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15 Best Things To Do In New York City

15 Best Things To Do In New York City

Hello from NYC! I’ve spent the past few weeks living and working in New York guiding international students on excursions around the city. This job has made me feel like a NYC local because of all the sights I’ve seen! Today’s post covers 15 of the best things to do in New York City. Whether you’ve visited New York 100 times or once, I hope you discover something new to try from this post!

#1: Central Park

A trip to NYC isn’t complete without a stroll through Central Park! The southern portion of the park (located near E 59th St) is home to the famous Plaza Hotel and the holiday horse-drawn carriage pick-up spot. The Central Park Zoo and outdoor ice skating rink are also located near here.

As you make your way further into the park, I recommend checking out the Bethesda Fountain and Terrace. Not only is this place beautiful (especially during the summer), it’s where Chuck & Blair get married in Gossip Girl!

Next, walk across Bow Bridge, which is featured in many movies such as Night at the Museum, and head to Belvedere Castle for stunning views overlooking the park.

View of Central Park from the top of Belvedere Castle
View of Central Park from the top of Belvedere Castle

#2: Hudson Yards & The Vessel

Hudson Yards is an up-and-coming area in New York with modern apartment buildings, high-rises, and attractions such as the Vessel! This area is located on the west side of NYC along the Hudson River near lower Manhattan. Hudson Yards has a stunning new luxury mall and the Vessel, an interactive art sculpture that can be climbed for $10.

Pro-tip: You can climb the Vessel for free if you book tickets ahead of time!

The Vessel at Hudson Yards (yes you can climb it!)
The Vessel at Hudson Yards (yes you can climb it!)

#3: Times Square & Broadway

I think this one is pretty self-explanatory. I’ve visited Times Square more times than I can count, but if you’re a first-timer, you have to see it! Times Square has many shops, restaurants, and attractions, such as Madame Tussauds Wax Museum and M&M’s World.

A busy afternoon in Times Square
A busy afternoon in Times Square

Broadway runs through Times Square and is where most of the theaters are located. I’ve been lucky enough to see several shows at a discounted rate through my school. I highly recommend seeing Waitress, Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen, and Mean Girls. Watching a Broadway show is definitely one of the best things to do in New York City!

#4: Rockefeller Center & Top of the Rock

Rockefeller Center is a can’t miss sight during the holiday season. Each year, a giant Christmas tree arrives from Canada and becomes a festive backdrop to the ice rink. Although the tree is only up for a few weeks, you can ice-skate at Rockefeller anytime from October until April.

Rockefeller Center iceskating rink in December
Rockefeller Center iceskating rink in December

Top of the Rock is located directly behind Rockefeller Center and is the perfect place to get 360° views of the city! An express elevator takes you to the top in just a few seconds where there is an observation deck to enjoy.

Throwback to Top of the Rock with Nathaniel in 2015! Notice the Empire State Building?
Throwback to Top of the Rock with Nathaniel in 2015! Notice the Empire State Building?

#5: The High Line & Chelsea Market

The High Line is an elevated walkway/park that runs 1.5 miles through the west side of Manhattan. It was built on an old New York Central Railway and is fun to explore! I recommend walking along the portion near the Chelsea Market on 10th Ave & 16th St.

View of the Chelsea Market from the High Line
View of the Chelsea Market from the High Line

The Chelsea Market is a charming (but busy) food hall located in Chelsea, Manhattan. There are several shops inside ranging from Anthropology to local vendors selling handmade goods. Also, the food sold here is to die for! I recommend Hale & Hearty for delicious homemade soup!

Inside the Chelsea Market.. on a quiet day.
Inside the Chelsea Market… on a quiet day.

Adjacent to the Chelsea Market is a Starbucks Reserve, one of the largest Starbucks in the world. Check it out!

#6: SoHo & Washington Square Park

SoHo is my favorite part of New York City because of its pastel-colored buildings, cast-iron-facades, cobblestone streets, cafes, and SHOPPING! The shopping in SoHo is unbeatable.

Pro-tip: Public bathrooms in SoHo are limited, but there are several in Bloomingdales!

The stunning streets of SoHo
The stunning streets of SoHo

If it’s a nice day in the city, make your way over to Washington Square Park to see the arch, fountain, and people watch! This park is one of my favorites in the city!

#7: Brooklyn Bridge & Dumbo

I highly recommend exploring more boroughs in NYC than just Manhattan! Head over to City Hall Park on the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge and begin the mile-long walk to Brooklyn. Not only will you see stunning views of the skyline from the bridge, there’s a ton to do in Brooklyn!

View of lower Manhattan from the Brooklyn Bridge
View of lower Manhattan from the Brooklyn Bridge
Pedestrians walking across the Brooklyn Bridge
Pedestrians walking across the Brooklyn Bridge

My favorite part of Brooklyn is the neighborhood right near the bridge. Dumbo, or Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, is famous for its cobblestone streets, high-end restaurants, and trendy cafes. This is also where you’ll find Brooklyn Bridge Park and Washington Street- an Instagram hot-spot crowded with people posing in front of the Manhattan Bridge!

Washington Street in DUMBO with a view of the Manhattan Bridge
Washington Street in DUMBO with a view of the Manhattan Bridge

#8: The MET

I LOVE the MET! The Metropolitan Museum of Art is the largest art museum in the United States. It’s located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan on 5th Ave. The entrance fee is pay-as-you-wish for all NY residents and for students in NY, NJ, and CT, meaning you can donate however much you’d like to enter the museum. The museum has three floors of artwork from around the world and is one of the best things to do in New York City on a cold, rainy day!

Posing on the MET steps!
Posing on the MET steps!

#9: Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island

If you’re looking to get out of the hustle & bustle of Manhattan, hop on a ferry and head over to Liberty Island for the day! You can no longer climb the Statue of Liberty, but it’s still fun to explore.

From Liberty Island, Ellis Island is only a short ferry ride away. Here you’ll find historical immigration documents and even a book with the names of immigrants who entered the US from Ellis Island! Is your family’s name in there? Mine is!

Pro-tip: Statue Cruises is the boat you’ll take to the islands. An adult ticket from Battery Park in Manhattan to both islands is only $19! Children cost $9.

View of the Statue of Liberty from the Hudson River
Lady Liberty

#10: Empire State Building

Probably NY’s most iconic skyscraper! You can take an elevator to observation decks on the 86th and 102nd floors. There are several tickets available, ranging from about $40 per person to $200 depending on the experience.

Pro-tip: I think the view from the Top of the Rock is better because of the views of the Empire State Building (see above photo).

#11: 9/11 Memorial & Museum

The 9/11 Memorial and Museum located in lower Manhattan commemorates the September 11, 2001 attacks. The 9/11 Memorial is outdoors and free of charge, and the museum is located underground and costs $26 to enter. I recently visited the museum and was astounded by the amount of artifacts and recorded information they had on display about 9/11 and the events leading up to it. The museum is very intense to walk through, but is well done.

My thoughts and prayers go out to anyone affected by the attacks.

9/11 Memorial Pool
9/11 Memorial Pool

Nearby is the Oculus, or the World Trade Center Station. It’s a newly-constructed, modern shopping mall with an array of restaurants and subway stations located inside.

Inside the Oculus
Inside the Oculus

#12: Chinatown & Little Italy

Feeling hungry? Make your way to Canal Street in Lower Manhattan for the best Asian and Italian food in the city! Canal Street runs right through this part of the city, separating Chinatown from Little Italy, and is home to many restaurants, markets, and food stands!

#13: Grand Central Terminal

I’m sure you’ll find yourself here one way or another during your time in NYC. Not only is Grand Central Station a transportation hub for the city, it’s also an iconic filming location for several movies and TV shows!

Pro-tip: It’s located at 42 Street and Park Ave in Midtown Manhattan.

Posing inside Grand Central Terminal
Posing inside Grand Central Terminal

#14: Wall Street & the Charging Bull

Wall Street is located in the Financial District of Lower Manhattan in NYC and is known for its importance in the international finance system.

Located on Wall Street is a sculpture of a charging bull, symbolizing the “courage and can-do spirit of Americans”.

#15: Radio City Music Hall

The final spot I recommend checking out in NYC is Radio City Music Hall! Radio City is an entertainment venue located in Midtown Manhattan, near Rockefeller Center. The Rockettes perform here each year, and are a hit during the holiday season in the Christmas Spectacular!

Radio City Music Hall decorated for the holidays in December!
Radio City Music Hall decorated for the holidays in December

If you’re interested in learning more about what to do in NYC during the holidays, check out my guide here! I hope this guide inspires you to check out some (or all) of the 15 best things to do in New York City next time you visit!

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