Essential New York City Experiences to Add to Your Itinerary

Ahhhh New York, New York. One of my favorite cities on earth. Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of exploring pretty much every corner this city. From world-famous landmarks to hidden gems, New York is a city that never fails to amaze and inspire me. In this post, I’ll be sharing some of my favorite things to do in New York, so come along with me on a journey through the city that never sleeps, and discover the best that New York has to offer. Here is a list of some of my favorite things to do in the city.

What to Do:

If it’s your first time in New York, you have to hit the big tourist spots. I’m actually a big fan of tourist spots in big cities. They’re called “tourist” spots for a reason! So take the Statue of Liberty ferry, visit Time Square, go to the top of the Empire State building! If you’ve never been to New York before, those experiences are a must. Once you’ve done those, you can start experiencing the real New York.

At LEAST One Broadway Show

I’m a Broadway girly. I have had multiple trips to New York planned around Broadway shows. Broadway is part of the essence of Manhattan. On my last trip, I was lucky enough to see Lea Michele as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl, and the trip before that I had seen the show in previews with Beanie Feldstein. How many people can say that? A few hundred? I feel like I’m a small, small part of the show’s history now. So why not make your own history, and add a little drama to your next trip to New York?

Treasure Hunting in the Chelsea Thrift Stores

With one of the most iconic fashion schools in the neighborhood, Chelsea is home to some of the best thrift stores in the city. From high-end designer labels to one-of-a-kind vintage finds, these shops have something for everyone. The last time we were in town, we discovered a place called The Thrifty Hog, where we found some amazing pieces. And, they have a mission to support unhoused mothers. The Chelsea Flea also has some amazing pieces, from jewelry to vintage leather jackets. But bring cash! Most vendors are cash only.

Eat and Shop in Chinatown

As one of the largest and oldest Chinatowns in the United States, this neighborhood is steeped in color and culture. Visitors can explore the narrow streets and alleys filled with colorful shops, markets, and restaurants serving up some of the best cuisine in the city. On our most recent trip to New York, we went to the Mongolian restaurant, Kopitiam, by James Beard Award Semifinalist Chef Kyo Pang. We tried a sampling of everything, including the national dish of Malaysia. In addition to its culinary delights, Chinatown is home to some most affordable shopping one can do in the city. If you have your heart set on some “I HEART NYC” merch, Chinatown is your place. Chinatown is definitely is an unforgettable destination that should not be missed.

Sing-Along at Marie’s Crisis

I never feel more at home than I do at Marie’s Crisis. As I said, I’m a Broadway lover, and Marie’s Crisis is a Broadway lovers dream. It is a show tunes sing-along bar. Not karaoke, sing-along. There is one piano player in the middle of the room who accepts requests (show tunes only), and then the whole room belts it out together. Drunkenly, usually.

Relax in Central Park

Central Park really does feel like stepping into a different world in Manhattan. Spanning over 843 acres, this green oasis offers a tranquil retreat in the heart of Manhattan. Perfect if you’re feeling a little over stimulated. Take a leisurely walk along the winding pathways, rent a bike, take a boat ride, or enjoy a relaxing picnic amidst the lush greenery.

Walk the High Line to Chelsea Market

While Central Park feels like the escape of the big city, The High Line showcases the harmony between nature and urban life. The High Line is an elevated park built on a historic freight rail line. This unique urban oasis offers stunning views of the city skyline, lush greenery, and public art installations along its winding pathways. Eventually, your walk will lead you to Chelsea Market, a food lover’s paradise. Step inside and indulge in a culinary adventure, exploring a diverse range of eateries, artisanal shops, and local vendors offering delectable treats.

Soak in the View from DumBo

DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) by far has the best views of the Manhattan skyline, including the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge. Located in Brooklyn, this trendy neighborhood provides an unobstructed vantage point across the Hudson to soak in the majestic beauty of the Manhattan skyline. The area also has lots of Breweries, coffee shops, and boutiques. And the pace feels much slower than Manhattan.

See a Masterpiece or Two at World-Class The Museums

New York City is renowned for its world-class museums. Some must-visit museums that should be on every art lover’s itinerary are The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met), The Frick Collection, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and The Guggenheim Museum. Each museum offers a unique and enriching experience that will leave you inspired.

Experience the Live Music Scene

It’s hard to beat a music scene like New York’s. First, just about every U.S. tour includes a stop in New York City. One of my favorite NYC concert memories is seeing Daughter at Terminal 5. And beyond the touring acts, Manhattan’s local jazz scene is unbeatable. Get the full experience at intimate jazz clubs like the iconic Blue Note or Zinc Bar. Nothing feels more New York than sipping on a martini listening to some New York jazz. Whether you’re drawn to world-class acts or the raw spirit of local jazz, Manhattan’s live music scene is not something to be missed.

What to Eat

“Relish” the Flavors of Papaya Dog

Papaya Dog is a New York staple. Best enjoyed after midnight and a night of drinking, this beloved hot dog stand has been serving up delicious dogs, fresh-cut fries, and tropical drinks since the 1930s, and it’s still going strong today. With several locations throughout the city, Papaya Dog is a must-visit for anyone craving a quick and tasty meal. Whether you’re a lifelong New Yorker or a first-time visitor, Papaya Dog is a classic taste of the city that’s not to be missed.

Elevate your Mornings with New York Bagels

No visit to New York City is complete without indulging in the quintessential culinary delight of iconic New York bagels. Renowned for their perfectly chewy yet soft texture and distinct flavor, these hand-rolled creations have become a beloved symbol of the city’s food culture. Some people say it’s the water in New York that makes such spectacular bagels. Whether you prefer a classic combination like a lox and cream cheese or a more adventurous topping, there are countless bagel shops throughout the city that offer a wide array of choices. Among the many beloved establishments, Ess-a-Bagel stands out as one of my personal favorites.

A Slice of Heaven: New York Pizza

When it comes to iconic culinary experiences in New York City, trying a slice of authentic New York pizza is an absolute must. Known for its thin, crispy crust, gooey cheese, and flavorful sauce, New York-style pizza has become legendary worldwide. Trying iconic New York pizza is a rite of passage for any food enthusiast, and it’s a slice of the city’s culture that will leave you craving more. While you can search out some well-established spots at places like Joe’s or Di Fara, you can really find a great New York slice at almost any corner. Some of the best pizza I’ve had in my life have been for $1 at an unmarked window in Manhattan.

Enjoy Authentic Italian Food in Little Italy

Escape to the charming streets of Little Italy, where you can satisfy your taste buds with mouthwatering Italian delicacies. Known for its rich Italian heritage, Little Italy is a haven for food lovers, offering an authentic taste of Italian cuisine that will leave you longing for more. From traditional pasta dishes to delectable cannoli and espresso, this neighborhood is a culinary paradise.

Sample the Award-Winning Cuisine

One of the best parts of New York is all the award-winning chefs, Michelin Stars, and Zagat rated restaurants scattered around the city. And it doesn’t always have to break the bank. One great example of that is Michelin and Zagat rated Dim Sum Go Go, where the atmosphere is super casual, the appetizers range from $5-10, and the Dim Sum is less than $20.

✦ ✦ ✦ ✦ ✦

New York City is an incredible place. From the glitz and glamour of Broadway to the cultural immersion of museums and the delightful flavors of various cuisines, the city caters to every interest. Everything above is what makes the city special to me. But do your research about what’s out there, this list is just to get you started! Get ready to create some lifelong memories in the vibrant and dynamic city that is New York.

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30 thoughts on “Essential New York City Experiences to Add to Your Itinerary

  1. Thanks for this, such a great such with good information. I’ve been planning a NYC trip so I’ll keep this in mind.
    – Kimberly

  2. I’m hoping to plan my next trip to NYC very very soon! This guide is so thorough with excellent food and sight seeing recommendations! Cheers!

  3. Oh, I love these ideas! Thrift store shopping, Show tunes sing-alongs, yes, please! I shared this post with my daughter who is just a quick train ride from NYC and also loves Broadway and thrift shopping. The last time I was in NYC we totally missed out on Central Park, so I really need to get back there for all these fun stops.

  4. Fellow Broadway lover here! I love when I meet others that love Broadway as much as I do. I also love NYC. This is the perfect NY “essentials” list – you seriously can’t visit without doing these things. Especially getting a NY slice and a bagel…

  5. I was planning to do a short trip to NYC when I had my connecting flight there. Unfortunately, I was advised that the time I have (15 hours) is not enough for the iconic ferry ride. Good thing tho! I will just allot a whole trip for it. Definitely saving your post for that!

  6. I travel to NYC at least once a year for work and I never thought to sneak away from a meeting to thrift in Chelsea. That is now on my list for my next trip. Thanks for the very helpful tip! I may need to bring a larger suitcase 🙂

  7. Wow, what an amazing post about New York. Just what I needed since I’m planning a city trip to NYC.

    You’ve also got me excited about Joe’s!

  8. I love NYC, such a cool city and your post brought back great memories of eating bagels and pizzas on a daily basis. Really need to go back and watch a Broadway show in the near future, as that’s one main thing to cross off my bucket list.

  9. Great ideas on how to enjoy New York city! I have done quite a few of these but it is always good to look at new ideas. New York city is a great place to spend time again and again. 🙂

  10. As a born New Yorker, I’m going through this to see if I’ve ever even done all of these things, and to be honest I haven’t. Although I think that’s actually more common than people think, but some of these I didn’t know about, so I’ll definitely have to check them out the next time I’m up there visiting the fam!

  11. When I think of essential New York experiences, I definitely think of all the different types of food to try! China Town and Little Italy would be at the top of my list. Thanks for a great list!

  12. Wow, what a comprehensive and informative guide to New York City! You have covered so many essential and iconic experiences that one can have in the Big Apple. I agree with you that visiting the Statue of Liberty, walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, seeing a Broadway show and exploring Central Park are some of the must-dos in NYC. I also appreciate that you included some lesser-known gems like the High Line, the Tenement Museum and the Chelsea Market.

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