Looking for something different to do in New York City?
Would you like to see more than the typical tourist spots?
Get out of mid-town and see New York City on any of these unique and off-the-beaten-path tours.
Yes, some of these tours do take place in midtown Manhattan, but there are also tours in other Manhattan neighborhoods and even in other NYC boroughs. You can even visit all of the 5 boroughs that make up New York City on one of these off-the-beaten-path tours.
Unique Tours in Manhattan
Looking for a private tour? Take the Lower East Side Street Art and Graffiti Tour and discover street art that you would have missed on your own.
Another private street art tour takes place in Soho, Chinatown, Little Italy, and the Lower East Side.
Would you rather learn how to do graffiti on your own? Take a private graffiti workshop in Harlem.
Music can be heard all over New York City, and there are plenty of unique options of tours to help you find the type of music you are interested in hearing and learning more about.
Hear 2 or 3 different live music sets, learn about the jazz scene in Harlem, and even have the opportunity to perform with a band on the Harlem Jazz Crawl.
Step back in time and learn about the Harlem Renaissance and the music that shaped the neighborhood on the Harlem Renaissance Multimedia Walking Tour.
Further south, learn about the rock, punk, and glam music that shaped the culture in the East Village with the East Village Rock Tour.
Lots of people take tours of stadiums and television studios, but you can go even further behind the scenes on one of these unique New York City tours.
Tour a fashion factory and create your own souvenir tote bag or t-shirt with a Garment District Factory Tour.
Head behind the scenes on a fabric flower factory tour of M&S Schmalberg Flowers. Learn how the fabric flowers are made and the history of the factory on this short tour.
Food tours are a great way to learn about a neighborhood while getting to try all kinds of unique and delicious food that you would never be able to try during a short visit.
New York City offers a plethora of food tours in every borough. With so many unique neighborhoods, it is hard to choose which to visit first.
Here are a few options for delicious food tours in New York City.
- African Food Tour in Harlem
- Lower East Side Culture and Food Tasting Tour
- Lower East Side Bagel Tour
- East Village Pierogi Tour
- Chinatown and Little Italy Food Tour
- AmazingCo Mystery Picnic (self-guided tour)
- Greenwich Village LGBTQ+ History and Food Tour
- NYC Food Cart Tour
Follow the NYC Freedom Trail and learn about the subway stations that were included on the Slavery and Underground Railway Tour. This tour includes a stop at the African Burial Ground National Monument.
See the parts of the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral that are usually off-limits to guests with Catacombs by Candlelight.
Do you want to learn more about Alexander Hamilton? There are quite a few tours about Hamilton, including Hamilton’s Haunts and Hangouts Tour.
I know the whole point is to get out of Midtown, but if you want to explore Midtown, there are unique ways to do it. One off-the-beaten-path way to explore Midtown Manhattan is by competing in a Scavenger Hunt.
Other options for scavenger hunts all over Manhattan take place with Watson Adventures. Watson Adventure Tours help make visiting museums, zoos, and even neighborhoods more fun.
I am going to call Accomplice the Show a scavenger hunt, but that is hardly all that it is. Accomplice is live theatre, a scavenger hunt, and sometimes even includes a meal or drink. You don’t know what to expect on the Accomplice, but it is so much fun.
This one isn’t really a tour, but a guided shopping trip.
Join a personal shopper in the Garment District on a Wholesale Shopping Tour. Get access to private wholesale rooms and the knowledge of a private shopper.
Clothes come in sizes 2-20.
Midtown is known for the holiday store lights, ice skating, and tree at Rockefeller Center. Leave midtown for a few hours and celebrate the holidays in Harlem with a Harlem Heritage Holiday Tour. Learn about the history of Harlem, go caroling, and listen to a 1-hour long holiday concert on this unique holiday tour.
Unique Tours in Brooklyn
Do you want to go to Brooklyn, but aren’t quite sure what to do there? Or maybe you know what you want to do but don’t want to venture out without a tour guide. Either way, there are many unique neighborhoods in Brooklyn worth visiting, and lots of off-the-beaten-path tours to help you to easily see the best of Brooklyn.
Learn about the history, life, and culture of the Hasidic Jews in Williamsburg and taste delicious kosher food on the Hasidic Williamsburg Walking Tour.
Taste food from Italy and the Middle East as well as New American dishes with a Lonely Planet Brooklyn Food Tour in Carroll Gardens.
Brooklyn is known for its colorful street art, but you might not know where to look or maybe you want to learn about the artists.
Join a Brooklyn Street Art Walking Tour in Bushwick to learn more about Brooklyn’s impressive street art.
Would you rather make street art yourself? Take a graffiti workshop in Bushwick.
Learn about your favorite authors and where they liked to drink while walking through the neighborhoods of Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, and Boerum Hill on the Brooklyn Literary Pub Crawl.
Visit boutiques, art studios, and factories on a Made in Brooklyn Tour.
Curious about the subway? Check out the oldest subway station, find abandoned subway stations, and view public art in the subway stations around Brooklyn on a Subway Secrets and Hidden Stations Walking Tour.
Dyker Heights is known for its over-the-top Christmas lights displays, but the neighborhood is deep into Brooklyn and not that easy to get to.
Of course, you can take the subway, a taxi, or a car service, but joining a tour helps you know which houses to see and hear about the history of the neighborhood and just how the displays are created on a Dyker Heights Christmas Lights Tour.
Brooklyn Navy Yards, a 300-acre waterfront site with many different businesses, offers many different types of tours. Take a 2-hour Navy Yard tour and go behind the scenes and learn about the Navy ships that were built at the Navy Yards, take a World War 2 tour or any of the other interesting tours at the Navy Yards.
Central Park is often a must-do when visiting New York City, but did you know that Brooklyn’s Prospect Park was designed by the same people who designed Central Park? Explore Prospect Park on a 2-hour walking tour to learn the history of the park and to view the beautiful architectural and natural sites.
Greenwood Cemetary is a gorgeous 478 acres with hills, ponds, walking paths, and lots of famous residents. Trolley tours and group tours take place at Greenwood Cemetary.
Looking for more to do in Brooklyn with kids? Read our guide of 30 Fun Things to do in Park Slope and Prospect Park with Kids.
Get VIP access to multiple breweries and taste 12 different beers on a Queens Brewery Tour. Rather drink in Brooklyn? There is a similar tour, Underground Brooklyn Brew Tour. Can’t decide between drinking in Brooklyn and drinking in Queens? You don’t have to choose on a Beer Tasting Bike Ride through Brooklyn and Queens.
While New York City is made up of 5 boroughs, it is easy to spend all of your time in Manhattan. Plenty of visitors never leave the borough of Manhattan to explore the other 4 boroughs: Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island.
An easy way to see more than one of New York City’s unique boroughs is to join up with a tour that visits multiple places in a day.
Meet up in midtown before heading to Harlem, up to the Bronx, then on to Queens and Brooklyn, ending the day with the option of staying in Coney Island or returning to the starting point on a Boroughs of NY Tour.
Take a bus tour to Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens on the Contrasts, Color, and Character Tour. Participants will see 2 baseball stadiums, learn about Harlem’s African-American history and Brooklyn’s Hasidic Jewish community, and visit NYC’s largest Chinatown in Queens.
Additional Things to Do in New York City
Even if you don’t have kids or won’t be traveling with kids, there are plenty of ideas for everyone on these lists.
- Luxury New York City Bucket List for Kids
- Comprehensive Guide: Best of the 5 Boroughs with Kids
- Fun Things to Do in Park Slope and Prospect Park with Kids
- The Best of New York City with Kids
- Unique Things to Do in Brooklyn
Unique New York City FAQ
New York City has so many unique things, including the well-known Statue of Liberty, Times Square, and Central Park.
In fact, the majority of the most popular NYC attractions are completely unique to New York.
While walking and riding the subway are the best ways to explore New York City, joining a walking tour is a great way to learn more about a neighborhood or a specific theme.
If you are visiting New York City for the first time and have a limited amount of time, the hop-off bus could be worth it. You can see a lot of sites in a limited amount of time without getting lost.
For those who have time or have been to NYC before, it is more economical to get yourself to the sites and it makes more sense to stick to one area of the city for a longer amount of time each day.
Walk when you can and take public transportation.
Unique Tours in NYC Wrap Up
While New York City is filled with unique but popular sites such as Times Square and the Statue of Liberty, the city is also filled with off-the-beaten-path tours.
These unique NYC tours range from neighborhood food tours to scavenger hunts to shopping trips to factory tours.
Taking a tour is a great way to explore New York City, especially in a neighborhood or borough that you wouldn’t consider going to on your own.