There are so many things to do in New York, it can be overwhelming! As a tourist, you want to fit in as much as possible with however much time you have visiting the Big Apple. To narrow down the options for you, I’ve included ten things that every tourist has to do at least once. Live your best New York life!
1. Eat a bagel.
Yes, this is at the top of the list of things to do in New York, and for good reason. The bagels in New York are unlike anywhere else in the world, and once you try one you’ll know why. They make them so thick, with a whole lot of schmear, that I usually have to save half of mine for later. Since most bagel shops lack outdoor seating (but usually don’t lack a line on weekend mornings) take your bagel to-go and eat it at the nearest park!
2. See Times Square.
By car, by bike, by walking through it. However you decide to do it, just make sure Times Square is on your list of things to do in New York. It is a super obvious tourist destination, but for good reason. Much like the city of New York itself, there’s nowhere else in the world like it. You will find yourself mesmerized by the bright, glowing advertisements and the sheer number of human bodies. I recommend visiting at night for the most magical experience!
3. Ride the subway.
Want to pretend you’re actually a New Yorker? Then riding the subway is the best way to do this. Just don’t try to give directions to someone unless you’ve mastered the subway yourself (not talking from personal experience or anything here). Take it uptown or downtown or to another borough. I love riding across from Manhattan to Brooklyn, such beautiful views and I always imagine what it would be like it this was my daily commute to work. So cool!
4. Take the Staten Island Ferry.
This is something every tourist should do at least once, maybe more! It’s one of my favorite things to do in New York. The ride is free, and the views of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty are seriously priceless. I recommend going at sunset, to soak it all in! The ferry goes back and forth all day, so I recommend getting off on Staten Island then getting right back on to return to Manhattan. This is a great option if you don’t have time to visit Ellis Island or climb the Statue of Liberty, but still want to see it somewhat up close. It’s one of my favorite things to see in New York, and always fills me with emotion think about the immigrants who passed through there on their way to a new life.
5. Grab a slice of pizza.
It wouldn’t be New York without the famous New York slice. Out of all the things to do in New York, this is best done with friends after a night out. There are a lot of places that compete for the title of best slice, so why not sample them all? Chances are you’ll be all over the city, so find the best ones in each neighborhood to sample.
6. Stroll through Central Park.
Central Park is quintessential New York. How many movies has it been featured in? How many books have been written about the beauty of Central Park? It truly is an oasis in the middle of the city’s chaos, and a refuge if you want a break from all the noise. There are so many sights within the park itself, you’ll want to make sure you see all the beautiful landmarks and maybe even ride a rowboat on the lake. Pay attention to the park benches, many of them have beautiful dedications or tributes written on them.
7. Visit the 9/11 Memorial.
Unfortunately, a visit to the 9/11 Memorial is an essential part of visiting New York these days. It’s a somber reminder of the events that transpired on that horrible day, but the Memorial is a place for peaceful reflection. It gave me chills on one of the hottest days of the summer. Now you can also visit the adjacent Oculus and One World Trade Center, for some seriously incredible views of the city, the river, and the Statue of Liberty.
8. Browse the museums.
The city is home to so many amazing museums, they have to be on your list of things to do in New York. If you’re an art lover, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) are great options. If you’d rather play out your favorite scene from Night at the Museum, then the American Museum of Natural History is right for you. There are so many smaller museums and galleries too, just search for whatever subject you’re interested and make a plan to visit!
9. Visit Chelsea Market and walk the High Line.
Chelsea Market is located, not surprisingly, in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. It is a former biscuit factory turned major foodie destination, and is the perfect place to stop for a bite to eat and do a little shopping. Next to the market is the High Line, which is an elevated pedestrian path that has been converted from an old train route. It is a great place to find some fresh air in the city and take it in from a new perspective.
10. Explore at least two of the five boroughs.
Visiting all five boroughs is tough for tourists in New York, I think. There’s just so much to do! Make a goal to visit at least a few of them during your time in the famous city, because they all possess their own charm. Most tourists stay in Manhattan and are familiar with Brooklyn, too. The other boroughs are The Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island (no, taking the ferry does not count as a visit). Each have their own famous landmarks and special restaurants and charming streets, so don’t spend all your time in Manhattan!
I hope this helps you create the best itinerary for your visit to the wonderful city of New York. There’s never a shortage of things to do, so add your favorite must-do’s below!
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Maggie is the blogger behind The Artful Everyday, a travel and lifestyle blog dedicated to living intentionally and finding beauty in the ordinary. She loves the idea that we get to escape our normal lives when we travel, and that it allows us to be more open to the world and its cultures. Maggie lived in Florence while studying abroad, then was an au pair in Rome last fall. She is very passionate about traveling in Europe, especially Italy, and living abroad. Maggie studied Interior Design at the University of Minnesota, but is currently pursuing a career in writing.