In my last post about things to do in New York City, I focused mostly on what to see as first-timers to NYC. I featured mainly the places and activities I chose to show my then-boyfriend from New Zealand.
In this post, I cover different things to do in the Big Apple. You could say these suggestions are suited for second-timers! But really, you can pick and choose from this list or the last list and be totally fulfilled during your visit!
Included are activities I've experienced on my own and with others. As a former resident and frequent commuter to the city, I've included all kinds of recommendations from my New York adventures.
1. See Winnie the Pooh and Friends (at the Library)
Become a child again at the New York Public Library!
In 1921, Christopher Robin Milne received a stuffed bear, Winnie, for his first birthday. Not long after, he received additional stuffed animals, including Kanga, Piglet, Eeyore, and Tigger. A. A. Milne, the boy's father, decided to turn these toys into a story—and that's how the storybook adventures of Winnie the Pooh began!
Now, the original toys given to the real Christopher Robin are on display at the New York Public Library. Say hello to Pooh and friends hanging out in their glass display case. It sits in a cute little historical nook inside the Children's Center on the lower level of the library.
2. Hang with Alice in Wonderland
I had Central Park on my last NYC list of must-do's, but there's so much to see in the park. It's hard not to keep including more!
This is another little secret of the park that I love to share with visitors. It's a great way to continue the story-book theme when visiting New York. Find Alice at East 74th Street north of the Conservatory Water. Featured in the sculpture by José de Creeft is also the Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter, the Dormouse, and the White Rabbit.
Want more Central Park experiences? See below under #7 on this list.
3. Rockefeller Center and the Top of the Rock
Of course you want to visit Rockefeller Center in December to see the tree. But it's a great place to see all year round! There's usually always something new to see.
In summer 2017, Lisa, Christoph and I saw Jeff Koon's inflated "Seated Ballerina" sculpture on display.
At night, you can grab a ticket to the top of the Rock—the top of Rockefeller Center—for the best NYC views. I say it's the best because you can take photos of the other, more iconic buildings of New York.
Many travelers make the mistake of going to the top of the Empire State Building when visiting NYC. But the best photos are of the Empire State Building itself, viewed from the top of the Rock!
4. Snack Next to A Peaceful Waterfall
Escape the hustle and bustle of the concrete jungle and plop yourself down in front of a waterfall! Don't let the corporate cronies on break for lunch in the area be the only ones who get to enjoy it.
This tiny little pocket called Paley Park is at 3 East 53rd Street—not too far from Rockefeller Center. It features a gorgeous, man-made waterfall and a quaint, little seating area.
It's the perfect spot to cool down in summer. Relax, have a snack, and take a load off your tired feet here.
5. Discover a Piece of International History
Enter the building on 53rd Street labeled 520 Madison Ave (around the corner from Paley Park). Inside, you'll find a big chunk of history—a slice of the Berlin Wall.
Lisa and Christoph were very surprised to find a piece of their own country's history randomly in midtown Manhattan.
This particular part of the Berlin Wall depicts art by Thierry Noir and Kiddy Citny. These 5 sections of the wall have been on display around the area of 53rd street (including in Paley Park) since 1990.
There are other places around New York to see other pieces of the Berlin Wall. It would be a fun scavenger hunt to find and see them all!
6. Drink and Dine on a Rooftop
When the weather is nice, be sure to experience at least one of New York's many rooftop bars or restaurants. There are several to choose from.
The one Lisa, Christoph, and I went to was Gallow Green on top of the McKittrick Hotel. The McKittrick Hotel is the venue for Broadway's immersive Sleep No More show. I went to see the show this past December with Ang and it was phenomenal! Perhaps I'll write about it sometime...
Anyway, you don't need show tickets to enjoy parts of this wonderful building, its artistry, and it's rooftop libations! The doors open at 5pm for the rooftop. Make sure you get there early so you can be among the first seated.
We got there at 4:30pm and were the first before a line formed behind us. Someone will escort you into an old, hotel-style elevator. When you reach the top, you'll enter a hallway resembling a train car.
Travel upstairs further and emerge onto a flower- and foliage-covered rooftop in spring/summer. We got drinks and also had their pizza. Everything is a bit overpriced—but the atmosphere makes it all worth it!
For the winter, they now have cozy fireside spots to curl up indoors. It's made to resemble a ski lodge or mountain cabin—so fun!
7. Be Entertained Off-Broadway
I included Broadway shows as a must-do on my last list about NYC. But Broadway shows are often not realistic for people on a budget in New York. As an alternative, there is a ton of low-cost (or even free!) shows around New York City to see. And, because it's New York, you can be sure the show will still be excellent quality.
For instance, check out any of the following spectacular shows around New York happening at various times throughout the year:
Philharmonic in the Park
Great Lawn, Central Park
Weekday in June, 8PM
The New York Philharmonic is a world renowned orchestra that plays for free in Central Park in June each year. This is a popular favorite activity among locals, so make sure to get there early to claim a spot on the lawn.
Bring a blanket, food, and wine. Alcohol is technically not allowed in the park. But this event is known to be one of the few times the police "look the other way." The music starts at sundown and a huge fireworks display is the big finale.
Shakespeare in the Park
Delacorte Theater, Central Park
Over the years, I have gone to see a couple of Shakespeare in the Park Shows. These shows almost always feature more than one celebrity actor and the entire production is done extremely well. Lisa, Christoph, and I were lucky enough to see Julius Caesar last summer. Yes, this was the show that everyone was talking about because of its parallels to present-day politics.
Thanks to a friend of mine who works with Public Theater, we got tickets before the media started going crazy about it.
Admittedly, getting tickets for this event is not the easiest because they are free! Lines begin early. The simplest way is to get on line well before Noon at the Delacorte Theater on the day of the show you want to attend. Find out the many other ways to get tickets here.
Slipper Room or elsewhere
Every night, multiple show times
Depending on where you are or the timing of the show, you can see burlesque or professional pole dance shows around the city that ranges in price. I personally love going to the Slipper Room for Burlesque. Some of the most professional and famous burlesque performers perform there—and it's guaranteed to get raunchy! The MC is usually hilarious, too.
Go with an open mind and don't feel embarrassed by open sexuality and nudity!
(For more burlesque, check out my recent post about New Orleans!)
FREE - ~$40
In Mid-Town Manhattan, there are almost always some exhibitions going on around the show, or movie, or book you're currently obsessed with. It's always fun to see set designs, wardrobes, and other artistic outputs from the hottest pop culture sensations of the moment.
For example, back when I had platinum blonde hair in 2013, I went to a free, pop-up Game of Thrones Exhibition. I got to sit in the Iron Throne!
And in 2015, I went to a Hunger Games Exhibition.
Both of these exhibitions were amazing, immersive experiences!
Gazillion Bubbles Show
New World Stages in Hell's Kitchen
Various Dates and Times
$45 (with Groupon) - $80
This Off-Broadway show is great for kids. I used a Groupon to go with Ang and her 6 year old son and we all had a blast! And I really do mean a BLAST! We were literally blown away with bubbles. At several points during the show, they send out a gazillion bubbles into the audience and turn on the blowers. It becomes a bubble hurricane! Absolutely wild!
8. Whisper Secrets at Grand Central Terminal
Speaking of secrets, one of my favorite spots to show people in all of NYC is on the lower level of Grand Central. Go down to the dining concourse and then exit south next to Shake Shack.
The hall you enter will be dome-like with ramps going off to the right and left. Stand in one of the four corners of this dome and have your travel companion stand in the opposite corner diagonally from you.
Speak into the corner of the wall—a secret to your friend—and have them listen on the other side. They'll hear it! The architecture of this 4-cornered hall allows for voices to travel easily to opposite corners.
9. Visit an Art Gallery
I recently visited a couple of art galleries in New York city. These can range in price but they are sometimes free at certain special times or days.
The Studio Museum in Harlem
Ang and I visited the Studio Museum in Harlem last Fall. This is a free admission museum on 125th street featuring art by African American artists and artists of African descent inspired and influenced by black culture. There is a permanent collection featured as well as frequent, rotating exhibits.
Here are my favorite pieces from our visit:
There's lots to see at the Studio Museum. I'd love to go back one day!
The Guggenheim is an art museum on the Upper East Side near Central Park. General admission for adults is $25. They have a "pay what you wish" block of time on Saturdays from 5:45pm-7:45pm—the line for this starts early. And you really do need the full 2 hours to fully appreciate everything.
The museum features special, rotating exhibitions throughout the year. We visited last Fall when they had their Art and China After 1989 exhibit.
Here are a few of my favorite installations in the exhibit:
The Museum of Sex
Okay, okay, it's not an "art museum" per se. But this is a museum and there happens to be a whole lot of art inside—erotic art, to be precise.
I absolutely love this museum because it is both educational as it is political, hilarious, and...sexy. Yup! Because of the pornographic content, admission is 18+ only. It costs $17.50 before 1pm and $20.50 all other times. Students get $2 off admission.
Their animal exhibit is my all-time favorite. But one of my recent favorite experiences here was the boobie bouncy house. It was an absolute riot!
Here are more of my favorites:
10. Go to a Baseball Game
My grandfather and father were big baseball fans—specifically the underdog teams. So I grew up as a Mets fan. There is truly nothing more traditional American—or traditional New York—than going to a baseball game.
Mom and Dad took Lisa, Christoph, and I to a game during their visit last summer. It was perfect weather in late May and a great day to cheer for the Mets!
If you have the opportunity to go to Citi Field in Queens for a game, you'll take the purple & train out to the stadium from Manhattan. Don't forget to walk around when the visiting team is up to bat. Half the fun is buying food and beverage. Hot dogs? Peanuts? Cracker jacks, anyone?
New York City is filled with so much to see, it's difficult to narrow down exactly what to focus on when you visit. But, as a New Yorker, I hope this post and my other posts will help new and seasoned visitors alike.
As I explore and see more, I will certainly create more New York lists! For instance, I'm about ready to share my favorite parts of Brooklyn with you! That's coming soon...