New York City's Best-Kept Secrets - May 30, 2018 - Atlas Obscura Trips

New York, New York

New York City's Best-Kept Secrets

Tucked beneath towering skyscrapers, amid the bustle of the world’s busiest streets is a New York City you have never seen before. Join Dylan Thuras, the co-founder of Atlas Obscura and co-author of the Atlas Obscura book, as he opens the doors to the city’s most hidden-away places.

This special itinerary won’t include any of the Big Apple’s usual suspects. Instead Dylan will guide you through hand-picked, one-of-a-kind collections and behind-the-scenes experiences usually off-limits to visitors. And to top things off, you’ll join hundreds of intrepid revelers for an extravagant evening at a forgotten estate along the Hudson River.

This trip is limited to just 15 explorers.


  • Historic venues and abandoned ruins: From a former smallpox hospital to a historic gatehouse-turned-bar, we’ll wander shadowy corridors of the city’s complicated past.
  • Private performances: From after-hours conjuring at the city’s oldest magic shop to a private, multi-sensory theater performance, we’ve arranged special access to some of New York’s most hidden gems.
  • The Great Forgotten Garden PartyOn Saturday evening, we’ll don our finest summer attire and set off for an extravagant outdoor gala celebrating the beauty, history, and golden years of a former Hudson River estate.

Note: If this is will be your first time in New York, we recommend extending your stay to visit iconic sites in the city not included in our tour such as the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Empire State Building. Let us know and we’d be more than happy to provide tips and suggestions.


Your main guide will be none other than Dylan Thuras, co-founder of Atlas Obscura. Joining Dylan will be Tao Tao Holmes, the founding member of the Atlas Obscura Trips Team. Together with talented speakers and special guests, the two of them will reveal their favorite corners of this multilayered metropolis.


A $500 deposit is required to secure your spot. This deposit is nonrefundable after three days. We have a limited capacity, and we expect the trip to fill quickly. The program will cost a total of $1,975—the $500 deposit plus $1,475 final payment—and will cover all fixed costs including meals, activities, and transport as listed in the itinerary below. Accommodation is not included in your trip cost.


Please email us at or call us at (646) 961-4857 with any questions about the itinerary, logistics, and payment.

Day 1
An Unexpected Welcome
  • Arrive in New York by noon and check into your accommodations. The Freehand Hotel will serve as our group’s central meeting point throughout the trip. We recommend staying at the Freehand or the nearby Marlton Hotel, or at another location in the area.
  • In the early afternoon, join us for welcome drinks at one of Atlas Obscura’s favorite local gems: a one-of-a-kind laundromat that houses a pinball collection. There, you’ll have a chance to get to know your guides and fellow travel companions and even be joined by some Atlas Obscura writers and staff who'll put your pinball skills to the test.
  • From there, we’ll be swept away by an unusual, historic vehicle to the legendary Brooklyn Navy Yard. We’ll explore the hidden histories and contemporary uses of this sprawling space as we meander down cobblestone streets to our dinner spot along the waterfront.
  • For those who’d like to stay awake in the city that never sleeps, join us for a nightcap at the Navy Yard’s former gatehouse. In an ironic twist, the location that once inspected every worker’s thermos for liquor is now home to a whiskey distillery. 
Day 2
The Magic of the City
  • This morning, enjoy sweeping views of the skyline from across the water as we take to the city’s waterways by boat. We’ll be accompanied on our city cruise by Mitch Waxman, a historian with the Newtown Creek Alliance, to regale us with tales of New York’s storied waterways.
  • After a picnic lunch and some free time to wander, we’ll meet at 4 p.m. for a special walking tour by one of our favorite local guides. Stepping out into the streets of downtown Manhattan, prepare to encounter a series of strange and unexpected sights. 
  • After working up an appetite, we’ll duck into a favorite local spot for dinner.
  • Topping off the night is a trip back in time to the oldest magic shop in New York City, one of Gotham’s truly hidden gems. Here, after a round of champagne, we’ll be treated to a private, after-hours magic show filled with surprises.
Day 3
Private Clubs & Private Performances
  • This morning, we’ll head straight to the very top of St. John’s the Divine, one of the largest cathedrals in the world. We’ll be some of the lucky few allowed to trek 124 feet up the cathedral’s spiral staircases, taking in spectacular views of the city from a rarely seen vantage point.
  • Upon descending back to ground level, we’ll mosey over to Central Park for a respite. Here we’ll enjoy a picnic lunch from a local standard, Zabar's. After brushing the crumbs off our laps, we’ll try our hand at lawn bowling with experts from New York Lawn Bowling Club, one of the oldest clubs in the United States, on the traditional game lawns just north of Sheep Meadow.
  • Next, we’ll head just a few blocks away to the Explorers Club, one of the greatest clubhouses in the world, housed in a gorgeous Jacobean revival building. Our group will be treated to an in-depth tour of the maps, manuscripts, trophies, and artifacts of history's greatest expeditions and most tragic explorations.
  • Take the rest of the afternoon before dinner to rest or explore further. The Frick Collection and Metropolitan Museum of Art are right nearby, along with all types of shopping.  
  • At night, we’ll gather for a cocktail hour at New York’s first commercial meadery, where the local mazers (mead makers) focus on crafting small-batch meads made with wild yeast, foraged herbs, and locally sourced fruit. We’ll stop by a Vietnamese street-to-table restaurant for a delicious dinner before tonight's performance.
  • This evening, we’ve arranged a private theater experience unlike anything you’ve ever encountered: a fully immersive, multi-sensory performance inspired by the life and writings of Lewis Carroll. Following the performance, we’ll reconvene for an afterparty with the cast, featuring a backstage tour of the inner-workings of the show.
Day 4
The Great Forgotten Garden Party
  • This morning is yours for relaxing. Feel free to sleep in, indulge in a classic Saturday brunch, or go shopping. If you’ve got more energy, visit iconic sites and museums or tucked-away spots like the Grand Central Terminal Whispering Gallery and other secrets of Midtown Manhattan.
  • Around 2 p.m., we’ll meet at the Freehand Hotel for a private tour of one of Atlas Obscura's favorite city collections. Afterwards, take some time to freshen up, don bow ties and gowns, and get ready for a lavish evening inside America’s Greatest Forgotten Garden. We’ll head over to Grand Central Terminal—pausing to take a look at the ceiling’s dark patch—then take the train together just beyond the edge of New York City, to Yonkers.
  • Upon reaching Greystone Estate, we’ll be transported back to its golden years, when Mrs. Minnie Untermyer hosted some of the greatest artists and performers of the early 20th century, and civic leader Samuel Untermyer roamed the property with a white orchid in his lapel. During this extravagant evening filled with exploration and performance, you’ll join hundreds of others inside a hidden world of wonder and beauty inspired by the gardens’ architecture, design, history, and lore.
  • After the party, we’ll return to the city in a private shuttle for a good night’s sleep before awaking back in the 21st century.
Day 5
Abandoned Ruins & Farewell
  • This morning at 11:30 a.m., we’ll meet at the Freehand Hotel and depart for one final glimpse into New York’s unusual and oft-forgotten past.
  • After taking the tram to Roosevelt Island, we’ll visit the crumbling ruins of an abandoned smallpox hospital. We’ll be joined by the author Bess Lovejoy, who has dedicated her research to the bizarre and fascinating stories of the ambulatory dead, as we walk around the dilapidated buildings and learn about their past.
  • Afterwards, we’ll gather at a riverside cafe and raise a toast to our incredible five days together and to the many adventures yet to come.
The Fine Print



  • Four dinners and three lunches during the program.
  • Two talented Atlas Obscura guides along with additional speakers and special guests throughout.
  • Transport throughout the tour, including by private coach, boat, cabs, and NYC subway.
  • Admission to all proposed activities, including tours, performances, and the Great Forgotten Garden Party.
  • A great group of fellow Atlas Obscura fans, excited to explore all hidden wonders that the Big Apple has to offer!


This tour is fairly active. Travelers should be reasonably fit and feel comfortable walking 3 to 6 miles each day and walking up and down stairs. Be prepared to remain outside and on your feet for long periods of time. Note that Friday will also involve time on a boat.


You should plan to arrive in the city by 12 p.m. on Wednesday, May 30 to allow yourself time to settle into your accommodations and meet up with the group by 4 p.m. The tour ends on Sunday, June 3 at 4 p.m.; any return travel should be timed accordingly.


The cost of this trip does not include accommodation in New York. When arranging your hotel or Airbnb, it would be best to stay at or near the Freehand Hotel, which will serve as our meeting point throughout the trip. 


Itineraries are subject to change. This particular tour has been designed with specific activities and events in mind, whose schedules and availabilities may change in coming months or be affected by weather during the trip. If any activity or attraction that is advertised is missed or not available, then we will always do our best to replace it with another activity or location of significant interest and value. We do expect to have the chance to see everything on this itinerary, if perhaps not in this precise order. However, as always, flexibility and an adventurous spirit are key. 


You will be charged a $500 deposit to hold your space. This deposit is nonrefundable after three days. The final payment of $1,475 will be due by May 2, 2018. All reservations will be final after this date and subject to our cancellation policy. By submitting your deposit, you agree to the trip's Terms & Conditions.


  • Flights and other transport to and from New York, New York.
  • Airport transfers.
  • Travel insurance (optional).
  • Daily breakfast, one lunch (Saturday), and any additional food and drink outside of Atlas Obscura offerings, including most alcoholic beverages.


Please email us at or call us at (646) 961-4857 with any questions about the itinerary, logistics, and payment. 

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