Travel

The Best Free & Paid Tourist Activities in New York

August 29, 2015

Last weekend marked the completion of my New York to-do list for the year. New York is the most exciting city in the world to visit so after taking part in almost every tourist activity this city has to offer over the past year I thought I would do a recap of some of them – my favourites both free and what you can pay for.

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My FREE favourites

1. The Parks

Central Park

New York’s biggest and most famous park has to be top of the list. It’s such a relaxing spot in the middle of all the chaos that is New York City. There are so many activities to be had in the park itself:

  • Cycle around it
  • Row boats in the boat pond
  • Visit the famous ‘Madagascar’ zoo
  • Laze in sheep’s meadow
  • Go ice-skating at Christmas
  • Stroll the Bridal Path in the Spring and see all the cherry blossoms
  • Walk around and get lost in the beauty of it all

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Bryant Park

This has to be New York’s prettiest park, lined with flowers, tables and the New York public library. It is the place to be on Monday’s in the summer to catch the famous outdoor movie, surrounded by New York’s skyscrapers. You can also play boardgames or simply just grab a coffee at Le Pain Quotidian.

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Madison Square Park

I may be biased as this park is less than 5 minutes from my house but I love this park. With the views of the Flat Iron building and the Empire State – it’s great for building & people watching.

The park is the home of the first ever Shake Shack and is another great spot to catch a summer concert.

Screen Shot 2015-08-28 at 22.39.40 Washington Square Park

Another relaxing spot to explore – steps away from the West Village makes it the perfect place to start off a Sunday stroll.

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Brooklyn Bridge Park

Three things come to mind when I think of this park: Ice-cream, sunsets and carousal rides. This park in Dumbo has one of the best views of the city.

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Gantry Plaza State Park 

This hidden gem in Queens has another unbelievable view of the city – the best view of midtown Manhattan by far! It’s so pretty at any time of the year.

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2. Walk/ Cycle Brooklyn Bridge

Not as easy as it looks – it is actually quite a long walk and tiring cycle, but so worth it. The views are amazing (and there’s Shake Shack on the other side!)

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3. Take in the views in Dumbo

When you cross the Brooklyn Bridge – this is your view on the other side. Without a doubt one of the nicest areas in New York – with lots of lovely restaurants – definitely worth a trip!

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3. Wander around the West Village

Call by Carrie & the Friend’s apartment and appreciate the cute cafes, stylish people and pretty buildings along the way.

BeFunky Collage 4. Walk the length of the Highline

This converted train track is the loveliest stroll with lots of little suprises (views, artwork, food stalls) a long the way too. Located in the Meatpacking District you will have no shortage of restaurants to choose from afterwards.

10922558_1016011688413533_4662966665208408296_n 5. Staten Island Ferry

The best view of the Statue of Liberty – and it’s free!!

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6. Coney Island

Only a subway ride away – yet it feels like a different world. With the beach and the funfair it’s a nice escape from the city and such a fun day/ night out (See Beyoncé’s XO video for ideas!)

970423_653187111362661_1882372256_n 7. Explore Soho

Every street corner holds something different in Soho – after a lot of thought it’s fair to call it my favourite area in the city. I spoke about this briefly before in past blog posts here and here. This is the side of New York I love – rather than the typical tourist spots.

11953158_1141648849183149_8948067386970889387_n 8. Times Square

I couldn’t do a post on being a tourist in New York and not mention this spot. It is truly a crazily mesmerising place (one I’ve learnt to avoid while living here), but if you are new to New York you have to come here and experience the madness. Catch a broadway and/or comedy show if you have the time – you can buy tickets for both in Times Square.

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The Tourist Activities Worth Spending Money On:

1. Top of the Rock

Top of the Rock is something you can’t leave New York without doing. $30 entry and you literally walk straight up to the top. I’ve been up here 5 times and it just never gets old. It’s not a stressful tourist activity as most of the time there isn’t a line – there’s 3 floors that you can take in the views from, so it’s not over crowded and the views are just AMAZING!

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2. Night cruise around Manhattan

One of my favourite things to do in NY. Good music, drinks and this view – it definitely feels surreal! It’s also very affordable – you can pay as little as $15 for 3 hours. There are always deals on Groupon and Living Social – so keep an eye out.

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3. Grab a drink in a rooftop bar

One of my favourite activities. Some of my favourite spots include:

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4. Visit the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island
Prepare yourself for some lines as you have to go through Airport Security to get on to the island, but to be that close up and to see all of the details of the statue was really cool. She is so stunning!

Ellis Island is really interesting too – especially being Irish and knowing that years ago that would have been our first stop before entering the Big Apple.

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5. Sports Games

Depending on the time of year you are visiting there will be different sports on. American sports are a totally different experience to Irish sports and it really is such a fun day/ night out. I managed to get to American Football, Ice-Hockey, Basketball and Baseball while I was here (Ice-hockey & Basketball were my favourites). Check out Stubhub.com for tickets.

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6. Helicopter around the city

This was definitely a splurge of a tourist activity. It was $150 including the heliport fee – but honestly it was so worth every penny. It was the coolest experience ever flying over Manhattan and seeing it from above. We had an Irish captain who was kind enough to show us the best views. I’ve followed the Instagram account @NYonAir all year and have been dying to do it so it really was a big tick off the list. The song ‘Empire State of Mind Part II’ was playing in our headsets as we flew around – it literally felt like something from a movie.

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For foodies – check out the posts I did on my favourite NYC restaurants here and here.

I hope these suggestions help you if you are planning on visiting or moving to New York. Feel free to share it with anyone that might find it useful and if you have any more tips for me before I go please let me know on Twitter: louisecooneycom or Snapchat: lou1409. Gotta make the most of every second 😉

Louise x

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4 Comments

  • Reply Jenni / ByJenni August 30, 2015 at 11:01 am

    I can really recommend the restaurant Cafeteria in Chelsea. It’s such a trendy place. Love their grilled salmon sandwiches.

    • Reply Louise Cooney September 1, 2015 at 4:30 am

      Oh great – thanks Jenni! I was actually trying to decide on a place for dinner tomorrow – thank you!

      Louise x

  • Reply Emma Marnell September 1, 2015 at 11:03 pm

    I was just wondering what company you went with for the helicopter tour? I want to go on one but there are so many to choose from.
    Are all of the boat cruises pretty much the same?

    Thanks for the great ideas,
    Emma
    x

    • Reply Louise Cooney September 4, 2015 at 2:59 am

      Hi Emma,

      I went with Manhattan Helicopters: http://www.manhattanhelicopters.com

      They were great as they go fly up to Central Park – a few of the company’s just stick around the financial district. We had an Irish captain and he was so great – his name was Andrew Woods so if you do book with them be sure to ask for him.

      I’ve been on three different boat cruises and they are all fairly similar. The views are great on all, I’ve only been on them in the evening time – so it’s almost a party boat, very fun! Any companies organising the cruises should have a description of what they’re like on the website. The company Hornblower are the most popular for cruises as far as I know.

      Hope you have a great trip, let me know if you have any more questions,

      Louise x

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