Within New York City there are 5 boroughs—the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island. Each of them has dozens of different NYC neighborhoods. While planning the best things to do in New York City, you need to know how to explore Manhattan like a local.
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It’s not a secret that Manhattan is the heart of the city. With Times Square and Broadway as the electric center, most NYC attractions and famous landmarks are located in Manhattan as well. The island of Manhattan is iconic in a way that you all might have seen it already in many movies, TV Shows and commercials. Countless neighborhoods in Manhattan offer many fun things to do. But where do you start? Here is our guide to the best things to do in Manhattan.
Manhattan MTA Subways
Since Manhattan NYC is considered the main and most well-known borough, you literally have every single subway line except for the G train which only runs through Queens and Brooklyn. There are about 427 stations throughout all of the boroughs throughout NYC.
Map for Manhattan
Top 5 Things to do in Manhattan
Manhattan is filled with events, activities, and attractions that it can be overwhelming to take it in all at once. There’s always something for everyone. Here are our favorite things do in Manhattan.
Our Favorite things to do in Manhattan
Empire State BuildingBuilding in Midtown ManhattanAdd to myNY added
The Empire State Building is the most famous attraction in New York City. When most people think of NYC, this landmark is usually the first thing that pops into their head. It’s an iconic skyscraper and has been arguably the face of the city. It should definitely be a part of every trip to the city since it features two observation decks! Here’s a fun fact: The Empire State Building even has its own zip code! (NY 10118)
Central ParkPark in Midtown ManhattanOur HighlightAdd to myNY added
Central Park spans from Midtown Manhattan all the way up to Harlem. There are about 340 hectares of land and is a popular meeting place for New Yorkers. With about 35 million visitors per year, the man-made park is an attraction not only for tourists. New Yorkers love Central Park and its tranquility. Many events are held here such as the NYC Marathon. There are also tons of green spaces, walking lanes, and bike lanes. Central Park is home to Sheep’s Meadow, Bow Bridge, Bethesda Terrace, Central Park Zoo, and many other things as well.
Times SquareOther Attraction in Theatre DistrictOur HighlightAdd to myNY added
Times Square is one of the most famous attractions in New York City. Just like The Statue of Liberty or The Empire State Building, Times Square is an iconic location. When people say “the city that never sleeps”, they’re most likely talking about Times Square because of the numerous lights and action going on 24/7. Standing in the middle of the many bright, flashing billboards ist not comparable to anything else in the city. Times Square is the heart of NYC and is the true embodiment of The Big Apple.
Grand Central TerminalOther Attraction in Midtown ManhattanAdd to myNY added
Grand Central Station is probably the most famous commuter station in the world. Every single day, thousands of locals and tourists walk through this busy and fast-paced terminal. This New York City commuter rail terminal has been featured in numerous movies and TV shows and is an iconic location within the city. Tourists that visit NYC make sure that Grand Central is part of their itinerary.
Shopping in Manhattan
When it comes to shopping in New York, Manhattan is the place to be. Herald Square is one of the largest areas in Manhattan to shop. With Macy’s, Victoria Secret, Uniqlo, H&M, Zara and many other big retailers Herald Square is the most popular part of Manhattan for a great shopping experience.
But there are multiple locations all over Manhattan such as SoHo, Meatpacking District, Westfield at the Oculus in Lower Manhattan, the Shops at Columbus Circle, the Shops at Hudson Yards and the area around Union Square where you can go shopping in Manhattan. But keep your eyes open where ever you go, there are many local boutiques and stores all over Manhattan.
Best Restaurants In Manhattan
Restaurants are everywhere in Manhattan, and depending on which area of the city you’re in will determine the type of cuisine is offered in that area. One of the best things to do in Manhattan is to eat. You’ll get a sense of the different cultures in the city. Also, a growing trend here is the number of cuisines that are being fused together which makes it a unique dining experience. Below are the restaurants we’ve visited.
Museums in Manhattan
Museums are abundant in Manhattan. There’s literally a museum about everything here and is always a great experience especially for kids. Museums in Manhattan are always are perfect opportunity to learn new topics or enhance your knowledge on a subject that you’re really into. Remember, the world’s most recognized museums are located in Manhattan. NYC’s museums are without a doubt some of the best in the world. If you’re in Manhattan don’t hesitate to check out one of the many museums. Most of them are already included in your New York Attraction Pass.
Here are some of the best Museums in Manhattan
Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)Museum in Midtown ManhattanOur HighlightAdd to myNY added
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) was founded in 1929 and was the first museum that completely focused its collection on modern art. The huge museum went through an impressive renovation and reopened in 2004 by architect, Yoshio Taniguchi. Then in MoMa went through another round of renovations and reopened in October of 2019. It is definitely one of the most impressive museums in NYC. It’s one of the largest and most influential museums with its collection of modern art.
American Museum of Natural HistoryMuseum in Upper West SideAdd to myNY added
The American Museum of Natural History is one of the more popular museums in NYC. If the name sounds recognizable it’s because the museum was the center of attention in the movie, Night at the Museum featuring Ben Stiller. Regardless of it’s Hollywood fame, the Natural History Museum is a huge institution that features numerous exhibits. This is a great place for families with kids so they can learn about the world’s geography, plants, different animal species and many other things.
The American Museum of Natural History is located in the Upper West Side in Manhattan and is the largest natural history museum in the world.
Metropolitan Museum of Art (The MET)Museum in Upper East SideOur HighlightAdd to myNY added
A visit to the Metropolitan Museum in New York (The MET) is more than just an ordinary visit to an art museum. With more than 2 million artworks that span from more than 5,000 years, visitors will soon realize this institution is very special. Exhibits are spread out over 2,000,000 square feet of floor space. That makes it the largest art museum in the United States. The museum is a must-visit and is perfect for families with kids. The Metropolitan Museum of Art presents the best of art history from around the world.
Guggenheim MuseumMuseum in Upper East SideOur HighlightAdd to myNY added
First off, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is an architectural masterpiece. Second, but most importantly, it is the permanent home of a large collection of art named after its founder. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright the bizarrely shaped building is one of the most famous in NYC. Not only is the outside spectacular, but it is constantly expanding its permanent collection. Also, many special exhibitions are showcased here throughout the years. It is definitely worth a visit!
Whitney MuseumMuseum in Meatpacking DistrictAdd to myNY added
Newly opened in 2015, the Whitney Museum in New York shines in a whole new light. The Whitney Museum has one of the most spectacular collections of contemporary art that focuses on American art of the 20th and 21st centuries. Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Edward Hopper, Jackson Pollock, and Robert Rauschenberg are just a few of the names whose paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, and installations are part of the exhibits at the Whitney Museum. More than 21,000 works of art are permanently showcased here. The museum is located in The Meatpacking District in Manhattan.
Intrepid Sea, Air & Space MuseumMuseum in Hell's KitchenAdd to myNY added
The Intrepid Sea Air & Space Museum is the only floating museum in NYC. You will find a wide array of historically significant military and maritime vehicles as well as a collection of museum ships on this aircraft carrier which is docked on the Hudson River. This is great for kids and adults alike as it discusses and shows a wide variety of artifacts regarding the US military and maritime history.
9/11 Memorial and MuseumMuseum in Financial DistrictOur HighlightAdd to myNY added
The 9/11 Memorial Museum is located at the 9/11 National Memorial and is probably one of the most emotional museums in New York. It is mostly located underground and displays debris from the former Twin Towers in addition to many of the personal belongings of those buried. Among them are fire trucks deformed by heat, a part of the antenna of the North Tower, a scorched elevator motor, the saving stone staircase (Survivor’s Staircase) as well as remains of sidewalks, street signs, bicycles and baby carriages that were in front of the World Trade Center.
Madame TussaudsMuseum in Midtown ManhattanAdd to myNY added
One of NYC’s most popular attractions is the Madame Tussauds Wax Museum right by Times Square. Great for kids and adults alike you will see countless celebrities recreated with amazing details as wax figurines. If you have always been hoping for a perfect selfie with one of your favorite celebrities then this is just the spot for you!
Hotels in Manhattan
Manhattan is one of the most visited places in the world so obviously you want to stay in a hotel that best fits your budget. Depending on where you stay in Manhattan, you could end up paying a good chunk of money. For example, if you decide to stay right in Times Square, you’ll probably end up paying more compared to a hotel, let’s say, in Chinatown.
Staying in a hip neighborhood like SoHo also guarantees that you’ll be paying a premium price. The articles below detail everything you need to know about which hotels to book during your trip to Manhattan, NYC.
Best tours in Manhattan
There are numerous tours in Manhattan since there are a lot of things to do in New York City. A lot of tours usually start in Times Square or Midtown, Manhattan but it can be overwhelming which ones to do. A lot of the tours consist of the same attractions, but the prices could differ. Below is a table of tours in Manhattan that we recommend to make your experience hassle-free.
The Top of the Rock Observation Deck is a great platform to see NYC. It's one of the most popular attractions for visitors and brings in people from all over the world.
Hop on and off a "Big Bus" to experience the city that never sleeps. Ticket options are valid for 1 and 2 days and you can get on and off the bus as many times as you want. Explore Uptown and Downtown NYC as well as Harlem, Brooklyn and night tours.
Save 50% on all attraction tickets with this discount pass for NYC!
Go on board New York's only tall ship and sail along the New York City coast line while watching the sunset. Experience the Manhattan skyline on the water while the sun fades away.
Take the ferry to Ellis Island and experience the iconic Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island National Immigration Museum and Statue of Liberty Museum. The best part of this tour is that you can go at your own pace, so you're not being rushed. There are also audio guides available.
More super fun things to do in Manhattan
Manhattan is filled with so many events, activities, and attractions that there are countless of things that one can do in this borough. You can attend shows, sporting events, visit the wonderful parks or just walk around. Below are some other ideas of things to do in Manhattan:
Enjoy a Broadway Musical
Broadway musicals are very unique and we believe that everyone should experience it at least once in their life. New York is filled with many shows from The Lion King all the way to Harry Potter. The very popular show Hamilton is on Broadway as well. Shows are usually chosen based on performance and popularity. Once the show starts to become unpopular, that show is usually replaced. If you see a show that you really want to see and it’s available, make sure to jump on it because the next season, it could be gone.
Explore Hudson Yards
Hudson Yards is Manhattan’s newest neighborhood. At $25 billion, Hudson Yards is the most expensive real-estate development in US history. It’s also one of the largest, at more than 18 million square feet, including 14 acres of public space After years of development and the opening of the Vessel in 2018, the Shops and the Shed as well as Edge in 2020, Hudson Yards is the place to be in Manhattan right now with many things to do.
Visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum
The attacks on September 11, 2001, left NYC stunned and in shock. However, it really united everyone at that time and in true New York City spirit, fought back. To memorialize the victims of the attack, the city created the 9/11 Memorial where the Twin Towers used to stand. Right next to it is the 9/11 Memorial Museum dedicated to that day. The museum exhibits some artifacts that rescue workers found as well as some of the original WTC beams.
Enjoy a day at Bryant Park
There is always something going on at Bryant Park in Midtown Manhattan. It’s right next to the New Public Library, there are ping-pong tables for the public to enjoy and the green space usually has something going on. In the winter, Bryant Park transforms into the Bryant Park Winter Village and the green space becomes an ice rink. In the summer, the park hosts movie nights on the green space where it is free to the public. If you’re looking for a place to hang out with friends, Bryant Park is a great place to start.
Walk the High Line
The High Line is a 1.45 mile long elevated park that runs from The Meatpacking District all the way to Hudson Yards. The park used to be rail tracks that used to transfer goods throughout the city. When that was abandoned the city decided to turn it into a park. It’s an amazing concept and very popular during the warmer months. There are usually art exhibitions that are displayed throughout the park as well.
Explore Union Square
Union Square sits right below Flatiron District and has a variety of stores and a park that you can explore. Numerous train stations run through here such as the 4 5 6 L N Q R and W trains. The Union Square Greenmarket is here as well where you can purchase fresh produce from local farmers and vendors. In the winter, the Union Square Holiday Market opens up which is similar to the Bryant Park Winter Village market.
Harlem has been portrayed negatively by the media in the past and which ends up giving the neighborhood a bad rap. This is certainly far from the truth and Harlem is an amazing place to check out. Harlem is home to iconic and legendary venues such as The Apollo Theatre where numerous people have performed. Also, Harlem is famous for its Soul Food, Gospel and sense for the community.
Enjoy the many observation decks in Manhattan
New York City is known for its beautiful skyline. The skyline that people recognize the most is Manhattan. Tall skyscrapers dominate the view such as One World Trade Center, The Empire State Building and now Edge NYC. But where can you see the best view of NYC? We recommend checking out the different observation decks.
They can give you different angles of the metropolis which in turn provides great photo opportunities. Observation decks can be found on top of the Empire State Building, Top of the Rock, Edge NYC, One World Trade Center and the Statue of Liberty Crown.
Check out the rooftop bars in Manhattan
There’s a lot of things to do in Manhattan, especially when the weather is really nice. A great way to enjoy the weather is by visiting a rooftop bar in the city. Most bars offer great views of the city, but we think the best one is 230 Fifth Rooftop Bar. You have a direct view of the Empire State Building and the atmosphere here is always energetic. Check out some of our favorite rooftop bars in Manhattan below.
Take a flick of the Flatiron Building
The Flatiron Building located in the Flatiron District is another iconic structure in NYC. It has a triangular shape and makes for great photo-ops. It’s located right next to Madison Park and Eataly. The building was originally called the Fuller Building and opened in June 1902. While visiting the famous Flatiron Building, make sure to wander around and enjoy the beautiful neighborhood of the Flatiron District.
Catch a show at Lincoln Center
The Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts is in the Lincoln Square neighborhood near Manhattan. It’s just a few blocks north from Columbus Circle. The center has about 30 indoor and outdoor facilities and brings in about 5 million yearly visitors. Major events have been held here such as New York Fashion Week, jazz concerts and much more.
Visit South Street Seaport and Pier 17
South Street Seaport is filled with many restaurants and a great place to go shopping in New York. It’s located in Lower Manhattan and there is always something to do here. One of those things is Pier 17 which is an event space that overlooks the Brooklyn Bridge. In the winter, their rooftop is converted into an ice rink and comes equipped with a bar.
Explore the New York City Public Library
If you’re a bookworm, then without a doubt you should visit the New York City Public Library. Not only is it huge, but it’s another iconic location within Manhattan. It’s right next to Bryant Park as well which makes it an ideal location to relax and spend your leisure time. Sex and the City Fans may recognize this building. Yes, this is where Carrie almost got married to John Big.
This unique artistic landmark is walking distance from One World Trade Center which is located in Lower Manhattan. The Oculus is the centerpiece of the World Trade Center Transportation Hub. Not only does it connect Jersey City to Manhattan via The PATH train, but the building is also has a mall called Westfield World Trade Center Mall. It’s a famous photo spot, offers lots of shopping and is home to the Eataly in Lower Manhattan.
Enjoy an event at Madison Square Garden
Performing at Madison Square Garden is considered a milestone for many artists and performers. For one, its located in the heart of Manhattan and two, the venue is an icon not just in NYC, but in the country. Every artist aspires to perform here. When it comes to sports, Madison Square Garden is considered “The Mecca” of basketball. If you’re a fan of basketball make sure to pick up Knicks tickets or if you’re a fan of hockey, the New York Rangers play here as well.
Ride the Staten Island Ferry
The best thing about the Staten Island Ferry is that one, it’s free to use. Two, you get an amazing view of Lower Manhattan and three, it cruises right by the Statue of Liberty. If you’re on a budget, or just don’t want to spend money, then riding this ferry is a great idea. Once you get to Staten Island, it drops you right off at the new Empire Outlets which is a new shopping destination for New Yorkers.
Stroll at Chelsea Market
Where the Oreo Cookie was once invented is now a shopping and food hall site for New Yorkers and tourists alike. This building is another iconic location in NYC. It’s located at the border of Chelsea and the Meatpacking District. Here you can shop at the many independent shops as well as find some amazing eats.
Our favorite neighborhood in Manhattan
Our favorite neighborhood in Manhattan is most likely SoHo, even though it is super hard to decide. The atmosphere is unlike any other neighborhood. People are here are dressed well, there are great restaurants and cafes, and the shopping scene is one of the best in the world. There’s always something going on here and the energy in this neighborhood is like no other.
More about the NYC boroughs
Things To Do in The Bronx
Things to do in Brooklyn
Things To Do in Queens
Things to Do in Staten Island
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I'm a true New York fan! Not only have I visited the city over 20 times but also have I spent several months here at a time. On my blog I show you the best and most beautiful spots of the city, so that you have a really good time! You can also find lots of insider tips in our New York travel guide. Also check out my hotel finder for New York!