As a native New Yorker, I was able to create this activity list from my memory. However, I couldn’t leave my fellow New Yorkers out, so there is a caveat for those also from New York City. I was born in Brooklyn and I didn’t venture much further than Columbus Circle. While this is not a definitive list, I acknowledge that it’s a bit biased based on how I spent my time in New York City.
- The Transit Museum: For brand new visitors, hands down, this is the best way (other than riding it) to explore a decommissioned train station turned into a museum about the creation of the subway system.
- Museums: So many to visit, right? Top five – Museo Del Barrio, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The American Museum of Natural History, Museum of the City of NY, and the Met Cloisters.
Bridges. Not many places provide the opportunity to walk to another borough. My favorite bridges: Brooklyn and Williamsburg.
- Theatre: Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway performances are on par with Broadway shows. You can never go wrong with any of these options if you don’t want to pay 100+ for a ticket for a good show.
- Parks: So many parks! Prospect Park, Central Park, Union Square Park, Washington Square Park, Bryant Park, and there are more uptown as well.
- Green-Wood Cemetery. Located by the Park Slope section in Brooklyn. There are two controversial sculptures and a gorgeous mausoleum to visit.
- Top of the Rock. I stay away from the super touristy things usually but if there’s one thing I strongly recommend is visiting this observation deck. Worth the view, absolutely. The NYC skyline is inimitable.
- Coney Island. It’s a fun place. Boardwalk. Games. Nathan’s hotdogs. What more do you need? Don’t go in the water though.
- Magnolia Bakery: But not for what you think. While this establishment was made popular by Sex and the City with their cupcakes, honestly, the frosting is way too rich and too much for me. Go for the banana pudding, if you’re into that sort of thing. Worth the wait.
- Sugar Sweet Sunshine: I love pudding if you haven’t noticed and desserts. This is my spot for chocolate pudding. They have since expanded their pudding menu. Try the Chocolate Bomb. That’s my go-to.
- Lombardi’s Pizza: This pizza place used to be the first pizzeria shop in NYC and has since been debunked. Regardless if it’s the first pizza shop or not, I have never been disappointed.
- Rice to Riches: More dessert, I know. This spot is across the street from Lombardi’s and is the only rice pudding only spot I’ve ever encountered in my life. I’m always satisfied.
- The High Line: This park and now famous attraction almost didn’t exist as it was un-used freight train tracks. But now it’s a lovely way to see the west side of Manhattan and to experience art. It’s come a long way.
- Queens. Queens has always been poppin’ but everyone else was late to the party. Three things I suggest: Queens Museum, Moma PS1, and any restaurant in the borough.
- The Stephen A. Schwarzman Building aka the New York Public Library. A beautiful building inside and outside, housing books. This building has the lions out front next to Bryant Park.
- New York Botanical Garden: The Bronx Zoo is literally for kids and massive. Instead, visit the largest garden in any city in the US and also a Historic Landmark. You won’t regret it. https://www.nybg.org/
- Trinity Church – Wall Street: Wall Street and the financial district has so much New York history that you can walk in any direction and see it in buildings and street names. Trinity Church courtyard specifically houses Alexander Hamilton, his wife, Eliza and her sister, Angelica Schuyler.
- Staten Island Ferry. I, like many New Yorkers, disparage this “borough” because it’s not attached to the land and there’s not much to do there. However, the ferry is a pleasant ride and way to feel what it’s like being in the Hudson River.
There are 1,001+ places and things to do in New York City and this is only a sample. I’d also suggest visiting Atlas Obscura for random activities even I didn’t know existed. Two books for those who don’t want a typical tourist experience I’d suggest are Secret Brooklyn and Secret New York: An Unusual Guide. It’s made me appreciate the history of my home city.