1. Explore Central Park
Central Park is featured in just about every movie and TV show based in NYC for a reason. It’s the absolute best escape from city life and it takes up a fair amount of Manhattan, stretching from the Upper West Side to the Upper East Side. You’ll find things like Cleopatra’s Needle, Conservatory Garden, Belvedere Castle, historic stone arches, waterfalls, and concerts, plus a whole host of other activities and things to see.
2. Grab a Slice
Everyone has an opinion on what goes into making the best pizza, but there’s little debate that, whatever it is, it will be found in the heart of NYC. Pizza joints are scattered throughout the borough and rumor has it that calories consumed on a day you’ve walked Central Park don’t count, so pop into whichever shops appeal to you and grab a slice. You can also check out our blog on the best pizza places in Manhattan for inspiration.
3. Visit the National September 11 Memorial & Museum
Most people agree that visiting ground zero belongs near the top of the list of things to do in Manhattan. It takes about two hours to work your way through the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, but you’ll have the opportunity to pay your respects and learn about the day America was forever changed, as well as events leading up to it and recovery after.
4. Check Out the Statue of Liberty
Even though it’s in New Jersey waters, Liberty Island sits southwest of Manhattan proper and is considered part of the borough. You can take a self-guided audio tour and explore the Liberty Island Museum to learn more about the iconic landmark’s history, but you’ll need to make advance reservations if you hope to make your way to the crown. Many people like to pair their visit to Liberty Island with a stop at neighboring Ellis Island to see the National Museum of Immigration, as it helps provide the full picture of what early immigrants endured in search of the American Dream.
5. Take in a Broadway Show
A trip down Broadway may not come cheap, but it’s part of the fabric of NYC, so add it to your list of things to do in Manhattan if you can. Most plays and musicals start at around $100 per ticket, plus you’ll want to have reservations in advance for one of the many nearby restaurants. While you’re in the area, cast your eyes over to Times Square for a while to get the full experience.
6. Walk Across the Brooklyn Bridge
The Brooklyn Bridge spans across the East River, linking Manhattan to Brooklyn. Despite being one of the oldest suspension bridges in the country, it boasts six lanes for traffic and has a special lane for pedestrians, giving you the opportunity to pause and take in the sights. Although it is a bit on the touristy-side, it only takes about 30 minutes to do and is a bit of a rite of passage for newcomers.
7. Visit Museums
Manhattan is overflowing with culture. It would be easy to fill up this whole list with various museums that you must see, but for the sake of brevity, we’ll list a few of the high points and let you choose what speaks to you most.
Metropolitan Museum of Art: The Met is home to amazing art from Ancient Egypt, Rome, and Greece, as well as works from various time periods crafted throughout the world. If you go, you’ll probably want to look at a museum map ahead of time and plan out your visit, so you don’t miss anything.
American Museum of Natural History: From incredible space exhibits to land and sea, the American Museum of Natural History hosts more than 32 million artifacts. There’s a number of self-guided tours available, from dinosaurs to whales and the highlights. Word to the wise, if you go, pay at the ticket counter, not online. The museum offers “suggested” ticket fees, but “pay-what-you-wish” pricing is available in person.
Museum of Modern Art: MoMA is a pop-culture mecca and is loaded with 20th century influences. It has also hosted work from the greats, like Monet, Van Gogh, and Picasso. If you’re trying to save a buck, plan to go on Free Fridays, but be prepared to contend with the crowds.
Guggenheim: The architecture of the Guggenheim alone is enough to awe, but inside this world-renowned museum, you’ll find works by the likes of Pablo Picasso, Norman Rockwell, and Wassily Kandinsky.
Tenement Museum: To learn more about what early immigrants faced and what living conditions were like, visit the Tenement Museum. You’ll be able to explore a bit on your own and can interact with costumed actors playing the roles of early residents.
8. Visit the Shops
Many consider Fifth Avenue to be the holy grail of shopping, and in some respects, it is. You’ll find Tiffany & Co., Bergdorf Goodman, and Van Cleef & Arpels there. However, you’ll also find stores for mere mortals as well, like Gap and Disney. If you’re looking for more boutique shops and art galleries, you’ll want to visit Soho. This Manhattan neighborhood got its name for being “South of Houston Street,” though the term is also a nod to an area in London’s West End.
9. Ascend the Empire State Building
The second-tallest building in NYC is a major hotspot for tourists. You’ll get a clear view of the whole city from the top of the Empire State Building and can tap into audio tours, check out exhibits, grab a bite to eat, and shop there too.
10. Pop into Grand Central Terminal
The iconic transit station is still in operation. Many add Grand Central to their list of things to do in Manhattan purely to people watch, while others go for the architecture, upscale restaurants, or shopping. You can also check out the New York Transit Museum Gallery and Annex for rotating exhibits and souvenirs.
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