You are leaving soon but you don't know yet what to do in New York? No worries, here is the article you need!
There are so many things to see and do in New York! The city is so captivating and can be discovered in a thousand different ways, it's all a matter of taste and expectations. Nevertheless, there are still some activities that are an absolute must. Here are 10 must-do's I highly recommend!
1. TAKE A TOUR OF THE FINANCIAL DISTRICT
It is impossible to stay in New York without visiting the Financial District, which is located in the southern part of Manhattan. It is teeming with businessmen and traders rushing to get to a meeting, but don't let that stop you from admiring the facades of the buildings in the area.
Among the must-sees are the New York Stock Exchange, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the City Hall. You can also see the Woolworth Building, one of the city's oldest buildings, and the World Trade Center along with the city's tallest tower, the One World Trade Center. Not to mention that the 9/11 memorial is right next door, should you wish to discover it. Naturally, you can also put on your itinerary the Wall Street Stock Exchange, the Federal Hall (a former customs office that has now become a museum of the city's evolution) and Oculus, a new train- and underground-station with incredible architecture.
Don’t forget to stop by and take a picture of the "Charging Bull", Wall Street’s Bull statue. This bronze work by Italian artist Arturo Di Modica is located in Bowling Green Park, not far from Battery Park. Superstitious people say that touching the bull's private parts brings good luck, so why not try it? If you're not tempted, forget about it and enjoy the beautiful view of New York Bay and the Statue of Liberty while you're there.
A word of advice: go and see "Charging Bull" in the morning, for there will be many tourists crowding around it the whole day! There may be less of them early in the morning, though.
If you want to get away from all the Financial District’s hustle and bustle, visit the Trinity Church in the heart of the district and enter the small church of Our Lady of the Rosary which seems to be lost in the middle of huge buildings. Another thing to do is check out the pretty sailboats moored at the South Street Seaport, New York’s former official port.
2. WHAT TO DO IN NEW YORK FOR FREE? WALK ON THE HIGH LINE
The High Line is an urban park that has been built on high ground. It is a very recent development and has become a favourite place for locals to take a walk in the city while feeling like they’re in another world!
This park in Chelsea was built on an old railway line. In fact, some of the rails have even been kept and vegetation has been planted on them. The promenade is 100% green and ecological (no pesticides are used), which gives it a certain originality. Some works of art have also been installed along the walk, as well as many water features.
As you walk along its 2.3 km length, at a height of 10 metres above the ground, you will be treated to beautiful views of some of Manhattan's streets. You will also see the Empire State Building, catch a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty, and watch the people on 10th Avenue through huge windows. Of course, you will also be able to admire the amazing architecture of many of the buildings along the promenade.
Why not have a picnic among the greenery? If you stay until the evening, you will even be able to top it off with a beautiful sunset on the Hudson. And let’s not forget the various activities that take place on the High Line, and that you can join yourself: yoga, shows, exhibitions...
If you’re there, do check out the magnificent sculpture The Vessel, located right next door. Access is theoretically free, though you will need to buy a ticket in advance if you wish to enter precisely at the time of your choice.
The promenade is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in winter, from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. in spring, and until 11 p.m. in summer. You can access it through various staircases and lifts along the way.
Walking on the High Line is an activity you can do all year round, though spring and summer are the best seasons if you want to enjoy both sun and flowers.
By the way, if you’re not sure of when to go to New York, don't hesitate to read my complete article on the subject.
New York tourist passes 🎫
Several of New York’s sites can be discovered and enjoyed in a totally free fashion, such as Central Park, the High Line, and many others. However, most of the city’s emblematic monuments require the purchase of an admission ticket to be visited: that is the case for the Empire State Building, the Top of the Rock, many museums,...
Did you know that there exist different tourist passes in New York that will allow you to discover these monuments? By purchasing a tourist pass, you will benefit from access (and priority access sometimes – you can skip the queue!) to the different sites, but you will also enjoy various advantages, especially that of being able to reduce and fully control your activity budget before your departure.
The New York Citypass, for example, will give you access to 6 emblematic sites in the city for 115 euros (£96).
If you plan to visit several monuments or do multiple activities during your stay, these passes will be of great help 🙂
3. LUNCH AT Chelsea Market
After your walk on the High Line, go to Chelsea Market. This covered market (a former biscuit factory where Oreos were once made, among other biscuits) is very famous in New York. It's a gourmet's wonderland and a very special world!
The market is located at 75, 9th Avenue (between 15th and 16th Streets) in the Meatpacking district, in a building that also houses the offices of Google and some TV stations. It is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Saturday and from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday. The best time to discover its lively atmosphere is at lunchtime, though.
In addition to the amazing but quality decor, you will find about 50 shops and boutiques specifically dedicated to food. You will be able to buy a lot of dishes, specialities, ingredients and articles from all over the world! For example, you can get bread at Amy's Bread, enjoy lobster at Lobster Place, a brownie at Fat Witch Bakery, a milkshake at Chelsea Creamline, fresh Italian pasta at Buon Italia, sushi at Beyond Sushi...
And there are also many food stalls to take away or to eat in: you can try a lobster roll, clam chowder, hot dogs, pastrami...
To get to Chelsea Market, take the E and L underground lines.
4. WHAT TO DO IN NEW YORK? VISIT HARLEM OF COURSE!
Harlem is a neighbourhood in northern Manhattan that is full of points of interest. And though the neighbourhood has seen its original black majority population diversify, you will see that the African heritage still lives on after all these years.
To fully appreciate this, first go to New York's largest African market – the Malcolm Shabazz Harlem Market. There you will be able to buy a wide range of crafts and souvenirs. The market is open daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and is located at 52 W. 116th Street.
Next, head to the Studio Museum Harlem (144 W 125th Street), which exhibits many African-American works.
Harlem is also and especially the birthplace of jazz, so don’t forget to visit the Jazz Museum (104 East 126th Street) and to check out one of the neighbourhood's must-see clubs, such as the Cotton Club (656 W 125th Street). It was home to some of the biggest names in Roaring Twenties music, including Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. If you have the time, go to the Apollo Theater (253 W 125th Street) – a very famous music hall.
Also try to listen to some gospel music – such an activity is a must in Harlem! But preferably go on a Sunday morning, so you can go to church, which are the best places to discover gospel. Go to the First Corinthian Baptist Church, for example, which is located at 1912 7th Avenue (in the place of an old theatre). It makes for a really unique atmosphere! Some of the faithful can even go into a trance when the pastor gives his energetic speech. This is the case at the Abyssinian Baptist Church (132, Odell Clark Place), for example, with the sermons of Pastor Calvin O. Butts.
And don't forget to taste the Afro-American cuisine, known as the soul food: sweet potatoes, fried chicken... For that, go to "Sylvia's Restaurant" (328, Malcolm X Blvd), – a true temple to Soul Food in the district! You can also go to the Red Rooster Harlem (310 Lenox Avenue). The food there is delicious!
To get to Harlem, take the B or C underground lines (from 86 St to 116 St).
5. VISIT NEW YORK BY VISITING THE WORLD TRADE CENTER
Once in New York, you absolutely must visit the 9/11 Memorial at the site of the former twin towers of the World Trade Center (Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan).
You will feel strong emotions there. Indeed, in this place dedicated to remembrance, the names of the victims of the attacks have been engraved on the perimeter of the two water basins. All around, oak trees have been planted (on the Memorial Plaza, a 3.2 hectares park composed of a grove of nearly 400 white oak trees, and the largest manmade waterfalls in the United States). There is also a pear tree that was salvaged from the rubble and replanted.
The Memorial is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the site is free, but the 9/11 Museum dedicated to the 3,000 victims of the attacks has an admission fee ($26 for adults, $20 for children aged 13 to 17 and $15 for 7 to 12 year olds, free for children under 6). The museum is open Thursday to Monday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Inside, you can see pieces of the two towers, personal effects of the victims, firefighting equipment and audio recordings made by the victims at the time of the attack. You will also see their faces on the wall of faces (which is a touch screen).
To get to the 9/11 Memorial, the best way is to take the E line of the underground to the World Trade Center. Alternatively, you can take the A, C, J, Z, 2, 3, 4 or 5 lines to Fulton Street or the R line to Cortland Street. Then just head towards Church Street and turn right at Cortland Street.
Every September 11 the 'Tribute in Light' is held: two huge beams of blue light shine through New York at the site of the two towers.
The 9/11 Museum is free every Monday between 3:30 p.m. and 5 p.m.
6. SEE GRAND CENTRAL TERMINAL STATION
Located at 89 E 42nd Street in the heart of Midtown, Grand Central Terminal is a New York City landmark. Even if you don’t have a train to take, you should definitely go visit this station! In fact, the best time to go and see the beauty of the place is at noon, when the sun shines through the facades’ stained glass windows and turns the hall into a huge cathedral!
Indeed, what makes this station so interesting is its hall! It is both huge (84 metres by 37 metres) and magnificent. Its ceiling, painted in 1912 by Paul-César Helleu, is dotted with glittering constellations.
You can also admire the 4-dial clock above the information kiosk, the more than 14 metres high sculpture representing Mercury, Hermes and Minerva, as well as the hall’s grand staircase. In short, the station is an architectural gem and has been featured in many films and series (North by Northwest, I am a Legend, The Untouchables, Gossip Girl...).
Inside, there are many things to do: you can go shopping (the station has 68 shops!), or buy fresh products at the Grand Central Market. You can also enjoy meals, drinks and even play tennis, if you feel like it (there are two tennis courts in the station!).
If you don’t want to miss anything, you can discover the many secrets of this mythical station with the help of a local guide. Your curiosity will definitely be satisfied 🙂
More details about the excursion by following this link.
Around 800 trains and 750,000 people pass through the station every day, which is why the place is understandably busy throughout the day.
Grand Central Station is open every day from 5:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. The train station also serves as a station for metro lines 4, 5, 6 and 7.
7. WHAT TO DO IN NEW YORK? DISCOVER THE CHINATOWN DISTRICT
If you're looking for a change of scenery, go to the south of Manhattan, to Chinatown to be exact. It will be like being in Asia! Both language and signs are Chinese, while the restaurants and shops are all Asian. Adding to that the traditional music and the exotic scents... In this district in perpetual effervescence, you will really dive into another world. And everything is authentic!
Start in the north of Chinatown, on Canal Street, the main street, to do some shopping. But be careful, most of the items (watches, perfumes or bags) you can find there are counterfeit! And the importation of counterfeit products being illegal, you risk having them confiscated at customs – not to mention the heavy fine that comes with it (or even worse)! So if you really want to go shopping, go to Mott Street instead. There you will be able to enter various shops and finally buy whatever attracts your interest.
During your walk through the district, you really should go and eat in a Chinese restaurant, such as the "Peking Duck House" (28, Mott Street). You will be able to taste many specialties such as Peking duck of course, but also sesame chicken or noodles. And don't forget your fortune cookie at the end of the meal!
For tea, I recommend the tea bar "Ten Ren's Tea Time" (73, Mott Street), where there is no shortage of flavours: white tea, jasmine tea... Also, go to "Aji Ichiban" (27, Mott Street) to buy fruit and dried meat sold in the form of candies and by weight. Believe me, it makes for a real treat!
Also, stop by Columbus Park – the only park in Chinatown. There, you will see the locals doing typical Chinese activities such as Tai Chi and Mahjong.
Finally, head to the Mahayana Buddhist Temple (33 Canal Street) to find some tranquillity and admire the largest Buddha statue in New York.
You can also decide to visit the MoCa – the Museum of Chinese in America,which shows the history of the Chinese people (215, Centre Street), or to discover the oldest house built in Manhattan (in 1785): the Edward Mooney Townhouse, located at the corner of Bowery Street and Pell Street. Did you know that the Bowery was New York’s oldest street?
If you go to New York in January, around the time of the Chinese New Year, the neighbourhood will be even more lively.
It is also possible to discover Chinatown via a tour and a local guide. You will walk not only through Chinatown, but also through SoHo and Little Italy.
The compact format of the guided tour will give you an overview of the different districts, of their richness and differences. This tour will also help you know which neighbourhood(s) you want to further explore on your own, if there are any that you particularly enjoyed discovering during the tour 🙂
Note that New Yorkers consider that the real Chinatown is located in Flushing, Queens.
To get to Chinatown, take the underground. The best is line 6, which stops right in the heart of the neighbourhood. If not, the J, M, N, Q, R, W, Z lines also serve the neighbourhood.
8. VISIT THE MUSEUMS OF NEW YORK
You can't go to New York without visiting at least one of the city's museums. And the four most important and impressive of those are the MET, the MoMa, the Guggenheim Museum and the Museum of Natural History.
- The MET
You can spend hours at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This museum has gathered more than 2 million works by renowned artists from all over the world. They are part of the museum’s permanent collection, but the museum also hosts many temporary exhibitions. You will certainly not be able to visit the entire museum in one visit – there are more than 400 galleries!
So I recommend choosing one or two sections to discover during your visit. There are 5 sections on the ground floor: Egypt, America, Greece and Rome, Africa and Oceania, Contemporary Art. The first floor’s focus is on European Art. Surely some of these sections interest you particularly?
The MET is located at 1000 5th Avenue and is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, and from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. It is closed on Wednesdays.
Admission is free for children under 12, and costs $25 for adults, $17 for seniors and $12 for students.
To get to the MET, take the underground (green lines 4, 5 or 6 and yellow line Q) and stop at "86 Street Lexington".
- The MoMa
The Museum of Modern Art is dedicated to contemporary art only. You'll find over 100,000 works of modern art (paintings, sculptures, architecture, drawings, photographs, media and films) spread over 6 floors. Note that the 5th and 6th floors are dedicated to temporary exhibitions.
Once again, you won't be able to see everything!
The MoMa collections are very impressive and therefore very popular. As such, expect long queues at the entrance of this museum, located in lower Manhattan (11 West 53rd Street).
The MoMA is open daily from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., except on Saturdays when it closes at 7 p.m. Admission is $25 for adults, $18 for seniors and $14 for students, and free for children under 16.
To get to MoMa, take the E and M underground lines and stop at 5 Av/53 St. The F, B and D lines also serve it at the 47-50 St. Rockefeller Center station, not far from Rockefeller Center itself!
Don't forget to stop by the gift shop!
- The Guggenheim
A visit to the Solomon R.Guggenheim museum is doubly rewarding. First of all, you can admire its atypical architecture (by Frank Lloyd Wrighten) in the shape of a mollusc shell, which is most original. Inside, discovering the collections of modern and contemporary art (either painting, sculpture and cinema) while walking up the steep ramps makes for an extraordinary experience!
The Guggenheim Museum is located on the Upper East Side, at 1071 5th Avenue, and is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays and until 8 p.m. on Saturdays. Admission is $25 for adults, $18 for seniors and students and free for children under 12.
On Saturdays, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., you can take advantage of the Pay as You Wish system: you pay the admission price of your choice, though it is still recommended to give 10 $.
The museum is closed on Thursdays.
To get there, take underground lines 4, 5 or 6 to the 86th Street station.
- The Museum of Natural History
The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) is also a must see during your stay in New York. Located at Central Park West & 79th St, this museum is one of the largest in the world. You will learn a lot about man and his origins, but also about animals and planets.
It's a favourite with children, as they can see impressive dinosaur specimens – including the T-Rex, the most famous dinosaur in the museum. And they even touch a meteorite!
The museum is open Wednesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (except on Thanksgiving and Christmas). Admission for adults is $23, $18 for seniors and students, and $13 for children ages 2 to 12.
Please note that there are no free lockers in this museum, and that the locker fee is $2/person.
The museum is accessible by underground via lines 1, B and C, and getting off at the "81 St — Museum of Natural History" stop.
If you want to visit more than one museum in New York during your stay, take a city pass, it will end up costing you less.
Admission to museums is offered in the various New York City passes.
9. WHAT TO DO IN NEW YORK AT NIGHT? SIP A DRINK ON A ROOFTOP
Get a bird's eye view of the city from above. That's how you'll realise just how big New York is! And if you don't want to queue up to go to the various observatories that the city offers (Top of the Rock, Empire State Building...), you can simply go and have a cocktail on one of New York’s many rooftops. What is a rooftop? It is simply a bar located on the roof of a skyscraper.
Where to go? The most famous of them is the 230 Fifth bar, in Manhattan (230, 5th Ave, Corner 27th). There, you can order a cosmopolitan while admiring the Empire State Building in front of you.
You can also head to Le Bain on the 18th floor of the Standard Hotel (444 West 13th Street). Who could resist having a drink while admiring a beautiful view of the Hudson River and the High Line?
The JIMMY bar is also a famous NY rooftop. The particularity of this luxury bar, located on top of the "James Hotel" in SoHo (15, Thompson Street), is its outdoor pool with a view of Wall Street and Midtown.
Alternatively, you can enjoy the chic decor of the Refinery, which used to be a disused factory (63 West 38th Street), or head to the city's highest rooftop, B54 on the 54th floor of the Hyatts Hotel, which offers a lovely view of Times Square (135 West 45th Street). Unless you would rather go to the Roof Garden, which is the rooftop of the Metropolitan Museum of Art with its view of Central Park (1000 5th Avenue, NY 10028)?
If you want to learn more about each of these rooftops in New York, I have written an article about them! Do check it out, it is full of information 😉
10. SPEND AN AFTERNOON AT CONEY ISLAND BEACH
Yes, New York does indeed have a beach, and more than one at that! But to get to Coney Island Beach, head to the south-east of Brooklyn to go to Coney Island.
Once there – if the weather is sunny and the beach is not too crowded – you can enjoy a little sunbathing session on Brighton Beach, in a neighbourhood called Little Russia/Little Odessa, which is none other than NY's Russian neighbourhood. You'll find many Russian shops and restaurants there.
Above all, you can go and have fun in the Luna Park amusement park. This park with a very vintage atmosphere usually opens from April to October, and the opening hours vary according to the day.
While you're there, try the best hot dogs in the world at Nathan's Famous, the restaurant chain that holds the biggest hot dog eating contest every 4th of July (America’s Independence Day).
You can also take a walk along the world's longest promenade, the Riegelmann Promenade (5 km long) and enjoy the sea air. Along the promenade, you can enter the large Coney Island Aquarium – the only aquarium in New York. Inside you will see over 8,000 species, including penguins, sharks, rays, otters and sea lions.
And if you're still in the area at night, in the summer you can enjoy a great fireworks display (every Friday at 9:30 p.m.) and concerts at the Coney Island Amphitheater.
To get to Coney Island, take the D or N underground lines and stop at the Coney Island — Stillwell Avenue station. You can also take the Q and F trains, but the journey will take a little longer: at least an hour.
And that's it, that's the end of this article on what to do in New York 🙂 I hope the information will help you find activities to do during your stay! Are there any activities you didn't know about or never thought of? Feel free to give me feedback in the comments – and if you have any suggestions/recommendations, I'm all for it too! 🙂