Updated January 2024
My husband and I just LOVE New York, which is why we’ve visited 7 times since 2012. We just can’t get enough of it! It’s definitely one of those cities we could see ourselves living in because it’s just got everything.
Over the years we’ve seen, done and eaten a lot in New York so I thought I’d share them with you. Whether it’s your first time, or not, I’m sure you’ll find this useful!
28 awesome things to do in New York
I first wrote this post in 2020 and have visited New York since then so I’ve updated it – and it’s no longer 28 awesome things…. it’s now 30. Enjoy!
- Walk across Brooklyn Bridge. This is something we do every time we visit New York! The views are just amazing. Unfortunately it’s very popular so can get quite crowded. Oh, and watch out for the cyclists!
2. DUMBO. Once you walk over Brooklyn Bridge, head left to DUMBO (down under the Manhattan Bridge overpass) and get a photo in this iconic location. I also recently discovered it’s a famous Gossip Girl location.
3. Explore Williamsburg. An alternative to walking across Brooklyn Bridge is to walk across the Williamsburg Bridge. It might not be as pretty – or iconic – but it’s a cool thing to do. And once you’ve crossed the bridge you’re in the very hip Brooklyn neighbourhood of Williamsburg. Here you’ll find loads of cool restaurants, coffee shops, independent stores and more.
4. Check out the street art. I love street art and am lucky to live in London, which has loads. Whenever we go to New York, I love checking out the street art. The best place to go is The Bushwick Collective in Brooklyn (Jefferson Street stop). It’s a whole area dedicated to street art and it’s awesome!
5. New York Public Library. I can’t believe it took our 5th trip to New York to visit the library on 42nd Street. It’s absolutely gorgeous (although the public library in Boston is still my favourite…) and it’s completely free to visit!
6. Visit the Friends apartment. Again, this is something we just did on our last visit. Why, I don’t know as we have watched Friends about a gazillion times. It was so cool. Plus Greenwich Village is such a lovely area to walk around.
7. Eat a slice. New York is famous for pizza and pizza slices. We’ve tried out many places – Tony’s in Bushwick, Little Italy (numerous locations) and Joe’s Pizza in Greenwich Village (right by the Friends apartment). You may recognise Joe’s Pizza from the Spiderman films with Toby McGuire – it’s where he works. I highly recommend a visit as the pizza was good!
8. Walk the Highline. Like walking across Brooklyn Bridge, walking the Highline is something we do on every visit to New York. It runs for almost 1.5 miles and is built on an historic rail line, elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. It was going to be demolished until it was saved by residents and the city. It opened as a public space in 2009. You’ll spot lots of art work, flora and great views of the city.
9. Chelsea Market. One of the access points to the Highline is right by Chelsea Market, which is worth a visit – particularly if you’re a foodie. Packed full of food stalls and shops, it’s a great place to hang out.
10. The Vessel. Another new discovery on our last trip because it only opened in 2019! Situated in Hudson Yards, The Vessel is an interactive art work by Thomas Heatherwick and Heatherwick Studio where people can get different perspectives of the city. There are 154 interconnecting flights of stairs with almost 2,500 individual steps and 80 landing points (and one lift), giving you so many vantage points to view the city. It’s free to visit although if there aren’t tickets available on the day you want to go, or a suitable time, you can also buy tickets for $10 each and get access whenever suits you (which is what we did).
11. Mercado Little Spain. Situated near The Vessel is also a new addition (well, since the last time we visited) to the New York eating scene – Mercado Little Spain. It’s a food market hall packed full of restaurants and food stalls with a focus on Spanish food (hence the name!).
12. Grand Central Station. This is another of our ‘must see every time we visit New York’ things to do. There is just something so magical about Grand Central Station… my best time to visit is at dusk.
13. The Ghostbusters Fire Station. I grew up in the 80’s and loved the Ghostbusters film! So what a treat it is to see the actual fire station – FDNY Ladder Eight – in the movie! Located in Tribeca on 14 North Moore Street and Varick Street, you can’t miss it as they’ve proudly painted it on the pavement. I AIN’T AFRAID OF NO GHOSTS.
14. Hometown BBQ. This was a tip from my lovely friend Natalie and OH BOY was I grateful for it. Located in Red Hook, Brooklyn, you’ll find Hometown BBQ, a meat lover’s dream. Expect a queue but believe me it’s worth the wait. This place is in the middle of nowhere though…. FYI.
15. Oculus Transit Hub. Another new addition since our last visit, the Oculus Transit Hub sits right by the World Trade Centre. Inside you’ll not only find access to the subway and the PATH trains (which go to New Jersey), you’ll also find shops and restaurants.
The building is pretty amazing. It was designed by neo-futurist architect Santiago Calatrava and the skylight is symbolic. It’s to allow the “Way of Light” to pass through the main hub of the transit hall at 10:28 a.m, which is the moment that the North Tower of the World Trade Centre collapsed on September 11, 2001.
16. 9/11 Memorial and Museum. Harrowing and heartbreaking but an absolute must see in New York. Not as a tourist attraction, I might add, but as a way to remember and pay your respects to those who lost their lives on 9/11 2001.
17. Central Park. A visit to Central Park is a must -whatever season you visit. The first time we visited New York it was spring time and we hired bikes to cycle around Central Park. It was awesome! Be sure to visit the Boathouse.
18. Soul food in Harlem. Have you even been to New York if you don’t visit Harlem and eat some soul food? We’ve been to both Sylvia’s and Red Rooster and my personal favourite was Red Rooster – although Sylvia’s is definitely more famous.
19. Helicopter ride. When we got engaged, my husband’s colleagues gave us a helicopter ride as a present (we got engaged 2 weeks before our first trip to NYC). It was amazing! Seeing New York from up high was an experience I’ll never forget. Obviously it’s pricey but it’s definitely worth it – especially for a special occasion.
20. Visit Moma. If you’re into art – or even if you’re not – a visit to Moma won’t disappoint. So many famous painters and artists to discover!
21. Bright lights of Times Square. To me, Times Square is like Piccadilly Circus…. worth seeing once but not really my cup of tea. Obviously if it’s your first visit, it’s a must see.
22. Eat in a diner. I was inspired to eat in a proper diner by Fede of Pasta Bites and we happened to stumble upon one on New Year’s Day (funnily enough called ‘Diner’) in Williamsburg in Brooklyn. Loved the food and the diner! Check out Fede’s blog post on New York diners.
If you’re in the Lower East End, try Remedy Diner. We went for breakfast and had the most amazing blueberry buttermilk pancakes – they were huge!
23. Starbucks Reserve Roastery. Now, I don’t like Starbucks coffee at all but their Reserve Roastery in Chelsea is damn impressive! Set over three floors it’s a coffee lover’s Heaven. If you’re heading to Chelsea Market, you might as well pop in. Would be rude not to.
24. Little Italy. Italian Americans are very proud of their history. Their ancestors (mainly from Sicily and Naples) came to New York in the 1880s and set up in the area around Canal Street all the way up to Huston. Nowadays the area is much smaller – you’ll find it in the blocks around Mulberry Street – but it’s got such character. We noticed this time round that some of the really old fashioned Italian restaurants are being replaced with more modern ones.
25. Staten Island Ferry. One of the best ways to see the Statue of Liberty is to take the free Staten Island Ferry. The ferry goes right past it!
26. Domino Park. This was a new discovery for us this last visit. Situated in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the park offers amazing views of Manhattan.
27. Chinatown. New York’s Chinatown is not the best I’ve ever seen but it’s definitely still worth a visit. And if you’re into fake designer bags, then that’s the place to go. It’s a tradition for us to have lunch in Chinatown – usually on New Year’s day. Try Nom Wah Tea Parlour – it’s fab.
28. Eat a damn good burger. We have a bit of a tradition when we visit New York to have a burger for lunch on our last day. We were delighted to find that Au Cheval has a branch in NYC! We loved it in Chicago and the NYC one was just as good.
29. Visit the Morgan Library and Museum on Madison Avenue for the most unbelievable collection of art work and rare books. It’s the only museum in the world to have three Gutenberg Bibles, which is very rare! The Gallery East room is just absolutely stunning and well worth a visit. It costs around $25 per person to visit the library and museum.
30. Learn about the history of New York immigrants at the Tenement Museum. The Lower East side is a historic neighbourhood and is where many immigrants lived in tenement buildings when they arrived in New York. The Tenement Museum offers a range of tours to learn more about the area’s fascinating history and to get to know some of the families who lived there. We did the ‘under one roof’ tour, which told the story of a Jewish family and an Italian family in the 1930s. You get to visit their apartments to see how life was back then. It was brilliant!
So those are my top tips for things to do in New York. I adore this city! Like London, there’s always something new to discover. Let me know what you recommend to see and do in New York in the comments!