The Big Apple: 21 Things to Do in New York City

When people think of vacations, New York City is one of the top destinations that come to mind. It can be hard to create the perfect itinerary with all the things to do in New York City.

Whether you’re into sightseeing, shopping, or dining out, NYC has something to enjoy. So take a road trip, flight, or hop on the Amtrak to start your NYC adventure!

1. Take a Stroll Through Central Park

Central Park NYC
Photo Credit: [@dibrova/DepositPhotos]

Central Park is one of the most popular tourist destinations in New York City. Spanning 843 acres, Central Park is a great place to get outdoors. You can take a scenic stroll, picnic in one of the many gardens, or take a rowboat out on the lake. In the winter, the park transforms into a winter wonderland, with ice skating and sledding.

2. Catch a Concert at Bryant Park

Bryant Park NYC
Photo Credit: [@friday/DepositPhotos]

Bryant Park is located in Midtown Manhattan and is home to several attractions, including a carousel, an ice skating rink, and a variety of shops and restaurants. You can also enjoy various events and concerts held throughout the year. In addition to being a great place to spend time outside, Bryant Park is also a great place to people-watch. With its central location and diverse crowd, the park is the perfect place to take in the sights and sounds of New York City.

3. City Views from the Empire State Building

New York City
Photo Credit: [@rabbit75_dep/DepositPhotos]

Your trip to New York City isn’t complete without a visit to the Empire State Building. Located in Midtown Manhattan, this Art Deco masterpiece offers breathtaking views of the city from its observation deck on the 86th floor. On a clear day, you can see for up to five miles in every direction. You can also experience the building’s historic core, which houses exhibits on the construction of the Empire State Building and its place in American history. 

4. Explore Times Square

Times Square NYC
Photo Credit: [@sepavone/DepositPhotos]

This world-famous intersection is a must-see for any first-time visitor, and there’s plenty to keep you entertained. Take a walk down Broadway, do some people-watching, or simply soak up the unique atmosphere. Times Square is also home to the city’s best shopping, dining, and entertainment. Whether you’re looking for a bite to eat or a show to see, you’ll find it all here.

5. Go Shopping on 5th Avenue

5th Avenue NYC
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There’s no place quite like 5th Avenue in New York City. This iconic street is home to some of the city’s most famous landmarks, including the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It’s also a shopper’s paradise, with high-end stores like Tiffany & Co., Saks Fifth Avenue, and Bergdorf Goodman. Whether you’re strolling down the avenue or enjoying a cup of coffee at a sidewalk café, you’ll surely see an interesting variety of people.

6. Grab a Bite at the Chelsea Market

Chelsea Market NYC
Photo Credit: [@olli0815/DepositPhotos]

When looking for things to do in New York City, a great option is the Chelsea Market. This food hall is located in the historic Meatpacking District and houses over 35 vendors selling everything from artisanal cheese to fresh seafood. In addition to the large variety of food, the Chelsea Historic District is full of unique things to do. It’s a great place to spend an afternoon eating, shopping, and exploring.

7. New York City Food Tours

NYC Food
Photo Credit: [@andykazie/DepositPhotos]

New York City is a food lover’s paradise, with cuisine from around the world represented in its many restaurants. For those who want to get a taste of everything the city has to offer, a food tour is the perfect activity. New York City food tours provide a chance to sample dishes from various cultures all in one day. Plus, you’ll learn about each cuisine’s history and culture as you enjoy its delicious flavors.

8. Take the Family to the New York Aquarium

Aquarium Zoo
Photo Credit: [@rabbit75_dep/DepositPhotos]

The New York Aquarium is one of the best family-friendly things to do in New York City. It is a world-renowned marine zoological park and one of the largest Aquariums in the Western Hemisphere. They have over 350 different species of aquatic animals for you to see. The 14,000-square feet Aquarium features a coral reef, walruses, penguins, seahorses, sharks, and much more.

9. Catch a Performance at Carnegie Hall

Carnegie Hall NYC
Photo Credit: [@demerzel21/DepositPhotos]

Carnegie Hall is one of the most iconic venues in the world, and a visit to this historic site is a must for any music lover traveling to New York City. Built in 1891 by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, the hall was originally intended as a venue for the New York Philharmonic. It has since hosted some of the world’s most famous musicians. Today, Carnegie Hall continues to be a leading stop on the international concert circuit, welcoming top artists from all genres. 

10. Take the Ferry to the Statue of Liberty

New York city
Photo Credit: [@UTBP/DepositPhotos]

The Statue of Liberty is another of New York City’s most iconic landmarks. You can take the ferry to Liberty Island, walk around the base of the statue, and get up close and personal with this American symbol. For those who want to learn more about the statue’s history, there is a museum inside that documents the statue’s construction and installation. 

Ranger-led tours are also available that provide even more information about Lady Liberty. Of course, no trip to the Statue of Liberty would be complete without taking in the stunning views of New York City from the crown. Although it requires climbing stairs, the experience is well worth it and provides some of the city’s best photo ops.

11. Unwind and Relax on Coney Island

Coney Island NYC
Photo Credit: [@pio3/DepositPhotos]

Coney Island is a legendary boardwalk and beach in New York City. Its famous rides, concessions, and sideshows make it a popular destination for tourists and locals alike. You can enjoy the historic Cyclone roller coaster, take a spin on the Wonder Wheel, or cool off with a refreshing dip in the Atlantic Ocean. Coney Island is also home to the world-famous New York Aquarium.

12. Enjoy the Little Island at Pier 55

Little Island Pier 55 NYC
Photo Credit: [@CreativeFamily/Depositphotos]

Little Island at Pier 55 is a 2.4-acre public park in New York City, located on the west side of Manhattan. The park has a playground, picnic tables, and a performance stage. You can also enjoy views of the Hudson River and the Statue of Liberty. Little Island is accessible by ferry from both New York and New Jersey. The ferry ride takes about 10 minutes, and tickets can be purchased online or at the pier.

13. A Family Outing to the Bronx Zoo

Bronx Zoo NYC
Photo Crdit:[@littleny/DepositPhotos]

The Bronx Zoo is one of the most popular tourist attractions in New York City. Located in the Bronx borough of New York City, the zoo is home to over 4,000 animals representing over 650 species. You can see everything from African lions and Asian elephants to American bison and red pandas.

14. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

Guggenheim Museum NYC
Photo Credit: [@sepavone/DepositPhotos]

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is located on Fifth Avenue and is home to a collection of modern and contemporary art and a rotating selection of special exhibitions. You can explore the galleries at their own pace or take one of the museum’s guided tours. The museum also offers a variety of educational programs for all ages, making it an excellent destination for families. 

15. The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Photo Credit: [@appalachianview/DepositPhotos]

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is the city’s most visited museum, with over two million visitors each year. The Met is home to a vast collection of art from around the world spanning 5,000 years of history. You can see works by masters such as Rembrandt, van Gogh, and Monet, as well as ancient Egyptian artifacts and Asian sculptures.

16. The Museum of Modern Art

Museum of Modern Art NYC
Photo Credit: [@ericro/DepositPhotos]

Located in Midtown Manhattan, the Museum of Modern Art is one of the most popular things to do in New York City. The museum boasts a collection of over 150,000 works of art, making it one of the largest in the world. You can see paintings by legendary artists such as Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh and works by many other contemporary artists. In addition to paintings, the museum also has a substantial collection of photographs, sculptures, and films. 

17. American Museum of Natural History

American Museum of Natural History NYC
Photo Credit: [@pxhidalgo/DepositPhotos]

Situated on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, the American Museum of Natural History is home to over 32 million specimens, ranging from ancient fossils to contemporary artwork. You can explore the museum’s many exhibits, including a Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton and a life-size blue whale model. The museum also offers a variety of educational programs, workshops, and planetarium shows.

18. Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

Intrepid Sea Air Space Museum
Photo Credit: [@ViewApart/DepositPhotos]

Looking for an out-of-this-world experience? Then you need to head to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. This world-famous museum is home to a wide variety of unique exhibits, including an actual space shuttle! You can also explore the historic aircraft carrier Intrepid, experience a simulated combat mission, and see firsthand what it was like to live and work on a submarine.

19. National September 11 Memorial Museum

National September 11 Memorial
Photo Credit: [@ resulmuslu/DepositPhotos]

Located at the tragic World Trade Center site, the National September 11 Memorial Museum tells the story of the 9/11 attacks and pays tribute to the victims. The museum features artifacts from the attacks, including memories and personal effects of those who passed away. You can also view footage of the attacks and learn about the heroes who responded. The museum provides a moving and intimate look at one of the most tragic events in American history.

20. Stroll the New York Botanical Garden

New York Botanical Garden
Photo Credit: [@demerzel21/DepositPhotos]

Few things are more pleasant on a warm day than strolling through a verdant garden, and the New York Botanical Garden is one of the best places to do just that. Founded in 1891, this vast public garden spans 250 acres and contains 50 different gardens and plant collections. You can explore themes like native plants, medicinal plants, and roses or wander the grounds and take in the diverse array of flora on display. And with its convenient location in the Bronx, the Garden is easy to reach from anywhere in New York City. 

21. Rockefeller Center Observation Deck

Rockefeller Observation Deck
Photo Credit: [@kanzilyou/DepositPhotos]

If you’re looking for things to do in New York City, a visit to Rockefeller Center should be on your list. The Observation Deck provides stunning views of the cityscape; on a clear day, you can even see all the way to the Statue of Liberty. There’s also a lot to see and do inside the center, including shopping, dining, and exploring the famous Art Deco architecture. 

Things to Do in New York City on Vacation

New York City
Photo Credit: [@palinchak/DepositPhotos]

With all the things to do in New York City, there’s never a dull moment. So, if you’re looking for an amazing and unforgettable trip, put some of these things on your list and enjoy every minute! 

Featured Photo Credit: [@UTBP/DepositPhotos]

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

The Big Apple: 21 Things to Do in New York City

Alexandrea Sumuel Groves is a nationally syndicated travel writer and founder of the Wander With Alex travel blog. Her work has appeared on MSN, YAHOO!, Euronews, and FOX, ABC, and NBC affiliates across the United States. 

Alex travels to experience, eat, explore, and occasionally escape! She collaborates with destinations, vacation property management companies, and hospitality technology firms to provide her readers with exclusive insights and information.