In this instalment of my series on how to visit New York as a happily cliché tourist, I’ll outline some of my favourite things to do in New York City. For Food, Logistics, and Theatre, check out the rest of this series HERE.


Walk the Brooklyn Bridge

This is my all-time favourite activity in New York. Well, my actual favourite things to do in New York are go to the theatre and eat deli sandwiches (not at the same time), but especially if I’m travelling with someone who’s never been there before and they’re for some reason averse to an itinerary that’s entirely sitting and eating, this is what I suggest we do. Take the subway into Brooklyn and walk back. That’s it. Ideally grab a coffee for the stroll, and take your time, but be sure to step to the side if you’re taking a photo so people can get around you (this is a big tip in general for any city but especially New York where they are extremely fussy about always being in a hurry). I’ll often carry on once I reach Manhattan and just start walking North until I either reach somewhere I want to stop or I run out of time and have to take the subway to my next destination. On foot is the best way to see the city and the immensity of the NY skyline is one of their unique features so this free activity is a must-do at least once.


The Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island

The Staten Island Ferry is another great free option for viewing both the skyline and the Statue of Liberty but if you’re interested in actually visiting the Statue of Liberty, that’s a different ferry. Your $18 round trip ticket gets you the ferry (catch it at Battery Park), plus admission to both the statue and the Ellis Island Museum of Immigration. Extra fancy tickets you need to book way in advance can take you up to the pedestal or even the crown of the statue but tbh I actually think the distance view is all you really need from lady Liberty (also please plan your meals around this outing because the food options near the statue are horrendous). The more interesting feature here is the Ellis Island Museum, in particular the hard hat tour which is an extra cost but allows you guided access to the otherwise off-limits never-renovated immigrant hospital. A haunting art installation and excellent guides bring the complicated history of the island to life as you explore the monument frozen in time.



The city’s also brimming with other museum options if you’re a museum kind of person. The Met is exceptional by North American standards but of limited interest if you’ve had the opportunity to visit some of the great European museums and I found the much lauded Natural History Museum quite dated and ultimately underwhelming. My favourite museum in the city is actually in Brooklyn where the Transit Museum has collected old subway cars for display (with all their original advertisements!) in an old abandoned station. If you’re in a rush, pass by the information-heavy main floor and head right downstairs to track level.



But if you’re a guided tour person, the actual best thing to do in NYC is the NBC Experience Tour. Run by the company’s famous Pages, the tour will take you through 30 Rock’s famous studios as you learn behind the scenes tidbits about SNL, The Today Show, MSNBC, and late night comedy. I haven’t been on the tour since pre-pandemic but time was you could try out the meteorologist greenscreen and see into the Nightly News control booth. If you’re interested in live TV in particular, it’s a can’t-miss tour. If you’re more of a scripted TV fan, the tours out in LA will be more your speed. Being in the audience for a taping is also a very cool experience (I did the Daily Show way back in the day). Tickets, though free, can be hard to come by, especially if you’re aiming for SNL (there’s a whole lottery system, it takes a lot of planning and flexibility) but the talk shows are a bit more accessible and a fun peak behind the scenes.