“Something’s always happening here. If you’re bored in New York, it’s your own fault.”
– Myrna Loy, American film actress
Well said, Myrna. Well said.
Perhaps more than any other place on the planet, New York City is bustling with things to do. This is the city that never sleeps; it’s buzzing, it’s electric, it’s inspiring. There are activities to experience, sights to see, shows to watch, celebs to spot, cocktails to drink.
And the best part is that no matter what you plan, you’ll always stumble across something new and exciting that will catch you by surprise. Go with it – it’s called YOLOing, friends.
In this city, the whole world is truly at your fingertips, but here are a few essential things to do in New York City to start you off on the right foot.
Take in Times Square
Locals love to hate on Times Square, but no matter how many times we go back, we never fail to appreciate the glowing hub of entertainment, retail, hotels, and towering electronic billboards. There are street performers, costumed entertainers for photo ops, show promoters, giant retail stores and restaurants, the famous red steps, and more.
Stop by later in the night (much later) to dodge the crowds and see the lights in all their glory. It’s the most bustling intersection of NYC and it’s just something you have to see at least once.
Tour Central Park
Take a leisurely stroll, rent a bike, or be carted around in a horse-and-carriage to take in the beautiful grounds and amenities of Manhattan’s largest park. It’s situated right smack dab in the middle of the action. With 843 acres packed with things to do such as the Central Park Zoo, ice skating rink, rowboats, beach volleyball, cafes, etc, you can easily spend a day here and still not see everything.
Get away from the crowds and explore the ‘hoods
Neighbourhoods like Midtown and the Financial District are boasting some of the most iconic landmarks in the city (and even the world) so they are definitely something you have to check out. But getting away from the madness of the more crowded areas will give you a whole new appreciation for the city.
Stroll through the tree-lined streets of West Village, Greenwich Village, or East Village for a glimpse of a slightly more laid-back side of New York, and dream of moving into the brownstone homes in these quaint neighbourhoods. If Carrie Bradshaw can do it, so can you!
Soak in the views from a rooftop bar
New York’s skyline is arguably the most iconic in the world, and there are plenty of amazing vantage points from which to take in its beauty. Stop in at one of the city’s rooftop bars such as PH-D Lounge, 230 FIFTH, JIMMY at the James, or Top of the Standard. What better combo is there than a bevvy and a view?
Have a laugh at a comedy show
If we had to personally recommend just one show to see in New York City, it would be Comedy Cellar. This is where the comedic greats started out – Jerry Seinfeld, Ray Romano, Amy Schumer, the list goes on. If you’re lucky, you just might get to see a surprise guest. We recommend the location on Macdougal Street – reserve your spot ahead of time or wait in standby at the door. Prepare for some serious lolz.
Cozy up in a coffee shop
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New York is home to some of the world’s most Instagrammable coffee shops. There are countless places to work remotely, cozy up with a book, or just sip a cup while looking all New York-y. You can find quaint little nooks all around the city – check out our list of the cutest n’ coziest coffee shops in New York City for a little guidance.
Cheer on a local sports team
Whether you’re a sports fan or not, there’s something pretty cool about seeing the Yankees play at Yankee Stadium or the Knicks at Madison Square Garden. There’s a whole handful of other teams to see as well, but no matter which game you choose, you’re sure to be a true American sports fan by the end of it – at least for a couple hours.
Indulge in a boozy brunch
New York is all about ‘dem bottomless mimosas – and we cannot think of a better way to spend a Sunday Funday. Hit up trusty spots like Agave in West Village, Poco in East Village or Baby’s All Right in Williamsburg for delicious eats and bevvies. You usually have a time limit of 90 minutes or two hours for all-you-can-drink, but we trust you will make the most of your time.
Stroll along the High Line
Spanning from Chelsea to the Meatpacking District, this raised abandoned railway has been converted into a lovely park with spectacular views of the city. It makes for a great spot to stroll or lounge within the city, not to mention amazing photo ops.
Admire the architecture of the Westfield World Trade Center
The Westfield World Trade Center is one of the newest architectural marvels in New York City. The Westfield was rebuilt after the September 11 attacks and the new building was unveiled in 2016. With over 365,000-sq-ft of retail space, the Westfield World Trade is a shopper’s paradise.
What makes the building truly stand out is the Oculus – a jaw-dropping structure designed by architect Santiago Calatrava. From the outside, the Oculus is meant to look like a dove spreading its wings. The stunning architecture is definitely Instagram-worthy.
New York is home to some of the most unique hidden bars in the world, some of them even still in operation since the Prohibition era (lookin’ at you, Back Room). With disguised entrances ranging from a Five Guys burger place to an art gallery, speakeasies are some of the best places to give a behind-the-scenes feel for New York. For research purposes, we took it upon ourselves to check out as many in the city as possible. You have to check out Employees Only, Attaboy, Fig 19, and Please Don’t Tell, to name a few.
Check out our NYC drinks guide for even more options!
Visit DUMBO in Brooklyn
Take a break from Manhattan and head over to the ultra-hip streets of Brooklyn. To get there you can take the subway but to see more of the city, try walking across the historic Brooklyn Bridge. It’s about a 40-minute journey but it is definitely worth the exercise, as you’ll get to see some spectacular views of the skyline.
Once you get to Brooklyn, keep your runners on and take a walking tour of DUMBO – one of Brooklyn’s most buzz-worthy neighbourhoods.
While you’re exploring the neighbourhood, be sure to take a break at the Brooklyn Bridge Park. The urban green space is a peaceful rest stop with quaint gardens and a must-see historic carousel which dates back to the 1920s.
Check out the Financial District’s Charging Bull and Fearless Girl
Note: The Fearless Girl will soon be relocated to a new home across from the New York Stock Exchange, so you won’t get to snap a photo like the one above, but these are still two great photo ops!
The Charging Bull has been a symbol of strength and prosperity since it set foot in the Financial District in 1989, and if you’re on a mish to get a photo with all NYC landmarks, you’d better get one with this bull.
The Fearless Girl was created as a sign of defiance and female empowerment, and has now taken Instagram by storm as well.
Shop till you drop
New York isn’t known as one of the fashion capitals of the world for no reason – style and NYC go hand-in-hand, and you’re going to want to step up your wardrobe on your trip. Stroll through the shops of Soho for today’s trendiest retailers, hit up Century 21 or Macy’s for department store heaven, or maybe just window shop down Fifth Ave to drool over the latest designer pieces.
And don’t forget it’s New York City, which is the ultimate excuse to treat yo’self!
Visit the Statue of Liberty
This iconic lady may just be the most recognizable landmark of all of New York City (just check your emoji keyboard) – why not see her up close and personal? Hop on Statue Cruises ferry to pop on over to Liberty Island and Ellis Island – and don’t forget to get that perfect snap of the Manhattan skyline on your way back.
Attend a Broadway show
New York is where stars are made, and you should witness this firsthand at a Broadway show. We’re partial to Lion King (cue opening lyrics “aaahhh zabenyaaa”), but any musical you choose will be an authentic NY experience.
Tip: Head to the red TKTS booths in Times Square for discounted tickets (up to 50% off) on the day of the show.
Take in a different view from Governors Island
If you want to see a different side of the city, head over to Governors Island. A free seven-minute ferry ride will take you to this 172-acre island, which once served as a military outpost.
When you arrive, you’ll feel like you’re on a mini-vacation on its own. Governors Island is filled with beautiful gardens, quaint food stalls, and winding bike paths.
The highlight of the island is four topographic installations known as ‘The Hills.’ Climb up one of the man-made hills and you’ll be able to see an incredible view of Lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty.
Visit the 9/11 Memorial
An impactful tribute to a devastating event, the 9/11 memorial and museum are definitely worth checking out during your visit to NYC. Visit the cascading fountains where the twin towers used to be, or step inside the museum for an inside look at what occurred on September 11, 2001.
Go vintage shopping
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Thrift shopping in NYC is next-level because you will come across amazing designer finds that have been worn approximately 0.5 times (basically just for one Instagram photo). There are tons of options throughout the city, but you can find some real gems on Grand Street off Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg, or West 10th Street off Greenwich Avenue in West Village. Also, check out Screaming Mimis on West 14th and Metropolis Vintage on 3rd Avenue. This is your chance to achieve your Carrie Bradshaw look.
Take in the views from an observation deck
The best views of the city are from the top, so if you want to truly take in New York in all its glory you best get your butt over to an observation deck. The Empire State Building is a classic, but we prefer the Top of the Rock (at 30 Rockefeller Plaza) to get that epic shot of the Empire State Building, as well as Central Park on the other side. Hope you’re not scared of heights!
Museums are some of New York City’s top attractions, and even if they are not really your thing, the calibre of art in this city is worth checking out! Check out well-known spots like the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), American Museum of Natural History, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met) for stunning displays of art, history, and culture.
Go sailing on the Hudson River
Because you need to see Manhattan from every vantage point possible, head to the North Cova Marina where you can hop on a sailboat and explore New York City from the Hudson River. You’ll also be able to get an amazing view of Jersey City, the Statue of Liberty, Governor’s Island, and so much more.
Get lost in the madness of Grand Central Terminal
As one of the world’s most well-known train stations and most beautiful at that, Grand Central is a sight to see. And it’s not just a transportation hub – you can grab a bite to eat, do some shopping, or simply admire the architecture while you’re here. Allow time to stand still as you lose yourself amongst the hundreds of people rushing about on their daily lives, and you will feel like you’re in the middle of a rom-com movie.
There are a million tourist attractions to see in New York City and we would happily list them all, but the main piece of advice for anyone visiting the city is just to walk and see what you come across.
One time we locked eyes with George Clooney on a film set on the streets of the Financial District (it means we’re dating now). Another time we stumbled upon a pop-up Alicia Keys and Jay-Z concert in Times Square. Then there’s the time we found ourselves belting out show tunes at a sing-along piano bar in Greenwich Village (awkward). Just walk and you never know what you will find.
New York truly is a city where everything is going on, and anything can happen.
What are your favourite things to do in the Big Apple? Share with us using the hashtag #dailyhivemapped.