I’ll be honest with you… there are so many things to do in New York City that even thinking about making this list is quite daunting.
But I’m going to try my best!
Will I miss stuff? Absolutely! But you can be assured that you’ll love everything we put on this list. And feel free to leave a comment if there is something you love that we’ve missed.
I’ve tried to list both “local” tips and well-known touristy things that are still worth checking out.
Don’t forget to buy a mobile data plan for your phone when you visit. Check out The Savvy Backpacker’s Guide To The Best Prepaid Data Plans For the USA.
Find The Perfect Slice of Pizza
One of the best things to do in New York City is eating lots of pizza.
Many an argument has been had over the “best” pizza in NYC — so we’re not even going to try. But we can list our favorite pizza spots in NYC so you can decide for yourself.
- Prince Street Pizza: Always extremely busy joint with very little seating. Some of the best slices in the city. See on Google Maps (SoHo/NoLita)
- Mama’s Too!: Newcomer to the NYC pizza scene that both locals and critics love. Not many seats. See On Google Maps (Upper West Side)
- John’s Of Bleeker Street: NYC pizza institution. Only sells full pies. See On Google Maps (West Village)
- Rubirosa: Amazing thin crust pizza. Full pies only. See On Google Maps (SoHo/Little Italy)
- NY Pizza Suprema: Another longtime local favorite. No frills. Sit down or takeaway. See On Google Maps (Midtown/Madison Square Garden/Penn Station)
- Joe’s Pizza: Much loved by NYU students, locals, and hungry tourists. No frills. Limited seating. See Locations on Google Maps (West Village)
- Scarr’s Pizza: No frills local favorite. Small bar in the back and takeaway slices in front. See On Google Maps (Lower East Side)
- Sal and Carmine Pizza: Neighborhood favorite for big, classic NYC slices. See On Google Maps (Upper West Side)
- Kesté Pizza: Higher-end pizza joint. On Google Maps (Greenwich Village)
- Arturo’s: Serving coal-fired pizza since the 1950s. They also have live jazz multiple nights a week. See On Google Maps (Greenwich Village)
- Emily: Gourmet pizza and burgers. See On Google Maps (West Village & Brooklyn)
- Lombardi’s: Oldest pizza joint in the US and still very popular. See On Google Maps (Little Italy)
- Grimaldi’s Pizzeria: Very popular spot. Excellent pizza. Always busy. See On Google Maps (DUMBO, Brooklyn & Flatiron)
- Juliana’s: Neighbor of Grimaldi’s. Also very popular and always busy. See On Google Maps (DUMBO Brooklyn)
- Best Pizza: Excellent slices of NYC-style pizza. See On Google Maps (Williamsburg, Brooklyn)
- Lucali: The hottest pizza restaurant in NY. Getting a table is tough. See On Google Maps (Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn)
Take A Deep Dive Into A Neighborhood With A Good Guidebook
I know it might sound weird for a travel website to suggest buying an “old fashion” guidebook but we still love them. Having easy access to local information is extremely beneficial and most guidebooks have self-guided walking tours that hit the neighborhood highlights.
If nothing else, a guidebook is usually worth its weight in gold for the restaurant recommendations that have been broken down by neighborhood.
I’m a big fan of Lonely Planet NYC.
GET LOST IN THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART (MET)
The Met is the jewel of NYC’s museum scene so if you just visit one museum then this should be the one to check out. It’s one of the largest museums in the US and its collection spans more than 5000 years — from mummies to modern art. Don’t expect to see everything as it will wear you out.
- Admission: $25 (pay-what-you-wish for NY Residents)
- See On Google Maps
- Offical Met Website
- Take A Specialized Met Guided Tour
Local Tip: The Met has a really nice rooftop bar/cafe that has great views of Central Park and the city’s skyline.
Spend An Afternoon In Central Park
Central Park is one of the things that makes NYC such a magical place — and it undoubtedly that this massive green oasis helps keep its citizens stay little saner.
You can easily spend multiple hours in the park and not see everything. We recommend starting at the southern end of the park and making your way up. You can also pick up park maps at a few information points in the park if you want to explore specific points of interest.
Personally, we love enjoying a picnic lunch in the park. There is a Whole Foods Market at the southwest side of the park (i.e. Columbus Circle – See On Google Maps) where you can buy whatever you need (including prepared foods).
More Highlights of Central Park Include:
- Biking The Park: Central Park has an excellent bike path that snakes through the entirety of the park so a bike is a nice way to get around! Here is a list of the multiple bike rental companies.
- Go For A Row In A Boat: Renting a rowboat is a fun way to spend an hour or two in the park. Boats cost $15 per hour (cash only), $4.00 for each additional 15 minutes with a $20 cash deposit. Visit Website
- Take A Walking Tour: Get to know the park’s history with a walking tour. There are free walking tours and paid walking tours.
- More Fun Things: Central Park has plenty of other fun activities and Central Park Tours, Bike Rentals, Carriage Rides, etc.
See NYC From Above
New York City is magical when seen from above — it’s one of the few times the city actually feels peaceful. There are a handful of tall buildings that have observation decks but the big three are Top Of The Rock at Rockefeller Center, The Empire State Building, and One World Observatory at the One World Trade Center.
Personally, we’re fans of Top Of The Rock at Rockefeller Center. That’s because you get to see the city skyline (including the Empire State Building and One World Trade) and Central Park. But anywhere you choose is going to be a great experience.
Expect to pay around $40 per ticket and booking online is highly recommended.
- Official Top Of The Rock Website
- Official Empire State Building Website
- Official One World Observatory
- Empire State Skip The Line Tickets
Local Tip: Most observation decks sell a dual ticket which gives you access to visit during the day and again at night.
Get Inspired at The MUSEUM OF MODERN ART (MOMA)
NOTE: The MoMA is closed due to renovation until October 21, 2019
Fans of modern art should head directly to the MoMA. In addition to housing major works like Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans and van Gogh’s The Starry Night, the MoMA contains many other impressive works.
And fans of not spending money should visit every Friday from 4-8 pm because tickets are free (but get there a little early because the line gets very long).
- Admission: $25
- Free entry every Friday 4-8 pm
- Official Website
- Skip The Line Tickets and Guided MoMA Tour
- See On Google Maps
Explore The West Village and Greenwich Village
Another one of the best things to do in NYC is spending some time exploring its diverse neighborhoods.
The West Village and Greenwich Village are much-loved neighborhoods in NYC are packed with charm and steeped with counterculture history. This is the place where New Yorkers wished they lived if they could afford it. It’s also home to NYU so there is always a youthful vibe.
The neighborhood is filled with many of the city’s coolest and hippest bars, restaurants, coffee shops, retail shopping, and the iconic Washington Square Park. So we suggest exploring the neighborhood during the day and then coming back at night to see how the area truly comes alive.
Hit Up A Rooftop Bar
One of the best ways to spend an evening in the Big Apple is by chilling out on one of NYC’s many rooftop bars — there are even a few that have heating during the winter. The main downside is that you’ll always pay a premium for drinks but the atmosphere makes up for the prices.
Here are a few recommended spots but this certainly isn’t an exhaustive list:
- CloudM: CloudM has a fairly spacious rooftop terrace and a stylish indoor bar as well. There is a laidback vibe and great views of the financial district and midtown Manhattan. See On Google Maps (Lower East Side/SoHo)
- Wythe Hotel: For some of the best views of NYC you have to head across the river into Brooklyn. Case in point… the Wythe Hotel’s rooftop. Their art-deco rooftop bar has a breathtaking unobstructed view of Manhattan’s skyline. See On Google Maps (Brooklyn)
- Broken Shaker: The Broken Shaker has a tropical feel and its outdoor garden gives this spot a nice atmosphere. It also has some very solid city views. See On Google Maps (Gramercy/Midtown East)
- The Polynesian: Sometimes you just want to hang out at a cool tiki bar — which is why we love The Polynesian. The outdoor terrace has that laidback island vibe and they pour tasty tropical cocktails. See On Google Maps (Midtown West/Hell’s Kitchen)
- The Lookup: For one of the best views of the Empire State Building head to The Lookup. In addition, this bar is rarely too crowded so finding a seat shouldn’t be too difficult. See On Google Maps (Midtown)
- Ophelia Lounge NYC: This is the kind of spot you hit up if you’re looking for a laidback and classy kind of night. The cocktails are solid and the views are even more impressive. See On Google Maps (Midtown East)
- Gallow Green: This spot is super hip thanks to its garden vibes. They even heat it in the winter so this is a nice year-round destination. See On Google Maps (Chelsea)
- Refinery Rooftop: Another laidback rooftop bar with great Empire State Building views. See On Google Maps (Midtown)
- Empellon Al Pastor Rooftop Bar: Upscale Mexican streetfood + a beautiful rooftop? Yes, please. It does get busy thanks to the after-work crowd. See On Google Maps (Midtown East)
- 230 Fifth Rooftop Bar: The largest rooftop bar in NYC and it has excellent Empire State Building views. There are VIP tickets available on Friday and Saturday nights that cost $40 — but you get three drinks and you don’t have to wait in line (I don’t think you’re required to buy these tickets, though). It’s a good spot for people watching but the food/drinks are nothing to write home about. See On Google Maps (Midtown)
- Mr. Purple: Soak in the breathtaking views of both downtown and uptown from this Lower East Side rooftop bar. See On Google Maps (Lower East Side)
Take A River Cruise
We love seeing the city from the water and luckily there are plenty of river cruises — from huge touristy boats to intimate sunset cruises on small sailboats. Most cruises last between 2-3 hours and you can expect to pay $45-$80/person but the prices can be higher on more specialty cruises.
If you’re on a budget, take the free Staten Island Ferry! This ferry runs between lower Manhattan and Staten Island about every 20-30 minutes 24/7. The ferry also goes by the Statue Of Liberty so it’s a nice way to check off two things from your bucket list.
See NYC’s Highlights On An Open Top Bus
Yes, these kind of buses are ultra touristy but it’s honestly one of the best ways to get a “lay of the land” and to see a lot in a short amount of time — which is great in a big city like NYC. Tickets are typically around $50 for 24-hours but you can pay a little more for 48-hour tickets. Book your tickets here.
Catch Some Live Jazz, Daddy-O
New York City is the best place in the world to see live jazz — you can find a show, whether in a hole-in-the-wall joint or at a famous venue, just about every night of the week.
Note: Most jazz clubs charge a cover and/or have a minimum spend on food/drinks.
Here are a few jazz joints worth checking out:
- Blue Note: A truly legendary jazz venue. Small, expensive, but great acts. See On Google Maps (Greenwich Village)
- Village Vanguard: Another iconic jazz club that’s hosted every famous jazz performer. Fairly small space but the prices are reasonable. See On Google Maps (West Village)
- Birdland: Large space with great music. Prices are reasonable. See On Google Maps (Midtown/Theatre District)
- Smalls: Tiny no-frills spot with nice music and good prices. Lots of younger talent. See On Google Maps (Greenwich Village)
- Jazz Standard: This is one of the city’s largest jazz clubs. They host both new and established acts. As an added bonus, they serve BBQ from restaurateur Danny Meyer. See On Google Maps (Midtown East)
- Smoke Jazz & Supper Club: If you want great jazz and a fixed-price meal then Smoke is an excellent option. Nice, relaxed atmosphere. See On Google Maps (Upper West Side)
- Bill’s Place: Bill’s Place is located in the basement if an old Harlem brownstone which was a speakeasy during Prohibition. It’s a very small, no-frills spot — it’s basically like you’re in Bill’s living room. It’s BYOB (they don’t sell alcohol). Reservations required since there are only about 15 seats. $20 cash at the door. See On Google Maps (Harlem)
- Fat Cat Jazz Club: The place to go to play pool, shuffleboard, and ping-pong while listening to students from Juilliard play their jam sessions. See On Google Maps (West Village)
- Minton’s Playhouse: Unassuming Harlem jazz bar with great jazz and nice quality food. See On Google Maps (Harlem)
- Paris Blues: Another old-school local joint in Harlem with live jazz. Two drink minimum but no cover. Friendly folks. Open since 1968. See On Google Maps (Harlem)
Discover A Hidden Speakeasy
You’ll never have trouble finding a place a get a drink in NYC but there are a few hidden bars that you’ll never discover unless you seek them out. These days, all these hidden speakeasy bars aren’t really that “secret” but their hidden/kitschy nature is still kind of fun.
By the way, these speakeasy joints are universally expensive so expect to pay $15-$20+ for a cocktail.
- Please Don’t Tell: You enter through a hotdog joint called Crif Dogs and then find a phonebooth in the back that’s actually a hidden door to Please Don’t Tell. It’s a small spot but there is a no standing rule so it never feels crowded — plus they serve up hotdogs from Crif Dogs. See On Google Maps (East Village)
- Manhattan Cricket Club: Located behind a big green leather door inside the Burke & Wills Restaurant, the Manhattan Cricket Club is a fancy cricket-themed bar with high-end cocktails. Laidback vibe. See On Google Maps (Upper West Side)
- Bathtub Gin: Located behind an innocuous door inside The Stone Coffee Company, Bathtub Gin is a Prohibition Era-style speakeasy that specializes in gin-based drinks. They also have burlesque and jazz nights. See On Google Maps (Chelsea)
- Little Branch: Located behind an unmarked door, Little Branch is a tiny basement bar that makes some serious cocktails. See On Google Maps (West Village)
- Attaboy: Press a buzzer and an unmarked black metal door will open, inside you’ll find Attaboy — an intimate but laidback speakeasy bar with expert bartenders. In fact, there is no menu so let the bartenders make something interesting. No reservations. See On Google Maps (Lower East Side)
- Angel’s Share: This Japanese cocktail lounge speakeasy is actually kind of hard to find (but it’s still always packed). Hidden inside a Japanese restaurant (Village Yokocho), Angel’s Share has a no-standing policy so it never feels busy (but that makes it hard to get a seat). See On Google Maps (Lower East Side)
Take A Walking Tour
We love walking tours because they’re an excellent way to really get to know a city (or even neighborhood). We suggest browsing Get Your Guide to see if any of their tours look interesting but here are a few cool looking ones:
- Street Art Tour
- 3-Hour Food and History Tour
- 2-Hour Cupcake Tour of Greenwich Village
- Wall Street Tour
- 5.5 Hour NYC Tour
Of course, there are also a number of free walking tours where you tip your guide at the end. These are an excellent option if you’re on a budget.
See Modern American Art at The Whitney Museum
The Whitney Museum is one of America’s premier museums for 20th and 21st-century American art. Their collection is always changing so it’s a nice place to revisit as well.
The Whitney also has some nice outdoor space on its rooftop (including a cafe) so be sure to check that out.
- Admission: $25
- Pay-What-You-Wish on Fridays from 7 pm-9:30 pm.
- Visit Offical Website
- See On Google Maps
See What’s New At The Guggenheim Museum
Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Guggenheim Museum is one of the city’s most recognizable buildings. The museum features an always-changing temporary collection as well as a small permeate collection.
- Admission: $25
- Saturday from 5–8 pm is Pay-What-You-Wish but we suggest arriving early to beat the line which wraps halfway around the building.
- Visit The Website
- See On Google Maps
Housed inside a former Gilded Age mansion, the Frick showcases the impressive private collection of industrialist Henry Clay Frick. The collection contains many works by European masters like Vermeer and Rembrandt. The building itself is also impressive — including its beautiful garden.
Eat NYC’s Best Cookie at Levain Bakery
In our opinion, the absolute best cookie in NYC comes from Levain Bakery. These things are massive, soooo good, and worth the wait in line. They have a few locations in NYC.
- See Locations on Google Maps (Upper West Side, Harlem, & Upper East Side)
Stretch Your Legs On The High Line
This former elevated rail line has been converted into a 1.45-mile-long urban greenway and it’s now one of the most popular places to stroll in NYC. The High Line does get busy during peak times since it’s such a popular attraction.
Eat Everything at Chelsea Market
Chelsea Market is an indoor fool hall that’s filled with multiple food vendors offering just about every kind of food — from amazing tacos and Cambodian sandwiches to burgers and lobster.
It does get very busy here around lunch so expect a crowd.
Local Tip: There is a fairly well-hidden cocktail bar under the Chelsea Market called The Tippler. The drinks are solid, they often have a DJ spinning tunes, and it is rarely crowded.
Local Tip: Los Tacos No. 1 is located in the market and it’s often reggarded as one of the best taco spots in NYC.
Walk The Brooklyn Bridge
The Brooklyn Bridge is easily the most iconic bridge in New York and walking the mile between lower Manhattan and Brooklyn is a lot of fun.
That said, it does get very crowded so you might want to visit in the morning or later in the evening to avoid all the selfie sticks.
See What’s New At the New Museum
The New Museum is Manhattan’s only solely dedicated contemporary art museum. They’re always displaying something new, interesting, and sometimes weird.
- Admission: $18
- Thursday: 7 p.m.–9 p.m. is Pay-What-You-Wish
- Visit the Official Website
- See On Google Maps
Get Some Soul (Food) In Harlem
If you’re in NYC for more than a few days we recommend spending a little time in Harlem — especially if you’re a fan of stick-to-your-ribs soul food. Here are a few local favorites:
Walk The Deck On An WWII Aircraft Carrier
If you’re a military nerd like me then you’ll love exploring the USS Intrepid aircraft carrier. The deck is filled with various aircraft. You can also check out a space shuttle.
The Growler submarine is docked alongside the Intrepid and it can also be explored.
Catch A Show On Broadway
New York City is the theatre capital of the world so there are always a dozen excellent shows playing at any given time. Tickets for the popular shows aren’t cheap and tickets for the hottest shows are downright expensive (and hard to get).
One way to save money is by purchasing tickets via TKTS — they sell same-day tickets for up to 50% off. You should line up early as the line gets long and the best shows sell out first.
You can also book tickets to some shows and books behind-the-scenes/backstage tours via Get Your Guide.
Brave Times Square
You can’t visit NYC without seeing Times Square at least one time — one time is enough in our opinion. Visit at night to get the full electronic overload experience. Times Square gets extremely packed so we recommend visiting late in the evening to avoid the bulk of the crowds (the signs never turn off so you can even visit at 3 am if you want).
Local Foodie Tip: Hungry and in a rush? Check out Xi’an Famous Foods (See On Google Maps) for excellent counter-service Chinese food/soups, Los Tacos No.1 (See On Google Maps) for amazing tacos, and Shake Shack (See On Google Maps) for tasty burgers and shakes.
Start Your Morning With A Bagel
All bagels are not created equal. In fact, most bagels in NYC are industrially made so don’t waste all those carbs on a junky bagel. Here are a few of our favorite places to get an excellent, handmade bagel:
- Absolute Bagels: My favorite bagel place in NYC and it’s always considered one of the best bagel places in NYC — too bad it’s a bit of a trek if you’re staying downtown. No frills, minimal seating, and cash only. Expect lines during weekend mornings.
- See On Google Maps (Upper West Side)
- Tompkins Square Bagels: This is the bagel shop to stop by if you’re in the East Village. The bagels are always fresh and they have multiple types of cream cheese. Cash only.
- See On Google Maps (East Village)
- Best Bagel & Coffee: If you have “best” in your name it usually means you’re not the best but the bagels at Best Bagel & Coffee are actually excellent. The bagels are warm and fresh. Also, these bagels are much larger than your standard NYC bagel so they’ll fill you up.
- See On Google Maps (Midtown)
- Russ & Daughters: This place is old school. Family-owned since 1914. They specialize in smoked fish and other New York-style specialty foods — including bagels.
- See On Google Maps (Lower East Side)
- Kossar’s Bagels & Bialys: This place may not look old-school but they’ve been around since 1936. They’re most well-known for their bialys (which is kind of like a bagel without a hole) but they make solid kosher bagels and babkas.
- See On Google Maps (Lower East Side)
- Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee Co: These guys might be called “Brooklyn Bagel” but they don’t actually have any locations in Brooklyn. That said, this no-frills bagel spot has been making excellent kettle-boiled & hand-rolled bagels for more than 15 years. They have a few different locations.
- See Locations on Google Maps (Midtown, Greenwich Village, and Queens)
- Ess-A-Bagel: If you’re staying in Midtown East your best bagel spot is easily Ess-A-Bagel. This is where hungry locals get their bagels so don’t be surprised if there’s a line.
- See On Google Maps (Midtown East)
- Barney Greengrass: Barney Greengrass is an NYC institution and they’ve been one of the city’s premiere Jewish delis since 1908. They specialize in smoked fish and excellent bagels. Old school. No frills. Cash only.
- See On Google Maps (Upper West Side)
- Murray’s Bagels: Yet another classic, no-nonsense NY-style bagel joint that’s expanded to a few locations. The bagels are always fresh and delicious.
- See Locations On Google Maps (Greenwich Village & Chelsea)
Or Start Your Morning With A Doughnut
Take a break from bagels with a delicious doughnut. Here are a few of our favorite spots:
- Doughnut Plant: These dudes have been making doughnuts by hand with quality all-natural ingredients since 1994. Their creations come in all shapes, sizes, and interesting flavors. A local favorite with multiple locations. See Locations On Google Maps
- Dough Doughnuts: This longtime Brooklyn doughnut shop has expanded to a few locations in Manhattan. Everything is handmade and they have a selection of interesting flavors. See Locations On Google Maps
- Donut Pub: This charming, old-fashioned doughnut shop has been selling delicious doughnuts 24/7 since 1964. See On Google Maps
- Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop: Make the quick trip over to Greenpoint in Queens to visit Peter Pan. This local institution has been around since 1953 and their doughnuts are old-school perfection. Cash only. See On Google Maps
- Doughnut Project: This quirky spot serves up uniquely flavored doughnuts. They make everything in small batches so many of their popular flavors sell out quickly. See On Google Maps
- Dun-Well Doughnuts: This is THE place to go for vegan doughnuts. See On Google Maps
Catch A Comedy Show
You can catch a stand-up show or some other kind of comedy act any night of the week in NYC. Many major comedians will randomly stop by clubs to try out new material so you never know who you’ll see (i.e. Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Jim Gaffigan, etc.).
Where To See Stand-Up:
- Comedy Cellar: The Comedy Cellar is one of the most popular comedy clubs in NYC and it’s very common for big-name acts to drop in to practice new material. It’s a very small joint so getting tickets can be a little tough. See On Google Maps (Greenwich Village)
- Gotham: This Chelsea comedy club is a favorite spot for Jim Gaffigan, Jerry Seinfeld, and other comedians. See On Google Maps (Chelsea)
- Carolines on Broadway: Carolines is another extremely popular venue that attracts multiple excellent comedians. See On Google Maps (Times Square)
- The Comic Strip Live: The Comic Strip Live is the oldest stand-up club in NYC. It’s a small joint and they get a mix of established and new acts. See On Google Maps (Upper East Side)
- Dangerfield’s: Founded by Rodney Dangerfield in 1969, this longstanding comedy club has shows seven nights a week. See On Google Maps (Upper East Side)
Where To See Improv and Sketch Comedy:
- Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre: This is easily the most famous improv spot in NYC and it’s where many famous comedians got their start. There are multiple shows each week. See On Google Maps (Hell’s Kitchen)
- Magnet Theater: A small spot in Midtown with shows every night of the week. Affordable prices. See On Google Maps (Midtown)
See Another Side Of NYC At the Tenement Museum
The tenement houses of the Lower East Side used to be home to NYC’s poorest citizens and the Tenement Museum does an excellent job of telling their story. They offer multiple tours like the Irish Outsiders tour, Sweat Shop tour, Shop Life tour, etc. so you can get a different look the different facets of immigrant life.
Find Peace at the Met Cloisters & Fort Tryon Park in Upper Manhattan
The Met Museum has a small outpost in upper Manhattan called the Cloisters — which is an old French monastery that was disassembled and rebuilt in New York’s Fort Tryon Park back in 1938. It now houses a collection of medieval architecture, sculpture, and decorative arts.
The Cloisters is located inside Fort Tryon Park — which is an excellent small park that has amazing views of the Hudson River and beautiful gardens.
- Admission: $25 (pay-what-you-wish for NY residents)
- Note: Your ticket to the Met includes entrance the Met Fifth Avenue, The Met Breuer, and The Met Cloisters (and it’s valid for three days so you don’t have to see everything in one day).
- Visit The Offical Cloisters Website
- See On Google Maps
Chow Down On A Burger
You can get a burger just about anywhere in NYC but here are a few of our favorite burger joints (but this isn’t an exhaustive list as NYC has a ton of great burger spots):
- Emily: Constantly voted one of the best burgers in NYC. They also have great pizza. See On Google Maps (West Village and Brooklyn)
- Emmy Squared: Spinoff from Emily. A bit more casual with Shake Shack/ In-N-Out-style burgers. See On Google Maps (East Village and Brooklyn)
- Corner Bistro: Tasty, no-nonsense burgers in a dive bar setting. Neighborhood favorite. Cash only. See On Google Maps (West Village)
- Shake Shack: About as good as it gets for a fast-food burger. They have more than 30 locations in NYC. See Locations On Google Maps
- Burger Joint: A not-so-secret NYC gem that’s hidden inside the lobby of the upscale Le Parker Meridien hotel. Featured on Anthony Bourdain. No-frills. Cash only. See On Google Maps (Midtown/Central Park)
- The Spotted Pig: A hip and super popular no-reservations spot in the West Village. See On Google Maps (West Village)
- J.G. Melon: A laidback old-school pub that’s been around since the early 70s. See On Google Maps (Upper West Side, Upper East Side, & Greenwich Village)
- Bar Sardine: A charming West Village gastropub that serves up an excellent burger and expensive cocktails. See On Google Maps (West Village)
- P. J. Clarke’s: A Midtown staple since 1884. A favorite of Sinatra & Jackie Kennedy. They’ve expanded to three locations. See On Google Maps (Midtown East, Upper West Side, & FiDi/World Trade Center)
Indulge In The Best Hot Chocolate and Frozen Hot Chocolate
City Bakery and Serendipity 3 are two must-visit spots for all you chocoholics out there.
First up, we have City Bakery. They are famous for their ultra-rich hot chocolate that’s topped with a huge marshmallow. See On Google Maps (Chelsea)
Don’t feel like sipping hot chocolate in the middle of summer? Then head to Serendipity 3 for their excellent frozen hot chocolate. See On Google Maps (Upper East Side/Midtown East)
Visit The Statue of Liberty (Or See It From The Staten Island Ferry)
The Statue of Liberty is another iconic NYC landmark that is extremely popular with visitors. There are multiple ticket options for visiting the statue but if you want to go up into the crown then you’ll have to book six months in advance.
If you don’t feel like visiting Ellis Island but still want to get a good look at the statue then we recommend taking the free Staten Island Ferry (it runs 24/7 and there are boats every 20-30 minutes). It passes fairly close to the statue and it gives you nice views of downtown Manhattan. See On Google Maps
- Statue Of Liberty Admission: There are multiple ticket options but the basic ticket is $18.50.
- Statue Cruises is the only official ticket seller for visiting Ellis Island so ignore all the dudes trying to sell you a ticket. Purchase your tickets online and pick them up at the ticket window — otherwise, you’ll wait in a huge line.
- Visit The Official Website
- See On Google Maps (Departure Ferry)
- Take A Guided Tour Of Ellis Island
See Nature At American Museum of Natural History
The American Museum of Natural History is the largest natural history museum in the world so it is filled with dinosaurs, taxidermied animals, and a huge 94-foot-long blue whale model.
- Admission: $23 (pay-what-you-wish for NY residents)
- Visit The Official Website
- Se On Google Maps
- Take A Guided Tour Of The Museum
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
In a city filled with modern skyscrapers, St Patrick’s Cathedral offers a much-needed change of scenery. This Neo-Gothic-style Roman Catholic cathedral was built in 1879 and it’s been welcoming weary visitors to marvel at its grand architecture ever since. It’s free to enter so stop inside if you’re in the area.
See The Sunset Along The Hudson River in Riverside Park
Riverside Park, which is situated along the Hudson River, is a great park on the Upper West Side that not many visitors take time to explore. It’s also one of the best places to catch the sunset.
Connect With Nature At The Bronx Zoo
Lions. Tigers. Bears. They’re all at the Bronx Zoo! It’s one of the largest zoos in the US so it’s worth checking out if you want to escape the “concrete jungle” of NYC.
- Admission: Starts at $40
- Free Wednesday (but it gets very busy)
- Visit Official Website
- See On Google Maps
Soak In The Skyline from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade
One of the best views of the NYC skyline and the Brooklyn Bridge is from the lovely Brooklyn Heights Promenade. This tree-lined walkway has plenty of benches so it’s an excellent spot to stop for a while soaking in the lovely city.
It’s a fairly easy walk from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade to Brooklyn’s DUMBO neighborhood.
Explore Arthur Avenue For An Authentic Little Italy In The Bronx
Little Italy in Manhattan needs no introduction but these days the neighborhood is very touristy/expensive. If you want a more authentic Italian vibe with cheaper prices we suggest heading up to Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. Here is a good article about Authur Avenue via Eater.
Snap That Famous DUMBO Photo
Head to the former-industrial DUMBO neighborhood of Brooklyn to take your photo under the Brooklyn Bridge from the iconic Washington Street (Google Maps). While you’re there, check out the areas many shops, restaurants, coffee shops, and more.
Feed Your Inner Bookworm
NYC is home to one of the largest independent bookstores in the US — The Strand Bookstore. Their claim to fame is having “18 miles of books” so you can essentially find anything here. They sell a lot of used books so this is a good place to score a good deal.
Eat A Monster-Sized Sandwich From A Classic Jewish Deli
Cure your hunger with a huge pastrami sandwich from a traditional Jewish deli. Here are a few legendary spots in NYC:
- Katz Deli: The most famous deli in NYC. Attracts a ton of tourists. No frills, long lines, but great sandwiches. Open since 1888. See On Google Maps (Lower East Side)
- Sarge’s Deli: A midtown favorite since 1964. Open 24/7 and they make NYC’s largest sandwich — The Monster. See On Google Maps (Midtown East)
- 2nd Avenu Deli: Old-school deli vibe. Solid Jewish fare and sandwiches. See On Google Maps (Midtown East & Upper East Side)
- Fine & Schapiro: It’s not very famous (outside the neighborhood at least) but it’s been around since 1920 and their sandwiches are excellent. See On Google Maps (Upper West Side)
Enjoy Some Banana Pudding At Magnolia Bakery
Magnolia Bakery helped usher in the cupcake craze (mainly because they were featured on Sex and the City) but in our opinion, the real star of the show is their banana pudding. Trust us. It might sound a little weird but it’s amazing and you shouldn’t visit NYC without trying it. Their cheesecake is also solid.
- See On Google Maps (Multiple Locations)
Eat Cheap In Chinatown
Finding a bargain isn’t easy in NYC but Chinatown is one of the few places where it’s fairly easy to eat on the cheap.
- Vanessa’s Dumpling House: An NYC budget-foodie institution. A no-frills joint that’s always packed thanks to their amazing fried or steamed dumplings. Everything is made fresh right in front of your eyes. See On Google Maps (Chinatown)
- Joe’s Shanghai: No frills. Super fast service. Affordable yet excellent soup dumplings (among other Shanghai dishes) — everything you could want in a great Chinese restaurant. Cash only. See On Google Maps (Chinatown)
- Shanghai 21: Another no-frills joint with a huge menu of Chinese dishes but their soup dumplings get the most love. Portions are generous and prices are solid. Cash only. See On Google Maps (Chinatown)
- Great NY Noodletown: Famous for their handmade noodles and roast pork & duck. Open until 4 am. See On Google Maps (Chinatown)
- Wo Hop: Another much-loved and no-frills Chinese restaurant located in the heart of Chinatown. Open until 4:30 am. See On Google Maps (Chinatown)
- Xi’an Famous Foods: We love this place. They’re a modern take on classic hand-pulled Chinese noodle joints. They’ve become so popular that they’ve expanded to 15+ different locations all across New York. The service is fast so it’s a very popular lunch spot for hungry New Yorkers. See On Google Maps (Multiple Locations)
- Big Wong: A great Cantonese joint that is famous for their BBQ pork. No frills. Cash only. See On Google Maps (Chinatown)
- Nom Wah Tea Parlor: The oldest dumpling restaurant in New York (1920). They’re always busy but service is fast and efficient. See On Google Maps (Chinatown)
- Wah Fung Fast Food: Street-style Chinese food. Their roast pork is the go-to dish. See on Google Maps (Lower East Side)
- Tasty Hand Pulled Noodles: Tasty hand-pulled noodles (obviously) and other Chinese comfort foods. Very affordable. See On Google Maps (Chinatown)
Local Tip: If you want even more Chinese food then we suggest visiting Flushing, Queens as it is home to a huge Chinese immigrant population. And prices will be even cheaper.
More Cheap Eats In NYC
Everyone loves a good bargain so here are a few more of our favorite budget-friendly place to get something to eat (that aren’t Chinese spots). Note: We generally consider “cheap” top be under $10.
- Gray’s Papaya: This no-frills hotdog place serves up a much better dog than what you’ll find from those sidewalk vendors. They also have fun juice drinks. Open 24-hours. See On Google Maps (Upper West Side)
- Halal Guys: A popular halal food cart that’s grown into a multi-location gyro restaurant. The food is delicious and affordable. It’s a great place for a quick and filling meal. See Locations on Google Maps (East Village, Midtown, & Upper West Side)
- Dosa Man Food Cart: The true American success story. Thiru Kumar moves from Sri Lanka to NYC and opens a small food cart selling vegan South Indian crepes. The locals love it. Then he gets written up in New York magazine and his popularity explodes. There are long lines every day but it’s worth the wait. He usually runs out of food around 4 p.m. (Washington Square Park — look for the line)
- Num Pang: We love the freshly-made Cambodian sandwiches at this multi-location restaurant in NYC. The Ginger BBQ Brisket is our favorite. See On Google Maps (Multiple Locations)
- Veselka: Cheap and tasty Ukrainian pierogis and other traditional dishes. 24/7. Opened since 1954. See On Google Maps (East Village)
- Shake Shack: The best budget-friendly “fast food” burger in the city. See Locations On Google Maps
- 2 Bros Pizza: When it comes to $1 slices of pizza, 2 Bros is probably the best option. See On Google Maps (Multiple Locations)
- Joe’s Pizza: Opened in 1975, Joe’s is arguably one of the best “cheap” slices of classic NYC-style pizza. $3 for a cheese slice. See On Google Maps
- Baohaus: Savory Taiwanese steamed buns served in a bare-bones East Village joint. See On Google Maps (East Village)
- Mamoun’s Falafel: Serving up cheap and delicious falafel sandwiches since 1971. Open until 5 am. See On Google Maps (West Village and East Village)
- Acuario Cafe: This no-frills Dominican restaurant is hidden away inside a freight dock/elevator so you’d never find it if you weren’t looking. Plates of food cost $5 to $8. Expect a line at lunch but it moves quickly. See On Google Maps (Midtown)
Get A Slice of Classic New York Cheesecake
It would be a shame to visit NYC without trying some NY-style cheesecake. Here are a few solid places to try this decadent treat:
- Mah-Ze-Dahr Bakery: Many people claim that Mah-Ze-Dahr Bakery makes the absolute best cheesecake in NYC and it’s easy to see why. See On Google Maps (Greenwich Village)
- Eileen’s Special Cheesecake: Established in 1975, Eileen’s is another longtime contender for making the best cheesecake in NYC. See On Google Maps (SoHo)
- Junior’s Restaurant: Junior’s first opened in Brooklyn in 1950 and they’ve become famous for their cheesecake. They’ve since expanded to two Times Square locations but, despite the “touristy” vibe, their cheesecake is still excellent. See On Google Maps (Brooklyn and Times Square)
- Veniero’s: This Italian-American bakery has been serving cheesecake, cannoli, and other Italian desserts since 1894. Old-school vibe. See On Google Maps (East Village)
See NYC’s Most Iconic Buildings
New York is full of architectural icons so there are a number of buildings worth checking out — you’ll probably come across these buildings as you explore the city.
Here are a few of our favorite buildings:
- Empire State Building: Staple of the NYC skyline. Great observation deck. See On Google Maps
- Chrysler Building: Art-deco icon. You can visit the lobby but there is no observation deck. See On Google Maps
- Rockefeller Center: See one of the best views of NYC from the Top Of The Rock. Also, home to the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree during the holidays.
- One World Trade Center: The tallest building in NYC (complete with observation deck) and home of the former Twin Towers.
- Metropolitan Museum of Art: One of the greatest museums in the US.
- Flatiron Building: A Instagram-worthy stop in Chelsea.
- Plaza Hotel: A beautiful old hotel at the base of Central Park. They have a decent food court in the basement if you’re hungry.
- Dakota Building: A famous beautiful building that’s been home to many famous people — including John Lennon (he was also shot in front of the building).
- Guggenheim Museum: A Frank Lloyd Wright-designed NYC icon.
- St. Patrick’s Cathedral: A Neo-Gothic-style Roman Catholic cathedral church constructed in 1878.
- American Museum of Natural History: The largest natural history museum in the US.
- Grand Central Station: A huge and always busy train station in midtown Manhattan.
- NYC Public Library Building: The second-largest public library in the United States and the third-largest in the world.
Go Crazy For Cronuts (And More) At Dominique Ansel Bakery
The cronut may have debuted back in 2013 but it’s still drawing big crowds to this French bakery (but it’s not as bad as it once was). Dominique Ansel has way more sweet treats like cookies, ice cream, s’more pops, and more.
Truffles, Cookies, and Cereal Milk Ice Cream At Milk Bar
I’m personally not a huge fan of the cereal milk ice cream at Milk Bar but people go crazy for it. That said, their truffles are truly amazing. And their cookies are very good as well. You can also find multiple other sweet treats here.
Eat A Bit Of Everything At A Food Hall/Market
Can’t decide what to eat? Head to one of NYC’s many food halls or markets to have your pick of tons of goodies in a single spot.
- Chelsea Market: The most famous indoor food market in NYC. It’s filled with a bit of everything. Poke around their website to see which food stalls/restaurants. See On Google Maps (Chelsea)
- Urban Space: This smaller-scale indoor food hall has around 20 different vendors. They have two locations in midtown Manhattan.
- Time Out Market: Time Out Markets have sprung up all over Europe but NYC finally got theirs in 2019. It features multiple top restaurants and bars from across the city under one roof. See On Google Maps (Dumbo, Brooklyn)
- Mercado Little Spain: This concept market is basically a mini version of Spain transported to the new Hudson Yards. Prices are a little high but it’s still a fun thing to do if you’re into Spanish fare. See On Google Maps (Husdon Yards)
- Smorgasburg: This ultra-popular outdoor market is the largest in American and runs every weekend from April through November in Brooklyn. They have more than 100 vendors at the Brooklyn locations. Check the Smorgasburg Website for more information
- Smorgasburg Williamsburg: Saturday from 11am-6pm (100+ Vendors)
- Smorgasburg Prospect Park: Sunday 11am-6pm (100+ Vendors)
- Smorgasburg WTC: Fridays 11am-7pm (30 Vendors)
- Smorgasburg Hudson Yards: Tuesday & Wednesday 11am-7pm (6 Vendors )
We realize that this list is very Manhattan-focused but there are so many other great things to do in New York City that are found outside the island.
So, if you have the time, we recommend at least popping over to Brooklyn to experience a different side of this huge city — including more diverse and cheaper food options.
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Thanks For Reading! — James