There’s a reason New York is the city that never sleeps: there are too many hidden gems to uncover. Its residents aren’t taking carriage rides at Central Park. They aren’t visiting the Statue of Liberty, taking in the views from the observation deck of Empire State Building, nor having caricatures made by one of the many sidewalk artists in Times Square. And they certainly aren’t forking over an exorbitant amount of money to catch the likes of Hamilton and The Lion King on Broadway.
Instead, they’re making their way through offbeat boutiques, off-Broadway shows, obscure installations, hole-in-the-wall eateries, and alternative cultural institutions. Savoir Flair set out to do the same – and found 20 hidden gems that even New Yorkers may not know about.
Moxy Times Square
Because a stay here brings with it bragging rights.
You’ll need a place to stay, so let’s start with this one. Naughty topiary, incredible eateries, cozy rooms, coquettish life-size pink bunnies, interesting pop-ups, and Instagrammable nooks at every turn – Moxy Times Square is where New York City’s coolest adults come to play. Need proof? Everyone from Rihanna and Laverne Cox to Heidi Klum and Uma Thurman has partied here. Its location, just south of the always bustling Times Square, also helps.
Because burgers make everything better.
It’s more a neon sign than a name that greets you – provided you know where to go. And we’ll tell you. Residing behind heavy, red-velvet curtains in the lobby of Parker New York is Burger Joint, which can only be described as the absolute best – well – burger joint in the city. Yes, you’ll wait in line in a narrow, dimly lit corridor to get in. Yes, the menu is limited. But between the perfectly cooked burgers, crispy fries, graffitied walls, and achingly cool ambience, just being there will feel like a small victory.
Long Lines Building
Because who doesn't love a conspiracy theory?
Would you notice a windowless skyscraper? We did. And we can tell you that plenty of New Yorkers don’t even know about this one. Make your way to 33 Thomas Street in Lower Manhattan to discover a building shrouded in mystery. Unofficially known as the Long Lines Building, it was originally designed to house AT&T’s telecommunications equipment but, today, is allegedly used as a hub for spying by the National Security Agency. Naturally, this “tower of doom” is inaccessible to the general public.
The Phluid Project
Because gender is more spectrum than binary.
Not only is The Phluid Project a first-of-its-kind clothing store in New York City, but also the world. Just over an year old, it has evolved from a mere retail space to a social movement, encouraging shoppers to “leave their assumptions at the door”. Alongside gender-neutral clothing – displayed on gender-neutral mannequins, no less – by the likes of Levi’s and Champion are candles, artisanal soaps, coffee table books, and more.
Because strong coffee with a novelty factor is a win-win.
Four shots of iced espresso blended with 98 percent Dutch-process cocoa powder, almond milk, and even organic coconut ash later, we were completely and utterly enamored with Round K. Modeled after traditional Korean coffee spots, this little Lower East Side café has found fame – on social media and IRL – thanks to its ‘Matte Black Latte’, which looks as good (and goth chic) as it tastes. The fact that it’s dairy-free is just the proverbial cherry on top.
Then She Fell
Because immersive theater is the way to go.
No seats, no stage – this is a theater experience like no other. For starters, Then She Fell is restricted to only 15 audience members per show. Why? Because you’ll be a part of this highly immersive (and meticulously orchestrated) performance centered around the complicated relationship between Lewis Carroll and his young muse, Alice Liddell.
Held at a creaky, three-story school building in Brooklyn dressed as a mental institution in Wonderland, the show will have you do everything from brush Alice’s hair and join the Mad Hatter’s tea party to share a bed with the White Queen while she tells you a bedtime story. You’ll leave feeling both delighted and disoriented – and eager to return to that dreamscape and do it all over again.
Because this miniature museum packs a punch.
New York’s tiniest museum (it’s housed in a former freight elevator in Chinatown) is rife with found objects and the fascinating stories behind them. Past exhibitions have featured bulletproof backpacks branded by Disney, everyday items that caused unintentional harm, tissues used and discarded by world leaders, and religious tools accommodating the trends of modern life – gluten-free communion wafers, anyone? Bonus: the themes of the displays at Mmuseumm change on a regular basis, so no two visits will be the same.
Obscura Antiques & Oddities
Because antiques and oddities are always intriguing.
A charming (read: small) space crammed with medical antiques, turn-of-the-century taxidermy, possessed ventriloquist dummies, circus cast-offs, dolls that wouldn’t look out of place in a horror movie, art made from human hair, Victorian mourning jewelry, and vintage postcards displayed alongside glass cases that house even more curiosities – that is Obscura Antiques & Oddities in a nutshell. Not only is this eccentric store an East Village staple, but it was also the star of reality TV show Oddities, which followed its day-to-day operations.
Ray's Candy Store
Because what it sells is better than candy.
Sugared, fried, and deep-fried everything is on the menu at the legendary Ray’s Candy Store, which has been operational – 24 hours a day, seven days a week – since 1974. Its beloved owner Ray Alvarez is a legend in his own right. Not only does he continue to work at the age of 86, but his egg cream also won Anthony Bourdain’s seal of approval. Our vote, however, goes to the heavenly New Orleans-style beignets at this teensy little deli. You might want to skip lunch for this one.
The New York Earth Room
Because dirt can be valued at a million dollars.
Leave it to New York City to make soil seem interesting – and overpriced – because that’s precisely what The New York Earth Room entails. This art installation comprises 197 cubic meters of dirt and was installed by late experimental artist Walter De Maria back in 1977, but continues to intrigue to this day.
Curators maintain The New York Earth Room on a regular basis by watering it as it’s estimated to be worth at least a million dollars, but considering the skyrocketing costs of real estate in SoHo, the white-washed apartment that houses the installation is probably worth (a lot) more.
Because a quest for the perfect lip color never ends.
There’s a good chance you’re familiar with Bite Beauty – the Canadian brand for all things lipsticks, lip stains, lip glosses, lip pencils, and more – but have you heard of Lip Lab by Bite? This ingenious retail concept is found in four cities – New York City included – and gives you the opportunity to create an entirely bespoke lipstick.
Not only can you customize the color, but you can also choose the finish, flavor (with options ranging from mint and citrus mango to violet and vanilla), packaging, and name, resulting in a lipstick that’s solely your own. Could this be the ultimate NYC souvenir?
Because silence in New York City is an oxymoron.
Holistic wellness isn’t necessarily the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the Big Apple – far from it, in fact – but that’s exactly what earns Modrn Sanctuary a spot on this list. Here, unique offerings such as meditation domes, chakra-balancing massages, and cryoskin body contouring are complemented by a full-fledged Himalayan salt room.
Head here for a 30-minute session of halotherapy, during which you can enhance your immune system, increase your energy levels, reduce your susceptibility to colds and flu, and treat skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis – all while getting some much-needed respite from the city outside.
Because your inner child deserves to be indulged.
Adulting is hard – but being surrounded by color, color, and more color is not. Enter: Color Factory, a feel-good pop-up that has taken New York City (and Instagram) by storm for its interactive and multi-hued rooms, displays, prompts, games, and installations – all of which are designed to help make human connections through color.
And regardless of your loyalty to all-black everything, you’ll love eating brightly colored macarons off a moving conveyor belt, discovering which color best suits your personality, playing with iridescent balloons, and reliving your childhood in a baby-blue ball pit.
Because change is a good thing – promise.
Breathing new life into the flagship Herald Square location of Macy’s is Story, an ever-evolving pop-up that first grew its cult following in the Chelsea neighborhood. What sets this store-within-a-store apart is its ability to reinvent itself every few weeks, curating rotating shopping experiences through themes such as ‘Made in America’, ‘Home for the Holidays’, ‘Color’, and ‘Well-Being’.
The product line-up follows suit, promising the kind of fun, quirky fare (think: Crayola socks, cool sneaker-cleaning kits, and individual MAC palettes) that you weren’t actually looking for, but need – circa now.
Because a little magic never hurt anyone.
You don’t have to believe in the supernatural to step into the basement-level treasure trove that is Enchantments – the fact that it’s the oldest occult store in New York City is reason enough. Having opened its doors in 1982, it has become the go-to for all things books, blended oils, ouanga bags, incense sticks, talisman jewelry, tarot cards, and more – all intended to incorporate a little positive magic into your life.
In fact, the principle that directs everything at Enchantments is “harm none”. Most popular here are the custom spell candles that are hand-carved with magical symbols as well as your name and astrological sign, and then anointed with the appropriate oil and metal glitter to help you manifest your intention. So what will it be: love or money?
Because this hidden gem is actually hidden.
Let’s clarify: this is Times Square the sound installation by classical musician Max Neuhaus, not Times Square the neighborhood. It’s located below the grates of the triangular pedestrian island located at Broadway between 45th and 46th Streets (hence the name), but worry not, as Google Maps will take you directly to it – just keep an ‘ear’ out for the faint harmonic music that wafts up and around.
Fun fact: Neuhaus installed Times Square in 1977 as a social experiment to see how many people will notice the humming amongst the city’s cacophony. And even today, almost no one does.
Because petty people make us laugh.
You don’t need a booking for this one, nor do you have to spend a penny to appreciate it – just a sense of humor, really. By the entrance of Village Cigars in the West Village lies the Hess Triangle, a.k.a. “a century-old grudge against New York City”. This minuscule portion of concrete has found fame for being the city’s smallest piece of private property.
Owner David Hess was forced to give up his five-story building when over 200 buildings were demolished in 1910, and this tiny triangular piece was all that remained of what he once owned. Hess could’ve donated it for use as part of the surrounding public sidewalk. Instead, he chose to go with spite, covering the triangle with mosaic tiles and a statement that reads: “property of the Hess estate which has never been dedicated for public purposes”.
Because our relationship with time is complicated enough.
Part public art, part indecipherable clock is Metronome in Union Square. This large-scale installation of 15 flickering numbers is ignored by New Yorkers and undiscovered by tourists, but either way, feels practically impossible to figure out. Symbolic of the intangibility of time, Metronome does actually tell the time in a 24-hour format, delving further into the tenths and one-hundredths of a second. The digits on the right, meanwhile, show the number of hours remaining in the day. Have you managed to tell it was 7:36 p.m. when this photo was taken?
Because who knew apothecaries still existed?
How does the oldest operating apothecary in America not make it into more travel guides? Established in 1838, C.O. Bigelow has tended to everyone from Mark Twain and Thomas Edison to Eleanor Roosevelt. Today, it’s an essential pitstop for those seeking a glimpse into the past – and the beauty-obsessed.
Here, nearly 200 years of expertise make for a dizzying array of medicines, holistic remedies, salves, balms, cold creams, lotions, perfumes, and elixirs in addition to products from far and wide (luxury toothpaste from Italy, moisturizing socks from Japan, and lavender-infused pomade from Australia included). Our recommendation is to slow down, browse the aisles, and discover what will soon become your beauty must-haves – maybe even observe the friendly chatter between the resident pharmacist and Chanel-clad octogenarians? This really is an institution like no other.
Because we suffer from perpetual wanderlust.
Independent bookstores have a special place in our hearts, and that love is only amplified when they specialize in travel. Case in point: the cozy Idlewild Books, where guidebooks, cookbooks, maps, and phrasebooks reside alongside travel memoirs, travel literature, and popular novels centered around – you guessed it – travel. If you’re a globetrotter in search of a new adventure after your trip to New York, Idlewild is where it’s at.