Best things to do in New York City on your first visit

No wonder New York City is described as the ‘city that never sleeps‘ – it’s because there’s so much to do there.

It’s crowded, fast-paced and completely overwhelming – but that’s what makes it so incredible.

Within every square foot, there’s something to do and one visit is simply not enough.

But after five days in NYC, I’ve rounded up 10 things you must do on your first trip to the Big Apple.

1. Central Park

If you’re looking for a quiet moment in New York City, Central Park is the place to go.

With 843 acres to meander, you could spend days just walking around.

From lakes and streams to memorials and meadows, there are lots to see and do.

There’s also bound to be a shot from your favourite film or TV show in Central Park that’s worth recreating.

Top tip: Make sure you do a walking tour to learn about the fascinating history of the park, which was completed in 1876.

Taking a tour also means you won’t get lost! I would recommend this tour

2. 9/11 Memorial

The National September 11 Memorial & Museum is a memorial and museum commemorating the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Both the memorial and the museum helps you appreciate how resilient New York truly is a community and a city.

It’s a beautiful and powerful tribute that ensures the tragedy is never forgotten.

3. Times Square

‘Bright lights and the big city’ come to mind when seeing Times Square for the first time.

Darkness does not exist in this commercial neighbourhood, famous for its big billboards.

Whilst there’s nothing particularly special about Times Square, it’s just one of those attractions you have to see to understand how the city is the financial hub of the country.

4. St. Paul’s Chapel

Nicknamed “the little chapel that stood”, St Paul’s is a small but beautiful church with a heartfelt history.

Situated on Broadway and Fulton Street, the chapel is one of the city’s oldest buildings, first opening in 1766.

But perhaps why it is most cherished is because of what happened on September 11 2001.

Despite the World Trade Center buildings collapsing just across the street, there was no damage to St Paul’s, hence the nickname “the little chapel that stood.”

The chapel also became a relief centre for first responders and a refuge for recovery workers.

5. New York Stock Exchange

The heart of the financial world is right here in New York.

The Wolf of Wall Street fans will eat their hearts out visiting the world’s largest stock trading platform.

Whilst it’s closed to tourists, it’s well worth getting a photo outside to mark this historic home.

Don’t forget to take a snap with The Charging Bull as well – the statue is said to represent the can-do attitude of Americans.

6. Broadway

A very sleep deprived Lottie after watching Phantom of the Opera!

You can’t go to New York City without seeing a show on Broadway – it’s sacrilegious.

Theatre at its finest, the whole experience of witnessing something produced at such a high level is captivating.

By far the best show I have seen on Broadway is the Phantom of the Opera – the set design is incredible.

7. Grand Central

“Spotted at Grand Central, bags in hand: Serena van der Woodsen.”

As a Gossip Girl fanatic, Grand Central Terminal was a must-see attraction.

This architectural wonder has so much to offer – from its celestial ceiling to the famous Tiffany glass clock – it’s like stepping inside a cathedral.

It also has a large number of shops and restaurants, making it a great meeting place.

Top tip – Don’t miss Shake Shack, located in the lower-level dining concourse – they do the best burgers and fries.

8. Statue of Liberty

There’s no need to pay good money to see the Statue of Liberty when you can see it for free.

The Staten Island ferry is every traveller’s dream – you get to marvel at the Manhattan skyline and see one of the most famous monuments in the world for FREE.

The Ferry operates between the St. George Ferry Terminal on Staten Island and the Whitehall Terminal in Lower Manhattan.

Setting off every 30 minutes, the ferry ride is around 25 minutes long.

9. The Oculus

It’s another train station, but one quite different from Grand Central.

The Oculus is the main part of the World Trade Center station within the Financial District.

By far, one of the best modern pieces of architecture to date – the Oculus is not only a work of art but another symbol of courage this great city has.

Following the 2001 attack on the Twin Towers, the station was destroyed during the collapse of the World Trade Center.

When it reopened in 2016, the Oculus was said to hold several tributes to the victims of 9/11.

According to the architect, the stark white brightly lit hall with slanting columns is intended to symbolise ‘a bird flying from the hands of a child’.

10. Brooklyn Bridge

One of the most recognisable parts of the New York City skyline is the Brooklyn Bridge.

Stretching across the East River, the bridge opened up in 1883 to carry traffic between Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Little did they know it would become one of the city’s primary symbols.

Hoards of tourists gather there every day to pose for pictures, arrive early for a ‘quieter’ (doesn’t exist in NYC) experience.

11. United Nations

My dad and I in the General Assembly

This is an opportunity for visitors to learn about the UN’s peacekeeping and humanitarian efforts.

The tour is very rigid and you are effectively herded from one room to the next, so don’t expect much personality from the guide.

However, it is interesting and helps you understand the importance of the organisation.

Top tip – You need to get there in advance of your timed tour due to the numerous security checks.

We arrived ‘on time’ but missed our allotted tour, luckily we were able to join the next tour after some (a lot) of pleading.

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