Things To Do in NYC

New York City is one of the most exciting and vibrant places in the world, with endless things to see and do. Whether you're a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, there's always something new to discover in the Big Apple.

New York Times Square

From iconic landmarks like the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty to world-class museums and some of the best food and drink in the world, New York City has something for everyone. And when the sun goes down, the city comes alive with a vibrant nightlife scene that's second to none.

In our ultimate guide to things to do in NYC, we’re sharing the must-see sights, the best places to eat and drink, the top museums and galleries, and the best entertainment options.

So grab a cup of coffee, put on your walking shoes, and get ready to explore the city that never sleeps. Let's dive into all the fantastic things to do in New York City!

Things to Do on Your First Trip to New York

Planning your first trip to New York can be exciting and overwhelming in equal measures. Here are some of the things that we think are a must on anyone's first trip to the Big Apple.

Visit the Iconic Landmarks and Take in the NYC Skyline

It might be the most touristy thing you could possibly do, but what would a trip to New York be without visiting some of the world's most iconic and recognizable landmarks? 

Some top sights not to be missed include:

  • Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island - Taking a ferry trip out to get a close-up view of Lady Liberty is a must for anyone visiting the city. If you’re feeling particularly fit, you can take the 162-stair climb to the crown for a stunning look across the city. The museum on Ellis Island is also well worth a visit to learn more about the history of the millions of people who immigrated to America to start a new life.
  • Empire State Building - The Empire State Building is one of the most recognizable skyscrapers across the New York skyline. Once one of the tallest buildings in the world, it is now the 4th tallest building in New York City.
  • Grand Central Station - Quite possibly one of the most famous train stations in the world, Grand Central Station is a hub of activity in the heart of New York. Take a visit to marvel at the impressive architecture and design of the station, and also grab something to eat at one of the restaurants located inside.
  • The Flatiron Building - The Flatiron Building is one of New York's oldest surviving skyscrapers. While its height might be dwarfed by the modern-day buildings surrounding it, its interesting footprint and design make it a classic piece of architectural history.
  • One World Trade Centre - Situated at Ground Zero, One World Trade Centre is currently the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere and was built to symbolize resilience and strength. Visitors can travel up to the observation deck to get a view out over the city and also visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum located in the underground section of the building.

If you want to really get a sense of the scale of the city and appreciate the skyline, we’d suggest taking a trip to the Top of the Rock. Most people would tell you that the Empire State Building gives the best views of the city, but we beg to differ. 

The Rockefeller Center Observation deck is situated on the 70th floor and offers 360-degree unobscured (the deck is surrounded by glass walls) open-air views across Manhattan.

If heights aren’t your thing, and you’d rather get a view of the city on foot, you’d be best off heading for a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. The bridge spans the East River, linking the borough of Brooklyn with Manhattan, and is a great way to see amazing riverside views of the city. 

Visit a Gallery or Museum in NYC

No matter where you are in the world, especially if it’s your first time in a certain city, one of the best ways to get a feel for the culture and history of a place is by visiting the local galleries and museums. 

New York has you spoilt for choice with its world-renowned museums and galleries; here are some of our top picks to visit:

  • The Metropolitan Museum - This world-renowned museum features an extensive collection of art and artifacts from around the world, spanning over 5000 years of human history, running from the Stone Age all the way up to modern and contemporary art.
    📍 1000 5th Ave, New York, NY 10028
    Find out more -
    The Metropolitan Museum

  • American Museum of Natural History - This museum is one of the largest natural history museums in the world, featuring exhibits on everything from dinosaurs to outer space. Visitors can explore the famous dinosaur exhibits, see the iconic blue whale model, and learn about the history of human evolution.
    📍 200 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024
    Find out more -

  • The Guggenheim - This museum is known for its unique architecture, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. You can explore a variety of contemporary and modern art exhibits while climbing the museum's famous central spiral ramp.
    📍 1071 5th Ave, New York, NY 10128
    Find out more -
    The Guggenheim

  • Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum - This museum is located on the USS Intrepid, an aircraft carrier that served in World War II and the Vietnam War. You can explore the ship and see a variety of military aircraft as well as the Space Shuttle Enterprise.
    📍 Pier 86, W 46th St, New York, NY 10036
    Find out more -
    Intrepid Museum

Cheap Things to Do in New York

If you’re looking to do New York on a budget, there are plenty of wallet-friendly ways to get around the city, see the major tourist sites, and have a memorable trip. 

Visit Central Park

Central Park is quite possibly the most famous park in the world. It’s featured in numerous films and TV shows and is definitely a must on any NYC trip itinerary.
Covering a massive 840 acres, Central Park is filled with beautiful scenery, interesting landmarks, and fun activities for visitors of all ages.

One of the must-see areas in Central Park is the Bethesda Fountain and Terrace. This stunning piece of architecture features a beautiful angel statue and a grand staircase that leads down to the water. It's a popular spot for taking photos, people-watching, and enjoying the view. 

Another great place to visit is the Central Park Zoo. This small but charming zoo is home to a variety of animals, including penguins, sea lions, snow leopards, and more.

If you’re looking for a space just to relax and take a break, the Great Lawn is a wide open space that is perfect for enjoying a picnic, having a bit of a sunbathe (if the weather permits!), or letting the kids run around to let off a bit of steam. 

Attend a Free Concert at the Lincoln Centre

New York is a great place to enjoy live music of all genres, but tickets can get a bit pricey depending on the venue - luckily, the Lincoln Centre offers a variety of free concerts and performances throughout the year. 

Located in the heart of Manhattan, the Lincoln Centre is a world leader in performing arts with 12 resident art organizations on their campus, including the New York Philharmonic, New York City Opera, New York City Ballet, and the Juilliard School.

Check out the latest schedule for free events on the Lincoln Centre website.

Grab yourself a New York Pass

A great way to save money on popular tourist attractions and activities while in New York is by getting yourself a New York Pass. 

This pass gives you access to over 100 popular attractions and tours in the city, including the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, all for 50% less than regular advertised ticket prices.

Not only does the New York Pass save you money on admission fees, but it also includes skip-the-line privileges at many attractions, so you can avoid the long lines and save time as well. Plus, the pass includes a free app that gives you access to travel guides, itineraries, maps and planning tools so you can easily make the most of your time in the city.

Check out our guide of even more budget-friendly things to do in NYC

Things to Do in New York When You’ve Been Before

If you’ve already visited New York before and have hit up the regular tourist spots, you might be looking for something a bit more unique or quirky to do on your next visit. 

Explore Hidden Gems

There is so much to explore in New York that you’ll never be stuck for something to do (in fact we’ve already written about some of the top NYC highlights that people like to keep secret).

Here are some of our favorite lesser-known attractions that offer a unique and off-the-beaten-path experience away from the tourist crowds:

  • The Cloisters - Located in Upper Manhattan, the Cloisters is a museum dedicated to medieval art and architecture. The museum is housed in a beautiful building modeled after a medieval monastery, with beautiful gardens and stunning views of the Hudson River.
    📍 99 Margaret Corbin Dr, New York, NY 10040
    Find out more -
    The Cloisters

  • The Tenement Museum - This museum is located on the Lower East Side and tells the story of the immigrants who lived in the neighborhood in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The museum is housed in a tenement building that's been preserved to look exactly as it did over 100 years ago, and the tours offer a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the people who lived there.
    📍 103 Orchard Street New York, NY 10002
    Find out more -
    Tenement Museum

  • The City Reliquary - This small museum in Williamsburg is dedicated to the quirky and unusual history of New York City, with exhibits on everything from the city's trash to its baseball teams. It's a great place to learn about the city's unique history and culture.
    📍 370 Metropolitan Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211
    Find out more -
    The City Reliquary

  • Elevated Acre - This beautiful park is located in the Financial District and offers stunning views of the East River and the Brooklyn Bridge. It's a great place to relax and enjoy the scenery, and it's often overlooked by tourists.
    📍 55 Water St, New York, NY 10041

Try an Outdoor Escape Game

If you want a fun and unique way to explore the city, consider trying an outdoor escape game. Much like traditional escape rooms, these games are a great way to challenge your problem-solving skills with friends and family while having fun and seeing the city in a new light. Clues will be sent to your phone to help you solve the mystery and you can make your way around the route at your own pace. 

The Devil in Chelsea offers an exciting new way to experience Manhattan's Middle West Side. You'll get to explore historic districts, check out amazing buildings, statues, markets, pubs, and street art, all while solving cryptic clues that will lead you to the heart of a deadly mystery. 

Things to do in New York with kids

There are plenty of fun and family-friendly activities to help keep the kids entertained on your visit while also creating wonderful memories.

Visit a Children's Museum

New York City is home to some of the best children's museums in the world. Here are some of the top children's museums to check out in the city for a fun and educational way to spend a day together. :

  • Children's Museum of Manhattan - This museum features interactive exhibits and programs that encourage children to learn through play. Kids can explore a variety of exhibits, from a pretend grocery store to a play construction site, and even learn about science and technology through hands-on activities.
    📍 212 W 83rd St, New York, NY 10024
    Find out more -
    Children’s Museum of Manhattan

  • Brooklyn Children's Museum - Located in the heart of Brooklyn, this museum offers a range of exhibits and programs that focus on science, art, and culture. Try out everything from a sensory room to a music-making studio, and even learn about the natural world through interactive exhibits.
    📍 145 Brooklyn Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11213
    Find out more -
    Brooklyn Children's Museum

  • Museum of Ice Cream - For a more sweet and playful experience, the Museum of Ice Cream is a must-visit. This museum offers a unique and colorful experience that will be enjoyed by children and adults alike. There are a range of interactive exhibits including a giant sprinkle pool to an edible slime-making experience!
    📍 558 Broadway, New York, NY 10012
    Find out more -
    Museum of Ice Cream

  • Museum of Illusions - The Museum of Illusions is a great option for families looking for a mind-bending experience. This museum features a range of optical illusions and exhibits that challenge your perceptions of reality including a room that makes you feel like you’re upside down and a giant kaleidoscope.
    📍 77 8th Ave, New York, NY 10014
    Find out more -
    Museum of Illusions

Take a Trip to the Bronx Zoo

The Bronx Zoo is home to over 6000 animals and is a great way to spend the day with kids in New York city.
One of the highlights of the Bronx Zoo is the Congo Gorilla Forest exhibit, which features a lush rainforest environment and a troop of western lowland gorillas. You can watch as the gorillas play and interact with each other, and learn about their behavior and habitat.

Another popular exhibit is the Tiger Mountain exhibit, which features a variety of tiger species, including Siberian tigers and Malayan tigers. Here you can watch as the tigers play and explore their habitats, and learn about the conservation efforts being made to protect these endangered animals.

If you're looking for something more interactive, check out the Children's Zoo. This area is designed specifically for kids, with a variety of hands-on exhibits and activities that allow them to interact with animals and learn about where and how they live in the wild.

And of course, no trip to the Bronx Zoo would be complete without a visit to the Bug Carousel. This unique carousel sits in the middle of the park and is a fun stop to make on your way around the exhibits. Kids can choose to ride on a variety of insect species, including ladybugs, praying mantises, and grasshoppers!

📍 2300 Southern Blvd, Bronx, NY 10460
Find out more -
The Bronx Zoo

Things to Do in New York for Foodies

If you’re a fan of all things food, you’re in luck! You’d be hard-pushed to find a more culinarily diverse city than New York. Whether you’re after a Michelin-star meal or a classic NYC bagel, there is an eatery to suit everyone's taste.

Dine on Restaurant Row

There are so many places to eat in New York that it can be hard to pick somewhere to grab dinner. Foodies looking for a diverse and exciting selection of culinary experiences should head to Restaurant Row

Located in the heart of the Theater District, Restaurant Row is a stretch of West 46th Street that's home to some of the best and most diverse restaurants in the city. You'll find everything from Italian and French to Thai and Indian, with plenty of options for vegetarians and meat lovers alike. And because the restaurants are all located in close proximity to each other, you can easily hop from one to the next and sample a variety of dishes.

One of the most popular restaurants on Restaurant Row is Becco. This Italian restaurant is known for its delicious pasta dishes and its famous "pasta tasting" menu, which allows you to sample three different types of pasta for a great value at a fixed price.
Another popular restaurant is Sake Bar Hagi. This Japanese restaurant is known for its delicious small plates, including yakitori, tempura, and sushi. It's a great place to grab a drink and some snacks after a show or to enjoy a full meal with friends.

Things to Do in New York at Night

We’ve all heard the line ‘New York, the city that never sleeps’ but it really is true. While the sun fades behind the skyline the city gets carries on going, offering endless opportunities for fun and excitement.

Visit Times Square

This iconic NYC destination is known for its bright lights, bustling crowds, and non-stop energy, making it the perfect place to explore after dark.

The crowds in Times Square during the day can be quite overwhelming, so visiting in the evening and taking a stroll through the area to take in the sights and sounds is a great alternative.

If you want to get a great photo of the famous view that most of us associate with Times Square (a photo of One Times Square with huge billboards leading towards it on both sides), stand on the red TKTS stairs just past 47th Street and turn so that you are faced to walk down the stairs.

Enjoy a Late-Night Snack at Katz’s Delicatessen

Looking for a classic late night New York City dining experience? Look no further than Katz's Delicatessen! This iconic Jewish deli has been serving up huge sandwiches and other traditional dishes since 1888, and it's a must-visit destination for anyone who loves good food.

One of the best times to visit Katz's is late at night. The deli is open 24 hours a day, so you can satisfy your cravings for a delicious sandwich or other snack no matter what time it is. Plus, the late-night crowds are often smaller, so you can avoid the long lines that can form during peak hours. 

The deli is a bustling, lively place, with a mix of locals and tourists all coming together to enjoy good food and good company. And if you're lucky, you might even spot a celebrity or two - Katz's has been featured in a variety of movies and TV shows over the years!

📍 205 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002
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Katz’s Delicatessen

Looking for even more things to do in New York City at night?

Places to Enjoy Nature in NYC

New York City is known for its bustling streets and towering skyscrapers, but it's also home to some beautiful natural areas where visitors can escape the urban chaos and enjoy nature. Whether you want a quiet space to reflect or just to see a different side of the city, there are plenty of hidden green oases to explore.

Central Park Conservatory Garden

The Central Park Conservatory Garden is a hidden green gem in the heart of New York City. This beautifully landscaped area is located on the east side of Central Park, and it's a peaceful oasis away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

The garden is divided into three sections, each with its own unique style and charm. The Italian Garden features a large fountain, a beautiful wisteria pergola, and a variety of colorful flowers and plants. The French Garden is a more formal area, with neatly trimmed hedges, symmetrical flower beds, and various sculptures and fountains. The English Garden is a more naturalistic area, with winding paths, rustic benches, and a variety of trees and shrubs. The whole area is a popular spot to take a leisurely stroll, admire the beautiful scenery, or even stop off for a picnic.

Throughout the gardens, there are a variety of beautiful sculptures, fountains, and other works of art - one of the most famous is the Burnett Fountain, which features a bronze statue of a boy and a girl holding an umbrella over a small bird bath.

📍 1233 5th Ave, New York, NY 10029
Find out more - Central Park Conservatory Garden

Visit the New York Botanical Gardens

This beautiful garden is located in the Bronx, just a short train ride from Manhattan, and it's a great place to experience nature in the heart of the city.

The New York Botanical Gardens is one of the largest botanical gardens in the world, with over 50 gardens and collections spread out over 250 acres. It's home to a wide variety of plants and flowers from around the world, including rare and endangered species.

A major highlight of the gardens is the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, a stunning glasshouse that is home to a variety of tropical plants and flowers. Inside, you'll find everything from orchids and palms to cacti and ferns. It's a great place to escape the cold during the winter months and experience a taste of the tropics.

Another must-see area of the gardens is the Native Plant Garden. This beautiful area features a variety of plants and flowers that are native to the northeastern United States. It's a great place to learn about the local flora and fauna and appreciate the natural beauty of the area.

📍 2900 Southern Blvd., Bronx, NY 10458
Find out more -
New York Botanical Garden

Visit the ‘Borough of Parks’

When visiting New York, tourists tend to stick to the ‘main land’ boroughs of Manhattan, The Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens but Staten Island is a spot that often gets overlooked. 

In fact, Staten Island is jokingly referred to as ‘the forgotten borough’, but it also has another nickname. Staten Island is known as the ‘borough of parks’, and is home to some of the most beautiful and scenic parks in the city.

With 12,300 acres of protected parkland and over 70 parks, here are some of the top parks and greenspaces to visit in Staten Island:

  • Greenbelt Nature Center - This center is located in the heart of Staten Island's Greenbelt, which is a vast network of 2,800 acres of parks and natural areas. Visitors can learn about the local flora and fauna through interactive exhibits and programs, and there are also hiking trails and scenic overlooks to explore

  • Clove Lakes Park - This park features beautiful lakes, wooded areas, and hiking trails. It's a great spot for a picnic or a leisurely stroll, and there are also playgrounds and sports fields for kids and adults to enjoy.

  • Great Kills Park - This park is located on the shore of Staten Island and features beautiful beaches, hiking trails, and fishing areas. It's a great spot for a day trip with the family, and there are also picnic areas and playgrounds for kids to enjoy

  • Alice Austen House and Park - This beautiful historic home is located on the waterfront in Staten Island, and it's surrounded by beautiful gardens and scenic views of the harbor. It's a great place to learn about the history of the area and appreciate the natural beauty of the waterfront.

Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden - This center features a variety of gardens, including a Chinese Scholar's Garden and a Healing Garden. Visitors can also explore historic buildings and learn about the history of Staten Island, and there are also art exhibits and performances throughout the year.

Things to Do for Theater Lovers in NYC

The bright lights of Broadway attract many a theatre lover to New York but catching a show isn’t the only thing to do for those who are musically minded.

Catch a show

Broadway is the main reason that many theater lovers visit the city, but getting tickets for some of the biggest shows can be almost impossible (not to mention expensive!). Why not try looking at an off Broadway show or even an off-off Broadway show?

Some of the biggest headline shows currently dominating Broadway started as off-broadway productions. Tickets for these shows are usually cheaper and much easier to get hold of, plus you get a chance to have a much more intimate viewing experience of a fantastic show.

Eat at a Singing Waiter Restaurant

If you want a dining experience with a difference, why not book a meal at one of New York's singing waiter restaurants? These restaurants feature talented waitstaff who sing and perform throughout your meal, creating a fun and lively atmosphere that any musical theater fan will love.

One of the most popular singing waiter restaurants in New York City is Ellen's Stardust Diner. Located in the heart of Times Square, this retro-themed diner features talented performers who sing a range of classic hits as well as contemporary favorites. It's the ideal spot to grab a bite to eat before or after a show. 

Explore More Things to do in New York with CityDays

Whatever your interests are, there’s always something new for you to discover in New York City. In fact, you don’t have to go out of your way at all to find them - you just have to know where to look. 

Discover New York’s secret sites and noteworthy nooks by playing one of our New York treasure and scavenger hunts, escape room games or walking tours.

You’ll find curated trails and hunts all over New York, including Manhattan, Chelsea, Midtown and Chinatown. 

All you have to do is team up with your friends, family or whoever to solve riddles, complete challenges and answer trivia to lead you on an unforgettable journey around New York’s most intriguing streets. 

The best part? We’ll recommend top-rated bars, cafés and restaurants and give your team the chance to earn rewards by competing on our leaderboard. 

CityDays gives you total freedom to start and finish whenever you like, take extra breaks if you want or need them, and it’s suitable for people of all ages

You’re also guaranteed your money back if you don’t have an amazing time - although our previous reviews speak for themselves: we’re rated 5/5 on TripAdvisor and 4.95/5 on Google Reviews!