Writer: Meghan Palmer
Whether it’s your first or your fifth trip, you already know there are endless things to do and see in New York City. With so many options, deciding how to spend your precious time can feel impossible. You’re looking for authentic experiences, but you also don’t want to miss out on those iconic, NYC must-see spots.
Believe it or not, there is a middle ground. Instead of wasting your time waiting in long lines for underwhelming tourist traps, try out these cooler alternatives instead.
Take in the view
You can’t leave Manhattan without taking in the view from way above. There are several attractions that claim to have iconic views, but SUMMIT One Vanderbilt Experience is NYC’s newest attraction housed in the second-tallest non-residential building in the city. Perched 93 stories above the concrete jungle, this immersive art exhibit kills two birds with one stone—you get the breathtaking views from the open-air terrace and the glass-enclosed skyboxes, as well as a multi-sensory art exhibit curated by Kenzo Digital. Views aside, a highlight of the exhibit is SUMMIT AIR, a two-story room layered with floor-to-ceiling mirrors that reflect the New York skyline all around you.
Eat your way through a famed foodie neighborhood
Though there are thousands of incredible restaurants to try in NYC, you don’t want to miss Little Italy. With a tight concentration of eateries in such a small radius, it’s impossible to know which places are worth trying and which to avoid. Instead of doing all that research, opt for a Little Italy Food Tasting Tour. You’ll get to know the unique history of the area—how it came to be, the movie locations, the bootlegging depot from the Prohibition era—and you’ll sample the equivalent of a four-course lunch across four venues. A highlight of the tour? Skipping the always-long line at Ferrara Bakery, a neighborhood favorite since 1892.
Get lost in the first landscaped public park in the US
Central Park is one of the most beautiful places in Manhattan and it is much bigger than most visitors realize, nearly double the size of Monaco. Since many areas of the park’s bike loop are uphill, a Central Park Electric Scooter Tour is a great way to see it while conserving your energy. The first stop of the tour is the iconic Bethesda Fountain, built to commemorate the aqueduct that first brought fresh water to New York City in 1842. Expect plenty of photo ops along the way, from the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir to Cleopatra’s Needle.
Enjoy an evening of jazz with a view
New York’s live jazz scene is second to none, and it was the testing ground for many famous jazz musicians like Billie Holiday and Duke Ellington. While there may be jazz clubs around every corner, many have short shows and strict drink minimums. For an unforgettable alternative, board a 1920s-style luxury yacht for an Evening Jazz Cruise. Put in a request with the band to play your favorite song, get a front-row seat of the sunset from the water, and take in the glowing Manhattan skyline, including an unobstructed view of the Statue of Liberty.
Explore the largest museum in the Western Hemisphere
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, or simply The Met, is as famous for its iconic steps and comprehensive collection of art as it is for its long lines that snake along Fifth Avenue. With a guided, small-group tour, you can skip the lines and hear interesting anecdotes from your art historian guide, allowing you to discover the museum’s most important pieces in three hours. Plus, if you’re visiting from May to October, the tour grants you access to The Met’s exclusive rooftop garden (and bar) overlooking Central Park — the perfect way to unwind after an art-filled afternoon.
Discover the birthplace of Broadway
No trip to New York is complete without seeing the sparkling chaos that is Times Square. The birthplace of Broadway, you’ll find theaters and Tony award-winning shows around every corner, so what better way to explore it than on a Times Square Tour with a professional actor as your guide. You’ll get all of the hot gossip about the theater community, along with a behind-the-scenes look at the gritty, glamorous life of the thousands of aspiring actors who come to the city every year with dreams of making it on Broadway.