As one of the largest cities in the world, New York City is well-known and loved by both NY locals and tourists alike. There's almost an endless range of things to do. The art culture is huge, Broadway is readily available, the food scene is like no other, and the views alone have tourists visiting non-stop. You could spend years exploring the city and never truly know everything about it. New York is definitely legendary for a reason!
Out of the 5 boroughs, Manhattan tends to get all the glory. While Manhattan does offer some awesome hotels, restaurants, and activities, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island all have unique, special characteristics and offer (quieter) activities traditional to New York. Many of the locals tend to seek out these areas. The food is more specialized, the streets are a bit quieter, and the gardens are absolutely gorgeous. Seeing Manhattan can't be missed, but what you may not be realizing is that the experience is only a small piece of what New York can offer, whether you're in the city or just in the state.
If you're visiting New York City anytime soon, you won't want to miss out on these great activities just outside of Manhattan!
20 Walk the Brooklyn Bridge: A Spot for Both Locals and Tourists
Sure, the Brooklyn Bridge can be thought of as a tourist attraction, but even New York locals never tire of the gorgeous views of the city skyline that you can see on the bridge. In any season, they seriously can't be beaten. There are a few options for those of you interested in actually walking across the bridge rather than just viewing it. You can join a "Pay-what-you-wish" Brooklyn Bridge tour, which is basically an informal group that accepts donation-like payment.
You can also download an audio tour on your phone or computer that will fill you in on the bridge's history and tell you exactly what you're looking at each step of the way. If you're not really into the historical elements and just want to enjoy the scenery in peace and quiet, head across without any guidance. It's still bound to be an amazing view!
19 Gallery Hop in Bushwick: Eclectic, Diverse Art
Home to over 60 galleries, Bushwick (Brooklyn) is a great place to gallery hop. You’ll be able to skip out on the crowds you’d find in Chelsea while still experiencing true New York art.
At Bushwickgalleries.com, you can find a map detailing where each of the galleries are located and plan your route accordingly. You can also check out the current exhibits to see what you’d be interested in. There’s everything from traditional art from Japan to modern pieces representing Saturn’s moon!
The general vibe will be modern but eclectic. Many of the galleries are housed in old warehouses, giving them an edgy, urban feel. Contemporary, modern art is typically the most popular (and readily available) but there really is something for everyone.
18 Go to the Staten Island Zoo: A Small but Informative Experience
You've probably been to zoos in other cities, but the Staten Island Zoo is pretty unique. While it is small, it offers a big variety of animals and a lot to do for children. Kids will have a blast in the petting zoo and on the carousel, as well as looking at some of the more unique animals.
There are different sections, such as the Petting Zoo, the Tropics, and even a brand new aquarium. The staff is known to be super friendly and helpful, meaning that you can learn a lot more than you may at a larger facility. It's a great place to spend a spring or fall day and doesn't at all feel like you're near New York City. Many families choose to work the Staten Island Zoo into their plans while visiting New York.
17 Check out Sunset Park: Serene and Stunning Views
Located in Brooklyn, Sunset Park is a less well-known but gorgeous alternative to Central Park. It offers stunning views of the Manhattan skyline as well as the Statue of Liberty, Staten Island, and even parts of New Jersey. The park itself is beautiful as well, with a massive swimming pool, rolling green grassy areas, and a large recreation center.
Sunset is known to be especially beautiful here, hence the name. If you're looking for a quieter experience and a place to see the ever popular New York City skyline, give Sunset Park a try: you won't regret it.
16 Eat Incredible Food in Queens: Take A Trip To China Without Leaving NYC
If you didn't know about this huge community in Queens, then you've been missing out. There are restaurants for almost every different cuisine type possible across China. Whether you're looking to eat one large meal or try a dish at each stop, you really can't go wrong.
White Bear, while being a surefire hole in the wall and only having 5 tables, is known for having the best wontons of all-time. Fu Ran is famous for having incredibly authentic dishes from the northern regions of China, and if you're looking for some typical westernized Chinese food, Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao is definitely the way to go.
15 Calvary Cemetery: A Historic Piece of New York
Located in Queens, the Cavalry Cemetery has over 3,000 graves. The cemetery is incredibly historic, housing many important figures throughout time. It is traditionally Roman Catholic but has expanded to include many different religions because of space constraints within the city.
The history, layout, and views of the cemetery never fail to interest tourists and locals alike. It has been used in many famous movies, including The Godfather, Zoolander, Gotham, and Jessica Jones. If you're interested in the more historical aspect of the New York City, the Cavalry Cemetery is a good place to start a day-long tour.
14 Hit Up a Rooftop Patio: Do It For the Views and the Luxury
Another great option to check out the skyline views in NYC is stopping by a rooftop cafe or bar. The 1 Rooftop right near the Brooklyn Bridge is known as one of the best, due to the gorgeous infinity pool, luxurious seating areas, and near perfect views. Westlight, Alma, and Our Wicked Lady are also good options for a more eclectic experience.
While rooftop bars in Brooklyn are typically the most rewarding in terms of views, there are a large number of rooftop bars in Staten Island and Queens as well. Finding a hole in the wall rooftop can be great, and you can really get to know NYC locals.
13 Swim in Astoria Pool at Astoria Park: A Huge Swimming Hole for Free
Want to swim in a historically massive pool for free? Astoria Pool in Queens is not only famous but insanely large. Additionally, there's something for everyone, from a big kiddie pool end to structured lap lanes for serious swimmers.
The U.S. Olympics were actually held here in the 1940s! The pool itself is over 100 years old but is kept in great condition, regardless of being right in the middle of the city. Note that you should bring your own lock for lockers and that phones and other electronic devices aren't allowed inside the pool area. If you're in NYC during the sweltering summer heat, Astoria Pool is a great spot to cool off and take a unique Instagram!
12 Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club: Vacation Right in the City
Strangely enough, there's actually a shuffleboard club in New York that will make you feel like you're on a cruise. At the same time, it showcases the traditional New York atmosphere with food trucks and live music.
If you've never played shuffleboard, there isn't a better place to learn! The court rentals are only $40 and are walk-in, so you don't have to reserve anything ahead of time. There are cabanas available and a variety of fruity, tropical drinks to stay in theme. Whether you're a shuffleboard expert and want to join the team or are just learning, the Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club is too fun to pass up!
11 Go on a Bagel Crawl: The Best Bagels in the World?
Ever heard of New York bagels? They're popular for a reason. Many New York residents claim that they hail from the state with the best bagels in the world, and there isn't a ton of evidence to refute that. New York bagels are generally soft, chewy, massive, and made in a variety of special ways.
To get the full experience, plan out a bagel crawl where you hit up the most popular bagel shops and rate them. Some great options in Brooklyn are Bergen Bagels and Bagel Boy, while Bagel Oasis in Queens, Empire Bagels in the Bronx, and Heartland Bagels in Staten Island are all known for their quality and authenticity.
10 Lavender By The Bay, Long Island: A Flowery Experience Amid the City
Lavender by the Bay on Long Island is ranked as one of the best Lavender farms in the country! If you're able to visit during lavender season, you can't pass up a visit to the farm. It boasts over 17 acres with a huge variety of different plants.
During the months of June and July, you can spend the day walking the farm, smelling the flowers, taking gorgeous pictures, or shopping for homemade lavender-related products at the small store the farm offers. While it's located close to the city, the experience is so rural and authentic that it's hard to believe you're in the same state!
9 Head to the House of Yes: An Unforgettable Nightlife Experience
If you're interested in checking out the New York nightlife, the House of Yes is a must see. It's one of the coolest underground venues in the city! Located in Bushwick, Brooklyn, the club is completely obscure and harder to find for tourists. Luckily, you can buy tickets in advance that will give you specific directions about how to get in.
When you get there you may be surprised by how crazy the scene is. With live EDM music, tons of glitter, crazy costumes, and a super packed nightly crowd, there really is nothing else like it. Even stopping in for a brief half hour can be fun just to observe!
8 Check Out the Long Island City Galleries: Authentic Art Outside of the City
If you haven't had enough of the New York City art scene by now, consider heading to Long Island for a bit more! The PS 1 Contemporary Art Center is the most famous. Unlike many other galleries which feature plain white walls and sparse art, this center (located in an old school) is incredibly distinct, offering multiple different sections where the look completely varies.
One spot may feature only sculptures of humans, which another is a mess of colorful walls and hanging art in the center of the hallway. If you're more into creating your own art, the Sculpture Center is another great choice in Long Island.
7 Cooper's Beach, Long Island: Paradise in New York
For beach enthusiasts, Cooper's Beach is a great choice. It stretches over 500 feet along the coastline. The view is primarily of the ocean (of course) and the many historic mansions dotted along the beach.
The beach is known as one of the best in America due to its large amount of actual beach area available (who wants to be sitting right next to your beach neighbor?), super powdery sand, and great rentals, including all types of beach and lounge chairs and umbrellas.
Cooper's Beach is a cool stop any time of year, whether you can tan or just spend a view minutes taking in the view.
6 Shop at Staten Island Mall: Famous and Luxurious
For world famous New York shopping, check out the Staten Island Mall. While many malls are going out of date, the Staten Island Mall is slowly being reinvented. Not only does it offer great big name stores like the Container Store and Nordstrom, but is slowly adding in new boutiques and trendy dining.
If you're into upscale fashion stores, the Staten Island Mall is a great choice. It's becoming more popular with a younger crowd and even attracting a decent nightlife. If you find yourself in New York on a rainy or wintery day, this is a great way to pass the time.
5 Visit Queens Botanical Garden: A Must See in Spring
While the Queens Botanical Garden may not be as large as other gardens in New York, you can't get more inner-city than this. It actually manages to be 5 acres and the staff offer tours if you schedule in advance.
The space is known as a complete oasis amid the chaos of New York City. For couples who want to get married in the city but have the country feel, the Queens Botanical Garden is a perfect choice, and visitors often have the chance to witness a gorgeous wedding! The Flora and Fauna are typically beautiful in the spring, summer, and even autumn if you want to see some incredible foliage.
4 Go to Luna Park in Coney Island: Fun For All Ages
Want to experience absolutely insane rides just outside the bustle of the city? Luna Park in Coney Island is a great spot. For a somewhat small price, you can head to the incredibly historic park that is modeled after the traditional Luna Park, which closed just a short distance away.
The park includes a ton of thrill rides such as Air Race, the Brooklyn Flyer, and the Cyclone, as well as some family-friendly rides like the Circus Coaster and some super child-friendly rides such as the Merry-Go-Round. There's games, shopping, and more carnival food than you could eat!
3 Catch a Helicopter Ride: The Best View You Can Get
If you've never ridden in a helicopter over New York City, what are you waiting for? Touring out of the Bronx, you can buy tickets to a 15-20 minute tour during which you'll see all of the major landmarks throughout the city.
The pilots are typically super knowledgeable and the rides will usually include a headset so you can hear the tour as you experience the city. If you're able to get there early, request to sit in the front of the helicopter - you'll get a much better view! The briefing is quick, so this is a great little experience you can still fit into a jam-packed day.
2 See a Comedy Show in Brooklyn: A Hilarious Experience
If you’ve been to New York but never seen a comedy show, it’s an experience you have to put on your list. Too many famous comedians to count have come from New York City, dating all the way back through the 1900s. Manhattan is typically the most well-known for comedy clubs, but Brooklyn surprisingly has its own comedic vibe that is different and equally as enjoyable.
The Knitting Factory in Williamsburg is one of the biggest names in the area. Celebrities like Amy Schumer often host the night without warning, and other famous comedians and actors flock just to see the show. Another great option is The Platform in Bushwick. It’s a much cozier, smaller venue that hosts local comedians but is known to be seriously funny regardless of its obscurity.
1 Watch the Home Run Apple rise during a Mets game at Citi Field: The Ultimate Must for Any Tourist!
Have you truly been to New York if you haven't experienced a Mets game? Tickets are available online beforehand, over the phone, or even the day-of outside the stadium. Citi Field itself is an adventure! The Promenade Gold seats behind home plate are usually the best and most expensive, but Citi Field is pretty unique in that no seat is bad.
Grab some traditional ball-game food and watch the game while waiting for the Home Run Apple to rise! The only downside to seeing a Mets game is that there aren't a huge amount of options just outside the field for food before or after the game, but if you're willing to travel just a bit you'll have all of New York City at your disposal. Regardless, seeing a Mets game is an experience that New York tourists and locals alike have to get!