If you’re going to visit one place in your lifetime, make it New York City. There are many things to do in NYC and a plethora of intertwined customs and traditions on the streets.
You could be downing calzones at an Italian pizzeria one moment and admire the Mahayana Buddhist Temple in Chinatown the next. Sure, it’s no Macau or Lhasa – but when’s the last time you could experience multiple cultures in one place?
It’s the entire world concentrated in this tiny parcel of land in the U.S. And you can visit it all without worrying about missing your flight to the next destination. ☺
Now, stuff like the Statue of Liberty, Empire State, Times Square, and other common landmarks are already overdone. Though the city feels like a giant tourist trap, there are things to do in NYC that don’t involve standing in line for a few hours.
Top of the Rock Observation Deck
If you want a different perspective of New York, the Top of the Rock is a real “looker.” Bad jokes aside, add this to your list of things to do in NYC – especially if you’re with the family.
Most people would head over to the Empire State Building – but the views here are even better. You can get a clear image of both the Empire State and Central Park. Plus, you’ll mostly avoid the terrible crowds.
While coming here in the daytime is spectacular, NYC’s bustling beauty and city lights show themselves in their entire splendour at night.
Consider coming here at sunset to enjoy both views in the space of an hour or so! Bring a coat, by the way – even in the summer, the high altitude can leave you feeling a bit chilly.
New Yorkers come here to relax from all the urban commotion. After you inevitably tire yourself out from all the things to do in NYC, come over here for a moment of quiet. Feed some pigeons, go ice skating (if you’re visiting in winter). You can even take a rowing boat out on the beautiful lake and have yourself a relaxing snack.
It’s a very pleasant spot for the family; you can even take a tour together on horse-drawn carriages. Have the women in the family feel like royalty – if just for a day.
Or, why not like in a fairy tale? There is a monument to Alice in Wonderland and a cozy little corner called Strawberry Fields. It’s a memorial to former Beatle John Lennon where people leave flowers and other offerings from time to time.
Otherwise, you can visit the fountain where the cast of “Friends” was filmed for their show’s intro – it’s simply called “Friends Fountain.” No need to overcomplicate things, right?
There’s also a bridge symbolically named “Proposal Bridge” where people – you guessed it – propose to each other. It seems to be a local tradition.
American Museum of Natural History
Don’t expect a “Night at the Museum”-style show on your visit here. Still, when it comes to things to do in NYC, museums are your best bet for a mix of fun and culture.
You’d better be prepared, though; there’s a lot to see. You’re better off setting aside an afternoon just for this place.
Here you can find exhibitions such as the Hall of Saurischian Dinosaurs, where you can admire the (sometimes spooky) remains of the ancient giants.
If dinos and mammoths aren’t your things, try the Hall of Ocean Life. A 94-foot fiberglass Blue Whale towers over the exhibition.
Aside from those, they recently added a mummy exhibition, as well. Just keep in mind that it requires a membership.
The National 9/11 Memorial
A very touching and emotional piece of recent history. Guided tours of the place are nice to get most of the details. Even then, you should expect to spend about three to four hours here.
The Museum dedicated to the event is actually built around the site – Ground Zero. This adds a little tension to the otherwise somber atmosphere. Still well worth your time if you’re looking for essential things to do in NYC.
Things to Do in NYC – Some Side Suggestions
Obviously, if it’s your first time visiting the U.S. and NYC, go ahead and visit as many of the “overdone” sights we mentioned in the beginning. Though, we much prefer wandering off and discovering some never-before-seen diner.
If you’ve seen our foodie guide to NYC, you’d understand why! Make sure you’ve had your lunch before checking it out. The dishes can be quite irresistible.
But off to more serious points. As with many major cities with dense populations, there is bound to be more crime than average.
If you keep your wits about you, you will have no problems. Here are some critical tips to keep in mind:
- Watch out for your valuables in crowded areas – you don’t know in whose pockets they might end up! Then again, you should be leaving your valuables in your hotel’s safe (if they have one.)
- Don’t take tickets and CDs from people on the streets. You might end up buying them after some “convincing tactics.” Best just avoid these people altogether.
- If you want to withdraw from an ATM, make sure to use only the ones from reputable banks. Small store ATMs may be rigged to steal your credit/debit card information.
- Be wary of aggressive panhandlers and those dressed in famous TV show and cartoon characters.
Other than that, New York City is an eye-opening experience, and we hope you enjoy it!