20 Best Things To Do in Manhattan, NY
Choosing the best activities and attractions to visit in New York City can take time, with so many things to do in Manhattan alone. Manhattan is the most-visited of the city’s five boroughs, with world-class museums, incredible restaurants, historical buildings and parks, and plenty of famous NYC views.
You won’t see it all (you’d need a year for that!), but this list of 20 things to do in Manhattan is a great place to start. It’ll give you a taster of the island’s highlights and immerse you in the city.
From New York icons like MoMA and Central Park to hidden gems best discovered via a walking tour, here’s everything you need to see in Manhattan.
New York City: 20 amazing things to do and places to visit in Manhattan
See it all on a full-day walking tour of Manhattan
Best for: Seeing Manhattan’s best bits in a limited time
Highlights: Riding the subway and Staten Island Ferry, and included entry to the One World Observatory
Time to spend: 7 hours
If you only have a day or two in New York City, this full-day walking tour is one of the best things to do in Manhattan. You’ll feel like you’ve been there for days. It works like a New York City sample platter and is a great experience to book for flying visits. As well as hearing fascinating facts and stories about the city from your guide, you’ll learn how to ride the subway like a local and get incredible views from New York Harbor and the city’s highest viewing platform.
The tour begins in Times Square, where you’ll experience the dazzling chaos of the theater district while learning more about its unique history as a horse-trading market. You’ll then continue south via Manhattan’s must-see spots like Rockefeller Center, Grand Central Station, the New York Stock Exchange, and the 9/11 Memorial. There are a few less-famous New York attractions on the itinerary too, like St Patrick’s Cathedral and the Canyon of Heroes.
There’s a lot of walking (no heels!), but you’ll also take the subway with your guide and hop aboard the Staten Island Ferry to see the Statue of Liberty from the water. You’ll have lunch at Grand Central, and the tour ends 1,250 feet above Lower Manhattan in NYC’s highest observation deck, One World Observatory, making it a way to tick off some of the best things to do in Manhattan in one afternoon.
Visit the iconic Empire State Building
Best for: NYC views from its most iconic building
Highlights: The interactive exhibits and 360-degree views
Time to spend: 1.5 hours
Price: From $48
New York’s most recognizable skyscraper, the Empire State Building was constructed between 1930 and 1931 (hence its Art Deco appearance) and remained the world’s tallest building for 40 years. There are many excellent viewing platforms in the city, but ascending this architectural icon is an essential New York City experience and undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Manhattan.
Sunset and sunrise are the best and most popular times to take in the view from the Empire State Building’s 86th-floor observation deck, but you should purchase a skip-the-line ticket in advance as sunset time slots always sell out. Go an hour before sundown to explore the building before the crowds peak. Don’t miss the Art Deco lobby and the 10,000 square feet of sprawling interactive exhibits on the second floor.
When you get to the observation deck, you’ll have panoramic views across six surrounding states and unbelievable 360-degree views of Manhattan. Take a jacket — the observation deck gets chilly at night in almost every season.
More of a morning person? Visit the observation deck at sunrise. Only 100 more expensive sunrise tickets are available daily, so be quick to book yours if a less-crowded experience sounds worth it.
See a Broadway show and walk through Times Square at midnight
Best for: Theater lovers and night owls
Highlights: Times Square’s Midnight Moment, an amazing three-minute art show
Time to spend: 3 hours
Price: Broadway tickets from $76
Times Square is the pinnacle of New York City’s always-on, in-your-face energy. From the dazzling billboards to zany street performers like the Naked Cowboy and dancing Elmo, this Midtown Manhattan neighborhood is not to be missed. It’s also the heart of Manhattan’s theater district, housing 41 world-class Broadway theaters.
For the most unforgettable Times Square experience, start by booking one of the fantastic musicals and plays that draw around 15 million theatergoers annuallye’s always a new production to check out, or you can stick to the classics, like “Phantom of the Opera” or “The Lion King.”
After the show, grab a late bite and hang around for the world’s largest and longest-running digital art exhibition, Midnight Moment. At 11:57 PM every night (except New Year’s Eve), almost 100 digital displays in Times Square synchronize to present a single work of contemporary art, bringing public art to a monumental scale for New Yorkers and visitors.
This nightly presentation features a different experimental artist every month, and seeing it is one of the most incredible free experiences you can have in Manhattan. You can catch it anywhere in Times Square, but climb the steps on Father Duffy Square for the best view. Just don’t be late — it only lasts until midnight.
Stroll around three famous neighborhoods: SoHo, Little Italy, and Chinatown
Best for: Seeing Manhattan’s charming neighborhoods away from the big attractions
Highlights: Food sampling and celeb spotting
Time to spend: 2 hours
Price: Tours from $39
One of the best things to do in Manhattan besides sightseeing is exploring its quieter neighborhoods. There are over 53 neighborhoods in Manhattan alone, each with its own distinct history, cuisine, architecture, and personality.
It’s probably impossible to visit them all during your trip, so take a walking tour of three of the most storied downtown neighborhoods: Soho, Little Italy, and Chinatown. You’ll discover three completely different worlds in a single afternoon, which is only possible in a city as diverse as New York.
Explore all three as your guide tells you all about their past, present, and future, from SoHo’s wrought-iron architecture, trendy boutiques, and hip restaurants to Little Italy and Chinatown, where Manhattan’s rich immigrant history comes to life. There will be plenty of opportunities to taste different flavors, pick up a souvenir, and take lunch recommendations when the tour ends in Chinatown. Try Nom Wah Tea Parlor or Golden Unicorn for the best dim sum.
Take in the skyline from the river on an architecture cruise
Best for: Architecture lovers and seeing Mahattan from a different perspective
Highlights: Sailing under Manhattan’s 18 bridges
Time to spend: 3 hours
Manhattan is brimming with architectural significance spanning centuries of history, and a truly unique way to learn about (and see) it all is on an architecture cruise around the island. Architects and members of the American Institute of Architects New York Chapter lead this three-hour tour aboard an elegant, 1920s-style yacht.
Sail around Manhattan through the Hudson, East, and Harlem rivers, passing under all 18 bridges while taking in the stunning views. Opt for an indoor seat to avoid the elements, or venture out onto the elegant teakwood deck as you learn about the important fixtures of the NYC architecture scene. From Downtown “Starchitecture” and the tallest building in America, One World Trade Center, to classic icons like the Woolworth Building and Wall Street’s Art Deco spires. You’ll also learn more about the postwar urban renewal and public housing along the East River — the full story of how this marvelous city was built.
Discover world-class art on Museum Mile
Best for: Art lovers
Highlights: The Met’s massive collection
Time to spend: 4 hours
Price: From $25
Museum Mile runs along the Upper East Side stretch of Fifth Avenue, 82nd to 110th Street. It’s a must for art lovers visiting New York and where you’ll find the largest museum in the country, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, also known simply at The Met. It houses 17 curated collections and more than 2 million works of art spanning Ancient Egypt to now.
Another fantastic option on Manhattan’s Museum Mile is the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Guggenheim. It is one of only two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in New York City, the other being the Statue of Liberty, and the building is arguably a work of art in itself. Climb the famous spiral staircase to explore a collection of Early Modern masterpieces.
If you’re serious about ticking off the best things to do in Manhattan, start early and visit both The Met and Guggenheim on the same day. Take a breather in Central Park between visits, or sit down for lunch at one of the chic restaurants on Madison Avenue.
Get thrilling views at Edge
Best for: Thrill seekers and those who want unobstructed views
Highlights: The highest outdoor observation deck in the Western Hemisphere with the option to climb even higher and lean over the edge
Time to spend: 1.5 hours
Price: From $44
Located in Hudson Yards, Manhattan’s newest development located on the western edge of Midtown, Edge features the highest outdoor viewing platform in the Western Hemisphere — 1,100 feet above the ground!
Your visit begins with an immersive multimedia exhibit exploring the design, construction, and sustainability of Hudson Yards before a speedy elevator ride to the 100th floor. The Skydeck juts out from the side of the building like a shard of glass, offering a uniquely thrilling vantage point with angled glass walls and see-through glass flooring. You feel like you’re floating high above the city.
The views are unbelievable, from the tip of Central Park to the Statue of Liberty and beyond. Be sure to purchase your tickets in advance as popular times (like sunset) sell out quickly.
If a 100-story-high glass floor isn’t enough, adrenaline seekers can take the experience a step further by leaning out over the edge and looking straight down to the streets below. Book the City Climb for this heart-stopping adventure, where you’ll scale the side of the building until you reach The Apex, the highest vantage point on the building. It’s here where your harness supports you to lean over the edge. Terrifyingly fun.
Spend a Sunday exploring Mount Morris with gospel and brunch
Best for: Seeing an authentic side of Manhattan that many visitors miss
Highlights: Attending a Harlem gospel service
Time to spend: 4 hours
Price: Tour from $103
Harlem is one of the most significant neighborhoods in Manhattan and one of the oldest in the country. Over five centuries, cultural cycles transformed the area many times over, with the most well-known transition happening in 1904 when railroad construction displaced many Black New Yorkers who were living downtown.
Among the Black families arriving in Harlem in the early 1900s were many artists, musicians, and poets, and the Harlem Renaissance followed in the 1920s and 1930s. That artistic, musical, and intellectual impact is still felt in the Harlem community today.
Feel this magnetic energy during a Sunday morning tour introducing you to the sights and sounds of the uptown neighborhood at its best. Your guide will take you through Manhattan’s Mount Morris Historic District, where the Founding Fathers made their homes and where beautiful churches rich in abundant history are found on every corner. After learning about Harlem’s most noteworthy residents and discovering cool Black-owned businesses in the neighborhood, listen to the uplifting sounds of live gospel at one of the area’s most notable houses of worship. Then it’s onto a delicious brunch at one of Harlem’s best restaurants.
Stroll around the bohemian West Village
Best for: Seeing where New York’s famous creatives made their mark on history
Highlights: Jazz clubs, Washington Square Park, and the alleged birthplace of the cappucino
Time to spend: 2 hours
Manhattans’ West Village is a hip, lively downtown neighborhood regarded as an important landmark in American bohemian culture. Home to many famous writers, musicians, and poets in the early and mid-twentieth century, West Village was once a beacon for beatniks, protests, and artistic expression.
While the vibe of the neighborhood today isn’t quite what it used to be — more polished and modern, less gritty — it is still one of the most iconic and interesting neighborhoods in Manhattan.
Get a feel for the neighborhood’s historical significance at its most storied institutions: Smalls Jazz Club, which earned a reputation in the 1990s as a “hotbed for New York’s jazz talent”; Caffe Reggio, which opened in 1927 and claims to have invented the cappuccino; the Comedy Cellar, known for hosting impromptu performances from world-famous comedians; and Cafe Wha, another famous music venue that has been operating since 1959. Washington Square Park, with its famous arch, is another must-visit in the West Village.
While you can explore the neighborhood on your own, foodie visitors should embark on a West Village food tour to visit historically fascinating spots in between delicious tastings from neighborhood favorites. Or opt for a Greenwich Village walking tour, which covers the smaller subset of West Village that is known for its counterculture.
Walk over the Brooklyn Bridge to Dumbo
Best for: Views of the skyline and stepping outside of Manhattan
Highlights: The views from the Brooklyn Bridge Park
Time to spend: 2.5 hours
While this stop technically ends in Brooklyn, it starts in Manhattan, just past the Financial District. A stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge is one of the best things to do in Manhattan, and like many other major architectural fixtures in the city, it has a fascinating history. It was the first permanent crossing over the East River back when it opened in 1883.
Brooklyn Bridge boasts stunning views and unmatched photo ops. To hear more about the riveting history of the construction of the first steel-wire suspension bridge on Earth, opt for a guided walking tour.
The tour will take you across the bridge, stopping at all the best places for photos along the way, and it will continue on the Brooklyn side in Dumbo, an acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass and another neighborhood steeped in history.
The name Dumbo was given specifically to deter rapid gentrification of the formerly industrial area. Ironically, it is now one of the most expensive and coveted neighborhoods in NYC today, where cobblestone streets are flocked with beautiful boutiques, chic restaurants, and luxury apartment buildings. Be sure to check out Brooklyn Bridge Park, a public park offering incredible waterfront views of the city, and get ice cream from Ample Hills, located in an old fireboat house at the end of the bridge.
Explore Chelsea, Meatpacking District, and the High Line
Best for: Checking out Manhattan’s hipster spots
Highlights: Walking along the High Line between neighborhoods and seeing the city change around you
Time to spend: 2 hours
Chelsea is regarded as the art capital of New York City, with over 400 galleries and the Whitney Museum of American Art. The former industrial area has transformed into an impossibly cool neighborhood, nowhere more so than its Meatpacking District, where hundreds of slaughterhouses and meatpacking plants stood in the 1900s.
Take a tour of the area to hit all of its highlights while learning about its interesting history. You’ll start at Chelsea Market, a large indoor market selling artisanal crafts and local food and drinks, before making your way to New York’s only elevated park, The High Line, a mile-long linear park on a section of the former New York Central Railroad.
Overgrown and destined for demolition, a non-profit saw that nature was reclaiming the former railroad and advocated its preservation as a public park. It opened officially in 2009 and has become one of the most-visited attractions in Manhattan.
Climb The Vessel
Best for: Exploring one of Manhattan’s newest landmarks
Highlights: The views and the nearby shopping and restaurants
Time to spend: 1 hour
Price: Free to $10
When The High Line ends, Hudson Yards begins. As the most expansive and expensive private development in the US, Hudson Yards has been dubbed a “billionaire’s fantasy city” and is largely composed of mixed-used luxury residences, name-brand shopping, high-end hotels, and posh office spaces.
There is much to see and explore in Hudson Yards, but you’ll want to start with The Vessel, its extraordinary centerpiece. The Vessel is compromised of 154 interconnecting flights of stairs, with almost 2,500 individual steps and 80 landings. The views from each of them are awesome, and it’s free for the first hour of opening ($10 after). Even if you find the stairs closed or you’re saving your legs for another day of walking, it’s great for a photo op before going on to explore the rest of Hudson Yards.
Be sure to check out The Shed nearby, home to rotating art exhibitions, and The Shops at Hudson Yards, a beautiful, multi-floor shopping mall with plenty of top-notch dining and shopping. Hungry? Make a pit stop at José Andrés’ Mercado Little Spain on the first floor of the Shops, an authentic Spanish-style food hall boasting market-style tapas restaurants, bars, and food stalls.
Visit the Morgan Library and Museum
Best for: Bookworms
Highlights: The floor-to-ceiling bookshelves reminiscent of the library in “Beauty and the Beast”
Time to spend: 1 hour
What began as the personal library of financier, collector, and cultural benefactor Pierpont Morgan is now a museum and independent research library in the heart of Manhattan.
As early as 1890, Morgan had begun to amass a rare and important collection of literary and historical manuscripts, early printed books, and old master drawings and prints. To house his collection, Morgan had a stunning library built adjacent to his Madison Avenue home in the early 1900s, designed in a grand Italian Renaissance style by architect Charles McKim. Eleven years after Mr Morgan’s death, his son realized the library had become too significant to remain private.
In what is considered one of the most momentous cultural gifts in US history, Morgan’s son donated the library to New York City, making its treasures available to scholars and the public. Today, the original library includes a 75,000-square-foot addition, which visitors can enjoy as they peruse the incredibly rare works of literature and art housed in the library. Be sure to buy your ticket online in advance, or you can visit for Free Friday, where entry is free from 5 PM to 7 PM with a pre-booked online reservation required.
Explore beautiful Central Park
Best for: A moment of calm away from the busy city
Highlights: Strawberry Fields and the Boating Lake
Time to spend: 2+ hours
Central Park sits in the center of Manhattan and is perhaps the most famous park in the world. The first landscaped public park in the US, every inch of this sprawling green space is filled with interesting things to do and see. That being said, at 943 acres, nearly double the size of Monaco, it would take a long time to see it all on foot. Consider a bike or electric scooter tour to cover more ground and hit the main highlights of Central Park along the way. If you’re a movie buff, make it a walking tour of the park’s filming locations.
Whatever way you choose to see it, seek out noteworthy sights like the Bethesda Fountain, also known as the Heart of New York City, Cleopatra’s Needle, Strawberry Fields, Bow Bridge, and the North Woods.
If you want to spend even more time getting to know this dynamic area before or after your tour, you can rent a paddleboat or take a gondola ride during the warmer months at Loeb Boathouse, have a picnic in Sheep’s Meadow, or explore The Ramble, a dense forest in the middle of the park.
Discover world-class exhibits at MoMA
Best for: Seeing the best examples of modern art anywhere
Highlights: Warhol’s iconic screen prints
Time to spend: 2 hours
The Museum of Modern Art, more commonly referred to as MoMA, is regarded as one of the finest modern art institutions in the world. There are more than 200,000 works in its influential collection.
MoMA is dedicated to the conversation between past and present, juxtaposing the most established artists of the last century with more modern, experimental counterparts for an art-viewing experience like no other. Admire the works of Monet, Matisse, and van Gogh as you move through five floors of extensive galleries. Start on the fifth floor, where you’ll find some of the most famous works, including van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” and Warhol’s “Campbell’s Soup Cans.”
It’s on many people’s lists of the best things to do in Manhattan, so be aware of the lines and book a timed-entry ticket in advance.
See the candlelit catacombs beneath the Basilica of St Patrick’s Old Cathedral
Best for: Curious travelers who want to see something out of the ordinary
Highlights: Accessing the catacombs that are usually off-limits to the public
Time to spend: 1.5 hours
One of New York’s greatest hidden gems is located in the heart of Little Italy at the Basilica of St Patrick’s Old Cathedral, not to be confused with the grand St Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue.
After a tour of the oldest cathedral in New York, you’ll gain exclusive access to two walled cemeteries and the only active Catholic catacombs in New York City beneath the nave. Explore them by candlelight and see the final resting places of bishops and prominent New York Catholics, such as the Delmonico Family and the first resident Bishop of New York.
The catacombs are usually shut off to the public and the only way to access them is by booking a tour. You won’t find this experience on many lists of the best things to do in Manhattan, but it should be on them all — it’s unlike anything else you’ll do while in New York.
Go back millions of years at the American Museum of Natural History
Best for: Nature and dinosaur lovers
Highlights: The lifelike blue whale and T-Rex skeleton
Time to spend: 2.5 hours
Price: From $28
Manhattan is home to the largest natural history museum in the world, the American Museum of Natural History.
The massive campus, built nearly 150 years ago, comprises 26 interconnected buildings spanning 2 million square feet.
From dinosaurs to space rocks, this museum houses some of the world’s most fascinating artifacts — 33 million objects, to be exact. It is the perfect place to visit for both children and adults, with so much to do and see. Book a ticket ahead to save time and get straight to notable exhibits like the giant African mammals in the Akeley Hall, the dinosaur exhibits, the North American Forests, and the Hall of Ocean Life. In the Hall of Meteorites, you’ll find some of the largest meteorites that have landed here on Earth.
Scared you’ll miss something in this vast museum? Take a guided tour led by a passionate storyteller who knows the museum backward and forward. This is a great option for those who are especially curious, as the tour is entirely customizable.
Immerse yourself in a new kind of art experience at ARTECHOUSE
Best for: Avant-garde artists
Highlights: The huge exhibits and experiences are quite literally immersive
Time to spend: 1.5 hours
Beneath Manhattan’s Chelsea Market in a former boiler room you’ll find ARTECHOUSE, a first of its kind multisensory art experience.
Discover interactive and immersive digital art exhibits in a space dedicated to 21st-century artists and audiences, with rotating exhibits by vanguards of the arts, science, and technology. ARTECHOUSE features incredible large-scale installations that work to open minds, inspire curiosity, and encourage art without limitations. You can further enrich the experience by downloading the ARTECHOUSE XR app, which you can use to order drinks from the ARTECHOUSE Extended Reality Bar too.
Soar above Manhattan on a helicopter
Best for: Getting the ultimate skyline snapshot
Highlights: Seeing the whole island as if in miniature
Time to spend: 30 minutes
Price: From $239
By this point you’ve seen Manhattan from the ground and possibly from the water, so round out your New York City experience with a trip high above Manhattan’s iconic skyline with a helicopter tour.
It’s expensive, but it’s an unforgettable experience and undeniably one of the most exciting things to do in Manhattan. Get a bird’s-eye view of the most famous NYC landmarks, cruising over Central Park, New York Harbor, Rockefeller Center, Empire State Building, and the Chrysler Building. Wave to the Statue of Liberty, fly high over the Brooklyn Bridge, and spot your hotel in the concrete jungle.
A helicopter flight is a perfect way to kick off or conclude your New York trip, and your helicopter pilot will narrate the whole experience so you won’t miss a thing. The shortest flights are 12 minutes, which is enough time to see the best bits, but longer flights can be booked for an even more memorable experience.
See a show or game at Madison Square Garden
Best for: Sports and music fans
Time to spend: 2+ hours
Price: Dependent on event
First opened its doors in 1879, Madison Square Garden is New York’s most famous entertainment venue. The arena, more commonly abbreviated to MSG or The Garden, is the home of the New York Knicks basketball team and Rangers ice hockey team. It also hosts boxing events, National Conventions, and concerts by the biggest stars in music — Harry Styles had a record-breaking run in 2022, playing 15 consecutive nights at The Garden.
Play it like a real New Yorker and see a Knicks or Rangers home game, or check the schedule in advance to see what concerts or other events are coming to town. Famous New York musician Billy Joel has a monthly visiting residency there.
Hungry? Visit Madison Square Park nearby, located right next to the iconic Flatiron Building, and grab a burger and shake at the original Shake Shack.