12 Best Things to Do in New York City

There are so many things to see and do in New York City. So if you’re planning a trip to the Big Apple, here are 12 things you’ll want to include in your itinerary – as recommended by a little lady who spent a few days in the city with her parents.

Carltonau's Travel Tips Empire State Building Observation Deck New York City
Great views from the Observation Deck of the Empire State Building.

Empire State Building

The Empire State Building is the tallest building in New York City and includes two observation decks – one on the 86th floor and a more intimate (and more expensive) 102nd floor.

Depending on the time of day, you may be standing in lines to get on the elevators up to the top floors. People have recommended going first thing in the morning, or during lunch or dinner times so the crowds are a little smaller.

Once on the 86th floor observation deck, you may be standing shoulder to shoulder with all the other tourists wanting to check out the views of Manhattan.

The prices vary, depending on which observation deck (or decks) you want to visit. There is also an option to pay a little more and bypass all the lines.  Since prices are always changing, visit their website for current prices, which range from $35 for adults, up to $100 for a sunrise experience. If you buy your tickets online, you can avoid the hassle of the lines to buy a ticket. You may also want to look into a New York CityPASS if you plan to visit other sites.

Address: 350 Fifth Avenue, New York City, NY

Carltonaut's Travel Tips Rockefeller Center New York City
Looking up next to the ice rink at the Rockefeller Center, also known as the Rock.

Rockefeller Center and Ice Rink

One of the disadvantages to visiting the observation deck of the Empire State Building is that you don’t get to actually see the Empire State Building towering above the city. That’s where the Rockefeller Center Observation Deck may come in handy.

Although we didn’t go to the top of the Rock, it was recommended to us by some other travelers, so I wanted to mention it here. Access to the top of the Rock is included in the New York CityPASS, as long as you’re willing to pass up the Guggenheim Museum.

During the winter and early spring, you can ice skate at the famous rink below the tower. Admission is first-come, first-served, so depending on the crowds, it may not work out for you to get on the ice.

Some of the other things you can do at Rockefeller Center: watch the morning broadcast of the Today Show, hit up the Lego flagship store or even the Nintendo NY store.

Address: 600 Fifth Avenue, New York City, NY

Carltonaut's Travel Tips Central Park New York City
Looking out at Turtle Pond in Central Park while standing at Belvedere Castle.

Central Park

Central Park is massive. It’s easy to say it’s 843 acres, but it’s another to try and explore the sheer magnitude of the park. There are walking, cycling and running paths throughout the park. You’ll find ponds and streams among the variety of trees.

You’ll also find big open spaces for a game of catch or ultimate Frisbee, or a nice shade tree to sit under and enjoy a snack – or quick nap. There are bike rental places around the park if you want to explore the park at a little faster pace.

If you’re lucky, you  may even come across a musician playing the guitar or another instrument, or combination of instruments.

Enjoy a few moments to explore Central Park, although you could probably spend an entire day just hanging out in the park.

Carltonaut's Travel Tips Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City
The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the ancient Egypt exhibits.

Your Choice of Museums

New York City is full of museums: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, American Museum of Natural History, the Guggenheim Museum, The Museum of Modern Art, the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum and many more. The trick is knowing which museums will appeal to you most.

At eight years old, this little lady was excited to see the Metropolitan Museum of Art – she is an artist herself, after all – but after spending an hour in the museum, she was wondering when we would get to the gift shop so she could get a souvenir. That’s not to say she didn’t find the exhibits interesting, there was just so much to see there that it was a little overwhelming.

Tickets are required and can be purchased online. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is also included with the New York CityPASS.

We did explore the American Museum of Natural History as well, which had a completely different set of exhibits, and she did seem to find a little more interest in that museum. Admission to this museum is a suggested donation, so you pick the admission price – but some special exhibits do have required admission.

Carltonaut's Travel Tips M&M Candy Store New York City
You can’t NOT visit the M&M’s World New York candy store in Times Square.

Shopping at Times Square

If it’s your first time to Times Square, then you have to check it out to see where the ball drops on New Years Eve. If you love shopping, then Times Square is the place to be. And if you just love chocolate, then you need to check out M&M’s World New York or Hershey’s Chocolate World.

There are numerous clothing stores to explore, and even stores for kids – like Toys R Us, and the Disney Store. There are also people in costumes – like Minions, Spiderman or Mickey Mouse. If you want to take a photo with the, they’ll expect to get some money in exchange. So be careful.

At night, a whole new crowd comes out, one of which includes The Naked Cowboy. When we ran into him, we redirected my daughters line of site elsewhere.

Carltonaut's Travel Tips American Girl Doll Store New York City

Visit the American Girl Store

Like any young girl, the American Girl store is heaven. They can take their doll out for a spa day, buy them a whole new wardrobe and matching accessories. The possibilities of what they have available for the dolls is astounding.

You probably don’t want to spend too long in the store, or you may end up in debt far beyond the cost of the vacation to New York City, but for this little lady, it was a fun treat for her and her doll.

Address: 75 Rockefeller Plaza, New York City, NY

Carltonaut's Travel Tips Broadway Times Square New York City

Broadway Musical

New York City and Broadway go together. So take an evening and get all dressed up for a night on the town and at the theater.

There are a variety of shows available for people of all ages and interests. For example, younger kids may enjoy Beauty and the Beast, Disney’s Newsies or The Lion King. Others may enjoy shows like Groundhog Day, Kinky Boots, Les Miserables or Wicked.

Tickets can be purchased online, over the phone or in-person. Check out Broadway.org for shows, theaters, prices and other options.

Carltonaut's Travel Tips Staten Island Ferry New York City
Celebrating a successful journey on the Staten Island Ferry.

Staten Island Ferry

Our initial thought was to visit the Statue of Liberty. However, the lines were long and there was a cost to visit the island where the Statue of Liberty stands.

So we decided to hop a free ride on the Staten Island Ferry, which goes close enough to the Statue of Liberty to see it and take some photos. And did I mention that the ferry is free? Nothing wrong with a little scenic boat ride with hundreds of complete strangers.

Access to the Staten Island Ferry is at the south end of Manhattan Island near Battery Park. Enter the terminal and follow the crowds to the ferry. Once on board, find a spot along the right side of the boat for a clear view of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

The five-mile trip over to Staten Island takes about 25 minutes. Once there, simply exit the terminal and get back in line to board the boat again. Then enjoy a ride back to Manhattan, taking in the views of the Manhattan Skyline. The ferry is a great way to see some amazing sites, without breaking the bank.

Carltonaut's Travel Tips New York City Manhattan Skyline from Staten Island Ferry
View of the Manhattan skyline from the Staten Island Ferry.

9/11 Memorial & Museum

Towering above the south end of Manhattan, where the Twin Towers used to be, stands Freedom Tower (the tall building with a massive antenna on top. Below the blue reflective tower are museums, memorials and mementos from the attacks of September 11, 2001.

During our trip, we had every intention of visiting the monument and museum. We even walked to the entrance, but at the time, you needed reservations or tickets to see it, and we didn’t have either (this was back in 2014).

According to the official website, the memorial is accessible without a ticket. The museum does require a ticket and can be purchased on their website.

My daughter wasn’t born in 2001 when the planes struck the tower, but we took the time to explain to her the significance of that day, while we explored other buildings in the area that were impacted by the fall of the Twin Towers.

Address: 180 Greenwhich Street, New York City, NY

Carltonaut's Travel Tips Chinatown New York City

Chinatown and Little Italy

It’s always fun to visit other cultures, and in a matter of a few blocks, you can go from New York City to Chinatown to Little Italy. And for a little lady, it’s a treat – although the smell of the fresh fish market in Chinatown wasn’t the most appealing.

Chinatown offered numerous souvenirs, some of them more unique than the others. But the prices are right for a little souvenir from China, and then a hop, skip and a jump over to Little Italy for a dessert.

Carltonaut's Travel Tips Hot Dog New York City
Enjoying a New York City hot dog near Battery Park.

A New York Hot Dog

A trip to New York City isn’t complete without grabbing a hot dog from a cart and finding a spot to eat it. Ideally, we would’ve grabbed one in Central Park and enjoyed them under the shade of a tree, but we’ll have to try that next time.

It’s also a good idea to have some cash on-hand so you can pay for your hot dogs – cards aren’t always accepted.

Carltonaut's Travel Tips Cake Boss Cafe Carlos Bakery New York City

Cake Boss Cafe

Now that you’ve enjoyed your hot dog and made your way around New York City – either by walking, taxi or the subway – you’ll need to stop by Cake Boss Cafe to pick up a dessert.

This little lady loved watching Cake Boss on Netflix to see what fancy cake Buddy Valastro would whip up for a customer. When we came across the store, we had to stop. It was the 30 minute wait in line to get a single cupcake that seemed a little absurd – but the excitement from the little lady at seeing a place she had seen on TV was well worth it.

And the cupcake was pretty delicious, too.

Address: 625 Eight Avenue, New York City, NY


Carltonaut's Travel Tips and the 12 Best Things to Do in New York City

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