Are you visiting the Big Apple and looking for the best things to do in New York? Find the best New York City attractions, tours, and activities using our New York City travel guide. Explore New York’s must-see museums, iconic eateries, Instagram worthy photo spots, and noteworthy points of interest in this useful list. You may also like our post on 22 Best City Breaks in the USA.
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New York is one of the best things that could ever happen to you!
We love New York and have been there several times – in several different seasons – and enjoyed it a lot!
Our latest trip was with the kids this summer and we did a lot of touristy things to keep them happy.
I have also been to the Big Apple with my friends and let me tell you – it makes a fantastic girl’s getaway.
Pro-tip to save time in NYC
Did you know that over 99% of NYC visitors go to one of the observation decks to see the city from above? That’s why, you need to buy skip the line tickets to the decks well in advance. Here’s what you need to know about the observation decks:
Empire State Building | the most popular, iconic, and romantic deck| $38 plus taxes | Purchase tickets now
Top of the Rock | great for photos of Empire State building in the skyline and views over Central Park | $36 plus taxes | Purchase tickets now
One World Observatory | newest and tallest observation deck with views of Statue of Liberty | $34 plus taxes | Purchase tickets now
The Big Apple is huge, vibrant, photogenic, and feels like it’s calling to you.
Add in the fantastic food carts, bargain shopping deals, an easy to use the transportation system, and you will feel like living here for keeps.
New York is also surprisingly safe to visit. In fact, it is one of the safest cities in the country.
New York is truly the hub of everything from fashion to finance and from literature to advertising. It is a melting pot of cultures and cuisines.
You would think that New York is big enough, however, the city keeps growing – even as we speak new skyscrapers are being constructed in Manhattan, including the famous Central Park Tower.
Unused neighborhoods in the city are being transformed into community epicenters like Highline Park.
Only in New York, can you find cheap fake Chinese knock off purses on the sidewalk and a signed used book worth thousands right next to it!
While most associate New York with Manhattan, the city is actually made of 5 boroughs or administrative sections – Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and the Bronx.
For the purpose of this article, we mostly concentrate on the top tourist attractions in Manhattan but for your subsequent visits, we would recommend venturing into the other boroughs to get an authentic taste of New York.
What to pack for New York
Aka….the section where I get to talk about purses and shoes!!!
The key to packing for New York is by season.
In summer, New York gets as hot as Houston or Florida and you need to pack shorts, tank tops, sundresses along with essentials such as a wide-brimmed hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses.
You also need to carry a bottle of water or you will spend a lot of money on sodas, smoothies, and fruit juices.
We love carrying a collapsible water bottle that we can fold while on the plane and fill up for days spent outdoors.
Some of my favorites carry on bags
You will also need a great pair of walking sandals or sneakers if you are visiting New York from spring to fall.
If you ask me, I love Blowfish Malibu and Plaka footwear brands. They both have an excellent blend of comfort and style.
For sneakers, I love Blowfish and for sandals that are waterproof but look pretty, I prefer Plaka. I also always throw in a pair of mesh walking shoes.
My favorite travel shoes from spring to summer in NYC
For the winter, you need to dress in layers. New York gets pretty cold – so always dress for comfort than style.
Whenever I’m visiting New York I usually layer by wearing thermal underwear, long sleeve shirt, sweater – if needed, and finally a packable jacket.
Wear a really warm and soft thermal underwear otherwise, you will have scratchy skin and feel uncomfortable.
Or you can simply get my favorite pair of thermal underwear here. They are quite cheap and one pair has lasted me for 3 winters and through multiple winter trips to Denver, Chicago, and the Colorado Rockies.
However, when you pack, keep an eye out on the colors in your carry-on.
The stereotype is true and I have seen New Yorkers wear mostly dark or neutral colors in winter. Think black, navy, maroon, olive, etc. Mostly fall colors.
You might get away with a bright red or something shiny in a restaurant or nightclub but outdoors you will stick out like a sore thumb if you wear tropical prints or bright colors.
That said, I often suck at fashion and wear just what I want!
Do not forget a good pair of winter walking shoes. New York is a walking city and you will be walking a lot from attraction to attraction.
Even if you plan to take cabs or the subway, you still can’t escape walking in the Big Apple.
Every time we have visited New York, we have walked upwards of 6 miles a day.
If your feet get cold, then wear a cozy fur/fleece lined walking shoe like the Skechers winter boot.
However, if you are like me and need to wear cute and trendy shoes then you can’t go wrong with these cute fur booties or this trendy ankle boot.
If you love shoes then you should check out my post on 25 Cute and Comfortable Shoes for Disney lovers.
My recommendations for Best shoes for New York in winter
Pack cold-weather accessories: scarves, gloves, woolen socks, and beanies because you are going to need them.
You also need a good backpack, sling bag, or purse to carry your belongings while in the city.
I recommend carrying lip balm, cold cream, and water with you all day.
Oh and don’t forget to bring along a good camera for all those Instagrammable spots you will see.
Where to stay in New York
Please, please don’t say you are on a budget!
It’s really hard to find cheap places to stay in New York and in my opinion this is not worth saving on – especially if you are traveling to New York in the winter.
Really. We tried it. But the time and money you will spend on getting in and out of Manhattan is a lot.
Instead, we would recommend eating cheap at the food carts and staying in the middle of it all, in Manhattan!
And by that, we don’t mean Times Square. Though it is wonderful to stay in Times Square it is also very expensive.
Here are some of our favorite places to stay in Manhattan for all kinds of travelers without breaking the bank:
Midtown is the place to stay if you want to be closer to all the attractions.
Most of the best places to visit in New York are located in this area including Times Square, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Intrepid Museum, High Line Park, Museum of Modern Art, etc.
Here you will find lots of shopping, eateries, and some of the city’s most iconic buildings including the Empire State Building and the Chrysler building.
This is honestly the best neighborhood for sightseeing, Central Park is just to the north while the Financial District is to the south.
Midtown comprises the neighborhoods of Hells Kitchen, Chelsea, and the Flatiron District and has many great places to stay for all budgets.
If you had to pick one area to stay, we would recommend near Times Square in Midtown. Here are our top recommendations for hotels in this area:
Usually under $125 per night – Holiday Inn Times Square | Hotel Mela Times Square | City Rooms NYC – Times Square | Hotel Pod Times Square | The Belvedere – Times Square | Staypineapple – Hell’s Kitchen | Distrikt Hotel – Hell’s Kitchen | The Hotel at Fifth Avenue | The Paul Hotel – Chelsea | Hotel Hayden – Chelsea | Seton Hotel – Park Avenue | Hotel 32 32 near Empire State Building
Usually $125-$200 per night – Hilton Times Square | InterContinental Times Square | Luma Times Square | Michelangelo Hotel | Omni Berkshire | Four Points Chelsea | The Redbury | The Marcel
Lower Manhattan is perfect for solo travelers, couples who want to experience NYC’s famous nightlife, or for those traveling with friends.
Lower Manhattan includes Greenwich Village where you will find jazz bars, clubs, and cafes.
The neighborhoods of Tribeca and Soho have New York’s most popular eateries and are great for foodies.
For cheap shopping, visit Chinatown. Major attractions in Lower Manhattan include the Financial District and 1 World Trade Center.
Here are our recommendations for the best places to stay in Lower Manhattan:
Usually under $100 per night – Hampton Inn Financial District | Fairfield Inn Financial District | Hotel Mimosa – Chinatown | Holiday Inn Lower East Side | City Rooms NYC – Soho | The Jane Hotel – Greenwich Village
Usually $100-$150 per night – Courtyard by Mariott – WTC area | Hilton Garden Inn Downtown | Moxy NYC Downtown | Sheraton Tribeca New York | Best Western Bowery | The Ridge Hotel | Four Points Soho
Usually $150-$220 per night – Radisson Hotel Wall Street | AC Hotel New York | The Ludlow Hotel – Lower East Side | NoMo SoHo | Hyatt Union Square | The Marlton Hotel | The Standard High Line
Usually over $220 per night – Conrad New York Downtown | Mr C Seaport | The Allen Hotel | Walker Hotel – Greenwich Village | The Mercer
Upper East Side and Upper West Side
These areas are perfect for those who prefer a quiet, luxury accommodation.
These areas of NY have expensive residences, upscale hotels, and fine dining restaurants.
They are also closer to museums and Central Park making it perfect for families and couples interested in cultural attractions.
These are also some of the safest areas of New York, though we have found most parts of the city to be safe during our visits.
For cheaper deals, consider the Upper West Side; for more luxury hotels try the Upper East Side. Here are recommendations for hotels in this area:
Usually $75-$150 per night – Riverside Tower Hotel | Belnord Hotel | Days Hotel by Wyndham | Park West Hotel
Usually $150-$200 per night – Courtyard New York | Empire Hotel | Hotel Belleclaire Central Park | Hotel Lucerne | Excelsior Hotel | La Quinta by Wyndham
Usually more than $200 per night – Loews Regency | Hotel Plaza Athenee | Trump International New York | The Marmara Manhattan | The Mark New York
Best Indoor Things to do in New York
There are lots of things to do in New York and newer attractions simply keep popping up – the Vessel in Hudson Yards is my current favorite!
Even for the existing attractions, you simply can’t gauge their scale until you actually see them.
Did you know that to completely explore the MET at a reasonable pace you will need almost 3 full days?!
Read our other New York posts here:
16 Best Things to do in New York in the fall
26 Best Things to do in New York in the winter
If you are planning a first-time visit to the city and spending a long weekend in New York, then this is all you need.
Simply pick your favorite attractions from our list and plan your itinerary to make the most of your New York trip.
In this post, we have divided the attractions into indoor and outdoor attractions. Indoor attractions include museums, cathedrals, stores, galleries, etc – basically buildings that you can visit and tour from the inside.
These attractions are our favorite to visit on bad weather days. They also involve less walking compared to outdoor attractions.
“I would give the greatest sunset in the world for one sight of New York’s skyline. Particularly when one can’t see the details. Just the shapes. The shapes and the thought that made them. The sky over New York and the will of man made visible.”
– Ayn Rand in The Fountainhead
Statue of Liberty
The Statue of Liberty National Monument is one of the most essential things to do in New York.
The Statue of Liberty is the classic American icon and a majestic symbol of the country’s freedom and diversity.
While you can see the statue for free from many places including Battery Park and aboard the Staten Island Ferry, the best way to see this iconic statue is via Statue Cruises.
The cruises take you to Liberty Island where you can see the statue up close and even climb the pedestal for an extra fee.
We boarded the ferry from Liberty State Park in New Jersey but you can also take the ferry from Battery Park in Lower Manhattan.
Purchase your tickets for the Statue of Liberty cruise now.
Seeing the Statue of Liberty from up close is an inspiring experience. The bronze Statue was gifted to the US by France.
Due to its strategic location, the Statue was the first thing that immigrants arriving via the Atlantic saw and it represented the ultimate American dream.
The monument is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
While on Liberty Island, we would recommend checking out the museum and drinking the freshly squeezed lemonade if visiting in summer.
You will also see beautiful views of NYC skyline from Liberty Island.
While the Statue is outdoors, you can visit it even on chilly days.
The cruises have indoor seating and on Liberty and Ellis Island, you can spend time indoors in the museums, visiting outdoors only to see the statue up close.
Ellis Island Immigration Center
Another free stop included in the Statue Cruises is Ellis Island Immigration Inspection Center and Museum, which is a part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument.
New York’s amazing location where the Hudson River meets the Atlantic Ocean has made it a popular landing location for many immigrants since historic times.
At Ellis Island, you can learn their stories and even find when your ancestors first came to the USA.
At the inspection center, you will learn about how immigrants arriving in the country till the 1950s were medically and mentally inspected and if necessary, quarantined or deported from Ellis Island.
The ones who made it were given a medical certificate and allowed to enter the United States.
The Ellis Island Immigration Museum traces how Immigration has changed since the years and has many interesting exhibits on the people who moved to America.
We would recommend keeping aside 2 to 3 hours including the ferry ride for Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
Staten Island Ferry
Want to see the Statue of Liberty but do not want to pay for the ferry tickets?
Take the free Staten Island Ferry! We did exactly this on our first budget trip to New York as students.
The ferry doesn’t take you to Liberty Island and you won’t see the Statue from up close – but you do get to see it from water.
You can also see amazing views of the New Skyline for free from the ferry.
The ride is about 25 minutes long and pleasant in mild weather.
In winter, we would recommend sitting inside as the wind is fierce on the deck.
The MET and Museum Mile
The stretch of Fifth Avenue between 82nd St and 105th St is known as the Museum Mile.
The Museum Mile has seven of NYC’s popular museums including the MET, the Guggenheim Museum, Museum of the City of New York, the Jewish Museum, etc.
The best of the lot is undoubtedly the MET!
The MET stands for the Metropolitan Museum of Art and is the country’s Louvre.
It is one of the best museums in the world and has a vast collection of artwork, historic antiquities, and interesting artifacts.
Among art pieces, you will find world-famous pieces including those by Vermeer, O’Keefe, Van Gogh, Monet, Rembrandt, Goya, and others.
The museum has an amazing Egyptian and Assyrian antiquities collection including statues of the sphinx, winged lion of Nimrud, and an entire Egyptian temple.
I would suggest devoting at least half a day to see the MET’s highlights. You can buy general tickets on-site but I would recommend buying the tickets in advance online to save time.
If you have time, check out the Guggenheim museum at 88th Street.
The Solomon R Guggenheim Museum is famous both for its collection and for the museum building itself.
The iconic building is designed by the American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright and since 2019 is a part of Wright’s buildings designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The building is undoubtedly a masterpiece: the circular design is striking and the interior views from the top are breathtaking.
The museum’s art collection is vast and includes paintings from Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, Modern, as well as Contemporary periods.
The museum also exhibits temporary collections and is a must-visit for art and architecture lovers.
Museum of Modern Art
Another must-visit museum, located off the Museum Mile is the Museum of Modern Art.
It has an extensive collection of modern and contemporary art and is home to many famous paintings.
If you don’t have a lot of time, I would recommend making a beeline for these 5: Van Gogh’s ‘The Starry Night’, Salvador Dali’s ‘The Persistence of Memory’, Monet’s Water Lilies, Picasso’s ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon’, and Rousseau’s ‘The Sleeping Gypsy’ – all located on the fifth floor.
Save time at the entrance by buying your tickets to MoMA now.
Also Read: 4 Days in New York itinerary as recommended by Kayla
American Museum of Natural History
The American Museum of Natural History is the largest history museum in the world.
It is not possible to see this vast museum in a few hours. We would recommend checking their exhibits online in advance and then making a beeline for the ones you are most interested in.
In case you are wondering what all can you see at the museum, here’s a small list.
The museum has extensive mammal halls that show a variety of taxidermy animals from around the world including Asia and Africa.
The museum also has birds, reptiles, amphibians, and marine life halls.
Human Culture Halls exhibit ethnic people from all over the world including Africa, Asia, and the Americas.
There are exhibits on meteorites, gems, and minerals.
The Hall of Planet Earth and Fossil Halls are a favorite with our kids.
In the earth hall, they can learn about volcanoes, earthquakes, and other forces that have shaped the earth while in the fossil halls, they can see fossils and skeletons of dinosaurs including T-Rex, Stegosaurus, Apatosaurus, and more.
The museum also includes exhibits on visual arts, space, literature, and more.
You should keep aside at least an hour or two per hall that you want to visit and preferably buy skip the line tickets to save time. Buy tickets here.
The Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum is a wonderful opportunity to go aboard the USS Intrepid, the decommissioned aircraft carrier, and experience one of the best military museums in the country.
You can walk the flight deck, hangar, tour the quarters, and see airplanes, Enterprise space shuttle – a prototype for all subsequent space shuttles, and a submarine.
Some of the experiences are extra and not included in the ticket but even if you do just the basic tour, it’s an amazing experience.
The museum has several exhibits and veterans explaining many features of the carrier, alternatively, you can also opt for a paid guided tour.
Intrepid exhibition is a wonderful learning opportunity for older kids and maritime enthusiasts and you get to learn a lot about the military history of the country.
We recommend keeping aside at least 2 to 3 hours to view the museum at a leisurely pace.
NYC’s View from above
New York’s views from above are stunning and epic.
The city has three popular observation platforms: Top of the Rock located atop the art deco Rockefeller Center, the Empire State Building observation deck, and the observatory on top of One World Trade Center.
The Top of the Rock is one of the most popular decks due to amazing views of NYC skyline including the Empire State Building and Central Park.
The One World Observatory is the highest of the platforms while the Empire State Building is both iconic and romantic!
You can find more information about all 3 of these buildings below in this post.
Other ways to see NYC from above include a chartered helicopter ride or by visiting one of the rooftop bars in the city.
If you are visiting the MET, go to their rooftop bar to see great views of the city.
Empire State Building
The Empire State building is an NYC icon.
I have wanted to visit the top of the Empire State Building since I saw the movie Sleepless in Seattle.
The final scene atop the building where the actors actually meet is my favorite!
The building is also featured in many other movies including King Kong.
Constructed in 1931, the building has Art Deco architecture and is beautiful to see.
It is one of the first skyscrapers to be built in the city and was the tallest building in the world for nearly 40 years.
Visiting the Empire State building is an essential New York experience.
You can also choose to visit the observation decks: the 86th-floor open-air one or the glass-enclosed 102nd floor one or both!
There is also a museum on the 2nd floor that has exhibits about the building’s construction and history.
Reserve your Empire State observation deck tickets now before they are sold out.
One World Trade Center
Welcome to the tallest building in the US! Completed in 2014, One World Trade Center is constructed in place of the Twin Towers which were destroyed in the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
The supertall building with its spire has become an NYC icon since it’s construction. The building is also called the Freedom Tower.
The building has an observatory on the 102nd floor and it has amazing views of New York and New Jersey.
Click here to purchase One World Observatory tickets that allow you to skip lines.
Within the World Trade Center complex, you will also find the 9/11 Memorial and Museum as well as Oculus, which is the transit station for the WTC complex.
We recommend visiting all of these attractions while visiting the One World Trade Center.
9/11 Memorial and Museum
The 9/11 Memorial is officially known as the National September 11 Memorial and Museum.
The museum is built as a tribute to those who were killed in the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.
Buy your 9/11 Museum tickets now to skip the lines at the entrance.
Walking through the museum is an emotional experience – you will see surviving artifacts of the twin towers, life stories of the people who died including children, the timeline of the events, witness accounts, and the aftermath.
While the experience is intense, it is essential to understanding the event that reshaped NYC’s history.
The 9/11 Tribute museum can be viewed as a self-guided walking tour – leaving it up to you to have an as involved experience as you wish.
While the museum is by ticketed entry only, the 9/11 memorial is free to visit.
The memorial consists of twin reflection pools built over the footprints of the original twin towers.
Water glides softly over the sides creating the largest man-made waterfalls in America.
The memorial pools represent the voids that the twin towers left in the skyline and the loss of life during the tragic event.
On the bronze panels of the memorial, you will find inscribed the names of everyone who lost their lives in the attacks.
Since this is a memorial, we would urge everyone to be respectful of the environment.
While you are visiting the 9/11 Memorial, do not forget to check out the Oculus.
The Oculus is a beautiful futuristic structure that serves as the subway station and shopping mall for the World Trade Center.
The design of the Oculus is said to resemble a dove with clipped wings.
I personally feel that the building resembles a spaceship from the Marvel series and different people often have different interpretations of this striking building.
The Oculus is beautiful both inside out. I recommend stepping inside the building to see the beautiful ceiling from inside – it feels like a fluid, graceful structure.
You can also see 1 WTC building from inside the Oculus. Inside you will find many shops, cafes, and eateries serving thousands of commuters every single day.
Opposite the Oculus you will spot the vibrant WTC murals.
The murals cover an uninteresting building that houses the cooling and operating equipment for the WTC complex.
The lovely shades and hues in the murals, make this one of NYC’s top Instagram spots.
We spent at least an hour admiring the murals and taking pictures with them.
Top of the Rock
The Top of the Rock Observation Deck is located on the 70th floor of the Rockefeller Center.
We would recommend going an hour before dusk, so you can see the city from above during the day as well as lit up at night.
Click here to buy your tickets to the Top of the Rock platform.
While you visit the Rockefeller Center, do not forget to check out everything that Rockefeller Plaza has to offer – see below.
Even if you don’t want to spend money on Top of the Rock tickets, visiting the Rockefeller Center is a must.
There are so many budget and free things to do in the area, that this is one of our favorite places to visit when in the city.
While this is not an indoor attraction, we have included it here because of the many stores you can pop into and the tours you can take in case it starts to rain or snow.
Did you know that the Rockefeller Center is not one building but a huge complex of over a dozen Art Deco style buildings?
One of the most popular attractions inside the Rockefeller Center is the Rockefeller Plaza. In winter, it hosts a skating rink and is also the site of the famous Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.
In summer, the plaza transforms into a summer garden and bar.
If you are traveling with kids, then check out the Lego store located next to the plaza. Our kids had a great time building their Minifigures and of course, we left the store with a Lego set.
Fans of 30 Rock should tour NBC Studios located in 30 Rockefeller Plaza.
To tour the Radio City Music Hall and meet one of the Rockettes, take this tour.
Grand Central Terminal
As a train enthusiast, I love visiting beautiful and historic train terminals including Denver Union Station and Chicago Union Station.
Consequently, visiting the Grand Central Terminal was pretty high on my list of NYC attractions.
The Terminal is located in Midtown and is constructed in beautiful Beaux-Arts style of Parisian architecture.
The highlight of the station is the Main Concourse, which is both beautiful and majestic.
I recommend checking out the celestial mural on the ceiling and the tiny details like ornate chandeliers, the iconic clock on the central information booth, and the arched windows.
Apart from art and architecture, there are many other things to do inside the Grand Central Terminal.
There’s a food court on the lower level of the terminal with a variety of eateries and food vendors. You will also find various shops and stores inside the Terminal.
New York City’s Broadway represents the finest and the best of commercial theatre in the world.
While actors dream of performing on Broadway, tourists dream of seeing a Broadway show while in New York.
NYC’s Broadway Theatre District is a collection of over 40 theatres located in, around, and along Broadway Street in Midtown Manhattan.
Times Square is also located in the Theatre District and you will also find a TKTS ticket booth under the red steps in Times Square.
Tickets to Broadway musicals are often expensive and the most popular ones sell out far in advance.
If you want to see a particular show on Broadway, then I would recommend purchasing a ticket first and then planning your trip around the available date.
If you are open to seeing a variety of shows and want budget tickets, then check here for tips.
If you are wondering which show to see, then here’s a guide to the most popular ones.
Families with small children love to see The Lion King or Frozen on Broadway. For classics, try Hamilton or Wicked or the Phantom of the Opera, which is the longest-running Broadway show.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Located across the Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick’s Cathedral is one of the city’s must-visit attractions.
The Cathedral has stunning architecture and is most notable for its tall spires. The Cathedral is equally beautiful from the inside and has beautiful stained glass windows.
You can visit the cathedral for free and explore by yourself or take a paid tour which explains the history of the artwork, organs, and other features of the cathedral.
You can also attend mass at the church though it’s one of the most popular times to visit and can get quite crowded.
As food lovers, Chelsea Market has always been pretty high up on our list of places to visit in New York.
This food hall stretches over one block and has many eateries, cafes, and restaurants.
Along with the food vendors, you will also find shops selling spices, dairy products, florists, etc as well as interesting murals and other artwork.
Our favorite thing to eat at the Chelsea Market is the al pastor tacos at Los Tacos No. 1.
The spicy marinated pork tacos are served with pineapple wedges and taste delicious. After all, they are known as the #1 tacos in New York city!
However, they sell out fast too and all other tacos served here are equally good.
Seafood lovers should try the lobster and oysters at the Lobster Place.
Also must try is the chocolate milkshake at Creamline.
Here’s the best part – Los Tacos, Creamline, and The Lobster Place are conveniently located next to each other so you can sample something off each menu.
If you like sweet treats, try the doughnuts, cakes, and pastries at many small shops in the market.
Here’s a lesser-known fact about the Chelsea Market: it is owned by Google (or Alphabet, Google’s founding company) and you will find offices of YouTube, Alphabet, and Google in and around the Chelsea Market.
The High Line park also passes through the Chelsea Market building and one of our favorite things to do is to catch the city views at sunset at the park followed by dinner at the Chelsea Market.
United Nations Headquarters
I have always admired the UN organizations for their peacekeeping and humanitarian work and hence, seeing the UN building in NYC was an amazing thing.
However, you need not only see the building from the outside but in fact, can visit the United Nations Headquarters in New York via a guided tour.
On the tour, you can understand more about the UN Missions, see various rooms, and admire artwork gifted by nations from around the world.
The tour is great for older kids, especially teens, to understand that they have the potential to make a difference and is highly inspirational.
We recommend arriving at least an hour prior to your tour time as you will need to go through a rigorous security screening and registration process.
You should avoid visiting the UN during the General Assembly session in September as it is very crowded.
The New York Public Library
My first encounter with the New York Public Library was when I was walking past and saw a book signing in progress.
Intrigued, I joined the crowd, and hours later was introduced to a great new author plus had toured the beautiful library building.
Since then, I always make it a point to stop by the New York Public Library and see if anything interesting is going on.
You too can visit the library, admire its architecture, and take a photo with the famous lions at its entrance.
Alternatively, you can take a free guided tour to learn about the Main Reading Room and see the interesting exhibitions inside the library.
Strand Book store
New York’s Strand Bookstore is one of the best independent bookstores in the country.
As a book lover, I always make it a point to visit Strand and so should you!
It is located in East Village, two miles south of Union Square.
The store has millions of new, used, and rare books and you can easily spend hours in there.
Here’s a fun fact: the bookstore’s slogan is ’18 miles of books’ which refers to the fact that when stacked, the books would reach that height!
Best Outdoor Things to do in NYC
Enough with the museums!
Many of the best things to do in New York are outdoor attractions – think parks and gardens, bridges, public squares, walking tours of neighborhoods, eateries where you stand and eat, etc.
The only way they can be seen, admired, and enjoyed is by being outdoors and braving the elements.
For exploring these attractions in New York, you had better get walking – wear comfy shoes – and dress comfortably as per the weather.
However, these are also some of the most popular attractions in New York, so make sure you include them on your list.
You cannot visit New York without seeing the Manhattan skyline from different angles, photographing it, and admiring it.
This is one of the most iconic and influential skylines in the world – and has not been majorly altered in decades except for the One World Tower.
There are many places to see the skyline – the most popular being Battery Park, Brooklyn Bridge, Dumbo, etc. but my favorite is from the water.
You can either take a cruise around Manhattan or take the free Staten Island ferry to enjoy the views.
The sunset cruises are very popular as are the holiday cruises.
You can also take a New Year’s Eve fireworks cruise and enjoy the fireworks behind the Manhattan Skyline while ringing in the New year.
Visiting Times Square is one of New York’s musts! Times Square is touristy and crowded but we still love it.
You will find everything from billboards, advertisements, bright neon signs, reduced price ticket booths selling Broadway tickets, food carts, buskers, beer gardens, and even Instagram worthy red stairs.
The sheer amount of tourists you will encounter in Times Square can be overwhelming – pick a place to people watch and just feel the excitement in the air to experience Times Square.
Times Square has many attractions including Madame Tussauds, M&M World, Ripley’s Believe it or not, etc.
Two of the squares underrated attractions include the Midtown Comics bookstore which is a must for comic book fans and Junior’s cheesecake – which is said to be the best cheesecake in New York City!
Many popular brands including the Disney Store, Forever 21, Hard Rock Cafe, etc are also located in the square.
It also hosts the annual New Year’s Eve ball drop, when more than a million people throng Times Square to ring in the New year.
You will also find many hotels in Times Square and it is definitely a great place to stay in Midtown Manhattan.
At the end of Museum Mile – around 105th Street – venture inside Central Park.
While you will be entering from the ‘wrong’ or less popular end, you will be able to experience the park without crowds and understand why this tranquil paradise is known as the best urban park in the world.
We recommend exploring the park and visiting its highlights including Alice in Wonderland statue, Bethesda Fountain, the Lake, Bow Bridge, and Strawberry Fields.
If you have kids let them run free at Billy Johnson playground or see the animals at Central Park Zoo.
There are many things to do in Central Park and we would recommend picking one or two and checking them out so you don’t get tired walking around the park.
If you want to explore past the tourist attractions and visit some of NYC’s hidden gems, then check out this post.
Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge is one of the NYC musts!
This iconic bridge has been featured in countless movies and series and has become a landmark of the city’s skyline.
The best time to walk across the bridge is at sunset.
The Manhattan side entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge is in front of the New York City Hall, a couple of blocks away from New York Public Library.
It took us about an hour to walk all the way across the bridge from Manhattan to Brooklyn and from there we took a cab back to our hotel.
You can also walk halfway or as much as you can and then turn back to Manhattan.
Be ready with your camera as this is one of the best spots to take pictures with the Manhattan skyline.
In case you are wondering, DUMBO actually stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.
While Dumbo is actually quite big, it’s the most popular area is the one sandwiched between the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge.
From Dumbo, you will have excellent views of the skyline and be able to explore this hip arts district.
We recommend walking on Dumbo and checking out the art galleries, tech start-up offices, flea markets, restaurants, and filming locations including Gossip Girl.
The view of Manhattan Bridge from Washington and Front St is one of the most photographed spots in DUMBO.
Another great photo locale is the Archway of Manhattan Bridge.
If you have more time, also check out Pebble Beach and Main Street Park.
New York’s Wall Street and the Financial District in Lower Manhattan is a must-visit while on a trip to New York.
As a finance major, I especially love visiting this area and taking in the wealth and power on display.
At one time, I longed to work here – right before I quit the 9-5 job and founded Dotted Globe!
It still fascinates me to watch the analysts, associates, and traders at work – and see myself working amongst them in a parallel universe.
The two main Wall Street attractions are undoubtedly the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) – the biggest in the world and the famous bronze sculpture of the Charging Bull, representing the resilience and optimistic attitude of Americans after the 1986 stock market crash which wiped out a lot of the wealth.
Another must-see is the statue of the Fearless Girl.
This sculpture, installed recently in 2017, once defiantly stood in front of the Charging Bull but generated a lot of controversies and was subsequently moved opposite NYSE building.
You will still find it here, staring bravely at the formidable stock market.
Last but not least, check out the Federal Hall located diagonally opposite the stock exchange.
The Vessel has the honor of being NYC’s latest attraction.
Located in Hudson Yards, it has drawn thousands of tourists since its opening in Spring 2019.
The Vessel is actually a series of spiral staircases that offer memorable views of NYC.
The Vessel is meant for climbing and visiting it is free. However, you will need free (token) tickets to visit the Vessel.
For same-day tickets, get them on-site as long as they are available or reserve here. You can also reserve your free tickets online if you are visiting within the next 14 days.
We recommend visiting the Vessel earlier in the day so you don’t have to worry about tickets being unavailable – especially during popular times.
The Vessel has lots of interconnected staircases with beautiful views of the Far West Side of the city.
The Vessel is also one of the most popular Instagram spots in NYC.
The High Line
The High Line is an excellent representation of New York City’s innovation and adaptability.
The High Line was once an abandoned railway track but has since been transformed and repurposed into a mile and a half long urban park.
The park has over ten entrances and passes under the Chelsea Market.
If you are walking along the High Line park, you will have beautiful views of the city, the Hudson River, and a unique ‘wild’ landscape of plants that naturally grew over the unused railroad.
You will also see a lot of artwork, observation spots, and locals relaxing in this unique space.
New York’s Chinatown is the largest in the country and a delight to explore.
When I lived in Wilmington, DE I often took the bus to NYC on weekends and the bus dropped me right off in Chinatown.
I used the opportunity to explore the area, shop for trinkets, and visit the nearby attractions.
I’d definitely recommend taking a stroll through Chinatown and checking out the markets, shops, restaurants, and bakeries.
Eat some rice cakes, pastries, dim sum, and buy cheap knockoff purses, scarves, and jewelry.
You can visit the Museum of Chinese in America to know about the history of Chinese immigrants and their culture.
Another great place to visit is the Mahayana Buddhist Temple, located adjacent to Manhattan Bridge.
The food trucks
New York City’s food carts and food trucks are legendary.
Every time we visit New York, we make it a point to eat at as many food trucks as we can.
This is also much faster and cheaper than visiting a restaurant and we recommend it if you are visiting New York on a budget.
The most prominent ones are definitely the shawarma/lamb over rice trucks and hot dog carts.
You will also find food carts and trucks selling everything from tortas, empanadas, arepas, tamales, tacos to gyros, noodles, and even dosas.
For those looking for something sweet, you can find ice-creams, mini cakes, waffles, cookies, and macaroons.
Those looking for healthier options will find a variety of salads, fruit juices, and smoothies on the food truck menus.
The Flatiron Building is one of NYC’s most popular landmarks.
The name of the building is derived from its unique triangular shape which resembles a flatiron.
At 21 floors tall, the Flatiron building was one of NYC’s first skyscrapers and while it has since been overshadowed by others, it still remains a prominent tourist attraction.
Because of its unique shape, it gets quite windy near the bottom of the building.
The building has been featured in many movies including Godzilla.
You cannot enter the Flatiron building, but we recommend taking photographs from Madison Square Park. While you are there, enjoy the park – it also has a play area.
Our other favorite things to do near the Flatiron building include visiting Serra by Birreria for lunch/dinner.
This gorgeous rooftop restaurant, located diagonally opposite the Flatiron building, has a lovely seasonal ambiance that changes by the season – and it is one of the most beautiful restaurants in NYC.
In the same building, you will find a Lego store – that is always a hit with most kids.
For most tourists, Bryant Park is a hidden gem in New York.
You can almost miss this park located between the tall skyscrapers of Midtown Manhattan, which makes it relatively uncrowded and perfect for relaxing on a hot summer day.
The park has tables and chairs for reading, playing chess, and often hosts free summer concerts.
While you are visiting Bryant Park, make sure to visit the nearby New York Public Library.
In winter, Bryant Park hosts the famous winter village with attractions including holiday market, ice skating rink, and an outdoor bar.
The holiday market has local vendors selling one of a kind products and is a great place to do all your holiday shopping.
You can rent skates at the park and enjoy ice skating amidst the holiday lights for a small fee.
Purchase warm cider or coffee at the bar after skating to keep warm in New York’s chilly winters.
Greenwich Village, better known as the Village is the epicenter of creativity in NYC.
The Village contains several colleges and is popular with youngsters as well as aspiring creatives: artists, musicians, and writers.
One of the highlights of the Village is Washington Square Park, famous for its Washington Arch and the fountain.
Other things to do in the Village include visiting small bookstores, art galleries, music clubs, boutiques, cafes, and restaurants.
The Village is a delight for those who love to explore off the beaten path.
Friends fans can also like to see the apartment featured in the series, located at Bedford Street and Grove Street.
Union Square is one of NYC’s historic city squares.
The square has been the sight of numerous parades, vigils, protests, and demonstrations and is one of the most popular meeting places in the city.
There are many statues and sculptures located in the square, the most prominent being those of George Washington, Mahatma Gandhi, and Abraham Lincoln.
Farmer’s markets and holiday markets are also set up in Union Square. We recommend visiting the square and people watching to experience the non-touristy side of New York.
While Coney Island is technically not in Manhattan but in Brooklyn, it makes a great end to this post because it is the perfect getaway from the busy city life.
Coney Island is a part-resort city, part-amusement park, and definitely lots of fun.
This is also one of NYC’s favorite beaches and very crowded on summer weekends.
There are lots of things to do in Coney Island.
You can enjoy the historic Cyclone roller coaster at Luna Amusement Park and visit the aquarium – which incidentally, is the only one in New York City.
Take a stroll along the Boardwalk and build a sandcastle on the beach.
Do not forget to eat Nathan’s Famous hot dogs.
Another unique attraction is the Coney Island Mermaid Parade which is held in the summer.
While winter is a low season for Coney Island, you can definitely visit over the holidays and enjoy the low crowds.
While the amusement park and the beach are closed, most other attractions including the aquarium are open year-round.
We hope you liked our post on the Best Things to do in New York City. Did we miss any attractions? Let us know in the comments!