UPDATE: Many performances, museums and venues have been closed and canceled due to coronavirus. Events on this list may be affected by these cancelations—if you're unsure, please call ahead to confirm.
NOVEMBER 2019: In our massive overhaul of the Do List—that is, our essential rundown of the things every New Yorker and visitor must check off their bucket lists—we replaced a whopping 34 entries. (That’s, like, a third of the list, people!) Why? Because in NYC, what’s necessary is always changing. As you can see below, we’ve added recent faves—looking good, Paulie Gee’s Slice Shop—and even yet-to-debut attractions—ditto, The Edge—into our mix of tried-and-true staples. Plus, we also crowned a new No. 1 pick: Having one hell of a night out at Club Cumming.
Every day, our staffers are eating, drinking, partying, gigging and generally appreciating their way throughout this fair town of ours. Which makes pinning down the most essential New York activities kinda…tough. We need to include the classics, naturally—art museums in NYC, stellar New York attractions, killer bars and restaurants in NYC—but also spotlight the more recent or little-known gems that we truly love. Consider the below your NYC Bible.
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You can also find out more about how Time Out selects the very best things to do all over the world, or take a look at our list of the 50 best things to do in the world right now.
101 best things to do in NYC
What is it? A wild East Village bar and nightclub that hosts late-night parties, live music, cabaret performances and comedy.
Why go? You never know what you might find in Alan Cumming’s eponymous East Village club, but you’re guaranteed to have a memorable night out. From energetic Monday live piano sing-a-longs that stretch into the early morning to a Wednesday night variety show hosted by the hilarious (and musically gifted) Catherine Cohen, the space has staked a fiery claim to being the current epicenter of New York’s queer nightlife performance scene.
Don't miss: Come weekends, the vibe gets decidedly sexier with DJs and go-go boys all night long (not to say you still can't belt out a show tune if the spirit moves you).
What is it? Broadway shows are practically synonymous with New York City, and the word Broadway is often used as shorthand for theater itself.
Why go? Visiting the Great White Way means attending one of 41 large theaters concentrated near Times Square. Each year millions of tourists flock to the city to see the best Broadway shows, from long-running phenomenons such as The Lion King to more recent hits like Hamilton. Some are proud winners of Tony Awards, but you needn't limit yourself to shows with the greatest accolades.
Don’t miss: "Enjoying a Broadway show at a 100-year-old theater, like the Lyceum, the New Amsterdam or the Belasco," suggests Theater & Dance editor Adam Feldman.
What is it? The new king of the New York slice.
Why go? With its charred-wood–fired pies, Paulie Gee’s quickly became a cult favorite in Greenpoint. So when they unveiled a spin-off slice shop a few blocks away in 2018, it naturally got the neighborhood’s attention. The decor mimics the old-school New York dollar-slice shop, from the ’70s faux-wood Formica tables and letter-board menu to the red plastic trays and the paper plates on which each slice is served, but the ’za is the real deal.
Don’t miss: Opt for the classic cheese slice, just as as lovely as the pepperoni number or the Hellboy,which takes the pepperoni slice and douses it with sweet-and-spicy Mike’s Hot Honey. Discover all of our favorite places for pizza in NYC.
What is it? This gorgeous late 19th century neo-classical institution is one of the biggest museums in the world.
Why go? It would take multiple visits to fully appreciate this sprawling–as in 13-acres of Central Park sprawling–collection of more than 5,000 years of art from every corner of the world. Visitors young and old are mesmerized by the Temple of Dendur, an Egyptian temple from 10 B.C. that was transposed from its Nile-side location to the bright, sun drenched Sackler Wing overlooking a reflective pool. Other highlights include the impressive array of European and Asian armor, Grecian sculptures, medieval art and contemporary photography.
Don’t miss: "Throwing pennies ito the fountain by the Temple of Dendur," suggests Mary in Middle Village. "I swear every wish I've made there has come true."
What is it? A 526-acre sprawling public park in the heart of Brooklyn.
Why go? “Go to Prospect Park on a clear evening, lie in the grass, and watch the bats and the stars,” suggests Cat of 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 bird-watching, baseball, basketball and more.
Don’t miss: We recommend roller skating or renting a paddle boat at LeFrak, which transforms into an ice skating rink in the winter.
What is it? The best improv theater in New York.
Why go? “Laugh at the AssssCat 3000 shows at UCB—the improv is some of the best in town, and they frequently get established comedians and musicians to perform, ” says Mark of the Upper West Side, and it’s true. 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 to Stephen Colbert has appeared on it.
Don’t miss: Grab a wine or beer at the bar in the front. Craving more laughs? Check out the best comedy clubs in NYC.
What is it? A Thai restaurant that will keep you coming back for more self-inflicted pain.
Why go? It may not be scientifically proven, but spicy food is addictive—especially at Ugly Baby. The servers at this tucked-away spot in Carroll Gardens will warn you over and over to be careful. But you’ll go against their advice and end up begging for more of the cooling cucumbers to ward off the heat.
Don’t miss: The “stay-away spicy Udon Thani’s duck salad” or the khao soi.
What is it? An East Village bar where the booze menu is centered around international flavors, with each cocktail titled for a spice used in it.
Why go? To heat up your next date. The exotic menu means you’ll have to be a bit daring, sipping rare spices such as Filipino pandan. Tuck yourselves into one of the cushy benches and toast your intimate, globe-trotting evening.
Don’t miss: Don’t shy from the namesake coup, a tangy-sweet candied-beet number that’s misted with earthy mace at the table.
What is it? A 1,131-foot-high-observation deck atop 20 Hudson Yards that opens in March 2020.
Why go? To take in panoramic views of the entire city on a 7,500-square-foot triangular platform.
Don’t miss: If you’re terrified of heights in the open air, but want in on the action, there’s also a champagne bar inside the 100th floor where you can sip cocktails with the same 360-degree views of NYC.
What is it? The world's most famous green space.
Why go? "Many visitors fight through the crowded streets to enter Central Park around 59th Street—where there’s not much to see—and by the time they reach the best bits, they are too winded to enjoy them," says Head of North American Content Rocky Rakovic. Instead, he suggests taking the subway to 72nd Street and Central Park West, then head east to hit up Strawberry Fields, the Sheep Meadow, Cherry Hill, Bow Bridge, the Bethesda Fountain, the Naumburg Bandshell, the Loeb Boathouse, the Hans Christian Andersen Monument, the Conservatory Water’s model boats and the Alice in Wonderland statue, all in a “New York hour.”
Don’t miss: Head to the shore of the Lake at 72nd Street and rent a rowboat or take a gondola tour.
What is it? "Home of the Mister Sunday party, which might be the best excuse for starting Monday with a hangover," says national features editor Tim Lowery.
Why go? With its top-flight sound system, sophisticated menu and deeply chill vibes, Nowadays is a slice of Neverland for club kids. Opened by Mister Saturday Night cofounders Eamon Harkin and Justin Carter, Nowadays’ ample outdoor space is the home of its day-party incarnation Mister Sunday and the Ridgewood Market as well as a regular slate of readings and discussions.
Don’t miss: A 5,000-square-foot indoor venue was unveiled in 2018, so now DJs can spin harder stuff into the wee hours for those who still haven’t adopted grown-up schedules.
What is it? A spooky, immersive theatrical production that combines elements of Macbeth and Hitchcock.
Why go? If you want to see the production that kicked off the immersive theater craze in New York, look no further than this long-running hit which spans multiple floors of the McKittrick Hotel in Chelsea. After your night starts in the retro Manderley Bar, you’ll progress through a number of scenes of murder, mayhem and macabre happenings while wearing an identity-cloaking mask.
Don’t miss: Psst: You can actually eat the candy located inside the abandoned candy store.
What is it? A cavernous cafeteria known for its thick-sliced pastrami piled high on rye bread.
Why go? "Going in for one of their monster sandwiches" is a must, according to Jake Cohen. Glossies of celebs spanning the past century crowd the walls at this throwback Lower East Side gem. And the classic Jewish deli offerings, including our favorite pastrami in town, are unmatched.
Don't miss: The When Harry Met Sally table is labeled in the center of the restaurant. Snag it if you can.
What is it? A true feat of 19th century engineering and arguably the one walk every local and visitor must take.
Why go? This essential trek is "is so romantic that is has the power to turn platonic relationships into something more,” claims Javier in Little Italy. And you'll hear no arguments from us. The 1.3-mile-long stunner was the world's largest suspension bridge when it opened in 1883 it has remained an iconic landmark of the city ever since.
Don’t miss: The Brooklyn side of the bridge ends in gorgeous Dumbo, where you can explore Brooklyn Bridge Park, gaze at Lady Liberty, visit the Brooklyn Flea on Sundays.
What is it? A renowned art museum and architectural icon with works by Picasso, Peggy Guggenheim’s trove of Cubist, Surrealist and Abstract Expressionist works, as well as the largest collection of Kandinskys in the United States.
Why go? Designed by original starchitect Frank Lloyd Wright, it's arguably the only New York museum that shows art inside a work of art.
Don't miss: What makes the building a global icon is its stunning interior rotunda and oculus. There, along its ascending ramps, you’ll find a world-class collection, as well a full slate of temporary shows.
What is it? A once-abandoned elevated train track that was transformed into a crazy-popular, bucolic walkway.
Why go? After years of legislation and major landscaping, the community group Friends of the High Line was able to morph the former elevated train line into a public space back in 2009. Now, people walking along the 1.45-mile park’s gardens, taking in sweet views of the Hudson, the Whitney Museum of Art plenty of pretty flowers and plants that are mostly indigenous to the region.
Don’t miss: “Recline on the High Line’s wooden lounge chairs," suggests Dia from Bushwick. "It’s a really calming, litter-free spot of nature just above a bustling, stressed-out avenue.”
What is it? Indie-rock go-to in the 'Burg.
Why go? Kings County still reigns supreme when it comes to venues where you can rock out, as this 12-year-old staple attests. Run by promoter Bowery Presents, MHOW outpost is basically a mirror image of similarly sized Bowery Ballroom, one upping its polished Manhattan counterpart with improved sightlights—including elevated areas on either side of the room—and a bit more breathing room.
Don’t miss: The handsome basement and balcony bars.
What is it? An iconic Upper West Side bagel counter.
Why go? Is there a more distinctly New York (or at least NYC- beloved) dish than the bagel? Maybe. During morning hours? Absolutely not. The fact is that we do this weekend wakeup must—or afternoon stomach-padder, depending on how last night went—better than anyone. And although Tal Bagels provides by no means the most calming bagel experience in New York—for that, head to High Street on Hudson or Sadelle's—OG New Yorkers know that they're best eaten hunched over on park bench or at a bagelry counter top anyway. And we can't think of a better spot than this.
Don't miss: The everything bagel toasted with scallion cream cheese. Still hungry? Discover all of the best bagels in NYC.
What is it? One of the largest weekly open-air food markets in the U.S., Smorgasburg attracts thousands of people each weekend to try exciting new offering from more than 100 local vendors.
Why go? This roving market is a must for every foodie. "It's where you can sample tomorrow's next big food trend," notes deputy features editor Will Gleason. (Past viral hits like the ramen burger and Wowfulls waffle cone both debuted at the event.) Hit it up on Saturdays in Williamsburg's East River State Park or on Sundays in Prospect Park for a taste.
Don’t miss: Fried mozzarella goodness from Big Mozz.
What is it? A series of restored tenement apartments on the Lower East Side that show visitors the day-to-day lives of past immigrant tenants.
Why go? "You'll learn so much,” says Evelyn of Greenpoint about the guided tours here, which 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, this site was once home to dozens of working class German, Jewish, Chinese and Italian families.
Don’t miss: The heartbreaking "The Moores: An Irish Family in America," which revisits a Dublin family who lived in the building in 1869.
What is it? NYC's first dine-in, drink-up movie theater.
Why go? This Williamsburg favorite screens new indie releases and has a robust retro program. Each individual theater has full-service meals (some dishes and drinks are concocted for specific films on view), plus there's the downstairs Lo-Res bar that stays open late. Keep your eyes on Nitehawk's calendar for multi-course movie-themed dinners, big-deal Q&As and rare screenings.
Don’t miss: “Watch a midnight movie here," suggests Bill in Greenpoint. "I love seeing the horror films of my youth.”
What is it? A dingy, walk-up Chinatown restaurant that hasunexpectedly become one of New York’s hottest party destinations.
Why go? If you’re looking for a crazy night out, you’ll find some of the best dance parties in town at this unassuming dim sum restaurant. And best of all, the vibe is far from exclusive. You are dancing on carpet after all.
Don’t miss: Ty Sunderland’s pop-heavy gay party Heaven On Earth.
What is it? Husband-and-wife team Joshua and Heidy Smookler’s LIC darling.
Why go? The best seats in the house are at the bar overlooking the open kitchen, where staffers operate with sushi-bar intimacy, cracking jokes while shaking pots of just-boiled noodles as easily as tumbler-happy bartenders. Those strands are delicate, but with an al-dente spring and a different variety showcased in each bowl.
Don’t miss: The flagship bowl, built on a broth of oxtail and bone marrow, with some extra-meaty oomph from melting cubes of brisket.
What is it? A beloved Red Hook waterfront saloon.
Why go? “Sip a PBR and listen to live tunes at Sunny’s in Red Hook,” says Tim of Greenpoint. Fans raised $68,000 in 2017 to help save this tchotchke-filled bar for a reason: There’s nothing else like it in town. A casual, hip (but not hipster) crowd taps their toes to cover-free live music including 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.
Don’t miss: The bluegrass jamborees every Saturday at 9pm (bring an instrument and join in!)
What is it? There’s something magical about walking into Lincoln Center itself, but nothing is as posh 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. (Or ask your wealthy friends to treat you to the good seats).
Why go? Marcy of Park Slope tells us “Watching an opera at Lincoln Center, just feels so sophisticated and I love supporting those phenomenal performers.”
Don’t miss: Do you think opera is only for the old? Check out the Met’s “Friday under 40” that’s not under $40, that’s an entire opera-going audience capped at 39 years of age.
What is it? A world-famous landmark that towers above Manhattan.
Why go? The main deck on the 86th floor is the highest open-air observatory offers stunning 360-degree views of the Hudson and East Rivers, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty and more. If you want to get higher, head to the 102nd floor's indoor observation deck for a full view of Central Park. And for some background, duck down to the "Dare to Dream" exhibit on the 80th floor, which honors the 3,400 people who built the 1,454-foot skyscraper and features original photographs, architectural sketches and construction notes.
Don’t miss: Want to admire the ESB from a distance with a strong drink in hand? "For about $20, you can grab a drink, tip the bartender and take in amazing views from Rockefeller Plaza’s Bar SixtyFive at the Rainbow Room," notes Head of North American Content Rocky Rakovic.
What is it? After nearly 50 years in its Marcel-Breur-designed building on Madison Avenue at 75th Street, the Whitney Museum decamped in 2015 to a new home in the Meatpacking District.
Why go? Founded in 1931 by sculptor and art patron Gertrude Vanderbilt, the Whitney is dedicated to presenting the work of American artists. Its collection holds about 25,000 works by more than 3,500 American artists. Check out musts by Alexander Calder, Willem de Kooning, Edward Hopper (the museum holds his entire estate), Jasper Johns, Louise Nevelson, Georgia O’Keeffe and Claes Oldenburg.
Don’t miss: Art editor Howard Halle suggests Hooper's 1930 masterpiece Early Sunday Morning.
What is it? Since 1886, the most famous copper statue in the world has held her torch high in New York Harbor as the quintessential symbol of American liberty.
Why go? The statue’s massive pedestal houses an observation deck as well as exhibits detailing the fascinating history of the 305-foot copper statue designed by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi and gifted to the U.S. from France to celebrate the friendship of the two nations. Check out the original torch and read the bronze plaque with Emma Lazarus’s poem “A New Colossus” (you know, the tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to be free).
Don’t miss: Strapped for cash? "The Staten Island Ferry is free and sails near the robed icon," points out Head of North American Content Rocky Rakovic. "What’s more, it travels fast enough (the port-to-port voyage lasts 25 minutes) that your trip won’t take up the whole day, but it’s slow enough that you can nurse a beer and find the right angle for a nice Instagram of you and the old green gal."
What is it? Inspired by Los Angeles all-day cafes like Gjelina and Sqirl, this 70-seat spot serves up bowls and toast with the soul of real New Yorkers.
Why go? Luncheonette-style dining made for today (there's an Instammable mural designed by artist, Lea Carey). On the menu, you’ll find standouts like an egg 'n cheese for breakfast, a spicy cauliflower melt with pickled peppers and cheese sauce on sesame sourdough for lunch, and comforting pot pie for dinner.
Don’t miss: Their killer bread game: Sandies like their breakfast sandwich are made on a bialy or English muffin which are both made in-house by by Gertie’s pastry chef, Savannah Turley.
What is it? New York is the city where street art was born, and it’s still the best place to see it in the world.
Why go? Catching art on the street is a far more visceral experience that seeing it on a museum wall. For proof, check out the Bowery Graffiti Wall on the corner of Houston and Bowery to see what world-class street artist is currently on display (past artists have included Banksy, JR and Shepard Fairey) or peep the rotating lineup of artists at Coney Island Art Walls.
Don’t miss: If you’re looking for an arty outing after dark, head down to the Lower East Side for the 100 Gates Project, which displays impressive works on the grates that cover businesses at night.
What is it? Set in a lovely park overlooking the Hudson River, the Cloisters houses the Met’s medieval art and architecture collections.
Why go? “My favorite place in New York is the Cloisters, even though I barfed there once in sixth grade on a field trip," says Lena Dunham. "I just think it’s the most beautiful, peaceful place." Indeed it is. Soak it all in by following a path that winds through the peaceful grounds to a castle that seems to have survived from the Middle Ages. (It was built less than 100 years ago, using material from five medieval French cloisters.)
Don’t miss: The famous Unicorn Tapestries, the 12th-century Fuentidueña Chapel and the Annunciation Triptych by Robert Campin.
What is it? Beloved pasta-focused eatery from Missy Robbins.
Why go? Robbins revamps a former auto-body shop as a 70-seat dining room decorated with handmade tiles, natural-wood tables and iron-casement windows. From an open kitchen, she oversees rustic plates like cacio e pepe frittelle, spaghetti with anchovies and a wood-fired leg of lamb with Roman spices. A small adjacent take-out café serves pastries and panini, before converting to a cocktail bar at night.
Don’t miss: The ricotta gnocchi, delicate cheese dumplings covered in a thatch of vibrant, verdant broccoli-basil pesto studded with nutty pistachios, or the bow-shaped rigatoni, rendered sweet from crushed San Marzano tomatoes and spicy from a prodigious zap of chilies and black pepper.
What is it? An expertly curated, 150-year-old institution that fills visitors of all ages with a curiosity about the universe.
Why go? Whether you’re interested in the world below our feet, or the cultures of faraway lands or the stars light-years beyond our reach, your visit is bound to teach you a few things you never knew. With four floors filled to the brim with artifacts, you could spend a whole day just looking at the taxidermied animals that hail from from North America, Asia, Africa, rain forests and the ocean. Or, conversely, you could spend a day like an anthropologist, studying just the human species, with halls dedicated to an array of different cultures.
Don’t miss: “Taking out-of-towners here and looking at the big blue whale from their eyes reminds you just how amazing it really is,” says Alise of the Upper East Side of the 94-foot-long suspended stunner.
What is it? An old-school bakery famous for their doughnuts.
Why go? “Start Sunday with a Bavarian cream from Peter Pan; it’s a total hangover cure,” says Ana of 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 an S-shaped counter, means it’s packed daily with regulars. But trust us: The lines are worth it.
Don’t miss: Pair your doughnut with one of the bakery’s tasty egg creams.
What is it? A moving tributes to the victims of the terrorist attacks on 9/11 andFebruary 26, 1993.
Why go? Designed by Israeli architect Michael Arad, two of North America’s largest man-made waterfalls mark the footprint of each tower, framing the perimeter and cascading into reflecting pools almost an acre wide. The trees surrounding the area add to the mood of somber, tranquil reflection: Each one was selected from a 500-mile radius of the World Trade Center site, with others brought in from Pennsylvania, Maryland and Washington, D.C., the other places directly affected on 9/11.
Don't miss: The museum provides a complete picture of the courage and compassion demonstrated locally, nationally and internationally after the attacks, and it’s interspersed with pieces of the towers and other debris recovered by those who risked their own lives to save others.
What is it? The indisputable highbrow cultural hub of New York and the longtime home of the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Ballet and New York Philharmonic.
Why go? A night out at Lincoln Center is a chance to see some of the world’s best artists performing at the top of their game in landmark historic buildings. The Met Opera debuts a number of new works each year alongside repertory favorites like La Boheme and Carmen. The New York City Ballet has three major seasons each year, including their uber-popular holiday run of The Nutcracker. Meanwhile, the New York Philharmonic mixes popular concerts, like live performances of movie soundtracks, with the classic from Mozart and Beethoven you’d expect.
Don’t miss: Rush tickets ($25) are offered online for the Metropolitan Opera on the day of every performance.
What is it? A cinema lover's paradise that reopened in 2018 after a spiffy renovation.
Why go? 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-obsessed friend, which offers everything from discounted tickets, merch and limited-edition art.
Don’t miss: “Have an egg cream on a weekend here,” suggests global deputy film editor Joshua Rothkopf.
What is it? An iconic jazz bar in the West Village.
Why go? "Catch a jazz set at the Village Vanguard. On a good night, the downstairs club still feels like the center of the musical universe,” says Hank of 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.
Don’t miss: The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra which has been playing every Monday night at the venue since 1966
What is it? A closet-size mecca for dumpling aficionados.
Why go? We recommend the the No. 6: a dozen pork wontons, doused in roasted chili oil and topped with a smattering of diced pickled vegetables, which arrives on a Styrofoam plate. Despite more than 30 items on the menu, it’s the dish everyone seems to order.
Don't miss: Still hungry? Plan a food crawl and eat your way through Flushing.
What is it? The chance to see the Bard's work excellently staged, with top-notch actors and direction, right in Central Park.
Why go? “These amazing actors somehow always manage to make the plays accessible, even to those of us who didn’t understand them in high school," says Beth in Glendale. And indeed, every summer, the Public Theater produces a beloved, free-of-charge NYC democratic tradition presented at the open-air Delacorte Theater. There’s nothing quite like hearing the Bard’s immortal words performed outside, with a backdrop of natural splendor and the Belvedere Castle looming in the background. It's the world’s most impressive set decoration.
Don’t miss: Gratis tickets are distributed every show day at the Delacorte Theater at noon. Get there early. Remember: You snooze, you lose.
What is it? A centrally located Manhattan park that serves as a bustling gathering point and houses the popular Union Square Greenmarket.
Why go? “I pick up everything I need for a romantic evening at home at the Union Square farmers market: wine, fresh meat and produce, and flowers,” says Dan of the West Village. Operating four days a week, the Union Square Greenmarket 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. In the winter months, the park also houses a popular winter village packed full of local vendors offering unique holiday gifts.
Don’t miss: The seasonal restaurant located inside the park, Bocce USQ.
What is it? A festive, fun lesbian bar in the West Village.
Why go? “All of the crazy stuff hanging from the ceiling, like the fish and toys, and the great jukebox give the Cubbyhole so much character," says Jane of Inwood. Indeed, “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.
Don’t miss: Barstools are upholstered with glossy vinyl bearing pictures of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Porky Pig. Instagram away.
What is it? A 9.75-acre public park that serves as the beating heart of Greenwich Village.
Why go? “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,” says Sophie of the 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.
Don’t miss: On hot summer days, dip your feet into the giant circular park fountain.
What is it? A Beaux-Arts landmark with insanely high ceilings, stunning chandeliers and massive arched windows that flood the halls with natural light.
Why go? “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,” says Jane of the Lower East Side. Don’t mind if we do. Just try to keep your Ghostbusters reenactments to a minimum—people are trying to read!
Don’t miss: Those icon lions outside. Something the rest of the Instagrammers won’t have in their caption though, is that their names are Patience and Fortitude and they are made from Tennessee marble.
What is it? A sweet rock-centric club on a happening Williamsburg strip.
Why go? “Baby’s All Right gets a good mix of local and touring bands, and the sound is always stellar,” says Dave of Williamsburg. Since opening in 2013, this place has been known for awesome live music and great stage views no matter where you are in the venue, hosting buzzy bands of the moment, as well as poppy late-night dance parties.
Don’t miss: Instead of bar snacks, you can munch on coconut-topped lettuce cups with smoked pork or tofu and other goodies in Baby's side eatery.
What is it? A ridiculously photogentic neighborhood teeming with tree-lined streets and Brooklyn brownstones.
Why go? “Walk the fruit streets of Brooklyn Heights," suggests Dana in Crown Heights. Those streets (Cranberry, Orange and Pineapple) do indeed, as she puts it, "have that Brooklyn-from-the-movies feel.” And there's a nifty backstory: 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.
Don’t miss: Head to the water and hit the Brooklyn Promenade, a one-third-mile stretch of pavement along the East River overlooking an unforgettable span of NYC’s skyline.
What is it? Consider yourself a travel-loving foodie? Queens Night Market is your one-stop shop in NYC to discover bites from 80 countries.
Why go? Try a diverse range of grub that runs the gamut from Middle Eastern stews and Barbadian fishballs to Romanian-Hungarian chimney cake and tacos al pastor. The open-air bazaar operates from 5pm to midnight every Saturday, but the market has more to offer aside from fulfilling your late-night food cravings.
Don’t miss: There’s always a great lineup of live music and performances such as Bollywood dancers, Indian electronica tunes, DJs and more. Check out queensnightmarket.com for the lineup.
What is it? Founded in 1927, Strand is perhaps the most beloved indie bookseller in NYC.
Why go? With more than 2.5 million new, used and rare tomes—or as the sign outside says, 18 MILES OF BOOKS—Strand absolutely crams its shelves, with many new titles 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.
Don’t miss: “Perusing the $1 shelves,” says Rachel of Washington Heights.
What is it? A local beer company that grows in Brooklyn.
Why go? “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,” claims Colin of Gowanus. Pre-prohibition New York City was a beehive of breweries, our ale game laid dormant for very long until hopheads of late have established new brews in town. Three buddies started Other Half Brewing, 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.
Don’t miss: If you think the local water does wonders for pizza and bagels, wait until you taste it in an Imperial IPA.
What is it? Surrounded by the concrete jungle are 250 acres of verdant oasis—year round. 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.
Why go? To see how the greatest city in the world sets up a garden (hint: there’s normally whimsical artistic elements).
Don’t miss: “Celebrate the holidays at the Botanical Garden’s train garden—seeing all those miniature NYC buildings is worth the crowds,” says Michael of Brooklyn Heights.
What is it? A free ferry that transports people between Manhattan and Staten Island.
Why go? “Take the Staten Island Ferry. It’s free and you can drink!” says Suzannah of Kew Gardens, Queens. 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—so you can live it up booze-cruise-style for less than a five-spot. Classy.
Don’t miss: The sparkling Seaglass Carousel next to the Manhattan terminal is an entertaining diversion.
What is it? Madison Square Park is a green oasis in the Flatiron district—not to be confused with Madison Square Garden.
Why go? There’s always something going in the environs (three streets by one avenue block) from outdoor art exhibits to free concerts. “In the summer, blues, jazz and Hill Billy Blue Grass music fills the park and makes it pleasant,” says Suri of the adjacent neighborhood of Chelsea. The park is also home to the first Shake Shack, which still consistently see lines that would make the hottest clubs jealous. Tourists go for Shake Shack, workers go to eat their lunch, pooch owners go for the dog run, guardians go for the children’s playground… and because the park is snaked with benches it lends for the best leisurely people-watching.
Don’t miss: Stepping onto the southwest corner of the park is debatably the hallowed grounds on which baseball was born.
What is it? An old-school, 24-hour Jewish delicatessen.
Why go? NYPD Sergeant Abe “Sarge” Katz opened the restaurant in 1964, and the building still has the burgundy vinyl booths, Tiffany’s lamps and a wall of celebrity photos to prove it. Sarge’s offers all the classic deli sandwiches—corned beef, pastrami, reuben—plus the Monster. Billed as the city’s largest sandwich, it is indeed a towering stack of corned beef, pastrami, roast beef, turkey, salami, tomato, lettuce, coleslaw and Russian dressing on rye.
Don’t miss: The bacon egg and cheese sandwich. "The contrasting textures of gooey cheese and eggs with crispy bacon makes for a breakfast to behold whether you’re eating it at 8am or 11pm," says Jake Cohen.
What is it? A Coney Island go-to since 1920 that boasts sweet oceanside views.
Why go? “No roller coaster can top the thrill of not knowing if you’ll survive a jerky antique Ferris wheel,” jokes Cara in 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, this ride is perfect if you want a birds-eye view of and some old-timey carnival thrills.
Don’t miss: When you reach the top, peep the Atlantic Ocean on side, the Manhattan skyline on the other and all of the amusement-park action down below.
What is it? Institution housing one of the world’s finest collections of art from the 18th century through today.
Why go? Around nearly every corner of the venerated museum is a seminal piece by an artist trumpeted in art history or coveted by contemporary collectors. During the height of tourist season, around Christmas and again in late spring and summer, expect a shoving-match just to catch a momentary glance at Van Gogh’s Starry Night or Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.
Don’t miss: Can't swing the $25 entrance free? Art editor Howard Halle suggests coming during MoMA's free Friday nights (4–8pm).
What is it? A sprawling public park in the Bronx.
Why go? “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, ” says Greg of City Island. 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.
Don’t miss: The Bronx’s only public beach, Orchard Beach
What is it? A hip comedy and live music hub in Park Slope.
Why go? “See comedy at Union Hall—it’s the perfect place to see the next generation of comedic voices in an intimate setting,” says Jon of South Slope. A 5,000-square-foot wonderland of beer, wine and hipster beards, Union Hall also features a downstairs stage, which hosts comedy sets from SNL writers and up-and-coming funny people.
Don’t miss: The bar’s massive bocce courts.
What is it? New York's first dim-sum house (and one of its finest).
Why go? “Start on a dim-sum crawl on Doyers Street in Chinatown,” suggests Nadia of the East Village. We also can't think of a better spot to kick off a tasty tour of Chinatown than this gem that dates back to 1920. The dining room is charming and welcoming, from the checkered tablecloths over Art Deco tables to the couples huddled beneath old posters of a glam Chinese movie star. The food, too, stands apart; the dim sum here tastes fresher and is more affordable than the nearby competition.
Don’t miss: Try the ultra-fluffy oversize roasted-pork bun, the flaky fried crepe egg roll and the tender stuffed eggplant filled with a spiced shrimp-and-squid mixture.
What is it? A stretch of sand that is one part New York attitude, one part beach-bum lifestyle.
Why go? As Joey Ramone once sang about the Queens coastal 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 beach, complete with a view of the coast for a good portion of the ride.
Don’t miss: With hip shops and eateries (including a snack shack by the crews of Roberta’s and Meat Hook called Rippers) the area is far less carnival than Coney Island so the crowd on the boardwalk is far more chill.
What is it? A wild Bushwick hotspot that boasts DJs, aerialists, fire dancers and tons of fun.
Why go? "On any given night, you can find club kids, frat bros, glitter gods and year-round burners soaring into the stratosphere of sweaty dance-floor decadence," notes associate Things to Do editor David Goldberg. And indeed, since opening in 2016, House of Yes has quickly established itself as a reliable way for Brooklyn revelers to wear insane costumes and lose their inhibitions just about every weekend.
Don’t miss: Pro tip: Snag tickets in advance and get there early. The entry line often runs the block.
What is it? A hot Greenpoint club that blasts the techno, electronica and nu-disco bangers.
Why go? Well, it’s a few rooms, actually. Designed with the DJs in mind, the main one has a perfectly placed booth, a solid sound system, an expansive dance floor and a small stage for performances. Another space has a massive square bar, while a smaller spot—the Bad Room—houses a wall of vinyl and another DJ setup for more tunes. No matter where you are here, however, “the DJs are always great,” says Ari in Ridgewood.
Don’t miss: Joshua D. Houtkin and David R. Pianka’s popular FIXED party.
What is it? Donald and Shelley Rubin’s impressive collection of Himalayan, Indian and Buddhist art and artifacts on display.
Why go? Spiritual types will love this museum, which is dedicated to Himalayan and Buddhist art and features lectures, movies, music and more. The museum is layered over five gallery floors in the old Barney’s New York space on 17th street. The awe-inspiring works range from classical to contemporary giving visitors a well-rounded experience with Eastern cultures.
Don’t miss: “Catch Buddhist talks at the Rubin.”—Sophie, Prospect Heights
What is it? A perfect place to enjoy a panoramic view of the city.
Why go? This one-third-mile stretch of pavement along the East River is a favorite destination of residents, tourists and couples looking to make out next to an unforgettable span of NYC’s skyline. Breathtaking views of the Brooklyn Bridge and Statue of Liberty are both visible from here, but the Promenade wasn’t originally built for aesthetic reasons: City planner Robert Moses originally wanted the Brooklyn Queens Expressway to run through Brooklyn Heights. After lots of opposition from the local community, the promenade was built to insulate the mansions and tree-lined streets nearby from highway noise and has been doing so since it opened in October 1950.
Don’t miss: Be sure to break off the path and head further inland to explore the beautiful brownstones of Brooklyn Heights.
What is it? An iconic subterranean club that attracts big names.
Why go? Claustrophobes, beware: It gets crowded down here, especially on weekends, thanks to the immense popularity of this Village standby. Comedic royalty from Amy Schumer and Chris Rock to Jerry Seinfeld have been known to stop by for a set. (“The price is right," adds Caitlin of the East Village, “especially when a celeb drops in.”) And on any given night, you can expect to see other local greats whose acts are more X-rated than at other clubs (and who will distract you from your bachelorette-partying neighbors).
Don’t miss: Be prepared for comics to address (and potentially make fun of) you if you're at a table in the front row.
What is it? A comic shop with an alternative feel and a crazy-vast selection.
Why go? 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. “The people who work there are really nice, too,” adds Joey of Murray Hill.
Don’t miss: Manga DVDs and books, anime and sci-fi toys and action figures, offbeat horror and imported magazines like Gothic Beauty.
What is it? The biggest metropolitan zoo in North America.
Why go? If you’ve got a hankering to reconnect with wildlife, check out this Bronx go-to. With more than 265-acres of animals and wildlife, you won’t be able to see everything in one day, so consider taking a two-hour tour of the Congo Gorilla Forest, World of Reptiles or the Himalayan Highlands exhibits. Be sure to pay a special visit to the American Bison, too, which was declared America’s national mammal.
Don’t miss: Strapped for cash? “The Bronx Zoo is free on Wednesdays,” points out Danny of Flushing.
What is it? A seven-minute ride on a ferry takes you to this seasonal island sanctuary.
Why go? Where else can you have a picnic directly across from the Statue of Liberty? Off-limits to the public for 200 years, this former military outpost 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.
Don’t miss: “Napping in Hammock Grove," suggests John of Sunnyside. "I never thought I’d be able to fall asleep in public, but it’s so peaceful.”
What is it? Russ & Daughters has been serving lox, herring and other specialty foods on the Lower East Side since 1914.
Why go? "Russ & Daughters is already is our go-to spot for Jewish apps shelling out the best lox in town, so while you’re there why not stock up on sweets?" asks Jake Cohen. He reccomends their black & whites, which are a stunning iteration of the classic, yet simple cookies, all baked out of their location at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
Don’t miss: The Super Heeb, a mix of horseradish cream cheese, wasabi-flavored roe and sublime whitefish salad that forms a holy trinity with an unholy name.
What is it? Looking for discounted Broadway and Off Broadway tickets? TKTS is a massively popular IRL option, while TodayTix is a great for online shoppers.
Why go? The flagship TKTS location on Broadway at 47th Street is flashier, but the Lincoln Center version is a whole lot more pleasant. "It’s indoors, it’s less crowded and it’s far from the madding Times Square crowd of tourists and costumed buskers," says Theater and Dance editor Adam Feldman.
Don’t miss: The Lincoln Center TKTS opens at noon, three hours before the one in Times Square, so get there early for a better chance of snagging tickets to the shows you want.
What is it? This 134-year-old slice of history serves sirloin and porterhouse (for two and three) that hold their own against any steak in the city.
Why go? Dine like one of Keens' famous regulars from decades past, such as Babe Ruth, J.P. Morgan and Teddy Roosevelt, whose smoking pipes adorn the ceiling and walls.
Don’t miss: The legendary three-inch-thick mutton chop (imagine a saddle of lamb but with more punch).
What is it? A retro supper club with multiple cabaret shows every night.
Why go? “Check out new artists at 54 Below. Everyone in the audience acts like they’re supporting family,” says Kenneth of the 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.
Don’t miss: The 54 Below Manhattan, a speciality cocktail with McKenzie Rye
What is it? An observation deck affording one hell of a view.
Why go? Not only does it have the trippiest elevator in the city, One World Observatory is also a fierce contender for best views in the city. Ride up to the 102nd floor surrounded by a VR-like film, then admire the 360-degree views at the top of the tower.
Don’t miss: Gawk at the entirety of Manhattan and the Empire State Building on one side and the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges on the other—and then Governors Island and the Statue of Liberty on the other.