You’ve got your first trip EVER planned to visit New York City?? Wondering what you should see and do but have no idea where to start? I know…you want to do and see it all!
And you’ve come to the right place.
Even if this is your SECOND trip to New York City, I bet you haven’t been to all 15 of these places on my list, but I promise to give you good enough reasons why you should visit them, some of which may have never even heard of!
Lets get started…
1) Times Square
This one is obvious! The Mecca of the Big Apple and usually the very first place on everyone’s list when they come to visit. Not only is Times Square extremely iconic to New York City, but did you know the lights of NYC can be seen from outer space? An estimated 26 million people visit Times Square per year and a whopping 50,000 people walk through it a day!
Popular restaurants nearby I would recommend include Carmine’s (Italian Family Style), Ellen’s Stardust Diner (which includes singing and dancing entertainment during your meal) and John’s Pizzeria. My favorite spot for cocktails is Lillie’s which is right around the corner from Times Square or if you’d rather enjoy an awesome view, visit The View Bar at the Marriott Marquis Hotel.
2) The Empire State Building
YES, you should totally go up to the top! The views of Manhattan are worth every penny and minute of wait time. Tickets are $37 for Adults, $31 for children and $35 for seniors and hours are from 8am to 2am. Yes, I said 2am! Nighttime and daytime are just as beautiful, but I would recommend sunset so you can experience both. Purchase your tickets here.
3) Central Park
You’d be surprised how many people don’t make it to Central Park on their first visit to New York City. Obviously Spring through Fall are ideal seasons to spend a day in the park, but Winter is beautiful as well, especially when it snows! Central Park is pretty massive, spanning 2 and a half by 3 miles long. I would recommend spending an entire day in the park if your visit to NYC allows. Here is my one day guide to NYC’s Central Park. Make sure you dine at or have a drink at Tavern on the Green or The Loeb Boathouse which are two of Central Park’s most popular restaurants.
4) The Statue of Liberty
There are so many ways to see Lady Liberty! You can pay $31 for a 1 hour boat tour OR you can ride the Staten Island Ferry for free which passes by the Statue of Liberty close enough for a photo op. If you have time, I would also suggest spending time on Ellis Island to explore the National Museum of Immigration and the history of New York City.
5) Top of the Rock & Rockefeller Center
Located in Rockefeller Center, Top of the Rock is my favorite view of the New York City skyline because you get to experience 360 views of surrounding skyscrapers from see-through glass panels. It’s the best view of Manhattan in my opinion! Tickets are $36 for adults, $30 for children and $32 for seniors. Purchase your tickets here.
If you’re visiting during the Winter, I would highly recommend going to see the Rockette’s Christmas Spectacular Show at Radio City Music Hall! It will get you in the Christmas Spirit, as will the famous annual Christmas tree in Rockafeller Center.
6) 5th Avenue
Shop til you drop! There is no other shopping area like 5th avenue. From luxury stores like Tiffany & Co, Louis Vuitton, Bergdorf Goodman to stores such as H&M, Zara and Forever21, there is shopping for everyone. Seriously, you could spend a whole day exploring! If your starving after your shopping, drop by one of my favorite brunch/lunch spots nearby, Sarabeth’s or Rue 57. Make sure you also check out the famous Plaza Hotel and if you’re willing to splurge, enjoy tea time at The Palm Court restaurant, located right passed the lobby.
7) The World Trade Center Memorial & One World Observatory
Both a somber and humbling experience, the World Trade Center Memorial is beautiful and honors the lives of those lost on September 11th, 2001. The memorial is open to the public and hours are from 7:30am to 9pm daily.
Afterwards, head up to the top of One World Observatory for amazing views of the city. Purchase your tickets for $34 here. You can also check out the new Oculus shopping center at street level below.
If you’re visiting during the Spring or Summer, pop down the street to Loopy Doopy Rooftop Bar, located at the Conrad Hotel and enjoy stunning views of the Hudson River as well as delicious boozy popsicle cocktails! Another great option for food and drinks nearby is Pier A Harbor House, with more spectacular views of the Hudson River and delicious lobster rolls.
8) Broadway Show
There are so many Broadway shows to choose from! My personal favorites include Wicked, Aladdin and The Lion King. For older audiences or if you’re going to see a show with your parents I would recommend Phantom of the Opera or Jersey Boys.
9) The Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET)
The most popular museum in Manhattan is the MET because it showcases 5,000 years worth of art! You can explore paintings, sculptures and artifacts from before our time. Hours are Sunday through Thursday 10am to 5:30pm and Friday to Saturday 10am to 9pm. NY residents can pay whatever they wish, but tickets for out-of-town visitors are $25 for adults, $17 for seniors, $12 for students and free for children. Purchase your tickets here.
10) The American Museum of Natural History
This is my favorite museum in NYC! My favorite parts of the museum include the Dinosaur Exhibit, Butterfly Conservatory and Planetarium Space Show – all of which I highly recommend you check out. Tickets vary depending on which parts of the museum you wish to see and you can purchase them here. Museum hours from 10am to 6pm daily.
Looking for some awesome grub after a full day at the museum? Head down the street to Maison Pickle (my favorite brunch spot in NYC) for delicious southern comfort food or Shake Shack for the best burgers and shakes. If you’re looking for some sweet treats, dive into ice cream, cookies and famous ‘crack pie’ at Milk Bar nearby.
11) The High Line
The High Line is a 1.5 mile elevated park that is now walkable to the public but used to be part of the New York City Railroad. The high line runs from 14th street up to 34th and during the Spring and Summer you can grab coffee, lunch or ice cream on your walk through the park. If you choose to begin or end your walk near 14th street, I would suggest dining at Bubby’s High Line for incredible breakfast and lunch options. They also have awesome ice cream at their Ample Hills Creamy next door! Murray’s Bagels is also nearby which is my favorite bagels in the city.
Craving sweets? Drop by Billy’s Bakery. Their Banana Bread Cupcakes with cream cheese frosting are to die for!
12) Chelsea Market
Chelsea Market is a 13,000 square foot food hall and shopping center located in the heart of NYC’s well-known neighborhood, Chelsea. I always take friends here who are visiting for a local shopping and dining experience and they always love it because it has such a unique character! Check out all shopping and dining options at Chelsea Market here. You can get anything and everything from ramen and seafood to donuts and ice cream.
If you can make a reservation far enough in advance, I would suggest dining at Buddakan for dinner. It’s one of NYC’s top rated restaurants.
13) The Brooklyn Bridge
During your NYC visit, you should absolutely walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. Not only are there fantastic photo ops and gorgeous views of the city, but there is a plethora of things to do and see on the other side of the bridge in Dumbo. Brooklyn Bridge Park has tons of shopping, bars and restaurants. Enjoy a cocktail on the rooftop of the One Hotel, grab a pizza from the original Grimaldi’s Pizzeria or have a margarita and Mexican food at one of my favorite spots next-door, Gran Electrica.
Located in Brooklyn, Smorgasburg is the biggest open air market in the US! With over 100 street vendors, you can enjoy delicious bites and shop from small designers and businesses. On average, 20 to 30 thousand people flock to Brooklyn each weekend for Smorgasburg, which is located in Williamsburg on Saturdays and Prospect Park on Sundays from 11am to 6pm both days. It’s totally worth the trek from Manhattan!
15) Circle Line Boat Tour
This was the first ever touristy thing I ever did in New York. Enjoy the breeze and beautiful views of the New York City skyline while your tour guide educates you on the history of NYC and each neighborhood. You’ll learn so many things you never knew about the city! There are a multitude of cruises to choose from and pricing ranges from $31 to $43. Purchase your tickets here.