New York is one of the most recognised cities in the world. Take a look at our guide of the top 20 things to do in New York to make the most of your trip.
We know all the famous streets and all the designer shops in New York without ever being there. Being in New York City is like stepping into a movie. The impressive architecture and the jaw-dropping fashion will have you amazed. So, lets take a look at what you can do in the Big Apple to really experience what the city has to offer.
Things to Do in New York
1. 9/11 Memorial & Museum
The National September 11 Memorial & Museum is a memorial and museum in New York City that commemorates the 9/11, 2001 terrorist attacks, which killed 2,977 people, and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, which killed six. The museum opens Wednesday to Monday from 10am-5pm. The museum and memorial is located at 180 Greenwich Street in lower Manhattan. Every morning Memorial & Museum staff put a white rose in the name of victims who have a birthday on that day.
The museum and memorial is definitely worth seeing during your time in New York. The museum is deeply moving and unforgettable as it tells the story of 9/11 through artifacts, personal stories, imagery and videos. You can get a guided tour of the museum or you are free to walk around and discover the museum at your own pace. The One World Observatory is also nearby which gives a great 360-degree view of NYC on the 100th floor.
While you are at the museum and memorial you can walk across to the Oculus. This amazing piece of architecture is a transportation hub and holds over 100 stores. A highlight of the Oculus food market is Eatly, where you can dine and buy fabulous Italian foods.
Cost: Free entry for the Memorial and Oculus and there is a $30 entrance fee for the Museum.
2. Top of the Rock
Top of the Rock is a must-do on your trip to New York City. Travel up the 70 floors of the Rockefeller Center to get a 360-degree view of the city. Top of the Rock Observation Deck is open daily from 9am-11pm. The Rockefeller Center is also home to NBC studios where “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” and “Saturday Night Live” is filmed. The NBC studios shop is a great place to buy merchandise from your favourite NBC shows like “The Office” or “Friends”. If film and tv is an interest of yours you can decide to do a guided tour of the NBC studios to get behind-the-scenes-access to the famous studio.
Cost: Top of the Rock tickets are $34 for children and $40 for adults.
3. Statue of Liberty & Eilis Island Tour
It is popular to do Eilis Island and the Statue of Liberty tours together as they are so close to one another. A ferry brings you across to Liberty Island where you can get an up-close look at Lady Liberty and the Statue of Liberty Museum. You can also pay extra to go into the pedestal and the crown of the Statue of Liberty and look at the scenic view. The tour also brings you to Eilis Island to learn about the history of immigration to America in the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. Get access to the American Family Immigration History Center’s records to look through the passenger records and ship manifests and information.
Cost: Ticket prices vary depending on what type of tour you choose but they usually start at $30.
4. SUMMIT One Vanderbilt
SUMMIT One Vanderbilt is another unbelievable view spot to take in the beauty of NYC, however SUMMIT One also offers a very unique immersive experience on the top three floors of the One Vanderbilt. Artist Kenzo Digital created a mind-bending art piece of mirrored rooms with interactive areas called Air. Transcendence 1 and 2 are two floors covered in mirrors and give you a different view of the city. SUMMIT One also has round silver balloons drifting in the air in Affinity, for unique and cool photos and if you are brave enough Levitation allows you to see the city from a glass box that is jutting out from the One Vanderbilt.
If you pay extra you also have the option to get a glass elevator up to the top with Ascent and have a signature cocktail in Aprés, the outdoor and indoor dining area. Many people go to SUMMIT One to get a spectacular view of the city at sunset.
Cost: Tickets for SUMMIT One Experience start at £33 for youths and $39 for adults and prices increase if you want to add the Ascent and a signature cocktail to your trip.
5. Museums in NYC
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The MET Museum is a popular must-do on peoples lists of things to do in New York. Stand on the iconic steps of the Met that have been famously seen in the tv show “Gossip Girl” and have been used as a place for celebrities to show off their outfits at the most prestigious fashion event of the year, the MET Gala.
The 150 year old Museum showcases millions of works including a collection from the Costume Institute that holds over 33,000 costumes dating from the 15th Century to present, it also has a collection Asian art, African art, Greek and Roman art and paintings by Pablo Picasso and Vincent Van Gogh and have brought Egypt to New York with the “Temple of Dendur”.
Cost: Entrance fee for the Met Museum is $30 for adults, $22 for seniors and $17 for students.
American Museum of Natural History (AMNH)
The AMNH opens from Wednesday- Sunday, 10am-5pm and is located in the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The museum showcases the worlds natural wonders and human cultures. The over 150 year old museum has a number of exhibitions on show, for example Extinct and Endangered and a Sharks exhibition. Exhibitions showcase for a limited amount of time each year. The museum is the perfect way to spend a few hours of your day and will satisfy everyone’s interests from its Gem display to it’s impressive Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton.
Cost: Tickets cost from $13-$23.
Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)
The MOMA is known for its exceptional exhibitions and collection of modern and contemporary art. The MOMA showcases works by Henri Matisse, Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso and Frida Kahlo. Some of MOMA most recognised pieces of art are Andy Warhol’s “Campbell’s Soup Cans”, “The Water Lilies” by Claude Monet and Vincent Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night”.
Cost: Tickets cost from $14-$25 and there is no entry fee for children.
Museum of Ice Cream
This is a fun way to spend some time in New York whether it is with friends or family. This brightly coloured multi-sensory and immersive experience provides great entertainment and delicious ice-cream for visitors. The Museum of Ice-creams unique and colourful rooms make a great space to take creative photos. It is New York’s ice-cream version of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.
Cost: $36 for the daytime experience ticket and for the night-time experience tickets are $49.
6. Edge Observation Deck
The Edge is another great observation spot in NYC. It is the highest sky deck in the Western Hemisphere with a 360-degree view. Its uniquely designed glass floor makes you feel like you are floating in air. It is open everyday from 8am-12pm giving you the option to watch the sunset over NYC on top of the Edge. If you are brave enough and want to do more than just look at the NYC scenery you can also scale the outside of the skyscraper with City Climb for a skyscraping adventure of a life-time.
Cost: General admission tickets are between $33-$38.
7. Empire State Building
The Empire State building is always at the top of people’s list of things to do in New York and it is one of New York’s most recognised landmarks. The iconic building as been shown in 100’s of films including, Sleepless in Seattle, An Affair to Remember and Elf. It provides visitors with a 360-degree view of New York city that would have anyone in awe. There are options to see the beauty of NYC from the top of the Empire State building in any light. Whether it is at sunrise, during the day, sunset or at night, you are guaranteed to be in wowed by the view.
Cost: Tickets for the 86th floor are $44 and if you want to include the 102nd floor ticket prices rise to $77.
8. Helicopter Tour of NYC
A helicopter ride over NYC is probably one of the most expensive things to do in New York but it is an unforgettable experience. You can choose between a day time tour or night-time tour to see the lit-up skylines of the city. Some tours may allow you to choose what sights you want to see and others might have a route set out. The helicopter tours gives you unobstructed views of the NYC and last from 15mins to 30mins.
Cost: Depending on what company you go with prices may vary from $150pp- over $300pp.
9. Broadway Show
If musicals and theatre are your thing going to a Broadway show is a must on your list of things to do in New York. There is an endless variety of shows on Broadway that are guaranteed to entertain viewers. To really experience what Broadway has to offer why not eat at “Ellen’s Stardust Diner” before you go see the spectacular shows on Broadway. The waitstaff at Ellen’s Stardust Diner are theatre performers and many of them go on to perform in big Broadway shows. Ellen’s Stardust Diner is world famous for singing to customers as they serve them food and drinks. The retro 1950’s diner is a unique dining experience that you will not forget.
Cost: Broadway ticket prices vary depending on the show.
10. Madison Square Garden
Visit the most famous arena in the world which offers a wide variety of sports and musical performances. Have the unique experience of watching a basketball or hockey game or listen to the greatest musicians in the world perform on the world renowned stage. You can also get a behind-the-scenes tour of Madison Square Garden and learn about iconic moments in sports and entertainment history.
Cost: Ticket prices vary depending on what event you choose to see.
Free Things to Do in New York
There are many things to do in New York without having to spend money. Here are some free options that are sure to be a favourite during your time in the Big Apple.
11. Walk the Brooklyn Bridge
The Brooklyn bridge is open all year round connecting Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn Heights. Walking across the Brooklyn bridge should be at the top of you list of things to do in New York. You get to see spectacular views of the New York skyline while walking across the bridge and it costs you nothing to do so. The broad promenade built above the roadway allows pedestrians to use the bridge that was built nearly 140 years ago and is still a very popular tourist attraction.
12. Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass (DUMBO)
If you decide to walk the Brooklyn Bridge then you should definitely take a few extra minutes to walk down under the Manhattan bridge once you get over to Brooklyn. The cobblestone streets of the DUMBO neighbourhood with the Manhattan bridge in between the buildings and the Empire State building in between the arch makes for a very picturesque photo. The DUMBO waterfront is a beautiful spot and you get a great full view of the Brooklyn Bridge and New York skyline. This photogenic spot is well worth the visit.
13. Times Square
Times Square is one of the first things you think of when you hear New York. Seeing the hustle and bustle around Times Square will be like nothing you have seen before. It is the most liveliest area in NYC lit up with neon lights and huge billboards. If crowds aren’t your thing go to Times Square early in the morning and sit down and enjoy a coffee and a pastry from one of the many food vendors while taking in the craziness of NYC.
14. Central Park
Central Park is situated between the Upper West and Upper East Sides of Manhattan and is the largest urban park in New York. You can spend hours walking or cycling around central park taking in the beautiful green scenery surrounded by tall buildings. If you want to pay you can go on boat-rides, skate on the ice-rink or have a carriage ride through the park. Take in the atmosphere of Central Park with street performers, musicians and artists at every turn.
Walk around and you’ll recognise famous spots where your favourite movies and tv shows were shot. For example, you will recognise the Gapstow Bridge, which is seen in “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York“ and the Bethesda Terrace which is shown in the Disney movie “Enchanted”. There are of course 100’s of more examples and if you are really interested in movie locations you can get a guided tour. Some highlights of Central Park are the Imagine Mosaic in memory of Beatle John Lennon, the Belvedere, Shakespeare in the park and the Bethesda Fountain.
15. Hudson Yards
Hudson Yards is a built-up neighbourhood in lower Manhattan. Spend the day in Hudson Yards retail centre that has over a 100 places to shop and an impressive selection of restaurants to eat in. Enjoy concerts at the Shed, the performing arts area and take in Hudson Yard’s incredible art-piece that is a spiral staircase called the Vessel. Next to the Vessel is a green public space where you can spend time relaxing and taking in the scenery.
16. Kayak at the Hudson River
Kayaking on the Hudson river probably isn’t the first thing that would come to your mind when planning a trip to the Big Apple but it is definitely something you should add to your list of things to do in New York. The Downtown Boathouse is the worlds largest kayaking programme. Once you know how to swim you are free to use the kayaks provided and enjoy your time kayaking around the Hudson river.
17. The High Line
The High Line is a 1.45-mile-long repurposed old elevated railway line that allows you to walk over the busy streets of New York. The High Line is a public park that surrounds you with historic buildings and amazing artwork and has a wide variety of places to eat. Free tours are given on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. The High Line offers a unique way to experience New York City and should definitely be added to your list of free things to do in New York.
18. Grand Central Terminal
Grand Central Terminal is a world-famous landmark. Grand Centrals main purpose is as a transportation hub but it is also home to many shops and restaurants, including a daily food market. It is the second most visited destination in New York and like many places in New York, Grand Central has been featured in many movies and tv shows.
The beautiful architecture and gold leaf painted zodiac ceiling in the Main Concourse will have you awe and the information booth clock is an instantly recognisable landmark of Grand Central Terminal. While you are at Grand Central you should give the whispering gallery a go which allows you to talk to a friend in the opposite corner as result of Guastavino tiles on the low ceramic arches.
19. Little Italy
Little Italy is a neighbourhood in New York that is known for its large Italian population. Get a taste of Italy in NYC with Little Italy’s fabulous range of Italian restaurants and amazing street art. Little Italy is also the shooting location for the movies “The Godfather” and “The Godfather III” and is home to the very first pizzeria in the US, Lombardi’s. Walking around Little Italy is the perfect way to spend an afternoon in New York and immerse yourself in the Italian-American culture.
20. China Town
Near Little Italy is Chinatown and it is well worth the visit. Spend a few hours exploring what Chinatown has to offer from souvenir shops, markets and designer boutiques. The Chinese and Southeast Asian cuisine is a must to try while in Chinatown with many noodle houses and teahouses. Explore all the Chinese culture and traditions that Chinatown has to offer.
With our guide to 20 things to do in New York you will have endless options to make the most of your time in the city that never sleeps.
You may also be interested in our other articles; Top 5 Places to Visit in New York State I A Tourists Guide to The Big Apple I 12 Things You Must See Around New York City