It’s no secret why New York is called “The City That Never Sleeps.” With countless stores, world-class restaurants, museums, galleries, activities, and more, there is no shortage of things to do in New York City. Whether you’re visiting with friends, a significant other, your family members, or kids, you’re sure to find plenty of fun things to do.
To get you started, here is our list of some of the best things to do in NYC that you really shouldn't miss during your trip. All of the following are must-see attractions in New York, broken down into a few general categories.
Bus Tours Through NYC
How better to start your tour of New York than exploring its mega network of streets? You can visit many interesting spots in a short period of time by taking a bus tour. The following bus tours are two of our favorite options for fun things to do in NYC.
Big Bus New York Sightseeing Tours
With one of the popular Hop On Hop Off Big Bus Tours, you'll get a chance to see many of the top buildings, tourist attractions, and locations that the city has to offer. A few of the options available include:
- Empire State Building
- SOHO/ Little Italy
- Brooklyn Bridge/ City Hall
- Wall Street/ Charging Bull
- High Line
- Madison Square Garden
- and many more!
And best yet, feel free to get off and on the bus at any time during the duration of your ticket to visit particular points of interest.
Madame Tussauds New York is a must-visit attraction for anyone who loves pop culture and celebrity! Located in the heart of Times Square, this iconic wax museum brings to life your favorite stars and celebrities from television, movies, music, politics, and sports in striking detail.
From posing with the Avengers in the Marvel Super Heroes 4D Experience, to standing face-to-face with historical figures and world leaders in the Presidents Gallery and the Spirit of New York exhibit, Madame Tussauds New York provides visitors with a unique and interactive experience like no other.
Take Pictures with Your Favorite Celebrities
Madame Tussauds New York immerses you in a world of glamour and fame, offering endless opportunities for fun photo ops and selfies with your favorite celebrities, from Taylor Swift and Beyonce to Donald Trump and Albert Einstein. Additionally, the museum hosts exciting seasonal exhibits and regular updates to their collection, ensuring that there's always something new to see during your visit!
Whether you're visiting New York City for the first time or you're a local looking for a fun and unique experience, Madame Tussauds New York is an attraction that you simply can't miss. Step into the world of your favorite actors, musicians, athletes, and heroes and create unforgettable memories that will last a lifetime. You can buy tickets to Madame Tussauds Wax Museum in NYC with the Go City® Pass, which includes discounted access to NYC attractions for one low price. Book Today!
Enjoying the View
Some of the most popular tourist destinations in New York are just places where you can enjoy a fabulous view of the skyline. The city offers breathtaking views if you can get yourself up to a good vantage point, so try not to miss these attractions:
The Empire State Building
This New York City attraction has been made famous time and again with cameo appearances in films like An Affair to Remember, Sleepless in Seattle, King Kong, and more. Be sure to head to the Empire State Building's 86th-floor observation deck to check out amazing 360-degree views of the city.
Take a self-guided multimedia tour to learn more about the incredible sights you’ll see from the top of the city. The Empire State Building even accommodates late-night visitors thanks to opening hours that extend until 2AM.
Fun fact: ESB was the tallest building in the world for almost four decades, and was designed by renowned architecture firm Shreve, Lamb and Harmon in the early 20th century. For more info, check out our guide to visiting the Empire State Building.
The Top of the Rock Observatory
The Top of the Rock Observatory can be found in one of the iconic hubs of The Big Apple, Rockefeller Plaza. This observation center is located at the top of Rockefeller Center, an extensive complex of 19 different buildings located between 48th and 51st Streets in Midtown.
The Rockefeller Center itself is an important sight to see in the city, but those who arrange a trip to the top of the observatory enjoy a panoramic view that includes noteworthy NYC skyscrapers like the Empire State Building, One World Trade Center, the Chrysler Building and more. The view is definitely one of the top 10 things to do in New York when on a visit.
For more info, check out our guide to visiting the Top of the Rock Observatory. Don't have time to see both, but can't decide which to focus on? Our post comparing the Top of the Rock vs the Empire State Building could be helpful.
The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
New York City was a prominent welcoming port for immigrants to the United States throughout a significant portion of its history. Today the Statue of Liberty is not just a symbol of America's history as a welcoming land of opportunity and freedom for immigrants, but also a great vantage point from which to view the sprawling metropolis.
There is a Statue of Liberty ferry available, as well as boat tours that circle the island, and other tours offered right on the premises that can be reserved in advance. These tours allow visitors to travel up the stairs to the crown of the statue, which is truly an experience unlike any other.
9/11 Memorial and Museum
One of the most important places in all of NYC is the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, located on the site of the former World Trade Center. This moving attraction recounts the tragic history of one of the darkest days in recent US history in informative and moving exhibits. The Memorial is one of the most memorable things to do while in New York City.
The Museum has three separate sections, detailing the lead-up to, day of, and aftermath of the attacks, as well as the stories of the lives lost and the relics that remain from the rubble. The outside Memorial is also popular for photographs and is well-known for its signature water feature and lighting.
Check out New York's Top Museums
Those who visit the city should make time for the Big Apple's art and . In fact, the top museums in New York are arguably some of the city's finest attractions for young and old. Wherever your interests lie, you can find a New York City museum to suit your tastes. With a wide spectrum of available exhibits, special events, unique programming, and more, there's never a dull moment on the NYC museum scene.
American Museum of Natural History
As one of New York’s most beloved and top museums, the American Museum of Natural History is equal parts fun and educational. Attracting millions of visitors every year, the American Museum of Natural History is one of the largest museums in the world. It's located on the west side of Central Park, so it's easy to build into a larger itinerary, too.
It includes more than 40 different permanent exhibition halls, and explores extensive subjects in the planetary, geological, biological, and anthropological sciences. Check out our guide for visiting the American Museum of Natural History.
The Museum of Modern Art
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is located in the Midtown area and features collections that focus on more recent artistic productions and more diverse artistic media. MoMA exhibits include not only works of painting, drawing, sculpture, prints, and architecture, but also photography, illustrated books, and electronic media.
Some of their most famous holdings include works by Jackson Pollock, Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, Cindy Sherman, Andy Warhol, and many, many more. Check out our guide for visiting MoMA during your NYC vacation.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is located on 5th Avenue on the East Side of Central Park, on a stretch of 5th Avenue commonly known as "Museum Mile." The Met is one of the most popular places to go in NYC for visitors interested in exploring art history and gaining a deeper understanding of the studio arts.
The Met includes more than 15 different curatorial departments and offers exhibits on art from all around the world and across time, with holdings as old as Ancient Egyptian artifacts and as recent as modern-day paintings. (If you're looking for more modern and contemporary, the Met Breuer is another smart choice).
Among the museum's offerings are not only artworks of the Western World dating from the Renaissance period, but also products of Asian, African, Oceanic, Byzantine, Indian, and Islamic art. Check out our guide for visiting The Met during your trip.
The Guggenheim Museum
Located near the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Guggenheim is found on Museum Mile along the East Side of Central Park. The Guggenheim features mainly modern and contemporary art, and it consists of numerous private collections that are shared with sister museums around the world including in Bilbao, Spain and in Venice, Italy.
The unique thing about the Guggenheim is its philosophy of displaying art. Rather than grouping items together by genre (a sculpture gallery, a painting gallery, etc.), the Guggenheim arranges objects in thematic ways that encourage visitors to ponder connections between them. Featured artists include Cézanne, Juan Gris, Kandinsky, Marc Chagall, Klee, and many others.
The Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum
Those interested in maritime history should head to the banks of Hudson around Midtown to visit the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum - which features an aircraft carrier turned museum.
The Intrepid was established as a museum in 1982, but previously the structure served as an aircraft carrier both in the Pacific Theater of World War II and in the Vietnam War. Exhibits at the museum explore the vessel's service history as well as general exhibits on naval history of the 20th century.
Experiencing NYC from the Water
Visitors to New York shouldn't forget that Manhattan is technically an island. It is surrounded by water on all sides, and this makes it a great place to explore by boat. Whether you're touring from the Upper Bay area below Manhattan, the Hudson on the West side, or the East River to the East, exploring the city by boat is a great way to experience both beautiful views and unforgettable memories.
The Landmark Cruise: Circle Line Sightseeing
If you've only got a short time in NYC, then you'll probably want to consider a sightseeing cruise. This Landmarks Cruise with Circle Line Sightseeing is a fun, comprehensive option. This tour includes landmarks located around Manhattan's shores south of Hell's Kitchen on the Hudson and around Lower Manhattan up to around the 20th Street Level on the East River.
So, some of the places you'll see include the Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, the High Line, One World Trade Center, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, DUMBO, the Brooklyn Bridge, and many more.
Other Important Places to Visit
Some destinations in NYC are so iconic that they are renowned all over the world. They're deeply ingrained in the city's culture, and most people you meet who you discuss your New York trip with afterwards will be asking you about them. Don't miss these three:
The Yankee Stadium Tour
To tour Yankee Stadium, you'll have to head to the Bronx, and for sports fans, it's often a highlight of their trip. Knowledgeable tour guides take visitors through Yankee Stadium featuring highlights that go beyond the sights you’ve seen on TV. The Yankees remain a significant force in NYC culture, and an in-depth tour of the stadium shows visitors the team spirit of New Yorkers from all five boroughs.
Madison Square Garden®: The All-Access Tour
Another can't miss destination in New York is The World’s Most Famous Arena®, Madison Square Garden. Take a 75-minute guided tour of this historic destination to get a behind the scenes look at this iconic venue. Some of the most famous concerts and events have happened here, many of which you can see highlighted in the MSG's Defining Moments exhibits.
The Garden is also home to the New York Rangers NHL team and the New York Knicks NBA team. Sports fans will be interested in knowing how the floor transforms from a basketball court to an ice rink. It's a can't-miss for culture buffs!
The Radio City Stage Door Tour
Radio City Music Hall is a great place to go to enjoy performances of the iconic Rockettes. On the Radio City Stage Door Tour®, you will have the opportunity to meet and have your photo taken with a world-famous Rockette.
During the tour you will also get to view the auditorium, the celebrity guestbook, and discover the secrets and history of the Great Stage, where some the biggest and best names in entertainment have performed.
Seeing Central Park is a must-do while you're in New York, even if you'll only be staying for a very limited period of time. This beautiful green space offers a haven to the insanity of big city living, and it never fails to impress visitors from all parts of the world.
Staten Island's Beautiful Views
Staten Island, the southern borough in New York City, has beautiful views. It includes a lengthy waterfront with picturesque vistas of the New York Harbor, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and the Statue of Liberty. The best way to admire these panoramas is through taking the Staten Island Ferry. This 24/7 commuter ferry runs between St. George and Manhattan, taking 25 minutes for each journey. While aboard it allows visitors to take in amazing skylines and harbor scenes - making it a must-experience for those visiting NYC.
A ferry ride is not the only way to enjoy Staten Island's scenic beauty. Visitors can explore Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden, boasting 83 acres of gardens, the Staten Island Museum, and other cultural institutions. It offers views of the harbor and the Manhattan skyline. The Greenbelt park is also a great way to see nature at its finest, with 2,800 acres of forests and trails. With so many opportunities to explore its stunning views, Staten Island is one of New York City's top attractions.
Coney Island, in the southernmost of Brooklyn, is an ideal destination for anyone looking for fun and excitement. At 2.5 miles long, the iconic boardwalk has plenty of attractions, shops, and restaurants. One must-ride attraction is the Cyclone roller coaster, which has been a thrill ride since 1927. A nearby landmark is the Wonder Wheel, a Ferris wheel standing 150 feet tall that provides stunning views of the ocean and area. The beach offers miles of soft sand and clear water for swimming or sunbathing and people-watch spots.
Coney Island isn't only about the beach and boardwalk but is a diverse community with a rich history explored at the Coney Island Museum. Visitors can learn about amusement parks, witness sideshow attractions, and observe artifacts from the past. There are opportunities for fishing, surfing, and kayaking in the area. Consequently, Coney Island is seen as one of the top things to do in New York City and an essential destination for fun and adventure. Visit Luna Park at Coney Island with the Go City® Pass!
Nathan's Hot Dogs (Coney Island)
Since 1916, both locals and visitors have enjoyed Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs, a true gem of Coney Island. A trip to Coney Island wouldn't be complete without stopping at Nathan's, an iconic restaurant that has come to represent traditional American cuisine. Entering Nathan's is like entering a time capsule because the retro furnishings and signage instantly take customers back to a more carefree time.
The food, however, is what really makes Nathan's unique. The aroma of sizzling hot dogs and freshly cut fries tempts onlookers to stop by and indulge. With a snappy casing and a juicy, flavorful interior, the hot dogs themselves are truly works of art. And let's not even talk about the burgers, which are juicy, delectable, and topped with all the traditional ingredients.
Additionally, Nathan's offers some of the best seafood in the area, including perfectly cooked shrimp and clams that practically melt in your mouth. And if you're thirsty, their tart and energizing lemonade is the ideal beverage to go with any meal. Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs is a true gem of Coney Island that should not be missed thanks to its unrivaled combination of traditional American charm, delectable food, and rich history.
At the southern tip of Manhattan lies Battery Park, a popular and historic park in New York City. Visitors can take in views of New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty, and Ellis Island while strolling through the park's lush gardens or resting on a bench or iconic green chair. The park offers impressive monuments including the Battery Oval honoring soldiers who fought in the War of 1812.
Battery Park is renowned for its beauty and history. It regularly holds free concerts, art exhibits and cultural events, which is representative of New York City's vibrant culture. More adventurous guests can enjoy kayaking, fishing, and bike rentals. Battery Park is a must-visit for anyone wanting the best of New York City.
Central Park Bike Rentals
Past visitors to New York City typically lament that they could have spent several days enjoying Central Park. However, you can get too many of the park's top locations during a full-day bike rental, and you'll get some great exercise at the same time. Some of the things you'll definitely want to do during your day at the park include a visit to the Central Park Zoo, a paddleboat ride on the Lake, a relaxing nap at Sheep Meadow, and a tour of the Central Park Mall with its stately Elm trees.
If you have time, enjoy the view of the Great Lawn from the Belvedere Castle and stroll through the Literary Walk to see statues of some of the most widely renowned writers in the English language, including Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Fitz-Greene Halleck.
Times Square is one of the top things to do in New York City, and for good reason. This iconic landmark is a must-see attraction when visiting the city, as it has something for everyone. From its bright neon lights to its vibrant energy and entertainment, Times Square is an experience like no other. With its endless restaurants, shops, theaters, and quirky attractions it's no wonder why so many people flock to this destination each year.
At night, Times Square comes alive with the hustle and bustle of tourists and locals alike, who all share in the excitement that comes with being part of this unique neighborhood. Whether you're looking for a bite to eat, street performers or just some great people-watching, you can find it here. Plus it's only steps away from popular Broadway shows like "The Lion King," making a visit to Times Square even more enjoyable.
Visitors can also explore the interactive exhibits at Madame Tussauds Wax Museum or participate in a scavenger hunt as they search for their favorite celebrities' wax sculptures. The food offerings at Times Square are seemingly endless; there's something for every palate including Italian, Mexican, Chinese and classic American favorites. With so much to explore and experience during your visit to Times Square there’s nothing more exciting than soaking up all that this remarkable place has to offer!
Bryant Park is a great place to visit in New York City. Located in Midtown Manhattan, the park offers visitors a respite from the hustle and bustle of city life with its lush green lawns and tranquil atmosphere. As one of NYC’s most popular parks, it has something for everyone – whether you want to relax on the grass or take part in an outdoor activity like yoga or chess. Plenty of restaurants are nearby for grabbing a bite to eat after your time at the park, as well as numerous shops and attractions that make Bryant Park an ideal destination for tourists looking for an enjoyable day out. From movie screenings in the summer to ice skating in the winter and art exhibitions all year round, there is always something happening at Bryant Park. Come for a day of leisure or a night of entertainment - Bryant Park is sure to be an enjoyable experience!
Q: What must I see when in New York City?
A1: There are countless must-see attractions in New York City, from iconic landmarks like the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty to world-renowned museums like the American Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MOMA). Whether you're interested in history, art, culture, or just soaking up the energy of this vibrant city, you're sure to find something that excites and inspires you.
Q: What's the best way to explore New York City?
A: One of the best ways to explore New York City is by taking a bus tour, like the popular Hop On Hop Off Big Bus Tours or the unique and interactive experience offered by THE RIDE. These tours offer a fun and informative way to see many of the city's top buildings, tourist attractions, and locations, while professional comedic hosts provide fun and interesting context to the sights you'll see with history, fun facts, trivia, and even karaoke.
Q: What are some of the most breathtaking views of New York City?
A: There are plenty of places in New York City where you can enjoy a fabulous view of the skyline, but some of the most popular include the Empire State Building's 86th-floor observation deck, which offers amazing 360-degree views of the city, and the Top of the Rock Observatory, located at the top of Rockefeller Center, which features a panoramic view that includes noteworthy NYC skyscrapers like the Empire State Building, One World Trade Center, the Chrysler Building, and more.
Q: What are some other important places to visit in New York City?
A: In addition to the many world-renowned museums and iconic landmarks in New York City, there are also some lesser-known destinations that are definitely worth a visit. For sports fans, a tour of Yankee Stadium or Madison Square Garden is often a highlight of their trip, while those interested in maritime history should head to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. And of course, no trip to New York City would be complete without a stroll through Central Park or a visit to the always-exciting Times Square.
Q: Is it possible to save on admission to top attractions in New York City?
A: Yes! There are plenty of ways to save on admission to top attractions in New York City, including purchasing a New York Explorer Pass, which offers discounted admission tickets to your favorite destinations. With so many amazing things to see and do in New York City, it's always a good idea to keep an eye out for ways to save a little money while still experiencing everything this incredible city has to offer.
Save on Admission to Top Attractions
So there you have it. Our picks for the most popular and top things to do in NYC for first time visitors during their vacation. Plan to visit some of these top attractions during your trip. Whether you are traveling with young kids, teens, or just adults, we're sure you and your family will have a great time.
Many of these must see attractions are available with Go City®. Choose as you go from dozens of popular New York attractions and save on combined admission vs paying at the gate.