Urban Treasure Hunting — New York’s Hidden Gems

Our visitors often tell us that the Museum at Eldridge Street is one of New York’s Hidden Gems.  They are often surprised to find a majestic old synagogue tucked away on a narrow Chinatown street.

New York is a city filled with hidden gems.  We have compiled a list of fun and affordable things to do and visit, covering all five boroughs.  Whether you have been living in the city for decades or are a recent transplant, we hope you will enjoy going on a treasure hunt for these lesser known New York attractions.

WAVE HILL, THE BRONX
Wave Hill is a 28-acre public garden and cultural center in Riverdale, Bronx, overlooking the Hudson River and Palisades. It used to be a private home and its famous residents included writer Mark Twain. Some of the highlights of Wave Hill gardens are the stunning views of the New Jersey Palisades and the romantic flower garden, which is surrounded by a rustic cedar fence.

Monica at Wave Hill on a lovely sunny day. Click to enlarge.

Address:
West 249th Street and Independence Avenue (main entrance)
Bronx, NY  10471
http://www.wavehill.org

Admission:
$10 General, $5 Students and Seniors (over 65),
Free for Members & Children under 12.

THE MORGAN LIBRARY AND MUSEUM, MANHATTAN
The Morgan Library and Museum is a museum and research library built to house the private library of J. P. Morgan, the famous American financier and banker who dominated corporate finance and industrial consolidation during his time. Highlights of the Morgan collections include a Gutenberg bible and original Mozart and Beethoven manuscripts. A must see is the room with walnut bookcases that reach 30 feet from floor to ceiling. Morgan’s library is a delight for any book lover.

The Library’s East Room. Click to enlarge. Photo: Graham Haber

Address:
225 Madison Avenue at 36th Street
New York, NY 10016
www.themorgan.org

Admission:
$15 Adults; $10 Children (under 16); $10 Seniors (65 and over);
$10 Students  (Free for Columbia students with a valid ID)
Free to members and children 12 and under (must be accompanied by an adult)
Admission is free on Fridays from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

MERCHANT’S HOUSE, MANHATTAN
If you want to experience how a mid-19th century upper middle class family in New York City lived, take a step back in time and visit the Merchant’s House Museum located just a few minutes away from Washington Square.

Merchant's House. Click to enlarge. Photo: Merchant's House Museum.

The Merchant’s House is the only family home in New York City from the 1830s to survive intact.  It is also considered to be “the most haunted house in Manhattan.”  When the weather is nice, be sure to spend a few minutes in the lovely garden!
Address:
29 East Fourth Street (between Lafayette and Bowery)
New York, NY  10003
www.merchantshouse.org

Admission:

$10 Adults; $5 Students and Seniors (over 65)

Free for Members and Children under 12.

ROOSEVELT ISLAND  TRAMWAY, MANHATTAN TO QUEENS
Often referred to as the “Little Apple” of the “Big Apple,” Roosevelt Island is located between Manhattan and Queens. Historically, it has been a prison and a quarantine hospital, but today it is a residential neighborhood.

Roosevelt Island Tramway. Click to enlarge. Photo: manhattanstyle.com

Though you can get there by taking the F train, we recommend riding the sky tram for some breathtaking aerial views of the city. The tram leaves from 2nd Avenue between 59th and 60th Streets and you can use your regular Metrocard. Once you get there, you can visit the community garden and walk along the edges of the island for more amazing views of the East River and the Upper East Side.

Address:
Enter at 59th Street and Second Avenue

Admission:
Use your Metrocard.

LOUIS ARMSTRONG HOUSE MUSEUM, QUEENS
If you are a Jazz lover or you are just curious to see how the rich and famous lived in the mid-20th century, this is the place for you. The Louis Armstrong House was the home of Louis Armstrong, one of the founding fathers of jazz from 1943 until his death in 1971.

Louis Armstrong’s trumpet. Photo: Monica Stancu

Though Armstrong preferred to live in a working class neighborhood in Corona, Queens, the gold plated bathroom is quite glitzy. Make sure to check out Louis’s Selmer trumpet, a gift from King George V of England in 1932! In the warmer months, the museum also hosts jazz performances in the backyard.

Address:
Louis Armstrong House Museum
34-56 107th Street
Corona, NY  11368
www.louisarmstronghouse.org

Admission:
Adults, $10; Seniors (65 and older), Students and Children, $7.
Group rate, $6; Children under 4, Free.

GREEN-WOOD CEMETERY, BROOKLYN
New York’s version of Père-Lachaise in Paris, this Victorian cemetery includes numerous marble monuments and mausoleums, winding paths and four lakes.  The hilly topography also offers a view of the Manhattan skyline.  According to Paul Goldberger, a writer for The New York Times, it was said that “it is the ambition of the New Yorker to live upon the Fifth Avenue, to take his airings in the Park, and to sleep with his fathers in Green-Wood.”

Green-Wood Cemetery. Click to enlarge. Photo: green-wood.com

Some of its most famous permanent residents include conductor-composer Leonard Bernstein, artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, telegraph inventor Samuel Morse, and “Boss” Tweed.  Grab a free map of the cemetery available at the main entrance!
Address:
500 25th St
Brooklyn, NY 11232
http://www.green-wood.com/

Admission:
Free to walk around on your own.  Check the website for tours and other events.

FERRY TO STATEN ISLAND
Hop on the Staten Island ferry for spectacular views of the NYC skyline and the statue of Liberty, the landmark that greeted many of the Eastern European immigrants that settled

Staten Island Ferry (click to enlarge). Photo: siferry.com

in the Lower East Side in the late 19th century when the Eldridge Street Synagogue was built. It will definitely be one of the most amazing FREE rides of your life!  For the best view, sit outside on the upper deck. Travel time is approximately 25 minutes.
Address:
The Whitehall Ferry Terminal
4 South Street
New York, NY 10301
http://www.siferry.com

Admission:
Free

MUSEUM AT ELDRIDGE STREET, MANHATTAN
Of course we have to include Eldridge Street on our list of Hidden Gems.  A breathtaking National Historic Landmark on the Lower East Side, the 1887 Eldridge Street Synagogue is the first house of worship erected in the United States by Eastern European Jews.

Eldridge Street Synagogue facade. Click to enlarge. Photo: Kate Milford

One of the highlights of this grand building is the stained glass window by artist Kiki Smith and architect Deborah Gans. Our dedicated docents lead guided tours, or you can explore the site on your own.  Check our online calendar for events including concerts, adult education classes, and a monthly happy hour for people in their 20s and 30s.
Address:
Museum at Eldridge Street
12 Eldridge Street
New York, NY  10002
http:/www.eldridgestreet.org

Admission:
$10 adults, $8 students/seniors; $6 children 5-18
Free Mondays (up to 6 people)

Do you have a favorite Hidden Gem that’s not on our list?

Categories: Blog, History, Lower East Side

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