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15 Really Cool Things to do in NYC

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New York city viewed from above on a sunny day with sunlight shining on the many skyscrapers and buildings - cool things to do in NYC

Looking for some fun, cool and unusual things to do in NYC? This is the post for you…

New York is one of the coolest cities I’ve ever visited, and one which just seems to constantly have something going on.

I’ve been several times and every time I go, it’s like visiting a whole new city. There’s just always something new and exciting to discover!

After my latest trip, I wanted to put together this list of cool things to do in NYC – to help you go beyond the tourist hotspots and discover the city’s personality. 

I’ll be updating the post every time I discover something new, so check back from time to time to see if anything new has made the list. And if you have a great idea for something cool, quirky, or alternative to do in New York – let me know and I’ll add it to the list! 

Cool Things to do in NYC

Catch a Broadway Show

Busy street with a blurred taxi and people in front of the Music Box theatre with the name written in green neon letters on a yellow background

On my last trip, I finally made one of my travel dreams come true and watched a show on Broadway. This is definitely one of the coolest things to do in NYC. Although it’s not exactly “off the beaten track”, a lot of visitors think it’s too expensive or too difficult to get tickets for Broadway shows and don’t bother. 

Well, I can tell you it’s a lot easier than you might think! I got mine from Vivid Seats (gifted), a website dedicated to sourcing tickets for live events. That includes not only theatre but concerts and sports as well.

This site is one of the safest and most secure ways to buy tickets online – it even comes with a 100% buyer guarantee. So you can book your tickets way in advance of even getting to New York if you want to, or you can book them a day or two before like I did, and you’ll have peace of mind knowing you’ve got legit tickets for an awesome Broadway show. 

And if you’re looking for some show inspiration – I can massively recommend Dear Evan Hansen, which is what I saw. The soundtrack is amazing, the show is really well produced, and the whole experience is super uplifting!

Or Watch Something a Little More Obscure

a street in new york city on a grey day with the large red brick building of the Public theatre on the right - cool things to do in NYC.
The Public Theater, New York. Image by Mike Grippi.

If you want to get even more off the beaten track in NYC, head to an Off-Broadway show. You can find some fantastic entertainment for the quintessential NYC evening of dinner, drinks, and theatre. Places like The Public Theater and Saint Anne’s Warehouse offer a wide range of shows, featuring new work and productions of classics. You might even see the next big thing; Hamilton premiered at The Public Theater before it was transferred to Broadway! 

Walk the High Line

The High Line in NYC on a sunny day with grass an dbushes growing on the tracks of an old railway and a light grey paved walkway besite it with the corener of a large grey stone and glass building visible above the tracks.

Over in Chelsea, the High Line is one of my favourite cool things to do in NYC. It’s a 1.45-mile linear park, built along a disused high-rise railway line above the city, so it has some awesome views. This completely free, non-profit public space provides a touch of tranquillity in a busy city! The High Line also plays host to a variety of events, festivals, and art projects – so there’s almost always something different to see when you visit.

Take a Superhero Tour

close up of a person's leg and hand in a spiderman costume holding the mask in a gloved hand with the sunset behind

NYC is a real star. After all, the city is the backdrop to a HUGE number of movies. In fact, 7 of the 10 most frequently used movie locations are in NYC! Fans of superhero movies, like the Marvel franchise, will probably recognise quite a few spots around the city, so this Superhero Tour from Get Your Guide is a great way to delve a little deeper.

You’ll check out iconic superhero movie sites, as well as where the writers and artists created your favourite characters. This is a great way to go beyond the usual sightseeing tours and try something a little different. Especially if you’re a fan of superhero movies or comic books!

view of the new york skyline with the empire state building visible in the centre - cool things to do in nyc

Visit the Smallest Museum in the City

When I visited New York the first time, I hit most of the city’s more famous museums and art galleries. But there are also dozens of awesome smaller museums dotted all over the city, and they make for some really cool things to do in NYC. Like Mmuseumm – a teeny, tiny little gallery housed in a freight elevator! Mmuseumm specialises in the “overlooked, dismissed, or ignored”. It’s obscure, quirky, and brilliantly off the beaten track!

READ MORE: Check out my list of the coolest museums in NYC for more inspo!

Explore The Vessel

The Vessel NYC copper coloured building

On my most recent trip to NYC, I headed to the city’s newest landmark, The Vessel at Hudson Yards. Comprised of 154 intricately interconnecting flights of stairs, The Vessel is an interactive artwork designed by Thomas Heatherwick and Heatherwick Studio. The idea was to provide a variety of heights, angles and vantage points, to offer a whole new perspective on the city. It’s also a seriously cool looking piece of architecture! Don’t miss it. 

Take a Graffiti Lesson

colourful street art mural in nyc with a black and white image of a couple kissing against a multicoloured background

You may have noticed that street art is one of my favourite things to discover in a city. In NYC there are dozens of awesome tours that help you discover the best street art in the city. Or, you could go one step further and actually make some! Book onto a graffiti workshop to channel your inner Banksy with an authentic New York graffiti artist. Definitely one of the coolest things to do in New York!

RECOMMENDED TOUR: Brooklyn Graffiti Lesson 

Cool Foodie Things to do in NYC

Time Out Market New York

new york city at sunset with people on the roof terrace of an apartment building in the foreground and the city skyline and brooklyn bridge behind

Recommended by: Jayne from Girl Tweets World, who recently spent six weeks living in the city and discovered some seriously cool things to do in NYC! Check out her guide to the best food halls in NYC for some more amazing foodie hotspots!  

Brand new to NYC this summer is this food market, bar and showstopping rooftop terrace in Empire Stores DUMBO. Nestled between the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges, this market offers epic views – AND a selection of some of New York’s best foods. Top picks include Juliana’s Pizza (famous Brooklyn pizzas by the original owner of Grimaldi’s) and Cookie Do – big globs of edible cookie dough in flavours such as cake batter and brookie dough.

DeKalb Market Hall

crowded indoor market hall with food stalls in a row - the closest one is decorated with paper lanterns and has a large green neon sign for falafel - New York food hotspots

Recommended by: Jayne from Girl Tweets World

DeKalb is a funky food hall hidden in a basement under a Brooklyn shopping centre. Over 40 vendors cooking a range of burgers, falafel, bbq and more. The best bit is you can get a taste of New York institution Katz Deli – without queuing.

Take a Dessert Tour!

close up of a hand holding a blue paper tub with cookie dough icing in front of the new york city skyline at sunset - foodie highlights NYC
Cookie Do at Time Out Market. Photo by Jayne.

My favourite travel buddy Wanderlust Chloe has an amazing post about the best desserts in New York. I genuinely want to eat everything on that list – but the one place that really stands out is .

It’s a cookie dough shop in Greenwich Village where you can get a delicious blob of cookie dough served up on a colourful ice cream cone, along with plenty of tasty toppings. Terrible for you? Probably. Do we care? Definitely not!

close up of a hand holding a purple doughnut with crisscrossed pink icing - dessert NYC
The Doughnut Project is another MUST for dessert lovers!

If you have as much of a sweet tooth as I do, eat your way through Chloe’s post on a self-guided food tour. Or, better still, you could book yourself onto an actual dessert tour like this one from Viator – which starts from £40.62. 

Dine with a Local

One of my favourite ways to discover a new city is to meet locals, and what better way to do that than over dinner? Food tours and cooking classes bring travellers and locals together for authentic foodie experiences! There are loads of cool foodie things to do in NYC, so I’ve linked a few of my favourites below:

Prices are often much better than local restaurants, and you’ll be getting a far more authentic experience with a chance to meet locals and get to know the “real” side of NYC.

Visit a Secret Speakeasy

close up of a metal cocktail shaker and muddler next to some glasses on a bar with the background out of focus

Prohibition-era New York speakeasies are all the rage these days, but is there anywhere in the world better to visit one than in actual New York City? Step back in time to the roaring twenties at The Back Room, a hidden bar disguised as the Lower East Side Toy Company. This is a genuine, original speakeasy that operated back in the actual Prohibition, so there’s a lot of history in this secret bar.

Speakeasies are definitely really cool things to do in NYC! There’s a whole list of the best ones on the tourist board’s website, so check that out for more inspiration.

Step Back in Time at Lexington Candy Shop

Luncheonettes were small, informal restaurants that once filled the streets of New York. Today, they’re far less common, but the Lexington Candy Shop is one of them.

It’s not a candy shop in the way you’re imagining, but if you want something sweet you can grab a slice of pie and a milkshake or a traditional egg cream. The owners still use the shop’s original coffee urns, and serve pretty much the same menu as they did in the forties! So sit yourself down on a padded stool at the bar, and travel back into New York’s history. 

READ MORE: 10 of the Best Coffee Shops in NYC

Cool NYC Shopping Experiences

Visit a Flea Market

neon sign which says artists & fleas in white writing on a black background next to a metal light made from a bucket with holes in hanging from a corrugated iron cieling - cool things to do in nyc
Artists and Fleas in Chelsea

One of my favourite things to do in NYC is to delve into the city’s flea markets. On my first trip, when I was still a penniless photography student, I had a great time hunting for vintage treasures. I also purchased a collection of fifty-year-old used postcards which is still one of the coolest things I’ve ever bought! If you looking for some quirky shopping in NYC, head to any of these flea markets and see what you can uncover. 

Browse the Indie Book Stores

cluttered book store filled with many stacks of books with a window out of focus in the background

NYC has an amazing collection of independent booksellers, with shops specializing in just about everything, from rare and old books, to poetry, to feminist works, to African American literature… to pretty much any other specialism you can imagine.

McNally Jackson, Astoria Bookshop, and Brooklyn’s Books Are Magic are a few of the best. Then there’s Brazenhead Books, a “speakeasy” bookstore located inside a private apartment that can be visited by appointment only! 

There’s also the Mysterious Bookshop – the world’s oldest and biggest bookstore focusing on mystery, crime fiction, espionage, and thrillers. Fans of the Netflix show You might also be pleased to learn that Mooney’s bookstore, Joe’s place of work, is actually a real shop – Logos Bookstore in Yorkville. 

Unusual NYC Tours

Is there anything you’d add to my list of cool things to do in NYC? Help other travellers go beyond the obvious by leaving a comment – I’ll add any awesome suggestions into this post! 


4 thoughts on “15 Really Cool Things to do in NYC”

  1. I’m just looking to take my 2 teens to NY around Easter – not been in 20 years! Are there areas you would recommend to say (or not stay) on a mid-size budget? (they are marvel fans & into art and food)

    1. If you’re trying to save money on accommodation in New York I think generally just avoiding central Manhatten is a good idea. Chelsea, Brooklyn Heights, and Lower East Side are all good neighbourhoods. You can get around cheaply and easily on the subway so you don’t need to be right in the centre. Hope that helps :)

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