When it comes to cool places, there is no doubt that NYC is home to some of the best and most exciting. There are countless legendary tourist attractions known across the world that have put the Big Apple on the map. However, one thing that sets the cool places in NYC apart from many other places in the world is that many of these places are secret.
NYC has many impressive, delicious, and secret destinations, only open to a crowd in-the-know. This makes them even more attractive and trendy. It also creates a sort of mystique around them that results in people wanting to know more.
If you want to know about some of the coolest and most secret spots in NYC, check out the list below. These hotspots offer food, drink, history, and culture. Thy also provide social opportunities, and getting in to see them can help you build your street cred.
• Bathtub Gin
When it comes to speakeasy bars, Bathtub Gin is as classic as it gets. This hidden cocktail and food joint is past a hidden door in Stone Street Coffee Shop (which is very unassuming in itself). You have to know the password (and usually have a reservation) to get in. Once you’ve gotten inside past a bouncer, you can sit in the dimly lit atmosphere. Order absinthe cocktails, and enjoy them while you bask in the incredibly romantic vibe. At the center of the restaurant is an old-fashioned bathtub where people actually made gin during Prohibition. There’s no better way to broadcast a speakeasy theme. (Also, don’t forget to enjoy the fashionable, well-dressed crowd that flocks from all over the city).
• Little Branch
Little Branch is another of the city’s most beloved and well-hidden speakeasy bars. This bar opened thanks to late expert bar and cocktail master Sasha Petraske (who also opened legendary speakeasy Milk & Honey). Little Branch is downstairs, in the basement of a building in the West Village. When you approach the bar, though, all you’ll see is a metal door in a rundown, unassuming flatiron building. You have to make a reservation to get in (or else you’ll get turned away or wait for forever).
Once you do, you’ll get a password, then give that password to the bartender when it’s time for you to sit down. Inside, the bar has themed elements as if it’s the ’70s. Think brown wood, mustard walls, and orange accents. Much less elegant and upscale than Bathtub Gin, Little Branch is cool because it will transport you. With jazz and ’70s music playing, you’ll feel like you went down the stairs and ended up in a whole different era.
• Hotel Delmano
Hotel Delmano is a lot less secret than Bohemian. In fact, it’s a bar and restaurant that’s open to the public, and you don’t even need a password or a reservation to get in. But, Hotel Delmano sits behind the guise of a dark, wrought iron gated storefront that looks closed. This makes it feel secret in one of the city’s trendiest area: Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
If you enter into the side door, you’ll feel like you are walking straight into the Prohibition era (a lot like Bathtub Gin, but a little more rustic). Hotel Delmano shines for its outstanding cocktails, which mixologists dream up and mix by hand. It is also the site of one of Brooklyn’s best raw bars. The restaurant boasts about its fresh oysters, shrimp cocktail, and lobster tails. You can sit at the bar and watch the magical bartenders at work. Alternatively, sit by the raw bar and take in the tantalizing shellfish.
One of the best reasons to go to Hotel Delmano is so that you can surround yourself with all of the beautiful people of Williamsburg. It’s home to fashionistas and celebrities alike, so you will feel wowed by the impressive and chic crowd.
• Bar Centrale
If you love Broadway theater and the excitement of being around show business when you’re in NYC, then you’re going to love Bar Centrale. This is a secret bar and restaurant in Restaurant Row in the theater district. With no signage or markings, you have to know where Bar Centrale is to get into it. You also have to have a reservation. Once you’re inside, revel in the fun and whimsical pink, white, and black aesthetic and decor. This speakeasy bar and restaurant doesn’t only keep its coordinates secret to create allure. It is a regular hangout for celebrities starring in Broadway shows. And, the exclusivity of the restaurant makes them feel safe when they dine.
Make a reservation at Bar Centrale, then head up the stairs of the townhouse it’s in when you arrive. (You can’t miss it once you’re up there). Order one of the classic dishes or cocktails, then enjoy the sightings of all the stars that are there while you dine.
• The Roxy Suite
Radio City Music Hall is synonymous with show business and glamour. You can experience the best of the venue at a secret suite that’s located within Radio City, called the Roxy Suite. The suite originated as an apartment for the founder of the hall, Samuel Roxy Rothafel. It has a 20-foot gold leaf ceiling, cherry wood paneled walls, and a parlor with a formal dining room. You can rent the entire Roxy Suite in order to check it out. Otherwise, you’ll have to get an invite there. If you get inside, you’ll be able to see who else has been there, since there are photos of all of the most famous visiting celebrities throughout.
• New York Earth Room
Do you want your hidden experience to incorporate culture instead of food or drink? Head to the New York Earth Room, which is in Soho at 141 Wooster Street. The New York Earth Room is an art gallery, but it’s not one like you might think. It’s actually an interior earth sculpture (read: a whole lot of dirt in a room inside) that is 22 inches deep and covers 3,600 square feet of floor space. The sculpture contains 250 cubic yards of “earth.”
The New York Earth Room was set up in 1977 by sculptor Walter de Maria, and it’s the third of its kind on the planet. In 1980, the Dia Foundation took over the New York Earth Room, and they pay for its maintenance and preservation. You can visit the New York Earth Room, you just have to know how and when. It is open from Wednesday to Sunday from 12 to 6 (but not from 3-3:30 p.m.). It’s closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day.
Admission is free, but it can be tricky to find. If you ask the concierge at your hotel how to find the New York Earth Room, there is a good chance he or she is going to give you a puzzled look. So be ready to do some hunting around downtown, and asking some locals who seem like they know a lot about the local art scene. One last note: As tempting as it seems, you can’t actually touch or walk through all that dirt. It’s only meant for you to look at.
Secret places in NYC aren’t only about drinking. They’re also about eating, too. Bohemian is a secret restaurant in the city that people are dying to get into thanks to the fact that it’s hidden right behind a butcher shop on Bond Street. The address and phone number of this restaurant are not released to the public. Instead, the idea is that you have to get the contact from someone else that has already eaten here. This creates an exclusive, networky crowd and makes it feel aspirational.
If you manage to get the contact of the people at Bohemian and can make a reservation, then call them up and get a table. Inside, the food is excellent. The menu is inventive with Asian influences. Enjoy dishes like a whole branzino, scorpion tacos, and blowfish sashimi.Bohemian has a dark, romantic atmosphere. It’s a little bit clubby, and also a good place to take a date. So, if you’re in NYC with someone you love and can get a reservation to Bohemian, it’ll definitely impress them. Then, save the contact number and pass it along to someone else who deserves the exclusive, elusive experience.
• The Houdini Museum
Another attraction that’s appropriately hard to find and access in NYC is the Houdini Museum. It is by Penn Station on the third floor of a nondescript building in Midtown. There’s no real signage or advertising for the museum. However, it’s located inside the Fantasma Magic Shop, so head there and ask to see the museum. The collection has about 1,500 items in it, and many belong to the owner of the magic shop and CEO, Roger Dreyer. There are so many awesome items connected to the history of magic there. Browse through things like Houdini’s water torture chamber, his handcuffs, and an escape coffin. If you’re able to find your way to the museum, you’ll be in for a magical experience you’ll never forget.
• Manhattan Cricket Club
Way up on the Upper West Side is the Manhattan Cricket Club, a speakeasy bar on the second story of a townhouse. The Manhattan Cricket Club, like many clubs, has rules. You can’t be on your phone. You can’t hit on people uninvited. You can’t get into fights. (And more.) What results is an upscale atmosphere of civility, where people enjoy craft cocktails and delicious food. You have to be a member to get in carte blanche. However, if you’re not a member, you can head to the Manhattan Cricket Club and see if they’ll let you in on a walk-in basis. They won’t accept groups bigger than six. But, if you’re dressed according to the unwritten dress code and only with a small group of cohorts, you may be able to gain access. Then enjoy one of the most elite secret bars in Manhattan.
• The Last Word
If you’re looking for a secret spot in Queens, the Last Word may be your best bet. This speakeasy-style cocktail bar stands out both for its great drinks and outstanding nightly jazz. The Last Word is basically “speakeasy style,” because anyone can get in. But, it’s situated behind a fake hardware store (the signage reads “Square Hardware”) and you have to know what you’re looking for in order to get there. This is one of the only places of its kind in Astoria, and it’s hard to get into since they don’t take table reservations. Once you’re inside, though, you’ll get stellar table service and a fun time.
When you visit NYC, you definitely want to make sure you hit up the tried and true attractions that make it New York. Some of the most important are the Statue of Liberty and Times Square. But, if you want an authentically New York experience, make sure that you get into some of the secret and most exclusive destinations in town. Whether they’re restaurants, speakeasy bars, hidden attractions, or something else on the DL, these well-known but rarely visited locales can help you have a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Going to any of them will give you incredible stories to return home with.