Things to Do in New York City
Central Park, a huge rectangular slice of oxygenating greenness, is New York City's lungs and soul. Taking up a mammoth 843 acres (341 hectares) in Uptown Manhattan, Central Park is laced with walkways, jogging paths, and woodlands.
Not just a place for relaxation, Central Park is also home to a zoo, skating rink, theater, reservoir, boating lake, fountains, bridle paths, and a carousel. If you’re feeling peckish after all that activity, drop into the Loeb Boathouse for a buffet brunch or dinner.
Popular photo stops in Central Park include the Alice in Wonderland and Balto the Malamute statues, the Belvedere Castle atop Vista Rock and the John Lennon memorial gardens at Strawberry Fields, opposite Lennon’s former home in the Dakota apartment building.
New York's most famous bridge crosses the East River from Manhattan to Brooklyn. Taking a walk across this historic suspension bridge is a must-do NYC activity, with fabulous views on every side.
Built in the 1870s and '80s, the Brooklyn Bridge was one of the first suspension bridges to be constructed in the USA. At the time, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world. The soaring Gothic towers at either end are particularly dramatic when floodlit at night, their tall elongated arches an iconic New York sight.
Check out the observation points under the support towers, with panoramic illustrations depicting the history of New York's waterfront, then stay on to watch as the city lights of Manhattan and Brooklyn switch on at dusk.
For a memorable dose of Art Deco design in all its glory, immerse yourself in the 1930s Rockefeller Center. A complex of 19 buildings and gardens, the Rockefeller Center is where you'll find the famous ice rink and Christmas tree, Radio City Music Hall, the NBC Studios, and the Top of the Rock observation deck atop the soaring Art Deco GE Building at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. (Fans of the television show '30 Rock' will also recognize this as the TGS studio offices.)
For shopping and dining there are more than 100 stores, 40 eateries, and an underground shopping concourse.
Go behind the scenes on an NBC Studios tour, stopping off to have your photo taken at the news desk or give an impromptu weather report. Rockefeller Center tours highlight the rich assortment of Art Deco statues, sculptures, and murals on display, including the famous gilt statue of Prometheus in the Lower Plaza and Atlas on Fifth Avenue.
Times Square is a legendary NYC landmark, synonymous with all the glam and glitz of the Big Apple. It’s New York’s hub for flashing neon advertisements, Broadway’s famous theaters, rubbernecking tourists, and the ball drop on New Year’s Eve.
Of course, Times Square isn’t a square at all, but the triangular intersection of several main thoroughfares. Thankfully, Broadway is pedestrianised as it passes through Times Square, from 42nd to 47th Streets, with plaza seating allowing visitors to actually stop, look, and relax.
A visit to Times Square is an essential part of the New York experience, whether you come here to shop, dine, drink, see a show, or just gawp at the flurry of different architectural styles, spectacular neon signs, and bustling New Yorkers.
Travelers looking to experience life on the top of the world need look no further than the spire of One World Observatory. The tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, this lower Manhattan skyscraper has a high-speed elevator that shoots visitors straight to the 102nd floor in less than 60 seconds. Impressive time-lapse technology showcases the transformation of the city from the 1500s to modern day as guests make their ascent.
The major attraction, known as the Discovery Level, is located on the 100th floor of One World Observatory. Visitors say the 360-degree views highlight the best of Manhattan and offer impressive looks at surrounding waterways and iconic city skyline. Several high-tech installations provide travelers with the unique experience of zeroing in on specific neighborhoods or checking out real-time footage of streets far below.
Every second, 750,000 gallons of water thunder over Niagara Falls. Visitors from around the world travel to witness this thunderous natural wonder and feel the spray from the powerful falls on their skin. Situated on the border between New York and Canada, Niagara Falls is one of the world's most spectacular sights.
The Niagara Falls State Park on the New York side of the falls boasts the superlative of America's oldest state park. The natural wonderland features miles upon miles of hiking trails, an interactive visitor's center, a multi-screen theater and even a rock-climbing wall. On any given day, a trail of yellow poncho-clad visitors snake down wooden staircases that zig-zag through mountainous terrain to viewing points close to and even behind the falls. The ever-popular Maid of the Mist boats traverse the waters, soaking every patron as their screams of delight are drowned by the roar.
More Things to Do in New York City
Wall Street is synonymous with New York's Financial District and the New York Stock Exchange. The history of early New York, of New World capitalism and American commerce all come together in Wall Street, named for the protective barrier that once marked the northern boundary of the tiny Dutch settlement known as New Amsterdam.
There are some grand examples of architecture on Wall Street, including the classic pediments and pillars of the New York Stock Exchange and the 18th-century Federal Hall, commemorating the site where the first US Congress convened and Washington was sworn in as president.
On Broadway at Wall Street, historic Trinity Church hosts choral concerts and has an interesting museum and cemetery.
Yankees Stadium is an iconic park in the world of baseball, but the stadium that bears the name today only opened in 2009. The original Yankees Stadium was built in 1923 in the Bronx and closed for good 85 years later in 2008 when New York prepared for the opening of the new site in the same borough.
Both the stadium’s interior and exterior were meant to mimic the design of the original site, and the new one features a Yankees Museum with a “ball wall” exhibit, which is simply hundreds of baseballs autographed by famous players, including Babe Ruth. The ballpark can hold more than 50,000 fans and also serves as the venue for occasional concerts and for the home games of Major League Soccer's New York Redbulls.
The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum is a unique journey through all things military and maritime, with spectacular interactive exhibits. Located at Pier 86, the complex boasts authentically restored vessels, the most impressive being the World War II aircraft carrier the USS Intrepid and the submarine USS Growler.
You’ll also spy a British Airways Concorde, as well as Sikorsky, Skyhawk, and Vietnam-era Iroquois Huey helicopters. As for space memorabilia, the new Space Shuttle Pavilion is now open and showcases Enterprise, the first space shuttle. You can also visit a replica of an Aurora capsule and try out the virtual flight zone, which simulates the exhilaration of flying in a supersonic jet.
The skyline of New York City has starred in hundreds of movies, making it one of the most iconic man-made landscapes in the world. And while the former World Trade Center once stood as the defining image of this electric city, today’s landscape has shifted slightly—though it remains just as memorable.
Travelers who wander the Big Apple’s crowded streets will find themselves at the foot of dozens of architectural landmarks—from the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building to the sky-high spire of Freedom Tower. It’s easy to marvel from the pavement, but visitors who want to experience the skyline in all its wonder need explore beyond the sidewalks.
Travelers looking to go all out can fly high above the city in one of the popular and grand helicopter tours. But there are still plenty of options for those on a budget.
Located in Manhattan at 175 Fifth Avenue and Broadway, the Flatiron Building is a groundbreaking skyscraper. Built in 1902, it encompasses 22 stories and 307 feet. While not the tallest skyscaper in New York, it’s dramatic Beaux-Arts facade makes it a popular attraction, especially with photographers. What also makes it unusual is, unlike other early skyscrapers in New York that looked like rising towers, the Flatiron building showcases a concept from the Chicago school that divides the facade into a base, shaft and capital, which makes sense as it was designed by Chicago architect Daniel Burnham. The name of building stems from its resemblance to a cast-iron clothing iron. Interestingly, back then the building’s unique shape was thought to create intense updrafts that would lift women’s skirts passing on 23rd Street. If a man tried to sneak a peak, police should shout “Hey! 23 skidoo!” This is thought to be where the phrase comes from.
In the middle of the Bronx, this New York borough’s zoo pops up in Bronx Park. It is the largest urban zoo in the United States, and one of the most well known worldwide. Its exhibits and habitats span more than 265 acres, on which its diverse collection of more than 4,000 animals and plants can be found. There are both free exhibits accessible with a general ticket — such as the African Plains, Bison Range, and Himalayan Highlands — and there are premium exhibits available for viewing at an additional cost. These experiences include a carousel, butterfly garden, jungle world, shuttle, monorail, 4-D theater, and a zoo created specifically for children.
Other sections of the zoo are divided by type of animal, including birds and reptiles. The zoo has an emphasis on conservation, particularly for the American Bison which have been threatened in the past. Interactive feedings for the zoo’s sea lions and penguins take place daily.
Central Park is a must-see for any visitor to New York City, and the small zoo within it is no exception. The daily feedings of the sea lions and the penguins always draw a crowd (the sea lions do tricks for their snacks), and the paths through the zoo’s five acres lead through a variety of habitats designed to recreate the animals’ natural environments. Around the sea lions’ pool (which has glass sides to better see the sleek animals under water) is a perennial garden with plenty of bench seating.
The Tisch Children's Zoo lets children get up close and personal with domestic animals like sheep, goats, cows, and even a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig. Little ones can pop a quarter in an animal-feed dispenser and let the animals eat from their hands, and they can touch small bronze sculptures of the animals next to each pen that emit the sounds of the animals they represent.
Located at 460 Madison Avenue, St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the largest gothic-style Catholic Cathedral in the country, as well as the seat of Timothy Michael Dolan, the archbishop of New York. Completed in 1878, St. Patrick’s Cathedral welcomes more than five million visitors each year who come to take part in mass, light candles, attend choir and organ recitals, participate in public programs and view the art and design of the building. Before entering, take in the white marble exterior, pinnacles and 330-foot twin spires reaching toward the sky. Inside explore the many chapels of the church, each one named after a different saint. Additionally, the Rose Window is 26 feet in diameter and showcases a masterpiece of 20th-century century stained glass art. Note: If you’re interested in visiting the crypt where all the Archbisophs of New York are buried you’ll need to make an appointment.
New York Harbor, located at the mouth of the Hudson River, is home to stunning views of the Big Apple and Lady Liberty. Ranked among the largest natural harbors in the world, this gateway to Manhattan is also one of the most scenic, offering travelers incredible photo ops along urban walking paths, bridges and piers. Visitors can Jet Ski, kayak and boat in the New York Harbor waters, where popular dinner cruises and sunset sails take place daily. This epic waterway also services major cruise liners as they enter and depart Manhattan. But even travelers who arrived in New York via land or air can experience the thrill and the beauty of the waterway on a Staten Island Ferry ride or one of the other public boats that transports both locals and visitors in and around the city.
Greenwich Village is one of the most charming residential locales in New York City. The quarter’s reputation for the bohemian persists, but these days only the affluent can afford to live in these sought-after leafy streets.
In the west side of Lower Manhattan, the Village is a tree-lined area of low-rise townhouses, cafes and narrow angled streets far removed from New York’s ordered grid plan. New York University has a dominating presence here.
For visitors, this is walking territory par excellence, and you’ll find some great Italian cafes and restaurants tucked away in the narrow streets. If you’re pining for a stretch of green, the welcome lawns, statues, street entertainers, and dog-walking areas of Washington Square Park run off W 4th Street.
Drop into a coffee at beatnik-era Le Figaro, browse the vinyl at Bleecker Bob’s Records, or watch the local kids play basketball at the outdoor courts on 4th Street.
The Chrysler Building is an outstanding example of flamboyant Art Deco architecture, in all its glory. A riot of shiny automobile-inspired curves and radiator-cap gargoyles, the 77-story skyscraper was built from 1928 to 1930. Its most striking feature is its pointed, zigzag-detailed crown and spire.
You can enter the lobby to gaze at the Art Deco splendor of its murals, but with no observation deck, that’s as far as it goes for visitors. Perhaps the best view of the Chrysler Building is from its arch rival, the Empire State Building.
Columbia University is the oldest institution of higher learning in New York, and the fifth oldest in the USA. Fans of history and of architecture will be interested in the university’s historic buildings, which have been highlighted in many feature films. Most notable is Low Memorial Library, which appears in the New York City Register of Historic Places. Built in the Roman classical style, the former library now contains the university’s visitor center and its administration offices.
Just below the library is a large plaza – a popular gathering place for students. Past a promenade (called College Walk) is the south campus where Butler Library, Columbia’s main library, stands. South campus also contains the student center, student residences, classroom buildings, and the Graduate School of Journalism. North of Low Library is Pupin Hall, a national historic landmark due to the atomic research done there by Columbia's scientists.
The Met is one of the world's most prestigious cultural hubs, up there with the Louvre, the British Museum, and the Vatican for sheer pulling power.
Around five million visitors a year flock here to drink in the rarefied air, rest their legs in the Egyptian Temple of Dendur, admire the Tiffany glass, and view Old Masters.
If time allows, you'll also find Roman statues, musical instruments, modern artworks and Egyptian artifacts. The Met is a fine place to immerse yourself in American art. A highlight is the series of period rooms, and paintings by Whistler and Sargent.
Take a tour of the highlights, dine on the Great Hall Balcony or have a drink in the rooftop martini bar.
Things to do near New York City
- Things to do in New York
- Things to do in Brooklyn
- Things to do in Newark
- Things to do in Long Island
- Things to do in Philadelphia
- Things to do in Amboseli National Park
- Things to do in Boston
- Things to do in Salem
- Things to do in Washington DC
- Things to do in Buffalo
- Things to do in Niagara Falls & Around
- Things to do in Montreal
- Things to do in Ottawa
- Things to do in New Jersey
- Things to do in Pennsylvania