Planning your first trip to New York City? Then you’ll want to know the best things to do in new york city, the top new york city attractions, and how to prepare for your upcoming east coast trip. When we first went to new york city, we had no clue where to even start, new york is such a big city and it was impossible to try to shove as much as we wanted into the short amount of time that we had planned. Now knowing what actually is fun, what is a total bust, and what is a rip-off, we decided to make these things to do in the new york city guide to help fellow new travelers not make the same mistakes we made when visiting new york city for the first time.
This guide goes over the top things to do in new york city, we made sure to include a variety of different attractions in activities so that everyone finds something they like while traveling to new york.
Commonly asked questions for first-timers visiting new york city
What should I do on my first trip to New York?
There is so much to do in New York City for first-time visitors that it would impossible to list it all out, however, the main attractions you really can’t miss are: The Statue of Liberty, Central Park, Time Square, Empire state building, 9/11 memorial, Broadway, Brooklyn bridge and plenty more.
What should I avoid in New York?
Avoid tourist traps, there are tourist trap restaurants, souvenir shops by the dozen, and tours that charge an arm and a leg. Instead of shopping for gifts shop away from hot spots, grab food that’s highly recommended and not just close by, and only join tours if they are reviewed and recommended.
What is there to do in NYC besides the main tourist attractions?
New York City has something for everyone, if visiting tourist spots isn’t your thing, then look into new york city’s nightlife, unique experiences, and events.
What is the number 1 attraction in New York?
The state of liberty has held the spot for number one on best things to do in new york for decades.
Are 2 days in NYC enough?
2 days is not enough days in NYC unless you plan on only visiting the main attractions and forgoing the unique experiences that make up new york city.
How to Prepare for your trip of fun things to do in new york city
Plan what season to visit
- Fall – This season is the beginning of chillier weather but not completely unbearable, depending on the things you’ll want to do, this might be the best season to visit besides spring. The reason is that there are fewer tourists during the spring and fall compared to the summer high season. Plus the weather is a lot nicer than it is during the winter when simply stepping outside feels like a slap to the face
- Winter – If spending the holidays in new york city is your goal the winter is undoubtedly perfect since new york looks extremely festive during this time of year, you catch the Macys thanksgiving parade In November, Christmas parades, be able to go Christmas light watching and plenty other activities. The only drawback is this season sees an uptick in visitors compared to spring and fall. You’ll also want to bring the warmest clothes because new york in the winter is extremely cold.
- Spring – Spring is a great time to visit New york city because the weather is warming up, trees are growing back their leaves so the central park will look beautiful during this time, and tourist season is barely starting. Since the weather is just right, you’ll be able to enjoy outdoor and indoor activities all the same.
- Summer – Summer is the typical go-to season to explore and go on vacation for most Americans and tourists. Since new york city is a hot destination to visit during this time, the typical tourist activities are usually jam-packed and can even book out days ahead. If traveling during this season you’ll want to make sure to plan ahead to avoid missing out on activities. Also, keep in mind new york is very warm during this time and humid, plus the smell of a big city isn’t always the greatest during this time if you catch our drift.
Check The Weather
Reasons you want to check the weather before your trip to new york city
- New york city can have temporal weather, it can be sunny and hot and then next thing you know it’s raining like cats and dogs. Due to this unpredictable weather, you’ll want to make sure you study the previous year’s weather and do a final check a week before your trip so you know how to pack. Even if the weather says it’s going to be sunshine and rainbows, always pack a light jacket and bring an umbrella or poncho.
- Depending on the weather conditions, certain activities can get shut down, for example, the Bronx zoo closes during heavy snow storms, time square can be incredibly slick after rain in the colder season, and blazing sun can ruin a picnic date, and so on.
Pack like a pro
Depending on the season you can’t head to new york city without these!
- Sunhat or ball cap
- umbrella or poncho or rain jacket
- waterproof shoes
- black dress
- nice jeans or shorts
- a light cardigan or another cover-up
- tennis shoes
- heels or flats
- medicine – headache, upset stomach, allergies
- first aid kit
- battery pack
The 11 Top Things to Do in New York City
Catch a ferry and visit the statue of liberty
Location: Liberty island
Cost: $12 for children ages 4-12 | $18 for Seniors 62 and up | $24 for Adults 13 and up
Hours: 9:30 am – 4:30 pm (subject to change)
Special Note: ferries’ last rides are at 3 pm | Holiday hours change|
Visiting the state of liberty is on every traveler must do list when visiting New York, this enchanting statue is iconic and a reminder of how America came to be the culture hotpot it is today. The lady liberty can be seen by catching a ferry from battery park to liberty island, you’ll also be happy to know that this ferry stops at Ellis island where you can hop off and visit the museum of immigration.
Tour the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Met Cloisters
The Met Location: 1000 Fifth Avenue near Central Park
The Met Cloisters Location: 99 Margaret Corbin Dr in Fort Tryon Park
Cost: Free for 12 and under | $17 for students | $22 for Seniors | $30 for Adults
Special Notes: Closed on Wednesdays
Hours: 10 am – 5 pm (subject to change)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art aka the Met is a beautiful and expansive collection of various works of art and artifacts ranging from Egyptian times, greek, roman, Asia, and other time periods and cultures. If you’re trying to explore every piece of this large collection of art, it will take around half a day to a full day to complete without feeling too rushed. If you have time and enjoy learning about Europe and love architectural design then head on over to the sister exhibit the met cloisters; a branch of the met museum that was opened in 1938 and dedicated to medieval European times.
Enjoy a day out at Central Park
Location: Central Park
Hours: 6 am to 1 am (we don’t recommend visiting at night for safety reasons)
Central park is extremely large and sits at over 840 acres! It’s no wonder why everyone loves to visit because there’s no end to the number of possibilities you can do while visiting this popular new york park. To name a few: go on a bike tour and ride around all of the central parks, or if biking isn’t your thing you can join a walking tour to make sure you dont miss anything. Perhaps renting about and relaxing on a lake sounds funner to you, that can happen as well and prices for renting a row boat are $20 per hour and $5 per each additional 15 minutes, keep in mind you’ll have to leave a $20 deposit and they only accept cash. There is so much to do when visiting central park so make sure you have the best time read our guide for The best things to do in central park.
Visit times square at night
Location: Midtown Manhattan
We’ve all seen it, the bright billboards, flashing lights, trending fashions being shown across different panels, and the hustle and bustle of the city that never sleeps. Time Square while over-dramatized in movies is a must-do for any new york table itinerary. The best time to visit this hot spot is of course when it gets dark, that’s when the billboards and lights really are the best and the nightlife comes alive with various musical performances, shows, and other things.
Watch a major league baseball game
Location: NYC Yankee Stadium
When: April to October
Who hasn’t heard of the new york Yankees? That’s right probably everyone has either loved or hated this team depending on who they are rooting for. But what trip to new york would be completed without enjoying a major league baseball game? The Yankees, have a devoted fanbase and it can be seen in their full stadiums and rowdy fans, even if you can’t stand baseball the overall vibes at a baseball game are a must for anyone as they offer beer gardens, yummy snacks, and food, and other drinks.
Watch a Broadway show like no other
Cost: est $40-$200
When you hear about dreams of entering broadway, being a broadway star, etc. It all points back to this one place in New York that has earned it a reputation as the place to be for artists and art lovers of the musical performing arts. Whether you love Harry Potter, Disney classics like Aladdin or the Lion King, or broadway classics such as hamilton, wicked, phantom of the opera, and other notable performances, you are sure to have a stellar time when booking a show on Broadway.
Walk the Brooklyn bridge or Pedal Across!
Location: Brooklyn Bridge near Manhattan
The Brooklyn Bridge is new yorks famous bridge that connects Manhatten island and the quirky neighboring city of Brooklyn. Countless movies, shows, and music videos have sourced this bridge in their own creations and it continues to be a tourist favorite when exploring new york city for the first time.
There are two ways to enjoy this bridge: One you can walk across the bridge and it will take roughly half an hour to an hour depending on your walking speed & Two rent a bike or join a bike tour and cycle across the bridge in record time, while still enjoying the scenery.
Climb the Empire state building
Location: 350 fifth ave in Manhatten
Cost: 102nd / 86th floor observatories: $71 for children | $75 for seniors | $77 for adults
Am/Pm experience $54 for children | $64 for adults
The empire state building is constantly voted as one of the best new york experiences to do while visiting the big apple. However, the cost associated with visiting this iconic tower is hefty and will set you back at a minimum of $54 for children and $64 for adults.
Depending on the type of experience you are looking for the empire will undoubtedly be worth the cost, but just make sure t factor it into your travel budget so youre o caught off guard by the sudden ticket cost. Also, keep in mind the empire state building requires reservation beforehand to attend.
Enjoy delicious cuisine in Chinatown
If you love Asian food, then you have to stop by New York’s famous china town! this area is home to various Asian stores, shops, desserts, and drinks. We had this amazing taro and fruity pebble ice cream while there and it was beyond our wildest dreams.
If you love boba this is also your jam, they have a variety of shops so whether you like milk tea, hot teas, iced teas, or different toppings they got you covered. You’ll also find amazing dim sum stops, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese and Korean, and other styles of food in this area, so come hungry!
But wait there’s more, Chinatown is also a busy place and full of tourist attractions that will be super fun to enjoy with friends and family. Such as shopping for collectible items, finding your favorite anime merch, enjoying karaoke bars to the fullest, and trying new trendy bars.
Explore New York Secret Speakeasy Bars
Wanting to feel like you sneaking into a top-secret bar? Love secret passages and entrances? Then finding yourself a speakeasy bar is your go-to for ensuring you get to feel like you’re breaking the law even though it hasn’t been against the law for over a century ?.
Some of the best Speakeasy bars are:
- Please Don’t Tell
- The Back Room
- La Noxe
- Employee Only
There’s way more, but those are some of the best ones you can find!
Grab drinks at a rooftop bar
When in New York, you have to grab drinks on the rooftop bar at least once. Something about the aesthetic look and overpriced liqueur just really is a whole vibe and it’s one of the things to do in Manhattan. Some of the most popular rooftop bars are located in Manhattan, and will usually also be some kind of club or can be a more low-key setting.
Here are some of the best rooftop bars in new york
- 230 Fifth rooftop bar
- Magic Hour rooftop bar & lounge
- Haven rooftop
- Monarch rooftop
- Refinery rooftop
- Le Bain
That wraps up our post for the best things to do in new york city! We hope you enjoyed this post and if youre looking for other things to do in the united states, other destinations, or need travel tips make sure to read our other post!