Manhattan is one of the five boroughs of New York City. Walking along the streets, I can understand why so many people fall in love with New York City. Manhattan is an exciting district that serves as a global center of entertainment, fashion, media, finance, art, theater and music. The classic brownstone architecture, modern skyscrapers, and numerous city attractions in Manhattan intermingle neatly in a systematic grid system, exuding an irrepressible charm that is both exciting and alluring. Below is a list of fun things to do in Manhattan (arranged in alphabetical order), based on our personal experience!
1. Catch a Broadway Musical
No trip to Manhattan would be complete without attending one of the famous Broadway musicals. We managed to catch The Phantom of the Opera (USD75, Rear Mezzanine), a classic musical that I’ve always wanted to watch since young. I was thoroughly impressed by the powerful vocals of the actors, the captivating music, and the high production value of the show.
2. Admire the Majestic Buildings
As we walked around Manhattan NYC, we could definitely understand why American writer Mark Twain termed the late 19th century as the “Gilded Age”. This was an era when grave social issues were masked by a “thin layer of gold gilding”. Many of the Manhattan skyscrapers were built during this period, and we could definitely see that some of them reflected elements of flamboyance and opulence. However, there were many beautiful and elegant buildings too. You can check out our complete article on the 10 Most Beautiful Buildings in Manhattan NY that You Have to See.
3. Explore the Awesome Food Scene
Lobster’s Place at Chelsea Market
We had fun exploring (and eating at) the many awesome eateries in Manhattan! One of our favourite spots was Chelsea Market, a large indoor food hall located at the Chelsea neighbourhood. The highlight here was the 1.5 pound Lobster from Lobster’s Place ($23.95) – eating this whole lobster left us so very satisfied! Other favourites include Taiyaki NYC, Clinton Street Baking Co, Burger & Lobster, Luke’s Lobster, and many more! You can read about the 12 Best Places to Eat in Manhattan NY here.
4. Take a Helicopter Ride
We are so glad that we took a helicopter tour of New York City. It was the first time either Raevian or I rode in a helicopter. We caught breathtaking aerial views of the Big Apple, and on the whole it was a great experience. You can read our full review of the New York City helicopter tour here.
5. Visit the Museums
American Museum of Natural History
Metropolitan Museum of Art (the MET)
I am a museum buff, therefore I was happy to know that Manhattan is home to many world-renowned museums. I found out that many museums have free entry or “pay-what-you-wish” options on certain days, so make sure you do your research before visiting. You can check out these 9 best museums in Manhattan NYC.
6. Explore the Interesting Neighbourhoods
The West Village
The West Village exudes an old world charm with its 19th century townhouses
One of the most enjoyable aspects of our Manhattan trip was simply walking around the pretty neighbourhoods. There were many interesting sights and it felt nice to revel in the unique Manhattan culture. In particular, we enjoyed strolling around the West Village, which exudes a bohemian vibe with its cobblestone streets, quaint townhouses and quirky shops. The other neighbourhoods that we explored included Chinatown, Little Italy, Korea Town, and more.
7. Chill out in the Urban Parks
A pretty day in Central Park
There are lots of urban parks in Manhattan. We stayed at the Bryant Park Hotel, which is directly opposite the Bryant Park. This is quite a small park, but it offers al fresco dining, food stalls, and space for chilling out. We saw many people chatting and reading books here in the cool Manhattan air. We also enjoyed strolling along The High Line, a 2.3km linear urban park built high up on an abandoned elevated railroad track. Our favourite park was of course Central Park, a huge urban park filled with lush greenery, expansive fields, tranquil walking tracks, beautiful landscaping and peaceful lakes. We found it amazing that such a large park could actually exist right in the middle of Manhattan.
There are plenty of shopping spots in Manhattan. Some of the famous spots include Fifth Avenue, Broadway, Times Square and Herald Square (where you will find the famous flagship Macy’s store). The shopping scene here was decent, but Raevian’s favourite was definitely Woodbury Common Premium Outlets, a shopping paradise located about one hour’s bus ride away from Manhattan.
9. The Statue of Liberty
Aerial view from our helicopter tour
Close-up shot taken with our DJI Mavic Pro drone
No trip to New York City would be complete without catching sight of the Statue of Liberty. There are various ways to view the statue. The first method we used was to take the Staten Island Ferry, which is a free ferry service that operates between the Whitehall Terminal in Manhattan and St. George Ferry Terminal on Staten Island. The trip took about 25 minutes long. We managed to catch good views of the Statue of Liberty during the ride. Most people will rush to the upper deck to try and get a good vantage point, but we found out that it was a better idea to stay on the lower deck at the boarding area. This was because it was much less crowded, and it was still possible to get very good views of the statue from here. For the second method, we flew our drone near the statue, which gave us breathtaking close-up views of the Statue of Liberty. The last method was through our helicopter tour which gave us great aerial views of this iconic colossal sculpture.
10. Times Square
Hi Mom! I made it to the USA!
Yes, we have included visiting Times Square in this list, even though it is judged by many as simply a flamboyant tourist trap. However, we included this famous tourist attraction because it is probably the most iconic attraction of Manhattan / New York City. We were dazzled by the bright billboards and advertisements, and it was hard not to get caught up in the vibrant vibe of this famous square. We were even lucky enough to visit on New Year’s Eve and catch sight of the world-famous Times Square Ball Drop, arguably the most famous New Year’s Day event in the world.
11. Explore Wall Street
Raevian and I both work in the finance industry, so it was a special experience for us to visit the global financial hub of Wall Street. It felt surreal to check out this fabled district where Wall Street power brokers can make or break our global financial system. However, other than being a financial center, Wall Street is also home to beautiful architecture, historical sites, and a pretty park. You can check out our article on 12 Awesome Things to do in Wall Street.
12. Take a United Nations Tour
Spot the poser
The United Nations (UN) Headquarters Tour seldom appears on “popular things to do in NYC” articles, but we decided to include this activity because of the UN’s important role in world affairs. The guided tour gave us a high-level understanding of the UN system. We also saw many beautiful works of art inside the UN buildings. In fact, I feel that the UN headquarters is almost a museum in its own right, with a beautiful architectural design and an awesome art collection that has impressive cosmopolitan depth. You can check out our full review of the United Nations Headquarters Tour here.