New York City is a place where getting bored is a pretty impossible thing to do and a great place to visit with your family. Filled with vast parks, tons of museums, art galleries everywhere you turn, and entertainment galore, the Big Apple is a city that brims with so many things to do that you could do something different every single day and never have to repeat activities. Everyone has an opinion on what to see and do and what needs to be on your New York City bucket list. We have some ideas!
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The Ultimate New York City Bucket List
If you’re visiting New York City soon and want to make sure you do all the bucket list-worthy items to have the best time, here’s a list of some of the top things to do in New York City for first-timers in town!
1. Admire the views from the Empire State Building
As one of the most iconic structures in the United States, climbing to the observation deck at the top of the Empire State Building is one of the best things to do and a must on every visitor’s schedule.
While the views of New York from the ground are splendid no matter where you stand, there’s nothing quite like seeing it from the top of this emblematic building thanks to its towering size and central location close to some of the most famous structures in the city making this one of the best views in the whole city.
Make sure to make a reservation at the Empire State Building to avoid long lines that can stretch all the way around the building.
2. See a Broadway Show
Broadway shows run every single day of the week, and catching at least one of them during your visit is one of the most quintessential activities you can do in the city and one of the best ways to really experience New York like true New Yorkers.
The theaters are spread out all over an area known as the Theatre District, which runs between Hells Kitchen and Midtown East. With over 30 shows running simultaneously pretty much every night of the week, you’ll have options aplenty when it comes to choosing which one you want to see.
As a tip, there are plenty of last-minute discounts available at the TKTS booth located in Times Square in case you want to decide which one to watch based on your budget! Or look at the TodayTix website.
3. Visit the Met
Located on 5th Avenue, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is the largest art museum in the United States, with plenty of permanent exhibitions as well as temporary ones available (this means you can visit the museum every single time you find yourself in New York and always get a completely different experience!) This is the perfect place to show your kids some real culture.
4. Check out a jazz club
Take a night off and have a babysitter watch the kids so you can experience this classic on the New York City bucket list. Live music is a must in New York City.
It’s not exactly a secret that New York City is considered the jazz capital of the world with both street performers as well as clubs. Hitting a few jazz clubs a must on your itinerary, especially if you’re looking for ways to stay entertained at night during your visit.
There are jazz clubs in pretty much every corner of the city, but a few of the most noteworthy ones for visitors to the city include Blue Note, Birdland, and Dizzy’s.
If you want a bit of a hidden gem that has a more local vibe, Bill’s Place in Harlem is definitely worth the subway ride, especially because it offers a 1920s speakeasy vibe.
5. See the views from Manhattan from the Brooklyn Bridge
Spanning all across the East River, the Brooklyn Bridge is the oldest suspension bridge in the United States and one that offers some of the most beautiful views of Manhattan from the ground.
As a tip, walking over the bridge is one of the most popular activities in New York, so we recommend getting there early in the morning to avoid crowds. The bridge is one of the best places to see magnificent views of Lower Manhattan during the night, so that’s another wonderful time of the day to check the bridge out!
Don’t forget to stop at Brooklyn Bridge Park to give your kids plenty of time to play and time for you to relax.
6. Stand at the top of the Rockefeller Building
Known as “Top of the Rock,” the 70th floor of the Rockefeller Center harbors plenty of terraces that offer panoramic views of Manhattan in every single direction and should be at the top of your ultimate NYC bucket list.
Even though the Empire State is a much more popular spot for birdseye city views, what makes Top of the Rock special is the fact that it also offers views of the Empire State itself as well as the Hudson River, the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, and the Brooklyn Bridge.
Aside from the terraces on the top floor, the 67th and 68th floors also offer glass panels to catch 360-degree views of the city. It may not be the tallest building but it’s worth the view.
During the holiday season, stop by the ice rink and see the biggest decorated Christmas tree in the city.
7. Visit the Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Located in Brooklyn next to Prospect Park, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden offer a glorious retreat away from the bustle and hustle of the city.
This Brooklyn botanical garden offers green space and meandering walkways amid plenty of miniature gardens, all of which feature different types of plants and flowers, including scented leaves, cherry blossoms, herbs, Japanese flowers, and so much more.
8. Spend a day in Central Park
Regarded as a masterpiece of landscape and park architecture, Central Park is the oldest public park in the United States and one of the most iconic parks in the country and the world. If this is your first time, this amazing green space needs to be at the top of your New York bucket list.
Considered a vital green lung as well as a natural escape without leaving the city, Central Park is full of attractions. Plan on spending a few hours in Central Park, or a whole day, with your family because there is a lot to see and do here.
You’ll enjoy green meadows as far as the eye can see, unique gardens, ponds, bridges, arches, and much more. Must-see landmarks in the park are Sheep Meadow, Central Park Zoo, the Strawberry Fields section that honors John Lennon, Wollman rink, the Delacorte Clock, Bethesda Terrace, the Alice in Wonderland Bronze Statue, and of course, the MET museum. Also, don’t forget to stop and get ice cream or hot dogs from a local vendor along the way.
Central Park is right off Fifth Avenue, where some of the best restaurants and hotels are located. Take a short walk or cab ride to famous landmarks like Rockefeller Plaza, Radio City Music Hall, or the New York Public Library.