If you’re planning your first trip to New York, or if you’re longing to go back and explore the city further, are you working with a good NYC bucket list?
Don’t miss the best of New York City, with this list of experiences, museums, free things to do, food to taste and neighbourhoods to explore.
I’ve been to New York several times (it’s one of my favourite cities on the planet), so I have included some of my top things to do in this article. However, seeing as we’re talking bucket list things to do in New York, I wanted to make sure I had a comprehensive and wide-ranging list for you. To that end, I canvassed the opinion of some other seasoned travellers who also know and love NYC and I’ve included their New York bucket list ideas too.
Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. These are links to products or experiences I recommend and if you were to buy something after clicking on them, I might earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Any earnings go towards the upkeep of this blog, which I appreciate.
Table of Contents
30 Must-Do Items For Your NYC Bucket List
Here’s our combined recommendation for what to put on your NYC bucket list, split out into categories.
NYC Bucket List Experiences
Let’s start your NYC bucket list off right with some of the best and most classic experiences in New York.
1. Top Of The Rock
Contributed by me, Martha, who MayCauseWanderlust.com
At the top of every NYC bucket list should be getting a good look at the Empire State Building. It’s the most enduring icon of the city – you have to seek it out, especially if it’s your first time in New York (but really, I have not gotten tired of it after several visits to NYC).
Located in the middle of Manhattan, on 42nd Street, eight blocks north of the Empire State Building along Fifth Avenue, Top Of The Rock has a clear southward view of mid-town and lower Manhattan, with the striking Art Deco tower perfectly centred.
And added to that, the views from Top Of The Rock are actually panoramic – you can see all over Manhattan, including towards Central Park. If you’re with someone you care about, it can be a pretty romantic thing to do in New York.
2. Empire State Building
Contributed by Leslie from Backpackers Thailand
The Empire State Building (ESB) itself is also definitely worth a visit. It is a steel-framed skyscraper that rises 443 meters (102 floors) above Midtown Manhattan. It is one of the most famous buildings in the world and has two observation decks that provide stunning views of New York City.
On the 86th floor, you’ll find the main open-air observation deck, which gives you awesome 360-degree views of the city. It can get pretty windy up there! It’s recommended to bring a hoodie or a hat to stay cosy while enjoying the view. You’ll also see lots of pigeons hanging out on this deck, looking at New York from above, just like little city observers!
Now, if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous and want an even better view, head on up to the 102nd-floor observatory! You’ll need to take a separate all-glass elevator to get there, and it’s totally worth it. Once you’re at the top, get ready to be blown away by the amazing 360-view of New York through the floor-to-ceiling windows. This deck is all-weather and completely enclosed, so you can enjoy the views in any weather and season.
Empire State Building is open for visitors 365 days a year, and you can buy the tickets on-site, online, or from Get Your Guide. Main deck (86th floor) ticket prices start at 44 USD, and the 86th and 102nd-floor tickets start at 79 USD, but you could save money on ESB tickets with the NYC City Pass.
You definitely want to add ESB to your bucket list because it’s a sight you won’t want to miss!
3. Broadway Show
Contributed by Tabitha Bailar from Travel Compositions
Your New York bucket list is not complete without including seeing a Broadway show. Now, it may sound cliche, but trust me, you won’t regret it. The production, set, and talent outshine any travelling musical theatre show you’ve seen in your hometown.
Most shows are in historical buildings, so the architecture and interior design will put you in a mood as soon as you walk in. There is never a bad seat in the house as the auditorium seats are stacked steeply and hold fewer people than you would expect.
The set designs never disappoint as they are built for permanency, as opposed to having to be built to be taken apart every couple of weeks like travelling productions. This allows for more attention to detail and special effects.
Because it’s Broadway, they only have the best of the best to choose from when it comes to live talent. While many shows will indeed cast already well-known celebrities, even the backup dancers and singers are top-notch. There’s no way you won’t leave feeling energized and inspired by everyone’s performance.
After the show, if there’s someone you want to get an autograph from or selfie with, you have a good chance of doing so by waiting at the backstage door. Actors are prepared and willing to greet most, if not all, of their fans.
If money is an issue, there are ways of saving money on many Broadway shows. Keep an eye out for discounted same-day rush tickets (some are for those with Student IDs only), standing-room-only tickets, or lottery tickets.
Contributed by Julie from Toronto to Anywhere
If you want breathtaking views and a thrilling experience during your next visit to the city, you will want to add the Edge observation deck to your New York bucket list.
The Edge is suspended mid-air on the 100th floor of the Hudson Yards skyscraper and juts out around 80 feet from the skyscraper. Standing 1,131 feet tall, the Edge is the highest outdoor observation deck in the Western Hemisphere.
Once you arrive, you’ll be amazed by the jaw-dropping 360° views of New York, complete with a large glass floor that lets you peer down over 1,000 feet to the neighbourhood below! The observation deck also has nine-foot glass walls angled outward so visitors can lean on them as they look out across the city.
Visitors can purchase general admission tickets with a timed date and entry and there is no limit for how long you can stay. Sunset is one of the most spectacular (and popular) times to visit the Edge, so you’ll want to book your tickets early if you want to visit during this prime time.
The indoor and outdoor views are open during normal weather conditions, but the outdoor sky deck may be closed during inclement weather.
If you’re feeling really adventurous, you’ll also want to check out the City Climb. Not for the faint of heart, City Climb is the highest open-air building ascent in the world!
So the next time you are in New York, build in some time to visit the Edge observation deck in Hudson Yards for some of the most spectacular views of New York and a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
5. Harbour Boat Tour At Night
Contributed by Haley Gleason from Gleason Family Travels
If you really want to see “The City That Never Sleeps”, consider a Harbor Lights Tour with Circle Line sightseeing tours. You will have a front row of the night-time, twinkling skyline that makes New York City famous.
This two-hour tour aboard a state-of-the-art ferry starts just before sunset and cruises down the Hudson.
From the amazing outdoor deck, you sail past the iconic sights of the Chelsea Wharf, Hudson Yards, and the One World Trade Center. The views will absolutely take your breath away.
The best part of the tour will be when you round the iconic tip of south Manhattan and cruise right next to the Statue of Liberty at sunset. Make sure you have your camera ready to capture this picture-perfect moment.
The tour continues around the East side of Manhattan, where you will sail under the illuminated Brooklyn Bridge with the Chrysler building off in the distance. You won’t see this view anywhere else.
Knowledgeable tour guides will entertain you with fascinating stories of New York City’s rich history, giving you a whole new appreciation for the Big Apple.
The Harbor Lights boat is equipped with a full bar, offering a range of beers, wines, and cocktails to keep the good times flowing. You will be having so much fun, you won’t want it to end.
You can get tickets from Get Your Guide, and some Circle Line cruises are available for less with the NYC City Pass.
6. Summit One Vanderbilt
Contributed by Sam Opp of Find Love and Travel
Travellers flock to New York to tick off several bucket list attractions, and the Summit One Vanderbilt observation deck should be one of them!
The observation deck is a viewing point that attracts countless visitors each year. The deck can be found in midtown Manhattan and is a shocking 1,210 ft high.
Upon arrival, guests will take the immersive lift through different levels of the building until they reach the observation deck. At the deck, visitors find incredible 360-degree views that stretch 80 miles across New York.
It goes without saying that this is a very popular attraction, so you should book tickets ahead of time. Tickets range from $42 to $62. The more you pay, the more levels within the building you can access – although I believe the basic ticket is fine.
New York is an all-year-round destination, however, to avoid the views being clouded by fog, this activity is best done in the spring and summer. Or, if you visit NYC in the fall, you can see incredible fall colours in Central Park from the Summit One Observation Deck. To get the most out of the experience, arrange to go as the sun starts to set.
New York is known for its selection of observation decks, and I have been lucky enough to visit all of them. However, I still think that Vanderbilt is my favourite one!
7. Statue Of Liberty & Ellis Island
Contributed by Hannah Padilla from Hannah On Horizon
It may sound a bit cliche, but every first trip to New York City should include a visit to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
You can book tickets in advance and choose to book tickets inside the pedestal (base) of the Statue or the crown (all the way to the top). If you want to climb up all the way to the crown, you need to book way in advance since the tickets for that sell fast. But the pedestal is just as interesting to explore.
Outside the Statue of Liberty, you have views of Manhattan’s skyscrapers on one side and New Jersey on the other. Your ferry will pick you up and drop you off at Ellis Island Museum. Stepping inside the building is an emotional experience because you witness where thousands of immigrants left their country of origin, not knowing if they would be able to call the US their new home.
On the second floor of the museum, there are interactive games and audio-reenacted voices of a typical day in Ellis Island. There are even posters filled with quotes from immigrants who survived going through customs.
You could save money on visiting the Statue Of Liberty with the NYC City Pass.
8. Helicopter Ride
Contributed by Bailey from Destinationless Travel
Without a doubt, a helicopter ride should be at the top of any New York Bucket List! Just imagine the views of one of the most iconic cities in the world from above?! Not only is Manhattan a sprawling metropolis, but you’ll also get ocean views and see famous attractions from above including the Statue of Liberty – the view of Lady Liberty from above is one that most miss!
Most helicopter flights in New York take off from the waterfront right in Manhattan. They are typically short, about 20 minutes in the air or even less, depending on the type of flight that you book. Prices also range from $230 USD to $400 USD. This may seem pricey for such a short tour, however, helicopter rides are always expensive, and believe me, this one is worth it!
In New York, scenic helicopter flights operate all year round, however, they do get cancelled in bad weather occasionally (lots of rain, wind, or snow will cause a cancellation.) In case your flight is cancelled, you can easily reschedule or get a refund.
When I did a helicopter flight in New York, I was in absolute awe of the views. Sure, I knew that New York was big – just not that big! Seeing Central Park from above was also a highlight!
There are a number of helicopter tours bookable through Get Your Guide.
Free NYC Bucket List Items
New York is not a cheap place to explore, so I’m sure you’ll appreciate being able to put some free things on your NYC bucket list!
9. Central Park
Contributed by Ossama Alnuwaiser from Awesome Traveler
Central Park is one of the most beautiful places in New York City and you might want to know the best time to visit New York, so you can enjoy Central Park at its best.
In my opinion, no season is better than the other when it comes to visiting Central Park. All are equally beautiful. Spring and fall provide a mild temperature with blooming flowers and colourful foliage. However, summer is best to enjoy outdoor activities, such as concerts and picnics. Therefore, it depends on your preference and what you want to do.
There are plenty of things to do and see at Central Park. My favourite activity of them all is renting a bicycle and roaming around the park. You could pass by many important landmarks in the parks, such as the Bethesda Fountain, Central Park Mall, Bow Bridge, and Central Park Lake. The Bow Bridge overlooks the Park Lake, which makes it one of the most beautiful areas in the park. It is also one of the most photographed spots in Central Park, so bring your camera to capture the moment and create a memory that lasts a lifetime.
10. Brooklyn Bridge
Contributed by me, Martha, who MayCauseWanderlust.com
Another great free NYC bucket list item should be walking across the Brooklyn Bridge.
This instantly-recognisable NYC landmark opened in 1883 and was the first fixed crossing over the East River and the longest suspension bridge in the world (at that time).
Walking from Manhattan to the Dumbo area of Brooklyn over the Brooklyn Bridge is a lovely walk. The brick towers and suspension cables of the bridge itself are attractive in their own right, but you also get great views of the city from the bridge. Don’t forget to look behind you to see the skyscrapers of lower Manhattan as you walk towards Brooklyn.
The walk across the bridge is fairly long: 1.1 miles, so it can take 25 minutes or more. If you don’t want to walk it but do want to take in the sight of this dramatic bridge, head to one of the viewpoints on the Brooklyn side, including the Brooklyn Bridge Lookout and Bridge View Lawn.
Another idea is to walk the Brooklyn Bridge just before sunset when you get to see the lights come on around the city – it’s one of the best things to do in New York at night.
11. Staten Island Ferry
Contributed by Sarah Berthe from Travelosio
The Staten Island Ferry, a 25-minute voyage from Lower Manhattan to Staten Island, offers breathtaking views of the Statue of Liberty and New York’s iconic skyline. It’s definitely a must-experience for first-timers in New York.
Departing from the Whitehall Terminal, it’s an unforgettable, free excursion that rightfully earns a spot on any New York bucket list.
The ferry is best experienced during sunset when the city’s grandeur is accentuated by the warm, cascading light. Not only will you enjoy the skyline’s silhouette but also the Statue of Liberty, closer and more personal than many paid tours offer.
Though it serves as a daily commute for many, tourists are welcomed aboard. The ferry operates 24/7, ensuring that no matter your schedule, you can have this unique New York experience.
From a personal perspective, standing on the ferry’s deck, feeling the cool breeze as you gaze at the impressive Lady Liberty is a poignant moment of awe.
It’s an experience steeped in history and hope, reminding you of why New York is truly special. This isn’t merely a ferry ride; it’s a love letter to the city that you can’t afford to miss.
12. The High Line
Contributed by Vicki from Vickiviaja
When you think of New York City, you probably first picture giant skyscrapers and big city life. But did you know there is also a fantastic activity in New York where you can take a relaxing walk without leaving the city? The High Line is a sight that should be included in any NYC bucket list.
And visiting the Highline is also great for those visiting New York on a budget, as entry is completely free.
The former railroad line runs about 1 ½ km through Chelsea and the Meatpacking District neighbourhoods. Trains have not been running here for some time now, instead, along the former railroad tracks, they have created a place that invites you to walk and relax in an alternative, green atmosphere. As you stroll through the plants and flowers of the Highline, you may forget that you are actually in one of the busiest metropolises in the world.
Relax on one of the benches or sunbeds, enjoy the view at one of the viewpoints along the way, discover great street artworks, or sip a cool drink while enjoying the rays of the afternoon sun. On the Highline, you’ll bump into visitors and even locals enjoying their after-work activities. For me, the Highline is a great break from the hustle and bustle of other city areas.
13. New York Public Library
Contributed by me, Martha, who MayCauseWanderlust.com
In the thick of mid-town, with its many skyscrapers competing for attention, there’s a low-rise building that exudes quiet confidence. Even if you’re not a bookworm, the New York Public Library should be on your NYC bucket list because this building is such a classic landmark.
It was built in 1911 in the Beaux-Arts style and outside it has two marble lions guarding the entrance. They’re named Patience and Fortitude. The internal stairways are very attractive, but the showpiece is the Rose Reading Room, which has grand arched windows, elaborate chandeliers and gorgeous rows of lamp-lit tables.
The New York Public Library is a National Historic Landmark and has been providing access to books and information for more than 125 years. It has been featured in New York-set movies like Ghostbusters, The Day After Tomorrow and Sex & The City: The Movie.
You can visit it by following my free self-guided walking tour of Manhattan.
14. Grand Central Terminal
Contributed by me, Martha, who MayCauseWanderlust.com
Even if you’re not getting a train, pop into this stunning train station during your trip to New York. I was keen to see the grand Main Concourse after seeing it in New York movies like Hitchcock’s classic North By Northwest (1959).
With its vaulted green ceiling, tall windows and Beaux-arts style friezes, it’s certainly impressive – you’ll see why the building is another National Historic Landmark.
There’s also a nice bar & restaurant up the steps near the big windows, where you can have a cocktail or even a meal: Cipriani Dolci.
Grand Central Terminal is in midtown at 42nd Street and Park Avenue, near the Chrysler Building (which is another place to see on your NYC bucket list – but unfortunately, you can’t go inside this one).
15. Flatiron Building
Contributed by Sarah from Mukikapup’s Travels
The Flatiron Building is a New York City icon and must-see location on any trip to the city – plus, there are excellent spots to get photos with it!
The reasons this 285-foot-tall building is such an icon in not just NYC, but the world, include the unique triangular shape that resembles a clothing iron and the historicity of the structure, originally completed in 1902 (it’s a New York and National Historic Landmark and on the National Register of Historic Places). It’s also one of the most-loved buildings in the US. The neighbourhood around it is even named after the building – the Flatiron District.
The Flatiron District is a triangular block surrounded by 5th Ave, Broadway and East 22 Street. You can easily get a quintessential photo standing in the middle cut-out in the intersection in front of the building (there are tables and chairs here), located in the intersection with East 23rd Street.
You can reach the building easily with the 23rd Street subway station right next to the building, with the R and W trains. This was one of my favourite spots on my first NYC trip, and I still love stopping by for photos – usually after eating a bagel in the neighbouring Madison Square Garden!
16. Macy’s & The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
Contributed by Kalyn from allamericanatlas.com
Visit Macy’s, the largest department store in the US at its flagship store on 34th Street, for a New York experience that you won’t soon forget.
This iconic store isn’t just a functioning department store with treasure troves of clothing, home goods, souvenirs, toys, and more, but it’s also on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places! And as it should – you can still travel on some of the old wooden escalators as you make your way through the building.
There’s also a special time to visit Macy’s, which is the holiday season, marked by the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on the fourth Thursday in November. Visit the store itself around this time to see wonderful displays of Christmas decorations and scenes in the windows, or if you’re feeling like you want to take your New York visit to the next level, consider attending the parade itself!
Thousands of visitors line up along the parade route, including an iconic stretch near Central Park, to take in the incredible balloons, marching bands, celebrities, and more. The atmosphere is electric and family-friendly, and while you should aim to get a spot early, around 6 am if you want to be at the front, it’s a memorable way (and free!) to spend Thanksgiving morning before heading back home to enjoy the turkey. Add it to your fall bucket list for NYC.
NYC Bucket List Museums
Museums might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for those who do appreciate them, New York has some amazing museums and art galleries.
17. 9/11 Memorial & Museum
Contributed by Kim Gervais Explore Your Bucket List
An important highlight to add to your bucket list in New York is a visit to the 911 Memorial & Museum. This location is an incredible structure built on the original site of the Twin Towers. It gives you an insightful look at the tragedy that struck the city on September 11, 2001.
Outside, is a peaceful space with beautiful reflection pools where the names of those whose lives were lost are carved into the borders surrounding the waters.
The museum itself is an amazing building that incorporates stunning architectural components as you walk into the underground area of the original towers. The large complex has huge pieces of the actual buildings, and they are interspersed with artefacts and detailed signage.
The exhibitions are full of stories and actual video and sound bites captured on the day, personal items, pictures, and remnants of what remained after the towers fell. The testimonials from first responders, survivors and loved ones are sobering and beautiful at the same time. The museum is expertly curated and should be a must-visit for everyone visiting New York City.
The Museum is open 6 days a week (Wednesday to Monday) from 9:00 am – 7:00 pm. You can do a self-guided walk or take a tour.
Tickets are best purchased in advance. They do offer free tickets on a first-come, first-served basis for Monday nights for entry from 5:30 pm – 7:0pm, or you can buy timed-entry tickets for other days. And if you have the NYC City Pass, you could save money on admission.
18. American Museum of Natural History
Contributed by Cynthia from Sharing the Wander
The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) is a world-class museum that should be on your New York bucket list whether you are travelling with or without kids. It is famous for its collection of dinosaur fossils- in fact when you enter the lobby you will be staring up at a Barosaurus skeleton cast from fossils- the world’s tallest freestanding dinosaur mount.
However, the AMNH is much more than dinosaur bones- they have worked hard over the years to stay relevant and transform themselves from the traditional natural history museum with stuffed dioramas that I remember from my childhood. If you are at all interested in geology, don’t miss the Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals.
The museum includes the Rose Center for Earth and Space which houses a world-class planetarium, and the new Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation which opened in May 2023. The Graber Center is a high, cavern-inspired space that includes both changing interactive experiences as well as a butterfly vivarium.
All tickets are timed-entry and must be reserved online in advance. You’ll need to select general admission tickets, as well as separate tickets for any special exhibitions. You can also get admission to the AMNH with the NYC City Pass.
Built in 1869, the Museum of Natural History is one of the most famous museums in Manhattan. It is located on the Upper West Side and can easily be reached by walking, bus or metro. Combine this museum with a visit to iconic sites in Central Park when exploring New York City.
Try to avoid going on the weekends if you can- while the reservation system has mitigated crowds to some extent, this is prime time for kids and strollers to be packing the museum, especially the 4th-floor dinosaur halls.
19. Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met)
Contributed by James Ian from Travel Collecting
Visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of the highlights of any trip to New York. It’s one of the leading art museums in the world; it’s easy to spend an entire day there and still not see all it has to offer.
There is truly something for everyone at the Met. One of the most popular sections focuses on European Art, where you can see major works from all of the great artists of the 19th and 20th centuries. However, there is much more than just that.
If you’re visiting in summer, try to arrive at opening time and head straight to the Gerald Cantor Roof Garden. There’s an installation that changes every year, as well as a cafe, and sensational views of Central Park.
There are many galleries that focus on art from different parts of the world and different periods of history. Their Egyptian collection, with many mummies and carved sarcophagi, is very popular. Don’t miss seeing the Temple of Dendor – an entire temple that was relocated from Egypt when the Aswan Dam was being built.
The Chinese collection is also great – and less crowded. Walk through a moon gate into an indoor Zen garden that few people know about.
There are several cafes in the museum. A favourite is the American Wing Cafe, where you have a casual meal or coffee with a view of the facade of the United States Branch Bank.
In addition to the permanent collection, it’s also worth checking what the temporary exhibitions are, as these are often spectacular. And if you need some guidance, there’s a ‘Best of The Met’ guided tour.
20. Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
Contributed by Sophie from Delightful Travel Notes
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), an internationally acclaimed institution, is a must-see in Manhattan, New York. Established in 1929, the museum boasts an exquisite collection of approximately 200,000 art pieces, including paintings, sculptures, photographs, and design objects.
Within its walls, visitors can admire the works of famous artists such as Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, and Henri Matisse. Here, you can absorb the haunting beauty of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” or stand mesmerized in front of Claude Monet’s “Water Lilies”.
Beyond its iconic collection of paintings, the museum also features a remarkable film library, an extensive photography collection, and more. You can explore the dynamic and diverse landscape of modern art when wandering through these impressive galleries at MoMA.
The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden is also worth mentioning. An integral part of MoMA, this garden is a serene oasis in the heart of Manhattan. It is a perfect spot to relax, appreciate architecture and art in an open-air setting, and just watch the world go by.
The huge art collection at MoMA spans over six floors, so you can expect to spend several hours wandering and taking it all in. If you need a break or refreshment, the museum also has an excellent restaurant overlooking the sculpture garden and two cafes.
21. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Contributed by me, Martha, who MayCauseWanderlust.com
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (or ‘the Guggenheim’ for short) is an interesting art gallery on the Upper East Side.
It’s interesting for its exhibitions of modern art, which was originally Solomon R. Guggenheim’s own private collection, but this has since had many other collections added to it.
It’s more interesting, though, in my opinion, for its architecture. The Guggenheim’s oval-shaped building is like no other in New York (or anywhere else, for that matter). It was designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright and opened in 1959 to much acclaim.
In 2008, the building was designated a National Historic Landmark. And in 2015, along with nine other buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, it was nominated to be included in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage List.
NYC Food Bucket List
Some of the best things to do in New York are eating and drinking! Put these classic New York foodie activities on your NYC bucket list.
22. NYC Food Tour
Contributed by Lanie from Make More Adventures
It is impossible, even for locals, to try all of the delicious restaurants in New York City. However, going on an NYC food tour makes it possible to try multiple places for one meal while learning about one of New York City’s unique neighbourhoods.
Most of the food tours in NYC are walking tours, though there are bus tours that drive to the outer boroughs for tours that take place in more than one area. Some food tours focus on one type of food such as chocolate, cupcakes, or pizza while others have a variety of food in a neighbourhood.
Foods of NY was the first company to bring walking food tours to the city, and they continue to be a favourite. They have multiple neighbourhood tours as well as a Brooklyn pizza tour.
Usually on food tours in NYC, there will be both seated and standing tastings, so be prepared with comfortable clothes and shoes. While walking food tours tend to cover less than a mile, participants are standing for most of the tour.
Food tours generally take place no matter the weather, but of course, it is best to go while the weather is nice. Spring and autumn are the best times to take a food tour in New York City.
Trying every eatery in NYC may not be on your bucket list, but exploring the best food while learning about unique neighbourhoods should be.
23. Rooftop Terrace Bars
Contributed by Danielle Zito from Scratch Your Mapa
New York City is home to some of the best rooftops in the world, and there are some spectacular options that feature the stunning skyline in the back!
One of the most popular rooftops, located right in midtown Manhattan is 230 Fifth Rooftop, which gets you up right in front of the Empire State Building. There is plenty of seating in the open air, and it is open year-round. Even in the winter they give out comfy robes and have big igloos to eat and drink in. Entrance is free, and there is no minimum consumption, making it accessible to all types of travellers.
Another great rooftop in the heart of Midtown is Magic Hour. It has both indoor and outdoor areas and is located inside the Moxy Hotel. Each season the theme changes, oftentimes with big floral decor, and sometimes even a carousel!
The third incredible rooftop to visit in NYC is PHD Terrace, which has great views, and like Magic Hour, it also has changing themes every few months which is featured in both the decor, as well as the menu.
NYC is known for its incredible skyline and views, so make sure not to miss out on adding one of these to your bucket list!
Alternatively, you can book an NYC rooftop bar & lounge night tour.
24. NYC Deli Sandwich (Katz’s Deli)
Contributed by Hannah & Adam Lukaszewicz from GettingStamped
If you are looking for an amazing deli experience in the Big Apple, then look no further as Katz’s Delicatessen is where you need to visit. This famous Jewish deli is located on the Lower East Side of New York and is one of the best and oldest delis in the United States, as it has been operating since 1888.
Visiting this legendary deli should be on every New York City Bucket List as it is part of the city’s culture and history. Their main location is at 205 East Houston Street, and recently in Brooklyn, they opened a smaller outpost located in the Dekalb Market Hall.
Katz’s uses some of the best pastrami and corned beef available as it is cured using a slower process which gives the meat a better flavour, as commercially prepared meats take 36 hours. However, at Katz’s, they cure the meat for 30 days in a natural way. Keeping to the heritage of the deli, they serve many Jewish specialities like Matzoh Ball Soup, Mini Latkes, and Noodle Kugel.
If you want the true taste of the city, order their Taste of New York Package to share with friends, which includes all the favourites of pastrami, corned beef, salami, sour pickles, frankfurters, and NY bagels. Corned beef, Pastrami, and their Reuben are the most popular sandwiches, and you can order them customized how you like, including how the meat is carved.
If you are trying to travel to NYC on a budget, just a heads up that Katz’s is not the cheapest place to eat, but it isn’t a place I would miss. So plan your daily budget accordingly to make sure you save money in your budget for a meal at Katz’s. The sandwiches are huge, so two people can easily split one.
25. NYC Pizza
Contributed by me, Martha, who MayCauseWanderlust.com
If we’re talking about foodie things to have on your NYC bucket list, we have to include pizza! New York-style pizza is known for having a large thin base with a crispy crust and it’s often sold by the slice.
It’s hard to say where is best to get pizza in New York… I’m sure everyone has their own opinion! I really liked my pizza at Lombardi’s in Nolita, which was the first pizzeria in the United States when it opened in 1905. It’s got an old-school vibe with red checked tablecloths.
I’ll also never forget my first slice at Joe’s Pizza in Greenwich Village – that’s a NY institution!
There’s also Juliana’s Pizza in Brooklyn, which has won a bunch of awards over the years, so that could be a good place to try. It’s close to the Brooklyn Bridge, so you could follow your pizza with a view of the bridge and the lights of Lower Manhattan after dark. It’s one of the best things to do in New York at night, in my opinion.
26. Chelsea Market
Contributed by Pauline from Beeloved City
Located in the Meatpacking District, Chelsea Market is the ultimate NYC bucket list item for foodies.
It used to be the factory of the National Biscuit Company and was converted in the 90s. It is now one of the most famous food halls in the city. It’s a popular spot for both locals and visitors and is ideally located near other famous landmarks such as the High Line, Little Island or the Vessels.
You can easily get there by the subway. Just get off at 14th Street (8th Avenue) station and it’s only a couple of minutes’ walk from there.
At the entrance, you will find a map of the market which can be helpful if you are trying to locate a specific spot. The best market stalls include Takumi Taco, Mŏkbar and Lobster Place but there are plenty more!
It can get quite busy around lunch time so if you want to beat the crowds, head there for an early lunch around 11 am. You will be able to roam around and get the food you want without having to stand in line.
Another good option is to opt for one of the food tours of Chelsea Market. That way, you will be with a local guide who will bring you to the best places. You will also get to sample more food than you would on your own. There’s one which covers Chelsea Market, the meat-packing district and the High Line.
NYC Areas / Neighbourhoods
These well-known and historic areas or neighbourhoods are worth exploring – so put them on your NYC bucket list and wander around them.
27. Times Square
Contributed by Julie from Family Trips and Travels
Times Square is one of the most iconic and vibrant destinations in the world, and it’s truly unlike anywhere else you’ll ever go. Located right in Midtown Manhattan, with its towering billboards and bustling crowds at all hours of the day and night, there’s an energy here that you simply can’t find anywhere else. It is a classic NYC spot to visit that everyone will enjoy!
During the day, you can take in the sights and sounds of more than 39 million visitors per year. There are so many shops to explore and restaurants to try that line the streets. If you want a truly unique dining experience, try The View NYC. After dinner, spend some time walking around at night to feel the entire area come to life in a whole new way! Watch street performers putting on a show for the crowds or go see a Broadway show!
If you are visiting with kids, check out RiseNY. It is an interactive museum that takes you through the history of Times Square and the New Year’s Eve infamous ball drop! At the end of the museum is a fun surprise that everyone will love. It is a unique way to learn a bit of history on how Times Square came to be one of the most iconic attractions in New York City or even the world!
28. Greenwich Village
Contributed by Stella Jane from Around the World in 24 Hours
Greenwich Village is one of the most charming and historic neighbourhoods in New York City, which is why all visitors to the Big Apple should have it on their New York bucket list. It is famous for its beautiful townhouses, many of which are on the National Register of Historic Places.
Greenwich Village was once well known as a centre of bohemian culture. Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, and Jimi Hendrix all performed here. Nowadays, some visitors are more interested in seeing the exterior of the apartment building from Friends. Avoid the tourists and spend your time wandering Greenwich Village’s twisting streets, catching a film at one of the many arthouse movie theatres in the neighbourhood, or eating a slice of pizza at the famous Joe’s.
And don’t miss the beautiful Washington Square Park, where you can always catch some entertaining street performers. You can also wander over to the Hudson River for some amazing views.
Visit Greenwich Village any time of year, even in the winter, as long as you don’t mind the cold! Just keep in mind that New York University is in the neighbourhood, so if you go at the same weekend as graduation weekend, it’s liable to be very crowded.
29. Lower Manhattan
Contributed by me, Martha, who MayCauseWanderlust.com
I love the variety and personality of the neighbourhoods of Lower Manhattan, the oldest part of the city. If you’re at all interested in the history of the city, you have to have this area on your NYC bucket list.
Lower Manhattan (also known as Downtown Manhattan or Downtown New York) is where the city began back in the 17th century. Dutch colonists built a city on land originally inhabited by Indigenous Americans and named it named New Amsterdam, later taken over and renamed New York by the English.
Here, communities evolved around immigrant groups from Europe and Asia – hence, we get the neighbourhoods of Little Italy and Chinatown (which you can explore through a China Town & Little Italy food tour).
It remains the civic and financial heart of the city and is the location of the original skyscrapers from the 1910s (before Midtown stole all the attention in the 1930s with the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building).
It’s easy enough to explore this historic area, including Wall Street and the financial district on a self-guided tour of Lower Manhattan.
30. Upper East Side
Contributed by me, Martha, who MayCauseWanderlust.com
Some might say it lacks the personality of Downtown, but I think the Upper East Side deserves a spot on your NYC bucket list.
The Upper East Side has long been the most affluent part of the city, ever since it was built to house rich families in its genteel townhouses and tidy streets in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Upper East Side Historic District, which runs from 59th to 78th Streets and between Fifth and Third Avenues, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.
In the Upper East Side, you’ll find some of the most prestigious addresses, including Park Avenue. If you want to see some of the historic buildings, you could do a tour of the mansions of the Gilded Age. There’s also Museum Mile, which includes The Met, The Guggenheim and the Frick Collection.
These days it feels like establishment New York. I think it’s worth a wander to see where the wealthy live in smart buildings with covered entrances and suited doormen. It’s also home to the legendary Carlyle Hotel, where you’ll find my favourite cocktail bar, Bemelmans – one of my favourite things to do in New York at night.
New York Pass
If you’re thinking of doing more than one of the paid-for activities in this New York bucket list, you might find that you can save money on entrance feed with a New York City Pass.
There are a few types of passes available. Which is best for you depends on which paid-for attractions you’re interested in and how many days you will be exploring the city – but it’s definitely worth a look to see if you can make a saving.
The New York CityPASS allows you to visit 5 major attractions in New York City over 9 days and save 40% on admission. The pass covers the Empire State Building and the American Museum of Natural History, plus your choice of 3 of the following attractions:
- Top of the Rock® Observation Deck
- Ferry Access to the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island
- 9/11 Memorial and Museum
- Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises
- Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum
- Guggenheim Museum
For more info and booking, check the Get Your Guide’s New York CityPASS page.
Another option is the Sightseeing Flex Pass, which gives you a choice of up to 12 attractions from a choice of 100 experiences, destinations, museums, and tours, including Top of the Rock Observatory, Madame Tussauds, MoMA, the New York Aquarium, and more.
Finally, there’s also the Go City Explorer Pass, which can give you savings of up to 50% on entry to 2-10 attractions, tours, and experiences. You can choose from over 90 options, including the Empire State Building, Edge, and several museums. How much you pay varies depending on how many attractions you choose.
To work out whether any of these passes are right for you, decide what attractions you want to do, count how much it would cost to do them at the regular price, compare to what is included in each of the city passes and then compare the cost of the pass to what it would cost to do them separately.
Map: NYC Bucket List
Here’s a map showing where you can find our ideas for your New York bucket list.
The Last Word
I hope this NYC bucket list has given you plenty of ideas for your New York trip! Check out my 4-day New York itinerary if you’d like to see how you could spend a few days in the city.
And if you want some off-the-beaten-path ideas, I have a post on unique things to do in New York.