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Whether you’re visiting New York City for business or pleasure, there are so many things to do that you might find it hard to decide where to go first. Even if you’re not mesmerized by the city’s soaring skyscrapers and monuments, you’ll be blown away by its flourishing arts, food, fashion and nightlife scenes.
What to do in Manhattan
Cool, cosmopolitan, crowded, constantly evolving … the Big Apple blends big-city splendor with small-town charm. Amid Gotham’s iconic landmarks and towering skyscrapers, you’ll experience a vibrant culture permeating each of the city’s distinctive neighborhoods and boroughs. Follow trendsetters to the East Village and Brooklyn to check out indie boutiques, iconic bakeries, and trendy coffee shops. Afterward, peruse the racks of the sleek shops lining Fifth Avenue, admire the cutting-edge art collections at the MoMA and the Met, catch a memorable show on Broadway or sit down for a meal at the latest “it” restaurant.
As the most populous city in the U.S. – set at the forefront of food, fashion, and the arts – NYC requires stamina. But don’t let the Big Apple’s frenetic sights and sounds intimidate you from soaking up its grandeur.
Wander through the concrete jungle past marquee galleries and trendy cocktail bars on your way to Times Square’s neon lights flickering at all hours. And yet, the city’s twinkling lights and chaotic corners also invite you to embrace every New York minute, explore every enclave and create your own urban adventure. There are endless ways to spend your time in the city that never sleeps. Here are some of our customer can’t miss favorites from Boston Coach:
This part-park, part-museum, part-concert hall swallows central Manhattan, and many of the city’s most notable attractions are situated next to it or within its limits (the Guggenheim, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History, to name a few). But travelers insist that you shouldn’t just pass through Central Park on your way to another place. This 843-acre green space is a favorite of New Yorkers and tourists; you can come here to exercise, dine, go to the zoo and more.
“Central Park is fantastic year-round, and is a must-see for anyone coming to New York,” says Josephine Danielson, head concierge at the Four Seasons Hotel New York. “People may not realize Central Park has several hidden treasures. If you’re looking for something different, I tell guests to visit the Conservatory Garden.”
Almost everyone has a positive impression of the park, but no one has quite the same experience or recommends that you do quite the same thing. There’s an almost impossible amount of sights to see here (hidden treasures, indeed), including 20 playgrounds, 48 fountains, monuments or sculptures, and 36 bridges. Here are some not-to-miss beauties:
- Alice in Wonderland: This 11-foot tall statue sits upon a magic mushroom off 75th Street in the lower east side of the park. She’s surrounded by the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire cat and plenty of fascinated little kids.
- Bethesda Fountain: This romantic fountain’s name refers to a pool in Jerusalem with healing powers. While you’re there, be sure to snap a few photos of the Angel of the Waters sculpture that tops this mid-park sight.
- Conservatory Garden: The only formal garden found in Central Park, the Conservatory Garden is a quiet spot to relax and enjoy the views. It comprises 6 acres of flora and seasonal greenery arranged in three distinct styles: English, French and Italian. You’ll find the main gates at Fifth Avenue and 105th Street.
- Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir: New Yorkers love to jog by this beautiful 106-acre body of water located mid-park. It’s especially scenic in autumn when the surrounding trees are ablaze with seasonal colors.
- Loeb Boathouse: During the warm weather months you can rent a boat, bike or gondola from this Victorian-style boathouse and restaurant, located around East Park Drive next to the Bethesda Fountain.
- Strawberry Fields: Named after John Lennon’s song, this lower west park area (at West Park Drive and West 72nd Street) sits across the street from where the singer was assassinated in 1980. Visitors like to come here to eat lunch, admire the landscaping, or pay tribute to the Beatle.
- Wollman Memorial Rink: This Lower East Side spot is particularly popular with young families. In winter it’s an ice-skating rink; come summer, it’s where you’ll find the Victorian Gardens, Amusement Park.
You’ll find Central Park in the heart of Manhattan, just north of midtown. It stretches from 59th to 110th Street and is bordered by Eighth and Fifth avenues. Central Park is free to visit and welcomes visitors daily from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. Check out the park’s official website for maps, information on all the activities available and special events.
American Museum of Natural History
Visitors love the American Museum of Natural History off Central Park West. Whether you’re exploring the interactive exhibits on the land, the sea or outer space; user reviews take on a common theme. This museum is incredible. Even the cafeteria and gift shop are worth your notice.
There are approximately 32 million artifacts inside, spread across four city blocks, 25 buildings and 45 exhibition halls, so don’t even plan on seeing everything in one day. The Rose Center for Earth and Space is a particular favorite, but you should also plan on visiting the dinosaurs, the Hall of the Universe and the Butterfly Conservatory (on display from October through May). Local experts also say this museum is one of the best things to do as a family visiting New York City.
“It’s an imaginative place, good for anyone of any age … and it’s educational and interactive,” says Richard Tucker, head concierge at The Refinery Hotel.
The American Museum of Natural History is perpetually crowded, but you’ll face fewer people if you visit during a weekday in the late winter or spring. It’s open daily from 10 a.m. until 5:45 p.m., and famous for its “suggested” admission prices: $23 for adults, $18 for seniors and students with an ID and $13 for children ages 2 to 12. If you want to buy tickets early, they are available on the museum website for the “suggested” admission amounts. Bookmark the official website before you go.
Rockefeller Center and Top of the Rock Observation Deck
This iconic plaza has it all – beautiful sculptures, an enormous skating rink, a fishbowl view of NBC Studios, plus hordes of stores and restaurants. Though undoubtedly there will be intense crowds, this is an experience that’s worth having at least once. During the wintertime holidays, the plaza sparkles with an illuminated Christmas tree and skaters gliding across the ice rink. But don’t fret if your New York adventure doesn’t take place during the cold months. There’s plenty to do year-round. If you plan ahead, you can spend a morning watching a taping of the “Today” show, an afternoon observing the city from the Top of the Rock Observation Deck and an evening catching a performance at Radio City Music Hall.
Travelers say the Top of the Rock offers some of the best views of Manhattan and say the experience is worth every penny. Visitors recommend booking the combo ticket that includes a tour of the building and the observation deck access.
Rockefeller Center is located in midtown Manhattan between Fifth and Sixth avenues. To get to Rockefeller Center, take the B, D, F or M train. The Top of the Rock Observation Deck is open from 8 a.m. to midnight each day (the last elevator is at 11 p.m.). Tickets for the Top of the Rock cost $38 for adults, $36 for seniors and $32 for kids ages 6 to 12. The tours of Rockefeller Center cost $25. To save some coin, purchase a combo ticket for $52. Rockefeller Center’s website provides further details on all the attractions around the plaza.
Empire State Building
You absolutely can’t miss seeing this landmark structure in midtown Manhattan in person. And despite the hefty admission fees, the crowds and the long lines, recent visitors are glad they made the effort. In fact, taking a trip to the top of the Empire State Building is either the perfect way to begin or end your Big Apple excursion – on a clear day, you’ll be able to see the city’s major highlights some 1,050 feet beneath you.
Pick up the multimedia tour, available in eight languages, which guides visitors through the icon’s exhibits and views with additional background on the building’s history. The tour is included in the admission price and given to guests to enhance their visit.
Looking up at the art deco skyscraper from the ground is also pretty spectacular, especially in the evenings when there’s a little mood lighting. The Empire State Building’s tower lights have maintained a tradition of changing color to recognize various occasions and organizations throughout the year since 1976. In 2012, its iconic tower lighting system was modernized by replacing its floodlights with a dynamic lighting system unique to the Empire State Building, with more than 16 million colors in limitless combinations and effects. The Empire State Building stages dazzling light shows celebrating holidays and events, often synchronized to music broadcast simultaneously on iHeartMedia’s radio stations.
The 86th- and 102nd-floor observatories are open every day from 8 a.m. until 2 a.m.; the last elevator is at 1:15 a.m. Tickets to the 86th floor cost $36 for adults, $35 for seniors and $31 for children, or $69 for the Express Pass (where you can bypass the line). Consult the Empire State Building’s official website for further details on pricing and to find the lighting schedule.
Some say that Times Square is like a five-block metaphor for New York City itself – it’s exciting, colorful and always jumping. Most travelers recommend visiting the area after dark to see the marquee displays. Many add checking out Times Square before or after taking in a Broadway show.
Times Square’s biggest tourist draw is the annual New Year’s Eve ball drop. Revelers crowd the area to see New York’s famous Waterford crystal ball descend 77 feet from a pole on the One Times Square building. If you’re feeling brave, take a trip to New York and Times Square at this time of year and watch the ball drop for free! Just plan on coming in the early morning and staying all day, and note that the area is super crowded, even by New York standards.
Visit the official website for more information on what you can see and do in Times Square, and keep in mind the area’s restaurants and stores have closing hours, but the billboards of Time Square bedazzle 24/7.
Just south of Times Square lies some of the most beautiful four-acres in Manhattan – Bryant Park. Though its lush green space has existed for more than 150 years, Bryant Park was a revitalization project of the 1990s that made it a sanctuary for locals and tourists alike. This is the preferred place for midtown Manhattan professionals to come eat lunch, for fashionistas to strut during fashion week and for performers to showcase their talents during Broadway in Bryant Park and Piano in the Park.
You don’t need a preplanned event to enjoy Bryant Park – you could simply come here to enjoy the scenery or to use the free Wi-Fi. Recent visitors do offer a few suggestions though, like ice skating around the Pond or riding on the French-style carousel. The list of activities doesn’t stop there. Bryant Park also hosts yoga and tai chi classes, knitting circles, chess tournaments, and literary events.
Unsure of where to start? Mull over your choices in the park’s eateries: Bryant Park Grill and Bryant Park Café. Recent visitors say a stroll through this park makes for a delightful respite from the busy city and many note how well-maintained the grounds are. Hours change dependent on season and activity, so visit the official website for more details and events.
New York Public Library
This main branch officially called the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, attracts plenty of book lovers, history junkies, and architecture aficionados. Most people swing by the Bryant Park landmark to say hello to Patience and Fortitude (the famous stone lions guarding the entrance) and to admire the lovely beaux-arts design.
If you’re in the mood to read, you’ll find an exhaustive collection of maps, in addition to special collections of English and American literature, English Romanticism and rare books. This library is also the site of several lecture programs and a children’s section. Recent visitors were impressed with the library’s beautiful architecture and say it’s a great place to wander through if you have an hour or two to kill.
Different branches of the public library have different hours, but the main branch is open daily. You can visit from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, the branch stays open until 8 p.m. On Sundays, visitors are welcome from 1 to 5 p.m. Visit the official website for details.
Shopping and Dining
We haven’t even mentioned the world-class shopping in New York City. When it comes to shopping in NYC, your options are all but limitless. You’ll find many of the best department stores in the world, including Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s NYC, and countless Fifth Avenue boutique shops, such as the quality leather goods store A. Testoni. You’ll also find iconic NYC specialty shops like Saks Fifth Avenue, fun open-air markets like the Green Flea Market, and famous NYC toy stores like FAO Schwarz. Read this story in Forbes.com to sift through the 24,000 places to eat in New York. Yum!
We’ve just scratched the surface when it comes to all the exciting things to do in New York City’s Manhattan and our friendly chauffeurs know all the hot spots. Just call us at +1 (800) 664-4480 to make your reservations or visit https://bostoncorporatecoach.com/reservations/. You can also download the Boston Corporate Coach app on Apple or GooglePlay.