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New York City is one of the largest, most influential cities in the world. With its rich history, famous landmarks, museums and theaters, and its ever changing skyline, the to-do list for visitors is enormous. 50 things to do in New York City sounds like a lot, and it is, but there are many more places we could have added to this list.

Below is a list of the best things to do in New York City. Don’t expect to see them all on your first visit, or even your second or third. We have been visiting New York City on an annual basis for thirty years and still haven’t been to some of these places yet.

But that’s one of the reasons we love New York City so much. It is constantly changing and every time we are here, we find something new to do.

Before jumping right into the best things to do in New York City, we give a quick overview of the city. At the end of this guide, I list our recommendations of our favorite spots and must-see sights, to help you narrow down this massive list. Or, skip ahead to this list now.

Interesting Facts about New York City

New York City was founded by Dutch colonists in 1624. It was originally named New Amsterdam. The name was changed to New York in 1664 when the land was granted to the Duke of York, King Charles II of England’s brother.

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, New York City welcomed millions of immigrants. They entered through Ellis Island and then took up residence in New York City, or other parts of the United States. One of the best things to do in New York City is to visit Ellis Island and tour the tenement buildings, which are now historic landmarks.

New York City is made of up of five boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island. With a population of almost 9 million people, this is the most densely populated city in the USA.

New York City is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world. NYC is home to more than 3 million residents who were born outside of the United States, which is the largest foreign born population of any city in the world.

This city is also home to the UN Headquarters, as well as the world’s two largest stock exchanges (New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ), making it a leading city for international diplomacy and finance.

Finally, New York City is home to some of the most recognizable landmarks in the world, such as the Empire State Building, Central Park, Times Square, and the Statue of Liberty.

New York City Bucket List

50 Best Things to Do in New York City

In no particular order, here is our list of the best things to do in New York City. At the end of this article, you can see all of them on a map.

1. Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island

Location: Liberty Island and Ellis Island

If it is your first time to New York City, the Statue of Liberty is a must-see. This copper statue, which was a gift from France to the United States in 1886, greeted millions of immigrants in the late 19th century and early 20th century.

The Statue of Liberty was designed by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi and the metal framework was built by Gustave Eiffel. The statue is the figure of Libertas, a Roman goddess of liberty. In her left hand, she holds the tabula ansata, dated July 4, 1776, the date of the US Declaration of Independence.

You can visit just the Statue of Liberty or you can combine the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island together as a round trip excursion from Manhattan.

Statue of Liberty

On Liberty Island, you can climb the base of the Statue of Liberty or go all of the way to the crown. Both of these options require advance tickets, and they do sell out, so make sure you book your tickets well in advance.

Ellis Island was an immigrant inspection station and approximately 12 million immigrants were processed here between 1905 and 1954.

Liberty Island (the location of the Statue of Liberty) and Ellis Island are connected by ferry with Battery Park (on Manhattan). The entire visit, from Battery Park to Liberty Island and Ellis Island, and then back to Battery Park, takes about 4 hours. You will take a ferry from Battery Park to Liberty Island. After seeing the Statue of Liberty, catch the next ferry to Ellis Island and tour this island. Then take a ferry back to Battery Park.

Cost: $23.50 Adults, $12 children 4 – 12 years for the Crown Reserve Ticket
Hours: Ferries depart from Battery Park from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm
Website: Book your tickets in advance on www.statuecruises.com
Guided Tours: This tour includes Battery Park, Liberty Island (the location of the Statue of Liberty), Ellis Island, and your ferry tickets.

2. Visit Central Park

Location: Manhattan

Taking a stroll through Central Park is one of the best things to do in New York City. It’s free to visit and a beautiful place to unwind, after walking the busy city streets.

Central Park is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the world. It’s also one of the most filmed locations in the world.

You can simply wander through it on your own two feet, rent bikes and cycle a lap or two through the entire park, or do something very touristy and go for a horse and carriage ride.

There are numerous places to rent bikes just outside of the park. We have the best luck one block south of the park around 5th and 6th avenue. You can also rent bikes in advance here.

While in Central Park, stroll along the Central Park Mall to Bethesda Terrace, soak up the sun on the Great Lawn, and visit the Strawberry Fields memorial, a memorial commemorating John Lennon. Kids will love to go for a ride on the Central Park Carousel, visiting one of the 21 playgrounds in the park, or a visit the Central Park Zoo. You can also get a bite to eat at Tavern on the Green and the Loeb Boathouse (advance reservations are recommended).

The Mall Central Park

The Mall

3. The Empire State Building

Location: Midtown Manhattan

Until 1970, when the World Trade Center was built, the Empire State Building was the tallest building in the world. It was constructed in 1931 and it is listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.

In addition to attracting visitors, the Empire State Building has been featured in numerous movies. The list is long but the most popular films include Sleepless in Seattle, King Kong, An Affair to Remember, Elf, Independence Day, and Superman II.

A visit to the Empire State Building is more than just having a great view of the city. You will also be visiting a historical landmark and one of the most famous buildings in the world.

Midtown Manhattan 2021

View looking north from the Empire State Building of Midtown Manhattan; photo taken in 2021

The Empire State Building has two observation decks: the outdoor observation deck on the 86th floor and the indoor observation deck on the 102nd floor. All tickets include the 86th floor observation deck; you just have to decide if you want to shell out the extra money for the 102nd floor.

You can also purchase special tickets to visit the Empire State Building at sunrise, at nighttime, or both.

For full details on how to plan your visit, and many more photos, read our Guide to the New York City Observation Decks.

4. Rockefeller Center & Top of the Rock

Location: Midtown Manhattan

Rockefeller Center is a complex of 19 buildings (14 of which are Art Deco buildings) that were commissioned by the Rockefeller family. This complex is located in Midtown Manhattan, between Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue.

Radio City Music Hall, the statues of Atlas and Prometheus, Rockefeller Plaza, the Rockefeller Christmas Tree, and the Today Show studios, are all located here.

Atlas Rockefeller Center

Atlas

Top of the Rock is an observation deck in Rockefeller Center. It offers spectacular views of Central Park and Midtown Manhattan.

Top of the Rock

Top of the Rock

For more information about how to visit Top of the Rock, read our Guide to the NYC Observation Decks.

5. Fifth Avenue

Location: Manhattan

Fifth Avenue is one of the most expensive shopping streets in the world. It runs from Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village to Harlem.

Fifth Avenue

The section between 59th and 96th streets is nicknamed “Millionaire’s Row,” because of the number of mansions located here in the early 20th century.

The section between 82nd and 110th streets is nicknamed “Museum Mile,” for the large number of museums here.

Famous buildings and landmarks located on Fifth Avenue include Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, the New York Public Library, the Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Frick Collection, the Plaza Hotel, Rockefeller Center, the St. Regis New York, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Fifth Avenue also runs along the east side of Central Park.

6. St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Location: Midtown Manhattan

St. Patrick’s Cathedral is a Catholic cathedral that is located on Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan. It is located across from Rockefeller Center.

St Patricks Cathedral

Construction began in 1858 and was completed in 1878 (there was a pause in construction during the Civil War). It is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

You can view the cathedral from the outside, take a tour, or attend mass. You can also tour the underground catacombs by candlelight.

7. Metropolitan Museum of Art

Location: Upper East Side of Manhattan

For art lovers, a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art tops the list of best things to do in New York City.

The Met is the largest art museum in the United States (it is so large it is measured in acres…13 acres of world-class art exhibits). Over 2 million works of art are in the permanent collection, with art from ancient Egypt, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Oceania. There are also numerous art exhibitions that change throughout the year.

Things to Do in New York City the Met

shutterstock.com/Studio Barcelona

Hours: Daily 10 am to 5:30 pm; open until 9 pm Friday and Saturday
Cost: Adults $25, children under 12 are free; tickets are valid for 3 days
Website: www.metmuseum.org 
Skip-the-line Tickets: Purchase your tickets online in advance to skip the line.

The Met Cloisters is separate museum that is dedicated to medieval art. John D. Rockefeller was a major benefactor. The Met Cloisters are located in Fort Tryon Park in northern Manhattan. For hours of operation and ticket prices, click here. 

8. The Museum of Modern Art

Location: Midtown Manhattan

The Modern Museum of Art (MoMA) has one of the world’s best collections of art from the 18th century to today. See The Starry Night by Van Gogh, The Persistence of Memory by Dali, and works of art by Matisse, Monet, and Picasso.

Hours: Daily 10:30 am to 5:30 pm; open until 9 pm on Friday and the first Thursday of each month
Cost: Adults $25, under 16 years old are free
Friday afternoon special: from 5:30 pm to 9 pm admission is free on Friday
Website: www.moma.org 

Like the Met, MoMA also has a branch in a different location in the city. MoMA PS1 is located in Queens and is devoted to contemporary art.

9. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

Location: Upper East Side of Manhattan

This art museum, also called The Guggenheim, displays Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, early Modern and contemporary art.

The building, which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, is also a work of modern art. Guiseppe Momo’s staircase at the Vatican Museums is what inspired Wright’s design for the ramp and atrium. The building is now a New York City Landmark, a National Historic Landmark, and is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Guggenheim Things to Do in New York City

shutterstock.com/Tinnaporn Sathapornnanont

Cost: Adults $25, children under 12 are free
Hours: 10 am – 5:30 pm; open until 8:00 pm Tuesday and Saturday
Website: www.guggenheim.org 
Pay What You Wish: from 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm on select Saturdays you can “pay what you wish” to enter the museum, cash only. The suggested admission is $10.
Tickets: Tickets can be purchased on the official website. I also recommend checking GetYourGuide because you might get a cheaper price.

10. The Frick Collection

Location: Upper East Side of Manhattan

See world-class art by Vermeer, Renoir, and Rembrandt in a beautifully designed residence. The museum was founded by Henry Clay Frick, opening in 1935. Its permanent collection features European art from the Renaissance to the early twentieth century.

Cost: Adults $22, children under 10 are not permitted
Hours: Thursday through Sunday 10 am to 6 pm; Sundays 11 am to 5 pm; closed Monday
Pay What You Wish: pay what you wish on Thursdays 4 pm to 6 pm
Website: www.frick.org 

11. Times Square

Location: Midtown Manhattan

Times Square is one of the most famous intersections in the world. This street junction, where Broadway meets Seventh Avenue, attracts 50 million people a year, making it one of world’s most popular tourist attractions.

Every New Year’s Eve, thousands people gather to watch the ball drop, making this the most famous place in the world to welcome in the New Year. During the other 364 days of the year, Times Square is almost as crowded, as street performers put on shows and visitors from around the world gawk at the millions of lights that adorn the neon billboards.

Things to Do in New York City Times Square

shutterstock.com/Luciano Mortula – LGM

It seems like Times Square is always changing. Every year, there are bigger and better billboards, new stores designed to draw visitors in, and crazier street performers on the streets. It is a crowded, overwhelming place and not everyone enjoys this experience.

PRO TRAVEL TIP: If you are new to New York City, it is worth seeing it in the daytime and at nighttime, since the lighting really makes it a different experience.

12. Visit Greenwich Village

Location: Manhattan

Greenwich Village was the location of the 60’s counterculture movements and the modern LGBT movement. Now, the “bohemian days” are long gone, due to rising housing costs and gentrification of the neighborhood, but this is still a wonderful spot to visit.

Things to Do in New York City Washington Square

shutterstock.com/Rolf_52

Things to do in Greenwich Village include visiting Washington Square Park, strolling along Bleeker Street, shopping for vintage clothing, grabbing a bite to eat at Bleeker Street Pizza, and seeing if you can find both the Friends apartment and Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment from Sex and the City.

To get the most out of your visit, this walking tour of Greenwich Village sounds amazing. Learn where Jimi Hendrix and Edgar Allen Poe hung out, where one of Bob Dylan’s album covers was photographed, and the rise of gay rights in New York City.

13. Take a Stroll along the High Line

Location: Chelsea, Manhattan

The High Line is public park and elevated walking path that was built on a historic freight line.

High Line

It’s free to visit and one of Manhattan’s prettiest walks. The High Line starts near the Whitney Museum, but you can also get onto the High Line from Chelsea Market.

It takes about 30 minutes to walk from Chelsea Market to Hudson Yards.

14. Visit Hudson Yards

Location: Hudson Yards, Manhattan

What was once a storage yard and jumble of train tracks has evolved into Manhattan’s newest ultra-modern neighborhood.

This small city has been built on a state-of-the-art platform that is elevated above the railroad tracks. Glass-plated skyscrapers, a shopping mall, a performing arts theater, numerous restaurants, the Vessel, and the Edge, can all be found here.

Hudson Yards

The Vessel

 

Hudson Yards from the Vessel

View of Hudson Yards from the Vessel

We stayed in the Equinox Hotel in Hudson Yards on our most recent visits. Mercado Little Spain is a wonderful restaurant, with several eateries, a wine bar, and a cocktail bar. It’s a great spot munch on tapas and have a glass of wine. Bluestone Lane is a nice breakfast spot and Milos Wine Bar gets great reviews. If you want dinner with view, make a reservation at Peak Restaurant & Bar, which is located at the Edge.

15. Take in the View from the Edge

Location: Hudson Yards, Manhattan

The Edge is one of the newest additions to the Manhattan observation decks. Hovering 100 floors above the city streets, this sky deck offers jaw-dropping views over Manhattan. Adding to the thrill is the glass floor, where you can peer down to the city streets far below.

Best Things to Do in New York City

At the Edge, there is both an indoor and outdoor observation deck. In comparison with the other NYC observation decks, the Edge has the cheapest admission fee, so if you want big view of Manhattan without a big price tag, you get the best deal at the Edge.

16. City Climb, NYC’s Most Thrilling View?

Location: Hudson Yards, Manhattan

If you are a thrill seeker, or simply just want the best view of New York City without taking to the sky, put City Climb on your NYC to do list.

City Climb_Courtesy of Edge

City Climb/photo credit: Edge

City Climb is one of New York City’s newest experiences. While wearing a harness, scale the outside of the skyscraper to The Apex, the highest outdoor observation deck in the city. The Apex is the highest outdoor observation deck not only in New York City, but the entire Western Hemisphere.

We did this just after it opened and its tons of fun! In my opinion, it is the best viewpoint in the city, beating the also very new SUMMIT One Vanderbilt experience.

17. Grab a Bite to Eat at Chelsea Market

Location: Chelsea, Manhattan

Chelsea Market is one of the best places in Manhattan to grab a bite to eat.

Inside of the market are numerous small restaurants selling food from around the world. Our favorite restaurants are Los Tacos No 1., the Lobster Place, and Takumi Taco. There are also a number of boutique shops if you like to go shopping.

Los Tacos No 1

Los Tacos No. 1

Chelsea Market is easily combined with the High Line, Hudson Yards, and the Edge. It’s also just a short walk from Greenwich Village.

Plan on spending several days in New York City? Learn how to put many of these sights into an itinerary in our 5 Day New York City Itinerary.

18. ARTECHOUSE NYC

Location: Chelsea, Manhattan

This fully immersive digital art experience is one of the most unique things to do in New York City.

Located in an old boiler room under Chelsea Market is an audiovisual display that is innovative and almost psychedelic. As colorful images dance on the floor, walls, and ceiling, the visual effects are perfectly paired with audio effects, creating one of the most technologically advanced art experiences in New York City.

Artechouse NYC

The experience lasts 30 to 60 minutes and costs $25. The XR Bar, and extended reality cocktail bar, augments the experience.

Visit the official website to purchase your tickets in advance and learn about upcoming art installations.

19. Take a Stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge

Location: East River

Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge is one of the best things to do in New York City.

At the time it was built (in 1883), it was the longest suspension bridge in the world. The Brooklyn Bridge spans the East River, connecting Brooklyn with Lower Manhattan.

From this iconic bridge, you have great views of the Manhattan skyline. A portion of the bridge is pedestrian-only, making it one of the most scenic places to go for a stroll in New York City.

Brooklyn Bridge 2009

Brooklyn Bridge (2009)

20. Brooklyn Bridge Park

Location: Brooklyn

For one of the best views you can get of the Manhattan skyline and the Brooklyn Bridge, visit Brooklyn Bridge Park and the nearby Pebble Beach.

This waterfront area, which runs along the East River in Brooklyn, was once home to warehouse and ferry ports that were used for shipping. Once the Brooklyn Bridge was constructed, the need for these ferry ports no longer existed, so this area was neglected for decades.

Brooklyn Bridge Park February

The view from Pebble Beach (February 2018).

In the 1980’s, plans began to turn this area into an 80+ acre park. Now, not only do you have an awesome view of the Manhattan skyline, but you can also go biking and running along the paths, play basketball, bocce ball or soccer, and even go kayaking or bouldering.

Near Brooklyn Bridge Park is Dumbo, which stands for “down under the Manhattan Bridge overpass.” At this spot, you get an iconic view of the Manhattan Bridge.

Dumbo New York City

Dumbo

21. Visit Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Location: Brooklyn

Williamsburg is a wonderful neighborhood in Brooklyn to visit.

Williamsburg Brooklyn

Since the late 1990’s, Williamsburg has undergone a staggering amount of renovation. Buildings have been restored and brand new, stylish high-rises have been erected along the East River. Along with these changes came an influx of artists, musicians, and a vibrant nightlife.

Now, these city streets are dotted with nightclubs, restaurants, and boutique shops, making this a great place to visit on a trip to New York City.

22. Visit the Bronx Zoo

Location: The Bronx

Opening in 1899, the Bronx Zoo is one of the largest zoos in the United States.

Since its opening, it has played an important role in animal conservation, breeding bison and Sumatran rhinos to increase their population size and protecting other animals on the brink of extinction.

The Bronx Zoo is home to over 8,000 animals. You can stroll through the animal exhibits, watch an animal feeding (check the daily schedule before you go), or take part in an animal encounter, where you can get up close to penguins or cheetahs.

Hours: April 2 to November 5: 10:00 am to 5:00 daily; open until 5:30 pm on weekends and holidays; November 7 to April 1, 10:00 am to 4:30 pm; closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day, and Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Cost: $30.95 for adults, $22.95 for children 3 – 12, $28.95 for seniors (65 & over)
Website: Click here for updated hours, pricing, to make your reservation in advance, and the daily schedule 

23. Visit One World Observatory

Location: Lower Manhattan

One World Trade Center is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. One World Observatory is the observation deck that is located at the top of this building.

The entire visit is state of the art, from the high-tech elevator ride to the time-lapse video at the Forever Theater to the digital guides that teach you more about NYC. From the observation deck, you will look out over Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island, the Statue of Liberty, and New Jersey.

One World View

I recommend buying your tickets online in advance. If you purchase tickets online in advance, you will skip the ticket line but could still wait in line for the elevator to the Observatory. You have the option to pay more money to also skip the elevator to the Observation deck and the elevator back down to the lobby. You can also purchase skip-the-line-tickets through GetYourGuide (a great idea if they are sold out on the official website). 

24. 9/11 Memorial Plaza and the 9/11 Museum

Location: Lower Manhattan

The 9/11 Memorial Plaza is an 8-acre park where the World Trade Center Twin Towers once stood. The foundations of the Twin Towers have been converted into reflecting pools and the surrounding area is now a grove of trees.

9 11 Memorial Things to Do in New York City

9 11 Memorial

At the 9/11 Memorial Museum, learn about the story of 9/11 through a series of exhibits, artifacts, and interactive technology.

Both of these sites are located next to One World Trade Center.

This 2-hour walking tour includes the 9/11 Memorial and Ground Zero, with the option to add on the 9/11 Museum.

25. Ground Zero Museum Workshop

Location: Chelsea, Manhattan

This small museum documents what life was like for the workers and firefighters at Ground Zero during the recovery effort. Filled with artifacts and photographs, this is a great museum to visit if you want to learn more about what it was like to be at the World Trade Center site after the terrorist attack.

This is a kid-friendly museum and if you want your child to learn about 9/11, this museum is the perfect place to take them.

Cost: Adults $25, children 4 – 12 years old $19
Hours: Wednesday through Saturday hours vary but are generally open from 12:30 pm to 2:00 pm; closed Sunday, Monday, Tuesday; reservations must be made in advance
Website: Click here to learn more about the museum, get updated hours, and make your reservation

26. Visit Battery Park

Location: Lower Manhattan

Battery Park, also called The Battery, is a 25-acre park that is located on the southern tip of Manhattan. Its waterfront location, gardens, and paths make a great place to go for a walk. For kids, there is a carousel and a scavenger hunt through the park. If you have plans to ride the Staten Island Ferry or visit the Statue of Liberty, the ferries leave from The Battery. 

27. Take a Ride on the Staten Island Ferry

Location: Upper New York Bay (aka New York Harbor)

Taking a ride on the Staten Island Ferry is one of the best free things to do in New York City. On this ride, the views of the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline are amazing.

The ferry leaves from the Staten Island Ferry terminal, next to Battery Park. Simply get in line and board the next ferry. The ferry is enormous, with multiple decks and inside and outside seating.

For the best view, I recommend getting a seat outside on the back of the ferry. From this point you can watch Manhattan slowly recede as you approach Staten Island. To your left will be the Statue of Liberty.

Staten Island Ferry View

Ferries leave every 30 minutes and are more frequent during rush hour. A one-way trip takes about 25 minutes and a round trip ride takes about one hour.

You are not permitted to stay on the ferry and ride it round trip. Once you are in Staten Island, exit the ferry, get back in line, and re-board the ferry. We were able to get right back onto the same ferry without having to wait for the next one (on a Monday morning in February).

Get the full details about the Staten Island ferry on the official website.

28. Get a History Lesson at the Tenement Museum

Location: Lower East Side of Manhattan

At the Tenement Museum, learn about what it was like to live as an immigrant between the 19th and 20th centuries. Guided tours are offered of two tenement buildings that are the recreated homes of former residents between the 1860’s and 1980’s. You can also take a walking tour of the neighborhood.

Learn more about the tours that are offered on the official website. 

29. Visit the South Street Seaport

Location: Lower Manhattan

This historic neighborhood east of the Financial District has been transformed into a wonderful mix of museums, restaurants, rooftop bars, boutique shops, and community events. You can also get some seriously good views of the Brooklyn Bridge.

The Rooftop at Pier 17 hosts concerts during the summer months and during the winter, dine in a glass, rooftop “cabin” with views of the Lower Manhattan skyline. Grab a bite to eat at Momofuku Ssäm Bar, Capo Capo Café, or Big Gay Ice Cream. Get a history lesson at the South Street Seaport Museum. Or get dinner and watch a movie at IPIC.

Learn more on the official website. 

30. Visit the UN Headquarters

Location: East of Midtown Manhattan

The United Nations Headquarters has been the official headquarters of the UN since 1951. Although it is located in New York City, the buildings and the grounds are under the administration of the United Nations, not the US government.

The United Nations Headquarters is open to the public on a guided tour. These must be booked in advance. Get the full details here. 

UN Headquarters

shutterstock.com/Osugi

31. Visit Grand Central Terminal

Location: Midtown Manhattan

Grand Central Terminal is the largest train station in the world, with 44 train platforms. It is the second busiest train station in North America (New York’s Penn Station is #1).

In 2018, it was one of the top 10 most visited tourist attractions in the world. It has been featured in a long list of movies, including Hello Dolly!, The Avengers, I Am Legend, The Girl on the Train, Armageddon, and Revolutionary Road, just to name a few.

The Main Concourse is a beautiful place to visit. Grand Central Terminal was built in 1913 and with its Beaux-Arts design, it is also a work of art.

Take a stroll through the Main Concourse. You get a great view overlooking the concourse from the Apple store.

Grand Central Terminal

Grand Central Terminal

32. Spend Some Time in Bryant Park

Location: Midtown Manhattan

This 10-acre park is located right in Midtown Manhattan. During the warmer months, the open lawn creates an oasis for office workers, who come here for lunch. During the winter months, this is the site for the Bank of America Winter Village, with holiday shops and an ice rink.

Bryant Park

shutterstock.com/ymgerman

33. Visit the New York Public Library

Location: Midtown Manhattan

The New York Public Library is located on the eastern side of Bryant Park.

It’s a beautiful building on the inside and has been featured in popular movies and TV shows such as Ghostbusters, The Day after Tomorrow, and Sex and the City.

New York Public Library

New York Public Library

34. SUMMIT One Vanderbilt, NYC’s Newest Observation Deck

Location: Midtown Manhattan

Opening in October 2021, SUMMIT One Vanderbilt is the newest addition to New York City’s observation decks.

Located on the top three floors of one of the tallest skyscrapers in Manhattan is an immersive, multi-sensory experience with art installations, floor to ceiling mirrors, and of course, BIG views. A visit to SUMMIT One Vanderbilt is one of the best things to do in New York City.

Summit One Vanderbilt

Things to Do in New York City

From SUMMIT, you get an unbeatable view of the Empire State Building and Midtown Manhattan. With three levels to explore, world-class art installations, and a price that is cheaper than most of the of the other observation decks in New York City, this is one of the best experiences for the money.

35. Take a Walking Tour of NYC

Location: New York City

One of the best ways to learn more about the vibrant history and culture of New York City is to take a walking tour.

On this 2.5 hour walking tour, stroll through the Dumbo neighborhood of Brooklyn, walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, and learn about the history in this part of New York City. 

This Sunday morning walking tour of Harlem includes a gospel service and brunch.

On this jazz tour of Harlem, learn about the jazz scene in Harlem and visit two to three music venues, with the option to add on drinks or dinner at one of the clubs.

You can also take a Sex in the City walking tour, a 2 hour guided tour of filming sites for superhero movies such as the Avengers and Superman, or take a Greenwich Village Ghost Tour.

You can also customize a private walking tour of Manhattan or Brooklyn.

36. Go Shopping in SoHo

Location: Manhattan

SoHo is a neighborhood in Manhattan that is home to art galleries, trendy shops, and restaurants. It gets its name from its location “South of Houston Street.”

Things to Do in New York City SoHo

shutterstock.com/JJFarq

SoHo is home to cast-iron architecture. Decorative cast-iron was added to the fronts of the buildings, which was cheaper to use than brick or stone. Most of this construction was done in the mid-1800’s, to revitalize the older buildings in the area.

The area went through a decline in the 1900’s. In the 1970’s, artists began to move in. The high floors of the buildings, with large windows and lots of natural light, made great art studios. Plus, the rent was cheap. Since that time, SoHo has undergone gentrification and now it is home to some of the most expensive real estate in the nation.

With its mix of art galleries and boutique shops, SoHo makes a great place to explore during an afternoon in New York City.

37. Take a Stroll through Little Italy

Location: Lower Manhattan

Little Italy is worth a quick visit, but it has changed quite a bit in recent years.

In 1910, almost 10,000 Italians lived in Little Italy. During the 20th century, many Italians left the neighborhood. Now, Little Italy is much smaller in size, located along three blocks of Mulberry Street, and it is primarily a tourist destination.

Little Italy 2015

However, because of its history (it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places), Little Italy is worth a quick visit. For those who like to visit movie filming sites, several famous movies were filmed or based on Little Italy, such as The Godfather, Mean Streets, Leon: The Professional, and the finale of The Sopranos.

38. Visit Chinatown

Location: Lower Manhattan

Chinatown is located to the south of Little Italy. With a population of almost 100,000 people, Chinatown is home to the largest Chinese population outside of China.

This is a great place to sample dim sum, dumplings, and Chinese cuisine, go shopping, and stroll through the busy streets.

On this 2-hour walking tour, visit Chinatown, Little Italy and SoHo, sampling food along the way.

39. Take a Food Tour

Location: New York City

A food tour is a great way to spend an afternoon in New York City.

This 2-hour walking food tour of Hell’s Kitchen gets rave reviews. If you like the idea of combining a walking tour with a food tour of Greenwich Village, I recommend taking a look at this tour. Finally, on this 3-hour food tour on the Lower East Side you will sample German, Dutch, Italian, Chinese, and Jewish dishes and hear stories about the immigrants who settled here.

40. Spend a Day at Coney Island

Location: Brooklyn

If you will be visiting the city with kids, a visit to Coney Island is one of the best things to do in New York City.

Coney Island

shutterstock.com/Kamira

Coney Island is located in Brooklyn. It is here that you will find the amusement park Luna Park, as well as Coney Island Beach. Ride the Cyclone, a wooden roller coaster that is almost 100 years old (it was built in 1927 but refurbished several times) and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Learn how to get here and how to plan your visit on the official website for Luna Park. 

41. Take a Helicopter Flight over New York City

One of the most thrilling ways to experience New York City is from the sky. There are numerous helicopter flights over the city. You can take a doors off helicopter ride (we did a doors off helicopter ride in Hawaii and it is awesome!), take a private flight, or even learn how to pilot a helicopter.

 

42. See a Show on Broadway

Location: Midtown Manhattan

Watching a Broadway Show is a quintessential New York experience. The list of shows is long and always changing. Take your pick from the long running classics like The Lion King, Phantom of the Opera, and Chicago, or newer but very popular shows like Hamilton and Wicked, or smaller Off-Broadway performances.

For the full list of what is showing, click here. 

43. Radio City Music Hall

Location: Midtown Manhattan

Radio City Music Hall is located in Rockefeller Center. It is a historic theater, famous for being home to the Rockettes as well as hosting the Grammy Awards, the MTV Video Music Awards, and the NFL Draft.

Concerts are routinely held here, as is the Christmas Spectacular starring the Radio City Rockettes. Get the schedule of events here. 

44. Visit the American Museum of Natural History

Location: Upper West Side of Manhattan

The American Museum of Natural History is enormous. In fact, it is the largest natural history museum in the world. 26 interconnected buildings house 44 permanent exhibition halls. On display are specimens of plants, animals, meteorites, fossils, human remains, and human cultural artifacts.

Things to Do in New York

This museum has been featured both in print (J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in The Rye) and film (Night at the Museum and Wonderstruck).

For kids, this is one of the best museums in New York City. Before and/or after your visit, let them run or bike around neighboring Central Park, to burn off any extra energy.

Cost: $23 adult, $22.50 student, $16.50 children 3 to 12, $22.50 senior 60+; Residents of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut pay what you wish
Hours: Wednesday through Sunday 10 am to 5:30 pm
Website: Visit the official website for updated hours and pricing and to reserve your tickets in advance. 

45. Watch a Major League Baseball Game

Two Major League baseball teams call New York City home: the New York Mets, which play at Citi Field in Queens, and the New York Yankees, which play at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.

If you plan to visit New York City during the summer months, you can purchase tickets for the Mets here and tickets for the Yankees here.

46. Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Location: Brooklyn

Several botanical gardens are located in New York City. Brooklyn Botanical Garden is often touted as the best and the easiest to visit. This 52-acre park has many specialty gardens and seasonal events and activities. It is located next to Prospect Park in Brooklyn.

For hours, pricing, and information about seasonal events, visit the official website. 

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

shutterstock.com/R. de Bruijn_Photography

47. Visit New York City on a Holiday

New York City is a very festive place to visit during the holidays.

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is the most famous parade in the city. Parades are also held for St. Patrick’s Day, for Halloween (in Greenwich Village), and for other holidays.

The Christmas season typically attracts a lot of visitors. Holiday decorations adorn the city streets and buildings and the lighting of the Rockefeller Tree is a major event that occurs after Thanksgiving. The Rockettes put on a Christmas performance at Radio City Music Hall, ice rinks open throughout the city, and you can take a bus tour of the Christmas lights in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn.

Thousands of people flock to Times Square on New Year’s Eve to welcome in the New Year. We did this over 20 years ago…it’s definitely something to experience if you get your timing right.

Rockefeller Center Ice Rink

Rockefeller Center Ice Rink

48. Have a Drink at a Rooftop Bar

Location: Manhattan

How about a drink with a view? There are many rooftop bars located through New York City that offer spectacular views.

Spyglass Rooftop Bar offers a great view of the Empire State Building. Electric Lemon at the Equinox Hotel overlooks Hudson Yards and the Vessel. The Crown Rooftop Bar in Chinatown offers great views of both Midtown Manhattan and Brooklyn. Après at SUMMIT One Vanderbilt has stunning views of the city. And The Greens at Pier 17 at South Street Seaport looks really cool.

49. Run, Ride, or Race through New York City

Location: All five boroughs

For all of you runners, cyclists, and triathletes out there, New York City is home to some awesome races.

The most famous is the New York City Marathon. It has now been running for 50 years. Over its 26.2 miles, you run through all five of New York’s boroughs, as well as the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, the Queensboro Bridge, and Central Park. Tim and I ran the NYC Marathon in 1997 and it was awesome! To cross the Queensboro Bridge into Manhattan and run up First Avenue was one of my favorite memories from this race.

There are also numerous shorter running races throughout the year, from 5K’s to half marathons. The New York Road Runners website has information on upcoming races and the New York City Marathon. 

If you prefer see New York City on a bike, you can participate in the 5 Boro Bike Tour. This 40-mile bike tour is open to 32,000 cyclists. The roads are closed to vehicles and open only to cyclists, on a route that travels through all five boroughs. 

Finally, if you are a triathlete, the New York City triathlon is an Olympic distance triathlon that takes place in July. Swim in the Hudson River, bike in Manhattan and the Bronx, and run through Central Park. I have done this race twice and it’s one of my favorite triathlon courses. Swimming in the Hudson might sound gross (it’s really not) but you will post the fast swim time ever!

Tim even competed in the one and only Inaugural IRONMAN 140.6 New York City triathlon in 2012. It was only held once because it was so logistically challenging, both for participants and spectators.

50. Cruise the Hudson River

Location: Hudson River, East River, New York Harbor

Another great way to see the city is on a cruise on the Hudson River or New York Harbor.

On this cruise of New York Harbor, enjoy the views of the Statue of Liberty, One World Trade Center, and the Brooklyn Bridge as you have brunch, lunch, or dinner. 

This cruise includes both the Hudson and the East Rivers, so you get unbeatable views of the New York City skyline. It also includes music and brunch or dinner. 

On this highly rated holiday cruise, see the New York skyline as you listen to live entertainment and warm up with hot cocoa and cookies. 

Best of New York City: On a Map

How to Use This Map: Click the icons on the map to get more information about each point of interest. Click the star next to the title of the map to add this map to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.

Best Things to Do in New York City: Our Recommendations

Top 10 Experiences

Here are the top 10 experiences if it is your first time in New York City:

  • Empire State Building
  • Central Park
  • Statue of Liberty
  • Times Square
  • Brooklyn Bridge
  • Visit an Art Museum (MoMa, the Met, or the Guggenheim)
  • 9/11 Museum and Memorial
  • Stroll along 5th Avenue and see the sites in Midtown Manhattan
  • Visit at least one of Manhattan’s neighborhoods: Greenwich Village, SoHo, Chinatown, Chelsea, etc.
  • Visit another observation deck (SUMMIT One Vanderbilt or the Edge)

Learn how to put many of these sights together in our 5 Day New York City itinerary.

10 Best Free Things to Do in New York City

  • Staten Island Ferry
  • Central Park
  • Times Square
  • Brooklyn Bridge
  • 9/11 Memorial
  • Visit SoHo, Chinatown, Greenwich Village, Chelsea, the Lower East Side, and Midtown Manhattan
  • The High Line
  • Brooklyn Bridge Park
  • Grand Central Terminal
  • Rockefeller Center

10 Best Things to Do with Kids in New York City

  • Central Park (rent bikes or bring your kid’s scooter)
  • American Museum of Natural History
  • Empire State Building
  • Statue of Liberty
  • Brooklyn Bridge
  • Times Square
  • The Bronx Zoo
  • Luna Park at Coney Island
  • Watch a baseball game at Yankee Stadium
  • Brooklyn Bridge Park

If you have any questions about the best things to do in New York City, or if you want to share your favorite experiences, let us know in the comment section below.

More Information about New York City:

ITINERARY: 5 Days in New York City: The Ultimate New York City Itinerary
BROOKLYN: One Perfect Day in Brooklyn, New York
OBSERVATION DECKS: Best Observation Decks in NYC: Ranked by Price, Height & View
SUMMIT ONE VANDERBILT: How to Visit SUMMIT One Vanderbilt: Photos, Tips & is It Worth It?
THE EDGE: Complete Guide to the Edge NYC & City Climb
ONE WORLD OBSERVATORY: How to Visit One World Observatory
WHERE TO STAY: Where to Stay in New York City: Best Hotels and Neighborhoods

United States Travel Guide

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New York City Travel Bucket List

 

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