There’s no question that New York City is one of the most exciting and diverse places on earth. From world-class museums to iconic landmarks, world-class shopping, some of the best restaurants and bars in the world, from every cuisine you can think of to entertainment and nightlife, there’s something for everyone and a neighborhood for you in the Big Apple.
1. Explore Central Park
One of the most popular tourist destinations in New York City is Central Park. This world-famous park is a great place to relax, people watch, or take a scenic walk. With over 843 acres of green space, Central Park is one of the largest parks in the world!
Some things you shouldn’t miss inside the park include Bethesda Terrace, Bow Bridge, and Belvedere Castle. Also, if you’re up for an adventure, you can even rent a rowboat to enjoy the scenery from Central Park Lake. Otherwise, you can pack a little picnic and just enjoy the park’s tranquility.
2. Visit the Top of the Empire State Building
For breathtaking views of New York City, you have to visit the top of the Empire State Building. This Art Deco masterpiece is one of the most recognizable skyscrapers in the world and towers 1,454 feet tall! Then, you can take a ride up to the 86th-floor Observation Deck for some of the best views in the city.
If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can even purchase a ticket to go to the 102nd Floor Observatory. On a clear day, you can see for miles! The Empire State Building is one of the most popular observatories in New York City, so be sure to get there early to avoid long lines.
3. Pay Your Respects at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum
One of the most moving things to do in New York City is to pay your respects at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. This somber memorial commemorates the lives lost during the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001.
The museum features artifacts, exhibits, and audio/visual presentations that tell the story of that fateful day. It’s a powerful and moving experience that everyone should see. Visiting the museum costs $26 per person. However, you can visit the memorial for free.
4. Bike Over The Brooklyn Bridge
If you’re looking for a unique way to see New York City, then you have to go for a bike ride over the 1 mile long Brooklyn Bridge. It’s also one of the oldest suspension bridges in the United States, so it’s truly an unmissable sight when visiting the city that never sleeps.
Several different bike rental companies are located near the bridge, so you can easily rent a bike for an hour or two. In addition, riding over the Brooklyn Bridge is a great way to see some of New York City’s most famous landmarks, including the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
5. Marvel at Times Square
Times Square is one of the most iconic places in New York City shown in so many TV shows and movies. This world-famous square is home to some of the biggest and brightest billboards in the world. While you’re there grab a quick Krispy Kreme donut, perhaps their exclusive Big Apple donut only sold there.
Although locals truly despise the square, it’s a great place to see at least once in your life. Don’t fall into any tourist traps. Avoid people dressed up in costumes and selling CDs or bracelets!
6. Catch a Broadway or Off Broadway Show
A trip to New York City wouldn’t be complete without seeing a Broadway show. There’s a show for everyone on the Great White Way, from musicals to comedies. Some of the most popular shows include Hamilton, The Lion King, and Wicked.
If you’re looking for something more unique or family-friendly you can also check out some of the Off-Broadway shows. These are usually more experimental and quirky but can be a lot of fun. No matter what you see make sure to buy tickets as soon as you book your hotel.
7. Enjoy a Boat Cruise Around Manhattan
One of the best ways to see the city is from the water, so it’s worth going for a boat tour, even if you have only one day in New York City.
Several different boat cruises depart from various locations around Manhattan. You can choose a cruise that suits your interests, whether it’s a skyline tour, history, or even a sunset cruise. You’ll collect great photos and memories no matter which cruise you choose. Cruises typically last for 1-2 hours and cost around $40 per person.
8. Explore the High Line
The High Line is a public park that was built on an abandoned elevated train track. It stretches for 1.45 miles and runs through the Meatpacking District, Chelsea, and Hell’s Kitchen. The park is home to plenty of greenery, art installations, and stunning views of the city. It’s the perfect place to go for a stroll or have a picnic on a nice day.
You can also visit the adjacent Whitney Museum of American Art, which is one of the best museums in New York City. If you’re a fan of contemporary art, then this is definitely the place for you.
9. Grab a Bite to Eat at Chelsea Market
If you’re looking for a foodie paradise, look no further than Chelsea Market. It’s an indoor food court near the High Line with over 35 different vendors selling everything from gourmet cheese to fresh seafood. Perfect for a too-hot summer day or rainy weather when you really need to be indoors.
There’s also a bakery, a florist, and a wine shop, so you can definitely spend a few hours here browsing and sampling all the different food. It’s the perfect place to go if you’re looking for a quick bite or if you want to stock up on groceries for your hotel room.
10. Visit Lady Liberty and Ellis Island
The Statue of Liberty is one of the most famous landmarks in New York City, and it’s worth a visit. You can take a ferry to Liberty Island from Battery Park, where you can marvel at Lady Liberty from up close and visit the small museum explaining the statue’s history.
Many people don’t know this, but actually, your ferry ticket already includes access to Ellis Island, so it’s definitely worth stopping there on your way back to Manhattan.
A museum on the island tells the story of the immigrants who passed through there when arriving in the New World in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It’s a very moving experience and definitely worth your time if you’re interested in American history.
11. Be Stunned by Aerial Views of The City
If you want to make your vacation even more memorable and see New York City from a different angle, make sure to book a helicopter tour! These tours typically last for around 30 minutes and give you stunning views of the cityscape, including the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, and the Brooklyn Bridge.
Of course, this experience doesn’t come cheap, but it’s definitely one of those bucket-list things to do in New York City if you have the budget for it. A helicopter tour typically costs around $200-300 per person, but if you want to go for a sunset ride, you can budget even more. Needless to say, it’s an unforgettable experience, so if you’re looking to splurge, you will have the time of your life.
12. Visit Brooklyn
Williamsburg is one of the trendiest neighborhoods in the city and one of the best areas to stay in New York City for a different experience than the more touristy areas of Manhattan. It’s known for its hipster vibes, vintage stores, and art galleries, and it’s one of the things to do in New York City your tween, teen, or young adult children won’t want to miss.
There are also a lot of great restaurants and cafes in Williamsburg. So if you’re looking for something different from the usual New York City fare, then this is the place to go.
Make sure to walk around and explore the neighborhood. There are some cool street art murals, and you might even stumble upon a pop-up market or concert. Williamsburg is easily accessible from Manhattan by subway, so it’s definitely worth visiting if you have the time.
13. Take a Tour of the New York Public Library
The New York Public Library is one of the most famous buildings in the city, and believe it or not, it’s entirely free to enter, making it one of the best free things to do in New York City. Known as the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, it’s the second largest library in America.
Even if you’re not a bookworm, it’s still worth a visit to see the stunning architecture and interior of the library. You can also take a free tour which lasts for about an hour. The New York Public Library is located in Midtown Manhattan, so it’s easy to combine with other nearby attractions such as Grand Central Terminal or Bryant Park and take a break from the weather.
14. Stop by Grand Central Terminal
Grand Central Terminal is one of the most iconic landmarks in New York City, and it’s worth a visit. It’s awe-inspiring to see the grandeur of the building, and it’s also a great place to people watch.
It has been made famous by movies and TV series so you’ll be in for a treat if you’re into seeing the place featured in your favorite show. But, even if you’re not into trains, it’s still worth a visit to see the beautiful architecture and maybe even grab a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants in the food court.
15. Take an NYC Food Tour
If you love food, then a food tour would be one of the must things to do in New York City. There are food tours available in Chinatown, Little Italy, Brooklyn and more. So no matter what area of the city you’re staying in, there’s sure to be a food tour that’s perfect for you.
For example, the Greenwich Village Food Tour takes you to some of the best cafes and restaurants in the area. Or, if you’re interested in trying some of the best pizza in the city, then you can take the Pizza Tour of New York.
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This article was produced by Planner at Heart.