31st at 7pm. Tomorrow For real. SET YOUR ALARMS.

Our critic had some …issues with Illuminati Ball; check her review on NoProscenium.com.

Other ideas: try Magic After Hours (intimate magic show happening inside NYC’s oldest magic shop at night) or a staycation at the TWA Hotel.

Unfortunately, the MTA museum isn’t running their members-only tours of the old City Hall station, that would be another pick of mine. Perhaps another time, so keep that in your back pocket.

And one last more touristy idea: One World Observatory was a lot better than I thought it was going to be.
posted by kathryn at 6:10 PM on January 30, 2022 [8 favorites]

With a sufficiently large budget....

Roll your own: Daytrips to some upstate/near-upstate/LI places combined with a private tour by some knowledgable/insider person? E.g. storm king, gold coast Long island mansion, grounds for sculpture (NJ), bronx botanic garden?

Semi-Private or private session with the animals at the bronx zoo?

more ideas soon.....
posted by lalochezia at 2:31 PM on January 31, 2022

Response by poster: SO MANY fantastic ideas. Thank you everyone - this is all so good.
posted by rmm at 3:58 PM on January 31, 2022

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