Visit New York City : what are the best things to do and see in New York for a first time?
There are a ton of fun and interesting things to do and see in New York, and you will definitely want to know what some of the best ones are if you plan on going there.
Even those who actually live in this city don’t know about many of the amazing things there are to do. This list will be sure to keep you busy when you are in the Big Apple.
1. Times Square
You simply cannot visit New York without going to Times Square, perhaps the most popular square in the city. Located in the heart of the city, its bright lights and huge crowds of people can be a bit overwhelming at first for out-of-towners.
You are bound to see some interesting and maybe even odd things when you visit this area. There are lots of live television broadcasts conducted at Times Square.
Times Square, Things to do in NYC, USA by Sam valadi
2. Empire State Building
The Empire State Building is another common New York tourist attraction that you should try to see while you are here. Assuming you don’t have a fear of heights, the observatory deck on the 102nd floor will give you a truly amazing view of the city.
It is quite the impressive site, both from the inside and outside. The building is opened from 8AM to 2AM and the basic admission is $57. For 40 years it was the tallest building in the world, now it is in 28th place, so you’ll hardly miss it.
Empire State Building viewed from Top of the Rock, Things to do in NYC, USA
3. Central Park
There are a lot of parks sprawled across New York, but Central Park is the largest and most spectacular. Here you will find two different museums and even a venue for live music.
This is an extremely popular area for joggers, but it’s also a great place for a relaxing stroll. The Bethesda fountain and conservatory garden are just two of the great attractions in this park.
Central Park, NYC things, USA by Anthony Quintano
4. City Hall
The City Hall building has been the headquarters of the local government since the early 1800s, and the architecture is quite impressive. You can take a free guided tour of the building Monday through Thursday, and it’s definitely worth checking out if you want to learn more about the city.
New York City Hall, New York Things, USA by MusikAnimal
5. New York Public Library
The famous New York Public Library is a landmark building in the city, and the marble lions that guard its doors only add to the visual experience of visiting it. There are numerous exhibits that you should make a point of stopping by, especially the one that houses an original copy of the Declaration of Independence.
New York Public Library, New York Things, USA by JULIAN MASON
6. Statue of Liberty and Staten Island Ferry
The Staten Island ferry offers tours for $18, and you will get to see the Statue of Liberty as well as a number of other interesting sights. This ferry has been making its way around the harbour since the early 1900s, and it has taken millions of people over the water in that time. This is a nice and relaxing way to see New York City.
It’s practically a crime to visit New York City without making the trip out to Liberty Island to see the Statue of Liberty. This majestic landmark is truly iconic. You will also want to visit Ellis Island, where you can learn the fascinating history of immigration into the U.S.
Statue of Liberty, Staten Island, New York things, USA by David Phan
7. Brooklyn Bridge
The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the biggest landmarks in New York, and it’s a bit overwhelming when you actually see it in person. This bridge takes around 40 minutes to completely walk across, which is pretty crazy when you really think about it. You will find lots of people skating, cycling, rollerblading and jogging across this bridge all the time.
Brooklyn Bridge, Things to do in NYC, USA by See-ming Lee
8. Brooklyn Botanic Garden
The Botanic Garden in Brooklyn is a beautiful place to walk through on a warm day. There are just over 50 acres of trees and flora, including cherry blossoms trees that were donated by Japan. You should try to visit it either in April or May because that is when the trees have started to blossom. There are numerous trails that you can take to walk through this area.
Sakura Matsuri, Cherry Blossom Festival, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Things to do in NYC, USA by vishpool
9. 9/11 Memorial
The 9/11 memorial was completed 10 years to the day after the tragedy, and it features 30’ waterfalls cascading down where the World Trade Center used to be. Each of the pools in this memorial is almost an acre, so it’s quite an impressive spectacle. There is also a wall with all of the names of the victims on it.
9/11 Memorial, Things to do in NYC, USA by Dave Z
10. African Burial Ground
While it may seem a bit morbid, the African Burial Ground National Monument is an interesting place to visit, especially if you are a history buff.
In the early 90s, construction workers discovered hundreds of wooden caskets with the remains of African Americans dating back to the 17th century. This historic site now stands as a memorial to the men and women who were found.
African National Monument, New York Things, USA by Rodney Leon
11. Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is often referred to by New Yorkers as simply “the Met”, can be found on the upper east side of the city.
This museum gets over six million visitors each year, and it features a variety of fascinating exhibits. There are more than two million art pieces that span five thousand years throughout the past.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Things, USA by Marc Barrison
12. Brooklyn Brewery Tours
If you are a big fan of beer, you won’t want to miss out on the epic Brooklyn brewery tour. These tours are available from Monday to Thursday, and they will allow you to sample a wide range of beers.
Those who want to save some money should take a tour on the weekend, as they are completely free of charge.
Brooklyn Brewery Tours, New York Things, USA by Bernt Rostad
13. Fashion Institute of Technology Museum
The FIT Museum in Midtown has multiple exhibits displaying a variety of colourful textiles and garments of all kinds. There are over 50,000 pieces that go all the way back to the 1700s.
It is a great place to visit for anyone who is interested in fashion and/or history. There are guest speakers frequently who give talks at this museum.
Fashion Institute of Technology, New York things, USA by Beyond My Ken
14. Federal Hall
Federal Hall is a wonderful historic site to visit, and it’s where George Washington was inaugurated in 1789 as the first president of the USA. There is a striking statue just outside of the building, and it’s located very close to Wall Street.
Even though the original Federal Hall building was demolished in 1812, the new one known as Federal Hall National Memorial was built here in 1842. If you are interested in the history of this city, this is definitely a must-see attraction.
Federal Hall National Memorial, New York Things, USA by Hu Totya
15. Governor’s Island
Governor’s Island is only a short ferry trip away, and it only costs a couple of dollars. Here you will find a rather large path for biking that spans 2.2 miles total.
There is also miniature golf and a nice little area that is designated for picnics, making it the perfect place for the whole family. You will also find a number of interesting military sites. Also, the views of New York are some of the best from this island!
Governor’s Island, New York Things, USA by Gryffindor
16. Grand Central Partnership Walking Tours
Take a trip back into time with two extremely knowledgeable historians to learn about some of the most fascinating historic buildings in New York. You will see the Chrysler Building, Grand Central Terminal, and a number of other places.
Tours are 90 minutes long and make for a great way to spend part of the day in this city.
Grand Central Terminal, New York things, USA by Diliff
17. Green-Wood Cemetery
At one time Green-Wood Cemetery was the most popular destination for tourists in the entire U.S. It was founded in the mid-1800s, and it has the remains of 600,000 men, women and children.
Head on up to Battle Hill, an important historic site relating to the Revolutionary War, for an amazing view of Brooklyn.
Green-Wood Cemetery, New York things, USA by Michela Simoncini
18. Hamilton Grange
Once owned by Alexander Hamilton, this huge country estate is truly an amazing sight to behold. Millions of people visit Hamilton Grange each year, and it’s easy to see why.
This is yet another great historic place to visit, and it will provide you with some epic scenery as you stroll through its sprawling 32 acres.
Hamilton Grange, New York things, USA by Mike
19. High Line
While High Line may be a public park, it definitely won’t feel like it once you get there. The High Line project isn’t open 24/7, but it’s worth going by to see if you are in New York.
The land that the park now sits on used to be a railroad track. This park’s landscaping is very beautiful, and it makes for the perfect place for a lazy stroll on a nice warm day.
High Line, New York things, USA by Sue Waters
20. Japan Society
If you have an interest in Japanese culture, the Japan Society will provide you with an interesting and educational experience. There are numerous gallery exhibits that showcase many old Japanese art pieces.
It can be found in Midtown East, and it is free from 6 to 9 on Fridays only. There are also films shown as well as the occasional lecture.
Japan Society, Things to do in NYC, USA by Geslin George
21. National Museum of the American Indian
The National Museum of the American Indian features quite a large collection of art pieces that were all done by various Native Americans. It features numerous exhibits that will teach you all about the intricate and beautiful culture of America’s native people.
One of the things that make this museum unique is its emphasis on culture over history. A museum is opened daily, admission is free and you’ll find it in Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House located in Lower Manhattan.
National Museum of the American Indian, Things to do in NYC, USA by Ken Lund
22. New York Earth Room
Those who are interested in a different sort of tourist attractions will want to visit the New York Earth Room. It is an art installation from the 1970s that is packed with nearly 300,000 lbs of dirt.
It may look like a regular office building when you step inside, but its contents are quite the spectacle. This is one sight you will not soon forget.
Unfortunately, we do not have a picture of New York Earth Room, if you have one, please send it to us!
23. Old Stone House
This very Old Stone House made it through the Battle of Brooklyn, and it’s a magnificent historic site that you should make time to visit before heading back home.
It is free to visit, though you are asked to donate $3 upon entering. The architecture of the house is unique, and it is an important historical place in the city.
Old Stone House, Things to do in NYC, USA by Dmadeo
24. Public Boathouse Kayaking
If you want to go kayaking without having to spend any money whatsoever, there are public boathouses in Queens, including the Long Island Community Boathouse. New York offers some amazing kayaking experiences that you don’t want to miss out on.
This is a fun and inexpensive way to spend an afternoon, whether you are a resident or tourist.
Public Kayaking, Hudson river, Things to do in NYC, USA by bones64
25. Rockefeller Center Public Art
The Rockefeller Center is home to the Today Show on NBC, and there is a huge Christmas tree lit up just outside. You can take a tour of the building for $30, and if you’re willing to pay a bit more you can even go to the observatory deck as well. It’s definitely an interesting attraction for tourists and New York natives.
Rockefeller Center, Things to do in NYC, USA by (vincent desjardins)
26. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
If you want a dose of culture and history in one attraction, the Schomburg Center houses the most extensive collection of photographs, books and various documents that are all tied to African American culture in one way or another. You can take a guided tour for free, and the exhibits are fascinating.
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Things to do in NYC, USA by Beyond My Ken
27. Socrates Sculpture Park
The Socrates Sculpture Park, which used to be a dumping ground, is no ordinary park to say the least. It is located near the Upper East Side, and it has some extraordinary art pieces.
There are films shown every Wednesday in the summer months, and it’s just a great overall attraction. You can find this park in Queens on Broadway.
Socrates Sculpture Park, Things to do in NYC, USA by kl801
28. American Museum of Natural History
New York has lots of great museums to offer, but the Natural History Museum is one of the best. If you come to this museum an hour before close, you get in for free. It is located on the Upper West Side, and there are lots of stunning exhibits to see.
American Museum of Natural History, Things to do in NYC, USA by Fordmadoxfraud
29. Bargemusic Music in Motion
Every Saturday there is a concert on a barge that drifts down the East River, filling the air with incredibly beautiful music. This will probably be the most unique concert you have ever been to, and it happens at 4pm on the same day each week. Located on Water Street in Brooklyn, this is a great attraction to check out.
Unfortunately, we do not have a picture of Bargemusic Music in Motion, if you have one, please send it to us!
30. Books Beneath the Bridge
In the summer months of July and August, you can go down to the Brooklyn Bridge Park on Monday evening to see noted authors read pieces of their books. There are usually quite a few people who gather round, and it doesn’t cost a thing.
Brooklyn Bridge Park, Things to do in NYC, USA by MusikAnimal
31. BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn Festival
This summer festival first started back in 1979 as a way of getting people to visit Prospect Park. There are free live music and dance performances from some very talented individuals each year. If you are in the area in the summer, this is definitely worth checking out. It is a truly unique spectacle and a whole lot of fun.
BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn Festival, Things to do in NYC, USA by Steven Pisano
32. Brooklyn Museum
The Brooklyn Museum is well-known for its many intriguing exhibits, and it occasionally hosts a big party with wine and live music. If you are in the area on the first Saturday of the month, you won’t want to miss out on the party. You can find this museum in Prospect Heights in Brooklyn. There are tons of people having a great time.
Brooklyn Museum, Things to do in NYC, USA by Howard Brier
33. Bronx Zoo
The Bronx Zoo is one of the best places to go if you are visiting New York City with your children. There are tons of amazing animals, and you can pay whatever you want to get in every Wednesday each month. This is one place that your family will remember for many years to come.
Bronx Zoo, Things to do in NYC, USA by Anagoria
34. El Museo del Barrio
El Museo del Barrio is a great place to go if you want to learn more about Latino culture. There are many exhibitions that cover all forms of media, including video, photographs and more. This museum has a very impressive collection of Latino cultural pieces that are both interesting and educational. It is located on Fifth Avenue.
El Museo del Barrio, Things to do in NYC, USA by Guy Dickinson
35. Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum
This museum has a number of impressive pieces from Japanese artist Isamu Noguchi. He designs furniture and buildings (including the museum itself), and it’s one gallery you don’t want to miss. The rock garden, in particular, is quite striking, and it’s a somewhat non-traditional art gallery that stands out from the others in New York City.
Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum, Things to do in NYC, USA by Wmpearl / Public Domain
36. Metropolitan Opera Summer Recital Series
If you have a love of opera, you will be sure to enjoy what the Metropolitan Opera Summer Recital Series has to offer. There are numerous venues that you can visit to see some of the best opera in the entire country. Venues across all five boroughs hold opera performances from a number of artists.
Metropolitan Opera, Things to do in NYC, USA by Vladimir
37. Movement Research at the Judson Church
If you find yourself free on a Monday evening in Greenwich Village, you should really consider going to Washington Square to see some of the dance performances. These performances are totally free, and the performers are skilled beyond belief. You can see them in the fall and winter as well as the springtime. There is a lot of experimental stuff that will blow you away.
Judson Church, Things to do in NYC, USA by Beyond My Ken
38. Movies in the Park
Bryant Park, McCarren Park and Brooklyn Bridge Park all hold outdoor movie viewings throughout the summer. These outdoor screenings are a lot of fun, and you can find out which movies are to be shown on the local government websites. Bring a blanket and some snacks and enjoy a truly magical viewing experience with the whole family.
Bryant Park, Things to do in NYC, USA by Dan DeLuca
39. Museum of Modern Art
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMa) in Midtown West is home to some very unique and intriguing installations. There are two hundred thousand different pieces of art on display, and the architecture of the building itself is impressive to say the least. Some of these pieces of art date back hundreds of years, and they are something spectacular to see up close.
Museum of Modern Art, Things to do in NYC, USA by Alsandro
40. Museum of the Moving Image
The Museum of the Moving Image in Queens is the perfect place for any film/history buff. There is an entire section dedicated to television shows throughout the years as well, including a large exhibit just for the 90s sitcom Seinfeld. Anyone who has a love of film and television will want to stop by this amazing museum.
The Museum of the Moving Image, Things to do in NYC, USA by MusikAnimal
41. Neue Galerie
A restored mansion from the early 1900s, the Neue Galerie is now home to many old and interesting German and Austrian art pieces. These works of art come from many different artists, including Egon Schiele and Paul Klee. You don’t have to spend a dime to get into this museum, and it has a cafe downstairs with an extensive menu.
Neue Galerie, Things to do in NYC, USA by Razr
42. New York Botanical Garden
Located in the Bronx, the New York Botanical Garden has 50 acres of beautiful nature for you to explore. It also has the Enid QA Haupt Conservatory, which has become a New York landmark. You will be able to see all of the different events this museum offers on their website. It is a great way to spend an afternoon with the family.
New York Botanical Garden, Things to do in NYC, USA by LeoTar
43. New York Historical Society
The New York Historical Society was established back in the early 1800s, and since then it has accumulated a massive collection of incredible artefacts. There are currently over 60,000 pieces from over the years, including the chair that George Washington sat on during his inauguration. This is one place you definitely want to visit, especially if you love history.
New York Historical Society, Things to do in NYC, USA by Joyofmuseums
44. Wave Hill
Wave Hill is a large public garden that spans over 28 acres. It has a cultural centre on the grounds, and admission is free Tuesday through Saturday 9am to 12pm. There are many gardens throughout New York City, but this one is really something special. The rare flora and beautiful ambience of this garden make it one of a kind.
Wave Hill, Things to do in NYC, USA by Kristine Paulus
45. Upright Citizens Brigade Theater
One of the best places to go for an unforgettable night of entertainment is the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater. It features some very talented comedians that will really show you a good time. It is located in Chelsea on 26th Street, and it’s a great place to go whether you are travelling alone or with children.
Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, Things to do in NYC, USA by Marcin Wichary
46. Grand Central Terminal
Grand Central is certainly known for being one of the biggest and busiest public transport hubs in the world, but it offers a number of incredible areas you simply won’t believe until you see them yourself. The main concourse in Grand Central is breathtaking, measuring 200’ long and 120’ wide.
Grand Central Terminal, Things to do in NYC, USA by Daniel Wehner
47. Coney Island
Coney Island offers all sorts of fun and entertainment for families. Its huge variety of restaurants, amusement park rides, bars and concessions make it a favourite for tourists and natives alike. When you go down the boardwalk, you won’t be able to believe your own eyes. This is definitely one of the more fun attractions New York has to offer.
Coney Island, Things to do in NYC, USA by MusikAnimal
48. Jazz at Barbes
If you are a fan of jazz, you will definitely want to make your way to Barbes. This is the perfect place to grab a drink and listen to some incredible jazz musicians do their thing.
There is no entry fee at all, so it’s perfect for those who are on a tight budget. This venue is located in Brooklyn on 9th and 6th avenue.
Unfortunately, we do not have a picture of Barbes, if you have one, please send it to us!
49. Washington Square Park
Washington Square Park is located in the center of Greenwich Village, and it used be an area designated for parades back in the 1800s, though it was also used for public hangings of convicted criminals. Today this park is a much more family-friendly place with playgrounds and other things for kids.
Washington Square Park is one of the best places to go for a relaxing stroll or maybe even just some people watching. This wide open area attracts a lot of musicians and families as well as people who like to play chess when it’s warm outside. There are a number of benches along the edge of the park that you can sit down on.
Washington Square Park, Things to do in NYC, USA by Sharkface217
50. Fifth Avenue
Fifth Avenue is the place to go when you want to do some upscale shopping. Here you will find Tiffany & Co, Van Cleef and many other stores. There is also St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which has some incredibly beautiful architecture. It’s important to keep in mind that most of the stores on Fifth Avenue are pretty pricey.
Fifth Avenue begins at the Washington Square Arch in Washington Square Park, Things to do in NYC, USA by Matthew G. Bisanz
51. Bryant Park
Located not too far from the world-famous Times Square, you will find Bryant Park. This park has 4 acres of beautiful land that you can run, bike, walk and rollerblade through. A lot of the professionals in Manhattan favour this spot for lunchtime because of its amazing scenery. There are many events in this park throughout the year that offer fun for everyone.
Bryant Park, Things to do in NYC, USA by Jean-Christophe BENOIST
52. Radio City Music Hall
Radio City Music Hall is an extremely fun place to go for live music. This venue has seen everyone from Lady Gaga to Ella Fitzgerald, and it’s definitely a landmark building in New York. When you want to have a loud, fun, unforgettable time, you will want to come here. Tickets go quickly though, so make sure to get yours well in advance.
Radio city music hall, Things to do in NYC, USA by wwarby
53. Rockefeller Center
The famous Rockefeller plaza is one of the most iconic places in all of New York, and its huge bright Christmas tree in December is quite the spectacle to behold. There are usually a lot of people in this area, so be prepared to fight your way through huge crowds. NBC studios is here, and it’s located in midtown Manhattan.
Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting, Things to do in NYC, USA by Anthony Quintano
54. Frick Collection
The Frick Collection is a series of art pieces from all across history going back hundreds of years. It can be found in an enormous mansion built back in the 1700s. The galleries in this mansion are amazing. There are two galleries that always stay the same, with others that change each year.
The Frick Collection, Things to do in NYC, USA by Drew Tarvin
55. Apollo Theater
The Apollo Theater was built back in 1914, and over the years it has seen some of the most talented musical artists the world has ever known. Today it’s still very much going strong, with all sorts of incredible musical acts performing here regularly. There are different types of live performances that you can see at this theatre, though most of them are musical.
Apollo Theater, Things to do in NYC, USA by Feast of Music
56. Ice Skating
In the colder months of the year there are a number of different places that you can go ice skating throughout New York City, including Central Park. There is also the Rink At Rockefeller Center. Some of these ice rinks are huge, and a lot of fun for the whole family. It makes for a great way to spend a cold day in the city.
Wollman Rink, Central Park, Things to do in NYC, USA by subherwal
57. New York City Fire Museum
The New York City Fire Museum will teach you all about the history of the FDNY. It has hundreds of different historical items relating to the New York Fire Department, and it’s incredibly interesting. Admission is only $8, and it’s perfect for those who want to learn more about New York’s history.
New York City Fire Museum, Things to do in NYC, USA by Sharon Mollerus
58. Chelsea Market
The Chelsea Market has a number of shops that you can check out, as well as a few of the best places to eat in the entire city. If you are looking for a day of shopping a decadent indulgence, this is the place to go. Lots of foodies flock here because of its reputation for having top-notch eateries.
The Chelsea Market, Things to do in NYC, USA by Yusuke Kawasaki
59. PH-D Rooftop Lounge
There are many rooftop bars in New York City, but the PH-D Rooftop Lounge has some of the best ambiences of all of them. This bar is frequented by celebrities and generally hip people who want some fun out on the town. It is unlike anything you’ve ever seen, so prepare yourself for an amazing time.
PH-D Rooftop Lounge, Things to do in NYC, USA by phdlounge.com
60. Strand Book Store
Strand Book Store is located in the always-crowded Union Square, and it has many books both new and used. When you are looking for something new to read, you will definitely want to pop on over to this store. The prices are reasonable and the atmosphere is very nice as well.
Strand Book Store, Things to do in NYC, USA by James Jeffrey
How to get to New York?
New York has three differents airport and is one of the most visited city in the world. So it’s quite easy to reach New York from these airports. To get to New York, you can search on our partner’s website Skyscanner.
Where to stay in New York?
To visit New York, it is essential to be well positioned in Manhattan, so you can easily navigate from your hotel/apartment and optimize your visits in-destination. For more details on staying in New York, you can read our article on the best neighborhoods to stay in New York. You can find an cheap hotel in New York by searching on this hotel aggregator.
So these were just a few tips on what to do on your trip to New York, Big Apple, the city that never sleeps! And once you finish with exploring this city, let’s go to visit some of the best US National Parks!