New York City is the ultimate American tourist destination. From the Empire State Building to the Statue of Liberty, there are many things to do as a travel lover on your NYC trip. However, not every traveler wants to stand in a crowded line at the MoMA or spend hundreds of dollars to see Hamilton. Luckily for those who fall in this category, there are a plethora of quirky, non-tourist things to do in New York in the winter.

Cat Cafes

Cat cafes started to crop up in Japan in the 1990s because of their tremendous stray cat problem. Apartments only perpetuated this issue by not allowing animals. In response to this issue, many cafe owners began taking in cats. This way, the cats would become socialized and meet friendly people.

Eventually, this craze spread to America. Now, in New York, travel lovers and locals alike can drink coffee and eat croissants with cats. Of course, the cats are there to find a new home, but the owners won’t pressure anyone into adopting.

Visit Koneko in Manhattan’s lower east side. Koneko serves Japanese food, coffee, tea, beer, wine, and sake. Here, you can sit with 20 cats from different rescue organizations. Koneko includes a sun-lit area and a patio for maximum cat enjoyment. You can also visit Meow Parlour, NYC’s first ever cat cafe. Meow Parlour is located in Manhattan’s lower east side. This cafe offers baked goods from their sister company Macaron Parlour as well as coffee and tea.

Cat Cafe

Photo: vedanti via Pixabay

Fireside Bars

Fireside bars are a swanky, boozy way to keep warm in the frigid winter on your NYC trip. Step inside for a drink, sink into a cozy chair, and warm up by the roaring fire.

Travel to Employees Only, established in 2004. Employees Only is a speakeasy-style bar. On the menu, travelers will find critically-acclaimed food and a mix of classic and unique cocktails. The bar is filled with cushy leather seats, warm lights, and–of course–a roaring fireplace.

You will also love Top of the Standard. This bar is located on the top floor of The Standard, High Line hotel in the Meatpacking District. Not only does it feature two beautiful fireplaces, live jazz music, and art-deco style, but it also boasts sweeping views of city skyline. Visit in the evening to warm up while watching the sunset through floor-to-ceiling windows.

Winter Markets

NYC is famous for shopping. No matter the season, travel junkies always crowd Times Square. If you’re looking for a more mellow and less mainstream shopping experience, you should skip the Times Square M&M store and head over to the markets. New York is home to many different markets, with products ranging from food to handmade crafts. While most of the markets are open in the spring and summer, a few stay open during the cold winter months.

Check out the Brooklyn Flea Market, located in Industry City, to find second-hand items and small vendor first-hand items. The market is indoors from November-March and outdoors the rest of the year. Also featured at the Brooklyn Flea is Smorgasburg, an artisanal food fair.

Also, travel lovers and locals alike love Chelsea Market for its wide array of restaurants and shops. The market is open 7 days a week, 364 days a year. Here, you can try cuisines from Australia, Japan, and Italy without having to leave New York.

Chelsea Market in New York

Chelsea Market. Photo: BreathofO2 via Pixabay

Outdoor activities

New York City has many great outdoor activities. During the summer, travelers can spend time soaking up rays in Central Park and bicycling through narrow streets. However, in the winter, New York City is a bit too frigid to spend much time outdoors. Moreover, many outdoor activities are closed during the winter season. Not to worry, though, for the local outdoor spots are open year-round.

Try the Brooklyn Botanic Garden for free in the winter on weekdays. In the winter, visitors will find evergreen trees, lily pads, orchids, a pair of nesting hawks, cardinals, and koi fish. Year-round, the garden boasts many different exhibits, including a  desert pavilion, Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden, and Shakespeare Garden.

Prospect Park is another great non-touristy outdoor attraction. Essentially, Prospect Park is the less crowded version of Central Park. The park offers heated indoor tennis courts, ice skating, and curling lessons at Lefrak Center at Lakeside. Other great winter activities include sledding and walking in the park.

Water Lilies at Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Photo via Pixabay

Unique Museums

New York is perhaps most famous for its fabulous museums. From the MoMa to the Met, NYC is home to some of the best museums in the world. However, New York’s most popular museums are crowded all year long. Moreover, locals don’t visit these museums. Looking for an authentic NYC trip? Skip the Museum of Natural History and head instead to the quirkier, smaller museums the Big Apple has to offer.

Travel to the Museum of the American Gangster. Located in a historic speakeasy, this museum aims to objectively discuss the role of organized crime in politics and culture of NYC. Tourists can expect to find real bullets from major gunfights, old safes, and photographs from the Prohibition era.

MMuseumm is another great offbeat museum. The establishment is located in a former elevator shaft in lower Manhattan. MMuseumm practises object journalism. This museum tells the story of modern New York through unique objects like bulletproof Disney backpacks and 23 cornflake pieces.

We hope you have a fabulous time exploring the lesser known but incredible highlights on your NYC trip.

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