The 24 best things to do in New York

New York, United States city skyline - best things to do in New York
Make a reservation to access the Statue of Liberty's crown, one of the best things to do in New York - Tetra Images

Every day of the week, 24-hours a day, there's always something going on in the city that never sleeps. From big-name museums to meander through, architectural wonders to gawk at, galleries to see, and neighbourhoods to explore, you'd have to live seven lives to experience all the best things to do in New York.

Below our expert shares his pick of the best experiences and things to do in New York. For more inspiration, see our guides to the city's best hotels, restaurantsnightlifebarsshopping and free things to do, plus how to spend a weekend in New York.

Find things to do by area

Liberty Island

Visit the famous lady at The Statue of Liberty

This gargantuan 305ft Gallic-designed sculpture is one of the world's most identifiable icons. The first thing you notice: she's shorter than you think, but once you're standing at her base she looks majestic. Don't miss the second-floor museum dedicated to all things Lady Liberty (it includes the original torch). Free entrance, but visitors must get a time-stamped ticket.

Insider's tip: The statue has been situated on Bedloe's Island since 1886 (renamed Liberty Island in 1956). For a fantastic view of lower Manhattan, make a reservation to access the figure's crown.

Nearest metro: South Ferry/Bowling Green/Whitehall St.-South Ferry
Prices: ££
Book tickets

New York, United States
The Statue of Liberty is one of the world's most identifiable icons - Nico De Pasquale Photography/Nico De Pasquale Photography

Manhattan: Financial District

Scope out vistas of downtown from the One World Observatory

The One World Observatory's viewing deck has proved a resounding hit, with its 'Sky Pods' that whisk visitors up to the 102nd floor in under a minute. Once you get to the viewpoint (the official height is 1,776ft), the city's spectacular, dazzling panoramas unfold in front of your eyes. The 100th-floor Sky Portal seems to float in space.

Insider's tip: Make sure you experience the City Pulse, an interactive HD video concierge service that connects you to any neighbourhood you want to find out about below.

Nearest metro: World Trade Center/Chambers St./Wall St./Fulton St.
Prices: ££
Book tickets

Sip cocktails at 'the best bar in the world'

Founded by two blokes from Belfast, Dead Rabbit is often awarded the title 'World's Best Bar'. The theming is inspired by John Morrissey, the leader of the Irish-American gang the Dead Rabbits, and the classic taproom is home to America's largest collection of whiskey. There is also live Irish music with pub grub.

Insider's tip: It gets packed here every night, so afternoon sessions are a safer bet.

Getting in: Reservations recommended
Nearest metro: South Ferry; Whitehall St.-South Ferry
Prices: ££

Dead Rabbit, New York
Dead Rabbit is home to America's largest collection of whiskey - Liz Clayman

Browse the oddities at New York's quirkiest museum

The – say it with us – Mmuseumm is dedicated to neglected, overlooked and underappreciated items. Most of the artefacts are temporary, part of a moving exhibition, but among the permanent objects on display, the pièce de résistance is the shoe that was fired at then-President George W. Bush while he was giving a press conference in Baghdad.

Insider's tip: It's hard to find. Stroll down a non-descript alleyway and if the metal doors are swung open, you're in luck.

Nearest metro: Canal St.
Prices: £

Mmuseumm, New York
Step into Mmuseumm - if you can find it

West Village

Discover New York's real jazz scene at Mezzrow

Legendary local clubs like the Village Vanguard and Blue Note are known throughout the world and listed in every guide book, but this basement jazz club, Mezzrow, is frequented by real jazz lovers who come to hear up-and-coming (as well as established) musicians while sipping Manhattans and snacking on charcuterie and cheese. 

Insider's tip: Walk-ins are welcome, but to ensure a seat make a reservation. 

Getting in: Reservations recommended
Nearest metro: Christopher St. 
Prices: ££

Make a foodie pilgrimage to Russ & Daughters

Any food-obsessed denizen of, or visitor to, New York City needs to come here. It all began in 1914 when Joel Russ, who had been selling herring from a wooden cart for a decade and a half, opened the tiny shop. He quickly discovered, however, that business only picked up when his three beautiful daughters worked behind the counter.

Insider's tip: First timers should order the classic bagel with fish roe. Take a trip around the corner to Russ & Daughters Cafe, a sit-down affair in homage to the shop, and a hot ticket for brunch.

Nearest metro: F to Second Ave

Russ & Daughters, New York
Russ & Daughters has been continuously owned and operated by four generations of the Russ family - Russ & Daughters

Lower East Side

Go back in time at a recreated tenement block

The Tenement Museum is an excellent primer on the neighbourhood's past, and offers a general history of immigration in New York City, a reminder that 99 per cent of the United States is non indigenous. Rooms have been recreated to resemble a typical Lower East Side tenement building and the staff are beacons of knowledge on the subject – ask them anything.

Insider's tip: Spending time in the excellent bookshop stocked with books about New York's working class history is a stimulating addendum to the experience.

Nearest metro: Essex St. 
Book tickets

Tenement Museum, New York
The Tenement Museum offers a history of immigration in New York


Trip out at the Weed Museum

Now that marijuana is legal in the state of New York, you can legally indulge in all things ganja. But you might first want to head to the new-ish Weed Museum in SoHo (officially known as the THC NYC House of Cannabis). Whether you’re a wake-’n’-baker, a midnight toker, or you refrain from the Mary Jane, the Weed Museum puts pot smoking into a historical context, as well as highlights social justice issues regarding the reefer madness though the ages.

Insider’s tip: there’s no marijuana for sale at the museum, but these days you can’t swing a bong without hitting a place that sells the green stuff. So if you come to the museum high, there are plenty of things that will make you trip out, including the Disorientation Room and rooms with funky light shows. 

Nearest metro: Canal St.
Prices: ££

Meatpacking District

Enjoy rooftop sundowners at the Whitney Museum of American Art

The Whitney, once one of the most overlooked of the major New York art museums, is now housed in a dynamic Renzo Piano-designed building and getting the attention it deserves. The 18,000-piece collection of mostly 20th-century art from artists like Andy Warhol, Georgia O'Keefe, Max Weber and Jackson Pollock makes the museum a beacon of modern American art history.

Insider's tip: Time your visit at sunset and head to the top-floor terrace for wonderful orange-hued views of lower Manhattan.

Nearest metro: 14th St./8th Ave.
Prices: ££
Book tickets

Whitney Museum, New York
The Whitney houses an 18,000-piece collection of mostly 20th-century art - This content is subject to copyright./Massimo Borchi/Atlantide Phototravel

Midtown East

Get high at the city’s newest viewpoint – Summit One Vanderbilt

At 365 meters up, Summit One Vanderbilt is the highest viewpoint in Midtown Manhattan and is located in the fourth-tallest building in the city. The immersive, interactive experience begins on the groundfloor at Grand Central Terminal when you get whisked up to the 91st through the 93rd floors. Employees encourage guests to lay down on the mirrored floors and look up at the mirrored ceilings of the main room. And then there’s the observation deck which actually looks down on the Empire State Building (and pretty much every other structure in the city).  

Insider's tip: Upgrade your visit so that you can ascend in a sleek glass elevator and then enjoy a cocktail with your view.

Nearest metro: Grand Central Terminal
Prices: ££
Book tickets

Summit One Vanderbilt, New York
Summit One Vanderbilt is the highest viewpoint in Midtown Manhattan - TIMOTHY A. CLARY

Midtown West

Soak up the views from the Empire State Building

There probably won't be a giant ape at the top, but the views from the 86th-floor observation deck will take your breath away. Completed in 1931 and consisting of 60,000 tons of steel, the Empire State Building was the tallest skyscraper in the world until the World Trade Towers were erected in the Seventies.

Insider's tip: Make sure you leave plenty of time for waiting in the queue to get to the top; the lines can get very long.

Nearest metro: 33rd St./Penn Station/33rd St. 
Prices: ££
Book tickets

Empire State Building, New York
Views from the Empire State Building's observation deck stretch for miles - IOAN FLORIN CNEJEVICI/florin1961

Take a boat cruise around Manhattan

Hop on a three-hour Circle Line Best of NYC (Full Island Cruise) to see three rivers, seven bridges and the extraordinary forest-covered cliffs overlooking the Hudson around Fort Tryon Park, in the north-west corner of the island. You will see a Manhattan you did not know existed. Food and refreshments are available on board, and the live narration is usually very entertaining.

Insider's tip: It's cheaper to book tickets online and essential to reserve them in summer, when cruises are very popular.

Nearest metro: Times Square-42nd St.
Prices: ££

Circle Line Best of NYC, New York
For great views, hop on a three-hour Circle Line Best of NYC cruise

Wander around the Rockefeller Center

There's plenty to see and do at this Art Deco masterpiece of a building, including a sunken roller/ice skate rink, high-end shops, Top of the Rock (an observation platform 70 storeys from the ground on the top of the 1933 GE building), and tours of Rockefeller Center which depart every two hours. Wandering through the complex is free; going to the top will cost you. In the last few years, several restaurants run by some of the city’s top chefs have opened up here, so come hungry and try to get a table at Le Rock, Jupiter, Lodi, Five Acres, or Naro.

Insider's tip: Before you go, download the Top of the Rock app which has a great view-finder, making it easy to identify what you're looking at when you're on top of the world.

Getting there: 49th St./Rockefeller Center
Prices: ££
Book tickets

Browse – then eat – some modern art

Picasso, Dali, Kahlo, Matisse and Warhol are just a few of the names you'll find at the Museum of Modern Art, which is flooded with natural light and an absolute pleasure to wander through. Keep an eye open for outré pieces by New York artists, such as Dan Graham's two-way mirror glass pavilion installation in the sculpture garden. In-house restaurant, The Modern, serves up edible art on a plate that tastes terrific. 

Insider's tip: Head to the fifth floor right away. The most popular galleries – those with Pollock and Warhol, et al – are at the top. Then work your way down.

Nearest metro: 5th Ave./53rd St. 
Prices: ££
Book tickets

Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York
MoMA showcases works by artists including Picasso, Dali, Kahlo, Matisse and Warhol - Time Life Pictures/Ted Thai

Upper West Side

Rub shoulders with local artists at an intimate soirée

The Frick, an Upper West Side museum, tends to get overlooked – but it shouldn't. Housed in a mansion with a Roman atrium, it offers a great collection of works by the likes of Goya, Velázquez, El Greco, Rembrandt and other renaissance masters. Most are still hung the way they were when the collector, Mr. Frick, was alive.

Insider's tip: Go to one of the Frick's regular intimate salon evenings with classical music concerts, dance and discussions with artists, scholars and writers.

Nearest metro: 68th St-Hunter College
Prices: ££

Frick Collection, New York
Frick is an often overlooked Upper West Side museum - ©The Frick CollectionPhoto Credit: Michael Bodycomb/Michael Bodycomb

Upper East Side

Marvel at the architecture of the striking Guggenheim

An architectural game changer? That's one way of describing this Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building. Built in 1959, the Guggenheim Museum is an artistic object in itself. While the building is one of the chief attractions here, the great art just seems like a bonus. There are 700 works of art by over 300 artists, including Kandinsky and Picasso, among others. 

Insider's tip: Even if you don't intend to see the art, make sure you visit the building itself for some wonderful photo opportunities – especially inside, with views of eloquent inverted coil wending its way up the curvature of the building.

Nearest metro: 4, 5, 6 to 86th Street
Prices: ££
Book tickets

Guggenheim Museum, New York
The Guggenheim Museum exhibits 700 works of art by over 300 artists

Find tranquility in the city's Cloisters at the Met

The Metropolitan Museum's centre of medieval art boasts interiors filled with Madonna and Child sculptures, paintings from the Middle Ages, and tapestries of slaughtered unicorns. However, many locals and visitors take the 40-minute subway ride (and subsequent 10-minute stroll through Fort Tryon Park) to get to the Cloisters because of the peace and tranquility it affords.

Insider's tip: If you visit the Met, you get free same-day admission to the Cloisters (or the other way around), so make a day of it and hit both museums in one day.

Nearest metro: Dyckman St.
Prices: £
Book tickets

The Cloisters, New York
The Metropolitan Museum's centre of medieval art is a must-see for history and art enthusiasts - This content is subject to copyright./James Leynse


Cheer or jeer at the Apollo Theater's Amateur Night

Few other theatres have been more responsible for shaping soul and pop music than this Harlem performance venue. Since opening in 1914 and then starting Amateur Night 20 years after that, many legends and greats have come through its stage doors, including James Brown, Lauren Hill, Billie Holiday, D'Angelo, and Ella Fitzgerald. Barack Obama even held a fundraiser here when he was candidate.

Insider's tip: Make sure you check out the famed Amateur Night, where for $30 (£22) you can watch the audience either cheer or jeer a future (or unlikely) star off the stage.

Nearest metro: 125th St. 
Prices: ££
Book tickets

Apollo Theater, New York
The Apollo Theater has a rich, celebrity-studded history - 2018 Shahar Azran/Shahar Azran

Brooklyn, Williamsburg

Take in Brooklyn's strangest museum

When you hear the words 'reliquary', images of saints' bones, vials of blood or strands of holy hair might come to mind. But this small, intriguing Williamsburg museum has no such things. Instead, you'll find relics of the city itself: an old subway token, kitschy long-gone souvenirs, and various memorabilia from the 1939 World's Fair which took place here.

Insider's tip: One section of the museum is dedicated to private collections, which need not necessarily be New York themed, so you could bring along your own oddities and trinkets for consideration.

Nearest metro: Bedford Ave.
Price: £

The City Reliquary, New York
The City Reliquary displays relics from New York's past - Henry Hargreaves

Red Hook

Wander around one of Brooklyn’s hippest neighbourhoods

Red Hook, Brooklyn feels like you’ve stumbled upon a fishing village in Alaska sometime around 1991. Locals wear flannel shirts and beanie hats, and everyone knows each other. Which is part of the appeal of this neighborhood, cut off from the rest of Brooklyn by the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and the largest public housing project in the city. Stroll down Van Brunt Street, the neighborhood High Street. Eat at Hometown Bar-B-Que, the best barbecue joint in the city. Pop into Pioneer Works to marvel at the work of some up-and-coming artists. And then perch yourself at the bar at Sunny’s, a local institution that’s been serving up pints and potent drinks since the 1890s when it was frequented by sailors and fishermen. 

Insider's tip: To save time, after taking the metro to the nearest station, Smith 9th Streets, hop on a CitiBike, New York’s bike-sharing program, and point it toward Red Hook.

Price: £
Nearest metro: Smith 9th Streets
Book tickets

Red Hook, Brooklyn
Red Hook is an intriguing neighbourhood within hip Brooklyn - Fred King / 500px


Learn how to shuffleboard

The owners of the Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club, Ashley Albert and Jonathan Schnap, have brought a slice of geriatric Florida fun to Brooklyn by getting the young and the hip into shuffleboard. This palace of fun boasts several lanes and a few bars. Ballers can rent cabanas for the evening – think unlimited booze by the hour – to get the full-on Royal Palms experience.

Insider's tip: There are a handful of house cocktails but first timers should opt for the gin-and-coconut-juice-laden Shuffleboard Bob.

Price: £
Nearest metro: Union St.

Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club, New York
The Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club brings a dose of fun to Brooklyn - chris mosier

Become a bad axe

Mixing axe throwing and alcohol. What could go wrong? At Kick Axe Throwing you can enjoy a pint of beer (or several) and then grab an axe and commence tossing it at the wall, getting out any built up regret or anger you’ve been harboring since your teenage years. For inexplicable reasons, there’s a wizard theme to the axe-throwing bar, just in case magic is part of your booze-themed, weapon-tossing fantasy.

Insider’s tip: whether you’re celebrating something in particular or not, Kick Axe offers Champagne bottle service.

Price: £
Nearest metro: Union St.


Enjoy a 'P-art-y'

Set in a late-19th-century Romanesque Revival school house, hence the name (Public School 1), Moma's Queens branch is an underrated museum housing scores of thought-provoking contemporary art. Time your visit for Saturday afternoon so you can hit the weekly 'Warm up', a DJ-ed party that gets the art crowd hopping.

Insider's tip: Come hungry. Mina’s, run by chef Mina Stone, serves up creative takes on Greek and Mediterranean staples that makes for the perfect art-gawking break.

Nearest metro: Hunters Point Ave./Court Square
Price: ££

The Bronx

Lay down some beats at the Universal Hip Hop Museum

Hip-hop was born in the South Bronx, so it’s perfectly fitting that the city’s only museum dedicated to the ultra-popular music genre is smack in the center of it all. The Universal Hip Hop Museum has interactive video and audio displays, posters from the early days before hip-hop became a global phenomenon, and photos of the first rap stars who hailed from this very area, taking visitors through fascinating rhythm-induced spin around the history of hip hop. In 2024, the museum will move to a new state-of-the-art multi-floor building a few hundred meters away.

Nearest metro: 149th St./Grand Concourse
Price: £

How we choose

Every attraction and activity in this curated list has been tried and tested by our destination expert, to provide you with their insider perspective. We cover a range of budgets and styles, from world-class museums to family-friendly theme parks – to best suit every type of traveller. We update this list regularly to keep up with the latest openings and provide up to date recommendations.