The Ultimate NYC Bucket List (101 Things to Do in NYC)

Whether you live here or you’re visiting for the 10th time, here is the ultimate list of 101 things to do in NYC.

While we had a love-hate relationship when visiting NYC, we absolutely loved the city when living here. We spent most of our visits eating our way through the city, and later realized that we hadn’t seen much of the city other than the insides of restaurants.

I’ve always had an extensive list of things we wanted to do, but with the help of our friends who’ve been living here for over a decade Charlene, Ted, Caty, and Debbie who was born and raised, we were able to narrow down the options and put together the ultimate NYC bucket list for you.

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Last Updated: April 25, 2020

THE ULTIMATE NYC BUCKET LIST (101 Unique Things to Do in New York City)

It’s easy to make an entire 101 list for each borough, but we’ll start with the city as a whole.

This list will continue to change and evolve as we find new things to see, do or eat in NYC so keep checking back. We focused more on experiences than food on this post, but we know how important food can be too, so you can check out our full food bucket list.

Tourist Attractions

  1. Bronx Zoo

The largest metropolitan zoo in the US.

  1. Brooklyn Bridge

Walk across or bike across or take in the views of one of NYC’s iconic symbols from Brooklyn Bridge Park.

  1. Chinatown

Pick up some Eggloo waffle ice creams and eat the chicken over rice at Taiwan Pork Chop House.

  1. Chrysler Building

(Midtown) Art Deco skyscraper that’s an iconic part of the skyline.

  1. Classic Harbor Line

(Chelsea) Take the sunset cruise to see the Statue of Liberty and views of the NY Skyline from the water.

  1. Columbia University

(Morningside Heights) Alexander Hamilton, Barack Obama, and many other notable alumni.

(Hudson Yards) Great views of the city from the highest outdoor sky deck in the western hemisphere. See your ticket options here.
  1. Empire State Building

(Midtown) The most photographed building in the world and the tallest of its time until 1970.

  1. Flatiron Building

(Flatiron District) another iconic and historic landmark

  1. Grand Central Terminal

(Midtown) Go upstairs and set up a long exposure shot.

  1. Hell Gate Bridge

(Astoria, Queens / QNS) beautiful bridge that is the largest of three bridges that form the Hell Gate railroad viaduct.

  1. Mahayana Buddhist Temple

(Chinatown) This temple houses the tallest Buddha in NYC.

  1. New York Public Library

(Midtown) No photos are allowed in the main reading room.

  1. The Oculus

(Financial District) The World Trade Center Transportation Hub and popular photography spot.

  1. One World Observatory

(Financial District) Not our favorite view but they still have nice views of the city. Also, the reveal is epic.

(Midtown) popular for its Neo-Gothic style architecture

  1. Staten Island Ferry

Have you tried a Staten Island? 🥂 The ferry is free.

  1. Times Square

(Midtown) The crowds are part of the experience and it’s worth witnessing once, but for locals this is their least favorite place to be. If you want to take photos without crowds, your best bet is around 3 am or during a snowstorm.

(Midtown) They have one of the best views of the city.

  1. The Vessel
(Hudson Yards) New NYC landmark made of 154 intricately interconnecting flights of stairs. Tickets are free. Reserve here.

Spectate: Shows + Events

  1. Apollo Theater

(Harlem) Jacob is actually in an episode he gets boo’d off stage!

  1. Barclay’s Center

Watch the Brooklyn Nets.

  1. Brooklyn Bowl

(Williamsburg, BK) High-tech lanes, live music, and good food.

  1. Carnegie Hall

(Midtown) Home to some of the most legendary performers – NY Philharmonic, NBC Symphony Orchestra, The Beatles, Billie Holiday, Simon & Garfunkel – just to name a few.

  1. Comedy Cellar

(Greenwich Village) One of our favorite comedy clubs in the US.

  1. Fat Cat Jazz Club

Diverse venue, open late, offers live music, pool, Ping-Pong, board games, art exhibits, and more.

  1. Film Forum

(South Village) An absolute treasure for indie films and other rare, classic movies.

  1. Las Chicas Locas

Salsa Dancing, great music, newcomers and beginners friendly.

  1. Late Night Show Taping
  1. Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts

(UWS) Includes New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera.

  1. Madison Square Garden

(Midtown West) We did the All Access Tour, but you can also go see the Knicks.

  1. MetLife Stadium

(NJ) Watch a New York Giants game.

  1. National Tennis Center

(Flushing, QNS) For the US Open.

  1. New York Philharmonic

(UWS) Amazing environment, concerts with rich histories.

  1. Nitehawk Cinema

(Williamsburg, BK) dine-in independent movie theater – perfect for date night.

  1. The Public Theater

(NoHo) An iconic theater and is famous for their logo design. We went and saw the play, Office Hour, which our friends were in.

  1. Yankee Stadium

(Bronx) Be sure to check out the famous “ball wall” and the museum located inside the stadium.

MUSEUMS + MEMORIALS + MONUMENTS

(Financial District) National Park Unit – The largest colonial-era cemetery for people of African descent.

  1. American Museum of Natural History

(UWS) One of the largest natural history museums in the world. We loved the planetarium.

  1. Brooklyn Museum

(Prospect Heights, Brooklyn) Over 1.5 million works of art to peruse.

(Battery Park) National Park Unit – Free Admission. They’re open every day except Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

  1. The Cloisters

(The Heights) Part of the Met. Large collection of medieval artworks shown in the architectural settings of French monasteries and abbeys.

  1. Chelsea Galleries

David Zwirner Gallery to see Yayoi Kusama’s exhibit.

  1. Ellis Island

The United States’ busiest immigrant inspection station from 1892 to 1954.

(Financial District) National Park Unit – A statue of George Washington marks the approximate site where he was inaugurated as President.

  1. Frick Collection

(UES) Children under 10 are not admitted.

(Morningside Heights) National Park Unit – Final resting place of Ulysses S. Grant.

(Governors Island) National Park Unit – Free guided tours, first-come, first served.

  1. The Guggenheim (Solomon R Guggenheim Museum)

(UES) Landmark work of 20th-century architecture designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

(Harlem) National Park Unit –  Home of a founding father, Alexander Hamilton.

  1. Intrepid (Intrepid Sea and Air Museum)

For Stargazing or Movie Nights.

(LES) National Park Unit – An estimated 15,000 people, from over 20 nations, lived here between 1863 and 2011.

  1. The Met (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

(Central Park / UES) Fourth most visited art museum in the world.

  1. MoMa / Museum of Modern Art

(Free Fri 4-8PM) We recognized so many more pieces of art here than at the Met.

  1. MoMa PS1

(LIC, QNS) One of the largest art institutions in the United States dedicated solely to contemporary art.

  1. Morgan Library and Museum

(Murray Hill) Short walk from Grand Central and Penn Station.

  1. Museum of Moving Image

(Astoria, QNS) We loved how interactive it was. You can learn how to make a. puppet and puppeteer, do a voice over, etc. Kids will love playing the video games.

  1. National 9/11 Memorial and Museum

(Financial District) All tours are intended for adult and teenage visitors. It’s really well done but very heavy to see everything.

  1.  New York Transit Museum
(BK) We loved the vintage trains and buses on display.
  1. The Noguchi Museum

Salsa Dancing, great music, newcomers and beginners friendly.

(Liberty Island) National Park Unit – Tickets can be purchased at Castle Clinton or at the Communipaw Terminal.

(West Village) National Park Unit – The site of the Stonewall riots of June 28, 1969 start of modern LGBT rights movement in the US.

(Flatiron) National Park Unit – Reconstructed home of the 26th President of the United States

  1. Tibet House

(Flatiron) A cultural center founded by H.H. the Dalai Lama.

  1. Whitney Museum of American Art

(Meatpacking District) Every Friday evening from 7pm until 9:30pm, admission is pay-what-you-wish.

Outdoors + Urban Parks

  1. The Battery Conservancy

(Financial District) Great views of the harbor, skyline, and Statue of Liberty.

  1. Brooklyn Botanic Garden

(BK) 52-acre garden holds over 14,000 taxa of plants.

  1. Brooklyn Boulders

One of the best bouldering gyms in the US imo. We’ve been to a lot of climbing gyms and currently are part of the QB one in LIC.

  1. Brooklyn Bridge Park

Waterfront park with tons of rolling hills, great city views.

  1. Coney Island Boardwalk + Brighton Beach

(BK) Be sure to grab a Nathan’s Famous hotdog.

  1. Bryant Park

(Midtown) Thousands of free activities throughout the year.

See the Bethesda Fountain, made even more famous by the show, Friends.

  1. Conservatory Garden

(East Harlem) The only formal garden in Central Park.

  1. DUMBO view of Manhattan Bridge

Best time to go is early morning before the crowds.

  1. Fort Washington Park’s Little Red Lighthouse

(The Heights) You’ll recognize this from the well-known children’s book, The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge.

  1. Gantry Park

(LIC, QNS) Our favorite park with great views and it has more locals than tourists.

  1. The High Line

(Chelsea) Iconic path that was built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets.

  1.  New York Botanical Garden

(Bronx Park) The historic stone mill is one of our favorite structures in the garden.

  1. The New York Chinese Scholar’s Garden

(Staten Island) Especially beautiful and worth seeing in the Spring.

  1. Prospect Park

(BK) Degsinated a New York City scenic landmark in 1975, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

  1. Rockaway Beach

(QNS) Easily accessible by the A train or NYC ferry at Pier 11 Wall Street.

(LIC, QNS) Really cool art exhibits, sculptures, and multi-media installations on display

  1. Washington Square Park

(Greenwich Village) One of NYC’s most iconic public parks. Watch out for hoards of pigeons.

Shopping + Food Experiences

  1. Afternoon Tea at the Plaza

(Midtown West) Plus, here are some other great spots.

  1. Arthur Ave

(Bronx) Apparently the real Little Italy if you want real Italian.

This is a photographer’s heaven and was high priority on my very first NYC trip. Before you go make sure it isn’t a Jewish holiday. There are so many! P.S. You can pick up your free gift using this voucher or online code: LOCALADVEN

  1. Brooklyn Flea Market

(DUMBO) Antiques, repurposed furniture, vintage clothing, collectibles, local crafts, and more.

  1. Chelsea Market

Housed in the former warehouse of food manufacturer, Nabisco.

  1. Coffee

Try Birch Coffee, A Little Taste, or Piccolo Cafe.

  1. Eataly Market

(Flatiron) Famed Italian market, offering counters, restaurants, and cooking demos.

  1. Fifth Avenue

One of the most expensive shopping streets in the world.

  1. New York Bagel
  1. New York-Style Pizza
  1. Smorgasburg at East River State Park

(Williamsburg, BK) The largest open-air food market in the US.

  1. Strand Bookstore

(Union Square) Iconic bookstore with tons of rare books and gifts.

  1. Union Square Farmer’s Market

The market runs every Saturday, from May 18 – November 23, 9am-1pm.

Seasonal or Special Events

(May + July) The sunset perfectly lines up with the east-west streets in Manhattan.

(Central Park) Open May to Sept. Great for families and kids.

(April) One of the best places to enjoy cherry blossoms.

(June) New York City’s official celebration of the past, present, and future of its music scene.

Shakespeare in the Park

101 THINGS TO DO IN NYC CITY MAP

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Essential Tips for First Time Visitors to NYC

  • When to Visit: Fall and Spring are the prettiest times to visit for fall foliage and cherry blossoms. December until New Years is crowded but has all the Christmas decor. January and February are the least crowded seasons but frigid cold. Summer is crowded and hot and humid.
  • When you’re planning your trip, book a rental car at JFK or LGA.
  • Best Airports: LGA is the easier airport to get in and out of. Unfortunately, there aren’t as many direct flights, but we always try to fly here if it’s available and the prices are comparable.
  • Best Way to Get Around? Take the train. NYC hands down has the best public transportation we’ve seen in the US. If you’re planning on taking more than 12 rides then get the unlimited 7-day pass. You can uber, but traffic sucks.
  • Always pack flip flops and high boots for rainy days. When it’s really pouring, the rain has gotten into my waterproof shoes.
  • If you’re planning on visiting a lot of attractions during your visit, pick up a New York Pass. There are multiple day options and it gives you access to a ton of spots. We did a 2 day pass and visited over 11 spots saving us a lot of money.
  • If you’re a first time visitor, don’t forget to read 21 Things You Should Know Before Visiting NYC, and if you’re about to move here, check out our Local Tips for Moving to NYC.
  • If you’re visiting in the winter, check out our NYC winter packing and survival guide.
  • Want to take a day trip from NYC? Here’s 21 Best Things to DO in Upstate NY and 15 Incredible Weekend Trips from NYC.

What to Pack / Favorite Travel Gear

Best Places to Stay in NYC

  • Library Hotel – our favorite boutique hotel conveniently located in Midtown East near Bryant Park, NY Public Library, Grand Central Terminal, Empire State Building. Stay for a night or have happy hour at their rooftop bar.
  • Casablanca Hotel – If you want to stay in Times Square but have a place to escape to, this is a great hotel for you. If’s perfect for any first time visitor or anyone who wants to see Broadway shows. It feels like a breath of fresh air and it’s part of the Library Hotel collection.

More Resources

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Have you set foot in all five boroughs? Anything on this list you weren’t impressed with? Anything you think we missed?

Now when we visit, we spend most our time eating, since the options for food are endless.

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This Post Has 70 Comments

  1. Nice post, so much want to go to New York after all of this Covid.

  2. OMG. What a perfect list !!! I am gonna save all things to do in future. Bravo !!!

  3. Fantastic post! I haven’t had the pleasure of travelling to the big apple yet, this is a great resource of things to do when I finally make it there!

  4. Great article. Thanks for sharing.

    Have a good day.

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