20+ Things to Do in NYC for Young Adults

CityDays’ guide to finding fun, interesting and unique things to do in NYC for young adults!

We’ll cut to the chase: you’re looking for things to do in NYC for young adults, and your mind’s drawn a blank. It happens - even to lifelong New Yorkers.

Finding fun activities and things to do in NYC is harder than it looks. If you’re from around here, you’ll probably have your favorite haunts dialed in and a certain, shall we say, reluctance to try anything new.

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If you’re not from around here, you might not even know where to begin.

Well, we can help you there. We’ve asked around, been to a bunch of places and tried some new activities so that we can tell you where to go, what to do, and why it’s worth going.

Ready to find the best things to do in NYC for young adults? Read on! 

And just so you know - we’re not paid by anybody to include these on our list. They’re just places we’ve been to or experiences we’ve loved that we want to recommend to you, so you can find the best things to do in NYC

Best Things to Do in NYC for Young Adults

Go on A Scavenger Hunt Through Manhattan

things to do in NYC for young adults

Location: Various 

Starting off our list of things to do in NYC for young adults – a quest.

There’s a subset of New Yorkers who’ll insist (I mean, really insist) that there are no hidden gems in New York City. And to them I say, you’re wrong: either you’ve walked past them so many times that you’ve stopped appreciating them, or you don’t know they exist.

A big claim, maybe – but I mean it.. There’s so much stuff out there that most people never bother to notice. So, take my advice, and notice ‘em. The easiest (and most fun) way to do that is by taking on a scavenger hunt through the city.

All you need is your phone (I guess you’ve already got one of those), some comfortable walking shoes, and some of your friends to help you crack the codes, puzzles, and riddles that take you around NYC’s iconic landmarks and hidden gems. 

Practical information: Book online, with prices typically ranging from $15 to $20 per person. Flexible start times are available, and you can pause the game whenever you want. 

Hit Up NYC’s Best Arcade Bars

things to do in NYC for young adults

Location: Various

There’s a slim chance you haven’t been to an arcade bar before, but just in case you haven’t, here’s what you need to know.

Arcade bars are way better than your average dive or sports bar. First of all, you have something to do - play games - which, I mean, is already more fun than your average bar experience. If someone in your group hasn’t turned 21 yet, they’re more likely to let your underage buddies in for a soft drink and some games, so, that’s a bonus.

And last of all, you get to humble brag about your gaming skills in public. Just, make sure you brag after you’ve won - not before. 

Practical information: Entry is generally free, with games priced per play. Hours vary by location but most are open late, ensuring the fun doesn't stop until the early morning.

Recommendations by borough: 

Chinatown Fair, Barcade, Bowlero Ace Bar

Gamehaus, LaserBounce

Wonderville, Game Room at Industry City

Try an Outdoor Escape Room in NYC

things to do in NYC for young adults

Location: Various locations around NYC 

If you’re looking for things to do in NYC for young adults that none of your friends has ever done before, this is for you.

Who doesn’t love escape rooms? I feel like they’ve been around long enough for lots of people to have tried them, but if you haven’t, it’s pretty easy: you and your friends are “locked” in a room, and you have to solve puzzles and challenges in order to get out…Now imagine that on a much bigger scale.

Outdoor escape rooms are awesome for a few reasons: firstly, you don’t need to contend with any claustrophobia (the games take place on the city streets) but you still get all the fun, teamwork and puzzle-solving that you would if you were inside. 

Games like these allow you to unlock the secrets of NYC, have an urban adventure that’s entirely your own, and explore the outdoors in a new and immersive way. What’re you waiting for!?

Practical information: Prices vary per game, but typically range from $15 to $20 per person. Start times vary per trail but you can play (pretty much) whenever and pause the game whenever you need a break! 

Check Out The Best Comedy Clubs in NYC

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Location: Various

If the world of comedy has a nucleus, it’s probably right here in NYC.

The good thing about that is that, yeah, the top performing comedians in the world perform here regularly – but tickets can be harder to find at the last minute or at a good price. Obviously, if there’s someone you’ve been dying to see, look ‘em up and find out if they’re hitting a stage near you soon.

Otherwise, there are many future star comedians and acts who start their careers in NYC, and you’ll find bar after bar filling up with hopeful comics most nights of the week.

Need venue inspo? My favorite comedy clubs around NYC are Comedy Cellar, Gotham Comedy Club, and West Side Comedy Club.

Practical information: Showtimes and ticket prices vary, with most clubs offering multiple shows per night. Advance booking is highly recommended, especially on weekends.

Sing it Out at a Karaoke Bar

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Location: Various

NYC thrives on delivering incredible entertainment, but sometimes, all you need is a bit of homegrown entertainment.

Everyone has a karaoke song, and if you don’t, it’s about time you found one. Don’t worry if you’re shy - you can book private rooms if you want to - but one of my favorite things to do is go along to open mic nights and just see who takes the stage – you’d be surprised at how talent manifests itself in the public! 

Practical information: Many karaoke bars have a cover charge or require reservations during peak times. 

Personal Recommendations: 

Lion’s Roar: My personal favorite - amazing hosts, great vibes and always a good time!

Gagopa: BYO food and drinks, super-friendly and classically K-Town vibes.

Planet Rose: Colorful, fun and inviting space to enjoy karaoke. 

Organize a Picnic in an Iconic NYC Park

things to do in NYC for young adults

Personal Recommendations: Prospect Park, Riverside Park, Carl Schurz Park, Astoria Park

Everyone tells you that being young in NYC is basically like winning the life lottery, and yeah, it’s an incredible city. But for some of us, it’s an expensive city and by the time payday rolls around, you might be running out of ideas for affordable things to do.

You’re not alone if funds are low but you still want to socialize, and that’s when suggesting a picnic at your local (or a completely different) park can be a gamechanger.

First off, it gives you more space than hosting at your cramped apartment, it’s way easier to clean up after yourselves and, best of all, it gets you outta the house and it doesn’t break the bank if everyone contributes to the food haul. 

Practical information: No reservations needed for picnicking areas, but certain amenities like barbecue spots may require booking. Seasonal facilities like ice cream trucks appear in spring and summer months.

Fun Things to Do in NYC for Young Adults (Over 21) 

Take a Sip at NYC’s Best Rooftop Bars

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Location: Various

Turning 21 is a rite of passage that comes with plenty of privileges - like finally being allowed to enter NYC’s rooftop bars.

Now, it’s worth saying that you pay a premium for drinks at a lot of these places, but there’s always deals to be found at happy hours to indulge in, you’ve just gotta know where to go.

Here are my top picks: 

Bar Blondeau: Brooklyn bar with incredible views of the Manhattan Skyline. Located in Williamsburg at the Wythe Hotel. 

Dear Irving on Hudson: Midtown at the Aliz Hotel Times Square, has 007 James Bond vibes and awesome panoramic NYC skyline views. 

Harriet’s Rooftop & Lounge: Atop the 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, this place is expensive but you’re paying for the views which are basically unmatched in this part of town. 

Greenpoint Beer & Ale Co: Another Brooklyn bar but this one is a more casual, German-style brewery. Awesome if you like beer!  

Practical information: Prices vary by location. Reservations are recommended, especially on weekends. Most bars open in the late afternoon and close after midnight.

Check Out Chelsea’s Gallery Openings

Location: Chelsea, Manhattan 

You’re an adult now but that’s no reason to let the fun slow down.

Art may or may not be your thing, but if it is, you’ll love attending one or two of Chelea’s many open gallery events. Firstly, you get to see new art exhibitions (sometimes free of charge), and it’s a great way to meet new people. Secondly, galleries often supply viewers with a glass of something, so if you’re over 21, it’s a good way to get a free drink at a more refined location! 

Practical information: Gallery openings are usually free to attend and occur mostly on Thursday evenings. Check individual galleries for exact dates and times. Check online for upcoming events. 

Solve a Murder Mystery in Manhattan

things to do in NYC for young adults

Location: Manhattan

Sherlock Holmes is looking for a helping hand and it looks like you and your friends are just what he needs!

A “body” has turned up on the banks of the Hudson, and there’s some pretty weird circumstances surrounding the case. The only way for you to track down the perpetrator is to join the game…will you succeed? Only one way to find out!

The Devil in Chelsea is an immersive outdoor adventure game where you and your friends take on the roles as detectives in Manhattan’s city streets. The game is fictional and not too gruesome, but it’s an awesome way to spend an afternoon, following clues, deciphering evidence, and working together to catch a “killer”! 

Practical information: $25 per person, start and stop the game at any time between 7am and 7pm. The game lasts around 3 hours so bring water on a hot day and make sure you have comfortable shoes! 

Visit The Oldest Bar in Manhattan, Fraunces Tavern

Location: Fraunces Tavern, Manhattan 

Looking for things to do in NYC for young adults that involve a bar and a historical connection? Get your butts over to Fraunces Tavern. 

If you only know of this place through Hamilton, you’re not alone - but this place once played a very significant role in the birth of the USA as we know it. Order a drink, warm yourself by the toasty fireplace, and if you’re hungry, the food here is pretty darn good!

Oh, and apparently, George Washington favored a pint and chicken pot pie, if you’re in the mood to recreate some history. 

Practical information: Open daily. Offers food and a wide range of beers, wine, cocktails and spirits.

Take The NYC Ferry Somewhere For Once

things to do in NYC for young adults

Location: Various

You’ve probably heard of the SI (Staten Island) Ferry by now, even if you haven't taken it. But you might not know how great the NYC ferries are for taking you around the city.

The truth is, the network isn’t as extensive as we might want it to be, but you can still cover large distances in a way more comfortable and convenient way than with other modes of transport. You have more space, get to take in the views, and it’s actually pretty cheap - most tickets come in at around 4 bucks a ticket. 

Practical information: Ferry schedules and routes are available online. Prices are affordable, and some routes may be free. Services usually run from early morning till late evening.

Go See a Drunk Shakespeare Show

Location: Drunk Shakespeare, Manhattan 

Is there anywhere on Earth that does theater quite like we do in NYC? Nope, I don’t think so. But I’m not just talking about Broadway (although, if you haven't done that, what are you waiting for?). 

No, I’m talking about Shakespeare - but not the kind you learned in school. Drunk Shakespeare is a show where an actor has to down five shots of whiskey and then perform some of the Bard’s iconic scenes in front of you. It’s as chaotic, hilarious and entertaining as it sounds, believe me. 

Practical information: Shows are available for booking online. Typically run for 90 minutes. Tickets include the cost of the first drink.

Fun Things to Do in NYC for Young Adults (Under 21 and Sober Activities)

Check Out NYC’s Cool and Lesser-Known Museums

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Location: Various

It might have been a hot minute since you went to a museum, but honestly, give me a museum over a theme park any day.

If you’re a native New Yorker, you’ll probably have visited a lot of the famous museums around here either with your family or with school. But I’m here to tell you there’s value in seeking out the smaller, more niche museums dotted around our city.

So how do you go beyond the mainstream and visit NYC's smaller, quirky museums? Start with my recommendations:

Tenement Museum: One of my favorite museums, ever. Go back in time and see how people used to live “back in the day”, and find out the stories behind immigration to the US in the early 20th century. 

New York Transit Museum: Awesome place if you love old technology and vehicles. 

Museum of the City of New York: Simply a great place to track the history of NYC.

The Louis Armstrong Museum: The great jazz musician’s old home. If you visit during the summer, you might be lucky enough to catch a performance here as well! 

Practical information: Entry fees are modest. Most museums are open daily except Mondays. Check individual museum websites for exact times and special exhibits.

Bag a Bargain at a Thrift Store

Location: Various

Looking for things to do in NYC for young adults with an interest in fashion? Gotcha. 

All you’ve gotta do is scour NYC's thrift stores for unique finds and vintage treasures. Obviously, this is easier said than done (there are thrift stores all over NYC), but I can guarantee you’ll find one near you.

The Goodwill in Chelsea is great (they have a good designer section, if you like your brand names), but I also frequently check out what’s on offer at Le Point Value in Flushing (Brooklyn), and L Train Vintage is popular (I’ve had the best luck in Queens, but, look around!). 

Practical information: Locations vary from upscale boutiques to local charity shops. Prices are generally low, and shopping hours typically extend into the evening.

Go on a Self-Guided Walking Tour in an Unfamiliar Neighborhood

things to do in NYC for young adults

Location: Various neighborhoods in NYC 

First, I just want to say I love walking tours. I find them fascinating, and wherever I go, I try to explore the city on foot as much as I can (it’s where you find the good stuff, always). Thing is, time constraints, unfamiliar crowds and finding the right tour can be tricky - which is why self-guided is the way to go for me.

Instead of a guide, you get a bunch of puzzles to solve that give you directions, fun facts and trivia sent to your phone, and you and your friends get to turn an afternoon exploring into a game where you track down NYC’s hidden spots and historical quirks. 

Practical information: Tickets available online. Start pretty much at any time, but daylight hours are recommended for safety and visibility.

Play A Game of Grown Up “The Floor is Lava” at Squarena

Location: Squarena, NYC

Forget what I said about being a grown up, adulthood is a trap and it turns out, all you need to get out of it is to play a twist on “The Floor is Lava”.

If you spent a childhood racing around on couches and surfaces not created for feet, you’ll already get the idea of Squarena: stand on blue squares, avoid red squares, and laugh when your siblings or friends step on “lava” (in this case, red squares). 

Practical information: Tickets can be booked online. Open daily, with evening hours on weekends. Prices vary based on peak and off-peak times.

Paddle or Row Around The Lake at Central Park

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Location: Central Park, Manhattan 

Looking for things to do in NYC for young adults that are a little different? Rent a boat and paddle around Central Park’s iconic lake. 

Central Park might be one of the most touristy places in NYC, but unlike most of the other tourist hotspots in the city, it’s 100% worth it. First of all, it’s big enough that you don’t feel the crowds the same way. Secondly, it’s beautiful

Practical information: Boats are available from spring to early fall at the lake. Rental rates are per hour. Open from morning till sunset. 

Hang Around The East Village

Location: East Village, Manhattan

There’s a ton of reasons I can think of as to why you should visit The East Village while you’re young, but I’ll keep this short: it’s where a lot of young people hang out, so whatever it is you wanna do, you’ll find it here.

If you’re looking for specific activities, then I’d recommend heading to Tompkins Square (you can play basketball there or even join a tai chi class). There are loads of community gardens dotted around that are worth taking a look at - and, when you get hungry, you’ll find plenty of nice food spots nearby. 

Practical information: Most activities are free and can be enjoyed at any time. Restaurants and cafes in the area vary in price, catering to all budgets.

Eat Something From Every Corner of the World at Smorgasburg

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Location: Williamsburg, Brooklyn 

Speaking of food… if you’re looking for things to do in NYC for young adults that stop your belly rumbling, this is for you!

Smorgasburg is the biggest weekly open-air food market in the whole of America, so if you can’t find something you want to eat here, then congrats, you really are a picky eater.  

Open every weekend from April through to October, Smorgasburg is the place to go to eat your way through every kind of imaginable cuisine you can think of. It’s popular so it gets busy, but it is a heaven for foodies. 

Practical information: Open on weekends. No entry fee, but bring cash for food. Early arrival is recommended to beat the crowds and ensure the best selection.

Take a Look Around The New York Catacombs

Location: New York Catacombs, Manhattan 

For 200 years, St Patrick’s Cathedral has been a mainstay on NYC’s map. It’s a part of the cultural and religious fabric of the city, and in a place like New York, that’s saying something. 

But what many don’t realize is that it’s what’s underneath it that holds some of the most intriguing stories. 

If you want to take a step closer to the eerier side of NYC’s history, you can take a candlelight tour of the crypt where you get to go “behind the scenes” and see things that are usually off-limits to the public. 

Practical information: Tours are ticketed and must be booked in advance. They typically run for about an hour and are only suitable for those who are comfortable in confined spaces.

Watch The Sunset From an Unusual Angle

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Location: Various 

Last but not least on our list of things to do in NYC for young adults, a little tip: people (not typically New Yorkers) say that NYC is a city that never sleeps. It’s true, there’s something happening at all hours of the day, but my favorite time is undoubtedly sunset.

It’s almost like the city wakes up a second time as the sun goes down, and there are so many great spots for catching a sunset that it almost needs its own article.

But since we’re here, I’ll give you a few of my favorite spots: Sunset Park (clue is in the name but it’s at a slightly higher elevation to provide the views), Little Island (an awesome park regardless of time or day). Honorable mentions go to Hunts Point in the Bronx and Roosevelt Island

Practical information: Access is free. Best experienced on clear days for the most dramatic sunsets. 

Find More Things to Do in New York City

things to do in New York City

So there you have it! 20+ things to do in NYC for young adults!

Remember that no matter what you decide to do on your morning, afternoon or evening out with your friends or family, there’s nothing like teamwork to make the dream work.

That’s why we at CityDays create fun, interesting and challenging trails around the world to help you immerse yourself in a city’s culture, history and curios. 

Want to find out more?

Check out all our available activities in NYC here and embark on an adventure in the city you’ll never forget: CityDays awaits!