Try 15 of the best things to do in New York City (2024)

Three life-changing words: New York City.

Millions are drawn to it; some never shake it. Monumental, artistic, cultural, commercial, cosmopolitan – the City That Never Sleeps is everything you've imagined. You'll never be bored here – the only problem is narrowing down what to do from the endless list of possibilities.

To help you get started, here's a list of my favorite inspirational highlights – all perfect experiences for your next trip. However, the big sights lure big crowds, so brace yourself. If you're after a calmer NYC experience, sights in the "outer borough" (beyond Manhattan) will generally be less crowded.

Ticket costs can also be substantial, soconsider purchasing a New York CityPASS, which offers good discounts on top attractions.

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1. Visit the iconic Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

The iconic copper-greenStatue of Liberty dominates a small island in New York Harbor, casting a protective shadow over neighboring Ellis Island, the site of a stirring Immigration Museum. Still symbolic today, these two landmarks served as an uplifting gateway through which over 12 million soon-to-be-Americans passed from 1892 to 1924.

Planning tip: Boats to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island leave from The Battery in Manhattan and Liberty State Park in New Jersey. The monuments are often visited on a combined ticket – book well ahead, especially if you hope to spend time in Liberty's pedestal or crown.

2. Soak up the views from the Empire State and Chrysler Buildings

The tallest building in the world when it opened in 1931, the 1454ftEmpire State Building remains a much-loved character on the NYC skyline, although somewhat controversially, street-level views of this New York City skyline icon are about to be obscured by a luxury condo apartment. Vistas from the outdoor, 360-degree view, 86th-floor deck and the indoor 102nd-floor observatory are breathtaking, though– particularly at sunset. Look northeast at the art deco Chrysler Building, also once the world's tallest before being dethroned by the Empire State.

Planning tip:Buy tickets in advance and devote a few moments to the second-floor Story of an Icon museum.

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3. Pay tribute to lost lives at the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum

The National 9/11 Memorial is located where the World Trade Center Twin Towers once stood. It features sobering tributes to the lives lost in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, most poignantly two sunken pools with cascades of water pouring into the fallen towers' footprints. Adjacent to the memorial is a profoundly moving museum with remnants and reminders of the tragic day.

Planning tip:The memorial is free; museum tickets are best bought online in advance.

4. Have family-friendly seaside fun at Coney Island

Jutting like a Brooklyn thumb out into New York Harbor's Lower Bay, Coney Island boasts a wide beach, a popular seaside boardwalk and a lively amusem*nt park, all reachable by subway in about an hour from Midtown Manhattan. Popular attractions include the family-friendly New York Aquarium, Nathan's Famous hot dogs, Deno's Wonder Wheel and thrill-filled Luna Park, featuring the wooden Cyclone rollercoaster – a city and national historic landmark.

Planning tip:Walk to nearby Brighton Beach for classic Russian and Ukrainian eats.

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5. Tour the vast collections at NYC's major museums

The Metis NYC's most visited museum for very good reasons. With 5000 years of art from all over the world, two million individual objects and 17 acres of exhibition space, it's massive, astounding and seemingly inexhaustible.

An inside tip – the Met's often bypassed uptown Cloisters were cobbled together from authentic sections of European medieval monasteries. Tickets cover three-day admission to both Met branches.

Directly across Central Park from the Met is another significant museum with a broad scope: the American Museum of Natural History,where your ticket grants you access to more than 50 exhibits and 34 million artifacts!

Art lovers will find modern masterpieces from Warhol, Pollock and more in the Museum of Modern Art; book ahead to skip the line, particularly at weekends. Somewhat smaller and less crowded, though definitely still comprehensive, is the Brooklyn Museum.

Detour: For something much more contemporary and free of hordes, try Brooklyn's Bushwick Collective Street Art.

Use this guide to plan the ultimate museum tour of New York City.

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6. Hang out in Central Park

Hemmed in by buildings, Central Park serves up 843 acres of green space – meadows, groves, gardens and lakes, as well as restaurants, theaters, concert venues, fountains, skating rinks, ballfields, playgrounds and much more. Park Drive, although often crowded, is a favorite route for runners, skaters and cyclists.

Seeking some green space with fewer people? Brooklyn's Prospect Park, created by the same landscapers as Central Park, has all the same charm with far less throng.

Detour: For a leafy overview of Manhattan, consider cycling along sections of the 31-mile Manhattan Waterfront Greenway, especially the Hudson River Greenway segment.

Can't get enough of Central Park? Our local tells you where to find Central Park's best corners.

7. Walk across Brooklyn Bridge to Brooklyn Bridge Park

Undoubtedly NYC's most beautiful river crossing, the 1596ft-long, stone-towered Brooklyn Bridge was one of the world's first steel suspension bridges when it opened in 1883. Today, a walk along its pedestrian passageway delivers delightful Manhattan and Brooklyn skyline views.

Brooklyn Bridge Park, the 1.3-mile, 85-acre green space on Brooklyn's East River shoreline, prolongs the pleasure (and the Manhattan views). Check out the waterfront, glass-enclosed Jane's Carousel and multiple revitalized pier-based leisure and activity areas.

Save these restaurants to your Brooklyn itinerary.

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8. Gaze upon the Manhattan skyline

Manhattan's tumble of buildings is a mesmerizing spectacle, changing in natural and artificial light, particularly at dusk and night. Harbor cruises are a fantastic way to enjoy it, but there are also numerous land-based vantage points along the East River.

In Brooklyn, head for Brooklyn Bridge Park, Brooklyn Heights Promenade, East River State Park in Williamsburg and Transmitter Park in Greenpoint. Over in Queens, go to Gantry Plaza State Park in Long Island City and Astoria Park.

Planning tip:For a once-in-a-lifetime splurge and unbeatable views, take a helicopter tour over NYC; yes, it's pricey, but it's worth it.

9. See art and architecture on the High Line and at Hudson Yards

The 1.5-mile-long High Line is one of New York's great surprises. This art-filled, community green space – featuring gardens, events, and amazing city outlooks – was crafted from an abandoned elevated railway. It can be packed on warm evenings when the unique modern architecture on all sides is illuminated.

The northern terminus of the High Line is at the Hudson Yards, Manhattan's newest luxury development, with gourmet restaurants, upscale shops and singular attractions like Vessel, a multilevel public landmark, and The Edge, the city's highest (101st-floor) open-air observatory.

10. Visit the landmark Rockefeller Center

Perhaps best known for its winter backdrop – a world-famous ice-skating rink and New York's giant ceremoniously-lit Christmas tree – the art deco Rockefeller Center is a busy, art-filled national historic landmark all year round.

Named for its entrepreneurial developer – John D Rockefeller Jr,America's first billionaire – it claims highlights such as the 70th-floor Top of the Rock observation deck, the Radio City Music Hall and NBC Studios Tours, as well as plenty of Midtown shopping and dining.

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11. Be dazzled by the lights of Times Square and the Theater District

The neon lights really do shine bright on Broadway, especially in Times Square at the heart of the world's most celebrated theater district. Day and night, it provides billboarded sensory overload. In the area are dozens of marquee-fronted playhouses hosting box-office hits, alongside Madame Tussauds and National Geographic Encounter: Ocean Odyssey. Bryant Park, Midtown's small but activity-filled green oasis, and the lion-flanked entrance of the New York Public Library, a national historic landmark, are also nearby.

12. Ride the New York City Subway and Staten Island Ferry

The wheels never stop turning in NYC, aided by its sleepless subway, one of the world's biggest mass transit systems. Another iconic part of the New York transport network is the free, orange Staten Island Ferry, the cheapest way to grab pics of Lady Liberty.

For NYC urban transport history, the kid-friendly Transit Museum has climb-aboard subway cars from all eras. There's a museum annex and shop in Grand Central Terminal, a Midtown beaux-arts wonder with an unforgettably grand main concourse.

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13. Support conservation at the Bronx Zoo and New York Botanical Gardens

Who'd have thought the US's biggest and oldest zoo is in NYC? The conservation-minded Bronx Zoo hosts 6000-plus animals in 265 acres of specially designed habitats. Adjacent to it is the New York Botanical Garden, a 250-acre, year-round nature showcase with dozens of indoor and outdoor gardens included in your ticket.

Planning tip: Smaller but impressive alternative zoos can be found at Central Park, Prospect Park and Flushing Meadows Corona Park (Queens). The 50-acre Brooklyn Botanic Garden is famous for its seasonally blossoming cherry trees.

14. Find art and entrepreneurs in Brooklyn

In a city that places a high premium on space, Brooklyn now claims three hip, rehabilitated industrial areas commandeered by entrepreneurs, artisanal makers, retailers, artists, start-ups and nonprofits. Industry City occupies six large warehouses on the Sunset Park waterfront.

Further south, 100-plus companies fill the vast and storied Brooklyn Army Terminal. And east of Downtown Brooklyn, the expansive, historic Brooklyn Navy Yard is a modern made-in-Brooklyn manufacturing hub.

15. Go to a game at a New York stadium

New Yorkers take outsize pride in their sports teams, so how better to absorb the city's energy than at a game? The Bronx's Yankee Stadium and Mets' Citi Field in Queens are grand open-air stadiums, while Manhattan's Madison Square Garden, home of Knicks and Liberty basketball and Rangers hockey, and Brooklyn's futuristic Barclays Center, where the Nets basketball and Islanders hockey teams play, are enclosed, so good for rainy days.

Planning tip:If you'd prefer to see the Giants and Jets compete in the National Football League, their arenas are in nearby New Jersey.

And now for the hard part: should you go to a Mets or Yankees game? Two local experts weigh in.

Keep planning your trip to NYC:

Find out which NYC neighborhood fits your vibe
Find the best time of year to visit
Getting around NYC is fairly straightforward –find out how in our full transportation guide.
Even better, read on for top tips to see New York on two wheels.

Try 15 of the best things to do in New York City (2024)

FAQs

What is the number one attraction in New York City? ›

1. The Statue of Liberty. One of the most iconic landmarks in the United States, the Statue of Liberty, has stood proudly in New York's harbor since 1886.

What to do in NYC in 3 hours? ›

Best Of New York Tour – 3 Hours
  1. Brooklyn. ...
  2. Times Square And The Theatre District. ...
  3. Central Park. ...
  4. Grand Central Station. ...
  5. Upper East Side. ...
  6. The Brooklyn Bridge. ...
  7. Downtown (Lower) Manhattan.

What's the prettiest part of New York? ›

Explore the Adirondack Mountains

If you are looking for the best of New York nature, the Adirondack Mountains should be at the top of your list. This gorgeous region spans over six million acres and offers opportunities for everything from camping to wildlife observation.

What is the prettiest place in New York City? ›

Brooklyn Bridge Park, Domino Park, Brooklyn Bridge, and Staten Island Ferry have some of the most stunning waterfront views in NYC. – Are there any hidden gems with beautiful architecture? The Cloisters and Jefferson Market Library are places with beautiful architecture.

What's best to buy in New York? ›

10 things to buy in New York
  • Anything you can think of, if it's design, will be at Kikkerland. ...
  • A Knicks or Yankees cap at Modell's Sporting Goods. ...
  • Kilos of sugar to sweeten your trip at Economy Candy. ...
  • The T-shirt of your favourite series at the NBC Store. ...
  • A souvenir with history at the Tenement Museum.

What is the special thing in New York? ›

The Statue of Liberty was dedicated on October 28, 1886, designated as a National Monument in 1924 and restored for her centennial on July 4, 1986. Grand Central Terminal is the most extraordinary public space in New York City.

Is $1000 enough for 4 days in New York? ›

If you plan to stay at a 5-star hotel and dine at upscale restaurants in Manhattan, then a budget of $1000 is definitely not going to cut it. However, if you book a mid-tier hotel and take advantage of the many free things to do in New York, then a budget of $1000 is just fine.

How do you spend your afternoon in NYC? ›

And more!
  1. Hop-on Hop-off Big Bus Tour. To get a true sense of the city during the day, a comprehensive bus tour seems in order. ...
  2. Madame Tussauds. ...
  3. Empire State Building. ...
  4. Central Park Bike Tour. ...
  5. American Museum of Natural History. ...
  6. 9/11 Memorial and Museum. ...
  7. The Met. ...
  8. NYC Shopping.

How many days in NYC is enough? ›

You'll need at least a full three days and two nights to get a taste of everything our city has to offer. Three of the most popular NYC attractions are the Statue of Liberty, The Empire State Building, and Central Park.

Should I carry cash in New York? ›

Always make sure you bring enough cash with you. In New York you pay with American dollars. The exchange rate between the dollar and the euro varies continuously due to international currency trade. There are plenty of ATMs in New York and you can easily withdraw money with your credit card.

Is Central Park free? ›

Central Park is free, but has its own paid shares of attractions as well. With its vastness, you'll definitely need a guide to help you pinpoint exactly where to go, and what to do within it if you're pressed for time.

What is New York City commonly known for? ›

New York is known for Times Square, a bustling commercial and entertainment hub famous for its bright lights, Broadway theaters, and iconic New Year's Eve ball drop.

What is the most iconic New York Street? ›

Broadway is your ticket to the bright lights, flashy advertisem*nts, and gigantic billboards of Times Square. The thoroughfare cuts through the commercial hub and forms a town square crossed by hundreds of thousands of people daily.

Is Times Square the most visited tourist attraction? ›

In fact, it is the most visited place in the world. Annual visitors are recorded at an estimated 50 million. Approximately 330,000 people pass through Times Square daily, many of them tourists, while an estimated 450,000 pedestrians walk through Times Square on its busiest days.

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