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30 Top Things To Do In New York

New York is one of my favourite cities! I used to make a point of visiting every year. Looking at my list of things to do in New York below, I think its about time I took another trip …

New York is one of the few places that I have re-visited many times, but the wow factor never goes away. I always feel like I am part of a movie set, and even the most simple thing like hailing a yellow cab, gives me joy. Wandering around New York’s iconic streets and soaking up the atmosphere is all part of the experience, but there are so many top things to do in New York that you simply shouldn’t miss. I hope this list helps you make the most out of this great city. 



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I have linked these top things to do in New York individually, but it is worth pointing out that good value can be found by booking multiple attractions together. New York’s Sightseeing Pass is designed to save you money even when visiting just two Attractions. Created by local New Yorkers for visitors and locals alike, it features four Observation Decks (including the newly opened Edge), six Bus Tours, and a $75 discount on New York Helicopter Tour.

Read: Where to stay in New York – my ultimate guide to hotels and apartments



1. Spend a few hours in Central Park


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I love Central Park, and it doesn’t matter when you visit – it has something different to offer at every time of year. Try to have brunch in the Boathouse – I can highly recommend it. The John Lennon memorial is also a lovely spot to visit. 

There are many activities available too, from cycling to Segways, you can try ice skating in the winter, or even visit the zoo! Central Park is massive, so a few hours will only scratch the surface, but its a great spot if you fancy a change from the bustling city.




2. Visit the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island

The Statue of Liberty, one of the top 20 things to visit in New York by The Travel Expert

No trip to New York would be complete without a trip to the iconic Statue of Liberty. It is one of the top things to do in New York, so if you want to climb into the crown, make sure you book in advance.

While you are there it would be a shame not to visit neighbouring Ellis Island. This moving museum gives incredible insight into American immigration. You can even search for your relatives in their database of over 51 million records.




3. Have lunch at Eataly

A mixture of an Italian food court and a gourmet market, the world famous Eataly is the perfect choice for a quick bite. There is something here to suit all tastes.




4. See the Skyline from one of New Yorks’ 5 Observatory Decks

Seeing the sights from one of New York's 5 observation decks

Years ago the Empire State Building was the best place to take in the views of New York’s skyline. Nowadays its a little more complicated – there are five observatory decks in Manhattan, each offering something a little different. While I don’t expect you to visit all five, I have listed them all here as they each deserve a place on this list of top things to do in New York. Let me explain what each offers below:




5. Visit The Top of the Rock


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The Top of the Rock is superbly located at the Rockefeller Centre and allows you to see most of New York’s famous landmarks, including the Empire State Building and Central Park – something that can’t be seen from some of the other observation decks. An interactive lift takes you to a modern and spacious indoor and outdoor observation deck, and there are other exhibits on display here too.



5 . Go Interactive at The One World Observatory

The One World Observatory is home to New York’s tallest observatory deck. The interactive lift is probably worth the visit alone. It takes you to the 102nd floor in under 60 seconds, where you will experience a virtual time-lapse that recreates New York’s skyline from the 1500’s to present day.

Note the observation deck here is indoor only, which can be handy during winter time, and it does offer great views of the Statue of Liberty. Its location Downtown means it doesn’t provide the same Midtown views as the some of the other observation decks.




6. Check out the Sky Deck on The Edge 

One of New York’s newest attractions, The Edge opened to rave reviews, and it wasn’t long before it was considered one of the top things to do in New York. As well as amazing views of the city (many think the best of all five observatory decks ), there is glass floor underneath the sky deck, so you can see New York’s streets 1000 feet below. You don’t have to walk over this if feeling nervous, you can simply visit the outdoor sky deck instead.


You can see the Empire State Building, Central Park, One World Trade Center, and Statue of Liberty from The Edge – I can’t wait to experience this for myself.



7. Take a glass lift to the Summit One Vanderbilt


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Officially home New York’s newest observation deck, the SUMMIT One Vanderbilt offers so much more. Ascending 1200 feet in a glass lift is an experience in itself, but the real fun happens when you step onto transparent skyboxes 1000 feet above Madison Avenue.


Although perhaps not for the faint hearted, this unique experience is top of my list for my next visit to New York. TOP TIP: Sunglasses are recommended due to the reflections of light, and sharp pointed shoes or high heels are not allowed in case they scratch the glass.



8. Stay Traditional at the Empire State Building

view of Empire State building at night time

Despite the influx of more modern observation decks, many people still choose to visit the the Empire State Building simply because it is one of New York’s most iconic buildings.

There are two viewing platforms, the one the 102nd floor is more expensive, but has an indoor area which can be handy during winter time. There are also some exhibits here too, although not as high-tech as what is available at the other observation decks.



9. Visit the 9/11 Memorial & Museum 

The 9/11 Memorial, one of the top 20 things to visit in New York by The Travel Expert

For most of us we will remember the event personally, so a visit to the memorial museum is a truly emotional experience, and a must visit in New York. The whole area has been rejuvenated – the reflecting pools are a tribute to those who lost their lives in the terror attacks, and the Oculus building is an architectural masterpiece.




10. Shop till you drop!

shopping in Woodbury Common near New York
Woodbury Common Designer Outlets

Whether you choose Macys or Bloomingdales, discount stores, or boutique shopping in Soho, New York is one of the world’s best cities for shopping! If all that isn’t enough for you, take a trip to the outlets at Woodbury Common for designer shopping at a fraction of the cost at home – get tickets here.




11.  Take time out at the High Line

Locals think this is one of the coolest places in New York, personally I prefer Central Park, but if you want to live like the locals, then this is the thing to do! This elevated park was once an old railroad track, and is situated 30 feet above the city.

Stretch out on one of the large loungers, eat a pretzel from a street vendor, or have a cocktail at the luxury Standard Hotel – its all part of the New York experience.




12. Take in a Broadway show

Broadway, one of the top 20 things to do in New York, by The Travel Expert

Chicago, Phantom, Wicked – you name it, if it’s on, it’s on in Broadway. With over 40 theatres it is THE place to catch the best shows.


13.  Eat a pastrami sandwich from a real New York deli

If you try nothing else in New York, you have to try a Pastrami sandwich on rye from a New York deli! It’s like coming to Dublin on your holidays and not trying Guinness! Piled high with what always looks like about 10 slices of pastrami, it tastes so good, I bet you will manage to finish it. 




14.  Take a hop on hop off bus tour.

This is the perfect way to get your bearings, especially if it’s your first time to visit. Try to get a seat up top and get the best views of New York’s iconic landmarks as you pass by. Big Bus Tours are one the most popular – book tickets here.

Travelling with kids? Read 12 Things to do in New York with kids



15. Walk through Times Square


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Times Square is loud, brash, tacky, but you gotta love it! You have to stroll around it to soak up the atmosphere. You can’t help but be blown away by the dazzling billboards and high rise blocks – and it is one of the top things to do in New York. Complete the cliche by getting a selfie with the naked cowboy, and having breakfast at Ellen’s Stardust Diner – they have to be done! 



16. Take a stroll through the West Village

While Times Square may be New York’s biggest tourist trap, the West Village is polar opposite. It’s got charm, character and chic nightlife – you almost feel like a NewYorker when you stroll through its back streets.

Its brownstone buildings, quirky boutiques and the local cafes gives off a completely different vibe to mid town Manhattan. It’s the kind of place I could live in very easily!




17. Have late night supper in Balthazar

From midnight on Friday or Saturday and 11pm on Sundays, Balthazar bistro on Spring Street serves up just what you need after a night on the town.




18. Visit the Intrepid Air & Space Museum

The Intrepid Air & Space Museum, one of the top 20 things to visit in New York by The Travel Expert

The Intrepid Air and Space Museum is a superb outdoor museum located on the Hudson River. Visit the legendary Intrepid air craft carrier, step inside a submarine and see the latest space exhibition.




19. Haggle for bargains in Chinatown

If Bloomingdales prices are getting you down, check out the stalls in Chinatown. This the place to get copies of designer clothes, bags and jewellery, but don’t forget to haggle.




20. Take a Movie & TV tour

Sex and the City tour in New York

From Sopranos, to Sex and the City, take a movie or TV tour to see your favourite locations, while taking a tour of the city at the same time. See lots of options here.




21. Spend an hour in the Apple Store

Check out the Genius bar, take in a workshop, or simply browse the latest technology from the market leader.

The apple store, one of the top 20 things to visit in New York by The Travel Expert




22. Take the Subway!


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Ok so this may not seem like one of the top things to do in New York, but it is one of my top tips for visiting New York. If you are staying uptown near Central Park and you want to go to Soho at night time, cabs can be expensive. Live like a New Yorker and take the subway! Not only will it save you a ton of money, but you wont spend hours battling the city traffic. 




23. Visit an art museum

Guggenheim museum, one of the top 25 things to do in New York

The Guggenheim’s cutting edge design has made it one of New York’s most iconic landmarks, while the Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of the largest art museums in the world – with over 2 million works of art, you will need plenty of time for this one!




24. Take a trip down Wall Street

Although you may think Wall Street is just another street of high rise blocks, it does have a certain  je ne sais quoi… Admire the well dressed New Yorkers, check out the New York Stock Exchange, and get the obligatory picture with the ‘charging bull’.




25. Have lunch al fresco

With stunning views of the Brooklyn Bridge, the Seaport is a great choice for outdoor dining in New York. Check out the Abercrombie & Fitch store there too, it has the same offerings as the 5th Avenue store, but without the queues!

Brookfield Place is another great location for al fresco dining on the Hudson river. Located across from the World Trade Centre, it is a great choice for lunch after a morning at the 9/11 Memorial Museum. You can also see the statue of Liberty in the distance.




26. Take in a cruise

Whether you cruise around the Statue of Liberty or enjoy a Harbour Lights evening cruise, there are lots of sightseeing cruises available in New York. These can be a lovely idea during the summer months, when the water may be preferable to city traffic. You can also enjoy a cruise on The Beast – New York’s wild speedboat cruise. See lots of cruise options here.



27. Sip a cocktail at the Plaza

Plaza Hotel, one of the top 25 things to do in New York by The Travel Expert

Opposite Central Park, this historic landmark is one of New York’s best hotels. A timeless classic, I have no doubt having a cocktail here will still be one of the top things to do in New York in twenty years time.




28. Take a helicopter ride over New York’s skyline

If you are having difficulty in deciding between New York’s five observation decks, go one better and see the skyline from a helicopter instead! You can book helicopter tours via Viator, who have the world’s largest selection of experiences and attractions. You can find helicopter discounts included in New York’s Sightseeing Pass.




29. Soak up the atmosphere in Soho

Soho’s mix of cutting edge designer shops and trendy foodie spots make it a must visit when in New York.




30.  Have a night cap in Bar 230

best rooftop bars in New York

Have a cocktail in one of Manhattan’s best roof top bars and enjoy great views of the Manhattan skyline.


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top 25 things to do in new york


I hope you liked this post on my top things to do in New York. Have I left out any of your favourites? Let me know in the comments below.


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