When researching the best things to do in NYC, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. Gotham draws millions of tourists from all over the world with its renowned art museums, famous New York attractions—and let's not forget the long list of bars and restaurants in NYC. We hit the streets and social media and asked you to tell us your favorite things about living in the greatest city in the world, and the result was a mix that would inspire even the most jaded city-dweller. Here are the 101 best things to do in NYC including events, free things to do and hot spots in the city. Get out there and enjoy them!
The 101 best things to do in NYC
“Recline on the High Line’s wooden lounges. It’s a really calming, litter-free spot of nature just above a bustling, stressed-out avenue.”—Dia, Bushwick
After years of legislation and major landscaping, the community group Friends of the High Line was able to transform the former elevated train line into a public space in 2009. Now people walking along the park’s gardens or stretching out on one of the coveted lounges can find tranquility above the busy Meatpacking District and Chelsea.
“Watch a midnight movie at Nitehawk Cinema. I love seeing the horror films of my youth —and they serve beer!”—Bill, Greenpoint
While this theater caters to late-night movie lovers, it also welcomes new parents of babies one and younger on Tuesday afternoons. (Yay, new-mom activity!) The spot also offers a robust lineup of retro film series.
“Get to the Tenement Museum for an engaging guided tour, you'll learn so much and have a new appreciation and understanding of immigrant life in New York.”—Evelyn, Greenpoint
Guided tours of this Lower East Side institution bring the history of New York’s immigrant population from the mid-1800s through to the early 20th Century to life. Before its incarnation as a museum, 97 Orchard Street was once home to dozens of working class Irish, German, Jewish and Italian families.
“Stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge—it’s so romantic that is has the power to turn platonic relationships into something more.”—Javier, Little Italy
Fourteen years and 600 workers (including the original designer, who died during construction)—that’s how long it took to build the Brooklyn Bridge, which has been an iconic landmark of the city since 1883. Thankfully, the NYC Department of Transportation removed the hundreds of “love locks” that were attached to the bridge last year, protecting its status as a historic landmark.
“Watch amazing actors at Shakespeare in the Park. They somehow always manage to make the plays accessible, even to those of us who didn’t understand them in high school.”—Beth, Glendale
Every summer, the Public Theater produces a beloved NYC democratic tradition and one of the best free things to do in NYC: Shakespeare in the Park, presented at the open-air Delacorte Theater in Central Park. There’s nothing quite like hearing the Bard’s immortal words performed outside in New York, with a backdrop of natural splendor and the Belvedere Castle looming in the background. It's the world’s most impressive set decoration.
“Ride on the Wonder Wheel at Coney Island, because no roller coaster can top the thrill of not knowing if you’ll survive a jerky antique Ferris wheel.”—Cara, Gowanus
The Wonder Wheel is the center of Coney Island’s famed boardwalk entertainment. Built by the Eccentric Ferris Wheel Company (yes, that’s a real thing) out of Bethlehem-forged steel in the 1920s, this ride is perfect if you want a birds-eye view of the park and ocean.
“Celebrate the Sakura Matsuri [Cherry Blossom Festival] at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. It doesn’t feel like spring until I’m surrounded by cherry blossoms, and I love the elements of Japanese culture.” —Liz, Windsor Terrace
When the winter finally begins to thaw in early April, the pink buds on the cherry blossom trees greet the rising temperatures, and it’s a sight to see. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden pays homage to the Japanese spring festival Sakura Matsuri with Kabuki dance, tea ceremonies, anime/manga cosplay and cherry blossom as far as the eye can see.
“Walk the fruit streets of Brooklyn Heights. They have that Brooklyn-from-the-movies feel.”—Dana, Crown Heights
In the mid-1800s, prominent Brooklyn Heights resident Lady Middagh saw the “pretentious” street names in her ’hood—those named after Brooklyn’s wealthy families—and decided to take matters into her own hands by changing the street signs by cover of darkness to Cranberry, Orange and Pineapple. The names stuck and to this day add even more charm to the historic 19th-century brownstones and tree-lined streets where several movies, like Moonstruck, were filmed.
“Start on a dim-sum crawl on Doyers Street in Chinatown.”—Nadia, East Village
This narrow, curved street is somehow never as crowded as the rest of the ’hood. It’s also home to a true classic: Nom Wah Tea Parlor, open since 1920, which is the oldest New York dim-sum pioneer still standing.
“Look at the tapestries at the Cloisters, because they’re really beautiful and many are quite unusual—they took a lot of time and artistry to make.”—Catie, Bushwick
Want to feel like you’ve been transported to medieval Europe without leaving NYC? Head to Fort Tryon Park to visit the Cloisters and get lost looking at the chapels, sculptures, unicorn tapestries and gardens. Impress your history-buff friends with this fun fact: the museum was reconstructed from five European abbeys that were dismantled in the 1930s, sent to New York, and reassembled as the buildings you see today. See? History is fun.
“Taking out-of-towners to the Museum of Natural History—looking at the big blue whale from their eyes reminds you just how amazing it really is.”—Alise, Upper East Side
While the most beloved and well-known exhibit is the blue whale—suspended from the ceiling in the oceans room to remind tourists and locals of the magnificence of the sea—it’s only one of the many reasons to visit.
“Get down to one of the Celebrate Brooklyn! concerts in Prospect Park.”—Jesse, Red Hook
One of the best things about summer in Prospect Park is the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival featuring live music under the stars. The best part: Many of the shows are free.
“Peruse the $1 shelves at Strand Book Store. it’s a great way to kill time.”—Rachel, Washington Heights
Founded in 1927, Strand is perhaps the most beloved indie bookseller in the city, with more than 2.5 million new, used and rare tomes—or as the sign outside says, 18 MILES OF BOOKS—cramming the shelves. Not only are there plenty of $1 used options out front, but many new titles are sold well below list price. Bibliophiles can spend hours checking the staff picks, classic novels, poetry, novels and nonfiction. We suggest walking up to the third floor, where early editions and rare signed copies are available for purchase.
“Enjoy the company at the Gallow Green rooftop bar—it has actors who stay completely in character as people from a bygone era while they chat with you over cocktails.”—Andrew, Midtown
Atop the McKittrick Hotel, home to immersive theater extravaganza Sleep No More, you’ll find this beautiful, lush watering hole. Amid the vines, shrubs and twinkling lights, musicians play jazz music and actors with British accents in elaborate costumes provide entertainment. Even without the performers, the garden party setting and punch served from copper bowls is enough to charm most anybody.
“See animals at the Bronx Zoo—for free!”—Danny, Flushing
If you’ve got a hankering to reconnect with wildlife, play hooky on Wednesday and visit the biggest metropolitan zoo in North America—for free! With over 265-acres of animals and wildlife, you won’t be able to see everything in one day, but you can take a two-hour tour of the Congo Gorilla Forest, World of Reptiles or the Himalayan Highlands exhibit. Be sure to pay a special visit to the American Bison, which was just declared America’s national mammal.
“Swim in the Astoria Pool. It’s massive and has a stunning view of the Robert F. Kennedy and Hell Gate bridges.”—Ali, Astoria
Not your typical NYC public swimming hole, the Astoria Pool is one of the largest in the country, with a 330-foot main pool, an Olympic-standard diving pool and an additional wading pool. City planner Robert Moses reportedly designed it in 1936 with somewhat narcissistic intent: Swimmers looking up from the water could see one of his greatest accomplishments: the Triborough (now RFK) Bridge, also completed in 1936.
“Watch RuPaul’s Drag Race at Boxers. There’s nothing better than watching a show about drag queens while enjoying drag-queen hosts.”—Andy, East Village
Hate football? Don’t be fooled by this gay sports-themed bar: Monday nights are devoted to music videos, with two for one Stoli drinks from 4-9pm. If you need a snack, the hunky, boxer-short clad bartenders will whip up anything from BBQ Chicken Sliders to Mini Boxer Burgers, a platter of sliders served with special sauce.
“Catch some live music at Baby’s All Right. It gets a good mix of local and touring bands and the sound is always stellar.”—Dave, Williamsburg
Since opening in Williamsburg in late 2013, this place is known for awesome live music and great stage views—no matter where you are in the venue. But the spot has recently expanded its grub offerings by opening a Thai restaurant inside the venue: Don Muang Airport. Now, instead of bar snacks, you can munch on coconut-topped lettuce cups with smoked pork or tofu to give you energy for events like the Holy Trinity—a Beyoncé/Rhianna/Nicki Minaj dance party—or the always fun and ever-reoccurring Drake Night.
“Hanging out at the Cubbyhole—all of the crazy stuff hanging from the ceiling, like the fish and toys, and the great jukebox give it so much character. It’s definitely my favorite lesbian bar.”—Jane, Inwood
“Kitschy” doesn’t begin to describe the glorious rainbow of rubber ocean creatures, paper lanterns and parasols that dangle from the ceiling of this feel-good bar, a haven of loud pop music, free popcorn and cheerfully inebriated patrons.
“Drink a Club-Mate at the Bossa Nova Civic Club; it’s one of the only places where you can get one in America.”—Eric, Bed-Stuy
Situated beneath a subway overpass in Bushwick, this club caters to those craving a house or industrial techno fix on Sunday and Monday nights. You can trust that you’re in good hands: it’s owned by nightlife veteran John Barclay of Let’s Play House, Mister Saturday Night and Trip House parties in a four-story, 20-room mansion. He continues this tradition at Bossa Nova, where folks in the mood for a tropical vibe and big sound in a small space will feel right at home.
“Catch an outdoor movie at Bryant Park. There’s nothing like seeing a flick on the big screen with the city as your backdrop.”—Joe, Williamsburg
While this park is worth visiting year-round for its state of the art wireless network (yay, working outdoors!), the real draw in the summer is the Summer Film Festival, held Monday nights from 5-11pm. While this year’s lineup of classic films isn’t announced until mid-May, past showings have included classics like The Shining and E.T.
“Seeing a show at the Bushwick Starr—it always has original shows that expand your horizons without breaking your wallet.”—Ade, West Village
The Bushwick Starr is what every city needs: a no-frills, black-box theater where young playwrights, actors, dancers, musicians and poets can afford to stage a show. Seating just 60 people, it’s a fantastically intimate space for experiencing up-and-coming talent.
“Geo-cache around Central Park. By playing the game and following my navigational device I visited all 24 bridges and arches of Central Park—there’s so much history and beauty there.”—Mary, Ridgewood
Think of geocaching as a high-tech treasure hunt—an app gives you coordinates and clues to locate hidden, marked boxes holding logbooks for finders to sign. The Geocaching app ($9.99) has plenty of games that take you around the park, including Bridges & Arches of Central Park. It’s the best way to make a stroll in the park feel like an Indiana Jones adventure (minus punching).
“See stand-up at the Comedy Cellar. The price is right, especially when Aziz Ansari drops in!”—Caitlin, East Village
Even though it opened a second location at the Village Underground, the original Comedy Cellar is still the place to go if you want to see stand-up by legendary performers who often appear unannounced (Jon Stewart and Chris Rock recently dropped by). For those who like to plan ahead, check the calendar and make a reservation. Warning: If you sit up front, you might be part of the show.
“Go bird watching on the FDR [East River] Promenade. I love seeing the nature that’s still in Manhattan.”—Gavin, Marble Hill, Bronx
When the city began construction on the FDR Drive back in the 1930s, there was no green space on the Lower East Side’s industrial waterfront to speak of—but city planner Robert Moses added a 10-ft wide extension to the Island’s shorefront, thus giving the neighborhood the much-needed East River Park. The park’s promenade offers great views of the Williamsburg Bridge and a spot to take in the sights and sounds of the river.
“Fly a kite at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park. it makes me feel like a carefree kid.”—Sam, Astoria
At the pointy southern tip of Roosevelt Island stands a three-acre memorial to the namesake President and his famous 1941 Four Freedoms speech. The park is surrounded by the East River with Manhattan to the west and Queens to the east.
“Get to Film Forum and have an egg cream on a weekend.”—Josh, Brooklyn Heights
When it opened in 1970, this nonprofit cinema had folding chairs for seats. Today, it’s open every day year round, so you can catch foreign and indie cinema favorites whenever you want. Visit their site to watch trailers for upcoming releases, or give a gift membership to your favorite movie-loving friend, which offers everything from discounted tickets, merch and limited-edition art.
“Explore Green-Wood Cemetery.”—Joseph, Gowanus
If you were alive in the 19th century, one of your goals in life was to reserve a place to rest here. Today, this cemetery boasts over 560,000 residents—including Civil War generals. But that’s not the only reason to visit—bring your blanket and enjoy a free Memorial Day concert from the ISO Symphonic Band, or reduce your own anxiety about death at Common Shade: Death, Dying and Buddhist Insights, which features a guided meditation in Green Wood’s chapel.
“Play bocce at Floyd’s in Brooklyn Heights, because it’s pretty cool seeing sand indoors and bocci is a great drunk game—nothing to get stabbed with.”—Thomas, Park Slope
It’s true, drunk bocce sure beats drunk sword fighting, so head to Floyd’s, where you’re encouraged to slather beer cheese—a spreadable beer-bathed cheddar—on crackers, order bourbon and throw around tiny balls like the Italians do.
“Buy comic books at Forbidden Planet—it’s an independent bookstore with a great selection and the people who work there are really nice.”—Joey, Murray Hill
We’ll let the door handle at this Union Square shop do the talking: It’s a replica of Captain America’s shield. Comic book fans visiting this geek paradise can snag graphic novels, toys, movie memorabilia, Magic: The Gathering cards and more.
“Riding the free bike rentals on Governor’s Island in the summer, because it’s a beautiful, peaceful experience that you can always afford.”—Brian, Astoria
A seven-minute ride on a ferry takes you to this seasonal island sanctuary. It was once a military outpost, off-limits to the public for 200 years, but it finally opened to visitors in 2006. You can tour some of the island's remaining military-era architecture, including Fort Jay, started in 1776, and Castle Williams, which was completed in 1812 and used as a prison. But the island also provides a peaceful setting for cycling (bring a bike on the ferry, or rent one from Citi Bike or Bike and Roll once there), relaxing in Hammock Grove or taking a ride down Slide Hill. Plus, where else can you have a picnic directly across from the Statue of Liberty?
“Drink sangria at the Frying Pan, because enjoying a cool beverage on a docked boat is the perfect way to spend a summer day, especially for a date.”—Doug, Murray Hill
Originally constructed in the ’20s to guard the shoals near Cape Fear, NC, the lightship Frying Pan found her second life docked at Chelsea’s Pier 66. From May through October the deck of this 133-ft long vessel is crowded with young professional types looking to enjoy a bucket of Coors, fries doused in Old Bay and the breeze off the Hudson. Once you’ve gained your sea legs—okay, river legs—head upstairs to the top deck for even more spectacular views of Manhattan’s west side and New York Harbor.
“See DJs at Good Room—they’re always great.”—Ari, Ridgewood
A promising newcomer in the former Europa space, this Steve Lewis–designed club serenades vibing Greenpointers with techno, electronica and nu-disco. Stellar acoustics, a super dark main floor lit by circling blue spotlights and a chill side room, boasting a second DJ spinning vinyl and shelves teeming with records, makes it a decent spot for even club-hating locals.
“Nap on a hammock on Governors Island. I never thought I’d be able to fall asleep in public, but it’s so peaceful!”—John, Sunnyside
Hammock Grove opened in the idyllic island’s new-ish 30-acre park, awash in green grass, blue skies and 50 bright red hammocks with a postcard view of the Statue of Liberty. Like most novelties in this city, hammock space gets scooped up insanely quickly on weekends, so get there at 10am when the island opens, or forever read your Kindle while not lying in a hammock, which just sounds sad.
“Lay on the rocks around Chelsea Piers—you feel like you’re no longer in the city.” -Jackie, Maspeth
Next to the giant warehouse that houses the Chelsea Piers rock climbing wall, bowling alley and pool is Chelsea Waterside Park, a maze of grass, trees and sports fields perfect for summer’s day of lounging. Who needs to be active when you can be horizontal?
“Watch weird foreign films at the IFC followed by a meal at Vegetarian Paradise 2—it’s the perfect way to spend a rainy day.”—Jeff, Crown Heights
Formerly the Waverly Theater, this venerable West Village art movie house shows some of the best international and independent films, from obscure gems to indie hits. The reasonably priced veggie fare at Vegetarian Paradise 2—located just a block up and across the street from the theater—offers some tasty brain food while you digest the films’ deeper meanings.
"Go here for your birthday—I don't know anywhere else where you can celebrate by hearing Gangnam Style played at full volume, surrounded by the mouthwatering scent of Korean BBQ." —Amanda, East Village
Owned by wrestler-turned-MC Kang Ho Dong (who also operates an LA-based outpost with the same name), this place is crazy as most Korean BBQ joints are...in a good way. There's smoke, fire, and grilled meats like brisket and pork jowl everywhere you look, but there's also soft tofu in chile-sesame sauce and kimchi stew. If you have to pick one place in Koreatown as your go-to, this should be it.
“Grab a pizza from Katona Pizza & Pasta in the Bronx—it’s my absolute favorite and it happens to be in my neighborhood.”—John, Woodlawn
While few outside of Woodlawn may be all that familiar with Katona Pizza & Pasta, the place has tons of local charm—the owner regularly works behind the counter and family photos hang from the walls. They have plenty of funky specialty ‘za to choose from including Chicken Marsala, Lasagna, and Taco pizzas, or you can chow down on their pasta options (usual suspects: Eggplant Parmigiana, spaghetti with meatballs).
“Enjoy a Broadway show at a 100-year-old theater.”—Adam, West Village
For more than a century, the Great White Way has been the epicenter of American theater, and new musical spectacles, big-budget revivals and explosive straight plays need theaters befitting their content. The original Beaux Arts elements of the oldest theaters—the Lyceum (founded in 1903), New Amsterdam (1903) and the Belasco (1907) with its murals and Tiffany lighting—lend a grandeur and elegance to every performance.
“Listening to free music at Madison Square Park—in the summer, blues, jazz and Hill Billy Blue Grass music fills the park and makes going to work near there pleasant.”—Suri, Chelsea
Great free concerts virtually all summer long certainly make visiting Madison Square Park a pleasurable and affordable way to pass the time. Also, don’t miss the annual Big Apple BBQ Block Party, the only event that makes the lines at the original Shake Shack there seem trifling by comparison.
“Have a whiskey at the city’s smallest bar, Copper & Oak.”—Rheanna, Hamilton Heights
A hilariously tiny watering hole that looks like a cross between a high-tech archival room for precious 1,000-year-old manuscripts and the inside of a bourbon barrel, Copper & Oak sure seems to expend more square footage on shelf space for its exhaustive collection of fine whiskeys than it does on room for people to sit and stand. If that sounds like a bad thing to you, well, it leaves (just a little) more room for the rest of us.
“Witness Manhattanhenge. The way the sun sets perfectly in the middle of those mammoth buildings really makes you appreciate the architecture.”—Dan, Crown Heights
For two nights every year (once at the end of May and again in mid-July), the setting sun aligns precisely with Manhattan’s street grid, which is actually set a few degrees north of true east-west, dousing the skyline and streets below in a magnificent orange glow. The popular term for this phenomenon was coined by Hayden Planetarium’s director, none other than national treasure Neil deGrasse Tyson.
“Sing at Marie’s Crisis. It's Christmas all year round at Marie's, but with show tunes instead of carols and a piano instead of a hearth.”—Adam, West Village
Drunkenly belting out show tunes alone in your living room not cutting it anymore? Then head down to Marie’s Crisis, where everyone in the place is doing it every night, complete with cheap mixed drinks and live piano accompaniment.
“Relax in McGolrick Park, a small, quiet spot with white trees that give it a haunted look. They’re called London Plain Trees and they were chosen by Robert Moses.”—Todd, Greenpoint
Let McCarren Park have its pool—this nearby green space is way less crowded and boasts a Sunday farmers market, dog park and a limestone pavilion listed on the National Register.
“Celebrate the holidays at the Botanical Garden’s train garden—seeing all those miniature NYC buildings is worth the crowds.”—Michael, Brooklyn Heights
The NYBG is a historic, verdant oasis all year round. Special exhibits include Saving the Plants of the World, gardening’s relationship to the arts and humanities and a how-to course on creating your own green oasis.
“Eating spicy pork meatballs at the Meatball Shop—they taste great with any sauce, topping, or in a sandwich.”—Beth, Windsor Terrace
After you’ve voraciously chowed down on a customized helping of meatballs—classic tomato sauce or parmesan cream? Decisions, decisions—stick around for dessert to sample the Meatball Shop’s house-made ice cream sandwiches. (Don’t worry – they don’t have meatballs in them).
“Watching an opera at Lincoln Center, because it just feels so sophisticated and I love supporting those phenomenal performers.”—Marcy, Park Slope
There’s something magical about walking into Lincoln Center itself, but nothing makes you feel as classy as watching an opera at the Met. With its plush velvet stairs, golden ceilings and sparkling lights—not to mention a set design so grand, it’ll impress even the most jaded opera-goer—it’s something you should treat yourself to at least once a year. Get in for as little as $25 to $35 bucks with the joint’s standing-room and student discounts. (And ask your wealthy friends to treat you to the good seats).
“Slurp noodles at Momofuku. It’s the best.”—A.J., Bay Ridge
Though we were psyched for David Chang’s fried-chicken joint (the man loves his KFC, so this was a long time coming), his classic ramen is the original gangster: salty, carby, spicy and damn delicious. The narrow restaurant, awash in honeyed wood, is always alive with chatter and never feels obnoxious, though the long wait might. Get there at least an hour before you want to eat, leave your number and grab a beer an avenue away at HiFi Bar until your table is ready.
“See the Moth. Even though anyone can put their name in the hat, it's rare to encounter a bad storyteller.”—Dana, Crown Heights
Held monthly in various locations across the city, each StorySLAM sees 10 storytellers competing to see who spins the best tale on a specific theme, without using written notes. With so many writers, comedians and actors living in New York, it makes sense that the tales told at the slams are better performed and more engaging than in other cities. Unsurprisingly, this hugely popular event is always packed, so line up early to snag your spot.
“Hit the Museum Mile Festival and see some of the city’s most iconic art for free.”—Terri, Dyker Heights
On June 14 from 6-9pm, anyone can get into eight of NYC’s best museums—like the Guggenheim, Neue Gallery, and the Met—for free! You’d normally pay $25, so we consider this a bargain. Bring your kids and make a day of it, but be sure to get there early: it’s been a city tradition since the 1970’s, and thousands attend each year.
“View art at the New Museum, then grab some drinks at Freemans right nearby.”—Sabella, Nolita
One of few museums in the world devoted only to contemporary art, the New Museum is always a conversation starter, whether you love, hate or don’t quite get its exhibits. Discuss them over a few French 75s (champagne cocktails) at Freemans, where retro portraits in fittingly worn frames should inspire intellectual conversation.
“Waste time in the main branch of the New York Public Library, because it’s a beautiful building and just by being there I feel smarter somehow.”—Jane, Lower East Side
A Beaux-Arts landmark with insanely high ceilings, stunning chandeliers and massive arched windows that flood the halls with natural light? Don’t mind if we do. Just try to keep your Ghostbusters reenactments to a minimum—people are trying to read!
“Shooting pickleback shots at the Belfry—it’s a great way to start a night out in the Lower East Side.”—Kelly, Upper East Side
The candle and chandelier-lit speakeasy atmosphere at the Belfry is worth experiencing no matter your choice of intoxicant. Those who just can’t get enough of the combination of pickle brine and liquor can wash down their pickle backs with the Pickle Martini.
“Going to shows at the Knitting Factory—I love listening to punk and rock music live.”—Danni, East Village
From modest beginnings in its original location on Houston Street in the late 1980s, the Knitting Factory has become Knitting Factory Entertainment, with concert venues from Brooklyn to Reno. Its Brooklyn location is still a great place to see everything from comedy to contemporary-folk and rock-and-roll.
“Taste the beers at the Other Half Brewing Company—I’m so impressed by the selection they’ve crafted. Even though I’ve been several times I still feel like I get to try something new each visit.”—Colin, Gowanus
Three buddies started this Brooklyn brewery, which is putting out stellar IPAs, stouts and more in an unmarked, tiny tasting room across from a McDonald’s. Sample their newest brews before they hit bars, and lug your faves home in a growler.
“Dance to DJ sets at Output, because it’s a great place to hook up.”—Joel, Mill Basin
If putting out is what you’re after, there are plenty of dark corners at this sleek, pretension-free club to do so. Not that you’d even want to do much talking—the sound system is one of the best in the city, whether you’re losing yourself in electronica, techno or house beats. Take in the dance floor from the second level, or slip out to the rooftop if you need to chill out.
“Seeing a flick from the balcony at the Paris Theater. Before the movie, I treat myself to various good eats from sushi to truffles at the Plaza Food Court. It’s the best taste of old school NYC.” – Alison, Carroll Gardens
It is indeed still possible to spend a few hours acting the part of big city aristocrat circa 1948, when cultured New Yorkers spent their time on Central Park South, savoring truffles and taking in artsy foreign flicks at the then-newly opened Paris Theater. One of the last single-screen theaters in the city, it always has a wonderfully eclectic lineup of movies.
“The Sunday afternoon open mike at Pete’s Candy store—after a leisurely brunch, it’s great to end a lazy day with good music, no cover and cheap beer.”—Julia, Bushwick
Everyone from Beth Orton to Norah Jones has played at Pete’s, a Williamsburg gem that’s famous for nurturing new talent on Sunday nights. Bonus: All shows are free, but you should definitely tip your favorites, especially if they put on a solid show. (Same goes for your bartender.)
“Go to an eatery in the 100 Club.”—Christina, Hell’s Kitchen
Every self-respecting, meat-eating New Yorker should make the trek to Peter Luger’s for a porterhouse (or two) to celebrate their next special occasion. The fact that it’s still here after being more than 130 years old is a testament to its greatness. Tip: Bring a bunch of cash—the restaurant doesn’t accept credit cards.
“Rent a stand-up paddleboard from Manhattan Kayak Company, because you see the city from a unique vantage point and get a great workout.”—Benny, Upper West Side
Picture yourself standing on a wide surfboard in the middle of the Hudson, balancing like a champ while paddling to and fro using a long oar. Revel in that for a sec. Now picture the reality: a lot of wobbling and yelping and splashing into the water, unless you have insanely strong abs. Either way, it’s still totally fun, and taking in an up-close view of the Upper West Side while cruising along the Hudson is pretty breathtaking.
“See comedy at the PIT, then drink alongside the comedians at the bar.”—Nick, Park Slope
The PIT exists to nurture comedy through improv workshops, a writing program and—for those who prefer to watch—theater with improv shows seven-nights a week for as little as a buck. Get your drink on at The Love Bar, where everyone from students to performers party pre and post show.
“Attending poetry readings at the Poet’s House—I’ve been introduced to some amazing writers there and I’ve heard a few of my favorites.”—Kaitlyn, Ridgewood
Even on days when the Poets House isn’t hosting workshops, readings, and other special events featuring poet laureates and more, the literary minded would be wise to make use of its modern, airy study space and vast, world-class poetry library.
“Visit any of the restaurants along Arthur Avenue in the Bronx—I love Italian food, and these places put any of those spruced up expensive versions of Olive Garden to shame.” —Dave, Gramercy
Trumpeted by many as New York’s “Real Little Italy,” the Bronx’s Belmont neighborhood saw a huge influx of Italian immigrants in the early part of the 20th century and is now home to dozens of Italian bakeries, butchers, specialty stores and restaurants. Most of the destinations are on or near Arthur Avenue, where you can dine on veal parmigiana at Dominick’s, brick oven pizza from Cafe al Mercato, oysters from Randazzo’s Seafood or some classic pasta with tomato sauce at Tra Di Noi.
“Hit some baseballs at Chelsea Piers Batting Cage, because it’s a fun way to exercise and blow off steam away from the gyms.”—Julian, Staten Island
Not just for kids, Chelsea Piers’ 80,000-square ft. sporting complex the Field House offers athletic opportunities aplenty, including indoor rock climbing, gymnastics classes and a spot to practice your swing. So go ahead and channel your inner A-Rod as the machine throws your choice of fast, medium, or slow pitches.
“Go to Prospect Park on a clear evening, lie in the grass, and watch the bats and the stars.”—Cat, Park Slope
While bicycling, warm-weather picnics and weekend runs are a must at this park, you can do pretty much any outdoor activity your heart desires: there’s birdwatching, baseball, basketball and more. We recommend roller skating or renting a paddleboat at LeFrak, which transforms into an ice skating rink in the winter.
“Finding great gifts at Brooklyn Charm—they have so many unique charms to choose from that I can keep going back to find new necklaces and earrings for my friends.”—Caroline, Williamsburg
If you’re into making jewelry out of taxidermy, gemstones, and other imported materials sourced from around the world, Brooklyn Charm is the place to be. The helpful staff members will help you create unique pieces at one of their on-site jewelry classes, which include wire-wrapped ring and pendant-making, stamping, engraving and how to craft chandelier earrings. Not into DIY? Pickup a pre-made piece at their Etsy shop, which includes meat cleaver pendants, area code charms, and a custom-engraved “boss bitch” pendant.
“On a Saturday, eat at Briskettown, then go to Radegast to catch the brass polka band. If you get hungry again, they have great sausages.”—Jason, Financial District
Try the meat-on-meat bang-bang (which is way more innocent than it sounds): Austin-taught barbecue god Dan Delaney’s tender, peppery dry-rub brisket at BrisketTown, a counter-service spot that can barely fit 25 people, then a bratwurst at Radegast, a massive wooden-bench-filled beer hall with nearly 60 brews by the bottle, 20 more on tap and great live music.
“Take the train to Rockaway Beach on a quiet weekday, then have fish tacos and watermelon juice at Rockaway Taco.”—Michele, Carroll Gardens
As Joey Ramone once sang in Queens beach-bum anthem “Rockaway Beach,” “It’s not hard, not far to reach!” Indeed, it’s only about an hour A-train ride from Fulton Street to the Rockaways, complete with a view of the coast. Still, the trip is arduous enough to warrant a tasty reward from authentic Mexican street-food fave Rockaway Taco. Be prepared to wait—the secret’s out—but it’s worth it.
“Slurp soup dumplings from Nan Xiang Dumpling House in Flushing, which has better food than Chinatown.”—Hallie, Astoria
Good soup dumplings are like miniature volcanoes, waiting to erupt with broth and meat. Find some of New York’s best at this Flushing mainstay, which packs maximum pork and crab into delicate dumpling wrappers. Just wait for them to cool down a little first.
“Listening to music at the Rockwood Music Hall, because the line up almost always includes a couple of fun local bands worth checking out.”—Ben, Gramercy
There are three stages at Rockwood, allowing the venue to host a staggering parade of local and touring bands on any given night. On weekends, the music often starts as early as 3pm and goes until well after midnight.
“Start Sunday with a Bavarian cream doughnut from Peter Pan; it’s a total hangover cure.”—Ana, Greenpoint
Peter Pan isn’t a gourmet doughnut shop by any stretch, and in this neck of the woods, thank God for that. Its freshly made fried sweets and legit 1950s environs, complete with egg creams and an S-shaped counter, means it’s packed daily with regulars. But trust us: The lines are worth it.
“Share a pitcher of beer and scarf down some free hot dogs at Rudy's.”—Alexandra, Park Slope
Cocktail bars and nightclubs may be a dime a dozen in Hells Kitchen these days, but this neighborhood dive bar has been keeping it real and low key since the 1930s. Rock and blues tunes play from the jukebox while a mix of office workers and old regulars shoot back $3 well drinks and pitchers of house-brand suds (“Ruby’s Red” and “Ruby’s Blond”). And yes, it’s true, those hot dogs are free.
“Sip on afternoon tea at the Russian Tea Room. The ornateness of the restaurant combined with the little sandwiches and petit fours really does make you feel like a duchess.”—Jenn, Carroll Gardens
The cherry-red tufted banquettes and glistening gold ceiling of this Midtown staple attracts more tourists than socialites these days, but it’s still a fun slice of old-world glamour. Afternoon tea service includes tiered trays of finger foods, from raisin-studded chicken salad on sturdy lettuce leaves to American caviar on blinis.
“Take an Alphabet City Beer Co. booze cruise in the summer. There’s nothing like sailing by the Statue of Liberty at sunset while sipping on a craft beer.”—Tazi, Bed-Stuy
With over 350 varieties of craft beer by the bottle and 12 varieties on tap, the ABC beer company is your place to pick up a growler or meat and cheese platter to go, catch up with friends for happy hour at their communal counter, or pop open a beer while responding to work emails on your laptop. If you like your summer drinks outdoors, snag a ticket to one of their summer sailing cruises aboard the Ventura, a sailing yacht built in 1919. You’ll get unlimited craft beer and snacks and the chance to take in NYC from the water. Cheers, Lady Liberty!
“Lay out in the Sheep Meadow with a few beers poured into thermoses.”—Alex, Staten Island
Since the actual sheep left the meadow in 1934, the 15 acres of open space allow for ample room to spread out, graze with your herd and people-watch (though, be warned, drinking is technically prohibited). Its central location makes for an easy stroll to other attractions like Strawberry Fields, Belvedere Castle and Central Park Zoo, where actual sheep are hand-fed in the children’s section.
“Explore the trails around Pelham Bay Park. It’s actually the largest public park in New York City and there’s so much to see there.”—Greg, City Island (Bronx)
Pelham Bay Park isn’t just the end of the 6 line—it’s a green space three times bigger than Central Park. Among its treasures: two golf courses, a massive historic mansion, a 13-mile saltwater shoreline along the Long Island Sound, plenty of hiking trials and, for you bird watchers, a hearty population of osprey.
“Take the Staten Island Ferry. It’s free and you can drink!”—Suzannah, Kew Gardens
You heard the woman: It’s free and you can drink! Need we say more? Okay, fine, how about “amazing views of the Statue of Liberty”? Oh, by the way, the hour-long round-trip ride boasts some of the lowest beer prices in the city—cans of Bud go for $4 or less—so you can live it up booze-cruise-style for less than a five-spot. Classy.
“Go to Porto Rico coffee on Bleecker Street. The store smells amazing and I like to talk to the staff about which beans are superior.”—Shayla, Kensington
With friendly staff and a varied inventory, this store is a coffee-lovers dream, offering more than 130 blends of espresso and drip coffee from everywhere from Africa to Asia and South America. Feeling a little too buzzed? Pick up rooibos or white tea. Need a stronger pick me up? Splurge on a bag of chocolate-covered espresso beans.
“Ice skate around the tree at 30 Rock—the tree is so huge and beautiful that I feel the Christmas spirit, even though I’m Jewish.”—Rachel, Upper East Side
Aside from the free skating and the opportunity to fill yourself with holiday cheer, the BoA Winter Village rewards you just for visiting: Points at The Rink and Shops can be redeemed for anything from branded snow globes, mugs, blankets or cameras to capture you and your friends during all of the ringside fun. Skate rentals are just $20 a pair, and no worries if you can’t skate—the ring offers private, semi-private and group lessons. Just remember to reserve 48- hours in advance.
“Take a date to the Museum of Sex—seeing how he reacts to the exhibits will tell you a lot about him and maybe give you both a few ideas.”—Zoe, Lower East Side
If you’re in a sexual rut—or if you’re just looking for a break from your typical museum experience—you’ll want to bring your partner to MoSex’s Splendor in the Grass, a campground-themed wonderland complete with a pheromone chamber. Consider it foreplay before you lovebirds get down and dirty in private.
“Trek out to Coney Island and see a Cyclones game. You can’t beat the cheap prices of minor league baseball, and a lot of nights they have fireworks after.”—Adam, Washington Heights
Nothing spells summer like a ballgame outdoors—especially when you’re this close to the beach. Be sure to check out Parachute Plaza (its new backyard area for 2016, where you can picnic and play shuffleboard, corn hole, with a secret view of the game through the outfield wall). Not bringing a group? Grab a seat for as little as $8, and you have yourself the perfect afternoon.
“Sip a PBR and listen to live tunes at Sunny’s in Red Hook.”—Tim, Greenpoint
Fans raised $100,000 after Superstorm Sandy to revive this tchotchke-filled waterfront bar for a reason: There’s nothing else like it in town. A casual, hip (but not hipster) crowd taps their toes to bluegrass jamborees every Saturday at 10pm (bring an instrument and join in!), and other nights feature everything from sultry jazz singers to accordion players. But the biggest draw is its Old World vibe, with a hodgepodge of folk art, dim lighting and a perfect location just off New York Harbor.
“Eat a P.H.O. Real sandwich from the awesome deli Sunny and Annie’s.”—Helen, East Village
No matter what your sammie cravings are or when they hit, this 24-hour, no-nonsense joint in Alphabet City should do the trick. The menu has all the usual suspects (Italian sub, turkey club, Reuben) and an assortment of signature specials (the Mr. Bloomburger, the 2009 Obama). But the P.H.O. Real remains its real claim to fame, a roast beef, bean sprout, avocado and sriracha sandwich that keeps us coming back for more.
“Throw pennies into the fountain by the Temple of Dendur. I swear every wish I’ve made there has come true.”—Mary, Middle Village
As far as relocated Egyptian temples circa 15 BC are concerned, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has the best this side of the Nile. The original sandstone Temple of Dendur is a beautiful artifact of an ancient culture, with statues of Egyptian gods, sphinxes and the reflective pool—where, yes, you can toss your change—surrounding the structure in the Sackler Wing.
“Go shopping at the Union Square farmers market. I pick up everything I need for a romantic evening at home: wine, fresh meat and produce, and flowers.” —Dan, West Village
Operating four days a week, the Union Square Green Market has vendors of every variety. The market began with just a few farmers in 1976, and in addition to some of the freshest produce in town, today’s park-goers can buy artisanal cheeses, wines from upstate vineyards, sweet jams and other goods from dozens of rotating stands.
“Laugh at the AsssCat 3000 shows at UCB—the improv is some of the best in town, and they frequently get established comedians and musicians to perform.”—Mark, Upper West Side
UCB has long been home to so many incredible improv comics, and AssssCat 3000 is, deservedly, its most popular long-running show, taking place every Sunday night. Everyone from Amy Poehler and Stephen Colbert to Michael Delaney and Lena Dunham have appeared on it—not a bad deal for $10.
“Complete the corn maze at the Queens County Farm Museum, because it’s nice to experience simple country fun without having to travel to the boondocks.”—Jim, Sunnyside
With its 47 acres of fully operational farmland, Queens County Farm Museum immortalizes New York’s otherwise long-lost agrarian past, when the city that never sleeps was the city that had to wake up at 5am to feed the pigs. The biggest attraction is the three-acre Amazing Maize Maze, open during the fall. General admission to the museum is free, but there’s a fee for the maze. Other events, like a sheep shearing in May and a Native American celebration in July, make this destination worth the trek year-round.
“Eat dumplings at Vanessa’s, because it’s the greatest gustatory experience known to any primate.”—Alice, Woodlawn
We can’t confirm for sure that the piping-hot, juicy and crazy-cheap (a measly buck for four) chive-and-pork dumplings at Vanessa’s Dumpling House on the LES are more enjoyable to humans than bananas are to chimpanzees. But the freshly made, savory gems always bring us back.
“Check out new artists at 54 Below. Everyone in the audience acts like they’re supporting family.”—Kenneth, Upper West Side
Elegant and sexy, this 1920s-style supper club is affectionately known as Broadway’s Living Room—with its dark mahogany and red banquettes, it’s easy to see how you could get comfortable there. Pre-theater dinner is offered nightly until 5pm, the lounge is open late and all tables for nightly shows are no more than 24 feet from the stage, which makes it the perfect vantage point to take in up to three shows per night.
"Catch a jazz set at the Village Vanguard. On a good night, the downstairs club still feels like the center of the musical universe."—Hank, South Slope
This historic basement stage has been swinging with the sweet sounds of everyone from Miles Davis to Harry Belafonte since it opened in 1935, and it still hosts some of the biggest names in jazz today.
“Listening to the Piano Man [Colin Huggins] play in Washington Square Park—it’s so cool watching him wheel out his grand piano, and he’s an amazing performer.”—Sophie, West Village
Most buskers are content to use instruments that are, you know, portable. But Huggins, the self-proclaimed “crazy piano guy,” is more ambitious. On nice days, he wheels out a baby grand to perform beautiful renditions of classical pieces. Whatever you do, don’t request you-know-which Billy Joel tune – “I hate that fucking song,” he once quipped to a reporter.
“Have a champagne lunch at the Algonquin Hotel, and indulge your literary and boozy fantasies in the Round Table Room.”—Megan, Williamsburg
Sure, not many writers these days have the expendable income to sit around sipping $19 glasses of bubbly while brainstorming their next masterwork in the most opulent of settings. All the more reason to spend just a single afternoon in one of NYC’s most iconic literary lounges, channeling the spirit of Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley.
“See comedy at Union Hall—it’s the perfect place to see the next generation of comedic voices in an intimate setting.”—Jon, South Slope
You know Union Hall as a 5,000-square-foot wonderland of beer, wine, bocce and hipster beards, but don’t forget about the downstairs stage, which hosts comedy sets from SNL writers, Mike Birbiglia and more.
“Rejuvenate at Aire Ancient Baths. It’s like an underground temple to relaxation.”—Zach, Tribeca
Lit by candles flickering from terra-cotta lanterns, this Spanish-imported spa offers calm and relaxation away from its bustling downtown neighborhood. Only 15 people are allowed in at a time to take advantage of the six thermal baths, which range from 100-plus degrees to 46; the space also includes a salt water pool, steam room, and eucalyptus-infused aromatherapy room. The experience is co-ed and swimsuits are required; we recommend adding a massage for extra relaxation.
“Play tennis at the Riverside Clay Courts by 97th Street—I love getting in a game so near the water.”—Isabelle, Chelsea
These ten red-clay courts, open for the summer in early April (register for court time here), are west of the West Side Highway, so you really are right on the water. If you suck at tennis (news flash: if you’re like us, you probably suck at tennis), sign up for private lessons through the Riverside Clay Tennis Association.
“Attend Calendar Day at Yankee Stadium. Go Yankees!”—Alex, Hamilton Heights
Sure, the free team calendar is nice, but chilling out in the bleachers at the House that Ruth Built, in all its manicured-lawn glory, is nicer. And even if A-Rod doesn’t launch his 661st career home run, passing Willie Mays for fourth on the all-time list, you’ll wind up going home with a more valuable souvenir—a memory (aww). Celebrate history after the game by hitting Yankee-fan bar Stan’s just down the block.
“Drinking the $3 beer and whisky shot deal at Gotham City Lounge, because its a one-of-kind bar with a Star Trek ceiling and some really interesting people.”—Diane, East Village
The comic book-inspired décor on the walls and ceiling of Gotham City Lounge is indeed pretty cool. Knock back a few too many of those cheap shots and you may find yourself admiring it from a prime vantage point – the floor.
"This place is a tiny corner bar with no name advertised, painted all black, no promotional signs, nothing. And my partner says: ‘Why don’t we go inside and see?’ So we walk in and grab a beer. All of the sudden, the owner came out and announced that the show is about to start. Turns out, we had stumbled on this film screening [at which] the musicians make up music as they watch the film." —Kristin, Astoria
Considerably Astoria’s best kept secret, this old-fashioned jazz bar checks off all the boxes. It boasts a great cocktail, beer and wine list, has a warm and cozy atmosphere, plus incredible live music (with no cover!). On Monday nights, jam out to tunes provided by Adam Platt Trio and get funky with the Subtonic Three on Tuesday at 9pm.
"I recently discovered the retro dance bar. It was a joy-filled revelation to dance to vinyl on what is one of the warmest analog sound systems in NYC." —Douglas, Williamsburg
It’s homey, we suppose, if you keep taxidermy in your living room. Descend the chandelier-lit stairwell to this concrete-floored LES den decked out with a beaver, an eagle, even a jackalope. On weekends, the back of the bar doubles as an often-packed dance floor.
“The Mermaid Parade. Went to do work outreach in Coney Island—and lo and behold. Wildest thing I’ve ever seen.” —Mina, Park Slope
The annual parade is one of NYC’s freakiest, most iconic New York attractions and one of the best things to do in the summer. Each year, thousands of spectators flock to Surf Avenue, Coney Island’s main drag, to watch King Neptune and Queen Mermaid lead a procession of beglittered seminude marchers in costumes through the neighborhood.