28 Things to Do in New York for First Timers

New York City is a place that feels like it’s bursting at the seams with activities. With its fast-paced lifestyle, incredible architecture, and famous landmarks, it’s an experience waiting to be discovered.

As one of the most visited cities in the world, NYC has plenty of tourist traps that aren’t actually worth your time.

If you’re going to spend your money and take your vacation time for a visit here, you might as well make sure it’s worth it!

Excited? Here are some of the best things to do in New York City for first-timers.

1. The Guggenheim Museum

When it comes to art museums, there’s no shortage of options in New York City. But if you’re looking for a truly unique experience, the Guggenheim Museum is a must-see.

Located on the Upper East Side, the Guggenheim is home to a wide variety of modern and contemporary art, as well as a renowned collection of 19th and 20th-century masterworks.

The museum’s distinctive architecture is also worth admiring, as it was designed by none other than Frank Lloyd Wright.

With its iconic spiral shape and sweeping views of Central Park, the Guggenheim is sure to leave a lasting impression.

Times Square New York
Times Square New York

2. Get Lost in Times Square

Times Square is truly an assault on the senses, no doubt, but that’s what makes it so special!

The bright lights, the towering billboards, the street performers – it’s all a bit overwhelming at first, but you’ll soon find yourself caught up in the energy of the place.

No doubt, Times Square is the perfect place to start your New York adventure.

3. Explore Central Park

Central Park is one of those places that looks exactly like how you imagine it from TV and movies.

Spanning 843 acres, this iconic green space can be a bit of a maze, so it’s easy to get lost if you’re not careful. But that’s all part of the fun, right?

And of course, you can’t forget about all the famous landmarks within the park, like the Alice in Wonderland statue and Belvedere Castle.

Even if you’re not a fan of parks, Central Park is definitely worth checking out – you might just change your mind!

READ NEXT
13 Best Israeli Restaurants in NYC for Amazing Food

4. Take a Walking Tour

When you’re in a big city like New York, it can be tough to break away from the pack with group tours.

It’s hard to go at your own pace, linger at the sights that interest you, and explore the nooks and crannies that most tourists never see.

Forget the group experiences and explore on your own terms with a private walking tour! You can customize the tour to suit your interests, whether you’re looking for historical landmarks, awe-inspiring views, or legendary street food.

Also, with a professional photographer by your side, you’ll capture some amazing photos of NYC along the way.

Grand Central Terminal NYC New York
Grand Central Terminal NYC, New York

5. Visit Grand Central Terminal

Built in the early 1900s, Grand Central Terminal is one of the most iconic landmarks in New York City.

This masterpiece has been featured in countless films and TV shows, and it’s easy to see why. With its soaring ceilings and grandiose design, Grand Central is truly a sight to behold.

But it’s not just a pretty face – this station is also one of the busiest in the world, serving over 750,000 passengers every day!

6. NYC Landmarks Cruise

See the best of New York City on this sightseeing cruise. Relax and enjoy the city sights as you cruise past the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge, Ellis Island, and more.

The knowledgeable tour guide will provide commentary along the way, so you can learn all about these iconic landmarks.

Not only are you getting amazing views but you’ll also get a history lesson as well!

7. 9/11 Memorial Museum

If you’re looking for a moving and thought-provoking way to spend an afternoon, a tour of the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum is a great choice.

Located in New York City, the museum chronicles the events of September 11th, 2001 and provides visitors with an intimate look at the human stories behind that fateful day.

The exhibit features artifacts from Ground Zero, personal accounts from survivors and first responders, and interactive displays that help to bring the events of 9/11 to life.

Empire State Building NYC New York
Empire State Building

8. Stand at the Top of the Empire State Building

Take the elevator to the 86th-floor observatory of the Empire State Building and you’ll be gifted with breathtaking, unobstructed views in every direction.

The Chrysler Building, Central Park, Times Square- they’re all right there at your feet. If you’re feeling ambitious, take the glass elevator up to the 102nd floor for an even higher perspective.

On a clear day, you can see up to 80 miles away- all the way to Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Not to mention, of course, all of Manhattan’s incredible landmarks.

READ NEXT
18 Best Restaurants in NYC with a View

9. Metropolitan Museum of Art

If you’re thinking of taking a trip to New York City, there’s one stop you absolutely cannot miss: the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

With over two million pieces of artwork that span five thousand years of history, you could easily spend days exploring all the different galleries.

Even if you’re not usually interested in art, the sheer scale of the museum is sure to impress you. From Egyptian mummies to European masterpieces, the Met has it all.

One-Day NYC Tour

This action-packed tour will take you to all of the top attractions New York City has to offer. From the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, to Central Park and Times Square, you'll see it all!

Knowledgeable guides will be there to share interesting facts and stories about each stop along the way.

tip

10. Watch a Broadway Show

Broadway shows are the crown jewel of New York City’s theater scene. From the latest blockbuster to a timeless classic, you’ll be spoilt for choice.

Be aware that many shows sell out quickly, so it’s important to book your tickets as early as possible.

But if you don’t have your heart set on a specific production, it’s easy to snag discounted tickets at the TKTS booth located in Times Square.

You can save up to 50 percent off the regular price, making it an affordable option for budget-minded travelers.

And even if you don’t love the show you end up seeing, it’s hard to deny that there’s something special about taking in a live performance in the theater capital of the world.

The Broadway Theatre Manhattan New York
The Broadway Theatre Manhattan New York

11. Find Your Favorite Pizza Place

New York-style pizza is renowned for its thin, crispy crust and its robust tomato sauce. Whether you’re enjoying a slice from a street vendor or sitting down for a meal at a pizzeria, you’ll find no shortage of options.

But if you want to make sure you’re really getting the best pizza in the city, look for a place that’s tried and true.

A classic example is Lombardi’s, which has been in business since 1905 and is widely considered to produce the best slice in town.

12. Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island

Take a trip back in history by visiting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island; a guided tour of these two landmarks is the perfect way to learn about the United States immigrant past.

Ellis Island was once the busiest immigrant inspection station in the country, where many immigrants first set foot on American soil between 1892 and 1954.

And there’s no denying that the Statue of Liberty is one of the most iconic landmarks in America, a colossal monument that was a gift from France in 1884.

A tour of these two sites is an unforgettable experience and cannot be missed!

13. Eat Some Delicious Food

From world-renowned Michelin restaurants to humble street carts, New York City is known for its amazing food scene.

And while you can find almost any type of food in NYC, there are certain dishes that are synonymous with the city. From hot dogs and bagels to cheesecake and pretzels, these classic NYC foods are sure to satisfy your appetite.

If you don’t know where to begin, join a food tour!

Rockefeller Center New York
Rockefeller Center New York

14. Visit the Top of Rockefeller Center

For those looking to get a bird’s eye view of New York City, a visit to the Top of Rockefeller Center is a must.

Situated on the 67th, 69th, and 70th floor of the building, the three floors of observation deck offers breathtaking panoramic views of Manhattan – especially at night when everything lights up brightly!

Visitors can see iconic landmarks such as the Empire State Building, Central Park, and the Brooklyn Bridge.

The Top of Rockefeller Center is also home to the famed Rainbow Room, a luxurious Art Deco-style restaurant that has been serving up fine dining and cocktails since 1934.

15. Watch a Live Sports Game

The energy of the crowd is electric, and the atmosphere is charged with excitement; whether you’re cheering for the home team or rooting for the underdog, you’re sure to have a great time.

The Knicks are one of the most storied franchises in basketball, while the Yankees are synonymous with baseball greatness.

If football is more your thing, you can choose between the Giants and the Jets. And don’t forget about the Rangers, Islanders, and NYCFC if you’re a hockey or soccer fan.

No matter which team you choose, you’re guaranteed to have a great time watching a game in New York.

New York CityPASS

Looking for a great way to save money and see some of the best that New York City has to offer? Then you need a New York CityPASS!

With this handy pass, you'll get entry into the city's most iconic attractions, from the Empire State Building to the Statue of Liberty.

tip
READ NEXT
9 Farm to Table Restaurants in NYC You Need to Try

16. Walk Across the Brooklyn Bridge

If you’re looking for a scenic walk that will give you a taste of New York history, the Brooklyn Bridge fits the bill. This iconic bridge spans the East River, connecting the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Built in 1883, it was the first suspension bridge to use steel cables, and it remains one of the longest suspension bridges in the country.

Today, it is open to pedestrians and cyclists, offering stunning views of the skyline and a unique perspective on one of the world’s most dynamic cities.

 

Brooklyn Bridge at night
Brooklyn Bridge at night

17. American Museum of Natural History

The American Museum of Natural History is one of the largest and most prestigious museums in the world.

Founded in 1869, it houses more than 34 million specimens, ranging from ancient fossils to modern wildlife.

The museum is particularly well-known for its dinosaurs, one of the largest collections in the world. This museum also has an extensive collection of human remains, including the famous “Lucy” skeleton.

In addition to its vast collections, the museum also features a number of interactive exhibits, making it a popular destination for both children and adults.

18. Superheroes Walking Tour

If you’re a fan of comic books or simply interested in seeing where your favorite heroes hang out, then sign up for this Superheroes Walking Tour.

Led by local guides, this one-of-a-kind tour takes you to some of the most well-known superhero landmarks in the city, including famous filming locations.

So put on your cape and cowl and get ready for a tour that’s sure to be super!

19. Walk the High Line

Looking for a great place to walk off all the calories you’ve been eating? Check out the High Line trail!

This elevated park runs along an old railway line, offering stunning views of the cityscape. It’s a great way to avoid the hustle and bustle of NYC streets.

But what if you’re not a fan of heights? Don’t worry – the High Line is completely safe, with a fence running along the edge of the trail.

And if you do happen to get a little vertigo, you can always take a seat on one of the benches and enjoy the view!

Coney Island Boardwalk
Coney Island Boardwalk

20. Coney Island Boardwalk

One of the best things about New York City is that you’re never more than a subway ride away from the beach. And while there are plenty of beaches to choose from, Coney Island is always a good option when you’re looking for a little fun in the sun.

The Coney Island Boardwalk is one of the most iconic promenades in the world. Stretching for nearly three miles along the southern shore of Brooklyn, it’s home to several historical landmarks, including the world-famous Cyclone roller coaster.

In 2012, Hurricane Sandy caused severe damage to parts of the boardwalk, and it has taken years to fully recover.

However, the Boardwalk remains an essential part of New York City’s history and landscape, and its enduring popularity is a testament to its resilience.

21. New York Dinner Cruise

A dinner cruise around New York is the perfect way to mix things up and see the city from a new perspective.

As you sail down the Hudson River, you’ll be treated to stunning views of the Manhattan skyline. And of course, the food is nothing to sneeze at either!

Best of all, you can enjoy all of this while mingling with other guests and dancing the night away.

22. Flatiron Building

The Flatiron Building is one of New York City’s most iconic landmarks. Completed in 1902, the building was one of the tallest in the city at the time, and its unique triangular shape quickly made it a recognizable landmark.

Today, the Flatiron Building is still an impressive sight, towering over Fifth Avenue and serving as a reminder of New York’s rich architectural history.

While the building is no longer the tallest in the city, it remains an iconic symbol of New York and a popular tourist destination.

Unfortunately, the observation deck is no longer open to the public, but you can still join this tour to learn about its fascinating history.

Flatiron Building New York
Flatiron Building New York

23. Ride the Subway

Blend in with the locals and ride the subway! Even though it might seem chaotic at first, it’s a great way to get around and it’s affordable, which is always a bonus. The 7-day pass is only $33 for unlimited rides.

Just be sure to keep an eye on your belongings, as pickpockets are known to target unsuspecting tourists. Ss long as you use common sense, you’ll be fine.

READ NEXT
Short Flights From NYC: Weekend Getaways Under 3 Hours Away

24. One World Observatory

If you’re visiting New York City for the first time, make sure to add the One World Observatory to your list of places to see.

After all, what’s a trip to the Big Apple without a little bit of high-rise sightseeing?

Located on the top floors of the One World Trade Center, the views from the top are breathtaking; you can really get a sense of how vast and sprawling the city is from up there!

25. Chelsea Market

If you’re feeling a bit peckish, head on over to Chelsea Market. It’s a foodie paradise, with everything from artisanal cheese to freshly-baked pies.

There’s also a wide variety of cuisines represented, so you’re sure to find something to your taste.

Even if you’re not hungry, it’s worth popping in for a browse; the market is always bustling with people, and there’s always something new to see!

Staten Island Ferry Staten Island New York
Staten Island Ferry

26. Ride the Staten Island Ferry

If you’re looking for a free, scenic way to see New York City, look no further than the Staten Island Ferry.

Not only is it completely free, but you also get to see some of the most famous landmarks in the world.

The ferry ride takes about 25 minutes, and runs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, so there’s always time for a ride.

And if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can even bring a bike onboard and explore Staten Island after you disembark.

Where to Stay in New York

If you’re looking to visit the Big Apple for the first time, congratulations! You’re in for a treat. New York City is one of the most vibrant and exciting places on earth, and there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

That said, it can also be a little overwhelming. With so many neighborhoods to choose from, it can be tough to decide where to stay. Here’s a quick guide to help you out:

If you’re on a tight budget, the Lower East Side is a great option. There are plenty of cheap hotels in the area, and you’ll be close to some of the city’s best attractions, like Chinatown and the East Village.

If money is no object, then you might want to consider staying in Midtown or Downtown Manhattan. These areas are home to some of the city’s most iconic landmarks, like Times Square and Rockefeller Center.

If you’re looking for a more laid-back vibe, Brooklyn is your best bet. With its trendy cafes, art galleries, and chic boutiques, this borough has something for everyone.

Need more info? Check out our full guide on where to stay in New York.