Things to do in New York City
You could visit New York 1,000 time and never repeat the same activities. That’s why it is such a great city. There is something for everyone! I have my favorite things to do in the city and I can never seem to fit them all into one trip. That’s why I still try to go back every year!
New York City can seem like a really expensive city but I believe that you can definitely enjoy the city on a reasonable budget. I am including pricey, moderate and free activities to do in the city.
Here are my top favorites!
If you plan on visiting a lot of tourist attractions, definitely consider getting a discount card. There are a few options with slightly different inclusions. Before deciding on one, pick the attractions you want to see most, price them out and then pick which pass is right for you.
The CityPass has 2 options. You can pick 6 attractions, 3 of which are predetermined. Or you can pick just 3 attractions out of 10. The last time we went, we used this pass and did the first option. It saved us a lot of money and time. There are several lines you can skip since you technically have already paid admission. I think this is true for all passes.
The Sightseeing Pass also has a few options. First, you can buy a flex pass and pay for 2-12 attractions. Or you can choose the day pass and choose 1-10 days of unlimited attractions. You pay per day. I like that either option includes the hop on, hop off bus! A really fun thing to do in any city.
The New York Pass has one option. You can pick the duration of the pass and use it for as many of the included attractions as you can fit in. Again, you can include the hop on, hop off bus with any option you pick.
The Empire State Building
This is one of the top places to visit in NYC. It has a rich history and the view from the top never disappoints. They just completed a new entrance which makes waiting in line more “fun”. If you don’t want to wait in a line at all, go right when they open. We did this and breezed right in. It was a beautiful clear day too so the views were unreal. You can also visit later, towards closing time and the lines are quite a bit shorter too. While you are there, definitely sneak a peek at the original entrance to the building. It is primarily used for employees who work in the building. You can see it as you are exiting and it is simply beautiful. Check hours and other visitor info on the Empire State Building site.
The Statue of Liberty
There are a couple of ways to see the Statue of Liberty. The first is free. You can simply take the Staten Island ferry from Battery Park. You will cruise right by it. Once you get to Staten Island, just ride the ferry back to where you started. You will get to see the statue a second time. This is a great option if you just want to snap a photo that is not close up and don’t want to spend much time.
The second option is to take the Statue Cruise to Liberty Island as well as Ellis Island. It is $18.50 per person. If you plan far enough in advance, you can buy your tickets online and add the admission into the pedestal or even the crown. I would highly recommend at least walking around Liberty Island to see the statue in person. It is truly amazing to see her up close. So many questions popped up in my head like… “how did they make her look so human?”, “how did they make metal look like fabric?” and “how on earth did they get her here and put her back together?”
If you don’t plan enough ahead of time to buy tickets online, don’t worry. Head to Battery Park and buy tickets there. Go as early as you can so that you avoid a line! There will be a lot of people trying to get you to buy a tour with them, IGNORE THEM!!! Go straight to the Castle Clinton ticket windows. The building looks like an old fort made of stone.
9/11 Memorial and Museum
This memorial is a must see. The memorial is free and is breathtaking. I would highly recommend just walking around this area. The museum has paid admission and the lines can be long because you also need to go through security. I would highly recommend buying an attraction pass mentioned above so that you skip this line.
I lived in New York City on 9/11 and experienced that tragic day first hand. It is still a really painful memory so I had no intention of ever going to the museum. My daughter really wanted to see it though so I honored her wish. I am so incredibly thankful I went. It was very healing. They are able to capture the feeling of the event and it was so special to see all that had been preserved. I was very emotional while walking through. It’s hard to describe but that day and the days that followed all came rushing back to the surface. By the time we left, I felt extreme gratitude for the first responders and for all the hard work that was put in the museum. It was an incredible experience.
I love just walking around Rockefeller Center. The ice rink is beautiful even in the summer when it is turned into outdoor seating. The shops are fun to explore and I think I get lost inside the building every time! The Today Show is filmed right there so you can hang out on the plaza to watch on weekday mornings. You can grab tickets to a talk show filming inside the NBC gift shop. Get there early in the morning to check availability. It’s free so tickets go fast. Tapings are typically in the afternoon.
Top of the Rock is one of the main attractions there. It is basically the same as the Empire State Building but not as high. I don’t think it’s necessary to do both but you can purchase tickets online if you are interested!
The Brooklyn Bridge is my all-time favorite tourist thing to do in New York City. It is usually crowded but don’t let that get to you. Start at the New York entrance and walk across into Brooklyn. Don’t be fooled, it is a long walk. If you are not very mobile, walk to the first set of arches and turn around. If you are in good health, walk across until you see stairs that lead to DUMBO. Exit through a tunnel and follow signs to the water front. The view of Manhattan from this path can’t be beat. Just walk along the water, take a break on a park bench and then head back to Manhattan via the subway or car service.
It’s kind of funny that in a big city, one of the best things to do is visit it’s parks. It really is though! My best days in NYC are spent strolling through Central Park. It is massive and nearly impossible to cover every square inch in one day.
Central Park is located almost smack dab in the middle of Manhattan. Grab a hot dog and a soda for $3 or less and just simply stroll the park. There are tons of statues and monuments. There is a castle. There are several ponds. There are restaurants. And there is even a zoo. My recommendation is to start at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and work your way across and down. It is meant to be walked but you can always take a carriage ride or pedicab for a tour. Hit Strawberry fields, Alice in Wonderland, rent a remote control sailboat and have a picnic.
Washington Square park is my next favorite. It’s located in the village. Definitely visit the famous arch and then find a park bench and people watch.
The High Line is a walking park located on an old train line. It is incredible to see all that was put into restoring this into a park above ground. It wraps around apartment buildings and offices. The view can’t be beat. It is located near Chelsea and you can enter on 23rd street.
Bryant park may be famous for Fashion Week but it is also a great place to grab a lunch to go and sit at a table in the middle of the park. It is located by the New York City Public Library. My advice is to visit the inside of the Library and head on out to the park. It is heaven!
Tompkins Square Park is another great park for people watching. It seems like there is always some kind of street performance going on there.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is the first art museum you should visit while in the city. It has so many incredible permanent collections as well as impressive exhibitions. If you want to spend limited time here, google what famous works of art reside here and head straight for them. You are bound to take a few detours and see much more along the way. I personally wanted to see VanGough’s work so that is the first place I went.
The Modern of Modern Art or MoMA is another great one. It is home to modern artists like Jackson Pollock, Ansel Adams, Andy Warhol and Monet.
The Guggenheim is a really incredible museum to visit and is located near Central Park. It was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and that alone is something to see. The exhibitions are my favorite thing to see in this museum.
Other places of Interest
Grand Central Terminal is my favorite building in New York City. I love just walking into the middle and taking it all in. It is beautiful. This is also a great place to catch a train or subway.
Times Square can be really fun but also a bit overwhelming. I love that they have built a place right in the middle to stand and take it all in. Do just that! Beware, the later at night it gets there, the more crowded and crazier it gets. On the other hand, most shops and restaurants are open until 2-3am there. If you are a night owl, this is the perfect place to be.
5th Avenue is the perfect avenue to walk down for a walking tour of New York. Start at Central Park South and walk down to Washington Square Park. The shopping is unreal. All your favorite big name store, designers, discount shops and boutiques. You can also grab some great street food along the way too!
The Oculus is the new transportations hub for the World Trade Center. It is AMAZING! I am not exaggerating. The architecture is incredible. It makes you want to spend all day in there. It’s a great place to catch a train but has so many shops too. You could truly spend hours exploring.
St. Patricks Cathedral is breathtaking. I used to work this church and I would visit often on my lunch break. It is free to walk around and I would definitely suggest taking a peek inside.
There are tons of things to see in New York City… plays, musicals, sporting events, etc. Another reason why there is never a dull moment in NYC!
The Yankees and the Mets are the baseball teams in town. Because there are two teams and they each play a ton of games, the chances of you being able to catch a ball game between April and October are pretty high. You can buy tickets directly from the ticket office either at the stadium or online. You can also check out the website or app Gametime for last minute tickets for any event! This is a great resource.
Basketball, Hockey, Tennis and Football are also great sporting events to go to. There is something for everyone! Follow the same guidelines as above for tickets and don’t worry if you decide last minute that you want to go. I have always been able to find tickets at a pretty good deal.
Broadway shows are one of the main reasons that people travel to New York City. There are so many to choose from. Check out my post on tips for visiting New York for discount tickets.
Stay tuned for my next posts where I go into depth on Shopping and Eating in NYC and what apps to take with you! As always, feel free to comment below with your own tips and suggestions. I love to hear from you!