New York is surrounded by skyscrapers, big beautiful parks, memorials, shopping and more. What is not to love about New York! When you’re planning your trip, you’ll want to visit the best things to do in New York City and fear not, there is plenty to do in this large city.
You first time travelers to New York City must include the tourist attractions, but we have also included some hidden gems, that are less touristy for you to discover.
If you love a bit of shopping, or may be looking for a romantic getaway, a city break, staycation, first time traveler to New York, or an annual visitor, whatever the reason New York City has it all for you.
Firstly, New York City isn’t the most budget friendly city to visit, but you can do it, if you plan and budget for your trip.
We have included some free tourist attractions that will help with visiting New York on a budget, but if you do plan to include any paid attractions, then factor this into your budget.
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Things to do in New York City
When you’re visiting New York City for the first time, you’ll want to visit the top tourist attractions.
Here are the things you must do in New York City. We have also included some none touristy places for you to explore on your trip to New York.
September 11th Museum
Cost: $26 per person (£19.63 – €22.98)
Book your tickets here
On 21st May 2014 the September 11th Museum opened in memory of the 2977 people who died on 11th September 2001, plus 6 people who were killed in the 1993 bombing.
Learn more about the events leading up to the attacks, the eventful day and the following days, weeks and months after, through images, artifacts and hours of video footage at the museum.
The museum is so informative. Guides in the museum are willing to answer any questions and offer more details on anything within the museum.
One of the guides, explained to us about the dedication of a few members working on the antenna at the top of the north tower.
On the day of the attacks, a work force was doing general Maintenance work on the antenna when the plane struck the tower.
The work force remained on the tower to ensure the antenna continued to function, so live news feeds could still be sent across the world.
As we know, the tower collapsed and sadly the crew never made it home.
As you wander through the museums listening and watching videos, looking at the artifacts, it brings it home that people sacrificed their own lives for other people.
That piece of antenna, is on full display along with the last remaining piece of steel that left ground zero and a damaged fire engine that was in attendance.
The bit that brought tears to our eyes, are the loved ones talking into a video about the family members that they lost as a result. The grandmother that talks about her 5–6-year-old grandchild on one of the planes that hit the tower.
It wasn’t just adults, but young children and families died and their families will always be affected by this event.
American Museum of Natural History
Cost: $23 per person (£17.37 – €20.33), for additional exhibitions, there is a further fee
You can book tickets here
This impressive museum is the largest in the world, with 45 exhibition halls. Only a small proportion are on display though at any given time, such as plants, animals, fossils, rocks, meteors and human remains.
Interactive exhibitions are amazing, especially feeling a meteor for the first time. Touch the large rock, feel its contours, you’ll be surprise how cold it is.
In the space section, find out how much you would weigh if you were on the moon.
Learn more about the American native animals, or touch a dinosaur skeleton. There is so much to see, do and learn, that it’s one of the best things to do in New York City with kids.
Did you know there were waterfalls in New York? If not, there are other ways to explore New York and not just the city. To find out more about the best waterfalls in New York, then head over to this complete guide to finding waterfalls in New York.
Things to do in New York City for Free
New York City is one of the most expensive cities to visit. Once you have paid out for accommodation, flights, food and drinks, you might think, I don’t have much of a budget left to spend on the things to do in New York City.
Well, if you just visited these free things to see and do, not only will you be on budget, but you can still see the highlights that New York has to offer.
One of the most popular and famous parks in New York but it’s only the fifth largest park in the city.
There’s so much to do here, from ice skating in the winter, to sun bathing on the large green in the summer.
A great way to stay fit and healthy while on holiday, is to follow the rest of the locals and tourist for a run in Central Park. Or you could use the sports courts for your daily exercise.
Wander around the park and count how many statues and monuments that’s dotted around.
Central Park is a great day out for the family, with entertainment for the little ones. A number of play areas for the kids to run off steam, taking a paddle boat onto the lake for the older ones and just picnicking in the park.
Movie buffs should be able to spot the various filming locations, such as Home Alone 2. What movies have been filmed in Central Park? Let us know in the comments below.
While visiting New York City, you may want to check out some of the Best Festivals and Events in the city.
Grand Central Station
Located in midtown Manhattan and opened as recent as 1913. The station operates services between towns and villages out of the city, plus subway lines to connect New Yorkers with other areas of the city.
A famous landmark in New York, especially the clock above the information center in the middle of the station. But you must move your gaze up to enjoy the real master piece on the ceiling. The beautiful celestial ceiling, featuring 12 zodiac constellations.
The food hall in the lower section of the station has a wide variety of cuisine and budget, from fast food, to casual restaurants that will pull on your purse strings a little.
Take a train from Grand Central for a day trip from the city, get away from the hustle and bustle of the fast-paced life.
Completed in about 1883, to connect Manhattan with Brooklyn. About 6016 feet in length and at the time was the longest suspension bridge in the world.
In our opinion the best way to cross the bridge is on foot, but you can drive or cycle across the bridge. Start from Brooklyn, for the best views of Manhattan, but it can get very busy during the day. Head across Brooklyn Bridge early morning or late evening to avoid the large crowds and to take some awesome Instagram pictures.
The Oculus from the exterior is compact and represents a dove taking flight, but you’ll be surprised at what is beneath it.
In 2016 the Oculus opened following the September 11th attacks and forms part of the World Trade Centre Transportation Hub.
The terminus connects travelers with 11 subway lines, the PATH, plus retail and restaurants.
This has to be one of the biggest changes for the good in the area.
On our first visit to New York, well the effects of the terrible terror attacks were clearly visible. Not only at ground level, but below ground inside the Transportation hub as well.
Now, this amazing bright place, is the hip place to visit in New York.
National September 11th Memorial
A memorial to the ones who lost their lives on the sad day of September 11th 2001, plus 6 people who died as a result of the bomb attack in 1993.
Two memorial pools positioned in the same spot the twin towers once stood, around the outer section are a reminder who lost their lives, with their names etched into the side of the pool.
The names include, the people on the ground, emergency workers, inside the Twin Towers, the flights of United Airlines 77 and United Airlines 93.
A real somber place, but so beautifully designed.
Run your fingers over the names etched into the memorial, very emotional feeling.
Survivors, loved ones and tourists come here to remember, some leave flowers in the names of their loved ones.
Head up to Liberty Park for great views of the memorial below. Look out for the golden sphere.
The sphere was centered between the north and south tower before the attacks. As a result of the towers collapsing, the sphere was covered in debris.
During the clear up, the sphere survived, with visible damage and nicely placed in Liberty Park in pride of place.
Come and mark your respects, on your next visit to New York.
St Paul’s Chapel
St Paul’s Chapel was built in about 1766 and is the oldest building in Manhattan.
It was once the tallest building in New York, until over the years skyscrapers have domineered the skyline.
Steeped in so much history, that it has seen a lot happen over the years, from fire, to withstanding the September 11th attacks.
St Paul’s Chapel was a place of refuge following September 11th. For 8 months the chapel opened its doors, with volunteers working 12 hour shifts around the clock offering food, refuge and counselling to emergency workers and recovery workers.
Get out of the busy Manhattan streets, with a visit to the peaceful St Paul’s Chapel, admire the architectural building from the outside, before springing up to date with the interior design of the inside.
Say some prayers, relax and explore some of the rooms, holding memorabilia about September 11th before heading back out to the busy streets.
Thinking of visiting Niagara Falls? You can easily visit Niagara Falls from New York! We did on one of our visits. But we have heard the best spot to see the Falls are from Canada, and with an easy hop over the boarder you could easily visit Niagara Falls. If you are looking for memorable things to do, then visiting Niagara Falls in the Winter is a must.
Flat Iron Building
This iconic building gets its name from its shape resembling a flat iron.
Built in 1902 and at the time it was the tallest building in New York City.
The unusual shape compared to the buildings around makes it a great Instagramable image. To really see the flat iron shape, stand at the traffic island between Broadway and Fifth Avenue.
Apple Pie is a symbol of the USA, but it doesn’t actually come from America, it is a British dessert. But, none the less, there’s many cafes and restaurants that will have it on their menu. If you don’t want to go all the way to the USA just to consume this delicious dessert, why not make it yourself with this German apply pie receipe.
One of the best things to do for free in New York City is wandering around the city admiring the beautiful street art.
Some street artists’ work is just incredible, with different works of art on display, from the mural project, subway graffiti, bright colours on the side of buildings, shops and so much more.
But the origins of street art didn’t start out as we see it today.
In the 1970s it was actually a form of protest, with tags (graffiti tags) painted on subway carriages and buildings. In today’s world, it is a colourful display of art, many with a story behind it.
Yes, you do still see tagging around New York, but one of the best displays in our opinion is the Mural Project.
The Mural Project is located in the area of the Oculus, One World Trade Centre PATH Station and 9/11 Memorial.
When you see these displays, you feel like you’re in an open aired art gallery, as the city around you passes by.
Check out other areas of New York, such as Williamsburg and the Bronx.
It’s estimated that over 330,000 people visit or pass-through Times Square a day, making this the busiest pedestrian area in the world.
The big bright billboards that make Times Square famous, is definitely one of the main attractions in New York, but not everyone is here to glance up at the big screen. Many locals and tourist head off to a famous Broadway Theatre show.
If you happen to be dropping by Times Square on New Year’s Eve, then you’ll need to get here early, as crowds will be packing the streets just to watch the tiny ball drop at midnight to celebrate the new year. Millions watch this event from all over the world.
Statue of Liberty
Located on a separate island in the middle of the Hudson River. The only way to get to the Statue of Liberty, is via the ferry service in New Jersey or New York.
Admire the statue from afar in Battery Park, or take the ferry ride across to Liberty Island to see her in all her glory.
The island offers incredible views of New York City. Climb the Statue of Liberty for further views.
Enjoy a romantic meal while you admire the New York skyline with these dreamy rooftop restaurants in NYC.
New York City is packed with so much to see and do. We have selected some of the best things to do in New York City, that’s suitable for everyone.
You’ll note that there’s more free things to do in New York, which helps those budget travelers. We can’t not include of course some of the most famous places to visit, along with great places for families to explore.
We hope you love visiting New York City, just as much as we do.
Are you looking for inspiration on other locations in USA to visit? You could always visit some of the best places during autumn, and just watch the beautiful colours change.
Have you visited New York? Where did you go? Is there somewhere you have been but we haven’t included? Maybe you haven’t yet visited New York but you have always wanted to visit the city! Let us know, by leaving a comment below.
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