New York City, the Big Apple, the city that never sleeps, there are so many ways to describe this iconic city on USA’s East Coast. It’s one of the most loved cities in the world, with something going on every minute, an endless number of streets to explore, different foods to try, shows to see and neighbourhoods to explore.
Whether it’s your first, fifth or tenth visit to New York City, there’s always something new to explore, with shows, restaurants and stores popping up and changing all the time.
This was our second visit to New York, our first being five years ago in 2014 and even in just five years it felt like things around the city had changed so much. New high rise buildings have been popping up, trendy restaurants are appearing in more areas, there is less construction and scaffolding in some of the areas that we remember, and even more in others.
We were still seeing new things every day, even when we visited some of the places and iconic landmarks we’ve visited before. For anyone heading to NYC any time soon, here’s our complete list of 101 things to do to give you the ultimate New York experience.
Iconic Things To Do In NYC
1. Head straight to Times Square to experience the flashing lights, bright colours and most expensive advertisements in the whole world. This corner of NYC is absolutely jam packed with people and it can get a little overwhelming, but it’s still a can’t miss spot in New York.
Location: Broadway and West 42nd to 47th Street, Theatre District
2. Take in the views from Top of the Rock, the observation deck at the top of the Rockefeller Centre. From top of the viewing platforms on the 70th floor you get 360 degree views over New York City, from Central Park to the Empire State Building and even the new One World Trade Centre Building all the way out in the Financial District.
Location: 30 Rockefeller Plaza in the Rockefeller Centre. Tickets start from $41.50USD – book your tickets here to secure your time and skip the lines.
3. Walk over the Brooklyn Bridge, from Manhattan to Brooklyn or the other way around, and check out the historic bridge and it’s beautiful towers. It offers great views of the city and is a lovely walk over the river.
4. Visit the 9/11 Memorial Site and the home of the new One World Trade Centre Building that can be seen from all over the island of Manhattan. The Memorial Site is home to two pools that are located where the original twin towers used to stand, with a beautiful tribute to all the people that lost their lives in the terrorist attack.
The 9/11 Museum also sits on this site, if you would like to learn more about the events of that horrific day and what transpired in the aftermath.
Location: 180 Greenwich Street, next to the Westfield World Trade Centre
5. Visit the Flatiron Building, the triangular building that stands on a corner in the Middle of New York and can’t be missed! This little street corner is infamous and seen in so many photos of NYC, it’s such an iconic spot to see in the city.
Location: 175 5th Avenue, Flatiron District
6. Whether you’re catching the train somewhere or not, a visit to Grand Central Station is not to be missed. This epic station has been in countless movies and TV shows, is a super busy transport hub in the city and also has such a beautiful roof with constellations of the star signs etched into the roof of the station. It’s an amazing site to see, even if you’re just popping in to check out the view.
Location: 89 East 42nd Street, Midtown
7. Visit Macy’s in Herald Square which takes up a whole block o the city and is thought to be one of the largest department stores in the United States. If you head up to the higher levels of the buildings you can also check out one of the oldest still running wooden escalators in the world. It seems unreal that escalators were ever even made out of wood, so it’s a pretty cool spot to check out!
Location: 151 West 34th Street, Herald Square, Garment District
8. Visit the lady of NYC and check out the famous Statue of Liberty who stands on her own island, watching over the city. You can choose to actually visit Ellis Island where she stands if you wish, but if you’re looking for a free version hop on board the free Statten Island ferry, which offers great views of the statue with half the crowds.
9. Visit the Friends Apartment Building, the home of Monica, Rachel, Joey and Chandler on one of the world’s favourite TV shows. This building was shown in almost every episode of the show, with some of the friends living in the show for all ten seasons.
Location: 90 Bedford Street on the corner of Grove Street, Greenwich Village
10. Take a stroll down the famous shopping streets of New York, 5th Avenue and Madison Avenue, home to huge department stores, beautiful flagship boutiques and all the iconic NYC stores from Saks to Barney’s.
11. Do a hop on hop off tour around the city. There are lots of different companies that offer hop on hop off tours around the city, including City Sightseeing, Big Bus and Top View, and they all have different routes and prices depending on what you want to see. Make sure you compare prices and route stops before you buy any tickets.
12. Hit up the local food stalls and try either a traditional NYC hot dog or a giant pretzel. So much gluten and carbs, but so worth it! Make sure you shop around for prices, we had people try and charge us between $1USD and $6USD for a hot dog! If it’s more than $3USD absolutely walk away, there’s always a cheaper option!
13. Learn how to catch the subway to make your way easily around the city. The subway system in New York might be a little hot and a little scary for visitors, but it literally connects every corner of the city together and makes travelling around the city so much easier. A 7 day pass for unlimited rides on the subway will set you back $34USD and you will definitely get your moneys worth out of it.
14. Have afternoon tea at the Waldorf Astoria for a very fancy experience in the city. The atmosphere created by the beautiful surroundings of the hotel just makes you feel like you’ve stepped into a movie and is a wonderful experience in the city.
Location: 301 Park Avenue, New York
15. Make sure to catch a Broadway show while you’re in NYC. There are so many different shows available to see, both on and off Broadway and there’s a whole culture around theatre shows here. If you’re not sure what you want to see check out the tkts booth in Times Square where you can get discounted tickets from 20% to 50% off the normal ticket shows for last minute tickets!
Location: Tkts Times Square, 7th Avenue, Theatre District
16. Visit NYC’s original observation building with a visit to the Empire State Building. This epic building has been standing tall over the city since 1931 and is an iconic landmark in the city. It seems to be right in the middle of the city and can be seen from blocks away.
Location: 350 5th Avenue, Midtown
Including Midtown, Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen & the Meat Packing District
17. A visit to Rockefeller Square is always a good idea, and depending on what time of year your visit you might be treated to either the famous ice skating rink or a summer beer garden where you can have a drink, kick back and relax.
This is also the home to the Rockefeller’s amazing Christmas tree that usually stands between 75 and 90 feet tall and glitters in Christmas lights! As an Aussie, not much could make us want to have a white Christmas (We love HOT Christmas days), but we would absolutely love to see this Christmas tree!
Location: Rockefeller Centre, 45 Rockefeller Centre, Midtown
18. Just around the corner from the Rockefeller Centre is FAO Schwarz, a toy store unlike any other that is famous for it’s toys, life sized stuffed animals, interactive games and life sized grand piano that you can literally dance across. If you’re travelling with kids this place will have you entertained for hours and even as an adult, it’s an unbelievable place to visit.
Location: 30 Rockefeller Plaza, Midtown
19. Shop up a storm at Tiffany’s 5th Avenue, the birthplace of this huge international brand and one of the most beautiful stores in the world. There are five levels to explore where you can buy everything from the iconic Return To Tiffany’s jewellery to luggage, china, home wares and even a collar for your pets!
If you’re hoping to actually have breakfast at Tiffany’s you’re in luck – there’s a cafe on the fourth floor where you can stop and grab some breakfast while you’re shopping.
Location: 727 5th Avenue, New York
20. Visit the NBC Store to pick up merchandise from all your favourite TV shows, including Friends, The Good Place, Seinfeld, Will & Grace, The Office and heaps more. They offer everything from forks to t-shirts to hats and keyrings, you’ll definitely be able to find something from your favourite shows here.
Location: The Shop at NBC Studios, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, Midtown
21. Grab drinks and appetisers at Irish Pub McGee’s. This pub was the inspiration for How I Met Your Mother’s infamous MacLaren’s bar, and you can definitely see the similarities between the two bars.
Visit during Happy Hour and grab a HIMYM themed cocktail to really make you feel part of the show. Our favourites are the Naked Man, Pineapple Incident or Barney’s Blackout!
Location: 240 West 55th Street, Theatre District
22. Stock up on treats at the huge, three story M&M Store at Times Square. There are all sorts of treats to try here, including M&M flavours that you can’t get anywhere else in the world. And for the super fans, you can even customise your own M&Ms with whatever you want printed on them!
Location: 1600 Broadway, Midtown
23. Another infamous New York location is the New York Public Library that provides free books and information to anyone living in or visiting New York. The building is just as impressive as the collections of books in it, with high ceilings, beautiful murals and millions of books to browse through.
Location: 476 5th Avenue, Midtown
24. Visit the LOVE and HOPE sculptures around the city and grab a selfie with your loved ones. These signs have been replicated both in real life and on merchandise all around the world, but this is where they originated.
Location: The LOVE sculpture can be found on West 55th Street and 6th Avenue and the HOPE sculpture can be found at 200 West 53rd Street, Midtown
25. Spend some time in Bryant Park, this cute little park in the middle of Midtown always has something going on! In the summer time they have weekend markets and they also screen old Hollywood movies on a projector at night. It’s such a beautiful park right next to the NYC Public Library and is also where you can find a super cute carousel.
Location: Between 40th and 42nd Street, 6th Avenue
26. Try ice-cream rolls for the first time at one of the city markets. This kind of ice-cream is insane, starting off completely as liquid it’s then poured out onto a cold piece of metal before being frozen and rolled up into rolls right in front of you. You also get to choose whatever fillings you want to be included in the ice-cream, it’s so crazy! If you still don’t know what we’re talking about make sure you check out our USA Instagram highlight to see it happening in real life!
27. If you’re looking for a church to visit in NYC, St Patrick’s Cathedral is sure to impress you. This beautiful gothic building was completely under scaffold the first time we visited the city, so it was nice to see it in all it’s glory this time. Make sure you head inside to check out the stunning stained glass windows, so beautiful.
Location: 5th Avenue and 51st Street, Midtown
28. Check out the Naked Cowboy playing his guitar in his underwear in the middle of Times Square. This guys has been an iconic staple of NYC for years, and even if you don’t want to get up close and personal for a photo, it’s still cool top spot him dancing around across the square!
Including: SoHo, TriBeCa, Greenwich Village & the Financial District
29. Take a walk down Bleeker Street. This cute little street is absolutely overflowing with cute cafes and hipster places to eat. They offer all kinds of delicious food, you can’t really make a wrong choice here!
30. Go shopping in Soho where the streets are filled with everything from unique boutiques to huge chain stores and top brands such as Victoria’s Secret, Crate and Barrell, UNIQLO and Urban Outfitters.
Location: The main shopping strip in SoHo can be found along Broadway.
31. Get your sugar fix at DŌ Cookie Dough Confections, where you can buy cookie dough like it’s ice-cream! Choose your favour and grab a spoon for one of the tastiest desert treats going round. If you’re a cookie dough lover, this one is not to be missed.
Location: 550 LaGuardia Place, SoHo
32. Soak up some sun in Washington Square Park, home to the iconic Washington Square Arch and chess boards where people are just waiting to challenge you. It’s been featured in countless movies and TV shows, and probably destroyed in half of them as well! These days it’s pretty much located in the middle of a heap of NYC buildings, so it’s quite over-run with uni students looking to catch some sun rays in between classes.
Location: Washington Square Park, Between 4th and 6th Street, Greenwich Village
33. Check out some of the Christmas shops around the island of Manhattan, that offer some of the most beautiful Christmas decorations around. The Christmas shops are open all year round and can be found in every neighbourhood from Midtown to Little Italy, so you’re sure to stumble across one in your exploring.
34. No matter where you’re walking around SoHo make sure you’re always looking up at the impressive architecture. These buildings are some of our favourite in the city and are so pretty and unique compared to the rest of the city. The other thing we love about this area is that the buildings aren’t so high-rise, which means you can see a lot more of the sky and has less of a heavy city-feel like Midtown.
35. Visit the home of Grace Adler Designs, the famous red brick building that is a feature of Will & Grace. The building is easily identifiable with it’s golden statue on the front and looks exactly the same in real life as it does on the show. It’s actually called the Puck Building if you’re trying to Google it, and is just off Broadway.
Location: 295 Lafayette Street, SoHo
36. Take a walk through Chinatown where you can find pretty much discounted anything. This is the place to go if you’re looking for a decent massage, with prices here way lower than the rest of the city. Prepare yourself for all the different smells and sounds though, it’s exactly like stepping into the heart of an Asian city.
37. Visit Little Italy for a walk down an Italian street and some of the best pasta dishes you will find in the city! We had dinner at Aunty Jake’s on Mulberry Street that was absolutely amazing if you’re looking for a recommendation. They have make your own pasta dishes and a delicious kale and lentil salad that’s enough to fill you for hours!
Location: 149 Mulberry Street, Little Italy
38. If you’re looking for any knock-off designer items make sure you hit up Canal Street where you can find all kinds of designer bags, wallets, belts and more! You can find these guys with bags literally laid out on the street so they’re not hard to miss if you’re looking for them!
39. Have a laugh at the Comedy Club where all the big names in comedy have starred at one point or another! No matter who’s on when you visit you’re always guaranteed a great show and laugh! It’s been running since 1982 in the heart of Greenwich Village and is known as the best comedy club in the city.
Location: 1267, 117 Macdougal Street, Greenwich Village
40. The legendary symbol of the Financial District, the gold charging bull sits in the middle of the street and is not to be missed in this area. He’s often surrounded by crowds, so you’ll have to shuffle your way to the front to get a good view, but the rumour is that good financial fortune will find anyone who grabs him by the balls!
Location: Broadway and Whitehall Street, Financial District
41. Take a stroll down Wall Street and check out the New York Stock Exchange. This is where all the money is made in NYC it certainly feels like, although it is more of a touristy area now. Expect inflated prices for hot dogs and water, but it is a great street to check out.
Location: 11 Wall Street, Financial District
42. Take a walk along The High Line, a raised garden in the sky above NYC. The High Line stretched from West 14th Street all the way to West 34th Street, but only takes about 30 minutes to walk the whole thing. Here you can see beautiful views over the city while being surrounded by trees and greenery. Lovely!
Location: There are lots of places to enter the High Line, but the end points are on the corner of West 14th Street and Washington Street or West 34th Street and 11th Avenue.
43. The New York County Supreme Courthouse is definitely a landmark you’ll recognise. It’s featured in so many TV shows and movies, seen in pretty much anything that features NYC and a court case of any kind. It’s a very grand old building and very pretty to see in real life.
Location: 60 Centre Street, Foley Square
44. Battery Park at the very bottom of Manhattan Island is where you can find heaps of the cruises and boats departing to check out the Statue of Liberty and city sightseeing cruises. However, it’s also a great park to grab a bite to eat from a food truck and enjoy the scenery. A very interesting Under The Sea carousel also operates at the bottom of the park, so check that out if you’re looking for more Insta worthy moments.
45. Almost adjacent to the Brooklyn Bridge is it’s less famous sister the Manhattan Bridge which is just as pretty in it’s own way! To get a great view of this bridge in between the high rise buildings head to Dumbo in Brooklyn, where the views speak for themselves!
46. Take a walk around the TriBeCa neighbourhood which is rumoured to be where heaps of huge celebrities own homes including Taylor Swift, Beyonce and Jay-Z, Leonardo di Caprio and more! TriBeCa (which stands for the triangle below Canal Street) is said to be one of the most expensive areas in NYC with insane house prices, even if you’re looking to rent.
47. Shop til you drop that the Chelsea Markets who boast one of the greatest indoor food halls in the world, with more than 35 stall vendors offering everything from soup to nuts and coffee to cheesecake!
Location: 75 9th Avenue, Chelsea
48. If you’re into photography pay a visit to B&H Photo, which is one of the BIGGEST camera and photography stores we have ever seen! This multi-floor store offers every kind of camera equipment and accessory that you could imagine and they grab stuff for you via a conveyor belt that whizzes above your head as you shop. It’s absolutely crazy and such an insane shopping experience!
Location: 420 9th Avenue, Chelsea
49. If you’re looking for some killer restaurants head to Hell’s Kitchen when trendy new restaurants are popping up all the time, with menus designed by world famous chefs and food so delicious you will be coming back for more.
Including Central Park and the Upper West and East Side
50. Pay a visit to the Seinfeld Restaurant, the diner that is featured in just about every episode of Seinfeld. The outside of this diner is iconic and even people who don’t really watch the show would have no problem recognising it. If you have some time grab a meal in the diner, the food is actually really good!
Location: In real life the diner is called Tom’s Restaurant can be found at 2880 Broadway, Morningside Heights
51. Visit the animals at the Central Park Zoo. Not quite the zoo that Madagascar might have made you dream of, the zoo in Central Park is quite small with only a handful of animals, but the enclosures are spacious and roomy and the park puts a big emphasis on conversation.
52. Take a walk through the Central Park Mall, one of the most famous areas of Central Park that is regularly seen in movies and TV shows. The beautiful tall trees here perfectly arch over the walkway, making it a lovely shady spot to visit.
53. Grab a cocktail and take a break from exploring at the Loeb Boathouse Central Park. From here you can watch couples awkwardly rowing their boats around the famous lake while trying to master the perfect Instagram photo. There are more fake candids happening here than real moments, but it’s still extremely entertaining!
Location: Park Drive North, East 72nd Street
54. If there’s only one museum you visit while you’re in NYC make it the Museum of Natural History. You could easily spend hours exploring this place, with exhibitions from around the world, iconic animal displays and that famous giant whale. This museum has been featured in so many movies, with the most memorable arguably being Night at the Museum with Ben Stiller.
Location: Central Park West & 79th Street, Upper West Side
55. Pay a visit to the Cherry Hill Fountain in Central Park. This fountain was thought to be the Friends opening credit fountain for many years, but that fountain was actually built in the Warner Bros. Studio in LA and isn’t a landmark you can actually visit. Nevertheless, the fountain is still a beautiful spot in the city.
56. Check out the epic tiling and detailed mosaic work in the Bethesda Terrace. Right in the middle of Central Park, this lakeside terrace is beautifully designed, with tiny mosaic tiles covering the walls and roof and which stunning archways offering in light from the park. It’s a great place to wander around right in the heart of the park.
57. Take a tour to Harlem to experience a singing gospel choir, that’s sure to spark some feeling in you.
58. Experience the Great American Past-time by checking out a baseball game at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. Perhaps the most famous baseball stadium in the country, it’s only a short train ride away from NYC and will give you a glimpse of one of America’s most loved sports.
Location: Yankee Stadium – 1 East 161st Street, The Bronx
59. Head to Coney Island for a fun filled day for the whole family. This amusement is now actually tun by the Luna Park company, the same people that run the historic amusement parks in Melbourne and Sydney in Australia and is a great day out for some fun.
Location: 1208 Surf Avenue, Brooklyn
60. Check out the hipster suburbs of Brooklyn and Queens and explore their unique burrows, hip restaurants and amazing brewery’s that have popped up recently. As NYC has become more and more expensive, Brooklyn and Queens have only grown in popularity and have been completely transformed in recent years. They’re absolutely worth exploring if you have a few extra days up your sleeve.
61. Catch the tram over to Roosevelt Island and explore this little island sitting in the middle of the East River. Less than a 10 minute trip from Midtown, Roosevelt Island is full of parks, greenery and has a much more laid-back and relaxed vibe than the big city next door. The tram also offers beautiful views over the city, and is worth a ride just for that fact.
62. Catch the free ferry over to Statten Island and explore more of what this little island has to offer. If nothing else, there is an outlet mall right out the front of the ferry terminal and you can get some delicious $7USD margaritas in the sunshine only a few steps away from where the ferry docks.
63. Head to the Hamptons for some time at the beach and to experience life the way the wealthy population of NYC does. There’s no way you haven’t heard of the Hamptons before, with so many reality shows heading there each summer time for some fun in the sun. This is the place to see if you’re looking for a city break and some time at the beach.
64. New York is famous for it’s bagels so no matter where you visit in the city you’re not far from one! My favourite is a multigrain bagel with cream cheese, but where are so many flavours and combinations to choose from, you could literally be trying a new one every time you eat!
65. Stop to watch a local street basketball game around the island. Basketball has a huge culture and following in the city and the local games are just as serious as the big ones! Get into the ball spirit and stop to watch a local game around the city.
There is so much to do in NYC, this city can literally keep you entertained forever! Whether you’re visiting for a day, a week or a month, you’ll never be short of things to do and places to explore.
Have you been to NYC before? What’s your favourite thing to do?
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