30 Best Things To Do in NYC (Across all Five Boroughs)
There is no place in the world like New York, a city so influential and populated that it has often been referred to as “the center of the universe.” With a diverse local population, millions of annual visitors, hundreds of major landmarks, and an endless stream of ever-evolving restaurants, shops, museums, and boutiques, there’s a reason New York is the number one most visited city by foreign travelers. With so much ground to cover, you could visit New York several times over and still leave with a long list of places to see. To help you narrow down your search, here are 30 essential New York City things to do across all five boroughs.
Table of Contents
Things to do in Manhattan
Browse the shops, sights, and museums on 5th AvenueTIME TO SPEND: 4 hours
The most famous shopping street in the US, if not the world, 5th Avenue technically starts downtown in Greenwich Village and ends way uptown at 143rd Street. With so many notable landmarks running along its six miles, you could easily spend an entire day discovering the best of New York along its path.
Start at Museum Mile in the Upper East Side, a mile-long stretch hugging Central Park where you’ll find the American Museum of Natural History, featuring over 34 million specimens from dinosaurs to diamonds, and the iconic Guggenheim, the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed museum designated as one of New York City’s two UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Venture further south and you’ll soon hit 59th Street, where iconic designer storefronts that include Bergdorf Goodman, Tiffany & Co., and Saks Fifth Avenue are plenty. As you shop your way further south, you’ll pass several famous New York institutions, including St Patrick’s Cathedral and Rockefeller Center, with its famous observation deck, Top of the Rock, offering unparalleled views of Central Park from 850 feet above.
You’ll also pass by the New York Public Library, a historic landmark open to the public located on Bryant Park at 42nd Street, the Empire State Building at 33rd Street, and the Flatiron Building at 23rd Street.
Explore the hidden gems and celebrated landmarks of Central ParkTIME TO SPEND: 2 hours
Central Park is not only the most famous park in New York City, but it is also the single most visited urban park in the United States.
When it was initially planned, developing Central Park was estimated to cost just over a million dollars, but in the end, the bill was up to $7.39 million — meaning Central Park cost the US more than the entire state of Alaska, bought around the same time of the park’s creation for $7.2 million. It is also quite large, larger than the entire Vatican City.
As such, exploring the entire park by foot is nearly impossible, but an electric scooter tour can be the optimal solution for those looking to cover the most ground. Zip around Central Park’s expansive 843 acres as you stop by famous sights like the iconic Bethesda Fountain, also known as the Heart of New York City. Visit the park’s other famous landmarks, including Cleopatra’s Needle, the Jackie Kennedy Reservoir, and the North Woods.
To continue along with the exploration after your tour, stop by the Imagine Mosaic, the mosaic dedicated to John Lennon, Strawberry Fields, Wollman Rink, The Great Lawn, Central Park Zoo, and the Loeb Boathouse.
If you happen to be visiting New York in the winter, check out the Winter Lights, a half-mile walk through Central Park decorated with Christmas Lights. In the spring and summer you can rent a paddleboat from Loeb boathouse, or hitch a ride on a romantic gondola.
See a Broadway show and stay for the Times Square Midnight MomentTIME TO SPEND: 4 hours
Just as you can’t leave New York without having a slice of pizza and a famous New York bagel, you also can’t leave New York without visiting Times Square.
With millions of visitors a year, Times Square is considered one of the most visited places in the entire world. The area is known for its incredible display of flashy lights and electronic billboards, which shine so brightly it is one of the only places on Earth that can be seen from outer space.
Times Square is also known as the heartbeat of New York’s thriving theater scene, boasting a collection of 41 Broadway theaters that feature a wide variety of plays and musicals starring Tony award-winning actors.
To make the most of your visit to this iconic stretch of Midtown, start by catching a classic Broadway show, like The Phantom of the Opera or The Lion King, or branch off the beaten path and see a newer performance, like Beetlejuice or Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
After watching the show, return to Times Square just before midnight to see the world’s largest and longest-running digital art exhibition, Midnight Moment. For 3 minutes every night, the billboard screens that famously surround Times Square synchronize to present a single work of unique and experimental art, with a rotating selection of artists featured each month. The show is free and there’s no bad spot on the street to see it, but be sure to arrive on time, as it begins promptly at 11:57 pm and only lasts until midnight.
Uncover the secrets of Grand Central TerminalTIME TO SPEND: 1.5 hours
When Grand Central Terminal first opened its doors to the public on February 2, 1913, it served as an important transit hub serving the New York, New Haven, and Hartford railroads. The landmark invigorated Midtown Manhattan, transforming regional transportation and shaping the city for years to come.
Today, this Beaux-Arts architectural marvel is the second most visited tourist attraction in New York — after Times Square — serving 750,000 visitors and commuters every single day.
With one visit, it became clear Grand Central is not your average train terminal, but a glorious landmark that acts as a transportation hub, a dining and shopping center, and a maze of hidden wonders that are best discovered with the secrets of Grand Central Terminal tour. Not only will you get to learn more about the history of the station during the booming age of the railroad, but you’ll also be expertly guided by a local as you discover the many hidden wonders tucked into the halls of Grand Central’s 48-acre station.
Spend some time staring up at the centerpiece of the Main Concourse, the celestial ceiling, which features the 12 zodiac constellations. Look closely and you’ll find a small, dark brick next to the Cancer crab, a reminder of what the station’s ceiling looked like before it was cleaned during the 1998 restoration project. Check out the $20 million Information Booth Clock and continue along as you discover the best-kept secrets of the terminal.
As you’re led through the winding archways and hidden hallways of the station, you’ll visit Grand Central’s hidden tennis courts, discover the surprising whispering gallery — where many marriage proposals have happened — spot a multi-million dollar jewel hidden in plain sight, and so much more. Even if you’ve visited Grand Central Terminal before, you’ve likely never seen it like this.
Pay tribute at the National 9/11 Memorial MuseumTIME TO SPEND: 2 hours
An essential stops during your visit to New York is paying tribute to the lives lost during the September 11th terrorist attacks with a visit to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, located in downtown Manhattan in the Financial District.
Make your visit the most memorable with a certified tour of Ground Zero, led by a New Yorker who has a personal connection to the tragic events of 9/11. Hear stories of heroism and bravery as you visit the reflecting pools, the largest man-made waterfall in the US, which are surrounded by bronze prophets that list the names of the victims of the 9/11 attacks. The twin pools, designed by architect Michael Arad, opened ten years after the attacks on September 11, 2011, and sit at the exact site of the former Twin Towers.
After paying your respects at the pools, continue along to St. Paul’s Chapel, a makeshift rescue center and tribute to the victims of one of history’s darkest days. Hear the stories of the emergency services at the Firefighter’s 9/11 Memorial and see the Engine and Ladder Company 10/10, the fire station of Ground Zero, before concluding your afternoon with a timed entry ticket to the 9/11 Museum.
The guided portion of your tour concludes here, so you’ll be able to take your time and explore the exhibits on your own, learning more about the harrowing tales of the devastating day.
Discover Chelsea, walk The High Line, and visit Hudson YardsTIME TO SPEND: 2 hours
Nestled between downtown and Midtown on the west side of Manhattan is a New York City neighborhood you can’t miss, Chelsea. While the area today is known for its chic, trendy sensibilities and for being the art capital of New York City with over 400 galleries, this wasn’t always the case.
On a guided tour of the neighborhood, you’ll hear about the area’s industrial history, which is particularly present in the neighborhood’s Meatpacking District, a stretch of blocks that housed hundreds of slaughterhouses and meat packing plants in the early and mid-1900s.
The tour begins at Chelsea Market, a sprawling multi-floor food and shopping center constructed in the 1890s that was originally the site of the National Biscuit Company factory complex, where the Oreo cookie was invented. From there, you’ll climb a few flights of stairs and end up on The High Line, the only elevated linear park in New York City.
Stroll along the mile-long linear park, created on a section of the former elevated New York Central Railroad, to take in the best views of Chelsea and its stunning, high-end buildings that surround The High Line. At the conclusion of The High Line, you’ll end up in Hudson Yards, New York’s newest neighborhood and the most expansive and expensive private development in the US.
Check out the Vessel, the extraordinary centerpiece of Hudson Yards that has quickly become a new New York City hotspot, comprising 154 interconnecting flights of stairs with almost 2,500 individual steps and 80 landings.
Just outside of The Vessel is the Shed, home to rotating art exhibitions, and The Shops at Hudson Yards, a multi-floor modern shopping mall with several high-end storefronts and premier dining options. If you’re looking for a meal, grab a table at queensyard, the posh eatery serving London-centric fare on the second floor of the shops.
Take a guided walk through three famous neighborhoods: SoHo, Little Italy, and ChinatownTIME TO SPEND: 2 hours
One of the most unique things about Manhattan is the way each neighborhood — 53 in total — has its own personality, history, and architecture.
You’ll have the chance to explore three contrasting, albeit significant, downtown neighborhoods with a walking tour through SoHo, Little Italy, and Chinatown, offering a sample of New York’s incredible diversity.
Start off in SoHo, the trendy neighborhood known as a hotbed for celebrities and high-end shopping, to see its lovely wrought-iron architecture and stop by several interesting spots, including Greene and Spring streets, the site of the Manhattan Well Murder, which was the first recorded murder case in New York City, the beaux-arts Old Police Station, and 421 Broome Street, where Heath Ledger passed away in Mary Kate Olsen’s apartment.
After taking in the high-end bustle of SoHo, and possibly spotting a few celebrities along the way, you’ll venture over to Little Italy and Chinatown. Here, New York’s rich immigrant history comes to life as you hear tales from the 19th and 20th centuries, a time period when immigrants flooded to the city seeking better opportunities.
Many ethnic groups stuck together during this pivotal time and formed tight-knit communities that are still thriving more than 100 years later. Your guide will share stories of the trials and tribulations of immigrant life in the neighborhoods as you are guided around, stopping at a handful of important sights and buildings along the way.
Stop for sweets and souvenirs in Little Italy — be sure to grab a cannoli from one of the area’s Italian bakeries — and end in Chinatown, where you should enjoy lunch or dinner at one of the neighborhood’s famous dim sum shops.
Take in the view from the Empire State BuildingTIME TO SPEND: 1.5 hours
Thanks to its iconic Art Deco structure, the Empire State Building is one of the most famous buildings in the world, and for years, it was also the tallest.
In the late 1920s, the economy in New York was booming and builders were in a race to erect the world’s tallest skyscraper. Builders of the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building were the two top contenders, constantly redoing their blueprints to be taller than one another. In the end, the Empire State Building won at an impressive 102 stories, and it remained the tallest building for 40 years.
Today, a visit to the building offers not only incredible views of the city skyline but a crash course in history and architecture. Sunset is a great time to take in the view from the 86th-floor observation deck, but beware, as it can get quite crowded.
Purchase a skip-the-line ticket ahead of time to secure your spot and arrive a few hours before sunset, when crowds are typically smaller. Head up to take in the view during the day before venturing back down to explore the building.
Marvel at the newly designed Art Deco lobby and spend some time exploring 10,000 square feet of sprawling interactive exhibits on the second floor, which delve into the historical significance of the building. Highlights include the Otis Elevator exhibit, offering a peek inside the building’s first elevators, and Kong, a look into the hundreds of references to the Empire State Building pop culture.
Make your way back up to the observation deck at sunset and take in panoramic views across 6 surrounding states along with 360-degree views of New York City — there’s nothing quite like seeing the city light up at night.
Be sure to bring a jacket, as the observation deck gets chilly at night in almost every season. If you happen to be a morning person, you can also visit the observation deck at sunrise with a more expensive ticket but be sure to book far in advance, as only 100 sunrise tickets are available every day.
Meet Lady Liberty and explore Ellis IslandTIME TO SPEND: 2 hours
In the 1870s, French abolitionist Édouard de Laboulaye joined forces with sculptor Frédéric Bartholdi and renowned engineer Gustave Eiffel to dream up a monumental gift for the United States, the Statue of Liberty. The statue acted as a symbol of friendship between the US and France, but it was also a celebration of the end of slavery.
Today, the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of freedom and justice and it is also a must-visit attraction in NYC. While there are many ways to see the statue, it is best to get up close and personal, pairing a visit to Liberty Island, the home of the statue, with a visit to Ellis Island, America’s busiest immigration station for over 62 years.
While many visitors opt to depart from the Manhattan side, the best experience starts in New Jersey, where you’ll board the ferry and take in stunning views of Manhattan from across the river. Cruise around to get clear views of Lady Liberty as you arrive at your first stop, Ellis Island, where you can walk in the footsteps of millions of people from all around the globe who passed through seeking a new life for their families in America.
Access to the American Family Immigration History Center’s records, where you can search all ship manifests that came through Ellis Island, before boarding the ferry once more en route to Liberty Island. Explore the Statue of Liberty and its fascinating history, get a few photos, and enjoy a narrated, self-guided tour to get even more information.
Take in the largest collection of modern art in the world at The Museum of Modern ArtTIME TO SPEND: 2 hours
For art-lovers visiting New York City, an afternoon at the Museum of Modern Art, or the MoMA, is a must. Highly regarded as one of the finest modern art institutions in the world, the MoMA houses hundreds of thousands of works from some of the most influential artists of all time, like Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet, Salvador Dali, Frida Kahlo, Vincent van Gogh, and many more.
Book a timed entry ticket to skip the line and save time, which you’ll need as you move through six floors of extensive art galleries, with an incredible private collection boasting over 200,000 works of art, from paintings and sculptures to photographs, drawings, and more, The MoMa is unique in that its immense, multi-floor gallery spaces host both classic works of art by the world’s most established artists alongside more contemporary, experimental counterparts to encourage conversation between past and present through the lens of art.
This juxtaposition is present throughout the entire experience, fuelling creativity, opening minds, and providing inspiration for artists and art admirers alike.
While visiting, be sure to dedicate some time to admire the most famous works housed at the Moma, including Monet’s Water Lilies, van Gogh’s The Starry Night, Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, Matisse’s Dance (I), and Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans.
Peruse the Morgan Library & MuseumTIME TO SPEND: 1 hour
The Morgan Library and Museum is one of the lesser-known attractions in New York City, but a visit to this stunning hidden gem should be on your New York to-do list.
Pierpont Morgan, the late financier, collector, and cultural benefactor began to assemble a collection of illuminated, literary, and historical manuscripts, early printed books, and old master drawings and prints in the 1890s, amassing a highly rare collection of important works. Morgan commissioned a library to be built adjacent to his Madison Avenue home in the early 1900s in order to house all of his rare works, and thus, the Morgan Library was born.
The beautiful, Italian Renaissance-style design was created by famous architect Charles McKim just three years before his death. The library was private for a period of time, but eleven years after Morgan passed away, his son realized the library had become far too significant to remain private.
In what is considered one of the most momentous cultural gifts in US history, Morgan’s son decided to donate the library to New York City, making its treasures available to scholars and the public alike by transforming it into a public institution.
Today, the original library includes a 75,000 square foot addition, which visitors can enjoy as they peruse the incredibly rare works of writing and art nestled among the jaw-dropping design of the space. You can purchase your ticket online in advance. If you happen to be visiting on a Friday, admission is free from 5 pm – 7 pm with a pre-booked online reservation required.
Things to do in Brooklyn
Walk over the Brooklyn Bridge and explore DumboTIME TO SPEND: 2.5 hours
New York City is teeming with famous bridges — Manhattan alone is connected to the rest of the world through 21 bridges and 25 tunnels — but one of the most noteworthy is the Brooklyn Bridge.
Finished in 1883 as the first-ever steel-wire suspension bridge, the Brooklyn Bridge was an architectural feat that served as an important means of encouraging commerce between Manhattan and Brooklyn.
These days, it is a busy pedestrian walkway and a popular tourist attraction, offering unbeatable views and plenty of photo ops. Instead of walking the bridge yourself, take a guided tour to discover the history behind this important piece of history.
You’ll learn about the roots of ferry travel across the East River and the politics behind the building of the bridge, along with getting background on other bridges, buildings, and monuments while crossing the East River.
On the other side of the bridge, you’ll come out in DUMBO, which stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, a name that was given to the neighborhood specifically to deter rapid gentrification of the formerly industrial area.
The name didn’t stop DUMBO from becoming one of the most expensive and coveted neighborhoods in modern Brooklyn, where cobblestone streets are flocked with chic restaurants, luxury apartment buildings, and beautiful boutiques.
Once you cross the bridge to DUMBO, stop at Grimaldi’s, the famous New York institution located under the bridge. Explore the neighborhood with your guide, or venture off on your own. Stop at Butler for a coffee, grab a photo at the intersection of Washington and Water Street, where the Brooklyn Bridge is perfectly framed between two buildings, and end at Brooklyn Bridge Park, a public park offering incredible waterfront views of the city.
Explore Prospect Park and eat your way through SmorgasburgTIME TO SPEND: 2 hours
With more than 1,700 parks in New York City, it’s safe to say you won’t be able to visit them all, but be sure Prospect Park is on your list. The park was designed over 150 years ago by Central Park designers Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmstead. Despite Central Park’s significance, Olmstead considered Prospect Park his masterpiece.
Get a feel for the park with a bike tour, which gives you the opportunity to cover the most ground in the least amount of time. You’ll set off on a journey through many of the natural and historic landmarks of Prospect Park, including the Long Meadow, the Ravine, and the park’s system of lakes and streams. The tour focuses on a special theme, with a different route, content, and special behind-the-scenes site visits offering a unique experience every time.
If you happen to be visiting in the spring or summer months, end your Prospect Park day with a visit to Smorgasburg at Breeze Hill, the largest weekly open-air food market in America attracting thousands of locals and visitors each year. Browse through stalls of the best local food vendors, selling everything from authentic dumplings to chili-spiced mango to local craft beer. Be sure to have cash on hand, as most of the vendors operate as cash only.
Find Egyptian and African art at the Brooklyn MuseumTIME TO SPEND: 2 hours
The Brooklyn Museum is the third largest museum in the city, located on the edge of Prospect Park on part of the ancestral homeland of the Lenape (Delaware) people.
The first section of the museum was opened in 1897, and in 1923 it became the first museum in the United States to exhibit African cast metal and other objects as art rather than ethnological artifacts. Known for its extensive collection of Egyptian and African art, in addition to paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts from the 17th to 20th centuries, the Brooklyn Museum aims to create inspiring encounters with art that expand the ways visitors see themselves, the world, and its possibilities.
One of the notable features of the museum is its dedication to community impact, and many of its partnerships and programs work to amplify the voices of those who have been historically marginalized in order to inspire action and impact.
Don’t miss the third floor, where you’ll find a fascinating exhibit about the Egyptian beliefs about the afterlife. To make your visit smooth and line-free, book a timed entry ticket in advance.
Walk among the resting at the Green-Wood CemeteryTIME TO SPEND: 1.5 hours
Founded in 1838 as one of America’s first rural cemeteries, Green-Wood Cemetery is one of the most fascinating and ecologically diverse parts of Brooklyn.
Though it is technically still an active cemetery—a final resting place for over 570,000 permanent residents—it is also a cultural institution and an outdoor museum spanning a whopping 478 acres.
The cemetery’s stunning grounds are made up of an expansive park full of hills, glacial ponds, walking paths, and little valleys alongside gravestones, statuaries, and mausoleums. The flora in the cemetery is so abundant that it is considered an arboretum.
Nature aside, a visit to the cemetery also acts as an interesting history lesson, as it was the site of a major Revolutionary War battle and was a popular picnicking spot for first-generation Americans in the late 1800s, inspiring the city to create other public parks.
Entry to the cemetery is free, but you can opt for a trolley tour of the grounds or catch concerts, visual art exhibits, and other cultural programming in the warmer months.
See world-class street art at The Bushwick CollectiveTIME TO SPEND: 2 hours
While many Brooklyn neighborhoods have become entirely gentrified over the years, Buschwick is one of the few areas that still has a local, underground feel.
Visit this hip, historically Hispanic neighborhood, now known as an artistic enclave for cool kids thanks to its more affordable industrial art spaces. A highlight of the neighborhood is the Bushwick Collective, an ever-evolving open-air gallery of street art, graffiti, and murals painted by an array of local and famous artists.
Discover incredible murals in NYC’s top district for urban art, learn about the style and backgrounds of local street artists, and see the various techniques used with a guided walk around the area.
Afterward, grab a coffee at one of the trendy cafes in the neighborhood, like Dweebs or Nook. If you happen to be around in June, join the summer block party hosted by Bushwick Collective, an annual art event celebrating the local art community with craft markets and world-famous artist showcases.
Eat your way through DeKalb Market HallTIME TO SPEND: 1 hour
With so many different food halls in New York — from the Time Out Market in DUMBO to Chelsea Market and the Gotham West Market in Hell’s Kitchen — it can be hard to decide which one to visit.
While in Brooklyn, the DeKalb Market Hall should be on your list, as it’s the largest food hall in the borough. Located at City Point in downtown Brooklyn, the 27,000-square-foot subterranean market is home to over 40 local and regional vendors offering a range of international flavors.
Its extensive roster of restaurants and food stands was intentionally curated to reflect the ethnic diversity of New York City, with the goal of supporting local eateries and promising culinary talent.
No matter what type of food you’re in the mood for, French, Thai, Polish, Chinese, English, American, and Middle Eastern — it’s all available here. With pulsing energy, a cool underground vibe, and a collection of exciting dining and drinking options, you can make your visit to DeKalb Market Hall last a whole evening.
If you’re looking for dinner and a show, check out one of the live performances at the DeKalb Stage. Tickets are inexpensive, but you have to book online to save your spot.
Bring out the child in you at Coney IslandTIME TO SPEND: 4 hours
Coney Island, the Brooklyn neighborhood located on a peninsula shared with Brighton Beach and Manhattan Beach on the Lower New York Bay, has been a hotspot for tourists since the late 1800s. It originally opened as a seaside resort in 1824, and as the number of visitors grew, so did the number of attractions.
At one point, Coney Island’s beach saw a million visitors every day, and former Brooklyn borough president Edward Riegelmann decided to build the Coney Island Boardwalk to address the congestion problem. The boardwalk, known as the “5th Avenue of Coney Island,” was finished in 1922 and extends 2.7 miles.
Coney Island used to be known as “poor man’s paradise” because of the 5-cent Nathan’s Famous hotdogs for sale on the boardwalk. While the hot dogs have gotten markedly more expensive, you can still pick one up for just a few dollars—it’s practically a requirement while visiting.
The beach on Coney Island is still ranked one of the best beaches in New York and is open year-round, though it is best to visit in the warmer months between May and September. You can also enjoy two different amusement parks, typically operating between Easter and Halloween.
Enjoy the nostalgia of the place with a stroll along the boardwalk and a thrilling ride, or catch a number of seasonal events, like the Mermaid Parade or the annual Fourth of July Nathan’s Famous hotdog eating contest.
Immerse yourself in multidisciplinary art at the Brooklyn Academy of MusicTIME TO SPEND: 2 hours
The Brooklyn Academy of Music is a popular performing arts venue known as a center for progressive and avant-garde performances. Its first performance happened way back in 1891, and it began operating at its current location in 1908. Back in the 1990s heyday of MTV, bands like Alice in Chains recorded their Unplugged performances at this storied music venue.
With three different locations, each housing various arts facilities, Brooklyn Academy of Music has programming for every art lover visiting the city. At the Peter Jay Sharp Building, you can catch a show at the historic BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, or catch a movie at the BAM Rose Cinemas. The other two locations — BAM Fisher and BAM Strong — feature a rooftop terrace, multiple cinema spaces, and The Rudin Family Gallery.
Whether you want to see a dance or theater show, catch a musical performance or live concert taping, or sit in on a talk from your favorite author, the Academy continues to develop unique, inclusive programming that celebrates art in all forms.
Things to do in The Bronx
See a baseball game at Yankee StadiumTIME TO SPEND: 2 hours
One of the most polarizing topics for New Yorkers is which baseball team you support, the Yankees or the Giants. No matter what side you fall on, there’s no denying that Yankee Stadium is one of the most famous sports stadiums in the world.
Originally opened in 1923 and home of the legendary New York Yankees baseball team, this iconic stadium is the perfect stop for sports lovers and non-sports lovers alike.
The new stadium, which opened in 2009 and is easily accessible by the 4, B, and D Subway lines, incorporated many design elements from the original, but with an updated modern twist. It cost $1.5 billion to build, making it the most expensive baseball stadium in the world.
If you’re visiting during baseball season, from April to October, gear up for a game by grabbing an instantly recognizable baseball cap from a street vendor, grabbing a hot dog, and rooting for the home team, the Yankees. If hotdogs aren’t your thing, there are over 130 stands to choose from.
“New York, New York” is played over the stadium loudspeakers at the end of every game — the tradition used to be that the Frank Sinatra version was played if they won and the Liza Minnelli version was played if they lost, but today it’s only Frank no matter the outcome.
If you can’t make it for a game but still want to check it out, guided tours of the stadium are available during the off-season.
Get in touch with wildlife at the Bronx ZooTIME TO SPEND: 3 hours
The Bronx Zoo has been a hallmark of the city since it opened in 1899. Comprising 265 acres, it is considered the largest metropolitan zoo and one of the largest wildlife conservation parks in the US, housing more than 4,000 animals across 650 species.
With such a vast space and so many different animals to see, a visit to the Bronx Zoo can be customized to suit your interests, whether you want to watch the bison graze, the gorillas play, or hear from the experts during a zookeeper chat.
For true animal lovers who want to make the most of their visit, opt for an up-close and personal Wildlife Encounter, which allows visitors to get a behind-the-scenes look at the zoo by hearing directly from the experts and getting to meet some of the animals in person — just note that the Wildlife Encounters requires additional tickets and reservations.
The best part about a visit is that you can leave knowing your ticket purchase has done some good for the animals, as the Bronx Zoo is part of the New York Zoological Society, a science-based organization dedicated to saving wildlife. Bronx Zoo conservationists saved, bred, and reintroduced Tanzania’s Kihansi spray toads into the wild, played a crucial role in the reintroduction of American bison to the western plains, and made New York’s rivers home to eastern hellbenders once again.
The zoo is easily accessible by Subway, and while there are dining options within the zoo, your best bet is to save your appetite and venture over to Arthur Avenue, just a ten-minute walk, for an authentic Italian meal to cap off the day.
Become one with nature at the New York Botanical GardenTIME TO SPEND: 2 hours
Neighbors with the Bronx Zoo, the New York Botanical Garden is a plant-lovers paradise, and a visit to its lush grounds is such a transporting experience that you might just forget you’re in New York City. Established in 1891, the 250-acre garden is the largest in the US and is considered a National Historic Landmark, encompassing 50 specialty gardens comprising more than one million plants.
You’ll stroll down a series of winding walkways as you browse the grounds, taking in native plants, conifer arboretums, azalea and orchid gardens, daffodil hills, a large forest, and more.
You could easily spend hours in the gardens as there is so much to see, but don’t miss the highlights: the award-winning Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden, considered among the world’s most sustainable rose gardens; the Native Plant Garden, celebrating the diversity of northeastern North American plants; and over 30,000 distinguished trees throughout the garden, many more than 200 years old. The park also boasts a greenhouse, a conservatory, and the nation’s finest Victorian-style glasshouse.
Be sure to purchase your ticket in advance, and check out the special rotating exhibits that happen at the garden each year. A favorite is the annual Orchid Show, which typically runs from February through May. Tickets for The Orchid Show tend to sell out quickly, so be sure to book further in advance if you’re set on seeing it during your visit.
Take a nature walk in the Wave Hill Public Garden & Cultural CenterTIME TO SPEND: 2 hours
If all of these encounters with the natural world in the middle of the concrete jungle have left you wanting more, venture further north and make your way to the Wave Hill Public Garden and Cultural Center, a jaw-dropping oasis that often flies under the radar for visitors.
Think of Wave Hill as a pared-down, less intimidating version of the New York Botanical Gardens — but no less impressive and perhaps even more magical. The uniquely designed garden is a living collection of over 4,000 different varieties of plants nestled right along the Hudson River, and walking through its stunning landscape makes you feel like royalty.
The 28-acre park features gardens, greenhouses, sprawling lawns, wooded forests, and views of the Hudson River. Wave Hill is open every season, and each season gives visitors a different experience. If you happen to be visiting in the fall, Wave Hill Public Garden rivals Central Park as one of the best places in the city to see the brilliant foliage.
The garden is open Tuesdays through Sundays, and admission is free on Thursdays. Unlike most other New York City attractions, tickets cannot be purchased in advance, so grab your tickets upon arrival and get to exploring.
Things to do in Queens
Immerse yourself in diversity in Jackson HeightsTIME TO SPEND: 2 hours
New York City is famous for many things, but it’s incredible food and rich cultural diversity top the list. You’ll experience the best of both of those worlds with a visit to Jackson Heights.
Not only is Jackson Heights the epicenter of gay culture in Queens, but it is one of the most culturally diverse neighborhoods in New York. According to the New York Times, Jackson Heights is the most diverse neighborhood on the planet. You can feel the buzzing energy in this north-central Queens area the moment you arrive. Over 160 languages are spoken in Jackson Heights, but it is only half the size of Central Park.
For an experience that is as authentic and diverse as New York City itself, spend a day in Jackson Heights, where you’ll find Indian boutiques, Korean supermarkets, and Hispanic dancing halls around every corner.
The first thing you’ll want to do during your visit is to eat, as this is arguably the best neighborhood for eating in New York. Stroll along Roosevelt Avenue at night, where food vendors hailing from Mexico, Ecuador, El Salvador, Columbia, and the Dominican Republic line up for blocks, serving delicious tortas, gorditas, tacos, chuzos, quesadillas, roast pork, sweetened shaved ice, and so much more.
After, satisfy your sweet tooth at Cannelle Patisserie, a French bakery offering a variety of authentic, fresh-baked pastries. For a taste of the neighborhood’s nightlife, visit Terraza 7, a bar that doubles as a nightly entertainment hotspot, featuring poetry slams, DJs, film screenings, jam sessions, and more. If you happen to be in town over the summer, you shouldn’t miss the Queens Pride Parade, a celebration of inclusivity and love that takes place every June.
Check out some contemporary art at MoMA PS1TIME TO SPEND: 2.5 hours
Long Island City is one of the coolest, most up-and-coming neighborhoods in Queens and is worth exploring on its own, but it’s especially worth a visit for contemporary art lovers thanks to MoMA PS1.
Founded in 1971, MoMA PS1 is one of the largest non-profit institutions in the United States entirely dedicated to contemporary art. It was originally founded by Alanna Heiss of the Institute for Art and Urban Resources Inc., an organization devoted to organizing exhibitions in abandoned spaces across New York City.
MoMA PS1 is housed in a once-abandoned Romanesque Revival public school. Its first exhibition, Rooms, invited local artists to transform the building’s unique spaces, and the exhibit established the MoMA PS1 tradition of transforming the building’s spaces into site-specific art that continues today. The artwork featured at MoMA PS1 is always progressive and thought-provoking, so bring an open mind.
It’s a great place to discover emerging artists and remind yourself that art is whatever you want it to be. Be sure to purchase a timed-entry ticket in advance, and keep in mind that the museum is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. From June to September, a weekly summer outdoor concert series called Warm Up happens every Saturday, a curatorial program that seeks to elevate innovative and underrepresented voices. Warm Up is always a party, so be sure to purchase your tickets in advance to be a part of the fun.
Get swept away at the Noguchi MuseumTIME TO SPEND: 1 hour
Another hidden gem located in Long Island City is the Noguchi Museum. If you’ve ever seen a twisted or bulbous paper lantern lamp, then you have probably seen a small piece of Noguchi’s artwork.
The late Isamu Noguchi was a 20th century Japanese-American architect and critically acclaimed sculptor originally from Los Angeles, and his museum was the first in the United States to be established, designed, and installed by a living artist to show their own work.
Today, the museum still holds the world’s largest collection of Noguchi’s works, featuring open-air and indoor galleries in a repurposed 1920s industrial building along with a serene outdoor sculpture garden dedicated to his rich, six-decades long career.
The two-floor museum is small enough that you can easily see it all in one day, but you should start on the second floor, which houses the rotating exhibitions, and then make your way to the permanent collection on the ground floor. Without an extensive explanation of the art in this unique space, much of the art is left for your own interpretation.
Bring a friend, explore for an afternoon, and spend some time pondering Noguchi’s most celebrated masterpieces. Timed-entry tickets always need to be purchased in advance, or entry is free on the first Friday of every month.
Take in the view from Gantry Plaza State ParkTIME TO SPEND: 45 minutes
Directly across the East River, adjacent to the United Nations Headquarters, you’ll find the Gantry Plaza State Park, a 12-acre riverside oasis that you should definitely check out while in Queens. The area was a former manufacturing district and the park was originally built as a dockyard.
During your visit, take a moment to admire the restored gantries along the river, which were once used to load and unload rail car floats and barges. Take in the breathtaking views of the east side of Manhattan, which you can see from any one of the park’s four long piers.
Make your way from the famous 50-foot tall Pepsi-Cola sign down to Hunter’s Point, a paved, half-mile walk along the East River. With chairs and benches lining the park, you can sit for a minute while you take in the views, watch dogs run free around the Hunter’s Point dog run, or bring lunch as you enjoy a moment of rest in the “great outdoors”.
Of all the incredible views you can get in New York, this one will be among the best, with an unobstructed view of the New York City skyline, towering Empire State Building and Chrysler Building the in perfect focus. Level up your trip by packing a picnic and heading over to the park just before sunset as you watch the city transform from day to night.
Catch some waves in the RockawaysTIME TO SPEND: 4 hours
People don’t often think of New York as a beach town, but a visit to the Rockaways will be enough to shift your perception. Escape the hustle and bustle of city life and head to the Rockaways for a day of saltwater and relaxation. Easily accessible from the Financial District in downtown Manhattan by subway, car, or ferry, a day at the beach is a great way to slow down and refuel between all the sightseeing.
Hang out on Rockaway Beach, the largest urban beach in the United States, or bike the eight miles all the way to the Breezy Point Tip to see if you can point out Coney Island. You don’t even have to pack a lunch as the boardwalk is teeming with top-notch food and beverage vendors, who also sell all of your beach-day necessities, like towels, hats, and sunscreen.
Catch some waves with a lesson from the Locals Surf School, which offers lessons to beginners as well as to seasoned surfers who want to up their pro skills and is open year-round. If you’re wanting to stay a little longer, book a room at The Rockaway Hotel, a chic, boutique hotel and spa bursting with charm.
Things to do in Staten Island
Ride the Staten Island FerryTIME TO SPEND: 30 minutes
The Staten Island Ferry is one of the last remaining vestiges of New York City’s ferry system, and it transported people between Manhattan and its future boroughs long before any bridges were built.
Back then, the northern shores of Staten Island were spiked in piers and competing ferry operators braved the busy waters of New York harbor. Today, the Staten Island Ferry transports 22 million between St George on Staten Island and Whitehall Street in Lower Manhattan, offering a free, 24/7 service.
Though the ferry was originally intended purely for transportation services, it has become something of an unofficial tourist activity thanks to the incredible views of the Statue of Liberty and Lower Manhattan you can see while aboard.
Hop on, set sail, and take in NYC from the water. You don’t actually have to get off and explore Staten Island, you can simply disembark and wait to hop back on board and complete the loop back to Manhattan and continue with your day.
Discover Historic Richmond TownTIME TO SPEND: 2 hours
If you get off the Staten Island Ferry at St George, take a 30-minute bus ride directly to Historic Richmond Town. This quaint, open-air museum complex, operated by the Staten Island Historical Society, is a cultural institution dedicated to preserving 20th century American culture, sharing the diverse stories of American people who have helped to build the country from the ground up for the last 300 years.
The town of Richmond has been around since the 17th century, and the Staten Island Historical Society came to its rescue and preserved the town as it was during a period of rapid growth and change in the 20th century. Step into the park and be transported into the past with sprawling hills, family farms, working shops, and original homes.
Walk around on your own or book a tour through the center for the chance to go inside the oldest buildings on the property. Hungry? Swing by Main Street Coffee, an artisanal, family-owned coffee shop, or get a scoop at Egger’s Ice Cream Parlour, designed to represent a classic 1920s American diner.
Walking through the town is a memorable, unique way to experience the beginnings of American culture as we know it. If you’re in town during September, you can take part in Historic Richmond Town’s annual county fair, which is the perfect activity for families. In June, they also host Uncorked!, a one-day food and wine festival on the grounds.