Top 25 Things To Do in New York City

From iconic skyscrapers to hidden speakeasies, the Big Apple serves up a dizzying array of experiences that capture its relentless energy and cultural diversity.

West Parker
West Parker
July 18, 2024

Welcome to New York City, where dreams are made and adventures await around every corner. This concrete jungle isn't just a maze of towering skyscrapers and yellow taxis; it's a living, breathing entity with a personality all its own. From the neon-lit chaos of Times Square to the leafy tranquility of Central Park, NYC is a study in contrasts that never fails to surprise and delight.

Whether you're a first-time visitor or a seasoned New Yorker, the city always has something new to offer. You might find yourself rubbing elbows with Broadway stars at a hole-in-the-wall deli, stumbling upon a secret jazz club in a Harlem brownstone, or watching the sun set over the Manhattan skyline from a rooftop bar in Brooklyn. So lace up your walking shoes, grab a slice of pizza, and get ready to discover why New York is truly the city that never sleeps.

Scale the Heights of the Empire State Building

Tourists enjoying panoramic view of Manhattan skyline from Empire State Building observation deck
Finally made it to the top of the Empire State Building! The view is absolutely worth the wait. Pro tip: come just before sunset for day and night views.

No trip to New York is complete without a visit to this Art Deco marvel. As you zoom up to the 86th-floor observatory, the anticipation builds. Then, suddenly, you're on top of the world. The city unfolds beneath you, a glittering of lights and life. On a clear day, you can see up to 80 miles in every direction. Want to feel like you're floating above it all? Head up to the 102nd-floor observatory for an even more breathtaking perspective. Just remember to bring a jacket – it can get windy up there!

  • Location: 20 W 34th St, New York, NY 10001
  • Hours: Daily 12:00 PM - 9:00 PM
  • Admission: Adults $42, Children (6-12) $36

Why Visit: It's the ultimate New York experience, offering unparalleled views of the city's iconic skyline.

Insider Tip: Visit just before sunset to catch both daytime and nighttime views in one trip.

Wander Through the Urban Oasis of Central Park

People rowing boats on Central Park Lake with New York City skyline visible in the background
Spent a perfect afternoon rowing in Central Park. It's like a slice of paradise in the middle of the concrete jungle!

Central Park isn't just a patch of green in the middle of Manhattan; it's the city's beating heart. This 843-acre wonderland is where New Yorkers come to play, relax, and escape the urban grind. Rent a rowboat at the Loeb Boathouse, watch street performers on the Mall, or simply spread out a blanket for a picnic on Sheep Meadow. In winter, lace up your skates for a spin around Wollman Rink. With hidden waterfalls, a castle, and even a zoo, Central Park is full of surprises. You could spend days exploring and still not see it all.

  • Location: Between 59th and 110th Streets, from Central Park West to 5th Avenue
  • Hours: Daily 6:00 AM - 1:00 AM
  • Admission: Free

Why Visit: It's a slice of nature in the urban jungle, offering endless activities and scenic beauty.

Insider Tip: Rent a bike to cover more ground and discover hidden gems like the Conservatory Garden.

Soak in the Energy of Times Square

Bustling Times Square at night showcasing bright neon billboards, yellow taxis, and crowds of people
The energy in Times Square is electric! It's sensory overload in the best way possible. Don't forget to look up – the billboards are mesmerizing.

Love it or hate it, Times Square is pure sensory overload. The flashing billboards, the constant flow of people, the street performers – it's New York at its most unabashedly over-the-top. Stand on the red steps of the TKTS booth and watch the world go by, or score last-minute Broadway tickets at a discount. Feeling peckish? Duck into a classic New York deli for a pastrami sandwich, or brave the line at Junior's for a slice of their famous cheesecake. Yes, it's touristy, but it's also an essential New York experience. Just watch your wallet and prepare for crowds!

  • Location: Broadway and 7th Avenue, between 42nd and 47th Streets
  • Hours: 24/7
  • Admission: Free

Why Visit: It's the "Crossroads of the World," offering non-stop entertainment and people-watching.

Insider Tip: Visit late at night for a less crowded but equally dazzling experience.

Get Lost in the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Temple of Dendur exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, showcasing ancient Egyptian architecture
Stumbled upon this incredible Egyptian temple inside the Met! Did you know it was gifted to the US by Egypt in 1965?

The Met isn't just a museum; it's a journey through human creativity. With over 2 million works spanning 5,000 years, you could spend a lifetime here and still not see everything. From ancient Egyptian temples to modern masterpieces, the Met's collection is mind-boggling in its scope. Don't miss the Temple of Dendur, a gift from Egypt that comes complete with its own reflecting pool. Art novice? No worries – the Met offers free guided tours that'll turn you into an expert in no time. And when you need a break, head to the rooftop garden for stunning views of Central Park.

  • Location: 1000 5th Ave, New York, NY 10028
  • Hours: Thursday to Monday, 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM; Friday and Saturday until 9:00 PM
  • Admission: Adults $25, Seniors $17, Students $12, Children under 12 Free

Why Visit: It's one of the world's great museums, offering a comprehensive look at human artistic achievement.

Insider Tip: Pay-what-you-wish admission is available for New York State residents and NY, NJ, and CT students.

Reflect at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum

9/11 Memorial reflecting pools illuminated at night with One World Trade Center (Freedom Tower) visible in the background
A powerful and moving experience at the 9/11 Memorial. The cascading water creates a sense of peace amidst the bustling city.

A visit to the 9/11 Memorial is a powerful and moving experience. The twin reflecting pools, each nearly an acre in size, sit in the footprints of the Twin Towers. As water cascades down their sides, the names of those lost are inscribed in bronze around the edges. It's a place for quiet reflection and remembrance. The museum itself tells the story of 9/11 through artifacts, personal stories, and multimedia displays. It's not an easy visit, but it's an important one, offering a deeper understanding of an event that changed the world.

  • Location: 180 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10007
  • Hours: Thursday to Monday, 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
  • Admission: Adults $26, Seniors/Veterans $20, Youth (7-17) $15, Children 6 and under Free

Why Visit: It's a powerful tribute to the victims of 9/11 and a testament to the city's resilience.

Insider Tip: Visit the memorial at night when the pools are lit up for a particularly moving experience.

Take a Ferry to the Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty viewed from ferry with Manhattan skyline visible in the background
Lady Liberty in all her glory! The ferry ride offers amazing views of the statue and the city skyline. Don't forget your sunscreen!

She's been greeting visitors to New York Harbor since 1886, and Lady Liberty is still a sight to behold. The ferry ride from Battery Park offers great views of the Manhattan skyline, but nothing beats that first glimpse of the statue herself. Once on Liberty Island, you can explore the museum, which tells the story of the statue's creation and meaning. For the full experience, book a crown access ticket in advance – the climb to the top is steep (354 steps!), but the view is worth every huff and puff. Don't forget to stop at Ellis Island on the way back for a dive into America's immigration history.

  • Location: Liberty Island, New York, NY 10004
  • Hours: Daily 8:30 AM - 4:00 PM (last ferry departs at 3:30 PM)
  • Admission: Adults $24.30, Seniors $18.30, Children (4-12) $12.30

Why Visit: It's an iconic symbol of American freedom and a chance to experience a piece of history.

Insider Tip: Book the first ferry of the day to beat the crowds and enjoy a more peaceful experience.

Catch a Show on Broadway

Excited crowd outside a Broadway theater with bright marquee lights, capturing the pre-show atmosphere
About to see my first Broadway show! The excitement in the air is contagious. Can't believe I snagged tickets to Hamilton!

There's nothing quite like the magic of a Broadway show. From long-running classics like "The Phantom of the Opera" to groundbreaking new productions, the Great White Way offers something for everyone. The energy in the theater district is electric, with marquees lighting up the night and crowds buzzing with excitement. Can't decide what to see? Head to the TKTS booth in Times Square for discounted same-day tickets. Or, if you're feeling adventurous, try your luck at a digital lottery for hit shows like "Hamilton." Just remember to silence your phone and unwrap your candies before the curtain goes up!

  • Location: Various theaters around Times Square and the Theater District
  • Hours: Typically 7:00 PM on weekdays, 2:00 PM and 8:00 PM on Saturdays, 3:00 PM on Sundays
  • Admission: Varies by show, typically $50-$200+

Why Visit: It's the pinnacle of live theater, offering world-class performances and unforgettable experiences.

Insider Tip: Check out off-Broadway shows for more experimental productions and often lower prices.

Stroll Along the High Line

People strolling along the High Line park, showcasing urban gardens and New York City buildings
The High Line is such a cool urban oasis! Love how they transformed this old railway into a beautiful park. Great spot for a leisurely walk.

Who knew an abandoned railway could become one of New York's coolest parks? The High Line is a 1.45-mile-long elevated park built on a former New York Central Railroad spur. As you walk along, you'll pass through neighborhoods that were once purely industrial, now transformed into trendy hotspots. The park itself is a marvel of urban landscaping, with native plants, art installations, and plenty of spots to sit and watch the city go by. Keep an eye out for the 10th Avenue Square, where stadium-style seating offers a unique view of the street below. It's like a theater, but the show is New York itself.

  • Location: Gansevoort St. to W 34th St., between 10th and 12th Ave
  • Hours: Daily 7:00 AM - 7:00 PM (hours vary seasonally)
  • Admission: Free

Why Visit: It's a unique urban park that offers a new perspective on the city and great people-watching.

Insider Tip: Visit during sunset for stunning views of the Hudson River and the city skyline.

Walk Across the Brooklyn Bridge

People walking on Brooklyn Bridge pedestrian path with iconic suspension cables visible at sunset
Walked across the Brooklyn Bridge at sunset – what a view! Pro tip: start on the Brooklyn side for the best views of Manhattan as you approach.

There's something magical about walking across the Brooklyn Bridge. Maybe it's the Gothic arches, the steel cables stretching into the sky, or the incredible views of the Manhattan skyline. Whatever it is, this 1.3-mile walk is a quintessential New York experience. Start on the Manhattan side for the best views as you approach Brooklyn. As you cross, take time to read the plaques that tell the bridge's fascinating history. When you reach Brooklyn, reward yourself with a scoop (or two) of ice cream at the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory. Then explore DUMBO, with its cobblestone streets and converted warehouses, now home to art galleries and trendy cafes.

  • Location: Enter at Park Row and Centre Street in Manhattan, or Tillary Street and Adams Street in Brooklyn
  • Hours: 24/7
  • Admission: Free

Why Visit: It offers stunning views of the city skyline and a chance to experience two boroughs in one walk.

Insider Tip: Go early in the morning to avoid crowds and catch a beautiful sunrise over the East River.

Explore the American Museum of Natural History

Huge blue whale model suspended from ceiling at American Museum of Natural History, showcasing its impressive scale
Feeling tiny next to this massive blue whale at the Natural History Museum! Did you know it's 94 feet long? Mind-blowing!

Dinosaurs, dioramas, and a giant blue whale – oh my! The American Museum of Natural History is a wonderland for curious minds of all ages. Stand under the massive Titanosaur in the main hall, then journey through time in the Hall of Human Origins. The planetarium shows are out of this world (pun intended), and the butterfly conservatory is a magical experience. Don't miss the iconic animal dioramas – they're works of art in their own right. With 45 exhibition halls, you could spend days here and still not see it all. But hey, that's just an excuse to come back, right?

  • Location: 200 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024
  • Hours: Wednesday to Sunday, 10:00 AM - 5:30 PM
  • Admission: Adults $23, Seniors/Students $18, Children (3-12) $13

Why Visit: It's one of the world's preeminent scientific and cultural institutions, offering fascinating exhibits for all ages.

Insider Tip: The museum operates on a pay-what-you-wish system for New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut residents.

Experience the Views from Top of the Rock

Tourists at Top of the Rock observation deck with clear view of Empire State Building and NYC skyline
The view from Top of the Rock is unbeatable! You can see the Empire State Building and Central Park spread out before you. Worth every penny!

Sure, the Empire State Building is classic, but for the best views of the New York skyline – including the Empire State Building itself – head to the Top of the Rock. The observation deck at Rockefeller Center offers 360-degree views of the city, with Central Park spread out like a green carpet to the north. On your way up, check out the exhibits on the building's history and the famous Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. For an extra special experience, time your visit for sunset and watch as the city transforms from day to night. It's like watching New York put on its evening gown, and trust us, she knows how to dress up.

  • Location: 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10112
  • Hours: Daily 9:00 AM - 11:00 PM (last elevator up at 10:10 PM)
  • Admission: Adults $40, Seniors $38, Children (6-12) $34

Why Visit: It offers spectacular views of the city, including Central Park and the Empire State Building.

Insider Tip: Buy a Sun & Stars ticket to visit twice in 24 hours and see the city by day and night.

Indulge Your Taste Buds at Chelsea Market

Bustling food stalls inside Chelsea Market with people browsing various culinary offerings
Foodie heaven at Chelsea Market! So many delicious options under one roof. Just followed my nose and found the best tacos ever!

Foodies, rejoice! Chelsea Market is a gastronomic playground that'll make your taste buds dance. Housed in a former Nabisco factory, this food hall and shopping center is a feast for the senses. Sample artisanal cheeses at Lucy's Whey, slurp up some seriously good ramen at Mŏkbar, or satisfy your sweet tooth with a treat from Fat Witch Bakery. But it's not all about food – you'll also find unique shops selling everything from vintage posters to handmade jewelry. The industrial-chic atmosphere adds to the charm, with exposed brick walls and pipes serving as a reminder of the building's past life.

  • Location: 75 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011
  • Hours: Daily 7:00 AM - 2:00 AM (individual shop hours may vary)
  • Admission: Free (pay for what you eat or buy)

Why Visit: It's a food lover's paradise with a wide array of cuisines and unique shopping experiences.

Insider Tip: Visit on a weekday to avoid the weekend crowds and have a more relaxed browsing experience.

Step Back in Time at The Cloisters

Medieval courtyard at The Cloisters museum with visitors admiring the historic architecture and gardens
Stepped back in time at The Cloisters today. It's like a piece of medieval Europe tucked away in NYC. The gardens are so peaceful!

Imagine stepping out of New York City and into medieval Europe. That's the magic of The Cloisters. This branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art is dedicated to the art and architecture of medieval Europe. The building itself, constructed from parts of five medieval French cloisters, is a work of art. Wander through peaceful courtyards, marvel at intricate items, and don't miss the famous Unicorn Tapestries. The herb gardens, planted according to medieval gardening guides, are a fragrant delight. Perched on a hill in Fort Tryon Park, The Cloisters also offers beautiful views of the Hudson River. It's a serene escape from the city buzz.

  • Location: 99 Margaret Corbin Drive, New York, NY 10040
  • Hours: Thursday to Monday, 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
  • Admission: Adults $25, Seniors $17, Students $12 (includes same-day admission to the Met Fifth Avenue)

Why Visit: It offers a unique journey into medieval European art and architecture within a beautifully reconstructed setting.

Insider Tip: Visit in spring when the gardens are in bloom and the weather is perfect for exploring the surrounding park.

Meet the Animals at Central Park Zoo

Sea lion show at Central Park Zoo with excited crowd watching the performance
Caught the sea lion show at Central Park Zoo – these little guys are such characters! A perfect activity if you're exploring the park.

Right in the heart of Manhattan, you'll find a little slice of wildlife paradise. The Central Park Zoo may be small, but it packs a big punch. Watch sea lions showing off at feeding time, visit with the playful penguins, or say hello to the red pandas. The Tropic Zone is like a mini rainforest, complete with free-flying birds and leaf-cutter ants. And don't miss the sweet faces of the snow monkeys in their Japanese-inspired habitat. It's a perfect stop if you're exploring Central Park, especially if you've got kids in tow. Who knows? You might even spot a Madagascar penguin plotting an escape (just kidding, but fans of the movie will get the reference).

  • Location: East 64th Street, New York, NY 10021
  • Hours: Daily 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM (5:30 PM on weekends and holidays)
  • Admission: Adults $19.95, Seniors $16.95, Children (3-12) $14.95

Why Visit: It's a compact zoo with a surprising variety of animals, perfect for a family outing in Central Park.

Insider Tip: Attend a sea lion feeding for an entertaining and educational experience.

Discover Immigrant History at the Tenement Museum

Recreated immigrant apartment interior at Tenement Museum, showcasing early 20th-century living conditions
Fascinating visit to the Tenement Museum. It's eye-opening to see how immigrants lived in NYC in the early 1900s. Really puts things in perspective.

Step into the shoes of New York's immigrants at the Tenement Museum. This fascinating museum tells the stories of the families who lived in 97 Orchard Street, a tenement building on the Lower East Side, from the 1860s to the 1930s. Through meticulously recreated apartments and guided tours, you'll learn about the challenges and triumphs of immigrant life in New York. It's a deeply personal look at the American immigrant experience, bringing history to life in a way few other museums can. You'll leave with a new appreciation for the diverse cultures that have shaped New York City.

  • Location: 103 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002
  • Hours: Thursday to Monday, various tour times available
  • Admission: Adults $30, Seniors/Students $25 (prices vary by tour)

Why Visit: It offers a unique, immersive look at immigrant life in New York City through recreated historical spaces.

Insider Tip: Book your tickets in advance, as tours often sell out, especially on weekends.

Marvel at the Guggenheim Museum

Interior view of Guggenheim Museum's iconic spiral ramp with art exhibits lining the walls
The Guggenheim's spiral design is a work of art itself! Love how you can see the whole museum as you walk up the ramp. Frank Lloyd Wright was a genius!

The Guggenheim is as much a work of art as the pieces it houses. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the building itself is an architectural marvel with its distinctive white spiral. As you ascend the spiral ramp, you'll encounter an impressive collection of modern and contemporary art. From Kandinsky to Picasso, the permanent collection is a who's who of 20th-century artists. The rotating exhibitions are always thought-provoking and sometimes controversial. Even if you're not an art aficionado, the unique layout makes for a fun exploration. It's like a giant artistic treasure hunt as you wind your way to the top.

  • Location: 1071 5th Ave, New York, NY 10128
  • Hours: Thursday to Monday, 11:00 AM - 6:00 PM
  • Admission: Adults $25, Seniors $18, Students $18, Children under 12 Free

Why Visit: It's an architectural icon housing an impressive collection of modern and contemporary art.

Insider Tip: Visit on Saturday evenings from 6-8 PM when admission is pay-what-you-wish.

Admire the Grandeur of Grand Central Terminal

Grand Central Terminal's main concourse with sunlight beams streaming through large windows, highlighting the iconic clock
Grand Central isn't just a train station, it's a masterpiece! Don't forget to look up at the celestial ceiling. And try whispering in the Whispering Gallery!

Grand Central isn't just a train station; it's a masterpiece of Beaux-Arts architecture and a beloved New York City landmark. Step into the Main Concourse and look up – the celestial ceiling mural is a sight to behold. Check out the famous four-faced clock, a popular meeting spot for New Yorkers. Whisper a secret in the Whispering Gallery, where the acoustics allow sound to travel across the arched entryway. Hungry? The lower level Dining Concourse offers everything from fresh oysters at Grand Central Oyster Bar to classic New York cheesecake at Junior's. Even if you're not catching a train, Grand Central is worth a visit for its stunning architecture and bustling atmosphere.

  • Location: 89 E 42nd Street, New York, NY 10017
  • Hours: Daily 5:30 AM - 2:00 AM
  • Admission: Free

Why Visit: It's an architectural gem and a microcosm of New York life, offering great people-watching and dining options.

Insider Tip: Take a free tour on Wednesdays at 12:30 PM to learn about the terminal's history and hidden features.

Explore Hip and Happening Williamsburg

Trendy coffee shop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, with hipster clientele working on laptops and enjoying artisanal coffee
Soaking up the hipster vibes in Williamsburg. The coffee here is next level, and the people-watching is even better!

Welcome to Williamsburg, Brooklyn's capital of cool. This neighborhood has transformed from industrial wasteland to hipster haven, and it's a great place to experience New York's creative energy. Start with a stroll down Bedford Avenue, the main drag, lined with vintage shops, indie boutiques, and trendy cafes. Foodies will love Smorgasburg, a weekend food market featuring vendors from across the city. Art lovers should check out the street art murals scattered throughout the neighborhood. As night falls, Williamsburg comes alive with rooftop bars, live music venues, and some of the best restaurants in the city. It's like Brooklyn's answer to Manhattan's East Village, with a dash of industrial chic thrown in.

  • Location: Williamsburg, Brooklyn
  • Hours: 24/7 (individual business hours vary)
  • Admission: Free (pay for what you eat, drink, or buy)

Why Visit: It's a trendy neighborhood offering a glimpse into Brooklyn's vibrant creative scene, with great shopping, dining, and nightlife.

Insider Tip: Visit during First Fridays when many galleries stay open late and offer free admission.

Relax by the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park

Bethesda Fountain in Central Park with people relaxing on the steps and the Angel of the Waters statue visible
Found my new favorite spot in Central Park – Bethesda Fountain! It's like a little oasis in the middle of the city. Perfect for people-watching.

Bethesda Fountain is the heart of Central Park, and for good reason. The Angel of the Waters statue atop the fountain is one of the park's most recognizable icons. On a sunny day, you'll find a mix of locals and tourists lounging on the steps, enjoying street performances, or simply people-watching. The nearby Bethesda Terrace Arcade, with its Minton tile ceiling, is a architectural marvel often overlooked by visitors. Rent a rowboat from the nearby Loeb Boathouse for a romantic paddle on the lake, or simply sit and watch the world go by. It's a perfect spot for a picnic lunch or a moment of tranquility in the midst of the bustling city.

  • Location: Mid-Park at 72nd Street, New York, NY 10021
  • Hours: 24/7
  • Admission: Free

Why Visit: It's a picturesque and iconic Central Park location, perfect for relaxation and people-watching.

Insider Tip: Visit in the early morning to see mist rising off the lake and enjoy a moment of serenity before the crowds arrive.

Experience the Retro Charm of Coney Island

Coney Island beach and amusement park with iconic Wonder Wheel visible in the background
Day trip to Coney Island was a blast! Rode the Cyclone (terrifying!), ate a Nathan's hot dog, and soaked up the retro vibes. Summer isn't complete without a visit here.

Coney Island is like stepping into a time warp – in the best possible way. This beachfront amusement area has been a favorite of New Yorkers for over a century. Ride the historic Cyclone roller coaster (if you dare), take a spin on the Wonder Wheel for great views of the beach, or test your skill at the carnival games. Don't forget to grab a Nathan's Famous hot dog – they've been serving them here since 1916. In summer, catch the weekly fireworks or the outrageous Mermaid Parade. Even in the off-season, there's a certain melancholic beauty to the quiet boardwalk and shuttered rides. It's kitsch, it's nostalgic, and it's pure New York.

  • Location: Brooklyn, NY 11224
  • Hours: Varies seasonally, typically open April through October
  • Admission: Beach and boardwalk are free, ride prices vary

Why Visit: It offers a unique blend of beach, amusements, and nostalgia that's quintessentially New York.

Insider Tip: Visit on a Friday night in summer for fireworks on the beach.

Visit Theodore Roosevelt's Birthplace

Recreated Victorian-era room in Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site, showcasing period furnishings
Stepped into the past at Teddy Roosevelt's birthplace. It's amazing to see how the other half lived in 19th century NYC. The mustache game was strong back then!

Step back in time at the birthplace and childhood home of the 26th President of the United States. This National Historic Site is a recreated 1865 brownstone that offers a glimpse into the early life of Teddy Roosevelt. The period rooms are furnished to reflect the affluent lifestyle of the Roosevelt family, while exhibits delve into TR's life and legacy. It's a lesser-known attraction that history buffs will love. As you walk through the rooms, you can almost imagine young Teddy peering out the windows, dreaming of his future adventures. It's a quiet, contemplative counterpoint to the hustle and bustle of modern Manhattan.

  • Location: 28 E 20th St, New York, NY 10003
  • Hours: Wednesday to Sunday, 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
  • Admission: Adults $10, Seniors/Students $5, Children under 16 Free

Why Visit: It offers a unique look into the early life of one of America's most influential presidents in a beautifully recreated setting.

Insider Tip: Join a ranger-led tour for fascinating insights into Roosevelt's life and the historical context of the period.

Feast in Little Italy

Charming outdoor dining scene on Mulberry Street in Little Italy, New York, with string lights adding ambiance
Dinner in Little Italy – does it get more New York than this? The pasta was to die for, and the atmosphere is straight out of a movie. Mangia!

While Little Italy may not be as expansive as it once was, it's still a great place to indulge in Italian-American cuisine and soak up some old-world charm. Mulberry Street is the main artery, lined with restaurants where you can twirl pasta, savor cannoli, and sip espresso to your heart's content. Don't miss Ferrara Bakery, a neighborhood institution since 1892, for some of the best Italian pastries in the city. September is a great time to visit for the Feast of San Gennaro, an 11-day street fair filled with food, music, and carnival games. Even if the neighborhood is more touristy these days, there's still something magical about dining al fresco on a warm evening, the sound of Dean Martin floating through the air.

  • Location: Mulberry Street between Canal and Broome Streets, New York, NY 10013
  • Hours: Varies by restaurant, typically 11:00 AM - 11:00 PM
  • Admission: Free (pay for what you eat)

Why Visit: It offers a taste of Italian-American culture and cuisine in a charming, historic setting.

Insider Tip: For a more authentic Italian experience, explore the nearby Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, often called the "real Little Italy".

Cross the High Bridge

People strolling across the historic High Bridge, connecting Manhattan to the Bronx, with views of the Harlem River
Discovered the High Bridge today – NYC's oldest standing bridge! The views of the Harlem River are stunning. It's like a secret hideaway above the city.

For a dose of history and stunning views, head to the High Bridge, New York City's oldest standing bridge. Connecting Manhattan to the Bronx over the Harlem River, this pedestrian bridge was originally part of the Croton Aqueduct system. After being closed for over 40 years, it reopened in 2015 and quickly became a favorite spot for locals. As you walk across, you'll be treated to panoramic views of the Harlem River and the Manhattan skyline. It's a great way to experience a different side of the city, away from the tourist crowds. Plus, you can brag about walking between boroughs!

  • Location: West 172nd Street and Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10032
  • Hours: Daily 7:00 AM - 8:00 PM
  • Admission: Free

Why Visit: It offers unique views of the city and a chance to experience a piece of New York's engineering history.

Insider Tip: Combine your visit with a trip to nearby Highbridge Park for some green space and recreational activities.

Smell the Roses at the New York Botanical Garden

Cherry blossoms in full bloom at New York Botanical Garden with visitors enjoying the colorful spring display
Spring explosion at the NY Botanical Garden! The cherry blossoms are unreal. If you need a break from the concrete jungle, this is your spot.

Escape the concrete jungle and immerse yourself in 250 acres of lush greenery at the New York Botanical Garden. This living museum showcases over one million plants in a variety of themed gardens and landscapes. The Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, a stunning Victorian-style glasshouse, is home to tropical rainforests, deserts, and aquatic plants. Don't miss the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden, especially beautiful in June when the roses are in full bloom. Throughout the year, NYBG hosts special exhibitions, like the popular holiday train show and the spring orchid show. It's a breath of fresh air and a feast for the senses, right in the heart of the Bronx.

  • Location: 2900 Southern Blvd, Bronx, NY 10458
  • Hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
  • Admission: Adults $28, Seniors/Students $25, Children (2-12) $12

Why Visit: It's a stunning oasis of natural beauty, offering a respite from the urban environment and showcasing an incredible diversity of plant life.

Insider Tip: Visit during one of the garden's after-hours events for a magical experience of the grounds lit up at night.

Marvel at St. Patrick's Cathedral

Interior of St. Patrick's Cathedral with sunlight streaming through colorful stained glass windows, highlighting Gothic architecture
Found a moment of peace in St. Patrick's Cathedral. The stained glass is breathtaking when the sun hits it just right. A beautiful respite from the Midtown madness.

Standing proud amidst the skyscrapers of Midtown, St. Patrick's Cathedral is a breathtaking example of Neo-Gothic architecture. Step inside and you'll be awed by the soaring 330-foot spires, the intricate stained glass windows, and the peaceful atmosphere that feels worlds away from the bustling streets outside. Whether you're religious or not, the cathedral's beauty and history make it worth a visit. Take a moment to light a candle, or simply sit in one of the pews and soak in the serene ambiance. It's a spiritual haven in the heart of the city, offering a moment of tranquility amidst the urban chaos.

  • Location: 5th Ave, New York, NY 10022
  • Hours: Daily 6:30 AM - 8:45 PM
  • Admission: Free (donations appreciated)

Why Visit: It's an architectural masterpiece and a peaceful refuge in bustling Midtown Manhattan.

Insider Tip: Try to catch one of the daily masses for a more immersive experience of the cathedral's acoustics and atmosphere.

Explore American Art at the Whitney Museum

Visitors on Whitney Museum's outdoor terrace enjoying views of the High Line and New York City skyline
The art inside the Whitney is amazing, but this view from the terrace might be the real masterpiece! Love how you can see the High Line snaking through the city.

The Whitney Museum of American Art is a must-visit for anyone interested in the evolution of American artistic expression. Housed in a striking building designed by Renzo Piano, the museum's collection spans the 20th and 21st centuries, showcasing works by Edward Hopper, Georgia O'Keeffe, Andy Warhol, and many more. The Whitney Biennial, held in even-numbered years, is one of the most important surveys of contemporary American art. Don't miss the outdoor terraces on each floor, offering unique perspectives of the city and the High Line below. It's a place that challenges your perceptions and keeps you thinking long after you've left.

  • Location: 99 Gansevoort St, New York, NY 10014
  • Hours: Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday 10:30 AM - 6:00 PM; Friday 10:30 AM - 10:00 PM; Saturday and Sunday 11:00 AM - 6:00 PM; Closed Tuesday
  • Admission: Adults $25, Seniors/Students $18, 18 and under Free

Why Visit: It offers a comprehensive look at American art in a stunning modern building with great views of the city.

Insider Tip: Visit on Fridays from 7-10 PM when admission is pay-what-you-wish.

Structuring Your New York City Adventure: A 7-Day Itinerary

Ready to dive into the Big Apple? Here's a week-long itinerary to help you make the most of your New York City adventure. Remember, this is just a suggestion – feel free to mix and match based on your interests and energy levels. New York is a city that rewards exploration, so don't be afraid to wander off the beaten path!

Days 1-2: Manhattan Highlights

  • Start with a visit to the Empire State Building for panoramic views of the city.
  • Explore Times Square and catch a Broadway show in the evening.
  • Spend a full day in Central Park, visiting the zoo, Bethesda Fountain, and renting a rowboat on the lake.
  • End the day with dinner in the Upper West Side at Zabar's or Barney Greengrass for a taste of classic New York.

Insider Tip: Buy a CityPASS if you plan to visit multiple attractions – it can save you money on admissions.

Day 3: Downtown and Financial District

  • Take the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
  • Visit the 9/11 Memorial & Museum.
  • Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge at sunset.
  • Explore DUMBO and enjoy dinner with a view at The River Café.

Insider Tip: Book tickets for the Statue of Liberty Crown Access well in advance – they sell out quickly!

Day 4: Museum Mile and Upper East Side

  • Spend the morning at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
  • Stroll down Museum Mile, stopping at the Guggenheim or the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum.
  • Enjoy a late lunch at Café Sabarsky in the Neue Galerie.
  • End the day with a sunset walk in Central Park's Conservatory Garden.

Insider Tip: Many museums have late opening hours on certain days – take advantage of these to avoid the daytime crowds.

Day 5: Brooklyn Exploration

  • Start in Williamsburg for brunch and boutique shopping.
  • Visit the Brooklyn Botanic Garden or the Brooklyn Museum.
  • Explore Prospect Park, designed by the same team as Central Park.
  • End the day with pizza at Grimaldi's under the Brooklyn Bridge.

Insider Tip: Check out the food vendors at Smorgasburg if you're visiting on a weekend.

Day 6: Alternative Manhattan

  • Walk the High Line in the morning.
  • Explore Chelsea Market for lunch.
  • Visit the Whitney Museum of American Art.
  • Spend the evening in the East Village, trying cocktails at PDT (Please Don't Tell) or catching live music at The Blue Note.

Insider Tip: Make reservations for popular restaurants and bars in advance, especially for weekend evenings.

Day 7: Your New York

Use this day to revisit favorite spots or explore based on your personal interests. Some options:

  • Sports fans: Catch a game at Yankee Stadium or Madison Square Garden.
  • Fashion lovers: Shop along Fifth Avenue or in SoHo.
  • History buffs: Visit The Cloisters or the Tenement Museum.
  • Foodies: Take a food tour in Queens for some of the city's best international cuisine.

Insider Tip: Don't try to cram too much into your last day. Leave some time to wander and discover your own favorite New York moments.

Remember, this itinerary just scratches the surface of what New York has to offer. The city is vast and ever-changing, with each neighborhood offering its own unique flavor. Don't be afraid to explore beyond the tourist hotspots – sometimes the best experiences are found in the most unexpected places. And hey, if you don't see everything this time, that's just a perfect excuse to plan your next visit!

New York is a city of endless possibilities, where every visit brings new discoveries. From the iconic skyline to the hidden speakeasies, from world-class museums to hole-in-the-wall eateries, the Big Apple offers a smorgasbord of experiences that cater to every taste and interest. Whether you're catching a Broadway show, picnicking in Central Park, or simply watching the world go by from a sidewalk café, you're participating in the grand, ever-unfolding story of New York.

As you leave, you might find yourself already planning your next trip back. Because that's the thing about New York – it gets under your skin. It challenges you, inspires you, and leaves you wanting more. In the words of the great Frank Sinatra, "If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere." So come on, give New York a chance to sweep you off your feet. Who knows? You might just fall in love with the city that never sleeps.

West Parker
West Parker
Article updated:
July 18, 2024 8:11 AM

West Parker, a Cornell University School of Hotel Administration graduate, has spent two decades as the secret weapon of the jet-set elite, crafting bespoke adventures that redefine luxury travel. Now a resident writer for Town & Tourist, this 45-year-old "Architect of Extraordinary Journeys" combines razor-sharp insights with unparalleled industry connections to deliver experiences that even the most discerning globetrotters can't help but rave about. West's expertise spans from exclusive real estate to fine dining, making him the go-to strategist for those who demand nothing but the extraordinary in their travels.

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