Things to do in New York, NY

Get Your Bearings in New York

By Lisa Kahn
New York Expert

See & Do

Things to See

Manhattan island packs more famous destinations into its 33 square miles than just about anywhere else in the world. At its southern tip, tour the World Trade Center Site, then hop the Staten Island Ferry to glimpse Lady Liberty. Head northwest to the High Line, an elevated park overlooking the trendy Meatpacking District. Midtown must-sees include the Empire State Building, neon-drenched Times Square and Fifth Avenue icons like the New York Public Library, St. Patrick's Cathedral and Rockefeller Center. Upper Manhattan is nirvana for culture lovers, thanks to Lincoln Center, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and dozens of other world-class institutions.

Hot Tips:

To skip the long lines at the Empire State Building, buy printable tickets in advance.

Where to Stay

With a whopping 90,000 hotel rooms, New York City offers a range of lodging choices from simple to swank. Midtown hotels such as the Marriott Marquis put guests within walking distance of Times Square, Radio City Music Hall and Rockefeller Center. For a downtown vibe, choose SoHo, Gramercy Park or Greenwich Village. Many of the city's most iconic—and expensive—hotels are located on Manhattan's residential East Side.

Hot Tips:

For budget-friendly options, look to the outer boroughs. Long Island City in Queens features more than 17 hotels and is just one subway stop from Manhattan.

What to Eat

Prepare to be both dazzled and a bit dizzy when visiting the Restaurant Capital of the World. With more than 18,000 eateries, you'll need a strategy for savoring maximum deliciousness. Many of the city's most splurge-worthy spots are in Midtown Manhattan, where reservations are de rigueur. For more casual fare, head downtown, where young chefs are creating inventive cuisine at gentler prices. Adventurous eaters will find spectacular food in all five boroughs, from Shanghai soup dumplings in Queens to barbecue in Brooklyn to classic red-sauce Italian in the Bronx.


For a pre- or post-theater bite, avoid the mediocre Times Square tourist traps and explore the multi-ethnic eateries along Ninth Avenue.

Be Sure to Sample:

Sidewalk pretzel, pizza slice, pastrami sandwich, bubble tea.

Places to Party

There's a reason why they call it the city that never sleeps: with its sheer abundance of nightlife options like after-dark dance clubs, bars, theaters, live music and comedy performances, there's scant time for shut-eye. Snag a seat for a hit Broadway show, Amateur Night at Harlem's Apollo Theater or a concert at Carnegie Hall, Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola or Brooklyn's new Barclays Center. Have a yen for small-batch bourbon, old-timey burlesque, a game of bocce or a ride on a mechanical bull? The five boroughs feature hundreds of watering holes with unique entertainment on tap.

Hot Tips:

Satisfy your late-night munchies like a true New Yorker with a plate of cheese blintzes at Veselka in Manhattan's East Village.

Where to Shop

No matter what it is, if it's buyable, you'll find it in New York. From the haute couture emporiums of Madison Avenue to the discount giants in Union Square, there are finds to score in nearly every neighborhood. Legendary midtown department stores like Macy's, Bloomingdale's and Saks Fifth Avenue offer huge selections of the latest merchandise. Cutting-edge designers and art galleries cluster in Chelsea, also home to Chelsea Market, a gourmet mecca housed in a former Oreo factory. Vintage outlets, bookstores, toy shops and galleries abound on the Upper West Side, SoHo and the East Village.


Steer clear of the shoddy merchandise sold at no-name electronics stores in and around Times Square.

Hot Tips:

New York Magazine and Time Out New York feature weekly listings of designer sample sales throughout the city.

Best Local Souvenir:

Handpainted ceramic tea set from Pearl River Mart in SoHo.



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Things to do in New York

New York is known for...

Five of New York's most unique features and characteristics.

1. Theater & Performing Arts:

The 39 venues that make up Broadway are iconic theater destinations but New York's number and variety of theatrical performance venues are for more expansive. Off-Broadway shows usually take place in smaller (less than 500 seats) theaters and are less pricey, while Off-Off-Broadway shows are downright obscure, but most likely to please more avant-garde theater lovers. New York City also boasts some of the most high-profile music and dance venues and companies in the world. Carnegie Hall is the pinnacle of classical music venues, The Beacon Theater offers comedy and music performances, Brooklyn Academy of Music offers cutting-edge, contemporary musical and dance performances, and renowned Radio City Music Hall is equally ideal for catching a concert or seeing the Rockettes.

2. Parks:

It may seem surprising that the most populous metropolitan area in the world is known for its parks, but consider that New York City is home to Central Park, the world's most visited green space. Central Park is home to the Reservoir, Belvedere Castle, an ice skating rink, a carosel, public tennis courts, walking and bike paths, and a host of other attractions. Summerstage, which features free live music throughout the summer season, has also played host to a number of legendary concerts. Elsewhere, Brooklyn's Prospect Park offers an idyllic 90-acre meadow thought to be among the most expansive of any US city park. Eleven massive pools, opened in 1936 by Mayor La Guardia, are spread throughout New York's five boroughs, are also major draws, and free to the public.

3. Cuisine:

What visitors need to understand first and foremost about New York City cuisine is that it encompasses virtually every kind of ethnic cuisine in the known world. This is in large part because of the plethora of neighborhoods that serve as enclaves of particular cuisines and cultures, but you can also find all types of fare across each of New York's five borough's. Pizza litters the landscape in abundance; don't be surprised to find a truly great slice for little more than a dollar. Be on the look out for delis (bagels and Reubens are the mainstays of Big Apple deli fare) and street vendors peddling hot dogs, Indian food, smoothies and vegetarian lunches. Food trucks are situated all over the city, offering top quality fare such as gourmet takes on cupcakes, sandwiches, ice cream and coffee. Salad bars are plentiful and fresh alternatives.

4. Museums & Galleries:

In addition to its numerous major museums and galleries (which, it goes without saying, are some of the finest in the world) New York boasts hundreds of small, private galleries, many concentrated in the Chelsea neighborhood. Major museums like the Guggenheim, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, The Frick Museum, The Jewish Museum, and the American Museum of Natural History are international destinations. Brooklyn and Queens have as much to offer as Manhattan. The Brooklyn Museum of Art has a superb collection of ancient Egyptian and Assyrian art, while the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens and The Museum of Television and Radio are must-sees for videophiles. Be sure to note when planning your itinerary, many of the city's major museums are closed on Mondays.

5. Sports:

From historic sports venues to distinguished teams that have captivated (and at times, enraged) fans all around the world, New York is a city that loves sports. The Big Apple is the only metropolitan area in the United States with more than one team in each of America's four major sports; indeed, New York boasts nine. Baseball is the premier spectator sport in New York, with an intense rivalry between the Mets and Yankees eclipsed only by the legendary rivalry between the Yankees and the Red Sox. Basketball, football, and hockey are other popular sports in the city, and the New York City Marathon, held in November, is one of three pre-eminent long-distance running events in the world. The U.S. Open for tennis, held in late August is a world-class event.