When you want to make amazing memories, a trip to New York City can’t be beat. Here are 30 things to do in New York City that will make you smile long after your trip to the Big Apple.
Things to Do in New York City in the Winter
There’s something magical about NYC in winter, especially during the holidays when the city comes alive with colorful lights and decorations. Bundle up and get ready to hit the town — this kind of stuff is so worth it.
Go Ice Skating at Rockefeller Center
October through April, you can strap on skates and zoom across the ice like an ice-skating superstar at the skating rink at Rockefeller Center. The rink, located just below the Rockefeller Center holiday tree, has been a holiday favorite since it opened in 1936. You can take 30-minute skating lessons and work out on the ice with Olympian JoJo Starbuck on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Be sure to make advance reservations for the rink during the holiday season.
Admire the Holiday Window Displays
Don’t miss the eye-popping Fifth Avenue holiday window displays at department stores like Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman, Henri Bendel, and Saks Fifth Avenue. You can always count on Barneys to turn heads with cool, cutting-edge displays. Macy’s at Herald Square and Bloomingdales at 59th Street and Third Avenue also pull out all the stops to amaze people on the street.
Shop NYC’s Holiday Markets
Hundreds of vendors sell handcrafted items, including art, food, accessories, housewares, and clothing at the festive outdoor holiday markets in Union Square, Bryant Park, and Columbus Circle. The Union Square market usually runs from mid-November through December 24. The Bryant Park market is active from early December through New Year’s Day, and the Columbus Circle market takes place late November through December 24.
See the Christmas Tree Lighting at Rockefeller Center
It’s not just any tree that gets to become Rockefeller Center’s famous Christmas tree. The tree is always a Norway spruce that is at least 75 feet tall, with full branches. The tree is decked out with more than 50,000 lights and topped with a Swarovski-crystal star that’s almost 10 feet in diameter. Talk about bling! It’s lit at the end of November and stays up through the first week in January to dazzle the crowds. After the mighty spruce comes down, it’s used for a great cause — lumber for the non-profit Habitat for Humanity.
Watch the Ball Drop in Times Square on New Year’s Eve
Snag bragging rights when you become part of the world’s most famous New Year’s Eve countdown at New York’s Times Square. Watch the Waterford crystal-covered ball drop and the colorful clouds of confetti — 2,000 tons of it — fall for the thrill of a lifetime. For the best views from the ground, it’s a good idea to arrive before 3 p.m. to grab a spot. If you’d rather watch from higher up — away from the barricaded streets and crowds — reserve a room at hotels like the Knickerbocker and the Casablanca, where you can watch the ball drop from rooftop parties.
Go Sledding in Central Park
If you’re in New York City when more than six inches of snow covers the ground, then Central Park’s hills should be open for sledding. Join the kids and grownups who flock there to enjoy this winter wonderland. The park’s two most popular hills for sledding are Cedar Hill and Pilgrim Hill, which is the steepest. You can buy sleds in New York City hardware stores and children’s toy stores, and then bundle the kids up and take to the slopes.
Have Dinner at One if by Land, Two if by Sea
Trendy restaurants come and go, but this Greenwich Village classic is all about cozy winter dining — and a romantic, candlelit spot for Valentine’s Day. One if by Land, Two if by Sea is located in a historic 1767 carriage house with four fireplaces. Aaron Burr used to house his carriage and horses onsite, and there’s even a mysterious underground tunnel beneath the restaurant. The menu spotlights crowd-pleasing dishes like beef Wellington, rack of lamb, and cheesecake.
See the New York City Ballet Perform “The Nutcracker”
Every year, the super-talented New York City Ballet performs Tchaikovsky’s and George Balanchine’s “The Nutcracker” from November through January at Lincoln Center, with shows Tuesdays through Sundays. This family-friendly holiday tradition features dancers costumed as toy soldiers, mice, and, of course, the Nutcracker himself.
Have Breakfast at Tiffany & Co.
You can actually have breakfast at the jewelry store made even more famous by the classic Audrey Hepburn movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” The walls and furnishings of the fourth-floor Blue Box Café are decked out in Tiffany’s signature blue, making you feel like you’re chowing down inside a jewelry box.
The restaurant’s menu of American classics features eats like lobster, avocado, and grapefruit salad and a chicken club sandwich. Get your fancy on with afternoon tea and nosh on treats like finger sandwiches, sweet and savory scones, and tarts, as well as teas from some of the world’s oldest gardens. It’s a good idea to make reservations for Blue Box Café in advance.
Tag Along at Fashion Week
If you’ve ever been curious about Fashion Week, a trip to New York City is your chance to check it out up close. It’s the one week a year when designers, catwalk shows, cutting-edge fashion, buyers, photographers, editors, and bloggers take over New York City, starting on the second Thursday of February and ending on the third Thursday. Although not all events are open to the public, shows featuring up-and-coming designers often are. Excitement pumps through the city, as fans of fashion rule the streets, creating one-of-a-kind chances to people-watch and check out the latest looks. Fashion Week takes place at venues throughout New York City.
See the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show
Since 1877, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show has thrilled dog owners and fans, as canines strut their stuff and compete to win titles like Best in Breed and the crown prize, Best in Show. The show is held in Madison Square Garden every February over a four-day period. Cats were given a separate competition within the show starting in 2017.
Things to Do in Downtown New York City
Dashing around the busy sidewalks in the heart of the Big Apple can be a thrill in itself. These downtown NYC attractions take you from skyscrapers to parks and beyond.
Visit One World Trade Center
Don’t miss the tallest building in the Western hemisphere, One World Trade Center, soaring 104 stories above Lower Manhattan and topped with a 408-foot spire. One World Observatory, occupying the top three floors, offers stunning panoramic views of the city from 1,250 feet above street level.
SkyPod elevators zip you up to the Observatory in just 47 seconds, and you can take in incredible 360-degree views of the New York City skyline, including the Empire State Building, the Hudson River, New Jersey, and the Statue of Liberty. The Skyportal is a heart-pounding experience that makes you feel like the only thing between you and the ground way below is the glass floor.
You can have lunch or dinner at One World Observatory’s restaurant, One Dine, on the 101st floor. Choose from its seasonal menu of dishes like Long Island duck with braised red cabbage and lentils and buttermilk fried calamari.
See the Oculus
Visitors to the sleek, ultra-modern Oculus don’t have to be design buffs to appreciate its exterior, designed to look like a bird taking flight, and the soaring ceilings of its cathedral-like interior. Designed by star architect Santiago Calatrava, Oculus anchors the 800,000-square-foot World Trade Center Transportation Hub and features 78,000 square feet of shops and restaurants.
Visit Downtown Art Museums
Downtown Manhattan has long been known for its arts scene, and the art museum world has finally caught up with the neighborhood’s creative vibe. The Lower East Side’s New Museum, and The Whitney in the Meatpacking District are two of Downtown’s newer modern art museums.
The New Museum, dedicated to new art and ideas, is a great place to check out all kinds of modern art along with great city views from its Sky Room, open Saturdays and Sundays. An awesome book and gift store on the museum’s ground floor is worth a stop.
The Whitney Museum of American Art, housed in a cool, new building designed by architect Renzo Piano just below the High Line, focuses on 20th century and contemporary U.S. art. It’s home to the Untitled restaurant and Studio Café for seasonal, modern American eats. On bright days, museum goers like to take in the sun on the museum’s outdoor steps facing the Hudson River.
Go to a Nightclub in Greenwich Village
With roots in its rich boho history, nightclubs of every stripe have sprung up in Greenwich Village over the decades to entertain music lovers. You can choose from legendary venues like The Blue Note for jazz, The Bitter End for rock, and Marie’s Crisis, a restaurant with a live piano where patrons gather around to belt out show tunes.
Stroll the Streets of Greenwich Village
Wander through the streets of Greenwich Village and its gorgeous townhouses, or take a historic walking tour of the neighborhood and hear its stories. Some tours focus on the writers and celebs who called Greenwich Village home, with stops at sites like the city’s narrowest house, once home to writer Edna St. Vincent Millay, and at another time, actor Cary Grant. Some popular tours make stops at places made famous by TV shows and movies, while others focus on Revolutionary War or beatnik histories.
Greenwich Village is packed with charming cafes and coffee shops when it’s time to take a break and refuel. Top restaurants like Gunter Seeger, Minetta Tavern, and Blue Hill offer memorable meals and moments when you’re on the hunt for something special.
Take a Walk Along the High Line
This 1.45-mile outdoor walkway and public park, built on a historic abandoned rail line, offers views of the city and the Hudson River from an unusual mid-level height. It takes you close to some of the cool buildings that have recently popped up on the West Side while taking you through plantings of local wildflowers and trees.
At the High Line’s northern end, you can check out the rising Hudson Yards complex, 28 acres of shiny new skyscrapers, and get a look at its centerpiece, the 15-story Vessel. When the Vessel is complete, the steel-framed public art project will feature 154 stairways and 80 landings that link for climbing and exploration. The eye-catching project is well worth seeing as it reaches the topping off point.
Things to Do at Night in New York City
There’s a reason NYC is called the city that never sleeps. There are just as many exciting things to do in New York City after dark as there are in the daytime — maybe even more.
See a Show at Lincoln Center
You can soak up the culture at Lincoln Center just by wandering its courtyard or taking a seat at the fountain and enjoying the view of the Metropolitan Opera House when it’s all lit up at night. Get the most out of your visit by checking out one of the many performances or events, including opera, theater, film, dance, festivals, and music.
Get Tickets to an Off-Broadway Show
There’s nothing like seeing a play in New York City. You can feel the excitement buzzing through the audience as the orchestra tunes up and the curtain rises. Seeing plays in New York City before they’re Broadway-bound packs on even more thrills, as you catch performances by rising stars on their way to fame.
Award-winning musicals like “Rent,” “Hair,” “A Chorus Line,” “Grease,” “Little Shop of Horrors,” “Hamilton,” and “Fun Home” all debuted at the Public Theater, one of Manhattan’s most important off-Broadway stages. It’s also home to Joe’s Pub, where you can see edgy performers like Sandra Bernhard and Erin Markey.
Go to Amateur Night at the Apollo
Amateur Night at Harlem’s Apollo Theater has been a New York City institution since it began in 1934. Check out the up-and-coming performers competing for the audience’s applause. The Apollo has helped launch the careers of superstars like Sarah Vaughan, Lena Horne, James Brown, Billie Holiday, Pearl Bailey, the Count Basie Orchestra, and Lauryn Hill.
Watch a TV Show Taping
Visitors to NYC can join the audiences at tapings of popular TV shows, including NBC’s “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” ABC’s “Good Morning America,” and Bravo’s “Inside the Actors Studio.” Don’t miss out: Tickets should be booked weeks in advance, either online or by mailing in requests. Tickets for NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” are distributed once a year through a lottery that you must enter by email.
Take a Nighttime Helicopter Tour Paired with a Statue of Liberty Cruise
Explore the city from both air and sea when you take a nighttime helicopter tour of New York City, paired with a Statue of Liberty cruise. First, a private water taxi picks you up at Pier 17 and takes you to a helipad in Jersey City. There, you climb aboard a helicopter for a 15-minute aerial tour of Manhattan. You get unforgettable views of landmarks like the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, and the Brooklyn Bridge gorgeously lit up in the night sky. After the flight, the water taxi takes you on a one-hour cruise of New York Harbor, stopping in front of the Statue of Liberty for a photo opp.
Things to Do with Kids in NYC
Who said big cities aren’t kid friendly? If you’ve got kids in tow, then get ready to hear plenty of “oohs” and “ahhs” when you put one of these fun experiences on your list of things to do in New York City.
Order Frozen Hot Chocolate at Serendipity 3
This old-fashioned ice cream parlor on the Upper East Side has delighted families since opening in 1954. Kids’ eyes go wide when they spy the enormous desserts, like the towering “frrrozen” hot chocolate and the outrageous banana split served at Serendipity 3.
The restaurant’s rich celebrity history includes visits by stars such as Marilyn Monroe, Andy Warhol, and Mariah Carey, and scenes from movies and shows, including “Gossip Girl,” have been filmed here. Adults love Serendipity 3’s collection of Tiffany lamps and the fact that it also serves healthy dishes, like steamed vegetables with salmon and shrimp-stuffed avocado.
See the Dinosaurs at the American Museum of Natural History
The fourth floor of this enormous museum is dinosaur central, a hot destination for all ages. The latest addition to its dinosaur fossil family — one of the world’s largest collections — is the 122-foot Titanosaur, which probably tipped the scales at 70 tons about 100 million years ago.
You can also see an incredible T-Rex, Triceratops, Stegosaurus, and the long-necked Apatosaurus among the 600 dinosaur specimens on display. Fossilized dinosaur eggs and the museum’s Glen Rose Trackway, a fossilized 107-million-year-old set of dinosaur footprints from a Texas riverbed, are among the many super-cool artifacts on display.
Leaving the dinosaur world, kids can gaze at the 94-foot giant blue whale model suspended from the ceiling in the museum’s Millstein Hall of Ocean Life.
Go to the Brooklyn Children’s Museum
It’s no surprise that the world’s first and oldest children’s museum, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum — established in 1899 — knows how to engage and educate kids. Three floors of hands-on exhibits, including the Brooklyn Block Lab, the Sensory Room, and Collections Central, teach through play, using everything from language blocks, stories, and songs to live animals, lunch boxes, and masks. The museum’s Morris Sandwich Shop features creative takes on the childhood fave — the grilled cheese sandwich — and much more.
Visit the New York Hall of Science
Designed to boost curiosity and a zest for discovery among kids, with more than 450 hands-on exhibits and 100,000 square feet of displays, the New York Hall of Science features a Design Lab, Science Playground, Rocket Park Mini Golf, and a 3D theater.
See the Sights in Queens
See the mind-blowing scale model of New York City at the Queens Museum of Art. Every building in New York City is represented in the 9,335-square-foot mini replica created for the 1964 World’s Fair. It was a major part of the 2017 film “Wonderstruck,” starring Julianne Moore as the little city’s caretaker, and for good reason. Its 895,000 buildings are updated regularly, and Amazon even paid to relight the model after the movie’s release to make it look like lights are switching on in the city as night falls.
Historic structures from the fair found in Queens’ Flushing Meadows Corona Park include the Unisphere, a stainless-steel sculpture of the world that measures 140 feet high and 120 feet in diameter. Remnants of the New York Pavilion consist of three observation towers, the crown-shaped frame of the Tent of Tomorrow, and the Theaterama — now home to Queens Theatre — and remind visitors of the space age visions of the 1960s.
Explore Central Park
Central Park is a motherlode of New York City musts. Families can enjoy the park in all 843 acres of its green glory, with options ranging from riding on the park’s old timey carousel and visiting the Tisch Children’s Zoo to renting kayaks, paddleboats, or rowboats at Loeb Boathouse and rowing across Central Park Lake. You can also view quirky children’s sculptures or play board games at the Chess and Checkers House, which offers 24 tables for playing and game pieces on loan.
Take a Trip to Coney Island
This world-famous amusement park first opened in the late 19th century and has everything you might expect and more, from the beach and boardwalk to dozens of carnival games and more than 50 rides. Get ready to hear happy screams— maybe even your own — after climbing aboard the legendary Cyclone roller coaster. Coney Island is said to be where the hot dog was born, and it’s one of the many classic boardwalk snacks you can nosh on, along with candied apples, French fries, fried clams, and pizza.
Walk Across the Brooklyn Bridge to DUMBO
The Brooklyn Bridge, built in 1883 as the first steel-wire suspension bridge, stretches 1.1 miles from Lower Manhattan across the East River to Brooklyn. You can take the pedestrian walkway across and enjoy fresh air and killer views of the river along the way. The bridge’s fascinating past includes the story that P.T. Barnum once led a parade of 21 elephants across it to prove its safety and stability.
At the first Brooklyn exit, the stairs down to Washington Street lead to the neighborhood known as DUMBO, which stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass. From Washington Street, you can snap an amazing selfie of your crew with the bridge above you in the background.
There are tons of things to explore among DUMBO’s historic cobblestoned streets, including the gorgeously restored Jane’s Carousel — built in 1922 — and huge public art pieces like Tom Fruin’s colorful “Watertower 3: R.V. Ingersoll.” You can refuel at places like One Girl Cookies, Hecho en DUMBO, and Grimaldi’s pizzeria before the walk back across, or ride the East River ferry back to Manhattan.
The Big Apple never fails to wow folks with its entertainment, food, and art scenes. What are the most unforgettable experiences you’ve had in New York City? Share them with us on Facebook.