[ Update: We’re spending 2018 exploring NYC. We’d love to hear all your suggestions! ]
We love visiting NYC! When we visit, we spend most our time eating, since the options for food are endless. It wasn’t until recently that we realized that we haven’t seen much of the city other than the insides of restaurants. With the help of our friends Charlene, Ted, and Caty who’ve been living here for over 10 years, we were able to put together an NYC bucket list.
We could probably 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.
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Last Updated: Dec 16,, 2018 First Published: Jan 30, 2017
THE ULTIMATE NYC BUCKET LIST (101 Unique Things to Do in New York City)
- Bronx Zoo, Bronx Park
- Brooklyn Bridge, BK
- Chrysler Building, Midtown
- Classic Harbor Line Sunset Cruise, Chelsea – See Statue of Liberty and NY Skyline
- Columbia University, Morningside Heights
- Empire State Building, Midtown
- Flatiron Building, Flatiron
- Gospel Church or Gospel Brunch, Harlem
- Grand Central Terminal, Midtown
- Greenwich Village / West Village
- Hell Gate Bridge, Astoria, Queens (QNS)
- Mahayana Buddhist Temple, Chinatown
- New York Public Library, Midtown
- The Oculus (World Trade Center Transportation Hub), Financial District
- One World Observatory, Financial District
- Rockefeller Center, Midtown
- St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Midtown
- Staten Island Ferry (and drink a Staten Island )
- Times Square, Midtown – to avoid the crowds, go at 3 am or during a snowstorm
- Top of the Rock has one of the best views!
- Victorian Gardens Amusement Park
- Brooklyn Bowl, Williamsburg, BK
- Carnegie Hall, Midtown
- Comedy Cellar, Greenwich Village
- Film Forum, South Village
- Juilliard – Some Free Performances
- Las Chicas Locas for Salsa Dancing
- Late night show taping / SNL (how to score free tickets)
- Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Lincoln Square, UWS – includes New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera
- Madison Square Garden, Midtown West (We did the All Access Tour, but you can also go see the Knicks)
- MetLife Stadium, NJ – New York Giants
- National Tennis Center, Flushing, QNS – for the US Open
- New York Philharmonic, UWS
- Nitehawk Cinema, Williamsburg, BK
- 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.
- Radio City Music Hall, Midtown (Watch the Rockettes or take the Stage Door Tour to see behind the scenes)
- Shakespeare in the Park (Summer only, how to score free tickets)
- Yankee Stadium, Bronx
MUSEUMS + MEMORIALS + MONUMENTS
- African Burial Ground National Monument, Financial District (National Park Unit)
- American Museum of Natural History, UWS
- Brooklyn Museum, Prospect Heights, BK
- Castle Clinton National Monument, Battery Park (National Park Unit)
- The Cloisters, the Heights (part of the Met)
- Chelsea Galleries (David Zwirner Gallery to see Yayoi Kusama’s exhibit)
- Ellis Island
- Federal Hall National Monument (National Park Unit), Financial District
- Frick Collection, UES
- General Grant National Memorial, Morningside Heights (National Park Unit)
- Governors Island National Monument (National Park Unit)
- The Guggenheim (Solomon R Guggenheim Museum), UES
- Hamilton Grange National Memorial (National Park Unit), Harlem
- Intrepid (Intrepid Sea and Air Museum) – for Stargazing or Movie Nights
- Lower East Side Tenement Museum, LES
- The Met (Metropolitan Museum of Art), Central Park / UES
- MoMa / Museum of Modern Art (Free Fri 4-8PM) – we recognized so many more pieces of art here than at the Met.
- MoMa PS1, LIC, QNS
- Morgan Library and Museum, Murray Hill
- 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.
- National 9/11 Memorial and Museum, Financial District
- New York Transit Museum, BK
- The Noguchi Museum, LIC, QNS – loved the aesthetic here more than any other museum.
- Statue of Liberty National Monument (National Park Unit)
- Stonewall National Monument (National Park Unit), West Village
- Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site, Flatiron (National Park Unit)
- Tibet House, Flatiron
- Whitney Museum of American Art, Meatpacking District
Outdoors + Urban Parks
- The Battery Conservancy, Financial District
- Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Prospect Park, Brooklyn (BK)
- 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)
- Brooklyn Bridge Park
- Coney Island Boardwalk + Brighton Beach, BK
- Bryant Park, Midtown
- Central Park
- Conservatory Garden, East Harlem
- DUMBO view of Manhattan Bridge
- Fort Washington Park’s Little Red Lighthouse, the Heights
- Gantry Park, LIC, QNS (our favorite park with great views and it has more locals than tourists)
- The High Line, Chelsea
- New York Botanical Garden, Bronx Park
- The New York Chinese Scholar’s Garden, Staten Island
- Prospect Park, BK
- Rockaway Beach, QNS
- Socrates Sculpture Park, LIC, QNS
- Washington Square Park, Greenwich Village
Shopping or Food Experiences
- Afternoon tea at the Plaza, Midtown West (plus, here are some other great spots)
- Arthur Ave, Bronx – apparently the real Little Italy if you want real Italian
- B&H Flagship Store – 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
- Brooklyn Flea Market, DUMBO
- Chelsea Market
- Coffee at Birch Coffee, A Little Taste, or Piccolo Cafe
- Eataly Market, Flatiron
- Fifth Avenue, Midtown – one of the most expensive shopping streets in the world
- New York bagel at one of these spots
- New York-style pizza at any of these iconic spots
- Smorgasburg at East River State Park, Williamsburg, BK – largest open-air food market in the US.
- Strand Bookstore, Union Square
- Union Square Farmer’s Market
101 THINGS TO DO IN NYC CITY MAP
Essential Tips for First Time Visitors to NYC
- When you’re planning your trip, book a rental car at JFK or LGA.
- 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.
- 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.
- Always pack flip flops 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.
WHERE TO STAY
- 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.
We try to make it back once a year because we think NYC has some of the best food in the world, but we can’t wait to see more of the city too!
Have you set foot in all five boroughs? Anything on this list you weren’t impressed with? Anything you think we missed?
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SEE MORE CITY BUCKET LISTS
“Discovery consists not of seeking new lands but in seeing with new eyes” – M. Proust