Top 18 Things to Do in New York, NY: Markets, Museums, Tours, and More

Updated on May 8th, 2024

Reading Time: 8 minutes

Experience New York City’s energy, from iconic landmarks to hidden gems, there’s always something to do in the city that never sleeps.

New York City is a melting pot of cultures, cuisines, and experiences. The city’s skyline is adorned with architectural marvels like the Empire State Building and One World Trade Center, while its streets are alive with the hustle and bustle of daily life. Whether you’re strolling through Central Park, exploring the diverse NYC neighborhoods, or indulging in world-class dining and shopping, New York City offers an unparalleled urban adventure.

If you’re searching for apartments in New York City, homes for sale, or are already a local, this Redfin article will be your guide. Here is Redfin’s list of the top 18 things to do in New York City, including personal recommendations from the city’s locals, for both newcomers and long-time locals alike.

new york city skyline

1. Explore Central Park

Central Park is a sprawling oasis in the heart of New York City. Visitors can enjoy a leisurely stroll through the picturesque landscapes, rent a rowboat on the lake, or have a picnic on the Great Lawn. The park also features attractions such as the Central Park Zoo and the iconic Bethesda Terrace. With its lush greenery and diverse activities, Central Park offers a peaceful escape from the bustling city.

Nancy Gallagher from Wollman Rink suggests, “For me, a perfect day in NYC starts out skating at Wollman Rink. In the morning, the Central Park is less crowded and the ice is freshly groomed. After skating, I’d recommend a coffee from The Cafe at Wollman Rink and a quick bite at Melba’s on The Overlook, an outpost of the famous Harlem eatery. On The Overlook, you can people-watch the skaters at Wollman Rink, which is often frequented by some of our community partners like Ice Hockey in Harlem and Figure Skating in Harlem.”

Must do: Be sure to visit the Central Park Conservatory Garden, a hidden gem with stunning floral displays and serene fountains.

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2. Experience Times Square

Times Square is a vibrant hub of entertainment and excitement. Visitors can take in the dazzling lights and larger-than-life billboards, catch a Broadway show, or explore the numerous shops and restaurants. The energy of Times Square is infectious, making it a must-see destination for anyone visiting New York City.

Insider scoop: Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the iconic TKTS booth to score discounted tickets to Broadway shows.

3. Have a NYC photoshoot

15 year NYC resident and professional photographer Sasha Chou recommends some of NYC’s most picturesque spots: 

Time Out New York’s Rooftop in Dumbo

Savor an exclusive view from Time Out New York’s rooftop in Dumbo, providing simultaneous glimpses of the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges. This hidden gem offers a unique and secret perspective of the city. 

Tip: Plan your visit during off-peak hours for a more intimate experience.”

Washington Mews in Greenwich 

Uncover the charm of Washington Mews, a secluded cobblestone street in Greenwich Village. Lined with historic townhouses, it’s a picturesque spot that feels like a secret oasis in the city.

Tip: Visit during different seasons to capture the changing colors of the trees and the atmosphere.”

Essex Market Rooftop in the Lower East Side :

See the Lower East Side from a new perspective at the Essex Market Rooftop. This hidden gem offers panoramic views of the neighborhood’s eclectic mix of architecture and the urban landscape. 

Tip: Capture the dynamic street life below and the juxtaposition of old and new buildings.”

4. Visit the Statue of Liberty

The Statue of Liberty is a symbol of freedom and democracy, and a visit to New York City would not be complete without seeing this iconic landmark. Visitors can take a ferry to Liberty Island and explore the museum and pedestal, or even climb to the crown for breathtaking views of the city skyline and harbor.

Know before you go: Book a ticket in advance to visit the crown of the Statue of Liberty for a truly unforgettable experience.

statue of liberty

5. Explore the High Line

The High Line is a unique and elevated park built on a historic freight rail line. Visitors can take a leisurely stroll along the landscaped walkway, enjoy art installations, and take in stunning views of the city and the Hudson River. The High Line offers a peaceful and scenic escape from the bustling streets below.

Best time to go: Visit the High Line at sunset for breathtaking views and a magical atmosphere.

6. Discover Chelsea Market

Chelsea Market is a foodie paradise, offering a diverse array of culinary delights and unique shops. Visitors can sample artisanal foods, browse through specialty boutiques, and soak in the lively atmosphere of this historic market. Whether you’re a food lover or a shopping enthusiast, Chelsea Market has something for everyone.

Must try: Indulge in a lobster roll from the famous Lobster Place for a truly delicious treat.

7. Explore the Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, also known as the Met, is one of the world’s largest and most prestigious art museums. Visitors can explore its vast collection of art spanning thousands of years and from cultures around the globe. From ancient artifacts to modern masterpieces, the Met offers a rich and immersive cultural experience.

Insider tip: Don’t miss the rooftop garden at the Met, which offers stunning views of Central Park and the Manhattan skyline.

8. Take to the town and eat like a local

Get the inside scoop on the city’s best spots directly from locals. Their recommendations go beyond the touristy areas, revealing hidden gems and non-touristy favorites for a unique and authentic city experience. Trust those who know the city best to guide you to the must-see places and culinary delights that make your visit truly special.

Gramercy Bagels on 246 Third ave

Jay Batra from Batra Group Property Management says, “This is an amazing place for brunch, bagels etc. But hands down, the best thing on the menu is the Pesto Chicken Panini. This is a hole in the wall local bagel shop, very easy to miss, but the Pesto Panini will absolutely rock your world. I would ask for hot sauce on the side.”

Speedy Romeo on 376 Classon ave

“This is a pizza shop in an old car body shop in Clinton Hill,” continues Batra. “Very Brooklynish, cool ambience with exposed brick and high ceilings. Friendly staff. My absolute favorite is the St Louie Pizza. This is definitely my favorite local pizza spot in NYC.”

Tomi Jazz 239 E 53rd St

“This place a hidden gem. It is a speakeasy, Japanese restaurant and jazz bar with a full jazz band packed in about 300 sq ft. I don’t know how they manage, but somehow, someway, it works out pretty well. In fact, this to me is probably one of the best jazz bars and date spots around.”

street food

9. Visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum

The 9/11 Memorial and Museum is a poignant and powerful tribute to the lives lost during the September 11th attacks. Visitors can pay their respects at the twin reflecting pools, which are surrounded by the names of the victims, and explore the museum’s exhibits, which provide a moving and informative look at the events of that fateful day.

Must do: Take a moment of reflection at the Survivor Tree, a symbol of resilience and rebirth.

10. Experience the Brooklyn Bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge is an iconic symbol of New York City and a marvel of engineering. Visitors can take a leisurely walk or bike ride across the bridge, taking in stunning views of the city skyline and the East River. The bridge’s historic significance and breathtaking views make it a must-see attraction for visitors.

When to go: Visit the Brooklyn Bridge at sunrise or sunset for a truly magical experience.

11. Explore the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

The Museum of Modern Art is a world-renowned institution dedicated to showcasing the best in modern and contemporary art. Visitors can explore its extensive collection of paintings, sculptures, and multimedia works by some of the most influential artists of the 20th and 21st centuries. The MoMA offers a thought-provoking and inspiring artistic experience.

Must do: Don’t miss the opportunity to see Vincent van Gogh’s iconic painting “Starry Night” in person.

12. Check out Industry City

“I live in Brooklyn,” says Ayano Hisa Photography. “So my favorite spot right now is Industry City, where I can buy Japanese groceries and enjoy international food (Thai, Korean, American BBQ, Vegan, Japanese, etc.), including good sweets. The Japanese stores sometimes host special food, art, and music events. There are unique stores in categories of fashion, books, art, food, and Brooklyn-related products all in the same spot. There are courtyards in between the buildings, so I often take my dog there; and some stores even have treats for her. 

Large stores like Costco and Petco are nearby. They sometimes host huge conventions like liquor and food conventions. And the best part, especially for our dog, is that it is close to Sunset Park. When it was warmer, I would go to Industry City and stop by the park to walk my dog, take a nap by the trees, and overlook the skyline of Manhattan. It is a pretty amazing view from the park.”

13. Visit the Empire State Building

The Empire State Building is an iconic skyscraper that offers breathtaking views of New York City from its observation decks. Visitors can take in panoramic views of the city’s skyline, including landmarks such as Central Park, the Statue of Liberty, and Times Square. A visit to the Empire State Building provides a memorable and awe-inspiring experience.

Best time to go: Visit the Empire State Building at night to see the city lights twinkling below.

Empire State building observation deck

14. Discover the American Museum of Natural History

The American Museum of Natural History is a world-class institution dedicated to exploring the natural world and human cultures. Visitors can explore its vast collection of exhibits, including dinosaur fossils, meteorites, and cultural artifacts from around the globe. The museum offers a fascinating and educational experience for visitors of all ages.

Must do: Be sure to visit the iconic blue whale model in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life.

15. Experience the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum is a unique museum housed on the historic aircraft carrier Intrepid. Visitors can explore the museum’s collection of aircraft, spacecraft, and maritime artifacts, and even step aboard the carrier itself. The museum offers a hands-on and immersive look at the history of sea, air, and space exploration.

Don’t forget: Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Space Shuttle Pavilion and see the space shuttle Enterprise up close.

16. Explore the Guggenheim Museum

The Guggenheim Museum is an architectural masterpiece designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and home to an impressive collection of modern and contemporary art. Visitors can explore its unique spiral structure and view works by artists such as Picasso, Kandinsky, and Warhol. The Guggenheim offers a visually stunning and intellectually stimulating artistic experience.

Must do: Take the time to admire the museum’s iconic architecture and the stunning atrium at its center for the perfect photo-op.

17. Visit the New York Botanical Garden

The New York Botanical Garden is a lush oasis of natural beauty and tranquility. Visitors can explore its diverse gardens, including the iconic Haupt Conservatory, and enjoy seasonal events and exhibitions. The garden offers a peaceful and immersive escape from the urban hustle.

Special event: Visit during the annual Orchid Show for a breathtaking display of colorful blooms and exotic orchids.

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18. Experience the Apollo Theater

The Apollo Theater is a historic landmark and a cultural institution in the heart of Harlem. Visitors can experience the theater’s rich history and catch a live performance, from music and comedy to dance and theater. The Apollo offers a vibrant and soulful experience that celebrates the diversity and creativity of the performing arts.

Must do: Attend the Amateur Night at the Apollo, a legendary showcase of up-and-coming talent and a true Harlem tradition.

If you are represented by an agent, this is not a solicitation of your business. This article is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for professional advice from a medical provider, licensed attorney, financial advisor, or tax professional. Consumers should independently verify any agency or service mentioned will meet their needs. Learn more about our Editorial Guidelines here.
Holly Hooper

Holly Hooper

Holly is part of the content marketing team and enjoys writing about home improvement and lifestyle. Her dream home would incorporate both an industrial and biophilic design.

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