Our list of the best things to do in New York includes the city’s most world-renowned landmarks, neighbourhoods, and shopping opportunities. This fast-paced city is great for experiencing a variety of cultures and activities throughout your holiday. Get your retail therapy by exploring the swanky streets of SoHo and Fifth Avenue, before catching your breath at the city’s expansive urban green spaces like Central Park and Bryant Park.

    If you’re looking for a fun night out, New York is teeming with Broadway shows and street performances, as well as underground clubs blaring various genres of music until late. With iconic monuments, vast parks, excellent restaurants, and entertainment for all ages, it’s safe to say that this metropolitan landscape suits just about any traveller.

    What are the best things to do in New York?

    1

    Times Square

    Catch a popular Broadway production

    Visiting Times Square, located in Midtown Manhattan, is one of the most popular things to do in New York. You can enjoy street performances, explore museums and galleries, as well as catch award-winning Broadway shows. One of the city’s major gathering spots, this open square also offers unique attractions like Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum, and Radio City Music Hall. If you’re here in late December, you get to watch star-studded concerts and the iconic New Year’s Eve ball drop.

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    Location: Manhattan, NY 10036, USA

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    2

    Empire State Building

    Visit the observation decks for outstanding views

    The Empire State Building has 2 observatories, both of which offer panoramic views of New York City and beyond. Its open-air 86th floor observation deck has been featured in many movie and television scenes. The top deck is on the 102nd floor, where you get to spot landmarks like the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, the Brooklyn Bridge, and Times Square. Aside from the observatories, the Empire State Building houses a visitor’s centre and 2 exhibition spaces.

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    Location: 350 5th Ave, New York, NY 10118, USA

    Open: Daily from 8 am to 2 am

    Phone: +1 212-736-3100

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    3

    Statue of Liberty

    Enjoy panoramic views from the monument’s crown

    The Statue of Liberty is usually the first thing travellers spot when they’re visiting New York. Dedicated in 1886, this national monument offers panoramic views of New York, New Jersey, New York Harbor, and the nearby Ellis Island. The 2nd floor of the pedestal houses an exhibition hall, where you get to learn its history through scale replicas, photographs, texts, and video footage. To get to Liberty Island, you need to buy a ferry ticket, which includes a self-guided audio tour. There’s also an additional fee if you’re planning to climb to the crown of the Statue of Liberty, but be sure to book in advance because it’s one of the most popular things to do in New York.

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    Location: Liberty Island, New York, NY 10004, USA

    Open: Daily from 8.30 am to 4 pm

    Phone: +1 212-363-3200

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    4

    Central Park

    One of the largest urban parks in the USA

    Central Park, the largest green space in New York, features over 20 playgrounds, manmade lakes and ponds, as well as extensive walking tracks. It often hosts a variety of activities, exhibitions, and concerts, especially during spring and summer. Central Park has plenty of family-friendly things to do in New York – most kids will enjoy the Carousel, Central Park Zoo, the Central Park Conservatory Garden, and Belvedere Castle. It’s open to the public all year round, and guided tours are available for a few dollars.

    Location: New York, NY, USA

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    5

    New York Grand Central Terminal Station

    See the astronomical ceiling mural in the main concourse

    New York Grand Central Terminal Station is one of the city’s busiest landmarks, with thousands of New Yorkers passing through it on their daily commute. Located in Midtown, its exterior features Beaux-Arts sculptures and architecture while 44 train platforms and numerous restaurants can be found within. The main concourse is always packed with commuters, but you can find iconic features like the 4-sided clock, an astronomical ceiling mural, and a gourmet food market. Even if you’re not planning to catch a train, it’s not hard to spend hours exploring hidden nooks within New York Grand Central Terminal Station.

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    Location: 89 E 42nd St, New York, NY 10017, USA

    Phone: +1 212-340-2583

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    6

    Chinatown

    A great place to experience Chinese culture in bustling Lower Manhattan

    Chinatown is a vibrant neighbourhood in the area south of Broome Street and east of Lafayette in Lower Manhattan. One of the best things to do in New York is exploring its busy streets. You'll feel as if you're travelling to a different continent, with dozens of restaurants representing the cuisine of Southeast Asia, mainland China, and Hong Kong. If you’re a fan of eclectic items, the tiny Mmuseumm exhibits quirky objects from all over the world, including counterfeit beauty products, selfie sticks, and toys left behind by immigrants.

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    7

    Fifth Avenue

    Enjoy views of Central Park from the 4th floor of Bergdorf Goodman

    Fifth Avenue is a swanky shopping street in New York’s Manhattan borough. The Bergdorf Goodman department store has been attracting the rich and famous since 1928, thanks to its extravagant window displays and international brands such as Burberry, Balenciaga, and Marc Jacob. A walk between 39th and 60th Streets leads you to flagship outlets for Louis Vuitton, Henri Bendel, Armani, and Dolce & Gabbana.

    Location: 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10003, USA

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    8

    The Metropolitan Museum of Art

    Explore one of the largest collections of classic art in the nation

    The Metropolitan Museum of Art is a colossal museum, part of a museum triad that forms one of the largest collections of artworks in the US, encompassing 5 millennia. The exhibits range from ancient Egypt to medieval weapons, and even the most modern art. It also includes an entire relocated sandstone temple imported from Egypt. The museum is world-famous for the size and quality of its collection, and it's located in the very heart of Manhattan. It can be easily accessed by subway and it's a major stop along what is known as the New York Museum Mile.

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    Location: 1000 5th Ave, New York, NY 10028, USA

    Open: Thursday–Monday from 10 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +1 212-535-7710

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    9

    National September 11 Memorial

    Join the "Understanding 9/11" Museum Tour

    The National September 11 Memorial was built to commemorate those who were killed in the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. One of its most stunning features is the twin reflecting pools, which were built to symbolize the fallen Twin Towers. You can also see the names of the deceased inscribed around the bronze edges of the pools. There are 2 main exhibitions within the memorial. One showcases the past, the present, and aftermath of the event, while the other is a 270° panoramic media installation of the memorial.

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    Location: 180 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10007, USA

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 8 pm

    Phone: +1 212-312-8800

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    10

    One World Trade Center

    Enjoy panoramic views of New York City

    The One World Trade Center is an imposing skyscraper in the heart of New York City. Also known as One WTC, it’s recognised as the tallest building in the US at 1,776 ft. This glistening structure stands on the site of the former World Trade Centre, with high-end restaurants, bars, and commercial businesses.

    For tourists looking to admire New York City's world-renowned skyline, you won't find a better place than One World Trade Centre. With an innovative fine-dining venue and panoramic views available from the viewing point on the 101st floor, exploring the One World Observatory is an unforgettable experience.

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    Location: 285 Fulton St, New York, NY 10007, USA

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 10 pm

    Phone: +1 844-696-1776

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    11

    Yankee Stadium

    Discover this modern sporting stadium and catch a live event

    The Yankee Stadium is the new home of baseball in New York City, having replaced the previous iteration in 2009. Situated in the Bronx neighbourhood, it’s the country’s 6th-largest Major League Baseball stadium, with a capacity of more than 46,000 people. If you consider yourself a sporting fanatic, this world-class stadium must be crossed off your bucket list.

    There are plenty of things to do besides catching a baseball game or soccer match at Yankee Stadium. You can head to the New York Yankees Museum or Section 105 to watch batting practice. With the stadium conveniently located next to a subway station, getting to and from a game is a breeze.

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    Location: 1 E 161 St, Bronx, NY 10451, USA

    Phone: +1 718-293-4300

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    photo by randreu (CC BY 3.0) modified

    12

    Brooklyn Bridge

    A mile-long pathway with many family-friendly attractions

    The Brooklyn Bridge spans the East River, connecting New York’s Manhattan and Brooklyn boroughs. There are 2 lanes on the pedestrian pathway, one is for cyclist and the other for pedestrians. The latter gets notoriously crowded with tourists, which isn’t surprising since you get to stop to take photos of the East River, Lower Manhattan, Governors Island and the Statue of Liberty. After crossing the mile-long pathway, visit the many attractions surrounding the bridge, like the Brooklyn Children's Museum and Brooklyn Bridge Park, as well as the various sports fields, playgrounds, bicycle rentals, restaurants, and piers.

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    Location: Brooklyn Bridge, New York, NY 10038, USA

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    13

    Jazz in Harlem

    Watch a live gig or check out a notable jazz museum

    Harlem is known for hosting unique things to do in New York for music lovers . This vibrant neighbourhood has an extensive collection jazz clubs (and a museum) playing swing, Latin, Bebop, and cool jazz all year round. Popular venues include Bill’s Place, Minton’s Playhouse, and Showman’s Jazz Club, but if you want to learn more about the history of jazz, the National Jazz Museum is a must-visit. This free museum often hosts interesting exhibits, photographs, audio and film archives, as well as weekly talks and concerts.

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    Penny Wong | Compulsive Traveller

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    Attractions and experiences recommended in our guides may be affected. Please check local guidance before you travel.

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