Overwhelmed by the sheer number of things to do in New York City as you plan your trip?
Don’t fret! I’ve put together this master list of the top 100 New York attractions to help you put together your New York City itinerary. Plus, at the bottom, you’ll find a bonus section with special NYC things to do that happen only around specific holidays.
But why should you trust me when there are so many guides listing the top NYC attractions?!?
I’ve lived in New York City for 20+ years and have long since been made an honorary New Yorker. Nearly everything on this list is a place I’ve personally visited or an experience I’ve tried. So in addition to my local expertise, this list of 100 best things to do in New York has been travel-tested.
So, are you ready to plan your trip to NYC? Let’s go!
New York Attractions Map
I put together this map to correspond with the list below of the best places to visit in New York City. The only things missing are things that are experiences like dining or tours that don’t have a single set location.
As you decide which things are on your NYC sightseeing list, use the map to help plan the things to do to avoid backtracking or planning visits to multiple places that are too far from one another. (i.e. The Met Cloisters and the Financial District probably don’t make sense on the same day.)
New York Sightseeing Pass: Do You Need One?
Sightseeing passes are a great idea if you’re going to make full use of them. Assuming you do, they can help you save money by bundling costs for attraction tickets compared to buying individual tickets.
Go City offers an Explorer Pass which lets you choose the number of sights you want to see. You’ll have 60 days to visit them. This pass could be right for you if you don’t plan on seeing every sight in NYC and/or if you don’t want to sightsee every day.
If you plan to make the most of every minute in New York City, Go City offers an All-Inclusive Pass. Instead of choosing sights, the pass is good for the number of days you purchase. For example, if you choose a 3-day pass, you can visit as many of the included New York attractions as you want in those 3 days.
New York CityPASS also offers a bundled sightseeing pass that includes 5 attractions. Two are set with the pass and the other 3 are of your choosing. The pass is valid for 9 days so it offers some breathing room if you don’t want to see everything on consecutive days.
No matter which you choose, passes like these offer savings and a ton of convenience. You just need to do the math to decide whether they make sense for your New York trip.
The Best 100 Things to Do in New York City
1. Summit One Vanderbilt
The Summit One Vanderbilt attraction is New York City’s most recently built birds-eye view experience. And it does not disappoint! Even for a New Yorker like me who’s seen the Manhattan skyline from above many times, the sweeping NYC vistas in every direction are absolutely breathtaking! The experience is creative and interactive, too, which only adds to the fun.
The most popular time of day to go is just before dusk because you can see the skyline with the daylight and as the sun sets and the lights of the city go on. If you can’t go then, no worries! You can’t go wrong anytime on a blue sky day but if you go earlier in the morning, you’ll have fewer people photo-bombing your shots.
Just be sure to book your timed-entry tickets in advance because Summit One Vanderbilt is one of the most popular things to do in New York City.
2. 9/11 Memorial & Museum
The 9/11 Memorial & Museum consists of the reflecting pools in the original footprints of the Twin Towers and the museum inside. Both are meant to remember the events of 9/11 and honor its many victims.
As you descend into the 9/11 museum, you’ll find an overwhelming display of artifacts, first-person accounts, recordings, and photos to teach about the horrific events of 9/11. It’s an emotional visit, to say the least, and certainly one of the most moving and memorable things to do in New York.
Plan ahead with a 9/11 Museum skip-the-line ticket. The line to buy tickets can be quite long, especially during peak times. You’ll be glad to have a timed ticket to streamline your entrance into the museum. You can also read my full guide on the 9/11 Museum to know more about what to expect inside the museum.
3. Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island
Of all the NYC attractions on this list, visiting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are probably the most famous! You can take a boat to Liberty Island to see the Statue of Liberty up close. While you’re on Liberty Island, you can also visit the Statue of Liberty Museum and enjoy the gorgeous views looking back on Manhattan and New York Harbor.
Statue Cruises offers tickets from Battery Park to Liberty Island and Ellis Island to see the Statue of Liberty from the outside and visit the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. If you want to go inside the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, you’ll need a separate reservation which you can book here.
Don’t skip the Immigration Museum on Ellis Island, especially if you had any ancestors pass through this gateway! It highlights the journey and the arduous process the millions of people who emigrated to the United States at the turn of the 20th century experienced to enter the country. You can even look for the names of distant relatives on the Wall of Honor outside the museum.
Arriving by boat, I could grasp just a small sense of what it must have been like for my great-grandparents to finally see the Statue of Liberty in the harbor.
4. Walk the Brooklyn Bridge.
The Brooklyn Bridge’s design, position alongside the city skyline, and the incredible story, about how the bridge came to be, makes it one of the most special New York attractions on this list!
Just across from the side of City Hall Park in Lower Manhattan, you’ll see the majestic Gothic arches of the Manhattan Tower and the pedestrian promenade that takes you up onto the center of the bridge.
As you walk, you’ll pass the draping 4 main cables and the suspension cables and diagonal stays that create a gorgeous geometric aesthetic. Think about how the bridge was constructed entirely by hand over 14 years. (It only took 1 year to build the Empire State Building!)
Imagine that the Brooklyn Bridge was the tallest structure in Manhattan when it opened in 1883 and offered the first opportunity for the public to see what the growing city and the East River looked like from overhead.
I recommend this amazing book for kids and adults to get some quick history on the Brooklyn Bridge. If you walk to the Brooklyn side, descend the steps on the left side and make the 5-minute walk to Juliana’s Pizza. It might just be the BEST pizza in all of New York City.
5. Discover Battery Park.
This historic park on the southern tip of Manhattan is named for its former purpose as a military and artillery battery dating back to the late 1600s when the Dutch used it as a strategic vantage point to protect the then colony of New Amsterdam. Before that, the Native Lenape who lived on Manhattan also considered this rocky outcropping to be of logistical importance.
Today, Battery Park has winding pathways leading to numerous monuments, the 19th-Century defense fort Castle Clinton (named for DeWitt Clinton, a former NYC Mayor), and the Seaglass Carousel. Castle Clinton is a National Monument where Park Rangers offer daily guided tours
Boats also leave from docks along the park’s shores heading to the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island, Governor’s Island, and Staten Island.
As you visit the park, consider that the streets just adjacent to the park are among the oldest in NYC. In fact, the building housing the National Museum of the American Indian was the former Alexander Hamilton Customs House. And before that, the building was built at the site of the original Fort Amsterdam, built by the first Dutch settlers.
6. Ascend the Empire State Building.
If this isn’t one of the most iconic New York attractions, I don’t know what is! The Empire State Building is synonymous with New York City.
This art deco building is an absolute classic. You’ll have the opportunity to ride the elevators up to the 86th floor and its 360° open-air observation deck. Or if you’d like to go higher, ascend to the 102nd floor for an ultimate panorama over the city.
Throughout your visit, you’ll pass through several exhibitions. You’ll have the chance to learn about how the Empire State Building was built and how it became solidified as one of the most famous buildings of all time. You might even come face to face with King Kong who famously scaled the building in King Kong the movie!
As with all of the best things to do in New York, get your tickets in advance. The timed entry will guarantee you don’t waste any time waiting in line.
7. Savor Central Park.
Urban parks don’t get any better than the beautifully elegant Central Park. It’s an absolute must on any New York itinerary!
Central Park is a perfect rectangle positioned within Manhattan’s grid street layout. It spans from 59th Street up to 110th Street (about 2.5 miles long) between 5th Avenue and Central Park West (about .5 miles wide). Central Park’s most famous sights are mainly between 59th and 86th Streets. Although, if you go further north in the park, you’ll discover the gems like the Reservoir, the Conservatory Gardens, and Harlem Meer.
Must-see spots to see in Central Park include the Mall leading to the Bethesda Terrace and Fountain area. Walk across and along the paths in and around the Bow Bridge. Take a boat out onto the Lake. Picnic in Sheep’s Meadow. Enjoy the views from Belvedere Castle. Admire the Imagine Mosaic at Strawberry Fields. Hike in the Ramble. Stroll in the area of the Gapstow Bridge. It’s easy to laze away many days in this incredible green space.
It’s also easy to combine a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of New York or the American Museum of Natural History since they’re just across from one other on opposite sides of the park’s fringes.
8. Rocket up to One World Observatory. (The tallest building in NYC!)
If you’ve planned a visit to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, grab the chance to also ascend the 102 stories of One World Trade to the indoor observatory. The building is also known as the Freedom Tower and was built after the attacks of 9/11.
On a visit to One World Observatory, you’ll zoom to the top in just 47 seconds while getting a quick history lesson of the island from the time when Native Americans lived on the wild island of Mannahatta to now as a global city teeming with skyscrapers and activity.
At the top, be rewarded with sweeping panoramic views of the NYC skyline and the waterways surrounding the island of Manhattan. You can also have a snack, a drink, or a meal at the restaurant and bar on the 101st floor which also comes with jaw-dropping views!
As with many top things to do in NYC, get your skip-the-line ticket in advance to maximize the time you spend visiting.
9. Shop at The Oculus.
You can’t miss the white modern structure across from the 9/11 Memorial & One World Observatory. The Oculus was built as part of the 9/11 redevelopment plan. Its purpose was to replace the transit hub that existed below the Twin Towers. And the design was meant to inspire. It symbolizes a dove flying out of the hands of a child.
In addition to the many train lines that converge at the Oculus, you’ll find shops, bathrooms, and a cool photo-op spot near the entry overlooking the atrium inside. It’s also a convenient place to warm up, cool off, or escape the weather if you’re visiting the Financial District on a less-than-ideal day.
10. Stroll Fifth Avenue.
World-famous Fifth Avenue is in the heart of Manhattan. In fact, it’s the dividing line between the east and west sides of the island. People come from all over to sightsee, window-shop, and maybe even splurge at the avenue’s high-end shops.
Focus on the area from the luxury department store Bergdorf Goodman on Fifth Avenue between 57th and 58th Streets to the main New York Public Library Building on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street.
In between these 16 blocks, you’ll find places like Tiffany & Co., Louis Vitton, Cartier, Ferragamo, Saks Fifth Avenue Department Store, as well as Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and Bryant Park. As far as things to see in New York goes, Fifth Avenue has it all.
ProTip: If you were to continue further down Fifth Avenue past 42nd Street, you’ll see the Empire State Building at 34th Street and Fifth Avenue and the Flatiron Building between 22nd and 23rd Streets.
11. Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
This top New York City sight needs no introduction. MoMA is the most popular modern art museum in NYC. When planning a visit here, get a skip-the-line ticket to avoid wasting time in a long line.
Once inside, you have your pick of masterpieces by Van Gogh, Andy Warhol, Frieda Kahlo, Salvador Dali, Henri Matisse, Jackson Pollack, and more. There are also temporary exhibitions which you get access to with your ticket.
Unlike many museums in New York City, MoMA is open on Mondays and it tends to be busy. Avoid Mondays if possible. MoMA is also free on Fridays between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. Arrive early if you intend to take advantage of this because as you might imagine there are lots of people who like free.
Audio guides are included with your ticket and, if you’re visiting for the first time, begin on the 5th floor and work your way down.
ProTip: If you’re in MoMA’s neighborhood and feeling hungry, grab a pita or platter from the Halal Guys food cart at 53rd Street and 6th Avenue. It’s just down the block from MoMA and will likely have a line of people waiting for some deliciousness.
12. Visit Rockefeller Center.
This is one of the most popular places to visit in New York and even more so at Christmastime when the famed Rockefeller Center tree is sparkling over the ice rink below.
Outside of the holiday season, the plaza is buzzing with activity from the shops, restaurants, art, gardens, temporary exhibitions, and TV studios within its borders. The most visible is the popular TODAY Show which is filmed here and where the show’s summer concert series takes place.
No matter when you visit, it’s nearly obligatory to take a few photos with Rockefeller Center as the backdrop!
13. Admire the View from Top of the Rock.
Also situated in Rockefeller Center is the famed 30 Rockefeller Skyscraper. This is where the Saturday Night Live Studios and the NBC Studios are located. It’s also home to the Top of the Rock observation deck.
The indoor and open-air observation terraces at the Top of the Rock cover viewing spaces across 3 levels culminating on the 70th floor. You’ll have spectacular unobstructed views over the city in all directions.
Undoubtedly, the best time to make the ascent is at night. The NYC night skyline is breathtaking and from the Top of the Rock, you can get front-and-center views of the Empire State Building in your photos, as well as One World Observatory in the distance.
Avoid waiting in the long lines that develop, especially during peak seasons, and get your Top of the Rock tickets in advance.
14. St. Patrick’s Cathedral
This Gothic Revival Cathedral on Fifth Avenue welcomes thousands of visitors each day. It opened in 1879 after taking 21 years to build and still is the largest cathedral of its kind in the United States.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral stands next to Saks Fifth Avenue Department Store and across from Rockefeller Center so it’s easy to stop in to admire the architecture and the stained glass. In addition to being one of the things to see in NYC, the Cathedral still holds Masses throughout the week. Check the website for exact times depending on when you visit.
15. Bryant Park
Bryant Park is located behind the main New York Public Library building, along 42nd Street between 5th and 6th Avenues. This public park space in the heart of midtown Manhattan is a bustling hive of activity all year long.
In the winter, it’s where you’ll find the most popular New York City Christmas Market and an ice rink. Outside of this time, the park’s green space becomes a spot to picnic, watch movies (in summer), take part in dance parties, stroll, dine, watch a chess match, play ping pong, read, and people-watch. It’s truly beloved by local New Yorkers and visitors, alike.
In between NYC sightseeing spots from Fifth Avenue to Times Square, Bryant Park is the perfect place to pause and enjoy the urban park vibe.
ProTip: Bryant Park also has some of the best public restrooms in the entire city. They are staff-attended, well-kept, and centrally located.
16. Eat Wafels & Dinges.
It’s no exaggeration to say this will probably be the best waffle you’ll ever eat. Imagine a Belgian waffle encased in a sweet glaze-y crunchiness and topped with heavenly sweet toppings from Nutella to ice cream to whipped cream. (In fact, I’ll BRB!)
There are several locations around the city but if you’re in Bryant Park, there’s a Wafels & Dinges kiosk on the corner of 42nd Street and 6th Avenue. Don’t pass by without trying one! You can build your own with the toppings of your choice or go with one of their “legendary” options.
17. See a Broadway Show.
New York City is known for its world-class theater! Seeing a musical or a play on Broadway is a rite of passage and absolutely one of the best things to do in NYC.
New York Citys Theater District stems in and around the Times Square area. If you’re walking along Broadway in the W.40s and W.50s, look left or right down any of the streets. You’ll almost always see the bright lights of a Broadway marquis or two shimmering with the name of the show playing at that theater.
You can get discounted tickets at the TKTS booth on 47th Street in Times Square for both Broadway and Off-Broadway shows or you can book your tickets in advance. If there is a particular show you’d like to see, be sure to book those tickets online before your NYC trip. The selection at TKTS changes daily so there is no guarantee that the show you want to see is listed.
Keep in mind, the line at the TKTS booth can get quite long.
If you’re flexible about what show you see, you could wait until about 30-60 minutes before show time to buy tickets for a show with tickets available. You could also visit the TKTS location near Lincoln Center on 62nd Street just off Broadway which tends to be less crowded. Sometimes, it’s even worth a visit to the actual theater’s box office to see what their best-priced tickets are for performances that day.
ProTip: Download the TKTS app to see what shows are available that day. You’ll still need to go to one of the booth locations to buy the tickets and availability changes quickly. Mondays have the fewest shows available as it’s typically the day when most theaters are closed.
18. Marvel at Times Squares
Times Square is the absolute ground zero for New York sightseeing. If you’re visiting NYC, you have to take at least a few moments to marvel at the flashing bright lights of Times Square with its pedestrians, traffic, and street performers crisscrossing in seemingly every direction.
The best vantage point is from the top of the red stairs just behind the TKTS booth at 47th Street and Broadway. From here, you get a birds-eye view of the entire frenzied, flickering, nonstop scene.
If you’re in Times Square at night, check out the “Midnight Moment.” From 11:57 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. each night, all 90+ digital display boards in Times Square pause their ads and show the works of today’s brightest artists. For these moments, Times Square becomes the largest public art display in the world!
19. Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Met, as it’s affectionately called, is one of the most popular art museums in the world. It’s the biggest in the Americas and draws comparisons to the Louvre in Paris. So it comes as no surprise that this is among the top New York tourist attractions.
Even if you’re not a “museum person,” the Met is one of those places where you should at least spend a couple of hours. The museum contains 2 million+ works of art from paintings to sculptures to objects, furniture, and armor. These works represent over 5,000 years of history and culture from around the world
Highlights include the Temple of Dendur in the Egyptian section of the museum. It’s an actual Egyptian Temple that stood along the banks of the Nile 2000 years ago. There are self-portraits by Van Gogh and Rembrandt and an epic painting by Emanuel Leutze called “Washington Crossing the Delaware” in the museum’s American wing.
While you’re at the museum, be sure to check out the gorgeous view from the terrace! You can see Central Park and the skyscrapers that border the greenery on all sides.
Purchase tickets ahead of time online or use the automated kiosks at the museum to avoid waiting in line.
20. Hudson Yards & the Vessel
Located on Manhattan’s far west side, Hudson Yards and the Vessel are between W. 30th and W.33rd Streets in between 10th and 11th Avenues. There are over 100 shops and 20+ restaurants, including the delicious Mercado Little Spain which is a combination market and eatery. The shops skew luxury but you’ll also find favorites like H&M, Zara, Uniqlo, and Madewell.
The Vessel is a nest-like structure that climbs 16 levels with 80 different landings visitors can use to take in the Hudson River views. Unfortunately, the Vessel is temporarily closed but it’s still well worth going over to take photos of this architectural piece of art.
The #7 subway train was extended years ago to add a Hudson Yards stop after Times Square so it’s easier than ever to get to this part of the island. Not to mention, Hudson Yards has bathrooms which are not always easy to find when you’re out and about for a day of NYC sightseeing.
21. Edge Observation Deck
Atop Hudson Yards is the outdoor Edge Observation Deck. Edge is one of Manhattan’s premiere observation decks! It soars 100 stories over the city and has 360° views. There’s also a bar and a glass floor!
What truly sets it apart from other observation decks in Manhattan is its location on the far west side. You get a totally unique vantage point. Go just before sunset. The sunset to the west of the Hudson River casts gorgeous warm light over the cityscape. And, as the sky darkens, you’ll also get to see the city light up.
22. City Climb
Are you someone who loves a thrill? Then, add the City Climb Experience to your NYC itinerary!
You’ll get to channel your inner (quasi) Spiderman and climb 30 Hudson Yards, a 1,200-foot high skyscraper, using a 45° angled staircase. (Code for exceptionally steep!) And in case you’re wondering, that staircase is out in the open, high above New York City. Then, if you dare, you can lean out over the Manhattan skyline for a total adrenaline rush!
This experience also includes access to Edge at Hudson Yards. Keep in mind you need to be 13+ to take on this challenge. Climbers must also be between 4’9″ and 6’7″ and 65 lbs. to 310 lbs.
23. Walk the High Line.
This elevated urban park is one of NYC’s true gems and is rightfully included on many what to do in NYC lists. The High Line stretches from W. 34th Street and the Hudson Yards area to Gansevoort St. in the West Village along old rail tracks above the street. It’s the perfect blend of repurposing urban structures to preserve the past while transforming the space for modern use.
As you walk the High Line, enjoy the city and river views, street art, the plants and flowers growing among the former train tracks, and the modern architecture that runs along either side of the pathway. Sometimes, there are temporary art exhibitions along the way, too.
When you need a rest, stop for a snack or even a beverage at one of the food carts. You can exit or enter the High Line from 12 different access stairways. The next item on this list is one of the main reasons to temporarily pause your walk.
24. Sample Bites at Chelsea Market.
Chelsea Market is one of the best New York City attractions, especially for foodies and anyone who loves good eats! The market takes up an entire city block in a building that once was the old Nabisico factory and where the Oreo was made and invented.
Today, the market is home to popular eateries like Los Tacos No.1, Miznon, and Very Fresh Noodles. There are also bakeries, gelato, and other sweets like the halva at Seed + Mill and the Doughnuttery. You’ll also find some shops like Pearl River Market and Imports from Morocco where you can shop for goods from Asia and Morocco.
Chelsea Market gets crowded midday for lunch. Unless, you’re one of the lucky few to find a seat somewhere in the market, be prepared to grab and go or head to one of the seating areas that line the sidewalk outside. Regardless, it’s worth the hype and the crowds!
25. ARTECHOUSE NYC
Below Chelsea Market on W. 15th Street, ARTECHOUSE transforms a utilitarian space into a digital art display. The interactive and immersive displays are projected onto the walls, floors, and ceiling and show the vibrant work of different media artists. The exhibitions change, too, so it’s possible to have a different experience on a return visit.
The artwork projections run on a loop and you’re welcome to stay for as long as you want. It could be a great way to sit and just enjoy the show if you’re legs are tired from too much nyc sightseeing or you just need a break from the hustle and bustle of the city. ARTECHOUSE would also make a fun stop on a rainy day in New York.
If you want to guarantee entry at a specific time, get your ARTECHOUSE tickets in advance.
26. Little Island Park
As you walk along the High Line, you’ll likely spot Little Island Park in the Hudson River. From a distance, it might appear to be giant golf tees or a group of heels from high-heeled shoes all bunched together and at different levels.
The park is a creative outdoor space that attracts a lot of visitors. It’s open daily and, in the warmer months, offers free and low-cost performances and educational programming for kids put on by various artists.
Stroll the pathways to admire the many plants and flowers on display and to take in the Hudson River views. From the park, you can see the rounded edge of Lower Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty, and the Verazzano Bridge in the distance.
27. Manhattan Helicopter Tour
While it’s most certainly one of the priciest New York activities, a helicopter tour over the city is an unforgettable way to experience the city’s incredible beauty.
Depending on which option you choose, you’ll be in the air for anywhere between 12-30 minutes. From the sky, you’ll see NYC’s most iconic sights like Central Park, the Empire State Building, the Financial District, the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge, Ellis Island, and more. The views are absolutely breathtaking!
The tour also includes narration to give context to what you’re seeing and floor-to-ceiling windows for optimal birds-eye sightseeing!
28. Enjoy Greenwich Village.
When you arrive in historic and chic Greenwich Village, you’ll have left the steel and glass towers of midtown behind for smaller and much quieter tree-lined blocks. Greenwich Village is home to classic cafes, shops, celebrity homes, and cultural and historical landmarks. It’s the type of neighborhood meant for strolling!
You can walk past the Friends apartment building at the corner of Grove and Bedford Streets. People watch in Washington Square Park. Find the cutest cafes tucked into the cobblestone lanes weaving through the neighborhood. Go boutique shopping. Or have a fun night out singing show tunes at Marie’s Crisis!
29. Washington Square Park
If you’re only passing through Greenwich Village and want to make just a quick stop, visit Washington Square Park. The park is in the heart of NYU’s urban campus so you’re likely to notice groups of students. But in addition to that, the park is a microcosm of New York City life.
You’ll see people chatting on park benches and chess players deep in thought as they strategize over their next move. Artists, musicians, acrobats, activists…you’re likely to see a bit of everything in this historic park. There are plenty of grab-and-go eats from pizza to falafel just outside the park. Bring your snack into the park and join in the scene.
Take a moment to admire the Washington Square Arch which was built to remember the 100th anniversary of George Washington’s inauguration. And years before, when New York was just a growing colony, Washington Square Park was used as a potter’s field. This is why it’s a prominent stop on many Greenwich Village ghost tours.
30. American Museum of Natural History
NYC has no shortage of family-friendly activities when you’re planning an NYC trip with kids. But truly, this Upper West Side gem is a space for all ages to marvel at animals from prehistoric to modern times, fossils, the biodiversity of the planet, human origins, and early civilizations.
Visit the Hayden Planetarium to gaze at the stars and transport yourself through the vast universe. In addition to the planetarium, the Rose Center for Earth and Space has exhibitions that walk you through the history of the universe and help you imagine the vastness of Outer Space.
New in 2023, the museum’s newly opened Gilder Center is 230,000 square feet of space spread over 4 floors. The new science center has immersive exhibits that are all new and are designed to teach visitors about the natural world from butterflies and insects to ecosystems and DNA. It’s a new addition not to be missed!
At the time of rewriting and updating this guide (2023), it was still necessary to have a timed entry to visit the American Museum of Natural History. If you purchase your ticket in advance, you’ll still need to go to the AMNH website and select a specific time on your date.
31. Cathedral of St. John the Divine
St. John the Divine, a Romanesque and Gothic revival cathedral on the Upper West Side, sits on Amsterdam Avenue between W. 110th Street (a.k.a Cathedral Parkway) and W. 113th Street. When you see the cathedral, you’re bound to scratch your head at its unusual appearance.
Despite construction starting over 100 years ago, the cathedral remains unfinished and has a mix of styles due to changes in design, funding issues, and fire. Yet, St. John the Divine, with its gorgeous stained glass rose window, is one of the largest churches in the world.
You can visit with a timed entry ticket or join one of the public guided tours including the Vertical Tour which takes you up to the top of the cathedral. Tickets are available on the cathedral’s website.
ProTip: For 20 years, a trio of peacocks, Jim, Phil, and Harry, lived the good life wandering the 13 acres of the cathedral grounds. However, if you were hoping to see them, they are no longer there (although there is a possibility of a new trio at some point). They’ve been moved to an animal sanctuary to receive care and comfort as they live a happy retirement.
32. General Grant National Memorial
This hidden gem National Memorial is tucked in between Harlem and the Upper West Side of Manhattan at the northern edge of Riverside Park near W. 122nd Street.
The mausoleum is the final resting place of President Ulysses S. Grant and his wife, Julia. The site is managed by the National Park Service and park rangers are onsite to retell the history and stories of this President and the era in which he lived.
The Memorial is open Wednesday-Sunday from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. At the time of rewriting and updating this guide (2023), the Memorial Site was still limiting the number of people allowed inside the mausoleum at any given time. Additionally, the mausoleum and mosaic bench areas close at 4 p.m. while the other areas of the National Monument are open until 5 p.m.
And with no ticket needed to visit, it’s absolutely one of the most interesting free things to do in NYC.
ProTip: Riverside Park is beloved by NYers. Particularly beginning in the low 100s, you’ll find grand open walkways, river views, and monuments like the Firemen’s Memorial at 100th Street. You can also rent Citibikes and ride along the Hudson River Greenway to the Battery Park area in lower Manhattan.
33. Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts
Lincoln Center is home to iconic cultural institutions including the New York City Ballet, the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic, the Lincoln Center Theater, the Julliard School, and the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, among several others.
It’s situated between W. 62nd and W. 65th Streets just where Broadway and Columbus Avenue intersect. At night, the lights of the buildings illuminate around the center fountain. If you’re planning to see a show at one of the theaters or performance spaces at Lincoln Center, you’ll be taking part in a quintessential NYC performing arts outing.
If you like jazz, take a look at the Jazz at Lincoln Center performance schedule. Part of Lincoln Center, though performances take place in Columbus Circle, a show at a place like the Allen Room or Dizzy’s Club comes with fantastic Columbus Park and Central Park views.
34. Grand Central Terminal
This famous train station is both a National Historic Landmark and Beaux-Arts masterpiece, as well as a connection point for NYC’s subway and many commuter trains. It’s also got shops, a food court, the famous Oyster Bar, and even a gourmet market. It’s almost a small city unto itself!
Take a moment to look at the constellations on the domed green ceiling in the main concourse. Walk the ramps to the lower level to arrive in front of the Oyster Bar. You might notice other people talking into one of the corners just outside the Oyster Bar. Because of the acoustics in the space, you can talk into one of the corners while another person at the opposite diagonal corner can hear every word you say.
Grand Central is on 42nd Street between Park and Lexington Avenues. It’s just a quick 5-minute walk from Fifth Avenue and Bryant Park. It’s also just next to Summit One Vanderbilt with internal access between the buildings.
35. Chrysler Building
If you’re walking down 42nd Street toward Grand Central Terminal, look up! You can’t miss the iconic Art Deco Chrysler Building. It was completed at the end of May in 1930 and, for about 1 year, was the tallest building in the world until the Empire State Building was completed.
In fact, there was a race to build the tallest building among the Chrysler Building, 40 Wall Street, and the Empire State Building. 40 Wall Street was completed first and was the tallest for just a couple of months.
In secret, the former business partner of the guy at 40 Wall Street who also happened to be building the Chrysler Building, had the building’s spire made within the building. Once the building was finished and the spire added, the Chrysler Building had (temporarily) won the race to the sky.
Although there are no tours or observation decks to visit the Chrysler Building, you can go inside to admire the lobby on weekdays between 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. The best close-up sky views of the Chrysler Building are from atop Summit One Vanderbilt.
36. The FRIENDS Experience
Can’t get enough of Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Ross, Chandler, and Joey? Here’s your chance to immerse yourself in the show!
Across 2 levels, you can visit the apartments, Central Perk, recreate your own couch-moving “pivot” photo-op, and see many original props and costumes from the show. It’s a ton of fun for fans of the show, who, let’s admit it, always wanted to join the “Friends” group at Monica’s apartment!
The experience is located at the corner of E. 23rd Street and Lexington Avenue. Get your tickets in advance to select the time and date you’d like to visit. There are a limited number of people allowed in at any given time so that you can enjoy the experience and take photos without crowds of people.
37. Museum of Broadway
Finally, Broadway has a museum to celebrate its fascinating history! Opened in November 2022, the museum is broken into 3 parts to show visitors the evolution of Broadway shows over the decades, information about New York City’s theater district, and exhibits that explain the making of a Broadway show.
The museum is full of original costumes, props, and set designs. There are rooms dedicated to specific shows depending on where you are in the Broadway timeline. And the interactive displays let you have your moment in the spotlight of your favorite show. Ever wanted to be Mimi from Rent singing “Out Tonight” on the staircase? You can climb the staircase there and pose for your perfect Mimi shot!
The Museum of Broadway is located in the theater district, of course! It’s on W.45th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues. It’s open 7 days a week, from 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. The museum is one of the top things to do in NYC for theater lovers!
38. Intrepid Sea Air, & Space Museum
The Intrepid is a permanently docked American naval history museum along the Hudson River at Pier 86 (W. 46th Street) on the far west side of Midtown Manhattan. This famous aircraft carrier served in World War II, the Cold War, the Vietnam War, and helped Nasa as a recovery vessel.
Today, you’ll find military planes, a submarine, and other vessels on board, as well as a real U.S. Space Shuttle and a Concorde. There are a ton of exhibits and interactive activities for all ages to enjoy. If you have a question while you’re visiting, ask one of the retired Navy Sailors who volunteer their time.
As with nearly all top things to do in NYC, avoid the line by booking your Intrepid ticket in advance.
39. Get a Hudson River Perspective on a Circle Line Cruise.
In my opinion, everyone who visits NYC should see it at least once from the water. It’s the best vantage point to understand that Manhattan is truly an island, as well as pass under bridges and see the city from a different angle. And the view is even more stunning when you go at night and see the city skyline lit up.
Circle Line offers several sightseeing cruises. This Harbor Lights Cruise is about 2 hours long and takes you from Pier 83 (W. 43rd Street) in Midtown Manhattan south into New York Harbor, around the southern tip of the island, and then up the east side as far as the Williamsburg Bridge.
Along the way, you’ll pass by the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the Brooklyn Bridge, One World Trade Center, the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, the Intrepid, and more. There are indoor and outdoor decks, as well as a place to buy snacks and drinks.
40. Guggenheim Museum
Even before you go inside to see the exhibits, stop to admire the Guggenheim’s exterior. It was designed by master architect Frank Lloyd Wright and completed in 1959. It’s since been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The building works in tandem as a piece of art containing numerous contemporary exhibitions on display inside. The works change so check the exhibitions that are on at the time of your visit.
The Guggenheim sits along Fifth Avenue between E. 88th and E. 89th Streets and is part of New York City’s Museum Mile. Once inside, you begin at the top and experience the exhibits as the rotunda spirals lead to the works of art being shown.
The museum is just a few blocks from The Metropolitan Museum of Art and is opposite Central Park. It’s easy to combine museum visits or combine time at the Guggenheim with some exploration in this part of Central Park including the Reservoir and its popular loop path.
You can get your tickets in advance to avoid the line.
41. Visit Chinatown NYC.
A visit to Chinatown has to be one of the most fun things to do in NYC, especially if you’re a foodie! There are a seemingly endless number of places to taste dumplings, noodles, pork rolls, and the like. The key is knowing where and how to allocate you’re valuable stomach real estate. You can get all my tips in my Chinatown NYC guide!
In addition, a stroll through the neighborhood (especially along Mott Street) during the day gives a glimpse of the lively fish and produce markets lining the streets. Chinatown is also known for its shopping, particularly for knock-off designer items. You’ll find these types of goods on Canal and the side streets in between.
I prefer to spend money in local shops like Ting’s Gift Shop at the corner of Pell and Doyers Streets after indulging in some of my favorite dishes at Wo Hop.
42. Manhattan Bridge Arch & Colonnade
While you’re in Chinatown, walk a few minutes along Canal Street to the Bowery. This is also where the entrance to the Manhattan Bridge is. The arch and the colonnade of the bridge date back to 1915. Together, they create a half-circular monument with columns and sculptures and have been recognized as an NYC landmark.
Aside from viewing the arch and the colonnade from street level, you can go to The Crown, a rooftop bar (all ages welcome with someone 21+ during the day) that overlooks the city and provides a spectacular view of the bridge’s arch and colonnade.
If you have a little time, walk onto the pedestrian walkway of the Manhattan Bridge. It’s located on the right side if you’re facing the arch and colonnade. There are several great photo spots of the city and the bridge even if you walk just a bit of the pathway.
43. See Historic Little Italy.
Just next to Chinatown, you’ll find the remaining streets of NYC’s Little Italy. In fact, for a truly one-of-a-kind look at how close these neighborhoods are, stand at the corner of Canal Street and Mulberry Street. If you look one way down Mulberry Street, you’ll see the hanging lanterns of Chinatown, while the other direction has the tinsel, lights, and Italian welcome to Little Italy.
Mahattan’s Little Italy is centered on the north side of Canal Street in and around the Mulberry, Baxter, Hester, and Grand Streets. The neighborhood is lined with restaurants and shops selling Italian pastries, cheese, and fresh pasta.
It pays to do a little homework before eating in Little Italy. There are more than a few mediocre restaurants catering to tourists.
Parm has excellent eggplant and meatball heroes. Il Cortile and Umberto’s Clam House are both delicious spots to sit down and enjoy a meal. Rubirosa and Lombardi’s (a little north of Little Italy in “Nolita”) both are classic spots for pizza. And for Italian pastries, go straight to Ferrara’s Bakery, open since 1892.
44. Catacombs by Candlelight
The Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, or Old St. Patrick’s, is a Catholic church that was built in the early 1800s. It’s on Mulberry Street between Prince and Houston Streets. It was built because of the increasing number of Catholics who were immigrating to the United States, mainly from Ireland and Italy. Today the cathedral is both a New York City Landmark and on the National Register of Historic Places.
Included in the cathedral’s past is its Catacombs, which can be toured with a guide. While touring the catacombs may be one of the more unique things to do in NYC, it’s a fascinating way to learn about the cathedral and hear little-known historical tales about the neighborhood as it experienced waves of change due to immigration in the 1800s and 1900s.
The Catacombs by Candlelight tour is about 90 minutes and gives you access to non-public areas of the cathedral, including 2 enclosed cemeteries where many high-profile figures have their final resting place.
45. The Frick Collection
The Frick Collection is comprised of the paintings and decorative art pieces that once belonged to Henry Clay Frick, a wealthy businessman and art patron. The small museum is one of the most important in the entire country and is a favorite among New Yorkers and visitors alike. It’s a can’t-miss for art lovers visiting NYC.
The collection includes works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Monet, Goya, and Bellini among many others. There are also valuable pieces of 18th-century furniture, sculptures, and porcelain pieces. The museum also hosts temporary exhibitions.
Typically, the collection is housed in Frick’s former mansion on E. 70th Street at Fifth Avenue. However, for the past few years, the space has been undergoing renovations. In the interim, the Frick Collection has been moved to a temporary location called Frick Madison on Madison Avenue at E. 75th Street. There are hopeful signs the Frick Collection will re-open in its original location in 2024.
You can visit the museum’s website to purchase tickets.
46. United Nations Headquarters
We all know what the United Nations is but it may be less clear to understand what the United Nations does on a daily basis. That’s why this is one of those New York activities that is truly noteworthy.
The United Nations offers daily 1 hour tours in a variety of languages. The Standard Guided Tour takes you through the history and work of the United Nations, as you pass through the same spaces as diplomats from around the world. You’ll get to see the General Assembly Hall and the Security Council Meeting room, among other important spaces. There are also themed tours focusing on the architecture of the building, women’s rights, black history, and even a tour geared toward children.
To book the Standard Guided Tour, visit the United Nations booking page.
The United Nations Headquarters occupies several city blocks between E. 42nd and E. 48th Street on Manhattan’s far east side along the FDR Highway overlooking the East River. If you’re visiting Grand Central Terminal or near the Chrysler Building, walk east across any street from 42nd to 48th until you reach The United Nations Plaza. You can also take the M42 bus across town.
47. New York Public Library
The main branch of the New York Public Library along Fifth Avenue is a prominent midtown landmark and the 2nd biggest library in the country after the Library of Congress. The Beaux-Arts building opened in 1911 and has millions of books, manuscripts, and objects in its collection.
It’s also been the filming location for countless movies and TV shows including the library ghost scene in Ghostbusters and the place where Carrie Bradshaw gets left standing at the altar in the first Sex and the City movie.
The library is open to the public. Even before you truly admire the architecture of the building, you’ll pass the 2 lion statues, named Patience and Fortitude. Once inside, you can visit Astor Hall, the McGraw Rotunda with its painted ceiling, the Map Collection, and, of course, the stunning Rose Room and Gallery.
The best way to see the Rose Room and Gallery, in particular, is by joining one of the docent-led tours which take place Monday-Saturday. There are full building tours which last 1 hour and Rose Reading Room tours which are just 15 minutes. These tours are free and are available to a limited group of 20-25 people on a first-come-first-serve basis.
You can book online for the full tour starting on Sunday for the upcoming week. For the 15-minute tour, sign up in the McGraw Rotunda up to 30 minutes before the tour starts. For tour times, visit the NYPL’s website for the most current information.
48. South Street Seaport
South Street Seaport is one of the oldest parts of the city and has been brightly revitalized. You’ll come across historic buildings and restored ships, cobblestone streets, shops, and dining. And from the piers, you’ll have beautiful views of the harbor.
This area is on the southern end of the island, situated on the east side near the Financial District and the East River. The South Street Seaport Museum on Fulton Street highlights the area’s history. The museum also includes access to the Wavertree, a 19th-century cargo ship that is also the largest ship made of iron afloat today.
One of my favorite spots is Brown & Co. Stationers on Water Street. Printing was big business for maritime companies needing to print invoices, cargo lists, and the like. Today, the business still has its 19th-century printing presses and customers can print cards, stationery, and other novelty items.
49. Street Art in Bushwick
The Brooklyn neighborhood of Bushwick is a mecca for New York City’s street art scene. The Bushwick Collective is the organization behind the murals that cover the walls of the neighborhood’s industrial spaces.
The street art movement here has transformed the neighborhood for the better, with artists from around the world coming to share their work with the public. Murals and works of art in Bushwick are part of a “living” exhibition. Murals change regularly so on a visit today, you’ll see works that are different from a few years ago. If your timing is right, you might even see an artist in action creating a new mural!
You can take the “L” subway train to Bushwick and get off at the Jefferson Street station to wander the neighborhood. A better plan is to go on a guided walking tour. Not only will the guide know where all the best murals are, but you’ll also get background on the neighborhood and the artists who create the public art.
You can read my review of the Bushwick Street Art Walking Tour.
50. Shop and Stroll in Soho.
This iconic NYC neighborhood is known for its architecture, shopping, cobblestone streets, art galleries, and cafes. Soho is situated between 6th Avenue and Crosby Street from west to east and Houston and Canal Streets from north to south. The name itself refers to its location which is SOuth of HOuston Street.
From big-name brands to trendy boutiques and vintage shops, Soho is a shopper’s delight! Whether you’re looking for new shoes, used books, or a one-of-a-kind piece of clothing, simply wander along Broadway and streets stemming from it in a westward direction (toward the Hudson River if you’re looking at a map).
While you explore the neighborhood, it’s impossible to miss the gorgeous cast-iron buildings! The construction of this type of architecture was short-lived, mainly during the latter half of the 19th century, before giving way to the skyscraper. I highly recommend the Cast Iron Soho Walking Tour app (it’s free) to help you find Soho’s prettiest buildings and learn more about their history.
During your time in Soho, be sure to taste a cronut from the famed Dominique Ansel Bakery. You might even want to reserve a table for a classic NYC brunch at Balthazar or have some pub bites at the historic Fanelli Cafe.
51. Tenement Museum
At the start of the 20th century, New York City welcomed millions of immigrants in search of a better life. Many of them stayed in NYC, particularly in the tenement housing on the city’s lower east side.
The Tenement Museum, located in the same neighborhood where these new arrivals lived and worked, tells the stories of some of these immigrants.
The museum is unique in that a guide takes you through a specific tenement apartment and/or even through parts of the neighborhood. During the visit, you’ll get an intimate look at what life was like for that particular person or family.
The Tenement Museum has a varying schedule of tours. So, even if you visit once, you can always return for a different-themed tour and a fresh perspective. If you’re planning a visit to Ellis Island, this can be a great way to expand your understanding of these hopeful new arrivals.
52. Merchant House Museum
If you visit The Tenement Museum (and even if you didn’t), plan an hour or so at the Merchant House Museum.
Less than a mile from The Tenement Museum, this family house turned museum shows the opposite side of life in the late 18th and early 19th century in NYC. Home to a wealthy New York family, the historic house has been preserved fully intact.
The Tredwell family raised their 8 children here, with the youngest Gertrude, living in the house up until she died in 1933. At that point, the house was closed as it was (like a time capsule) until a cousin saved the house in 1936 from demolition and turned it into a museum.
Today, you’ll see the house just as the wealthy family left it, complete with many of their personal possessions. You might also catch a glimpse of Gertrude herself! The house has been nicknamed the most haunted house in NYC.
53. Essex Market
Just near the Tenement Museum between Essex and Ludlow Streets, Essex Market is an indoor market with vendors at ground level selling fruits, vegetables, meats, cheese, and other gourmet food items. There’s also a craft beer-tasting bar and shop.
Downstairs, you’ll find a food court with an eclectic mix of cuisines from Mexican, Turkish, Vietnamese, Japanese, Indian, Chinese, Moroccan, and Ukrainian.
This historic market is a great spot on the lower east side to stroll indoors and find a delicious respite from the busy NYC streets.
54. Relax at a Rooftop Bar.
There’s no denying how spectacular the New York City skyline is when seen from above. And while you can see it from numerous highrise experiences, enjoying the view from a rooftop bar is a quintessentially NYC thing to do.
As you might expect, there’s no shortage of NYC rooftop bars to choose from! The location of the rooftop bar will determine what buildings you’ll see up close. There are also rooftop bars that are more of a party scene versus others where you can lounge with a cocktail and enjoy the view. Some, like The Crown in Chinatown, even welcome children (when accompanied by an of-age adult) during the daytime.
The rooftop bar at 230 Fifth Avenue might just be the most famous rooftop in New York City. There’s no denying that its front and center views of the Empire State Building are incredible.
For a bit of a more special experience, check out the Ophelia Lounge at the top of the Beekman Tower near 1st Avenue and E.49th Street in Midtown East. The views of the East River and the 59th Street Bridge are stunning at night. And the 360° views from the wrap-around terrace let you look gaze at the full scope of Manhattan’s gorgeous skyline.
Gallow Green wins the award for the most beautiful rooftop. And if you’re up for an adventure, take the tramway to Roosevelt Island to enjoy a cocktail from the Panorama Room. You’ll be rewarded with sweeping NYC skyline views!
55. Rubin Museum of Art
This museum in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood flies under the radar compared to New York City’s more famous spots like The Met or MoMA. Yet, this gem of a museum is worth a bit of your time!
The exhibits include works from the Himalayas, India, and Central Asia. Paintings, photographs, tapestries, artifacts, and sculptures are all part of the permanent collections, with temporary exhibitions serving as a complement.
The Rubin is an extremely peaceful place, too. I particularly love the Shrine Room! For a moment, you just might forget you’re in loud and chaotic New York City! The also museum hosts events as well including mindful meditation sessions and family-themed experiences so that all ages can take advantage of the museum’s interactive experience.
You can book your tickets for The Rubin Museum in advance to enjoy this unique New York City cultural site.
56. Tour Filming Locations.
We can all name movies or TV series that took place in New York City. One of them may have even inspired you to plan a trip to NYC. As a local NYer, I can confirm that it’s a common occurrence to see film trailers around the city shooting TV episodes and movie scenes. Even still, I can’t resist stopping to see what they’re filming and perhaps even glimpse a celebrity.
While I can’t guarantee you’ll see something actually being filmed, you can take a fun tour to visit the filming locations of your favorite TV show or movie.
On Location Tours has TV and movie-themed tours, as well as show-specific tours for die-hard fans of shows like Sex and the City, Gossip Girl, or The Sopranos.
57. Union Square Greenmarket
The Greenmarket in Union Square is chock full of vendors selling local fruits, vegetables, cheeses, meats, baked goods, fish, and homemade foods from the farms closest to New York City. It’s beloved by NYers and visitors alike. You’re guaranteed to see local shoppers picking up some of their favorite foods!
Spend a little time walking through the open-air market, talking with the food sellers, sampling, and buying fresh foods. The market hosts events like cooking demonstrations and cookbook signings, too.
Union Square Greenmarket is located along the north and west sides of Union Square Park between E.14th and E.17th streets. It runs all year on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday from 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.
58. Strand Book Store
The Strand is a New York institution with a few locations around the city. However, the flagship space is near Union Square on Broadway and E.12th Street.
What’s so special about a bookstore? The original Strand is nearly 100 years old. Opening in 1927, its founder wanted it to be a place for true book lovers to browse, read, and talk about books. Today, Strand has 2.5 million used, new, and rare books for sale, which is nearly 18 miles of books! Some are for sale for as little as $1 for a total NYC steal!
Its staff are passionate bibliophiles who are experts at helping you find what you’re looking for…even if you’re not sure yourself! If you’re like me and love books, add this stop to your New York City itinerary. Perhaps you’ll discover a perfect, gently-used, dog-eared souvenir to take home with you.
59. Admire the Flatiron Building.
When you come upon the Flatiron Building, you’ll know it instantly. Its characteristic triangular shape makes it one of the most recognizable skyscrapers in the world. It actually looks like an iron you’d use on your clothes!
The building sits on a triangle-shaped block where Broadway and 5th Avenue crisscross at E.23rd Street. The building isn’t open for visits but it’s still too photogenic to miss. Stand in one of the pedestrian plazas just north of the building to get the best photos.
ProTip: If you walk to the corner of E. 26th Street and 5th Avenue, look north for a great photo-op with the Empire State Building and some New York City street art.
60. Mangia at Eataly!
Once you’ve taken in the views of the Flatiron Building, you and your appetite should head into Eataly on 5th Avenue between E. 23rd and E.24th Streets. It’s NYC’s original Eataly location with over 50,000 square feet of delicious Italian foods.
You can sit down and have pizza, wine, coffee, or gelato. There are also prepared foods available to take away. Others shop for Italian cheeses meats, products, and ingredients that may not be sold elsewhere in the U.S. (except at other Eataly locations).
Another highlight of Eataly’s combined marketplace and eatery is the rooftop restaurant, Serra. Make a reservation, though, because seats fill up quickly.
61. Search for History on Wall Street & in the Financial District.
New York City’s economic headquarters is undoubtedly Wall Street. The New York Stock Exchange is at the corner of Broad and Wall Streets and is one of the most well-known places in the city.
But in and around the Wall Street area, there are several other sights not to miss.
The famed “Fearless Girl” statue stands proudly staring at the Stock Exchange building. The popular “Charging Bull” statue is just 3 minutes south of Wall Street on Broadway.
If you’re standing on Wall Street itself, next to the New York Stock Exchange, look down. Find the wooden squares on the road. These are the former wooden posts that were used for the actual wall built by the Dutch colonists. That’s how Wall Street got its name!
62. Federal Hall
When you’re on Wall Street looking at the New York Stock Exchange, you can’t miss Federal Hall with its giant statue of George Washington overlooking the square.
The building that is Federal Hall today was built in 1842. However, at this site, also stood a building that served as the United States’ first capital, hosting the first congress and the inauguration of George Washington.
Today, Federal Hall is managed by the National Park Service and is a National Monument.
Inside, you’ll find a small museum with artifacts and information about the American Revolution and George Washington’s inauguration. Park rangers also lead guided tours. You may even run into George himself! He occasionally appears to greet visitors and talk about the Revolutionary War.
Federal Hall is without a doubt one of the most interesting free things to do in New York City!
63. Trinity Church & Cemetery
At Broadway and Rector Street in the financial district and close to Wall Street, you’ll find the Trinity Church Cemetery. It’s one of the oldest official burial sites in all of New York City. In fact, one of the graves dates back to 1681 which is 16 years before Trinity officially purchased the land to be used as a churchyard.
The cemetery also happens to be the final resting place of many influential New Yorkers. Alexander Hamilton is undoubtedly the most famous, along with his wife Eliza, sister-in-law Angelica, and son Philip. Other graves are those of American Revolutionary figures like American spy Hercules Mulligan and famous early American military officials, congressmen, and senators.
You can also visit the inside of Trinity Church. It’s actually the third Trinity Church to stand in this spot. It was built in 1846. The first was built in 1698 but was burned in the Great Fire of New York in 1776. The second was irreversibly damaged during a snowstorm in 1839.
64. Stone Street
To continue on your lower Manhattan history tour, head south on Broad Street from the New York Stock Exchange until you reach Stone Street.
Stone Street is one of the oldest streets in the city. Back when New York was New Amsterdam and controlled by the Dutch, some of the local housewives complained about the dust and debris constantly messing the front of their houses. As a result, Stone Street became the first paved road in the colony.
Today, the street is still cobblestoned but is now lined with restaurants and bars. The street is closed to car traffic which makes it a picturesque spot to sit down for a drink and some snacks.
65. Fraunces Tavern
While you’re in the Financial District near Stone Street, walk one more block to the corner of Pearl and Broad Streets.
Fraunces Tavern is a historic restaurant with a connection to George Washington and the Revolutionary War. Once the American Revolution had been won, George Washington held a private dinner here to thank his officers, talking to each one individually.
Today, Fraunces Tavern is both a restaurant and a museum. Inside, you’ll find maps and artifacts from the colonial and American Revolutionary days. The building and the immediate neighborhood are part of the National Historic Registry.
In addition to its restaurant and museum, Fraunces Tavern also has a piano bar with live performances every night except Monday.
66. Ride the Staten Island Ferry.
If you’re looking for free things to do in NYC, take the 25-minute ferry 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.
You won’t get to visit the Statue of Liberty but you’ll get a close-up view. On the return trip, the views are equally as beautiful as the boat approaches lower Manhattan.
The Staten Island Ferry departs from the Whitehall Ferry Terminal (a.k.a. South Ferry) on Manhattan’s southern tip. Depending on the time of day, ferries depart every 15-30 minutes. It is possible to take the ferry to Staten Island and hop on the next boat back for an immediate return trip.
If you decide to ride the ferry, try to do it outside of commuting hours when it’s naturally more crowded.
67. Take a Trip to Governors Island.
New York Harbor has several islands open to the public, including Governors Island. However, visitors (and even some NYers!) may not be all that familiar with this NYC hidden gem. Would you believe it’s just 5 minutes by boat from lower Manhattan!? And yet, feels as if you’re worlds away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
The island is home to 2 former military buildings, Fort Jay and Castle Williams, which are now managed by the National Park Service and also a combined National Monument. These military outposts were built after the Revolutionary War as the city and the new nation worked to improve coastal defense. During the Civil War, they served as military barracks for new soldiers and a Confederate POW prison.
Today both are open to the public to visit on weekends in the summer, with Park Rangers giving free guided tours.
The rest of the island hosts art exhibitions, free walking tours, and cultural events. Some of these exhibitions are in the former houses of the military families who used to live on the island.
There are bike paths and open outdoor spaces, as well. Bikes are available to rent on the island. Or if you prefer to simply take in the amazing Manhattan views, sit back at one of the waterside restaurants. There’s even the QC NY, a luxury spa on the island where you can indulge in all types of body treatments.
Take the ferry from the Battery Maritime Building at 10 South Street on the lower tip of Manhattan. You’ll also likely see signs pointing in the direction of the Governors Island ferry. The island is open every day year-round with ferries departing lower Manhattan at 7 a.m. and returning until 6 p.m. At the time of rewriting/updating this guide, round-trip ferry tickets are $4.
68. Morgan Library & Museum
This gem of a museum stems from the collection of rare books, historical manuscripts, drawings, and objects that once belonged to Pierpont Morgan. His son, J.P. Morgan, gifted the collection so that it could be used and admired by the public, be it for cultural enrichment or research.
Visitors today can see incredible pieces of history including an original Declaration of Independence, sheet music in Mozart’s handwriting, and an original manuscript of a Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Objects date back 4000 years and the Morgan Library also is the only place to have 3 Gutenberg Bibles, the first book printed with a printing press.
The building itself is a work of architectural art. From its rich wood interior and frescoed ceilings to the modern Renzo Piano entrance, the Morgan Library building should be equally as admired as the works in the library’s collection.
The Morgan Library is located on Madison Avenue between E. 36th and E 37th Streets and is open every day except Monday. It’s easily one of the best places to visit in New York City.
69. Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Botanical gardens are always impressive to me, given my total lack of a green thumb. But the Brooklyn Botanic Garden even more so because of its location in the heart of Brooklyn. Like many green spaces in New York City, it’s (pleasantly) surprising and also perhaps temporarily disorienting to go from a concrete jungle to a verdant oasis.
Situated on 52 acres next to Prospect Park, the botanical gardens take you along winding paths through themed gardens showcasing roses, daffodils, a Japanese-style garden, and 12,000 more plant species. There are also a variety of guided tours through the gardens that are free with your entry ticket.
Visiting the Botanic Gardens is a great way to escape the island of Manhattan (the gardens are accessible by subway) for a couple of hours and see one of the best things to do in Brooklyn.
70. Get Spooked on an NYC Ghost Tour.
New York City has been lived in by millions of people over hundreds of years. Some of these past residents have found it hard to leave. I bet you never thought of “the city that never sleeps” in this way before!
Truth be told, NYC has its fair share of haunted places and spooky tales. From private homes, hotels, taverns, restaurants, and even popular places like the Empire State Building and Washington Square Park, they’ve all had reports of ghostly sightings.
If you’re brave enough, join an NYC ghost tour to visit and hear some of the city’s most haunted places. This ghost tour takes you through neighborhoods like Chinatown and Little Italy with a focus on mafia-related ghost stories. While this ghost tour focuses on Greenwich Village, one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods.
71. Attend a Sporting Event.
New York City is home to some of the best sporting venues and world-famous teams. Depending on when you’re in town, go to a Yankees Game (or Mets…not trying to offend)! The New York City subway runs directly to both baseball stadiums.
Visiting outside of baseball season? Grab seats to a New York Knicks or Brooklyn Nets basketball game. Or watch the New York Rangers or New York Islanders battle it out on the ice.
72. Jackie Robinson Museum
Open in the Fall of 2022, the Jackie Robinson Museum honors the life and work of this remarkable American and his achievements as an athlete and a Civil Rights advocate. In fact, it’s the first museum in New York City to highlight the Civil Rights Movement.
The museum’s collection contains thousands of artifacts, some of which have come directly from Jackie Robinson’s family.
If you don’t know much about the life of Jackie Robinson, I highly recommend spending some time at this museum. He’s an incredible historical figure who, through his passion to just play baseball, has left behind countless lessons on character and equality that are impactful for people of all ages.
The Jackie Robinson Museum is located on the corner of Varick and Canal Streets in the Tribeca neighborhood. The museum is open Thursday-Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and tickets can be purchased on the museum’s website.
73. Sing at a Koreatown Karaoke Bar.
If you’re traveling with a group of family or friends, look no further than Korea Town for an unforgetable and fun night out. You can rent a private room with waiter service at one of the neighborhood’s Karaoke bars and sing your heart out just amongst your group without the pressure of an entire bar staring at you.
I’ve done this with friends and even a group of teachers who I worked with. Each time, it was a night full of laughs and good times!
Each karaoke bar will have different packages for rooms, amount of time, and optional food and drinks included. As you compare options, take a look at Gagopa Karaoke, Space Karaoke, and Spot Karaoke.
74. Eat Pizza. Lots of It.
I will be completely upfront and say I have planned entire days out in NYC that revolved around tasting different pizzas. And, I highly encourage you to eat as much pizza as your body will allow during your trip to New York. Eating pizza is absolutely one of the best things to do in New York! (For the record, the best pizza I’ve ever had in NYC is at Juliana’s in Brooklyn, just a few minutes walk from the end of the Brooklyn Bridge.)
There are pizza tours you can do like this one. You can also put together your own DIY pizza tour by looking up some of the best pizzerias around the 5 boroughs of NYC and use the subway to hop from place to place.
Here’s an NYC pizza itinerary going from Greenwich Village to Soho.
Start at Bleecker Street Pizza for a Nonna Maria slice. Turn left on Bleecker Street for a stop at John’s of Bleecker Street or Keste. Both sell full pies only so it’s best to choose one of them and not overstuff yourself yet.
Then, at the end of Bleecker, turn left onto Carmine Street and taste a classic cheese slice from Joe’s. Cross over 6th Avenue and walk up Minetta Lane. Turn left on MacDougal and sample a Sicilian slice from Ben’s Pizzeria. Then trace your footsteps back on MacDougal for an artichoke slice from Artichoke Pizza. This is a slice that’s shareable among a few people…trust me!
If you have it in you for one more slice, make the 15-minute walk to Prince Street Pizza. Go for a pepperoni square and/or a square with their vodka sauce. At this point, you’ll be in pizza coma heaven.
75. Coney Island
Coney Island, on the southern end of Brooklyn, is famous for its sandy beaches and retro amusement rides at Luna Park. And it’s all just a subway ride away from Manhattan using the D, F, N, or Q trains.
The most famous ride at Coney Island is the Cyclone at Luna Park. This wooden roller coaster has been running for nearly 100 years and is now the 2nd steepest wooden roller coaster in the world. It’s even a New York City and National Historic Landmark!
In addition to the amusement rides at Luna Park, walk the Coney Island Boardwalk and maybe even walk along the beach and dip your toes in the Atlantic Ocean. Your friends and family back home won’t believe you when you tell them you went to the beach in New York City!
76. Eat up at Smorgasburg!
Calling all foodies…and anyone who likes to eat! Smorgasburg is a sweet and savory New York experience not to be missed. It’s extremely popular and on blue-sky days, expect to see a mix of locals and NYC visitors.
This weekly open-air food market is an eclectic mix of cuisines by some of the best local food sellers in the tri-state area. Visitors can walk through the market deciding which tempting bites are simply too much to resist.
Smorgasburg has 3 locations (in 2023). On Fridays, you can find the market in the Financial District along the side of the Oculus near the 9/11 Museum. On Saturdays, head to Marsha P. Johnson State Park in Williamsburg Brooklyn. And Sundays, you’ll find Smorgasburg in Prospect Park in Brooklyn. The market starts at 11 a.m. and runs through the day.
77. The Met Cloisters
The lovely Cloisters Museum focuses on medieval art that will transport you back to the Middle Ages. Located in the far northern reaches of Manhattan on a hill in Fort Tryon Park, The Cloisters combine artifacts, gardens, architecture, and tapestries to shed light on the artistry of the dark ages.
If you’re like me, you’ll be completely swept away by the beauty of this place! It’s hard to believe you’re still technically in Manhattan. Of the 3 sections of the museum, the spectacular Unicorn Tapestries stole the show for me. Made around 1500, the panels show the pursuit to catch the mythical unicorn. It’s mind-bending to think how skilled one would need to be to create such an intricate piece of art.
When you’re done in the museum, walk the grounds outside. From this perch, you’ll have sweeping Hudson River views.
The Cloisters Museum is an extension of The Met. In fact, your ticket is good for both places as long as you visit both on the same day. The quickest way to reach The Cloisters is by subway. Take the A train uptown to 190th Street. Then, walk for about 10 minutes up Margaret Corbin Drive until you reach the museum.
78. Try a Bagel with Lox.
Bagels are as synonymous with New York City as pizza is! You can’t leave without trying at least one.
Visitors usually go for their favorite bagel type with a schmear of cream cheese. But, if you want a classic NYC bagel experience, order a bagel with cream cheese, Lox, tomato, and red onion. You won’t taste this any better, anywhere else!
Russ & Daughters is one of the most famous places to try a bagel with Lox. Their location at 179 E. Houston Street has been open for more than 100 years. They’re clearly doing something right!
I’m also a big fan of Leo’s Bagels in Hanover Square in the Financial District, as well as Absolute Bagels (cash only) on the Upper West Side between W. 107th and W. 108th Streets on Broadway. Don’t be surprised to find lines out the door at either place.
79. Belt Out Showtunes.
If you can’t get enough of Broadway, spend an evening singing your heart out at a piano cabaret bar. There are plenty to choose from it just depends on what type of experience you’re looking for.
Marie’s Crisis on Grove Street just off 7th Avenue in the West Village is an all-time favorite of mine. The pianist plays a mix of musical theater songs while either a performer or the entire bar belts it out. It’s a lot of fun and laughs and a uniquely New York City thing to do!
Others like Don’t Tell Mama in the theater district, The Duplex in the West Village, and Sid Gold’s Request Room in Chelsea are all fun nights out. Singing here is optional if you just prefer to sit back with a cocktail and let the rotating cast of performers (who often also dub as bartenders and waitstaff) perform their favorite show tunes.
80. New York Transit Museum
Have you ever wondered what the subway system in New York City looked like 100+ years ago? Head to downtown Brooklyn to see how the transit system the city can’t live without got its start.
The museum is spread over 2 floors with the lower level being an actual unused retro 1940s train station with vintage train cars that you can go inside. You can even see old signs and advertisements that were in the subway cars decades ago, which I must admit, are pretty funny to see today.
The rest of the museum has exhibits showing the history of the transit system with the information presented in a way that’s friendly for all ages. If you’re traveling to NYC with young kids, put the New York Transit Museum on your itinerary.
81. Attend a Live Music Performance.
New York City is full of amazing musicians who perform every night of the week at the city’s many music venues. No matter what you’re preferred music is, you’re guaranteed to find it playing live somewhere in NYC.
Famed music venues like Radio City Music Hall, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Madison Square Garden, and The Beacon Theater to name a few will feature headliner performers.
But there are smaller venues dotted across the city where you can enjoy everything from jazz to indie rock. Best of all, the settings are more intimate allowing you to be a part of the experience with the musician(s).
Check out who’s playing at places like The Iridium, Village Vanguard, and 54 Below during your time in NYC.
82. Laugh Hysterically at a Comedy Show.
Besides music and theater, New York is home to legendary and hole-in-the-wall comedy clubs alike. Whether it’s the Greenwich Village Comedy Club, Comedy Cellar, West Side Comedy Club, or Gotham Comedy Club, your sides will ache as you listen to the up-and-coming comedians practice their latest material.
Most of these places are small venues with a laid-back vibe. Plus, you never know when someone big like Chris Rock or Jerry Seinfeld will stop in as a surprise guest for an impromptu set.
83. Splurge on a Fine Dining Experience.
New York City has incredible restaurants in every cuisine you can imagine in every price range. But once in a while, perhaps on a trip to New York City for a special occasion, it’s fun to get dressed up and go for a gourmet meal. So why not indulge in a memorable NYC dining experience?!
Consider making reservations at Le Bernardin, Gotham, Per Se, Daniel, Gramercy Tavern, Marea, Eleven Madison Park, or Blue Hill and savor an expertly prepared meal in a luxurious and romantic setting.
Most of these restaurants refresh at least part of their menus seasonally. They also may offer set menus with a specific number of courses and/or a la carte options. So be sure to check the restaurants’ websites to make the menu suits your palate.
84. Go for a Quintessential NYC Brunch.
Weekend Brunch is a New York institution! Whether you’re in the mood for a more classic brunch menu or want an ethnic twist on the cuisine, you’re likely to find it somewhere in New York City! It’s also not uncommon for an NYC brunch to include alcoholic beverages (although they’re always optional).
If there’s a particular place you’d like to go for brunch, try making a reservation. While it’s not always necessary, it’s not surprising to arrive for brunch only to find there’s a (considerable) wait for a table.
For a few brunch ideas, take a look at Jacob’s Pickles, Good Enough to Eat, Clinton Street Baking Company, Shuka, Cafe Luxembourg, Balthazar, or Jack’s Wife Freda. And if you happen to be on the Upper West Side and prefer somewhere a little more low-key than these suggestions, try neighborhood favorite, Fred’s Restaurant.
85. Katz’s Delicatessen
Katz’s Deli has been stacking sandwiches since 1888. And when I say stack, imagine sandwiches that you can only try to get your mouth around! If it’s your first time in New York City or you’ve never been, it’s worth a stop to taste one of these epic sandwiches.
Katz’s Deli is most famous for its pastrami on rye. People line up to get one because it’s worth the hype! (The matzo ball soup is also really tasty!) The deli was also a filming location for the movie “When Harry Met Sally” and its famous I’ll have what she’s having scene.
Despite what seems like chaos when you arrive, Katz’s is one of the legendary and fun places in New York that you just have to experience!
86. Have a Drink at a Historic Pub.
New York City’s roots as a port and rapidly growing city means pubs were some of the earliest businesses established here. Merchants, sailors, locals, and famous figures are all a part of New York’s pub history.
Pete’s Tavern is one of a few bars claiming to be the oldest continuously operating bar in New York having disguised itself as a flower shop during Prohibition. It opened in 1864 and aptly has an 1864 ale that’s worth a taste!
McSorley’s dates back to 1854 and is the oldest Irish pub in the United States. Complete with sawdust on the floor and years worth of memorabilia layered on the walls, McSorley’s is a true time capsule.
The Ear Inn is also a worthy historic pub for a stop, not to mention a historic building in its own right. The Federal-designed building is one of the last standing in the city. When you’re there, imagine that this used to be where the shore of the Hudson River met the island of Manhattan before the coastline was extended with landfill.
If you prefer, join a historic pub tour to learn more about specific pubs and some history of prohibition in New York City.
87. Watch a Foreign Film.
One of the advantages of seeing a movie in New York City is the variety. From mainstream to indie to foreign films, there’s something for everyone. But going to an independent theater or arthouse is one of those cool things to do in NYC. In fact, it’s typically something unique to big cities like New York because you can find films you can’t see in most other places.
The Walter Reade Theater on the Upper West Side and the IFC Center and the Angelika Film Center, both in Greenwich Village, are great spots to find independent, foreign, and cult movies. Check the schedules and times to see what’s playing and when during your trip to New York.
88. Shop the Grand Bazaar.
This year-round market takes place every Sunday at W. 77th Street and Columbus Avenue on Manhattan’s Upper West Side from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. And, it’s the perfect spot to find that one-of-a-kind NYC souvenir to take home with you!
Each Sunday, different themed vendors come to sell their crafts and products. You can find handmade items from local artists, curated collectibles, antiques, clothes, art, furniture, and even international goods.
The Grand Bazaar supports local sellers by providing a venue and also contributes some of the proceeds to a few local public schools.
89. Party in NYC Nightlife Scene.
New York City isn’t only for sightseeing! The nightlife is also legendary.
If you’re looking for a night out in New York City, you have your pick from heart-thumping nightclubs to swanky lounges to more laid-back cocktail bars. Neighborhoods like the Meatpacking District, the East Village, Chelsea, Midtown, and Nolita offer a plethora of choices.
Admittedly, it’s been a few years since I was out clubbing, but it was always the type of night where you walk away with the type of memories you laugh about with your friends years later!
When you head out for a night of drinking and dancing, expect to pay cover charges to get in, as well as drink minimums of table charges if you have a seated area. Also, check the dress code. Some places don’t allow sneakers or other casual wear.
Tao in Chelsea is one of the most famous spots for nightlife in New York City. Lavo in Midtown East lets guests enjoy a meal first before they head upstairs for a night of house and techno music on the dancefloor.
90. Eat at a Classic New York City Diner
Looking for some comfort food in a classic New York City setting? Head to the nearest diner and choose from favorites like grilled cheese, burgers, french fries, and, of course, breakfast any time.
Many NYC diners have booth seating and a counter with stools where you can imagine a day when milkshakes were being served while the jukebox was playing. Today, though, diners are casual spots for no-frills favorites.
You’ll find diners in nearly every neighborhood around the city, some like the Waverly Diner or the Tick Tock Diner are even open 24/7 for those late nights when you need something after a night out.
Seinfeld fans may even want to make the trip up to Broadway and W. 112th Street to Tom’s Restaurant, otherwise known as the fictional setting for Monk’s Cafe in the hit sitcom. And if you’re in the theater district, the Red Flame Diner is on W. 44th Street and 6th Avenue and is open until 11 p.m. every night. A lifesaver when you want a quick post-show bite without breaking the bank!
91. City Winery
This epic restaurant, wine bar, and performance venue has everything you need within its 32,000-square-foot location for a memorable afternoon or evening in NYC.
City Winery is situated on Pier 57 along the Hudson River in New York’s Tribeca neighborhood and comes with gorgeous views and sunsets. Wine is made on-site with grapes sourced mainly from the west coast. You can do tastings and winery tours.
The patio and dining areas serve a full menu of food, and in winter there are also private heated bubbles (igloos) for visitors to keep warm while still enjoying the food.
The winery also boasts a full schedule of live music and comedy shows, of course, all enjoyed while sipping on one of the winery’s vintages.
City Winery is quite popular. So if you have a specific time of day you want to be there (i.e. sunset), make a reservation.
92. Get Tickets for a Live Show Taping.
Numerous TV shows are filmed right in the heart of Manhattan. Watching or being a part of the studio audience is one of those unique and fun things to do in New York City. The trick is getting tickets!
Luckily, there are a few where all you need to do is show up. The TODAY Show is filmed in Rockefeller Center and no tickets are needed to be part of the crowd gathered outside.
For shows like The Tonight Show, Good Morning America, and Live with Kelly and Mark, check this website to request tickets or join a waitlist for a specific date.
Saturday Night Live is also exciting to see but tickets can be somewhat difficult to get. If you do snag a few seats, you’ll likely have to arrange your trip to New York City around the date of your tickets versus the other way around.
SNL ticket requests can typically only be made in August. Audience members are selected from a lottery system. The great news is you win the lottery, your tickets are free. This SNL website details the procedure for getting SNL tickets and is updated yearly.
93. Fotografiska New York
Fotografiska is a photography museum that stems from the original museum location in Stockholm. Now there are several Fotografiska’s around the world all with the same purpose.
The museum’s exhibits highlight fantastic photographers whether they’re famous or just getting started. Through their photos, you get an intimate look at the story each photo portrays. I’ve been to the Fotografiska in New York and Stockholm and found each visit to be an experience that drew me into the scene the photographer was capturing.
Fotografiska New York is in a renovated Renaissance-Revival landmark building dating back to the late 1800s. Exhibitions rotate regularly so there are always fresh photos to see. Find the museum on Park Avenue South between E. 21st and E. 22nd Streets.
94. Discover Harlem.
Rich in culture, history, and great food, a trip up to Harlem is a great way to get out of the bright lights of midtown to experience one of NYC’s most authentic neighborhoods.
Along Frederick Douglas Blvd between W. 110th and W. 125th streets is Harlem’s own restaurant row. There’s an eclectic mix of cuisines from southern comfort dishes at Melba’s to Caribbean-inspired seafood delights at Lolo’s Seafood Shack.
The historic Apollo Theater opened in 1913, with performances continuing today. The legendary Amateur Night at the Apollo is one of the most famous weekly talent shows and the place where many artists, including Ella Fitzgerald, got their start. Check the Apollo Theater’s website for the calendar of shows and ticket information.
95. New York Botanical Garden
The New York Botanical Garden is the largest botanical garden in any city across the United States. It has 50 different garden areas, indoor exhibits and attractions, as well as special events like the annual Orchid Show and the much-loved Holiday Train Show.
One of my favorite areas at the Botanical Garden is the Thain Forest. It’s the largest piece of old-growth forest remaining in New York City. It winds past the Bronx River and into thick areas of forest which can help you imagine what the island of Manhattan looked like 400+ years ago. You might even spot a beaver, an animal that continues to make a comeback in NYC.
The New York Botanical Garden is located in the Bronx, one of the 5 boroughs of New York City. Instead of taking the subway, use the Metro-North Harlem Local line from Grand Central to the Botanical Garden Station. The ride is just 20 minutes from midtown Manhattan.
96. Take the Tram to Roosevelt Island.
If you’re on the far east side of Manhattan close to E.59th Street, you may see the Roosevelt Island Tramway overhead gliding along its cables in between Manhattan and Roosevelt Island. This intriguing island sits in the East River between Manhattan and Queens. And besides the tramway, the F train also stops on Roosevelt Island.
Blackwell Island, as it was called during the 17th and 18th centuries, has a dark past. The island once housed an active smallpox hospital, a prison, and a lunatic asylum, to name a few. Roosevelt Island’s location was a perfect place to isolate unwanted members of the population.
Today, these historic and eerie institutions have started to be restored and open for visitors to see. Roosevelt Island also has one of the city’s oldest farmhouses dating back to the late 1700s.
You can do a DIY walking tour like this one to learn more about the history of the island. Or if you prefer to go with a guide, take a look at this guided tour. It doesn’t run often but is led by expert guides. If you want your “what to see in New York list” to be filled with unusual, off-beat places, Roosevelt Island is for you.
97. Levain Bakery
In a city like New York with a seemingly endless number of things to do, is it wrong to feature a bakery and its cookies on a list of top things to do in New York? Not in the case of Levain.
Their cookies are more like colossal indulgences that come in at nearly 1/2 pound (6 oz to be exact). In fact, they’re the best “meal replacement” I’ve ever had! The cookies are baked fresh daily which certainly accounts for their perfect balance of gooey and crispy.
The chocolate chip walnut or double chocolate are my personal favorites, but you can’t go wrong no matter what you choose. Levain’s original location is on W. 74th Street between Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues. It’s a hole-in-the-wall shop that you could walk right by if it wasn’t for the to-die-for-smell coming from inside and the people waiting in line outside.
98. Gray’s Papaya Hot Dog
I bet you never expected “hot dog” to come after “papaya!”
Gray’s Papaya has become a New York City icon after 50 years of serving the finest hot dogs around paired with fruit juices like papaya or coconut.
The location on the corner of W. 72nd Street and Broadway is the original location. You can’t miss it as you exit the 1, 2, or 3 train at 72nd Street.
Top your frank with ketchup, mustard, relish, sauerkraut, onions, cheese, and/or chili. If you’re extra hungry, go for the “Recession Special” which includes 2 hot dogs and a drink for a flat rate.
99. Tour the Boroughs of NYC.
New York City is made up of 5 boroughs, Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Staten Island. Together, there is an endless number of places to discover, eateries to sample bites, and cultures to experience.
It’s normal for a trip to New York City to center around Manhattan with its Broadway Theaters, museums, and sights. But if you can spare some time, visit one or more of the other boroughs to get a fuller sense of how incredible New York City is with its diverse neighborhoods and the customs and traditions that have become part of the city’s melting pot.
If you’re up for an adventure, take the subway to a neighborhood like Greenpoint, Williamsburg, or Bushwick in Brooklyn. Or instead, head to Flushing or Astoria in Queens. These are great neighborhoods for first-time exploration beyond Manhattan and are relatively easy to get to with public transportation.
You can also join a guided bus tour which will take you to different spots around the 5 boroughs to show you the contrasts that make New York City such a fascinating city.
Either way, it’s a fun and terrific thing to do in New York City to expand your perspective on the city’s true essence.
100. Take a Sunset Yacht Cruise.
If you’d like to see New York City from the water but want to avoid a larger sightseeing or dinner cruise, this sunset yacht cruise might be the perfect choice!
The boat is a bit smaller and the ride is just an hour and a half. So, it’s a great way to see the skyline and relax after a day of sightseeing without sacrificing your evening plans.
Toast to a day of spectacular sightseeing while you pass by some of New York City’s most iconic spots aglow in the orange hue of sunset and as the lights are switched on to illuminate the night sky.
Bonus! Holiday & Seasonal Things To Do in New York City!
In addition to the countless year-round New York attractions, different times of the year come with special events and things to see. This would be an extensive list on its own so instead I’ve handpicked a few of the more popular activities should they match up with your trip to New York.
101. See the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloons Come to Life.
You’ve undoubtedly heard of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. But, what about the balloon inflation party that happens the night before?
Each year along the streets in and around the American Museum of Natural History on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, thousands of people come the evening before the parade to see the balloons take shape.
Balloon handlers inflate each tethered balloon on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving. They stay there on display until the next morning when the parade starts. Visitors can stream past and photograph each balloon.
This event has become increasingly popular. If you go, watch for signs pointing you to the entry point, typically W. 72nd Street and Central Park West. From there, you move toward the balloons.
After you see the balloons, head to a local restaurant along Columbus or Amsterdam Avenues for a fun festive meal.
102. Ice Skate in Central Park.
Ice skating at Wollman Rink in Central Park is one of the most iconic things to do in New York in December and throughout the cooler months.
While skating on the large rink, you’ll be surrounded by the park’s gorgeous scenery (and hopefully a dusting of snow, too)! Towering above the treeline are some of New York City’s most expensive high-rise apartments. It’s a beautiful setting that has been used as a backdrop for countless films and TV shows.
If you don’t have ice skates, not to worry. You can rent them there.
103. Immerse Yourself in the Christmas Spirit at Rolf’s.
Dripping in Christmas decorative decor, a visit to Rolf’s during a Christmas holiday trip is a must! This German restaurant in Gramercy Park takes holiday decorating to another dimension. There are lights, ornaments, and sparkles in every direction you look.
Of course, it’s very crowded in the Christmas season. Expect to wait in line even just to grab a drink at the bar. If you’d like a table, be sure to make a reservation well in advance.
104. Photograph the Rockefeller Center 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!
The tree is typically lit the first Wednesday after Thanksgiving. The lights stay on until early January.
105. Admire the Department Store Holiday Windows.
From Bergdorf Goodman on Fifth Avenue and 57th Street down to Macy’s in Herald Square, holiday store windows are a sight to see!
Saks Fifth Avenue is opposite Rockefeller Center and adds an evening light show to complement its store windows. Expect crowds and a lot of jostling to get the perfect viewing angle and photos.
106. Stroll the Bryant Park Winter Village.
Bryant Park is the most famous Christmas Market in New York City.
Kiosks and huts circle the ice rink (installed for the season) at the center of the park with vendors selling all types of goods from novelty gifts, clothes, food, art, jewelry, home decor, and more. Many of these vendors are local artisans who typically sell only online and/or at markets like this one.
The festive atmosphere puts everyone in the Christmas spirit! If there is one holiday market you visit during your NYC Christmas trip, it has to be the one in Bryant Park.
107. Watch the Ball Drop on New Year’s Eve.
The New Year’s celebration in Times Square is one of the most famous in the world. I did it once in my early 20s and had a great time. When the countdown begins and the ball drops, it’s an unforgettable moment to be part of a cheering crowd in Times Square with confetti and balloons falling from the buildings overhead.
That being said, it’s a commitment. For the closest/best possible spots, you’ll need to start your wait hours (and hours) beforehand. Once you’re in your place, you can’t leave because you won’t be able to come back.
What’s my advice? If you’re in NYC for New Year’s Eve and you’re on the fence about going, look at the weather. If it looks to be a decent weather night (no rain/sleet/arctic temps), then go for it. It’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime events.
108. See Shakespeare in Central Park.
Every summer, Shakespeare productions are performed at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. The featured play or plays change each summer, oftentimes with a well-known Broadway actor appearing in a title role.
Tickets are free but you need to wait in line to get them. Or you can use the TodayTix app to enter a digital lottery. People tend to line up early to be ready for the noon ticket distribution time. Each person in line is eligible to receive 2 seats.
109. Wear Spooky Halloween Costumes.
The annual Greenwich Village Halloween Parade is the place to be if you’re in the city on October 31st. Dress up in your most creative goblin and head to the village for the festivities.
The parade travels up 6th Avenue from King Street to W.15th Street. You can line up for free along the parade route (get there early) or buy tickets for access to a VIP viewing location. Better yet, if you’re wearing a costume and a related mask, you can join the parade by heading to Canal Street and 6th Avenue!
Each year, the parade has a theme that inspires many of the costumes you’ll see. I guarantee they’ll be some of the most original Halloween costumes you’ve ever seen!
110. Watch the NYC July 4th Fireworks.
New York City puts on a massive fireworks display to celebrate July 4th. If you’re in New York, don’t miss the chance to see the show as up close as possible.
The fireworks are set off from barges in the East River. 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. Access points tend to be from E.23rd, E.34th, and E.42nd Streets.
If you can’t get to the FDR, find a spot along the East Side of Manhattan where you can see the river. Better yet, if you have a friend or family member with access to a rooftop, hit them up for a favor!
111. Celebrate San Gennaro in Little Italy.
Every year, Little Italy’s streets fill with booths and festivalgoers for the Feast of San Gennaro.
For roughly a week and a half starting in the middle of September, Mulberry Street is transformed into a street party honoring San Gennaro of Naples who was a martyred Bishop from Benevento in Italy. Aside from all the delicious food, there are concerts, a cannoli-eating contest, and parades.
112. Photograph Mahattanhenge.
If you haven’t heard of it before, Manhattanhenge is when the setting sun is perfectly positioned between the east and west streets of Manhattan’s grid layout. This phenomenon usually happens around May, June, and July.
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 for a fantastic New York City photo-op!
Bottom Line: Best Things to Do in New York City
New York City is an absolute treasure trove of culture, arts, spectacular food, and one-of-a-kind sightseeing experiences! You can spend a lifetime here and still continually discover more.
For your trip to New York, decide which New York activities are at the top of your list. Then, set off on an unforgettable adventure as you enjoy all NYC has to offer!
What questions do you have about what to do in NYC?
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