If there has been one place that has always been on my list, then it is New York City! I was dreaming of strolling through the streets of Manhattan, looking up at the skyscrapers on Times Square, relaxing in Central Park and eating quirky food in Brooklyn. Millions of people come to New York each year to see what all the fuzz is about. They say there is no place like it and I completely agree. If you’re traveling to the city for the first time, then I got you covered! Here is the ultimate guide for first timers on things to do in New York!
Prior to our visit, we made a list with all the sightseeing activities that we wanted to do. Most of them are included in the New York CityPASS, so it was the perfect fit for us, as this pass is especially suited for first time visitors to New York. The pass comes with a few extra perks like skipping the lines at most attractions and you’re able to save up to 40%. It is valid for 9 days valid, so you have plenty of time to put it into use. We made sure to take as much advantage of it as possible and were able to visit all six attractions. This is what the New York CityPASS includes:
- Empire State Building
- American Museum of Natural History
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art
- Top of the Rock or Guggenheim Museum
- Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island or Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises
- 9/11 Memorial & Museum or Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
You can purchase the New York CityPASS here!
1. Time Square
Although Times Square might be the place that the locals try to avoid the most, it is still mandatory to make a quick stop at Times Square on your first visit to New York. It’s crowded, noisy and full of flashing lights, but still an absolute impressive experience.
2. Top of the Rock Observation Deck
Visiting the Top of the Rock and enjoying this iconic and panoramic view over the whole city was definitely one of my highlights in New York! You can visit the 67th, 69th and 70th floor to take in the beauty of New York. It doesn’t get better than this!
Admission: 34 USD or included in the New York CityPASS
3. High Line
The High Line can be described as an urban garden running above the Meatpacking district from Gansevoort Street to 34th street. This green terrace overlooking the west of Manhattan is an old converted railway line. Besides lots of greenery, the High Line includes some cafés, vendors to grab a quick bite and also art.
4. Flat Iron Building
You’ve probably seen this triangular building without even traveling to New York! Thanks to its unique architecture, it is one of New Yorks most known buildings and a favorite of mine, too. The Flat Iron Building is located at the intersection 5th Avenue and Broadway.
5. Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island
There is no first visit to New York without visiting the lady of the city herself. A ferry takes you from Manhattan to the Statue of Liberty and on its way back, you can make a stop at Ellis Island, where the immigration museum is situated. If you want to visit the crown, you need to make a reservation in advance (we actually missed this information, ups.) You can find all information here.
Admission: 25.50 USD or included in the New York CityPASS
6. The Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET)
After visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art, it becomes clear why it is the most visited museum in NYC. The MET showcases beautifully fine art that is up to 5.000 years old from all over the world. Go and see for yourself, it’s quite impressive. Also make sure to visit the roof top of the MET!
PS: For all my Gossip Girls out there, this is the location where Blair and her minions used to sit and reign the Upper East Side.
Admission: 25 USD or included in the New York CityPASS
7. Empire State Building
The Empire State Building is definitely the most well known landmark of New York City. From the 86th floor you will be able to enjoy an incredible 360-degree view over the whole city! With the New York CityPASS you have an extra bonus: visiting the Empire State Building twice in one day – once during the day and once at night time, making it the perfect New York City experience for your first visit!
Admission: 36 USD or included in the New York CityPASS
8. Wall Street
As business graduates, it was kind of obligatory to put Wall Street on our to do list, right?! Wall Street is the hub of the Financial District, which can be found in the southeast of Manhattan. Besides the Wall Street, the Financial District also is home of the iconic Charging Bull, the New York Stock Exchange and the Trinity Church.
9. American Museum of Natural History
If you’re a true museum buff, then this is for you. The American Museum of Natural History showcases human cultures and its history, the natural world and the wonders of the universe. However, it is most famous for the Titanosaur, one of the largest dinosaurs ever discovered! My personal highlights included the dinosaur exhibition and the spectacular space show.
Admission: 23 USD or included in the New York CityPASS
10. Brooklyn Bridge
Connecting the boroughs Manhattan and Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Bridge is another symbol of New York since its completion in 1883. Taking a walk on the Brooklyn Bridge should be on everyone’s itinerary, as you wouldn’t want to miss the amazing view of the New York Skyline when crossing the East River.
11. Bryant Park & Central Park
Whether you take a walk through Central Park, have a picnic on one of the meadows, ice skate there during the winter or rent a rowing boat during summer, it’s the perfect contrast to the concrete jungle and a must-visit in New York. The Bryant Park was another favorite of mine. Compared to the Central Park it is much smaller, but it’s a great place to have lunch, play some free board games and just relax amidst the hustle and bustle of the city.
12. 9/11 Memorial & Museum
Where once the Twin Towers used the rise into the sky, the 9/11 memorial can be found now. Visiting the 9/11 memorial and museum is quite touching, as it serves as a tribute for the victims. The museum presents the sequence of the horrific events and you are able to learn about this part of recent US history.
Admission: 24 USD or included in the New York CityPASS
13. Grand Central Station
Even if you don’t hop on a train at Grand Central Station, this place should still be on your list of things to do in New York. The beautiful architecture of the main hall draws in visitors every day. Standing there and looking around the Grand Station is quite impressive.
New York is home to many amazing neighborhoods and each of them is unique. Two areas that I enjoyed strolling around and that I can only recommend are Soho and Brooklyn.
SoHo is a trendy neighborhood with lots of cafés, brunch places and shopping possibilities. Besides its creative vibe, it is also known for the dozens of pretty Cast-Iron Buildings. SoHo touches the neighborhoods Little Italy and Chinatown, which are also worth a visit.
Brooklyn can be found on the other side of the East River by crossing the famous Brooklyn Bridge, for example. If you need to escape the hustle and bustle of Manhattan, then the hipstery borough Brooklyn is the place to go. In Brooklyn, we visited the neighborhoods Bushwick, DUMBO and Williamsburg.
PS: My Brooklyn guide will follow!
What would you add to this list of things to do in New York?