10 Things To See And Do In New York City For College Students

Photo of Austin Seidel
9 February 2017

New York is full of things to see and do for college students and 20-somethings, but how do you choose? What are some off-the-beaten path options that won’t bust your budget and won’t leave you feeling like just another tourist? We’ve got you covered.

McNally Jackson Bookstore | © Carl/Flickr

McNally Jackson Books

Bookstore, Library
Located on Prince Street, just a few blocks away from Little Italy, McNally Jackson Books is one of New York’s most beloved independent book sellers. With a light-filled café and an airy store, both perfect for reading, McNally Jackson acts as the go-to for college students craving the printed word. McNally Jackson also has publishing services, appealing for readers searching for unique buys or up-and-coming authors. And if you need a break, head over to McNally’s sister art and office shops on Mulberry: Picture Room and Goods For The Study.

Bowery Ballroom

Music Venue, Shop
Books not quite your cup of tea? Buy tickets to the Bowery Ballroom’s next show instead. You ultimately can’t go wrong with the Bowery Ballroom, located on the outskirts of the Lower East Side. Shows are usually around $20, making it easy on every student’s wallet.

Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Met — one of the largest art museums in the world — is also easy on the wallet. With a “Pay What You Wish” price for entry, students don’t have to worry about overspending for their ticket. With more than 400,000 works, the Met has something for every art lover, but with so many works, be sure to plan what you want to see in advance. If you need a bit of a break from all the famous art, stop by The Petrie Court Café for high tea.

Coffee Shop Stops

New York City is full of coffee houses — and we’ve gathered a handful to keep you going, no matter where you are. If you’re around Brooklyn, stop by Toby’s Estate, a light, bookish shop that roasts its own coffee. Bibble & Sip is also another must for sightseeing students—and this bakery/coffee shop serves up delicious Asian-inspired treats, making it an oasis nearby touristy Times Square. And last, but definitely not least, head over to Bluebird Coffee Shop if you’re downtown. Post up at this quaint, wood-lined coffee shop for a space to recharge or wind-down.


Brunch, like the coffee shop, is an institution in New York City. New Yorkers brunch like no other — and Jack’s Wife Freda is a good place to start. With Mediterranean-inspired dishes, like rosewater waffles, this simple space is always bustling, so be prepared to wait. If you’re hungry for something healthy, head over to trendy Dimes, also perfect for lunch or dinner. However, sometimes waffles and healthy foods aren’t enough. If you’re craving eggs, you need to try Egg Shop — a restaurant featuring eggs on all its menu items.

SoHo | © Iker Alonso/Flickr

Shopping in SoHo

SoHo, which stands for “South of Houston Street,” is the trendy shopping destination. However, trendy doesn’t have to necessarily mean expensive. Stores like & Other Stories and Aritzia are perfect for 20-somethings and are decently priced. If you want to go on a slight splurge, spend some time looking around COS, a Swedish store selling something for the minimalist wardrobe.

Brooklyn Flea – Williamsburg

Ace Hotel Lobby
Ace Hotel Lobby | © Chun-Hung Eric Cheng/Flickr
Open every Sunday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., Williamsburg Flea features around 150 vendors, selling everything from vintage knickknacks to handmade clothing and other interesting art items. The flea market also has food stalls, and the space also overlooks the Manhattan skyline — making it a perfect place to spend the day ambling around, taking in Brooklyn’s scene.

Ace Hotel

Courtesy of Ace Hotel London Shoreditch / Hotels.com
Though on the pricey side for the college student’s budget, this four-star hotel chain from Portland is seriously hip. Spend the day in the Ace Hotel’s comfy, atmospheric lounge and you might feel like you’re hanging out in a grand library. You could also just pop inside for the old-school photo booth, which takes fun black and white photos.


Located right next to Little Italy, Chinatown is a foodie’s heaven, full of cheap restaurants that don’t skimp on the quality. Try Shanghai Café Deluxe for dumplings, dim sum or dinner, and then grab some exotic ice cream at Chinatown Ice Cream Factory. Besides the endless amounts of restaurants serving yummy food, Chinatown is a prime place for walking around, full of charm and something to look at around every corner.

Lower East Side | © Payton Chung/Flickr

Lower East Side

Often referred to as the LES, this artsy, charming neighborhood in Manhattan is a go-to for anyone looking to stay up late and to have a guaranteed great time. Originally an immigrant neighborhood, the LES is now known for its top-notch nightlife, delicious dining options, chic shops and contemporary galleries, making it the hangout for those wanting a New York neighborhood vibe.

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