We created a list of top things to do in NYC that you shouldn’t miss while visiting this ever-growing city. Some are super touristy (yet still worthwhile), like the Top of the Rock and the MET, but some are hidden gems, like an amazing Greenwich Village Food Tour and an off-the-beaten path graffiti neighborhood in Brooklyn.
Whether it’s your first time in New York or you already have your favorite pizza place, this guide is for you!
New York City is full of things to do. You could literally spend a lifetime in this city and do something different each day. With so much to see, it can be overwhelming trying to plan a trip to this beast of a city.
Resist the urge to dive into the depths of the Internet where you’ll only wind up confused with big bags under your eyes. (Been there, done that, and it ain’t pretty!)
We have you covered with everything you need to know to plan the perfect trip to New York City. Grab a cup of coffee, a pen and stay for a while.
If it’s your first time in NYC (or even a 2nd or 3rd visit!) we’ve rounded up a list of the top sights as well as some hidden gems. We’re also sharing some can’t-miss NYC foods and where to try them, because FOOD = LIFE. Plus, we’re including the costs of each activity because, well, the Big Apple ain’t cheap and it’s nice to know how much money to expect to budget.
Whether you’re traveling on a budget or with luxurious taste, this is the ultimate list of things to do in New York City.
New York City Article Contents:
Watch the Instagram Story of our time in New York City:
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Quick Map View of Our Things to Do in NYC
Money-Saving Tip in New York City:
If you plan to see some of the “classic New York City attractions” during your trip (like the Statue of Liberty, Top of the Rock, and the MET) the NYC CityPASS will save you a ton of money.
What you get with the New York CityPass:
The Empire State Building
American Museum of Natural History
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Top of the Rock Observation Deck OR Guggenheim Museum
Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island OR Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises
9/11 Memorial & Museum OR Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
How the New York CityPASS works:
They have made it easy for you to purchase the CityPASS online and then you get a QR code either on your phone or printed on paper.
When you go to any of these attractions you will scan your code at a special kiosk or ticket booth. Once you scan, you’ll received an official ticket and you are good to go.
How much money does the CityPASS save you?
The total cost to enter all of these attraction separately would cost $215.45, but the New York CityPASS is just $132. That’s a 41% savings!
Thinking you only want to go to a few of these sites? There is a New York C3 PASS that allows you to choose 3 of these attractions for $83; a 25% savings!
The other perk of the CityPASS is you won’t have to wait in the ticket line at most of the attractions. We got to skip the ticketing line at most places which was pretty convenient.
Book your New York CityPASS and get ready to see some of NYC’s top sights!
*We’ve denoted some of the attractions that are part of the CityPASS with an asterisk so you can see if it makes sense for you to purchase the pass. Prices are from March 2019.
Top Sights in New York City
If you’re visiting NYC for the first time, there are a handful of “classic New York” attractions that are must-sees. From the super iconic photos to places you just have to experience at least once in your life, you’ve gotta add these to your itinerary!
1. Statue of Liberty*
If it’s your first time in NYC you’ll definitely want to see the Statue of Liberty. Yes, it’s touristy. But it’s like going to Paris without glimpsing the Eifel Tower. It’s just something ya gotta do!
When it comes to seeing Lady Liberty, there are 2 ways to see her:
a) Ride the Staten Island Ferry for free (our recommendation!)
b) Take a Tour
a) Quick & Cheap: Staten Island Ferry
If you’ve got limited time and you’re on a budget, the best way to see the Statue of Liberty is by hopping on the Staten Island Ferry. This is free (whoop whoop!) and will bring you quite close to the iconic statue.
Ferries leave every 30 minutes from the South Ferry terminal in Manhattan, and all you have to do is show up! Since it’s free there’s no need to buy tickets.
As the ferry is about to board everyone heads to the exit in one massive crowd.
Insider Tip: If you want to see the Statue of Liberty, you will need to be on the right-hand side (north side) of the ferry when you are leaving Manhattan.
Enter the ferry through the left doors which are less crowded and immediately head up to the third floor, then cross over to the right side and snag a spot on the railing. This will help you get ahead of the crowds. As you approach Staten Island, go down to the first floor so you can be at the front of the crowd when getting off the boat.
The ferry ride takes about 25 minutes, and when you dock at Staten Island you will need to get off the vessel, walk around the corner and get back on the same ferry (just follow the crowds!).
Have more time? If you have time to kill, we’ve heard there are great Sri Lankan restaurants in Staten Island not far from the ferry terminal. Lakruwana and New Asha look good!
b) Classic: Tour the Statue of Liberty
If you want to get up close and personal with Lady Liberty, you might want to do the tour. You can combine this with Ellis Island too if you wish.
If you choose this option, you definitely want to get the New York CityPASS, as it is one of the included experiences. Avoid the touts, and head to the Statue Cruises terminal (the only company that runs boats to the Statue of Liberty).
Cost: $18.50 per adult ($9 for kids) or free with the NYC CityPASS
2. See New York City From Above*
There’s no better way to get a feeling of the the sheer size of this city than by seeing it from above.
There are many buildings and rooftop bars that offer good view of the Big Apple, but two of the most popular views are the Top of the Rock and the Empire State Building. Luckily, both are part of the NYC CityPASS.
However, if you only have time for one, we would recommend Top of the Rock because you’ll be able to see the Empire State Building in the skyline, which is the iconic view of New York.
Top of the Rock Cost: $36 per adult ($30 per child) or FREE with NYC CityPASS
Top of Empire State Building Cost: $36 per adult ($31 per child) or FREE with NYC CityPASS
3. Museum Hop*
New York City is home to more than 80 museums, and there is no way you can see them all. From edgy picks like the Museum of Sex, to classics like the American Museum of Natural History, there is a little something for everyone.
Choosing which museums to visit is personal:
Do you want a lesser-known museum with fewer crowds?
Or do you want to see one of the classics?
Since it was our first time in NYC, we chose to visit both the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the MET) as well as the American Museum of Natural History: arguably two of the most famous museums in the world.
They are also both conveniently part of NYC CityPASS, so we got free entrance to both!
Which Museum: MET or American Museum of Natural History?
If you have a short time in New York or aren’t much of a “museum person”, we would encourage you to choose just one. We saw both, albeit briefly, and wished we would have spent more time in just one so we didn’t feel as rushed.
Both museums are impressive and everyone has differing opinions on which is the best. We felt like the American Museum of Natural History was better for families with children, while we personally enjoyed the MET a bit more. Bonus: The rooftop bar at the MET has nice views!
Insider Tip: The MET has free hour-long “highlight tours” every 15 minutes between 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you have a short amount of time, this is a good way to get the inside scoop on some of the museum’s most noteworthy pieces.
The guide did a good job of showing us very different pieces – from wood carvings to paintings to stained glass to armor to statues. It’s a good way to pack a lot into a short amount of time!
Foodie Tip: If you go to the American Museum of Natural History, don’t miss the famous cookies at Levain Bakery just a few blocks away. You won’t regret it!
Metropolitan Museum of Art (the MET): $25 per person or FREE with NYC CityPASS
American Museum of Natural History: $28 per person or FREE with NYC CityPASS
4. 9/11 Memorial and Museum*
Visiting Ground Zero is, in our opinions, a must when you visit New York City. The museum is incredibly well-done and very powerful. It gets busy, so we’d recommend going as early as possible to avoid the rush.
Oh, and on your way there, be sure to stop inside the Oculus, the train station adjacent to Ground Zero is meant to look like a dove taking flight.
At the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, you can rent audio guides for $7, but if you’re on a budget (or even if you’re not!), here’s a tip – download the 9/11 Museum Audio Guide app (click through that link to find the one we’re talking about because there are a couple). This is actually the exact same as the audio guide, and was recommended to us by staff since all the audio guides were already rented when we visited.
Robert De Niro is the narrator and does a very good job. We got a lot more out of this experience than we would have had we forgone the audio guide.
Tip: Be sure to bring headphones! (A headphone splitter is helpful if you’re traveling with a partner.)
Cost: $24 for adults ($20 for 13-17 year-old and $15 for 7-12 year-old) or FREE with NYC CityPASS.
Are you already feeling overwhelmed with planning a trip to New York? Check out ViaHero—a trip planning platform that will connect you with a local in New York to recommend museums, restaurants, and more based on your unique travel style.
5. Yankees Game
Hey, sports fans!
If you understand that reference, you might want to try making it to a game while you’re in the Big Apple. Yankee Stadium is one of the most famous in the country, and is surely a Bucket List experience for all you big sports fanatics out there.
That said, if you’re not super into baseball or pressed for time, you might want to skip this. It will take the better part of a day to get up to the Bronx and enjoy the game.
Cost: Starting from $7 for upper deck seats
Cheap (and Free!) Things To Do in New York City
New York City is notoriously expensive. But there’s actually a lot of things to do in NYC that are free or very cheap. You just have to know where to look.
So if you’re on a budget (or even if you’re not!), be sure to squeeze some of these free and cheap things to do into your New York City itinerary.
6. High Line
This raised path and parkway built on a section of abandoned railway is a perfect place to see the city from a different perspective. Beautiful during all times of the year, this 1.5-mile path offers views of the Hudson River as well as the high rises surrounding the Chelsea neighborhood.
Depending on the day of week, the High Line can get quite busy, so come early if you want to avoid the crowds, or at sunset for a beautiful, albeit busy, view.
Insider Tip: The High Line is very close to Chelsea Market, so it’s nice to visit both on the same day. Either work up an appetite by walking the High Line first, or burn some calories with a post-nosh stroll.
For more information and history about the High Line as well as a map, download the pocket guidebook for free!
Insider Tip: The High Line is just a few blocks from the Chelsea Market, so grab lunch first, then walk off those tacos on the High Line.
7. Ellen’s Stardust Diner
If you want to see a musical but are on a budget, head to Ellen’s Stardust Diner where the waitresses sing. And they’re not just mediocre singers… Many of them are up-and-coming Broadway hopefuls, and the fun atmosphere makes up for the just average food.
No reservations required; just show up and order a milkshake for a good time! Stardust Diner is open from 7am – midnight, so it can easily be fit into a packed schedule in the Big Apple.
*Note: While this is a restaurant, we did not include it in the “Food” section since you come here mostly for the entertainment, not the food.
Cost: Entrance is free, but meals range from $18 to $26 per plate.
8. Brooklyn Bridge
One of the most iconic bridges in the world, the Brooklyn Bridge is a top thing to do on many visitors’ New York itinerary. It takes about 20 minutes to walk fully across while taking pictures and dodging people.
For great photos, the best time to go is in the morning when there will be few people there and the lighting is beautiful. With our schedule, it worked best to go right around sunset and it was pretty to watch the sun dip below the skyline, but it was certainly a busy time!
Tip: It is popular to rent a bike to ride across the bridge, but unless you’re going very early in the morning, we would recommend crossing on foot instead. All the bikers we saw were constantly having to brake and swerve out of the way for distracted pedestrians. It looked pretty stressful!
Once you’e successfully crossed the bridge, head to the Empire Fulton Ferry Park or the Main Street Park for some beautiful views and spend a bit of time exploring the Dumbo neighborhood.
You’ll find a great view of the Manhattan Bridge from Washington Street, and Juliana’s Restaurant, named the best pizzeria in the US in 2015, makes a good place to stop for lunch or a midday bite.
9. Central Park
Central Park is just as good as it looks in all the movies. But it was even more massive than we were expecting.
Our advice is to look at a map and come with a plan OR be prepared to just get lost in its winding paths and make some fun discoveries along the way. Both are great ways to explore Central Park – it just depends on your style and how much time you have. Rent a bike or lace up your walking shoes and prepare for an adventure!
If you prefer to have a plan, here are some highlights of Central Park:
Sheep’s Meadow: This massive open lawn is popular for picnicking and playing frisbee. You’ve most likely seen this in movies.
The Ramble: This tangle of small, winding dirt paths was our favorite place in Central Park. It was quiet and we only saw a handful of other people. That said, if you have limited time, you might want to skip this section because it is easy to get lost in the maze of paths.
Belvedere Castle: This stunning piece of architecture is a sight to see! Too bad it was closed for construction during our visit. Guess we’ll just have to go again!
Strawberry Fields: This is where the famous “Imagine” mosaic is in memory of John Lennon. However, we found it a bit disappointing as it was encircled by a fence and a crowd.
Bethesda Fountain: Located on the southeast side of the Lake this terrace is made famous in so many movies, but my favorite was in Home Alone 2 when Kevin McCallister was being chased by two burglars. Be sure to stroll through the Mall under Terrace Drive to spot some pretty nice works of art.
The Lake: Although it is not the only lake in Central Park, it is famous enough to be called “The Lake”. You can rent-by-the-hour row boats for $15 per hour and a $20 deposit.
Gapstow Bridge: Get the iconic shot of this famous bridge over The Pond by heading to the point just north of The Pond so you can view the city in the background.
Fun Trivia Fact: Central Park has appeared in 231 movies (according to a study in 2017)!
10. Governors Island
You don’t need to go far to feel like you’ve escaped the city. Just meters from the tip of lower Manhattan sits Governors Island. This 172-acre island features parks, bike trails and art exhibitions and is a good way to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city without really leaving.
There are tons of festivals and events happening on the island throughout the summer. Be sure to check the Governors Island schedule here. Governors Island is open to the public from April – October, and you can get there by ferry. Check out the ferry schedule here.
Cost: Ferry rides are free on Saturdays and Sundays before noon, otherwise a roundtrip fare is $3 for adults, $1 for seniors and free for children under 13 years old. Plus, it’s free to bring a bicycle with you on the ferry.
This train station replaced the one that was destroyed in 9/11, twelve years after the terrorist attack. This impressive glass and steel structure is well worth a look as it’s suppose to resemble a dove taking flight.
I bet you’ve never seen a train station quite like it. And that makes sense, since not many other stations have the same budget as this one that cost a reported $4 billion to build.
12. Wander around Greenwich Village
With streets shaded by trees and dotted with small cafes, popular bars and eclectic shops, this was one of our favorite neighborhoods to explore in New York City. Here are some great places to get food, famous bars and fun sights:
Washington Square Park in Greenwich: Whether you want to challenge a stranger to a game of chess, gaze up at the Washington Square Arch, or just people watch, Washington Square Park always has something going on.
Insomnia Cookies: Insanely good cookies that will keep you up all night thinking about them.
Cafe Wha?: What Cafe? Ahh, Cafe Wha? Famous for being the hangout spot for Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix.
Friends Apartment: “I’ll be there for you…” on the corner of Bedford Street and Grove Street.
Artichoke Pizza: One of the best pizzas you’ll have in NYC. It will come hot, huge and only $6.
Indian Kati Roll: Right on MacDougal Street, this budget-friendly Indian wrap shop gets pretty popular during the late night hours.
Mamoun’s Falafel: Another late night specialty, these delicious falafels are tasty and ridiculously cheap for NYC.
Bars that won’t break the bank: Head to Bleecker Street between Thompson St and LaGuardia Place. Places like the Peculier Pub, Wicked Willy’s, and the Underdog are all good choices.
Funny Story: We saw Whoopi Goldberg in Greenwich Village! Maybe you’ll spot a famous person too!
13. Explore Brooklyn
If you’re into street art, be sure to make it to the Bushwick neighborhood. While graffiti and murals stretch on for blocks and blocks, the Bushwick Collective, near St. Nicholas Ave and Troutman Street, is where you’ll find the best pieces of art. This area also has some trendy bars and cafes that make a great place to stop for happy hour.
Bunna Cafe: Delicious Ethiopian restaurant in Brooklyn.
Smorgasburg: Food fair to the max! Sample anything from Swiss sandwiches to Thai rice bowls to Mexican street desserts. (Keep reading for more details and hours.)
Dekalb Market Hall food court: Brooklyn’s version of the Chelsea Market, 40 vendors serving a variety of dishes and snacks make this place a great lunch or dinner option.
Self-Guided Graffiti Tour: Head to the Bushwick Collective (St. Nicholas Ave and Troutman Street) and the wander around the surrounding blocks for some of the best graffiti you’ve ever seen.
Note: Free Tours By Foot offers a Street Art Tour in the Bushwick area, but skip it! We did a really good Street Art tour in London, so we immediately signed up for this one. Unfortunately, this tour was unorganized and really boring. But we thought the area was still really cool and definitely worth seeing on your own. Just skip the guide!
Here’s a Better Brooklyn Tour: Our friend, fellow blogger and certified tour guide, Jessie, runs customizable Brooklyn tours through NYC Photo Journeys. She has range of tour options to fit what you’re interested in like a Private Photo Journey or Bushwick Beer, Bites and Street Art tour (This is what we’ll do next time we are in NYC!).
Bonus: If you use our discount code: “TWOWANDERINGSOLES” you’ll get $10 off your NYC Photo Journey Tour.
14. Today Show
If you’re an early riser, make your way to Rockefeller Plaza to watch the live broadcast of this weekday news & entertainment show being filmed. If you’re lucky, you might even get to shake hands or get a selfie with one of the anchors, like we did! (Yay, Al Roker!)
It’s recommended that you arrive around 6:30 a.m. if you want to be in the front row of fans. We got there at 6:45 a.m. and were in the second row, which was fine for us. And we think we could have arrived even a bit later an gotten the same spot. That said, Mondays and Fridays are busier than other days and we arrived on a Wednesday.
What to expect: You should register ahead of time on TODAY’s website. When you arrive, your bags will be scanned and you will sign in on one of their iPads. They have a spot where you can make a sign, so plan ahead and think of something witty to write (we were too tired to think of anything clever!).
While you’re registering on their website, check out the calendar to see if there is any special events on the day of your visit. Sometimes they host concerts and it can get quite crowded, so you’ll want to be prepared.
Tip: You can bring coffee and food inside, so stop at Blue Bottle Coffee which is located in the ground floor of the Rockefeller building and has good coffee. But if there is too long of a line, there are plenty of other fantastic coffee shops in NYC.
15. The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon
We REALLY wanted to see Jimmy, but it is a bit tricky.
If you’re planning your visit to NYC well in advance, set an alarm for first day of the month you’ll be visiting. This is when they open up tickets, and they go fast. (Tickets to see Jimmy Fallon are free!)
If you, like us, miss out on the tickets, don’t worry: you still have a chance to see America’s favorite host. But you’ll need patience and time.
Here’s how to get standby tickets to the Tonight Show:
Got to the south side of Rockefeller on West 49th Street and get in line. We saw people lined up as early as 6:30 a.m., but when we got in line around 8:45 a.m. we still got standby tickets. We were instructed to return at 3:15 p.m. to find out if they would have room for us. Then, the recording would start at 5:00 p.m.
All said and done, getting standby tickets requires a big chunk of your day, and we just didn’t have the patience to stick in that area for the chance to maybe be able to get in. But it could work well for some people’s schedules.
16. Wall Street
It’s fun to wander one of the most famous streets in the world and see men and women in business suits power-walking down the street. Watching them will make you appreciate being on vacation!
Charging Bull and Fearless Girl Statues: While you’re in the area it’s not hard to stumble upon the Bronze Bull and the Fearless Girl. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you see all the crowds on both ends of the bull.
Trinity Church: Famous church where Alexander Hamilton and other well-known Americans are buried.
17. Times Square
I’m going to be honest: We hated Times Square. I thought it was a crowded tourist trap (anyone who lives in NYC will agree with me!). But I also understand that on a first trip to NYC it’s a place most people want to see (ourselves included).
Photography tip: One of the best spots get a pic of Times Square is right on 7th Ave where Broadway splits and heads south.
So unless you’re fine skipping this overrated tourist magnet (sorry, but it’s true!), we’d recommend walking through once but not planning to spend much time there. We also preferred it at nighttime when it was all lit up and the crowds were fewer.
Insider Tip: If you’re in the vicinity of Times Square and are craving something sweet, head to Junior’s for a slice of their famous NY Cheesecake (apparently the original!) or try their black and white cookie (which is more cake than cookie, but still pretty good).
18. Sunset on West Street highway
Strolling on the 9A West Street Highway at sunset is a local favorite. Stop at some of the grassy areas on the Hudson River Greenway for picnicking or people watching. The colors over the Hudson River are pretty spectacular!
And if you’re visiting in the summertime and are up for a beer and a lively atmosphere, the Frying Pan is a fun place to stop for live music and libations.
19. Grand Central Station Whispering Wall
Grand Central Station is one of those iconic places that shows up in all sorts of movies and TV shows, so it’s pretty cool to see in real life if you have time. It’s likely that you’ll need to make a transfer here anyway, so pop upstairs and take a quick look.
The ceiling is painted with constellations, and is a sight in itself. But one of the things many people don’t know about is the “Whispering Wall”.
There is a section of the walkway that allows you to stand in opposite corners of your travel partner and you can whisper to each other. It is pretty cool, and kids (or kids at heart, like us!) will have a fun time acting nonchalant while whispering secrets that only your partner on the other side of the walkway can hear. The passersby won’t be able to hear a thing! Another great tip from Carmela from No Wrong Turns.
How to get there: In Grand Central Station, head to the lower concourse right in front of Oysters Bar and there you will see an arched 4-way passway. Stand in opposite corners and start whispering.
Best Food in New York City
New York City is a mecca for food, and you can find just about anything imaginable in this metropolis. From food truck eats to fine dining, there are excellent options for every budget.
With so many fantastic options in New York City it would be a shame to wind up eating a meal that’s just meh… So we’re here to help you navigate the New York City food scene.
We’re explaining where to find some of NYC’s staple eats, like bagels and pizza, as well as some super fun foodie experiences in the Big Apple.
Good to know: If you are celiac, we’ve got good news: New York City has tons of options for you. Check out this Gluten-Free guide to NYC.
20. Taste a Little of Everything on a Food Tour
New York City is known as a hub for food of all kinds. And if you’re like us, you’ll want to eat as much as humanly possible while visiting NYC.
But do you ever go somewhere wanting to try it all, but after one dish you’re too full to keep going? Well, here’s where the food tour idea comes in. A food tour allows you to try a little of everything (yes please!) without stuffing yourself on one item.
There are a ton of food tours to choose from in New York, but Foods of NY Tours is the oldest and one of the most reputable.
They have 6 different tours to choose from – the Original Greenwich Village, Flavors of Chinatown, and Chelsea Market and Highline tour to name a few.
We selected the Heart & Soul of Greenwich Village tour and loved that it was a combination of history and trivia of New York City paired with lots of eating, of course!
Our guide was energetic and knowledgeable, the food was delicious, and we were able to walk between stops to help digest a bit (important during this kind of tour, trust us!).
If you like to eat, you won’t be disappointed.
Cost: $54-65 per person, be sure to check the schedule some tours don’t run every day.
*We were guests of Foods of NY Tours. As always, all opinions are our own.
21. Eat your way through Chelsea Market
Situated in the Meatpacking District, not far from the Hudson River, Chelsea Market is a food-lover’s dream.
Housed in a complex that’s one city block long by one block wide, Chelsea Market is one of the best and most talked about indoor food halls in the world. In fact, it attracts nearly 6 million visitors each year, making it one of the most trafficked destinations in New York City. And while it’s crowded (no doubt about that!), we really enjoyed our visit, unlike Times Square.
With 35 vendors selling everything from artisan coffee to street tacos to hand-crafted ramen bowls, the hard part is choosing what you’re going to eat.
Insider Tip: Our recommendation is to wander around and look at other people’s food before committing. Also, if you’re traveling with a partner who likes the same type of food as you, go to a few different places and split so you can try as much as possible!
There are a ton of different vendors and stalls to choose from, and it’s likely you’ll be able to satisfy just about any craving.
But if you’re looking for recommendations, here are some noteworthy stops:
Street Tacos at Los Tacos No. 1: authentic tacos that are every bit as delicious as the ones we ate in Mexico! You can order traditional Mexican beverages, like Horchata and Jamaica juice, and load up on fresh salsas and toppings.
Sandwich at Num Pang Sandwich: These Southeast Asian inspired sandwiches are melt-in-your-mouth good. Based on someone’s recommendation, we ordered the Five Spice Glazed Pork Belly Sandwich with pickled Asian Pear, and were super impressed!
Noodle Bowl at Very Fresh Noodles: This popular shop serves hand-pulled noodle soups and bowls.
Insider Tip: Save your sweet tooth for ice cream at Ample Hills Creamery, which is just a few blocks away. Then walk off all the food on the High Line.
If you’re visiting NYC between the months of April and October, you’re in luck… Smorgasburg is the largest weekly open-air food market in the nation, drawing some 20,000 – 30,000 each weekend.
This Brooklyn-based food fair showcases 100 local vendors selling everything from churro ice cream sandwiches to Taiwanese bao buns to vegan barbecue. A little something for everyone.
Come hungry and take a walk around the stalls before choosing, because if you don’t you’ll have serious food envy. Trust us. Oh, and arrive early if possible. It gets CROWDED.
When is Smorgasburg?
This seasonal open-air food market runs every Saturday and Sunday from April through October from 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. It is located in two different parts of Brooklyn:
Saturdays in Williamsburg: East River State Park
Sundays in Prospect Park: Breeze Hill
Cost: Food items range in price, but most items seemed to be between $8 – $15.
23. Ice Cream at Ample Hills Creamery
There is always room for ice cream. This is my life motto and I stick by it, especially when there are as many ice cream options as there are in New York City.
Before our trip, we got messages from several readers with recommendations for NYC, and one place we kept seeing over and over again was Ample Hills Creamery.
There are a few locations around the city; one being conveniently located right next to one of the entrances to the High Line. And let me tell you, it was every bit as delicious as people told us. So good, in fact, that we returned the next day and ordered the same exact flavors. A big thanks to Carmela from No Wrong Turns for the awesome recommendation.
Flavor Tip: Sample ’em all, and order whichever you like best. But if you want a recommendation, our very favorite was “Ooey Gooey Butter Cookie”. It was DIVINE. Like, I’m drooling as I type. And we loved it paired with “Oatmeal Lace Cookie”. But honestly, I don’t think you can go wrong here.
Cost: $4.35 for a single | $5.75 for a double
Other great ice cream shops in NYC:
Tipsy Scoop: Boozy ice cream? Yes, please! Tipsy Scoops claims to be the perfect blend of artisanal ice cream and a hand-crafted cocktail. Choose from classic flavors like Chocolate Stout & Pretzel and Strawberry White Sangria Sorbet.
OddFellows: Come here for super unique ice cream sandwiches and really good coffee. Their flavors rotate often, but you’ll find options like Caramel Cashew, Buttermilk Honey Blueberry and Ricotta Plum & Thyme.
Morgenstern’s Finest Ice Cream: Known for its unlikely flavor combinations like salt & pepper pine nut and cardamom lemon jam. They were best known for their coconut ash, which featured activated charcoal. This black ice cream was all over Instagram until the Department of Health recently banned all foods with activated charcoal in the city. But even though the days of this ultra-popular ice cream is gone, there are plenty of other unique flavors to choose from.
Mikey Likes It: Small shop with creative flavors named after references to pop culture, like Ice Ice Baby (triple vanilla) and Pink Floyd (strawberry cheesecake).
Grom: This Italian gelato shop was my obsession when I studied abroad in Florence. When I found out they have a shop in New York I was devastated we missed it.
Soft Swerve: Calling all soft serve lovers! This small shop serves colorful ice cream and has fun topping choices like toasted coconut, sprinkles or Fruity Pebbles. These cones are an Instagram favorite!
Still not satisfied? Check out this huge list of ice cream shops in NYC.
24. New York Pizza
There aren’t many foods more “typical New York” than pizza. And when it comes to pizza in New York City, you will have an overwhelming amount of options. Personal preference, budget and location will play a huge role in which ‘za you like best.
Cheap Slice: Joe’s Pizza is a NYC favorite that’s open late, though we will admit that we didn’t love it. Might have just been the time of day or the slices we chose, so we’d certainly try it again. Most people rave about this place though.
Uniquely NYC: Artichoke Basille’s Pizza serves huge slices of bready crust, topped with spinach and artichoke dip. Split a slice with your travel partner!
Local Brooklyn Favorite: Roberta’s serves up Neapolitan style pies that are worth seeking out.
Insider Tip: Try the Bee Sting, which is not on the menu but can be still be ordered by savvy visitors or locals who know this secret. This pizza is topped with spicy honey and sopressata (a dry Italian salami).
Best Pizzeria: In 2015, TripAdvisor named Juliana’s Pizza the “Best Pizzeria” in the United States. See for yourself by making a stop here after walking across the Brooklyn Bridge.
Good to Know: True New Yorkers eat a slice of pizza with their hands – no forks and knives, folks! (Just read up on the scandal known as “Forkgate” where NYC mayor, Bill de Blasio, ate his pie with utensils. The shame!) Take the slice in your hand, fold it in half lengthwise and take a bite!
Oh, the ubiquitous bagel! You will have no problem finding great bagels here, but if you want to try the best, check out this list of favorite bagel shops.
Here are a handful of great bagel shops in NYC:
Russ & Daughters: In business since 1914, this is a longtime NYC favorite. The original shop is in the Lower East Side of Manhattan and still has the retro charm of an old-school deli. There are no chairs inside. Instead, grab a number and while you’re waiting for your turn, peruse the menu and look at the unique offerings in the glass cases, like smoked whitefish, pickled herring and salmon roe. If you eat fish, try the traditional bagel and lox sandwich, starting at $11 (increasing in price depending on the type of fish you order).
Insider Tip: If you prefer a sit-down meal, Russ & Daughters also has a cafe not far from the original shop. You can sit down and order at the cafe, but you cannot get takeaway.
Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee Company: A local favorite for excellent (and big!) bagels and great coffee. There are 4 locations within the city.
Zucker’s Bagels & Smoked Fish: This little cafe was right outside our subway stop on the way to the World Trade Center Memorial, and was a perfect stop for a quick breakky. Our everything bagel with lox, capers, onions and shmear (don’t you just love that word?!) was mighty good.
Ess-a-Bagels: A favorite among locals, Essa is a popular place to try some of the best bagels New York has to offer.
Insider Tip: At the 3rd Ave location, go into the door right of the main entrance (where there will likely be a long line). Once you’re inside, head to the back where you can order just bagels, spread and coffee.
Can’t pick one? Our recommendation is to star several of them on your Google Maps. Then, when you’re looking for breakfast you can easily spot the closest bagel shop to your current location! You won’t need to venture far.
Fun Bagel Trivia: New York has a reputation for fantastic bagels and pizza. Some people have said the tap water in New York City is the “secret” to the city’s perfect bagels and pizza dough. Some restaurants as far away as California and Florida actually order NYC tap water to be shipped to them to get that perfect dough. Who knows if the water is actually the trick, but hey, I’m not gonna argue. I’ll just taste as many bagels and pizza as I can!
Nightlife in NYC
The city that never sleeps will keep you going all night with so many after dark activities. Make sure you plan your nights out ahead of time, because many places need reservations.
26. Happy Hour at an Oyster Bar
Take Happy Hour to the next level by heading to an oyster bar. You’ll find deals on drinks and oysters for $1 each. It’s a perfect way to rest your legs and get a little pick-me-up before the evening.
This article has rounded up some of the best oyster bars in the city and breaks them down by neighborhood.
Cost: Depending on the location, drinks start around $7 and oysters are typically $1 each.
27. Comedy Show
Many of the country’s top comedians have put in their time at comedy clubs in NYC. One of the most famous, Comedy Cellar, is known to have surprise appearances from people like Dave Chappelle, Aziz Ansari, Amy Poehler and Jerry Seinfeld. And we met a few people who just happened to be there on the right night, so it is more common than you might think!
Book your tickets in advance because they do sell out.
Cost: From $8 to $24 depending on the show and time.
28. Go to a Broadway Show
One of the major Bucket List experiences in New York City is to see a Broadway Show. If you have a show in mind, be sure to make reservations in advance.
If you’re on a budget, don’t write off Broadway shows. You can actually find tickets for cheap on TodayTix or by following these tips.
Cost: Tickets typically range from $35 to $55 when you get them discounted, but can be upwards of $100 if you pay full price.
29. Shakespeare in the Park
If you’re visiting New York City in the summertime, catching a performance of Shakespeare in the Park is a great way to spend an evening. This is a much-loved NYC tradition that has been taking place each summer since 1962.
Seeing a show is one of the best free things you can do in New York City. But just because tickets don’t cost anything doesn’t mean it is poor quality. In fact, stars like Meryl Streep, Al Pacino, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Denzel Washington were part of past casts.
The performances happen nightly at the Delacorte Theater, located in Central Park. And they run from the end of May to the middle of August.
This article walks you through how to snag free tickets to Shakespeare in the Park.
30. The Frying Pan
When we told our New Yorker friends we were visiting the city, at least 3 of them recommended we visit this seasonally-open restaurant/bar. And we take recommendations seriously, so we made sure to check out The Frying Pan.
This dock has several bars that serve a small selection of beers and other drinks as well as a small food menu with items like hand-cut fries and lobster rolls (so good!). With live music, a great view of the city and a young and lively crowd, the atmosphere alone is reason enough to visit.
Just beware that it gets crowded (and loud!) in the evening hours when people get off work and want to grab a drink with friends. If you want a more relaxed atmosphere, plan to arrive before 5 p.m.
Tip: If you like seafood and can spare $24, get the lobster roll! You won’t regret it. We split it between the 2 of us (as we had eaten a slice of pizza on the walk there!) and it was a good amount of food.
There is no shortage of bars in the Big Apple. But instead of going to a typical pub you could find in any big city, try something a little different…
There are a handful of speakeasies around the city, but Please Don’t Tell, or PDT for short, is one of the best.
It is easy to miss, and that’s kind of the point. You will enter through a phone booth in Crif Dogs, a super delicious hot dog shop that makes a good snack to pair with a cocktail. (We’ve heard the bacon-wrapped dog is unbelievable!).
You can tell the bartender what flavors and alcohol types you like, and they can craft a cocktail just for you. Sip on your drink and enjoy the intimate speakeasy atmosphere.
It’s best to make reservation before showing up.
Cost: Cocktails cost around $16
Alternative: Another fun cocktail bar to try is Apotheke Bar Speakeasy which is set up like an apothecary shop and crafted drinks range between $18 – 22.
Where to Stay in NYC
This is a difficult question to answer and really depends on your budget, personal taste and where you plan to spend most time. Each borough, or neighborhood, has pros and cons. Want more info? This guide describes the best neighborhoods in NYC and explains what type of traveler they are most suited for.
This list is by no means comprehensive, but we’re explaining the vibe of 3 different neighborhoods we think make a great base for your first trip to New York City.
Hotel Highlight: Kimpton Muse Hotel NYC
As we mentioned earlier, we disliked Times Square, however, we stayed just a few blocks away and found this location to be ultra convenient for visiting all the top sights.
This sleek and comfortable hotel is everything you need for a great stay in NYC. From a fitness center to free bike rentals to free wine happy hour, there are lots of perks! Check out what we thought of staying at the Kimpton Muse Hotel.
If you are going to stay near Times Square, this is a fantastic choice. Check availability on Booking.com.
*We were guests of Kimpton Muse NYC. As always, all opinions are our own.
Budget Friendly Hotels
If you’re looking for a clean room with a funky design, check out Pod Hotels and their 4 locations around the city. The rooms are basic but modern and functional, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better option if you’re on a tight budget.
Pod Times Square on West 42nd Street
Pod51 Midtown East on East 51st Street
Pod39 Murray Hill on East 39th Street
Pod Brooklyn on Metropolitan Ave
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Leave Your Thoughts in the Comments Below!
What are your favorite things to do in NYC? Are we missing anything? What questions do you have about planning a trip to New York City?
Comments (69) on “31 Best Things to Do in NYC on your First Visit”
Really great article and helpful for the people who is planning their first visit in NYC. Thanks for sharing.
You don’t get over an addiction by stopping using. You recover by creating a new life where it is easier to not use. If you don’t create a new life, then all the factors that brought you to your addiction will catch up with you again. — Unknown
amazing article, please keep on writing articles like this. It feels great to read amazing blogs after so long.
Hi, I’m Angela Taylor and I am planning to go to New York for my higher studies. I will definitely follow this blog for exploring the city in my free time. Thank you for sharing this.
Thanks for sharing top amazing things to do in new york city with some beautiful picture included.
Zweber, think I can get these all done in a 48 hour trip? That’s my goal.
Jensen! So great to hear from you! I think you’d be pushing it to see all of the list in 48 hours. In that time frame, I’d recommend sticking to one borough, like Manhattan. That way you could see a good amount of sights, museums, Central Park and lots of opportunities for great food! When are you thinking of going?!
I read this post your post so nice and very informative post thanks for sharing this post
This is great! So detailed and descriptive. I’ve read a few articles on things to do in NYC and found yours to be the most helpful. And thank you for your tips and tricks!!
Who doesn’t love NY. You have given so many more reaosns
We’ve been itching to get back ever since our first visit! We already have a huge list of more things we want to do in NYC! I don’t think it’s a city you can ever get bored in haha!
That was a really interesting blog and you have shared some really good information here. Also, the images which you have shared are just amazing! New York is a great place and should be on every traveler’s list, thanks for sharing these information with us, it’s really useful!
Thank you for the information so helpful!! Took a lot of notes my first tip is in March. This helped so much!
Thank you for all the info. !!!! Had to take notes ! Very very helpful for our first time will be in June !
Amazing information of your article. The pictures that you show in the article it is really good. I really admire form the information that you discuss in the article. I personally want to visit these places.
Thank you so much for your sweet comment, Terry!
I also enjoyed your shared all these interesting things about NYC.
Thanks so much! Do you have a trip to NYC soon?
We r doing a trip with our 13 year old grandson and he picked NY. This was a great site to get some ideas but also ideas to help save a couple of dollars.
We are happy to help, Hawkins. Let us know if you have any questions about your time in New York!
Very good information! I am sure your post will help with our trip planning coming up next week. Than you for all the details.
Thanks Denise! How was your visit to NYC? Are there any things to do in New York City we should add to the list?
Booked our trip for September and I’m so thankful for this post!! Thank you for all the information!!
You are very welcome Jennifer! Hope you have a great time in NYC!
I am planning a RV trip to New York in September, I found your alls article on Google and this has been so helpful! Thank you for the hard work, photos, and honest reviews on these places! Greatly appreciated!!
You are very welcome, Cara! We are happy to help!
I only went once to NY when I was little and remember absolutely nothing 🙁 I’m planning on going soon and this helped a lot in deciding what places to go. Also, I couldn’t help but ask, what camera did you use for all the pictures? The quality looks great and I’d obviously like some great pictures once I go.
Hey Natalie! I hope you have a great time in NYC.
You can find our camera gear on our Shop page.
I also enjoyed your shared all these interesting things in my these tours and every time had a blast of fun at this most amazing and awesome destination. Now my dad ready to take the
We’re glad to hear you enjoyed the article, Ammy!
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Thanks for the additional tip.
This is the best article I have read to visit New York City. Very well explained and every small detail given in an interesting way and helpful for the visitors who are planning for the first time visit to New York City.
You are very welcome, Stuart! We’re happy to help plan your trip to NYC.
This is a great post! really useful as I am taking my 2 children (19 and 22) to NYC in July for the first time, and I will be taking inspiration from this!
Hey Gail! Is there anything you would add to this list of things to do in NYC?
I am planning to visit New York next month and it’ll be my first visit to that mind blowing city. I guess your blog has the all the things the first timers to New York should visit. I have heard a ton about NYC I hope to have fun like you have mentioned in the blog.
I hope you have a great time Saxena!
Man, that is quite a list! How did you do all that in 4 days? I’m heading there (finally!) this summer, and I’m not sure just yet if you’ve made my trip planning easier or harder because I want to do everything on your list but likely won’t have time to fit it all in.
It is the city that never sleeps, haha! I’d recommend picking your favorite things to do and then fill in the rest. You can always take a second trip 😉
Great list! A lot of variety among, food, nightlife and tourist attractions.
For more great recommendations, I have also been using this new mobile app that came out called Trapeze.
I like Trapeze, it has a great variety
Thanks for the additional tip!
Wow Thank you. I so glad i stumbled across your site. Information is perfect. I will be visiting NYC in June 2019 with hubby and two adults kids (19 and 21) who are to be honest, hard to keep happy. We have actually done a sightseeing holiday with them so I trying to ensure that we choose and plan our stay very carefully
Thank you for helping in my quest. There are many tips that i will be taking on board.
Happy to help, Karen! Maybe look into visiting a comedy club or seeking out Smorgasbord for some great eats! Have fun planning!
Very informative article! As someone who’s lived in New York for 12 years and been blogging about the city for almost eight years, I take a different approach when I recommend what to do, though. Most people visit for only a few days or perhaps a week because the city is super expensive, so I usually suggest picking a few major sights and then allowing time to discover NYC by wandering around and talking to the people, also my favorite way to travel. You guys must have been in New York for at least two weeks to accomplish all this. And you must have been exhausted by the end of the trip. 🙂 New York isn’t going anywhere so there’s always another trip to see the Statue of Liberty and the Top of the Rock!
I’ve stayed in many hotels in the city and one of my favorites is citizenM, which has a location in Times Square and one in the East Village. Try it next time! And be careful with Airbnbs as they are illegal in NYC unless you rent for at least 30 days. Not worth the hassle in my opinion. Come back to New York sometime with no itinerary. Have a few restaurants/bars in mind and maybe a cultural outing or two and then just get on the subway and get off somewhere. Stroll around and see where you land. 🙂
Thanks for your additional tips, Tracy. We only had four days in NYC so we wanted to make the most of it, and we did! We were able to see most of these spots in the 4 days (including two nights at concerts in Central Park) and we had a wonderful time. Yes, it was busy, but when we’re in such an amazing city like New York we wanted to make every moment count.
Yes! I agree with everything on this list, especially the value of the city pass! Soooo worth it!
Thanks Anna, and we agree, CityPASS is such a great deal on the big tourist sites!
THIs is such an incredible post – have pinned it for later. We live in Toronto and I have only been to NYC once so long overdue to go back.
You’re so close living in Toronto. Thanks for pinning it!
WOW!! this is a long list but I enjoyed every bit of it.. the Grand Central station is really on my list! I’m glad to see it here.. this will really come in handy in my visit next year!! thank you sooo much for sharing!
Glad we could help. Happy planning your trip to New York!
Wow! What a detailed post. Just realised that there are so many places that we haven’t visited in NYC. Governor’s island and Greenwich village look very interesting.
Greenwich Village was one of our favorite neighborhoods in NYC. So many great places to eat and go out at night. You should check it out next time you’re there, Pujarini.
Thanks for such a complete information. I will visit NYC with my family again.
You are very welcome Mijia!
I’ve also just done a post on NYC haha! This is very informative and I like how you’ve given the savings too. The passes really so save a bit i think,
The passes really save especially on the big tourist sites in New York.
You’re not wrong – this is really THE guide to New York!
BTW There’s a labyrinth in Lucknow, India, where a portion of it does the same thing as the whispering wall.
Well, thank you very much. Great to hear about the labyrinth, it was pretty cool to experience the Whispering Wall.
Finally a complete list for first timer! yay, this would really come in handy when it’s time to do our itinerary.
Happy we could help plan your first trip to New York! Let us know if you have any questions.
I think you have very beautifully listed all the must do and must visit experiences and places in your article. Must say this is quite an extensive list and all are worth trying. I am so glad that you have included the Friends Apartment too in the list. I think when I first visit New York, seeing this building would be my first priority. Huge fan you see! Love the pictures, they have rightly captured the essence of NYC.
The Friends apartment was definitely on our list! Glad to here you liked our NYC article.
I have seen so many photos of all the things you mentioned here and i so wanna tick them all. NYC is high on my bucketlist. These tips are amazing!
That’s exactly how we felt. So many movies and TV shows take place in NYC that we were geeking out around every corner. It was so much fun!
I already visited New York City but I did not experience all of your tips. One of many reasons to return…Very helpful collection of tips.
Oh we are already planning our next trip to NYC! Such a great city to travel to!