Five boroughs, millions of people and hundreds of cultures. Once you visit New York, you get hooked! It’s such a magical city where you can easily spend a whole week without getting bored. There are so many things to do in New York from must-see attractions to hidden local gems and planning a trip can be overwhelming. That’s why we listed here our 18 favorite and best things to do in New York to help you plan your own trip.
Read also: Best hotels & hostels in New York
How to get in New York?
By plane: The best way to enter New York is by plane if you travel overseas. There are many flights a day from all over the world arriving in one of the three major airports, JFK, EWR or LGA. We flew from Brussels to JFK with Brussels Airlines.
Visa requirements for New York, USA
To visit New York you’ll need to apply for an ESTA, which is an Electronic System for Travel Authorization for the USA. Please note: visa requirements keep changing for every country. Please make sure you check all visa and passport requirements in your own country before booking your tickets or via the search box below.
Hop in a helicopter and see New York from above
Believe us, whether it’s your first time or your 20th time, a helicopter flight in New York is a once-in-a-lifetime experience! During a helicopter flight, you’ll see Manhattan’s skyline like never before and have the most amazing 180-degree views over Central Park, the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, and many more. Worth every dollar!
$200 – $250 per person (duration 15 – 30 minutes)
Reasonably priced helicopter flights in New York are the ones of Helicopter Flight Services, which we highly recommend
Capture the best views of NYC from the Top of The Rock Observation Deck
Our favorite lookout spot in New York is definitely the Top of the Rock Observation Deck. Only taking the elevator to ascend 70 floors is already worth buying the entrance ticket. From Top of the Rock Observation Deck, you can see Empire State Building on one side and Central Park on the other. As it uses a timed-ticketing system, we highly recommend booking your tickets before you go so can easily plan your visit around sunset or early in the morning to enjoy the best views.
8 am-midnight (last elevator at 11 pm)
$38-$42 per person
This flexible Top of the Rock ticket allows you to plan your visit whenever you like, within a month of your scheduled ticket date
Get an ice-cream at the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory
The Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory is a place you just have to pass by. Not only the ice cream here is delicious, but the location and building make the experience even better! It’s located next to the Brooklyn Bridge in DUMBO, one of the most popular neighborhoods in New York City. As it’s a very Instagrammable place, expect more expensive prices. But still, highly recommend for everyone who loves great views. And of course ice cream!
1 pm – 9 pm (Tuesday – Sunday)
Grab lunch at Chelsea Market
Chelsea Market is a large indoor food & shopping hall that has something for everyone, from crafts, artisanal cheese to fancy chocolates. There are a lot of cute bakeries because the building was originally the factory where the Oreo cookie was invented. How cool is that!? Chelsea Market is located just across the High Line, NYC’s most beautiful elevated park. We recommend grabbing lunch at Chelsea Market first to have a small picnic afterward at the High Line.
7 am – 2 am (Monday – Saturday)
8 am – 10 pm (Sunday)
Chelsea Market, New York City
Take a walk on the High Line
After grabbing lunch at Chelsea Market, we love to take a walk and discover the High Line. The High Line used to be a rail track which went out of use in 1980 and got transformed in a beautiful, public elevated park home to lots of greenery and open-air artworks. There are different spots to get on the High Line and it runs from Hudson Yards to the northern edge of Chelsea. Wonderful views on the city, check!
7 am – 10 pm
The High Line, New York City
Enjoy a morning run in Central Park
Whether you love jogging, running or having an ordinary walk, Central Park is the place to go! Any day of the week and any time of the day, you’ll find large groups of people running the different ‘loops’ in the park. The full loop around the park is just under 10 kilometers and it goes from flat to sometimes quite hilly. But even if you’re not into running 10K, you can easily shorten or cut off some of the distance as there are many other small roads along the way. Another beautiful loop is ‘The Reservoir Path’, which goes around the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir and is only 2,5 kilometers. Regardless of which loop you take, a morning run is not only a great way of exercise but also a lovely way to do some sightseeing. We just loved it!
6 am – 1 am
Running in Central Park was so addictive, that we ended up running 18 kilometers in a row. You can check the loop we ran here.
All paths are marked whether it’s for bikes or pedestrians, so it’s easy to navigate.
Always run counterclockwise and stick to the main loops or the reservoir track so you don’t get lost.
Make sure to bring water with you or some dollars to buy it one of the vendors inside the park.
Download a complete Central Park running map here
Treat yourself to a sunset sailing cruise
A sunset sail cruise is an unforgettable way to watch the sunset over New York’s impressive skyline. There are different cruise options, ranging from party boats to luxury champagne cruises. We hopped on board of the Shearwater Classic Schooner of Manhattan by Sail and can’t recommend this sunset sailing cruise enough! We departed in Lower Manhattan, near the 9/11 Memorial, sailed along the Hudson River, saw Statue of Liberty from very close, and watched the sunset over New York’s impressing skyline. Breathtaking views, a romantic setting, a nice crew, and a beautiful boat. Simply awesome!
$45-$100 per person (2 hours)
We recommend booking the sailing cruises of Manhattan By Sail. They are the best! You can even choose to take a wine-tasting or champagne brunch sailing experience if you’re celebrating something special.
Bring a sweater or something warmer with you, as it can be quite chilly on the water.
You can bring your own snacks with you or pre-order plates before you hop on board.
Cross the Brooklyn Bridge by foot
Visiting New York isn’t complete if you would skip visiting the Brooklyn Bridge. This iconic and charming bridge connects the two boroughs, Manhattan and Brooklyn and is a must-see when you’re in New York. The Brooklyn Bridge is in total 1,6 kilometer long and will take you around 30 minutes to cross. (30 minutes more if you like to enjoy the views and take some epic shots as we love to do) You can either choose to start crossing the Brooklyn Bridge from the Manhattan side or the Brooklyn side. (Click on any of the two links, to get a detailed view on Google Maps.) Both starting points are great and will give you fantastic views on NYC’s skyline.
Brooklyn Bridge, New York City
A great way to return to one of both sides is by taking the NYC Ferry for only $2.75 per person. (same price as a subway ride)
Have a fancy cocktail at the Westlight
This is a recommendation we got from our lovely Belgian friend (and famous tour guide in NYC) Patrick Van Rosendaal and a true hidden gem if you ask us! The Westlight is a rooftop bar located on the 22nd floor of the William Vale hotel in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and offers amazing views of New York’s skyline. Go there early enough in the afternoon, order some yummy cocktails, and watch the sunset. What a place to stretch your legs after a day exploring!
Craft beers are around $9, wines & cocktails around $14-$18 (which are average prices in New York)
The Westlight, Williamsburg Brooklyn
Explore New York on a bike
When the sun is out, there nothing we love more than renting a bike and explore a city like New York at our own pace. There are so many people cycling around and the roads are super safe. Above all, you get to see so many more places and it’s actually faster than taking a cab.
If you drive through Central Park, you need to stop at the truck of Wafels & Dinges and get a delicious Belgian waffle. So good!
Shop til you drop in SoHo
SoHo is the most popular neighborhood in New York for shopping and with a reason! From lovely cute boutique shops to the trendy retail stores, you’ll find everything here. SoHo is located in Lower Manhattan and starts just south of Houston Street and is everything north of Canal Street, between Broadway and Crosby. Even if you can’t afford to buy anything, it’s a nice place to walk through.
SHOP OPENING HOURS
Most shops are open from 10 am – 8 pm, except on Sunday when most of them open from 12 am – 6 pm.
Stop at Jack Wife’s Freda in Lafayette Street, our favorite lunch spot!
Go to Times Square early in the morning
Times Square is by far the most crowded place in New York, but a must-see! When you go early in the morning you’re not only avoiding the crowds, you can get some nice shots too. But of course, it’s also a fascinating place to go when it gets dark to check out all the iconic lights and billboards.
New Times Square, New York City
Stroll around charming Stone Street
Stone Street is historically one of the oldest streets in New York and one of the last remaining streets with cobblestones. The street has a lovely atmosphere and is filled with plenty of cozy bars and restaurants. Especially during the summertime, it’s a great place to enjoy some outdoor dining.
FAVORITE PLACE TO GO
Definitely Adrienne’s Pizzabar for the best pizza in town!
Fall in love with the street art in Bushwick
If you’re a fan of stunning street art, include a stop in Bushwick. It’s the most interesting and hippest neighborhood in New York and home to many breweries, trendy bars, restaurants, and vintage shops. Count a few hours to discover all the lovely spots and street art or join an interesting guided graffiti tour where you will get more insight into the history of Bushwick too.
FAVORITE PLACES TO GO
Roberta’s (they claim to be one of the best wood-fired pizza spots in the world)
The Bushwick Collective (one of New York’s largest open-air gallery with the best street art)
L Train Vintage (lovely vintage shop)
Milk & Pull (great place to have a well-brewed cup of coffee)
One of these great graffiti tours if you like to walk around with an experienced guide.
Check out Smorgasburg, largest open-air weekend food market
If you’re spending the weekend in New York, you need to check out Smorgasburg, which is the largest open-air food market in the United States. It’s a great place to hang out in the afternoon with over 100 vendors to buy food and drinks from while enjoying some killer views on New York’s skyline. On Saturday you can find Smorgasburg in Williamsburg and on Sunday in Prospect Park.
Every Saturday and Sunday from April through October, 11 am – 6 pm
Enjoy epic 360-degree views from the One World Observatory
A visit to the One World Observatory is something you can’t skip. It’s located at the top of the One World Trade Center (or also called Freedom Tower) and located in Lower Manhattan. A Sky Pod elevator brings you to the 102nd floor in 47 seconds, which is already an experience in itself. But then when you arrive at the top the views are simply stunning. Definitely a must-do!
9 am – 9 pm (last entry at 8.15 pm)
One World Observatory, New York
This Skip-the-Line ticket for the One World Observatory
After a visit to the One World Observatory, you can go to the reflecting pools of the 9/11 Memorial which is located just south of the One World Trade Center. (open daily from 7.30 am – 9 pm) The memorial itself is free to visit, but tickets are required to enter the museum where you can listen to personal stories of survivors, family, and victims. You can get Skip-the-line tickets for the 9/11 Memorial Museum here.
Explore the Big Apple with the Hop-on Hop-off bus tour
A classic one… But a Hop-on Hop-off bus tour is a great way to explore all the different boroughs in New York in a short amount of time and skip the stress of finding your way. Hop-on, hop-off means literally you can jump on and off the bus as many times as you want and on each bus, there are English-speaking guides available + audio headsets with commentary in multiple languages. The Hop-on Hop-off bus tours of Big Bus (which are our favorites) arrive every 15 to 60 minutes at each stop and have 5 different routes where you can choose from.
Tickets for the Hop-on Hop-off Big Bus tours here. (available for 1 day, 2 days or 3 days)
Save money and get the Sightseeing Pass
Saving the best for last! The Sightseeing Pass is a true money saver for everyone that wants to make the most out of their trip and visit several popular attractions. There are over 100 attractions to choose from and there is no limit to the number of attractions you can visit per day. You could even save over $800 in admission costs just by having a weekly Sightseeing Pass! Interesting right… And how does it works? You get the Sightseeing Pass that’s right for you (valid for a year from the date of purchase) and you choose the attraction you want to visit on the spot. At the ticket window of each attraction, you scan your pass and you’ll get your ticket for free admission… That’s how simple it works.
There are many options and starts from up to 1 day to 10 day passes. For example a 4 days Sightseeing Day Pass costs $239 per person (including unlimited Hop-on Hop-off bus travel for the duration of the pass) and a Flex Pass for 5 attractions costs $139 per person. (valid for 30 days)
Check all the different options and Sightseeing Passes here.
Now you’ve read all the best things to do in New York, you might be ready to go. Following websites can help you plan the perfect trip:
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