10 Free And Offbeat Things To Do In The Glamorous Manhattan

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Photo of 10 Free And Offbeat Things To Do In The Glamorous Manhattan 1/1 by Dev Iyer
Photo by Dev Iyer

I just set foot in my office and I already miss my torrid affair with this cultural hotbed.

Touted to be one of the densely populated regions in the world, Manhattan, an island infamously known to have battled scourges of civilization over time, has come a long way since its inception. More often than not, this elongated borough is famed as the heart of New York city.

This borough is a part of NYC along with 4 others namely Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx and Staten Island. Before it was discovered by the Dutch in 1609, Manhattan was inhabited by Canarsie Indians and Wappingers, an eastern Algonquian tribe. It was notoriously bought over by the Dutch for a meagre 60 guilders of $23.70 as (in today's value).

For an island that is culturally rich, steeped in history and buried with secrets, visitors sure don't do much justice by merely sticking to tourist traps. So when I flew there, I decided I wasn't going to make that mistake instead throw some light on lesser known attractions. When I did, boy o boy did I learn there's more to it than meets the eye. All one has to do is look closely.

Since you must already know the hits, I am gonna share a quick rundown of underrated and unchartered places in Manhattan.

This station is a part of NYC subway built and once operated by the Interborough Railway Transit IRT. It's popular for its bohemian architecture and lavish chandeliers but its opulence was lost on busy commuters because usage wasn't much to begin with. This was for two reasons. Firstly, its curved platform restricted use of center doors on rail cars. Secondly by 1923, it was the only station without turnstiles and since the nearby Brooklyn Bridge stop had more visitors due to its close proximity to connecting streetcars, commuters along this track dwindled further. Cut to 2017, City Hall station is not only still in use and but also open to public as an exhibit.

Hours: 11 a.m - 8 p.m

Entry fee: Unguided tours are free and guided tours are $50.

If Indiana Jones ever stopped by in NYC, this is where he'd first go trudging into. When you walk into this wood panelled store at heart of SoHo downtown, you can smell the rustic fragrance wafting around. ENS is into natural history collectibles and art. Their stuffed animals and insects adorn the walls, seashells and fossils are bottled neatly across tables, skeletal displays hang from ceilings and also double as windchimes if you're into that sort of thing. If impressively preserved prehistoric exhibits work your mojo up, this bone-vaulted shop is the place for you to be.

Hours: 11 a.m - 8 p.m

Entry fee: Free

Don't let the name fool ya and no, you won't be shot for trespassing. Back in 1923, John W. Campbell, an American financier needed a place to work and play that had easy access to railroad transportation so he leased a space under Grand Central Station from Mr. William Kissam Vanderbilt II and is said to have modelled it after a medieval florentine palace. Over time, this apartment fell into disrepair until it was repaired and remodelled in the 90s into a tavern. Now if you're in the place, you should see a huge Persian rug on the floor. This rug was bought by Mr. Campbell for a whopping $300,000, an example of his ostentatious taste in things. Here's a look at their menu.

Hours: 12 p.m - 2 a.m

Entry fee: Free

Easily one of the highlights of my trip was this swashbuckling spot for explorers and adventurers alike. Founded in 1904 by the polar explorers club of the era, this place houses ....... wait for it - lost treasures, Jacobean artifacts, books and artworks from the golden age of exploration across land, sea and space. If a century's worth of explorations including 13000 books or more, 1000 museum objects, 5000 maps and 500 films don't boggle your mind, I seriously doubt anything ever will.

Hours: 9 a.m - 9 p.m (Monday through Thursday)

Entry fee: Free

I'be sinning if I didn't tell you where to shop copiously on a shoestring budget. Century 21 is swarming with customers because new and novel inventory keeps flowing in all day. This shopaholic's paradise sits downtown across the World Trade Center site. I'd wager knocking yourself out on a weekday morning before the hordes start pouring in like savages. Oh, and you are ever so welcome.

Hours: 9.30 a.m - 9.30 p.m (Monday through Saturday)

11 a.m - 8 p.m (Sunday)

Entry fee: Free

Famous for ceremoniously hanging pipes smoked by popular public figures from Albert Einsten, Mark Twain, Herbert Hoover, Buffalo Bill Cody, Babe Ruth and Teddy Roosevelt, all smoking enthusiasts. It's situated up on Herald Street which not many know was the original theatre district before Broadway. Artists would walk in between performances for a quick cup of ale and piping hot tenderloin steaks. Legend has it that earlier, each pipe was numbered and one would have to hand over one's membership to a page boy when one walked in and have them retrieve one's pipe. However, though today's laws prevent such arrangements, one can admire the 90,000 pipes that still line the ceilings of this Chophouse. Here's a look at their menu.

Hours: 11.45 p.m - 10.30 a.m (Monday through Friday)

5 p.m - 10.30 p.m (Weekends)

Entry fee: Free

Origins of this library can be found in the humblest of beginnings in a single room, founded by six people who felt a moral sense of civic duty towards society to start New York's first public library. This Victorian like space is a bibliophile's fantasy. During the revolution, it is said that the British pillaged the place, looted books and robbed it of its possessions before it could be restored. Currently, this luxurious library holds a set of 30,000 volumes.

Hours: 9 a.m - 5 p.m (Monday & Friday)

9 a.m - 8 p.m (Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday)

9 a.m - 5 p.m (Saturday & Sunday)

Entry fee: Pay as you like

Breathe in the soul of a city through the magic of sound. Named after the renowned king of Blues, Riley B. King aka BB King, it's a premier live music superclub located on Times Square. It boasts of having hosted legends like Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Alicia Keys, The Allman Brothers, Gipsy Kings, ZZ Top, & Jay Z. Inside this place is Lucille, a restaurant & grill that offers authentic American cuisines to its patrons. I'd rate this place high for those who live and love music. There's no age limit per se but some late night shows are 21+. Avoid walking in wearing shorts although they ain't uptight about it. To know more, tap here.

Hours: 11 a.m - 1 a.m

8pm and 10:30pm for shows (Doors open at 6)

Entry fee: Free

Despite being bordered by trafficked streets, towering structures and a noisy atmosphere, Bryant Park is a green oasis in an otherwise chaotic cauldron of a city. It's landscaping is simple with a large 8 acre lawn in the center flanked in the north by the Bryant Park library, west by William Cullent Bryant Memorial, east by a string of tables and the Bryant Park Grill down south. A host of 2000 chairs is laid down throughout the park for visitors to slouch into and take in the vista before them. Spotting this attraction is a walk in the park.

Hours: 7 a.m - 10 p.m

Entry fee: Free

Do not forget you are in the most walkable city on this planet and that's exactly how one must explore it. Its broad sidewalks and meticulous urban planning make navigating NYC, a more than enjoyable experience. Here are walking tours I would recommend you check out.

However, if you are in dire need of other ways of transportations, here are your options.

TRANSPORTATION

I. RAIL:

1. Within NYC - NYC Subway:

Website

App

2. Jersey & NYC - AMTRAK

Website

App

3. Long Island & NYC - LIRR

Website

App

II. BUS:

HOP ON/HOP OFF

If you wish to know about transportation in NYC, tap here.

Again in closing, I would like to remind you that rewards lie not in the destination but in the journey. Happy Travelling!

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