NYC Tips: Attractions & Things To Do

When we started planning this trip, it was supposed to be a long weekend but when we added up all the things we wanted to do the trip kept getting longer and longer, until it ended up being a two week trip. And we stayed busy every single day and still didn’t get to see everything we wanted. For starters, there are over 100 museums in NYC, but there’s even more stuff to do and see than just museums.

Save Money

We bought the NYC Sightseeing Pass, which you pay one price for either a set number of attractions or unlimited attractions over the course of however many days you choose. We bought the 10 day pass.

A sample of some of the attractions on the pass and how much tickets normally are, but are included with the pass.

There were over 150 attractions on the pass for NYC. There are a couple of other similar passes out there. Most have some of the same attractions and each has a couple attractions that are exclusive to them. I just stumbled on this company first. I liked the idea of not having to stress about how much we were going to spend every day and I knew I would be getting a deal.

To maximize the pass, we started using it the day after we got there and then used the last couple of days that we had without a pass as days where we went and did everything that wasn’t included on the pass.

Sample savings from the Sightseeing website.

Something to keep in mind if you buy a sightseeing pass. Sometimes certain attractions or tours would stop working with the pass company. For example, I had planned on doing a couple of walking tours but they were suddenly no longer offered 2 weeks before our trip, so I had to reconfigure what we would do. That being said, new stuff is also added periodically.

Planning & Organization

I ended up creating a Word template to keep track of where we would be staying on what days and what we would be doing. While it’s fun to not have a schedule, in NYC if you want to save time and not waste your days in the Subway going all over town you’ll need to do some planning. To maximize your time and the Sightseeing Pass, I highly recommend having some sort of game plan for each day.

Plus, all the museums and attractions have different dates and times they are open. For example we really wanted to go to the Musuem of Jewish Heritage, but it’s closed on Monday, Tuesday and Saturday and some days had limited hours.

I would typically only schedule two things for us to do each day but I would keep a list of other things in that area to do that were on the Sightseeing Pass in case we finished early or had the energy to do something else.

It looked something like this:

5/30   Edge9:00am until 11:00pm daily *
* Last guest elevator up at 10:00pm 30 Hudson Yards, New York, NY 10001   Closest Subway34 Street-Hudson Yards Subway Station  
Go for sunset
I just added a Table in Word and created a new line for each item.

This allowed me to easily keep track of the dates, the time if I had a reservation, the location and any notes, like a reservation number.

To make the most of our two weeks there and to get to know different neighborhoods more intimately, we switched hotels/hostels every 3-4 days. And I tried to plan our activities around each neighborhood as much as I could.

Times Square Area


Our first couple of days, we were in the Times Square area. After checking into the Americana Inn we headed over to Macy’s. We rode the old escalators to the very top and looked around the toy section and then left. From there we walked around Times Square and shopped until my daughter was ready to drop.

She loves clothes and saved up her money to go shopping in NYC. We rode the escalators down to the basement of Forever 21 to find the clearance sections and found some awesome deals—like party dresses for around $6! Being June and not able to handle heat very well I packed for the heat, but walking around in NYC there were days when it was windy and cold! We ended up buying hoodies as well. So make sure you pack one unless you feel like buying one!

They Disney store in Times Square was interesting, but packed, like most of the shops, so we didn’t stay long.

There were several interesting shops along the strip. If you are looking for discount souvenirs, need to buy an extra set of luggage (like we did because my daughter did sooo much shopping) than check out Lot Stop Dept for deals. (Just check everything thoroughly and keep your receipt if anything breaks.) We found one when we were walking from Times Square over to B&H Photo.

Madame Tussauds

Obligatory crazy wax museum pictures.

We also did Madame Tussauds as it was free with the Sightseeing Pass. I don’t know that we would have gone if it wasn’t included in our pass as it’s normally about $47 a ticket. It was a nice air conditioned break from the crazyness of Times Square. It wasn’t packed at all.

Rise NY

I’ve seen these types of attractions popping up. And if you have ever been to Epcot and done Soaring, that’s basically what these are. It was a fun little excursion. We probably spent less than an hour here, it def was not packed. It was on our Sightseeing pass as included so we did it.

Spy Museum

Around the corner from Times Square was the Spy Museum. This was NOT on any list I had to go to nor was I really interested in going, however, we happened to have lunch next to it and my daughter said since it was on our Sightseeing Pass (and we wouldn’t have to pay) we should go check it out.

To be honest, we had a blast!

It was surprisingly interactive and we both had a good time. They had a lot of history of spy culture, some cool movie props and such but they also give you a bracelet to scan and do tests to see how good of a spy you are. We had a lot of fun and I’d highly recommend this for probably 8 and up both boys and girls will get a kick out of this. You can def. do this museum in about an hour, but I’d say plan for 2 hours to be on the safe side.

B&H & Sam Ash

Being a photographer, I’ve always wanted to go to B&H Photo in NYC. In the past years, it was always closed when I was in town so I never made it. This time I made it happen. As we were walking over there, we passed Sam Ash (music store), well my husband had mentioned in passing that that was the store he would want to go to in NYC. And they ended up being right across from each other. That was kind of funny.

Sam Ash was smaller than I expected and they didn’t have in stock what my husband wanted, but my daughter fell in love with a Bass.

B&H was HUGE. They had all kinds of electronics, even gaming chairs. I explained to a manager that I couldn’t buy anything as I was flying back, but could I get a shopping bag and they happily obliged.

Harry Potter & Legos

If you or your kids love Harry Potter, they have “The Exhibition”. We did not do it, but we did visit the gift shop. Living in Florida and having gone to Universal Studio’s Harry Potter areas multiple times, I will say I found things at this shop I had never seen before. And the theming was great.

Here’s a video I found that goes over it:

There are also two Lego stores on 5th Ave. We visited the one in the Flat Iron district, it wasn’t huge, but they do have a good selection.

We picked up the “NYC postcard” kit. They do sell it at Walmart online for about $29 (but it’s slightly cheaper on Amazon), but it was a great souvenir and I think it was only like $15 when we bought it in the store.

Bryant Park

Bryant Park: I would arrive at least 1-2 hours early if you’re coming for a movie.

We also stumbled onto Bryant Park nearby. During the summer they have movies in the park and one night we watched Mean Girls while eating a picnic. It was nice to be there long enough to get to act like a local.

NYC Public Library

On the back of Bryant Park is the NYC Public Library, which like most places in NYC has been in many movies. We went in and it had beautiful architecture, although the library room that is famous in many movies you had to have a reservation to go into. So I took a photo from the hall–it looked soooo much smaller than it does in the movies! There is also a cute little shop here as well.

The High Line

The High Line is the newest park walking area that sits above the street on old train tracks. Here’s a video I found on Youtube about it.

I would say for us, it was good for a little walk but wasn’t something we would spend all day at. Chelsea Market was nearby so that was a great little visit. If you have little kids they are probably going to be bored. It was pretty, but not necessarily fun for the little ones.

Bus Tours

I wanted to do a bus tour on one of our first days there to help get the lay of the land per se and let my daughter take in a lot of the sights easily. The Sightseeing pass had a 5 hour Experience Bus Tour that normally runs $99 per person and so I booked that since it was included.

To be honest, I was very dissapointed in this tour. We saw some of Manhattan, but the majority of it was us going on the Staten Island Ferry to see the Statue of Liberty. We didn’t get off for the Statue of Liberty, it was just us riding back and forth to see it. There was no commentary for this aprx. 2 hour part of the tour, we were just on our own to ride the ferry and look at it. You could seriously do this on your own (and it’s free), it’s super easy. I would have expected some information about the statue, about the island, SOMETHING.

Movie Tour, can you spot the locations?

Another day we did the On Location Movie Bus Tour and this was fun. We stopped at lots of movie sites and the tour guide was an actor and had some insight about different shows. They also played videos on the bus of some of the scenes from movies to refresh your memory about a location. I feel like movie buffs and teens will def. like this. The tour guide even said they had seen celebrities at some of the stops before.

Walking Tours

There were several walking tours on our Sightseeing Pass. I also found there were several FREE walking tour companies, like this one. And some companies had free tours first thing in the morning and paid tours at other times. (Although they are free, plan to tip the tour guide at least $10-$20 per person in your group. Some people did not seem to tip at all.)

We tried both the free tours as well as some of the tours in our Sightseeing pass. I felt like the walking tours were very hit or miss. The descriptions didn’t always align with everything they would talk about, etc.

We took one tour of SoHo/Little China and the description said that they would point out where certain celebrities lived. I felt like my daughter would love that part of it, but they didn’t point out any of them. We talked more about architecure, etc.

My daughter LOVES thrift shopping, so we booked a free Vintage Shopping Tour and were really turned off by the tour guide, she was really rude to us and some other guests.

I don’t want to dissuade you from trying a walking tour, like all tours, how great it is will depend on the tour guide, many of them have great reviews.

We did a Hamilton walking tour where we were the only guests (the threat of rain kept others away) and it was loaded with information and the tour guide was fantastic.

Bike Tours

There are several bike tours around NYC. While we were there Fancy Apple had one of Central Park that was included in our Sightseeing Pass. Because we were walking sooo much every day, we felt like the bike tour would give our feet a break and we’d be able to see more of Central Park that way then by foot.

I opted to upgrade to the Ebike, but I don’t know that we needed it. If I would have been renting the bike for the day, the Ebike would have been a good investment for that.

The tour went to a lot of different areas in the park and the tour guide was super helpful.

You can also just flat out rent a bike for the day from several companies. There are lots of bike lanes in NYC.

Statue of Liberty

I went to the Statue of Liberty like 20 years ago and it was completely different. There’s a new museum on the island and a lot more to do. It is seriously a full day thing. The Statue of Liberty was included in our Sightseeing Pass, however, if you want to go up to the top of the Crown, you have to make special reservations, which you can’t do with the Sightseeing Pass. There’s no extra cost for this, but you’ll have to do this in advance.

1st: The steps leading down 2nd:View from the top 3rd and 4th: in the crown

I’ll forwarn you, there are a LOT of steps and it is a workout, if you decide to do the Crown ticket. If you are claustraphobic, you may not like it.

If you like to look at everything and take in the museum information, plan on being here all day. There is a restaraunt on site as well.

Coney Island

I have ALWAYS wanted to go to Coney Island. I had been to NYC 2x before but had never made it, but this time we went!

It took awhile to get there on the Subway, I think it was like 14 stops, more than an hour ride. Our sightseeing pass included an unlimited ride pass for certain rides and also the Aquarium next door. The aquarium website said you needed to make reservations and we didn’t but they still let us in. I wasn’t sure how far everything was from each other, but we took the subway to the aquarium stop and it was across the street from the station and then Coney Island was right next door.

We started off at the aquarium and ended with Coney Island, but I wish we would have done Coney Island first, because it got RIDICUOSLY hot out there.

Living in Florida, I found the aquarium worth about 1-2 hours, a quick see. It has air conditioning in some parts, so it would have been nice after the hot rides. They also had birds I have never seen in the south, so that was interesting.

Here is a video of the Wonder Wheel at Coney Island, I had never seen anything like it. It was a Ferris Wheel with like a roller coaster in the middle.

Central Park Zoo

I’ve always wanted to go to the Central Park Zoo but I’ve always heard bad things about it and how it’s super small and I imagined horrible cages and the movie Madagascar. Our Sightseeing Pass included the zoo and I’m soooo glad we went.

Was it small? YES! Was it horrible? NO! I was actually amazed at some of the habitats. The bears had a huge habitat with a waterfall and such, much better than our zoo in Jacksonville. They also had a Red Panda and some birds I had never seen before.

We found the main section of the zoo and then across the walkway we found a kids’ section. My daughter and I both had a great time. You could easily do this zoo in maybe 2 hours and not be to rushed.

Left: Red Panda Middle: Part of the bear exhibit Right: My daughter on the lily pads in the kids area

Brooklyn Bridge & DUMBO

My daughter and I watched a documentary on the Brooklyn Bridge and it was one of the places we really wanted to go. She purchased this pink dress for like $6 in Times Square because I had originally hired a photographer to meet us on the bridge for a photo shoot. However, the day of our shoot it was supposed to rain so it got cancelled. But we headed out there anyways.

The threat of rain didn’t deter the crowds and it was still packed! Going from the Manhattan side I was surprised by the crowds as well as the fact there were a TON of tables of people selling souvenirs.

After our impromptu photo shoot on the Brooklyn Bridge we took the subway over to the other side (DUMBO is what the neighborhood is called) and caught the tail end of a flea type market. We grabbed some ice cream and enjoyed a park view before taking a ferry back.

Hop On, Hop Off Bus

Our Sightseeing pass included the hop on and off bus, so we hopped on one day. We sat on the top and didn’t hear any commentary. After we got off the bus we found out you needed to plug headphones in, but they didn’t tell us that or offer us any. So if you do take the bus, make sure to bring your own OR ASK!

Crafters, Markets & Festivals

We love handmade markets and such and were able to find quite a few. Here’s a list of some of them.

Every Sunday there is a green market around the Natural History Museum. They have lots of food stuffs, but they also had lots of craft and jewelry vendors.

The Chelsea Market is kind of like a hip indoor mall with specialty shops. Lots of one of a kind stores and restaurants. Open every day.

Honestly, if you take the time to just walk a neighborhood, you’ll find lots of cool little places with unique vibes and handmade artists.


Natural History Museum

Seeing as how this was in A Night at the Museum, we had to go. This was actually a larger museum than we expected and we didn’t get to see all that we wanted.

They had a really cool insect exhibit with fantastic giant photos and also some displays with real live insects. My daughter and I both enjoyed this section. They had geodes and a whole lot more. You could easily devote a whole day to this museum.


I wasn’t sure what to expect with the Guggenheim. I guess I figured it would be an art museum stuffed with paintings and such like most other art museums I had been to, but in an interesting building.

To be honest, I was pleasantly surprised by it. Even my 12yo found it interesting. Yes, it has a cool building concept, but it’s not a stuffy art museum you’re used to. It actually didn’t take long to get through, maybe 2 hours. We didn’t read every single thing, but we took in enough. It had some really modern pieces that were a bit how shall we say interesting, lol. Some we weren’t sure what to think. And then there was a hall or two of traditional paintings. Worth the visit.

The Tenement Museum

I don’t think we got any photos on this “museum”. It’s more like a walking tour through old tenement buildings. Basically the old houses from the last 100 years. Most people don’t realize that families used to live several people to a small apartment with a bathroom down the hall shared by everyone else living on that floor.

This wasn’t included in our Sightseeing pass, we paid for it seperately, but enjoyed it. There were several children on the tour and I think they found it interesting as well.

9/11 Hands On Tour

There were several 9/11 Museum type tours on our sightseeing pass. We did an audio hand’s on tour, that is no longer offered through the sightseeing pass we booked, but I did find it here.

My daughter wasn’t alive on Sept. 11 and at her age it seems the schools really haven’t taught her anything about it. In preparation for our trip I spent several months showing her educational videos about NYC. I wanted her to get excited about the trip and to see certain things, like the Brooklyn Bridge and also understand the enormity of different places, like where the towers were.

I ended up finding this documentary and we watched it together. It was extremely powerful and we both cried at parts, but I didn’t want to hide the truth from her and I felt like she was mature enough to be able to learn and take it in. It was a fantastic documentary and had a lot of facts I did not know.

The Hands on Tour is basically a small apartment that houses artifacts from the only photographer that was on site every day and allowed to be there with the fire department during the rescue and cleanup. He ended up collecting artifacts and audio recordings as well. You’ll get a headset to listen about different pieces. It was extremely moving. The day we were there, the photographer happened to be working the museum. I would recommend this for adults and teenagers, but not younger kids.

Frances Tavern

This was near the tip and walking distance from the 9/11 memorial.

From the website:

“Fraunces Tavern is a historic landmark and the oldest & most historic bar in the city.

It is known as the watering hole for many of the founding fathers & George Washington gathered his officers there to bid them farewell after the British Army left America at the end of the Revolutionary War.”

I can only imagine the number of people in history that have graced it’s doors. There is a museum as well as a bar. We never seemed to make it there in time to do the museum. I would say if you’re a history buff or happen to be passing by, it might be worth a look.

Off the Beaten Path

One night while we were walking back to our hotel we saw a line of people standing outside a little shop waiting for a machine. I asked a woman what they were waiting for and she said that it was a fortune telling machine and it was free.

We of course, had to get in on this action so we got in line. Basically, you answered a couple of questions about your birth and such and then could ask it one of a set of preprogrammed questions. It took a photo of you and then spit out a fortune.

Julia Fox aparantally did it in a viral tik tok as well. Here’s a story about that. And you can see a little video I made of my daughter doing it below.

It was a fun experience and my daughter loved it. From what I understood it was only going to be there for a little while and then shipped somewhere else. But sometimes I find you stumble on fun things just walking around and being open and willing to ask.

Hidden Art

We found art installations all over the place. From cute little diaramas in shop windows to subway tiles.

Observation Towers

There are several observation towers and buildings you can go up into now adays to see out over NYC. While we were there it rained and/or was cloudy on several days so some were closed.

We did manage to go to the Edge, which is probably one of the most interesting.

You’re 100 floors up and you go out on the side of the building and there are glass floor areas where you can lay on top of and the glass walls tilt out. I am scared of heights and this was terrifying to me! My daughter was all for it.

There’s a couple of other viewing places like One World Observatory and Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center.

I will say, if you are planning on going, it gets PACKED! Sunset and weekends are probably going to be the worst, so if you can go during the week, I’d try to do that.

And of course, you have the Empire State Building, which is always a must see NYC attraction.

In conclusion

There is sooo many things to do in NYC and this list doesn’t even go over everything we did in 2 weeks. For me, I bought the Sightseeing Pass and then let my daughter look it over and let me know the things she wanted to do and then I highlighted the things I really wanted to do and made a plan based off that.

If you have any questions let me know!

**The Amazon link is an affiliate link.