75+ Things To Do: New York Bucket List

Updated May 24, 2023
About the Author: Denise Cruz has lived in 4 countries and visited 35+ others. After her second sabbatical, she began sharing travel advice at Wander Her Way.

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Looking for ideas to add to your NYC bucket list?

Whether you’re just visiting New York on vacation or you live here, these are the best activities to add to your New York bucket list to make the most out of this city.

There’s a reason New York is known as “The City That Never Sleeps.” Even if you never slept and did something new every day, you’d never run out of things to do in New York. There’s always something going on and you can always find some cool new experience to try.

Here are 75+ things you must to do in New York in your lifetime (according to a native New Yorker).

Ultimate New York Bucket List

There are so many things to do in New York, it’s impossible to get bored!

Here are some of the best activities around the city to add to your NYC bucket list.

NYC Bucket List Tip for First Timers: If you’re a tourist visiting New York for the first time, consider buying The New York Pass, which gets you into 100+ attractions for one discounted price. Read my full review of the New York Pass here.

Paid and Free Activities: NYC Bucket List

Go to an observation deck. Between the Empire State Building and the Top of the Rock, my vote is for the Top of the Rock because you’ll be able to actually see the iconic Empire State Building against the skyline. I also recommend going at sunset for the best views!

Skip the line: buy this flexible admission ticket to the Top of the Rock observation deck.

NYC Bucket List

Rent rowboats in Central Park. Spend the afternoon paddling away on The Lake after you rent a rowboat from the Loeb Boathouse in Central Park.

Have a picnic in Central Park. The perfect outdoor activity for a nice day!

New York Bucket List

Ride the Staten Island Ferry. It’s free and will take you from downtown Manhattan to Staten Island, offering amazing views of the city and the Statue of Liberty along the way.

Take a boat cruise around Manhattan. There are plenty of sightseeing cruises available, but my favorite go-to activity when showing people around New York is an architecture yacht cruise.

โš“๏ธ Book New York architecture cruise on a yacht around Manhattan.

Climb the Vessel. This gleaming modern sculpture in Hudson Yards is a must-visit.

Things to Do in NYC

Visit Roosevelt Island. For the cost of a subway ride, you can take the Roosevelt Island Tram high above the East River to this small, quirky island next to Manhattan.

Stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge. At 1.1 miles in length, walking across the Brooklyn Bridge on its pedestrian-only path is a great activity for a nice day.

New York City Bucket List

Go on a weekend trip. Here are 30+ easy NYC weekend getaways.

Take a Gossip Girl tour. Fans of the TV show will love being able to sit on the steps of the Met, see the New York Palace, and take in other filming locations around the city.

๐Ÿ‘  Book the Gossip Girl tour here (believe it or not, it sells out!)

NYC Things to Do

Wander through Times Square. Although I typically go out of my way to avoid Times Square, I do have to admit that there’s no place like it on Earth! For first-time visitors to New York, wandering through Times Square at any time of a day is a must-do experience.

Walk the Chelsea High Line. Strolling this 1.5-mile long green space on old elevated train tracks offers a unique view of the city and is a great way to spend a pleasant afternoon.

Pay your respects at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. This somber memorial is dedicated to the lives lost in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York.

Go to a rooftop bar. Yes, they’re always overpriced, but the views from New York rooftop bars are worth what you’re paying for.

Explore by bike. It’s easy and cheap to rent a Citi Bike to explore New York, or take a guided tourโ€”it’s a super fun way to see the city!

๐Ÿšฒ I recommend this 3-hour guided bike tour of New York’s most iconic neighborhoods and views of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Go out for karaoke. Koreatown is famous for its karaoke bars.

New York Pass Review

Whisper a message to a friend at Grand Central Station. The famed Whispering Gallery at Grand Central Station allows two people to stand in opposite corners of this massive and busy train terminal and hear each other whispering to each other due to the acoustics.

Walk Manhattan top to bottom. Put on your most comfortable walking shoes and walk the 13.4-mile length of Manhattan. This was one of my favorite NYC bucket list items!

๐Ÿ‘Ÿ To make sure you don’t miss out on anything, put on some comfy shoes and take this guided walking tour of the High Line, Chelsea, and Meatpacking District.

Shop in Soho. You’ll find the trendiest stores in this downtown neighborhood.

NYC Bucket List

Splurge on a helicopter ride. One of the ultimate NYC bucket list activities is splurging on a helicopter ride above Manhattan for a truly unforgettable experience.

๐Ÿš Check out this helicopter tour over New York. It’s not as expensive as you might think!

Visit the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. With more than 52 acres of gardens, this is a relaxing oasis in the midst of the city that offers lots of seasonal events and displays.

Take a spin on Jane’s Carousel. It’s over 100 years old and offers great views of Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge from the DUMBO neighborhood of Brooklyn.

The Best Time to Visit New York

Tour Gracie Mansion. This historic mansion is tucked away on the Upper East Side and is the traditional residence of New York City’s mayor. They offer free tours.

Spend the day at Coney Island. This Brooklyn beach has been a favorite summer getaway for centuries. There’s also a fun amusement park called Luna Park with rides and games.

Attend a live TV taping. Saturday Night Live would be my dream!

NYC Seasonal Bucket List

There are so many things to do in New York during every season of the year.

While the Summer is a lot of fun, I think Winter in New York is magical (as long as you pack for New York’s cold weather). For that reason, many of the things to do in this portion of this ultimate New York bucket list are winter and Christmas-related.

Here are some of the best seasonal things to do to add to your NYC bucket list:

Cheer on the runners at the New York City Marathon. Stand along the race route and encourage the runners who participate in this famous marathon every November.

Watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Wake up early on Thanksgiving morning and snag a spot along the parade route to watch this tradition that officially kicks off the holiday season.

See the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. Nothing is more majestic than seeing this famous Christmas tree lit up in twinkling multicolored lights at night!

Tips for New York at Christmas

Admire the decorations along Fifth Avenue. Many of the department stores and designer boutiques along Fifth Avenue go all out for Christmas with their decorations and window displays. Don’t miss the famous light show at Bloomingdale’s!

NYC Bucket List

Go ice skating. There are several places to ice skate in New York, including Rockefeller Center, Pier 17, Bryant Park, and Wollman Rink or Lasker Rink in Central Park.

See the Radio City Rockettes. The Rockettes are a holiday tradition in New York. This high-energy holiday dance show is a must-see during the Christmas season.

๐Ÿ‘ฏโ€โ™€๏ธ Buy tickets to see Christmas Spectacular with the Rockettes.

New York City Bucket List

Participate in SantaCon. Dress up like Santa Claus and join the fun in the annual SantaCon!

Admire the Dyker Heights Christmas lights. Although it’s a bit further afield, the Dyker Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn does incredible holiday lights displays every year.

๐ŸšŒ You can take a guided tour of Dyker Heights onboard a cozy bus (great to get out of the cold). Don’t worry, there’s plenty of time to walk around and explore.

See The Nutcracker. You have to see this famous Christmas ballet performed by the New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center at least once in your lifetime!

Go to Bryant Park Winter Village. This is the closest thing New York has to a traditional European Christmas market. It’s a great place for holiday shopping, dining, and ice skating.

NYC Bucket List

Stay warm in an igloo. Many New York rooftop bars set up heated igloos in the winter months so you can have drinks and enjoy the views, even in the Winter.

Celebrate New Year’s Eve in Times Square. There’s no place on Earth to celebrate New Year’s Eve quite like Times Square! This is a top New York bucket list item for a LOT of people and can be a really unique experience if you don’t mind the crowds and the cold!

Take part in the Polar Bear Plunge. Because who doesn’t want to jump into the freezing-cold ocean on New Year’s Day? This is an activity that will really test your self-control! The Polar Plunge helps raise funds for sport programs for people with disabilities so you can “freeze for a reason“.

Admire the cherry blossoms. Every spring, they bloom all around the city. The Sakura Matsuri Festival at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden is a great place to see them.

Cherry blossoms during the best time to visit New York City

Go to Coney Island on the Fourth of July. You HAVE to watch the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest at Coney Island on Fourth of July at least once in your life!

Attend Governor’s Ball. The Governor’s Ball is New York’s most popular summer music festival. It’s usually in June so if you can plan your visit to New York around that time, you’ll get to see some of the biggest names in music perform.

Behold the marvel of Manhattanhenge. The name is inspired by Stonehenge, when the sun aligns with the stones and marks the change of the season. In New York, the sunrise and sunset align perfectly with some of the east-west streets in Manhattan several times a year, making for a stunning photo op. Here’s when and where you can experience Manhattanhenge.

Catch a baseball game. Whether you’re a Yankees or Mets fan, cheering on your favorite New York baseball team at an outdoor stadium is a summer tradition.

Stroll around Central Park in the fall. Nothing like the vibrant colors of the fall foliage!

The Best Time to Visit New York City

Go to the Coney Island Mermaid Parade. Another can’t-miss event is Coney Island’s annual Mermaid Parade, which has been running since 1983! Dress up like a mermaid and join the fun!

Attend the Village Halloween Parade. You can’t miss this crazy Halloween parade held every year in October in Greenwich Village. Be sure to watch (or participate in it!) at least once on your NYC bucket list. It’s free to watch but you’ll need a ticket to participate in the parade.

Explore Open House New York. Every October, the Open House New York organization holds an event where you can get free entry into some of the city’s most interesting and historic buildings that are normally closed to the public, such as City Hall or some of the Upper East Side’s most famous mansions. If you’re an architecture and urban design nerd like me, this is one New York bucket list item you must do!

NYC Food Bucket List

New York is known for being one of the best foodie cities in the world! You can eat your way through the city with these New York food bucket list ideas.

So it’s time to unbutton your pants and check off some eating items in your NYC to do list:

Indulge in banana pudding from Magnolia Bakery. It’s so fluffy and delicious!

NYC Bucket List

Eat the best pizza in New York. Everyone has an opinion on where it is, but since this is my NYC bucket list, I’m telling you that it’s Joe’s Pizza in Greenwich Village.

๐Ÿ• Since you’ll be in the area, I recommend this food tour of Greenwich Village.

Try a New York bagel. Much like pizza places, everyone has a favorite bagel place in New York. Mine is H&H and you really can’t go wrong with any of their bagels!

Try a massive cookie from Levain Bakery. These are sure to satisfy your sweet tooth!

NYC Bucket List

Dine at Tavern on the Green. Sit under the twinkling lights at this Central Park classic restaurant.

Try all the crazy desserts. It seems like there’s always some crazy new dessert trend in New York. I wrote a whole blog about the craziest, best desserts in New York. Yes, they can be overpriced, but they’re deliciously fun!

NYC Food Bucket List

Eat soul food in Harlem. Sylvia’s is one of the most famous places to go.

Get a cronut from Dominique Ansel Bakery. Years later, this Soho bakery STILL gets a long line in the mornings. But their famous croissant-doughnut hybrid is worth the wait!

New York Bucket List

Have brunch at Russ & Daughters. Their bagels and lox are famous!

Feast on dumpling in Chinatown. They’re cheap and delicious!

Eat New York’s best hot dog at Papaya King. This famous Upper East Side restaurant also has delicious smoothies! For a great vegan hot dog option, head just a couple blocks away to Schaller’s Stube Sausage Bar.

New York Food Bucket List

Splurge on brunch at Sarabeth’s. Not the cheapest, but soooo worth it!

Go to Smorgasborg. Held in Brooklyn, this is a weekly outdoor food market featuring lots of food trucks and some of the most popular food in the city.

Get an ice cream at Serendipity. Or try my favorite, their giant frozen hot chocolate! (You’ll recognize this place from the movie Serendipity)

New York at Christmas

Try the Eataly Flatiron restaurant. This rooftop restaurant changes themes depending on the season.

Dine al fresco on Stone Street. This historic cobblestoned street is the oldest in New York, and it has now been transformed into a lively dining street with tons of outdoor restaurants and bars.

Take a food tour. There’s no better way to explore New York’s culinary scene than with a guided food tour.

๐ŸฅŸ Check some items off your NYC food bucket list! Book one (or more) food tours in New York.

NYC Culture Bucket List

Last but not least, here are plenty of cultural activities to add to your New York bucket list. From the arts to music to history, New York is a city filled to the brim with culture!

See a Broadway show. Enough said. This one is a must when you’re in New York!

๐ŸŽญ Get your broadway tickets in advance and avoid the lines. Check which shows are available and buy tickets here.

Go to the Met Cloisters. Located way uptown, you will not even believe you’re in New York at this tranquil museum that transports you to a medieval Italian monastery.

Check out a museum at night. Many museums in New York have weekly or monthly free admission, and it usually occurs in the evenings. This is a fun, free cultural activity!

Admire NYC’s best art. You can’t miss the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), MoMA PS1 in Queens, the Whitney, or the New Museum.

Guggenheim is a must do in NYC

Score tickets to Shakespeare in the Park. This famous event brings world-class live Shakespeare performances to Central Park every summer, and best of all it’s 100% free! So go ahead and add this one to your list of things to do in New York for freeโ€”it’s a must.

Go book shopping. New York has tons of unique independent bookstores that are worth visiting. The Strand is the oldest (and largest) bookstore in New York with over 18 miles of books.

Best Bookstores in NYC

Take in a concert at Carnegie Hall. One of the world’s most magnificent venues.

Learn about New York’s history. The Museum of the City of New York is dedicated to the city’s history, while the Tenement Museum shows what life used to be like in New York.

NYC Bucket List

See a jazz show at the Apollo Theatre. This famous theatre in Harlem was at the heart of the Jazz Age in New York, and you can still catch live music performances there today.

Go to the rooftop of the Met. New York’s Metropolitan Museum has an incredible rooftop park with breathtaking skyline viewsโ€”it’s for sure one of the most Instagammable places in NYC.

๐Ÿบ If you have time, I recommend taking a guided tour of the Met instead of wandering around the massive collection.

NYC Bucket List

Go gallery hopping in Chelsea. There are tons of free art galleries to check out.

Things to Do in NYC

Watch a performance at Lincoln Center. Home of the New York City Ballet and Metropolitan Opera.

Visit the New York City Public Library. The Bryant Park location is the main branch, and the most grand location. You can take a free guided tour to see the stunning Reading Room, or visit at Christmas to see the decorations that are open to the public.

New York Bucket List

Explore the American Museum of Natural History. This popular natural history museum on the Upper West Side offers pay-what-you-wish admission for everyone. 

The New York Pass

If you’re a tourist visiting New York for a limited amount of time, consider getting The New York Pass.

You can choose the pass duration (between one day and ten days) and it gives you unlimited access to dozens of popular attractions in New York, all for one discounted price. The New York Pass can save you a ton of money compared to buying tickets for these attractions individually. This is my number one tip for tourists who want to see and do as much as possible in New York!

๐Ÿ“Œ Read my full review of the New York Pass here.

Where to Next?

I hope these NYC bucket list ideas gave you some inspiration for your own bucket list!

No matter how much time you have in New York, whether you’re just visiting for a few days or living in the city, creating your own bucket list will help you make the most out of all the city has to offer.

Looking for more New York content? Here are some of my most popular posts:

๐Ÿ“Œ Check out my insider’s guide to New York City.

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NYC Bucket List

Denise, travel blogger at Wander Her Way

About Denise Cruz

Denise is a marketing executive who escaped corporate to travel the worldโ€ฆ twice. A Brazilian native living in the U.S., she’s lived in 4 countries and visited 35+ others. After side-hustling her way to financial independence, she curates solo destination guides, slow travel tips, and travel blogging advice on Wander Her Way. When sheโ€™s not on the road, you can find her in Miami with her dog Finnegan.