10 Cheap And Awesome Things To Do In New York City

You could probably visit New York City every year for life and never run out of things to do. Though it may be small in mileage, there is no lack in activities, attractions, sites, and sounds for visitors to any of the five boroughs that make up the city.

However, some of its most iconic sites, including architectural landmarks like the Empire State Building and cultural landmarks like the Statue of Liberty or Central Park, are found in Manhattan, the city’s core and one of the world’s major cultural, historical, commercial, and financial centers.

If you’re looking for things to do in New York, here is a list of ways to take a bite out of the Big Apple on your next visit or vacation.

1. Take a Walk in Central Park

Things To Do in New York (NYC)
Flickr/ Randy Lemoine

Next to Times Square and the Statue of Liberty, Central Park may be the most well-known and iconic feature of New York City.

This 843-acre sprawling green space not only takes up the center of Manhattan; many of the city’s other attractions, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim, and the American Museum of Natural History, are either contained within the park or are located within walking distance of the area.

There is no lack of activities to do in the park itself, either, which is why many travelers and native New Yorkers alike recommend spending an entire day in the park taking in its wonders.

The Alice in Wonderland Statue, Bethesda Fountain, Loeb Boathouse, Central Park Zoo, and Strawberry Fields are only a few of the sights to see within the park itself. The best part is that admission to Central Park is free!

2. Play for the Day at Coney Island

Coney Island
Flickr/ Stefano Corso

After years of economic turmoil that caused many of its attractions to close, Coney Island, Brooklyn’s iconic amusement park, has reopened its gates to the public.

The “People’s Park” now offers visitors a wide array of entertainment, attractions, and eateries along its 2.7 mile boardwalk. Besides these, the park now features several other separate amusement parks along with a museum that offers several shows and exhibitions.

You’ll also have the opportunity to ride the infamous Cyclone rollercoaster, thanks to the 2010 reopening of Luna Park. While Coney Island is open year-round, take advantage of its rides and attractions by visiting in the warmer months.

3. Get Trekky at the Intrepid Sea, Air, & Space Museum

Intrepid Sea, Air, & Space Museum
Flickr/ J J

The Intrepid Sea, Air, & Space Museum allows visitors to experience American naval, aviation, and space history through a variety of interactive exhibits, programs, and demonstrations.

Step aboard the USS Intrepid to learn more about the role aircraft carriers played during World War II and the Vietnam War. Discover America’s Space Shuttle Program by visiting the world’s first ever space shuttle, Enterprise.

Besides these historical artifacts, the museum is also home to 28 different authentically restored aircraft; the Growler, a diesel powered strategic American submarine that’s open to the public; Pier 86, an 18,000 square foot educational center; and the Exploreum, a hall that offers interactive opportunities to learn about life in the air, at sea, and in space.

The museum also hosts festivals like the Space and Science Festival, as well as special events and programs like the Star Trek Trek Tech Starfleet Academy Experience, a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the show. General admission to the museum is $26 for adults, $24 for seniors and students, and $19 for children ages 5–12.

If you want to add the Space Shuttle Pavilion to your visit, you’ll pay an additional $7 per adult ticket, $6 per senior/student ticket, and $5 per child’s ticket.

4. Experience World Class Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Metropolitan Museum of Art
Wikimedia Commons/ Carmelo Bayarcal

The Metropolitan Museum of Art may be the most celebrated art museum in America, perhaps in the world, and one of the things to do in New York that can’t be missed.

The Met offers an art experience that’s hard to beat, with exhibits featuring masterpieces from all time periods and all areas of the world, including its highly popular permanent Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Islamic art installations.

Even if you’ve visited the Met before, be sure to return to check out the Cloisters, a branch museum of the Met dedicated to medieval art, or one of the biannual exhibits hosted by the Costume Institute.

Because the Met is so expansive, it’s likely you won’t be able to take in all it has to offer in a single day, or even two, so a return trip is highly suggested! A general admission ticket costs $25 and includes the Main Building of the Met itself as well as the Cloisters Museum and Gardens.

5. Go to the Top of the Statue of Liberty

Things To Do in New York (NYC)
Wikimedia Commons/ Celso FLORES

The Statue of Liberty has served as a symbol of hope and new life for visitors and immigrants from around the world since its dedication in 1886. Now it’s one of the most visited statues in the country, and well worth a stop during your trip to New York.

Getting to the statue can be costly and time consuming, though, as most visitors decide to pay $18, go through security screenings, and wait at least 90 minutes for the ferry from Battery Park to Liberty Island.

Another option is to purchase a ticket for the ferry from Liberty State Park in New Jersey, which features the same tour but a shorter wait.

6. Dine Old World Style in Little Italy

Little Italy
Flickr/ Linh Nguyen

Little Italy is a popular district in Lower Manhattan that got its name from the many Italian immigrants that settled there. Today, Little Italy features many Old World Italian shops and restaurants where visitors can experience classic Italian cuisine and culture.

If you’re visiting in September, visit the district to check out the San Gennaro Festival. But don’t worry if you find yourself in Little Italy during a different month: there’s plenty to see, do, and eat along its narrow, cobbled streets.

Visit the Italian American Museum or Old St. Patrick’s Church, or simply grab a class of Chianti and watch the people go by.

7. Get Immersed in Nature at the Bronx Zoo

Bronx Zoo
Wikimedia Commons/ Fred Hsu

When you visit the Bronx Zoo, you’ll forget you’re in the middle of a big city. Housed in Bronx Park, the Bronx Zoo is the largest metropolitan zoo in the United States and one of the largest in the world, and immerses visitors in animal and plant life.

The park’s 265 acres feature more than 4000 animals and should be at the top of any animal lover’s (or family’s) list. A visit to the zoo can be pricey, however, especially for those with families, since you won’t pay a flat fee to see the lions, tigers, and bears here.

Instead, you can purchase a bundle ticket for $16.95 that includes the monorail, gorilla forest, butterfly garden, children’s zoo, Zucker bug carousel, and 4-D Theater, or pay between $3 and $6 to experience each individual exhibit.

8. See the Lights of Times Square

Things To Do in New York (NYC)
Wikimedia Commons/ Chensiyuan

No visit to New York is complete without a stop at Times Square. This iconic five block entertainment district is a metaphor for the Big Apple itself: colorful and energetic, Times Square never sleeps.

While locals and experienced NYC travelers advise against visiting this commercial district, it’s a must-see for first timers to New York, even if you simply go to experience the sights, sounds, and smells.

And for an even more memorable experience, visit Times Square at night to see the neon lights and bustling late night activity.

9. Take in a Show at Radio City Music Hall

Things To Do in New York (NYC)
Flickr/ Thomas Hawk

There is perhaps no more famous New York City rock & roll venue than Radio City Music Hall.

The list of musical artists who have performed at Radio City is too extensive to name, but you can catch a performance during your visit, or simply learn about the musical history of the hall on its one hour Stage Door Tour.

Tours of the hall run daily from 11am to 3pm, with tickets priced at $19.25 for adults and $12.50 for children under 12.

10. See the World from the Top of the Rock Observation Deck

Top of the Rock Observation Deck
Wikimedia Commons/ Elisa.rolle

The iconic Rockefeller Plaza seems to encapsulate New York City in miniature. Featuring a huge skating rink, gorgeous sculptures, a view of NBC Studios, and a plethora of shops and restaurants, Rockefeller Plaza is a must-do on your next visit to New York City.

And no trip to this plaza is complete without taking in the sights of New York City from the Top of the Rock Observation Deck.

The Observation Deck is open daily from 8am to midnight, offering you plenty of time to look out on the city you just explored. You can also take an Art and Observation Tour for $27 while you’re up on the deck.

Many travelers make New York City a go-to destination when they need a weekend away to experience sights, sounds, food, and culture.

Even if it’s your first time in the Big Apple, you’ll notice that there are so many things to do in New York that you, too, will probably need a second trip—and a third, and a fourth, and a fifth.

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