History, Arts, Food & So Much More: Things to do In New York City

When you head to a major city sometime it’s almost hard to figure out what to do than in smaller ones. This was part of when I was planning a recent trip and planning things to do in New York City. Whether your visiting for a weekend or a few weeks there will always be more things to do in New York City than you can fit into your schedule. 

Things to do in New York City View of the Brooklyn Bridge.

As much as New York City is a great place to just wander around neighborhoods and get to know them a little, I’ve got a dozen or so things you might want to add to your list. From learning its history to exploring the art scenes in the city and, of course, eating it’s for you’ll what to check out some of these things to do in New York City. 

Historical Activities

One of the things that make New York City a fascinating place is a role it’s played across America’s history. Whether it’s the revolutionary war, the story of immigration in our country, or one of our most tragic moments; New York City was home to many moments that have made this country what it is. 

You might not be able to “see” history in the same way you do in other cities since buildings have come and gone but across the city, you’ll find different ways that New York tells its story. One of my favorite things to do in New York City was getting to see some of this history up close and personal. 

Things to do in New York City. Tavern where George Washington resigned from the Army.

WIth all my time on the East Coast last year, and my increased obsession with the Hamilton Musical, my interest in the Revolutionary War has greatly increased. New York City was the center of much of what happened during the war and home to many of the figures who founded America. While only some of the historical buildings still stand, you can walk in the same streets and hear the stories of how this place impacted the war. You’ll want to make sure to take a Revolutionary War Tour to get to hear these stories. I loved my tour with Patriot Tours, it seemed the perfect balance of keeping a history buff like me happy and also being of interest to those who might not know too many of the details. They also offer a Hamilton specific tour if you’re interested in learning more about the role that specific founding father played. 

Things to do in New York City View of Statue of Liberty from Ellis Island.

New York and America would not be who they are without the role immigrants have played to shape them since the founding to today. This is something that New York City continues to honor and represent as a large part of its history. Two unique ways to experience this include first taking a ride out to Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island to see where many immigrants came over from 1892 to 1954. Then make your way over to the Tenement Museum. Here you can take a tour and see how immigrants in this city lived. Whether you’re interested in learning about immigration in the late 1800s, after WWII, or that leading up towards the present day, this unique museum will help share part of the city’s story with you. 

Things to do in New York City. Rose sitting on the 9/11 Memorial

One piece of history I knew I had to reflect on while visiting New York City was 9/11. This moment changed the world for many of us and it also changed Manhattan. I made sure to make my way to the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. I found the memorial a beautiful piece of remembrance. The museum itself is extremely well done and created a space for me to reflect on my personal experience, remember those more directly impacted by this attack, and learn more about the event, the response, and what happened afterward. It was a very intense experience but one I highly recommend. 

Exploring the City’s Art

Things to do in New York City Van Gogh self portrait at the MET.

There are few cities that have more to offer in the sense of art than New York. Whether you’re exploring some of the nation’s top museums, taking in a live performance, or exploring the countless galleries and smaller museums there are so many art related things to do in New York City. 

Things to do in New York City. Outside of the MET Metropolitan Art Museum.

Before this year I hadn’t done any of the major museums in New York and loved the chance to explore them. My favorite was unquestionably The Metropolitan Art Museum. I’m a sucker for the impressionists and they have an extensive collection. I absolutely loved the chance to see one of Van Gogh’s self-portraits, along with so many other moving pieces. On top of the collection, the building itself is another beautiful wonder to take in. Other major museums I enjoyed exploring included Modern Art Museum or MoMA, which while the bulk of it’s art is out of my comfort zone, for lack of a better phrase, it was still fascinating to walk through the different collections. When I visited the Guggenheim Museum they were, unfortunately, changing up exhibitions but walking through the building itself was worth a trip. 

Things to do in New York City. Hamilton signage at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Broadway

If there is any way you have a chance to taking in a show while you’re in New York, I highly recommend it. Whether it’s a musical or a play, whether it’s on Broadway or off, there is nothing quite like theatre in New York. I’ve been blessed to see a lot of productions but very rarely have any touring or local performances matched the quality of what you’ll find in New York. If you’re looking to get into one of the top shows, right now Hamilton or Dear Evan Hansen would fall into that range or something from the current season, you’ll want to purchase tickets ahead of your trip. But if you’re open to a last minute choice, you can get significant discounts by purchasing at the TDX Discount Booths. You can find day of tickets as much as 50% off. 

Get Your Foodie on with these Things to Do in New York City

There is no question that one of my favorite things to do in any good city is to explore its food scene and New York City did not disappoint. Even if you’re on a short trip there are many great ways to get to know the city’s food.

Plate of Halal with sauce and bread. Cheap eats in New York City.

One of my favorite things to do in New York City was visiting the different public markets. This trend that’s taking off around the country has been a part of New York’s scene for a long time. These markets are a great way to taste not one thing but a few all in a similar place. If you’re traveling with a group you’ll want to order dishes from different places, find a table and dig in. I loved exploring Chelsea Market which offered a little bit of everything from Mexican to Asian to Italian to a Butchery to Dessert. You can also pop by Essex Street Market or head over to Brooklyn to find the Gotham Market or DeKalb Market Hall. Plus, those are just scratching the surface of the list. You can find many more around the city here

Another way to explore one of the many food scenes in the city is to take a food tour in one of the famous neighborhoods in New York City. This is a great way to try a lot of things without eating full meals everywhere. I also love this approach if you’re traveling solo or with just one other person since you can’t share as many full meals as with a group. Whether you take a food tour of Brooklyn, Greenwich Village, Hell’s Kitchen or Little Italy there are so many great places to explore you won’t go wrong. 

Oyster in hand at a happy hour. Cheap eats in New York City.

Or create your own food tour by exploring the city’s cheap eats. One thing I love about New York City is that you can eat very well on rather little money. If you want to have some extra meals to get to know the city without blowing your budget these cheap but tasty spots will do the trick. 

See the City from High to Low

Yes, New York is one of those cities where just taking in the city itself is a thing to do. And there are so many different ways to do it both from ground level and from above. 

You’ll, of course, want to explore and get lost in Central Park. Whether it’s just wandering paths, finding artwork, riding a bike, or grabbing a bite this its worth getting to know the park. On top of that, it’s one of the only places you can get a good view from ground level. Don’t just look around the park but look out from it. You’ll get a chance to see a bit of the cityscape. 

Things to do in New York City. View of New York City from the Top of the Rock.

My favorite view from above is from the Top of the Rock. If you’ve never done it before, taking one of the elevators up to see New York City from a rooftop is worth every penny. While the Empire State Building might be more famous, I love the view from Rockefeller Center since you can see the Empire State Building as you look towards Lower Manhattan and you get a great view of the park will you look towards Upper Manhattan. 

Another unique view of the city is found when taking a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. The bridge itself is a beautiful (yet often crowed site) but you’ll also love the view when you look back at Manhattan. Plus you’ll want to stop and wander around Brooklyn Bridge Park once you make it over to Brooklyn for another great view. 

Things to do in New York City. View of people sitting on the High Line.

Something a little different where you can take in life in New York City is to walk along the High Line for a unique view of the city. This 1.45-mile elevated park will lead you from the lower west side up to Midtown. It’s a fun way to travel from these two parts of town.

Exploring Some of the Best of Things to Do in New York City 

The reality is that there are some many things to do in New York City from big touristy things to getting to know the city with a local. That’s one of the reasons why so many of us keep going back to the city over and over again.

If you’re thinking of hitting some of the more touristy things I highly recommend getting the New York City Pass. I used one on my first of two trips this year and was able to see so much more without spending too much. On the list above it includes access to the Top of the Rock, the MET, the Guggenheim Museum, the 9-11 Memorial Museum, the Empire State Building, and the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island Trip. 

Whatever you’re planning to explore whether it’s the city’s history, it’s art, it’s food or anything else the city has to offer you’ll love having a chance to explore the many things to do in New York City. 

About Megan

Megan MacNee is the founder of Traveling Nine to Fiver. From nine to five she works in the non-profit world in California. She focuses on exploring the world from her own backyard to across the globe. You'll find her sharing about explorations through food, books, travel, and more.