Ready to Explore NYC Alone? Here’s a List of 14 Things to Do

ready to explore new york alone

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There’s nowhere in the world quite like New York City. The Big Apple as its affectionately known has captured the minds and imaginations of writers, poets, artists, and thinkers for well over a century. The city’s architecture ranges from Art Deco to Modern. Its skyline is the world’s most recognisable, according to a recent survey.

There’s so much to do in New York that it can feel disorientating on one’s first visit. This article will simplify things by presenting a list of 14 things that you have to do in New York:

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1. Helicopter Tours

If you’re not afraid of heights, then a helicopter tour is definitely worth considering. New York’s a humongous city, so there’s no way that you will see it all on foot in a single visit. You can definitely see it all by air, however.  Helicopter tours are one of the most exciting things to do in New York City and they are affordable, which is always a plus. Helicopter tours in the city generally last around 15 minutes, but in that time you see everything that’s worth seeing, from the Empire State Building to the Statue of Liberty.

New York from a helicopter tour

2. Statue of Liberty

Talking of the Statue of Liberty, it would be ridiculous for you to visit New York and not see it. The Statue of Liberty is New York’s most iconic landmark, gifted to the city by the French. The Statue of Liberty is located on its own separate island, but tours to and from it take place daily. A visit to the island will not cost much. You can take an elevator up to the statue's pedestal. If you want to go further, you can climb to the statue’s crown on foot. Most say that the climb takes around 20 minutes.

Statue of Liberty at sunset

3. Chinatown

Chinatown is one of New York’s most iconic districts, known best for its extravagant Chinese New Years celebrations. Unfortunately because of the pandemic, celebrations were limited last year. If you’re in New York in February this year, however, then you will be pleased to know that celebrations are going ahead. In addition to the New Years celebrations, Chinatown has lots of delicious, five-star restaurants. Some say that Chinese food in New York is better than it is in China! There is always something to do in New York’s Chinatown, from karaoke to street festivals.

traveler walking in the Chinatown street market in New York

4. Little Italy

Little Italy is located a stone’s throw from Chinatown and it is another of New York’s most iconic districts, made infamous through its ties to organised crime. If you are that way inclined, then you might want to sign up for one of the district’s many organised crime tours. These tours allow you to see all of Little Italy’s most iconic mafia hotspots, as well as others located in different districts of the city. With that said, New York’s Italian community has contributed significantly more to the city, and the world, than organised crime. Also found in Little Italy are delicious restaurants, bistros, and street-food stands.

Welcome to the Little Italy sign in Lower Manhattan

5. Empire State Building

The Empire State Building is another of New York’s most iconic landmarks, with it once being the world’s tallest building. Unfortunately, that title has long been lost, but the tower still retains much of its charm. It is built in the Art Deco style and houses a five-star restaurant on its ground floor. Visitors can head on up to the top if they aren’t scared of heights. The Empire State Building has a lot of history surrounding it, and this is told through plaques also found on the top floor.

View of the Manhattan cityscape with Empire State Building at sunset

6. Central Park

Central Park is one of New York’s largest parks. It is definitely one of the most famous, too. During the winter months, the park comes alive. Lights are hung from every tree and lamppost, an ice-skating rink is set up, and there are various street events that take place throughout the park each day. For the rest of the year, the park is equally as lively. Street performers, families, joggers, and food vendors can be found enjoying the park on a daily basis. In the summer, there’s nothing quite like unwinding in Central Park.

Central Park New York

7. Visit Broadway

If you’re in New York, it would be a crime not to see a Broadway show. Each month, new shows are put on, so there’s always something for everybody. You can find out what’s being screened online, by visiting some of the theatre’s websites. You could also check out a guidebook, visit a forum, or ask for advice from a friend. Broadway shows are not particularly expensive to attend. You will need to be vaccinated, however, as under current NYC law it is illegal for non-vaccinated people to enter non-essential buildings, such as theatres, museums, and the like.

Signs of Broadway and West 39st in Manhattan

8. AMNH - American Natural History Museum

The AMNH, which is short for the American Natural History Museum is definitely somewhere that’s worth visiting. The Museum always has some kind of exhibit, currently, it is the Sharks exhibition. The exhibitions every few months. There are also lots of permanent exhibits, like the old Silk Road. Tickets and entry into the American Natural History Museum aren’t free, but they are very affordable. Concessions are also made to senior citizens, students, and young people. There’s a café on-site, so you can stop for lunch in the museum. It is located across the street from Central Park, so why not take the opportunity to visit both on the same day?

Museum of Ethnology in Paris

9. 9/11 Memorial

New York isn’t all a barrel of laughs, however. The 9/11 Memorial and Museum is a sombre reminder of what humans can do. It is located at the old site of the World Trade Centre, which was destroyed in the 9/11 attacks. The museum is run by a non-profit organisation, that raises funds for the families of the victims and the survivors of the attacks. If you are in the neighbourhood, then you should go and pay your respects. The 9/11 Memorial and Museum is free to enter.

Young tourist at the 9/11 Memorial in New York

10. Metropolitan Museum of Art

If you’re interested in art, then one of New York’s best museums and galleries is the Metropolitans Museum of Art. Like the AMNH, the Met’s exhibitions change regularly. It is considered to be one of the world’s top museums, due to its huge and constantly growing collection. Entry to the Met is relatively affordable. If you are a patron or member, then entry is free all year round. With that said, some exhibitions aren’t free, even to members. There’s a café on-site, so you can stop for a bite to eat while there, no packed lunch necessary.

Art Museum

11. Brooklyn Bridge

A walk over the Brooklyn Bridge is a must-do if you’re visiting New York for the first time. The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the city’s oldest, with it opened in 1883. It is also the most recognisable bridge in the city, and perhaps the world. It has been featured in countless films, television programmes, documentaries, and works of art. The bridge is built in the style of the Gothic Revival. Along the bridge, you get fantastic views of the East River. You can walk over the bridge into Brooklyn, which is one of New York’s most lively and entertaining districts.

Young tourist on the Brooklyn Bridge

12. The Bronx

Another of New York’s most lively districts is The Bronx, which is also one of its most misunderstood, due in part to its high crime levels. Even so, for fans of hip-hop music, The Bronx is a must-see. Countless rappers, hip hop performers, and musicians were born there, and many still live there. One of rap’s founders DJ Kool Herc still lives in the district and owns a record store, that he personally runs. There are lots of hip hop landmarks to see in The Bronx, so it’s definitely worth a visit. The food there is also fantastic, due to heavy Jamaican influence.

Bronx New York

13. Grand Central Terminal

Grand Central is another of New York’s iconic landmarks, featured in countless films and television programmes. Grand Central has lots of cafes and places to sit down, as well as great photo spots. The terminal is a functioning train station, so expect it to be busy. Nearby, there is a market that sells lots of delicious street food, as well as crafts. Grand Central Terminal is free to enter, though if you want to visit the platforms you will have to buy yourself a rail ticket. You cannot get onto the platform without one.

Young girl in Grand Central Terminal, NYC

14. Sightseeing Tours

If you don’t want to visit each of these places individually, then you can of course take a sightseeing tour. These tours are usually paid in advance and take place over the course of a day or several. They will take you past most of New York’s landmarks, though you may not have time to enter any of them. You certainly won’t be able to see museums, unless you take a specially designed tour of a museum as opposed to a sightseeing tour. Sightseeing tours are very affordable in New York, so they’re definitely worth consideration, especially if you haven’t got much time and can’t explore on foot.

Sightseeing Tours

Wrapping Up

New York is one of the world’s most popular cities and for good reason. It has it all. There’s something for everybody there, from cultural pursuits to shopping, parks to skyscrapers. When you’re in New York, try to see as much as you can. You’ll remember your trip there for the rest of your life.

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