New York is an amazing city and you will never be short of things to do and see. In fact, the biggest problem With New York is there is just TOO much to see and do? This means you can waste time on the mediocre sights and attractions and miss out on the VERY best.
To combat this we have compiled a list of the Top 10 Things To Do In New York City. These are the things you just shouldn’t Skip while visiting the Big Apple. New Yorks’s absolute best sights and attractions. The City is home to some of the world’s best museums, simp;y staggering city skylines, the tallest buildings, and possibly the most famous park in the world. The whole city is a living breathing Moview set, where every corner seems to be an iconic scene from screen and film.
Just wandering around the City and taking in the sights is enough for many but there are a few things you just have to check off the list. So treat this as a bucket checklist of all the things you must see when visiting New York City.
1 – Get Up High – New York Observation Decks
One of the first things that spring to mind when visiting New York is a trip to the top of the Empire State building. But is this Clichéd attraction a tourist trap or really worth it?
Well, actually we think it’s the absolute TOP thing to do in New York! If you have to pick just one thing then get up High. Not necessarily the Empire State building, but at least one of the many Observation Decks should be right up to the top of your list. Want to know which is best read our Guide on New York Observation Decks here
The perspective from up high is unlike anything else in the world. Sometimes the Scale of the city can be lost at ground level. Only a few of the skyscrapers are visible at any one time. Only by getting up off the ground does the gargantuan scale of the city become apparent. Day, Night, or Sunset you are assured a breath-taking view that you will never forget.
If you don’t know which to choose, or just want to do all of them but don’t fancy paying out $100’s for the privilege then you might consider an attractions pass. All of the Passes available for New York cover at least two or more of the observation decks along with many other attractions. You can save $100’s and have all your attractions covered by just the pass. Check out our New York Pass Comparison Guide to see if a pass is right for you. Many of the paid attractions on this list will be covered by the pass.
2 – Central Park
New York can be very busy and hectic and sometimes you just need to get away from all the crazy hustle and bustle and just relax. Central Park is perfect for this. And the place many New Yorkers go to get away from it all too. While the tourist areas around the Bethesda fountain and terrace are just as busy as most of the city there are still many places you can go to escape the crowds.
The park is 843 acres and 3.42 square KM which is an enormous chunk of the city reserved solely for green space. It can be hard to envisage just how large that is. But the Perimeter is almost 6 miles or 10 km. That means a fit runner would take almost an hour to run around the park. Or over two hours to walk it at a brisk pace. and an alternative way of looking at it is if the park were to be sold off to be developed for real estate in 2006 the value was estimated at $529 BILLION! Fortunately, this will never happen.
It is very striking while exploring the park, the stark contrast of the park and the City. It seems so very odd to be immersed in the very peaceful serene beauty of nature while at the center of one of the world’s biggest metropolises.
Central Park is probably one of the best-known parks in the world and simply cannot be missed from any New York itinerary. It is almost insulting to even add it to our list it is such an obvious attraction. Whether it’s just to escape the hustle and bustle or get a selfie at one of the MANY film locations the park has to be up there on anyone’s MUST-do list.
Full Guide to Central Park New York – What you should see and do in the park.
3 – Statue Of Liberty
One of New York’s most iconic landmarks. Surely everyone’s must-do list includes the Statue of Liberty. Whether it’s just a glimpse from the shore or a cruise to the island reserve where it stands or even climbing to the top of the crown. No trip to New York can be complete without a photo or a selfie of the Statue.
While the Statue can be seen from many locations throughout the city it really can’t be appreciated properly from land and the island is just a bit too far out. Most people can be heard commenting from the shores of battery park…”I thought it would be bigger!”
Actually, the Statue is probably about as big as people expect, this issue it’s much further away. The Statue is nearly 2 miles from the northern shores of Manhatten and from here it’s but a mere splodge on the horizon. To get the best view of the Statue you need to take to the water. We don’t consider the distant view from Battery park to be enough to do this world-famous landmark justice so you are going to need to book some kind of cruise/water
Read Our guide here on getting the Best View of the Statue of Liberty.
4 – Leave Manhattan
We know it’s an odd one. As you might of only just got here! But there is more to New York than just Manhattan. Getting out of the Manhattan sprawl throws up loads of opportunities that are just not possible in the big City.
Head to Brooklyn for incredible views of the city skyline. Enjoy great food and a more relaxed pace on the Brooklyn Heights promenade and in the many Parks that dot the Borough. Finally, walk the Brooklyn Bridge back into Manhattan for breath-taking views of the City.
Head to the Bronx to check out the Yankee Stadium or the Bronx Zoo. Or head to Staten Island for a complete change of pace and some rest and relaxation on one of its many beaches.
Whatever you chose Its great to experience New York from a different perspective than just Manhattan to give you a much more complete New York experience
5 – Museums
New York is home to some of the world’s finest Museums and collections of rare and fine art and historical artifacts. There really are few locations in the world that can boast such a fine and diverse collection of museums.
The Natural History Museums Documents the entire history of life on earth from its very beginning to the incredible array of fauna and flora that exists today.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art then documents the entire history of humanity’s creative streak. Far more than a collection of old paintings!
The MOMA is a more classic Art galleries museum but hosts some of the finest pieces of modern art in the world. Monet, Picasso, Van Gough, and many many more are all on display in this very powerful collection of masterpieces.
On top of the big three, there is a huge array of supporting acts, such as the Museum of Sex, The Guggenheim, and the Intrepid Museum of air-sea and space. There really is something for everyone and even if museums are really not your thing New York’s are so iconic and diverse you need to spend some time checking them out and you may well find museums are exactly your thing, you just didn’t know it.
Check out our Guide to all the Best Museums in New York
5.5 – Visit Ground Zero
The area around the old World Trade Center towers has been transformed into a Memorial and Museum Complex that is an essential visit for anyone visiting the City. The Seismic events that occurred that day sent shockwaves through the City and have left scars that will never heal. This makes the Memorial part of the very fabric of the City. We have included it as an addition to the Museums section as we highly recommend not just paying your respects at the memorial but also visiting the Paid portion of the area.
The National September 11 Memorial & Museum is built around the very foundation and lower levels of the original tower. It is a stunning, emotional, and thought-provoking display that brings back the horror and the emotion of the day. This is a tough and Somber experience but it is quintessential to New York now and it’s well worth taking the time to relive the tragedy that befell the City and country that fateful day.
6 – Eat Street Food
New York is World-renowned for having some of the best fine dining restaurants the world over. While we strongly encourage you to look into and sample some of these delights the prices charged mean they are not necessarily for everyone or for every meal.
Fortunately, New York has a host of much cheaper food options, the most visible of these are New York’s food carts. These iconic little carts are run by budding entrepreneurs and offer a huge array of food choices. Obviously, Hotdogs are the most famous but this has diversified into just about any cuisine you can imagine. Of course, Hotdogs and Pretzels are still the most common.
Large New York Pizza Pies that are sold by the slice (well they will sell you the whole Pie if you want but you better be hungry) are another NYC Favourite. There are shops everywhere in the City offering a multitude of different options for pretty cheap prices.
A New York Trip wouldn’t be complete without a trip to a Deli for a Meat-Rammed sandwich of epic proportions. These Little “corner” shops sell just about anything and make up for New York’s Lack of supermarkets for the locals. But they are a Number 1 Lunch Stop for locals and tourists alike. Every city in the world seems to have an expensive New York Deli Rip off. Now try the real thing! Or if you are all meat-ed out then grab an NYC Bagel with a smear of cream cheese and lox Salmon.
Chinatown is home to a vast array of Chinese restaurants, but some of the cheapest options are the Dim Sum Restaurants. for $10-15 you can get a fantastic filling lunch made up of various little courses of dumplings, wontons, Springrolls, and potstickers, amongst other tasty Chinese delights.
7 – Check Out Some Movie Sets
New York is the most Filmed City in the world, and as such, it is awash with sights and locations you will be familiar with from both Movies and TV. Apart from the obvious Sweeping Skyline Vistas and Generic shots of Subways, Food Carts, and steaming Street vents, there will be more specific locations from many of your favorite Films and Tv Shows. A real treat in New York is hunting down locations from your favorite film or show.
Home Alone 2, Ghostbusters, Sex, and the City, and Friends are all popular locations found throughout the city along with many many more. Macy’s on 34th Street is one of our favorite locations as the legendary Coles featured in Miracle on 3th Street. Whatever your favorite New York-based Movie or Show you are sure to find locations dotted about. Either follow a Movie location tour or go hunting yourself for that Perfect memorable Selfie that you’ll cherish for years. Check out our Guide to New York Movie Spots here
8 – Times Square
Times Square is a real Love or Hate Experience. But It’s one of those that you should experience yourself to decide. New Yorkers avoid it like the plague, but they will have all been at least once! The crowds can be unthinkably large. We have queued 5-10 minutes just to cross a road. Identical food and souvenirs are twice the price, just because you are on the Times Square Tourist trap, and many people are left with the feeling they are not sure what it is they have come to see!
Of course on the plus side, it’s a spectacle like no other. The lights are so bright it makes the daylight dark and darkness brighter than daylight! The Hustle and bustle that people avoid is part of the attraction. It’s an embodiment of American excess on display, it’s hard not to be taken aback. Lined with shops and eateries all catering to the tourist it certainly is a tourist hotspot. It’s not the “real” New York if that’s what you are searching for, but it’s definitely a must-see for most visitors…Even if it’s just to say how terrible it is!
For the Record, we are on the Love side, Just. We are Tourists and are not afraid to embrace that. Times Square is geared to us so we just embrace the buzz and awe at the spectacle.
9 – Shop ‘Til You Drop
New York is synonymous with shopping. For years people have flocked to shop for the latest luxury items on the world-famous Fifth Av. Or head to the world’s biggest department store (well actually the 2nd as of 2009), Macy’s on 34th Street. Or try Bloomingdales or Saks on Fifth Ave. The options are almost limitless.
Unfortunately, many of the Iconic Toy stores have now closed doors, victims of the rising rental cost of Midtown Manhattan.
Want to grab a Bargain. New York is home to several Outlet villages where branded goods can be bought for bargain prices. Try Woodbury-common for tons of cut-price deals. It may be precious Trip time spent in a fairly dull outlet village but the price “should” make it worth your while!
10 – Catch a Broadway Show.
Broadway has been delighting visitors for decades and continues to do so with an estimated 13 million + people attending a show last Season. The choice is massive and ever-changing from classics such as Cats and the Phantom of the Opera to more contemporary offerings such as the School of Rock or even a Cirque du Soleil show. There is sure to be something for everyone.
Combine this with a meal in one of New York’s many fine eateries, and you have a night out you will remember for a lifetime.
Bonus – Hit The Roof Top Bars
Finally, a bonus item because 10 just wasn’t enough!
We Finish off where we started. Getting up high really is our favorite thing to do in New York and after already visiting the top of the cities highest buildings it’s time for a different albeit equally awesome experience… Getting drunk high up above the sidewalk.
New York is home to a multitude of fantastic Roof Top Bars and Terraces where you can get a drink and a bite to eat while enjoying incredible views of the city. It’s a fantastic way to spend an evening and doesn’t have to break the bank, with some great happy hour deals.
Sure the views don’t quite rival the very tallest buildings (Rainbow Room’s BarSixtyFive comes close!) but it’s still a great view and one of the best ways we can imagine to relax with a drink and great company.
The Edge is now the first of the observation deck to include a bar at their rooftop Observation deck so now you can take in the beautiful view and sip some bubbly while doing so!
New York Passes – Can Save You Money and Time
Many of New York’s Best attractions are included on one of the New York Passes. These are a great way to save time and money if you are planning on doing multiple attractions while in the City.
Read our New York Comparison Guide to see if a New York Pass could save you money and which one would be right for you. Or take a look at the Passes in detail Below:
- The New York Pass
- The New York Explorer Pass
- The New York Sightseeing Pass
- The Official New York CityPASS
Have Your Say
Feel free to let us know if you have done any of the attractions above and if you agree or disagree on their “must-do” status. Just post a comment below. And please post a comment if you have any questions. We would love to hear from you.