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Things to Do in New York City

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Madison Square Garden
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Madison Square Garden is one of the world’s most famous sports and entertainment stadiums. Dubbed the Garden, the 1960s-era indoor arena stands on the site of the much-lamented Beaux Arts Pennsylvania Station.

The Garden hosts around 320 events a year, and is the home of the New York Rangers hockey, New York Knicks basketball, and New York Liberty women’s basketball teams. You can also catch circus acts, athletics meets, dog shows, conventions, lacrosse, wrestling, boxing, or a rock concert.

There are several other venues within the complex, including the WaMu Theater, an expo center, restaurants, and retail outlets.

All-access daily tours go behind the scenes, and a series of plaques commemorate the achievements of athletes and performers on the Walk of Fame.

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Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine
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The Cathedral of St. John the Divine is one of the oldest buildings in Morningside Heights (a neighborhood in Manhattan’s Upper West Side) and is the home of the Episcopal Diocese of New York. The historic cathedral is not only one of the oldest buildings in the area – it’s one of the most secretive. A tour through the cathedral yields the perceptive visitor many visual treasures, from a rare gold triptych by Keith Haring (his last work before his death) to an unusual sculpture of the Archangel Michael, the decapitated head of Satan, and nine giraffes (!).

The cathedral is home the largest rose window in the United States (the fifth-largest in the world), constructed from 10,000 stained-glass pieces. Other stained-glass windows depict historic, religious, and modern scenes. The cathedral is also one of the few buildings in Manhattan that allows visitors to access its roof, which provides a fantastic view of the New York City skyline.

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Columbia University
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Columbia University is the oldest institution of higher learning in New York, and the fifth oldest in the USA. Fans of history and of architecture will be interested in the university’s historic buildings, which have been highlighted in many feature films. Most notable is Low Memorial Library, which appears in the New York City Register of Historic Places. Built in the Roman classical style, the former library now contains the university’s visitor center and its administration offices.

Just below the library is a large plaza – a popular gathering place for students. Past a promenade (called College Walk) is the south campus where Butler Library, Columbia’s main library, stands. South campus also contains the student center, student residences, classroom buildings, and the Graduate School of Journalism. North of Low Library is Pupin Hall, a national historic landmark due to the atomic research done there by Columbia's scientists.

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TriBeCa
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Located in lower Manhattan, TriBeCa, or “Triangle Below Canal,” is known for its cobblestone streets, low crime rate, trendy restaurants and high-quality boutiques. Enjoy sashimi tacos, lobster ceviche and tuna tataki at Nobu, an upscale Japanese restaurant, or for something more budget-friendly, Tamarind Tribeca, which offers delicious chicken tikka masala, punjabi mutton and lobster masala. If you’re sightseeing, visit the Hudson River Park, featuring 550 acres of green along the Hudson River, or the Skyscaper Museum, which offers a look into the history of New York City skyscrapers and introduces visitors to important industry people. If you’re visiting in the spring, check out the Tribeca Film Festival to see inspiring independent and family-friendly films.

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Bethesda Fountain
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Located in Central Park on the lower level of Bethesda Terrace, Bethesda Fountain, or “Angel of the Waters,” features a neoclassical eight-foot-bronze angel holding a lily on top of a tiered fountain. Bethesda Fountain is considered not only one of the most beautiful fountains in New York, but also in the world. It is one of the city’s largest fountains, at twenty-six feet high by ninety-six feet wide. The angel, designed by Emma Stebbins, was the only sculpture commissioned as park of Central Park’s original design. During the initial stages of Central Park’s planning, the idea was to create a welcoming “open-air hall of reception” where visitors could enjoy views from a terrace overlooking the lake. They also wanted something that blended in with the surrounding nature, which was to be the focus of the park. Bethesda Fountain was a fitting choice then, and still is today. Additionally, when the Croton Aqueduct was opened in 1842 to bring fresh water to New York City.
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Seaport District NYC
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Located next to the Financial District where Fulton Street meets the East River, South Street Seaport is a historic neighborhood known for its attractions, shopping, restaurants, nightlife and harbor views. In the summer, locals flock to the area to have beers and frozen margaritas on the pier as well as catch the water taxis and ferries to sites like the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge and Governors Island from Pier 16. Browse the many shops like Victoria’s Secret, Britches of New York, The Body Shop and Filmline Gallery. You can also get to know the area’s rich sea commerce history through the Seaport Museum, as well as ships docked at Pier 17 that act as living museums. For dinner and drinks, simply hop along the many venues on Pier 17 or head to Beekman Beer Garden, which offers a full menu, refreshing beers and close-up views of the Brooklyn Bridge.

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Manhattan Bridge
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Connecting western Brooklyn with southeastern Manhattan, the Manhattan Bridge spans an impressive 6,855 feet across the East River. The suspension bridge allows for passage by vehicle, train, pedestrian, and bike. Construction on the historic bridge began at the turn of the century in 1901. Now it carries more than 450,00 people back and forth each day (the majority on public transport.) It remains an icon of New York City, shown in numerous depictions of the city on film and television.

Its design was revolutionary at the time, and served as a model for many of the long-span suspension bridges built after it. In 2009 the American Society of Civil Engineers named it a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. An arch and colonnade built to mark the bridge’s entrance from Manhattan still stands as a city landmark. With its four-columned towers and long cables, it is particularly beautiful to behold as the sun is setting.

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United Nations Headquarters
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One of New York's most iconic buildings, the United Nations' official headquarters takes up several blocks of real estate by the East River in Midtown Manhattan. The complex is made up of several buildings, including the domed General Assembly Hall, visitors center and the very 1950s, high-rise Secretariat building. Landscaped gardens decorated with outdoor sculptures surround the complex and flapping flags fly in the breeze.

The best way to get a feel for the international goings on is to take a guided tour. Running throughout the day, the 45-minute tours provide valuable insights into human rights history, the UN and its missions, and the UN complex.

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Strawberry Fields (John Lennon Memorial)
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Located in Central Park, Strawberry Fields encompasses 2.5 acres dedicated to Beatles band member John Lennon. Opened in 1985, five years after Lennon was murdered outside his home at The Dakota apartments, the memorial is named after The Beatles’ hit “Strawberry Fields Forever.” The focus of the memorial is a stone mosaic with inlaid tiles spelling out the word “Imagine,” named after another famous Beatles’ song. This is where you’ll catch impromptu jam sessions by fans, especially on the anniversary dates of John Lennon’s birthday on October 9 and death on December 8. It’s also a place for vigils, such as after the September 11th attacks, as well as memorials for other beloved musicians. While the entire memorial is a place of peace, the Garden of Peace is particularly special, filled with plant life and rocks donated by 150 different countries for contemplative meditation.

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More Things to Do in New York City

Washington Square Park

Washington Square Park

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Central Park Zoo

Central Park Zoo

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Central Park is a must-see for any visitor to New York City, and the small zoo within it is no exception. The daily feedings of the sea lions and the penguins always draw a crowd (the sea lions do tricks for their snacks), and the paths through the zoo’s five acres lead through a variety of habitats designed to recreate the animals’ natural environments. Around the sea lions’ pool (which has glass sides to better see the sleek animals under water) is a perennial garden with plenty of bench seating.

The Tisch Children's Zoo lets children get up close and personal with domestic animals like sheep, goats, cows, and even a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig. Little ones can pop a quarter in an animal-feed dispenser and let the animals eat from their hands, and they can touch small bronze sculptures of the animals next to each pen that emit the sounds of the animals they represent.

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Lower East Side

Lower East Side

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What was once a destination for immigrants arriving in America and later, the hub of gritty New York City, is today one of Manhattan’s trendiest neighborhoods. Visitors will find unique boutiques, small galleries and plenty of character in this part of New York that’s bordered by East Houston, Essex, Canal Street and the Bowery. Travelers venturing into Chinatown, NoLita, SoHo and the East Village should be sure to add a stroll through the Lower East Side to their itinerary.

Known by locals as Loisaida because of its large Spanish-speaking population, this neighborhood is home to plenty of Latin-influenced cuisine. But travelers will find plenty of diverse flavors, including the iconic Katz’s Delicatessen, made famous in When Harry Met Sally. Travelers who want to take a look at Manhattan’s earliest inhabitants can check out the Tenement Museum, which showcases the life of the city’s earliest immigrants.

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Lower Manhattan

Lower Manhattan

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New York City is more than the bright lights of Broadway, the billboards of Times Square or the boutiques of SoHo. Travelers who want to make the most of their visit to the Big Apple should be sure to include a stop in Lower Manhattan, where plenty of culture, history and landmarks reign supreme. Whether it’s a couple of hours or an entire day, there’s something for every kind of visitor in this diverse destination.

History lovers can check out the African Burial Ground Museum or the 9/11 Memorial, while outdoor enthusiasts can revel in the sunshine of Battery Park or the cruise along the waters on the Staten Island Ferry. Bargain shoppers will love the deep discounts of iconic Century21 and the unique stores located at the South Street Seaport.

Lower Manhattan is also home to the world-famous financial district, which means a visit to Wall Street, the New York Stock Exchange and its massive bull are an absolute must!

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American Museum of Natural History

American Museum of Natural History

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Located on Central Park West at 79th, the mission of the American Museum of Natural History is “to discover, interpret, and disseminate information about human cultures, the natural world, and the universe through a wide-ranging program of scientific research, education, and exhibition.”

The museum is expansive, and you can easily spend an entire day exploring it. Founded in 1869, the institution features space shows, an IMAX theater and permanent exhibitions on animals, space, dinosaurs, Theodore Roosevelt, human origins, global cultures and the environment. Check out the Hall of Reptiles and Amphibians to learn about the anatomy and behavior of these creatures, or the Hall of Primitive Mammals, which traces the evolution of lower branches of mammals like the armadillo and sloth. Additionally, the Hayden Big Bang Theater will make you feel like you’re experiencing the event in real time.

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Castle Clinton National Monument

Castle Clinton National Monument

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Before Ellis Island there was Castle Clinton. This historic Lower Manhattan destination once served as the first immigration stop for foreigners moving to the U.S., with some 8 million people passing through its doors between 1855 and 1890. And while the iconic brick building has had many lives—as a beer garden, theater and even an aquarium—today it serves as a national monument and museum.

Visitors tend to agree that while Castle Clinton holds a historic place in the story of New York City and is certainly worth checking out, the interior offers only a couple of displays that showcases stories of the Big Apple. Travelers heading to the Statue of Liberty can purchase tickets inside and make Castle Clinton part of the Battery Park experience.

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Bryant Park

Bryant Park

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Located between 40th and 42nd Street and Fifth and Sixth Avenues, Bryant Park encompasses 9.6 acres of public green space and recreation. For those looking for a respite from the bustling city, Bryant Park provides a relaxed atmosphere with historical monuments, colorful flower beds, London plane trees, the 300-foot lawn and the Southwest Porch lounge where you can relax on rockers and swings and enjoy free wireless. Play games like chess, backgammon and ping pong or get a free petanque lesson Monday through Friday from 11am to 6pm. For something whimsical, Bryant Park also features a timeless carousel. In the winter, the park is full of festive cheer with an ice skating rink as well as a makeshift village of “streets” lined with artisanal holiday shops. And no matter what time of year it is, visitors can enjoy quality food and drinks in the park. While Bryant Park Grill features American cuisine and a rooftop for aerial city views, Bryant Park Cafe is an informal outdoor cafe.

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Trinity Church Wall Street

Trinity Church Wall Street

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An Episcopal Church located in Lower Manhattan at the intersection of Wall Street and Broadway, Trinity Church is one of the oldest churches in the United States. In 1696, a small group of Anglicans were granted approval from Governor Benjamin Fletcher to purchase land for a new church. The next year, Trinity Church received a charter from King William III of England. Today, the Trinity Church you see is the third building in the same location, built in 1846 in a Neo-Gothic style. Until 1890 when the New York World Building was completed, its 281-foot spire and cross was the highest point in the city. Along with the building’s impressive architecture -- including intricate stained-glass windows, sandstone facade, Gothic spires, dramatic pointed arches and heavy bronze doors depicting bible scenes -- Trinity is known for its vibrant music program and dedication to outreach.

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Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts

Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts

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Located between West 62nd and 65th and Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues, the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts is a cultural hub focused on music, dance and theater. Each year, the center puts on hundreds of performances throughout 26 venues. The center is composed of 12 elite performing arts organizations, some of which include The Juilliard School, The Metropolitan Opera, New York City Ballet and the New York Philharmonic. Along with taking in a performance, visitors can opt for a guided tour of Lincoln Center to see what goes on behind the scenes and to get more in-depth knowledge on the performances and venues. Tours are available in English, as well as Spanish, Japanese, French, Italian, German, and American Sign Language upon request. Throughout the year, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts puts on various major events, some of which include Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, the New York Film Festival and the Mostly Mozart Festival.
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Harlem

Harlem

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The legendary borough of Harlem has been famous in New York City since the 1920s, when the Harlem Renaissance brought about a cultural revolution among African-Americans in New York with a focus on the arts. Today Harlem is an increasingly gentrified area of classic brownstone townhouses, iconic jazz clubs, churches, cultural centers, cocktail lounges and soul food restaurants.

Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard (125th Street) is Harlem’s main roadway. The neighborhood's slew of sights include the Apollo Theater, the Studio Museum, the Cathedral of St John the Divine, Striver's Row, Astor Row and the Museum of the City of New York. Take a local-led walking tour, catch amateur night at the Apollo Theater on a Wednesday, order up some soul food at Sylvia's on Lennox Avenue or listen to the glorious sound of full-throated gospel at the Abyssinian Baptist Church on a Sunday.

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Top of the Rock

Top of the Rock

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Outdoor terraces provide protected viewing on the 67th and 69th floors, while the top 70th floor has unobstructed, open-air, 360-degree views. You can stay for as long as you like at Top of the Rock to watch the changing panorama of New York City unfold. While the views are similar to those from the Empire State Building, lines are shorter and the experience is less crowded at Top of the Rock. Plus, you get to snap an unbelievable photo of the Empire State!
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Grand Central Station

Grand Central Station

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Manhattan's truly wonderful Grand Central Station (meticulously restored in the 1990s) is a train terminal in the grand tradition from the glory days of the nation's railroads.

Built for the New York Central Railroad between 1903 and 1913, Grand Central is the world's largest train station and a vital New York attraction (even if catching a train is the last thing on your mind).

The main features of the lofty, opulent Main Concourse are its huge arched windows, ticket booths, the famous four-faced clock, grand staircases, chandeliers and, up above, the cerulean blue ceiling gilded with astronomical details. Statues and a Tiffany glass clock dominate the Beaux Arts exterior.

Join a public or private tour of the terminal's highlights, drop into the famous Oyster Bar while you're here, grab a snack at any number of food outlets, or join the 125,000 commuters who pick up a train or subway from Grand Central every day.

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New York City Chinatown

New York City Chinatown

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New York's Chinatown is a heady blend of cafes, sidewalk food stalls, street vendors, and traditional herbal medicine shops. There's more than 150 years of history to explore in this fascinating ethnic enclave, including the Museum of Chinese in America and a Mahayana Buddhist temple.

Bargain for not-quite-right perfumes and handbags, dine on dim sum at an authentic Chinese tea house, shop for exotic Chinese antiques, and find unusual ingredients in the Asian food markets to cook up a Chinese storm.

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New York City Little Italy

New York City Little Italy

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Like its neighbor Chinatown, Little Italy is a vibrant remnant of Manhattan’s legendary multicultural makeup. A great area for city walks, the focus is Mulberry Street and Old St Patrick’s Cathedral.

It’s a historic neighborhood of cobblestone streets, tenements, pizza bars, and Italian restaurants. The most authentic remnant of Little Italy is the section of Mulberry Street between Broome and Canal streets.

In September Mulberry Street hosts the 11-day San Gennaro street festival, with parades, street vendors, and outdoor food stalls.

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