VIDEO| 40 Best Things to Do in New York City | New York City Travel Guide
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This quick New York travel guide for sightseeing Manhattan will take you through Best Things to Do in New York City. It will take you through the top attractions in New York City. Activities are listed by neighborhood so you can tackle this itinerary easily.
If you think this Big Bad Apple is exciting, charged and quick-paced, then you’re right! The city doesn’t sleep and for its ladder-climbing-strap-holding citizens, that’s a good thing. Life is lived on the run. Just like the way Manhattanites like it.
Anything I miss any top New York attractions? I’m sure I did, the list is extensive so leave your recommendation in the comments section below.
40 Best Things to Do in New York City
Note: Relevant information is in the video and details summarized below. This written New York Travel Guide is to aid you if you’re planning a trip to New York City.
Downtown Manhattan is the financial and business district and holds a lot of top New York attractions. The home of Wall Street, the wharf, World Trade enter towers. You can take the ferry to Staten Island, pass the Lady Liberty and look back at the New York City skyline.
1. The Freedom Tower and the 9/11 Ground Zero Fountain
The Freedom Tower and the 9/11 outdoor memorial are in honor of the World Trade Center Twin Towers. The Freedom Tower, designed by architect, David Childs – whom also design Dubai’s Burj Khalifa– is the 6th tallest building in the world. The 9/11 Ground Zero fountain is nearby, and stands as a big, beautiful fountain of falling water, surrounding by victims names engraved in marble.
Subways: A, C, 1, 2, 3 to Chambers Street; A, C, J, Z, 2, 3, 4, or 5 trains to Fulton Street; 2 or 3 trains to Park Place; E train to World Trade Center
2. 9/11 Museum
One of the top New York attractions is the 9/11 museum is a powerful memorial to the victims of 9/11. They house a comprehensive exhibition and collection of the history of the towers, parts of its ruins, artifacts from the site from charred clothes, old emergency calls from that day and documentary video stories about the fall heros and victims. Walking through it takes at least 3 hours and you can download 9/11 museum app to guide you through the exhibitions. Admission: $24, Tuesdays Free after 6pm, See Website for more information.
3. Wall Street Charging Bull
The Wall Street Charging bull is a bronze sculpture designed by artist Arturo Di Modica as a symbol of the courageous and can-do American spirit, in the face of the 1987 stock market crash.
By subway: Take 4 or 5 train to Bowling Green station or 1 train to Rector Street or South Ferry station (where you get the Staten Island Ferry) . Walking map here.
Broadway and Morris Street
4. Wall Street
“Greed is good,” were the famous lines of Michael Douglas in the 1987 film, Wall Street. Known for housing the world’s most powerful financial traders, this cobble stoned area are the streets dedicated to the world’s most powerful institution … money.
Location: Between Broad and Wall Street . Map here.
5. Federal Hall Memorial
Wanna see New York City’s first City Hall? The Federal Hall Memorial can’t be missed as it sits proudly at the end of Wall Street in impressive Greek revival architecture. This is where George Washington was inaugurated and home to the first Congress and Supreme Court. Today it is the proud home of the U.S. National Park Service which heralds over 22 parks in New York. They organization also holds a National Park Service’s Junior Ranger program which was adopted to help kids and families explore and learn about their national parks. Location: 26 Wall Street
6. Walking Brooklyn Bridge.
Did you know there are over 2,000 bridges in New York City? The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the city’s popular bridges, connecting Brooklyn to Manhattan. It is 1.1 miles long and has a pedestrian walkway for those commuting to and from the city on bike or foot. Free tours by foot offers free (pay as you wish) walking tours from Manhattan to DUMBO (a well-known Brooklyn arts neighborhood of galleries) or a night tour.
Take Subways: 4, 5, 6, J, Z and R lines to City Hall/Centre Street. Enter the street near Centre Street. See map here.
7. Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island
Plan in advance if you want to visit the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Ilsand. Travelers who want to visit the museum, pedestal, or crown must make advance reservations. For access to the crown, some have to make reservations at least six months in advance! Statue of Liberty ferry tickets $18.50 and include a visit to Ellis Island Museum of Immigration.
Getting there: Take the subway 4,5 to Bowling Green, R to Whitehall Street, 1 to South Ferry Station and head to Statue Cruises in Battery Park. Visit Website for reservations and directions.
8. Staten Island Ferry
Taking a ride on the Staten Island Ferry will give you a peaceful view of Lower Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty. Hours: 7am-11pm Duration: 25 minutes. Admission: Free. Staten Island Ferry website here.
Getting There: Take the 1, 4, 5, J, Z, R to Whitehall Terminal / 4th South Street in Lower Manhattan. Lower East Side
9. Katz’s Famous Delicatessen
Want a good New York deli pastrami sandwich or maybe you just want to reminisce over your favorite, When Harry Met Sally fake orgasm scene. This favorite no frills, grouchy service landmark it embodies the bustle and grit of New York city.
Getting There: 205 E Houston St / Allen Street. Subways: 2nd Ave, Delancy, Essex See map here.
New York City Chinatown
Manhattan harbors one of the grittiest Chinatowns you’ll experience in fishy smells, budget eats and a Chinese community and culture, which can make you feel like you’re in China. The typical subway stop is Canal Street (yellow line).
Planning to visit Boston, Washington D.C, Philidelphia or Baltimore for a day, the Chinatown Bus offers great long-distance bus service for cheap prices! See website here or visit Gotobus for long-distance bus coverage throughout the U.S.
Neighbors: Little Italy and Soho.
10. Explore Chinatown
New York City’s Chinatown is one of the world’s best, if you ask me. It embodies the grit and smells that can be found in small grocery shops, herb shops, street vendors and local fish shops of Chinese cities. You might even find a few fun designer knock-offs. Canal street is the main street of Chinatown. Head east and the off-shoot streets house restaurants, parks and small Chinese grocery marts. Nearest Subway: Canal Street
11. Drink Boba Tea in Chinatown
Boba tea was really invented in Taiwan as a way to chew your drink but you’ll find it a favorite drink in Chinatown as well, with boba cafes hidden in Chinatown’s gritty exterior. Here’s a map of the best tea shops in Chinatown.
Top boba tea shops:
Vivi Bubble tea, 49 Bayard St. Map here.
Auntea, 19 Mott Street, Opens 11am
Teado Tea Shop, Opens at noon.
Oh Mama Mia! If you’re looking for a bit of pasta, canoli and a little Italian flavor, then Little Italy has got a lot of character for you.
12. Explore Little Italy.
Little Italy is the hub of Italian restaurants and delis. If you’re in the city during September then check out the San Gennaro Festival, one of the liveliest religious festivals in Manhattan. Little Italy stretches from Mulberry Street to Chinatown.. Nearest Subway: Canal Street
Cannoli is a Sicilian dessert, which looks like a deep fried crusted tube filled with sweet ricotta cheese.
Recommended Canoli cafes:
Cafe Palermo, 148 Mulberry St (btwn Grand & Hester St)
Ferrara Bakery, 195 Grand St (btwn Mott & Mulberry St)
Soho is recognizable by its cast iron facades and cobblestone streets, Soho’s playground has been the background for several New York film locations. If you want to experience the trendy side of New York, with lots of people and fashion watching, Soho is it.
Soho sports a handful of well-known boutique hotels : The James Hotel, NOMO SOHO, Mercer Hotel, with still posh but less expensive Arlo Hotel, Sixty Soho Hotel. If you’re gonna splurge, go with style!
14. Shopping in Soho
The famous shopping district is known for its high-end boutique shops, art galleries and shopping. On weekends, street vendors and artists may come out to sell their crafts for interested artsy buyers.
Take Subway to Spring St, Prince St., Broadway-Lafayette
15. Soho’s most filmed cobblestone streets
Streets: Mercer, Greene, Bond & Wooster Streets
If you’re looking for upscale small boutiques with a bit of old money charm or a quiet brunch cafe with an air of upper class, the West Villlage holds a quiet and subdued atmosphere.
16. Magnolia Bakery for cupcakes
Touted as one of the best cupcakes in town, for years, this bakery had lines out their front door. Location: 401 Bleeker Street/11th St
If you’re staging a peace rally, demonstration or event you want to voice, this is the main park to do it at. The park square is surrounded by restaurants and shopping, a Whole Foods, Best Buy and more.
Great nearby hotels: The W Hotel.
17. Union Square Park
Union Square or 14th Street/Broadway is one of the main transfer hubs on the subway and I’d qualify it as a top New York City attraction simply because it’s one of the most feel good parks. It’s ‘the gathering place’ for many with a Sunday fresh market, a small dog park for New Yorkers to give their furry babies flirtatious fun and lots of people watching. And during 9/11 it was a heavy convergence spot for locals to light candles, unite and mourn the fallen. During summer, New Yorkers like to bring a blanket and a laptop and sprawl on the lawns. It’s a people park despite being a center with lots of action. Getting there: Take subway to West 14th & Broadway
Meatpacking District to Chelsea
Warehouses, designer boutiques and art galleries stretch these west side districts starting at 14th Street and 10th Avenue, alll the way to 23rd Street. At night the meatpacking district is alit with restaurants and bar/clubs.
18. High Line Park
High Line Park is an old railroad renovated into a raised urban walkway, with innovative architecture, cafes and places for New Yorkers to adore the busy streets from above. Watch my video above.
Location: Gansevoort St to West 30th St/9th-11th Aves
19. Hop on Hop Off tour
It’s helpful to get your bearings of a city so you know what to tackle. A good day trip recommendation is a Hop-On-Hop-Off bus tour. They range starting from $40/day and it will give you a quick oversight to the city. From there you can see what you’d like to go back to revisit. I like to get a little creative so on this trip, I went with a thematic tour like the one below.
Sex & the City film location tour
Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte,… I’ll bet many of us know them by heart. Sex and the City starring Sarah Jessica Parker was a popular HBO show which aired from 1998- 2004, plus it came out with two movies. The Sex & the City film location tour is a bus tour that takes you to locations around Manhattan, where you can relive scenes from your favorite show. Read my review.
20. Subway performances
Subway performances are an ongoing thing in Manhattan with occasional performers hopping from train to train or at 42nd street/Times Square. Whether its a down-on-their-luck artists, a student, a begging scam or a street performance act, some of these performers can make well over a $100/day. That’s one way to keep the arts alive. It’s not as abundant as Hollywood films make it out to be, but as a city which never sleeps, it’s there.
Midtown Manhattan isn’t the prettiest, but quite possibly one of the busiest. Sharing activity from the fashion, shopping and business districts, it’s a place you go with a purpose.
21. Empire State Building
An Affair to Remember, Sleepless in Seattle,.. the Empire State Building is a star in New York City. the building is one of the top three tallest buildings in New York at 1,250 feet tall. The building also lights up at night and changes lighting designs for different occasional. Admission:$39.00. Location: 350 5th Ave
22. B & H Photo and Video Store
If you’re a photographer, audio engineer or you just want to shop reputable technology with a Hassidic Jew twist, visit B&H Photo and Video Store is the largest store for photography, video and audio equipment in the in U.S. Location: 34th St & 9th Ave . Hours: 9a-7p Daily, closed on Saturdays
23. Surf free internet at the New York Public Library
The New York Public Library is a historic landmark and public library founded in the 19th Century. It’s a photogenic building guarded by two marble lions. In 1911 it was considered the largest marble building of its time and the 4th largest library in the U.S. for its volumes. It has 125 miles of bookstacks. Nearest subway : 40-42nd Street and 5th Avenue
24. Bryant Park (especially during Fashion Week!)
Bryant Park is a public park located in midtown Manhattan on the outer edge of the Fashion district. It’s a relaxing place for lunch and lounging. It’s in back of the New York Public Library. The Annual Mercedes Benz New York Fashion Week usually takes place in the month of September and the park will be covered with white tents. Nearest subway : 42nd Street. 40 -42nd streets
25. Chrysler Building
Designed by architect, William Van Allen, it was supposed to become the tallest building in the world as hoped by Walter P Chrysler. At 1,046 feet, the Chrysler building was ultimately surpassed by the Empire State Building. Location: 405 Lexington Avenue, near Grand Central Station.
26. Grand Central Station
Located on the Manhattan’s East Side, Grand Central Station was created in 1951 as a hub for railroad lines in Manhattan. Today it has 44 tracks, the most in the world. Subway lines include: 4, 5, 6, 7 and S (a shuttle between Times Square and Grand Central). Location: 89 East 42nd St
27. Times Square
New York’s Times Square needs no introduction as one of the top attractions in New York City. It’s the hub for the theater district with bright lights, Broadway shows, flagship stores and giant billboard ads. The energy is crazy beautiful here, but packed with tourists. It’s hard not to feel a little overwhelmed with the visual stimulus.
Location: Broadway Ave/ West 42nd- 53rd St, Getting There: Times Square metro station
28. See a Broadway Show
Manhattan draws the biggest talents and the best of the music and dance scene with the Broadway Theater District. From cabaret shows to hotel bars and Broadway shows featuring your (insert favorite Hollywood actor). For discounted tickets to Broadway shows, visit the Tkts booth at Father Duffy Square (Broadway and 47th Street) and wait in line at the red steps. Ticket offices open at 10am.
Tip: You can get last minute 2-for-1 tickets for Broadway shows at ticket booths. https://www.tdf.org/nyc/7/TKTS-ticket-booths
Broadway District: West 40th-54th Streets, 7th and Broadway, Getting There: Times Square metro Station.
29. Rockefeller Center
Rockefeller Center is a complex of 19 commercial buildings covering 48 to 51st streets, facing 5th avenue. Stores here tend to be posh and pricey. During Christmas season, they put up a giant tree and do an annual tree lighting. They also have an ice skating rink.
30. Top of the Rock
For a great view of Manhattan, go to the Top of the Rock, a 3-tiered observation deck at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. Admission is $39.20.
FAO Schwartz (next to the giant Apple Store)– Closed
Central Park is one of the biggest, most visited and most filmed urban park in the U.S.. It offers a range of free outdoor events from concerts in the summer, Shakespeare in the Park and more. Stroll, rent a bike, hire a horse carriage or take a jog through the park.
32. Columbus Circle
Columbus Circle is a heavily trafficked intersection,. exposing the nearest entrance to Central Park. You might see horse drawn carriages in traffic and The Shops of Columbus Circle is a lovely stop for moderate to high end shopping and restaurants. West 59th & Broadway
33. Central Park
Another top attraction of New York City is Central Park, the world largest man-made park and one of the most filmed parks in Hollywood films. The park stretches from West 59th to 110th Streets and 5th & 8th Aves. During the summer they have free events, concerts and Shakespeare in the Park (check here also)and there are many coves worth discovering. If you’re a John Lennon fan don’t forget to visit Strawberry Fields to take a photo with the Imagine memorial.
34. Bike Rentals & Park Tours at Central Park
Why walk when you can cover more of the park grounds by renting a bike. Cost ranges from $15+. There are also inexpensive walking tours of the park, so get straight to the main sightseeing and learn historical facts most people don’t know.
35. Pedicab Tours of Central Park
I’m not a fan of horse carriages, because those horses just get no life- day to night, holidays and weekends you always see them on the streets working and awaiting tourists. But pedicab tours might be worthwhile and get you around the park quicker. Costs start at $155+
36. John Lennon’s “Imagine” Memorial
If you’re a John Lennon fan don’t forget to visit Strawberry Fields in Central Park so you can take a photo with the Imagine memorial. Location: Central Park West & 72nd St
37. Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts
Lincoln Center is the home of the high arts such as opera, symphony concerts and ballet. It’s also the home of Julliard School and the New York Public Library. During the summer, Lincoln Center sports an outdoor event program, showcasing the most popular dance companies the Big Apple has to offer… for free! Website: http://lc.lincolncenter.org/
Location: 10 Lincoln Center Plaza (62nd-65th Streets)
What to Eat in New York City
When planning your trip to New York City, know that the city is a huge foodie capital in the U.S.A. It’s got the finest international food, its fusion and its community neighborhoods like : Little India, Koreatown, Little Italy, Chinatown, and more. You’ll find great food from cheap hole-in-the-wall eateries to five star restaurants or my favorite cheapies, falafel and breakfast trucks. Read Top Foodie neighborhoods in New York.
New York has too many eateries for me to list here and times move with the latest trends in that city. So my best advice is to check out the restaurant section in a Time Out New York Magazine (you can find it at a newsstand or CVS, probably even the airport newsstand. New Yorkers love to check out the newest and trendiest restaurants and this is where you’ll find them!
38. Take a New York Food Tour
Nom nom nom and walking is what New Yorkers are good at. The food in this cultural melting pot comes from the world’s best flavors, so why not take your sightseeing to a gastronomical level. I took a food tour with Ahoy New York Food Tours to explore the flavors of Chinatown and Little Italy. The tour took me to many hole-in-the-wall joints I never knew existed and shed the culinary history of its neighborhoods.
39. Eating at a Breakfast Truck
One of my favorite New Yorker things to do is grab a bagel and coffee at a breakfast truck. It’s simple, no fuss, inexpensive and a lot of New Yorkers love to grab their breakfast or a donut on their way to work. Watch my video to see how it’s done.
40. Halal Food Trucks
The Halal Guys food truck used to be a favorite for late night bar hoppers looking for cheap falafel or chicken sharma (around $6 and up) to fill their bellies. Sometimes, the food is a hit or miss with these guys. Being vegetarian, i had the falafel plate and the falafel came out like little rock pellets with a tahini sauce that tasted like mayonnaise. Luckily, there’s a few halal trucks in the area, serving up the same order with similar prices. Location: 51st & 7th Avenue
Getting Around New York City
The Big Apple is a pedestrian city, where residents commute by subway, bus, taxi, Uber and foot. Vulnerable to weather, other people and its zealous ambitions, makes New Yorkers survival based.
Jaywalking is absolutely acceptable and you’ll always find yourself standing a foot -or ten- into the street when waiting on the corner for the light to change. It’s about getting that extra edge into your day; a way to slice time. Got your running shoes on?
The subway operates 24 hours a day. Cost per single ride as of 2017 is $2.75. You can purchase a single, day unlimted, 7 day, 30 day and year unlimited pass. The unlimited passes work on the public buses as well.
Where to Stay in New York City
You can easily get around Manhattan on a budget, but the one spot the Big Apple might force budget travelers to splurge is accommodations. You have the best, trendiest boutique and luxury hotels in Manhattan and so many of them (as I listed per neighborhood). Often you’re paying $100 and up (some even go up to $600/night! Ouch).
Hostels exist in New York but as it’s not known as a hostel city, they’re limited, can fill up fast and cost you in the ballpark of $50+/night for an okay dorm bed. It doesn’t necessarily get much cheaper outside the city, unless you’re looking to commute: Vanderbilt YMCA Hostel (midtown lower east side), Hostelling International (upper west side), NY Moore Hostel (burrough of Brooklyn, outside Manhattan).
AirBnB’s (use my code for $40 off) are a rage but some of these local spaces can cost similar to hotels or be located in one of the burroughs.
Safety Tips for Solo Travelers
Having lived in New York City, I’d say there’s a medium amount of crime that goes on towards locals and tourists. I learned my travel street smarts just by living there.
Manhattan is okay for night activities as people are on the streets at all hours. But a populated city like NYC has its share of scammers, pickpockets, sexual predators and violence. Tourists are easy to pick out in New York City– they’re not focused on where they’re going, smile at everything, and they don’t pay attention to their belongings. Be the opposite of what I just mentioned.
Metro stations: Do not let anyone stand too close when helping you buy tickets at the metro card dispenser. Hide your Pin number when entering a debit card. Better yet, use cash and buy your ticket at the ticket window.
To avoid pickpockets, always put a hand on your belongings and look straight ahead. Always be aware of your environment and pay attention to your surroundings.
New York City metros operate 24 hours but late evening/early morning, metro services slow. Be aware of occasional homeless, drunks or crazy folks waiting in the metro or sleeping in the trains. Winter time, homeless sometimes ride the trains for a warm sleep. They’re not violent but they can get rowdy. Read Dealing with Touts, Scams, Beggars
What would you recommend as best things to do in New York city? What tips would you add to this New York Travel Guide?
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