New York City is one of the best places on earth.
Despite having a love-hate relationship with this concrete jungle that I have called home for almost fifteen years, New York is a place that I could not easily tire of. One of the main things that I love about my city is that there is ALWAYS something going on.
Since the city is a such a popular destination for tourists, I constantly have friends coming to visit, and I am always giving recommendations, I finally decided to turn some of my many recommendations of things to do in NYC into a list.
This list does not include made-for-tourist places like the Empire State Building, Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, or Rockefeller Center. Instead, this is a list of places that I enjoy going to and experiences that I enjoy having here in my hometown.
Experience Cupcake Culture
Yes, my friends, cupcake culture is a thing in New York City. (To be more precise, the act of eating is a thing in NYC, as you will find out in this post).
Experience New York City’s cupcake culture by enjoying a cupcake from some of New York City’s most famous bakeries such as Magnolia Bakery or Molly’s Cupcakes.
Here are some cupcake shops you should try out:
- Molly’s Cupcakes | 228 Bleeker Street, Manhattan
- Billy’s Bakery | multiple locations
- Two Little Red Hens | 1652 2nd Avenue, Manhattan
Check Out A Museum (For Cheap/Free)
From time to time, I enjoy visiting the City’s museums.
One recommendation that I always give people visiting is to find out how you can get into a museum either discounted or for free. One way you can do this is to see if a museum’s admission sign says ‘Suggested General Admission’ (which will usually be in very small print). When the sign says this, it means ‘pay-what-you-wish‘.
- Museum of Natural History | Central Park W & 79th St, Manhattan (suggested donation)
- Brooklyn Museum | 200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn (suggested donation)
- Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) | 1000 5th Avenue, Manhattan (suggested donation)
- Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) |11 West 53 Street (Free on Fridays 4-8 PM)
- Guggenheim Museum | 1071 5th Avenue (pay-what-you-wish Saturdays 5:45-7:45 PM)
Visit an Urban Winery
Want to visit an urban winery without leaving New York City?
Check out Brooklyn Winery, Red Hook Winery, or City Winery, where you can experience both wine production and tastings.
- Brooklyn Winery | 213 N. 8 Street, Brooklyn
- City Winery | 155 Varick Street, Manhattan
- Red Hook Winery | 175 Van Dyke Street, Brooklyn
Walk Across A Bridge
Something that I really love doing when the weather is warm is walking across either the Williamsburg Bridge or Brooklyn Bridge between Brooklyn and Manhattan.
The Williamsburg Bridge is much less crowded than the more famous Brooklyn Bridge, however, it will take you between two really cool neighborhoods: the Lower East Side and Williamsburg.
The Brooklyn Bridge offers stunning views of downtown Manhattan and will take you between the Financial District and DUMBO. This bridge is really popular with tourists, so it can be extremely crowded at times.
Tip for crossing Brooklyn Bridge: STAY OUT OF THE BIKE LANE. No, seriously, unless you want to lose a limb or two.
Do Sunday Brunch
One of my favorite things to do in New York City on a Sunday? Go to Sunday brunch of course!
Here in NYC, bottomless (all-you-can-drink) brunch is the name of the game, and everyone loves to do it.
Here are some of my favorite (bottomless & non-bottomless) brunch spots:
- Good Enough To Eat | 520 Columbus Avenue, Manhattan (not bottomless – but very delicious)
- Essex | 120 Essex Street, Manhattan ($25 = one entree & 3 drinks)
Check out New York City’s Street Art
Head over to Bushwick, Brooklyn or Astoria, Queens to see some of the best street art that New York City has to offer.
Visit A Food Hall
One thing that never gets old is visiting different food halls in the City. Some of my favorites include: Hudson Eats at Brookfield Place, Chelsea Market, Gotham West Market, and Gansevoort Market.
- Hudson Eats at Brookfield Place | 200 Vesey Street, Manhattan
- Chelsea Market | 75 9th Avenue, Manhattan
- Gotham West Market | 600 11th Avenue, Manhattan
- Gansevoort Market | 353 W 14 Street, Manhattan
Attend A Food Event
If there is one thing New Yorkers like to do, it is to eat! There are more than enough food festivals, fairs, and food events during the year to fill your social calendar from January through December.
One of my favorite food festivals to attend is the biannual Madison Square Eats in the Flatiron area of Manhattan, where you can sample unique and innovative food creations such as a fusion between Korean and Mexican foods.
There are also a number of other great food events and festivals including:
- Smorgasburg [Brooklyn] | Saturdays (April to November) at the East River State Park & Sundays (April to November) at Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 5
- Queens County Market [Queens] | Year-Round at various locations in Queens – check their website to stay up-to-date on all of their events
- New York City Wine & Food Festival [Manhattan] | Every Fall, the NYCWFF hits New York City and the best-of-the-best exhibit the very best food and wine that NYC has to offer
Travel to New York City’s Real Little Italy
When people visit New York City and they want to visit Little Italy, they usually head to the very inauthentic neighborhood in Manhattan.
New York City’s real Little Italy can be found in the Belmont section of the Bronx, where the famous Arthur Avenue has family-owned stores and restaurants that people in-the-know go to.
While you are in the real Little Italy, make sure to check out:
- Arthur Avenue Retail Market | 2344 Arthur Avenue, Bronx
- Calandra Cheese | 2314 Arthur Avenue, Bronx
- Madonia Brothers Bakery | 2348 Arthur Ave, Bronx
Take A Trip to Roosevelt Island
Journey across the East River from Manhattan by tram over to Roosevelt Island, where you can experience scenic views of Midtown Manhattan and Long Island City, Queens.
Every spring, Roosevelt Island has some of the most beautiful cherry blossoms in New York City that are definitely a must-see!
Discover NYC through a Food Tour or Cooking Class
New York has a number of food tours and cooking classes in neighborhoods all across New York City. The great thing about this city is that there are so many different cultures here and so many food options due to the amount of diversity the city has to offer.
If you are interested in learning about NYC History and trying authentic Jewish, Chinese, and Italian foods, take the Urban Oyster Food Tour of Lower Manhattan.
If you are curious about Trinidadian food, take a cooking class with Dolly and the League of Kitchens.
If you want to taste some delicious Italian food created by Mario Batali, take a tour with Walks of New York.
Travel to Brooklyn to Eat
When visiting New York City, don’t limit yourself to only eating in Manhattan. The outer-boroughs (the Bronx, Queens, Staten Island, and Brooklyn) have wonderful food as well!
One of my favorite boroughs to visit is Brooklyn, which has a large variety of food options. Some of my favorite foodie destinations in Brooklyn include the neighborhoods of DUMBO and Williamsburg.
Make sure to check out:
- Vinnie’s Pizzeria | 148 Bedford Avenue (Williamsburg)
- Sweet Chick | 164 Bedford Avenue (Williamsburg)
- Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory | 1 Water Street (DUMBO)
- Mable’s Smokehouse | 44 Berry Street (Williambsurg)
Of course this list could go on forever and ever with things that I enjoy doing in New York City, but it would get out of hand…
So, I leave you with this:
If you are traveling to New York City and you are looking for more things to do that extend beyond this list, here are some of my best recommendations:
What To Read Before & During Your Trip:
- Eater NY – http://ny.eater.com – This is my go-to resource for any and everything food related. Any and all food news can be found on this site.
- Thrillist – http://www.thrillist.com/new-york – This is one of my absolute favorite websites. Ever. Anything that can be put onto a list is on this site, and I love it.
- Gothamist – http://gothamist.com – My everything-in-NYC website. I don’t read the regular news, I read Gothamist!
FREE Apps To Download For Navigating NYC:
- Four Square & Swarm – Now in two apps (ugh), Swarm is a check-in app that will not only keep track of places you have visited but will also give you discounts at some places that you check-in at. Foursquare is a rating app that will give you tips and ratings on every place in NYC.
- Lyft* – Lyft is a great app for getting a taxi in the city. Standing in the street trying to hail a cab has become a thing of the past (well at least outside of surge-pricing hours).
Looking for more things to do in New York City? Check out this extensive list of 150 things to do in NYC from blogger The Travel Dispatch!
Updated June 2018
Are you a NYC local? What would you add to this list?
I love this list. I’m going back to NYC this summer and a lot of these are items on my wish list, like seeing Roosevelt Island and checking out cheap museums. Thanks for the street art suggestions. I haven’t seen Bushwick yet so I’ll have to make time for that.
Awesome Scott! I am glad this was helpful! You definitely should head over to Roosevelt Island and see some of the best museums the city has to offer 😀 Enjoy your trip!
I wish I had this list a few months ago when I finally got to visit NYC. So many good tips! I did a few of these things but certainly not all of them. I guess I’ll just have to return!
Thank you Michele! You should definitely return to NY soon! There is always so much to see and do 😀
Chanel, great list! I am a NJ guy and although we’ve been circling the globe for 46 months straight – with much of the time in SE Asia – we love the city and just wrapped up a week long house sit there right before Christmas time. I need to stop by Magnolia Bakery; many years back my roommate’s GF would buy cupcakes from there and bring them to our apartment. Just beyond delish! Thanks for the inspired share!
Hi Ryan! Thanks for checking my list out and you definitely should check out Magnolia! 😀 Safe travels!
Fabulous list! I always try to cater my weekends of out of town visitors to their interests. For the art lovers, we gallery hop in Chelsea. Thrift store lovers, go around the East Village. Foodie lovers (ok, who’s NOT a foodie lover?!), hit up some of the classic NYC spots during lunch hour when the prices will be cheaper than dinner.
That is a great idea Jess! I love galleries in Chelsea 🙂 Totally forgot to include that! 😀
I am so overdue for an extended trip to NYC! I miss it having been bring there and spending some of my childhood in Northern NJ. I enjoy taking my nieces to museums, broadway and Central Park. We have also been to Little Italy and Chinatown and Brooklyn. This is a great bucket list of things to do and especially places to eat! Yum!
You must come back soon and partake in all of these things! I have not spent much time in Jersey, but I would like to get over there soon 😀
These photos are so tantalising! I love the street art. We have one night in NYC (a layover), what would you recommend? We’ll most likely go back in 2016 so will note above for then (I’ve been before luckily, Craig hasn’t).
Hi Gemma and thanks for stopping by! What time will you be arriving and leaving? Is this your first time in the city? What season will you visit?
OK I love my home city of London so much but if there’s one place in the world I would love to leave it for, even if it were just for a few months, it would be NYC! I absolutely love New York and I’m always delighted to hear tips from locals about where to go especially because I love the foodie scene out there and didn’t even know where to start looking for tips on the best ice cream or cupcakes so there are some great tips here! I’d love to do a food tour if I ever go back there 🙂
Wonderful Shikha! Since there is so much I wanted to add to this list (but couldn’t without it turning into a 50,000 word post, look out for more tips in the near future 😀
Thank you for all the wonderful ideas! I’m bringing my daughter to NYC next month for her 18th birthday. We live in a rural part of Florida and she has never been to New York (I’ve been once many years ago). We are doing a couple of “touristy” things (Top of the Rock), but really want to explore New York! So far, we have tickets for Phantom of the Opera and are planning to go to the Comedy Cellar, ride the Staten Island Ferry, go to some museums, and eat at some local favorites in
China Town. After reading your list, we really want to check out the street art, go to the Chelsea Food Market, and definitely eat cupcakes at as many of the bakeries you listed as possible! Thank you so much! If you have any tips for using the subway that would make it easier for us, I’d love to hear them!
Hi Cheryl! I am happy that I was able to provide some additional suggestions, and of course you should at least see the tourist sites if it is her first time in NY 🙂 For using the subway, I would definitely say get an app, such as Embark or Simple Subway, which can not only tell you about how to get from point A to B, but also what delays there are (we always have delays in NY). The system itself is quite easy to take, depending on the length of your trip, an unlimited Metrocard might be the best option. Have a wonderful trip!
the highline, lots of fun people watching, street art and great places to eat nearby
I love the Highline too…. now that is spring I need to go back and visit 😀
Food is the one reason I love New York so much they have some of the most amazing food there. Thank you for this guide I haven’t been to NY in years and I am due to travel there soon
Agreed! We have some amazing food here in NYC!
I visited NY once and this would have been extremely valuable to know then but I am determined to come back so will check out your suggestions. Thanks so much for the tips about the museums. I love visiting those in any city I visit.
Thanks Grace! I have so many more to add so stay tuned!
Thanks for this really great guide! I am in Texas and have never been to New York… and the idea of planning a trip there sounds like a lot of fun, but also potentially very overwhelming trying to decide what to do. Your post really helps narrow down the must-do activities & is really appreciated!
I am glad you found the suggestions helpful Christi! There certainly are a lot of things to do in NYC (and it would take a lifetime to do them all), so I picked out some of my favorite things to do in the city. Stay tuned as I have many more things to write about!
Yes, one thing about NY is that there is sooo much delicious food to try, I have a massive list that I haven’t even put a dent on!
I have never been to New York, but I would love to go one day. These places sound amazing and the food looks mouth watering. I would most definitely try all these when I get there.
New York is a wonderful place. When you do come, I would love to hear about all of the places you visited!
The city offers so much and I love to visit. The food is incredible followed by a close second of culture. I love the shows, the museums. I will have to check out the cupcakes the next time I go
You’re right, there is always a lot going on in the city Cynthia. One thing that I definitely need to take advantage of more often are the shows!
The cupcakes certainly are a wonderful treat Jennifer!
New York, New York… wow, one of my dream destinations. I would love to check out the museum and the street art though. I want to go there but I don’t know when and how, but I believe one of these days, I can visit New York.
I too hope that you can visit NY one day, it is an amazing place! 😀
It sounds like there is plenty of things to do in New York. I’d enjoy the museums. My hubby would enjoy the food. My daredevil child would enjoy the bridge. Thanks for the bike lane warning. I want to come back home with all limbs attached!
Yes, there are more things to do in NY than I could ever list here! You’re very welcome for the bike lane warning!
I have never ever been to new york city and I am dying to go! I love local recommendations, they are always the best. I hear the food in new york city is like none other. It is certainly on my bucket list as a destination place!
I am happy that I could provide some useful tips for you Cindy, and I hope that you will have an awesome trip when you make it here!
I saw you had a photo of a ramen burger! Where can I get one of those? I’ve been to NY once before as a kid, just for the day. Now I’m going for a week and can’t wait.
Hi Megan, you can get it all over NYC. Check out their website -> ramenburger.com
i love New York. There are so much to do there. You will find what to there no matter what is your budget. And it’ll be unforgettable.
I completely agree Iris. New York is a wonderful place to be!
The food tours look great. I am actually going to NYC next month and this sounds like a nice way to discover the city and eat some good stuff 🙂 Thanks for the tip!
You are very welcome Greg. Food tours are always a great way to discover a city. I hope you enjoy NY!
It was pretty tasty Andy 😀