The 30s was a fascinating decade for New York City. Between Prohibition-era speakeasies, soaring skyscraper construction, and five World Series wins for the Yankees, NYC went through a lot. It was during this time that the city earned its “Big Apple” moniker—either from popular slang used by jazz musicians or because of the many apple vendors that lined the streets. Even though the Great Depression reigned, New Yorkers certainly knew how to have a good time.

Here are a dozen ways you can relive New York City 1930s the next time you’re in town!

Get in an Empire State of Mind

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Forever immortalized in King Kong, the Empire State Building was the result of an early 30s competition to build the tallest building in the world. Topping out at 102 stories in 1931, it won the fight keeping the title for almost 40 years. Its distinctive Art Deco architecture is certainly a product of their time, with a stunning lobby that offers a wonderful glimpse into the 1930s. In 2009, the lobby murals were artistically restored to their original design.

Be a Kid Again at Coney Island

In the 1930s, Coney Island became a haven for low-cost amusement park rides, carnival games, and roller coasters. Visitors coming from pretty much everywhere packed the area’s public beaches and boardwalk on warm summer days. Today, it still maintains much of the same carnivalesque aura of yesteryear. The original Coney Island Cyclone roller coaster, which operated throughout the 30s, is still running at Luna Park. After you ride it, be sure to get a hot dog at Nathan’s and make a wish at the Zoltar machine on the boardwalk.

Explore Rockefeller Center

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Rockefeller Center is more than just “where the skating rink and the giant Christmas tree are”! It’s actually a collection of several buildings originally developed in the 1930s. Naturally, the area features some of the most unique pre-World War II Art Deco architecture in the city. One of the best ways to explore it is through a guided tour. From Radio City Music Hall to the Channel Gardens, you’ll be sure to get a historical perspective on this unmissable part of Midtown Manhattan!

Have a Drink, Speakeasy Style

From the 1920s to 1933, getting a decent cocktail in the US was far from easy. From Los Angeles to Denver and Dallas to New York, the whole country was affected by the constitutional ban on  manufacturing, importation, transportation, and sale of alcoholic drinks known as the Prohibition

The problem with speakeasies, then, is that they’re supposed to be secret. However, there are a few places where the proverbial cat has already been let out. If you’re in Chelsea, stop by Raines Law Room. Those exploring the East Village should check out Death & Co. You’ll be sipping your drink out of a teacup to make your experience even more authentic!

Eat Like You’re a Rockefeller

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Looking for the real deal? Built during Prohibition in 1930, Club 21 originally featured a secret wine cellar and a “disappearing bar.” Today, this elegant restaurant honors its heritage while mixing it with a modern flair. Sure, it’s a bit pricey—be prepared to suit up to get in—but you’ll for sure get an unforgettable dining experience.

Take in a Show at The Apollo Theater

Located a short walk from the 125th Street subway station, the Apollo Theater has played a pivot role in the Harlem community since it was constructed in 1914. Although initially built as a segregated vaudeville venue, this theater started welcoming African American audiences and performers from 1934 onwards. Throughout the 30s, many iconic performers like Louis Armstrong and Adelaide Hall graced its iconic stage. Today, the Apollo is still going strong with regular amateur contests and professional artists’ performances.

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Admire the Art Deco Magnificence of The Waldorf Astoria

Image via Flickr – CC BY 2.0Chris Breeze

Although the first Waldorf Astoria was founded in the 1890s, it wasn’t until 1931 when the iconic hotel formally moved to its present-day Park Avenue address. Soaring almost 630-feet, New York’s Waldorf Astoria still exudes the confidence and sophistication from its 1930s heyday. Even if can’t stay in one of its 1,415 rooms right now (it’s currently closed due to extensive renovation works), you should definitely take some time to check out the hotel’s authentic Art Deco design.

Look up at the American International Building

Once the headquarters of AIG Insurance, the American International Building (better know today as 70 Pine) was one of the most significant skyscrapers built in the 1930s. Heavily inspired by both neo-Gothic and Art Deco styles, this 952-foot building still commands attention at the heart of Manhattan’s Financial District. While visitors can still take a look at some of the Art Deco masterpieces of its front lobby, keep in mind this building is now an apartment complex for the ultra-elite. Those using the subway should stop at the Wall Street station to get a good view of this 30s landmark.

Grab a Slice at Patsy’s Pizza

Image via Flickr – CC BY 2.0Jeff

Patsy’s Pizza in East Harlem is one of the few legendary New York City 1930s era pizzerias that still cook up sublime thin-crust pies. Considered the first American establishment to sell single slices to the public, Patsy’s has tremendously grown in recent years to become one of New York’s most successful pizza venues. For those who want to try a perfect Pasty’s slice at the original pizza parlor, just take a trip to 2287 1st Avenue next to 116th Street subway station.

Hear Some Bee-Bop at Minton’s Playhouse

If you are a jazz fan, the legendary Minton’s Playhouse might ring a bell. Originally opened in 1938, this Harlem club became internationally renowned for developing a new style of jazz we now know as be-bop. Legendary musicians Thelonious Monk, Ella Fitzgerald, and Charlie Parker jammed at Minton’s in the 30s and 40s, to name just a few.  Although it has been closed and re-opened multiple times, Minton’s Playhouse continues to entertain guests at 206 West 118th Street.

Eat Tasty Chinese Grub at Wo Hop

Image via Flickr – CC BY 2.0Jason Lam

Founded in 1938, Wo Hop is one of the longest-running restaurants in Manhattan’s Chinatown. As soon as you enter its cramped dining area, Wo Hop’s famous photographs featuring prominent past patrons are there to greet you. This eatery is open from 10:30 AM to 4:30 AM every day, making it the perfect spot for late-night munchies. When it comes to local “hole in the wall” dining, can’t get better than this!

Learn at the Museum of the City of New York

Formally opened in 1932, the Museum Of The City Of New York houses an impressive collection of historical artifacts chronicling the Big Apple’s history. Those interested in exhibits in New York City 1930s won’t be disappointed with the plethora of costumes, artwork, and other artifacts from that period. In fact, whatever era of New York’s history you’re interested in, you’re bound to find a fascinating exhibit on display. You can find this museum on 1220 5th Avenue, near Central Park’s Burnett Fountain.

Are there any other New York City 1930s-themed that we missed? Which are your favorites? Let us know in the comments!

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