New York City Bucket List: 100+ Best Things to do in NYC Before You Die

New York City Bucket List: 100+ Best Things to do in NYC Before You Die

Looking for a NYC Bucket list? This blog shows you the 100+ best things do in New York City. This list include best things to do in NYC as a tourist, best food to eat in New York City, best things to do in NYC every season and much more.

Ah New York City! New York City is a place someone must visit at least once in their lifetime. Even as someone who has lived in New York for years, I still get awed by it every time I check out something new. There is really no where else that can compare to New York in terms of things to do, places to visit, and food to eat and drink.

When I was younger, I had visited New York City quite a few times, but it wasn’t until I started living here that I truly started to enjoy the city.

Yes New York City is expensive, touristy and can be dirty, but everywhere you look, New York has that charm that no other cities have. But you can save money on attractions in New York City by purchasing a New York attraction pass (see all the comparisons too).

Every neighborhood in New York City has its own history and charm and there really are just so many things to do! You can honestly stay here for months and not run out of things to do.

With that said, if you want to see a list of recommended things to do and eat in NYC from a local, let me show you the 100+ best things to do in New York City.

This blog contains occasional affiliate links, where I receive a small commission on sales of the products/hotels that are linked at no additional cost to you. In addition, as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Pinterest Pin image: The Ultimate NYC bucket list for anyone visiting or living in New York City. This list shows the 100+ best things to do in New York City

Best things to do in New York City if you are a tourist

1. Ride a helicopter to see New York City from above

You can’t fully appreciate NYC (and the fact there is a giant park in the middle of Manhattan) until you see Manhattan from above.

Unfortunately since drones are banned in NYC, the only way to do that is to ride a helicopter.

Fortunately there are a number of helicopter tours to choose from, all you need to worry about is what shoes to wear (so you can take the famous photo with your feet outside of the helicopter) and what camera/ camera lens to bring.

Being able to see New York City from above truly gives you a sense of how majestic this place is.

2. Cross the Brooklyn Bridge and visit Dumbo

A girl in a red dress walking across Brooklyn Bridge early in the morning in NYC
Brooklyn Bridge at 8am

There is nothing more iconic to do in New York City than walking across the famous Brooklyn Bridge. The Brooklyn Bridge is about 1.1m long and takes about 20 minutes to walk across.

You should expect a lot of tourists on the Brooklyn Bridge since it is the most famous bridge in NYC, but the experience of walking across it is totally worth it.

Once you cross the bridge, you can also visit the famous spot in Dumbo to see the Manhattan Bridge.

Manhattan Bridge iconic shot from Dumbo in Brooklyn New York City

3. Watch the sunset at Brooklyn Bridge Park

One of the most relaxing things to do in New York City is to spend the late afternoon in Brooklyn Bridge Park in Dumbo.

The entire area has been renovated so everything is super nice.

Sunset from Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York City

At one end of Brooklyn Bridge Park you can actually spot the Statue of Liberty albeit a little small; on the other side of Brooklyn Bridge Park there is a famous carousel with the stunning Manhattan skyline view.

The best thing to do at Brooklyn Bridge Park (in my opinion) is to get ice cream from the stalls and just chill by the waterfront for a magical New York City sunset.

4. Visit Wall Street to see NYSE, the Charging Bull and the Fearless Girl statue

Wall Street is the famous street in the Financial District where all the money are made (actually nowadays most of the financial institutions have moved to midtown).

However Wall Street is still a must see place when you visit New York City. You can stop by the New York Stock Exchange and walk 5 minute down to see the charging bull and the fearless girl statue.

5. Pay tribute to the 911 Memorial & Museum

911 Memorial NYC itinerary
911 Memorial on Sep 11

Located at the World Trade Center in New York City, the 9/11 Memorial Museum is a tribute to the victims and a commemoration of the events that took place on September 11, 2001 in New York City.

The memorial features 2 large reflecting pools, known as the North and South Pools, which mark the footprint of the fallen Twin Towers.

The museum tells the story of 9/11 through media, narratives, and a collection of monumental and authentic artifacts, presenting visitors with personal stories of loss, recovery, and hope.

911 Museum is covered by the New York Pass.

6. Go to an observation deck in NYC

Top of the Rock view Manhattan NYC
Top of the Rock

New York City has numerous observation decks that overlook the city from different angles. You HAVE TO go up at least one of the observation decks if you are doing touristy things in NYC. No matter which observation decks you go up, you will have a sweeping panoramic view of New York City and even New Jersey.

The Edge NYC at sunset on a cloudy day
The Edge

In my opinion, if there is only one observatory you should visit, it should be Top of the Rock at the Rockefeller Center since it gives you this perfect view of Manhattan (both lower Manhattan and Central Park). If you go early enough (the first time slot), you can get that iconic photo at Top of the Rock with the entire Manhattan below your feet.

view from Rockefeller Center in the morning best new york pass
Top of the Rock

Rockefeller Center photo early in the morning in NYC

If you want to do more observation decks in NYC, then I would highly recommend the Edge at Hudson Yards, SUMMIT One Vanderbilt and One World Observatory.

SUMMIT One Air Affinity with the balloon
SUMMIT One Vanderbilt

All the observatories except SUMMIT One are covered by the NYC Sightseeing Pass and the New York Pass.

7. Ride a Yellow Cab in New York City

Yellow Taxis are a symbol of New York City (actually it’s mostly just Manhattan, the taxis in Queens are green). In recent years with the introduction of ride sharing services, more and more people are now riding in Uber and Lyft.

However just for the experience, you should try to hail a yellow cab (also, nowadays, cabs are cheaper than Uber and Lyft). Yellow Cabs do take credit cards but you should always ask first.

In fact sometimes it is cheaper to ride in a yellow cab than in an Uber or Lyft because of the surge charging.

8. Take the subway in New York City

You can take a taxi everywhere in New York City if you want but if you want the true New York experience, you will have to ride the subway.

Even though the New York City subway system is really ancient and it can be quite dirty and smelly (and HOT in the summer in the station), but this is how most New Yorkers get around!

The NYC subway costs the same regardless of distance and it is one of the only subway systems in the world that is open 24/7. Trust me, it is quite an experience to ride the subway in New York City especially if you are lucky enough to see some performances on the train or in the station.

9. Ride the tram to Roosevelt Island

While we are talking about transportation in New York City, we can’t forget the famous Roosevelt Island Tramway.

Roosevelt Island Tram over Manhattan

Ok I bet if this is your first or second time in New York City you probably haven’t heard of Roosevelt Island, which is a small island east of Manhattan (although it’s still considered Manhattan) with parks, Cornell Tech campus and residential buildings.

The Roosevelt Island Tramway is an aerial tramway in New York City that spans the East River and connects Roosevelt Island to the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

The tramway is the first commuter aerial tramway in North America, having opened in 1976. Riding the tramway across the East River is definitely one of the best things to do in New York City.

10. Visit the Little Red Lighthouse in Fort Washington

The Little Red Lighthouse is a famous lighthouse located in Fort Washington Park next to the Hudson River under the George Washington Bridge. It was made notable by the 1942 children’s book The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge.

A lot of couples take engagement photos at the red lighthouse, so if you want that perfect Instagram photo you should stop by there.

11. Shop in Soho

If you love fancy boutiques or cute shops, shopping in SOHO is one of the best things to do New York City for you.

New York City Soho shopping

Located in lower Manhattan, Soho is an expensive and cute neighborhood with tons of shops and restaurants. You can find all the biggest brands in Soho so it is a shopper’s paradise.

Almost all major brands have a shop there and many bloggers and influencers go to Soho to take photos. Even if you don’t want to shop, it’s always nice to appreciate the busy vibe and the architecture in Soho.

Besides shopping Soho also has a number of cute cafes, pop up shops, restaurants and Museum of Ice Cream. You can also find the European luxury boutiques in Soho, so get that credit card ready!

12. Stop by Times Square (and get out of there ASAP)

Times Square at night NYC

Even though I hate Times Square with a passion, you really can’t say you have been to NYC without a visit to Times Square and the theater district.

No matter what time of the day (or even during a pandemic), Times Square is always lively and busy. You will be dazzled by all the lights and all the street performers. However, real New Yorkers avoid Times Square like a plague.

Also, don’t expect to find good food there, it’s all chain restaurants with inflated prices (except Los Tacos No.1). If you want good food near Times Square, walk west over to Hell’s Kitchen for some awesome restaurants.

13. Visit the Friends’ Building and the Sex and City Apartment in the West Village

West Village is one of my favorite neighborhoods in New York City with its European vibe and collection of restaurants, shops and bars.

Another reason to visit the West Village is to see the “Friends” building (90 Bedford Street) and the Sex and City Apartment (64 Perry Street) from the outside.

Even if you have no interest in the shows, it’s always nice to walk around the West Village, stop by some cute restaurant and trendy cafes (like these floral coffee shops in NYC) and grab some gelato.

14. Read a Book at the New York Public Library

New York bucket list item - New York Public Library

The New York Public Library is one of the largest libraries in the US (second largest in fact) and the 4th largest in the world.

The main branch of the library is on 5th Avenue next to Bryant Park in mid town. The architecture of the building itself is already impressive, but you’d be even more impressed with its collection of over 53 million items.

Reading a book at the New York Public Library should definitely be one of your New York City bucket list items. If you are not interested in books, just walking around the building is amazing in itself, since the building was featured in the movie The Day After Tomorrow.

15. Walk the High Line

The High Line is a public park built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. Saved from demolition by neighborhood residents and the City of New York, the High Line opened in 2009 as a hybrid public space where visitors experience nature, art, and design.

The High Line Park in Meat Packing

It is a must-visit place in New York City on a nice day as you get to enjoy some peace and greenery in the busy city (and check out the fancy apartments next to the High Line).

16. Be part of the show at Sleep No More

Sleep no more mask

Sleep No More is an immersive theatrical experience based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Taking place in an old hotel, audience will be given a mask and taken to different floors to start the show.

The entire show will be done by various actors with audiences silently following them and interacting with them. It is one of the most unique theatrical experience you can have in New York City.

17. Watch a Broadway Show and an off Broadway Show

The show business in NYC is no joke; it is a city (besides London) where you can find all the famous (and not so famous) shows in theater.

Broadway shows are famous and worth seeing but off-Broadway Shows can just be as fun (there is also off-off-Broadway shows if you are interested). If you love theaters then watching a Broadway show is the best thing to do in New York City for you.

And if you visit New York City in the fall, you can potentially catch the Broadway Week to get 2-to-1 tickets for many popular shows.

18. Visit Central Park All Times of the Year

Picnic in Central Park summer

It should be a no brainer for anyone visiting New York City to stop by Central Park. You can ride a bike, jog, picnic or even ride a carriage in Central Park.

Central Park during peak cherry blossom at Cherry Hill

Central Park is beautiful all year round, with cherry blossom and magnolias in the spring, concerts in the summer, foliage in the fall and it turns into a winter wonderland in the winter.

Bike rental in Central Park is covered by the NYC Sightseeing Pass.

19. Visit the MET and the Cloisters

You may have heard of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the MET) on the Upper East Side but did you know that the MET has a second location called the Cloisters which brings you back to the Middle Ages?

The Cloister best things to do in NYC

If you are an art and history lover, you should definitely take the hike to the Cloisters.

20. Tour St. Patrick’s Cathedral (or Attend a Mass There if You Are Catholic)

St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the largest Catholic cathedral in New York City (and in North America). It is not a museum but an active Catholic Church with scheduled Mass and other events.

Even if you are not religious, you should still stop by to visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral and marvel at the art and stained glass inside. The best way to visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral is to do a self guided audio tour and understand the history of the cathedral.

Tour is covered by the NYC Sightseeing Pass and the New York Pass.

21. Marvel at Grand Central Terminal

NYC Bucket List - Grand Central Station

Grand Central is the most famous train station in New York City and it is featured in numerous movies and shows.

Many people take their engagement and wedding photos there as well. Besides just a train and subway station, there are numerous shops and some restaurants and bars there as well.

22. Watch a performance at the Lincoln Center

The Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts is a famous performance center that houses world class performances. Events include opera, ballet, orchestra, etc, a must-do in New York City for any art lovers.

23. Early Morning Visit to the Little Island

The Little Island is an artificial island on the west side of Manhattan (next to the Meatpacking District, on the Hudson River).

Pier 57 Rooftop view of Little Island

It opened in 2021 and has since become a popular tourist attraction in NYC. However the island is quite small and is best visited early morning before it gets crowded.

While you are at Little Island, be sure to stop by Pier 57 right next door to get this beautiful view of Little Island and eat at some of the trendiest food spots in the city.

24. Admire the Manhattan Skyline from Gantry Plaza State Park and See the Pepsi Sign

Things to do in New York City - Gantry Plaza State

Gantry Plaza State Park is a beautiful riverside park in Long Island City. It’s actually one of my favorite places to visit in Queens.

It is relatively new with good amenities and a nice view of the Manhattan Skyline. There is also a famous Pepsi-Cola neon sign at this park, making it easy to recognize from the Manhattan side.

25. Check out the Oculus

The Oculus NYC itinerary Lower Manhattan

The Oculus is a transportation Hub and a premium shopping center designed by the Spanish Designer Santiago Calatrava. It costed about 4 billion dollars to build and now it’s one of the premier shopping centers and a subway station.

The Oculus is right next to World Trade Center so you don’t need to walk far and you will recognize its white exterior pretty easily.

26. Bask in Arts at Guggenheim Museum

Guggenheim Museum is an art museum on the Upper East side of Manhattan near Central Park. It has a huge collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, early Modern and contemporary art and also has other special exhibitions throughout the year.

If you are an art lover you definitely need to put Guggenheim Museum on your New York City bucket list.

Guggenheim Museum is covered by the NYC Sightseeing Pass and the New York Pass.

27. Tour the NBC Studio and See Your Favorite Shows Live

The NBC Studio at Rockefeller Center is a tourist favorite with tours of the studio to see behind-the-scene access to the studios where some of the most well knowns shows are made, like Saturday Night Live, Jimmy Fallon, Late Night with Seth Meyers, etc. You can also reserve free tickets to see the taping of certain NBC shows.

28. Check Out the Farmer Market at Union Square

Union Square has a lively outdoor farmer’s market every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 8am to 6pm year round.

Here you will find fresh produce, dairy products, meat, honey, maple syrup, bread and eggs.

29. Enjoy Modern Art at MoMA

Another museum to add onto your NYC bucket list is the Museum of Modern Art in midtown.

MoMA houses an extensive collection of paintings, sculptures, photographs, films, and design objects from renowned artists like Picasso, Warhol, and Van Gogh.

The museum also features rotating exhibitions that showcase a diverse range of artistic movements and perspectives, making it a must-visit destination for art enthusiasts.

MOMA is covered by the NYC Sightseeing Pass and the New York Pass.

30. See Dinosaurs and the Blue Whale at American Museum of Natural History

Founded in 1869, the American Museum of Natural History is one of the largest natural history museums in the world.

American Museum of Natural History dinosaur T Rex fossil

The museum’s extensive collection spans various scientific disciplines, including anthropology, paleontology, zoology, and astronomy.

There are multiple stories in the museum and you will find a range of exhibits including a very large collection of dinosaur fossils as well as mammals, blue whale, etc.

Gilder Center architecture photo at the American museum of natural history in NYC

In 2023 a new wing opened at the museum, called Richard Gilder Center for Science. It is designed like a canyon and it offers new attractions and a butterfly vivarium.

31. Visit Coney Island, especially the New York Aquarium

Coney Island is a NYC neighborhood in Brooklyn that’s famous for its amusement parks, the beach and boardwalk. It is open all year round although lifeguards are only on duty from Memorial Day to Labor day.

Coney Island Amusement Park

There is also fireworks Friday evening at 9:30 during the season and it is famous for hot dogs (as the birthplace of the hot dog). The New York Aquarium on Coney Island is the oldest aquarium in the US and worth a visit.

NY Aquarium

The New York Aquarium and Coney Island Amusement Parks are covered by the NYC Sightseeing Pass.

32. Grab a Drink at a Rooftop bar

Best NYC Rooftop Bar Press Lounge Skyline
The Press Lounge

There is no shortage of roof top bars in NYC and it is actually one of the most popular summer night activities in the city.

Some of the most popular roof top bars in NYC include 230 Fifth, the Press Lounge (my favorite), Westlight, the Crown, St. Cloud Rooftop, Refinery Rooftop, Le Bain, etc.

33. Marvel at the Statue of Liberty

View of Statue of Liberty from Governor's Island, a NYC itinerary
View of Statue of Liberty from Governor’s Island

The Statue of Liberty is THE symbol of New York City and is one of the best things to see in New York City. You can see the Statue of Liberty for free from Governor’s Island as well as from the free Staten Island Ferry.

But of course you can always do an actual tour of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

Tour of Statue of Liberty is covered by the New York Pass.

34. See the Flatiron Building

Once the tallest building in Manhattan at its completion in 1902, Flatiron building a now a landmark building located right next to Eataly and Madison Square Park. The name Flatiron comes from the fact it resembles a clothes iron.

Flatiron Building NYC

Best food to eat in New York City that you should add to your NYC Bucket List

There are some essential food in New York City that you absolutely need to try. Your NYC bucket list is simply not complete without trying all these New York City specialty food.

35. Eat Steak at Peter Luger (cash only)

Like Steak? New York City has some really famous steakhouses and one of the most iconic steakhouse in New York City is Peter Luger Steak House in Brooklyn.

Reservation required and it is cash only. But it is the most iconic steakhouse in New York City for a good reason.

36. Do a New York City Pizza Tour (self-lead tour that is)

Another iconic food in New York City that you absolutely cannot miss is pizza. Unlike the deep dish pizza in Chicago, New York City pizza generally has thin crust.

Joe's Pizza slices in New York City
Joe’s Pizza

There are so many good pizza places in NYC that I really can’t just list a single one, so here are some of the best pizzas in NYC (most are in Brooklyn): Joe’s Pizza, Julianna’s, Lucali, Di Fara, Paulie Gee’s, Scarr’s, Prince St. Pizza, Patsy’s, LB Spumoni Gardens (I quite liked their ice cream too), Roberta’s, etc.

37. Stuff Yourself with Bagel & Lox

Things you have to eat in NYC - Ess-A-Bagel

New York City has the best bagel, there, I said it! If you just want bagels, then check out Ess-A-Bagel, Murray’s Bagels, Tompkins Square Bagels, Sadelle’s, etc.

But if you want lox, then you definitely need to go to Russ & Daughters (although I would suggest getting your own bagel from the list above then get the lox from Russ & Daughters).

38. Grab a Pastrami Sandwich from Katz

Jewish delis are a thing in NYC and one of the most famous one is Katz’s Delicatessen. Before the pandemic there used to be long line to eat there, famous for its legendary pastrami sandwiches.

If you have time, also check out some other Jewish deli in the city and try the other famous Jewish dishes.

39. Eat Dim Sum in Chinatown

Dim Sum is best explained as a Chinese brunch tradition with a large range of small dishes. It’s almost like tapas, which are meant to be shared.

Pre-pandemic, there were a lot of dim sum restaurants in Chinatown and you would need to line up at 10am in order to get in at a decent time.

40. Enjoy Korean BBQ in K Town

Korean BBQ in NYC

If you have never had Korean BBQ then you are missing out! They are quite different from the BBQ you get in Texas (with different types of meat, marination, etc).

K town at Herald Square has some of the best Korean BBQ restaurants in Manhattan, and even K pop mega group BTS has eaten at one of the Korean BBQ places in K Town before.

41. Try the Banana Pudding from Magnolia’s

Banana Pudding Magnolia Bakery best things to eat in NYC

Most people know Magnolia’s from Sex and the City for its renowned cupcakes. However, New Yorkers actually go to Magnolia’s for its banana pudding instead of cupcakes.

You don’t need a big tub, even a small size will leave you more than satisfied, but yeah, definitely try the Banana pudding, you won’t regret it.

42. Eat a Levain Cookie

Levain Cookie NYC bucket list

If there is one cookie you need to eat before you die, that’s the chocolate chip and walnut cookie from Levain Bakery. The bakery opened in 1995 on the Upper West Side and there has always been a long line to get these cookies.

The cookies are so soft and warm and will melt in your mouth. I also suggest you share one cookie with a few others, because it’s so big and sweet but sooooo delicious.

43. Get a Drink at a Speakeasy

New York is known for its Speakeasy and they can be quite an experience. Some of the most famous Speakeasies in NYC include Angel’s Share, PTD (Please Don’t Tell), Employees Only, UES, Bathtub Gin, etc.

Many of the speakeasies in New York City require advanced reservation or you may have to wait hours to get a seat, especially on the weekends at night.

44. Eat Your Favorite Burger at Shake Shack (Madison Square Park location)

Just like how California has In-n-Out, NYC has Shake Shack. Shake Shack started out as a hot dog cart inside Madison Square Park in 2001, but now it’s perhaps the most popular Burger chain in NYC.

While you are there, don’t forget to try their shakes, something they are also known for.

45. Don’t forget the Chicken & Rice from Halal Guys

the halal guys - best things to do in nyc

Halal Guys were THE Halal cart in NYC with its famous Chicken & Rice. Although not only a cart anymore (there are multiple locations in NYC now), it’s still something to put on your NYC bucket list.

Be warned to not use too much of the red sauce, it’s EXTREMELY spicy.

46. Get Fried Chicken from Sylvia’s

If you want authentic Southern Fried Chicken in NYC, you should definitely head to Sylvia’s in Harlem.

47. Have a Pie at Petee’s Pie Company

Petee's Pie

There are a lot of pie places in NYC, but Petee’s Pie is one of my favorites. The most exceptional pie there is the toasted almond chess pie.

48. Get a Slice of Cheesecake in New York City

There are many iconic food in New York City and New York cheesecake is definitely one of them. It would be a shame to come to New York City without trying the famous New York cheesecake.

If you want these classic slices, then do not miss out on Veniero’s Pasticceria & Caffe in the East Village, Eileen’s Special Cheesecake in Nolita as well as Junior’s Restaurant in Brooklyn.

49. Shop and Eat Italian Food at Eataly

One of the most famous “grocery store” and restaurant hall in New York City is Eataly in Flatiron. At Eataly you can find all sorts of Italian groceries and there are a few restaurants inside that are pretty good as well.

Eataly NYC inside

Even if you don’t eat there, checking out Eataly is definitely one of things in NYC you cannot miss.

50. Go to an Outdoor Food Bazaar

Smorgasburg NYC Best things to do in NYC

There are a ton of outdoor (and indoor) food bazaars in New York City, the most famous being Smorgasburg. It “unofficially” announces summer in NYC and eating at Smorgasburg is one of the best things to do in New York City in the summer.

Aside from Smorgaburg New York City has Queen’s Night Market as well as many cultural food festivals in the summer.

51. Eat Authentic Chinese Food in Flushing

If you want to eat really authentic food, you have to head deep in Queens to Flushing. You won’t even feel like you are still in the US when you are there.

flushing NYC food New York itinerary

There are a ton of indoor food courts as well as authentic Chinese restaurants and milk tea (boba) shops.

52. Get a Taste of South America and India in Jackson Heights

Another cool neighborhood to check out if you are into either Indian food or South American food is Jackson Heights in Queens.

Again, you won’t even feel like you are still in the US when you visit this neighborhood (one reason why Indian food and South American food is awesome there).

53. Have a meal at Chelsea Market

Chelsea Market is one of New York’s favorite food hall near the High Line. There are a ton of different vendors and cuisines and even shops in Chelsea Market.

Chelsea Market in NYC photo

Some of the most famous food there is tacos from Los Tacos No.1 and seafood from the seafood market. But you will also find gelato, Thai food, Mexican food and many other delicious food stalls in Chelsea Market as well as flower shops.

Inside Chelsea Market in NYC with Los Tacos No.1 Bienvenidos sign and people lining up

Best Things to do in New York City By Season

One of the best things about New York City is that you get to experience all 4 seasons here. There are a lot of cool things to do in New York City during each season.

Best Things to do in New York City in the Spring

54. Admire the Cherry Blossom in Brooklyn Botanic Garden and Central Park

Best things to do in NYC - Brooklyn Botanic Garden cherry blossom
Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Spring is an extremely pretty season in New York City with all the flowers blooming, in particular cherry blossom and magnolia.

Roosevelt Island Cherry Walk in the spring

Fortunately there are a few really nice places in New York City to see the cherry blossom, such as Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Roosevelt Island and Central Park.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden is covered by the NYC Sightseeing Pass

55. Row a boat at Central Park

From April to November, rowboats are available at Central Park’s Loeb Boathouse.

You can rent by the hour and enjoy the cherry blossom while rowing a boat.

56. Watch Fighter Jets during Fleet Week

Every May, the US Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guards have an annual fleet week celebration. Ships will be docking at New York City and there are performances by the fighter jets.

57. Join the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade

Every St. Patrick’s Day there is a celebration/ parade happening in New York City on Fifth Avenue. The parade started in 1762 and has been happening ever since.

Best Things to do in New York City in the Summer

58. Watch Shakespeare in the Park

Shakespeare in the Park is a theatrical program that plays at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park during the summer in New York City.

Tickets are free but you need to line up early in the morning for a few hours to get the tickets on the day of the performance.

59. Enjoy Movie Nights at Bryant Park

Bryant Park is one of the best parks in New York City and from the end of August to the end of September, there are movie screenings at Bryant Park for free.

The lawn opens at 5pm and you can bring blankets and picnic there.

60. See the Mermaid Parade on Coney Island

Mermaids are real when you come to New York City. Coney Island has a Mermaid Parade to mark the beginning of summer and you will see over 3000 creative individuals from all over New York with mermaid costumes and decorations.

61. Picnic on Governor’s Island with a view of the Statue of Liberty

Riding a bike on Governor's Island with view of Manhattan

Governor’s Island is one of the best places to be in New York City in the summer. There are food vendors, bike rentals, kayak rentals, spas, bars, playgrounds and even luxury camping retreat on Governor’s Island.

You can enjoy the view of the Statue of Liberty while picnicking; it’s definitely one of the best things to do in New York City in the summer.

62. Join the Pride Parade

The NYC Pride March is an event celebrating the LGBTQ community and it is one of the largest Price parade in the world. You will see outlandish outfits, extravagant floats and other festivities during the Price March and many streets of the city will be blocked for car traffic for this event.

63. Day Party at MoMA PS1

Every summer in August MoMA PS1 has a summer music and art party called Warm Up. If you like music and art then you definitely should check out the day party at PS1 as there will be art installations in the courtyard.

64. Check Out the Chinese Garden on Staten Island

Chinese Garden Staten Island

Most people don’t talk about Staten Island when it comes to New York City but it is one of the 5 boroughs of NYC.

There is a free ferry from Manhattan to Staten Island (during the ride you can see Statue of Liberty). There is a really nice Chinese Scholar’s Garden on Staten Island. If you want to get away from the busy city in the summer, this Chinese garden is one of the best places in NYC to visit.

65. Kayak on the Hudson River and East River

One of the best things to do in NYC in the summer is to kayak on the Hudson River (and East River). There are free and expert lessons offered at various locations and kayaking is also free with advanced reservation.

66. Attend a Free Summer Concert at Central Park

Every summer there are a number of concerts happening in Central Park, from SummerStage Festival to Good Morning America Summer Concerts.

If you are in New York City in the summer you should definitely take advantage of this and try to get tickets.

67. People Watch at Washington Square Park

Fountain at Washington Square Park in NYC

One of the most exciting public parks in New York City is the Washington Square Park, next to NYU.

In the summer you can find tons of street performances, protests and proposals at Washington Square Park. You will never be bored hanging out there and see all sorts of people, especially on a beautiful summer night.

68. Pick Strawberries

New York is not just a huge concrete jungle, it actually is really nice to get out of the city and explore some of the farms in Long Island and New Jersey.

Lewin Farm strawberry picking in Long Island New York City

If you are looking for something different or you have kids, then one of the best summer activities is to pick strawberries from a local farm and support the local community.

Check out my detailed strawberry picking guide.

69. Rent a House in the Hamptons

One of the most popular things to do in New York City in the summer is to go to the Hamptons. Gather your friends and rent a house with a pool (or next to the beach if you can afford one) and enjoy a Hamptons summer just like in the TV shows.

70. Visit a Sunflower Farm near New York City

Visiting Sunflower Fields near NYC

Summer is peak bloom season for Sunflowers. There are several sunflower farms not too far from New York City that you should check out.

Most of them are in New Jersey, upstate New York and on Long Island. Some are in a festival format with playground and other kids activities whereas others are just a sunflower maze with cheaper admission cost.

71. Attend a Music Festival

Summer is the most exciting month in New York City as there will be a number of music festivals happening such as Governor’s Ball in Queens and Ezoo on Randall’s Island. Ezoo marks the end of summer in NYC.

72. Do an Ice Cream Tour of New York City

Best Ice Cream in Lower Manhattan New York City

New York City has some of the best ice cream shops and every summer there are new ice cream places coming out every month, faster than I can even sample them!

Some of the most popular ice cream shops in New York City include Van Leeuwen, Momofuku Milk Bar, Morgenstern’s, etc.

73. Bike the Car-Free Streets

Every summer there are a few weekend days in August when New York City closes nearly 7 miles of NYC Streets to cars.

These streets are open for people to run, walk, bike and play.

74. Attend the Annual 4th of July Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island

There is a famous annual Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest (on July 4th) on Coney Island.

You can witness contestants gobble down as many hot dogs as they can (although it’s only about 10 minutes). There are also a lot of pre-show festivities. This event requires a ticket.

Best Things to do in New York City in the Fall

75. Do a NYC Foliage Hike

best fall foliage hikes in new york

Foliage is one of the prettiest times in New York City and to really experience that you will need to do a foliage hike outside of New York City.

Most of the hikes near New York City can be quite rocky and requires a bit of a scramble but the experience and view are totally worth it.

The best time for a fall foliate hike in New York is late October and early November during peak foliage.

76. Apple Picking at a Farm

Early fall is the perfect time to do apple picking with friends and family. You can try all sorts of apples and get cider while you are there.

In addition, many of the farms have activities for kids, such as playground, corn maze, hay wagon ride, etc. It is a super fun day trip from the city for family and friends.

77. Visit a Pumpkin Patch

Queen's County Farm instagram installation

Another great activity in New York City during the fall is to go to a Pumpkin Patch. In particular, the Queens’ County Farm has an instagram worthy flower display that you can enjoy.

Long Island has a lot of pumpkin patches and even farms with pumpkin picking on the vine. Even if you don’t plan to pick a pumpkin, you can always go enjoy the cider donuts, apple cider and enjoy the fun activities at the fall festivals.

78. Dress up for Halloween and Join the Halloween Parade

New York City has one of the best Halloween Parade on the night of every Halloween in the Greenwich Village neighborhood. You will see some of the best costumes during this parade.

What’s even better is if you dress up and become part of the parade. New York City really is the best place to be for Halloween and you will see plenty of people dressed up even on the subway.

79. Get Spooked at Jack O’Lanterns Blaze in Long Island

NYC Halloween Jack O'Lantern Blaze

If you are into lights and pumpkins and have kids, then you definitely should go to the pop-up Halloween event called the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze on Long Island from end of September to early November.

80. Watch Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Another famous parade in New York City is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, an annual tradition since 1924. There are amazing performances, extravagant floats and giant balloon characters.

Best Things to do in New York City in the Winter

Believe it or not, winter in NYC is actually one of the best time to visit New York City with all the holiday festivities and decorations. If you want to spend a magical holiday then you have to visit New York City in the winter.

81. See All the Christmas Trees in New York City

New York City is probably one of the best places in the world to celebrate Christmas. There are SO many different Christmas trees and holiday decorations in the month of December, with the most famous tree at Rockefeller Center.

Read my blog to find out where all the best Christmas Trees are at in NYC.

82. Look at all the Christmas Window Displays

Besides Christmas Trees, all the fancy department stores in NYC reveal their holiday themed window displays such as Macy’s, Saks, Bergdorf Goodman, etc.

Saks fifth Ave Christmas decoration

The theme changes every year but it’s always nice to see all the creativity and festivity that go into these window designs. Saks Fifth Avenue also has a fantastic light show during the holiday season.

83. Ice skate Outdoors

Rockefeller Ice Skating Rink during Christmas holiday in December in the winter in New York City

Doing outdoor ice-skating is one of the best things to do in New York City in the winter. During the winter season, there are several pop up outdoor iceskating rinks in New York City.

Some of the most famous ones are the outdoor rink at Central Park, Bryant Park Winter Village, Rockefeller Center and at Brookfield where you can ice skate with Santa.

Pro tip: The rink at Bryant Park is free but you need to pay for rentals; if you go to the outdoor rink at Rockefeller Center, make sure you go at 7am since it’s less crowded and cheaper!

84. Visit a Holiday Market in NYC

Top-Christmas-Markets-in-Manhattan NYC

There are numerous pop up holiday markets in New York City in the winter and it is one of the most festive things to do in NYC in the winter.

You can find souvenirs, clothing items, Christmas ornaments, jewelry and food at these pop up holiday markets in NYC. Some of the most famous ones are at Union Square, Bryant Park Winter Village, Columbus Circle.

85. Run the New York City Marathon

If you are an avid runner then you definitely need to run the New York City Marathon at least once It is the largest marathon in the world and it happens every early November.

You will run through all 5 boroughs of New York City. Due to its popularity, not everyone who wants to participate can, so be sure to check the official website if you are interested.

86. Grab a Drink at a Holiday Pop Up Bar

I wasn’t kidding when I said New York City is amazing for the holiday season.

There are a ton of pop up or lavishly decorated bars and restaurants in NYC during the winter and grabbing a drink or a bite at these bars/restaurants is definitely a New York City bucket list item.

The most famous pop up bar in NYC is Miracle on 9th Street, however there are so many more. For the complete list, check out my complete list of Holiday Bars and Restaurants in NYC.

87. Watch a Show at Radio City

Radio City Christmas Decoration - Best Christmas Spots in NYC

Watching a show at Radio City is one of the best holiday traditions in New York City, with the famous Rockettes. There are other performances at Radio City during the year so be sure to check it out.

88. Stop by Hudson Yards

Hudson Yards Holiday lights decoration

Hudson Yards is one of the newest development in New York City with its luxury mall, Spanish themed food court, Edge observatory and the famous “Vessel”.

Hudson Yards Xmas Lights

But if you can visit Hudson Yards only once then you have to visit during the holiday season. Hudson Yards puts on an amazing lights display in the entire area with over 2 million lights.

Hudson Yards escalator with lights Christmas in NYC

89. Do a Holiday Movie Tour

Do you love holiday movies? Don’t miss the holiday movie site bus tour in New York!

Regardless of how cold it is outside, you can experience a festive light and movie site bus tour to see places where some of the most famous holiday movies are filmed.

90. Venture Out to Dyker Heights During the Holiday Season

Dyker Heights holiday light in New York City

Dyker Heights is known to have lavish Christmas lights displays and it’s a super instagrammable place in New York City during the holidays.

Dyker Heights is quite far from Manhattan and there is no direct train that goes there. If you want to visit, this is the perfect tour for you.

Dyker Height tour is also covered by the NY Sightseeing Pass and New York Pass.

91. Get Cozy Inside an Igloo

During the winter (and partially due to Covid), there are a lot of “pop up” igloos outside of restaurants. Some of these igloos are super cute and private but need advanced reservation.

Stone St. New York Igloos

92. Join Santa Con in New York City

Santa Con is an annual tradition in New York City where thousands of people dress up as Santa and go to different bars to drink.

Even if you don’t want to join them, you can see lots of Santas running around on the street and on the subway.

93. Watch the Ball Drop at Times Square on New Years Eve

New York City is famous for its New Years celebration with the ball drop at Times Square.

If you can stand the crowd and the cold, watching the ball drop is definitely one of the most unique things to do in New York City.

Best Things to do in New York City if You Are a Sports fan

New York City is awesome for sports fans with so many sports teams to support.

94. Watch the US Open

US Open in New York City

The US Open, the largest tennis tournament in the US, takes places every summer to early fall (end of August and half of September) in New York City in Queens. If you are a tennis fan you absolutely do not want to miss watching the US Open in New York City.

95. Catch a Baseball at a Baseball Game

Mets game in NYC

New York City is known for its baseball teams (and stadiums). If you are a baseball fan then watching a game at either the Yankees Stadium or the Mets Stadium is perhaps the best things to do in New York City for you.

96. Watch a Knicks Game at MSG

If you are an NBA fan then you definitely have to watch the Knicks game at Madison Square Garden and visit the flagship store after.

Other amazing things to do in New York City

97. Watch a Comedy Show

Stand up comedy is a thing in New York City and there are a number of great comedy clubs in New York City.

Some of the most famous ones include Comedy Cellar, Gotham Comedy Club and Carolines on Broadway.

Some of the Comedy Shows are covered by the NYC Sightseeing Pass

98. Party at the House of Yes

House of Yes is no ordinary club in NYC; in fact it is so unique and crazy that it definitely deserves a spot on the New York City bucket list. Unlike regular clubs, House of Yes not only has dance parties, but also performances, costumes and interesting themes.

It’s probably one of the wildest and most interesting clubbing experience you will have in New York City.

99. See the Murals in Bushwick

Mural in Bushwick Brooklyn New York is one of the best things to do in NYC

Bushwick is a neighborhood deep in Brooklyn that has amazing graffiti and street art murals. You can venture out to see all the street art (and grab a slice of pizza at Roberta’s while you are in the area).

100. Go to Photographer’s Disneyland aka B&H Photo

If you are a photographer or videographer (or you simply like camera gears), then B&H Photo is the best place in New York City for you.

I have never seen a bigger store dedicated to video and camera equipments. You will literally find any camera/ lens that you want.

101. Witness Manhattanhenge

Twice a year, photographers (or just anyone really) can enjoy the rare occasions when the sun perfectly aligns with the Manhattan street grid.

102. Pick up a Book from the Strand

Strand Book Store is a New York City landmark shop specializing in new, used and rare books. It is the largest independent/ non-commercialized bookstore in New York.

You can find amazing $1 – $2 used books there. Going to the Strand and picking up a book is definitely one of locals’ favorite things to do in New York City.

103. Play Ping Pong at Spin

New York City has a lot of unique bars and SPIN is definitely one of the most unique and fun bars in NYC.

What sets SPIN apart is that you can actually play pingpong there, making it great for group activities and celebrations.

104. Watch a Performance at the Apollo Theater

Apollo Theater is an independent music hall and a significant venue for African American popular music.

105. See the Animals at the Bronx Zoo

The Bronx Zoo is one of the largest zoos in the United States, with more than 265 acres to explore and more than 8000 animals.

If you have kids, then a visit to the Bronx Zoo is one of the best things to do in New York City with kids.

The Bronx Zoo is covered by the NYC Sightseeing Pass.

106. Shop at the Harry Potter Store

Harry Potter Store in NYC | Things to do in New York City with kids

You don’t have to travel to the UK or Florida to experience the magic of Harry Potter, now you can do it at the one and only official Harry Potter flagship store in Flatiron.

There are multiple levels at the store, here you can find clothes, wands, mugs, Harry Potter themed food and even books.

107. Watch the July 4th Fireworks

Macys 4th of July Fireworks display in New York City

New York City puts on an amazing July 4th fireworks show every year. In the recent years, the fireworks have been on the East River between Manhattan and Queens.

Most people go to Gantry State Plaza Park for the best view point and there are many performances there as well. Some NYC observatories such as the Edge and SummitOne also offer fireworks viewing tickets.

Or if you are lucky enough to have friends living in the luxury apartments in Long Island City facing the water, you can get a private fireworks show.

Best Places to Stay in New York City

HERALD SQUARE OR TIMES SQUARE

Herald Square or Times Square is very central with subway to the rest of New York City, but it’s also very crowded and lively.

Best Hotels to Stay in Mid-town New York CityWestin at Times Square or Hyatt Herald Square.

CENTRAL PARK AREA

Central Park Area is much quieter than Times Square and has access to 1 or 2 subway lines. It’s great for families and older individuals or those that want to visit museums and Central Park.

Best Hotels to Stay near Central Park in New York CityThe Quin Central Park or The Plaza.

NOMAD/ FLATIRON AREA

More quiet than Times Square and Herald Square but still quite Central with good subway access. This is close to Eataly and Shake Shack. 

Best Hotels to Stay near Flatiron in New York CityRoyalton Park Ave or Arlo Nomad.

Royalton Park Ave Best Hotel in New York City
Rooftop of Royalton Park Ave

LOWER EAST SIDE

Lower East Side is trendy with lots of good food and bars and good for couples and younger individuals.

Best Places to Stay in Lower East Side in New York CityCitizenM or Sixty LES.

The Crown rooftop bar Manhattan sunset
The Crown rooftop Bar

FINANCIAL DISTRICT (FIDI)

Financial District is pretty quiet and generally cheaper than the rest of Manhattan. If you want good bang for your buck and quietness then Fidi is the best place to stay in New York City for you.

Best Places to Stay in Fidi in New York CityThe Beekman or Millennium Hilton.

LONG ISLAND CITY

Right across the East River from Manhattan is Long Island City in Queens. It’s only one stop away from Manhattan but LIC has much more affordable accommodation and more space than the city. You can even get rooms with a view of Manhattan skyline.

Best Places to Stay in Long Island City in New York: The Collective Paper Factory, Ravel Hotel, Boro Hotel

Brooklyn

There are a few amazing neighborhoods in Brooklyn right across the river from Manhattan, such as Williamsburg, Green Point, and Brooklyn Bridge Park area. There are tons of restaurants and bars in these Brooklyn neighborhoods and hotels rooms have the amazing Manhattan skyline view.

Best Places to Stay in Brooklyn in New York City: 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, Henry Norman Hotel, the William Vale

Additional New York City Travel Guides

If you want to find out the best way to do all these unique things in New York City, be sure to check out my other New York City travel guides below:

New York City Itineraries & Things to Do

Christmas and Holiday Season in New York City

New York City Seasonal Articles

How to Save Money Traveling to NYC

New York City Food Guide

Other New York City Guides

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the ultimate new york city bucket list with 100+ unique things to do
100+ things you have to do in NEw York City before you die
Ultimate new York city bucket list with 100+ amazing things to do in New York City