Reasons Why You Should Visit New York City at Least Once in Your Lifetime

Visitors who think New York is Manhattan alone miss out on the sights and activities offered by the citys four other boroughs
Visitors who think New York is Manhattan alone miss out on the sights and activities offered by the city's four other boroughs | © Roman Tiraspolsky / Alamy Stock Photo
Nick Dauk

Senior Travel Writer

The subject of countless love songs and the star of stage and screen, there are so many things to see and do in ever-inspiring New York City. Whether you want to muse at museums, feast at some of the very best restaurants in the world, or drink your way around atmospheric dive bars, our list of the best things to do in New York City will steer you to celebrated sites and invite you to look beyond the beaten path a little, too. Here are just a few of the best reasons to visit New York.

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Discover green spaces galore

The concrete jungle that is New York City is not all steel and glass. Bountiful parks are to be found throughout the boroughs – and we’re not just talking about Central Park. At more than three times the size, Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx has waterside golf courses and riding trails. The High Line in Chelsea has installations and open-air art. Meanwhile, Staten Island is home to a state park and a state forest, where hiking trails make you feel miles away from the city streets. Pack a picnic and binoculars and you might just spot a few of the original New Yorkers – like bullfrogs, red foxes and wild turkeys.

Haunted histories dating back centuries

There’s no shortage of history in the five boroughs and haunted tours are interesting ways to visit popular areas of the city. Broad-brush tours focus on full neighborhoods like Astoria or Greenwich Village, while others allow you to explore the Abandoned Ellis Island Hospital or search for spirits and paranormal activity at the Morris-Jumel Mansion – the oldest house in Manhattan – via candlelight tours.

Explore Central Park’s food scene

Strolling Central Park is rightfully one of the most popular and fun things to do in New York City, but you can spice up a typical afternoon if you bring your appetite. In the park alone there are several dining options that’ll give you a full taste of the Big Apple’s food scene. Start with a sweet stop at the Wafels & Dinges food cart then dive into a falafel at Maoz Vegetarian. There’s a classic hot dog waiting for you at Ballfields Cafe, best washed down with booze at Public Fare. This DIY foodie-focused tour will help you hit all of Central Park’s sites with no shortage of delicious NYC eats.

Don’t overlook Roosevelt Island

Brooklyn and Queens don’t hold all the cards when it comes to impressive views of Manhattan. Take the aerial tram to Roosevelt Island and treat yourself to a relaxed day on the East River. Drink up views from the FDR Four Freedoms State Park or the Panorama Room bar. Sip some history while you’re at it when you visit the Blackwell Island Lighthouse. Even a simple coffee from Jupioca and a walk around Riverwalk Commons is enough to turn this island into one of your favorite New York City things to see.

Stroll the Bensonhurst neighborhood

Little Italy. Chinatown. Crown Heights. New York City is full of diverse neighborhoods and Bensonhurst is one under-the-radar community you need to seek out. Located in Brooklyn, Bensonhurst is incredibly multicultural, so much so that it’s the site of Brooklyn’s own Chinatown and Little Italy. Rising populations from Hong Kong, the Middle East and Mexico have only added to the mix. For shopping, dining and getting a less-touristy glimpse at NYC’s most prevalent cultures, Bensonhurst is worth the train ride.

Go beyond the game with a Yankee Stadium Tour

How better to really do New York like a local than by eating a hot dog at the ballpark? If you’re in town for an away game or the off-season, exclusive tours of the iconic Yankee Stadium are a must. From traditional stadium tours and meet and greets with former players to pre-game personal tours of the New York Yankees Museum, it’s a big-hitting experience that even die-hard fans who never missed the 27-time World Series champs in action may not have taken advantage of.

Monthly night market that celebrates the Bronx’s diversity

When the warm weather arrives, the Bronx Night Market heats up. Unlike other festivals, this monthly market is a family-friendly event all about the best of the borough. Food takes the top spot, though the many local merchants selling clothes, crafts and more, give the delicious booths a run for their money. Pop-ups, live music and performances make every month unique, granting you a hyper-local sampling of the Bronx that evolves with every moon cycle.

Learn about skyscrapers from the ground

Trips to the top of the Empire State Building or One World Trade Center provide elevated views of the skyline, but only museums offer a larger-than-life perspective. The Skyscraper Museum in Battery Park City, the AIA New York Center for Architecture and the Queens Museum each have special exhibits documenting the Manhattan skyline and its iconic skyscrapers. Imagine getting a bird’s-eye view of the city from the buildings themselves, before diving deep into the details of their histories.

Drink in a secret speakeasy

First, head to Crif Dogs, a late-night hot dog joint at 113 St Mark’s Place and locate the vintage phone booth. Next, dial a number. Provided you’ve made a pre-booking to Please Don’t Tell, a hush-hush Prohibition-style drinking den in the East Village, run by owner and former barback Jeff Bell, you’ll be admitted. Cocktails here are award-winning and hot dogs come from collaborations with leading New York chefs. Shhh, don’t tell a soul.

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This is an updated article originally written by Graham Fuller.

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