New York is one of the most popular cities to visit in the World! With so many unmissable things to do in NYC, whether you’re here for the Broadway shows, art museums, world class shopping, lazing in Central Park or to just admire the stunning skyline pierced by art deco-style skyscrapers; this is a city break for everyone.

New York is the United States of America’s largest city, a sprawling metropolis spanning 5 boroughs; The Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island. As an Airline Pilot I’m frequently visiting this amazing city with time to explore new places. Here is my definitive guide to visiting the Big Apple with my top 15 things to do in NYC. I’ve given you an interactive New York map at the end of the article, with every one of my best things to do in New York listed.

1. Take Flight over the iconic New York skyline

Madison Square gardens and empire state building from NYC helicopter tours give views acros the New York City skyline. One of the best things to do in NYC and on the new york itinerary. Flight seeing Statue of Liberty, Manhattan helicopter tours, hudson, chelsea, empire state building, central park, brooklyn bridge. One of many things to do in new york.

Flying over the Big Apple is the best way to cover all the New York landmarks in a quick 20 minute helicopter flight.  Soaring high above the Hudson River, the large windows of your NYC helicopter tour provide you with a birds eye views of the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building and Central Park.

NYC helicopter tours depart from the heliport on Pier 6. Tour operators fly a variety of routes around the city, although the most popular trip and certainly one of the best things to do in NYC is the 20 minute flight along the Hudson river.

Read more in my article about NYC helicopter tours.

2. Statue of Liberty

Things to do in NYC visit Liberty island and the statue of liberty

World Famous Statue of Liberty has to be near the top of your things to do in NYC. A gift from the French nation to the United States it represents the Roman Goddess, Libertas. An iconic symbol of Freedom, recognised across the world, this was the first image immigrants were greeted with when arriving to the United States. The iconic green colour is because of the copper sheets used for the skin.

To visit the Statue of Liberty take the ferry from Battery Park (lower Manhattan) to Liberty Island. Although access to the Crown was closed for years of renovations, it is now open to the public. There is no elevator access, so visitors must climb the 377 steps from the pedestal to the crown. Advanced reservations need to be booked on the National Park Service website.

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Lonely Planet Pocket New York City (Travel Guide)
Lonely Planet, Regis St Louis, Cristian Bonetto - Publisher: Lonely Planet - Edition no. 6 (08/12/2016) - Paperback: 256 pages
£7.99 - £1.50 £6.49

3. Empire State Building

One world tower in New York City is one of the places to visit in new york

The art deco-style skyscraper of the Empire State Building dominates the Midtown skyline. At 102 floors and 1,434 ft tall it is the United States 5th tallest building. Visitors can access the open air viewing gallery at the top. I would advise booking tickets in advance, for a specific time-slot and also consider the upgrade to priority queuing (avoids long queues in peak times). If you time a visit for late afternoon, your visit will coincide with the city lights illuminating the skyline as night falls. You should put a visit to the Empire State Building on your list of things to do in NYC.

Empire State Building view from the top of manhattan is one of the best things to do in new york, so put it on your new york itinerary
View from the Empire State Building at Sunset

Read More New York articles in our United States travel Guide.

4. Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge things to do in nyc and on the new york itinerary. Flight seeing Statue of Liberty, Manhattan helicopter tours, hudson, chelsea, empire state building, central park, brooklyn bridge. One of many things to do in new york.

The Brooklyn suspension bridge is one of the oldest in the United States. Spanning the East River it connects Manhattan with Brooklyn. Recently renovated, the bridge spent 6 years from 2010-2016 under repairs and restoration. A pedestrian walkway runs above the traffic lanes and provides impressive skyline views of Manhattan.

Brooklyn Bridge has great skyline views and is one of the best things to do in nyc and on the new york itinerary. Flight seeing Statue of Liberty, Manhattan helicopter tours, hudson, chelsea, empire state building, central park, brooklyn bridge. One of many things to do in new york.
Manhattan Skyline views from the Brooklyn Bridge walkway
Sale
Lonely Planet Pocket New York City (Travel Guide)
Lonely Planet, Regis St Louis, Cristian Bonetto - Publisher: Lonely Planet - Edition no. 6 (08/12/2016) - Paperback: 256 pages
£7.99 - £1.50 £6.49

5. One World Trade Center

Things to do in NYC, visit the observation deck of the One World Tower and the World Trade Center Memeorial.

Also known as 1 World Trade Center or Freedom Tower it was built on the site of the Twin Towers of the World Trade center, which were tragically destroyed in the September 11th terrorist attacks in 2001. Construction began in 2006 and completed in 2013, with the opening of the tower in 2015. At a full height of 1776ft (a reference to the US declaration of independence in 1776 ), it is the worlds 4th tallest building.

I highly recommend booking tickets on their website in advance to avoid queuing in peak times. As one of my top things to do in NYC, also pay a visit to the 9/11 Memorial (see #6 below).

Read More New York articles in our United States travel guide.

6. National September 11 Memorial & Museum

World Trade Centre Memorial in New York City is one of the places to visit in new york

Also known as the 9/11 Memorial, it commemorates the 2977 victims of the September 11th Terrorist attacks in 2001 and World Trade Center bombing in 1993. Two 1-acre pools form the footprints of the Twin Towers with the names of victims inscribed on bronze plates attached to walls of the memorial pools.

7. Central Park

Boat house and rowing on central park thing to do in nyc and central park

The most visited urban park in the United States, Central Park is a leafy expanse covering 778 acres of Manhattan. A destination in it’s own right, the park is home to: Boating lake, restaurants, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Central Park Zoo, Strawberry Fields, Skating rink and sporting fields. Rowing on the boating lake is one of my top things to do in NYC. It costs $20 for 1 hour on the lake.

Rowing in central park things to do in nyc and a central park tours

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8. Times Square & Broadway

Time Square Night things to do in nyc and on the new york itinerary. Flight seeing Statue of Liberty, Manhattan helicopter tours, hudson, chelsea, empire state building, central park, brooklyn bridge. One of many things to do in new york.

The neon lights and flashing billboards illuminate Times Square at night. Situated on Broadway and in the Theater District this is the place to come for musical lovers. The term Broadway refers to the 41 professional theatres located in this area. The majority of Broadway shows are musicals. If you’ve not booked ahead, go to the TKTS booth in Time Square (47th Street) where they sell discounted and last minute show tickets.

Read More New York articles in our United States travel guide.

Flights to Bahamas with Bahamas Air Tours from Florida to Bahamas. Unique Island Hopping TOurs across the Bahamas Out Islands

9. Fifth Avenue

Things to do in nyc; Shopping on 5th avenue. Free things to do in new york city.

Considered to be one of the most expensive and best shopping streets in the world; going shopping or just strolling along 5th Avenue is one of the top things to do in NYC. Home to a host of famous shopping brands, it’s also got some of New York’s landmarks and historic buildings. Exploring fifth avenue and you’ll come across; Trump Tower, St Patrick’s Cathedral, Rockefeller Centre, Sacks Fifth Avenue, Empire State Building, Flatiron Building and New York Public Library.

Sale
Lonely Planet Pocket New York City (Travel Guide)
Lonely Planet, Regis St Louis, Cristian Bonetto - Publisher: Lonely Planet - Edition no. 6 (08/12/2016) - Paperback: 256 pages
£7.99 - £1.50 £6.49

10. Grand Central Station

Grand Central Station things to do in nyc and on the new york itinerary. Flight seeing Statue of Liberty, Manhattan helicopter tours, hudson, chelsea, empire state building, central park, brooklyn bridge. One of many things to do in new york.

Perhaps one of the most recognisable railway terminals in the world, Grand Central Station opened in 1871 and has since served the New York population with suburban rail services. The main concourse has the most recognisable and world famous four-faced brass clock on top of the information booths. The American flag was hung here in the days following the September 11th terrorist attacks. Head to the east side of the main concourse for a labyrinth of food shops at the Grand Central Market.

11. Wall Street

Wall street manhattan things to do in nyc and on the new york itinerary. Flight seeing Statue of Liberty, Manhattan helicopter tours, hudson, chelsea, empire state building, central park, brooklyn bridge. One of many things to do in new york.

Wall Street has a wealth of historical buildings in the Financial District of lower Manhattan.  Take a walking tour of the area and you can visit the NY Stock Exchange, Federal Hall (pictured) and Trinity Church. Its only a short distance to the World Financial Center and World Trade Center sites also.

Read More New York articles in our United States travel guide.

12. High Line Park in Chelsea

Chelsea High Line Public Park is one of the free things to do in new york city

The High Line Park is a 2.33 km long park built on the disused New York Central Railroad, an elevated section of track running through the Chelsea district. One of the great free things to do in New York, you will get your walking shoes on and enjoy the greenery of this urban oasis. Meandering through the Red brick buildings of the Meat Packing District, the 5 million annual visitors have spurred a redevelopment of this area of Manhattan. See my interactive New York map for route details.

Sale
Lonely Planet Pocket New York City (Travel Guide)
Lonely Planet, Regis St Louis, Cristian Bonetto - Publisher: Lonely Planet - Edition no. 6 (08/12/2016) - Paperback: 256 pages
£7.99 - £1.50 £6.49

13. Metropolitan Museum of Art

Metropolitan Museum of Art one of the best things to do in nyc and on the new york itinerary. Flight seeing Statue of Liberty, Manhattan helicopter tours, hudson, chelsea, empire state building, central park, brooklyn bridge. One of many things to do in new york.

Known simply at “the Met”, this is the largest art museum in the United States. Over 2 million works of art form this remarkable museum collection. The museum is free to visit and is located on the eastern boundary of Central Park.

14. Empire Fulton Ferry State Park

Fultron Ferry State park is a free things to do in new york city

For those picture perfect views of Brooklyn Bridge and lower Manhattan, you’ll want to head to the Empire Fulton Ferry State Park and Brooklyn Heights Promenade. Take the walkway across Brooklyn Bridge to cross the East River.

Read More New York articles in our United States travel guide.

15. Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum

Concorde at Intrepid Museum, things to do in new york

Visit the aviation icon of Concorde at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum.  Famous for flying across the Atlantic between New York and London in 3 hours and 30 minutes at twice the speed of sound. You can book onto an expertly guided tour of this amazing aircraft and sit in the seats which were once host to famous celebrities and politicians. Read more about a visit to Concorde at the Intrepid Museum.

Got any Questions about my top 15 list, or want to share your own travel tips?
Leave me a comment below!

Top 15 things to do in NYC Map

loading map - please wait...

1. NYC Helicopter Tours: 40.701476, -74.009153
2. Statue of Liberty: 40.689571, -74.045041
3. Empire State Building: 40.748395, -73.985646
4. Brooklyn Bridge: 40.706669, -73.997705
5. One World Trade Center: 40.712910, -74.013270
6. National September 11 Memorial & Museum: 40.711363, -74.013385
7. Central Park: 40.769914, -73.975024
8. Times Square: 40.755619, -73.986852
9. Fifth Avenue: 40.759611, -73.976312
10. Grand Central Station: 40.752700, -73.977300
11. Wall Street: 40.706063, -74.008922
12. High Line Park: 40.756032, -74.003279
13. Metropolitan Museum of Art: 40.778738, -73.963265
14. Empire Fulton Ferry State Park: 40.704170, -73.992220
15. Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum: 40.764706, -74.001203

 

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12 comments

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    • Hi Sharon, That’s great to hear, I hope you have a fantastic trip. I’m a frequent visitor to NYC, I’m here right now for New Years celebrations! Mark

    • Are you biased because you are a New Yorker? It’s like me saying I hate Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square in London!

  • I haven’t visited New York since just after 9/11. We took the PATH train over from New Jersey and got off at the World Trade Center site. We came up the long escalators and were greeted by two empty holes where the towers had stood.

    The breath left my chest, because I realized in stunning, sudden clarity that many of the 9/11 victims had taken the same train on that day, not realizing the terrible, unspeakable plans that were already in motion.

    It would be great to go back to see the memorials…perhaps it would provide me with some personal closure for that moment and for the memories of that day.

    • Hi Shanna, thanks for sharing your story. The architects of the 9/11 memorial have certainly achieved a reflection on the vastness of the devastation that day. Watching the water flow into the abyss gives us a sense of reaching out for something gone, never to return. The designer describes this as “Reflecting Absence”.

  • Hi, my husband and I went to New York last week for the first time. We only stayed for 4 nights, but we crammed in 12 of the places that you suggested. Absolutely amazing place…..love it!!

  • I’d also suggest that if you can’t visit the Empire State Building or don’t have the time, then check out “Top of the Rock” at Rockefeller Plaza as an alternative. You get a great unobstructed 360° view of Manhattan. It’s a great spot for taking in the skyline, as well as photography.

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