Heading to NYC? Today we share the best things to do in New York City, so you can get planning your dream trip.
New York City is hands down me favourite city in the world – isn’t it everyones? I know I am not unique with this opinion but there really is something annoyingly awesome about the city. Anyway, I realised that I had never sat down and thought about what my favourite things to do in New York City were, so here it goes. Save some money with these reasonable hostels in great locations! Looking for something romantic to do in NYC – read this romantic date ideas in NYC guide!
Things to know before you go to NYC
Best things to do in NYC
EMPIRE STATE BUILDING
No trip to NYC is complete without a trip up to the top of the Empire State Building. Many may argue that the view from Rockefeller is better but the height and history of the Empire State make is a must for any traveler.
The Empire State is open from 8am to 2am with entrance to the main and top deck costing $52. Catch the subway to 28th street or Herald Square Station and aim to get there for 7.30am to avoid queues and crowds.
The New York CityPASS includes tickets to the Empire State Building if you are visiting NYC for a few days.
STATUE OF LIBERTY AND ELLIS ISLAND
Some take the option to see the Statue of Liberty from the various river cruises available but I recommend booking a visit to the Crown. The first ferry from NYC leaves at 9.30am with the last ferry leaving Liberty Island at 5pm. The ferry fee costs $18 whilst Pedestal access costs nothing extra but needs to be booked in advance and Crown access costs an additional $3. Get the subway to Battery Park and avoid driving to the port as parking is expensive and difficult.
Book your tickets in advance to save time queuing and if you want to head up the crown then book your tickets at least 3 months in advance.
Tip: If you only have 4 days in New York or less, skip the crown experience as this is a large part of your day.
I love everything about Times Square. Most popular chain hotels can be found in and around Times Square and there are several subway stations dotted around the area – this is a great place to stay in New York City with family. But the main reason people head here is because of the bright lights and the over-the-top stores. Head into the many different shops and have a bit of fun!
Head to the Hershey’s store – free samples of chocolate.
Offering some stunning views of NYC and home to NBC Studios tour and store, the Rockefeller offers a great observation deck and an ice rink during the winter months. Explore the sets and history of NBC and stock up on some fun merchandise from your favourite films.
The observation deck is open from 8am to midnight with tickets costing $32. The entrance can be found on 50th Street between 5th and 6th Avenue. Catch the subway to Rockefeller Center or walk 4 blocks north and one block east from Times Square (up 7th Avenue then right at 50th Street) – taking around 7 minutes. If you only have 48 hours in New York City, Rockefeller should still be on your itinerary but skip the NBC tour.
For other awesome views of the city, head to the New York High Line.
Perhaps one of the most famous parks in the world, Central Park is massive and can take some time to explore. There are plenty of things to do in Central Park; visit the Strawberry field’s memorial for John Lennon and the Alice in wonderland statue along with the many beautiful lakes and the Belvedere Castle.
Central park is open all day but it is advised to go during the day to enjoy the beauty of the park. Catch the subway to Columbus Circle or the Central Park W B and C trains to 72nd St and 81st.
SHOPPING IN NYC
Of course, you can find great shopping in NYC, with plenty of options available for all types of shoppers.
Head to 5th Avenue, just before you meet 59th street or Central Park and you will come across some of the best and most popular NYC stores. A favorite of mine is the Tiffany and Co store, Abercrombie and Fitch, and the amazing FAO Schwarz which is now unfortunately closed. You can find all the popular designers along this avenue and spend a lot of time and money here.
Make sure you head to one of the many souvenir stores too and pick up your New York souvenirs to remember your trip. Remember, to save money, head to the stores further away from tourist areas such as Times Square and Rockefeller Centre.
CATCH A GAME
Whether it’s a Baseball, Ice Hockey, Basketball or American Football – whilst spending some time in NYC it is great fun to catch a game. We were able to get some cheap Yankee tickets and NY Giant tickets during our last visit and we had a great time at both.
GRAND CENTRAL TERMINAL
Open from 5.30am to 2am, Grand Central Terminal is one of the most famous train stations of the world. Take that iconic shot of the bustling arrivals hall or visit one of the many eateries and enjoy some people watching. As you head down to the lower concourse, you will come across 4 archways; here is the ‘Whispering Arch’ – talk into one corner and your travel buddy can here it on the other side of the arch.
For any musical lover, Broadway is a must whilst in NYC. I would suggest checking on ticketmaster.com or head to the theatre at around 9.30/10am the morning of the day you want to watch a show for the best and cheapest tickets. I found the popular TKT booths around NYC offered tickets that are over priced but there are plenty of ways to buy Broadway tickets.
An iconic bridge of the world, Brooklyn Bridge is worth a walk across to enjoy the views of the incredible NYC skyline.
To save time, we caught the river taxi across to Brooklyn then walked back to Manhattan from here.
9/11 MEMORIAL AND MUSEUM
Take a step into a rather gloomy museum and look at the ‘ruins’ and what is left from the horrific day. The memorial itself is open to the public whilst the museum costs $24 for adult entrance with free admissions on Tuesdays at a first-come, first -served basis starting at 4pm.
WALL STREET AND THE NEW YORK STOCK EXCHANGE
Worth a stroll through whilst in downtown Manhattan, Wall Street and the Stock Exchange is the epicentre of business and finance. Get your shot of the Wall Street Bull and watch America’s debt steadily increase on the sign outside the Stock Exchange.
Head to Wall street after visiting the Statue of Liberty, it is just a few minutes walk away from Battery Park where the statue ferries leave from.
Street Vendors and buskers can often be found in and around Union Square. Head here to capture the diverse culture that is New York City.
BIG BUS TOUR
If you’re short on time or like me, you want to see everything, then jump on a Big Bus Tour. These buses will whizz you around the city so you can photograph all of the monuments and buildings you want whilst having the option to jump off and explore an area if you wish to.
With certain bus passes you can also get a complimentary cruise around the Hudson River; definitely worth doing especially if you get a late afternoon slot.
NEW YORK CITY LIBRARY AND BRYANT PARK
So I am a geek and any famous library of the world will end up on my top things to do. That is the same for this gem, the New York City Library and its neighbouring park; Bryant Park. The library is actually stunning and is worth a visit inside to experience its interior. You will find trolleys of books in the middle of Bryant Park, ready for anyone to borrow, have a read under a tree and return once their done relaxing. How pleasant!
If you love museums then NYC is perfect for you.With the Natural History Museum, Guggenheim Museum, Metropolitan and MoMA – you’ll never get bored in this great city.
This one sounds weird, but there are so many amazing buildings in NYC that I have grouped them all together in this little number on my list. The Chrysler Building and The Flatiron Building are iconic and worth your time to visit and photograph. Of Course the building used in the exterior shot of Friends is worth a visit…we photographed like 4 or 5 different ones thinking it was the right one!
The One World Trade Center is a must to photograph as in The Plaza Hotel; made famous in Home Alone 2. Rockefeller Center is worth a visit (and a trip to top) whilst the Guggenheim Museum is stunning.
CRUISE THE RIVER
Whilst in New York, I advise you to find time to cruise the Hudson River. There are so many options with the yellow taxi boat being popular if you are short on time. In our recent trip, we jumped on the Clipper boat for a sunset cruise. Sipping on cocktails whilst watching the sunset over the New York City skyline is just perfect.
Let your hair down and escape the crowds of the city at Coney Island, New Yorks very own seaside resort. It is an ideal day trip if you are visiting NYC with kids. Head to Coney in the late afternoon and enjoy a summer evening strolling around the park. Jump on the Wonder Wheel in Deno’s Amusement Park, watch the fireworks during the summer season and stock up on the sweet stuff in the Williams Candy Store.
Ok, this one needs to be higher up on the list but oh well. New York is home to some of the best food in America and in fact the world – Sierra shares the 20 cheap places to eat in NYC and they are amazing!
Get yourself a pretzel and hot dog from a street corner or head to Katz Deli for some seriously amazing pastrami sandwiches. Don’t forget to grab yourself a pizza slice or three from a local pizzeria.
- We LOVE this camera for our travel photography.
- For a cheap, easy and compact camera, we use this to vlog and take photographs.
- We use this travel drone (but make sure to check drone laws in your chosen destination first).
- This is our favourite travel Insurance because it covers so many activities and travel situations that could arise on longer trips but also offers year coverage.
What to pack
- No matter where we travel to, I always take these trusty hand sanitizer’s and a mini first aid kit.
- We love these toiletry bags (especially great for smaller bathrooms) and choose a laptop bag like this as our hand luggage.
- We keep our devices charged on long travel days with these lightweight battery packs and bring these worldwide travel adaptors on all our trips.
- I still struggle not to overpack so stick to using an expandable suitcase like these, over backpack and always take my trusty luggage scales to avoid being charged at the airport.