16 “Must Do” Things in NYC
New York City can feel overwhelming on your first visit. That’s part of the beauty of the city that never sleeps, but it helps to have a cheat sheet of “must do” things while you’re in NYC…
Designed by revered landscape architect Fredrick Law Olmstead, Central Park is the crowning achievement of urban park design. It’s so massive that its many winding pathways and stately lawns feel entirely separate from the metropolis you see peeking above the treetops, even on crowded summer days.
Statue of Liberty
Gifted from France, Lady Liberty stands as the most recognizable emblem of both New York City and American democracy at large. It’s more than just a colossal symbol, though: the crown of the statue has recently been reopened, allowing a limited number of daily visitors to take in the stunning sight of New York City from across the bay.
Ellis Island is just a stone’s throw away from the Statue of Liberty, and was once the East Coast’s gateway to America. 12 million immigrants passed through the inspection station between 1892 and 1954, and today the restored main building stands as a museum telling the story of American immigration.
Many of the must-see attractions in New York City date from ages gone by, but not the High Line. Built on the discarded remnants of an elevated railway, the High Line is a long, thin park running alongside 10th Avenue. It’s dotted with benches and greenery, all pleasantly reposed among the lofts of Chelsea.
Little captures the feeling of being in a city quite like a bustling market. The Chelsea Market is packed with shops and stalls, home to everything from outrageously fancy chocolate to an Australian-themed restaurant. It’s housed inside the old Nabisco factory, and the industrial-age styling captures the feeling of an old-world marketplace.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Regularly ranked alongside the Louvre as one of the best museums on Earth, the Met requires at least a day to fully experience. You can find exhibits by contemporary artist’s cheek-by-jowl with old masters straights from the art history books, all housed in an architectural masterpiece.
Home to some of the loudest hustle and bustle on the East Coast, Times Square is packed with flashing billboards, street performers, flashy shops, and live events. It’s sometimes called the center of New York (even though it’s a little to the left) for its electric air of excitement. A must see for tourists, though less popular with the locals.
The Brooklyn Bridge is a marvelous feat of late 19th century engineering. Workers labored for months beneath the currents of the East River to dig out the river’s bedrock, descending via an elevator shaft that ran so deep many of the workers got the bends, a disease best known for afflicting divers. Today, it’s a vantage point for some of New York’s most breathtaking views, with ample pedestrian walkways and bike lanes alongside whizzing car traffic.
Museum of Natural History
The American Museum of Natural History brings together the wonders of the natural world with a series of exceptional permanent and special exhibits. It’s currently home to a cast of the 122-foot-long Titanosaur, and the museum’s permanent exhibits include dozens of enormous dinosaur fossils and artful dioramas.
If New York is a city enamored with spectacle, Coney Island is the most kitsch expression of that love. Perched on a peninsula at the edge of Brooklyn, Coney Island is home to a year-round carnival atmosphere, including an old-fashioned midway, roller coasters, and carnival rides. It’s a great way to spend a summer day, and you can even catch a sunburn on the beach. Normally you’d have to go to New Jersey for that.
If you’ll forgive the punny name, Eataly NYC is one of the best spots for visiting foodies. One-part upscale Italian market, one-part café and restaurant, Eataly is sure to please even the most fastidious focaccia fan.
Seeing a Broadway show is more than just seeing a play: it’s experiencing an event. Broadway is the center of the theatrical universe, the pinnacle of showbiz success. Take in a classic like Lion King or try out something more modern, but either way, prepare for pageantry.
Washington Square Park
This Greenwich village treasure is located alongside New York University’s main campus, attracting students, locals, and tourists alike to its pleasing greens and monumental arch. It’s an excellent spot to enjoy a cup of coffee and watch the people pass.
Like Central Park and The Statue of Liberty, Rockefeller Center shows up in every New York City montage. It’s located in Rockefeller Plaza, which holds an exceptional collection of outdoor sculpture alongside the imposing skyscraper itself. Make time for the observation deck to get some truly sweeping views of Central Park, and don’t miss the Christmas tree if you’re in town during the winter.
Empire State Building
The Empire State Building is a classic must-see. This triumph of Art Deco architecture sports 360° views of New York City and environs from the observation decks on the 86th and 102nd stories. On a clear day you can see New Jersey, if you’re into that.
The Oculus is a boldly-designed transportation hub near the World Trade Center. It was commissioned after the September 11th attacks, and its soaring, skeletal superstructure is meant to invoke a dove being released from a child’s hands. It’s been recently reimagined as a shopping center, housing over 100 shops from Apple to Zaro’s.