12 New York City unique experiences

Besides being the city that never sleeps, New York has plenty of experiences to enjoy during your trip. I'll tell you the best ones!

Isabel Catalán

Isabel Catalán

17 min read

12 New York City unique experiences

Flying over Manhattan by helicopter | ©Hellotickets

New York has a lot of very original experiences to discover the unknown side of the city during your trip. So much so that for many it is the best city to travel to. The one that embraces you when you arrive and makes you feel like a New Yorker.

I tell you the best plans for you to have an indelible memory of your stay in the Big Apple.

1. Stroll through the sky of New York

Flying over Manhattan in a helicopter| ©Hellotickets
Flying over Manhattan in a helicopter| ©Hellotickets

Can you imagine crossing the sky in a helicopter at over 200 kilometers per hour? If you have respect for heights, maybe this plan is not a priori in the agenda of your vacation, but a bird's eye view of the immensity of this city is one of the experiences you should live at least once in life.

Here are some suggestions:

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why should you take a helicopter tour over New York: We all know that the city skyline is a spectacle in itself that can be discovered in different ways, but to do it on board of a helicopter is to elevate the experience to another level. It's a unique moment where the adrenaline rush of traveling at such altitude and speed is added to the beautiful views of New York, you'll feel your skin crawl and you'll be overcome with emotion!
  • What are the helicopter flights like: Flights are short and most tours last approximately 15 minutes. All routes follow the Hudson River and some follow the East River, giving you great panoramic views of New York, but in no case will the aircraft pass over the skyscrapers.
  • What is the best helicopter tour: If you ask me what is the best time to take a helicopter tour in New York, I think it depends on the views you want to have during the flight. For example, if you want to see the city expand to the horizon and observe the Big Apple buildings in all their splendor, I advise you to try to get a time close to noon while, if you want to see the Big Apple at sunset and witness the first night lights sprouting, then choose a time at the end of the day.

This is a totally recommended experience to have during your New York City getaway, without a doubt. If you want to know more about helicopter flights over Manhattan, take a look at the article helicopter ride over New York where you will discover all the details to enjoy this unique activity on your trip.

Book your helicopter flight over New York

2. Experience the NBA, the best league in the world!

Madison Square Garden| ©Hellotickets
Madison Square Garden| ©Hellotickets

One of the most fascinating spectacles you can attend in the United States is an NBA game. Whether it's because basketball is your passion or because you want to experience the madness and the atmosphere that this sport awakens in New York, it is a unique experience that you have to live at least once in your life.

There are two NBA teams in New York that fight for the title and compete from October to April in the National Basketball League:

  • The New York Knicks play at the mythical Madison Square Garden, located in midtown Manhattan.
  • The Brooklyn Nets play at the modern Barclays Center in Brooklyn, to which they moved a few years ago.

When to travel to New York to enjoy the NBA?

If you are traveling to the city during the preseason, that is, before the official season starts, I recommend that you keep an eye on the teams' preseason schedule because they usually play friendly games in early October.

But the NBA games that will take place in New York are only guaranteed between the months of October to April. From then on, everything will depend on whether the New York Knicks or the Brooklyn Nets manage to qualify for the Playoffs and ultimately for the NBA Finals.

If you are an NBA fan and you would like to include a basketball game in your trip to New York, in my article how to buy tickets to watch NBA games in New York I tell you everything you need to know about this competition, the local teams and how to get your tickets, among other things.

Book NBA tickets

3. Have a picnic in Central Park

Central Park| ©Broadway
Central Park| ©Broadway

Fancy a picnic on a sunny day surrounded by nature? Set aside some time in your busy schedule to enjoy a relaxing moment in Central Park, New York's largest and most famous park. Any day is ideal to visit, but it is true that Sundays have a special magic, as it is a holiday and many New Yorkers take the opportunity to go and spend a day outdoors doing a photo tour, playing sports or just relaxing and having a picnic in the meadows.

The Great Lawn is the largest meadow in Central Park, where people gather to sunbathe, read a book or chat when the weather is nice. Here you can spread out a blanket and enjoy a fantastic picnic in this beautiful corner of Manhattan. It is one of the most pleasant and recommended experiences to live in New York.

After the picnic, I recommend taking a tour of Central Park to visit iconic places such as Bethesda Terrace, Strawberry Fields, Belvedere Castle or the statue of Alice in Wonderland. If you want to know more about Central Park in the post 10 things to see and do in Central Park in New York I tell you all about this wonderful park of international fame.

Plans in Central Park

Central Park offers numerous plans for all tastes. Here are the most popular ones:

Where to buy take-out food?

  • Street stands: There are several food stands scattered throughout Central Park where you can buy hot dogs, sandwiches, waffles, ice cream, and drinks.
  • Whole Foods Market: Located at 10 Columbus Circle, this supermarket has a varied buffet of salads, sandwiches, burgers, prepared dishes, organic products and juices.
  • The Plaza Food Hall: This is a food market in the subway floor of the Plaza Hotel (1 W 59th St.) with a bakery, pastry shop and bar/restaurant where you can buy different foods for picnics. You can order a take away to go to Central Park.

Book your plan in Central Park

4. Go shopping in New York

Macy's| ©Hellotickets
Macy's| ©Hellotickets

How many times have you dreamed of shopping in New York? This city is the mecca of shopping and offers all kinds of possibilities for all tastes: from department stores and outlets, to luxury and design boutiques without forgetting the famous flea markets or neighborhood stores where you can find a special souvenir.

Walking through the streets you will always see a store that catches your attention and invites you to enter to browse their products. In addition, although the price difference with Europe is not excessive, it can be significant, which will probably encourage you to give in to temptation and spend. Be that as it may, shopping in New York is an experience not to be missed.

Strolling down Fifth Avenue

How about a stroll down the famous Fifth Avenue? This is one of the most important arteries of the city and where are located some of the most exclusive stores in the Big Apple as Saks Fifth Avenue (611 5th Ave), the Apple Store (767 5th Ave), the legendary Tiffany's jewelry (610 5th Ave), Nike (650 5th Ave), the NBA Store (545 5th Ave) or Armani (717 5th Avenue), among many others.

Route through the New York malls

If you like shopping malls you must visit The Shops at Hudson Yards (20 Hudson Yards) in the new trendy neighborhood west of Manhattan, Westfield World Trade Center Mall (185 Greenwich St.) in Lower Manhattan just below the impressive The Oculus or Macy's the most popular mall in the United States in Midtown Manhattan (151 W 34th St.).

Unique markets and stores

One of the best things to do in New York is to browse its flea markets. These are not the typical markets where objects are piled up without rhyme or reason, but there is a careful presentation that attracts the eye to the stalls to tempt you to take a unique souvenir home.

Such is the case of Brooklyn Flea Market (at Manhattan Bridge Archway - 80 Pearl St. Winter Brooklyn Flea at 25 Kent Ave. 8th fl.) in Williamsburg, Artists and Fleas inside the Chelsea Market in the Meatpacking District next to High Line Park (88 Tenth Avenue), Grand Bazaar on the Upper West Side (100 W 77th St.) or Canal Street Market in Chinatown (100 W 77th St.).) or Canal Street Market in Chinatown (265 Canal St),

On the other hand, the city is full of tourist souvenir stores where you can buy a gift for your family or friends, but if you are looking for something different, in this post I tell you 10 things to buy in New York in unique and original places.

Book a shopping tour in New York

5. Kayak the Hudson River

Paddling the Hudson River| ©Hellotickets
Paddling the Hudson River| ©Hellotickets

During a trip to New York, you will most likely have a busy schedule with visits to museums, monuments or markets, among many other places.

However, if you are a sporty person who likes to spend time outdoors, my advice is to take advantage of your getaway to New York to live a unique experience while doing something different that was not in your plan. For example, go out and play sports while admiring the city skyline from the water and without spending a single penny.

How? Go to Pier 96 on the Hudson River, near the Intrepid Air and Space Museum! From the end of May to October you can kayak and enjoy the Manhattan landscape aboard one of these boats. The company offering this free activity is Manhattan Community Boathouse.

How to participate?

It's easy. You don't have to make any kind of reservation, just go to the dock where the company operates and sign a waiver stating that you know how to swim. After storing your belongings in a locker, all you have to do is wait for a kayak and paddle to be assigned to you so you can dive into the water. If it's your first time doing this sporting activity as it happened to me, don't worry because there are monitors at each dock who will teach you how to get in and paddle. In addition, they will provide you with a life jacket for safety.

Although the kayak tours on the Hudson River last 20 minutes, you will enjoy them very much because it is a lot of fun. The area where you can navigate is delimited by buoys and you are not allowed to leave the area. It is one of the New York experiences you can't miss!

If you want to navigate the river in another very special way, you can also book this zodiac ride on the Hudson where you can capture the best snapshots, as well as see firsthand the impressive monuments that New York has to offer.

Book a zodiac ride on the Hudson River

6. Feel the magic of Broadway!

The Lion King| ©Broadway
The Lion King| ©Broadway

You go to New York to be surprised at every corner, to have fun and even to daydream. That's what Broadway musicals are for, where you can let your imagination fly into fantasy worlds that will make you enjoy like a child, no matter how old you are!

Whatever time of year you visit New York, one of the essential things to do is to attend a musical on Broadway, the famous boulevard full of theaters that runs through the center of Manhattan, including Times Square. You can't miss the magic of Broadway. It is a unique experience to live in New York that you won't find anywhere else. Its musical numbers are legendary and its majestic staging transports you to a dream world. They leave you speechless.

With hundreds of annual performances, Broadway is the mecca of New York theater. Here you can see prestigious plays such as The Lion King, Wicked, Chicago or Aladdin, among many others.

How to get your Broadway tickets?

Broadway musicals are one of the most popular shows in New York, so tickets sell out very quickly. If you want to know how to buy tickets for a Broadway musical, I recommend you to read the article the 10 best Broadway musicals in New York where I tell you how to get your tickets and what are the best musicals that are playing this season.

Book tickets for Broadway

7. Experience a night at the movies at Bryant Park!

Bryant Park| ©Hellotickets
Bryant Park| ©Hellotickets

One of the experiences I enjoyed the most during one of my New York City getaways was attending the Bryant Park Film Festival during the summer. This little oasis in the middle of bustling Midtown Manhattan is one of the most beloved gardens by New Yorkers and when temperatures rise, it becomes a refuge to combat the intense heat under the shade of its lush trees.

If there is one thing that Bryant Park is known for, it is its great cultural agenda: from writing workshops and film gatherings to musical concerts and a long etcetera.

Why not dedicate an afternoon to go to the movies in New York during your trip? A good plan for Monday nights during the summer in the city is to go to Bryant Park to enjoy its outdoor film festival. In front of the park's famous fountain a giant screen is set up where classic movies are shown while the audience picnics on the lawn and enjoys the evening lying on the grass.

When does the curtain open?

The area set aside for watching the film opens at 5 pm so that the public can take their seats, although the film starts between 8 and 9 pm. From experience I advise you to go early to get a good spot on the lawn and a popcorn cone, which is free at the entrance if you arrive early.

While waiting for the film to start you can relax lying on the grass, chat, read, review what you have left to see of New York or have a picnic while enjoying the festive atmosphere in Bryant Park.

Isabel's Traveller Tip

Did you know that the public chooses the film of the night at this festival? To participate follow the @vultur Twitter account, which proposes several options and the one with the most votes will be screened.

8. Have a coffee in a secret waterfall between skyscrapers

A waterfall in the middle of New York| ©Hellotickets
A waterfall in the middle of New York| ©Hellotickets

New York is a bustling city at any time of day, where it is a constant to see the incessant traffic on the streets and people in a hurry everywhere. Not for nothing is it also known as "the city that never sleeps"!

It is, therefore, that discover small treasures that are not normally listed in the travel guides on the way to any of the tourist attractions that are in the center of New York is always a joy.

Especially when it comes to gardens. It is wonderful to come across small oases in the middle of the asphalt where you can take a break surrounded by water and vegetation. Such is the case of Greenacre Park and Paley Park, both in Midtown Manhattan.

Why go to these parks?

In New York there are many parks, the most popular of all being Central Park, the green lung of Manhattan and the largest urban park in the city that you will have seen in countless movies and series.

However, what makes Greenacre Park and Paley Park different from other parks are two beautiful waterfalls that adorn the environment and whose sound of water transports you to a quiet place where you can get away from the hustle and bustle of the city while having a coffee or reading a book at one of the cozy tables available to visitors. The trees in both parks create that feeling of intimacy and serenity that I love about this place.

My favorite time to visit is in spring and autumn, when the flora is at its peak. For example, in the fall the trees looked beautiful and were decorated with the pumpkins so typical of Halloween and Thanksgiving. You will be able to take some very cool, out of the ordinary photographs here.

Where are they?

  • Greenacre Park: It is located in Midtown East at 217 E 51st Street.
  • Paley Park: It is located between 3 East 53rd Street and Fifth Avenue.

9. Toast to your trip on a rooftop in New York City

Views from 230 - 5th Rooftop| ©Hellotickets
Views from 230 - 5th Rooftop| ©Hellotickets

After a long day of sightseeing around the city, nothing better than going up to one of the wonderful rooftops in the city to contemplate the New York skyline at sunset, watching with a drink in your hand how the sun fades and little by little thousands of light bulbs light up to illuminate the New York night. It is one of the most unforgettable experiences I have ever had there!

The essential thing is to get to the bar, sit at the table and order your favorite drink to enjoy the panoramic views from any of the rooftops in New York. If you have the opportunity, try to visit several rooftops in completely different areas of the city: the perspectives will be more varied and you will be surprised with the different facets of the Big Apple.

Almost all rooftops have Happy Hour. If you have planned to go to several, it is best to do so during Happy Hour to save money that you can spend on other things during your trip. Finally, remember that to access a rooftop you will have to bring your passport or an identity card, because if you are under 21 years old you will not be allowed to enter. In my article the 10 best rooftops in New York I give you some ideas to go for a cocktail in the best company.

10. Celebrate Chinese New Year eating in Chinatown

Chinatown| ©Hellotickets
Chinatown| ©Hellotickets

In many cities around the world where the Chinese community is present, the Chinese New Year, the most important festival of this culture, is celebrated. The date depends on the lunar calendar but usually takes place in February and is celebrated in style.

In New York it is lived in a special way and I have been lucky enough to witness it on one occasion. It is very worthwhile because every year a different animal is welcomed and thousands of people participate in a parade of floats, dances, music and dragons. It is a display of color, joy, dance and illusion that is palpable in the atmosphere.

It is an event for all ages that is attended by many people, both New Yorkers and tourists. I recommend that if you go to see the parade look for a street crossing from which you can observe it well and experience the atmosphere. When it's over, don't hesitate and go to a restaurant or food stall in Chinatown to enjoy authentic Asian cuisine at very reasonable prices.

Where to eat in Chinatown?

Chinese cuisine is one of the most appreciated in the world for its variety of ingredients, flavors and textures. If you consider yourself a foodie, in this New York neighborhood you are going to have a great time because you will find numerous restaurants and bars where you can try some of the best Asian specialties in Manhattan.

I recommend places like Xi's an Famous Food: at 45 Bayard Street, Big Wing Wong at 102 Mott Street or Buddha Bodai: at 5 Mott Street (near Columbus Park and with very good options for vegetarians).

If you still have time and want to take a walk around Chinatown, in my article 10 things to see and do in Chinatown in New York I tell you everything you can visit in this picturesque New York neighborhood.

Book a Chinatown tour

11. Get Married in Times Square for Valentine's Day

Times Square| ©Hellotickets
Times Square| ©Hellotickets

Many couples head to New York in February to celebrate Valentine's Day in a different way. There are many romantic plans to do in the city, but getting married in Times Square is undoubtedly one of the most unforgettable experiences to live in the Big Apple.

Under the slogan "Love in Times Square", several couples swear eternal love either by getting engaged, getting married or renewing their vows withNew York as a witness. Can you imagine surprising your partner by being one of them?

To be among the lucky ones on February 14, you must register in advance online. A sweepstakes will determine who will experience a very original Valentine's Day. What a special anecdote to tell the grandchildren, right?

Other Valentine's Day plans

But this is not the only way to celebrate Valentine's Day in New York - there are many, and here are just a few of them:

  • Tribute to Love in Times Square: Every year an interactive sculpture with a love-related theme is installed so people can take some romantic photos of their trip to New York with lots of passion in the background.
  • Ice skating at Wollman Rink: Located in Central Park, the sensation of skating on this rink is unparalleled as we have the beautiful winter landscape of the park on one side and the views of the mythical skyscrapers in the background. It looks like something out of a movie!

12. Take the Roosevelt Island cable car to Roosevelt Island

Views from the cable car| ©Hellotickets
Views from the cable car| ©Hellotickets

Although not one of the most popular tourist attractions for visitors to New York, the Roosevelt cable car offers beautiful views of Manhattan and is well worth a visit.

Not only because it is not the typical site crowded with tourists, which is sometimes appreciated during the trip, but also because of its special charm and because it also connects to Roosevelt Island, a very quiet place to go and enjoy a nice walk.

Why do I like Roosevelt Island?

I love taking the cable car to Roosevelt Island because in spring, the East River bank is a great place to enjoy the cherry blossoms with the New York skyline in the background. Here you will have the opportunity to take a nice photo of your trip!

In addition, there are several overlooks along the water and playgrounds to let the kids play outdoors for a while if you are traveling to New York as a family. They can even visit a cat sanctuary during the ride.

How to take the Roosevelt Cable Car?

It is a very economical ride because you only need the Metrocard to travel, the same card to travel by bus or subway in the Big Apple. If you want to know more about this activity, I recommend you take a look at my article on how to take the Roosevelt Island cable car in New York and everything you can see on Roosevelt Island.