There are so many 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.
Founded as New Amsterdam in 1624 by Dutch colonists who had settled along the Hudson River and called New York since 1664 when the territory was given to the Duke of York, brother of Charles II (King of England), New York 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 best things to do in New York.
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 lots of 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.
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 classic / bucket list activities; free things to do (though you will find tour recommendations in case you want a more in depth experience); things to do in New York for food lovers; and things to do at night.
Classic / bucket list 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 best 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 can get your ticket here, here or here or, for a late night visit, here.
You should also read my post Where To Get The Best Views 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 early access tour or this private tour. The first ferry departs at 8:30 am.
For the best tours of the Statue of Liberty, click here.
Make sure to read my post A Complete Guide To Visiting The Statue Of Liberty.
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. For the best tours, click here or here.
Check out my post How To Get 9/11 Museum Tickets And Skip The Lines.
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 here or here.
Alternatively, you can get Tickets for Ground Zero All-Access Guided Tour + One World Observatory.
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.
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 here or here.
Get lost in the Metropolitan Museum of Art
One of the unmissable 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, and 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. To get your tickets in advance click 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.
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 get tickets online here or here.
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.
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 in advance here.
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 here.
Go to the Tenement Museum
One of the best things to do in New York 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 much book in advance.
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.
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 at 7:00 pm. You are better off booking your tickets in advance.
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.
Tickets to the Whitney Museum of American Art can be bought in advance here.
Visit the Vessel
This really is one of the best things to do 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.
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 most budget friendly things to do in New York.
The Edge tickets much be purchased in advance. Get yours here.
For more views, go to City Climb
If you are afraid of heights or get vertigo, this is definitely not one of the things to do in New York for you. If you enjoy a bit (well, a lot) of adrenaline, definitely go for 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.
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.
Go on a street art tour in Bushwick
If you are a fan of street art, head to Bushwick to see murals, art galleries and much more. 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 or 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.
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 do that here.
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 are in the range of $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.
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 best things to do in New York with kids.
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!
Free things to do in New York
Take the Staten Island ferry
Riding the Staten Island Ferry is one of the coolest 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.
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 here.
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 visit 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 here. 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!
Go for a run
If you enjoy running, this will certainly be one of the best (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!)
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 is a good one.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Walk across Brooklyn Bridge
Brooklyn Bridge is one of the most famous landmarks of New York. 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.
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.
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.
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 Heights 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.
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 – and 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. You can book yours here.
Admire Grand Central Station
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!
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.
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.
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.
Tasty things to do in New York
Go on a food tour
One of the nicest 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 food tour.
Greenwich Village is the best area for a food tour. You can book yours here.
Have a slice of pizza
New York thin crust pizza is pretty tasty and world-renowned. For as heavy and greasy as it is, this is comfort food at its best and I recommend trying it!
There are many places in town where you can grab a slice of pizza – which you absolutely have to eat with your hands. Among the best ones there are Artichoke Basille’s Pizza and Juliana’s Pizza.
Try a bagel
You don’t know what a good bagel is until you try one in New York. Go for both a savory and a sweet bagel – the latter is usually packed with fruits and cinnamon, spread with sweet cream cheese; savory ones often come with smoked salmon and cream cheese. Ess-A-Bagel is the place to go.
Visit Chelsea Market
Chelsey Market is a cool place to visit 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.
Even more so if you are visiting during the summer, one of the things to do in New York is eating ice-cream! There are about a million places where you can get good one in town. A place I found truly decadent is Morgensterns – they have a few locations in town. I have been to the one in Rivingston St. and loved it.
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!
Comedy Cellar is one of the best places for comedy but make sure you book your tickets in advance.
Shakespeare in the Park
One of the best 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.
Attend a show at the Metropolitan Opera House
Speaking of shows, one of the best 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.
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.
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.
Get your Broadway tickets here.
Useful Information To Plan Your Trip To New York
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 pass here or here. Don’t forget you need to book each attraction separately.
Are you planning a trip to the United States? Make sure to read my other posts:
- The Perfect Itinerary To See New York In 2 Days
- A Fabulous Itinerary For 3 Days In New York
- An Easy To Follow Itinerary For 4 Days In New York
- 5 Days In New York: An Easy To Follow New York Itinerary
- A Great Itinerary For 3 Days In San Francisco
- 15 Unmissable Things To Do In California
- 10 Things To Do For A Fabulous Trip To Miami
- Seven Adrenaline Filled Things To Do In Yellowstone (With Kids!)
- 10 Not To Miss Hikes Near Denver
3 thoughts on “52 Best Things To Do In New York City”
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.
But New York under the snow is SO AMAZING!!