**Updated : March 2023**
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With a population of just about 8.5 million, New York is a HUGE city with SO MUCH to do! We currently just finished a two week long house sit in Harlem, and being our 3rd trip to New York City we've done just about all the "top attractions" in New York City, which led us to start digging for some more hidden gems in the area. In this list we've gathered 30 of the most popular things to do in New York City along with all the hidden gems we've found along the way. Read on to make your next (or first) trip to New York City A LOT more exciting.
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p.s. We've organized this list with the most popular things in New York City listed first, and the more hidden gems listed near the bottom, so if you've been to NYC a few times you'll probably want to skip to at least the middle!
30 Things you NEED to Do in NYC
1. The Statue of Liberty
An iconic stop in New York City, this is a must do if you have time. Book your cruise tickets here, and you can even add on a visit to the Crown of the Statue itself. We personally did the General Admission tour since the Crown was closed when we visited, but even this option will bring you to the Statue of Liberty Museum & Grounds and Ellis Island.
2. Empire State Building
Another iconic stop - I've wanted to visit ever since I watched Sleepless in Seattle. We recommend planning your visit early and purchasing your tickets ahead of time here and visiting as early as you can. This tour will also bring you to the highest observation deck on the 102nd floor.
3. Broadway Show
We've been to 2 shows on Broadway and can't recommend it enough. Prices can get a little spendy for seats up close (try a matinee show if you're looking to save a little cash) but worth it to experience Broadway in all its glory! (We can 100% recommend Wicked for a heartfelt story and The Book of Mormon for some laughs!)
4. Visit the MET & MET Cloisters
Most people make a stop at the Metropolitan Museum of Art when they're in New York City, but have you ever heard of the MET Cloisters in Harlem? Included with your ticket to the MET, we highly encourage you to visit both to make the most out of your visit! The MET Cloisters focus on European medieval art & architecture, and are about a 40 minute subway ride from the MET on Line A.
5. Rockefeller Center, Top of the Rock, Christmas Tree & Ice Skating
6. National September 11th Memorial
A must stop for everyone visiting New York, this will be a somber visit for anyone. The memorial itself is free however there is a $29 fee for the Museum Entrance.
7. Walk the Brooklyn Bridge & Manhattan Bridge
Very cool but very busy. We highly recommend visiting early in the morning or in the evening to avoid the majority of crowds and to see the incredible view of the New York skyline. Most people choose to walk the Brooklyn Bridge and photograph the Manhattan Bridge from below, but of course it's up to you!
8. Explore Central Park
If you're just visiting NYC then you might not know that Central Park is over 2.5 miles long with over 58 miles of walking and hiking trails! You could easily spend the entire day here visiting the many sights in between like Belvedere Castle, Bow Bridge, Central Park Zoo, Wollman Ice Skating Rink and the Conservatory Garden! The MET is also located on the eastern edge of the park! If it sounds a bit overwhelming, try booking this guided walking tour here!
9. Pizza Tour
Pizza in New York is a must, it's literally known around the world! Even though our personal favorite is the 99 Cent Pizza located on Broadway - you'll find amazing pizza spots everywhere! Try this guided walking pizza tour of Brooklyn here!
10. Times Square
11. Washington Square Park
If you've seen August Rush then you know this location well. A lively park where you can see kids playing, vendors selling their art, live musicians and chess matches!
12. Little Island
We recently visited this spot for the first time on our most recent trip, and loved how unique it was! Appearing like a floating park in the middle of a metropolis, we love how modern and futuristic it felt, plus it had great views of NYC and Jersey with not many crowds!
13. The Vessel
Another recent addition to our list is the Vessel, which you've most likely seen on social media. This unique building at Hudson Yards was closed during our visit, but typically costs $10 per person to go inside (other than the first hour they are open, which is free for visitors).
14. The EDGE
Located right above The Vessel, this adrenaline pumping experience will definitely be the highlight of your trip! Although they have General Admission to the Observation Deck, we recommend splurging for the City Climb for an epic adventure you'll be talking about for years to come! This will take you into the open outdoors while you gaze out at the skyline, from what we've seen you even get to lean out over the edge! Book this epic adventure here!
15. Grand Central Terminal
A fun little stop, especially for any Gossip Girl fans. With shopping and dining on location, you can even take a historical tour with insider information here. We highly recommend checking out the Zodiac Ceiling and Information Booth Clock.
16. The Oculus
Located near the National September 11th Memorial, this giant shopping center is quite the architectural marvel. You'll also be able to find anything you need for your trip!
17. Take the Subway (& hope for Subway Performers!)
Arguably one of the best places to people watch, you'll have the best time watching the subway performers if you're lucky enough to catch them! Most rides will cost around $2.75 one way or $30 for a one week unlimited pass.
18. Flatiron Building
Another unique architectural design, this triangular, 22 story building was one of the first skyscrapers built in New York in 1902! Although it was under construction when we visited, the neighborhood itself is also super cute with lots of cafes and places to eat!
19. F.R.I.E.N.D.S Tour
Any FRIENDS fans here?! As one myself, you already know I had to make Tyler stop at all the known FRIENDS locations in New York City, including :
20. Donut Walking Tour
The most fun tour we've ever done in New York City! I 100% recommend you'll love the tour and the donuts are so unique and delicious! Plus the amount of donuts we got on our tour was absolutely unreal, and I think we ended up taking at least 7 donuts home with us! Our tour began near the Flatiron Building and ended near the FRIENDS apartment building, you can book it here! (Not into donuts? Try this cupcake tour instead!)
21. Koreatown Food Tour
Koreatown undoubtedly has some of the best food in New York City, and we're defintely not biased. ;) Located right next to the Empire State Building this is a stop you won't want to miss, make sure to stop at Food Gallery 32 and find a Korean Karaoke spot!
22. Attend an Event at Madison Square Garden
This is something we actually haven't done ourselves yet! Located near the heart of NYC, they host everything from sports tournaments to concerts and everything in between. Not keen on crowds or ticket prices? Try this all access tour for only $46 per person!
23. Attend a Unique, NYC Based Event
We all know New York City is special, well there are also plenty of special and epic events that take place in New York City as well! Some events we've loved and are on our list for future visits include :
24. Bagel Tour
Is New York City most known for their pizza or their bagels? Honestly I'm not sure if anyone could answer that. If you're not as obsessed with pizza as Tyler, (or maybe you're just looking for another food tour) head out on a bagel tasting tour! You can Google the best spots around the city and head out on your own or check out this bagel tour!
25. Sit in on a Studio Audience
This was arguable one of our favorite things we did on our most recent trip, and we were able to join in on 3 studio audiences for free! Our favorite was the Late Night Show with Seth Meyers, but we also loved joining the Drew Barrymore Show and The View. Curious how to get your own tickets? It's actually pretty easy, just sign up on 1iota.com and apply for the shows you want to sit in on!
26. Helicopter Tour
Another activity we haven't done ourselves yet, but looks absolutely EPIC is a helicopter tour over the city! The views and photos look absolutely incredible and although we haven't saved up enough money for our own epic excursion yet, it's definitely on our list. Book your own tour here.
27. SUMMIT One Vanderbilt
Another observation deck experience, SUMMIT One Vanderbilt is a bit different as they incorporate multi-sensory immersive experiences into their observation deck! Check out this unique experience here!
28. Roosevelt Island Tram
A unique, $2.75 ride that takes you to Roosevelt Island - a place with great parks and epic skyline views! Make a day of it and bring a picnic with you!
29. Staten Island Ferry
Another unique ride, take the ferry for FREE from Manhattan to explore Staten Island! It is worth noting however that there any many scammers nearby who will try to tell you that a ticket is needed to boarded, don't worry though this ferry is completely free.
30. Murals, Gospel, Jazz and Soul Food in Harlem
Undoubtedly one of our favorite finds in New York City, we loved walking the streets of Harlem - there is so much unique culture on the streets and some amazing food as well!
Have any questions?! Leave them in the comments and we'll do our best to get back to you! Or, check out our other New York City blogs listed below!
31. Bonus Ideas
Still looking for something epic to do? Try out these bonus ideas :
Watch our adventures in NYC here!
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We're Deborah & Tyler, a pretty average husband and wife duo from a pretty average state that didn't want to live so averagely. After our *Covid wedding we sold everything that didn't fit into the Jeep and moved to Alaska, then decided to take a gap year!
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