Top 20 things to do near New York City
New York City, affectionately known as the Big Apple, is one of the most popular destinations in the world. It regularly welcomes more than 50 million visitors each year. Here you can find art, entertainment, and food to satisfy every craving at any time of day. Start your journey by staying in the heart of the action—Times Square—and exploring the city by bicycle, on foot, or by hopping onto the largest subway system in the world.
Here are the top 20 must dos the next time you are in New York City:
1. The High Line
On a sunny afternoon in New York, there is no better place to be than this above-ground park on Manhattan’s West Side. The first section of The High Line opened in 2009, and now this 1.45-mile park stretches along Tenth Avenue from Gansevoort Street uptown to 34th Street. Repurposed from a 1930’s abandoned railway, which connected factories and warehouses to trains delivering cargo, the park now offers a beautifully maintained public green space. Take a few hours to enjoy the foliage, sit in the Urban Theater area to people watch, or participate in the various live performances and dance parties held throughout the year.
2. Governors Island
Located in the Financial District (May-September)
This 172-acre island was once home to the U.S. Coast Guard. In 2003, the U.S. government sold the island to the city for just $1. Since then, New York has committed to offering free events throughout the summer months, such as the annual Jazz Age Lawn Party and the Art Fair. Rent a bike on Governors Island and ride past former Coast Guard buildings, marvel at various sculpture exhibits on display, and slide down the soon-to-open three-story-high slide.
3. Natural Gourmet Institute
New York City is a foodie paradise, so what better place to learn how to cook like a superstar chef? Evening and weekend classes are offered at the Flatiron District’s Natural Gourmet Institute in everything from Basic Knife Skills to the Art of Homemade Tofu. Founded in 1977, the center is known for the principle that what we eat significantly affects our physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. This is one-stop shopping for a balanced body that gives you a long-lasting souvenir to take home.
4. Wall Street Bath & Spa
Manhattan might be an island, but that doesn’t mean you should swim in the surroundings waters. Instead, wash away the stress of the city by taking advantage of the indoor water features—saunas, shvitz, and the cold plunge pool—at Wall Street Bath & Spa. The three-story bathhouse, built with 16 tons of granite, lets your cares float away as you relax in its various warm and cold rooms and indulge in spa treatments to improve your circulation and raise your happiness factor. Post-pampering, grab a bite to eat in the spa’s café and rehydrate with juice and tea.
5. 14th Street Subway Station
Located in Chelsea (A/C/E Line)
There is always something interesting to see around every corner in New York City. Over twenty-five years ago, the Metropolitan Transit Authority decided to place artwork in the city’s underground subway stations to brighten the daily commute. In the 8th Avenue-14th Street station you can find Life Underground, Tom Otterness’s permanent collection of bronze cartoon-like sculptures. Go on an underground treasure hunt to spot an alligator coming out of a manhole cover, a couple walking arm in arm, and two figures holding a saw to an I-beam.
6. UCB Theatre
The Upright Citizens Brigade is a famous improvisation and sketch comedy theater group. Founded in the mid-1990s by a funny foursome, which includes SNL alumna, Amy Poehler, the company offers classes as well as high-quality shows every night of the week. You can experience newbies working on their acts during open-mic nights or catch a weekly staple, such as Take it Personal: The Hip-Hop Improv Show. The founders and their famous comedy friends have been known to stop by and jump on stage to participate in the fun.
7. Broadway Shows
No visit to New York would be complete without stopping by to see a hit Broadway show. Home of the American theater industry, this famous area earned its nickname, the Great White Way, from the many theater marquees and electric billboards that light up the night sky. Home to forty professional theaters, you can see anything from the longest-running musical, Phantom of the Opera, to the newest break-out hit, Hamilton—if you can get tickets! Don’t have your heart set on a particular show? Go to the TKTS kiosk in Times Square for discounted same-day tickets.
8. 9/11 Memorial
Opened ten years after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, the 9/11 Memorial sits on the site of the former location of the Twin Towers. This powerful site commemorates the lives lost in the terrorist attack and gives a hauntingly beautiful sense of peace to those who visit. You can find the names of all who died that day along with the six names of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing victims etched on the parapets that surround the waterfall memorial. The site is surrounded by swamp white oak trees, with leaves that change to different colors in the fall, reminding visitors that each tree is living today as an individual being.
9. Barclays Center
When you step inside one of New York’s newest large-scale entertainment venues, you’re in for a treat. Opened in 2012 with eight sold-out Jay Z concerts, Barclays Center is home to the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets and the NHL’s New York Islanders. Scores of famous names like Rihanna and Justin Bieber stop here on their world tours. With cellphone charging stations and tons of food options, you have plenty of reasons to stay connected and enjoy yourself on a night out.
10. Original Crosstown Pizza Tour
Pizza is a staple of most New Yorkers’ diets. There are so many places to choose from it’s hard to figure out which ones are the standouts. Luckily you don’t have to, as Scott Wiener has done it for you. Enjoy his three-hour New York Pizza Tour while you learn about the history of nineteenth-century Italian immigrants that made Little Italy pizza famous. Enjoy three slices from top pizzerias and learn how different types of ovens affect the taste of the pies.
11. The Met Cloisters
Step back in time as you head up to Fort Tryon Park in Upper Manhattan to visit the Met Cloisters. Opened in 1938, this castle-like museum, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is made up of five medieval cloisters imported from France. The museum houses approximately 5,000 works of medieval art, including seven Flemish tapestries known as the Unicorn Tapestries. Take your time to tour religious sculptures, old-world manuscripts, precious jewelry, and the twelfth-century chapel, all of which can be appreciated in relative quiet. Take a break to sit in the beautiful cloistered garden, a lush courtyard space that was made for a slower time.
12. Tenement Museum
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Tenement Museum is often missed by first-time visitors to New York. As millions of immigrants left their homelands to resettle in America, tenement buildings were often where many working class people settled in the mid-1800s. Walk through the building and learn what it was like for scores of families to eat, sleep, and run businesses out of such tiny spaces.
13. Brooklyn Bridge
This iconic bridge is one of New York’s most recognized skyline images and an architectural marvel. Opened for use in 1883, it directly connected the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn for the first time. At the time it opened, this suspension bridge was the longest in the world, and while it’s not today, the views are still unmatched. If you haven’t visited the bridge in person, you may recognize it from countless movies, including Moonstruck and Spider-Man. Day or night, it’s worth the walk—or bike ride—across the nearly 6,000-foot bridge to view the Manhattan skyline from a distance. Be sure to spend some at the Brooklyn Bridge Park after your trek across. Grab lunch from Red Hook Lobster Pound and then hop on the East River Ferry to take you back to Manhattan.
14. Jane’s Carousel
This stunning 48-horse, hand-carved carousel was built in 1922 for the Idora Park amusement park in Ohio. In 1984, it was rescued from destruction by the developers of the Brooklyn Bridge Park, who dreamed of having a carousel to complete their design. In bad shape from years of sitting outdoors, Jane’s Carousel was painstakingly restored to its original condition and installed in its permanent home in the park in 2011.
15. Brooklyn Flea
80 Pearl Street, Brooklyn (April – November)
Grab the New York Ferry Service, at Wall Street (Pier 11) and feel the wind in your hair as you head to Williamsburg for a visit to Brooklyn Flea. This outdoor market, founded in 2008, has everything from antiques to vintage clothing and jewelry made by local artisans. Spend a few hours wandering around looking at the goods, as well as the people, and when you get hungry, sit at the picnic tables and enjoy everything from a ramen burger to homemade ice cream.
16. MoMA PS1
PS1 is the place to see experimental art in New York City. Housed in an old school, you’ll walk through classroom-sized galleries to gaze at works installed by artists from around the world. In addition to rotating and long-term installations, the MoMA PS1 museum offers a summer music series where you can catch DJs, as well as live music on summer Saturdays.
17. Catch a Game at Yankee Stadium (April–October)
1 E 161st Street, South Bronx (April- October)
Baseball is the great American pastime, and the New York Yankees are one of the most successful teams in the world. Throughout the ball club’s storied history, Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, Reggie Jackson, and Derek Jeter, among others, have called New York home. Heading uptown to the Bronx to catch a game is a great way to spend a Saturday in the sun.
18. Coney Island Boardwalk
Home to world-famous Nathan’s hot dogs, the Cyclone roller coaster, and the Mermaid Parade, Coney Island is a not-to-be-missed stop when exploring New York. Located on a peninsula that juts into the Atlantic Ocean, Coney Island is a well-known Brooklyn neighborhood that has recently had a resurgence. Head to this year-round destination to walk on the beach, ride the Ferris wheel, or catch a Brooklyn Cyclones baseball game. The New York Aquarium, damaged by Hurricane Sandy, is set to reopen in 2017.
19. Hiking at Bear Mountain State Park
A favorite day trip for hikers who want a healthy dose of nature, you can find trails for every level at Bear Mountain State Park. Situated along the Hudson River, north of New York City, trails are marked with various colors to denote degrees of difficulty. The easy path takes you on a 1.5-mile loop around Hessian Lake; a more challenging route will have you headed steeply uphill and across the Appalachian Trail. Bring water and wear hiking boots if you plan to enjoy the wide-open nature.
20. Storm King Art Center
1 Museum Rd, New Windsor, NY (April – November)
For 50 years, the Storm King Art Center nonprofit center has showcased modern sculpture as a landscape narrative. Pick an area of this 500-acre outdoor sculpture park to enjoy—you’d need days to see the whole thing—and be sure to grab a $5 audio tour to learn more. With over 100 permanent works and ongoing special exhibitions, nature is truly the canvas that brings the large-scale figurative artworks to life.
New York City has so much to see and do, with new attractions popping up all the time, from romantic date ideas to historic New York bars. Let this list of 20 things to do be your guide for off-the-beaten-path adventures that will give you a glimpse into the city that never sleeps.