Get Off the Beaten Track in NYC While at BlogHer '10
While in New York City for BlogHer, there are many fun and thought-provoking sights to see. Many people will hit the famous landmarks, like Times Square, the Empire State Building, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Lincoln Center and Rockefeller Center. Those places can be great, but I also hope that people will venture out a bit and see some of the more unusual things that make New York City the most exciting city in the US. Here are a few recommendations from my book Off the Beaten (Subway) Track: New York City’s Best Unusual Attractions:
The Berlin Wall
A section of the Berlin Wall inexplicably graces a plaza outside an office building on 53rd Street between 5th and Madison Avenues. It is not too far from the conference site, so walk on over and see a piece of history that has nothing to do with New York City.
America’s First Saint
St. Francis Xavier Cabrini and her relics are on display at a chapel in Washington Heights. The patron saint of immigrants, she lies in a glass coffin under the altar. Fragments of her clothing are available for purchase in the gift shop. To pay your respects, take the A train to 190th Street. The chapel is across the street from the subway station, at 701 Fort Washington Avenue. (Other neighborhood attractions: Fort Tryon Park and the Cloisters, a completely rebuilt European monastery run by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the former site of Ft. Washington, just south of 184th St.)
George Washington’s Hair and Tooth
Speaking of Ft. Washington, a lock of George Washington’s hair and a chunk of tooth are both on display at the Fraunces Tavern Museum (54 Pearl St.). The museum is inside the oldest building in Manhattan and houses a tiny museum dedicated to the American Revolution. Relics and history lessons abound. Washington also bid farewell to his troops from this tavern, which pioneered the concept of take-out service. Nearby subways are the R at Whitehall St, the 1 at South Ferry or the 4 or 5 to Bowling Green.
Better than Opera at The Met
The Enrico Caruso Museum of America is open by appointment only, so be sure to contact its curator, Cavaliere Ufficiale Aldo Mancusi and arrange for a visit on Sunday. (The museum is in his house in Brooklyn.) The admission fee is a bit high, but worth every penny. On display is everything from phonographs to records (which will be played for you) to player pianos to pieces of the former Metropolitan Opera House before it moved to Lincoln Center to Edison’s voice recorders to metal from the Brooklyn Bridge to a 1920s jukebox. Mancusi knows everything about opera, Caruso, Brooklyn, Italian-American immigrantion, musical instruments and feng shui. I swear. This is an experience not to be missed!
Jazz It Up
If opera is not your thing, head to Corona, Queens and tour the home of the great jazz musician Louis Armstrong (34-56 107th St, Corona). Compared to the grandiose mansions of famous performers these days, the house is a cozy but beautifully decorated marvel. (Yes, the faucet in the ground floor bathroom is made of gold.) There’s a nice museum and little gift shop, too. The 7 train to 103rd St - Corona Plaza will get you there. Queens is famous for its diversity, so stick around the neighborhood and eat well. Ask the Museum for their list of restaurants nearby.
Little Literary Cottage in the Bronx
Edgar Allan Poe lived in this cottage in the Bronx wilds (i.e. - the country) from 1844 until he died in 1849. Most of the original furniture was sold by his mother-in-law upon his death, but his wife’s actual deathbed is on display, as are Poe’s rocking chair and a mirror he owned. The cottage is in Poe Park at East Kingsbridge Road and Grand Concourse. The D stop Kingsbridge Rd is just down the street. The 4 also goes to Kingsbridge Rd. and is a few blocks walk.
Whatever you do while in NYC, I hope that you enjoy your explorations. New York City is a great place, and I have been lucky to call it home for the past 16 or so years. For more ideas on unusual or off the beaten track places, Off the Beaten (Subway) Track has many more sites for those with a bit of free time to explore. It will be on sale at the BlogHer bookstore during the conference, or on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble if you just can't wait to plan a trip.) I’m also happy to share my thoughts in the comments, and more important, I hope that others will chime in and share the places that you love that make New York a unique city.
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