Midtown: tourists love it and New Yorkers try to avoid it. Attractions like the Empire State Building, the always illuminated Times Square, and the iconic Chrysler Building always draw crowds, but Manhattan’s business hub has plenty of off the beaten path places to explore. Some are even downright quirky for an area known for high-rise office buildings and steakhouses. Check out the list of non-touristy things to do in Midtown below.
1. Check out New York City’s oldest operating magic shop
Tannen’s Magic Shop has been providing magicians with supplies since 1925. From specialty card decks to books on magic theory, this shop has something for novices and professionals alike. Want to up the ante on your skills? Tannen’s hosts a Magic Camp every summer. Famous alumni include renowned magicians David Copperfield and David Blaine, plus actor Adrien Brody. Midtown is also the former home of the Houdini Museum, so I guess you could say the magic vibe runs deep.
2. Escape from reality at VR World
Putting a spin on traditional arcades, VR World offers visitors a wide variety of immersive experiences. Dive to the depths of the ocean, explore outer space, and survive a zombie apocalypse all in one afternoon.
3. Take advantage of Midtown’s pocket parks
Green space is a premium in this city. Take a quick respite from the noise and bustle of Midtown at one of these privately owned, but open to the public, parks. It’s like stumbling upon an urban Shangri-La. All three have water features that easily drown out the city buzz, transforming the space into a zen oasis.
- Greenacre Park: 217 E. 51st St, between Second and Third Avenues
- Paley Park: 3 E. 53rd St, between Madison and Fifth Avenues
- Atruim Garden at the Ford foundation: 320 E. 43rd St.
This last option isn’t technically a park, but the Ford Foundation’s atrium is too beautiful to leave off this list. Visitors can take in its 39 species of plants as well as a reflection pool and fountain. The only thing that could make it more perfect is lunch from Halal Guys. Speaking of lunch…
4. Grab lunch behind a freight entrance at El Sabroso
Some of NYC’s best food options are hidden far off the beaten tourist tracks and El Sabroso doesn’t disappoint. This no frills Ecuadorian lunch counter is tucked away behind a freight entrance on West 37th street. Get the roast pork. You won’t regret it. Located at 265 W. 37th St.
5. See the world’s largest chess board
Long before “The Queen’s Gambit” was trending, 767 Third Avenue was taking chess to new heights–literally. It’s open plaza sports a three-story chess board, said to be the world’s largest. Spectators won’t be able to get in on this game unless they’ve got a lift or hydraladder handy.