On your first visit to NYC, you scaled the Empire State Building, wandered Wall Street, cycled Central Park, saw a Broadway show, marvelled at The Met, hiked the High Line and probably got up-close and personal with the Statue of Liberty. Now you‘re fortunate enough to be returning to the Big Apple for a second time and you’re looking for more things to do in New York City. Here are some ideas to help narrow down the plethora of possibilities and dive deep into the City that never sleeps.
Disclosure: I may earn compensation from the purchase of any product or service linked on this website, at no extra cost to you. I only link to products I use and love, therefore feel comfortable recommending.
Table of contents
Eat like royalty
There is amazing food at every turn in this city, from street snacks to fine dining, in fact, New York has the most Michelin stars of any U.S. city – 102 in total as of October 2019. If you’re going upscale, I recommend doing your research and booking well in advance. Most high-end dining establishments take reservations a month in advance of the booking date, and you will need to jump right on it to avoid disappointment. Lunchtime set menus (weekdays) will save you a bundle, compared to the evening fare with no less of the experience.
Quench your thirst at a speakeasy
Between 1920 and 1933, the United States banned the production, importation and sale of alcoholic beverages. During this time speakeasies – small, hidden bars – popped up all over New York City. Speakeasies mostly disappeared after alcohol bans were lifted, however, one or two originals still exist and newer establishments were born as the concept of secret saloons became trendy.
Here is a map of some popular joints including the Back Room, located in an original Prohibition Speakeasy spot. Spending an evening speakeasy hopping is one of the many coolest things to do in New York City at night.
Go Beyond Manhattan
- Get nostalgic with a ride on Jane’s Carousel. Built in 1922 for an amusement park in Ohio, the carousel was eventually relocated to Brooklyn, where it was lovingly restored and set by the East River in Brooklyn Bridge Park.
- Look for Tom Fruin’s Water Tower, a sculpture of a colourful, stained glass water tank that sits atop the building 20 Jay Street. Check out Fruin’s website for prime viewing locations.
- Take awesome Manhattan skyline pictures from Brooklyn Bridge Park (one of the few places you can use your tripod!)
- Walk Brooklyn Bridge. Sunset makes for a busy, but picturesque way to end the day as you stroll back into Manhattan.
- Search out street art in Williamsburg, you won’t have troubles finding any!
- It would be difficult to get a real feel for Long Island City (L.I.C.) without a local guide. Much of what is cool about the area is hidden behind unmarked doors and nondescript building facades. I recommend taking a neighbourhood walking tour to unearth those hidden gems.
- Explore L.I.C. street art and murals.
- Dine at hot local food joints. If you love Greek food, head for the Astoria area.
- Find the vintage, 1940s Pepsi-Cola sign and photo-worthy Manhattan skyline views in Gantry Plaza State Park.
- Visit the Noguchi Museum for awesome sculpture and a hidden, urban garden of zen.
- Tour Louis Armstrong House Museum. The Corona home of the great jazz musician has been preserved as a museum. It’s full of great stories for those who love a little music history and to walk in the footsteps of legends.
- Get a crash course in the history of hip-hop with a Hush Hip Hop Tour of Harlem and The Boogie-Down-Bronx.
- Tour Yankee Stadium.
- If Central Park wasn’t enough, stroll the New York Botanical Garden. The Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden is especially spectacular when in full bloom each spring.
Catch a match
Maybe your first visit wasn’t in time for basketball at Madison Square Garden or baseball at Yankee Stadium. Check season dates and tickets ahead of time if you want to attend a sporting match. As a rough guide:
- National Football League (NFL) – Preseason begins in August. Regular season games are September to January.
- National Basketball Association (NBA) – October to April with the championship game in May.
- National Ice Hockey League (NHL) – October to April with postseason games in May.
- Major League Baseball (MLB) – March to August with postseason games in September.
Be a patron of the arts
You could see another Broadway show, there are plenty to be seen. Alternatively, experience a world-class opera or ballet performance at the Lincoln Center, home to the New York City Ballet, Metropolitan Opera, New York Philharmonic and renowned Julliard School of Music. See performance dates and buy tickets here.
Modernists like myself will also appreciate the fabulous architecture of the 6.3-acre complex. If you really want to revel in the performing arts and get behind the scenes, take a guided tour. I also found the Met Opera gift shop is an excellent place to find unique NYC souvenirs.
Enjoy afternoon tea
Rest your weary legs and satisfy your sweet tooth with afternoon tea (incorrectly referred to by many as “high tea”). There are various options around town from traditional-with-a-twist to thoroughly modern.
The Palm Court at the Plaza Hotel is arguably the most well-known and traditional locale for afternoon tea in NYC. You probably know The Plaza for the cameo role it has played in many films such as Bandwagon, The Way We Were, The Great Gatsby (1974), Crocodile Dundee, Home Alone II and Bride Wars. The setting is beautiful, the food and service are divine (my only complaint is the bathrooms), so dress up and get a little bit fancy for the afternoon.
At the other end of the spectrum, you have Lady Mendl’s Tea Salon – a gorgeously modern afternoon tea in the Gramercy Park area. This afternoon tea is hosted inside a Georgian brownstone and inspired by legendary interior decorator Lady Mendl (aka Elsie de Wolfe) who lived in a similar building adjacent to the Salon’s location. Like the Lady herself, this afternoon tea has cast off its Victorian roots and opted for a more colourful, worldly look and flavour.
Discover more museums and galleries
There is no way you took in all New York City’s amazing museums and galleries on the first go-round. Keep an eye on temporary exhibits too, there’s always an interesting artist (or at least their work) passing through. Here are a few to get you started, you can find the full list here.
- The Met
- The Neue
- Solomon R. Guggenheim
- The Met Cloisters
- American Museum of Natural History
- Frick Collection
- The Whitney
- The National 9/11 Memorial & Museum
- Tenement Museum
- New York Historical Society
- Museum of the City of New York
- The Jewish Museum
- Jewish Heritage Museum
Hit the library
There are at least two exceptional libraries you should visit in New York City. The first is the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building of the New York Public Library, located in Midtown. This research branch of the NY Public Library is a magnificent Beaux-Arts style structure constructed in 1911. It hosts the library’s ongoing Treasures Exhibition, which showcases impressive art, books and other artifacts from the archives. From a lock of Beethoven’s hair to the soft toys that inspired the characters in Winnie the Pooh–there are many quirky and interesting artifacts to behold. I also recommend taking a building tour, or at the very least a free tour of the Rose Main Reading Room.
The second library you must visit in New York City is the Morgan Library and Museum, an independent research library also in Midtown Manhattan. Established by John Pierpont (J.P.) Morgan, of the banking dynasty, the library housed his collection of rare manuscripts, early printed books, musical scores, drawings and prints. The Library spans the historical library completed in 1906 and the contemporary wing finished a century later in 2006. After J.P.’s passing, his son Jack made this important collection accessible to scholars and the public.
Tour the United Nations Headquarters
The United Nations offers variously themed tours of their New York headquarters. Some tours focus on the art and architecture of the HQ complex, while others more on the history and function of the UN. These guided tours offer great insight the global organisation and a different perspective on New York City.
Tip: Carefully follow the directions on your ticket, including arriving a full hour before your tour time in order to clear security. There is a cafeteria, book shop and exhibits to fill your time if you pass through the entry process and get your colour-coded tour sticker more quickly.
Depending on the timing of your visit, here are some seasonal experiences to consider on your second time in New York City:
- Shakespeare in the Park
- US Open Tennis
- Baseball season
- New York Film Festival
- Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
- Winter Village at Bryant Park
- Visit the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree
- New Year’s Eve in Time Square
- St Patrick’s Day Parade
- Cherry blossoms bloom in Brooklyn Botanic Gardens – find details here.
- TD Five Boro Bike Tour – Check the website for timing
Woodstock festival site day trip
Take a day out from the New York City hustle, rent a car and visit the original 1969 Woodstock site. Find peace and music just 2-hours out of town in Bethel, where a farmer rented a field to festival organisers after the town of Woodstock revoked their permit for the event. You can find more information on the festival site and Museum in my post: Visiting the Woodstock Festival Site.
If you have suggestions or feedback on things to do in NYC the second time, please drop me a comment below. Want more on NYC? See these posts:
Peace, love & inspiring travel.