New York State is a destination that captivates the senses, stimulates the mind, and tugs at the heartstrings. It is a place where history, nature, art, and sports converge, creating an unforgettable and multifaceted journey for tourists.
Whether strolling through the concrete canyons of Manhattan, hiking through the serene mountains, or savouring world-class cuisine, there are things to do in New York State for everyone.
To help you plan the best itinerary for a holiday to the Empire State, we’ve explored 27 of the most interesting things to do in New York State.
Table of Contents
Explore New York City’s iconic Landmarks
Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
Visiting the Statue of Liberty is one of the most iconic things to do in New York State. The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island stand as enduring symbols of American freedom and opportunity. The Statue of Liberty, a gift from France in 1886, welcomes visitors with her torch held high.
Located on Liberty Island, a short ferry ride from Lower Manhattan, the statue offers awe-inspiring views of the city skyline. Ellis Island, situated nearby, was the primary port of entry for millions of immigrants between 1892 and 1954.
Today, the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration educates visitors about the immigrant experience, showcasing exhibits that narrate the challenges and triumphs of those who sought a better life in America.
Empire State Building
The Empire State Building is one of the most recognisable skyscrapers in the world, making the trip to the top one of the most popular things to do in New York State. Standing at 1,454 feet tall, the building held the title of the world’s tallest structure for nearly 40 years after its completion in 1931.
The observation decks on the 86th and 102nd floors provide unparalleled 360-degree views of New York City, allowing visitors to see iconic landmarks, bustling streets, and the vast Hudson River.
Central Park is one of the most popular things to do in New York State because it provides a serene escape from the urban bustle. Spanning 843 acres, the park features an enchanting blend of lush landscapes, meandering pathways, and recreational spaces.
Visitors can enjoy leisurely strolls around the scenic Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir or rent a rowboat to paddle across the picturesque Central Park Lake. Families often flock to the Central Park Zoo and the enchanting Alice in Wonderland statue, while runners and cyclists make use of the park’s dedicated trails.
A pulsating nexus of lights, energy, and entertainment, Times Square is the epitome of New York City’s never-sleeping reputation. Times Square is a cacophony of neon billboards, digital displays, and bustling crowds. The area’s bright lights and larger-than-life advertisements have made it a global symbol of urban dynamism.
Millions of people visit Times Square each year, making it one of the most exciting things to do in New York State. Times Square’s constant energy and vibrant atmosphere make it a must-visit destination for anyone seeking an authentic New York City experience.
The 9/11 Memorial stands as a solemn tribute to the tragic events of September 11, 2001, and honours the nearly 3,000 lives lost that day. The memorial features twin reflecting pools set within the footprints of the original Twin Towers, each adorned with cascading waterfalls.
Surrounding the pools are bronze panels inscribed with the names of the victims, ensuring that their memories live on. The sombre atmosphere and the surrounding museum provide a space for reflection and remembrance, allowing visitors to gain insight into the attacks’ profound impact on the city and the world.
The 9/11 Memorial serves as a poignant reminder of the resilience and unity that emerged in the aftermath of the tragedy. Visiting the memorial is one of the most insightful and emotional things to do in New York State.
The Brooklyn Bridge, an iconic feat of engineering and a beloved New York City landmark connects the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn. Completed in 1883, this suspension bridge was the first of its kind to span the East River.
Walking or biking across the bridge provides breathtaking views of Manhattan and Brooklyn, making it one of the most scenic things to do in New York State. The bridge’s historical significance and architectural grandeur have earned it a place on the National Register of Historic Places.
A short ferry ride from Manhattan, Governors Island provides a peaceful respite from the city’s hustle and bustle. Once a military outpost, this 172-acre island has been transformed into a recreational oasis for New Yorkers and visitors alike and is one of the most relaxing things to do in New York State.
Visitors can rent bicycles, play mini-golf, or enjoy a picnic overlooking the Statue of Liberty and Lower Manhattan. The island also hosts art installations, performances, and family-friendly events throughout the year.
Grand Central Terminal
Grand Central Terminal, often referred to as Grand Central Station, is more than just a transportation hub; it is an architectural masterpiece and a symbol of New York’s golden age of rail travel. Visiting the terminal is one of the best things to do in New York State for tourists.
A stroll through the bustling concourse reveals a vibrant array of shops, restaurants, and the iconic four-faced clock, a popular meeting spot for New Yorkers. Grand Central Terminal’s historical significance and captivating design have earned it the distinction of being a National Historic Landmark.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
St. Patrick’s Cathedral, located in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, is a stunning example of Gothic Revival architecture and one of the most cherished religious landmarks in the city. Completed in 1878, the cathedral’s spires soar over 300 feet, making it a prominent feature of the New York City skyline.
The cathedral serves as the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York. It is one of the most fascinating things to do in New York State and welcomes worshippers and tourists seeking to admire its religious and architectural significance.
Historical Things to Do in New York State
Saratoga National Historical Park
Nestled in upstate New York, Saratoga National Historical Park holds significant historical importance as the site of two pivotal battles during the American Revolutionary War. The Battles of Saratoga, fought in 1777, were a turning point in the war, leading to the American victory and the subsequent alliance with France.
Today, visiting the park is one of the best historical things to do in New York State. It offers visitors the opportunity to explore the hallowed grounds and learn about the events that unfolded on these battlefields.
Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum
Located in Hyde Park, New York, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum is the first presidential library in the United States and offers a captivating journey into the life and presidency of one of America’s most revered leaders.
The museum houses an extensive collection of documents, photographs, and personal items belonging to President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his wife, Eleanor Roosevelt. Visiting the museum is one of the best things to do in New York State for history buffs.
Visitors can explore interactive exhibits, multimedia displays, and authentic artefacts that shed light on FDR’s impactful New Deal programs, his leadership during World War II, and his enduring legacy as a champion of social progress.
Situated in the Finger Lakes region, Seneca Falls holds a crucial place in American history as the birthplace of the women’s rights movement. In 1848, the historic Seneca Falls Convention took place here, marked by the signing of the Declaration of Sentiments, which demanded women’s suffrage and equal rights.
Today, visiting the park is one of the most inspiring things to do in New York State. The park features exhibits, guided tours, and educational programs that highlight the struggles and achievements of the early suffragists, inspiring visitors to reflect on the ongoing fight for gender equality.
Natural Wonders and Outdoor Recreation Activities
Admire the beauty of the Adirondack Mountains
The Adirondack Mountains, located in upstate New York, offer a captivating natural retreat that beckons outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. The region’s vast expanse encompasses six million acres of pristine wilderness, providing ample opportunities for hiking and camping adventures.
With over 2,000 miles of hiking trails, ranging from leisurely walks to challenging ascents, exploring the mountains is one of the most scenic things to do in New York State. Visitors can explore the diverse landscapes and picturesque vistas that the Adirondacks have to offer.
Beyond outdoor adventures, the region also boasts the legacy of Lake Placid as the site of two Winter Olympics, providing visitors with the chance to explore sports venues and relive the spirit of international competition.
Embrace the charm of the Finger Lakes region
The Finger Lakes region, named after eleven long, narrow lakes resembling the fingers of a hand, is a captivating destination that blends natural beauty with cultural charm. Visiting the lakes is one of the most relaxing things to do in New York State.
One of the main attractions in this region is its thriving wine industry, making it a paradise for wine enthusiasts. Visitors can embark on wine-tasting tours that take them through the rolling vineyards and picturesque wineries.
Additionally, the Finger Lakes region is a haven for nature lovers, with an abundance of waterfalls and scenic trails to explore. Watkins Glen State Park is a standout attraction, featuring a stunning gorge with 19 waterfalls, offering a memorable hiking experience through its enchanting landscape.
Experience the majesty of Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls, one of the world’s most renowned natural wonders, is one of the most popular things to do in New York State. The falls, located on the border between New York State and Canada, consist of three impressive waterfalls: the American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Horseshoe Falls.
Several boat tours, including the iconic Maid of the Mist, offer an up-close experience, taking visitors to the base of the falls, where they can feel the thundering power and mist on their faces. For those who prefer to stay dry, various observation decks and platforms provide stunning panoramic views of the falls from different vantage points.
Additionally, a visit to Niagara-on-the-Lake, a charming town on the Canadian side, offers a delightful extension to the experience. Known for its picturesque beauty, historic sites, and wineries, the town complements the majesty of Niagara Falls and adds another layer of charm to the overall adventure.
Water activities in the Thousand Islands region
The Thousand Islands region, located along the St. Lawrence River in upstate New York, offers a picturesque landscape dotted with over 1,800 islands, making it a haven for water activities and exploration.
Boat tours are one of the most fun things to do in New York State and a popular way to experience the beauty of the region. The tours allow visitors to cruise through the narrow channels, pass by lush islands, and catch glimpses of stunning historic mansions and castles.
Kayaking is another fantastic option for those seeking a more intimate and adventurous experience. Paddling through the tranquil waters offers a unique perspective on the islands’ natural beauty and the chance to spot wildlife, including eagles and herons.
Among the must-visit attractions are Boldt Castle and Singer Castles. Boldt Castle, located on Heart Island, is a magnificent castle built as a tribute to a tragic love story. In contrast, Singer Castle, located on Dark Island, evokes a sense of mystery and intrigue.
Skiing and winter sports in the Catskills
The Catskill Mountains in southeastern New York transform into a winter wonderland and are one of the best things to do in New York State. Two premier ski resorts in the Catskills, Hunter Mountain and Windham Mountain, offer excellent skiing and snowboarding opportunities.
With well-groomed trails catering to all skill levels, from beginners to experts, these resorts provide thrilling downhill adventures amidst the stunning snowy landscape. Après-ski, visitors can warm up in cosy lodges and enjoy delicious meals and hot cocoa.
For those seeking a more serene winter experience, the Catskills offer ample opportunities for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. The region boasts a network of trails that wind through the tranquil woods and showcase breathtaking winter vistas.
Museums and Entertainment
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Visiting one of the world’s largest and most renowned art museums, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, affectionately known as The Met, is one of the most fascinating things to do in New York State.
Situated along Museum Mile on Fifth Avenue, The Met houses an extraordinary collection of over two million artworks spanning 5,000 years of human history. Visitors can meander through galleries filled with ancient artefacts, European masterpieces, Asian art, and modern works representing various artistic styles and movements.
A visit to this prestigious institution is a journey through time and cultures, making it one of the best things to do in New York State for art enthusiasts and history buffs looking to immerse themselves in the rich tapestry of human creativity.
Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
MoMA, located in Midtown Manhattan, is a mecca for modern and contemporary art aficionados. This innovative museum boasts an extraordinary collection of 20th and 21st-century masterpieces, showcasing works by renowned artists such as Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, and Frida Kahlo.
MoMA’s diverse array of paintings, sculptures, photography, and design pieces exemplifies the evolution of art throughout the modern era. Its commitment to pushing artistic boundaries is evident through its rotating exhibitions and thought-provoking installations.
In addition to the artwork, the museum’s educational programs, film screenings, and events contribute to the vibrant cultural scene of New York City, making MoMA one of the best things to do in New York State for anyone with a passion for contemporary creativity.
Woodstock Museum and Art Colony
Located in the picturesque town of Woodstock in the Catskill Mountains, the Woodstock Museum and Art Colony celebrates the legacy of one of the most iconic events in music history – the Woodstock Music Festival of 1969.
The museum offers a captivating journey through the counterculture movement, showcasing artefacts, photographs, and memorabilia that capture the spirit of peace, love, and music that defined the era. Visitors can learn about the festival’s origins, its impact on music and society, and the enduring influence it continues to have on popular culture.
Beyond the festival, Woodstock’s rich artistic heritage is celebrated in the town’s art colony. Art galleries, workshops, and craft fairs add to the cultural vibrancy of the area, making the museum one of the greatest things to do in New York State for art enthusiasts.
Broadway shows and theatres
New York City’s Theater District, known as Broadway, is the global epicentre of live entertainment and theatrical brilliance. The dazzling marquees lining the streets invite theatre enthusiasts to indulge in an array of world-class productions, including musicals, plays, and dance performances.
Broadway theatres host beloved classics like “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Hamilton,” as well as innovative and boundary-pushing works that challenge conventions. The Theater District’s vibrant atmosphere and energy add to the allure, making it a must-visit destination for anyone seeking an unforgettable theatrical experience.
Beyond Broadway, Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway venues showcase emerging talent and experimental works, ensuring a diverse and dynamic theatre scene that caters to all tastes and interests. Visiting the district is one of the most popular things to do in New York State.
Things to Do in New York State for Families
Children’s museums and interactive exhibits
New York State offers a plethora of children’s museums and interactive exhibits designed to ignite young minds and spark curiosity. Museums like the Children’s Museum of Manhattan and the Long Island Children’s Museum feature hands-on exhibits and educational programs that cater to children of all ages.
These museums offer interactive play spaces, imaginative exhibits, and learning activities that foster creativity, problem-solving skills, and a love for learning. Exploring the children’s museums is one of the most popular things to do in New York State for families.
Central Park Zoo and Bronx Zoo
New York City boasts two world-class zoos that captivate visitors with their diverse animal exhibits and conservation efforts. Visiting the zoos is one of the most exciting and educational things to do in New York State for children.
The Central Park Zoo, nestled within Central Park, provides an intimate zoo experience, housing a wide range of animal species from around the globe. Visitors can observe snow leopards, penguins, sea lions, and red pandas in naturalistic habitats, all within the heart of Manhattan.
On the other hand, the Bronx Zoo, one of the largest metropolitan zoos in the world, offers an immersive experience with over 6,000 animals representing various regions and ecosystems.
The zoo’s exhibits, such as the African Plains and Himalayan Highlands, provide a chance to encounter majestic lions, tigers, giraffes, and more. Both zoos prioritise conservation and education, inspiring visitors to appreciate wildlife and actively participate in protecting the planet’s biodiversity.
Situated on the southern tip of Brooklyn, Coney Island is an iconic amusement and entertainment destination that has been attracting visitors for over a century. Its famed boardwalk and thrilling rides, including the historic wooden roller coaster, make it one of the most famous things to do in New York State.
The beach and the Atlantic Ocean provide a perfect escape from the city heat during the summer months. Coney Island’s lively atmosphere also features sideshows, carnival games, and an array of food vendors selling classic treats like Nathan’s Famous hot dogs and cotton candy.
Professional Sporting Events
Attending a Yankees or Mets Baseball Game
New York State is home to two iconic Major League Baseball teams, the New York Yankees and the New York Mets. Catching a game at either Yankee Stadium in the Bronx or Citi Field in Queens is an exhilarating experience for sports enthusiasts and baseball fans alike.
The Yankees, with their rich history and a record number of World Series championships, have a devoted fan base that creates an electrifying atmosphere during games. On the other hand, the Mets offer a family-friendly environment and a passionate following, making their games equally enjoyable.
From the pre-game excitement of tailgating to the thrilling moments on the diamond, attending a Yankees or Mets game provides an authentic taste of New York sports culture. It is one of the most historic and fun things to do in New York State.
NFL games at MetLife Stadium
Located in East Rutherford, New Jersey, MetLife Stadium serves as the home ground for both the New York Giants and the New York Jets, two storied franchises in the National Football League (NFL).
This state-of-the-art stadium offers a thrilling venue for football fans to experience the intensity and excitement of NFL games. The passionate fan bases of both teams contribute to the electric atmosphere on game days, creating an unforgettable experience for attendees.
The stadium’s modern amenities, including high-definition video boards and an array of food options, add to the overall enjoyment. Whether cheering for the Giants or the Jets or simply enjoying the excitement of NFL football, attending a game at MetLife Stadium is one of the best things to do in New York State for sports fans.
Sabres or Rangers Hockey Game
For fans of ice hockey, attending a Buffalo Sabres or New York Rangers game is an exhilarating experience that showcases the passion and intensity of the sport.
The Buffalo Sabres, based in Buffalo, New York, have a dedicated fan base known for their unwavering support, creating a raucous atmosphere at the KeyBank Center. In contrast, the New York Rangers, one of the NHL’s Original Six teams, play their home games at the iconic Madison Square Garden in Manhattan.
Both teams boast storied histories and have hosted some of the game’s greatest players, making each game a memorable event for hockey aficionados. Catching games for either team is one of the most fun things to do in New York State.
There are Endless Things to Do in New York State
New York State stands as a vibrant and diverse destination, offering a treasure trove of experiences that cater to the interests and passions of every tourist. From the iconic sights and cultural landmarks of New York City to the natural wonders, the things to do in New York State leave a lasting impression on visitors from all corners of the globe.
If you’re interested in visiting the United States, check out these 15 Spectacular Destinations for a Holiday in the USA.