Top things to see and do in New York City

Only got a couple of days to get to know a new city? Our Big Five City Guides can help. We break each destination down into culture, history, dining, shopping and relaxation must-sees and dos. Geraldine Massey checks in from fabulous New York...

Things to see and do in New York City

Things to see and do in New York City

The colossal copper structure, its great verdigris arm and symbolic torch punctuating the cloudy sky, looms large ahead of our tour boat. Miss Liberty herself welcoming us to the city that never sleeps.

And the reason New York never sleeps is simple: there is so much to see, do, experience, and generally marvel at!

Here’s a city guide to the top things to see and do in New York City.

Things to see and do in New York City

Things to see and do in New York City: Try tasty street eats.


NYC is a heady cultural mix of theatre, art, music, museums and sport.

Unsold tickets on the day of performance for Broadway and off-Broadway musicals and theatre are offered at hugely discounted prices from the official TKTS ticket booths. The main one is in Times Square. Get there early for the best deals.

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Things to see and do in New York City

Things to see and do in New York City: Times Square

For your art fix visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Frick Collection or the Guggenheim. The Museum of Modern Art has enough Monets, Warhols and Picassos to keep you oohing and ahhing for hours.

If you really want to immerse yourself in a New York cultural experience like no other, jump on the subway and take yourself out to Yankee Stadium for a Yankees’ baseball game.

You’ll be treated to a show that’s about so much more than sport. Tradition, music, food, theatre, advertising, instant replays and dancing sandrakers collide in an experience that’s uniquely American and a lot of fun.

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Things to see and do in New York City

Things to see and do in New York City: Guggenheim Museum. Image: Bigstock


The most cost effective way to enjoy New York’s top restaurants is to look for lunchtime specials and set menus.

Michelin-starred eateries include Le Bernardin, Masa and Marea. However it’s the street food that is part of New York’s very fabric.

Wafting aromas from food trucks and stalls greet you on street corners everywhere. Make like a local and enjoy everything from the humble hot dog, pizza, popcorn and pretzels to contemporary Korean and South American fare.

Things to see and do in New York City

Image courtesy of Le Bernardin

A visit to a New York deli to savour sandwiches is also a must. The city’s sandwich tradition is derived from Italian, Jewish, Asian and Middle Eastern cultures. Try Gardenia Deli on West 30th Street for tasty traditional turkey, the famed ‘Chairman Bao’ from the East Village’s Baohaus, or a falafel sandwich from Mamoun’s Falafel in Greenwich Village.

Katz and Carnegie Delis vie for the record for the world’s biggest pastrami sandwich. One between two will definitely do it!

Great places to eat in New York City

Things to see and do in New York City

Things to see and do in New York City: Try a traditional pastrami sandwich.


New York City’s history is proudly on display, written large in historical areas like Harlem, Little Italy and SoHo.

Seminal buildings like the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, the New York Public Library and St Patrick’s Cathedral tell the history of New York just as surely as the delightful and informative displays at the Museum of the City of New York, Ellis Island Immigration Museum and the Morgan Library and Museum. The Lower East Side Tenement Museum is a fascinating look back at the humble beginnings of what are now million dollar apartments!

Things to see and do in New York City

Things to see and do in New York City: Chrysler Building. Image: Bigstock

Hop on/hop off bus tours and guided walking tours are also great ways to uncover the city’s secrets. New York Historical Tours has options covering specific precincts, and even specialty itineraries like the Jazz Age Tour. You can even tailor a tour to suit your interests.

Top New York City walking tours


New York City is the spiritual home of the department store. Your shopping experience should include quintessential options like Macy’s, Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue or Bloomingdales.

You don’t have to be in the market for serious bling to enjoy Tiffany & Co’s flagship Fifth Avenue store, where you’re welcome to simply browse the stylish counters of stunning jewellery and gifts.

For something a little different plunge into one of the many vibrant markets peppered around the city, including Chelsea Markets for food and produce, Manhattan’s GreenFlea Markets, Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market or Artists & Fleas in Brooklyn for vintage and upcycled items.

Things to see and do in New York City

Things to see and do in New York City: Chelsea Markets. Image: Bigstock


It may surprise you to learn that 14 per cent of this dense urban jungle is parkland. Central Park – New York’s backyard and playground – reigns supreme with everything from hills, woods, lakes, Central Park Zoo and the historic Friedsam Memorial Carousel, to activities including bike riding, ice-skating and boat rowing on Central Park Lake. Several companies offer bike tours of the park, which is a fun way to explore.

Things to see and do in New York City

Things to see and do in New York City: Central Park. Image: Bigstock

The High Line is a raised former railway line that’s been transformed into one of the city’s premier green spaces. It’s a top spot for a stroll.

Beyond Manhattan, take in the Hudson River views from the Bronx’s Wave Hill or the renewal of the Brooklyn waterfront at Brooklyn Bridge Park on the edge of Dumbo.

Things to see and do in New York City

Things to see and do in New York City: High Line

One of the best ways to see the Manhattan skyline is from the water. Circle Line Cruises offer Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island cruises, and a Harbor Lights sunset cruise.

You can also take the free Staten Island Ferry for great views of the city and Statue of Liberty. Who said there’s no such thing as a free ride?

Do you have any tips for top things to see and do in New York City? We would love to hear from you. Please leave us a comment.

Additional images: Bigstock


Geraldine Massey

About the writer

Geraldine Massey won her first writing prize when she was eight for a story about travelling with Howard Carter on his expedition to discover Tutankhamun’s tomb, an early indicator of her lifelong enthusiasm for writing and travel. An experienced corporate communicator and editor, Geraldine once wrote text for Centrelink payment brochures and is now a writer and editor for WeekendNotes. She’s also a trivia buff whose diverse range of interests helped her win $32,000 on Who Wants to be a Millionaire. In recent years she’s become a ‘wedding traveller’, using family weddings in New Zealand, Argentina and the USA as jumping-off points for further exploration. Closer to home you may find her at her favourite relaxation destination, Yamba. Geraldine’s favourite travel quote is author Terry Pratchett’s, “Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving”, emphasising the importance of home and family in her life.

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