Skip to main content

25 Great Things to Do in New York City


Some favorite New York experiences, old and new, from Walking Off the Big Apple

1. Visit Roosevelt Island and walk south to see the Renwick Ruins.
"The Gothic Revival structure, granted the status of Landmark Site by the Landmarks Preservation Committee in 1975 on the basis of its picturesque ruination, is now undergoing a $4 million stabilization process in order to stem the tide of accelerating decay."

2. Shop at a bookstore and then visit a nearby cafe.
"In the olden days, many of us liked to shop for books and then go to a favorite café to read or write. We never worried about the availability of electrical outlets or a wireless cloud."

3. Read up on the history of Audubon Terrace and visit the Hispanic Society of America.
"Flash backward and imagine the estate that once belonged to John James Audubon, the famous naturalist and explorer, and then jump forward to the early 1900s when railroad heir and philanthropist Archer M. Huntington commissioned this acropolis."

4. Visit the permanent exhibit at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria.
"Discover and explore Tut's Fever Movie Palace, an art installation and functioning theatre designed by Red Grooms and Lysiane Luong that serves as an homage to the art of cinema."

5. Ride a bike through Times Square.
"Seeing this part of the city by two wheels is nevertheless a strange excursion, because the cultural history of New York has little reference to experiencing Times Square and the theater district in quite this way."

6. Take a tour of Lincoln Center.
"We were in fact watching a rehearsal of a rehearsal, a confusing spectacle that appealed to my sense of the absurd."

7. See The Unicorn Tapestries at The Cloisters.
"In 1850 the Count de la Rochefoucauld decided he wanted his family's stuff back."

8. Take a walk through the South Village below Houston Street.
"An area of tenement buildings with well-preserved late 19th and early 20th century architecture, the South Village below Houston Street features small specialty shops, restaurants, and cafes in a friendly, well-balanced and human-scaled neighborhood."

9. Find New York places mentioned in Truman Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's.
"The disappearance of the New York locations mirrors the disappearance of the main character. Of course, changing New York is part of reality and not just a literary device."

10. Drink a Red Snapper at The King Cole Bar at the St. Regis and then shop on Fifth Avenue.
"The "Red Snapper" is the name for the St. Regis Hotel's "Blood Mary," the now-ubiquitous concoction the hotel introduced to the United States."

11. Take an evening stroll from the West Village to the Hudson to watch the sunset.
"The winding streets, European-style cafes with outdoor seating, sports bars, small stores, music clubs, theaters and public parks offer so much that many stay awake all night to enjoy the neighborhood."

12. Visit 123 Lexington, the address for Kalustyan's, an amazing spice market and store, and appreciate that it was once home to President Chester A. Arthur.
"As I suggested, please stop into Kalustyan's to shop for exotic spices or to grab a bite to eat. Bring a shopping list, because when I visited I wish I had already prepared a grocery list for some spice-heavy dishes."

13. Wander around The Ramble in Central Park.
"Because the Ramble works in mysterious ways, I wandered over the Azalea Bridge, near the area you see here, and then made my way east."

14. Stroll along W. 10th Street from Fifth Avenue to Waverly Place.
"At 51-55 once stood the Studio Building where artists Winslow Homer, Frederic Church and Albert Bierstadt, among others, once worked and where the sublime American West was painted."

15. Go find real bagels, rugelach, and bialys on the Lower East Side.
"I wanted a little of everything, but I decided to restrain myself by settling on a lone large chocolate pastry that's somewhere between a rugelach and a babka. I was told I made a really good choice."

16. Visit Bryant Park just to appreciate the glories of the American Radiator Building.
"It's unusual to see a building made of black brick, much less one with gold trim. Designed by Raymond Hood, the American Radiator Building of 1924 fit the bill of the clients - it was massive, solid, and it would glow at night."

17. Read a book while sitting in Greenacre Park.
"Greenacre Park, with a 25-foot waterfall, a stand to buy snacks, comfortable movable chairs, and a zen-like design, provides one of the most successful types of spaces in our urban fabric."

18. Visit the lobby of the old New York Daily News Building, aka The Daily Planet.
"Visiting the Daily News building should be on every visitor's list. The building is only a few blocks east of Grand Central Station. Only the lobby is open to the public, but that's the part you want to see."

19. Listen to street musicians in Washington Square Park.
"Self-styled bohemian traditions of the Village do not conform to an imposed order from the outside, and in that sense, I embraced my neighbors' righteous protests. Some of their good ideas made their way into the new design."

20. Participate in Jazz & Sketch Night at the Society of Illustrators.
"Tuesday night's session of "Jazz & Sketch" at the Society of Illustrators perfectly fit our needs - a beautiful setting in the society's home on E. 63rd., one with a rich artistic and social history, the exquisite additions of live jazz and a cash bar, excellent models, and a congenial atmosphere."

21. Walk through the Fort Greene neighborhood in Brooklyn.
"In addition to its early connection to the writer Walt Whitman, Fort Greene is known for its successes as a racially diverse neighborhood. The final stretch of the walk took me past beautiful townhouses along Carlton Avenue."

22. Walk from Battery Park to the Esplanade in Battery Park City.
"The promenade next to the water, with views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and the Jersey shore, and the cool esplanade of trees in a stretch of the southern section make for a particularly satisfying walk."

23. Pretend you're Greta Garbo and walk the streets and avenues near her apartment.
"Greta Garbo often walked up and down the streets you see before you, "Mademoiselle Hamlet," as Alice B. Toklas called her, wanting to be alone. Starting at her apartment on the East River, Garbo wandered west and mostly north through streets and avenues of Midtown and into the Upper East Side."

24. Tour the ruins of American finance and ask for your money back.
"Surveying the urban landscape of New York, the financial capital of the world, I've mapped out the pinpoints of flickering light (some have flicked off) - among them, AIG Private Client Group (70 Pine Street), Bernard Madoff's penthouse apartment (133 E. 64th St.), RIP Bear Stearns (383 Madison) until its purchase by JPMorgan Chase (270 Park Avenue), Lehman Brothers (745 7th Ave.), and several more."

25. Visit Grant's Tomb. Seriously. A very moving experience.
"After spending some time looking at the tombs of Ulysses and Julia and then visiting the churches, I began to think of this stroll as the Death, Reconstruction, and Resurrection Walk."

And now the map.

View 25 Great Things to Do in New York in a larger map

Images and text by Walking Off the Big Apple.









Popular posts from this blog

A Daytime Walk on Broadway and the Theater in the Dark

On October 9, the Broadway League announced that the theater season has been postponed through May 2021, leaving Broadway dark for the winter and into the spring of next year. According to the press release, “Broadway performances were initially suspended due to COVID 19 on March 12, 2020. At that time, 31 productions were running, including 8 new shows in previews. Additionally, 8 productions were in rehearsals preparing to open in the spring.”It’s hard to imagine New York without the theater. Even a daytime walk along the way in the Theater District near Times Square will reveal that the theater, in terms of live performances with an audience, has gone dark. Without Broadway, that leaves visitors to Times Square with few options for general amusement. Many stores and restaurants have closed as well. The lights are still up and blazing. When the Empire State Building was left nearly empty during the Great Depression, just a few years after it opened, the building crew kept the lights…

North Towards Autumn: A Day Trip on the Metro-North Hudson Line

The peak of autumn colors in New York City tends to fall sometime in the days following Halloween, but those anxiously waiting leaf change can simply travel north. 
One way to speed the fall season is to take the Hudson line of Metro-North north of the city and watch the greens fade to oranges and yellows and the occasional burst of red. Weekends during the month of October are ideal times to make the trip. The air tends to be crisp with bright blue skies, and the Hudson River glimmers like a mirror in the light of autumn. As the Hudson line hugs the river for much of the distance north, the train ride alone provides plenty of opportunities for sightseeing. Try to grab a window seat on the river side of the train car for views of the Palisades and the bends of the Hudson Highlands later in the trip.  Still, October is a great time for a walk. Exploring the villages along the Hudson line may be accomplished on foot, and many cater to visitors with signs and maps indicating the village’s…

An Early Autumn Walk in Central Park: 2020 Edition

This week, the singer Diana Krall released a cover of “Autumn in New York,” the standard by Vernon Duke. An accompanying video, filmed in New York by Davis McCutcheon and directed by Mark Seliger, portrays the city in moody yet beautiful black and white tones. Beyond the lack of autumn colors, the film shows the empty streets of the pandemic city. The mood riffs on the underlying melancholy of the song’s lyrics, that the fall season “is often mingled with pain.”

When I think of autumn in New York, I automatically imagine walking in Central Park in the vivid colors of the season. The images here, from a meandering one-mile stroll this past Saturday, show only a hint of autumnal glory but reflect more conventional representations of both the season and the song. Yet, walking in Central Park at the beginning of autumn is tinged for me with a hint of sadness, or truthfully, with some anxiety about the coming months.

I hadn’t ventured into Central Park since before the pandemic. While I’ve b…

A Weekend Walk on the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail

Imagine strolling from town to town near the eastern shores of the Hudson River, walking a well-trodden path lined with trees and stately architecture and with easy access to cafes, local shops, and train stations for an easy ride home. Imagine a weekend when the sun is bright and the sun is warm, and many other people - but not too many - are out enjoying the same weather and the same stroll. Such were the pleasures on a recent Sunday, in the latter part of this unseasonal winter, along the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail not too far north from New York City.


The Old Croton Aqueduct, the system that once delivered fresh water from the Croton River to New York City, was a huge and complex marvel of engineering. The trail sits on top of the aqueduct system. This post describes a walk along just a section of the trail, the one that begins at the Keeper’s House in Dobbs Ferry and ends in Irvington.


First, catch a Metro-North Hudson line train to Dobbs Ferry, a village in southern Westchester C…

MoMA in Masks

Update. Beginning September 28, MoMA will require all members to reserve tickets in advance.*Walking into the gallery devoted to Claude Monet’s Water Lilies (c 1920) at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) on Saturday afternoon, I saw a woman seated on a bench. She was looking at the artist’s dreamy depiction of his garden at Giverny, and I thought for a moment she might be dreaming as well. As she was the only person occupying what is usually a packed room for fans of Impressionism, I was hesitant to invade her private garden reveries.I would enjoy my own such private moments with my favorite MoMA works that afternoon, including Marc Chagall’s I and the Village (1911). The painting depicts a colorful and geometric fairy tale of peasants and animals, memories of the artist’s childhood home outside Vitebsk. And I had a long time to feel the scorching sun of photographer Dorothea Lange’s Woman of the High Plains, Texas Panhandle (1938), a setting closer to my hometown. Later I would sit in t…

NYC Re-openings and Travel Advice

What will open, and how will you get there? This list will be updated following official announcements.
UPDATED October 10, 2020. Many favorite local destinations have now reopened. 

Openings  - General Information and Popular Destinations   
• Restaurants: Consult this NYC Department of Transportation map (updated link) for restaurants currently open in NYC. Starting September 30, NYC allowed indoor dining at 25% capacity.
• As of September 25, outdoor dining in NYC has been extended FOREVER.
• The 9/11 Memorial reopened on Saturday, July 4. Visitors must wear masks and keep social distancing practices.
• (update) Libraries: NYPL. The library will allow a grab-and-go service at 50 locations.
Governors Island reopened July 15 with advance reserved tickets. 
• The High Line reopened on July 16, with several rules and limitations in place, including timed entry passes - available July 9. Entrance only at Gansevoort Street. See High Line website for details. 
The Bronx Zoo reopened July 20 fo…

The Lonesome Metropolis: A Walk from Grand Central Terminal to Rockefeller Center

As New York City reopens, why do the attractions of the great metropolis still look mostly deserted on a summer morning? A morning walk from Grand Central Terminal to Rockefeller Center sought to address this question. As it turns out, there are several adequate explanations. But for what happens next, there are no right answers.

Many neighborhoods outside of tourist New York are still buzzing along. While some residents of wealthier neighborhoods have largely decamped to mountain cabins, beach houses, and other second homes, the less wealthy have nowhere to go and may still be working. Just visit Washington Heights or Corona or Flatbush, and you’ll see sidewalks full of shoppers and summer evening street partiers. Those who fled the city remain only a fraction of the total population.  

Other renowned parts of the city such as City Hall and Brooklyn Bridge have been frequently occupied, as in Occupied, with crowds protesting police violence. This week, NYPD officers in riot gear remove…

Connect the Dots: A Self-Guided Walk to Public Art in Lower Manhattan

Please see the revised and updated post, New York as Outdoor Museum: A Self-Guided Walk to Public Art in Lower Manhattan, June 2012.)

Lower Manhattan, with its tapered narrow geography between the two rivers spilling into New York Harbor, is not only a convenient area to walk but it's rich in public art.

Be sure to include Jean Dubuffet's Group of Four Trees, 1969-72 (left), in front of the Chase Manhattan Bank Plaza off of Pine Street, the Louise Nevelson Plaza on Maiden Lane (below), and many of the works in Battery Park City.

The latter area, under the guidance of the Battery Park City Authority, raised a new high standard in the 1980s with its commitment to incorporating public art into the new community. There, be sure to see Jim Dine's Ape and Cat (at the Dance) in Robert F. Wagner. Jr. Park, a blend of charm and danger, and South Cove, a great collaborative work of environmental design.



Also welcome is the Downtown Alliance's public art program, Re:Construction,…

Taking a Constitutional Walk

A long time ago individuals going out for a walk, especially to get fresh air and exercise, often referred to the activity as "taking a constitutional walk." The word "constitutional" refers to one's constitution or physical makeup, so a constitutional walk was considered beneficial to one's overall wellbeing. (Or, as some would prefer to call it, "wellness.") The phrase is more common in British literature than in American letters.

As early as the mid-nineteenth century, many American commentators expressed concern that their countrymen were falling into lazy and unhealthy habits. Newspaper columnists and editorial writers urged their readers to take up the practice of the "constitutional" walk.



One such essay, "Walking as an Exercise," originally printed in the Philadelphia Gazette and reprinted in New England Farmer, Volume 11, 1859, urges the people of farm areas to take up walking. City dwellers seemed to have the advantag…

From Manhattan to the Bronx: A Walk Over the Henry Hudson Bridge to Henry Hudson Park

At the tiptop of Manhattan Island, Inwood Hill Park offers picturesque views of the Hudson River. For one of the best views, follow the marker at Shorakkopoch Rock (see map at the end of the post), the legendary place where Peter Minuit was said to have bought the island for 60 guilders, and follow the ridge up the slope. The path leads gently higher and higher, with views of the Salt Marsh down below and then the underside of the Henry Hudson Bridge above. This spot along the ridge is well known among birders, as the height and the proximity to the Hudson River allow access to treetops and places where birds like to go. 

Keep going around the bend and past the bridge. A few spots of open pavement at the edge of the hill provide good views of the Spuyten Duyvil Bridge, a swing bridge that carries train traffic to and from Penn Station. The bridge was recently upgraded. On the opposite shore of Spuyten Duyvil Creek, you’ll likely see Metro-North trains coming round the bend, either he…