Things to do in New York

54 New York bucket list experiences for an epic time in NYC

Last Updated:

New York City also known as the Big Apple, is truly the Epicenter of Arts—a pulsating powerhouse where culture, cuisine, and towering skyscrapers meet. Everyone who visits falls in love with its dynamic energy, a city that never sleeps and constantly inspires. For newcomers, the sensory overload is real: yellow cabs zooming by, a mosaic of languages, and the aroma of street foods mingling with the crisp city air. Sure, you've heard of the Statue of Liberty and Times Square, but let's create a definitive NYC bucket list that goes beyond the postcards.

#1 Roam around Times Square

Times Square

This exciting and colorful stretch of midtown Manhattan jumps to the fore of one’s mind when considering a trip to New York. I would reccommmend visiting Times Square in the evening for truly experiencing the energy of this place. The M&M and Hershey’s store are worth checking out.

#2 Go for a Broadway Show

While at Times Square, your eyes are sure to be ensnared by the Broadway show adverts. Watching a Broadway show is a quintessential New York City experience that you can avail of at a discount if you can secure a ticket from a TKTS booth at Times Square.

Related Read: How to score last minute cheap broadway tickets?

#3 Say hello to Lady Liberty

An iconic symbol of freedom, the Statue of Liberty stands tall in New York Harbor. A ferry ride to Liberty Island grants you a closer look at this monument, and for an unforgettable experience, climb up to the crown for a stunning city view.

#4 Catch stellar aerial views of the city from the Empire State Building/Top of The Rock/One World Observatory

Aerial views of New York City are unbeatable and there is more than one observation deck that you can head to for that. The 102nd-floor observation deck of the Empire State Building as well as the Top of the Rock Observation Deck are great options to catch an unobstructed view of the Big Apple. You can also head to the One World Observatory for a different perspective from the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.

#5 Take a cruise on Staten Island Ferry

Staten island Ferry

Take the Staten Island Ferry to see the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge for free. Avoid peak rush hour to avoid disturbing the throngs of residents who rely on the ferry as their primary mode of transit. This route operates between Whitehall Ferry Terminal and St. George Ferry Terminal.

#6 Explore Central Park

This sprawling urban oasis is a must-visit. Travelers advise against simply passing through Central Park on your route somewhere else. This 843-acre green park is a favorite of locals and visitors alike; you can work out, eat, visit the zoo, and more here. There are 20 playgrounds, 48 fountains, monuments or sculptures, and 36 bridges to view here, making it practically impossible to see everything.

#7 Take the Great Saunter

This is a full-day walking challenge that covers the perimeter of Manhattan. A hefty 32-mile trail that's not for the faint of heart, the Great Saunter takes you through over 20 parks and four borough promenades, offering unique views and a deep appreciation for the city's extensive shoreline.

#8 Enjoy an outdoor cinema at Byrant Park

Bryant Park is known for hosting a variety of events and one of the favorites, particularly during the summer, is their outdoor cinema experience. It's a chance to catch classic films and contemporary favorites surrounded by the dramatic New York skyline—a magical setting that adds to the movie magic. This is also where midtown Manhattan professionals meet to eat lunch, where fashionistas parade during fashion week, and where entertainers show off their skills during Broadway in Bryant Park and Piano in the Park.

#9 Watch the sunset from The Vessel

Disney world

The Vessel, the extraordinary centerpiece of Hudson Yards, provides a beautifully detailed interactive artwork from which you can watch the sunset over the city. The 154 staircases that take you to the top of this 16-story high structure take about 15 minutes to climb.

#10 Live life on the edge at The Edge Observation Deck

At The Edge, you will be at the highest external Skydeck in the Western Hemisphere, offering 360-degree views of New York City. Step out onto the glass floor, lean over the angled glass walls, or sit back and take in the expansive views of New York's skyline and beyond.

#11 Snap an IG worthy shot of the Flatiron Building

Instagrammable spots in NYC

Photograph the iconic triangular Flatiron Building in New York City. The money shot should be taken from the Flatiron Public Plaza, a tiny pedestrian area straight north of the structure. This NYC icon is 22 stories of office space and is known for appearing in countless movies and television productions.

#12 Devour a pastrami sandwich from Katz Deli

This historic eatery has been serving up its famous pastrami sandwich for over a century, and it's an experience that goes beyond taste—it's a bite of New York history. The mouth-watering, piled-high sandwich is a staple of the city and is as iconic as some of the buildings that make up the Manhattan skyline.

#13 The must-visit American Museum of Natural History

This New York City classic is a great place to learn about science. At the American Museum of Natural History, do not miss the gigantic t-rex and other dinosaurs, the planetarium, and the butterfly room. Know that you will not be able to view everything in one day because there are roughly 32 million items dispersed across four city blocks and 25 buildings.

#14 See some of World's greatest art pieces at the MET

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is the most famous museum in the United States. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has masterpieces from around the world, including notable collections from Ancient Egypt and classical antiquity, is an art experience unlike any other!

#15 Go shopping on Fifth Avenue

Disney world

Shopping is a religious experience for many individuals, and the holy grail can be found between 34th and 59th streets. Even if you do not intend to spend your money at high-end stores, travelers recommend taking a trip down Fifth Avenue. Though some argue that Fifth Avenue's boutiques are too pricey to go all-out, the ritzier storefronts coexist with more budget-friendly stores such as Gap, the Disney Store, and Sephora.

#16 Savour some croissants at Lafayette Bakery

For those with a penchant for French pastries, a visit to Lafayette Bakery is non-negotiable. Their buttery, flaky croissants are a small slice of Paris in the heart of New York. Pair one with a coffee for the perfect start to your morning, or anytime you fancy a gourmet treat.

#17 Marvel at the Manhattanhenge

Witness Manhattanhenge, the only time of year when the sunset and sunrise are exactly lined between the east-west streets' skyscrapers. If you happen to be in New York City in May or July, you might be able to glimpse it after 8 PM. The best places to watch the Manhattanhenge are 14th, 34th, 42nd, 57th, and 79th street.

#18 Learn the life of NYC immigrants at Tenement Immigrants

The Tenement Museum, a preserved 1863 tenement structure featuring immigrant experiences, is a great place to learn about NYC's past. As a melting pot of various cultures for centuries, New York City’s view from an immigrant perspective is crucial to human history and the Tenement Museum provides a crystal clear view of it.

#19 Kayak on Hudson river

Kayaking on the Hudson river seems barely possible given its commercial importance. However, during select weekends and weekdays from May to October, you can grab a free kayak and kayaking gear and set out on this voyage. You will also receive some kayaking tips if you need them.

#20 Visit the iconic Guggenheim

Guggenheaim Museum NYC

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, or simply "The Guggenheim," is one of the country's most well-known art museums, and it is as widely known for its cutting-edge design as it is for its works. The halls within are lined with some of Norman Rockwell's, Pablo Picasso's, and Wassily Kandinsky's best work. This museum "never fails to impress." according to visitors.

#21 Meander through Washington Park

In Washington Square Park, smell the flowers, snap a photo with the arch, and just sit and people watch. This small but charming park has appeared in numerous films including When Harry Met Sally and Avengers: Infinity War. Depending on when you visit New York City, you may also be able to relish the Washington Square Music Festival and Movie Night Under the Arch.

#22 Test the ‘Whispering Gallery’ at the Grand Central Terminal

If you place your ear against the tile work in the vaulted junction of pathways on the lower level of Grand Central Terminal, you will discover a hidden gem: a corner-to-corner whispering gallery. The gallery's remarkably beautiful arches are responsible for this extraordinary sonic quirk. The gallery's unusual tile work is known as "Gustavino" tiles, named after Spanish tile craftsman Rafael Guastavino's patented substance and methods.

#23 See world-class modern art at MoMA

You do not have to be a fan of art to enjoy the Museum of Modern Art; this light-filled midtown institution also serves as a shrine to pop culture and twentieth-century history. The museum reopened in October 2019 after finishing an expansion project that added over 40,000 square feet of gallery space and a performance studio with live programming.

#24 Have some cookies from the Levain Bakery

Easily one of the best bakeries in New York City (and that is saying a lot), Levain Bakery must make it to your bucket list. Locals and tourists alike claim their cookies to be the best in the world. Expect a queue at the door and have plenty of time on your hands when you head to any of their outlets.

#25 Spend some quality time at the New York Public Library

New York Library

If you are a die-hard bookworm, the New York Public Library offers one of the most stunning bibliophilic experiences in the world. The New York Public Library is the country's second-largest public library, trailing only the Library of Congress. The library's book collection is vast, with 53 million titles to choose from, so you are sure to find something to love spending some downtime reading.

#26 Get frisky at the Museum of Sex

New York City’s culture permits the unabashed existence of the Museum of Sex, and a visit to this place should make it into every adult’s bucket list. The Museum of Sex has erotic galleries, souvenir shops where you can purchase risque memorabilia, VR strip clubs, and sex-themed playrooms.

#27 Visit the Floating Island

On May 21, 2021, Little Island, a new, free public park pier within the larger Hudson River Park, opened to the public, offering New Yorkers and visitors from all over the world a unique green place unlike any other in the city. Little Island was planned in collaboration with the Hudson River Park Trust and was principally sponsored by a philanthropic grant from Barry Diller and the Diller-Von Furstenberg Family Foundation to the Hudson River Park.

#28 Catch the Dyker Heights Christmas Display

If you want to witness fairytale Christmas, New York City has the perfect place for you in form of Dyker Heights in Brooklyn. Most of the homeowners in this neighborhood start decorating their houses right after Thanksgiving. The best time to see the Christmas Displays at Dyker Heights is between mid-December and New Year’s Eve. If you're visiting the city around this time, watching the Christmas display at Dyker Heights should top your New York Bucket list.

#29 Go neighborhood hopping - Koreatown, Chinatown, Little Italy

NYC neighbourhood

Take advantage of the cultural diversity of New York City by exploring the various neighborhoods like Koreatown, Chinatown, and Little Italy. All of these neighborhoods are known for their culinary and shopping experiences. The best food in these neighborhoods can be found in hole-in-the-wall establishments.

#30 Walk the Brooklyn bridge day and night

The Brooklyn Bridge, which spans the East River, is regarded as one of the city's most stunning architectural marvels. The trek from one side to the other takes around 30 minutes, and admission is free. The bridge is a stop on several of NYC's best walking tours. You can take this walk during the day as well as the night to witness the full glory of this architectural marvel.

#31 Enjoy a slice of New York-Style Dollar Pizza

There are a few places in Manhattan that sell pizza slices for 99 cents or $1, but 2 Bros Pizza, a big franchise with sites all over the city, has to be the local favorite. 99 Cents Fresh Pizza, Percy's Pizza, and Champion Pizza are other noteworthy dollar pizza joints, albeit their prices rise after 10 PM.

#32 Take the Tramway to Roosevelt Island

A trip to Roosevelt Island must be on your list for the scenic beauty of the destination as well as the journey. The Octagon apartment complex, the North Point Lighthouse, the ancient smallpox hospital, and the Roosevelt Island Cat Sanctuary are all fantastic places to visit. Take a ride on the Roosevelt Island Aerial Tram for some amazing sights and a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

#33 Go Shopping at The Strand Bookstore

The Strand Bookstore

The Strand was founded in 1927 on Fourth Avenue, in the heart of what was once known as "Book Row." There were 48 bookstores on Book Row, which spanned six city blocks. The Strand now has over 2.5 million used, new, and rare books in its collection, with topics spanning from the occult to philosophy to business. From Moleskines to coffee mugs, and everything in between, the store offers a constantly changing selection of literary gifts and merchandise.

#34 Discover hidden treasures at the Frick Collection

This extensive art collection, housed in an 18th-century New York townhouse that previously belonged to steel magnate Henry Clay Frick, spans the Renaissance through the end of the nineteenth century. There are numerous permanent galleries in the collection, as well as the Portico Gallery, which exhibits sculpture, pottery, and decorative arts.

#35 Explore the ethnic and cultural diversity of Brooklyn at DeKalb Market Hall

Dekalb Market Hall, Brooklyn's largest food hall, is strengthening the borough's status as a hotspot for inventive culinary dining. The broad lineup at Dekalb Market Hall is painstakingly picked with an emphasis on New York City's ethnic diversity and the objective of supporting local businesses and budding culinary talent.

#36 Spend a day at Coney Island

This famous amusement spot in Brooklyn, known as "the People's Playground," has a fascinating history. During the week and on weekends, most amusement park rides and attractions are open from 12 PM to 8 PM, while some attractions have alternative hours. Individual ride tickets or a day pass to the amusement park for unlimited rides are available.

#37 Catch an NFL game at the New York Giants Stadium

One of the most New York City-like experiences that you could have when you are in the city is to watch an NFL game at the MetLife Stadium, which is home to the New York Giants. Watching a game is a celebrated part of New York City life.

#38 Take a Yankee Stadium tour

Yankee Stadium

The Yankee Stadium tour lets you get a taste of this historical and cultural landmark. During an off-season tour, you get to visit the press box, the dugouts, the warning track, and the Legends Suite. Kids aged 4 years and under are allowed to enter the stadium for free.

#39 Go ice skating at the rink at Rockefeller Centre

No visit to New York in the winter is complete without twirling around the famed ice skating rink at Rockefeller Center. It's an iconic venue featured in numerous movies and TV shows. Glide across the ice with the stunning backdrop of the glittering Christmas tree and the golden Prometheus statue.

#40 Watch life go by at Battery Park (also epic views of Statue of Liberty)

The famous Battery Park is located on Manhattan's extreme southern edge. It is right next to the World Trade Center and the Financial District. The park wraps around the island's tip, with a pleasant riverfront promenade that you may walk all the way around. You can watch a beautiful sunset beyond the Statue of Liberty from the vantage point of Battery Park.

#41 Have a magical time at Aire Ancient Baths

Step into the candlelit tranquility of Aire Ancient Baths and indulge in a luxurious water journey reminiscent of ancient Roman, Greek, and Ottoman traditions. Nestled in the heart of the city, this spa retreat offers a serene escape with its variety of thermal baths and relaxing massages, all within a beautifully restored factory setting.

#42 Catch a glimpse of the The ‘Friends’ apartment

Situated at the corner of Bedford and Grove Street in Greenwich Village, this piece of television history is a staple photo-op for fans of the show. Although the interior scenes were filmed in a studio, the exterior remains a popular tourist attraction.

#43 Have a cronut at Dominique Ansel Bakery

Wait in line and get a Dominique Ansel Bakery cronut, a curious donut-croissant combination. Such is the demand for these little delicacies that you can only purchase a couple of them at once at their outlet. If you order ahead of time online, you can get six cronuts instead of two when purchasing in person. If you consider yourself a foodie, make sure to add this to your New York bucket list without fail!

#44 Read Under the Stars at Albertine Bookstore

Located within the French Embassy, the Albertine Bookstore is a slice of literary paradise. Not only can you find a curated selection of French and English titles, but the store's celestial painted ceiling makes it feel like you're flipping through pages under the cosmos.

#45 Enjoy some Live Jazz Music at a Harlem Night Club

Harlem Club

New York City is unquestionably the world's Jazz capital, and Harlem is its epicenter. This section of the Big Apple generated many of the dynamic collections of outstanding artists who were essential in nurturing the roots of this great American activity. You must head to one of the legendary jazz clubs like Birdland or Blue Note Jazz Club to experience a lively night of Jazz music.

#46 Look at copies of the Gutenberg Bible at the Morgan Public Library

The Morgan Library & Museum, a gallery, and autonomous academic library in New York City began as the personal library of businessman, connoisseur, and cultural philanthropist Pierpont Morgan. Currently, the most significant and famous resident of the library is the legendary Gutenberg Bible, one that you must take a look at if you find the time.

#47 Check out the gorgeous Rose stained glass window at the St. Patrick’s Cathedral

You can not help but be amazed at St. Patrick's Cathedral, whether you are religious or merely on an architectural pilgrimage. The magnificence of the modest medieval church, notably the stained glass windows, is adored by visitors.

#48 Take a photo with the Charging Bull and the Fearless Girl Statue

Kristen Visbal's bronze sculpture Fearless Girl was commissioned by State Street Global Advisors. It faced Charging Bull, a much bigger and heavier bronze monument that stands 11 feet tall and weighs 7,100 pounds when it was first installed. Fearless Girl is intended to "send a message" about gender diversity in the workplace and inspire corporations to appoint women to their corporate boards. The entire ensemble makes a great place for clicking photographs.

#49 Attend the Tribeca Film Festival in April

Tribeca Film Festival

Tribeca Productions hosts an annual film festival called the Tribeca Film Festival. It takes place in New York City every spring and features a wide range of cinema, drama, lectures, music, activities, art, and interactive programs. The event holds over 600 screenings each year, attracting over 150,000 people, and honors indie artists in 23 adjudicated areas.

#50 Take some rad snaps at the Socrates Sculpture Park

Located in Long Island City, Queens, Socrates Sculpture Park is an outdoor museum and public park where artists can create and exhibit sculptures and multi-media installations. With a stunning view of the Manhattan skyline, it's a place that celebrates creativity, community, and the natural environment. The park's programming also includes outdoor cinema, farmers markets, and free yoga classes, making it a vibrant hub for artistic expression and communal activity.

#51 Walk along the Chelsea High Line around sunset

The Chelsea High Line has been transformed into one of New York City's most innovative public areas. What was once a dilapidated railway line has been converted into a park that allows tourists and locals alike to get away from it all while admiring public art, plants, and panoramic city views. This is an excellent place to see the sunset in New York City.

#52 Try Cigars at The Wall Street

If you're intrigued by the allure of a finely rolled cigar, The Wall Street area has several esteemed cigar lounges that offer an extensive selection of premium cigars. These establishments often feature walk-in humidors, comfortable leather chairs, and a selection of spirits to complement your choice, providing a sophisticated experience reminiscent of old New York luxury.

#53 Try the best ramen at ICHIRAN in Times Square

A must-visit for ramen enthusiasts, ICHIRAN in Times Square specializes in Tonkotsu ramen with a unique focus on the individual dining experience. Each diner is seated in a Japanese style personal booth. The rich, pork-based broth and perfect noodles promise a quintessential taste of Japan in the bustling heart of New York.

#54 Party at the 230 Fifth Rooftop Bar

This has to be in your New York bucket list if you're after some of the best views in the city. 230 Fifth Rooftop Bar is one of the largest outdoor rooftop gardens, offering heated igloos in winter. It's an ideal spot for a romantic evening or a night out with friends, providing a memorable backdrop for your New York City adventures.

New York Bucket List