When it comes to visiting the Big Apple, you won’t want to miss these New York City bucket list items!
New York City is one of the most visited cities in the world, with annual visitors counting at over 62 million and people visiting from all over the world. There must be a reason though, right? That’s because the city is very special and has so many incredible things to offer its visitors and the city is a top USA bucket list destination.
The city that never sleeps can get pricey for a visit, all things considered, but there is a ton of free things to do in New York as well. Make sure to check out some of these 40+ free things to do in the city to fill in your time around your New York City bucket list.
Here are the top NYC bucket list items:
New York City Bucket List: New York Must Dos
1. Take a helicopter over New York City
If there’s ONE thing that should be on your New York City bucket list, it’
Imagine soaring like an eagle above the iconic landmarks, experiencing the city from an angle otherwise only reserved to Hollywood movies. Luckily, there are many ways to achieve this once-in-a-lifetime experience. It’s a simple exchange of cash, and it probably won’t even be as expensive as you might think.
There are a number of companies operating heli flights over Manhattan, the most prominent of which include Helicopter New York City, HeliNY, FlyNYON, and Manhattan Helicopters.
These companies are very convenient, since they fly from lower Manhattan itself, and you’ll have a great flight with either of them. However, if you want to elevate your experience to the next level, you’ll have to venture about an hour out of town.
Wings Air operating out of Westchester Airport offer scenic flights with the heli doors taken completely off! Since you’ll be flying a very small aircraft, a Robinson R44 Raven II to be exact, you are guaranteed a window seat. Except, there are no windows, just clear air and a panoramic view. This is a perfect scenario, both for your adrenaline level and your photographs!
Don’t miss a helicopter ride over the city when checking off your bucket list items in the city!
The Danish Nomads
2. Central Park
3. Times Square
New York City is a melting pot of cultures from around the world and Times Square is like a live demonstration of the same. Located in Midtown Manhattan, it is fairly easy to reach by availing the city’s public transport system.
If you are taking a hop-on hop-off bus tour of the city, Times Square will be one of the stops. When you pass by Times Square, it is difficult not to notice the huge glowing electronic billboards that characterize Times Square and bring it to life.
Whether you visit Times Square at day or at night, you will never run out of things to do. You can even take a walking tour of Times Square and Broadway with a guide to learn more about the area!
Apart from people watching, visit some attractions or shop and eat or do all of that. Some of the popular attractions in the area are Madame Tussauds New York, Ripley’s Believe It or Not and National Geographic Ocean Odyssey.
There are many big brand retail stores in Times Square that can satisfy the shopaholic in you. You can also shop for your New York souvenirs from the many stores lined on the street. Along the street, watch various artists displaying their respective forms of art. People who paint, people who play musical instruments or people who simply dress up as popular characters from movies.
When you are tired of all the walking, just grab a good meal or a drink in one of the many nearby restaurants and bars. And while you are at Times Square, do not forget to catch a legendary Broadway show to make the best of your day.
You can expect Times Square to be super crowded, irrespective of when you visit it, which is why it is a top New York City bucket list destination. But that is exactly the essence of the place. Just disappear in the crowd and watch the world move, with everyone absorbed in his/her own thing.
4. Statue of Liberty
The Statue of Liberty is a must-see on any New York itinerary. The famous New York landmark, a gift to the United States from France was designed by sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi and was built by Gustave Eiffel.
In 1924 it was designated a National Monument. In order to visit the Statue of Liberty, you need to take the ferry from Battery Park. There are a couple of different options available. You can take the regular ticket that takes you to Statue of Liberty and then to Ellis Island before returning to Battery Park and there is an option to buy tickets for the pedestal and tickets for the crown.
Tickets for the last 2 options are limited so you need to make reservations as soon as you book your trip to the city. While on Liberty island you can also visit the Statue of Liberty Museum where you can find more information on the history of the statue.
There is also a free way to see the Statue of Liberty but from the ferry and of course not that close. The Staten Island Ferry that connects Lower Manhattan to Staten Island.
Don’t miss your chance to see Lady Liberty when working on your New York City bucket list!
5. Eat Pizza & Bagels
New York City is known for its vastly diverse food scene, and two dishes that NYC is most known for are, of course, pizza and bagels. They’re the quintessential New York City staples you just need to try while visiting The Big Apple.
The good news is that if you’re traveling to NYC on a budget, these will be well within your price range as you can find both pizza and bagels for very cheap around the city. Also, even if you’re gluten-free, you’ll still be able to find versions of these items around the city with just a bit of extra effort.
Everyone has their own opinion of where to find the best pizza and bagels in the city, so do a little research and sample as many different versions as your appetite (and wallet!) will allow to find your personal favorite.
If you need a few suggestions to get you started, here are some of the best places to get your bagel and pizza fix in New York City:
Bagels in NYC:
- Russ & Daughters: this city staple has been around for a century and is known for their classic bagels and quality lox
- Ess-a-Bagel: this family-owned favorite opened in the 1970s and to this day they often have a line out the door
- Absolute Bagels: while this joint is somewhat bare-bones, people flock for the hand-rolled bagels and homemade spreads
Pizza in NYC:
- Joe’s: this is where you can find the quintessential NYC slice
- Roberta’s: a Brooklyn favorite serving up wood-fired pizzas with hipster flair
- Di Fara: this pizza shop is the stuff of legends and serves up a thin-crust pie with specialty toppings
You can even take a half day pizza bus tour in the city!
Two Wandering Soles
6. Coney Island
There is no shortage of great shops and restaurants to explore on Coney Island. For a classic loaded hot dog be sure to check out Nathans and then grab a treat at one of the many ice cream shops such as Coney’s Cones or Deno’s Sweet Shoppe. If looking for some great souvenirs be sure to visit the Brooklyn Beach Shop, Brooklyn Cyclone’s Gift Shop, or the Lola Star.
Also located within Coney Island is the New York Aquarium. The aquarium is the oldest continuously operating aquarium in the United States and is home to over 8,000 marine animals. If visiting in the summer, take a break from the heat and enjoy the many interactive exhibits and entertainment options, such as the 4D theater and animal encounters.
Be sure to bring your swim gear as well, as located right beside the amusement rides and attractions you will find the Coney Island Beach and Boardwalk. In the warmer months be sure to dip your feet into the Atlantic Ocean, build a sand castle, observe the flocks of birds sitting along the rocks, and enjoy some street artist entertainment.
7. Top of the Rock
New York is full of absolutely unique buildings. Unfortunately, many impressions of these are lost if you only stroll through the streets of the city. You can get a much better overall view of NYC if you look at New York from above.
Although there are various options for this in the city (Empire State Building, One World Trade Center, and more), the best view can arguably be enjoyed from the roof of the Rockefeller Center.
With a fantastic outlook on the Empire State Building, one of the city’s most iconic buildings, the view from the Rockefeller Center Observation deck, called Top of the Rock, is indeed an extraordinary experience for every NYC visitor and should be on your list of New York must dos!
From two different levels, the Top of the Rock offers a perfect 360° view of New York, where you can experience the city better than from any other viewpoint. In addition to the famous picture of the Empire State Building just mentioned, you can as well discover how the vast Central Park stands out like an oasis in the middle of the skyscrapers.
If you want to visit the Top of the Rock observatory, you can buy your ticket online or on-site (come early in the morning or the day before, as the tickets are quickly sold out) or get one of the New York Passes that contain a visit to the Top of the Rock.
8. Visit Rooftop Bars
Experiencing the rooftop bars in New York is one of the most iconic things you can do in NYC, no matter if you’re a tourist or local. Few cities worldwide can compare with the abundant number of rooftop bars in New York, each more spectacular and cozier than the other. Many of them are open year-round as well and offer both indoor and outdoor seating.
230-fifth, The Press Lounge, St. Cloud Rooftop, Above 6, Dear Irving on Hudson, Upstairs at the Kimberley, and Sky Room are some of the best rooftop bars in New York City, and they are all worth visiting. Moreover, as there is such a wide availability, you can almost always find a new gem with a different view of NYC.
Sipping on drinks while taking in the energy of the city that never sleeps is incredibly filling for your soul, and although some of them can be pricey, it’s definitely worth paying some extra bucks for a stunning view and a well-made drink in good company.
You can even book a skip the line best rooftop bars of New York tour and it comes with three drinks!
Remember to bring an ID as you’ll be required to provide this upon entrance. If you’re European this might be surprising, but it’s common whenever you visit a bar in New York, even if you’re older than 21.
Don’t miss this epic New York City bucket list item when visiting.
9. See a Broadway Show
No trip to New York City is complete unless you’ve seen a play or musical.
While New York City has many places to choose from such as Radio City Music Hall and Lincoln Center, none is more famous than the theaters of Broadway. Many big cities around the United States have plays and musicals nowadays, but none compares to New York City.
Entertaining the masses since the 1800’s, Broadway is not only just a trip to the theater it’s a step back in time and history. The best of the best are performing here. Its why Frank Sinatra said, “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere.”
These days many of your favorite famous celebrities can also be found on its stages. You can purchase your tickets online, but if you want to make your experience even more authentic, then you can visit the famous TKTS ticket booth located in Duffy Square, the heart of Times Square.
Know your theater information ahead of time. Lines can get long so be prepared to wait and have other options of what you want to see in case your first choice isn’t available. Tickets prices can be quite cheap this way, so make sure to visit Broadway soon, it is a quintessential New York City bucket list item.
10. World Trade Center Memorial
One of the New York City bucket list items is visit the World Trade Center Memorial. Located at the site where the two towers fell, this beautiful memorial to that infamous day and those who lost their lives is one of the New York must dos.
You will want to book tickets in advance as many people are also trying to see the Memorial.
At the WTC Memorial there are two huge pools, the North and South pools, both of which are water-features surrounded by a wall with the names of almost 3000 people who lost their lives in the 9/11 terrorist attacks inscribed in the bronze parapets. When you visit, take time to read some of them. You might find someone with the last name as yourself. Both pools sit in the footprints of the original Twin Towers.
Surrounding the pool memorials is a newly installed glade, which sit inside a beautiful garden. This is dedicated to those who are sick or have died as a result of exposure to toxins in the aftermath of the attacks. And while you are in the gardens around the memorial pools, don’t forget to look up and take in the spectacular One World Trade Centre (One WTC), the tallest building in the USA.
There is also a museum which spans 70-acres underneath the Memorial plaza. Not only is it dedicated to the 9/11 attacks, you can also learn about the history of the attacks and also the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.
Its permanent collection showcases artifacts from the towers, personal stories of the attacks, interactive displays and you can also see remnants of the attacks including the FDNY Ladder 3 fire engine recovered from the site following the attacks.
While it may be a somber place to visit, the whole plaza is so beautifully done that it is also awe-inspiring and is also a great place to visit when in New York with kids, although younger ones may not fully appreciate the emotion behind it. The World Trade Center Memorial is somewhere you must pay a visit to when in New York.
Passports and Adventures
11. Walk Across the Brooklyn Bridge
One of the most iconic walks in all of New York is across the Brooklyn Bridge and one of the most epic NYC bucket list adventures!
The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the most recognizable spots in the city and a top New York City bucket list activity. People come from all over the world to walk across and take pictures.
If you are hoping to get a photo with minimal people, try visiting very early in the morning before the crowds come out and check out the sunrise. Sunset is also a great time to visit and look over the city.
Whether you are in the city for a day, quick weekend, a week, on a girls trip, family trip, or solo trip, you can easily check off any of these New York City bucket list items. These are the New York must dos!
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