Secret Places in NYC: 10 Interesting Spots You Need to Visit

New York City has the most famous skyline in the world, the greatest museums, the best restaurants, and the coolest bars. With so much going on, it’s easy to forget that a city holds so many secrets—hidden, relatively unknown spots waiting for you to discover and enjoy them. Through years of walking the streets of New York, we’ve found some of the most amazing secret places in NYC. 

Some are much closer than you think and others are best left to the experts to explore, but all are authentic gems of New York City. Here are our favorite secret spots in the city.

Tourists taking photos of the Statue of Liberty.
New York is full of interesting things to do, but have you heard these hidden gems? Photo credit: Riccardo Manieri

Get yourself into City Hall Station, NYC’s secret station

If you’re riding the number 6 subway line downtown, the final stop is Brooklyn Bridge–City Hall. But if you stay on until the end of the line, you’ll discover a hidden gem: City Hall Station. 

Opened in 1904 as part of NYC’s first subway line, the small station is one of the most beautifully-designed in the city, featuring Guastavino tile vaults, skylights, and Romanesque Revival architecture. Now it’s a ghost station and a time capsule from a more elegant (and less crowded) era. 

You can join a tour led by the New York Transit Museum to explore this secret spot. Check their events page for tour dates.

People taking pictures inside one of the secret places in NYC, City Hall subway station.
Spend time in this secret spot wandering around an old subway station. Photo credit: Rhododendrites

Learn about the bowling alley under the Frick Museum 

New York’s Upper East Side is home to some of the best European art museums in the city, including the Frick collection. Housed inside the former home of Henry Clay Frick, it’s as much an architectural experience as it is an art museum. With 16 galleries displaying pieces by Goya, Van Dyck, Chardin, and more, you have to be sure to not miss anything.

However, art isn’t all this museum has to offer—the cellar of this mansion hides a private bowling alley that Frick added in 1914. While the two-lane bowling alley was lost for some time (converted into an archive, actually), today it is restored to its original design. 

Unfortunately, you’re more likely to bowl a few turkeys—that’s bowling lingo for getting three strikes in a row—than getting to see this secret place in NYC is next to impossible unless you are a member of the museum (i.e.: you have made a generous donation) and even then you have to ask nicely.

*Note: The Frick Museum is set to reopen in late 2024. Check their website for updates. 

Inside the courtyard of the Frick museum in NYC.
The enclosed courtyard in the Henry C. Frick museum is not quite as fun as the bowling alley, but definitely easier to see. Photo credit: David McSpadden

Stroll the high bridge in Harlem

Secret places in NYC aren’t always underground—in fact, this one rises above your head as soon as you enter the city. Built in the mid-19th century as part of the Croton Aqueduct, this bridge once carried water from Westchester to Manhattan. Today, it’s a wonderful attraction for walkers and park-goers. 

Public access to the bridge that leads walkers over the original pipes closed in the 1970s, but a citizen-led campaign with help from the parks service led to its reopening in 2015.

To get there, take the 1 train up to the 168-Washington Heights station and walk east to Highbridge Park. From there, you can walk across the bridge into the Bronx. The bridge affords one of the most breathtaking and unique views of New York City so be sure to take plenty of pictures.

People walking on High Bridge.
Enjoy the city and nature landscapes from High Bridge. Photo credit: Sam LaRussa

Explore the rooftop gardens at Rockefeller Center

You’re probably familiar with Rockefeller Center—it’s one of the city’s most iconic skyscrapers.

But hidden at the top of this landmark is a lesser known spot—the building’s rooftop garden, a beautiful oasis from the crowded city below, with well-tended flowers and a reflective pool and garden. You can actually rent the space for your own private event, if you’re feeling fancy.

rooftop gardens at the Rockefeller Center in NYC.
The rooftop gardens were designed by landscape architect Ralph Hancock in the 1930s as part of John D. Rockefeller Jr.’s vision to create a “city within a city.” Photo credit: David Shankbone

Tell a secret at Grand Central Terminal’s whispering spot

This secret place in New York is better heard, not seen. In front of the famous Oyster Bar & Restaurant in the dining concourse of Grand Central terminal is an archway. If two people stand at opposite ends of the arch, they can talk into the wall and have their partner hear what they’re saying on the other side. 

It’s a very neat acoustic trick created by a simple, though inadvertent, bit of architecture called a “whispering gallery.” Don’t be surprised if you catch a marriage proposal when you visit – this is one of the spots in Manhattan where they often take place – but you’re more likely to meet other curious visitors like yourself.

If this intrigues you, consider joining our exclusive Grand Central Terminal Tour.

people inside Grand Central Terminal
Can you find the secret whispering spot at Grand Central Terminal?

Discover the ruins of a smallpox hospital on Roosevelt Island

The Renwick Smallpox Hospital on Roosevelt Island is a designated New York City Landmark, known for its Gothic Revival architecture and eerie atmosphere.

Built in the 19th century to combat smallpox outbreaks, it stands as a testament to the city’s history. To reach it, take the Roosevelt Island tram from East 60th Street and 2nd Avenue. 

Although the ruins are currently fenced off, ongoing refurbishment efforts aim to make them accessible to the public in the future.

The remains of the Smallpox Hospital, one of many secret places in NYC.
While eerie, the Smallpox Hospital should be added to your list of secret places in NYC to visit. Photo credit: Mig Gilbert

See a fragment of the Berlin Wall on Madison Avenue

When is a secret place in Gotham not from New York at all? When it’s a large hunk of the wall that used to separate East and West Berlin. 

Around the corner from the Museum of Modern Art is a five-panel segment of the Wall located inside of the lobby of 520 Madison Avenue. While you can find fragments of the wall all over the world, this is one of the largest sections still intact outside of Berlin.

The slab of wall, which was purchased directly from the East German government by the Real Estate mogul Jerry Speyer, used to sit outside (where the above photo was taken). In order to protect it from the elements it has since been moved into the lobby, but don’t worry–the lobby is open to the public, so stop by to view this piece of history whenever you want.

A portion of the Berlin Wall in NYC.
So much history in just a small piece of wall. Photo credit: Gaurav1146

Get to know Loew’s Theater

Once a thriving cinema of the 1920’s, the Loew’s Theater on Canal Street in Manhattan now lies vacant awaiting restoration. Designed by the great theater architect, Thomas Lamb, it was one of the biggest movie theaters in the country when it opened in 1927 but eventually fell into disuse in the 1960s.

Another official New York City Landmark, the building cannot be torn down, but developers are still trying to get a plan passed to renovate it. Thus, the theater lies silent and untouched.

Getting in takes a bit of creativity – and we don’t recommend it as it’s considered trespassing – but if you can wriggle inside you’ll get a glimpse into the glory days of cinema. For a safer and legal peek into Loew’s Canal Theatre, check out this picture feature in Gothamist.

Exterior of the Loew's Theater in the Bronx, one of the most interesting secret places in NYC.
Loew’s Jersey is another gem from the 1920s. Photo credit: LunchboxLarry

Pretend like it’s the Roaring Twenties: Explore speakeasies

The federal prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s forced New Yorkers to take their parties underground and behind closed doors – a trend that gave birth to some of the most legendary secret places in NYC – the speakeasies

Nowadays, alcohol regulation is much more relaxed, but since the pandemic, a new wave of speakeasies (essentially small cocktail bars with hidden and/or unmarked doors) have literally been the toast of the town.

Bartenders making cocktails at a speakeasy in NYC.
Checking out a speakeasy in NYC is a must. Photo credit: Hybrid Storytellers

Honorable mention: The Staten Island boat graveyard

If you’re feeling really adventurous, trek out to southwestern Staten Island (Arthur Kill Road) for a sight you don’t see every day—the ship graveyard in the Arthur Kill (a tidal strait) has become the final resting place of a veritable fleet of decommissioned ships. Of the 100 odd boats in this family-run salvage yard, there are plenty of historically important vessels from the early 20th century.

Because of this, it has become something of a pilgrimage spot for ship enthusiasts. It’s not a problem for you to show up and take a peek but be aware that the area is a bit isolated so we only recommend this trip for those who are truly interested in getting an eerie look at the past of aquatic engineering.

A sunken tug boat in Staten Island, one of a few secret places in NYC.
This hidden gem is worth checking out in NYC. Photo credit: joiseyshowaa

Update Notice: This post was updated on April 24, 2024.

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About the author

David Farley is a West Village-based food and travel writer whose work appears regularly in the New York Times, National Geographic, BBC, and Food & Wine, among other publications. He’s the author of three books, including “An Irreverent Curiosity: In Search of the Church’s Strangest Relic in Italy’s Oddest Town,” which was made into a documentary by the National Geographic Channel. You can find Farley’s online homes at and

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