We’ve been to New York twice before, so when we went for my birthday in February, it was our third time lucky. We had done all the touristy things during our first two trips – Times Square, Top of the Rock, the Chrysler Building, Empire State Building, Satute of Liberty, etc.
We had a great time on both of those trips, and as wide eyed first and second time visitors, we enjoyed drinking in all the big sights in as we ticked them off our lists.
During our third trip however, we felt like we wanted to go off the beaten track a bit, explore the city by ourselves and experience parts of New York some maybe wouldn’t normally see. Although we enjoyed a nostalgic pause as we walked past the big sights again on this trip, there was no urge to follow the crowds. Instead, we spent our time doing some non-typical touristy stuff, and we loved it.
The Museum of the American Gangster
The Museum of the American Gangster is not your average tourist museum. For a start it’s tiny, and pretty hard to find! (80 St Marks Place, East Village). But don’t let that put you off. We spent a couple of hours being guided round here by a really enthusiastic guide, who you could tell lived and breathed the history he was re-telling so well to our small tour group.
Here we explored the history of organsied crime, with real artefacts and, with the museum housed above an original speakeasy (which is now a working abstinthe bar, bytheway), you got to explore the cellars of the old speakeasy, seeing the old booby-traps, dead drop chutes for the cash in the underground offices, and genuine bullet holes in the walls made following a disagreement or robbery that went awry.
The tour lasted about an hour, and was totally enthralling, thanks to our great guide and his intricate knowledge of the time. We learnt the fascinating story of the rise and fall of a couple of owners (gangsters) of the speakeasy and the very building that we were standing in. We also enjoyed a drink in the abstinthe bar afterwards which still has the original wooden bar from the 1920s – great bar and well worth a stop in. It also has a fairly random creperie on the side of the bar – who knew crepes and absinthe went together so well?
McSorely’s Old Ale House
The museum took us deep into the East Village, somewhere we had never been before on our previous trips, and that led us to McSorely’s Old Ale House, a real old time bar with sawdust on the floor. It had a really authentic feel -lots of dark wood, iron wood burners and newspaper cuttings from the last 80 years plus on the wall. It was a real piece of history.
There are only two choices of beer at McSorely’s, light or dark! Whatever you order comes in 2 half pint pitchers for about $5. We enjoyed a few rounds of light ale and a great burger and pickle.
We decided to take a trip out of the city too, to Coney Island one cold morning. I know Coney Island is technically a tourist attraction – but not in February! Its only about 30 minutes from Times Square on the subway. We arrived early, about 10am and all the boardwalk rides were closed for the season, but it was great to spend a few hours walking along the boardwalk as joggers and other walkers passed us by.
The beach was surprisingly beautiful and could have been somewhere in California. We could imagine how busy the place gets in the summer when the weather is a bit warmer. We stopped for a coffee and then headed back to the city. But this short and easy ride out to Coney Island was something I am really glad we did – it was a nice break from the hustle and bustle, and I love being by the sea!
I’ve already posted about walking across the Brooklyn Bridge here, another definite highlight of our trip, though admittedly, a more common tourist experience!
I hope you found this post useful – be sure to check out some of these places if you are ever in NYC.