Brownstones and gleaming chrome are staples in New York, least to say of the iconic Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty. Central Park too, is a lush carpet of nature that has long become synonymous with this vibrant city. The constant flow of crowds amid broad avenues and hulking buildings can be intimidating for the first-time visitor; you’d probably feel overwhelmed even a month in. To help you navigate the conundrum of having too many things to see, we’ve narrowed down a list of top 10 things to do in New York – a starter kit for your exploration.
Just a reminder; it doesn’t have to be big and eye-catching to be worth your time. When given the chance, you should circle around the blocks for hidden galleries, hole-in-the-wall eateries, amazing graffiti art and community-based events. If you’re not comfortable doing the trek alone, there are plenty of themed walking tours that are both informative and entertaining.
Take this opportunity and skip-the-line at one of the finest art galleries in the world – famous Metropolitan Museum of Art. Its prestige is well-deserved; featuring over 2 million artworks that span millennia, the 17 curatorial collections represent creatives across the globe. The bulk of medieval European art is housed within the Cloisters Museum and Gardens in Upper Manhattan, while the modern and contemporary pieces are on display at Met Breuer along Madison Avenue.
If you’re a dedicated art purveyor or would like to pick up some art history, we suggest purchasing a flexible 3-day ticket with a 2-part Director’s Tour. The latter presents an insightful and carefully curated route to showcase the most significant of their collection, including special exhibitions held at the time of your visit.
The American Museum of Natural History is a classroom you won’t want to miss. Home to perhaps the most interactive museum halls, this New York staple can easily take up your entire day. Over 32 million specimens are rotated year round, categorized under biodiversity halls, fossil halls, human origins halls, birds and reptiles’ halls, earth sciences halls and more to total 45 mammoth-sized galleries. There’s even an entire floor dedicated to dinosaurs and their gigantic frames; in contrast, Rose Center for Earth and Space looks towards the future. The Hayden Planetarium is another highlight, its space show taking you into the universe and its mysteries. For family-friendly fun, drop by the Discovery Room and engage with your senses.
- Half-day Tour: Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn (link)
Wander beyond the touristy-laced areas of uptown to the diverse depths of the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn. Not feeling confident that you’ll hit all the best spots? For a little over four hours, a local guide will bring you past the affluent Upper East Side then Spanish Harlem, and finally into colorful Bronx. The Yankee Stadium is of course, the first stop – the Bronx Museum of the Arts is a close second. Arthur Avenue will welcome you with Italian fervor, treating with authentic delis and bakeries. Next up is the Queens before slipping over to Brooklyn to see Greenpoint and Williamsburg. No doubt your guide will share anecdotes and historical tidbits! If you have any questions by the end, ask quick as you return to Manhattan via the Brooklyn Bridge.
- Enjoy a cheesy slice of pizza
Whoever said New York can’t be enjoyed on a budget had surely missed out on the cheesiest, more than generous pizza portions at Pauli Gee’s Slice Shop. The original shop was known for their charred-wood-fired pies but this second shop easily caught up to its predecessor’s reputation. True to the price-point and old-feeling vibes, the shop décor is all about faux-wood tables and plastic trays, letter-board menus and 70s low-key. For a first-timer, we recommend the classic cheese slice for the ultimate ride back to the past. If you’re up for something spicy however, opt for the name-appropriate Hellboy which puts a sweet and hot spin on the pepperoni slice.
Shoot straight to the top with an express ticket and prep for some mind-blowing views over New York City. Hovering at 320 meters, the 360-degree observation deck is a great introduction to the city. The audio guide will map out nearby attractions while engaging you with the Empire State Building’s history; there’s more to this experience than just great views. Make sure to geek out over the Art Deco Fifth Avenue lobby and stop by the 80th floor, which features artistic exhibits for prime social media sharing. Interactive galleries will also take you back to the 1920s site, the construction and opening process, even a two-story architectural model.
What’s the fastest, most cost-efficient way to meet and greet a new city? Any hop-on hop-off tour of your choice. We vouch for the glaringly red Big Bus that you’ve probably seen in photos. Ticket options are valid between 1 to 3 days, meaning you can create a customized journey at your own pace. The pre-recorded audio guide is a great way to help pick out what attraction intrigues you more; that’s 40 points of interest along the loops.
Generally, the Downtown Loop will scour through Flatiron, Little Italy, Soho, Greenwich, Chinatown and other flavorful neighborhoods. The Uptown Loop takes you through the Guggenheim and Metropolitan Museum of Art; you’ll pass by Madison Avenue and Grand Central Terminal. Brooklyn is another major district; the bus crosses Manhattan Bridge to burrow past brownstones and Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. If you fancy seeing the city at night, there are night tours available as well.
Cultural activities aren’t just landmarks and museums; one essential New York experience is catching an awe-inspiring Broadway show. Start with a roam around the theatre district to admire the likes to the Majestic Theatre (think Phantom of the Opera), Broadhurst, Shubert Theatre, Music Box Theatre, Golden Theatre…. There are simply too many to name. All home to mega musical hits of varying flavor, you can take your pick of your favorite performance. Wicked, Chicago, West Side Story and ever popular Hamilton are all on the menu. We recommend grabbing dinner around the area before settling in for a post-dinner show; the perfect way to end a busy day out.
The massive 800-plus acres of Central Park is definitely a New York highlight – it is ever changing throughout the seasons too. An oasis of calm and nature within the chaotic urban, it comes with a myriad of hidden landmarks. Opt between a two hour guided walk around or a lavish horse-drawn carriage ride; note that it is four people to a carriage. Of the many historical and famous spots, you’ll most likely come across the Cherry Hill Fountain (a.k.a the Friends Fountain), the Carousel, Chess & Checker House, The Museum of Natural History, Bethesda Fountain, The Wollman Rink, the Bow Bridge and Sheep Meadow to begin with. Make sure to ask your guide questions to get the most out of this experience.
There’s no monument more iconic than the Statue of Liberty in New York. Take this opportunity to step right up to the torch bearer, completing the experience with a fully narrated tour inside. After navigating through two security screenings, you’ll be inundated with informative and entertaining stories as well as panoramic views of the city skyline. Because pedestal access is limited, we highly recommended signing up for a guided package.
Part two includes a sweeping exploration of America’s Immigration Museum on Ellis Island, which highlights the journey many took towards the American dream. Several inspection posts will be pointed out to you, such as the Great Hall and Stairs of Separation. These two attractions are more than just symbols; they played witness to many people’s stories.
Frank Sinatra, the great artist people always link to New York City with its great skyscapers, buildings and famous monuments once sang “fly me too the moon”. But how about a day in a helicpoter flying around New York’s famous buildings and iconic places? Now your dream can be true! Glide through Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty or live the Superman experience flying through Manhattan including Central Park, The Empire State Building, the One World Trade Center or watch the line to Madison Square Garden or even the busy morning rush on the Manhattan streets and the financial district most famous streets Wall Street and Tribeca. Jump on and see the Brooklyn Bridge, Bronx and the highlights of Manhattan in the best areal flight experience shared with your friends, fiance or someone special.
Check out all tours and activities through out partner Viator.