From Wall Street's skyscrapers to the neon of Times Square to Central Park's leafy paths, New York City pulses with an irrepressible energy. History meets hipness in this global center of entertainment, fashion, media, and finance. World-class museums like MoMA and unforgettable icons like the Statue of Liberty beckon, but discovering the subtler strains of New York's vast ambition is equally rewarding: ethnic enclaves and shops, historic streets of dignified brownstones,...
Home to the Empire State Building, Times Square, Statue of Liberty and other iconic sites, New York City is a fast-paced, globally influential center of art, culture, fashion and finance. The city’s 5 boroughs sit where the Hudson River meets the Atlantic Ocean, with the island borough of Manhattan at the “Big Apple's" core.
We’re not experts on New York by any means, but we have picked up some insider knowledge on what to do including both the touristy attractions and the ones local New Yorkers would recommend.
Here is List Cool Things To Do In New York City.
|Seeing a show on Broadway has to be one of the best things to do in NYC / Photo:MATTHEW MENDOZA|
- Broadway: Seeing a show on Broadway has to be one of the best things to do in NYC. We’ve only seen the Lion King, but next time we’re in the city we plan on purchasing tickets for Wicked. The Phantom of the Opera, Les Mis and Jersey Boys are other shows you can’t go wrong with. If you purchase your tickets in advance, you can typically find pretty good discounts.
- Fuerzabruta: If Broadway is just too mainstream, then consider seeing and participating in Fuerzabruta, Expect dancing, water, neon lights, a plastic bubble, and plenty of ‘wow’ moments at this unique interactive theater event. We didn’t visit so we can’t give a proper review, but this one from the Guardian is definitely intriguing.
- Photograph The Skyline: Dan loves to set out on missions to photograph iconic skylines; if you’re anything like him, then don’t miss snapping at least a few photos of the New York City skyline. Some of the best spots are on the water, the observation decks, the Brooklyn Bridge, and Governor’s Island.
- Experience The Holidays: Our last two visits to New York City have been over Christmas, and we’re fully convinced that it is one of the most magical times of the year to visit the city. In between the Christmas markets, the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, the ice skating, the decorations, the Christmas lights in Brooklyn, Santa Claus at Macy’s and the department store window displays, there’s just no way you can avoid spreading the holiday cheer.
- Sleep No More: If you’re tired of Broadway (though I don’t know if that’s possible!) then don’t miss the unique interactive theater experience of Sleep No More. Sleep No More takes the audience on an individual journey through a performance of Macbeth. Once you enter the elevator to the McKittrick Hotel, a “restored hotel” which at times resembles more of a lunatic asylum than anything else, you are free to venture through the showing on your own accord. The adult-only theatre is quite dark (in more ways than one), perhaps not for those easily spooked.
- Free Summer Concerts: If you happen to be visiting New York City during the warm summer months, don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy live music in a number of the city’s parks. Whether it’s drum bands, dancing or movie showings, you’re bound to find an entertaining way to enjoy a night under the starts. You can find many of the 2015 events here.
- Carnegie Hall: You can come and simply tour the hall, but for the ultimate experience get tickets for a performance. You’ll find orchestras, piano, singers, jazz and more on the schedule for the three different performance spaces.
- Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre: Improve comedy, anyone? Then head to the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, where famous Saturday Night Live cast members (including Tina Fey) got their start. There are locations both in the East Village and Chelsea. Check out the schedule online to see which venue is most to your taste.
- Explore The Boroughs: There’s more to New York City than Manhattan alone. NYC is actually made up of the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Manhattan. We recommend a day to explore at least Brooklyn and Queens, both of which are fascinating neighborhoods with absolutely delicious cuisine. The Bronx Zoo and nearby New York Botanical Garden are also popular options. You could even split up each day in a different neighborhood following this guide – the possibilities are virtually endless!
- Have A Picnic: New York City has more green space than you might think; there are loads of places to choose from if you’re in the mood for a romantic picnic. Central Park might be the first location to come to mind, but also consider Madison Square Park, Prospect Park (one of our favs) or the Hudson River Park in Chelsea. Of course, only in NYC will you find a full-service picnic company specializing in artisans foods for your outdoor lunch in the grass.
- Gelato Making Class: Okay, maybe this seems a bit random, but we included a cooking class in our guide to 50 cool Things To Do In Paris, so it seemed appropriate to include one here as well. Plus, who doesn’t love gelato? This two-hour gelato class takes you through all of the steps and it’s definitely on the top of our to-do list for our next visit to New York.
- Brooklyn Flea: Meander through 100 flea vendors and 30 food vendors at the famous Brooklyn Flea. The market takes place outdoors from April through November, and is ranked ‘one of the best flea markets in the world’ by Travel + Escape. Whether you’re hunting for a bargain or just looking for a way to pass the morning, Brooklyn Flea is a great way to go.
- FAO Schwarz: You don’t have to be a child to enjoy the oldest toy store in the United States. The toy shop is entertaining for all ages, whether you’re reminiscing about your childhood, hanging with Zoltar, dancing on the giant piano, or wondering why a $50,000 child-size Ferrari would ever be a good idea…
- The Strand: Book lovers absolutely cannot miss this independent bookstore located on 828 Broadway. The legendary bookstore dating back to 1927 sells 18 miles of new, used and out-of-print books. There’s no better place to get lost in New York City.
- Chinatown: Whether you’re searching for knock-off Kate Spades or you want to stock up on your Chinese green tea, Chinatown is the place for you. We would recommend avoiding the pushy vendors who offer to take you to their warehouse no matter how enticing it might be and instead opt to experience bits and pieces of Chinese culture. While you’re there don’t miss Prosperity Dumpling some of the best dumplings we’ve had outside of Taiwan.
- Historic Orchid Street Shopping District: One of New York City’s top shopping experiences, a visit to Orchid Street combines Vietnamese cuisine with upscale vintage fashion. You won’t necessarily find the crazy bargains you might have heard about here, but it’s still an experience no shopaholic will want to miss.
- Nolita: Nolita stands for North of Little Italy. Though today it might not feel very Italian, the quaint and quiet neighborhood is easily one of our top picks for shopping. St. Patrick’s Cathedral is nearby, meaning that you can combine your boutique shopping with a visit to the gorgeous church.
- SoHo: This trendy lower Manhattan neighborhood wasn’t always so stylish. But today it is one of the best places for boutique shopping and gallery hopping. We don’t know a ton about what’s in and what’s not (living out of a backpack will do that to you), but this guide to shopping in SoHo does.
- Bleeker Street: Located in Greenwich Village, Bleeker St. is a great place to go for food and specialty stores, as well as chic clothing and trendy cafes. The street is said to have changed a lot in the past couple decades, but it looks like it’s remaining on track to be one of the top shopping streets in the world.
- 5th Avenue: It’s consistently ranked one of the best shopping streets in the world for a reason. If you’re after upscale boutiques, designer name brands and legendary department stores, then this is the place for you. After all, it can never hurt to pop into Tiffany’s, even if you don’t have the budget for what’s on display.
- Department Stores: We only visit the NYC department stores during the holidays to see the window displays, but if you enjoy shopping in department stores, then you can’t miss visiting some of the best in the world. Barney’s, Bloomingdales, Macy’s and Century 21 are some of the most popular ones. This detailed guide will make sure you don’t miss of the other hot spots.
- Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market: If you’re searching for antiques, collectables, jewelry or anything and everything vintage, then this is the flea market for you. Located near the Port Authority Bus Station, this outdoor market is open year-round. (But know that if you visit during the winter months, fewer vendors will be around.)
- Green Flea: The oldest and largest flea market in New York City, you’ll find a huge variety of ‘stuff’ and vendors, ranging from straight up junk to hand-crafted antiques. The market is both indoors and outdoors, so make sure you don’t miss any of it!
- NYC Garment Center Shopping Tour: If managing NYC’s shopping scene on your own sounds like a nightmare, then hire an expert to guide you through it. On a NYC Shopping Tour, you’ll get the scoop on insider locations you otherwise might not know about, as well as exclusive discounts for visiting the shops on the tour.
- Central Park: No visit to NYC is complete without a visit to one of the most iconic parks in the world: Central Park. Dating back to 1857, Central Park is 843 acres of lush oasis in the center of what is otherwise a concrete jungle. Perhaps our favorite thing about Central Park is that there’s always something to do, whether it’s free yoga and concerts in the summer or ice skating and building snowmen in the winter. Take advantage of all the things to see and do in Central Park. Or just spend a lazy afternoon meandering through the Rambles and picnicking in the grass.
- The High Line: The High Line may not be a secret, but it is definitely one of New York City’s gems. An abandoned, above-ground railway stretching from the Meat Packing District to Chelsea, the High Line has been restored to feature botanical gardens, a walking path, and great views out over the river. Just avoid visiting on the weekends as it gets packed with both locals and tourists alike. You can learn all about this refurbished piece of NYC’s past here.
- The National September 11 Memorial and Museum: A visit to the 9/11 Museum and Memorial Plaza is certainly an emotional experience, but one that should not be missed. The Memorial is free to visit; the museum costs $24 per adult but is free Tuesday evenings from 5pm to close. For a riveting post about what it’s actually like to visit the museum, this article says it all.
- The Empire State Building: Head to the 86th floor of this towering skyscraper to experience truly jaw-dropping views of Manhattan. You’ll have to wait in long lines for this ultra-touristy attraction (whatever you do, don’t go on Christmas Eve!), but the visit is certainly worth doing once. The Empire State Building is more than just a great view over NYC; it’s in many ways a symbol of The American Dream.
- Top of the Rock: If you want majestic views of New York City that also include Central Park and The Empire State Building, then consider heading to the Top of the Rock. The observation deck at Rockefeller Center doesn’t see as many visitors as the Empire State Building, and many argue that the views here are even better.
- The Statue of Liberty: Does the Statue of Liberty even need an explanation? Located in the New York Harbor, what started as a gift of friendship between France and the United States is now one of the most recognized and replicated statues in the world. You can learn everything you need to know about planning your visit to Liberty Island here. Alternatively, consider one of these ten ways to spot Lady Liberty from various venues around the city.
- The Brooklyn Bridge: Take a relaxed stroll or bike ride across the Brooklyn Bridge to enjoy the ambience and spectacular views over Manhattan and Brooklyn. We recommend hanging out on the Brooklyn side of the bridge sometime during your walk—there are numerous great places to grab a bite to eat here. The Brooklyn Bridge has a fascinating history, so consider brushing up on some light facts before you head out.
- Grand Central Terminal: A visit to the Grand Central Terminal is the perfect activity for a cold or rainy day. Take time to enjoy the architecture, people watch (500,000 people stream through each day), or grab a bite in one of the cafes. Even if you don’t have much time, hop in to check out the impressive Vanderbilt Hall
- Washington Square Park: It doesn’t get as much press as Central Park, but it is still one of NYC’s most popular places to relax outside. Washington Square Park is located in Greenwich Village, and is most recognized for its famous arch.
- New York Public Library: I love libraries in general, so naturally the New York Public Library is one of my favorite spots in the city. Even if you’re not a book nut, the library is worth a visit for its impressive Beaux Arts architecture and free exhibits. We prefer to wander on our own, but there are free guided tours of the library as well. Fellow travel lovers shouldn’t miss the Map Room.
- MoMA Museum of Modern Art: It’s home to famous works of art such as van Gogh’s Starry Night, Monet’s Water Lilies, and Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans. For many NYC visitors, that’s enough to get them in the doors. There’s enough here to keep you busy for an entire day. If you’re looking for something a bit edgier, then don’t miss a visit to MoMa PS1. The Museum of Modern Art’s non-profit contemporary art exhibition site is set up in Long Island City.
- Times Square: Get in, then get out. Times Square is worth a stop on your first visit to NYC, but don’t plan on spending too much of your time here. It’s loud, chaotic, bright and fun—but also as touristy as it gets.
- West Village: Though we’re not sure if most people would count it as an ‘attraction’, we love a casual stroll through the West Village. We love the historic brownstones and the tree-lined streets. We love the shopping and the dining and the cupcakes. If you want a quaint neighborhood to get lost in, then the West Village is a great pick.
Wining and Dining
- Visit A Speakeasy: Journey back to an era of prohibition, to cool jazz, to flirty flapper dresses and to the thrill of reckless lawlessness. Alcohol might be legal these days, but a renowned interest in the back alley speakeasies of NYC is flowing. Learn more from this entire post we wrote dedicated to speakeasies in NYC.
- Use NYC Groupon Deals: Wining and dining in New York doesn’t have to be as expensive as most people think. We used a few Groupon deals while we were in NYC and got extremely lucky by choosing amazing restaurants and bars we would have visited anyway but we got to do it for half the price. Just do lots of research before you buy any deal to make sure it’s worth the discounted price.
- Eat Greek Food In Astoria: Queens has some of the best ethnic food in the entire city; Astoria in particular is known for its authentic and delectable Greek cuisine. Taverna Kyclades is one of our favorite restaurants. Don’t miss the fresh fish and grilled octopus.
- Eat Pizza…Everywhere: It might sound cliche, but NY pizza is one of our favorite things in the world. No one seems able to agree on where you can actually find the best slice in town. Dani’s House of Pizza in Kew Gardens is one of our favorites for its chilled out atmosphere, friendly staff and cheap prices ($2 a slice).
- Eat Bagels: The pizza comes in at number one, but the bagels aren’t far behind. Locals say that NY’s phenomenal bagels has something to do with the water. All we know is that we’re suckers for the sheer variety of breads and cream cheeses typically available. Brooklyn Bagel and Coffee Company is one of our favorite places to grab breakfast, and New Yorkers seem to agree that this is one of the best locations in the city for bagels.
- Eat Hot Dogs: You knew we couldn’t mention the pizza and bagels without giving tribute to the hot dogs, right? Grab a steaming dog from a vendor, head to the iconic Gray’s Papayas, or make your way all the way to Coney Island for one of Nathan’s Famous. Wherever you choose, you won’t be disappointed with this NYC classic.
- Enjoy Happy Hour at Clover Club NY: This premium cocktail bar in Brooklyn is frequently dubbed New York’s best bar a sweeping statement for a city known for its nightlife and high-end cocktail lounges. We didn’t get to visit ourselves so we can’t join in on the review, but you’ll definitely find us at happy hour here sometime in the future.
- Indulge At The Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory: While you’re n Brooklyn, hop over to the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory. Particularly satisfying on a hot summer day, the Ice Cream Factory boasts a great location on the Brooklyn waterfront. It’s convenient location next to the Brooklyn Bridge means you’ll likely have to wait in a long line before you can savor your scoop, but at least the view while you wait is nice.
- Grab A Bite At The Chelsea Market: It gets busy quick here, but the buzz is enjoyable and the restaurants are delicious. The Chelsea Market is a particularly good stop if you find yourself on the nearby High Line or stuck in some miserable weather. If you need some help on where to eat (we chose the Korean-style ramen at Mok Bar), this article should help.
- Harlem’s Restaurant Row: Harlem’s receiving a lot of attention for its hot culinary scene, and for good reason. Frederick Douglass Blvd. is where you’ll find Restaurant Row, where there are plenty of unique restaurants to choose from. We’ve dined at Harlem Tavern, and loved both the menu and the ambience.
- Frances Tavern: A museum, a restaurant and a historical landmark, Frances Tavern is a total dining experience. The location served as the headquarters for George Washington during the American Revolution, and a visit through the tavern’s museum will illuminate the rich history of the building. Even if you’re not a history nut, the drinks and food here are consistently delicious.
- Eataly: Experience Italian cuisine without ever having to leave New York. This gourmet Italian supermarket and restaurant is always crowded, so only visit Eataly if you don’t mind elbowing for space. That said, the food is delicious and the atmosphere rather fun.
- Enjoy the Cupcakes: Maybe cupcakes are out of style now. But we’ve always loved cupcakes, so much so that rather than having a wedding cake, we had a five-tier tower of cupcakes. So yes, we did eat cupcakes in NYC a luxury we don’t get on our round-the-world travels all that often. Magnolia Bakery is considered by many to be the best, but there is also Billy’s Bakery, Prohibition Bakery (guess what kind of cupcakes they feature?) and Georgetown Cupcakes (an export from D.C.). This Huffington Post article let’s you in on a few more mouth-watering venues where you can get your cupcake fix.
* What is this list missing? Any additional advice or cool things to see and do in New York City?