Things to Do in New York City
Located between Central Park and the Hudson River and West 59th Street and West 110th Street, the Upper West Side is known for being one of Manhattan’s more upscale residential neighborhoods, with beautiful brownstones and a generally safe atmosphere. For those looking to experience some of New York’s best cultural sites, the Upper West Side has plenty. For example, Lincoln Center is an important cultural institution in the neighborhood, as the center puts on an array of topnotch music, dance and theater performances. In fact, it is home to some of the world’s most elite performing arts groups like The Juilliard School, The Metropolitan Opera, New York City Ballet and the New York Philharmonic.
There is also the American Museum of Natural History, American Folk Art Museum, The Cloisters Museum and Gardens, The Children’s Museum, Museum of Arts & Design, Nicholas Roerich Museum and New York’s oldest museum founded in 1804, the New-York Historical Society.
Radio City Music Hall is one of New York's leading music and entertainment venues - in fact, its vertical neon sign is a New York icon. Radio City Music Hall is also the largest indoor theater in the world, with the world's biggest stage curtains to match.
Part of the 1930s Rockefeller Center, the legendary 6,000-seat theater hosts the annual Christmas Spectacular as well as a stunning line-up of singers, bands, comedians and performers throughout the year. Take a Stage Door tour to learn about the Radio City Rockettes, explore the glorious Art Deco interior and see the Great Stage.
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.
Located in Manhattan at 175 Fifth Avenue and Broadway, the Flatiron Building is a groundbreaking skyscraper. Built in 1902, it encompasses 22 stories and 307 feet. While not the tallest skyscaper in New York, it’s dramatic Beaux-Arts facade makes it a popular attraction, especially with photographers. What also makes it unusual is, unlike other early skyscrapers in New York that looked like rising towers, the Flatiron building showcases a concept from the Chicago school that divides the facade into a base, shaft and capital, which makes sense as it was designed by Chicago architect Daniel Burnham. The name of building stems from its resemblance to a cast-iron clothing iron. Interestingly, back then the building’s unique shape was thought to create intense updrafts that would lift women’s skirts passing on 23rd Street. If a man tried to sneak a peak, police should shout “Hey! 23 skidoo!” This is thought to be where the phrase comes from.
The Apollo Theater in the heart of Harlem is one of the world’s most famous live music venues. Some of the biggest names in contemporary music have played the Apollo, including Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, and the master of soul, James Brown.
Hear jazz, blues or R&B, or come along on a Wednesday evening for the long-running Amateur Night. Stars who first flexed their talents as amateurs on the Apollo’s legendary stage include Michael Jackson and Lauryn Hill.
Informative and entertaining daily tours highlight the history of the Apollo and the performers who've played there.
The New York Stock Exchange is an icon of commerce and capitalism. Synonymous with Wall Street, it’s the world’s largest stock exchange.
It’s been closed to visitors since 9/11, but the impressive building’s Roman temple design makes an impressive photo stop, complete with soaring columns, carved pediment, lofty proportions, and fluttering US flags.
Located at 460 Madison Avenue, St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the largest gothic-style Catholic Cathedral in the country, as well as the seat of Timothy Michael Dolan, the archbishop of New York. Completed in 1878, St. Patrick’s Cathedral welcomes more than five million visitors each year who come to take part in mass, light candles, attend choir and organ recitals, participate in public programs and view the art and design of the building. Before entering, take in the white marble exterior, pinnacles and 330-foot twin spires reaching toward the sky. Inside explore the many chapels of the church, each one named after a different saint. Additionally, the Rose Window is 26 feet in diameter and showcases a masterpiece of 20th-century century stained glass art. Note: If you’re interested in visiting the crypt where all the Archbisophs of New York are buried you’ll need to make an appointment.
The New York Public Library is actually comprised of four major research libraries and about 100 branches spread throughout Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island, but the Beaux Arts-style Stephen A. Schwarzman Building generally takes the title for itself. Home to a non-circulating collection of volumes on the humanities and social sciences, as well as a circulating children’s collection, this landmark library is renowned both for its signature stone lions out front, and for its free access to some of the most fascinating research materials in the world.
These materials include an archive of New Yorkers’ oral histories; firsthand accounts of Shackleton’s explorations in the South pole; a vast array of historical photos and maps from around the world; some of Shakespeare’s earliest work, from 1623; ancient Japanese scrolls; vintage baseball cards; and famous comic books.
Any fan of the iconic TV show ‘Friends’ will recognize the building at the corner of Grove and Bedford streets in New York City’s Greenwich Village. Although the show was filmed on a studio set, the sextet’s apartment building appeared in the opening credits of every episode and in many scenes of the show as well. There aren’t many tourist attractions around the building, but die hard ‘Friends’ fans won’t want to miss the opportunity to take a picture in front of the building and grab a bite to eat at the ‘Tiny Owl,’ the restaurant on the building’s ground floor that was known in the show as the cafe ‘Central Perk.’ From across the street (and with the help of a little imagination), you can almost hear Phoebe strumming her guitar and singing ‘Smelly cat, smelly cat, what are they feeding you? Smelly cat, smelly cat, it’s not your fault.’
More Things to Do in New York City
This iconic whitewashed house in Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood was built in 1765 and is officially the oldest home in the borough. Now a museum dedicated to the city—and the nation’ —colorful past, the Morris-Jumel Mansion once served as the headquarters for the American Revolution. In addition to exploring the galleries, which are filled with historic artifacts and photographs, travelers can enjoy the expansive gardens, which are tended by local volunteers, and even relax during warmer months with live music performances in the stunning outdoor setting.
Built in the former home of the National Biscuit Company (where the Oreo was born), this Chelsea landmark was opened in 1997 as a multi-purpose market and business complex. A foodie haven, the Market is home to some of the most sought-after treats in New York City (including Jacques Torres Chocolate), as well as a handful of acclaimed restaurants (like sushi hotspot Morimoto), and the studios and offices of the Food Network.
Gently redesigned by Vandeberg Architects, Chelsea Market today features a splashy shopping arcade, but still incorporates much of the vintage ductwork, tiling, and signboards of the original National Biscuit Company. The 1890s version of the structure was divided into two major buildings connected by a pedestrian walkway; that walkway, which runs through the building on its 10th Avenue side, is now a portion of the High Line, a mile-long elevated greenway that repurposes an old stretch of the New York Central Railroad.
Designed in the late 1860s by architects Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmstead and as part of their “Greensward Plan” to beautify a then-young Central Park, this turret-topped castle of schist and granite stands atop Vista Rock, looking out on the woodlands of The Ramble, the Turtle Pond, and panoramic views of the Upper West Side.
Originally built in 1865 as a Victorian Folly – a structure with no intended use beyond sheer delight – it would come to be used as both a weather station and a nature center. In 1919, the National Weather Service began taking wind and rainfall readings from the top floor of Belvedere’s tower, the highest point in Central Park; this practice continues today. Over the next several decades, the largely empty structure of high ceilings and winding staircases fell into increasing disrepair, until it was renovated and re-opened in 1983 as the Henry Luce Nature Observatory.
The Conservatory Garden, located within Central Park, is a serene escape from the fast-paced urban life of Manhattan. It takes its name from a conservatory that stood on site until 1934 but is now a collection of fountains, sculptures and pathways through landscaped lanes. Spread across six acres, the garden is divided into three distinct areas influenced by French, Italian and English styles. It is also a designated “quiet zone” that has become known as almost a secret garden to many. The area is free of runners, bicyclists and dogs, and is a popular place for weddings. The garden has two massive seasonal floral displays: tulips in the spring and chrysanthemums in the fall. Whether you’re strolling through the hedges and flower displays or relaxing on a bench with a book, the Conservatory Garden is a colorful place of calm, natural beauty meant to be savored.
Spanning from just north of Washington Square to 142nd Street in Harlem, Fifth Avenue is often touted as one of the world’s most expensive shopping streets. This is particularly true when walking between 49th and 60th, where stores like Armani, Tiffany & Co., Bergdorf Goodman and the iconic Saks Fifth Avenue. Fifth Avenue is also home to many of New York’s essential attractions and museums, including the Museum Mile which runs from 82nd to 105th and features 10 museums, some of which include The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Jewish Museum and the Museum for African Art. Rockefeller Center, a famous shopping, restaurant and office complex that is also home to NBC Studios, as well as the Flatiron Building, Central Park, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and The Empire State Building are also attractions found on Fifth Avenue. And for a bird’s-eye-view of the city, grab a cocktail at one of the avenue’s rooftop bars like 230 Fifth and Eataly’s La Birreria.
Located in the Flatiron District, specifically at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Broadway at 23rd Street, Madison Square is one of New York’s most important and historical squares. This is where you’ll find iconic buildings like the Flatiron Building, One Madison Park and Metlife Tower, as well as the main focus of the square, Madison Square Park. The park runs from Broadway to Madison Avenue and East 23rd to East 26 St Streets, and is a great place to snap photos of the surrounding architecture, admire 19th-century statues and monuments and stroll through the 6.2 acres of tranquil green landscape. Fun fact: This was the original location of Madison Square Garden and a temporary display area for the Statue of Liberty’s right arm and torch from 1876 to 1882. Along with the green space, Madison Square is renowned for being one of the city’s best shopping areas, especially in terms of home design and housewares.
One of Manhattan’s most vibrant neighborhoods, the East Village has a storied history of New York’s counterculture, art and literature movements, and social and political acts including riots and protests. It was here that punk rock, experimental theater, and even Andy Warhol shows took root in New York City. As such, the area is considered a large contributor the arts and culture of the United States. Museums, libraries, festivals, and theaters can still be found in great number. It is also known for its thriving bar and budget restaurant scene.
The East Village was first developed as an artistic community in the 1950s with its affordable housing costs attracting many students, musicians, and alternative lifestyles. It is known still for its artistic attitude, nightlife, and diversity, though some would argue that the gentrification of the city is changing its culture.
The world's premier modern art gallery, MoMA provides visitors with a master class in modernist and contemporary art. The collection numbers more than 150,000 works of art, along with a sizable film and photography collection. Familiar standouts include Monet's water lilies and works by van Gogh, Rousseau, Picasso, Dali, Warhol, Pollock, Andrew Wyeth, and Frida Kahlo.
Exhibitions are held from time to time, along with performance art and exhibits of architecture, prints, and illustrated books. The building was recently renovated to vastly expand the museum's exhibition space.
The oldest public park in one of America’s oldest cities, Bowling Green offers a serene escape in the middle of New York City’s urban jungle. Situated at the heart of the financial center and beside Wall Street, it is home to the famous Charging Bull bronze statue that has become a symbol of New York. Many visit the bull, which stands for aggression and economic success, to receive good luck.
The public area dates all the way back to 1733, and you’ll notice it is still surrounded by an 18th century iron fence. The teardrop-shaped square is framed with trees and manicured greenery, with an elegant fountain at its center and many benches for people to pause and enjoy.
Historically the space did indeed house a bowling green. It has also served as a trade route, market, and even a cattle field. It has always been a central meeting point in the city. It is even thought that the sale of Manhattan lands from an Indian tribal leader took place on these grounds.
This bank in the heart of Lower Manhattan is one of 12 Federal Reserves in America. Visitors can go behind the scenes of trading rooms, museum and the famous vault—which holds some 900 tons of gold—on a guided small group tour of this iconic finance destination. Informative guides share stories about the banking system, American currency, global trade and importance of gold to the national economy.
Although tours are free, space is limited and most visitors will need to book at least 30 days in advance. Tours of this high-security landmark are ideal for families and visitors receive packets of shredded out-of-circulation cash as they leave the premise. It’s unlikely non-ticketed travelers will be able to enter the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, but the building’s exterior is impressive and still worth wandering past while in Lower Manhattan.
A four-mile strip of elegant public green space between the Hudson River and Riverside Drive on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, this designated scenic landmark was first proposed in 1865, laid out in 1910 (using designs by Frederick Law Olmstead), re-designed in the 1930s by Robert Moses (who incorporated an underground train tunnel still in use by Amtrak), and enlarged by Donald Trump in the 1990s.
In addition to purely scenic paths landscaped with trees, flowers, terraces and bridges, the park includes a wide variety of recreational options, like baseball diamonds, basketball, tennis and handball courts, skate ramps, kayak and canoe launch sites, playgrounds, and fitness paths. As part of the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway, the park contains car-free bike routes, and its 110-slip public marina at 79th Street is part of New York State’s Water Trail. There are several graceful monuments within the park, including Grant’s Tomb, at West 122nd Street.
Things to do near New York City
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