20 Ultimate Things to Do in New York City

  • 20 Ultimate Things to Do in New York City

    Discover the must-see sights throughout all five boroughs.

    Growing up in New York City, it can be very easy to take it all for granted. Most of us have already visited The Statue of Liberty several times on class trips or have often passed the Empire State Building in our commutes to the office (pre-COVID, of course). And with most of Broadway and live music still shut down until the summer/fall, one might feel what else is there to see. The best way to experience the vibrancy of the city—or any city for that matter—is to wander off the beaten path, throw out any pressures of not being able to take it all in a single visit (trust me, it is virtually impossible), and simply be in the moment with every site visited. However, if you want to say that you’ve been able to see the entire city, start with the parks! Just spend a leisurely day at one of the five beautiful parks, spread across the five boroughs, and go from there. You may not feel like you’re seeing or doing much, but the experiences will be even more memorable because you took the time to relax and enjoy them.

    Ingus Kruklitis/iStock

  • Take in Prospect Park

    WHERE: Brooklyn

    The second-largest park in Brooklyn (behind Marine Park), Prospect Park has over 500 acres of bike and running paths and sprawling green lawns. It sits directly across the street from the Central Library at Grand Army Plaza. Some of the park’s most beloved traditions will resume this summer, including Smorgasburg, a seasonal outdoor food festival held every Sunday, and BRIC’s Celebrate Brooklyn, which has presented free live music, dance, and other events for over 40 years.

    Wirestock Creators/Shutterstock

  • Eastern Parkway

    WHERE: Brooklyn

    After exploring the park, wander along Eastern Parkway. One of Brooklyn’s busiest roads, it has also served as host of the annual Labor Day Carnival for over five decades.

    As you continue, be sure to pop into the Brooklyn Museum. The city’s third-largest museum (in size), you can catch Lorraine O’Grady: Both/And , a career retrospective from one of the nation’s most prominent Caribbean-American visual artists. Next door to the Museum is the splendid Botanical Gardens, where the roses will be in full bloom this month.

    a katz/Shutterstock

  • Prospect Heights

    WHERE: Brooklyn

    Walk past the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch and head over to Prospect Heights. It’s one of the more popular neighborhoods in the borough, as it is prided on its tree-lined blocks and rich diversity.

    Prospect Heights is full of local shops like Unnameable Books and an endless list of trendy new restaurants. For example, if you have a sweet tooth, pop into BCakeNY for everything from cake pops and jars to a custom “Juneteenth Celebration Cake ” to honor the emancipation of formerly enslaved Blacks people.

    Gabor Kovacs Photography/Shutterstock

  • Take in Central Park

    WHERE: Manhattan

    Covering more than 800 acres, Central Park is the City’s fifth-largest park in size, surrounded by the Upper West Side, the Upper East Side, and Harlem. Originally designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, it has served as the model for other urban developments and local parks, including Prospect Park. In the arts, it has long served as either one of the backdrops in fiction (The Catcher in the Rye) or your favorite TV shows and films (Sex in the City immediately springs to mind).

    stockelements/Shutterstock

  • Seneca Village

    WHERE: Manhattan

    Seneca Village is a section that holds great historical significance. Spanning from West 82nd to West 89th Street, it was once a predominantly Black community in 1855, where many of its residents owned houses. It was a haven of sorts from other NYC communities, as it allowed Black people to evade racism and discrimination.

    Beginning this spring, to commemorate the efforts of the late civil rights activist John Lewis, in partnership with Giant Step Arts, “Walk With the Wind,” a live series of jazz concerts, has become a popular draw every weekend at Summit Rock in Seneca Village.

    Allison Meier [CC BY-SA 2.0]/Flickr

  • The Loeb Boathouse

    WHERE: Manhattan

    While visiting some of Central Park’s most renowned attractions like the Bridle Path and the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, to fully take in some of the park’s scenic charm, take a leisurely boat or gondola ride at The Loeb Boathouse. Rowboats are available for rent from April through November; gondolas beginning in May.

    What could be more romantic than a picnic in the park by the lake? Grab a bite at The Lakeside Restaurant or a drink at the Outside Bar. Alternatively, you can form your own al fresco dining experience, tucked away between the glacial rocks or out in the open on one of the park’s well-kept lawns.

    Ruben Martinez Barricarte/Shutterstock

  • Strawberry Fields Forever

    WHERE: Manhattan

    At the foot of 72nd Street, across the street from the Dakota, visit the Strawberry Fields memorial for the late John Lennon. Steps away from where he was killed outside of his home in 1980, large crowds are still known to gather around the Imagine  mosaic circle on the anniversary of his death. Newly reopened since its long renovation, pop right across the street and see the vibrant artwork at the 72nd Street subway line, courtesy of Lennon’s widow, renowned artist Yoko Ono.

    DW labs Incorporated/Shutterstock

  • Museum Mile

    WHERE: Manhattan

    The Upper East Side holds one distinct advantage over the Upper West Side — Museum Mile. A mile-long stretch along Fifth Avenue of NYC’s renowned cultural institutions, it is one of the best ways to take in the rich diversity that this city has to offer: from El Museo del Barrio and The Jewish Museum to the prestigious Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Metropolitan Museum of Art.

    Roy Harris/Shutterstock

  • Pelham Bay Park

    WHERE: The Bronx

    It would take roughly three Central Parks to fill Bronx’s Pelham Bay Park. Perfect for hiking and a day at the beach, Pelham Bay Park is also home to a vast range of wildlife. This massive park is perfect for long hikes in the summer.

    lesart/Shutterstock

  • Hip-Hop...and It Don’t Stop!

    WHERE: The Bronx

    While shopping at the Bronx Terminal Market, visit the location of the borough’s first-ever Universal Hip Hop Museum, which charts the rich history of music and culture, from its humble beginnings to now the world’s most popular genre. The museum’s groundbreaking ceremony took place in late May, with hip-hop luminaries in attendance included LL Cool J, Nas, and Bronx-native Fat Joe. Construction is still underway, and it is slated to fully open in 2023.

    L&M Development Partners

  • Bronx Gardens

    WHERE: The Bronx

    Take in some of the city’s most beautiful gardens live in the Bronx, notably The New York Botanical Garden, which currently features the outdoor exhibition Cosmic Nature from contemporary Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama ; and the pristine Wave Hill Public Garden & Cultural Center, which overlooks the Hudson River, as well as presents exhibitions from emerging and mid-career visual artists inside of its Glyndor Gallery. Catch one of the monthly outdoor concerts slated to resume this summer.

    Vladimir Korostyshevskiy/Shutterstock

  • Bronx’s Little Italy & City Island

    WHERE: The Bronx

    Interested in more fine dining? Be sure to check out the “Little Italy” in the Bronx, famously known as Arthur Avenue — from old school fare of Dominick’s to a moderately-priced (but worth the splurge) at Zero Otto Nove, which The Real Housewives of New York City visited for one of their “infamous” lunch outings.

    You can also opt to spend the entire day fishing or sightseeing at City Island and then enjoy the “Catch of the Day” at any one of their local seafood eateries.

    Vladimir Korostyshevskiy/Shutterstock

  • Corona Park--The Unisphere

    WHERE: Queens

    Corona Park has come a long way from serving as host of two World’s Fairs (1939 & 1964). As you enter the park, you’re greeted by its famous Unisphere, the majestic steel globe popularized in film and music. Designed at the latter World’s Fair, the 120-foot-tall globe has become a symbol for peace and unification.

    littlenySTOCK/Shutterstock

  • U.S. Open & The Mets

    WHERE: Queens

    The city’s fourth-largest park, with nearly 900 acres, it currently houses a host of major attractions, including the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, the current home for the U.S. Open, Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, and the Queens Zoo, which underwent an extensive renovation thanks to a partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society.

    Alan Tan Photography/Shutterstock

  • Queens Museums

    WHERE: Queens

    About 15 minutes away from Citi Field via the subway, you can visit Queens Museum, with exhibitions from its permanent World Fair and stunning Tiffany Glass collection, to sculptor Sydney Shen’s Strange But True (which runs through the end of August).

    Visit the nearby Louis Armstrong Museum, the once modest home of the father of jazz in the 1940s has been transformed into an immersive guided tour and archive. Tours are offered five days a week, and each room provides a glimpse at how the NOLA trumpeter and his wife spent their years as Queens residents.

    If you visit the Museum on the Fourth of July (the acknowledged birthdate of Armstrong), you’re treated to a live concert in the beautiful gardens, a bowl of red beans and rice, and a heaping slice of birthday cake.

    Need a light snack? No better time than to check out the world-famous Lemon Ice King, which has long served the community for over six decades.

    Brian Logan Photography/Shutterstock

See more at Fodor's Travel