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Off the Beaten (Subway) Track: New York City's Best Unusual Attractions

Off the Beaten (Subway) Track: New York City's Best Unusual Attractions

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Off the Beaten (Subway) Track: New York City's Best Unusual Attractions

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Lançado em:
Jul 28, 2011


While it may seem that every possible attraction in New York City has been written about, Off the Beaten (Subway) Track is the city’s first guide to focus on one hundred unique, off-the-beaten-path destinations. Some are small museums, some are historic places long forgotten, some are stores that sell only odd things, and some are
distinguished for their claim to fame as the world’s largest/smallest whatever. All of them are notable for the passion with which their proprietors and curators care for them, and all of them can be visited via the subway system as Suzanne Reisman directs you to which of the city’s 486 subway stations will get you closest.
These attractions are the types of places and things that not only fit perfectly with the New Yorker’s psyche and ego but also satisfy a tourist’s desire to see the unusual. For example, the Big Apple is home to the world’s tallest Doric column, the world’s largest armory, the world’s largest cathedral, and the world’s largest Reform synagogue. The city also has a troll museum, a numismatic museum, a skyscraper museum, doll and toy museums, and a museum of comic and cartoon art. In many cases, half the fun of visiting these places is getting to meet the people behind them.
Organized geographically to help you to explore the culture and diversity of the city’s great neighborhoods, Off the Beaten (Subway) Track offers venues in Manhattan (Lower, Middle, and Upper), Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island. Also included in many of the entries are nearby places of interest within walking distance that you might also want to visit while you’re in the neighborhood.
Lançado em:
Jul 28, 2011

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Off the Beaten (Subway) Track - Suzanne Reisman



NEW YORK, NY 10022




Copyright © 2011 by Suzanne Reisman

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher, except for brief quotations in critical reviews or articles.


New York City Subway Map © Metropolitan Transportation Authority 2008. Subway Map, tokens, and transfer slips used with permission.

Cover design: James Duncan Creative

Text design: Lisa Taylor

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Reisman, Suzanne.

Off the beaten subway track: New York City's best unusual attractions / Suzanne Reisman.

   p. cm.

Orig. pub.: Nashville, Tenn.: Cumberland House, c2008.

Includes index.

ISBN 978-1-58182-641-8

1. New York (N.Y.)–Guidebooks. 2. Curiosities and wonders–New York (State)–New York–Guidebooks. 3. Subways–New York (State)–New York–Guidebooks.

I. Title. II. Title: Off the beaten track.

F128.18.R45 2011



Printed in the United States of America

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 — 17 16 15 14 13 12 11

To Justin, my favorite unusual attraction





Skyscraper Museum

Fraunces Tavern Museum

archeological dig sites

New York City Police Museum

American Numismatic Society/New York Federal Reserve Bank

Little Lad's Basket

Museum of American Finance

Jeremy's Ale House

Lower East Side Troll Museum

Pickle Guys

Economy Candy

Yonah Schimmel's Knishery

New York City Fire Museum

Rice to Riches

Dia Center for the Arts: The New York Earth Room and The Broken Kilometer

Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art

Ukrainian Museum

Galeria De La Vega

Obscura Antiques

Forbes Galleries

14th Street A, C, E Subway Station


Theodore Roosevelt's Birthplace

Eisenberg's Sandwich Shop

Masonic Hall and Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library and Museum of Grand Lodge

Chapel of Sacred Mirrors

Horticultural Society of New York

United Nations Sculpture Garden

Waterfall Walkway

Berlin Wall

Tourneau Gallery of Time and Oris Exhibit Hall


Corning Gallery at Steuben Glass

Mt. Vernon Hotel Museum & Garden

Tender Buttons

Museum of American Illustration

Herbert & Eileen Bernard Museum of Judaica at Temple Emanu-El

New York Academy of Medicine Library 86

Museum of the City of New York 88

Charles A. Dana Discovery Center

National Museum of Catholic Art & History/Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church


Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame

Nicholas Roerich Museum

Cathedral of St. John the Divine

Hungarian Pastry Shop

Harlem Market/Malcolm Shabazz Mosque

Amy Ruth's

Trinity Cemetery and Mausoleum

Museum of Art and Origins

Jumel Terrace Books

National Track & Field Hall of Fame

Mini George Washington Bridge Playground

El Malecón

Highway Living

Site of Fort Washington

St. Frances Cabrini Shrine

Dyckman Farmhouse Museum

Scavengers of Inwood

Inwood Hill Park

Albert's Mofongo House


Judaica Museum of the Hebrew Home for the Aged

Loeser's Kosher Delicatessen

Edgar Allan Poe Cottage

Original Products

258th Field Artillery Armory

Hall of Fame for Great Americans

Aqueduct Walk

Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto at St. Lucy's Church (a.k.a. Lourdes of America)

Maritime Industry Museum at SUNY Maritime College


Steinway & Sons Piano Factory Tour

Astoria bakeries and food mini-tour

Socrates Sculpture Park

Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden

5 Pointz

Louis Armstrong House

El Indio Amazonico

Queens Museum of Art

Poppenhusen Institute

The Living Museum at Creedmoor Psychiatric Center

Queens County Farm Museum


City Reliquary

Shrine Church of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel

Brooklyn Brewery Tour


New York City Transit Museum

Prison Ship Martyrs Monument

Waterfront Museum

Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co.

Steve's Authentic Key Lime Pies

Weeksville Heritage Center

Floyd Bennett Field

Enrico Caruso Museum of America

Coney Island Museum

Nathan's Famous and the Hot Dog Eating Wall of Fame

Harbor Defense Museum

John Paul Jones Park


Staten Island Museum

Professional Baseball Scouting Hall of Fame

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Shrine

Garibaldi Meucci Museum

Castleton Hill Moravian Church Labyrinth Walk

Noble Maritime Collection

Index by Category


Many thanks to my helper monkeys (Stephanie Adams, Roger Chi, Paula Denoya, Sara Marks, Desiree Miltimore, Jenny Occhipinti, Justin Pollack, Scott Pollack, Rachel Samlan, Oliver Swan, and Stef Weiss) for sharing so many adventures with me; my friend and agent Matthew Elblonk for helping me share my adventures in book form; and my family for their love and support through years of adventures. I could not have done it without you.


I love road trips, strange museums, and eccentric people who share their unusual talents, passions, and obsessions with the general public. While I happily reside in Manhattan, I jealously spent years reading about interesting historic sites, crazy monuments, nostalgic diners, and buildings designed to resemble something else—e.g., a building in the shape of a giant duck or a pharmacy shaped like a mortar and pestle—around the United States. (Perhaps my interest in these things was honed at a young age; when I was a tot growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, I received my first swimming lessons at a YMCA that resembled the Leaning Tower of Pisa.) If New York City is the largest, most diverse city in the country, why was it so hard for me to find unusual sites to see and things to do that didn't require long drives? Sure, I understand that New Yorkers face real estate constraints unheard of anywhere else in the country, but I figured there must be interesting places within the five boroughs that adventure seekers like me could get to with the subway and/or bus.

     I believe that New York is the best city on earth. During my ten-year career in community development, I spent time in a variety of communities across the City that will never get attention from travel magazines but which offer tremendous opportunities to see and do new things, not to mention feast like royalty. Taking advantage of our public transportation led me to discover that there are oodles of interesting things to see and do in the City that give any roadside attraction a run for its gas money. It turns out that the ultimate road trip is the one taken on the subway tracks.

     Don't get me wrong; I love a good road trip as much as anyone. But road trips are special occasions usually requiring several days off from work, and most people who live in New York City don't own an automobile. Why not save some money and shrink your carbon footprint by taking a road trip using New York's fine public transportation to visit something different? This book explores unusual attractions that are off the beaten (subway) track that easily match anything for which you would need a car to see. With almost 850 miles of subway track, over twenty-five subway lines (including three shuttles), and 486 stations in New York City, where can't you go? You can travel thirty-eight miles with only one transfer. There are also more than 200 bus routes covering hundreds—if not thousands—of miles of urban territory. Mass transit can carry an adventurous soul to many unusual attractions within the City, often away from the hustle and bustle of stressed New Yorkers and the usual, crowded tourist areas.

     Think about it: New York has the more densely populated blocks in the country, yet a single subway ride from Times Square will leave you utterly alone, surrounded by (mostly) silent nature in the woods of Inwood Park. There are skyscrapers galore in Manhattan, but the subway and bus can bring you to a working farm in Queens. In a city where millions of dollars are spent acquiring fine art, there is a psychiatric hospital with a working gallery of its residents' artwork that is open to the public by appointment. You can join the hoity-toity at the Metropolitan Opera House, or you can listen to turn-of-the-century recordings of opera legend Enrico Caruso played on vintage phonographs in a museum on the second floor of a two-family home in Brooklyn. The body of a venerated saint, shrines that heal the ailing, and religious relics are located not very far from enormous balls of hair coughed up by cows. New York City is loaded with enough offbeat attractions to keep a curiosity seeker busy for quite some time, no car required.

Off the Beaten (Subway) Track is designed to help people find the unusual and quirky sites in New York City that even many lifelong New Yorkers don't know about. This book is for New Yorkers and visitors who want to avoid Times Square and see more of the real city. It is organized by geographic regions to encourage the exploration of the cultures and variety of New York City's many great neighborhoods while making your way to the destination of your choice.

     An upfront admission: Since the book is a labor of love, it is heavily influenced by my personal preferences and interests. I especially like bakeries, Southern cooking, Jewish heritage, Catholic shrines, and historic sites of somewhat limited importance. (A Bronx cottage containing the bed that Edgar Allan Poe's wife died in? I am so there!) Oddities and grotesqueness delight me, but I also enjoy normal places that have some hidden treasures. Gift shops also figure prominently into my preferences, as half the time they are as much fun to browse as the museum or attraction for which they raise money to support. Interesting neighborhood shopping and eating opportunities are highlighted in this book as well. There's no rhyme or reason why many of the places are included in the book; I just happen to like them.

     As many of these sites depend on one person to operate, be sure to call before you set out for your destination. Checking official websites is a good start, but that is not always enough as the information may not be updated. Small museums and other interesting attractions frequently change hours of operation, sometimes change locations, and often are understaffed. If a special event is taking place, the attraction may be closed even if it usually is open at the time you plan to visit. Countless times, I foolishly did not follow my own advice and found myself standing grumpily on the stoop of some closed building in the outer reaches of a borough after I spent ninety minutes getting there via bus and subway. Half the fun may be getting there, but still, don't let this happen to you—call beforehand.

     Further, it is critical to consider the effects of rapid gentrification. The history of New York City is constant change. I learned from my community development experience that there are almost no sites in the City that haven't been something else in a previous life or two. From the time I began research for this book two years ago to when I finished it, many unique sites have closed. One day I was eating a hamentashen in front of a Lower East Side bakery, the next day the bakery was a hole in the ground, being prepared for its new use as yet another glass and steel luxury condominium. (Rest in peace Gertel's Bakery Since 1915, the Caribbean Costume Museum, the African-American Wax Museum of Harlem, and the Museum of the Mikveh. I hardly knew ye.) Again, calling ahead to make sure the site you want to visit still exists is a solid plan.

     After verifying if and when you can indeed visit a place, the next step to a successful subway road trip is to figure out how to get there. Some places have websites with excellent directions; others don't even have phones. Fortunately, there are several great trip planning resources on the Internet, each with benefits and drawbacks.



If, even after all the mapping and planning, you are lost, just ask someone for help. When I first moved to New York, non-New Yorkers advised me to never look lost; never take out a map; and never, ever, under any circumstances, stop someone on the street for directions or else be mugged/beaten/killed. This could not be further from the truth. As a friend reminded me, we New Yorkers love to show off how much we know about our hometown. People are almost always willing to give directions or show you the way, provided you do not inconvenience them too much. For example, my friend Nancy and my sister once visited me from Chicago. When they got lost on their way to South Street Seaport, a man with a black trench coat stopped and offered to help them. You want directions? the guy asked. He suddenly yanked his trench coat open. They gasped, expecting to be flashed. The fully clothed man instead revealed pockets stuffed with maps. He daintily pulled one out, showed them where they currently were, highlighted their route, and off he went on his merry way.

     Now it's your turn. Load up your MetroCard and explore the City on a subway road trip of your own!











(Below 14th Street)












Address: 39 Battery Place

Phone: 212.968.1961

Directions: 4 or 5 to Bowling Green; 1 to Rector Street; R or W to Rector Street

Other details at: www.SkyScraper.org

For such a

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