It’s New York Baby! The city of gastronomy, entertainment, celebrities and more! There are so many things to do in New York city that even for us, we find it hard to cover everything in one short trip!
We’ve traveled to New York twice now and plan to go there in March 2016. Every time we are there, we stay for about 1 week and find that there’s so many things to do and not enough time to do it all that we end up coming back each year. Preparing for the New York trip is probably just as exciting. We like to plan ahead of time to figure out what we want to do and to make the most of our trip. It’s also a good idea to plan ahead because the metro is your best mode of transport and knowing ahead of time where you are going, saves time and money.
New York is iconic for many reasons. Firstly the food is great, the atmosphere is always buzzing and everywhere you look there’s always something super entertaining to see or do. You will always walk away from New York appreciating everything it has to offer and always want to come back for some more fun. Whether it’s your first time there or your 15th, there are so many things to do in New York city. Here are our top 20 things you gotta to do when you’re in New York city baby! Keep in mind, we haven’t completed all of them ourselves as we have friends and family living in New York that we also spend time with.
1. Eat at all the raved food trucks in New York
Food trucks are the all American phenomenon that you need to get into. If you are from overseas, it’s the perfect opportunity to experience delicious and cheap food from some of the top food trucks in the food industry. In New York you’ll find small startups cooking real quality food on the streets of New York. You’ll also see high class chefs pursuing a more modern and alternative approach to the traditional brick and mortar restaurant. And the best thing about it is that it’s always decently priced and always really delicious.
On our first trip to New York, we definitely planned our schedule to fit in a few food trucks as some only open at select hours, days and are available at random spots in the city. One of our favorites was Cinnamon Snail, an all vegan food truck. It’s the first and really the only of it’s kind in New York.
There was so many good things on the menu that we wanted to come back for more. Some of there meals included spicy seitan tofu burger, vegan donuts and vegan burritos. All very flavorsome and very good!
We also tried other raved about food trucks in New York. These included The Falafel Boys, who make a real good vegetarian platter and falafel kebab, as well as hit up some Korean food with the Korilla food truck.
2. Meet the Statue of Liberty
There are so many things that come to your mind when you think of New York and the Statue of Liberty has to be one of them! It’s an iconic statue in the heart of New York city and many tourists and locals come here everyday. Luckily, there’s a free ferry that takes you close to the Statue of Liberty so you can take all your ‘New York obligated tourist’ photos for free.
Although we haven’t done this yet (because we missed the last ferry on the day we planned to go!), we did check out the pier where you do catch the ferry. One tip we can offer is to find out what time the ferry arrives and make sure you try your best to get there about 20 minutes beforehand. This will give you plenty of time to figure out where to go and to take photos at the pier. It’s definitely still on the ‘To Do List’ for us in New York and we hope to complete this one in the up coming trip we have planned in March.
3. Shop till you drop (literally!)
There are literally so many stores from big box brands like Macy’s all the way to small boutiques and vintage stores to shop at. We enjoy shopping during the sale season but if we are not in New York at that time, we often visit Urban Outfitters, Topshop, H&M, Forever 21 and a few others every time we are in New York. If you are looking for a bargain, head over to the OP shops, vintage stores and the Clearance or Outlet stores of major retailers like the Nordstrom Outlet.
For me, there are a lot of brands that are unavailable outside of the US or are ridiculously expensive elsewhere. We always end up stopping at one of the many Sephora stores scattered in the city and grabbing some of the kits, Christmas specials and limited edition collections. Not to mention, the standard eye palettes, foundation and other makeup bits and bobs she needs.
We also make an effort to stop at Kiehl’s to restock on all our favorite skin care items like the Midnight Recovery Concentrate oil that keeps our skin looking young and fresh, particularly with all the travel and planes we catch throughout the year!
We have also been loving shopping online and shipping to our friend’s or family’s house. There are normal great deals online with free shipping and discount codes that cannot be applied in store. Ulta, a big department store of cosmetics and beauty products allows you to use coupon codes you can download on your phone.
4. Have a good laugh at a Comedy Club
Personally, we both enjoy stand up comedy, in fact that’s how we started to spend more time together in Sydney Australia. We were ‘just friends’ back then and would go to the comedy festival held every year in Sydney. Anyway, we always manage to go to at least one comedy show in while in New York. Depending on how much time we have, we might even go to two.
The one we go to in New York is the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre or UCB. UCB was created by legendary comedian and actress, Amy Poehler and the up and coming stand up comedians are always hilarious to watch. There’s a free show every Sunday night and paid ones every other night.
The free shows on Sundays claim to have special guests to pop in to perform. These include actors and actresses from Hollywood and Saturday Night Live comedians who want to support Poehler. Though every time we have been there, we never have caught a celebrity. Regardless, it’s still a pretty awesome show and one that won’t disappoint you.
One tip if you plan to go to the free show is to come early and line up. It’s first come, first serve and so you might miss out as there are limited seats. The number you receive with your ticket is the same when you line up again before the show and hence, if you want a good seat, it’s best to come early!
Shows can cost up to $10USD per person, which isn’t bad. The shows are always so funny and the comedians are witty, smart and on trend with their jokes and lines. We always make the effort to go because we know that it’ll be good.
4. Visit the Rockefeller center
Rockefeller center is one of the iconic buildings in New York city. If you get a chance to go to Rockefeller center from October up until January, you might catch the gigantic Christmas tree, ice skating and festive decorations that is probably what the Rockefeller center is mostly known for. This is where some of the all time classic Christmas movies and romantic comedy movies film those very festive scenes. It’s just magical!
We’ve been to Rockefeller center but haven’t gotten a chance to do the tour that we’ve heard is also worth doing. If you are a fan of 30 Rock, you might want to consider this tour 🙂
5. Go on the HBO studio tour
Sex and the city, Silicon Valley, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Entourage and the Sopranos are just some of the many TV shows that HBO have produced in the last decade. Did you know that you can take a HBO studio tour? It’s pretty cool if you are big fans of Sex and the city or the Sopranos. You’ll get to see all the iconic spots where the shows were filmed and learn cool information about your fave shows.
We’ve been to the Warren Bros tour in LA and absolutely loved it. When we heard about the HBO tour in New York we were dead set to doing it but unfortunately for us, our top HBO TV shows have to Curb Your Enthusiasm and Silicon Valley and these are currently not really in the tour. But we did go into the HBO store to get our t-shirts 🙂
6. Pay respects at the Twin Towers Memorial
The event of 9/11 will forever be part of New York city’s history. Take some time out from your New York plans and head over to the Twin Towers Memorial. If you have time, we been recommended to go to the museum but we personally felt it might be a little too depressing for us, particularly because we came to New York to enjoy our time in the city.
It’s still a moving and emotional experience just standing at the memorial itself. You’ll see all the names of the loved ones that died engraved on the stones as well as many people leaving flowers and gifts there.
7. Watch an award winning Broadway show
This is one of the things to do in New York that we haven’t actually had time to do! It’s a little more expensive to be honest and for our first Broadway experience, we want it to be a good one. We’re waiting for a good Broadway show that we simply can’t miss and unfortunately everything else in New York for us trumps it.
I have been to musicals and shows in Australia, but never in the US. We will definitely get around to doing it as there are a few great ones. One recommendation is to book ahead of time particularly if you know your dates for your trip. Tickets can sell out months in advance for shows with performers who’ve won Tony Awards or with popular celebrities as the leading role. We hope to one day go watch Lion King on Broadway as we have heard it’s really good.
8. Check out Times Square
Oh times Square! We’re been here twice now and still love the crazy and buzzing atmosphere. There’s so much to do there. When we were there, we walked around the entire area and went into the stores that interests us. You’ll find all the common stores like Walmart, Sephora and Toys R Us. There’s always so many people at Times Square so be careful of your belongings. The best time to go is at night where you’ll see the billboards lit up around the whole area.
We also checked out all the chocolate stores because Albie has a bit of a sweet tooth! It was fun munching on free candy. We particularly liked the M&M store, which had a whole lot of flavors we’ve never tasted before. Don’t forget about the stage that is iconic in movies such as Spiderman and more.
9. Eat your heart out
New York is known for it’s awesome food. On the top of the list of things to do in New York has to be eating. Eating was one of the most important and essential parts of all our New York trips. Even for vegetarians, we find so much range and great quality that we just couldn’t resist!
We always make a point to eat different cuisines each day and select what we have been craving for. Since we’ve been living in South America for the past 11 months, our recent trip included a lot of Asian cuisines that we miss from our home in Sydney, Australia. We tried finding good and cheap eats. Some of our favorites included Vegetarian Dim Sum House in China Town, Woorijip Authentic Korean Food in Korea Town and Cafe Himalaya.
With so much variety, New York really has anything that you have craved for and more. We would normally fit in about 5-6 small meals and snacks throughout the day, particularly because we walk all day and night. Some of the must recommendations are eating New York pizza at one of many places to get real good pizza. The slices are always so big 🙂 You can even grab a pizza slice for $1USD! #winning
Shake Shack is another great joint that you need to eat at. It’s an all American burger joint with a vegetarian option with a stuffed cheese mushroom burger that is delicious! They also have limited edition shakes during the year and the fries are pretty good too.
10. Catch a dirty subway train
You’ve seen it in movies and TV shows, the New York subways have a rustic charm to the old and dirty underground subways. Before you dare leaving New York, take an adventure on the subway train! It’s super cheap and can be the best choice if you are tired of walking from point A to B.
Yes you’ll see big fat rats running the tracks before the train arrives and you might even see performers on the train carriage too. We’ve seen it all and have been scared, entertained and comforted by the subway train rides we’ve taken. It’s always busy and entertaining to be in the subways of New York and a must do at least once in your life.
11. Brooklyn bridge
The Brooklyn bridge is always another iconic place of New York city. It’s also a place where many TV shows and movies have film. But it also had a unique vibe to the area which is different from the other parts of New York.
If you are a fan of Gossip Girl, be sure to get the right show of the bridge 🙂 If you check the dates beforehand, you might be able to stop by at the Smorgasburg food market held almost every weekend in Brooklyn for some good grub.
While you are there, don’t forget to visit the Brooklyn Bridge Park, which is a nice place to relax and take a stroll over the weekend. There’s an ongoing art exhibit display called “Please Touch the Art” by Jeppe Hein scattered around the park and great views of the water and Brooklyn bridge.
12. Explore the nightlife
Once the sunsets, it’s just the beginning of the fun you’ll have in New York. There’s so much to do at night that you might end up partying all night long. The nightlife of New York is just as vibrant and exciting than what you’ll experience in the day. We like to have dinner at a restaurant followed by drinks at a local bar with friends.
We’re pretty sure you can get just about any kind of drink you would ever want at a local New York bar or club. We particularly enjoyed having these limited edition Halloween beers only available in October. Such unique taste of spice pumpkin made some pretty dam good beer.
13. Check out the latest events
There’s always so many events happening in New York that there’s never a dull moment. There’s some fantastic websites that give you a list of the latest events happening in New York. A lot of them are free and would suit all ages. Last time we were there, the Comic Con was happening. Tickets were obviously sold out but it was still pretty cool seeing people on the subway trains dressed up as various characters.
We enjoyed the Grub Food Festival on our first trip to New York, which had a lot of great food stalls. Though it was a little pricey and the lines were definitely long, we still enjoyed the atmosphere and grub to say the least.
On the weekends, there are some regular and standard events happening across New York. A lot of them are arts and crafts, vintage markets, farmer’s markets and food festivals. We’ve been to a few like the Artists and Fleas market in Chelsea, which had some independent designers selling jewelry, shoes, clothing and other small bits and bobs. All high quality and handmade.
14. Get cultured in the one of many museums
There a hundreds of exhibits and museums scattered around New York City that would be interesting to visit during your trip to New York. This includes Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), The Guggenheim Museum and Staten Island Museum.
We ended up going to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, otherwise known as the MET. It’s a really fancy art museum that has some interesting exhibits for all ages and interests. Although there are set prices for tickets, these are just recommended and you can actually enter the museum for free.
We also went into a Sex exhibit store and checked out their gift shop. Very interesting stuff they have there. This one in particularly goes through the history of sex. Though we decided to skip the actual tour due to time constrains, it’s a pretty good exhibit to go to with your partner or a friend. You’ll definitely get some giggles and awkward moments going there.
15. Expand your mind with the Flatiron Building
If you like interesting architecture, then checking out the Flatiron building of New York city is something you need to add on your to do list in New York. The Flatiron building is a triangular 22-story steel-framed building in Manhattan. It is known for it’s unusual structure and groundbreaking architecture.
We’ve passed the Flatiron building every time we are there and every time it looks totally weird in structure and appearance. It definitely doesn’t look appealing to live or work in that building at all.
16. Explore the undergrounds of Grand Central Terminal
The Grand Central Terminal is another iconic place in the heart of New York. We’ve been there twice and enjoy not only the ambiance of the terminal, but also the food! There are shops, restaurants, fast food joints and of course the train lines connecting to the outer areas of New York and beyond.
The architecture is pretty amazing. There is even a spot in the terminal known as the whispering wall, where you can whisper in a corner and the other person can hear you from the opposite corner. Pretty cool and fun to do.
17. Chill in the grass at Central Park
Get some fresh air, take photos of some super adorable squirrels and chill out on a romantic stroll around the park. Central Park is the biggest park in New York and it’s the most well-known park. Being super fans and geeks of the TV show Friends, we have always wanted to check out Central Park even though they never really filmed there!
There’s so much to see and do in the park alone. We loved the benches that you can purchase and engrave a message or name on. There was even a marriage proposal on one! How sweet is that! We also liked just sitting and watching New Yorkers walk by.
18. Have a romantic desert at Serendipity cafe
Take your lover or just someone you love spending time with to Serendipity. If you know anyone who has watched a movie in their life, they should know of the romantic movie called Serendipity with John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale. The movie was filmed in this cafe and now that movie has been out for more than a decade, you can have brunch or desert there and swoon over finding your one true love.
For those of you who are too young or for those of you who have not seen it, here’s the trailer of the movie. We won’t spoil it for you but it’s a good idea to watch the movie before you head over to the cafe to really get the whole experience.
19. Explore the streets of New York
A lot of the fun of New York is simply through walking around the city. It’s pretty easy to do particularly if you are not a keen walker, you can always catch the metro lines accordingly. Walking around, you’ll spot many of the food carts on the streets selling the iconic hot dogs, pretzels and deep fried goodies that you’ve probably heard about.
When walking the streets of New York city, you’ll also get to know a little more about New Yorkers, the buildings, art and the culture of New York. A lot of the places that we fell in love with or enjoyed the most were actually place we stumbled upon while wandering around the streets.
New York streets are commonly used for scenes in movies, TV shows, ads and everything in between. When walking the streets of New York, you’ll most likely see a celebrity or filming crew. It’s pretty cool to watch how they make films and film scenes for ads and TV shows.
20. Take a stroll through the High Line
High Line is a 1.45-mile-long New York City linear park, which originally was a railroad track. It’s a popular place for many tourists and locals to spend a good few hours exploring the park. We went there just before going to the weekend markets nearby. It was a good way to explore the High Line and then grab some food after an hour of walking around.
We really enjoyed some of the fantastic artworks on nearby building and in the park itself. It shows a lot of the New York character. Although very crowded, the High Line is a great place to take a stroll and see some interesting architecture and culture of New York.
So that concludes the top 20 things to do in New York. We hope that you enjoyed our list of things to do in New York city and that it was helpful in planning your trip. As you can see, we still have a few things to do from the list but hope to do them in the coming trip. So go out there and grab the bull by the balls and experience New York!