1. Climb to the top of the Empire State Building
The main observatory deck is on the 86th floor and offers some of the best views in the city.
2. Have afternoon tea at The Plaza
It might be the most expensive tea and sandwiches you’ve ever had, but it will get you inside glimpse at the world-famous hotel – and the experience is the ultimate New York City bucket list experience!
3. Admire the lights of Times Square
4. Visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met)
With over 2 million pieces of art work in its permeant collections, make sure you leave plenty of time to stroll through this museum!
5. Explore the winding pathways and bridges of Central Park
The Bethesda Tree Walk is one of my favorite trails; it passes by Bow Bridge, the Bethesda Terrace, and the Alice in Wonderland Statue. It’s an easy walk and perfect if you’re visiting with kids. Read through this post on more ideas for things to do Central Park with kids.
6. Watch the sunset from The Edge at Hudson Yards
7. See a Broadway show
If you’re not picky about which shows you see, then be sure to stop by the TKTS booth in Times Square to get discount tickets to a huge variety of award winning shows, often with some of the best seats in the house! If you’re visiting with kids, check out these tips for Broadway shows for kids.
8. Attend a service at St Patrick’s Cathedral
You can find the Mass schedule online, or if you’d rather not attend a service, just stop by to admire the architecture and the peaceful atmosphere.
9. Find the best view of Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge from Pebble Beach in Brooklyn
10. Walk the length of The High Line
My favorite time to walk this pedestrianized walkway is early in the morning with a cup of coffee.
11. Have a bagel for breakfast
I highly recommend Ess-a-bagel; they have a huge variety of bagels and cream cheese flavors, but my favorite is a classic bacon, egg and cheese sandwich!
12. Have a cupcake at the original Magnolia Bakery on Bleeker Street
13. Play on the big piano at FAO Schwarz
The FAO Schwarz store is now located in Rockefeller Center, and the big piano (which was danced on by Tom Hanks in the Movie Big) is now mirrored on the ceiling!
14. Watch the sun set behind the Empire State Building from Top of the Rock
One of my favorite places to watch the sun set in New York City, I prefer the view from up here since you can actually see the Empire State Building as you look across the city. Find other places for the best views of the New York City skyline here.
15. See the Statue of Liberty from the Staten Island Ferry
16. See a show at Madison Square Garden
Whether it’s a basketball game or a stadium tour for a famous artist, shows at The Garden are legendary!
17. Try all of the food at Chelsea Market
One of the best places in the city to try a little bit of everything all in one place; Chelsea Market offers food from all over the world.
18. Look for the Friends building and Carrie’s apartment in Greenwich Village
19. Visit Ellis Island
Tickets for Ellis Island – and the nearby Statue of Liberty – sell out quickly so be sure to buy them in advance.
20. Visit the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
Be sure to leave time to see the Sculpture Garden as well as all of the indoor exhibits.
21. Visit Strawberry Fields and the John Lennon Memorial
22. Grab a late night chicken and rice from The Halal Guys
Make sure to bring cash, look for the original Halal Guys (generally the ones with the longest lines!), and ask for extra white sauce!
23. Go shopping on Fifth Avenue (even if it’s only window shopping!)
If you happen to be there over Christmas, check out the holiday window displays; the stores go all out and the displays are incredible! Make sure to read through my guide to NYC at Christmas with kids if you’ll be there with kids over the holidays).
24. Find the best slice of New York pizza
25. Sit and people watch in Bryant Park
There is almost always something going on in Bryant Park but it’s also a great place to sit (maybe with a slice of pizza!) and people watch.
26. See the animals at the Central Park Zoo
Check the schedule and be sure to make time for the penguin feeding and the sea lion feeding.
27. Admire the architecture of The Vessel
28. Explore the catacombs under St Patrick’s Cathedral
This is an incredible way to see a different part of the cathedral than visitors usually see, as well as learning more about the city’s past.
29. Practice your magic at the Harry Potter Store
Be sure to get to the store early to get into the virtual queue, check out the exclusive Harry Potter New York merchandise, and grab a butterbeer (or, even better, a butterbeer ice cream!)
30. Take in the New York City Skyline from One World Trade Center
31. Ride the SeaGlass carousel in Battery Park
Made up of 30 fiberglass fish, this carousel is like no other in the world!
32. Try authentic Chinese food food China Town
As well as food from China and Hong Kong, this is a great place to try authentic food from Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam as well.
33. Admire the Grand Central Station Terminal
34. Take a photo on Washington Street, the most photographed street in DUMBO, Brooklyn
Search Instagram for DUMBO (which stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) and you’ll find photos of Washington Street! You can perfectly frame the Manhattan Bridge between the buildings on the street and if you’re really careful, you can line up the Empire State Building in the back! This is a great thing to do on a solo trip to New York City as well!
35. Tour the Natural History Museum
If you’re from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut the amount for admission is ‘pay what you wish’ but make sure you bring a state ID.
36. Try a slice of the famous Junior’s Cheesecake
37. Experience the Color Factory
This interactive, colorful place not only immerses you in the joy of color, but provides some amazing photo opportunities!
38. Have “what she’s having” at Katz’s Deli
Made famous from When Harry Met Sally, this deli serves up the best pastrami in the city! Grab a sandwich and find the booth Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal sit in during the movie (it has a placard so you can’t miss it!)
39. Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge
40. Stop and smell the roses at the New York Botanical Garden
Look out for the tulip trees outside of the Library building, the 275 year-old red oak tree, and one of the largest rock gardens in the world.
41. Sip champagne in a roof top garden
42. Bask in the peaceful atmosphere of the Oculus
43. Admire the talent at Ellen’s Stardust Diner
Incredibly talented singers and dancers will entertain you while you wait for your food – many Ellen’s alumni have gone on to star in Broadway shows such as The Lion King, Wicked, and In the Heights.
44. Sip a cappuccino and nibble macarons at Laduree
This Parisienne bakery is famous for its macarons, but they also feature exquisite, delicate pastries (the framboise éclair is incredible!) Sit outside to people watch along Madison Avenue.
45. Explore Greenwich Village and find the Stonewall National Monument
46. Buy a book from Strand bookstore
Browse from a huge collection of books (18 miles worth, to be exact!) – the store was featured in the Netflix Christmas movie Dash and Lily!
47. Drink craft cocktails at a secret speakeasy
Try Angel’s Share in the East Village, Employees Only in Greenwich Village, and UES on 2nd Avenue. If you’re looking for passwords or not sure where to go to find these locations, be sure to follow their social media accounts for up to date info!
48. Visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum
49. Find the best place for coffee and donuts
50. Take a tour from a local
New York City has some of the best tours, and I don’t just mean the Big Red Bus tours (although those can actually be a great way to get your bearings in the city!) There are food tours, cocktail tours, bike tours of Central Park, ghost tours, walking tours of SoHo and Chelsea, even a tour of the Financial District if that’s your thing! Chat to your tour guide to get all the inside information on the city (including recommendations for local places to eat!) and make sure to tip them well!
Click for a printable PDF version of the New York City bucket list