Are you ready to learn about some of NYC’s weirdest places? Whether you’ve visited before and want to skip the well-known tourist attractions or you’re just obsessed with all things weird and wonderful, this is the list for you. Forget Central Park and say hello to the spooky Smallpox Hospital Ruins. Skip Times Square and check out the amazing Coney Island Circus Sideshow. Wave goodbye to Bloomingdale’s and visit your first ever superhero supply store instead.
If you’re spending a while in New York and you’re willing to travel away from the city, you’ll be in for even more of a treat. It’s well worth taking a few trips to visit unique locations like the Lake George Mystery Spot and the Kaatskill Kaleidoscope — and you’ll also get to enjoy more of the gorgeous New York scenery.
Visiting even a few of the places on this list below will turn your trip into a truly memorable experience — and one that your friends won’t get bored of hearing about.
1. Roosevelt Island Smallpox Hospital Ruins
If you love all things haunted, a trip to the Roosevelt Island Smallpox Hospital ruins is essential. It’s a short trip on the subway from Manhattan
and provides some excellent spooky photo opportunities. Operating during the 1800s, the hospital fell into disrepair in the 1950s. In 2009, plans were made to renovate the site, but these still aren’t complete. The building is safe to explore, but still has the sinister air of a place that’s been abandoned for many years. It’s considered one of the most haunted places in America, so enter at your own risk! If you fancy yourself as a bit of a psychic, this is the perfect location to test your skills.
The impressive-looking hospital building is so mesmerizing that it has actually featured heavily in pop culture. It’s shown in Grand Theft Auto IV as part of a fictionalized version of New York, used as a hideout by characters in City of Bones, and depicted in the 2002 Spider-Man film. See it for yourself to understand why it has inspired so many creative projects.
Credit: Martina Badini / Shutterstock
2. Fragment of the Berlin Wall
Bet you weren’t expecting to see part of the Berlin Wall during your trip to the Big Apple! Well, the Berlin Wall was torn down in 1989 and fragments of the wall were auctioned off, with five now on display in New York.
If you want to stop off for a quick photo opportunity while exploring the city, head to one of the following locations:
- 520 Madison Avenue – Midtown, Manhattan
- The Kowsky Plaza – Battery Park, Manhattan
- The United Nations – Murray Hill, Manhattan
- Ripley’s Believe It or Not – Times Square, Manhattan
- The Intrepid Museum – Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan
Credit: Leonard Zhukovsky / Shutterstock
Each fragment of the wall is decorated in a unique way, and going on a round trip to check them all out is a fun way to explore the city. If you want to check out lots more weird and wacky curiosities, visiting the wall fragment at Ripley’s Believe It or Not is a smart choice.
Located in Time’s Square, Ripley’s Believe It or Not is full of wonderful, unique exhibits. You’ll see everything from Luke Skywalker’s original lightsaber to real uniforms from some of your favorite baseball players. Ripley’s also features interactive activities like the Black Hole tunnel and the Smash Dash reaction wall. It’s an excellent place to visit with kids and is open 365 days a year. It might not be as off-the-beaten-track as the other items in this list, but it’s still an essential stop if you love learning weird facts and seeing interesting curiosities.
3. World’s First Elevator Shaft: Cooper Union Foundation Building
Have you ever thought about where the world’s first elevator shaft was located? Well, now you know, whether you wanted to or not. The first-ever elevator shaft can be found inside the Cooper Union Foundation Building. The seven-story building was once one of the tallest in lower Manhattan, although it seems small by today’s standards.
The first elevator in the building was built in the 1850s and has a unique round shape — one which was replicated by architect John Hejdukin in 1972 and can still be used today. If you’re an elevator enthusiast, this is a must-visit. And if you’re not an elevator enthusiast… well, it’s still worth checking out if you’re in the area.
4. Trailer Park Lounge
Want to go for a drink at a bar that has some real character? The Trailer Park Lounge is located at 271 West 23rd Street and offers a seriously unique experience. With decor featuring neon signs, retro ads, and tons of other on-brand paraphernalia, this is a great place to snap a photo of yourself enjoying a drink. If you’re hungry, you can grab a burger — and there are plenty of veggie options. Whether you love dive bars or you just want to visit a place that has the quirkiest decor ever, Trailer Park Lounge is the place for you.
5. Mystery Spot – Lake George
Are you obsessed with unexplained phenomena and weird quirks of nature? Then you’ll love this place. Behind the Lake George Visitor Center, there’s a circular platform that’s painted with a map of the lake and marked with a large cross. If you stand in the center of the cross, facing the lake, and give a shout, you’ll hear your own voice mysteriously echoed back to you. You’re the only one who will be able to hear it, and the trick only works if you stand in this specific spot.
Nobody knows the exact reason behind this strange occurrence, although there are theories. Some think that the sound is bouncing off a circular stone wall, while others believe that some kind of Native American magic is at play. Whatever you believe, it’s a lot of fun to visit the spot and experience this for yourself. Don’t forget to check out the visitor center before you leave!
Lake George is just over 200 miles from the city and the drive takes about four hours, making it a great spot for a weekend getaway. If you don’t drive, take advantage of the regular Greyhound bus or catch the train from Penn Station to Fort Edward, located 20 minutes from the lake.
6. Kaatskill Kaleidoscope
Kaatskill Kaleidoscope, located in a converted grain silo in Mount Tremper, is the world’s largest kaleidoscope. Pretty cool, right? It opened in 1996 and was designed by psychedelic artist Isaac Abrams and his son Raphael. The kaleidoscope is located inside Emerson Resort and there are tons of awesome kaleidoscope-themed gifts you can pick up to commemorate your visit. Inside the kaleidoscope, you’ll be treated to a dazzling show of light and color, which is sure to thrill anyone who enjoys quirky installations. It’s a fun place to visit with kids — just be prepared for them to beg for their own kaleidoscope before you leave.
Giant kaleidoscopes like this really are a huge rarity, making this a great contender for one of New York’s weirdest places. While it’s about an hour’s drive from NYC, it’s worth making the trip, especially if you don’t want to spend your entire vacation in the city. Buses run regularly from New York to Mount Tremper — although they’ll take longer than driving yourself.
7. The Skyscraper Museum
New York might feel like a skyscraper museum in itself, but if you’re interested in learning more about the design, technology, and construction techniques behind the tall buildings we often take for granted, this museum is a great stop. It’s located in Battery Park and features scale models of famous skyscrapers, details on the history of the New York skyline, and fascinating old newspaper articles and clippings. The museum is small, but it’s a must-see for anyone who’s interested in architecture.
The Skyscraper Museum is located at 39 Battery Place. It doesn’t take long to look around, so it’s a great one to schedule in if you’ve only got limited time.
8. Coney Island Circus Sideshow
Ever wished you could go back in time and see a real vintage sideshow? Well, Coney Island Circus Sideshow is about as close as you can get. It’s a unique show filled with old-fashioned tricks like fire breathing, sword swallowing, yo-yo-ing, and more. It’s exciting, engaging and intimate — and suitable for the whole family. If you’re interested in history, the circus, or just love to have fun, this show won’t disappoint.
It’s the last remaining classic 10-in-1 sideshow that’s housed in a permanent location, and all of the performances are 100% real — no smoke and mirrors. That means that you’re getting a really unique, authentic experience that you’d struggle to find anywhere else.
The show runs every day from the second weekend of June through Labor Day, as well as most weekends in April, May, and September. Tickets are available at the door and it’s $10 for adults or $5 for kids. It’s a super affordable way to have a really memorable time — and everyone loves Coney Island
Credit: James Kirkikis / Shutterstock
9. New York Transit Museum Tours
Are you a massive transport geek? You’ll meet plenty of like-minded people when you go for a New York Transit Museum tour. You’ll be taken to the abandoned Old City Hall station for a complete guided tour, which will include local history and a walk around the local area. The station was designed by architects Heins & LaFarge and features beautiful vaulted tile ceilings designed by Rafael Guastavino. This is the station that the very first subway train departed from, way back in 1904.
The station really is stunning, and very few people get to see inside. Although it’s still active as a turnaround for the 6 line, trains don’t stop here and it’s not usually open to the public. The Transit Museum tours can be difficult to get tickets to, so it’s best to keep an eye on the website and book as early as you can. Not many people can say they’ve been inside an abandoned subway station!
Even if you don’t manage to get onto a tour, it’s worth paying a visit to the New York Transit Museum just to enjoy their exhibits. You’ll see vintage maps, restored train carriages, historical documents, photographs, and lots more. The Transit Museum is located in a decommissioned subway station at 99 Schermerhorn Street in Brooklyn, so just getting to go inside is an experience all by itself.
Credit: Felix Lipov / Shutterstock
10. Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co.
Have you ever dreamed of becoming a superhero? Let’s be honest, who hasn’t? Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co. is a cleverly branded store filled with items like X-ray vision spray and hero grappling hooks. Sadly, however, it’s not going to turn you into a real superhero — it’s actually a novel way of disguising a creative writing program for kids. The superhero store is a way to get kids into writing, as the location of a nonprofit called 826NYC
, a writing club run by New York City writers to help teach the next generation the power of writing.
You don’t have to be in the club to have a look around, though, and it’s a fun place to have your photo taken. All the items are creatively packaged with descriptions that really spark the imagination. There are plenty of toys, costumes, and gifts — perfect if you’re shopping for kids or just want a fun souvenir of your own. Profits from anything you buy will go towards funding new educational writing programs and keeping this unique store running. The store is located at 372 5th Avenue, Brooklyn and is definitely one of NYC’s weirdest places.
Why Visit NYC’s Weirdest Places?
It gets so dull visiting the same old tourist attractions again and again — especially if you’ve been to New York before. Open your eyes to a whole new side of the city by making time to visit some of NYC’s weirdest places. Whether you’re being spooked out at an abandoned hospital or stocking up on superhero supplies, you’re sure to make memories that will last — instead of boring yourself with yet another walk around Central Park.