New York is an incredible city to explore! It’s a hive of activity, buzzing with life, culture and loads of foodie haunts to fill up at. That being said, with all these best things to do in New York, it can be hard to prioritize just a few of the best areas of the city.
That being said, there’s a massive amount of free things to do in New York that you’ll probably end up spending months trying to see. Obviously, if you’re heading across for a long weekend or a quick stopover, then you’ll want to cram in as much as you can.
Truthfully, New York is the kind of city that’s always changing and pretty exciting to explore, even if you’ve been more than once. I’ve popped across the pond countless times and each stay in New York has been completely different.
With that in mind, I wanted to share some of the best things to do in New York on your next trip to the Big Apple. Have the best time in the city!
1.) Visit the Vessel
Perched in Hudson’s Yard, visiting the Vessel is easily one of the best things to do in New York as it has become so iconic in the city.
Now, you will need a ticket to enter, but these are totally free.
Just make sure to book yours weeks before your visit and you’ll receive an allotted time to pop up and around the Vessel itself.
It’s a really great place to explore and totally easy to include after a stroll up the Highline, too.
2.) See the Morgan Library
Okay, so the Morgan Library was somewhere we only just discovered on our last trip to New York. I honestly can’t believe we hadn’t been before.
Perched in Midtown, relatively close to the Top Of The Rock, it’s a great place to see one of the most incredible (once private) libraries in all of New York.
Tickets are relatively cheap and you can easily spend an hour wandering around the rooms and learning more about this grand library. It’s stunning.
3.) Visit the Statue of Liberty
Probably the most symbolic place to see in New York, seeing the Statue of Liberty is easily one of the best things to do in New York.
Now, there are a number of ways to visit, or, at least see the Statue of Liberty from different vantage points. If you fancy visiting, book a ticket and catch the tour boats that leave from Battery Park itself. This tour allows you to hop off on the island and also visit Ellis Island, too.
That being said, if you just want to get a good view, hop on the Staten Island (free) ferry or one of the ticketed tour boats that traverse the bay area.
4.) Brunch at Bubby’s
Okay, so Bubby’s is one of my total favourite places in New York for brunch. In fact, I always try to pop in at least once when we head to the Big Apple.
Honestly, they serve up the biggest plate of pancakes and they have a totally thirst-quenching spiked lemonade. Just make sure to book a table online before you visit. It does get very busy!
5.) Gorge at Katz Diner
Perched in the Lower East Side, one of the best areas in New York, Katz Diner has become something of an institution in the city. Expect a no-frills service but with the mightiest sandwiches, you’ve ever seen.
Honestly, make sure to have an appetite before you head in. You’ll leave stuffed.
Afterwards, pop over to the nearby Tenement Museum that’s well worth a gander, especially if you’re into the history of New York.
6.) Watch the sunset at Top Of The Rock
So there are quite a few viewpoints across Manhattan, but one of my favourites has to be at the Top Of The Rock.
Perched at the tip of the Rockefeller Center, it’s got some epic views across all of New York.
Now, to get the best views, book a sunset ticket to watch the city turn from day into night.
Just make sure to book it online before you head to New York; these tickets run out fast. It really is one of the best things to do in New York if you love some epic views.
7.) Visit Grand Central Station
Probably one of the prettiest train stations in the United States, Grand Central Station is a totally beautiful station that’s well worth seeing whilst in Manhattan.
Take a stroll through the main concourse and see the stunning vaulted ceilings.
8.) Walk the Highline
Over the last ten years, or so, the Highline has become one of the best things to do in New York; especially on a sunny day.
using disused train and metro lines, the Highline has become an oasis of green in the city that weaves in and out of the streets of Manhattan.
Take a wander across a section, or walk the whole route. Just make sure to wear some comfy shoes.
9.) Explore the Lower East Side
The Lower East Side is one of the best areas in all of New York; especially with its small markets, coffee spots and history, too.
As I mentioned before, take a look around the Tenenmant Museum, visit Katz Deli and explore the craft stalls and thrift stores that make this area of New York totally unique.
10.) Visit Dumbo
Okay, so Dumbo has become increasingly popular for those that want an iconic photo opportunity whilst visiting New York. Over the river, in Brooklyn, it’s a great little area to visit for a pic (and lunch) after taking a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.
Also, once you’re here, pop into Brooklyn Flea that’s about a five-minute walk away and filled with a myriad of treasures! Honestly, it’s one of the best things to do in New York, especially if you love thrift shopping.
Afterwards, head over to Westville for a hearty lunch, too. They serve up some of the tastiest food in Brooklyn. We literally stuffed our faces here!
11.) Go Bar Hopping in Williamsburg
Over the last five years, Williamsburg has become a hot spot for cool bars, restaurants and live music spots that’s well worth exploring on a night out.
Some firm favourite to visit are; the Fresh Kills Bar with in-house mixologists, Donna for some tasty experimental cocktails and live DJs and Westlight for some rooftop views.
12.) Walk the Brooklyn Bridge
Taking around thirty to forty minutes to stroll (slowly), walking the Brooklyn Bridge is easily one of the best things to do in New York. Now, if you’re feeling a little lazy (or the weather is bad) take an Uber or cab across the Bridge and visit spots like Brooklyn Heights or Williamsburg.
That being said, if it’s a sunny day, walking the Brooklyn Bridge is just lovely and a great way to see some views of Manhattan itself.
13.) Visit Ellis Island
Once the immigration centre for the United States, it has a similar history to Angel Island in San Francisco. Take a wander around the clearing centres and learn more about the immigration history of the United States.
For both islands, I’d give around four hours as it can take a little time to go through security and see each island itself.
14.) Visit Coney Island
Coney Island has a long history and visiting the fair is easily one of the best things to do in New York if you want to see some of the city’s heritage.
Once here, take a wander across the promenade, hop onto some of the fairground rides and grab yourself some candy floss or salt water taffy, too.
15.) Take a helicopter flight over the city
So, one of the best things to do in New York is to see the city from above. One of the easiest ways to do this is from iconic viewpoints or on a helicopter tour.
Tours can last a few minutes or even over thirty minutes if you want a longer stint. New York is a totally stunning city to see from the air and well worth it if you’re not too scared of heights. Most leave from opposite Battery Park and usually, they have some availability on the day itself.
16.) See Time Square
Love it or hate it, Time Square is one unique place that makes New York so different from other cities. Perched in the Midtown area of Manhattan, it’s a bustling mix of people, shops and ginormous billboards that tower the streets.
Now, for me, one visit is enough but it’s something you should definitely see if you’ve never been before. Afterwards, take a fifteen-minute stroll over to the Museum of Modern Art, too.
17.) Watch a Broadway Show
If you love musicals and theatre, then Broadway is the place to be. With loads of internationally recognised shows, you’re bound to find at least a few that’ll take your fancy. It really is one of the best things to do in New York if you love shows.
If you have a preference, make sure to book your tickets well before you visit. This way, you won’t be in a scramble for remaining tickets on the day of the show.
That being said, if you’re flexible, head to TKTS in Time Square that is the official reseller of unsold daily tickets for broadway shows. These are typically significantly reduced and you can save yourself a fair few dollars doing this.
18.) Visit Chelsea Market
Chelsea Market has a long history within Manhattan and houses loads of independent vendors, eateries and artists that call this spot home.
Honestly, it’s one of the best places in News York to visit if you love an open market with loads of shops, stalls and food.
Once inside, make sure to check out Artists & Fleas who has everything and anything you could ever imagine. It’s a treasure trove of fashion and retro goodies that is too good to miss.
Afterwards, pop over to Doughnuttery for some of the best doughnuts in New York. Their cinnamon doughnuts are to die for!
19.) Explore the Guggenheim
If you love art, then New York is a city that you’re bound to fall in love with!
You see, the city is filled with different art galleries and museums, with one of my favourite being the Guggenheim in Manhattan.
Take a wander around the permanent and temporary exhibits, wander through the halls and see some of the world’s most iconic pieces of art. It really is a special place; plus, the building is totally cool, too!
Plus, don’t forget to visit some other galleries like the; Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gagosian Gallery, Whitney Museum and the Met Breuer.
20.) Stroll through Central Park
Now, New York doesn’t need to be just about the hustle and bustle of 5th Avenue. In fact, there’s actually an oasis of calm that’s well worth enjoying during any season of the year.
For instance, head across to Central Park in summer to go boating on the lakes or for a little stroll around the open lawns that are totally huge. In the winter months, you can even go ice-skating right in the heart of Central Park.
Though, if you’re anything like me on skates, you’ll end up on your butt for the majority of the time.
Oh, and ake sure to stroll through Bethesda Terrace, see Belvedere Castle and walk across Bow Bridge.
21.) Head to the Empire State Building
Probably the most famous skyscraper in North America, the Empire State Building has recently renovated the viewing platform that’s totally cool to visit for views across the city itself.
As with the Top Of The Rock, make sure to book your tickets well in advance and guarantee the sunset slot to see New York transform from day into night. It really is one of the best things to do in New York, even if it’s just to get a scale of this huge city.
23.) See the Oculus
Perched just across from the 9/11 Memorial, the Oculus is actually a train terminal that’s design is totally incredible. Honestly, the building is out-of-this-world and well worth a gander when you’re down this area of Manhattan itself.
Now, you’ll likely only spend 10-15 minutes here, so it’s easy to partner it with a trip to the Statue of Liberty, for instance.
24.) Visit the 9/11 Memorial
The terrible events of 9/11 are still present in New York, with the sombre reminder at the 9/11 memorial where the Twin Towers once stood.
This is a stop that should certainly be included when visiting New York and well worth it to pay your own respects to the tragic loss of life.