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An extensive bucket list is very understandable when traveling to New York City for the first time. There is so much to do and so much to see, and only so much time to complete it all! Read through our 25 recommended must-dos during your first visit to New York City for some inspiration.
1- See the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
(Photo by Marley White/ NYC & Company)
You cannot come to New York for the first time and ignore the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. If you want to learn about the history and diversity of people of New York, this is the best place to start.
2- Go on a cruise
Whether it be the cruise that you take to go to the Statue of Liberty, or a scenic sail boat or speedboat adventure. Whatever cruise you choose, the views will be extraordinary, especially at night.
3- Visit at least one Observatory
(Photo by JULIENNE SCHAER/NYC & Company)
You’ll never see New York and its surroundings as well as from the top of its highest buildings. Whether Top of the Rock, the Empire State Building or the One World Observatory, you should at least climb atop one of the three. We recommend visiting Top of the Rock during the day for the amazing views on Central Park, and the Empire State Building or the One World Observatory at dawn or by night.
4- Times Square
No doubt you’ll be mesmerized by all of the giant screens, lights, and energy. Times Square is a must-see tourist attraction, dont’ let anyone tell you it’s not.
5- The Met
(Photo by Christopher Postlewaite/NYC & Company)
One of our favorite museums! Just make sure you know in advance what you want to see because this museum is huge and you’ll want to explore every gallery. Obviously, if you have a lot of time you might want to come back and visit it again.
6- The MoMA
(Photo by Alex Lopez/ NYC & Company)
This is a really great museum whether or not you are a modern art lover.
7- The Guggenheim Museum
New York’s Guggenheim hosts a fantastic permanent collection. But even if you’re not that into art, the building itself is just worth a visit for its unique and intricate design.
Especially if you’re visiting with children, this is a must-see. Make sure you have enough time to visit the main part of the museum as well as the Rose Center for Earth and Space.
9- The 9/11 Memorial
Take some time by the reflecting pools and visit the museum to pay your respects to the tragedy of 9/11.
10- Listen to Gospel
(Photo by David Keith)
A must-see on Sunday mornings! But if you’re not available, you could also do it on Wednesday mornings… Harlem or the Bronx are the best places to go. We can even get you there, stress-free, on our very own Harlem Gospel Tours.
11- Go to a Jazz club
We recommend visiting Harlem for some classic Jazz. You can relive the excitement of the iconic clubs of the 20’s and 30’s such as the Cotton Club or Lenox Lounge.
12- See a NBA Game
If you’re lucky enough to come to New York during the NBA season, make sure to book your tickets to see the Knicks at the legendary Madison Square Garden, or the Brooklyn Nets at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Even if you’re not a basketball fan, only the show is already worth the trip. Need help booking your tickets? Don’t hesitate to contact us.
13- Visit Brooklyn
(Photo by Harlem Spirituals)
There is so much more to New York than Manhattan! Among the four other boroughs, Brooklyn is the first borough we recommend you visit. As it is also the largest one, how about you take a tour to make sure you see it all?
(Photo by Christopher Postlewaite/ NYC & Company)
To us, Central Park is the most beautiful park in the world! You can choose to visit it by foot, bike, or even on a horse carriage. The choice is yours!
15- Go shopping
5th Avenue, SoHo, West Village… Options are countless. If you want more, you can even go out of town and get the best discounts at the Woodbury Outlets.
16- See a Show on Broadway
You’ve never really seen a show if you haven’t seen a show on Broadway! Choose from the classics or something brand new. There is a show for everyone and we can help you decide and book if you need some assistance!
17- Walk the Brooklyn Bridge
(Photo by Lex Photography from Pexels)
Take in the best views from crossing over between Manhattan and Brooklyn. If you’re not into walking, take a bike ride!
18- Have a Drink on a Rooftop Bar
(Photo by Will Steacy/ NYC & Company)
We have some of the best rooftop bars in the world. I think we even invented the concept! Kidding aside, 230 Fifth is among our favorites for a great view on the Empire State Building. The Press Lounge is fantastic if you want a fancier option.
19- Go out for a Weekend Brunch
Brunch is a New Yorker’s favorite weekend treat. See what the bottom-less mimosa hype is all about.
20- Taste the famous NYC Pizza
(Photo by JULIENNE SCHAER/ NYC & Company)
Just like they do in the movies. We have some of the greatest slices in the City. For the first approach of New York pizza, try John’s of Bleecker Street, Motorino or Roberta’s.
21- Eat a Bagel
(Photo by Malcolm Brown/ NYC & Company)
Bagels are also a New York staple. Our favorite places include Brooklyn Bagel and Coffee Company, Ess-a-Bagel and David’s Bagels.
22- Walk the High Line
(Photo by Brittany Petronella/NYC & Company)
Some might compare it to the “Coulée Verte” in Paris. Non-sense. There’s nothing like the High-Line and its views on the Hudson River. While you’re there, make a stop at the Chelsea Market. You’ll love it, especially if you are a foodie. If you’re looking for a more extensive experience, book our High Line and Chelsea Market Walking Tour.
23- See a Yankees Game
(Photo by Dex)
We highly recommend you go see a game at the Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, even if you’re not that into sports. The energy of the venue and the noise of the crowd is both exciting and motivating to cheer on your team.
24- Take a Helicopter Tour
(Photo by Jen Davis/ NYC & Company)
Last but not least, hop on a helicopter to see New York’s skyscrapers from above. This is a once in a lifetime experience and the views of the city are both unmatchable and extremely humbling.
One of the best ways to dive deep into New York City is by booking a tour of a designated area that sparks your interest. If you are interested in finding things to do in New York City, search through our complete range of tours, attractions, and activities. We can also tailor-make programs specifically to match your desires and budgets. Harlem Spirituals is the ideal one-stop-shop to simplify your planning! Find more information on www.harlemspirituals.com. Also, check out our New York City Travel Guides for some more inspiration.
Have we missed anything in our list? Let us know in the comments!