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Often referred to as the capital of the world, the Big Apple has something for all tastes and moods – you can literally find everything here!
But NYC almost has too much to choose from. With so many options, it can be a nightmare trying to figure out what to do to maximize your time.
Don’t worry – this is exactly why we wrote this epic guide of the 16 best things to do in New York!
Written by our travel experts, this insider guide shows you the ultimate things to do in NYC. Whether you are looking for something fun, something free or anything in between – this list has it all.
Let’s jump into the best things to do in New York… some of them might even shock you!
PS Be sure to check out these other amazing guides to save you time and money on your trip!
Table of Contents
New York could almost be synonymous with fun … there’s certainly never a dull moment! Day and night, there’s always plenty to keep you entertained and engaged.
Hold onto your seats and get ready to be dazzled on this theatrical tour of New York. Board a fun bus, take your seat, and see the sights like never before.
Watch as New York’s bustling streets are transformed into a giant stage, aboard a bus that’s complete with a top-of-the-range surround-sound system, the latest AV tech, and stadium-style seats. From street entertainers to Broadway, there’s plenty of cool drama.
Speakers let the bus interact with the streets too, adding another layer to your trip. Performances are hosted in front of well-known spots such as Central Park, Grand Central Station, and 42nd Street. You can experience the atmosphere of Broadway in a totally new way and see New York from a completely different perspective.
Fans of Gossip Girl will be elated with this chic and swish tour. Not only will you get to see plenty of places from the show but you’ll also be able to enjoy New York at its elegant, stylish, and high-class best. Get ready to step into the world of New York’s elite!
A young actress will lead the tour through many of the 40-odd filming sites around the city. Pass swanky shops, loved by real-life socialites as well as the show’s characters, including Vera Wang and Henri Bendel.
Pay a visit to the Empire Hotel. Pout at the Met Steps. Stop by Grand Central Terminal. See and be seen at St. Jude’s and Constance Billard. This tour really packs a punch.
The soaring Empire State Building is one of NYC’s most iconic structures. It also offers the most incredible bird’s eye views of the city spread out beneath you. Ride the elevator 1,050 feet above street level for the most awesome snaps and selfies.
Don’t worry if the weather isn’t being favourable on the day that you plan to visit as you can change the dates and go whenever you want within a month.
Although the observation deck is very often a highlight, your visit also includes a peek inside the elegant Art Deco lobby, an exhibit on sustainability (showing how the building became more sustainable and lowered its energy consumption), and the Dare to Dream exhibition that will take you on a journey back in time.
Another great tour for TV addicts, this trip will take you to places you’ll recognise from the iconic show and movie, Sex and the City. Some guests like to go dressed as their favourite character for even more fun, though you certainly don’t have to if you don’t want to.
Travel through Manhattan and visit the favourite haunts of the characters, from bars, restaurants, and shops to a church and other landmarks.
Examples include a furniture store where Aidan got creative, the church where Samantha and the Friar got to know each other, Steve and Aidan’s bar, the shop where Charlotte purchased her Rabbit, and the scene of Carrie and Big’s wedding rehearsal. Splash the cash at Greenwich Village to really immerse yourself in the day!
New York is an ideal destination for lovebirds, with plenty of romantic experiences to enjoy together. Share a meal in a swanky restaurant, treat each other on a shopping spree, sip cocktails in ambient surroundings, admire stunning views … there are many options!
For the ultimate in romance soar through the skies over New York City in an exciting helicopter ride and see the city like never before … all while sitting with the love of your life. It’s certainly an activity that will impress!
Take off from Manhattan and spend 30 minutes soaking up the sights from above in a deluxe aircraft. The tour is narrated and you won’t miss a thing, thanks to the large glass windows.
Sights include the stretching Hudson River, the iconic Statue of Liberty, the expansive Central Park, the large New York Harbour, the skyscraping beauties of the Empire State Building and the Rockefeller Center, and the famous Brooklyn Bridge.
Seeing natural wonders is often a great way to spend time with your sweet, and what could be more impressive than admiring the majesty of the awesome Niagara Falls while with your partner?
You’ll travel to the world-famous cascades in style on a comfortable bus, stopping en route to stretch your legs and have a snack. You can enjoy glorious views of the Appalachian Mountains as you travel too.
The trip will let you see the natural splendour from several perspectives and, if you like, you can book an optional boat ride on the river. There’s also the option to explore the Niagara Falls State Park before returning back to the city with your head filled with glorious images and your camera bursting with scenic photos.
Recommended article – New York’s 30 Best Museums (some that tourists never see)!
The large Central Park, located in Manhattan, is one of the most romantic spots in all of New York City. Plan to spend at least a few hours enjoying the park’s varied activities and attractions, and perhaps pack a picnic to make your outing that extra bit special.
A variety of flora and fauna call the park home, including diverse species of birds, opossums, raccoons, and squirrels. There are also different insects, butterflies, flowers, and trees. Natural features throughout the park include lakes and ponds, gardens, hills, and meadows.
Interesting sculptures and statues are scattered throughout the park, creating more visual distractions. Particularly cool pieces include the ancient Egyptian obelisk of Cleopatra’s Needle, the bronze King Jagiello Monument, Alice in Wonderland, and Balto the sled dog.
Cuddle up to your sweetheart in the back of a horse-drawn carriage, giggle as you row a boat or paddle or kayak, cycle, bask in the sunshine, or take a stroll. Adventurous couples may like to have a go at rock climbing, and skating is popular in the winter months.
Kids and adults alike cannot help but fall under the spell of magical New York. There’s so much to capture the attention and engage curious minds. Nonetheless, kids can tire and get bored quickly so it helps to have a few plans up your sleeve.
Housing some 4,000 creatures from all corners of the earth, the Bronx Zoo is the biggest city zoo in the USA. A bonus is that many of the animals live in large enclosures that replicate their natural habitats as much as possible, rather than being cooped up in small, sad cages.
Travel the world through the Americas to Africa, the Arctic, and Asia, seeing animals like gorillas, tigers, zebras, lemurs, lions, giraffes, and much, much more. The children’s zoo lets kids get up close and personal with an assortment of smaller, tame creatures, which is always a hit.
You can watch animals being fed, and there are plenty of spots to eat and drink yourself when a pit stop is needed. Play areas add to the fun and you can stop little legs from tiring out too quickly by riding the monorail and tram. Your kids are sure to thank you for a day at the zoo!
Love to read history? Check out our secret guide about 31 AMAZING facts about the history of New York!
A captivating place for kids and adults alike, the Natural History Museum is home to more than 32 million specimens, spread across a whopping 45 zones. Learn more about the natural world throughout the ages as well as geology, space, the oceans, and more. The living butterfly house is enchanting for people of all ages.
Many kids cannot help but be drawn to the displays on dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures, and other highlights include the planetarium, fossils, displays related to reptiles, and various mammal exhibitions. Younger children can have heaps of fun in the hands-on Discovery Room too.
Aimed at younger members of the family, the colourful, educational, and fun Children’s Museum of Manhattan is great for kids aged six and younger. Children can learn how kids live in other parts of the world and learn more about different countries and cultures. Diverse workshops let children learn an array of new skills and get creative.
In the summer months, the water play area is sure to delight, causing plenty of giggles and laughter. There are many opportunities for children to play, mingle with other young people, and let off steam.
Brooklyn Children’s Museum dates back to the late 1890s and it was the world’s first dedicated kids’ museum. The large museum has a diverse collection of exhibits and artefacts to appeal to younger minds, with everything from dolls and musical instruments to fossils and skeletons.
Your little ones can have a ball playing pretend in the replica shops and take part in a variety of activities. The aquarium and garden add even more interest.
The costs can quickly mount up in the Big Apple. Help to keep costs down by including a few of New York’s great free activities and attractions in your itinerary.
Before rushing off to take a tour why not look into the Staten Island Ferry? Used by locals for commuting and a terrific way for tourists to admire terrific views of the iconic Statue of Liberty, the ride is totally free.
Gaze upon the global symbol as you cross the New York Harbour, itself a great experience with plenty of photo opportunities that will help to keep your Instagram feed fresh and interesting. With almost 20 million people using the service each and every year, it must be doing something right!
New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is one of the city’s most renowned art exhibitions. Indeed, it’s one of the world’s finest modern art museums. Great news for fans of contemporary art: it’s also completely free to enjoy on Friday afternoons/evenings between 4pm and 8pm.
Audio guides are available in various languages to help you appreciate the pieces more and gain greater understanding about what you are looking at. Kids can have fun here too, with hands-on displays and learning centres that cater to younger minds.
Artists represented here include Vincent Van Gogh, Henri Matisse, Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, Frida Kahlo, Salvador Dali, and Paul Cézanne.
Think of New York’s famous areas and it would be tough not to include Times Square in your thoughts. The exciting neighbourhood is nicknamed the Centre of the Universe and the Crossroads of the World, among other things. It’s a major entertainment and commercial district as well as being a hugely popular tourist area.
The flashing lights, billboards, crowds, and cacophony of sounds provide a complete sensory overload and it’s a place that has to be experienced to be fully believed.
While there are many cool things to do in the area, simply taking a wander and soaking up the sights and atmosphere is completely free. Look out for the huge Coca-Cola sign, Planet Hollywood, the Disney Store, and PlayStation Theater, walk along Broadway, gaze up at One Times Square and other soaring skyscrapers, and escape to a place of tranquillity in the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin.
There’s no denying that Times Square is a buzzing place both by day and by night.
New York is as exciting by night as it is in the daytime. Some might say even more so! Bright neon lights grab your attention and you’ll find everything from gourmet fine-dining restaurants to fast-food diners and burger bars to satisfy your appetite. There are many places to drink, dance, and party, and you’ll also find things that are completely unique.
Dine differently and board a three-hour cruise for a sumptuous buffet dinner and plenty of marvellous sights. Feast your eyes on the city skyline and see bright lights twinkling and reflecting off the water.
Take your seat at the candlelit tables before helping yourself to delicacies like roasted pork, sole, pasta, various salads, and cheese and corn casserole, before rounding off with sweet treats like vanilla mousse, fresh fruits, and red velvet brownie.
Once you’ve eaten you can burn some calories on the dance floor while the DJ keeps the tunes pumping, or stroll around the boat and enjoy the views.
One of the world’s best places for theatre, a night on Broadway promises to be a fun affair. The Theater District is home to more than 40 larger theatres, as well as many more smaller and more intimate places to watch a performance.
Big names in the theatre industry regularly headline and you’ll also find scores more up-and-coming actors and actresses. From long-running shows that are household names in many parts of the world to more quirky, independent and arty shows, there’s something to keep everyone happy.
While many shows on Broadway are musicals, you’ll also find plays, poetry, magic, and concerts, among other genres of performed art.
Dress up smartly and go sip a cocktail in one of Manhattan’s swanky bars. Chic and stylish, the rooftop bars often offer the ultimate in sophistication. You can see and be seen alongside New York’s elite and, who knows, you may even have the chance to rub shoulders with a celeb or two.
Admire the skyline views at night in diverse lofty venues. Some have lush gardens, some have dance floors, some serve delectable cuisine, some have live music … there’s a swish rooftop bar to suit all tastes.
With such diversity, compiling a list of the best things to do in New York is never going to be an easy task. But, our expert team has done it so you don’t have to!
With the help of this guide, you’ll know what some of the most interesting things to do in NYC are, and you’ll have a ton of options for activities!
Have a blast! Did we miss any of the best things to do in New York? Let us know in the comments below.
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Gin lover. Coffee addict. Nicola has traveled the world for 7 years and is a staff writer for Hotel Jules. Born in London, Nicola first got the taste of travel studying abroad in Barcelona. Since then she's been hooked - traveling the world non-stop. Passionate about green travel and vegan lifestyle, Nicola spends more of her free time staring at maps wondering where she will head to next!