Things To Do in New York
The highlights of America's biggest city - The Big Apple
There’s no shortage of things to do in New York. You could spend a lifetime exploring the Big Apple. It’s worth seeing some of the classic tourist attractions. They include some of the world’s most iconic landmarks, such as the Empire State Building and the MET Museum.
You can get a major culture fix in New York, eat amazing food, shop until you drop and party all night. It’s hailed as the world’s most exciting city for a reason. As the legendary queer writer Quentin Crisp said, “The moment I saw New York I wanted it.”
It’s very touristy but it’s a must. New Yorkers often take pride in avoiding Times Square. It does capture something of the essence of New York though. All the grandeur and the excitement. When you look up at the skyscrapers and flashing billboards you really know you’re in New York.
Times Square used to be a bit edgy. You’d stumble upon adult entertainment stores and street hustlers. Rudi Giuliani oversaw a rapid gentrification process in the 90s and cleaned up the sleaze. Some thank him for his efforts, others see it as cultural vandalism. Either way, New York is a city in a state of constant change. That’s what makes it so exciting. Whether New Yorkers like it or not, Times Square is where you go to start your New York adventure.
You can stroll to Broadway from Times Square. It’s worth exploring New York’s legendary theatre district during the day. You’ll see the major theatres and billboards for the latest plays. New York arguably has the world’s greatest theatre scene.
Broadway is hugely competitive. A bad review in the New York Times on opening night can sink a production and many people’s dreams down the drain. But if a show hits the big time - to use a New York expression - then the great and the good will be queuing outside the star’s dressing room.
You should see at least one Broadway show while you’re in New York. It’s a tradition. Broadway shows have helped to shape American culture.
New York has one of the world’s best gay scenes. Most of New York’s gay bars and clubs can be found in Hell’s Kitchen, one of the iconic districts in Manhattan. We've put together a more in-depth guide to Hell’s Kitchen’s gay scene for those wanting to spend more time there.
Greenwich Village and the East Village also have gay scenes. An absolute must is the Stonewall Inn, America’s most legendary gay bar and the birthplace of the gay liberation movement.
Brooklyn gay bars are also contributing to the ever-growing gay scene. This part of New York has become something of a hipster’s paradise. It’s very trendy and home to many of New York’s LGBT+ residents. Read More: A gay guide to Brooklyn.
Central Park is a vast park right in the heart of Manhattan. It’s a bucolic haven in a vast, bustling city. All films set in New York have at least one scene in Central Park. It’s become emblematic of the city. It’s also pushed up the value of the real estate that surrounds it. You’ll find some of the world’s most expensive homes overlooking the park. You’ll also find the Dakota Building, where John Lennon met his grisly end.
It’s free to explore Central Park. Be sure to have a stroll around. Central Park is 843 acres and it attracts over 40 million visitors every year. Central Park is known as the lungs of New York City.
One of the world’s greatest museums, the MET is as famous for Anna Wintour’s annual gala as it is for the priceless art it contains. The highest echelons of the celebrity world sashay into the MET Gala and set social media alight with their outfits. To be invited is a sign of one’s elevated social status. To not be invited is a reminder that you don’t dwell among the upper echelons of high society.
The MET showcases 5000 years of culture and history. You can join a guided tour and see some of the highlights. You can also focus on one specific area of interest, such as Egyptian art. You can spend a lifetime exploring the MET.
The Empire State Building
The high point - literally - of art deco. The Empire State towers over New York. It was built in the early 1930s and it’s become synonymous with New York. The Empire State is essentially the world’s most famous office building. It’s a must-see when you’re in New York.
There are 103 floors. It’s very big. You can take the lift to the upper floors and enjoy panoramic views of the city. It attracts around four million visitors every year. It has been voted as America’s favorite piece of architecture.
9/11 Memorial & Museum
New York's darkest chapter began on 9/11/2001. Everyone remembers where they were when the news broke. The attack killed 2,997 people. You can visit the memorial at the site of the World Trade Centre. The names of all of those who lost their lives are inscribed on the memorial. It was opened on 09/11/2011 to mark the tenth anniversary of the attack.
The memorial pools are each close to an acre in size. Together they comprise the largest manmade waterfalls in North America. The pools are located where the North and South Towers once stood.
The Staten Island Ferry
Europe may have free healthcare but New Yorkers have a free ferry between New York and Staten Island. OK, free healthcare might be preferable, but this ferry is iconic. Some would say that Staten Island itself isn’t, so you could always head straight back to the Big Apple. It’s more a case of admiring the views and the ferry sails over the harbor and passes the Statue of Liberty.
The Statue of Liberty
Bring me your hungry, your tired and you poor. The Statue of Liberty was gifted to the Americans by the French. It was sent to commemorate the alliance the French forged with the Americas during the American Revolution. Without French support the American revolutionaries could well have been overcome by the British, and history could have taken a very different turn.
You can visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. It should take half a day to do the full tour. The lines for the ferry to Liberty Island can be long, so arrive early. It’s a very popular New York attraction. But remember, you can also sail past it and take a picture on the Staten Island ferry.
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