5 Unusual Attractions in New York City

These are the colorful tours and attractions you may not find in your typical NYC guidebook.

Whether it’s your 100th time in the city that never sleeps, or the first time you’ve stepped foot on its pavement, you will find no shortage of activities to fill your day. But here’s an idea: Instead of heading straight for the classic sights, why not leave your guidebook in the hotel room, and seek out some of the five boroughs’ more unusual tours and attractions.

Industry City Distillery in New York City

Industry City Distillery: For both vodka connoisseurs and neophytes, a trip to the Industry City Distillery for a behind-the scenes tour of the vodka- making process is worth the visit to Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Learn about everything from distilling to bottling, enjoy a complimentary tasting of Industry Standard Vodka and order up an artisanal drink or two from the bar. For an impressive view, stay to watch the sunset over the city skyline and Statue of Liberty from the sixth floor of the warehouse-cum-entrepreneurial hub. 

Shady Ladies Tours: Even if you’ve already been to Manhattan’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, you’ve probably never explored the museum’s sexier side. Join professor Andrew Lear of classics and gender studies for his Shady Ladies and Nasty Women tours, covering females from around the world whose likenesses and personal belongings grace the institution’s galleries. Highlights include a potpourri holder belonging to Madame de Pompadour and Gustave Courbet’s highly provocative “Woman With a Parrot.”  

New York Adventure Club: An urban beekeeping lesson in Queens, a visit to a massive recycling facility in Brooklyn and a tour of the abandoned hospital complex on Ellis Island aren’t your typical tourist activities, but introducing you to the unexpected is precisely what New York Adventure Club is all about. Throughout the year, NYAC gives participants a chance to discover New York’s quirkier side during guided excursions that go inside the city’s most unusual venues (like Unlocking Private Gilded Age Mausoleums at Woodlawn Cemetery on July 8).

The museum at the City Reliquary offers a wide range of eclectic artifacts, including antique seltzer bottles.

City Reliquary: For over 10 years, the City Reliquary in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, has established itself as the city’s official “cabinet of curiosities” with a permanent collection of New York City artifacts like signs, figurines, old photographs and other ephemera. Before you leave, be sure to check out “Closet Archaeology: An Accidental Time Capsule,” an exhibition of objects from an old East Village school, possibly dating back to 1913 when the building was constructed, discovered under the floorboards by a fourth-grader in 2015. The exhibit includes love notes, spelling tests, portraits of silent film stars and more.

Food Cart Tours: New Yorkers love food trucks for more than their convenience. To understand just how important they are to the city’s nutritional and economic landscape, hop on Turnstile’s Food Cart tour through the Financial District or Midtown. Each tour features five or six stops, highlighting the many international flavors you can find parked along the curb, such as Korean barbecue, Belgian waffles and spicy halal chicken. The tours introduce participants to the vendors who make a living from their mobile kitchens. A portion of ticket sales supports the Urban Justice Center’s Street Vendor Project.