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

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.  Near Beacon, a view of autumn colors from the Metro-North Hudson line 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.  Autumn light in Hastings-on-Hudson 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.   Autumn leaves on the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail in Hastings Still, October is a gr

Early Voting in Washington Heights, and A Walk

Early voting for the 2020 federal election in New York began on Saturday, October 24 and continues through Sunday, November 1. The weekend was overcast and autumnal, with the bright yellows of fall on display. In New York City, thousands of New Yorkers turned out at the 88 early voting locations and waited in long lines, many stretching around the block.  A line to vote in Washington Heights. The line stretched around the block multiple times. Madison Square Garden in Manhattan and the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn were two of the well-known sites, but most voting places were typical neighborhood places such as schools, churches, and hospitals.   The scene outside the entrance to the Russ Berrie Medical Science Pavilion, one of the early voting locations in Washington Heights. In Washington Heights in Upper Manhattan, two early voting locations were within a short walk of one another, causing some confusion for voters emerging from the 168th Street subway station. The Columbia Universit

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. Grand Central Terminal, 9:40 am. Wednesday, July 22, 2020. 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.   Grand Central Terminal, 9:40 am. Wednesday, July 22, 2020. Other renowned parts of the city such as City Hall and Brooklyn Bridge have been fr

The City Turned Inside Out: A Walk from Battery Park to Fulton Street

While the cast of HAMILTON sings “The World Turned Upside Down,” New Yorkers could easily hum along to “The City Turned Inside Out” this summer. (not a real song) Where once a city’s important work took place indoors - within the soaring office buildings, famous restaurants, legendary museums, and storied performance halls, the COVID-19 epidemic has literally turned the residents outdoors.  New landscaping in Battery Park At least it’s summer in the city, when spending time outdoors is common and pleasant enough. Still, the city remains strange this summer of 2020.  Shade plants like hosta thrive in Battery Park. The Statue of Liberty is in the distance. With the absence of tourists, and with office workers connecting virtually from home, many of the city’s main attractions aren’t attracting many visitors. A walk from the Battery to Fulton Street on a pleasant Thursday afternoon bore this out.  Statue Cruises is still sailing. It’s uplifting to at least find plants that are alive and

The Season of Owls

 A walk in Inwood Hill Park. The days following the holidays and the first of the year make a good time to check in on life in the winter forest. I have a forest just down the street from me in Inwood Hill Park in Northern Manhattan. There, a vast old growth forest still stands. A Barred Owl faces the setting sun in Inwood Hill Park in Northern Manhattan. A few weeks ago, someone on a local Facebook page posted a snapshot of a Barred Owl, and I was keen to go looking for it in the park. I didn't find the owl on the first day, but the next day I saw it. A handful of birder enthusiasts were already on the scene and kindly pointed it out high up in the pines. What a beautiful creature!  A stand of White Pines provides the habitat for the Barred Owl. The owl is in this picture. I know, hard to see.  Since my first owl visit, everyday life during the otherwise dreary post-holiday doldrums has taken on a finer aura. I have returned several times, each taking a different path up to the o

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.  Hand sanitizer dispenser at the Marble Hill station of Metro-North's Hudson line 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. T he 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. Entra

Walking It Off: Coping with Holiday Stress During the Pandemic

When I began this series, “Pandemic Posts from the Pause: New York City in the Age of Coronavirus” in March of 2020, I could see the first young greens of spring from my window. New Yorkers were told to stay home then and away from others. As someone who enjoys walking in the city, I knew that I would need to sacrifice many things this year. I was not going to give up walking. I quickly figured out that I could safely go to Inwood Hill Park near my house and wander the trails in the old forest. In March, I could breathe in the spring air away from others. There was little else to do during those early days of the “pause.” New Yorkers suffered greatly at the beginning. In a few months we were able to get the numbers down and to manage some semblance of human interaction, at a distance and masked.  Now, with the beginning of the holidays, the city and nation faces the existential threat of the virus’s return, the political assault on democratic norms, and the ongoing threat of the clima

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.” Approaching The Mall in Central Park  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. The Mall in Central Park I hadn’t v

A Morning Walk from Penn Station to Times Square

Penn Station to Times Square New York City entered a new phase of the reopening on Monday, but you would never know it from a morning walk in Midtown on the day after.  At 34th Street and 8th Avenue, an outsize reminder of the public health crisis from Montefiore Medical Center After running an errand near Penn Station, I decided to take a walk up to Times Square and Broadway before heading home from 59th Street and Columbus Circle.  34th Street looking east toward the Empire State Building I wasn’t altogether prepared for the sights and sounds of this time and this place. Like many other New Yorkers, I have rarely left my neighborhood for the past four months.  8th Avenue at W. 38th Street After exiting a quiet Penn Station near 8th Avenue and W. 33rd Street at what would normally be the end of rush hour, I found myself suddenly dropped into a city (mostly) bereft of crowds.  A few commuters near Port Authority and The New York Times building, 8th Avenue and W. 40th Street Yet, I had

Facing the Dark Ages

A close look at The Met Cloisters Update: The Met Cloisters reopened on September 12, 2020. See the museum's website for ticket information. The Cloisters, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 82-year-old home for its medieval collection in Fort Tryon Park (known as The Met Cloisters in recent years, the result of rebranding), dominates Northern Manhattan like a mystical fortress, like some object of a mythical quest. From nearly any direction, it’s easy to see the tower with its sandy-colored walls, double-arched windows, and Mediterranean style tile roof. Walking south on Broadway north of Dyckman Street , the way of everyday serfs and pilgrims going to market, the otherworldly sight of the imposing structure can transform an otherwise pedestrian journey.  View of The Met Cloisters from the northeast Culture and architect critic Lewis Mumford (1895-1990), reviewing the museum’s opening in 1938 for his regular column in The New Yorker, didn’t care much for the tower, but that was his