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Our 33 Favorite Things to do in New York City!

Our 33 Favorite Things to do in New York City!

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Visiting New York City for the first time? This list is going to show you how to make your first trip there absolutely epic!

We love NYC and have visited many times, but if you’ve never been before trying to plan the perfect trip can be overwhelming.

I’m guessing eating pizza and seeing Times Square are probably at the top of your list. However, we went out of our way to include some lesser-known options that are off the tourist trail for a truly unique experience.

Not only that, we have some handy advice here that will have people mistaking you for a local!

Things to do in New York City

1. Head up the Empire State Building 

Binoculars and a view of New York City from the Empire State Building
The Empire State Building!
Views from the Empire State Building in NYC
The 102nd Floor!

It’s only right that we kick off our list with New York’s most iconic building: the Empire State Building! I mean, in terms of world-famous buildings, it’s right up there with the Eiffel Tower and the Roman Colosseum! 

The Empire State Building was completed in 1931, and standing at 1,250 feet (380 meters), it remained the tallest building in the world for 40 years. Being featured in literally hundreds of movies, we knew we just had to visit this legendary sight. Spoiler alert – it is just as impressive as you’d think it is!

The building is located in Midtown Manhattan and is easy to find, in fact, we seemed to have trouble getting away from it!

View through the wire fence on the 86th Floor Observatory in New York at the Empire State Building
View through the wire fence on the 86th Floor Observatory in New York at the Empire State Building

There are two observation decks inside the Empire State Building. The main one is on the 86th floor, but you can also pay extra to visit the one on the 102nd floor, too. Although we thought the 86th floor was impressive enough! You can read about our experience and helpful tips for visiting this attraction here.

We decided we wanted to purchase our admission tickets in advance, as the Empire State Building is known for having long lines at times. However, we didn’t know there were so many admission ticket options!

We bought tickets to the main observation deck, which are $48 – $52 USD per person (depending on the day you go). This was a great experience and easily fit into our schedule, so I’d recommend this to anyone with a tighter timeline. If you’re on a real-time crunch (or as impatient as we can get while traveling!) you can snag skip-the-line tickets for $95 USD. Sometimes, convenience is worth a few extra bucks!

But if you can time it right or have more flexibility in your schedule, you should totally go for sunset! Sunset tickets are an extra $11 USD (simply select the time when booking your general admission tickets), and honestly, so worth it in my book. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to experience this, but how memorable would it be to see a goregous sunset from one of the most goregous buildings in the world!?

Bailey poses for a photo on the 86th Floor Observatory in New York at the Empire State Building in New York City
It’s hard to stop taking photos!
Daniel on the 86th Floor Observatory in New York City, Empire State Building
The 86th Floor!

You do need to book tickets as only a limited number of people can go up at once, so you have to reserve a time slot. However, you don’t need to do this months in advance. The day before or even the day of your visit will be fine.

If you’ve got a Go City, a New York Pass, or the New York CityPASS® it will also cover your entry to the Empire State Building, and you can also use any one of these New York sightseeing passes to tick off quite a few more of the attractions on this epic list! You can read our full comparison of NYC sightseeing passes here – it was a total game-changer for our visit.

You should allow 2-3 hours for your visit in total. This is not the kind of experience you want to rush. We spent lots of time walking around, snapping photos, and admiring the views because being up there was just such an amazing experience!

2. Explore Central Park

Bailey walks through Central Park in New York City
The park is huge!
Bailey and Daniel take a selfie in Central Park, New York City
It’s such a nice break from the city!

Central Park is a huge – and very beautiful – urban park located smack dab in the middle of Manhattan. Like the Empire State Building, it has been featured in countless movies, from Breakfast at Tiffany’s to Ghostbusters

It’s super scenic but, more than that, it’s a quintessential part of New York City, and a visit here is just as much of a must as a slice of New York pizza!

To give you a bit of background, the development of Central Park was approved in 1853 to give New Yorkers some green space where they could find respite from the concrete jungle. The first section of the park was opened to the public in 1858, and development continued over the next 15 years.

It fell into despair a few times during the first half of the 20th century, but today the park is super well maintained and a lot of community and government effort goes into this. 

Central Park covers 1.3 square miles (3.4 square kilometers) and there are lots of different sections. 

The popular Sheep Meadow is where locals go to relax and soak up the sun, and it’s definitely worth heading to Belvedere Castle – yep, that’s right, there’s a castle in New York City! It’s used to monitor the weather and it’s free to head up to the terrace for amazing views of the park. 

There’s also a historic carousel, a famous Alice in Wonderland sculpture, a model boat pond, an artificial lake with a boathouse restaurant perched on its edge, and a huge ice skating rink from October to April. 

Basically, there’s a lot of ground to cover in Central Park and given its size, it’s difficult to walk it all! And for that exact reason, there are a ton of tour options to help you see this amazing park without dedicating your entire New York trip to it. I even dedicated a whole blog to the best tours in Central Park (plus everything you need to know before booking).

Beautiful pond in Central Park, New York City
Exploring on foot can take a while!

Horse and Carriage Tour

The most popular way to explore is with a horse and carriage ride, which you’ve no doubt seen in hundreds of movies, especially rom-coms!

You’ll be chauffeured around the park in a pretty white carriage, and the journey lasts for about 45 minutes. It costs $175 to $185 USD for a group of up to four people depending on the day – is anyone up for a double date!? I recommend booking online here so you don’t miss out on this classic NYC experience!

Pedicab Tour

A pedicab is similar to a horse and carriage, only this time your driver uses a bicycle, not horses, to chauffeur you around! 

We think that this pedicab tour is better than a horse-drawn carriage tour because you get to go places that the horses can’t! This is the most efficient way to cover a lot of ground and see as much of Central Park as possible, like the John Lennon memorial and the zoo! Plus, it’s a private experience so it’s even more intimate.

Tours are offered from 1 hour to 2 hours, and prices range from $50 to $100 USD, depending on which you select. We aren’t kidding that these tours are popular, there are 2,000 5-star reviews to back it up! Book your pedicab tour in advance here.

Views of Central Park with the New York City skyline in the background
It’s so cool to see the city meet greenery!


Another great way to explore the vast expense of Central Park is by bike. You can rent a bike from inside the park for $27 USD for the whole day, so this is a budget-friendly option and allows you to explore at your own pace. Plus, the rental company will give you a map so that you don’t get lost. 

If you would prefer a guided cycling experience, then you can take this bike tour instead. It’s a leisurely, 2-hour tour that takes you to all of the park’s top sights, including the Dakota Apartment Building where John Lennon lived and tragically died, as well as the Jackie Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. It costs $49 USD when you book ahead of time online.

Walking tours

We love taking walking tours in a new city, it’s a fantastic way to get to know the area. This Central Park walking tour did just that, and we were lucky enough to have Michael as our guide – he was a great storyteller! We spent 2 hours learning unique NYC history and finding the best spots in Central Park, better yet it was only $35 USD, which we felt was a good use of money.

You can book your spot on the same walking tour we did here!

3. See the city from a helicopter 

View from the pilots window on a NYC helicopter ride
Can you spot the Empire State Building?
Pilot flies a helicopter with views of New York City from the Manhattan Heliport
That iconic skyline up close!

Soaring above New York’s famous skyline in a helicopter is the kind of experience that’s almost beyond words, but we will say that we loved it! Taking a helicopter ride is the best way to see the city from above and it’s the kind of thing that you’ll remember forever. 

We chose this 15-minute helicopter flight but honestly, it felt a lot longer! We saw so much, from the Empire State Building and the One World Trade Center to the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty. Seeing these world-famous landmarks from high in the sky, and just the experience of being in a helicopter was so exhilarating. Talk about epic!

The short flight we booked was $249 USD, which is less than we were initially expecting to pay. It’s not a cheap experience, but we can hand-on-heart say that it’s totally worth it. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing! Best of all, this flight offers reserve now pay later so it can fit into your travel budget.

Why We Book Tours with Viator

Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:

  • Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
  • Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
  • Lowest price guarantee – If you happen to find the same tour at a lower price elsewhere, Viator will refund you the price difference.
  • Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
  • Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.

Check out the Viator website here! Or, for more info, read our detailed review about Viator here.

4. Enjoy a Dinner Cruise 

Bailey enjoys her dinner with the Statue of Liberty in the background during the Bateaux New York Premier Dinner Cruise in New York City
Our main course with Lady Liberty!
Daniel and Bailey with the Brooklyn bridge on a dinner cruise in NYC
The Brooklyn Bridge!

Taking a dinner cruise in New York City was easily one of the highlights of our trip. I mean combine incredible views with amazing food, sign me up! We’ve done our fair share of dinner cruises and this Bateaux New York Premier Dinner Cruise tops them all.

We set off at sunset and sailed down the Hudson River. It’s an all-glass boat so the views were as spectacular as you would imagine. 

Sadly, there was bad weather on the night we went, but ordinarily, you get to enjoy an epic sunset as well as amazing views of all of the famous buildings. But even though it was raining, we were still super impressed by the views. It turned out to be an excellent rainy day activity since we were cozy and dry the whole time.

We also got to see the Statue of Liberty up close, and lit up at night! This was one of the highlights of the evening for us, and we think it’s the best way to see her. 

And as if the insane views weren’t enough, we had an amazing 3-course dinner, too. It was one of the best meals that we had in New York City, which is really saying something given this city’s legendary restaurant scene! 

A singer sings with passion on the Bateaux New York Premier Dinner Cruise
She was amazing!
The Statue of Liberty lit up at night as seen from a dinner cruise in New York City
Bring your camera for these amazing views!

The cherry on top of the evening was the live band, who gave such an amazing performance and really set the mood for the whole night. The musicians and singers were so talented and we were really captivated by them. 

The Bateaux Cruise usually costs between $250-$300 USD per person, depending on the day you go and how far in advance you buy tickets. We actually wrote a full review on the Bateaux Cruise if you want more info before you book!

There is a cheaper alternative run by the same company called the New York Dinner Cruise. It’s still a great option for families or budget travelers, but it’s not an all-glass boat and it’s a buffet, rather than a plated dinner. 

As we said, it’s still a good choice but we really do think that it’s worth spending the extra money to do the Bateaux Premier Dinner Cruise as it was just so wonderful. You may only be in New York City once, so do yourself a favor and do the luxury cruise! 

Related Read: This dinner cruise was a perfect rainy day activity – find out what our other favorite things to do in the rain in NYC are here!

5. Visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum

The 911 Memorial and Museum outside Memorial with the skyline of NYC in the background
The Memorial
Bailey walks through the 911 Memorial and Museum in New York City
The steel beams that collapsed

You don’t need us to tell you that the tragic events of 9/11 rocked the entire world. Now, on the site where the Twin Towers once stood, is a poignant and touching memorial to the victims of the terror attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center.

The 9/11 Memorial consists of two large pools where the towers once stood. The names of the victims are engraved on the walls around the pools, which is very moving to see.

The Memorial itself is free to enter, but you’ll need tickets to the museum. We do recommend going to the museum because it’s full of fascinating artifacts and you get to see history exhibits, watch old media reports covering the events as they unfolded, and hear first-person accounts of the attacks.

The Museum is very popular and has timed entry slots. You’ll need to book tickets on Viator to secure your slot. You can do this on the day of your visit but make sure you secure your slot at least a few hours beforehand. Tickets cost $33 USD for adults, $27 USD for under 18s, and $21 USD for seniors.

You can also use New York sightseeing passes to cover the entrance to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. For more info check out our guides to the New York CityPASS®, the New York Pass, or the Pass by Go City.

A damaged fire truck at the 911 Memorial and Museum in NYC
A damaged fire truck

You need to arrive on time, but there’s no limit to how long you can stay. The Museum is huge and there’s a lot to see, so we recommend allowing at least two hours for your visit. 

If you have limited time in New York City, this one-day tour includes a visit to the Memorial site. It actually covers an impressive number of attractions on this list, including the Brooklyn Bridge, Rockefeller Center, Central Park and so much more. What we love about this tour is that it’s so well planned, so you don’t feel rushed and really do get a feel for New York. So if you’re short on time or want a comprehensive look at some of the best sights, this sightseeing tour for $99 USD is our pick.

6. Go on a food tour

Daniel with his pizza at the Chelsea Market on our food tour
This was one of the best NY slices we tried in NYC!
Doughnuts at Doughnuttery at the Chelsea Market on a food tour in NYC
Did someone say doughnuts?

You could spend days trying to find the best places to eat here, so a food tour in New York City really does come in handy!

New York City is famously called “the melting pot” and you’d be hard-pressed to find a more diverse food scene anywhere else in the world. 

We opted for this food tour of the Chelsea Market, and we’re so glad that we did! You can find everything from Afghan food to sushi here, so it’s a great way to explore the amazing cuisines that coexist in New York City. Plus, the Chelsea Market used to be a biscuit factory and is the birthplace of the Oreo, so it’s historically significant, too – especially for those with a sweet tooth. 

Our food tour really was the perfect way to explore the market, because food tours get to skip the queues. The Chelsea Market is really popular, so this made a big difference to our visit. We actually wrote a whole review on the Chelsea Market Food Tour if you want to read up on all the tasty tips!

During our tour, we popped into the Doughnuttery and tried Kim Kardashian’s favorite doughnuts (they even set up a private station for her after the 2022 MET gala) and tasted the best NY slice in town. 

We also loved the fact that the tour taught us a lot about the history of the market and the Meatpacking district and took us on a guided walk of the High Line Trail. We learned so much and we left feeling very full! For $88 USD per person, we thought it was great value for money! 

7. Walk the Brooklyn Bridge

bailey walks along the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City
A must-do!
Bailey poses for a photo along the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City with Manhattan in the background
The views are magnificent!

This is a great free activity – and New York is an expensive city – so I recommend taking advantage of all of the free activities in NYC you can! (Read our inside scoop on our favorite free things to do here!)

Okay, so I know we keep saying that New York has the world’s most famous this, that, and the other … but it’s true! The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the world’s most recognizable bridges, so walking across it is a really cool thing to do. 

You can walk to the Brooklyn Bridge if you want, but it takes over an hour from midtown. You can also take a taxi to the Manhattan end of the bridge or catch the subway to Chambers Street Station or Brooklyn Bridge – City Hall Subway Station, which are both just steps away from the entrance to the bridge.

We made the mistake of visiting mid-day, and let me tell you, it gets hotter than you’d expect during the summer! I recommend going earlier in the morning if possible.

Daniel on the Brooklyn Bridge
Daniel on the Brooklyn Bridge

The bridge is 1.1 miles (1.8 kilometers) long so it’s not a super long walk, but we spent about 1 hour here.. This is partly because the walkway is busy and filled with lots of vendors, and we also took our time, and enjoyed the views (while snapping some photos, of course). My top tip is to stop by one of the vendor stands and grab a cold drink and a pretzel for breakfast!

You can turn around partway across the bridge, but we think that the best thing to do is walk the entire way to Brooklyn. You can then take the subway back to Manhattan from High Street – Brooklyn Bridge Station later on. Brooklyn is a super famous area and an awesome place to explore, and *hint hint* the next activity on our list is particularly epic. Don’t miss it if you do walk across the Brooklyn Bridge! 

8. Take in the views of the city from Brooklyn Heights 

Bailey in Brooklyn heights, New York with views of Manhattan
What a view!
Daniel poses for a photo at Brooklyn Heights in New York City
It’s not far from the Brooklyn Bridge!

The Brooklyn Heights neighborhood is famed for its amazing views of Manhattan. The Brooklyn Bridge Park in particular is the best place to soak up these spectacular views of New York City’s iconic skyline. It’s certainly a must-do if you plan on walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, and it’s another awesome free activity! 

To get to Brooklyn Bridge Park, follow the pathway to the left as you’re walking towards Brooklyn from the Manhattan side of the Bridge. It goes under the bridge and to the right and will take you to the Brooklyn Heights area. You’ll enter on Prospect Street and from there, it’s roughly a 10-minute walk to the park.

Then, afterward, you can walk back to High Street – Brooklyn Bridge Station and catch the train back to the city, or even walk back over the bridge again if you’re really determined to get your step count up! 

Related Read: If you’re up for more insane views, there are amazing Niagara Falls tours from New York.

9. See the NY Yankees play 

The New York Yankees play at Yankee Stadium in New York City
The Yankees!
Bailey and Daniel take a selfie at a New York Yankees game in NYC
They lost, but it was still fun!

The Yankees are a legendary baseball team that plays at the Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. Going to a game is one of the best things to do while you’re in New York City. Even if you’re not much of a sports fan, the Yankees are iconic and the atmosphere during the games is electric! 

The baseball season runs from the end of March to October, so try to get tickets if you’re going to be in New York during this time of year. We booked our tickets ahead of time here, which let us choose our seats and see who was playing. It also made our game-day experience seamless! Prices start at $39 USD but it varies on the game you want to see and the seats that you want.

It’s really easy to get to Yankee Stadium, too – it even has its own subway stop! Once you get to the stadium, there are loads of vendors selling beer and hot dogs. These are pretty pricey at around $6 USD for a hot dog and $15 USD for a large beer, but we think it’s worth splashing out a little because beer and hot dogs are a quintessential part of the American baseball experience! Plus, the beer we got was HUGE.

10. Take in the views from The Edge or Summit One

The Edge and Summit One are both futuristic observation decks offering amazing views of New York City. Both are fantastic but to be honest, you only really need to visit one – especially if you don’t have a ton of time. We’ll break down the details to help you pick!

The Edge

Bailey leans against the glass corner at Edge NYC
This is actually so scary!
View of New York City and the Empire State Building from The Edge NYC
View of New York City and the Empire State Building from The Edge NYC

We went up to The Edge NYC and loved it! It’s an outdoor observation deck on the 100th floor of the 30 Hudson Yards skyscraper. It’s one of the tallest buildings in New York, so you can’t miss it! We actually explored The Edge after our food tour at Chelsea Market as it’s only about a 20-minute walk away.

The highlight (as long as you’re not scared of heights!) is where the floor has a glass section that you can look right down to the streets below. The glass walls around the edge of the deck are also angled so you can lean against them and feel like you’re flying over the city – it’s actually quite scary at first! 

There’s an indoor and outdoor bar at the top where you can get a glass of champagne or sometimes seasonal cocktails, and a cocktail lounge upstairs on the 101st floor. 

The Edge is open from 9 am until 10 pm from Monday to Thursday and stays open until midnight over the weekend. You need to book tickets in advance as you need a time slot, but it doesn’t really matter if you’re late. It’s actually cheaper to book these tickets through Viator than the official website. Tickets cost $41 USD for adults and slightly cheaper for kids and seniors.

Or tickets are included (along with 100+ other attractions!) with The New York Pass. Our full review on The New York Pass can help you see if this is a good option for your trip!

The entrance to the Edge is on Level 4 of the Shops & Restaurants Mall in Hudson Yards. Then it’s a pretty fast elevator ride (we counted – it’s less than a minute!) up to the top.

Summit One

Views of Central park from SUMMIT One Vanderbilt in New York City
Views of Central Park from SUMMIT One Vanderbilt in New York City. Photo credit: Sainaniritu Depositphotos

Summit One Vanderbilt is an indoor observation deck that spans three floors of the One Vanderbilt building, which is currently the 4th tallest building in New York City. Although it’s indoors, the floor-to-ceiling glass windows ensure that you get insane views of New York City, including an awesome up-close view of the Empire State Building.

What makes Summit One unique, though, is that it’s also a digital art display. Using art and technology, it offers visitors an immersive experience that really takes the term “observation deck” to the next level, if you’ll forgive the pun. 

For example, there are two glass boxes that make you feel like you’re levitating as well as virtual reality experiences, mirrors, and interactive digital art displays. It’s so much fun and really futuristic! 

Tickets range from $46 to $53 USD, depending on the day and time of year you visit. You need to book tickets in advance and can choose a timeslot to go up between 9 am and 11 pm. One Vanderbilt is located right opposite Grand Central Station, so it makes sense to visit these two top attractions together! 

Money Saving Tip – Some of NYC’s best attractions unfortunately aren’t free. But that doesn’t mean you have to blow your budget to see them! We purchased a New York City attraction pass during our visit and it helped us save 30-40% on admission fees to top attractions like the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty. There are a few different options, but the top three are the New York CityPASS®, the New York Pass, and the New York Explorer Pass by Go City.

11. Have a drink at the oldest pub in NYC 

Bailey with two beers at McSorley's Old Ale House in New York City
Double fisting!
Four beers on a table at McSorley's Old Ale House in New York City
It’s an old-school pub!

When we say that McSorley’s Old Ale House is old school, we mean old school! New York may be full of glittering rooftop bars and swanky cocktail spots, but you just can’t beat McSorley’s. 

McSorley’s is the oldest – and greatest – pub in New York City, dating all the way back to 1854. It was founded by an Irish immigrant, Old John McSorley, and even managed to keep operating during Prohibition by serving patrons a “near beer” that had too little alcohol in it to concern the authorities. Since there was no brewery, this weak ale is said to have largely been made in bathtubs! 

Many famous figures have stopped here for a drink, from Abraham Lincoln to Harry Houdini – in fact, a pair of his handcuffs can be found hanging from the rafters! There’s also an original “wanted” poster for John Wilkes Booth, who assassinated President Lincoln.

McSorley’s didn’t allow women to drink here until 1970. In fact, it was only when several women sued the pub that they were allowed inside, despite the fact that it was owned by a woman at the time. A female restroom wasn’t installed until well into the 80s, so it’s safe to say that the court ruling probably wasn’t too well received.

Daniel and Bailey take a selfie at McSorley's Old Ale House in NYC

This place really is perfect if you love old bars. They still put sawdust on the floors, which is what bars used to do back in the day to soak up spilled drinks (and other liquids that we’d rather not think about!).

And as for the drinks menu, you’ve only got two choices: light or dark beer. We love the take-it-or-leave-it attitude that McSorley’s has.

A beer here is $5.50 USD but they serve double-fisted rounds, so you have to buy two drinks at once. To be fair, these are bargain prices by New York City standards! 

You’ll find McSorley’s on East 7th Street, between Noho and the Ukrainian Village. The Astor Place subway station is just a 3-minute walk away.

12. Explore the Chelsea Market 

The outside of the Chelsea Market in the meat packing district of New York City
The Chelsea Market!
Bailey in the Chelsea Market during our free time on our Chelsea Market food tour
The Chelsea Market is huge!

We took a food tour of the Chelsea Market and it was an awesome experience! But if you don’t want to do a tour, you can also explore on your own. 

As we mentioned earlier, the Chelsea Market building was once the headquarters of the National Biscuit Company, and the (not so) humble Oreo cookie was born here! It was transformed into a market and opened to the public in the 90s, and today it’s owned by Google. 

The Chelsea Market is widely regarded as one of New York City’s top foodie destinations, and we definitely agree with this! There are so many stalls here to explore, and you can find everything from New York classics like bagels and pizza slices to global cuisines and some very creative fusions. 

We loved the mini doughnuts at Doughnuttery, especially because there were so many kooky flavors of sugars and sauces to choose from. Meanwhile, Filaga Pizzeria has an insanely good NY slice, and Los Tacos No. 1 has the best tacos in New York City. If you don’t believe us, just check out the line! 

If you want to skip the lines and learn more about the market’s history, then this tour really is excellent. It costs $88 USD and as well as a guided food tour, you get some free time to check out the market’s boutiques and to walk along the High Line, which we loved. 

13. Go to a Speakeasy 

Daniel rings the phone at Please Don't Tell Speakeasy in New York City to gain entry
The payphone to get into Please Don’t Tell!
Bailey sips a cocktail at Please Don't Tell in New York City, NY
The cocktails are so good!

Speakeasies have a long (and checkered) history in New York City, so visiting one while you’re here is a fun addition to any trip! 

The Prohibition era started in 1919 when the production and sale of alcohol were banned over growing moral fears about its effects. But as is often the case when you ban something, Prohibition only made alcohol more attractive.

Speakeasies began springing up all over New York City during the 1920s. Since most of the legitimate, law-abiding bars had been shut down, these speakeasies were usually owned by organized crime groups. 

Broadly speaking, there were two kinds of speakeasies in the city. Blind Pigs were lower-class establishments and usually had some sort of animal entertainment. Meanwhile, Blind Tigers were higher-class watering holes with live jazz to dance to. The entrances were often hidden behind legitimate shops and restaurants.

Prohibition ended in December 1933, but there are still lots of speakeasies in the city. Of course, they’re legal nowadays, but they’re modeled on the secret bars of the 1920s and 30s, which makes them a lot of fun to visit. 

Our favorite speakeasy in New York is Please Don’t Tell. It’s a short walk from McSorley’s, so you could combine a visit! It’s hidden behind a hot dog restaurant and you can enter by going inside the phone box and dialing 1. Once you’re inside, you’ll find amazing cocktails! Because it’s so popular, be sure to make reservations online (sometimes as much as a week in advance!) to guarantee a spot.

The Woo Woo is another great one to visit. It’s located close to Times Square and pays homage to the seediness of the area in the 1980s before it was commercialized in the 90s. Even their website has an 80s-style interface – and you’ll need to check it out to find the secret password to get in! The Woo Woo also requires reservations online otherwise no promises you’ll get a table.

And if you’re really keen to learn more about the history of speakeasies in New York City (and visit a ton of them) then you can also book this fantastic speakeasy tour. You’ll hear so many stories about New York’s secret liquor scene and visit some amazing hidden spots that you’d probably never find on your own! Plus, you get skip-the-line entry into the bars, so you spend less time queuing and more time drinking. The tour costs $35 USD per person when you book online here but you’ll need to pay for your own drinks.

14. Go to a Broadway Show

Bailey at the Book or Moorman Theater on Broadway in New York City
Bailey at the Book of Mormon Theater on Broadway in New York City
The cast of Book of Moorman say thankyou after an awesome show on Broadway in New York City
The cast of Book of Mormon

Going to a Broadway show is a real New York City bucket list experience, and there are tons to choose from. We’re a bit divided when it comes to musicals: Bailey is a huge Broadway fan and has seen Rent, Chicago, the Lion King, and Spring Awakening. Daniel, meanwhile, is not a musical lover.

However, we saw the Book of Mormon on our recent trip to New York and we both loved it! It’s absolutely hilarious, and a great musical for first-timers. It was created by the writers of South Park, and honestly, we haven’t heard anyone say that they didn’t like it.

Meanwhile, the Lion King is one of Bailey’s favorites and it’s a legendary show. It’s been on Broadway since 1997, so they’re clearly doing something right. The music is amazing and the costumes and puppets are so impressive – and of course, everyone loves the story. Watching it live is a million times better than the Disney movie (which is still pretty great). 

You can book tickets for The Lion King on Viator, which is so much easier than queuing up at the last minute. Prices start from $145 USD for rear mezzanine seats, but they do go up on certain days due to demand.

And if you’re interested in the history of Broadway and want to learn some behind-the-scenes secrets, you can take this walking tour of the area, which is led by an actual Broadway performer! You’ll hear some fascinating backstage and audition stories and visit famous spots like Sardi’s, which is known for the many caricatures of Broadway stars that line its walls. The tour costs $39 USD per person and lasts for roughly two hours. It leaves at 4 pm, so it’s the perfect thing to do before enjoying an evening show!

15. Visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island 

The Statue of Liberty as seen from a cruise in New York City
It’s huge!
Building on Ellis Island on tour in New York City
Ellis Island!

The Statue of Liberty is an iconic symbol of not just New York, but the United States as a whole. She really sums up the famous American ideals of hope and freedom. 

Indeed, Lady Liberty was gifted to the US by France to mark 100 years of American independence, and to celebrate the close relationship between the two nations. The statue is based on the Roman goddess of Liberty, and the broken shackle and chains at her feet represent the abolition of slavery. 

The Statue of Liberty stands proud on Liberty Island, while Ellis Island was where millions of immigrants were processed when they arrived in New York until 1954 when the station closed down. After its arrival in 1890, the Statue of Liberty was often the first thing that these immigrants saw when they arrived in the city – talk about symbolic! 

As you would expect, cruises to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are very popular. I mean, visiting the Statue of Liberty is one of the top sights in New York City! We like this tour because it offers a range of different options, so you can choose the one that best suits your budget and schedule. 

A close up of the Statue of Liberty as seen on a Ellis Island and Statue of Liberty Cruise in New York City
Lady Liberty!

The tour begins at Castle Clinton in Battery Park, which was the first immigration station in the United States. Then, you take the ferry over to Liberty Island where you’ll see the magnificent Statue of Liberty and visit the museum where you’ll learn more about the history of this famous statue. 

You also get a guided tour of Ellis Island and the tour includes tickets to the Immigration Museum. It’s so interesting and having a guide with you means that you get to learn so much more, so we think this tour is really worth doing.

You can choose between a 30-minute tour, a 2-hour tour, and a 4-hour tour. We recommend going for the 4-hour option if you’ve got time. It’s so much more comprehensive and less rushed, and it only costs $10 USD more than the 2-hour option at $79 USD. It’s a no-brainer!

16. See the New York Public Library

Bailey stands out the front of the New York Public Library in New York City
So many shows and movies have scenes here!
Beautiful buildings inside the New York Public Library
It’s stunning!

The New York Public Library is another awesome free place to visit in New York City, and we loved it! The architecture is absolutely beautiful and the famous steps have been featured in many movies and TV shows, including Breakfast at Tiffany’sSpider-Man, and 13 Going on 30

The two lion sculptures outside are also really famous. Their names are Patience and Fortitude, and you’ll probably see lots of tourists snapping selfies with them.

The New York Public Library is free to explore so make sure you take advantage of it while you’re in the city. It was created in 1895 and opened to the public in 1911, and its Beaux-Arts architecture has served as inspiration for libraries all over the world.

The first room you’ll come to when you enter the library is Astor Hall. With its marble arches and huge staircase, this room is so grand that it’s often hired out for weddings. These stairs are just as famous as the ones outside, and I instantly recognized them from Sex and the City (it’s where Carrie gets left at the altar by Mr. Big!).

You should pay a visit to the Rose Reading Room, which made me think we were inside Hogwarts! There’s also a Children’s Center where we saw the original stuffed animals that inspired the Winnie the Pooh books.

We spent about one hour exploring the library. It’s located in Midtown, close to Times Square and right next to Bryant Park, so it’s really easy to find, and it’s a total must for book lovers! 

17. Visit the Rockefeller Center 

The Rockefeller Center in New York City
The Rockefeller Center in New York City
Bailey at the roller blading ring at the Rockefeller Center in New York City
It would be amazing in winter!

Rockefeller Center is a big complex in Midtown Manhattan that’s best known for its giant Christmas tree and ice skating rink in the winter. Visiting in the winter is a magical experience (and on my personal bucket list!) but it’s worth going at any time of year, especially to the Top of the Rock Observation Deck for awesome 360-degree views of New York City.

As you can probably deduce from the name, Rockefeller Center was built by the legendary Rockefeller family. Construction began in 1931 and the first building in the complex opened to the public in 1933, and it was completed in 1939. This all happened during the Great Depression, so it was a very significant achievement! 

There’s a ton to do in Rockefeller Center so it’s definitely worth checking out. Visiting the Top of the Rock is an awesome experience and you get great views of Central Park and the Empire State Building. You can get tickets at $44 USD and are also included with the New York CityPASS

If you come by during the winter months, ice skating is a must but if you’re visiting NYC in the summer, there’s a roller rink instead! Flipper’s Roller Boogie Palace is a legendary roller skating venue that began life in LA during the 1970s, and now they take up residence at Rockefeller Center between April and October. The rink is open from 12-10 pm daily (or until 11 pm on Friday/Saturday) and they’ve got live DJs playing funky tunes all afternoon and evening! 

You can also go and explore the landscaped Channel Gardens and do some shopping in the swanky indoor mall. There are also plenty of places to eat inside, including Alidoro, which serves really yummy Italian sandwiches. 

And as if all that weren’t enough, Rockefeller Center is also home to not one but two legendary entertainment venues: NBC Studios and Radio City Music Hall.

Top of the Rock in New York City
The Top of the Rock!

NBC Studios is where tons of super famous TV shows are produced and broadcast, including Saturday Night Live, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and America’s Got Talent. These shows aren’t exactly small fry in the broadcasting world. If you’re reallllly lucky, you can try to get free tickets to one of the shows taped here or take a tour of the studios.

Meanwhile, Radio City Music Hall is famed for its neon lights and art deco architecture. When it opened in December 1932, it was the largest auditorium in the world. It has been the home of the legendary dance troupe the Rockettes since it opened, and you can still watch them perform here to this day around the holiday season.

For the rest of the year, you can watch all kinds of shows and concerts at Radio City Music Hall. Tickets can be found on Ticketmaster, but if you just want to check out the venue you can do so via this stage door tour, which takes you behind the scenes and teaches you all about this iconic venue’s glittering history. You’ll even get to meet and have your picture taken with a Rockette! It costs $42 USD per person and is a fantastic way to see Radio City, even if you don’t take in a show.

18. Eat a New York Slice 

Pizza from the Chelsea Market we got to try on our Chelsea Market food tour
I must say, I loved the pizza!
Daniel eats a slice of pizza on a food tour in New York City

You can’t go to New York City and not eat a New York Slice! They’re legendary and SO good. Seriously, we might have lived off of this pizza if we could have!

Plus, it’s one of the best cheap things in NYC – they say that a regular slice should cost no more than a train ticket, which is about $2.75 USD. And by a regular slice, we mean just cheese and sauce, without any extra toppings. 

You can get New York slices all over the city. Some of the top places include John’s of Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village, Prince Street Pizza in Nolita, and Joe’s Pizza. The latter was born in the Village, too, but now has locations all over the city, including on Broadway and Wall Street! 

We also loved 2 Bros Pizza. There was a branch near our hotel so we went there a few times and it was really good. It’s not as famous, but we loved it! 

19. Admire St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Bailey stands out the front of the St. Patrick's Cathedral
You can’t miss it!
Inside the St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City
Inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City

St. Patrick’s Cathedral is a gorgeous neo-Gothic cathedral located right across from Rockefeller Center. You can either admire it from the outside or go inside for free and check out its stunning cross-ribbed vaults and marble arches. It kind of reminds me of a giant rib cage – but much prettier and more ornate! 

You don’t need to spend long here but, as I say, it really is stunning and it’s close to lots of other major attractions, including the giant Nintendo store, the Museum of Modern Art, and Grand Central Station, so it’s worth taking a quick walk to go and admire it. 

20. See Times Square at night 

Crowds of people in Times Square in New York City
Times Square!
Bailey poses for a photo at Times Square in New York City
Same place just during the day!

Times Square is one of the most famous places in New York City and you just have to go and see it lit up at night! The hundreds of lights and screens really do look amazing, and there’s a great atmosphere – even if it isn’t New Year’s Eve!

Times Square is easy to walk to if you’re already in or close to Midtown, or you can take the subway to Times Square – 42nd Street Station

You can also visit as part of this guided nighttime bus tour, which begins with an evening stroll along the High Line. We did this during the day and the skyline views were awesome, so we can imagine that it’s probably even better after dark (and not so hot!). You also get to ride past famous landmarks as they’re lit up at night and explore Times Square when it’s at its most brilliant. It costs $59 USD per person or you can add on a Top of the Rock Observation Deck ticket for an extra $35 USD.

Make sure to book your tickets here if you’re short on time, or just want a good overview of the city! 

And if you’d prefer a walking tour, this small group tour of the theater district is perfect. You’ll learn about backstage legends, get to explore some of New York’s most historic theaters and feel the buzz of this vibrant district by night. Your guide is involved in the theatre industry and may just break into song while they share stories about these famous theaters. The tour meets in front of the Majestic Theatre (the home of Phantom of the Opera) and is a must for theater lovers! There are only limited spots, so book your tickets now to nab one!

21. Eat a New York Bagel from Liberty Bagel

Bailey eats a Bagel from Liberty Bagels in New York City
Liberty Bagels are famous!
The New Yorker Bagel from Liberty Bagels in New York City
This is known as the New Yorker!

Liberty Bagels is known for its kettle-boiled bagels and homemade cream cheese. They’re famous for having the BEST bagels in New York and after having eaten them ourselves, we have to agree! 

There’s one on Broadway, one on Fifth Avenue, and one in Midtown, about a 10-minute walk from the Empire State Building. So if you’re staying in New York, chances are you’ll be close to a location!

Their most famous bagel is just a plain one with cream cheese, but there are tons of options available. I personally recommend ordering The New Yorker which comes with roast beef, egg, and a hashbrown. They’ve also got a fried chicken bagel that’s really good, so come with a big appetite!

22. See the Morgan Library 

Old books inside the Morgan Library in New York City
This is one of the best book collections!
Bailey walks around the Morgan Library in New York City
It’s a work of art!

This is another must-visit location for book lovers! The Morgan Library was founded in 1906 by J.P. Morgan – yes, the very one who founded the famous bank – to house his private collection of books and manuscripts from all over the world. 

The library itself is absolutely stunning. I felt a bit like Belle from Beauty and the Beast while wandering around here! The collection of books is seriously impressive too with a manuscript of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and writings from Marie Antoinette, among many other literary treasures.

Tickets cost $22 USD for adults, $14 USD for seniors, and $13 USD for students. There are free tours (included with your admission) at 12:30 pm every day except Monday when the library is closed, and these are really worth doing. But even if you can’t make it in time for a tour, we still highly recommend going because the extensive collection of books is really cool to see. 

23. Guided sightseeing tour

A street in New York City with the skyscrapers above
Exploring with a guide takes the stress out of our trip!
Bailey and Daniel take a selfie on a guided bus tour of New York City
On the bus!

We usually put sightseeing tours much higher up on our things to do lists, which just goes to show how many epic activities there are in New York City! 

A guided sightseeing tour is an awesome way to get acquainted with New York and it sets you up well for exploring independently later on. It’s a good idea to get familiar with different areas of the city or to try and see as much as possible if you’re short on time. 

We jumped on this top-rated sightseeing tour and can vouch that you really do see it all in one day. You’ll cover a ton of things we’ve talked about on this list, including visiting Rockefeller Center, seeing St. Patrick’s Cathedral, glimpsing famous buildings like the Flatiron, driving through areas like The Village and Chinatown, visiting the 9/11 Memorial, and riding the Staten Island Ferry for awesome views of the Statue of Liberty.

For $99 USD, booking this tour is a really great way to get to know New York City and tick off some of its most famous sights. Cruising around the city on a bus is a lot of fun and you learn lots from the commentary, plus you’re hopping off often to take pictures and get little mini-tours of famous places along the way. It’s such an exciting introduction to the Big Apple.

Related Read: If you don’t want this trip to end, check out all our tips on how to afford to travel long-term!

24. Check out Philadelphia 

Bailey poses for a photo with liberty bell in Philadelphia on a tour from New York City
Liberty Bell!
Inside Independence Hall in Philadelphia on a tour from New York City
Independence Hall!

We have a whole list of the best day trips from Manhattan and Philly ranks high on it! Plus, it’s a must-visit for history lovers. It’s the birthplace of the United States of America (yes, really!) and where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed.

There are so many historic highlights in Philadelphia but the main ones include the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and Betsy Ross House, aka the spot where the first American flag was sewn! Before you take off, check out our top things to do in Philly blog to see it all!

Philly is also home to some famous food, most notably Philly Cheesesteak. You can also try Tomato Pie, which is basically just pizza without cheese. Questionable, sure, but still worth trying while you’re here! We tried both of those, along with many other local favorites while on a food tour in Philly!

You can take a Greyhound or Flix bus from NYC to Philly for as little as $30 USD return, which takes around two hours each way. You can also take a train for a similar price, or find high-speed train tickets that cost around $120 USD and take just over an hour each way. 

Of course, if you want to visit Philadelphia in a single day, a guided tour is the easiest way to do it, as all of the planning is taken care of for you. We think that this tour to Philadelphia is awesome because for $179 USD per person, you get to experience Philly’s historic highlights, like Independence Hall and Efreth’s Alley before visiting Lancaster Country – aka Amish Country. This is an awesome opportunity to see how Amish people really live, which is not a chance that comes around very often (not in our experience, anyway!). It’s a long day, but a neat day trip from NYC, so book your quick trip to Philly here!

25. Wander Greenwich Village

Beautiful buildings in Greenwich Village New York City
Greenwich Village is so cute!
Cute door at Greenwich Village New York City
So cute!

Greenwich Village is New York’s famously bohemian neighborhood. It’s also where the Friends from that iconic TV show lived – you can even go and see the apartment building that was used for the facade shots!

As well as the beloved six comedy characters, lots of real-life famous faces have called the Village home, including Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan.

This area is where New York’s modern LGBT movement was born and has long been associated with beatniks, artists, and counterculture in general. It has been gentrified quite a lot in recent years, in part due to its now-famous artistic reputation and also due to the expansion of the NYU campus, which is a point of contention among locals.

But be that as it may, the Village is still definitely worth visiting and does retain a lot of the character that made it so well known.

For one thing, it’s home to lots of Off-Broadway theaters. These are small theaters that seat less than 500 people. Lots of famous musicals like HamiltonRock of Ages, and Avenue Q (to name but a few!) started Off-Broadway, so you never know – you might just catch the next big hit! 

The most famous Off-Broadway theater in New York is Cherry Lane Theatre, which has been running since 1924 and welcomed famous faces including Barbara Streisand (who also used to live in the Village). The Players Theatre is also really well known, as is the Minetta Lane Theatre. Tickets for Off-Broadway shows are a lot cheaper than they are for the big Broadway productions, so it’s worth checking out what’s on while you’re here.

There are also lots of vintage boutiques around, particularly on Bleecker Street, where I like to wander around and sometimes you can find some real designer gems!

Make sure to wander along MacDougal Street as well. It’s THE quintessential Greenwich Village Street, and it’s lined with more than 60 restaurants and plenty of fun dive bars. It was originally built to house stables for the wealthy, which were later converted into workshops that were used by the likes of Jackson Pollock. Stop at Mamoun’s Falafel, which is where it was popularized in New York, or stop at Caffe Reggio where scenes from The Godfather were filmed.

Washington Square Arch in Greenwich Village New York City
Washington Square Arch in Greenwich Village New York City

And if you come here in the evening, you can catch a show at the Comedy Cellar, where up-and-coming comedians perform 15-minute sets. Afterward, you can head to Marie’s Crisis Cafe which is a super fun piano bar and the ultimate Greenwich Village dive bar (and we do love a good dive bar!).

If you find the artsy, star-studded history of Greenwich Village as interesting as we do (and love eating food as much as us!) then you’ll love this walking food tour of the area. As well as visiting all of the Village’s top spots and trying falafel, pizza, and cupcakes, you’ll learn a ton about its fascinating past and get lots of insider knowledge. For $95 USD, we think it’s good value given all of the food that’s included along with time to explore one of New York’s coolest areas. This tour has HUNDREDS of 5-star reviews, so make sure to book online here so you don’t miss out!

Just in case you don’t book the tour, plan to check out the famous John’s of Bleecker Street pizza spot. It’s one of the best in the area! There’s almost always a line, but it moves fast – so expect a 10-25-minute wait, but I promise it’s worth it!

26. Eat an NYC hot dog 

A hot dog at Times Square in New York City, New York
They are surprisingly good!
Daniel at a hot dog stand in New York City
Dan loves them!

If you want to experience New York like a true New Yorker, then eating an NYC hotdog is a must. 

And before you ask: yes, New York hot dogs really are different from the ones you find elsewhere in the world! 

New York hot dogs are made with beef, rather than pork, and are topped with sauerkraut and spicy brown mustard. You can have onions too, but they’re optional. They really are delicious, which is probably why New York is often associated with hot dogs. To be honest, I didn’t really get it until I went and tried one for myself.

There are hot dog carts all over NYC so there’s no need to try and find a specific one. If you visit Please Don’t Tell, the speakeasy we mentioned earlier in this post, you can grab a hotdog from Crif Dogs, which is the hot dog shop that the bar hides behind.

27. Walk the High Line 

The High Line Trail with views of the skyscrapers in NYC
You literally walk among the skyscrapers!
View of New York City from the High Line Trail
The views are amazing!

The High Line is an elevated park located on the West Side of Manhattan. It was built on a former freight railway line that was due to be demolished but was saved and converted into an amazing walking trail above the city thanks to community efforts.

The trail is 1.45 miles (2.3 kilometers) one-way. It runs between Gansevoort Street and West 34th Street, right near Hudson Yards. You can access it via stairs, and there are also ramps and elevators for wheelchair users. It’s also totally free to visit, so take advantage! 

As well as a trail, it’s also a public park where you’ll find playgrounds, exercise classes, art installations, and places to eat and drink (although most of these close during the winter). 

Hearth on the High Line, for example, is an open-air wine bar at 15th Street where you can grab a drink and soak up glorious views of the Hudson River. You can also stop at the Malai ice cream cart on 22nd Street for some artisanal South Asian ice cream. New York’s food scene never disappoints! 

We visited the High Line as part of this specific guided tour which also took us to the Chelsea Food Market, so we were too full to buy more snacks, but we did grab some coffee along the way. 

We loved the views from the High Line and it’s clear that a lot of TLC goes into maintaining this park. It’s so unique and unlike any other urban park you’re likely to come across, so it deserves a spot on your agenda.

28. Take the historic Staten Island Ferry

Views of New York City from the Staten island Ferry in New York City
Views of New York City from the Staten Island Ferry in New York City

The Staten Island Ferry is a free ferry service connecting Manhattan and Staten Island. It runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so this should be super easy to fit into your New York City itinerary!

Back in the day, free ferries were used to connect the different boroughs of New York before bridges and subway lines were built. Today, the Staten Island Ferry is the only route still in operation, so it’s super historic as well as a great free thing to do. The ferries were even featured in Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies. 

The Staten Island Ferry provides awesome views of the New York skyline and the Statue of Liberty, so we definitely think it’s worth doing. The fact that it’s free makes it even better!

There are also some cool activities available on Staten Island itself, like visiting the quirky Booze History Museum or the Kreischer Mansion, a haunted Victorian mansion where a grizzly Mafia murder took place in 2005. You can also check out Historic Richmond Town, a living history village that demonstrates what life was like in the US as far back as the 1600s.

The ferry rides aren’t ticketed (so don’t let any scammers try to sell you a ticket!) and you can’t reserve a spot in advance. Instead, you just head to Whitehall Terminal, which is near Battery Park, and catch the next available ferry. They depart every 30 minutes during the day and more frequently between the morning and afternoon rush hours (6-9 am and 3:30-8 pm). We recommend going during the middle of the day if you can, as this is when the ferry is the least crowded and you can enjoy a more relaxed ride. 

29. Visit Little Italy 

Biley enjoys a meal at L'Amore Restaurant in little Italy New York City
Bailey in Little Italy, NYC
Little Italy!

Little Italy is one of the most atmospheric neighborhoods in New York City. It really gives you a sense of what New York City was like during the 20th century and we really enjoyed walking around here.

There are some awesome specialty stores around which you should definitely check out if you love to cook Italian food at home. And make sure to walk down Mulberry Street and check out some of the LISA Project murals. I love the portrait of Audrey Hepburn! 

Of course, one of the biggest draws of Little Italy is the food. We ate at L’Amore Ristorante and it was amazing! It’s a really authentic spot and we loved our meal. 

If you want to experience all of Little Italy’s best food spots, then you can take this food tour which has tastings in both Chinatown and Little Italy. We really appreciate the fact that it focuses on local, family-owned businesses and teaches you so much more about the history of Little Italy. The tour costs $79 USD and you can go at either lunch or dinner time. So book the tour online here and come hungry, because the food doesn’t disappoint!

30. See the Charging Bull of Wall Street 

The Charging Bull of Wall Street, New York City
The Charging Bull of Wall Street, New York City

Wall Street’s famous Charging Bull statue is very popular, so it’s worth a quick stop! 

The statue plays on the term “bull market”, which means a period of time when investment prices are rising. It’s an optimistic symbol and it was actually illegally placed right outside the New York Stock Exchange in 1989. During this time, the US was experiencing a harsh economic downturn after the Black Monday market crash of 1987, and artist Arturo Di Modica wanted to send a message of encouragement.

Di Modica decided to ask for forgiveness instead of permission. He carefully monitored police patrols to find his window of opportunity and dropped the bull there late at night! The NYPD removed it and moved it to Bowling Green, where it still stands today.

31. Have fun on Coney Island

Coney Island in New York City
Coney Island in New York City

Coney Island is basically a giant playground in the borough of Brooklyn! 

With its bright colors, beaches, boardwalks, carnival snacks, and amusement rides, Coney Island is the quintessential American seaside destination. It’s been beloved among locals and tourists for well over a century now, and it’s such a fun day out. And while we think it’s perfect for families, adults love this place just as much as kids do.

If you love rollercoasters, be sure to check out the legendary Coney Island Cyclone in Luna Park. It’s a classic wooden roller coaster that’s almost 100 years old! There are enough rides to make your stomach do a flip-flop, like a swing boat, a slingshot, and a somersault ride – at least that’s what happened to me!

We loved walking down the boardwalk, and you can stop off along the way to relax on the golden sand. And of course, we also had to treat ourselves to some classic Coney Island treats like cotton candy or one of the famous hotdogs from Nathan’s

Coney Island isn’t actually an island (not anymore, anyway), it’s a peninsula, so you don’t need a ferry to get here. You can take the D, F, N, and Q subway lines to Stillwell Ave Station, or take the B28 or B38 express bus from Midtown Manhattan. 

There’s also a parking lot here if you have a rental car and want to drive. Parking costs $13 USD per day during the week, $20 USD on weekends, and $27 USD when there’s a special event being held.

32. Day trip to Washington DC

Bailey out the front of The Capital Building in Washington DC on a tour from New York City
The Capitol!
Bailey and Daniel Take a selfie with the Lincoln Memorial in Washington Dc
Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC

Washington, DC, is a must-see while you’re in the United States! We just had to check out the historic monuments and memorials in the capital city, including the White House, the U.S. Capitol Building, and the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. It’s amazing to see them in real life.

It’s a 4-hour drive from New York to Washington, DC, so you’re better off spending the night and booking a hotel like we did. However, you really can’t miss a visit to the USA’s iconic capital, so if you’ve only got one day to visit DC then we highly recommend taking a tour. Then at least you can snooze on the way there and back! 

We think that this day trip to Washington, DC is a great choice for a quick tour because you get to see so many places in a single day without having to worry about transportation or navigation. You’ll start with a visit to Arlington Cemetery, where thousands of military personnel are buried. It’s also the final resting place of President John F. Kennedy, and his grave is marked by an eternal flame. 

Then, you’ll see the Capitol, the White House, and the Senate, and visit several famous war memorials that pay tribute to those who died in the Vietnam and Korean wars, as well as the Lincoln Memorial. 

The day trip concludes with a visit to either the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History or the Air and Space Museum, and then you head back to NYC. There’s free WiFi on the bus so you can stream a movie on the journey, too! The tour costs $169 USD. We think it’s a great way to visit the capital from New York, so book your day trip here!

If you have some extra time, check out our guides to the best things to do in Washington D.C. or to visiting Georgetown (which was actually our favorite neighborhood!).

33. Have a beach day on Long Island (Long Beach) 

Bailey and her friend sit at the beach on Long Island and Long Beach, New York
Hanging in Long Beach with friends!
Bailey watches the sunset on Long Island in Long Beach, New York
The beaches are stunning!

If you’re craving a beach day, then get yourself out to Long Island

Long Island is, well, a long island (shocker!) about 51 mi (82 km) east of New York City. This very literally named destination is famous for its beaches, and being the home of Billy Joel. 

We love Long Beach, which is a barrier island to the south of Long Island. It boasts 4 miles (6.5 km) of beautiful, white sand beaches, and we particularly enjoy heading to the South Side. We found that it had the best beach area and lots of great restaurants, including Lost and Found, where we had an amazing meal! The service was impeccable and there was a great atmosphere, too.

It costs $15 USD per person to get a day pass for the beach, but we definitely thought that it was worth it. You can buy passes there or online ahead of time. This is a classic holiday destination for New Yorkers and there are lifeguards, showers, and restrooms. Plus, it’s so beautiful, and it’s hard to believe it’s so close to New York City and its insane urban landscape.

You can take the Long Island Rail Road train from Penn Station to Long Beach, which gets you there in around 45 minutes. The service runs 24/7, so you don’t need to worry too much about timings and can enjoy a leisurely beach day instead! 

Where to Stay in New York City

Bailey with her luggage in New york City
Ready to check in!

New York City is huge – there is just no other way to put it! Even Manhattan (the area you’ll want to base yourself in) is a lot bigger than you think. That’s why choosing the right hotel in the right location is so important during your stay in New York.

Below, we’ve simplified it all for you by choosing a couple of the very best hotels available in the city. All three of these options have ideal locations close to attractions and the subway system. They all have amazing reviews, too, so just choose the one in your budget category and you’ll be ready to pack your bags!

Motto by Hilton – $$$

Motto by Hilton is a gorgeous hotel located in the Chelsea neighborhood only 600 meters from the Flatiron Building. The hotel features modern decor that has “speakeasy vibes.” In fact, they have a beautiful bar onsite that looks like the perfect place to sip an Old Fashioned. There are a variety of rooms on offer including some that are a little more budget-friendly, and some that are pure luxury with city views! Prices start from about $400 USD per night plus tax.

You can check prices and availability for Motto by Hilton online here!

Delta Hotels by Marriott New York Times Square – $$

Delta Hotels by Marriott New York Times Square is where we stayed the last time we visited New York, and honestly, we loved it! This hotel is the perfect combination of comfort and value for money. It was clean, modern, and our room had all of the amenities we needed for an enjoyable stay (air conditioning, k-cup coffee maker, steamer, large shower, big windows, etc). Plus, the location is ideal – it’s only a couple blocks from Times Square!

Prices do range, but they do go as low as $200 USD per night plus tax depending on the time of year and day of the week. You can check prices and book online here!

Nap York Central Park Sleep Station – $

For those traveling on a tight budget, Nap York is a budget hostel that’s an ideal choice. Although affordable, this property is immaculate and offers a ton of amenities for a great stay including air conditioning and a shared kitchen. The rooms are modern and the location is about as central as it gets! This property only offers dorm rooms, but they are affordable at as little as $100 USD per night.

You can check prices and book Nap York online on either or Hostelworld.

Thanks for reading!

Daniel and Bailey take a selfie in Brooklyn Heights with views of Manhattan in the background
Thanks for reading!

Whew, that’s quite the list of all the best things to do in New York City! Whether you check all these activities off during your trip or just pick a few favorites, I hope this guide will help you discover what makes the Big Apple so special. I mean it’s the City that Never Sleeps, so it’s worth skipping out on some shut-eye to take in all the best activities! We can’t wait to go back again … I know the New York hot dogs and pizza are calling my name!

Before booking your plane tickets to NYC, have a look around our blog for more ideas and inspiration for your trip. Check out our other blogs about travel in the USA and Canada including a few popular ones below:

BEST New York Pass – Comparison of the Best Passes in NYC

12 BEST Tours in Toronto, Canada

10 Things to Know BEFORE Booking a New York City Food Tour + 5 BEST Tours

Backpacking as a Couple: How to Survive Travelling With Your Partner