New York City Travel Guide

USA  #1 in Best Weekend Getaways
Credit

Courtesy of RICOWde/Getty Images

Best Things To Do in New York City

Even if you're not mesmerized by the city's soaring skyscrapers and monuments, you'll be blown away by its flourishing arts, food, fashion and nightlife scenes. You can spend your morning browsing Fifth Avenue's designer racks and your afternoon catching stunning city views from the Top of the Rock Observation Deck. Or, if you're an art lover, you can admire the striking works on display at the Met and the Guggenheim before feasting on ethnic fare in Chinatown or Little Italy. If you still have some energy (and cash) left over, don't miss the chance to snag tickets to an award-winning Broadway show or hop over to one of the low-key rooftop bars and jazz clubs illuminating the Meatpacking District after dark.

How we rank Things to Do

Updated September 19, 2017

  • #1
    Central Park
    View all Photos
    #1 in New York City
    Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    This part-park, part-museum, part-concert hall swallows central Manhattan, and many of the city's most notable attractions are situated next to it or within its limits (the Guggenheim, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History, to name a few). But travelers insist that you shouldn't just pass through Central Park on your way to another place. This 843-acre green space is a favorite of New Yorkers and tourists; you can come here to exercise, dine, go to the zoo and more.

    ...Read More »
  • #2
    American Museum of Natural History
    View all Photos
    #2 in New York City
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Visitors love the American Museum of Natural History off Central Park West. Whether you're exploring the interactive exhibits on the land, the sea or outer space; user reviews take on a common theme. This museum is incredible. Even the cafeteria and gift shop are worth your notice.

    ...Read More »
  • #3
    Rockefeller Center and Top of the Rock Observation Deck
    View all Photos
    #3 in New York City
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    This iconic plaza has it all – beautiful sculptures, an enormous skating rink, a fishbowl view of NBC Studios, plus hordes of stores and restaurants. Though undoubtedly there will be intense crowds, this is an experience that's worth having at least once. During the wintertime holidays, the plaza sparkles with an illuminated Christmas tree and skaters gliding across the ice rink. But don't fret if your New York adventure doesn't take place during the cold months. There's plenty to do year-round. If you plan ahead, you can spend a morning watching a taping of the "Today" show, an afternoon observing the city from the Top of the Rock Observation Deck and an evening catching a performance at Radio City Music Hall.

    ...Read More »
  • #4
    St. Patrick's Cathedral
    View all Photos
    #4 in New York City
    Churches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND
    Churches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND

    This sprawling cathedral sits amid the hustle and distinctively secular bustle of Rockefeller Center. But that doesn't take away from its otherworldly vibe. Whether you're religious or just making an architectural pilgrimage, you can't help but be impressed by St. Patrick's. 

    ...Read More »
  • #5
    Bryant Park
    View all Photos
    #5 in New York City
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Just south of Times Square lies some of the most beautiful 4 acres in Manhattan – Bryant Park. Though its lush green space has existed for more than 150 years, Bryant Park was a revitalization project of the 1990s that made it a sanctuary for locals and tourists alike. This is the preferred place for midtown Manhattan professionals to come eat lunch, for fashionistas to strut during fashion week and for performers to showcase their talents during Broadway in Bryant Park and Piano in the Park.

    ...Read More »
  • #6
    Metropolitan Museum of Art
    View all Photos
    #6 in New York City
    Museums
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    No museum in the United States is as celebrated as the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Spilling over with masterpieces from all over the world, including notable collections from Ancient Egypt and classical antiquity, "the Met" is an art experience unlike any other, and like much in New York, it's impossible to see all the museum has to offer in one day (or even two days, for that matter). If you've never been there, then you should definitely visit its permanent collections (the first floor's Greek and Roman art, Egyptian art and the second floor's Islamic art exhibits are especially popular with travelers). If you've already visited the Met a time or two, then plan your next trip around the semiannual exhibits by the Costume Institute, or head to The Met Cloisters, an offshoot museum that's dedicated to medieval Europe's art and architecture located in Fort Tyron Park.

    ...Read More »
  • #7
    National September 11 Memorial & Museum
    View all Photos
    #7 in New York City
    Monuments and Memorials, Museums, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Monuments and Memorials, Museums, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    The National September 11 Memorial & Museum serves as the primary tribute to the nearly 3,000 victims of the 2001 terrorist attacks, as well as the six lost in the 1993 bombing. The Memorial's twin reflecting pools and manmade waterfalls rest as eerie footprints where the World Trade Center's Twin Towers once stood. The 1-acre pools are enclosed in bronze panels on which the names of every victim are inscribed. The museum spans across 110,000 square feet and relays the narrative of the attacks through a series of multimedia displays, real-time recordings, authentic artifacts and an interactive table.

    ...Read More »
  • #8
    Grand Central Terminal
    View all Photos
    #8 in New York City
    Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    At this beautiful train station, you can eat some lunch or shop till you drop, but recent travelers most enjoyed just taking in the scenery. Before you enter, be sure to snap a few shots of the ornate beaux-arts neoclassical architecture outside. Inside the celebrated main concourse, you're treated to glimmering marble floors, gold and nickel-plated chandeliers and a sky-themed ceiling. Food options range from the upscale (Michael Jordan's The Steak House N.Y.C. or The Campbell Apartment) to the legendary (the Oyster Bar or the gourmet kiosks at the Grand Central Market) to the fast and easy (Starbucks). As mentioned, there are also plenty of shopping options, though most travelers suggest you leave most of Grand Central's pricey merchandise in the store. If you want a train-themed souvenir, visit The New York Transit Museum Store in the shuttle passage.

    ...Read More »
  • #9
    Empire State Building
    View all Photos
    #9 in New York City
    Sightseeing
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sightseeing
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    New York City Tourist 101 dictates that you must swing by this landmark structure in midtown Manhattan. And despite the hefty admission fees, the crowds and the long lines, recent visitors insist that you won't be sorry. In fact, taking a trip to the top of the Empire State Building is either the perfect way to begin or end your Big Apple excursion – on a clear day you'll be able to the see the city's major highlights some 1,050 feet beneath you. Pick up the multimedia tour, available in eight languages, which guides visitors through the icon's exhibits and views with additional background on the building's history. The tour is included in the admission price and given to guests to enhance their visit.

    ...Read More »
  • #10
    Statue of Liberty
    View all Photos
    #10 in New York City
    Sightseeing, Tours
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sightseeing, Tours
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    This brightly shining beacon draws visitors year-round. So let's discuss your visiting options. The most popular method involves waiting at least 90 minutes for the ferry to cart you from Battery Park (in Lower Manhattan) to the statue located on Liberty Island, then making a stop at Ellis Island before returning to the mainland. The first boat of the day leaves at 9 a.m., the last boat leaves around 3:30 p.m., but almost all travelers complain of the long, disorganized lines and security screenings on top of the $18.50 ferry fee for such an abbreviated trip.

    ...Read More »
  • #11
    Museum of Modern Art
    View all Photos
    #11 in New York City
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    You don't have to be an art lover to appreciate the Museum of Modern Art; this airy midtown gallery also doubles as a shrine of pop culture and 20th century history. Some of the most significant contemporary pieces hang on its walls, including Picasso's "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon," Warhol's "Campbell's Soup Cans," Van Gogh's "Starry Night," Dalí's "The Persistence of Memory,"Monet's "Water Lilies," and the list goes on and on. Travelers were impressed by the extensive art collection and loved being able to see the museum's famous paintings. The $25 entry fee for adults ($14 for students; $18 for seniors; free for kids 16 and younger) can be hard to stomach, but travelers insist you won't regret the money spent and note that if you visit on free Fridays you'll have to deal with crowds.

    ...Read More »
  • #12
    New York Public Library
    View all Photos
    #12 in New York City
    Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND

    This main branch, officially called the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, attracts plenty of book lovers, history junkies and architecture aficionados. Most people swing by the Bryant Park landmark to say hello to Patience and Fortitude (the famous stone lions guarding the entrance) and to admire the lovely beaux-arts design.

    ...Read More »
  • #13
    Times Square
    View all Photos
    #13 in New York City
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND

    Some say that Times Square is like a five-block metaphor for New York City itself – it's exciting, colorful and always jumping. Others describe this area of midtown Manhattan as artless, overpriced and congested. Perhaps this commercial stretch from West 42nd to West 47th Street is a little of both, and though locals would advise you to avoid it, you should at least catch a glimpse of its neon lights. Most travelers recommend visiting the area after dark to see the marquee displays. Many add checking out Times Square before or after a Broadway show is the perfect time to fit it into your schedule.

    ...Read More »
  • #14
    The High Line
    View all Photos
    #14 in New York City
    Parks and Gardens, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Parks and Gardens, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Set on an abandoned rail track on Manhattan's West Side, this sprawling nearly 1½-mile-long landscaped park stretches over three of the city's most lively neighborhoods: the Meatpacking District, West Chelsea and Hell's Kitchen. Standing 30 feet above street level, the High Line offers sweeping views of the Hudson River and Manhattan's cityscape. But the vista isn't the only reason visitors and Manhattanites flock to this manicured green space. Here, you'll find continually changing public art installations, a handful of food vendors and a sprawling picnic and sunbathing area (known as the 23rd Street Lawn).

    ...Read More »
  • #15
    NYC Food Tours
    View all Photos
    #15 in New York City
    Tours, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Tours, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Known for everything from cheap eats to authentic international fare to Michelin-starred restaurants, New York City is a culinary hot spot and undoubtedly one of the best foodie cities in America. However, chances are you won't have time to experience everything the city has to offer in just one trip. One way to get a taste of New York's excellent cuisine in a variety of neighborhoods is to take a food tour. So, U.S. News rounded up some of the best New York City food tours:

    ...Read More »
  • #16
    Chrysler Building
    View all Photos
    #16 in New York City
    Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND

    Technically, the Chrysler Building is an office building open Monday through Friday, but you don't need to go inside to appreciate its aesthetic appeal. Recent visitors praised the building's unique architectural style. Built in 1930, the Chrysler had a short-lived run as the tallest building in the city, before it was usurped of its title by the Empire State Building. Nevertheless, this 1,046-foot high skyscraper remains a favorite of New Yorkers for its classic art deco style. And unlike the Empire State, at this site you won't need an expensive entry ticket, a strong stomach to stand soaring heights or patience for long lines to see what all the fuss is about. You can behold the building's menacing gargoyles and triangular openings from many spots in Manhattan. If you do have a chance, however, go inside to see the lobby's ornately painted ceiling or the beautiful woodwork on the elevators.

    ...Read More »
  • #17
    Broadway
    View all Photos
    #17 in New York City
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Some out-of-towners spend their entire New York trip at one show or another on the Broadway circuit. And if you like plays and musicals, this is where you should be: "The Great White Way" represents the heart and soul of American theater. Considering that nearby Times Square is a dizzying maze of sights and sounds with no real starting point, some visitors suggest you can see all you need to of that neighborhood just by trundling back and forth between shows. 

    ...Read More »
  • #18
    Brooklyn Botanic Garden
    View all Photos
    #18 in New York City
    Parks and Gardens
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Parks and Gardens
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Wander along Brooklyn's Washington Avenue, and you can't avoid stumbling upon this verdant 52-acre park. A main highlight here is the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden, punctuated by wooden bridges and Japanese maples. And if you arrive at the end of April, you can't miss the Cherry Esplanade (Sakura Matsuri) when rosy cherry blossoms burst into bloom. Another standout: the Shakespeare Garden, which contains more than 80 plants described in the playwright's works.

    ...Read More »
  • #19
    Fifth Avenue
    View all Photos
    #19 in New York City
    Shopping, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Shopping, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    It's fitting that St. Patrick's Cathedral would be on the same street as stores like Bergdorf Goodman, Tiffany & Co. and Van Cleef & Arpels. That's because for many people, shopping is a religious experience, and here between 34th and 59th streets you'll find the holy grail. Even if you're not planning to put your credit card to work at high-end stores, travelers say a stroll along Fifth Avenue is a must. It's one of the top places top shop in the city, according to local experts.

    ...Read More »
  • #20
    Frick Collection
    View all Photos
    #20 in New York City
    Museums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Tucked inside an 18th-century New York mansion that once belonged to steel tycoon Henry Clay Frick, this robust art collection features works that span from the Renaissance to the end of the 19th century. While here, you can admire the works of renowned artists like Manet, Vermeer, Rembrandt, Goya, Degas and Turner, among other masters. The collection includes several permanent galleries, as well as the Portico Gallery, which showcases sculpture, ceramics and decorative arts.

    ...Read More »
  • #21
    Radio City Music Hall
    View all Photos
    #21 in New York City
    Entertainment and Nightlife
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Entertainment and Nightlife
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    It's where Ella Fitzgerald pined for the man she loved, the Rolling Stones couldn't get no satisfaction and Lady Gaga had a "Bad Romance." Among performers, there's no New York concert venue that's quite like Radio City Music Hall. You can visit the space for a performance or to get a dose of its lengthy, melodious history on a one-hour Stage Door Tour.

    ...Read More »
  • #22
    Coney Island
    View all Photos
    #22 in New York City
    Amusement Parks, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Amusement Parks, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Known as the "the People's Playground," this famous amusement area in Brooklyn has witnessed an illustrious past. In the early 1900s, Coney Island enticed New Yorkers to visit with its bathing pavilions, seaside resorts and amusement park. The Great Depression took its toll on the fun-loving spot, causing many attractions to close. But after years of economic instability, Coney Island has reclaimed its place on the Brooklyn map, with a fresh roster of eateries and entertainment (including a July Fourth hot dog-eating contest and an annual Mermaid Parade) found along the boardwalk. Coney Island now features several separate amusement parks, as well as a museum, which hosts a variety of exhibits and shows.

    ...Read More »
  • #23
    The Guggenheim
    View all Photos
    #23 in New York City
    Museums, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, or simply, "The Guggenheim," is one of the most well-known art museums in the country, and it's just as renowned for its cutting-edge design as it is for its pieces. The coiled building (designed by Frank Lloyd Wright) stands out on Fifth Avenue at 89th Street. Inside, the halls are chock full of some of Norman Rockwell's, Pablo Picasso's and Wassily Kandinsky's best work.

    ...Read More »
  • #24
    Brooklyn Bridge
    View all Photos
    #24 in New York City
    Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND

    One of many signature landmarks of New York City, the Brooklyn Bridge is also one of the oldest suspension bridges in the country. Its six-lanes (and one pedestrian and bicycle walkway) span the East River, connecting Manhattan to Brooklyn. Walking across the bridge remains a tourist pastime.

    ...Read More »
  • #25
    Ellis Island
    View all Photos
    #25 in New York City
    Museums, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    For 62 years, this was the United States' main immigration entry point and many U.S. citizens have at least one ancestor who passed through here. You can just glimpse Ellis Island (north of Liberty Island and the Statue of Liberty) when you stand on the shores of Battery Park in Lower Manhattan. But most agree that to truly appreciate this historic site you'll have to take one of the Statue Cruises ferries over for a visit.

    ...Read More »
  • #26
    Bronx Zoo
    View all Photos
    #26 in New York City
    Zoos and Aquariums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Zoos and Aquariums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    According to travelers, these 265 acres sheltering more than 4,000 animals should be near the top of every young family's itinerary in New York. And if you're an older visitor, the Bronx Zoo could be a great way to escape the nonstop activity in Manhattan. If you're not an animal lover, however, stay far away – this zoo's claim to fame is that it's the largest metropolitan animal park in the country.

    ...Read More »
  • #27
    Apollo Theater
    View all Photos
    #27 in New York City
    Entertainment and Nightlife
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Entertainment and Nightlife
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    One of the most famous music halls in the United States, "the Apollo" started as a burlesque theater in 1914. By the 1930s, it transformed into a concert hall that helped launch the career of several black musicians. A then-unknown Ella Fitzgerald, Michael Jackson (with the Jackson 5) and Stevie Wonder all performed on the Apollo stage during an Amateur Night competition. If you're in Harlem on a Wednesday you can still go to Amateur Night, something previous travelers highly recommend. You can reach Harlem and the Apollo on the A, B, C or D trains to 125th Street.

    ...Read More »
  • #28
    Metropolitan Opera House
    View all Photos
    #28 in New York City
    Entertainment and Nightlife
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Entertainment and Nightlife
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Stroll through the courtyard of the Metropolitan Opera House even if you're not going inside for a performance. Every element of this opulent building – from the limestone architecture, to the lobby's glittering chandelier, to the acoustics in the concert hall – is gorgeous. Travelers call this opera house a feast for the eyes and ears. Tickets are notoriously expensive (as much as several hundred dollars for the best seats), but the sticker shock evaporates quickly if you're into performing arts. You can try to score a same-day ticket at a discounted rate, plus there are discounts for senior citizens.

    ...Read More »
  • Ice Skating
    View all Photos
    Recreation, Sports
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Recreation, Sports
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Read More »

  • The New York Beer and Brewery Tour
    View all Photos
    Tours, Wineries/Breweries
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Tours, Wineries/Breweries
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Read More »

  • Gulliver's Gate
    View all Photos
    Museums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Read More »

  • New York City Fire Museum
    View all Photos
    Museums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Read More »

Explore More of New York City

Recommended

The 20 Best Michigan State Parks

Two peninsulas, four Great Lakes and innumerable natural highlights elevate Michigan's state parks.

Zach WatsonApril 18, 2019

50 Awesome Vacation Ideas for Every Type of Traveler

Consider these vacation ideas for your next getaway.

Holly JohnsonApril 11, 2019

The 13 Best National Parks in California

You won't regret adding one of these national parks to your California itinerary.

Rachel CenterApril 10, 2019

10 Beautiful Places to Visit in the South of France

Plan a getaway to these special destinations to soak up culture, cuisine and quaint atmospheres.

Gwen PratesiApril 8, 2019

Best Carry-on Luggage of 2019

U.S. News rated the best carry-on luggage, considering recommendations from experts and consumers.

Lyn MettlerApril 3, 2019

The 11 Best Utah National Parks and Monuments to Visit

From birding to bouldering to boating, Utah's national parks have it all.

Zach WatsonApril 2, 2019

The 30 Best Zoos in the U.S.

Get an up-close look at wild creatures in natural settings at America's top animal parks.

Kyle McCarthyMarch 28, 2019

15 Scenic Train Rides to Add to Your Bucket List

Climb aboard these locomotives for jaw-dropping views.

Christine SmithMarch 26, 2019

13 Top Places to Visit in Tuscany, Italy

Ditch the crowded streets of Rome or Milan and head to Italy's picturesque countryside.

Lyn MettlerMarch 25, 2019

10 Excellent Educational Vacations for Families

Make sure your next getaway is both enjoyable and informative.

Holly JohnsonMarch 14, 2019