In honor of my 100th blog post (psst..you’re reading it now!), I’ve put together a list of 100 things you need to see and do in New York City! Living in New York City for 20 years, I’ve long since been made an honorary New Yorker. What better way to celebrate this mini-blogging milestone than by sharing about the city I love!
These 100 things are in no way ranked and only by chance grouped together in any kind of order. Rather, it’s the list of my brainstormed New York sights and experiences as they popped into my head. If you’re planning a first visit to NYC, check out Everything You Need to Know for a First Visit to New York City. It’s packed with itinerary ideas, maps, where to stay and eat, and how to get around like a pro.
100 Things You Need to See and Do in New York City
1. See a Broadway Show: World-class theater of all sorts in some of the prettiest theaters around, right in the heart of New York’s Theater District! What could be better? Get discount tickets at TKTS for musicals and plays on and off-Broadway. Absolutely a can’t miss while visiting NYC!
2. Ride the Staten Island Ferry: Take the free 25-minute ride to Staten Island and see New York Harbor, the Manhattan Skyline, and Lady Liberty before catching a return ferry from the terminal on Staten Island.
3. Visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art: Transport yourself back in time as you explore the Egyptian Temple, gaze at Medieval Sculptures, or admire works by your favorite impressionist painter.
4. Ride the Subway: Head down the sidewalk steps, buy a MetroCard, and swipe your way into NYC’s vast system of tunnels that’ll take you most any place you want to go in the 5 boroughs. This is the way to travel for an ultimate New York experience.
5. Ride the Elevators to the Top of the Empire State Building: An iconic experience in arguably New York City’s most iconic sight! No matter how many photos you’ve seen, the sweeping views from the observatory platform will not disappoint. To save money on the Empire State Building and many of NYC’s other famous landmarks, get a New York City Pass.
6. Ice Skate at Wollman Rink: Located in Central Park, this popular winter rink is for tourists and locals alike. Enjoy the city views from within (a hopefully snow-covered!) Central Park. Don’t worry if you forgot your skates. You can rent them there!
7. Walk Across the Pedestrian Promenade on the Brooklyn Bridge: The Brooklyn Bridge’s design and architecture, together with the city skyline and the flowing water of the East River, are a Lower Manhattan favorite and an absolute New York City must! If I were to make do or die top things to do in NYC, walking on the Brooklyn Bridge would absolutely make the list.
8. Eat as Much Pizza as Your Body Will Allow: An endless number of mouth-watering pizza places dot the city! Whether you head to Grimaldi’s after walking the Brooklyn Bridge or grab a slice from John’s of Bleecker, you are bound to have some of the best pizza you’ve ever eaten.
9. Visit the 9/11 Memorial: This newly opened museum remembers the events of 9/11 and honors its many victims. The museum is an overwhelming display of artifacts, first-person accounts, recordings, and photos to teach about 9/11. It’s an emotional visit, but one that each and every NYC visitor should make.
10. Ride the Cyclone at Coney Island: Coney Island’s beach and boardwalk are just a subway ride away! When you get there, head straight to the classic old wooden roller coaster. Ride it as many times as your spinal cord will allow.
11. Head up to a Rooftop Bar: Even if you don’t (over)pay for a cocktail, rooftop bars are a fun respite from the summer heat and offer unique city views. It can seem like a totally different world from the one at ground level.
12. Go to a Yankee Game (or Mets! Not trying to offend!): New York is home to some of the best sporting venues around and catching a baseball game is both a classic New York and American experience. Not visiting during baseball season? Grab seats to a basketball or hockey game in Manhattan or Brooklyn!
13. Eat Falafel from a Street Food Cart: These popular street food carts often have lines down the block. The falafel is worth the wait!
14. Meander through Greenwich Village: The smaller and much quieter tree-lined blocks wind you past landmark cultural spots, shops, eateries, and the homes of former and current celebrities. Explore and don’t be afraid to get lost!
15. Listen to Live Music: Whether it’s jazz in Greenwich Village or an Indie Rock Band on the Lower East Side, find a dark corner, sip a cocktail, and groove to your favorite tunes.
16. Rent a Citibike and Ride Along the Hudson: With bike docking stations located up and down Manhattan’s west side, it’s easier than ever to rent a bike and enjoy the bike path stretching from north to south along the Hudson River’s edge. Don’t forget your camera!
17. Walk around South Street Seaport: Historic buildings and ships, cobblestone streets, shops, dining, and street performers! The southern tip of Manhattan is the oldest part of the city and is brightly revitalized. How could you come to the island of Manhattan without experiencing the seaport!?
18. Get a Bird’s-Eye View of New York City: While it’s definitely one of the priciest options on the list, a helicopter tour over Manhattan is an unforgettable way to experience the city’s beauty.
19. Hail a Yellow Cab: That’s right! Step off the curb, put that arm up, and if need be, shout “Taxi!” You’ll look like a real New Yorker and feel like you could take on anything New York queues up for you!
20. Get on Board an Aircraft Carrier: The Intrepid Air and Space Museum is permanently docked along the Hudson River piers in midtown. Check out military planes and vessels, as well as a real U.S. Space Shuttle!
21. Eat Fresh Mozzarella on Arthur Avenue: The Italian-American area of the Bronx is the “real” Little Italy in the eyes of many New Yorkers. If freshly made mozzarella cheese isn’t your thing, sample the meats, bread, or pasta from any of the shops and restaurants. Arthur Avenue is easily combined with a trip to Yankee Stadium, the Bronz Zoo, and the New York Botanical Gardens.
22. See the Rockefeller Christmas Tree: Yes, it’s the ultimate in touristy holiday sights, but if you’re in NYC for the Christmas holiday season, braving the crowds to glimpse the tree is a must!
23. Jog Laps Around the Central Park Reservoir: Aside from the gorgeous Central Park scenery, you’ll be surrounded by locals who are simply getting in their daily cardio. It’s low-key, but a definite New York experience. If you visit NYC in the fall, the colorful foliage and comfortable temperatures will be an added bonus.
24. Buy Prepared Foods at Zabars or Fairway: Experiencing the chaos of a New York food market will certainly give visitors a taste of daily life as a local. Sample gourmet foods, jockey for position with your cart, and in some places learn how to get your cart down to the lower levels! Once you pick up some prepared salads or sandwiches, move on to #25.
25. Have a Picnic in Sheep’s Meadow: This wide open grassy space in Central Park is the perfect spot to lay out a sheet and enjoy being outdoors. Think snacking, socializing, and people-watching as the quintessential experience!
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26. Have a (Boozy) Brunch: Weekend brunch is a New York institution! Whether you plan to stick with coffee or slurp a few screwdrivers, you’re likely to wait on line for a brunch seating. Make reservations or don’t, but an NYC brunch is essential.
27. Get Pampered on Fifth Avenue: The street name alone conjures visions of glitz and glamor. Choose a spa along the famed avenue, don a robe, and slippers, and let the technicians make you anew.
28. Find Ancestors from Long Ago: The museum on Ellis Island stands as a testament to the millions of people who emigrated to the United States at the turn of the century. Spy the Statue of Liberty and New York Harbor just as new arrivals did, gain an understanding of what they went through, and locate name placards of distant relatives who passed through this gateway.
29. Visit the Bronx Zoo: Removed from the concrete jungle of midtown, make the trek to the Bronx to see the lion, tiger and gorilla exhibits!
30. Walk through an Old Growth Forest: Within the New York Botanical Garden, the Thain forest winds past the Bronx River and into thick areas of forest where Native Americans used to hunt. A fall visit, in particular, will reward you with brilliant fall foliage. You might even spot a beaver, an animal that’s making an NYC come-back!
31. Discover Dinosaur Fossils: NYC has no shortage of family-friendly activities when you’re planning an NYC trip with kids. The American Museum of Natural History’s fossil collection will inspire your sense of adventure! After imagining these giants that once roamed the Earth, visit Hayden Planetarium to gaze at the stars and transport yourself through the vast universe.
32. Capture sunset photos from the Top of the Rock: Undoubtedly, the best time to make the ascent is at dusk. The lighting is perfect for photos and the skyline lights are just beginning to sparkle in the night sky. An added plus is being able to capture the Empire State Building in your photos!
33. Stroll along the Highline: This elevated urban park is truly unique to NYC. Enjoy river views, street art, and admire the plants and flowers growing among the former train tracks. When you need a rest, stop for a snack or even a beverage, before continuing on your way.
34. Meet Lady Liberty: Take a boat to Liberty Island to make the acquaintance of Lady Liberty herself. Plan to stay outside or choose the level to which you’d like to climb within the statue.
35. Explore Grand Central Station: The iconic terminal is a city unto itself! Shop the gourmet market and artisan stalls. Grab a bite to eat at the lower level food concourse. Splurge on the iconic Oyster Bar! No matter what, though, do look for constellations on the domed green ceiling in the main concourse!
36. Stuff Yourself at an NYC Street Fair: From Spring to Fall, there’s always a street fair happening somewhere! Listen to live music, get a zeppole, and revel in stall after stall of food and artists’ goods!
37. Shop Local Crafts at Brooklyn Flea: Look for antiques, crafts, and vintage clothing among the hundreds of vendors at this trendy Brooklyn fair. Only the chicest of NYC visitors include this flea market in their plans.
38. Taste Everything at Smorgasburg: Similar to #37, this trendy Brooklyn food festival gives local food artisans a chance to showcase and sell their products.
39. Watch a movie in Bryant Park: How does a summer movie outside under the stars in midtown Manhattan sound? Bryant Park shows weekly flicks. Anyone can put a blanket down on the grass, hang out, watch the featured film.
40. Chat with Local Farmers: The GreenMarket in Union Square is chock full of local fruits, vegetables, cheeses, meats, bread, and fish from the farms closest to New York City. Every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday walk through, talk with the farmers, and buy the freshest foods.
41. Take selfies in Times Square: Obvious, I know. However, in line with the NYC dos and don’ts, this is the only place in New York you should be taking an unlimited number of selfies. Once you leave this tourist zone, try to play it cool (read: Limit yourself to a selfie or two).
42. Visit the Museum of Modern Art: This top New York City sight needs no introduction. It’s the most popular modern art museum in NYC. A trip to the city would not be complete without checking out some of the exhibits here.
43. See a show at Radio City Music Hall: You know the Rockettes perform all year round, right? The shows are more glitz than anything of real substance, but there’s something about the kick line that just screams NYC and makes you stand up and applaud!
44. Visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral: The iconic 5th Avenue cathedral welcomes thousands of visitors each day. It’s a common must-see for first time NYC visitors.
45. Splurge on High tea at the Plaza Hotel: It’s not as good as being in London, but seeing the Plaza Hotel is an NYC must. The tea, finger sandwiches, and scones make the visit that much sweeter.
46. See Wild Peacocks: At St. John the Divine in Northern Manhattan, peacocks roam the grounds freely. The cathedral’s Baroque architecture is an imposing sight and so is a free-roaming peacock chasing you down the block!
47. Restaurant Hop in Harlem: Along Frederick Douglas Blvd between 110th and 125th streets is Harlem’s own restaurant row. Go for the eclectic mix of super satisfying food. Be sure you have an empty stomach!
48. Stay out till 4 a.m. partying in the Meatpacking: Lined with bars, restaurants, clubs, and swanky lounges, the Meatpacking District on the west side is where NYers go dancing and revel in seemingly unending nightlife. Nap until 10 p.m. before getting ready. Be sure to look your best and then let loose!
49. Just before the sun rises on #48, go to a classic New York diner and eat pancakes, eggs, cheese fries, and milkshakes to soak up the alcohol and put yourself into the perfect food/sleep coma. Hey, you’ll burn so many calories dancing those cheese fries will count as a vegetable!
50. Shop at Bergdorf Goodman: This super upscale department store should be seen and experienced by everyone regardless of what’s in your bank account. Insider Tip: If you want the salespeople to actually pay attention to you, dress the part. (Read: No jeans, sneakers, and backpacks!)
51. Channel your Inner Athlete: Rock Climb, swing the baseball bat, or just work out at Chelsea Piers Sports Complex. This sports mega-center has an activity for everyone.
52. Sing your Heart Out at a Piano Cabaret Bar: Love show tunes, like me? Then, you absolutely must go to Marie’s Crisis or Don’t Tell Mama for a night out of cocktails and your favorite Broadway tunes! Channeling your inner Carol Channing or Barbara Streisand? Sign up to sing a song of your own!
53. Watch Shakespeare in the Park: Every summer, Shakespeare productions are performed at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. Waiting on line for the same-day free tickets can be as much fun as the open-air productions themselves.
54. Experience the San Gennaro Feast in Little Italy: Don’t eat in Little Italy otherwise, but if you’re visiting in September, jockey through the crowds to take part in the food and festivities.
55. Join the Circus: Learn to glide gracefully through the sky as you swing from one trapeze to the next at New York’s Trapeze School. Classes are for beginners to those with advanced skills. Situated along the Hudson River on the west side, this school fascinates everyone (or maybe just me?!) who knows about it. A visit would be a truly unforgettable New York experience!
56. Eat Dumplings in Chinatown: Visit my favorite, Excellent Dumpling House, or meander onto the quieter streets of Chinatown to the famous Nom Wah Tea Parlor to fill yourself with dumplings, soup, and dim sum.
57. Jaywalk: Only tourists wait on the sidewalk to cross when no cars are coming. Be careful. Look both ways. Walk if it’s clear.
58. Have a Piece of Junior’s Cheesecake: Touristy, yes! Delicious, yes! Make sure you sample a slice at least once.
59. Order a Bagel and Cream Cheese with Smoked Salmon: An authentic New York meal if there ever was. You won’t taste this any better, anywhere else!
60. Sing Karaoke in a Private Room: In Korea Town, these popular Karaoke bars rent rooms with waiter service. It’s a perfect girls night out or a place to just let go and have a good laugh. Sing your heart out without the pressure of an entire bar staring at you.
61. Attend a Concert at Carnegie Hall: An iconic concert hall on 57th Street, Carnegie Hall hosts the world’s finest musicians, orchestras, and singers. Head here if you’re looking for the opposite musical experience of #60.
62. Try to Get Your Mouth Around a Gigantic Sandwich: Katz Deli and Carnegie Deli have mastered the art of the overflowing sandwich. They’re a New York sight more than something you can actually eat, but a must on many NYC visitor lists.
63. Eat a Hot Dog from a Street Vendor: No matter where you are in New York City, you’re never far from one of these classic hot dog vendors. Have it plain or sloppy with all the fixings!
64. Watch the Dress Rehearsal or the Live SNL Performance: These tickets can be somewhat difficult to get, but if you manage to score a seat, clear your schedule and get ready to laugh the night away!
65. Go to a Concert at Madison Square Garden: Whether you want to rock out to U2 or Springsteen, Alicia Keys or Jay-Z, Madison Square Garden has hosted nearly every major pop music star and group for decades.
66. Kayak on the Hudson: Feeling adventurous? There are a couple of companies who will rent kayaks for Hudson River exploration. One of the best ways to see the city from a different perspective is from the water!
67. Holiday Market at Bryant Park: A must if you visit in November and December! Local artists sell their goods at kiosks throughout the park. Modeled after the European Markets, visitors can stroll, shop, and eat in a festive atmosphere.
68. Attend a Live Taping of a TV Show: Shows like Live with Kelly and Michael or The Tonight Show have tickets available for their studio audience. Tickets need to be arranged in advance, but they are easier to get than SNL tickets.
69. Walk 10, 20, 30 or More Blocks to Discover Off-the-Beaten-Path Spots: Shops, eateries, and small neighborhood streets are there waiting to be found by those who are willing to lose the map and wander. You just might find yourself on a cobblestone street, eating at a sidewalk cafe, watching scenes of daily New York life.
70. Chat and Sip Coffee at a Gourmet Coffee House: A favorite spot for locals to meet and hang out and (ahem) bloggers to work, NYC has a vibrant coffee house scene.
71. Go out for Happy Hour Cocktails: This is right up there with experiencing a Manhattan brunch. Head to a post-work spot and socialize with some of your new NYC friends!
72. Splurge on Fine Dining: New York City has incredible restaurants in every cuisine you can imagine. Choose a top-rated Zagat restaurant, like Le Bernardin or Eleven Madison Park, and enjoy an expertly prepared meal in a high-class setting.
73. Hang Out at Pete’s Tavern: This bar (along with others) claims to be the oldest continuously operating bar in New York having disguised itself as a flower shop during Prohibition. Have some pub food and an enjoy the laid-back vibe.
74. Do a Pub Crawl: If #73 got you thinking about NYC’s pub scene, get some friends together and do a Pub Crawl to experience the bar scene in your chosen neighborhood.
75. Eat a slice of Artichoke Pizza: Named after this infamous slice, you simply cannot leave New York City without a stop at Artichoke Pizza! #8 on this list talks about New York pizza. The Artichoke Slice from Artichoke Pizza is so unbelievably delicious it deserves its own spot on the list! It’s also a popular stop on many NYC food tours…in case you needed more convincing!
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76. Visit Rolf’s During Christmas: This German restaurant in Gramercy Park takes holiday decorating to another dimension. If you’re in the city for some holiday cheer, you can’t miss the decked out halls of Rolf’s.
77. Eat a Magnolia Cupcake: Some naysayers will think Magnolia’s cupcakes are overrated, but I say that translates to more for us! The bright colors and beautifully whipped frosting are the cupcakes’ signature style. Choose from a wide selection at the original West Village location.
78. See How Manhattan Looked Long Ago: Take the “A” Train to the last stop, 207th Street and walk into Inwood Hill Park. The wooded trails have been left untouched for hundreds of years and give visitors a glimpse of how Manhattan looked before skyscrapers and European settlers.
79. Eat a Cronut at Dominique Ansel Bakery: Just do it. Trust me.
80. Eat Italian Food: Treat yourself to an authentic Italian meal at Locanda Verde or Del Posto. Unless you are from Italy, you’ll be wondering about every Italian meal you’ve ever eaten. Life changing!
81. Browse the Eataly Food Market: Gourmet Italian food and wine specialties abound! The only thing you need to remember is that it has the only Nutella Bar in the city. If crepes, gelato, and waffles covered in Nutella sounds good, then waste not another minute and cross this NYC must off your list!
82. Shop at Columbus Circle: Just outside of Central Park, the shops here range from Whole Foods to upscale clothing and jewelry shops. This is how New York City does shopping malls.
83. Find Solitude in Central Park: The upper reaches of Central Park in northern Manhattan are less crowded and just as beautiful. Walk, bike, or find a spot to read and refresh your mind.
84. View the Department Store Holiday Windows: Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue are known for their decorative displays around Christmas. If you’re visiting during other times of the year, definitely check out the shopping scene at the iconic Macy’s or Bloomingdales.
85. Laugh Until You Cry: Besides music and theater, New York is home to legendary and hole-in-the-wall comedy clubs alike. Whether it’s Carolines or the Comedy Cellar, you never know when someone like Chris Rock or Louis C.K. will stop in for an impromptu set.
86. Watch a Street Performance: “It’s showtime” is publicly every New Yorker’s most dreaded phrase! Secretly, though, we are just as fascinated by the city’s wide variety of street and subway performers. Enjoy the entertainment like a local. Only half watch the “performance,” while half grinning at the antics in front of you.
87. Watch a Foreign Film at an Art House Cinema: Bring out your intellectual side by watching artsy films shown only in a select few theaters around the city.
88. Get out on the Hudson: Either book a Circle Line tour or take a sailboat cruise to experience the city from one of its best vantage points.
89. Head to Queens for Dim Sum: Looking to up your Chinse food game? Grab the #7 Train to Flushing and look for the city’s best Dim Sum at spots like Jade Asian Restaurant. The elevated train ride to Flushing also gives you a window into the many ethnic neighborhoods of Queens.
90. July 4th Fireworks: The FDR, the highway along the east side of Manhattan, closes to traffic and people walk the entry ramps to get a front row seat to the fireworks display over the East River. The only thing better than watching from the FDR? A friend or family member with private access to a rooftop!
91. New Years’ Eve Times Square Celebration: Obviously, timing is everything with this one. Some naysayers might say it’s not worth it to stand outside until the ball drops, but when the crowd counts down, the ball drops, and confetti and balloons fall from every inch of the sky over Times Square, you’ll have created truly lasting New Year’s memory!
92. Macy’s Day Parade Balloon Inflation Party: Thought the Thanksgiving Day Parade was the thing to see? Be savvy and visit the Upper West Side the evening before the parade to see the balloons take shape. Hang out among the neighborhood streets with Snoopy and the other balloons just waiting until morning to glide down Broadway. After you see the balloons, head to a local restaurant along Columbus or Amsterdam Avenues for a festive food and drink spot.
93. Stroll through the West Village: Celebrity spot, boutique shop, and socialize at a cafe in this very cool Manhattan neighborhood.
94. Visit the New York Transit Museum: Ever wonder what the subway looked like 100 years ago? Head to downtown Brooklyn and see old trains and platforms and discover how the system the city can’t live without got its start.
95. The Cloisters: A one-of-a-kind medieval museum located in Fort Tryon Park in upper Manhattan, the Cloisters has a collection of medieval architecture, artifacts, gardens, and tapestries. After seeing the famed Unicorn Tapestries, walk the grounds of the museum, which sits up high and offers sweeping Hudson River views.
96. Eat a Black and White Cookie: A classic New York treat that can be found at bakeries and delicatessens around the city.
97. Read a book in the Rose Reading Room: The main branch of the New York Public Library along Fifth Avenue is a prominent midtown landmark. The library is open to the public. The architecture of the building is one of the main draws, as is sitting in the Rose Reading Room to read, work, or just admire the painted ceiling.
98. Photograph Manhattanhenge: Scheduled to occur again at the end of May 2016, find a vantage point along a wide crosstown street like 14th to see the sunset line up perfectly between the buildings and shine across Manhattan from west to east!
99. Wear Scary Costumes: Dress up in your most creative goblin and head to Greenwich Village for the annual Halloween Parade!
100. Train for the Olympics: Swim in the Olympic-sized pool in Queens at Astoria Park. The pool, which is built to Olympic diving rules and regulations, offers views of Manhattan and the RFK Bridge in the background. It’s beyond inspirational!
How many have you done? Which ones are on your New York City must-see list? What have I missed?
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