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15 Best Things To Do In New York City

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Things To Do In New York City

New York City is one of the top cities in the world, for both visitors and locals. There’s so much to see and do in the city that it would be impossible to do it all, even if you didn’t sleep in the “City That Never Sleeps.” From world class museums, iconic landmarks and soaring skyscrapers to eclectic neighborhoods, pretty parks and incredible dining and nightlife, New York has got it all. Which makes it tough when planning a trip.

To help you make the most of your time in the Big Apple, we’ve put together this list of the 15 best things to do in New York City, particularly if you are visiting for the first time.

1.Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

15 Best Things To Do In New York City
Ellis Island | Photo Credit – Ron Cogswell

The Statue of Island is one of the most famous landmarks in New York. This glittering beacon of hope and freedom, along with Ellis Island, is one of the best things to do in New York. The best way to experience them is to take the official Statues Cruises ferry from Battery Park to the islands.

The basic ticket gets you access to Liberty Island. To see the museum, pedestal or crown, separate tickets are required and should be booked well in advance. On Ellis Island, be sure to explore the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration.

A number of harbor sightseeing cruises allow you to view the Lady Liberty in passing, without stopping at the island. Or the Staten Island Ferry is a great free option.

2.View the Skyline From High Up

Things to do in New York city
New York City | Photo Credit – Andreas Wulff

New York is known for its skyline and impressive skyscrapers. Head to the top of one of these skyscrapers to get a birds-eye view of the city. The Empire State Building is one of the most iconic buildings in the city. In addition to stunning architecture, the art deco landmark offers observation decks on the 86th and 102nd floors. Another option is Top of the Rock, on the 67th to 70th floors of Rockefeller Center.

Or you can head to Lower Manhattan and enjoy incredible views from the 100th to 102nd stories of One World Trade Center, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. The most recent addition is the Edge Observation Deck, on the 100th floor of the 30 Hudson Yards skyscraper. Whichever building you choose, you’re bound to have an unforgettable view of the city.

3.Brooklyn Bridge

15 Best Things To Do In New York City
Brooklyn Bridge | Photo Credit – soomness

The Brooklyn Bridge is the most famous bridge in New York. Stretching across the East River, it connects Lower Manhattan to Brooklyn. And walking across the iconic bridge is one of the best things to do in New York.

The neo-Gothic suspension bridge was unveiled in 1883 and features twin arched support towers. Don’t miss the observation points under those towers, with panoramas that illustrate New York waterfront history. The bridge offers spectacular skyline views of both Manhattan and Brooklyn and the New York Harbor.

Visit just before sunset to see the vista while it is still light out, then see all the sights light up once the sun sets. Riding a bike across is another option. Guided walking and biking tours make it easy to experience.

4.9/11 Memorial

15 Best Things To Do In New York City
9/11 Memorial | Photo Credit – mgphotography.uk

Pay your respects at Ground Zero and the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. At the outdoor National September 11 Memorial, two waterfall-fed reflecting pools fill the footprints of the Twin Towers, down to the foundation level.

Spanning 1 acre each, the pools are the largest man-made waterfalls in North America. Surrounding the pools, at plaza level, are bronze panels inscribed with the names of the 2,983 people who lost their lives in the terror attacks in 2001, as well as the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

At the National September 11 Memorial Museum next door, learn more about the attacks themselves, including contributing factors and the aftermath and impacts. The museum, which incorporates remnants of the World Trade Center, showcases  artifacts, photos, archives, oral histories and multimedia displays.

5.Central Park

15 Best Things To Do In New York City
Central Park | Janne Räkköläinen

A vast urban oasis in Upper Manhattan, Central Park covers a massive 843 acres. And there is no shortage of attractions in the park. There are more than 50 miles of trails, eight lakes and ponds, 36 bridges and arches, nearly 50 famous fountains, monuments and sculptures, 21 playgrounds and much more.

Relax or enjoy a picnic on the Great Lawn. Pay your respects at the John Lennon Memorial in Strawberry Fields. Grab a bite or rent a boat at the Loeb Boathouse. Get up close to animals at the Central Park Zoo. Take a spin around the Central Park Carousel. Enjoy sweeping views from Belvedere Castle.

In the summer, enjoy music concerts at SummerStage, or free performances of Shakespeare in the Park. Or go ice skating in the winter. For a romantic experience, take a horse-drawn carriage ride through the park.

6.Times Square

15 Best Things To Do In New York City
Times Square | JJBers

Full of neon billboards and lights, and a constant buzz of activity, Times Square is one of the most famous spots in New York. Full of people most of the time, it’s a great spot to people watch. Grab a seat at the bleachers at one end and take in the lively scene.

Times Square is also home to a number of popular tourist attractions, including Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, Gulliver’s Gate, Ripley’s Believe it or Not! and Hershey’s Chocolate World. There are also lots of shopping and dining options, and the theaters of Broadway are not far away.

It’s also the location of the famous ball drop on New Years Eve. Join a guided Times Square walking tour to discover the highlights as well as hidden gems in the area.

7.High Line

15 Best Things To Do In New York City
High Line | Doug Kerr

A former railroad track that has been transformed into an elevated park, the High Line is one of the most popular public spaces in New York. It stretches for 1.45 miles from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to 34th street near Hudson Yards, along Manhattan’s West side.

The park offers lovely walkways, overlooks, benches, lounges, picnic areas, water features, plenty of trees and plants, art installations and more. A number of eateries and food vendors offer snacks and drinks. Don’t miss the incredible views of the city and the Hudson River. You can walk along the entire length or just a portion of it.

There are multiple access points along the route, including several with elevator access. For an easy way to explore while learning more about this unique park, join a guided walking tour.

8.Broadway Show

15 Best Things To Do In New York City
Majestic Theatre on Broadway | Broadway Tour

Catching a Broadway show is one of the best things to do in New York. The city is known for its theater scene and Broadway offers the best and biggest. Located in the theater district just off of Times Square, there are 41 Broadway theaters.

Watch classics such as The Phantom of the Opera, Chicago or Lion King, or more recent hits such as Hamilton, Aladdin or The Book of Mormon. Book tickets well in advance for popular shows. But if you’re not too picky, you can save a lot of money by visiting the TKTS booth in Times Square, which sells same-day show tickets at a great discount.

Even if you don’t end up watching a show, it’s worth stopping by some of the iconic theaters and checking out their storied exteriors and interiors. Guided tours of the theater district are another alternative.

9.Metropolitan Museum of Art

15 Best Things To Do In New York City
Wall Painting, Metropolitan Museum of Art | ketrin1407

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, or the Met as it is commonly referred to, is one of the best things to do in New York for art lovers. It’s the largest museum in the Western Hemisphere and houses a whopping 2 million pieces of artwork and artifacts covering more than 5,000 years of art and creativity from around the world.

See everything from an ancient Egyptian temple and Greek and Roman statues to Renaissance masterpieces and modern abstract expressionist works of art. Admission includes access to both branches of the Met: Met Fifth Avenue along Museum Row, and the Met Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park in Hudson Heights.

To save time and to get the most out of your visit, book a skip-the-line ticket and private guided tour.

10.Food Tours and Food Markets

15 Best Things To Do In New York City
Chelsea Market | rainy city

New York is one of the top foodie cities in the world. You can have just about any type of food here, and at all price points. Classic New York foods include pizza by the slice that you fold and eat with your hands, and the perfect bagel.

Grabbing a hot dog from a street vendor is a classic New York culinary experience. As is a hot pastrami sandwich from Katz’s Delicatessen. With so many options, it may be helpful to join a guided food tour. There are many tours to choose from, often focusing on a particular neighborhood or area, such as the Lower East Side, Greenwich Village, Little Italy, Chinatown, Hell’s Kitchen and Brooklyn.

Another great option to sample a variety of flavors is to visit a food market or food hall. Popular options include Smorgasburg, DeKalb Market Hall, Chelsea Market, Times Out Market and Eataly.

11.Grand Central Terminal

15 Best Things To Do In New York City
Grand Central Terminal | Sharon Mollerus

Grand Central Terminal is both the world’s largest railway station, and the busiest station in the United States. Around 700 trains (both subway and Metro-North trains), and more than 750,000 people, pass through the station on a daily basis. But it’s also a beautiful and majestic public space worth seeing.

The massive main concourse, modeled after an ancient Roman public bath, is a staggering 12 stories high and features constellations on the ceiling. Head up to the elevated passageways for the best views. Other highlights include the glittering chandeliers in the Vanderbilt Hall, the sublime acoustics of the Whispering Gallery and the iconic Information Booth Clock.

The terminal also features a wide array of shopping and dining options, including the legendary Oyster Bar, Campbell Apartment and Grand Central Market.

12.American Museum of Natural History

15 Best Things To Do In New York City
American Museum of Natural History | Mike Steele

Learn about the natural world, and see fascinating exhibits, at the American Museum of Natural History. One of the top museums in the city, it’s also one of the best things to do in New York for families. The massive museum is spread across four city blocks and features 45 exhibition halls and more than 30 million artifacts.

Highlights include the Rose Center for Earth and Space, the Dinosaur Halls, Hayden Planetarium, the Human Origins and Cultural Halls, the Hall of the Universe and the Butterfly Conservatory. Visitors with kids should head to the Discovery Room, which offers special interactive exhibits.

There are also several excellent gift shops and cafes on-site. For a custom tailored experience, book a private tour with skip-the-line tickets.


15 Best Things To Do In New York City
Williamsburg | Photo Credit – Francisco Anzola

Although Manhattan has some of the top attractions and sights in New York, there’s more to the city than just one borough. Located across the East River, Brooklyn is a great destination in its own right, with plenty of attractions and cool neighborhoods of its own.

Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, then check out the city views at Brooklyn Bridge Park. Explore the center of hipster culture in Williamsburg, or the growing street art and nightlife scene in Bushwick. Browse for treasures at Brooklyn Flea. Taste the flavors at Dekalb Market Hall, Time Out Market or Smorgasburg.

Grab a drink on a floating ship or barge. Smell the flowers in Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. Enjoy a picnic in Prospect Park. Or get cultured at the Brooklyn Museum. Join a guided tour to see the best the borough has to offer.

14.Wall Street

15 Best Things To Do In New York City
Wall Street Bull | thenails

Located in the heart of the Financial District in Lower Manhattan, Wall Street is the economic center of the United States. Stretching for eight blocks from Broadway to South Street, it’s one of the most famous streets in the world. It’s home to the New York Stock Exchange, the largest exchange in the world.

Although you can no longer tour the interior, it’s worth stopping by to look at its impressive exterior. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York next door offers free guided tours, which even includes a glimpse of the vault that stores 7,000 tons of gold.

Other things to do in New York City include the Charging Bull and Fearless Girl statues, the Federal Hall National Museum, the Museum of American Finance and Trinity Church. To learn more about the history of the area, explore Wall Street on a guided tour.

15.Coney Island

15 Best Things To Do In New York City
Coney Island | Diego Torres Silvestre

Located at the southern end of Brooklyn, historic Coney Island is one of New York’s most famous seaside resort and amusement areas. Enjoy nearly 3 miles of sandy beach. Stroll along the famous Boardwalk and enjoy a variety of entertainment.

Several small amusement parks offer more than 50 rides and attractions, including the iconic Cyclone roller coaster at Luna Park. Check out the animals at the New York Aquarium. See relics from the area’s past at the Coney Island Museum. There’s a wide range of dining options.

Highlights include Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs, Totonno’s Pizzeria Napolitano and Gargiulo. Popular events include the July 4 hot dog eating contest, the Mermaid Parade, and the Friday night fireworks over the summer.

If you plan on sightseeing in New York City, consider getting a sightseeing pass, such as the New York Sightseeing Pass, Freestyle Pass or CityPASS. They offer the bet value and include free or discounted entry into multiple attractions.

A hop-on hop-off bus tour makes it easy to get around. For a custom experience and photos of your trip, book a private tour with a photographer. And for the ultimate sightseeing experience, book a private luxury tour by limo, van or mini coach. 

And if you’re looking to explore other areas of New York State, check out our guide on the top things to do in Beacon and the 15 best things to do in the Hamptons.

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