14 Things You CANNOT Miss When Visiting New York City

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There are so many things to do and see in New York City! The list could go on forever! But let’s face it, who doesn’t know or even dreams to someday visit the most famous and important sights of the city?

I don’t think it’s necessary for me to give you a long list of all the things to do and see in the Big City, I feel like that will only bore you to death. That’s why instead I’ll share with you only the things that you absolutely cannot miss when in NYC.

1. Visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

Statue of Liberty
Statue of Liberty

We all know the history of The Statue of Liberty; how it was a gift from the French to commemorate the alliance of France and the United States during the American Revolution, and how it became a symbol of freedom and diversity for the American people. But, even though visiting this monument is such a New York City cliche, you CANNOT leave the city without climbing up Lady Liberty.

It’s incredible the feeling you get going up the narrow stairs inside the statue, seeing the robe from the inside, and, once you get to the top (the crown), seeing the unbelievable views and getting scared because of the altitude and the sensation of the wind moving the entire statue.

On the other hand, Ellis Island is a must-see if you want to learn about the history of immigration in the country and especially in New York City.

This island served as an immigration station from 1892 to 1954, and it has been estimated that close to 40% of all current US citizen can trace at least one of their ancestors to Ellis Island. How crazy is that??! More than 12 million people passed through the gates of Ellis Island which is more than half the people entering the US during the 62 years that the station was open.

How to get to Ellis Island and to the Statue of Liberty:

– From Manhattan: Take the ferry at Battery Park

– From New Jersey: Take the ferry at Liberty State Park

Ferry price: $18.5

IMPORTANT: To climb up to the crown of the Statue of Liberty you need to buy a different ticket which costs $25.50 but includes the ferry fees. Just be sure to get them way in advance because they sell out very fast.

2. Watch at least one Broadway Show

Broadway Show Marquee
Broadway Show Marquee

Broadway shows are famously known worldwide and, believe me, you have to go see one to really know why they’re so famous.

If you’ve never seen one, you may think that it’s just not for you, that movies are way better, or even that they are way overrated. However, going to a Broadway show is something that you have to experience on your own, its a decision that you have to make for yourself (so just give it a try) and I promise you that you will want to come back and see another one. *pinky promise*

It’s important that you keep in mind that for most of the shows is very hard to get tickets, as they are so popular. Therefore, you have two options: 1. you can get them weeks or even months in advance; in this case, you might not be able to reserve the seats that you want or maybe the ones available are too expensive or too far from the stage; and 2. if you have time, you can go to a TKTS Discount Booth. Here they sell reduced-price same-day tickets at up to 50% off regular price. Plus, you get the best seats! My recommendation is to get there as early as possible (depending on the day as they have varying working hours).

TKTS Discount Booth Locations: Times Square, Lincoln Center, and South Street Seaport.

My favorite shows (so far): Chicago, The Phantom of the Opera, Jersey Boys, and Hamilton.

3. Walk around Central Park

Central Park
Central Park

Central Park: another iconic symbol of The City That Never Sleeps… Located in the heart of the city, Central Park covers an area of 843 acres and it was the first public landscaped park in all of the United States!

There are so many things to do in Central Park that you can easily spend an entire day here. Some activities that you can choose from are rowing a boat around the lake, visiting the Central Park Zoo, visiting Belvedere Castle, relaxing on the grass, riding a bike, going for a run, enjoying an outdoor concert, racing a model sailboat at Conservatory Water…

Or you could go monument hunting. Try finding Alice in Wonderland, Bolt, Shakespeare, Imagine Mosaic or Cleopatra’s Needle.

Or even reenact scenes from your favorite movies like Spiderman, Home Alone, Going on 30, 27 Dresses, Night at the Museum, Friends With Benefits, or The Big Short.

You will not get bored at Central Park!

4. Enjoy breathtaking views at the top of the Empire State, Top of the Rock, and One World observatory decks

Empire State Building
Empire State Building

City views are stunning, aren’t they?! Plus, in New York City’s observatory decks you get to feel as if you were on top of the world!

Really! The Empire State Building has a roof height of 1,250 feet and stands a total of 1,454 feet tall, including its antenna, Top of the Rock (Rockefeller Plaza) stands at 850 feet high, and One World Trade Center is the tallest building in New York City reaching a total height of 1,776 feet. You will be amazed by the views from any deck you choose but I do have my favorite:

I feel like visiting the Empire State Building’s observatory deck is a little overrated. Yes, it is one of the most iconic buildings in the city, and yes, you should definitely visit it or at least look at it from the street (and try not to break your neck) but, in my opinion, for a better view Top of the Rock is a better choice. It has clear walls and no bars that obstruct your view, AND you get to see the Empire State from there which is always incredible.

On the other hand, One World Observatory Deck also has clear walls but the deck is indoor. Two cool features of this one are: 1. clear floors and 2. an interactive virtual reality guide that shows you information about 40 of the most important sights of the city.

Climbing up these three buildings are a great way to see the city from three different perspectives.

General Admission prices:

– Empire State Building: $38

– Top of the Rock: $38

– One World: $35

5. Learn something new at the Metropolitan, Natural History, and MoMA Museums

Sculpture exposed at The Met
Sculpture exposed at The Met

I am a big fan of museums and these three will blow your mind.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (known as The Met) is the largest art museum in the US and it was the third most visited art museum in the world in 2018. The museum houses collections of paintings and sculptures from all over the world, antique weapons and armor, and encyclopedic collections of musical instruments, costumes, and accessories.

The Natural History Museum, however, might be even more famous than The Met. You might recognize it from the movie Night at the Museum; you know, the one where the animals come to life after midnight… This museum is actually the largest natural history museum in the world and in its 28 interconnected buildings are housed collections that contain over 33 million specimens of plants, animals, fossils, minerals, rocks, meteorites, human remains, and human cultural artifacts.

Now, the MoMA or Museum of Modern Art is more about, as the name might suggest, modern and contemporary art and not as much about history. This museum has been identified as the most influential museum of modern art in the world and its collection include works of such important artists as Van Gogh, Monet, Mondrian, and Warhol in addition to works of architecture and design, drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, prints, illustrated books and artist’s books, film, and electronic media.

These three museums are all a must-see; even if you don’t have that much time in the city, try to squeeze in some time to visit at least one of them; it will be a unique experience.

Prices:

– Metropolitan Museum of Art: $25 *

– Natural History Museum: $23 *

– Museum of Modern Art: $25 **

* For residents of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, the amount you pay is up to you.

** MOMA has free Friday evenings beginning at 4:00 p.m., but it gets extremely crowded.

IMPORTANT: MoMA will be closed until October 21, 2019

6. Get lost in Chinatown and Little Italy

Chinatown
Chinatown

China Town is a great place to visit whether you’re into exploring Chinese cuisine or looking to buy a fake (and way cheaper) designer bag (or a watch, or a pair of shoes, or clothing 😆). This densely populated neighborhood in New York City is full of the most authentic Chinese traditions and culture.

Just to add a little background: NYC’s Chinatown is the second oldest Chinatown in the US after the one in San Francisco and it was created in the late 1800s as a refuge for survival since Chinese immigrants were suffering a violent anti-Chinese discriminatory movement.

There’s also a lot to see and do in Chinatown. You can visit the Temple Mahayana Buddhist Association which is the oldest Chinese temple on the east coast of the US, you can walk around Columbus Park, visit the Museum of Chinese in America (MoCA) to learn about the history of Chinese immigration in New York City, or you could just walk along Canal Street and take in all the culture.

Little Italy, even though is extremely close to Chinatown and even though it has become just a little piece of what it once was, has a whole different and very Italian vibe.

In Little Italy, you can have authentic pasta dishes in the best Italian restaurants in the city, or the best cannoli in the cutest Italian bakeries. Besides the awesomeee food, Mulberry Street (main street of the neighborhood) is known to have some of the trendiest clothing stores in the city and some of the best bars.

But what else is there to do in Little Italy? Well, you know me… I will recommend at least one museum: the Italian American Museum where you can learn a little bit more about the history of the Italian Americans in NYC or go to Lombardi’s Pizza which is the oldest pizzeria in the US!

7. Visit the Friends apartment building

Friends Apartment Building
Friends Apartment Building

C’mon!! Who doesn’t love Friends?!!

What if I told you that you can visit the Friends‘ building?!

Save this address: 90 Bedford St, New York, NY 10014.

8. Have fun at the Color Factory, Rosé Mansion, Museum of Illusions, and Spyscape

Color Factory
Color Factory. Image source

These are different kind of activities to do when in NYC. All four of these places are extremely Instagrammable so all my IG models out there will have a blast here!

Color Factory is all about color and creativity and is basically an interactive exhibit made collaboratively by different amazing artists.

The Rosé Mansion is the dream of all Rosé lovers. It features 14 colorful themed rooms and two bars that offer more than 120 rosé wines from major regions around the world. I mean, that’s the dream, isn’t it? Sadly, the dream it’s 21 and over, so, sorryyyy, but come back when the law is in your favor.

The Museum of Illusions will blow your mind! If you are ready to explore and be surprised by new and incredible optical illusions, then this is your place. Allow yourself to trust your senses but be very confused at the same time and learn while having fun.

Lastly, Spyscape. This is an amazing place; you will learn so much about the spy world, try out authentic immersive spy challenges and experiences, test your spy skills, and the rest is a secret…

Prices:

Color Factory: $38

Rosé Mansion:

General Admission Ticket: $45

Happy Hour Ticket: $35*
*For reservations all day Monday, Wednesday & Thursday till 5:30 pm, and Friday till 4:30 pm

TICKETS INCLUDE:

– Admission into Rosé Mansion
– 8 tasting samples of wine
– Rosé Mansion, GoVino wine glass
– Rosé Mansion, Collectable Enamel Pin
– Other fun surprises
– Entry to RoséLand @ Rosé Mansion

Museum of Illusions: $19

Spyscape: $39

9. Fly on a helicopter and enjoy the city from another perspective

Helicopter Tour
Helicopter Tour

New York City is so big and so crowded!! And there is so much see… Everything from Times Square to the Statue of Liberty, how could you see all the sights in only 15 minutes??

Here’s your answer: ride a helicopter!

Yes, I know it can be an expensive experience but what an experience!! From the sky, everything is different and is the perfect way to discover the Big Apple while skipping the multitudes and taking a whole new perspective that most tourists miss when visiting the City That Never Sleeps.

There are soo many companies that offer these helicopter tours but I’ll tell you which one we picked:

Adrenaline Team (adrenaline.com)

Price: $219 for a 15-minute tour

10. Get on a cruise along the Hudson

North River Lobster Company Boat
North River Lobster Company Boat

Yet another different perspective to see the city: along the Hudson River.

For this one, you have a few options. First of all, you can get on a sightseeing cruise and can pick the kind of sight that you want to see. For example, you can pick one that shows you the important landmarks, or one that takes you to Bear Mountain (New York State), or one that goes around Liberty Island, that way you can see the Statue of Liberty (whether you choose to do it during the day or at night, which is beautiful). So, as you see, the decision is up to you. You can book these online or if it’s a last-minute thing, there are people on the street that will sell you the tickets (beware and be careful, they might steal your money).

Next, you could pick a boat ride to just enjoy, eat some yummy food, listen to good music, and appreciate the New York City skyline. My pick for this one is the North River Lobster Company. They used to do a free 45 minutes tour but (sadlyyyy) they brought the price up to 10 bucks, which is still cheap. Great thing about North River Lobster? They are “New York’s only floating lobster shack” and, believe me, the food is amazing! So, yeah, totally recommend it!

Another option would be to book a dinner cruise. Sailing down the Hudson River at night when the city’s skyline is lit up is a truly unforgettable experience. Dress pretty, eat great food while sailing and enjoy the most beautiful view… Priceless (and great for couples!).

Andd [drum roll], for an exclusive night out, beating the crowds and club lines a PARTY cruise is the absolute best go-to. Get wild in a whole different way. And I don’t think there’s nothing else I can say. Just grab your tickets, hit the pier, and have the time of your life.

11. Cross the Brooklyn Bridge and walk around the Dumbo neighborhood

Brooklyn Bridge
Brooklyn Bridge

What’s the most famous way to get across the East River? You guessed right… Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge.

This suspension bridge in New York City connects the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn at a height of 133 feet and is one of the oldest roadway bridges in the United States. Its construction began in 1869! Yup, 150 years ago!

This marvel of civil engineering is absolutely stunning and walking across it will allow you to enjoy really great views of the skyscrapers from up close and it will also take you right into DUMBO.

DUMBO, which stands for “Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass”, was once an industrial neighborhood but has transformed into this artsy, full of history and culture hotspot for cute shops, amazing restaurants, and all kinds of cool businesses. Definitely a must-see.

12. Visit the 9/11 Memorial & Museum

National September 11 Memorial
National September 11 Memorial

The National September 11 Memorial & Museum is a monument commemorating the September 11, 2001 attacks that killed 2,996 people, and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, which killed six. It’s really crazy and moving and frustrating to think that only a few years ago there two very tall buildings standing full of people and their dreams, dreams that were shattered in a blink of an eye by the most horrible people. So, I urge you to visit the memorial and to pay respects to these people and their families, I feel like is the least we can do.

13. Be amazed at Times Square

Times Square
Times Square

Times Square is the heart of the city. This space is filled with flashing neon lights, Broadway marquees, giant digital billboards, musicians, people in funny costumes, and LOTS of tourists. It is also the center of activity and the most iconic square in the Big Apple. Put in a simple way, you cannot come to New York City and not, at least, pass through Times Square.

14. Ride your bike or have a picnic in Governors Island

Governors Island. Image source

Governors Island is a 172-acre island in the heart of New York Harbor and is a great option if you want to enjoy a day outside doing a bunch of different fun activities.

At the island, you can ride a bike, which you can rent there or bring your own, go kayaking for free, enjoy the breeze in hammocks or have fun going down slides, including one that is 57 feet long. You can also delight yourself admiring the art scattered all throughout the island or in the expositions and museums that you can find there.

How to get to Governors Island:

Take the Governors Island Ferry which leaves from Battery Maritime Building (10 South St.) in Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6.

Price: $3 round trip

So, what’s it going to be? Are you already planning your trip to New York City??

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