• Benji Sills

Make the Most of Coronavirus: A Comprehensive Guide to Exploring New York City During the Apocalypse

Updated: Apr 17, 2020

Coronavirus has hit New York City hard - as people who makes their living in tourism and education, Paige and I are keenly aware that pandemics generally aren’t the best time for exploration. But for some, the prospect of an indefinite future indoors under lock and key is one of the most haunting parts of the entire epidemic. Especially with the ban on non-essential businesses now in effect, the city feels like an especially barren wasteland right now. Not to worry - we are here for you with a comprehensive guide to staying safe without going crazy. This guide will be split into two sections and updated regularly:

1. Our personal suggestions for 50 unique adventures if you’re looking to explore while maintaining social distancing.

2. Resources that allow you to explore New York City without even getting out of bed.

Part 1: 50 Unique Adventures that Don't Involve Touching Anything

50. Bloody Angle

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Today's Doyers Street is dotted with odd storefronts and restaurants. However, the area used to be the battleground for gang warfare during the Tong war. This was a gang war between the Tong and Leong gangs, started by legendary Chinese gangster Mock Duck. You can still walk around and relish in the frightening history to this day.

49. Hallett Nature Sanctuary

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

While Central Park may be a tourist trap, especially when it’s one of the only things open that tourists can see, Hallett Nature Sanctuary is “a sanctuary within a sanctuary”. A once undisturbed, un-manicured bird sanctuary is now a secluded green space, nestled away in the southeastern corner of Central Park. Here you will find flower-lined wood chip paths, secluded benches for reflecting, and views of all the buildings you can’t get into because of the quarantine.

48. Ulysses S. Grant Tomb

Image Source: Map Our Adventures

Another NYC sight where you’re unlikely to see anyone (except maybe a disgruntled security guard) is Ulysses S. Grant’s Tomb. It’s the second largest mausoleum in the Western Hemisphere and dons the quote attributed to Grant: “Let us have peace”, which I think we can all relate to right now. Here, you can try to solve the famous riddle: “Who’s buried in Grant’s Tomb?”

47. Hidden Holocaust Memorial

Image Source: atlasobscura.com

Hidden in one of the city’s busiest public spaces is a miniature memorial to the Holocaust. Usually this memorial is easily passed unnoticed as people flock into the park, but with most people hunkering down in their homes, this is the perfect time to search and appreciate this small but impactful site.

46. Giant Needle and Button

Image Source: atlasobscura.com

The Giant Needle and Button marking the fashion district is not news for New York locals. However, it is really easy to walk by these iconic NYC symbols without ever stopping to appreciate their history. Now is the perfect time to gawk like a tourist without being told off for it.

45. Remnants of 13th Avenue

Image Source: atlasobscura.com

You might be thinking that 2020 is turning out to be trash, but you’ll be happy to rejoice in the fact that 1837 was trash too! Well more like New York was ( and is) trash. In 1830’s New York City was eager to expand and sell underwater plots of land that were filled with trash, dirt, and pavement. This noxious concoction gave rise to the short-lived thirteenth avenue. You can still see one block of this failed project!

44. Spotlight on Broadway Map

Image Source: Map Our Adventures

Although Broadway is closed indefinitely, they never leave a theater stage completely dark. While there might be a shortage of lightbulbs with all the ghost lights going up, there's another “Spotlight on Broadway” we want to highlight. The “Spotlight on Broadway” Map is 28 feet long and plots the locations of the 40 Broadway theaters that were in operation at the time the map was created in 2013.

43. Pomander Walk

Image Source: nestseekers.com

While many people are facing travel cancellations, you don’t have to go far to feel like you’ve just hopped off a plane onto the streets of London. The Pomander Walk is a neighborhood in the Upper West Side that was modeled after the set of a London play called Pomander Walk. This neighborhood has had famous residents such as Humphrey Bogart and Woody Allen.

42. Graffiti Hall of Fame

Image Source: Map Our Adventures

The Jackie Robinson Educational Complex’s schoolyard is home to the “Graffiti Hall of Fame”. Originally an unauthorized canvas, the Harlem community leader Ray Rodriguez dubbed this concrete wall to be a safe space for artists to express themselves. With school indefinitely dismissed, you won’t have to worry about looking like a huge creep while trying to appreciate the schoolyard art.

41. Rat Rock

Image Source: gothamist.com

In NYC, property is valuable and you don’t always get to pick your neighbors. For two apartment buildings on West 114th Street in Morningside Heights, this neighbor takes the form of a giant rock dubbed “Rat Rock” for the frequent rats nesting and congregating nearby. This boulder is 30 feet by 100 feet long and looks absolutely ridiculous. Rats and geology buffs rejoice!

40. Bartham’s Sidewalk Clock

Image Source: atlasobscura.com

If your vision is crisp enough to read it through the smudgy glass, this sidewalk clock has been telling time underfoot for over a century. Of course after a century of accumulated footprints, it’s starting to seem like maybe it would have been advisable to just hang it on a wall instead.

39. High Bridge

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

A bridge built extra tall at tremendous cost so that it wouldn’t impede boat traffic, the High Bridge connects Manhattan and the Bronx. It’s also the oldest surviving bridge in New York City and it’s recently reopened to pedestrians.

38. Conservatory Garden

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Billed as “an oasis within an oasis”, the Conservatory Garden is a strikingly formal landscape on the side of the park. One of the few parts of the park that feels truly landscaped, the Conservatory will make you feel like you’ve snuck into the backyard at Versailles.

*Update: As of 04/06/20 the Conservatory Garden is closed

37. Long Lines Building

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

We know that you’ve probably had your fill of long lines if you’ve tried to visit a Costco this week, but this building has nothing to do with actual queues. This menacing windowless fortress in Manhattan instead serves as a telecommunications hub and (much more sinisterly) a major center for NSA wiretapping and spying. Not exactly subtle, guys...

36. Survivor Tree

Image Source: Smithsonian Magazine

The broken and burnt remnants of a Callery Pear tree pulled from the rubble of 9/11 made an impossible recovery. It now stands nearby as a much-needed symbol of hope and resilience in dark times.

35. Hess Triangle

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

The smallest piece of real estate in New York City is a dedicated triangle of land little larger than a slice of pizza. As I’m now searching for an apartment in Manhattan to move into, Hess’ Triangle is actually starting to seem pretty roomy.

34. Marilyn Monroe Subway Grate

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

One of entertainment’s most iconic moments occured over a totally unremarkable subway grate. Of course, as the grate is still unmarked to this day, it still is pretty much unremarkable. If you’re looking to relive an iconic cinematic moment however, it is indeed the grate on the southwest corner of Lexington Avenue and 52nd street.

33. Roosevelt Island Cat Sanctuary

Image Source: atlasobscura.com

On the little residential strip of land between Manhattan and Queens, you can find an odd community of feral cats that have taken over a small corner. They don’t have many ways off the island and they don’t seem to mind. When they’re not roaming the local abandoned hospital, you can find them basking lazily at the nearby shelter - well-fed and content.

32. Houdini’s Grave

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Houdini could escape from a lot of things, but he hasn’t made it out of the grave just yet. While he’s still figuring it out, be sure to visit the Queens memorial and drop off a few playing cards to keep him busy.


31. Commercial Street Cat Village

Image Source: atlasobscura.com

We may be infected by a new plague now, but let us never forget that the rats were here terrorizing us first. Thankfully, this menace is at least being kept at bay by a community of feral cats in Brooklyn. Take a look at their waterfront village and thank them for their service.

30. Sidewalk Subway Map

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

While the subway itself should be avoided at all costs, there’s no harm in looking at a map of all the places you shouldn’t be traveling right now. This subway map is carved directly into the sidewalk and is every bit as confusing as any other subway map. Take some time to muse and think about how lucky we are for Google Maps.

29. Seinfeld Diner

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Among many classic rom-com filming locations, the Upper West Side is also home to Seinfeld and his crew. Despite the show not actively being filmed in New York, a number of recognizable exteriors are present to explore. This includes the outside of Monk’s Cafe which is filmed in front of the iconic neon of Tom’s Restaurant.

28. 9/11 Sphere and Memorial Fountain

Image Source: 911memorial.org

Two beautiful tributes to the attacks on 9/11 can be actively seen displayed outdoors at the memorial site. The first is the sphere, a cast bronze sculpture on site at the World Trade Centers that survived the collapse and the second is the memorial fountains which stunningly pour water into the footprints of the original Twin Towers.

27. Alice in Wonderland Statue

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Central Park has a number of statues with interesting history behind them, but few carry the whimsy of the Alice in Wonderland statues. These statues are a favorite of kids to climb on however, so with social distancing in mind it might be worth sticking to looking at them for the time being.

26. Septuagesimo Uno

Image Source: Map Our Adventures