New York City is filled with things to do. There are countless articles and sites dedicated to what you should check off on your to-do list when visiting the city. It is, after all, the most visited city in the country, ahead of cities like Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Chicago. And it’s not even that close, with the Big Apple attracting nearly 60 million annual visitors.

There’s a reason why so many people are drawn to NYC. Its allure is not just in the things that one can experience, but in its essence and what it stands for. People so often hear about the mantras associated with the city about being able to make it anywhere if you can make it there or it being where dreams are made of. It has a larger than life aura that is simply captivating.

When visitors arrive, they find that the city’s demeanor and vision is everything they had imagined. But it’s not just in the popular attractions that travelers discover the city’s magic, but more specifically in the experiences that are unconventional. When you look up things to do in the Big Apple, you will see the attractions that have become synonymous with it, like Times Square and the Statue of Liberty, but there are so many less traveled paths that will take you to the heart of the city to experience the true New York. It’s in these experiences that you will truly fall in love with it and everything it has to offer.

Some of the more touristy attractions will still make an appearance on our list, but you’ll also find that the best ones are those you have to go hunting for. Here are 13 essential activities for fun-seeking visitors in NYC and a few that you should probably bypass.

20 Do: Take a Helicopter Trip Over the City

Why not start the trip off with a bang from the very beginning? Everyone is fully aware that the city has so many breathtaking landmarks to see. Rather than only getting a view of them one stop at a time, taking them all in at once might be the way to go. You can do so by booking a helicopter tour of the city.

There’s no better way to experience all of New York City’s famous sites in one breath while being able to still admire their cultural and historic beauty from up above.

If you are willing to shell out the money for it, the aerial views of the city’s most famous landmarks are inspiring which include Times Square, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, the World Trade Center and all of Midtown Manhattan including the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building and the Rockefeller Center. If you can pay the extra fee for the evening ride, do it. Seeing the city light up the nighttime sky is well worth the price.

19 DON’T: Eat at Any Chain Restaurant in the City

It’s New York. Why would you purchase any single food item from a restaurant you can find in almost any other city's convenience store? It just doesn’t make sense considering this is the 305 square miles of the country where every culture in the world meets.

With such a varied mix of every race, religion, and culture confined to such a small area, it would practically be a sin to sit down at an Olive Garden when you have the most authentic pizza outside of Italy right at your fingertips.

Some of those places might be familiar and therefore give off a sense of comfort, but avoid them at all costs while in New York.

18 DO: Commit to Trying as Much of the Street Cart Food

It’s a staple of New York. Everyone knows that the city is famous for its countless food cart street vendors lining up the sidewalks selling dishes and foods from all walks of life. Even if the dish they’re serving seems as plain as it gets, you still owe it to yourself to try everything at least once from the hot pretzels to the falafels and the New York style hot dogs. You’ll find that they are all actually really tasty and even if they don’t take you to some transcendent food heaven, you’ll feel like an authentic New Yorker, if only for a few minutes.

17 DON’T: Spend Any Real Time in Times Square

Sure, it’s a bucket list item, so no one is going to tell you to skip it entirely, but don’t spend any real amount of time in Times Square. It should be treated as a checklist on your itinerary. Go at night, take in all of the lights, get the experience, bask in the glory of being able to say you‘re in Times Square, but then move on.

It’s a tourist trap and all of the restaurants, stores and gift shops are very well aware of it.

They overcharge for everything and the crowds can sometimes be too much to deal with. Once you have visited, there’s no real reason to go back over and over. Enjoy it and move on to other parts of the city that can be just as mesmerizing.

16 DO: Visit Little Italy and Chinatown

For those who don’t know, Little Italy and Chinatown are really small neighborhoods in the southern part of Manhattan that are side by side, often intermingled. Each neighborhood, no more than a few blocks, despite their size, have become world famous for a number of reasons and even gaining pop culture status in many movies.

Although time has eroded a lot of its history and changed the makeup of the areas, taking a walk down memory lane and visiting one of the authentic restaurants for some pasta on Mulberry Street or eating dumplings in Chinatown are experiences you won’t soon forget.

15 DO: Visit the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Even if you aren’t planning any activities in Brooklyn, making a trip to the borough just to spend a day at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens is a New York City must.

The beauty you’ll find is unlike anything you will see in the city. With rows of cherry trees lining the park in perfect harmony, you will be in awe of the pink flowers growing throughout the park in the most idyllic and tranquil setting. Make sure to plan your visit during the spring when they are in full bloom!

14 DO: Visit one of the City’s Many Observation Decks

If you’re going to get lost in one of the city’s tourist attractions, it may as well be one of the observation decks. There are several to choose from considering the number of skyscrapers in Manhattan, but if you have to choose one, you have to go with Top of the Rock at the Rockefeller Center in midtown. Even though it’s an activity most tourists do, it doesn’t make it any less incredible.

Once you have gone up the elevator and stepped onto the platform overlooking the entire city, you will instantly understand why it’s an essential must-do, especially if you go about half an hour before the sun sets. You get to see the city in all its clarity during the daytime, experience the setting sun over the vast landscape all around you, and finally, be in awe of what is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful seas of lights you’ll ever witness.

13 DON’T: Pay for a Trip to the Statue of Liberty

Sure, it’s probably the world’s most famous statue. And in person, it’s just as captivating as you have always imagined it after seeing it through photography. But paying to ascend the nearly 400 steps from the base to her crown simply isn’t worth it.

For starters, you have to book your reservation way ahead of time as there are a limited number of people allowed to make the trek upstairs. And when you finally make it to the crown after a daunting journey, the unfortunate truth is you are essentially whisked along fairly quickly as there are a number of folks making the climb as well. The view from the crown is pretty great, but you simply don’t have much time to take it all in.

The better and more incredible experience associated with Lady Liberty is simply taking any number of free ferries or boat excursions which all pass right by her in New York Harbor, even stopping for folks to take pictures while playing New York-themed music.

It’s more relaxing and you actually get to take in the entire sight of her beauty and iconic stature.

12 DO: Visit the Bronx

Don’t limit yourself to just Manhattan. If you’re trying to be a true fun-seeking visitor, then traveling outside of the borough and into the others is a must. The Bronx is definitely one you have to add to your to-do list. Take in a game at the world famous Yankee Stadium if baseball is in season. Getting the full experience of a Yankee game next to fanatics will turn out to be a fun activity. If baseball isn’t your thing, simply take a ride on one of the many subway lines that bring you into the Bronx.

Once you exit Manhattan, most of the trains travel on tracks well above ground so you aren’t just seeing walls outside your window. Taking the 4, 5 or 6 lines are a perfect way to see most of the Bronx in all its authenticity.

11 DO: Visit Queens

Add this borough to your list as well. Famous for all kinds of references in pop culture from the show King of Queens to being the home of a number of iconic rap emcees, this is a borough that is both fascinating and historic. The best way to get into Queens is over the Queensborough Bridge. Not because it’s necessarily the most efficient, but because of the incredible view you get of Manhattan as you exit as well as what’s ahead of you in Queens.

Once you’re in the area, make sure to visit the Queens Museum and its awe-inspiring Panorama of the City of New York, an art installation that is a large scale model of the entire city. The scope and detail of the art model are incredible and well worth the trip into Queens.

10 DO: Visit Brooklyn

Probably the most visited of all the boroughs outside of Manhattan, you could plan an entire trip around Brooklyn alone. Be sure to take a trek across the Brooklyn Bridge which connects it to the mainland over the East River.

Another fun activity is booking a trip on one of the many tours the borough offers that give you an in-depth look into all of its neighborhoods and history. Try one of the pizza tours which lets you try the best slices in the entire city or one of the movie tours which shows you all of the famous landmarks that have appeared on film.

9 DON’T: Visit Madame Tussauds

We’ve all been to a wax museum. They’re pretty interesting and make for some fun pictures. You get to marvel at the great statues that are spot on and laugh at the ones that look nothing like the celebrities they are impersonating. It makes for a pretty decent afternoon, but the problem is these museums can be found in many major cities.

Try them in your hometown rather than on a once-in-a-lifetime visit to New York City. There’s so much more to do that can only be found here so take advantage.

8 DO: Go bar hopping in the Meatpacking District

A night of partying is always in store when planning a trip to the Big Apple. If you want to get the full gist of the bar experience, head over to the Meatpacking District in West Village. Formerly home to the city’s slaughterhouses, hence the name “meatpacking”, it is now a trendy, vibrant part of the city filled with cafes, restaurants and bars lining its cobblestone streets.

For a truly magical night out, visit Top of the Standard, a luxurious rooftop bar on the highest floor of the Standard Hotel. Be prepared to spend some serious money, but the views of the city from the bar are unrivaled.

7 DO: Catch a Comedy Show

The city is home to much of the country’s artists including stage performers, musicians, actors, dancers, and comedians. When we say catch a comedy show, we aren’t referring to booking tickets to a big name comedian filling up all of Madison Square Garden while taping a Netflix special.

Instead, catch a comedy show in one of the back alley rooms of a building or a basement that connects to a local bar. These are the places where you will find the funniest talents in the world. They may not be famous, but it’s not because of a lack of talent. The setting might be a bit rough or out of sorts, but the experience and genuine feel of the place will make it one of your best nights.

6 DO: Catch a Broadway Show

Sure, it’s a tourist thing to do, but that doesn’t matter in this case. If fun is what you’re looking for, catching a show on Broadway is going to fill your needs. Famous for its theatre district on the street of the same name, it isn’t just the fantastic performances that make the musicals so fun, but the entire experience. Being able to arrive at the theatre on Broadway (the actual name of the boulevard), surrounded by the lights and signs, dressed up for the night and being ushered to your seats as the lights dim and the show starts…. well there’s nothing quite like it.

Pick any show from a number of them on offer and you’re sure to get wrapped up and want to do it all over again.

5 DON’T: Take a Horse Carriage Ride Through Central Park

It’s cliché. We should start there. To some it’s romantic, but it’s been done time and time again. It’s all pretty monotonous and rather awkward as well. The person leading the carriage often doesn’t say a word so you are being led through one of the country’s most incredible parks without much context.

It’s also an activity you can do in almost any major city. Take your pick and horse carriages are available just about anywhere. If you are going to visit Central Park, which is a must, there are other ways to experience it that are infinitely better.

4 DO: Take a Bicycle Ride Through Central Park

If you’re going to explore Central Park, the best way to go about doing so is on a bicycle. You can walk and stroll through the park, but you are going to be limited to such a confined area considering the park’s massive area. You will be skipping out on so much. If you truly want to see so much of the park’s vast greenery and famous landmarks, renting a bike and making stops at all of the iconic sites is one of the most fun experiences you’ll have on your trip.

3 DON’T: Purchase Any of the City Passes That Are Available

There are a number of merchants that sell their versions of a pass that get you into all of the city’s famed and most popular attractions including the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, boat tours, bus tours, World Trade Center and so much more.

The price is a bargain and the attractions are great. The only problem is if you aren’t truly committed to visiting the landmarks, you should probably pass. The different passes will absolutely pay for themselves and then some IF you actually make a concerted effort to visit as many of the sites they offer.

If you aren’t organized and ready to plan an itinerary, don’t spend all the money and end up losing out on what could be a great value.

2 DO: Visit the High Line

Quickly becoming one of the city’s most popular and visited parks, the High Line is a newly created public park that was built on what was once a freight train rail line. Converted into a green space that stretches from the Meatpacking District to Hudson Yards on the west side of Manhattan, it spans nearly 25 blocks.

With so many features for visitors including walkways, wooded areas, playgrounds, lawns and bike trails, this is a park that has everything you need for the perfect afternoon or evening stroll.

1 DON’T: Visit the Zoos

This isn’t necessarily a knock on any of the city’s zoos which are all pretty fantastic in their own right. After all, the Central Park Zoo is featured in the animated hit film, Madagascar. But why visit a zoo while planning a trip to New York City when you have a finite amount of time?

You can visit a zoo in any major city across the country. Sometimes you don’t even have to live in a major city. Unless you are a big fan of the movie and need to see the areas featured in the film, skip the zoo and go for something a bit more inspiring.