49 Absolutely Incredible Things To Do In New York City

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There are so many amazing things to do in New York that you’re never quite done exploring.

You may not know it, but I used to live in New York City. I visited for the first time in December 2000, when I had a long layover on my way back to Sardinia, and decided that one day I’d call it home.

A few months later I moved to Manhattan, one of the city’s five boroughs together with Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island. Back then, I was working at the UN Headquarters.

Something you may not know is that the city was actually founded as New Amsterdam in 1624 by Dutch colonists who had settled along the Hudson River. It was called New York since 1664 when the territory was given to the Duke of York, brother of Charles II (King of England).

New York
Photo by Scalia Media @shutterstock

The city owes its diversity mainly (but certainly not only) to the immigrants that between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century landed on Ellis Island, eager to start a new life in the city – and to date, visiting Ellis Island remains one of the top things to do in New York city.

For all New York first timers – and also for those who will be traveling there for their second, third or millionth time – I thought I’d pick the very best things to do in New York. Here I will include some classic things to do in New York: visiting the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, Central Park and the Empire State Building are all a must if it’s your first time here.

I will also mention cultural things to do in New York such as visiting museums; and some free things to do in New York too. There will also be a few tips to help you make the most of your time in the city.

a day in New York
Incredible views of New York City

Table of Contents

The Best Things To Do In New York

The following is my selection of the best things to do in New York City. I have organized it in subheadings so you will find my selection of unmissable things to do in New York city; free things to do in New York (though you will find tour recommendations in case you want a more in depth experience); foodie things to do in New York; and cool things to do in New York at night.

Unmissable things to do in New York City

Take in the views from the Empire State Building

There’s nothing like enjoying great panoramic views of New York City – and the Empire State Building is perfect for that. Completed in 1931, this was the tallest building in the world at the time it was built and remained so until 1970, when the World Trade Center was built.

Listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, the Empire State Building isn’t just one of the best places to visit in New York for impressive views of the city: you could definitely argue that this is a historical landmark too!

There are two different observations decks at the Empire State Building – one on the 86th floor, included in all tickets; and one on the 102nd floor, for which you’ll need to pay an additional fee. I actually recommend paying the extra for the 102nd floor observation deck as it really is one of the most fun things to do in New York!

Go right at sunrise, or right before the sun sets, for an even better experience, but beware there may be lines for the tickets, as well as for the elevator to the observatory. In fact, it’s actually better to get tickets in advance.

Tickets for the Empire State Building must be bought ahead of time.

You may want to get your Empire State Building tickets on Tiqets here – it’s one of the most reliable booking engines.

GetYourGuide is another great option for tickets to the Empire State Building, or else you can also use Hello Tickets here.

You also have the option of booking tickets for a late night visit.

You should also read my post Where To Get The Best Views In New York.

statue of Liberty
Visiting the Statue of Liberty is a must when in New York

Visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

Albeit located in New Jersey state, the Statue of Liberty – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – is the symbol of the city and a universal symbol of freedom.

New York’s most famous landmark is a large copper statue that was actually designed by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi and which the United States were gifted from France in 1886.

The typical starting point to visit it is Battery Park, from where ferries leave. As the ferry gets closer, the views of the Statue and of Manhattan are impressive.

Once there, you can get to the Pedestal to visit the museum and learn about the its history, and even get to the crown. Most tours usually continue to Ellis Island before heading back to Manhattan.

This was an immigrant inspection station where a whopping 12 million immigrants traveled through between 1905 and 1954.

Tours of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island last around 4 hours. They must be booked in advance.

You can consider this Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island tour.

My personal recommendation is this private tour by Take Walks as it is one of the most thorough.

For more best tours of the Statue of Liberty, click here.

Make sure to read my post A Complete Guide To Visiting The Statue Of Liberty.

9/11 Plaza
9/11 Plaza – Photo by Jin S. Lee

Pay a visit to National 9/11 Memorial and Museum

Another must-see, 9/11 Memorial consists of twin reflecting pools that are an acre in size and that were built where the foundations of the Twin Towers once stood. There is a man made waterfall – the largest in North America and a grove of trees too.

You’ll also see bronze plaques of the names of the victims of the 1993 and 2001 attacks. 9/11 Museum will walk you through the history of the terrorist attacks.

9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero is open daily. 9/11 Museum is open Wednesday to Monday You should book your visit of 9/11 Memorial and Museum in advance.

I am a fan of this guided tour sold on GetYourGuide here but there are also more tour options on Hello Tickets.

Check out my post How To Get 9/11 Museum Tickets And Skip The Lines.

One World Trade Center Observatory
The views from One World Trade Center Observatory

Go up One World Trade Center Observatory

It took almost ten years to complete the One World Trade Center, which with its 541 meters (1775 feet) is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. It is located where the World Trade Center once stood. Its name comes from the north skyscraper of the Twin Towers.

The view from the Observatory is impressive: you can see all the way across Upper New York Bay, Staten Island and the Statue of Liberty on one side; and the Hudson River, Queens and the Brooklyn Bridge on the other side.

The One World Trade Center Observatory is open daily. To visit, make sure to book your tickets in advance so that you can skip the line at the ticket counter (there may still be a line for the elevator, but you can pay more to skip that line too.

You can get tickets tickets to the One World Trade Center on GetYourGuide here or on Hello Tickets here.

Alternatively, you can get these super convenient tickets for Ground Zero All-Access Guided Tour + One World Observatory on sale on Tiqets.

things to do in New York
The Rockefeller Center

Visit the Rockefeller Center

Located between Fifth and Sixth Avenue and famous for the Christmas tree that is lit once Christmas season begins and for the ice skating rink that goes with it, the Rockefeller Center is one of the most famous places to visit in New York.

It is made up of 19 buildings, 14 of which in Art Deco style. There is a sunken plaza in the center. All of the buildings were commissioned by the oil magnate Rockefeller family.

Make sure to admire the Atlas statue – it was first placed in 1936 and it is right in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. You may also want to check out the Radio City Music Hall, a historic theater, famous for hosting the Grammy Awards and the MTV Video Music Awards.

views from the Top of the Rock
Top of the Rock observatory

Go up the Top of the Rock

For impressive views, the Top of the Rock – the nickname of the 1930s Art Deco skyscraper located at 30 Rockefeller Plaza and part of the Rockefeller Center – is another great place to go. From there you can see Midtown and Downtown skyscrapers as well as Central Park.

Book in advance if you want to go up the Top of The Rock.

You can get tickets tickets for the Top of the Rock on GetYourGuide here or on Hello Tickets here.

New York in 2 days MET
The MET is a must see

Get lost in the Metropolitan Museum of Art

One of the amazing things to do in New York is visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET). Located on what became known as the “Museum Mile” (a section of Fifth Avenue that is packed with museums), this is the larges art museum in the country.

It is also one of the finest art galleries in the world, with works of the permanent collection that range from ancient Egyptian art to the modern era. There are frequent special exhibits too, that change on a regular basis.

The museum is so vast (there are 19 curatorial departments that host various collections) that it takes an entire day to explore, if not more.

MET is open every day but Wednesday. You can get your MET tickets here.

There is also a smaller, separate museum called Met Cloisters. You will find it in Fort Tryon Park in northern Manhattan. The exhibit here is entirely dedicated to medieval art. The building is made up of five medieval-inspired cloisters – hence the name.

Read my post The Best Museums In NYC.

4 days in New York
The Guggenheim is one of the best museums in New York

Go around in circles at Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

Also located on the Museum Mile of Fifth Avenue, the Guggenheim Museum is one of the coolest places to visit in New York. It was was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, and opened in 1959, and is now UNESCO listed too. The building is a real work of art, both on the outside and on the inside.

The permanent exhibit focuses on Impressionist, Post-Impressionist as well as modern and contemporary art. The hosted exhibits change regularly, so make sure to check what’s on when planning to visit.

The Guggenheim is every day but Tuesday. You can tickets on GetYourGuide here or on Tiqets here.

unmissable things to do in New York
Photo by travelview @shutterstock

Check out the Frick Collection

The Frick Collection first opened in 1935 is located in the Upper East Side off Manhattan, just off Fifth Avenue, in what once was the mansion of industrialist Henry Clay Frick. The building is gorgeous – it has original furnishings and a beautiful courtyard.

The collection includes a permanent exhibit of European art starting from the Renaissance period to the beginning of the 20th century, with pieces by Vermeer, Rembrandt and Renoir.

The Frick Collection is located on 1 East 70th Street, just off Fifth Avenue, but as the building is currently under renovation, you can admire the collection in the Frick Madison, in 945 Madison Avenue.

Inside the MoMa

Admire some real iconic art at MoMa

Home to some truly iconic works of modern art such as Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night, or Warhol Campbell’s Soup, as well as works by Matisse, Gauguin, Picasso, Dali and Pollock, MoMa – the Museum of Modern Art – is a great place to spend an afternoon.

MOMA is open every day – it has extended opening hours on Saturday. Get your tickets to the Moma in advance here.

Best museums in NYC
The American Museum of Natural History

Visit the American Museum of Natural History

The largest natural history museum in the world, the American Museum of Natural History is spread across 26 buildings and has 44 exhibition halls.

This is a nice museum to visit if you are traveling to New York with children (they will recognize it from Night at the Museum), as it is bound to keep them entertained with the interesting exhibit of animals such as the Alaskan brown bear, the blue whale, mammoths and tyrannosaurus rex. 

Don’t worry though, there is plenty of interesting stuff to see for adults too: fossils, human remains, and much more.

The museum is open every day. You can get tickets to the American Museum of National History here.

Tenement Museum
Photo by DW labs Incorporated @shutterstock

Go to the Tenement Museum

One of the top things to do in New York City if you care to learn more about the daily life of the working class (typically immigrants) in the late 19th and early 20th century is visiting the very interesting Tenement Museum.

You will find it in Manhattan Lower East Side, where two buildings recreate what once were the homes of the residents of the area.

Tenement Museum is located at 103 Orchard Street. You can visit on a guided tour that you must book in advance.

UN Building
The United Nations is one of the places to visit in New York

Learn about international affairs in the United Nations Headquarters

A lifetime ago I worked for the United Nations (UN) at its Headquarters building – in fact, that was the reason I moved to New York in the first place. The official UN Headquarters building since 1951, today, this remains one of the most interesting places to visit in New York.

You can visit the site strictly on a guided tour of about one hour. The tour goes to the main lobby, the General Assembly Hall, the Security Council Chamber, the Trusteeship Council Chamber, and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Chamber in the renovated Conference Building.

The tour of the UN main building shall be booked in advance on the UN website here.

Morgan Library and Museum
The gorgeous interior of Morgan Library and Museum

Visit Morgan Library and Museum

This private library is close to the Top of the Rock and totally stunning. You can spend an hour or more browsing around the beautifully decorated rooms and its collection.

Morgan Library and museum is open Wednesday to Sunday. On Friday, it closes late. You are better off booking your tickets in advance.

Meatpacking district
Views of the Meatpacking District

Visit the Museums of the Meatpacking District

The Meatpacking District is packed with interesting sights. One you shouldn’t miss is the Ground Zero Museum Workshop, where you will be able to find out more about the lives of those who helped in the rescue works in the aftermath of 9/11 attacks.

There is an interesting exhibit of photographs, audio and artifacts. 

Visits to Ground Zero Museum Workshop must be booked in advance. You can do that here.

Another interesting museum in the area is the Whitney Museum of American Art, which houses an incredible collection of works by American artists. 

You can get tickets to the Whitney Museum of American Art in advance here.

The Vessel
The Vessel is one of the most iconic buildings in New York

Visit the Vessel

This really is one of the best attractions in New York. The Vessel is located in Hudson Yard, one of the most modern neighborhood in the city, and really close to the High Line.

The Vessel is temporarily closed, but you are free to access the ground-level base, which is open to the public during the week.

The Edge
The observation deck as seen from below

Take in the views from The Edge

Also in Hudson Yard, the Edge is the highest observation deck in the Western Hemisphere. Needless to say, views from up there are nothing short of amazing. You really get to see Manhattan from here, and the glass floor makes the experience even more thrilling.

Keep in mind there are two observation decks – one is indoor and one is outdoor. It’s a bit cheaper compares to other observation decks in town, so when it comes to catching city views from above this one of the cheap things to do in New York.

You need to get Edge tickets in advance.

For more views, go to City Climb

If you are not afraid of heights or get vertigo, and you enjoy a bit (well, a lot) of adrenaline, this is definitely one of the most fun things to do in New York today. If you get vertigo, just skip it.

City Climb is one of the latest additions to the endless list of New York attractions. You will literally climb to the The Apex, the highest outdoor observation deck in the Western Hemisphere. Of course you will be wearing a harness, but alas, it’s not for the faint of heart.

SUMMIT One Vanderbilt
SUMMIT One Vanderbilt

Or to SUMMIT One Vanderbilt

SUMMIT One Vanderbilt only opened in October 2021, and it quickly became one of the most popular places to visit in New York. Spreading from the 90th to the 93rd floor of the One Vanderbilt skyscraper in Manhattan are art exhibits and installations that are fun to watch.

But the cherry on the cake is by car the stunning, 360° views of the city that you get from the observation deck. It’s definitely worth the money!

You can get your tickets to SUMMIT One Vanderbilt here. While newer compared to others, this attraction has become increasingly popular so I highly recommend you book it in advance.

street art in brooklyn
Street art in Brooklyn

Go on a street art tour in Bushwick or Williambsburg

If you are a fan of street art, head to Bushwick to see murals, art galleries and much more. Another area of New York I really love for street art is Williamsburg, also part of Brooklyn though significantly lesser known.

Once a hub of immigrants and artists, Williamsburg has slowly but surely become a popular nightlife hotspot, with lots of gourmet eats and street art, with murals covering the walls of many buildings.

The most famous one you should absolutely see is Steven’s Paul masterpiece “the Mona Lisa of Williamsburg”, located on Broadway Avenue at the corner of Bedford Avenue. If you look carefully, you will see the building where it was painted is framed between Manhattan’s One World Trade Center and Williamsburg Bridge.

But there are a lot more murals to admire in Bushwick and Williamsburg. You can in theory explore on your own, but fore a more insightful experience I recommend joining a guided tour.

I recommend joining a tour such as this graffiti and street art 2 hour walking tour which takes you to all the best pieces in the area.

Otherwise, if you want to focus just on one area, there’s this Bushwick street art walking tour.

If you have more time to explore Brooklyn, make sure to also go to Prospect Park. It’s a great place to people-watch as it is a bit more local. Not far from it you’ll also find Green-Wood Cemetery.

things to do in New York
Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem

Go to church in Harlem

One of the most fun things to do in New York is listening to a gospel choir, and there’s no better place to do that than Harlem. The music and singing are very cheerful and a lot of fun, and puts you in a really good mood.

Make sure to book your Sunday service in Harlem a bit in advance as it’s become a popular attraction. You can get tickets for the gospel choir in Harlem here.

Yankee Stadium
The legendary Yankee Stadium

Go for a baseball game at the Yankee Stadium

If you are a baseball fan, you really should pay a visit to the Yankee Stadium, best if for a game. The old stadium has been replaced in 2009 by a new one, from where you can enjoy great views of the game below. 

You can visit the stadium museum at Monument Park and then stay along for a game. 

Standard tickets for a game cost about $20 USD and can be bought directly on the Yankee Stadium website or even more easily here.

Would you rather see a football game? Get tickets to the Giants here.

More of a basketball fan? You can get tickets to the Knicks here; or to the Brooklyn Nets here.

Coney Island
Coney Island

Go to Coney Island

Once New York seascape, and for a long time mostly abandoned, Coney Island, in southern Brooklyn, has now seen a new influx of visits and the amusement park is a famous attraction.

The rollercoaster is from 1927 and one of the oldest functioning in the world! Visiting is definitely one of the top things to do in New York with kids.

shopping in New York
Photo by Ryan DeBerardinis @shutterstock


New York really is shopping paradise. One of the best places to shop in town is definitely Fifth Avenue, which actually runs from Harlem all the way to Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village.

Other shopping havens include Madison Avenue, SoHo or the Village. No matter where you go, you will be in for a real shopping extravaganza. You just need to prepare your credit card because – don’t say I didn’t warn you – New York is not cheap!

staten island ferry
The Staten Island Ferry is a good, free option for great views of the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan

Free things to do in New York

Take the Staten Island ferry

Riding the Staten Island Ferry is one of the most incredible free things to do in New York City.

This ferry leaves every 30 minutes (more often during rush hour) from the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, near Battery Park, a nice park that is also free to visit (you can explore it before or after riding the ferry) and which you’ll find on the very southern tip of Manhattan.

The ferry goes along Upper New York Bay 7 days a week, between Whitehall Street and St. George on Staten Island – a one way ride takes around 25 minutes and once in Staten Island you’ll have to disembark and wait in line again to board the ferry back to Manhattan.

The Staten Island Ferry gets more than 22 million passengers every year. The views of the Statue of Liberty and Lower Manhattan from the ferry are stunning – there is plenty of room for everyone, but for the best views you will want to seat outside.

SCAM ALERT: Beware of the Staten Island Ferry tickets scam. The ferry is free to ride so anybody trying to sell you a ticket is obviously a scam.

things to do in New York
St Patrick’s Cathedral

Visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral

The Neo-Gothic Cathedral of New York City was inaugurated in 1878. It took almost 20 years to complete since it started being built in 1858, but construction works were interrupted during the civil war.

The church is located pretty much across from the Rockefeller Center, on Fifth avenue, where it occupies an entire block.

Chances are you’ll come across it while walking along the street, so you may as well pop in for a quick visit.

For a spooky experience you may want to go on a guided tour of the Catacombs. For more information, click this tour of St Patrick’s Cathedral and Catacombs here.

Central Park
One of the best free New York attractions is Central Park

Explore Central Park

A park, but also much more than that, visiting Central Park is one of the best free things to do in New York. The park is actually huge. From Columbus Circle, its southern boundary, to the northern one, it is 4 km (almost 2.5 miles). It is 800 meters (about 2625 feet) wide. The whole surface is 315 hectares.

The best landmarks in Central Park include: Strawberry Fields, aka John Lennon’s memorial; the beautiful Bethesda fountain and terrace; Belvedere Castle; the Lake; Gapstow Bridge (one of the most iconic sights in the park), the Great Lawn and more.

If you have kids, they will love the many playgrounds in the park, and enjoy the Central Park Carousel.

There even are a couple of restaurants – one is Tavern on the Green, which is a bit of a fancier place: I ate there during my very first time in New York!

Central Park is also a very romantic place to spend some time with your loved one. And you can even do bird-watching!

The park is best explored on foot or by bike – there are many places to rent bikes in various locations outside the park, and you can even book your bike rental. If you want a guided tour, consider Central Park Tours. They are 100% responsible (no animal use), and great value for money.

FYI I do not actually recommend horse carriage rides as I always feel for those poor animals being used for human entertainment!

Central Park
Central Park is a perfect spot for a run

Go for a run

If you enjoy running, this will certainly be one of the top (and free) things to do in New York City for you – so make sure to pack your running shoes in your suitcase.

The city is home to the most famous marathon in the world – the New York City Marathon, which has been held since 1970 every November. One of my best friends ran it twice and can’t speak highly enough of the experience, however qualifying for it can be quite difficult, though you have the option of paying for a bib.

If you are keen on it, there are many other running races in the city, for which you actually have to pay though. But honestly you don’t have to run the marathon or any other race for this experience.

Simply head to Central Park (or the nearest park) and enjoy: it’s free, and a lot of fun (and quite a local thing to do in New York, too!)

Free things to do in New York
A new classic in New York – the High Line

Walk the High Line

The High Line is a railway viaduct that cuts down the west side of Midtown Manhattan, running through Chelsea. Abandoned in the 1980s, it’s been subsequently turned into an elevated park of about 2 km (1.2 miles) which was designed by Piet Oudolf, a Dutch landscape architect. The park opened in 2009.

The High Line starts near the Whitney Museum, but there is another access point by Chelsea Market. The highlight when walking the High Line is the view of the Hudson River.

Visiting is free but if you want a guided tour, this tour is a good one.

New York Public Library
The gorgeous interior of New York Public Library

Visit New York Public Library

You will recognize New York Public Library from the gorgeous facade and chances are you will have seen it in famous movies and TV series (for example, Sex and the City). It is a massive building with a vast collection of books in subjects such as social sciences and art.

Free guided tours are offered Mondays to Saturdays at 11:00 am and 2:00 pm. 

Bryant Park
Bryant Park

Then go to Bryant Park

Not far from New York City Public Library, this used to be a place for drug dealers and prostitutes but its reputation changed once it was finally renovated in the 1990s.

It is a lovely place to hang out – less touristy than Central Park. It’s not uncommon to come across groups practicing yoga or even martial arts, or people having their lunch break here during the summer months.

If you visit New York City in the summer, don’t miss the Monday movie nights!

Times Square
One of the most famous landmarks in New York – Times Square

Go to Times Square

Nothing screams New York more than Times Square. We have all seen it a million times: during new years’ eve celebrations, and day in day out on the news whenever they mention the stock exchange.

In the heart of Downtown Manhattan – close to Grand Central Terminal, Madison Square Garden, etc.; this junction is where Broadway and Seventh Avenue meet.

It’s a very crowded place, with billboards, street performers and – worth mentioning – lots of scams going on too. You may find it a bit overwhelming – bright, shiny and crowded as it is; but plan to visit both during the day and at night as the difference in the lighting will give you a totally different experience. It’s one of the unmissable New York attractions.

The Bull
The Bull – one of the symbols of Wall Street

Go to Wall Street

Another well known landmark in New York, Wall Street is the heart of the Financial District, in Lower Manhattan. You can head there once you are done visiting 9/11 Memorial and Museum – or even better, go before for a chance to see lots of businessmen and women on their way to work, all dressed up in power suits. 

Make sure to stop to admire the statue of the Charging Bull and that of the Fearless girl, and the Gothic-style Trinity Church: its cemetery is where Alexander Hamilton is buried.

The Oculus
The Oculus is one of the newest Nee York attractions

Stop by the Oculus

Built to serve the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, the Oculus is a cool shopping mall with state of the art architecture. It’s one of the nicest (and free) places to visit in Lower Manhattan.

a day in New York
A must see!

Walk across Brooklyn Bridge 

Brooklyn Bridge is one of the most famous New York attractions. The view of it, and the view from it are simply amazing.

The bridge, completed in 1883, links Lower Manhattan to Brooklyn across the East river and back when it was built it was the longest suspension bridge in the world. You can cross it as a pedestrian, for one of the best walks in the city, or on bike.

You may want to consider this 2-hour Brooklyn Bridge bike tour which is a great way of experiencing the bridge.

For the best views of Brooklyn Bridge, you may want to head to South Street Seaport, in Lower Manhattan. It’s close to the Financial District and the area is packed with nice cafés, restaurants and bars and overall a pleasant place to hang out.

a day in New York
Williamsburg Bridge in its typical pink color

And Williamsburg Bridge

Another cool bridge to walk along that connects Brooklyn to the rest of the city via the East River is Williamsburg Bridge, opened in 1903. The views from there are stunning.

In fact, while there you may also want to explore the neighborhood, which has seen a major overhaul and renovation since the 1990s, with lots of new, shiny buildings – but the vibe remains quaint, unique and so very interesting.

Today, it’s one of the city’s nightlife hubs with lots of restaurants, bars and clubs.

4 days in New York
Brooklyn Heights

Admire the views from Brooklyn Heights

Right on the other side of Manhattan from the bridge, this is the first suburb of New York City. It is a gorgeous area, with beautiful old buildings, historic churches and – from the Brooklyn Promenade – a spectacular view of Lower Manhattan, which includes New York Harbor and even the Statue of Liberty.

Guided tours of Brooklyn Bridge and Brooklyn Height such as this one also include a visit of DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Overpass), which used to be an industrial area and is nowadays a beautiful artistic district packed with shops and galleries.

Other great places from which you can admire Manhattan are Brooklyn Bridge Park and Pebble Beach.

The park, created in the 1980s once there was no longer use for the warehouses, is a very pleasant place to spend some time, with running and biking trails, and plenty of space for a picnic.

things to do in manhattan
One of the most fun neighborhoods to visit in New York

Walk around SoHo, Little Italy and Chinatown

SoHo, Little Italy and Chinatown are among the coolest neighborhoods in New York – located one next to the other. You can definitely explore on your own – walk around the cool shops, have a meal in one of the many restaurants.

My favorite is by far SoHo (named after South of Houston Street, where it is located). The entire area, with its cast-iron architecture that dates back to the mid 19th century, is incredibly quaint.

After going into much despair at the beginning of the 20th century, SoHo was revived by the influx of artists that moved there and it’s now one of the best (and most expensive) places to live in the city. It’s also a great place to go shopping!

Little Italy, on the other hand, is my least favorite – because it does not remind me of Italy at all. At its peak, at the beginning of the 20th century, around 10,000 Italians lived there. Most have moved elsewhere and took its Italian spirit with them.

Either way, you may want to take a quick wander around to discover the places of many famous movies and series such as Leon, The Godfather and the Sopranos. If you decide to eat there, beware the food is nothing like in Italy, though!

Finally, there’s Chinatown. I can’t quite comment on its spirit since I have never even been to China, but I can tell you this is home to one of the largest Chinese communities outside China, packed with Chinese restaurants and shops

Guided tours will take to all the important landmarks in these neighborhoods – ie the site of the first ever recorded murder case in New York City.

I recommend this Soho, Chinatown and Little Italy tour as it is one of the most thorough.

Grand Central New York
Grand Central Terminal – more than just a station

Admire Grand Central Station

This is one of the most unique things to do in New York City.

Built in 1913, Grand Central is not just a train station – it’s an architectural wonder of Beaux-Arts. You will surely end up there at some point when in New York, so make sure to wander around a bit and take in the incredible building, where a multitude of shops and restaurants are located.

With a whopping 44 platforms, this is the largest train station in the world – though the busiest one in New York is actually Penn Station.

The ceiling – painted with the constellations – is a must see. Make sure to also look for the whispering wall – it’s a part of the station where, if you stand in one corner, you can actually hear what the person staying in the opposite corner is whispering.

It’s located on the lower level in front of the Oysters Bar. It’s a 4 arched passage way so you can’t miss it.

As Grand Central is quite close to Madison Square Garden, you can make sure to pop in there as well when you visit!

Flatiron Building
New York’s famous Flatiron Building

And the Flatiron Building

Located on Fifth Avenue at the end of Madison Square, this interesting looking skyscraper resemble an iron. It dates back to 1902 and it’s 87 meters (285 feet) tall. It’s one of those iconic buildings you just want a photo of!

Hang out in Union Square

One of New York’s most famous gathering places, Union Square is full of life and art – with monuments, art installations, a market (on Saturdays). The area where it is located is also famous for nightlife and the incredible restaurants, and it has a more local feel than downtown.

things to do in New York
Somewhere around Greenwich Village

Discover Friends and Sex and the City filming locations

If you were as much of a fan of Friends and Sex and the City as I was (or still am), you will remember that in both series one of the main filming locations was Greenwich Village, or simply The Village.

Monica, Rachel, Chandler and Joey (in friends) and Carrie Bradshaw (in Sex and the City) all lived in this charming neighborhood, where the LGTB movement of New York started with the 1969 Stonewall riots.

Today, Greenwich Village has lost most of its bohemian character but remains a lovely part of the city to explore (and a very expensive area to live). You can easily (and freely) wander around on your own to find Washington Square Park and other landmarks.

However, if you wish to have a bit more guidance in your exploration, consider joining one of the many guided tours available. Here are some I recommend:

This 2-hour walking tour takes you to all the main landmarks in the area, and gives you a good historical overview of the neighborhood.

If you are interested in the gay-rights movement, you will enjoy this Pride walking tour that lasts just 1.5 hours.

If all you want to see is Sex and the City filming locations, you will have to join this tour.

NY style pizza
Photo by littlenySTOCK @shutterstock

Absolutely delicious things to do in New York

Try all the best New York street food

One of the most delicious things to do in New York is eating. The selection of restaurants (including Michelin-starred ones), the street food scene, the eateries available are all incredible and it would be a pity to miss out.

A cool way to enjoy the food on offer is by taking a street food tour. Foods you will likely try during the tour include pretzels, pizza, bagels and ice-cream.

I recommend this guided food tour of Greenwich Village as one of the top options.

One of the first stops during a street food tour in New York is for a slice of New York thin crust pizza. You must eat it with your hands! Even as an Italian, I must say it is pretty tasty.

There are many places in town for that and if you join a tour your guide will take you to the best, but in case you want to visit an extra place or two my top recommendations are Artichoke Basille’s Pizza and Juliana’s Pizza.

You will also try bagels. You may already know what they are, but the ones in New York are the real thing! If you have the chance, try both a savory and a sweet bagel – they are the perfect breakfast food.

Looking for a great bagel place? Ess-A-Bagel is the place to go.

foodie things to do in New York
Photo by rblfmr @shutterstock

Finally, if you are visiting in the summer, you will likely have ice-cream too. One of my favorite places for that is the truly decadent is Morgensterns – I love the one in Rivingston St.

things to do in New York
A barber shop in Chelsea Market

Visit Chelsea Market

Chelsey Market is a cool place to visit in New York if you are hungry or simply a foodie. It’s one of the access point to the High Line and close to Hudson Yard and the Edge, so it’s easy to pop in for a bite if you are in the area.

The building where the market is located occupies one entire block – so you get the idea of how big it is. It inevitably attracts lots of visitors too.

There are 35 vendors at the market, so there’s quite a good selection of food. My favorite place there is Miznon, an Israeli chain that focusses on delicious stuffed pita. 

night in new york
New York glows at night

Cool things to do in New York at night

Go for happy hour at an oyster bar

In a city as expensive as New York, you will be relieved to know that oyster bars now offer happy hour so you can get your drink of choice and snack on oysters for a real deal.

Look for the best oyster bars in the city and double check in case you need to have a reservation – nights in town can get extremely busy!

Go to a comedy show

There’s nothing better than spending an evening laughing so much until your stomach and jaw hurt and New York is the place to do it! There are plenty of places to watch comedy in New York.

If you are in Manhattan, you can go to Broadway Comedy Club or the Greenwich Village Comedy Club. There also are some places in Harlem.

Comedy Cellar is one of the best places for comedy but make sure you book your tickets in advance. 

what to do in New York
Apollo Theater in Harlem

Shakespeare in the Park

One of the coolest things to do in New York in the summer is watching a movie at the open-air Delacorte Theater in Central Park. Movies are shown Tuesdays to Sundays at 8:00 pm between May and August, and that’s been done since 1962 so that’s quite a tradition they have going! 

There are limited seats available so getting tickets is easier said than done. Tickets are distributed starting at 12:00 pm on any show day and you will have to wait in line and must be have a Public Theater Patron ID.

A person can get a maximum of two tickets so there is no such thing as sending one person to get tickets for a group of friends.

Metropolitan Opera House
Photo by 4kclips @depositphotos

Attend a show at the Metropolitan Opera House

Speaking of shows, one the most interesting things to do in New York is seeing ballet or opera at the Metropolitan House of New York, in Lincoln Center. It’s a massive modernist building with an impressive stage.

I used to live really close to it and managed to see several opera shows, including Puccini’s La Boheme, and it was outstanding.

The stage is massive, so the setup – the scenography, the costumes, etc. – is usually quite impressive too. If you have the chance of getting tickets when visiting New York, definitely opt for it!

Photo by Duha127 @shutterstock

Dance to a Broadway show

I saw a bunch of shows when I lived in the city – my favorite one was the Rocky Horror Picture show, but I also loved Cabaret (when I saw it, Brooke Shields was actually playing the lead role).

If you love musicals, get yourself a ticket for a Broadway show. There are 41 theaters, some of them with lights that are more than a century old, showing a variety of shows every night.

Depending on when you book – and if you are not picky on what you go see – you can get quite a good deal on tickets.

You can get Broadway tickets on Hello Tickets here.

brooklyn heights view
Don’t you agree that these views are splendid?

Useful Guide To Plan Your New York Trip

Where to stay in New York

A city like New York has no shortages of places to stay. However, accommodation is expensive, and location is everything.

I used to live in Manhattan (initially near Madison Square Garden, then near the Lincoln Center) and I loved it, though it could be chaotic at times. The southern bits are definitely quieter and give more of a feeling of neighborhoods where it is pleasant to walk around, and I would recommend staying there.

These are the best places to stay:

  • Archer Hotel is a great mid-range option in Manhattan. Rooms aren’t massive, but they are comfortable.
  • The Pierre, A Taj Hotel is right by Fifth Avenue. If you have the budget to splurge, you’ll enjoy the spacious rooms.
  • HI NYC Hostel is a great option for travelers on a budget.

Here’s an even more detailed list of where to stay in Manhattan for under $200 a night.

Another option could be staying in Brooklyn – after all, the public transportation system in New York works really well. These are the best places to stay in Brooklyn:

  • Wythe Hotel is located in what used to be a factory – so in a charming building. Rooms there are large with stylish decorations.
  • Pod Brooklyn offers small but incredibly well organized and comfortable pods.
  • 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge has very modern spacious rooms with unbeatable views.

Using the New York CityPass

A New York CityPass will give you discounts (you can save up to 41% in total) to a lot of attractions. Most passes also come with access to transportation.

The New York CityPass includes entrance to the Empire State Building, the American Museum of Natural History, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Top of the Rock Observation Deck or Guggenheim Museum; the Statue of Liberty or Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises, the 9/11 Memorial & Museum or Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.

You can get your New York City Pass here. Don’t forget you need to book each attraction separately.

Further Readings

Are you planning a trip to the United States? Make sure to read my other posts:

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Discover the things to do in New York - via @clautavani

3 thoughts on “49 Absolutely Incredible Things To Do In New York City”

  1. It was winter time when I went there (I stayed 2 weeks for free in Brooklyn in exchange for catsitting) so I didn’t get around much. I hate the cold! LOL Will definitely go back.

  2. Pingback: 11 Study Abroad Stories That Will Inspire You to Make Plans and Go

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