Not Your Typical Tourist Activities for New York City

Not Your Typical Tourist Activities for New York City

While many visitors to NYC tend to make the rounds to the usual cultural institutions (The Met, MOMA, Broadway shows).

Some of my favorite activities are on a much smaller, intimate, not to mention cheaper, scale.

So if you find yourself in New York City, be sure to check out some of my favorites.


Moonwork's Evening of Original Work

I was first introduced to Moonwork in 2001 and have been a big fan ever since. Their “Evening of Original Work” series runs monthly from September – June and presents original work of emerging and established artists, comedians, and musicians. It’s a great way to be introduced to new talent just getting started. You may also recognize many faces from the Daily Show and Comedy Central on occasion.

The best part about Moonwork? It’s set in a high school gym set up to resemble a cabaret. Even better? It costs just $20 and includes all the beer you can drink until it runs out. And one final plus? They have a kids program that works to develop new and innovative ways to bring theater to kids.

So be sure to check out their schedule during your visit.


Upright citizen's brigade

There are many great venues for seeing comedy in New York City, but they can be very pricey, especially when you factor in the minimum drink costs (and they aren’t cheap drinks either). So besides Moonwork, I like to get my comedy fix from Upright Citizen’s Brigade.

UCB presents three to four sketch-comedy and long-form improvisation shows nightly, seven days a week. Every show is unique and different, especially if it’s improv, and many times the audience gets to have a say in the direction of the show. And since it was co-founded by Amy Poehler, the chances are pretty high that you may even see comedians from Saturday Night Live and even 30 Rock perform.

And you definitely can’t beat the price. Most shows average $5 with the occasional $10 entrance fee. And if you’re open to seeing some of the students of their improv classes perform, you can go for free. My favorite part? $2 Pabst Blue Ribbons. Nothing but class.


The moth

Another form of live performance, though not always on the comedy level, is The Moth, a not-for-profit storytelling organization. The Moth began as an informal gathering of storytellers in 1997 and has now grown into a monthly series in various venues throughout New York City. Each show has a theme and features five or six storytellers who share a ten-minute story from their lives – without notes. You never know who you are going to hear as potential storytellers must submit their names just prior to the show and then chosen at random.

Most shows are performed at small, intimate venues and cost just $7. But be warned, the popularity of the shows has grown to the point that you need to line up an hour before.

I like to attend the a “less-crowded” Moth performances where students of their community program, MothShop, perform. It is just as great as seeing accomplished storytellers and you get to hear inspiring stories by students and marginalized adults from underserved communities in New York City.


Book readings

There are a number of great venues that host book readings in New York City, but my two favorites are The Half King and Housing Works Bookstore Cafe.

The Half King is a restaurant/bar owned by “The Perfect Storm” and travel writer, Sebastian Junger. Their weekly Monday readings usually feature authors and journalists who have some sort of travel angle to their works.

Housing Works Bookstore Café is part of the non-profit organization Housing Works , which is committed to ending the twin crises of AIDS and homelessness. They provide services for homeless men, women, and children living with HIV and AIDS in New York City.

All proceeds from their used bookstore and many thrift shops go to this cause. The bookstore is a great venue for book readings, concerts, and Moth events. And even without an event, it is a great atmosphere for perusing used books, writing, or catching up with friends over a coffee or beer.

So be sure to check out some of these tips about local events the next time you are in New York City.


Written and contributed by Michaela Potter
Briefcase to Backpack