Top 10 Essential New York Experiences

You can never truly say a trip to New York is complete without visiting the Statue of Liberty or if you haven’t ventured underground and took a subway ride just like the millions of other New Yorkers who do so on a daily basis. Every city has its must-see sights and must-do activities so just like the former Late Show host David Letterman’s famous segment, let’s countdown the top 10 essential New York City experiences.

Top 10 Essential New York Experiences

10. Buy and eat a hotdog from the street carts

Top 10 Essential New York Experiences: Hotdog Cart on Fifth Avenue
New York Hotdog Cart on Fifth Avenue: Image on Flickr by Kathleen Conklin by Kathleen Conklin, CC BY 2.0

Many will caution against it due to health and safety reasons, but ask any New Yorker around and they’ll tell you that some of the best hotdogs come from street cart vendors that litter the streets of New York. Add a bit of mustard, pickles, onions, and sauerkraut, and all is right in the world.

9. Get on a yellow cab

Top 10 Essential New York Experiences: NYC Yellow Taxis in Soho
NYC Yellow Taxis in Soho: Photo Stefano / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

It’s true that there are certainly cheaper and more efficient ways to get around New York like Uber, Lyft, or good ole’ rental cars, but nothing beats a ride in a New York taxicab. Hailing itself in an art form and the drive can sometimes feel like roller coaster ride. What’s more, the drivers themselves are some of the most knowledgeable and fascinating people you’ll meet on your vacation.

8. Have a drink at a rooftop bar

Top 10 Essential New York Experiences: View from Skylark, Times Square NYC
View from Skylark, Times Square NYC: Photo icoNYCa / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

New York City is best seen from an elevated platform. That’s why the most expensive real estate listings in the city are located on top floors. Fortunately for meager salary earners like you and me, we can still admire the city from some of the best rooftop bars like Skylark and Berry Park. The drinks might run you $20 a pop, but that’s cheap…comparatively speaking.

7. Hit a $1 pizza joint and fold it when eating

Top 10 Essential New York Experiences: $1 Pizza Slices near Times Square
$1 Pizza Slices near Times Square

Who cares that the topping is just cheese? The fact that you can eat a perfectly adequate meal for a mere dollar in New York City is one of the many essential New York experiences worth writing about. Just remember to fold your pizza when eating to blend in with the local crowd.

6. See a show

Top 10 Essential New York Experiences: UCB NYC, Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Chelsea
UCB NYC, Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Chelsea: Photo Russell McGovern / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Hollywood might be the place where movies are made, but New York certainly triumphs when it comes to stage production. It doesn’t matter whether it’s an elaborate Broadway musical or a simple live comedy skit by the members of the Upright Citizens Brigade; you’ll always have a great time.

5. Head Uptown

Top 10 Essential New York Experiences: The Cloisters
The Cloisters

Most visitors tend to forget that Manhattan goes beyond the twinkling lights of Times Square. In fact, Uptown, on both the east and west sides, provide such contrast that you’ll likely forget you’re in New York City. Check out The Cloisters on the Upper West Side for a great collection of medieval art and spectacular views of the Hudson River.

4. Visit Central Park

Top 10 Essential New York Experiences: Central Park, Winter
Central Park, Winter

Central Park is every New Yorker’s playground and urban oasis. It also happens to contain a number of interesting attractions including a memorial to the late Beatle, John Lennon, a giant ice-skating rink with unbeatable views of the city, a zoo with penguins, and a disused castle that now serves as one of Central Park’s visitor center.

3. Bargain shop

Top 10 Essential New York Experiences: Century 21 NYC
Century 21: Photo Chor Ip / CC BY-SA 2.0

The Big Apple is a bargain shopper’s paradise. Forget the flagship stores on Fifth and Madison Avenues and seek out the giant discount stores like Loehmann’s, Century 21, and Conway instead. You’ll find designer label clothing, shoes, and accessories for a fraction of the price of high-end department stores. New York also has a number of flea markets and specialty vintage stores located in Chelsea and the Meatpacking District neighborhoods.

2. Ride the subway

Top 10 Essential New York Experiences: Waiting for the Subway NYC
Waiting for the Subway: Photo Colin Mutchler / CC BY 2.0

One of the essential New York experiences involves learning how to work out the intricate network of subway lines and utilizing it as your main mode of transportation. Outside of sitting on the Great Lawn at Central Park, the Subway is one of the best places to people watch in New York because you’ll see all walks of life pass through its turnstiles. Some underground stations also have entertaining musical or artistic performances and beautiful works of urban art.

And finally…

1. Pay Lady Liberty a Visit

Top 10 Essential New York Experiences: Statue of Liberty Head
Top 10 Essential New York Experiences: Statue of Liberty Head: Photo David Saddler / CC BY 2.0

The Empire State Building might be New York City’s most famous landmark but paying a visit to Lady Liberty tops my list of top 10 essential New York experiences. You’ll truly get a sense of what it meant for the thousands of migrants that passed through and ended up staying in the city. Make sure you take some time to explore the adjacent Ellis Island as well where you will see artifacts and a number of interactive displays that chronicles the island’s role as an immigration complex for over 50 years.

About Iris A


Born in the Philippines, but grew up in Texas, Iris has been traveling and writing about her experiences for well over a decade. Her work has been published on well-known travel sites like Hipmunk (#hipmunkcitylove) and D Magazine Online Travel Club. She has been all over Europe, the US, and has recently started exploring Latin America. She loves trying local cuisine and visiting UNESCO deemed World Heritage sites. Her favourite city is New York, with London, following a close 2nd. You can follow her on Twitter @sundeeiris or through her travel blog, Traveling With Iris.

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    Claudio Henrique de Godoy

    $1 pizza? Where do I buy my ticket?


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