50 Things to See and Do in New York City
From the best shops and restaurants to experiences you won't find anywhere else, here's how to get the most out of New York City.
Have breakfast at Tiffany's.
Tiffany & Co. has been a fixture on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street in Manhattan since it opened its doors on October 21, 1940, but it recently unveiled a new reason to visit: an all-day, Tiffany Blue café. The Blue Box Café serves American classic food, with breakfast ($29), lunch ($39), and tea ($49) prix-fixe menus available (we're partial to starting our day with the truffle eggs with smoked bacon).
Take in outdoor theater at Shakespeare in the Park.
"Seeing a Broadway show is great, but if you’re in New York in the summertime, nothing beats Shakespeare in the Park. It’s a free series put on by the Public Theater in an open-air venue in Central Park, and combines astonishing performances from incredible talent with a night under the stars for an unbeatable theatrical experience."—Adam Rathe, Senior Editor (Arts and Culture)
Visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
"Every time I go, I encounter a room I’ve never been to before. But I never leave without visiting the medieval armor on the first floor."—Jamie Rosen, Beauty Director
Go for a walk in Central Park.
843 acres are open to visitors in America's most-visited urban park, which was designed by 1858 in by landscape architects and Vaux after they beat out 32 competitors for the project. Now a National Historic Landmark, the park is full of places to explore, starting with its zoo, Bethesda Fountain, the mall (shown here), and Woolman Rink. Even the Metropolitan Museum of Art technically falls within its confines.
See a show at the Park Avenue Armory.
The expansive 55,000-square-foot drill hall plays hosts to year-round events, including the Winter Antiques Show, TEFAF New York, and its own cultural programming. But what you might not know is that visitors can tour other areas like the first-floor period rooms and restored Board of Officers Room and Veterans Room with a guide.
Walk around the Columbia University campus.
Even if your college days are in the past, you can still still explore the city's only Ivy League institution. Head out on a self-guided touror choose one of the options with a guide, including one that covers the history, architecture, and sculpture of the Morningside Heights campus. For more architectural splendor in the neighborhood, check out the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, too.
Take in a show at the Café Carlyle.
There might not be a more traditional Upper East Side experience than drinks at Bemelmens Bar and a show at Café Carlyle. The cabaret theater has hosted luminaries like Alan Cumming and Judy Collins since its debut in 1955. Tickets for the jacket-required supper club are available here.
Wander around The Cloisters.
Located on four acres overlooking the Hudson River in Upper Manhattan's Fort Tryon Park, this annex of the includes four cloisters and a group of reconstructed chapels and halls from medieval French monasteries and abbeys.
Check out the New York Botanical Garden.
The 250-acre National Historic Landmark in the Bronx hosts more than a million visitors annually. One of its draws? The Holiday Train Show, which runs from November through January.
Explore the history of design at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.
America's only museum dedicated solely to design has been a branch of the Smithsonian since the 1960s. It now has a collection of more than 210,000 design objects that span 240 years, all housed in industrialist Andrew Carnegie's former mansion on the Upper East Side.
Try the Chinese-Cuban fare at La Caridad.
"The greatest of the Upper West Side’s Chinese-Cuban restaurants, La Caridad serves huge portions of gut-busting food at ridiculously low prices."—James Lochart, Copy Chief
Tour the Frick Collection.
The Gilded Age mansion of industrialist Henry Clay Frick is one of the most visually interesting places to visit in the city today (here's what it looked like when it was a private home, by the way).
Pick up cheese (and a lot more) at Zabar's.
"The king of the old-school appetizing shops, Zabar's is not a deli, as you can’t order lunch. It’s not a supermarket, as there’s no produce (well, not much), and you can’t get paper towels or dish soap. But it has the best selection of cheeses on earth (not an exaggeration), many of them very inexpensive. And prepared foods. And outstanding, reasonably priced coffee. And loose tea of several dozen kinds. And who else has a lox counter—just lox, nothing else. And I haven’t even mentioned the kitchenwares department upstairs, which is one of New York’s best-kept secrets."—James Lochart, Copy Chief
Pay a visit to Lincoln Center.
The Metropolitan Opera, New York Philharmonic, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and New York City Ballet all perform here. The Met Opera House, in particular, is worth visiting even without a show ticket. Its opulence is a feast for the eyes.
Try the "crudités" at the Office.
Not your average vegetable plate, this dish of 20+ fruits and vegetables is one of the many whimsical ones on the menu at the Office NYC, a speakeasy tucked away on the 35th floor of the Mandarin Oriental. Chef Grant Achatz, most well-known for his Chicago restaurant Alinea, along with the Office and Aviary there, oversees the menu here and at the Aviary NYC next door. Whatever you order, whether cocktail or food, you can be sure it will be interesting.
Visit the Museum of the City of New York
Located at the northern end of Fifth Avenue's Museum Mile, MCNY offers exhibition on the city's art and history including "New York at Its Core," which charts the city’s rise from a striving Dutch village to today’s 'Capital of the World.'
Go to the American Museum of Natural History
Founded in 1869, the American Museum of Natural History now has more than 32 million specimens and cultural artifacts in its collection. Stroll through the museum's 570,000-square-foot space on Central Park West, which includes 45 permanent exhibit halls including dinosaur fossils, stunning dioramas, and, in the Milstein Family Hall of Ocean Life, a 94-foot-long, 21,000-pound model of a blue whale suspended from the ceiling.
Dine at one of the world's best restaurants (without breaking the bank).
The city is home to 72 Michelin-starred restaurants, but eating at them doesn't require spending your entire paycheck in one fell swoop. Here's a handy guide with a few tips for making the most the culinary scene on a tight budget.
Stroll through Riverside Park.
"This park—which runs along the Hudson River from 79th to 129th streets—is never crowded, almost devoid of tourists, and perfect for a warm weather stroll. Don’t miss the pretty community garden (which made a cameo in You’ve Got Mail) around the 91st street mark."—Leena Kim, Assistant Editor
Admire the architecture and exhibitions at the Morgan Library.
"There are bigger and more famous museums in Manhattan, but the Morgan Library—built in the early 1900s by McKim, Mead & White to house the library of Pierpont Morgan—is something of a hidden gem. The museum houses impressive exhibitions you won’t catch at other institutions, and its permanent collection of manuscripts and rare books is one of a kind. Stop in for a look and stay for lunch at the café."—Adam Rathe, Senior Editor (Arts and Culture)
Sip and savor the wine-bar fare at Casellula.
"This tiny wine bar, run by a Union Square Cafe alum, has a fantastic cheese list (over 40 kinds, which change regularly), which they pair with inventive house-made condiments."—Leena Kim, Assistant Editor
See world-class musicians at the New York Philharmonic.
"The venerated institution is getting a new maestro next season: Jaap Van Zweden. Besides being a celebrated conductor (he led the Dallas Symphony Orchestra for a decade), Van Zweden is also an accomplished violinist. He was the youngest person to ever become concertmaster of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, which is widely considered the best orchestra in the world."—Leena Kim, Assistant Editor
Check out New York's brand new spy museum.
Located in the middle of Midtown, SPYSCAPE provides an interactive deep-dive into the worlds of deception, encryption, surveillance, hacking, intelligence, cyber warfare, and special ops. One especially cool feature is the Special Ops Tunnels, laser mazes that test visitors' agility and reaction times (think Catherine Zeta-Jones in Entrapment).
See at show at Joe's Pub at the Public.
"The Public Theater is just heaven. From the cabarets at Joe’s Pub and the powerful drama regularly on display at the Anspacher to Shakespeare in the Park, it’ll make you cry, it’ll make you laugh, it’ll make you angry and reflective and nostalgic, but mostly it’ll make you happy to be in New York City."—
Visit one of the city's cathedrals.
St. Patrick's Cathedral is easily the city's most famous. The brick and marble Roman Catholic church, which opened in 1879, can seat 2,200.
Explore Grand Central Terminal.
Whether you head downstairs for stew at the Grand Central Oyster Bar, upstairs for a cocktail at the Campbell or a match at the Vanderbilt Tennis Club, or are just passing through to catch a train, the station, completed in 1913, is an architectural marvel.
See a Broadway show.
If you want to know why Frank Sinatra called New York "The City That Never Sleeps," look no further than Times Square. The heart of the Theater District is bright no matter what time of day it is, and it's also where the world tunes in to watch the ball drop on New Year's Eve. Stop by the TKTS Discount Booth for to snag same-day theater tickets at up to 50 percent off regular prices.
Study (or pretend to) at the New York Public Library.
Walk up the steps of the Beaux-Arts Stephen A. Schwarzman Building of the New York Public Library and past the Library Lions to discover one of the city's best public spaces. Tours are available, and you should be sure not to miss the Rose Main Reading Room; it's roughly the length of two city blocks and features 52-foot-tall ceilings with murals of skies and clouds.
Take in the view from the top of the Empire State building.
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From 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. every day, the 1,454-foot-tall Empire State Building's two observation decks provide unobstructed, panoramic views of the city. A 2007 poll conducted by the American Institute of Architects also named the country's tallest LEED-certified building "America’s Favorite Architecture," putting it ahead of even the White House.
Go on a food tour of the Lower East Side.
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"The hip downtown neighborhood is home to some of the city’s most historic places to grab a bite, and this three-hour guided food tour allows you to experience them all. You’ll sample warm knishes at Yonah Schimmel Bakery, crunchy half-sours at the Pickle Guys, and traditional Jewish deli fare at Russ & Daughters, among other local favorites."—Lindsay Silberman, Senior Digital Editor
Check out a candy store that's been open since the 1930s.
"Few places give you a taste of nostalgia quite like Economy Candy in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The sweets shop, which has been in business since 1937, is stocked from floor to ceiling with every vintage candy imaginable—from Abba-Zaba bars to Turkish Taffy. The store’s owner often tells customers 'if you can't find it here it's not being made and if it is made, we'll find it for you.'"—Lindsay Silberman, Senior Digital Editor
Dine at Indochine.
"In a city where trendy restaurants come and go, Indochine is something of an anomaly. The French-Vietnamese eatery has been an enduring staple of the downtown fashion set for more than 30 years—a place where Andy Warhol, Halston, and Jean-Michel Basquiat regularly dined and partied until sunrise. Nowadays, the décor is slightly dated and the menu hasn’t changed much, but that’s all part of Indochine’s charm. When you go, don’t leave without trying the crispy shrimp."—Lindsay Silberman, Senior Digital Editor
Go on a culinary tour of Chelsea Market.
"This food market, which features shops and stalls that specialize in everything from hummus (Dizengoff) and halvah (Seed + Mill) to spices, fish, matcha, tacos, and kitchen supplies, was way ahead of its time in bringing together disparate vendors under one roof, and it continues to be a great way to spend a weekend morning (it does get really busy in the afternoons)."—Jamie Rosen, Beauty Director
Walk along the High Line.
"After walking through Chelsea Market, which spans an entire city block, head up to the High Line, an elevated park on former train tracks."—Jamie Rosen, Beauty Director
Find something unexpected at John Derian.
"This is the most magical store in New York City. Everything John Derian and his team source for their three little shops in the East Village is beautiful. I love all of the decoupage tabletop items. I collect his paperweights!"—Sarah Bray, Style Writer
Visit Tesla's new store in the Meatpacking District.
Tesla debuted its newest showroom in 2017 in the heart of the Meatpacking District. Test drives won't be available until later this year, but the 10,900-square-foot space offers an up-close-and-personal look at the automaker's three electric vehicles: Model S, Model S, and the new (and more affordable) Model 3.
Shop in the Oculus.
The transportation hub designed by Spanish architect near the World Trade Center cost nearly $4 billion to build and contains the largest shopping mall in . Stop by for the views; stay to peruse the selection at London Jewelers and Longines.
Embrace the serve-yourself mentality at Bouley at Home.
Chef David Bouley, who has contributed to Town & Country, opened this restaurant and the next-door test kitchen in the Flatiron District last year after closing his fine-dining mainstay in Tribeca. The result is a tasting-menu destination that serves nine-course dinners, but there are no waiters. Instead, chefs directly serve the diners, who are responsible for replacing their own flatware using the stocked drawers at each counter seat. It's a new way of eating very, very well.
Graze at Via Carota.
"This West Village spot is the best place for an aperitif and fresh vegetable-centric small plates on a summer evening. The sidewalk chairs and tables add to its charming, rustic European vibes."—Leena Kim, Assistant Editor
Eat and drink at one of the city's best rooftop destinations.
In the spring and summer, Gallow Green is a garden rooftop bar on top of the McKittrick Hotel in Chelsea, home of the immersive theater spectacle Sleep No More. It's outfitted like a secret garden in an abandoned Scottish train station, and the rooftop venue specializes in cocktails including signature large format punches along with seasonal cuisine for dinner plus weekend brunch featuring buffet stations and live music by MK Groove Trio.
Check out the One World Trade Center Observatory.
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The three-story observatory on top of the Western Hemisphere’s tallest building offers some of the best sights in the world. On a clear day, you can see up to 50 miles from the top of the 1,776-foot-tall skyscraper.
Order a sandwich made with some of the world's best beef.
The first restaurant in New York to exclusively serve Wagyu beef sandwiches, Don Wagyuopened recently in the city's Financial District a few blocks from the New York Stock Exchange. The small space offers up three sandwich-and-fry options that range from $28 to $180 (the top-of-the-line "sando" is made with beef from five cattle shipped to the U.S. every month from a family-owned farm in the Miyazaki Prefecture in Japan). Only about 200 sandwiches are available per day.
Find a book at the Strand.
"18 miles of books" is the slogan at this bookstore, which opened in 1927. Today it carries more than 2.5 million used, new, and rare books "covering topics as far-ranging as occult to philosophy to finance."
Pay your respects at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.
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The 9/11 Memorial (shown here) includes two massive pools that cover the original footprints of the Twin Towers, with nearly 3,000 names of the men, women, and children killed in the attacks inscribed into bronze walls surrounding the pools. Downstairs, the 9/11 Memorial Museum displays artifacts linked to the events of 9/11 and tells the stories of the victims.
Take a helicopter tour of the city.
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In 15 minutes, you can see a lot more from the air than you would in a whole day of touring by foot. After boarding the chopper at the Downtown Manhattan Heliport, you'll be able to take in sky-high views of the World Financial Center, Statue of Liberty, Central Park, Chrysler Building, and other landmarks.
Walk over the Brooklyn Bridge.
The 5,989-foot-long Brooklyn Bridge, which opened in 1883, offers a quintessential New York experience for walkers and bikers. It also features some of the best views of the city's skyline.
Pick up Peter Pan Donuts before heading to the park in Brooklyn.
"Everyone’s got a favorite spot for baked goods, and one of ours is this Greenpoint, Brooklyn donut shop that’s been churning out sweets since the 1950s. If you can make it through the ever-present crowd, snag a seat at the retro counter and order a few—we like the chocolate and blueberry buttermilk varieties—to share with friends. Otherwise, take some to go and feast in nearby McCarren Park."—Adam Rathe, Senior Editor (Arts and Culture)
Bike to the beach.
"In what other city is this even an option? You can ride to Coney Island/Brighton Beach fairly easily (from Brooklyn or Manhattan), and there are lots of things to do when you get there (roller coaster, aquarium, Russian restaurants—even minor league baseball!). But if what you want is just beach, go to Jacob Riis State Park/Fort Tilden. You feel as if you’ve made it to the edge of the world."—James Lochart, Copy Chief
Sample the products at New York City’s oldest operating whiskey distillery.
Founded in 2010, Kings County Distillery began in a 325-square-foot room in East Williamsburg and now operates out of the 118-year-old Paymaster Building in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Stop by for a tour or tasting—the Gatehouses at the entrance to the Navy Yard serves the whiskeys in cocktails, pours, and tasting flights.
Visit the Statue of Liberty on Ellis Island.
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While visiting the crown requires some serious advance planning, tours of Ellis Island that include the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal and observation decks, as well as through the Great Hall exhibits at Ellis Island, are easily bookable.
This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.