Things to Do in New York City
Located on Central Park West at 79th, the mission of the American Museum of Natural History is “to discover, interpret, and disseminate information about human cultures, the natural world, and the universe through a wide-ranging program of scientific research, education, and exhibition.”
The museum is expansive, and you can easily spend an entire day exploring it. Founded in 1869, the institution features space shows, an IMAX theater and permanent exhibitions on animals, space, dinosaurs, Theodore Roosevelt, human origins, global cultures and the environment. Check out the Hall of Reptiles and Amphibians to learn about the anatomy and behavior of these creatures, or the Hall of Primitive Mammals, which traces the evolution of lower branches of mammals like the armadillo and sloth. Additionally, the Hayden Big Bang Theater will make you feel like you’re experiencing the event in real time.
New York City is home to some of the biggest celebrities and most famous faces—but a walk through Midtown doesn’t always result in getting star struck. Luckily the quirky Madame Tussauds—an iconic wax museum in the heart of Times Square—offers travelers the chance to check getting up close and personal with big names in music, movies and television off their list.
From world leaders to Hollywood stars, the halls of Madame Tussauds are filled to the brim with faces recognized across the globe. Travelers can saddle up for photo ops that will have friends back home believing that lunch with Leonardo DiCaprio really did happen on a visit to the Big Apple.
This leading planetarium shows impressive visuals of space as viewed from Earth, using high-resolution full-dome video projection in its Star Theater. The video is based on visualization of the most advanced astrophysical scientific data available. Visitors can witness galaxies, planets, and star clusters in realistic, sharp resolution. “Star shows” display the latest in cosmic discovery, in collaboration with top scientists from around the world. Glancing up at the wide screen, it is near impossible not to imagine life beyond our planet.
The sphere measures 87 feet in diameter and appears to float inside a glass cube. In the bottom half of the sphere, visitors can witness the birth of the universe in the Big Bang Theater. After viewing the four minute programs, visitors can walk the Heilbrun Cosmic Pathway, which illustrates the history of the universe from the Big Bang to present day and connects the two sections of the sphere.
The New York Public Library is actually comprised of four major research libraries and about 100 branches spread throughout Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island, but the Beaux Arts-style Stephen A. Schwarzman Building generally takes the title for itself. Home to a non-circulating collection of volumes on the humanities and social sciences, as well as a circulating children’s collection, this landmark library is renowned both for its signature stone lions out front, and for its free access to some of the most fascinating research materials in the world.
These materials include an archive of New Yorkers’ oral histories; firsthand accounts of Shackleton’s explorations in the South pole; a vast array of historical photos and maps from around the world; some of Shakespeare’s earliest work, from 1623; ancient Japanese scrolls; vintage baseball cards; and famous comic books.
Located in Manhattan at 175 Fifth Avenue and Broadway, the Flatiron Building is a groundbreaking skyscraper. Built in 1902, it encompasses 22 stories and 307 feet. While not the tallest skyscaper in New York, it’s dramatic Beaux-Arts facade makes it a popular attraction, especially with photographers. What also makes it unusual is, unlike other early skyscrapers in New York that looked like rising towers, the Flatiron building showcases a concept from the Chicago school that divides the facade into a base, shaft and capital, which makes sense as it was designed by Chicago architect Daniel Burnham. The name of building stems from its resemblance to a cast-iron clothing iron. Interestingly, back then the building’s unique shape was thought to create intense updrafts that would lift women’s skirts passing on 23rd Street. If a man tried to sneak a peak, police should shout “Hey! 23 skidoo!” This is thought to be where the phrase comes from.
Located in the Flatiron District, specifically at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Broadway at 23rd Street, Madison Square is one of New York’s most important and historical squares. This is where you’ll find iconic buildings like the Flatiron Building, One Madison Park and Metlife Tower, as well as the main focus of the square, Madison Square Park. The park runs from Broadway to Madison Avenue and East 23rd to East 26 St Streets, and is a great place to snap photos of the surrounding architecture, admire 19th-century statues and monuments and stroll through the 6.2 acres of tranquil green landscape. Fun fact: This was the original location of Madison Square Garden and a temporary display area for the Statue of Liberty’s right arm and torch from 1876 to 1882. Along with the green space, Madison Square is renowned for being one of the city’s best shopping areas, especially in terms of home design and housewares.
Located between 40th and 42nd Street and Fifth and Sixth Avenues, Bryant Park encompasses 9.6 acres of public green space and recreation. For those looking for a respite from the bustling city, Bryant Park provides a relaxed atmosphere with historical monuments, colorful flower beds, London plane trees, the 300-foot lawn and the Southwest Porch lounge where you can relax on rockers and swings and enjoy free wireless. Play games like chess, backgammon and ping pong or get a free petanque lesson Monday through Friday from 11am to 6pm. For something whimsical, Bryant Park also features a timeless carousel. In the winter, the park is full of festive cheer with an ice skating rink as well as a makeshift village of “streets” lined with artisanal holiday shops. And no matter what time of year it is, visitors can enjoy quality food and drinks in the park. While Bryant Park Grill features American cuisine and a rooftop for aerial city views, Bryant Park Cafe is an informal outdoor cafe.
Manhattan's truly wonderful Grand Central Station (meticulously restored in the 1990s) is a train terminal in the grand tradition from the glory days of the nation's railroads.
Built for the New York Central Railroad between 1903 and 1913, Grand Central is the world's largest train station and a vital New York attraction (even if catching a train is the last thing on your mind).
The main features of the lofty, opulent Main Concourse are its huge arched windows, ticket booths, the famous four-faced clock, grand staircases, chandeliers and, up above, the cerulean blue ceiling gilded with astronomical details. Statues and a Tiffany glass clock dominate the Beaux Arts exterior.
Join a public or private tour of the terminal's highlights, drop into the famous Oyster Bar while you're here, grab a snack at any number of food outlets, or join the 125,000 commuters who pick up a train or subway from Grand Central every day.
More Things to Do in New York City
Any fan of the iconic TV show ‘Friends’ will recognize the building at the corner of Grove and Bedford streets in New York City’s Greenwich Village. Although the show was filmed on a studio set, the sextet’s apartment building appeared in the opening credits of every episode and in many scenes of the show as well. There aren’t many tourist attractions around the building, but die hard ‘Friends’ fans won’t want to miss the opportunity to take a picture in front of the building and grab a bite to eat at the ‘Tiny Owl,’ the restaurant on the building’s ground floor that was known in the show as the cafe ‘Central Perk.’ From across the street (and with the help of a little imagination), you can almost hear Phoebe strumming her guitar and singing ‘Smelly cat, smelly cat, what are they feeding you? Smelly cat, smelly cat, it’s not your fault.’
Located between Central Park and the Hudson River and West 59th Street and West 110th Street, the Upper West Side is known for being one of Manhattan’s more upscale residential neighborhoods, with beautiful brownstones and a generally safe atmosphere. For those looking to experience some of New York’s best cultural sites, the Upper West Side has plenty. For example, Lincoln Center is an important cultural institution in the neighborhood, as the center puts on an array of topnotch music, dance and theater performances. In fact, it is home to some of the world’s most elite performing arts groups like The Juilliard School, The Metropolitan Opera, New York City Ballet and the New York Philharmonic.
There is also the American Museum of Natural History, American Folk Art Museum, The Cloisters Museum and Gardens, The Children’s Museum, Museum of Arts & Design, Nicholas Roerich Museum and New York’s oldest museum founded in 1804, the New-York Historical Society.
The legendary borough of Harlem has been famous in New York City since the 1920s, when the Harlem Renaissance brought about a cultural revolution among African-Americans in New York with a focus on the arts. Today Harlem is an increasingly gentrified area of classic brownstone townhouses, iconic jazz clubs, churches, cultural centers, cocktail lounges and soul food restaurants.
Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard (125th Street) is Harlem’s main roadway. The neighborhood's slew of sights include the Apollo Theater, the Studio Museum, the Cathedral of St John the Divine, Striver's Row, Astor Row and the Museum of the City of New York. Take a local-led walking tour, catch amateur night at the Apollo Theater on a Wednesday, order up some soul food at Sylvia's on Lennox Avenue or listen to the glorious sound of full-throated gospel at the Abyssinian Baptist Church on a Sunday.
Housed in a former New York City deli, the 9/11 Tribute Center has been paying homage to the lost lives of September 11 victims through photography and artifact displays, as well as the art of storytelling since 2006. Visitors can explore the halls of this memorial founded by The September 11th Families’ Association, and learn about one of the most notorious days in the city’s history. Travelers can take a five-point tour with one of 200 trained guides who will share their sobering stories, experiences and memories of this tragic day. Audio tours featuring a more in-depth look at the narratives of more than 20 guides are also available to help tourist navigate the galleries filled with iconic images, family photos and other items from the World Trade Center attacks. A unique oral history collection of more than 400 unique retellings of the day is one of the major highlights of this unique memorial center that is not to be missed.
It’s no surprise that one of the most iconic restaurants on earth also calls one of the most iconic city blocks its home. Hard Rock Café Times Square exists in the heart of New York City, where sky-high buildings, flashing lights and crowded streets meet. This kinetic destination welcomes visitors from around the globe to experience the energy and excitement of the big apple.
Visitors can tuck into heaping plates of American fare—like burgers, fries and frosty milkshakes—surrounded by an impressive collection of music memorabilia. The famed white suit of Led Zeppelin, the glossy white bass used by The Who and handwritten lyrics from Jimi Hendrix make this popular restaurant feel more like a museum than mealtime (though travelers say the vibe is way more fun).
This bank in the heart of Lower Manhattan is one of 12 Federal Reserves in America. Visitors can go behind the scenes of trading rooms, museum and the famous vault—which holds some 900 tons of gold—on a guided small group tour of this iconic finance destination. Informative guides share stories about the banking system, American currency, global trade and importance of gold to the national economy.
Although tours are free, space is limited and most visitors will need to book at least 30 days in advance. Tours of this high-security landmark are ideal for families and visitors receive packets of shredded out-of-circulation cash as they leave the premise. It’s unlikely non-ticketed travelers will be able to enter the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, but the building’s exterior is impressive and still worth wandering past while in Lower Manhattan.
The Apollo Theater in the heart of Harlem is one of the world’s most famous live music venues. Some of the biggest names in contemporary music have played the Apollo, including Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, and the master of soul, James Brown.
Hear jazz, blues or R&B, or come along on a Wednesday evening for the long-running Amateur Night. Stars who first flexed their talents as amateurs on the Apollo’s legendary stage include Michael Jackson and Lauryn Hill.
Informative and entertaining daily tours highlight the history of the Apollo and the performers who've played there.
The world's premier modern art gallery, MoMA provides visitors with a master class in modernist and contemporary art. The collection numbers more than 150,000 works of art, along with a sizable film and photography collection. Familiar standouts include Monet's water lilies and works by van Gogh, Rousseau, Picasso, Dali, Warhol, Pollock, Andrew Wyeth, and Frida Kahlo.
Exhibitions are held from time to time, along with performance art and exhibits of architecture, prints, and illustrated books. The building was recently renovated to vastly expand the museum's exhibition space.
Designed in the late 1860s by architects Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmstead and as part of their “Greensward Plan” to beautify a then-young Central Park, this turret-topped castle of schist and granite stands atop Vista Rock, looking out on the woodlands of The Ramble, the Turtle Pond, and panoramic views of the Upper West Side.
Originally built in 1865 as a Victorian Folly – a structure with no intended use beyond sheer delight – it would come to be used as both a weather station and a nature center. In 1919, the National Weather Service began taking wind and rainfall readings from the top floor of Belvedere’s tower, the highest point in Central Park; this practice continues today. Over the next several decades, the largely empty structure of high ceilings and winding staircases fell into increasing disrepair, until it was renovated and re-opened in 1983 as the Henry Luce Nature Observatory.
The 20th-century artwork displayed on the gently inclining white walls of the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum often take second place to the building's landmark Frank Lloyd Wright design.
The great architect's last work is an uplifting sight, from both outside and within, and a thorough restoration program was completed in 2008. Unwinding like a coil of white ribbon, the exhibition space spirals upwards around a central skylight.
As well as hosting changing exhibitions of photographs and paintings, the Guggenheim's permanent collection includes works by Gauguin, Picasso, van Gogh, Monet, and other early Modern masters.
Things to do near New York City
- Things to do in New York
- Things to do in Delphi
- Things to do in Jersey City
- Things to do in Brooklyn
- Things to do in Newark
- Things to do in Long Island
- Things to do in New Haven
- Things to do in Philadelphia
- Things to do in Baltimore
- Things to do in Boston
- Things to do in Washington DC
- Things to do in Niagara Falls & Around
- Things to do in Montreal
- Things to do in New Jersey
- Things to do in Connecticut