A bucket list destination for many, there’s a seemingly endless array of things to do in New York no matter what your interests. The five boroughs of New York: Brooklyn, Manhattan, Staten Island, the Bronx and Queens, have something for everyone. With vibrant restaurants and bars, must-see museums, Broadway shows, and sightseeing icons familiar from the movies, New York has it all.
The most popular things to do in New York are concentrated in Manhattan. These include the Empire State Building, Grand Central Terminal, The Rockefeller Center, the 9/11 Memorial and Times Square. There’s also Central Park and The Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met), which is the largest art museum in the United States. From Manhattan, you can also catch the ferry to visit the Statue of Liberty. There’s also a plethora of other attractions and things to do in New York away from these well-trodden tourist routes!
Here are just a few of our favourite things to do in New York:
1. The High Line
The High Line is a highlight of Manhattan. Previously, it was an abandoned elevated train track but now, it has been transformed into bucolic walkway. It’s filled with gardens, pretty flowers and plants and there’s cool murals and art instillations. There’s also some fabulous views across the Hudson River and the trendy Meatpacking District. Find an empty space on one of the wooden recliners and chill out and enjoy some people watching. When it comes to things to do in New York, this place is a hit with tourists and locals alike.
After your elevated stroll, head down to the Chelsea Market which has some delicious cafes, restaurants and bakeries. Carb lovers, be sure to stock up in Amy’s Bakery. Coffee aficionados, head to Ninth Street Espresso for some of the best-caffeinated beverages in Manhattan.
2. New York Public Library
This mightily impressive Beaux-Arts building is located beside Bryant Park. Marvel at its vaulted ceilings, rosettes, murals, brilliant brass chandeliers and massive arched windows that flood the halls with light. The library is free to enter and often has free exhibitions and events. Of course, no trip to the NYPL would be complete without a visit to the Rose Main Reading Room. This is where some of the original Ghostbusters was filmed.
3. Museum of the City of New York
The Museum of the City of New York is a celebration of the Big Apple. The museum traces New York’s history from its beginnings as a striving Dutch village to today’s “Capital of the World.” There is an insightful timescape film and plenty of artefacts to peruse. There are also some wonderful and creative exhibitions. The admission prices are ‘suggested’ meaning you can pay what you like to enter.
Want some more budget busting tips? Here’s our guide on how to holiday in New York on a budget.
4. The Irish Hunger Memorial
In Battery Park, in Lower Manhattan, there is a small memorial to the Great Irish Famine. The memorial represents a rural Irish landscape with an abandoned stone cottage, stone walls and fallow potato fields. It is filled with the flora of the north Connacht wetlands. There’s also stones from each of Ireland’s 32 counties. This tranquil part of rural Ireland in the busy metropolis is the perfect place to sit back and relax. From the top of the memorial you can enjoy extensive views across the Hudson River to New Jersey.
5. Conservatory Garden in Central Park
One of the draws of New York is that it is the city that never sleeps. However, sometimes it is nice to escape its hectic pace and enjoy some peace and quiet. One of the best places for this is the Conservatory Garden in Central Park. The Conservatory Garden is an officially designated Quiet Zone, it’s also the only formal garden in Central Park. It is the perfect setting for a leisurely stroll or to sit and sip coffee and eat pretzels.
6. Walk the Brooklyn Bridge
One of the best free things to do in New York City is to walk across the iconic Brooklyn Bridge. You’ll get a 360-degree skyline view of New York Harbor and you’ll even see the Statue of Liberty.
Tip: If you walk from Manhattan into Brooklyn, reward yourself with an ice-cream from the Brooklyn Ice-Cream Factory. You’ll find this little cafe in converted 1922 fireboat house in the DUMBO neighbourhood. Alternatively, you can join the queue of people waiting for a slice of pizza at Grimaldi’s Pizzeria.
7. New York food tours
If you love pizza, you can join a walking or bus tour and eat your way around Brooklyn. A tour is a great way to sample the best in pizzas in the borough and to also see the sights. A food tour through Harlem is a must for those interested in soul food, comfort food and Southern-style home cooking. You’ll also learn about the history, music and culture of Harlem too.
8. Enjoy food like a New Yorker!
When it comes to eating in New York there is no end to the options and cuisine types on offer.
For authentic Italian food head to Arthur Avenue, which is the heart of Little Italy in the Bronx. The neighbourhood of Astoria in Queens has great Greek food. For traditional fresh and dried sausage catch the free ferry to Staten Island. There are still a few pork stores there that make the product from scratch. If it’s pizza and hotdogs you are after, well, Brooklyn is the place.
As for Manhattan? Well, it has everything from trendy food trucks to some of the best restaurants in the world. Eleven Madison Park was voted Best Restaurant in the World in 2017.
However, eating in Manhattan needn’t break the bank. Visit a traditional Jewish bakery and tuck into the New York staple of fresh bagels smeared with cream cheese and topped with lox (brined salmon) – Ess-a-Bagel, H & H Bagels, and Russ & Daughters are three of our favourite bagel makers. Another cheap and cheerful option is to grab a warm, salty pretzel from a food cart in Central Park and go for a stroll. Good value can also be found in Chinatown where you can slurp noodles, dunk dumplings and indulge in some savoury steamed pork buns.
Still hungry? Here’s 10 of the most delicious things to eat in New York.
9. Christmas in New York
It’s the most wonderful time of the year to visit NYC. Some of the best New York attractions transform into festive winter wonderlands. Be sure to admire the Christmas window displays at Macy’s, Barneys and Saks before heading inside to shop till you drop. Need more shopping inspiration? Here’s 10 places to need to go shopping in New York.
Apart from all the festive decorations and twinkling lights, there are also Christmas movie screenings and concerts. One such show is the legendary Radio City Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes.
There’s also ice-skating and a Winter Village Christmas market at Bryant Park, as well the magical experience of ice-skating at Rockefeller Center underneath the giant Christmas tree illuminated with more than 45,000 LED lights.
10. New Year’s Eve in New York
If you are in New York for the New Year you are in for a treat. New Yorkers love a good fireworks display and NYE party. Wrap up warm and view the pyrotechnics performances at one of these NYE events:
Coney Island has live entertainment and ice skating as well as a fireworks display by the water.
Also in Brooklyn, Prospect Park comes alive with live music and a midnight fireworks party.
Times Square is party-central on New Year’s Eve and fireworks burst above from around 6pm onwards – however, if you are planning on visiting Times Square on New Year’s Eve you need to get there from about 3pm.
You can also enjoy the fireworks shows from the Brooklyn Bridge, a river cruise or from a rooftop bar.
New York climate
The climate of New York is continental, with hot summers and cold winters. In the summer, temperatures regularly reach 30°. However, in the winter, temperatures dip below freezing and there can be plenty of snow and storms. The cold temperatures last well into February and March. April brings in milder weather with some light winds and rain.
The best time to visit New York
Each season brings its own charms to New York. Christmas is a winter wonderland. New Year’s Eve is an extravaganza in Times Square. Spring brings blossoms to the parks and trees. Summer brings the best rooftop, pool and street parties. Autumn brings Halloween-themed decorated streets and also fewer crowds. So, you see, there’s always something going on and plenty of things to do in New York all year round.
Flying to New York from Ireland
You can fly direct to New York from both Dublin and Shannon airports. New York JFK Airport is only 40 minutes away from the centre on the subway, and 50 minutes by car. To fly to New York from Cork, Donegal, Knock, or Kerry, you can get connecting flights from Ireland, through Europe or the USA.
Tip: However, the best thing about flying from Shannon and Dublin is that you clear US customs before you depart. Therefore you avoid immigration queues upon arrival in New York. So, you can just pick up your bags and get started on your list of things to do in New York.