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My 10 Favorite Things to See and Do in New York City

Have a great experience in New York City with these personal recommendations

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I often get emails from visitors and friends who want to know my personal recommendations for things to see and do in New York City. From free activities and guided tours to New York City museums and attractions, these are my favorite things to see and do in New York City.

More: My Favorite NYC Restaurants | Things You Didn't Know You Could Do in NYC

1. Circle Line Cruise

Guided tour
Circle Line's many cruises are a fantastic way to begin your trip to New York City. They offer visitors a great overview of New York City, as well as a great way to orient yourself. Ranging from 30 minutes (on The Beast Speed Boat Ride) to 3 hours (on Full Island Cruise), Circle Line's cruises are suitable for visitors of all ages.

2. Central Park

Central Park's Turtle Pond

Free
Central Park has offered a welcome escape from the concrete jungle of New York City for over 150 years. Take a walk, a boat ride or just enjoy a picnic in Central Park and discover for yourself why Central Park is so popular.

3. Top of the Rock

South View from the Top of the Rock at Night
Courtesy of Rockefeller Center Archives
Great NYC Views
The observation deck at the Top of the Rock might not be as famous as the Empire State Building Observation Deck, but that is one of its prime advantages making it far less crowded. In addition, timed ticketing means avoiding the crazy waits that are routine at the Empire State Building, and you can enjoy beautiful views of Central Park, as well as the Empire State Building itself from the Top of the Rock.

4. New York Public Library

NYPL Reading Room
Free
This Beaux-Arts building was the largest marble building in the U.S. at the time of its construction in 1911. In addition to beautiful architecture and an impressive book collection, the museum is features temporary exhibits on a variety of topics. Don't miss the free guided tour to get a full appreciation of the library's architecture, history and artwork.

5. Lower East Side Tenement Museum

Lower East Side Tenement Museum
New York City History
Accessible only by guided tour, this fascinating museum offers visitors the opportunity to visit former tenement apartments on the Lower East Side. They have tours that are particularly geared towards families, as well several general tours.

6. The Frick Collection

The Frick Collection
Art Museum
The Frick Collection is one of my favorite museums in New York City for several reasons. First, it's housed in the former mansion of Henry Clay Frick on Fifth Avenue, so you can experience his opulent home first-hand, while checking out his art collection. The museum's collection is also a manageable size, allowing visitors to explore the entire place in a single visit. I also enjoy how the art is organized much as Frick had displayed it in his home -- according to his taste, as opposed to by artist or by era.

7. Foods of NY

John's Pizzeria
Gourmet Guided Tour
Greenwich Village is one of my favorite neighborhoods for exploring and shopping, and this tour does a fantastic job of guiding you through the neighborhood's deliciousness as well as its history. This tour is also a great choice if you're looking for a gift for your NYC host or an activity to do together -- its enjoyable for both tourists and locals alike.

8. Ellis Island Immigration Museum

Great Hall at Ellis Island Immigration Museum

Museum
Whether your family passed through Ellis Island when immigrating to the United States or not, the Ellis Island Immigration Museum is well worth visiting. The ferry ride offers you fantastic views of the New York Harbor and Statue of Liberty, and the museum is loaded with interactive exhibits and displays that offer an amazing amount of insight into the immigrant experience.

9. The Cloisters

The Cloisters from Fort Tyron Park
Heather Cross
Medieval Art Museum
Heading up to Fort Tyron Park in Upper Manhattan where the Cloisters is located is a transporting experience -- it's amazing that you can be somewhere with so many trees and such beautiful vistas of the Hudson River and still be in Manhattan. The Cloisters itself was created using pieces of five medieval cloisters from Europe, and houses over 1,200 pieces of medieval art. The most famous pieces in the collection are probably the Unicorn tapestries.

10. Bike the Big Apple

Bike Tour
If you've been to New York City before and want to explore New York City beyond the tourist core, Bike the Big Apple is a great way to get to see deeper into New York City. On these guided bike tours of New York City you'll be able to see New York City's diverse neighborhoods and get a greater appreciation for the cultural variety that makes New York City such a vibrant city.
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