It’s difficult to narrow down a list of top things to do in New York City to only ten. I encounter something new and interesting every time I visit the city, but these are my all-time favorites. Even better, you can see all of the sights below in a long weekend, and it’s a wide variety of experiences to give you a great all-around trip.
1.) Times Square
Although locals avoid Times Square like the plague, all tourists should go at least once. It’s a great place to people watch and dive headfirst into the hustle and bustle of New York City. With all of the lights and humongous monitors and billboards, it’s full of glitz and glamor – so much so that even at 2am it feels like you’re right in the middle of it all.
2.) Statue of Liberty
This beautiful gift from France is over 300 feet tall (including her pedestal) and quickly became an icon of our country. She was one of the first sights of America that immigrants saw after they braved the Atlantic looking for a new life, and she’s still a welcome sight for all to behold. Whether you just get to glimpse this beauty or literally peek up her skirt, the journey to see Lady Liberty isn’t one you’ll forget. If you do want to see her up close, go in her pedestal or climb the 354 steps to her crown, I highly recommend making reservations. You will get priority entry and skip the line that’s typically hours long.
3.) Museum of Natural History
Even if you haven’t watched the movie Night at the Museum you will want to visit this monstrous museum. Spanning about 4 blocks, it’s so large you could spend a whole day in the museum and not see everything, so make sure to pace yourself, and don’t strive to see everything, but rather seek out the treasures that are important to you. It holds halls of the universe, minerals, ocean life, many halls mammals and of indigenous people all over the world, and my favorite – multiple halls of dinosaur skeletons. With so much to see you will definitely find something worth your while.
4.) View the Skyline
Possibly the most famous sky scraper in NYC is the Empire State Building. It was the tallest building in the world for almost 40 years after its completion in 1931, was scaled by King Kong, and stands over 1400 feet tall. The main observation deck is on the 86th floor and provides great views of the city. The lines are notoriously long, so either arrive close to 8am or skip the line with their express ticket. Top of the Rock is another great place to get a view of the city including the Empire State Building and Central Park, but it doesn’t come with all of the historical exhibits either. There is a timed entry system, so the lines aren’t typically very long.
5.) Central Park
Central Park is an escape from the commotion of the city. With over 800 acres to explore, it will take at least a few hours to discover the major sights. Aside from the Great Lawn, tennis courts and Wollman Skating Rink, where locals go to spend a couple of hours, there are other things to see like sculptures, beautiful scenery, and even a castle! My favorites are the Alice in Wonderland and Balto sculptures, the ancient Egyptian obelisk named Cleopatra’s Needle, The Pond, Strawberry Fields, and walking down The Mall to Bethesda Terrace, which seems to be the heart of Central Park.
6.) Metropolitan Museum of Art
Nicknamed ‘the Met’, the Metropolitan Museum of Art holds about 2 million works of art in their permanent collection. Be content to see only a small fraction of these works, because it will take nearly all day to see even that. This is truly a world-class museum with dozens of galleries, including costumes, armor, musical instruments, art from the Arab lands, Egyptian art, European art, Greek and Roman art, Asian art, and even contemporary art. Photos without flash are permitted, so even if you are on art overload half way through your visit you can later look through your pictures to remember what you saw.
The epitome of theater is Broadway, and if you like theatre, there are too many shows to choose from. In the evening the street glitters and you’re reminded that performing on Broadway is a dream for so many people. Walk in the steps of celebrities like Liza Minnelli, Nathan Lane and Kristin Chenoweth. Even if you don’t want to splurge and buy tickets to a show, you can even see a great show Off-Broadway, and sometimes at half the price.
8.) 9/11 Memorial and Museum
The lives of thousands were forever changed on September 11, 2001, and the 9/11 Memorial and Museum pay tribute to those lost that day. The Memorial is composed of two reflecting pools surrounded by waterfalls that are positioned where the Twin Towers stood. The Museum focuses on three aspects: the day before, the day of the attacks, and the day after. Visiting is a both a humbling and uniting experience.
Giant frogs sitting in buckets, hog heads staring out of a display case, roasted ducks hanging in windows, dried bugs served as delicacies? No, I’m not talking about a scene from Harry Potter. I’m talking about Chinatown! For those of us not accustomed to these things, traveling through Chinatown can be a completely new cultural experience. Go outside your comfort zone to try something new, and you will find Chinatown a delight (or nightmare depending on your level of squeamishness).
From pizza to cheesecake and everything in-between, New York is a cultural melting pot with too many types of foods and food fusions to count. Take a food tour that focuses on one particular village, or create your own quest to find the best New York style pizza. With so much competition in the city for restaurants, only the best survive, so whatever you decide on it’s bound to be good.
Is there something different on your NYC top ten list? Please comment and let me know what you would add. If you loved this list? Please check out my New York City Travel Guide and my Top Free Things to do in New York City.
Read Next: New York City Travel Guide