“I want to be a part of it, New York, New York”
Who among us hasn’t dreamt of a life in (or at least a trip to) New York City?
I fell in love with the iconic city long before ever setting foot on its glorious streets. I got to know New York by watching movies and tv shows like You’ve Got Mail, Friends, When Harry Met Sally, Sex In The City… the list goes on and on.
The city that never sleeps holds a special place in our hearts here at Museum Hack!
It’s where we got our start. It was in the hallowed halls of the Metropolitan Museum of Art that our founder, Nick Gray, led the first-ever renegade tour (full story).
New York City is one-of-a-kind – there’s no doubt about that. The lights, the history, the art, the food, the people all come together to make up one of the greatest cities in the whole world!
We created this list of 10 fun things to do in NYC for the first-timers planning their trip to the big city.
Let’s dive in!
#1: Get Swept Up In The Energy Of Times Square
Ahh, Times Square… the lights, the street performers, the billboards, the crazy, the smelly, the crowds, the noise!
Make sure you visit this world-famous square during both the day and night to get the full experience.
Insider tip: Did you know midnight in Times Square isn’t only special on NYE?! Every night from 11:57 pm to midnight an extravaganza called Midnight Moment takes place. It is the world’s largest and longest-running digital art exhibition synchronized on electronic billboards.
#2: Admire The Views From The Top Of The Empire State Building
Where are my Sleepless in Seattle fans at? King Kong? Elf? What about the How I Met Your Mother?
The point I’m trying to make is, whatever your movie or TV tastes, I’ll bet you’ve come across the Empire State Building at least once.
The building has actually been in over 250 movies since 1931 and is well worth visiting on your trip to The Big Apple.
Located in the center of Midtown Manhattan, The Empire State Building’s 86th floor is home to the highest open-air observatory in New York. There is also an inside observation room just 16 floors up on the 102nd floor. Each offers an unforgettable 360° view of New York City.
#3: Say “Hi!” To Lady Liberty
The Statue of Liberty is a must-see when traveling to the Big Apple. The first time I visited New York, I naively assumed I could see her from almost anywhere in the city (thanks, every movie based in New York I watched as a kid). But I digress…
While planning your trip, it’s important to note that there are actually three types of tickets you can get: Grounds Only, Pedestal, or Crown. Crown tickets are reserved up to 6 months in advance!
Reserve tickets and read more about planning your trip on the NPS site.
Most people use this opportunity to also explore Ellis Island — specifically the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration. If you have time, I absolutely recommend both stops!
#4: Experience The Iconic Beauty Of Grand Central Station
Grand Central Station isn’t just a transportation hub!
You don’t need to be waiting to catch your train to enjoy this historic world-famous landmark. Grand Central has 60 shops, 35 places to eat, and a full calendar of events happening all year round!
A little bit of history… in 1967, Grand Central Terminal was almost demolished, to be replaced by a nondescript modern skyscraper with no more personality than a shoe box. (read the full story)
Grand Central Terminal is located at the intersection of Park Avenue and 42nd Street (89 E. 42nd Street, to be exact!) and open daily from 5:30 am to 2:00 am.
#5: Visit The Best Museums In The World
Some of the very best museums in the world exist in NYC!
Let’s focus on the two you absolutely have to see… the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History!
The MET is the largest art museum in the US. It is home to over 2 million works of art spanning 5 thousand years of history and the second most visited art museum in the world (second only to the Louvre in Paris).
AMNH’s collection contains over 33 million specimens of plants, animals, fossils, minerals, rocks, meteorites, human remains, and human cultural artifacts. Remember the film “Night at the Museum?” Do we even need to say more?
I know what you are thinking, that’s A LOT of art!
Don’t worry, we’ve got your back! Check out our super awesome renegade museum tours here.
#6: Pack A Picnic And Head Out To The Park
No matter what time of year you visit, Central Park is a wonderful place to spend some time!
If the weather is warm, grab a book or download your fav podcasts and head over to Sheep Meadow. We guarantee top-notch people watching.
Need a break from the skyscrapers and hustle and bustle? Head over to Central Park Mall, which runs right through the middle of the Park from 66th to 72nd street. It’s the perfect place for a leisurely stroll.
Don’t forget to check out the famous Alice In Wonderland statue.
Check out all the awesome things happening at the park all year long here.
#7: Grub On A Legendary Sandwich At Katz’s Delicatessen
“I’ll have what she’s having!”
Anyone else remember this scene from When Harry Met Sally? You know the one where Meg Ryan demonstrates exactly how women fake orgasms… in the very public deli.
Well (as I’m sure you’ve guessed by now) that deli was Katz Deli!
Katz has been serving delectable pastrami on rye since 1888! It is not just a spot for tourists. Katz is deeply intertwined with the city’s rich history and culture.
Despite being hugely famous, this homey joint still is (and will always be) the real deal!
Keep in mind ordering here is old school. So take a ticket, know what you want when it’s your turn to order and make sure you have cash!
#8: Stroll Across The Brooklyn Bridge
It’s about 1.3 miles each way so plan at least 2 hours to fully enjoy this experience… maybe 2.5 hours if you’re like us and love to snap a lot of pictures along the way.
The unobstructed view of New York City’s downtown skyline from the bridge is hard to beat!
One of the best things about this fun thing to do in NYC is it’s completely free!
A little bit of history… the Brooklyn Bridge was the world’s first steel-wire suspension bridge and with a span of just over 1,595 feet, it was by far the longest suspension bridge in the world (until 1903).
Fun fact: Circus entertainer P.T. Barnum took 21 elephants over the bridge in May 1884 to prove that it was indeed safe to cross.
#9: Eat At The Oldest Pizzeria In The US
Gennario Lombardi opened his shop in 1905, making it the very first pizzeria in the US of A!
Located in Manhattan’s Little Italy, Lombardi’s is still serving their classic coal oven (one of the few left in the city) baked pizza pies.
Their flagship pies are the clam pie and margherita. Each pie has a signature thin, charred to perfection crust. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
The atmosphere is great too! Lombardi’s is chock-full of historical charm. We’re talking red and white checked tablecloths, a red brick wall, and all!
#10: Chow Down On A Delicious Hot Dog At Gray’s Papaya
The affordable and reliable NYC staple, Gray’s Papaya, is located at the Upper West Side corner of Broadway and 72nd Street and open 24 hours a day.
You may recognize the name and bright yellow and red storefront from the timeless movie You’ve Got Mail.
While the price has increased since its early days, you can still grab a Frank with ketchup, mustard, sauerkraut, onions, and relish for just $2.95. Of course, you can always add chili and/or cheese for an extra $0.50 each. In a city as expensive as New York, it’s nice to eat at a place that won’t break the bank.
If you are really hungry try their famous “recession special” — two franks and one medium tropical drink for just $7.00.
Happy travels! We sincerely hope you enjoy your trip!
P.S. To the NYC locals out there reading this list please let us know if we missed any of your favorite fun things to do in New York City in the comments below.