Things to Do in Midtown Manhattan

The Ultimate Midtown Manhattan Guide

Selwyn
2. May 2019
1219 ratings

Midtown Manhattan has endless skyscrapers, full sidewalks and streets filled with honking taxis. This part of the city attracts countless tourists daily to New York City’s most famous landmarks and unique skyscrapers such as the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building. 

People are drawn to the bright lights of  Times Square and to the busy Rockefeller Center. These are on every to-do list of a New York City vacationer. Fifth Avenue is the most popular shopping street which is filled with tourists and locals every day. Don’t be surprised if you run into a celebrity as well.

Here at Loving New York we were in Midtown Manhattan and we filtered out the main sights and insider spots. Midtown Manhattan is famous for its architecture, clubs and Broadway shows. This part of Manhattan also has some special features and previously undiscovered. With this guide we will do our best to suggest different places to see. Hopefully this will help you plan your New York City itinerary.

How to Get to Midtown Manhattan

It really depends where in Midtown Manhattan you would like to visit. All of the trains go right into the city. For main locations such as Time Square, take the 7 , NQRW , ACEor the 123 . For Grand Central you can take the 7, S, or the 456 . For Bryant Park, you can take the 7 and the BDFM lines.

Midtown Manhattan

Top 5 Things to do in Midtown Manhattan

Top 5 Sights

  • 1- Empire State Building: The Empire State Building is one of New York’s most iconic landmarks. Its construction was completed in 1930 after a close race with the Chrysler Building. The 86th floor of the 102 story building serves as an observation desk that gives you a stunning view of the city.
    (Address: 350 5th Ave|Subway BDQR to 34th St – Herald Square)
  • 2- Bryant Park: A small, but lively park right next to the New York Public Library. It’s a great place to take a quick break and it hosts many activities, such as free classes. In the winter you can enjoy Christmas markets and ice skating rinks there.
    (Address: 42 St. and 6th Ave| Subway BDFM to 42nd St – Bryant Pk)
  • 3- New York Public Library: The Stephen A. Schwarzmann building of the New York Public Library is probably the most impressive one. The rooms are magnificent and you can also enjoy free exhibitions inside the library.
    (Address: 476 5th Ave| Subway 7 to 5 Avenue – Bryant Park Station)
  • 4- Top of the Rock: New York has three major viewing platforms and Top of the Rock is, objectively, the best one of them. From the top you’ll have the iconic view of the Empire State Building and the One World Observatory in the background. It’s a must visit in New York.
    (Address: 30 Rockefeller Plaza| Subway BDFM to 47-50 Sts – Rockefeller Ctr)
  • 5- Museum of Modern Art (MoMA): This museum provides you with 630,000 square feet of art. You could easily spend more than a whole day here. One of the pieces you’ll find here is the famous Starry Night painting by Van Gogh.
    (Address: 11 W 53rd St| Subway EM to 5 Av/53 St )

What is considered Midtown Manhattan?

Midtown Manhattan

The most simple way to explain Midtown is that it is the central part of Manhattan. Walking around will take more than a day, so if you plan on exploring this area, definitely break it up into 2-4 days. Most New Yorkers define Midtown Manhattan as follows: The most northern border of Midtown Manhattan starts on 59th Street while the southern border is clearly less defined. Most consider 34th Street as the southern border.

Unique Things to do in Midtown Manhattan

Midtown Manhattan Times Square

Most New York Tourists have one common goal when they visit Midtown Manhattan. No matter how tired, how hungry and how bad the jet lag may be, one of the first items on their to-do list in New York City is to visit Times Square.

Times Square stretches from West 45th to West 47th Street and is bordered by Broadway and 7th Avenue.

With more than 20 million visitors annually, Times Square is the #1 attraction and holds yet another record: The Times Square/42nd Street subway station is New York City’s busiest station.

Everything you have seen from TV and movies comes to life. Everything sparkles, flashes and lights up. It’s definitely a “goosebump” moment full of emotions. Yes, Time Square can be a little hectic, but it is definitely a place to visit and will surely remember.

The Theater District in New York

Midtown Manhattan’s Broadway is the Mecca of the musical scene. Whoever’s on stage here has made it. New York Broadway thrills the masses and is the birthplace of the late 19th-century musical. The musicals that are shown in New York are long-term box-office hits, such as the Phantom of the Opera , also modern pieces, such as Disney’s Aladdin or the Lion King . What’s unique are the many old theaters in which the shows are shown, which gives Broadway a special charm and ambience.

Every year, Broadway brings in new shows to give it a reboot. It is often decided within a few weeks whether the production will remain on Broadway or will be discontinued. If the numbers do not match, the shows will be replaced. For example: the musical Rocky, or Spiderman.

Tickets for one of the musicals is always a great gift idea when you’re on vacation to New York. Every show is always well attended and often sold out. Our personal favorite is the musical, Aladdin. The young and the elderly will be entertained here. Read more about my 5 reasons to love the musical Aladdin. 

Sports and Musical Events

Midtown Manhattan

Midtown Manhattan is home to the probably the most iconic stadium in the world. Madison Square Garden, or in short, “The Garden” bills itself as the “world’s most famous arena” and arguably so. Apart from the sporting events, such as the home games of the New York Knicks or the New York Rangers , this arena have have hosted some of the biggest shows and celebrities in the world. From Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston to Jay-Z and Drake, every major talent has performed here. Whoever performs here is a bonafide celebrity.

We have attended several New York Knicks games and the atmosphere in the arena is always great – even for those who are not into basketball, it is always an experience. New York is considered the “Mecca of basketball”. We also experienced a Rangers game and was also very exciting.

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Visit Bryant Park in NYC

Midtown Manhattan Bryant Park

There is a haven of peace in Midtown Manhattan. On the way from Times Square towards 5th Avenue, you will find the popular Bryant Park . Located between 40th and 42nd Streets and 5th and 6th Avenues, it is directly adjacent to the Public Library. It is known for open air movies in the evening in the summer and for its beautiful ice rink and winter village in the winter.

During the warmer months, this oasis is a great place to relax and unwind in the city. Many New Yorkers working near the park spend their lunch break here. The large meadow in the middle of the park is often used for sunbathing or reading.

The New York Public Library

You’ve probably seen the library from films and photos. The beautiful New York Public Library is located right next to Bryant Park. As one of the most popular libraries in the United States, it is not only a destination for students, professors, or bookworms, but many New York visitors come to the Public Library to see this impressive building. For us, the old building, the smell of the books and the silence makes this place magical.

You will find it at 42nd Street 5th Avenue, right next to Bryant Park. Just like the park, the library is a great way to escape the sounds of the metropolis. In many films, the Public Library has already stood out. Many will recognize it from the hit series and movie Sex and the City.

The Public Library is a popular wedding venue as well. In the summer months, you will most likely see a wedding couple. Incidentally, the library has also secured a place in our top 10 for true New York insiders . In the Public Library you have free Wi-Fi and also find clean toilets. Trust us. Clean toilets are very difficult to come by in New York City.

Grand Central Terminal

Grand Central Terminal is located close to Fifth Avenue and therefore great for shopping. The largest train station in the world is also the most visited building in New York. It’s walking distance from the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building and Rockefeller Center. Every day, 750,000 people pass New York’s most famous station.

Here is a little tip. Look up at the ceiling while you’re in the terminal. The ceiling painting has been painted mirror-inverted. The reason: the painter had kept the card upside down! The official version, of course, was that it was wanted and the view was not painted from below, but from the perspective of God – that is, from above.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Midtown Manhattan

Midtown Manhattan is also home to famous St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The neo-Gothic church of stone and marble was consecrated in 1879 to the patron saint of the Irish. It can offer a total of 2,500 faithfuls to find peace at any time of the day. It is the eleventh largest church in the world and offers an impressive retreat in the middle of 5th Avenue. (Address: 5th Avenue / 50th Street. Subway B, D, F, M 47-50 Street).

Top of the Rock

The Rockefeller Center and its observation deck is usually mentioned in the same breath as the Empire State Building. 

Billionaire John D. Rockefeller Jr. took down 228 properties in the middle of Manhattan to build a city in within the city in the 1930s. Fourteen skyscrapers were part of this huge complex, including the General Electric Building, Radio City Music Hall, the Christie Auction House and the NBC television station.

The Rockefeller Center spans three blocks between Fifth Avenue and Avenue of the Americas (Sixth Avenue), West 47th Street and 52nd Street. With a height of 259.1m, the GE Building is the highest of the building complex. During the Holiday season when the famous Christmas tree is set up, Rockefeller Center is bombarded with foot traffic. Read more about the Rockefeller Center and its highlights here.

Is the Top of the Rock viewing platform an alternative to the Empire State Building? One thing is for sure: It offers equally breathtaking views over Manhattan with great views of Central Park. Top of the Rock has fewer visitors compared to the Empire State Building. This leads to shorter wait times and in our opinion a better viewing experience.

Our tip: The Rainbow Room, which is a restaurant at the Rockefeller Center is open again. Located on the 65th floor at Rockefeller Plaza you will find not only the noble restaurant, but also a bar, outdoor terrace and rooftop lounge, called SixtyFive. Find more information about The Rainbow Room here.

Midtown’s Skyscrapers

Empire State Building NYC

In Midtown Manhattan there are many skyscrapers worth taking in. In addition to the classics, such as the Rockefeller Center, or the Empire State Building, there are some more that adorn Midtown’s skyline. Behind the Grand Central building is the Met Life Building. This office building was the largest of its kind at the time of its opening in 1960. A defining example of skeletal buildings in New York is Lever House (390 Park Avenue, between 53rd and 54th Streets).

In the immediate vicinity is the Seagram Building (375 Park Avenue). It was designed by the architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and completed in 1958. The Seagram Building is 156.9 meters high and is a prime example of modern architecture. Another building worth noting is the Waldorf Astoria Hotel (301 Park Avenue between E49th and E50th).

Midtown Manhattan

The eye-catching Citigroup Center (from 53rd to 54th Streets, between Lexington & Third Avenue), with its light and dark stripes and pitched roof had construction problems in the late 1970s. It was not sufficiently protected against storms and therefore, to avoid panic, largely at night, made weatherproof.

The Sony Building on Madison Avenue (550 Madison Avenue, 55th & 56th Street) is also known as the Chippendale Building.

The Chrysler Building (405 Lexington Avenue) is also another iconic building that makes up the midtown skyline. Built by William Van Alen in 1930, the 311-meter-tall Chrysler Building was the tallest building in the world, surpassing the 283-meter Bank of Manhattan Company Building (now 40 Wall Street ). But just a year later, the Empire State Building mercilessly overtook 62 meters. At night it is very easy to recognize due to the illuminated tip.

Spotlight on New York’s Fashion Scene

Midtown Manhattan during Fashion Week

Garment District is also known as Midtown’s fashion hub for its high density of fashion stores. This Midtown Manhattan neighborhood stretches between Fifth Avenue and Ninth Avenue, and from 34th Street to 42nd Street.

Most New York showrooms of major fashion labels and their headquarters are located in this area. In addition, companies can be found here from all aspects of the fashion industry – from design and production, to suppliers for fabrics and shawls, to wholesalers. No other city has a comparable concentration of fashion companies in an area.

Food and Drinks in Midtown Manhattan

Midtown’s restaurant and bar scene is very touristy, which means the prices will be more expensive than anywhere else in Manhattan. Also, make sure to expect to wait a bit for your table. With that being said there is a good amount of restaurants and bars that are really worthwhile. 

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For those of you who are staying in midtown and looking for the best breakfast spots, you’re sure to find it here.

M & M’S World New York

Midtown Manhattan M&M's world

The M & M’s store in Times Square is a real hot spot that you should definitely check out. Since 2006, tourists have come here to fill their bags with M & M’s. This is a personal paradise for someone that has a sweet tooth. In addition to chocolate, there are also many souvenirs from New York, for example a Statue of Liberty in M & M’s style. So come by and choose between all the colors and different sorts of treats.

Lunch at the United Nations

Midtown Manhattan United Nations

The four-building skyscraper complex on the East River, built between 1949 and 1953, is home to the United Nations and also the headquarters for UN agencies such as Unesco and Unicef. In 1946, when the United Nations was looking for a place to build its new headquarters in New York, it was originally planned to be built on the grounds of the 1939 World’s Fair at Flushing Meadow Park in Queens.

But when a project called X-City on the eastern border of Manhattan failed, John D. Rockefeller Jr. bought the seven-acre property and donated it to the United Nations. The entire area has been declared an international territory and is not officially part of the United States. The United Nations Plaza has a public park on the East River. The area is peppered with works of art donated from various countries, including “Swords to Plowshares” by Yevgeny Vuchetich, from the Soviet Union in 1959, and a section of the Berlin Wall.

In front of the UN headquarters, the flags of each member country are lined up on First Avenue – starting with Afghanistan on 48th Street to Zimbabwe on 42nd Street. Our insider tip: Have lunch in the United Nations Headquarters and have lunch with the UN staff (sneakers are not allowed) (Address: United Nations Plaza, 1st Avenue / 46th Street).

Shopping in Midtown Manhattan

Macy’s and Co. in Herald Square

Macys in Midtown Manhattan

From 34h to 35th Street between Broadway and 7th Avenue is the legendary and huge department store Macy’s. The building is 11 floors high – including a café, McDonald’s and Starbucks. Macys’s at Herald Square is one of the most famous department stores in the world and is definitely the biggest. A number brands such as Michael Kors, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Tommy Hilfiger, Burberry and many more extend on the seemingly endless sales area.

Macy’s is filled with jewelry, handbags, jeans, dresses, household goods, a large well-stocked cosmetics department and a complete floor full of shoes. In order to avoid the huge crowd that visit the department stores daily, we recommend you come early and at during the week. Be sure to head up the ancient escalator to the 11th floor, which has been in operation since its opening in 1901. Macy’s at Herald Square is an icon you do not want to miss.

At Herald Square, next to the Macy’s department store there are a lot of other popular stores. Victoria’s Secret Flagship Store is just across the street from Macy’s main entrance as well as Levis, Mango, Zara, H & M, and Steve Madden. Urban Outfitters opened a new, first-class store in the summer of 2014. Foot Locker and Forever 21 are also in the vicinity.

While Herald Square is always overflowing with tourists, it definitely should be on your to-do list. By the way, it’s not far from the Empire State Building – so you can plan on visiting the two sites on the same day.

The best stores in Manhattan

If you’re a shopping fanatic, make sure to check out Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan. Known as the most expensive and luxurious shopping mile, almost every woman (certainly including some men) will spend some time here. America’s richest and international investors have left their mark on the street with grandiose buildings.

The part of Fifth Avenue between Rockefeller Center and Central Park is home to old-established stores that existed long before the concept of branding was ever developed. At the front: Saks Fifth Avenue (49th & 50h Streets) and Bergdorf Goodman (57th & 58th Streets). In between these two stores contains many luxury labels. There is Gucci, Louis VuittonPrada and Tiffany & Co . This part of Fifth Avenue is by far New York’s most expensive shopping street. But it does not always have to be high-end shopping. Fifth Avenue also houses the Flagship Store by H & M (including one floor with H & M Home), Topshop, Niketown, Zara, Abercrombie & Fitch, Michael Kors, Hollister, the most famous Apple Store in the world, a huge Victoira’s Secret, FAO Black’s most famous toy store  and many more. Here are our shopping tips for the Big Apple in general.

Museums in Midtown Manhattan

There area very interesting museums located in Midtown Manhattan. One of the most famous and is also considered in our top 5 museums in New York is the Museum of Modern Art or famously known as the MoMa. Founded in 1929, MoMA was the first museum to devote its collection entirely to modern art.

Manhattan’s mecca for art is 60,000 square meters after the renovation by architect, Yoshio Taniguchi. The renovation almost cost $860 million. Since its reopening in 2004, it had recorded some 2.5 million visitors. For over 80 years, it has been exhibiting work by modern artists from around the world (address: 11 W 53rd Street, between 5th & 6th Avenues). The MoMa is already included in the New York Pass.

Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum is located directly on the Hudson River. This museum covers the military and naval history. The highlight of the museum is the 27,000-ton anchor ship “USS Intrepid” that is anchored as well as the submarine “USS Growler”. This aircraft carrier was part of the 2nd World War and the Vietnam War. US Military aircraft, NASA spacecraft and various exhibits are also part of this unique museum (Address: USS Intrepid, Pier 86, 12th Avenue & 46th Street). With the New York Pass, the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum is already included.

Photography Fans beware: The International Center of Photography exhibits the images of well-known photographers as well as upcoming talent. In addition to the changing of exhibitions, the museum displays with more than 100 000 photos. The attached bookstore offers a well-stocked selection of excellent photography books (address: 1133 Avenue of the Americas, 43rd Street).

In Madison Avenue, it houses the Morgan Library & Museum. It is an impressive complex of buildings that includes both a museum and a research center. The museum is famous for its collections of European masters, most notably Dürer, Picasso, Rubens and Leonardo. It also inlcudes drawings by Michelangelo as well as original handwritten pieces by Beethoven and Mozart (Address: 225 Madison Avenue, 36th Street).

Just a couple of blocks away from Times Square is the world-famous New York Madame Tussauds. Over 200 celebrities are presented as deceptively real wax figures to give you a fantastic experience and great fun. Grandiose snapshots and lots of entertainment are guaranteed (tickets are here) . The New York Pass includes this tourist attraction. You can find all information and prices for the pass here (address: 234 West 42nd Street).

The Ripley’s Believe It or not! is a fun experience for all ages. It neighbors Madame Tussauds and shows an exhibition of all sorts of strange and crazy. With the New York Pass the admission is already included.  All information and prices for the pass can be found here (address: 234 W 42nd Street).

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Places to Stay in Midtown Manhattan

For New York visitors especially first-timers Midtown is a great location to find a hotel. Around Times Square and the Empire State Building, there are plenty of good hotels. However, we recommend staying out of busy Midtown if you want to avoid crowds and find more local restaurants are cheaper pricing for both hotels and restaurants to go to.

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Neighborhoods Nearby

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