Big City Family Fun

Top 28 Things to Do in Midtown Manhattan

Theater-District
Take in a show when you are in New York City. credit: Catherine Parker

As one of the top destinations in the U.S., a trip to New York City is a bucket list destination for most. Most first-time visitors stay in Midtown Manhattan. It offers the highest concentration of NYC attractions and hotels.  From Central Park South to 14th St., visitors can’t see it all in one visit with its parks, museums, and skyscrapers.  Midtown is one of the most popular areas for visitors in NYC. Here are the top things to do in Midtown Manhattan.

Top 28 Things to Do in Midtown Manhattan from A to Z

  • A Broadway Show
  • Bryant Park
  • Chelsea Market
  • Circle Line Cruises
  • Empire State Building 
  • Edge NYC
  • FAO Schwartz
  • Flatiron Building
  • Grand Central Terminal 
  • High Line
  • Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum
  • Junior’s Restaurant and Bakery for Cheesecake
  • Little Island
  • Macy’s Flagship Store
  • Madison Square Park
  • MoMA
  • The Morgan Library and Museum
  • New York Public Library
  • Radio City Music Hall
  • Rockefeller Plaza
  • Roosevelt Tram
  • St. Patrick’s Cathedral
  • Top of The Rock
  • The Vessel
  • Shed
  • Times Square
  • United Nations Headquarters
  • The Whitney Museum of Art 

A Broadway Show

The productions in New York are more elaborate than the traveling shows with different sets and more special effects. This is one of the top things to do in Midtown Manhattan. Catching a show tops many people’s to-do lists during their trip to NYC.

For school-age kids, one of the Disney productions is an excellent introduction to live theater. Packed with tunes they know by heart, elaborate sets and glittering costumes, kids stay glued to their seats. For older kids, Harry Potter kept my dudes (18 and 14 years old) entertained for the entire show, and they said they would attend another production with me (yeah!).

I have secured tickets to Hamilton in January, a few weeks out, too. A few times I have stood in the TKTS line for discounted day-of seats at its kiosk in Times Square. This is one of the Top Things to do in Midtown Manhattan.

The theater district runs from 40th to 54th Streets and from 6th to 8th Avenues. Choose from matinees or evening performances.  Purchase tickets before your trip.

ice rink at Bryant Park
Bryant Park is a top thing to do in NYC for the Holidays. credit: Catherine Parker

Bryant Park

Depending on the season, visitors will find different activities at Bryant Park, from its winter ice rink and a holiday market to summer picnicking and free entertainment. It’s a favorite with locals and visitors alike. Additionally, there are bistro tables and a handful of quick-service food outlets, along with a carousel ($4 a ride, open daily with seasonal hours).

Located between 5th and 6th Ave. between 40th and 42nd Street. Free to enter.

Chelsea Market

On the main floor, locals and tourists traipse through for standards like Sarabeth’s, Los Tacos No 1, and L’Art del Gelato. The tables might be limited at peak times.

Located at 75 9th Ave. Open daily from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Circle Line Cruises

Sure, you can take a bus tour, but a scenic cruise is better. There is no street traffic, and you can enjoy lots of fabulous city views. As a bonus, you can see NYC’s bridges from the water. This is one of the Top Things to do in Midtown Manhattan.

Tip: Check out the schedule before arriving to see which cruise appeals to you. Reservations are recommended during peak periods.

Departs from Pier 83 at W 42nd St. First Cruise at 10 a.m. Admission is based on age and type of cruise, and you can use a CityPass.

Edge NYC

Not for everyone, though if the idea of standing on a glass floor 100 floors above the street below sounds fun, there’s your chance. And there’s more, you can harness up and climb on the outside of the building, 1,100 feet above the ground. The observation deck seems tame with its angled glass walls that allow visitors to lean against the glass and see below. Also find a champagne bar if you need a drink, before or after.

Note: The outdoor areas close in inclement weather.

Located at 30 Hudson Yards. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Adult admission starts at $36, kids (6 to 12) admission starts at $31. Reservations are required.

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Empire-State
The view from the Empire State Building headed west. Credit: Catherine Parker

Empire State Building 

As a favorite building, the Empire State Building is a symbol of NYC and is known worldwide. Opening in 1931, it’s an Art Deco masterpiece and a National Historic Landmark. This is one of the Top Things to do in Midtown Manhattan.

The line starts downstairs before visitors board elevators to the Observation Deck on the 86th floor. It was the backdrop to many a movie. There is another observation deck on the 102nd floor.

Located at 20 34th St. Open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., depending on the season. Reservations are required. Adult admission starts at $44, and kids admission starts at $38, with demand pricing. This is a CityPASS attraction.

CityPass

If you are visiting several of the top museums in New York City, I recommend getting one of the CityPass. The C3 Pass allows you to choose three museums from a list of 11 sites. The CityPass (the one I use on my trips to NYC) includes five of the top attractions, like the American Museum of Natural History, the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, the 9/11 Memorial, and the Intrepid Sea Land and Space Museum

FAO Schwartz

The legendary toy retailer now lives at Rockefeller Center with life-sized stuffed animals, games, toys, and even candy. It’s a must, even for big kids.

Located at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, Open daily 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.  Free to enter.

Flatiron Building

The Flatiron Building is one of the most recognizable buildings in New York City. Presently vacant, it’s undergoing renovation. The former office building will be transformed into residences.

Located at 175 5th Ave.

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Walk through Grand Central Terminal during your 4 day NYC itinerary.
Grand Central Terminal is a transportation hub along with a top tourist attraction. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Grand Central Terminal 

Walk through the Beaux Arts Masterpiece, the largest train terminal in the world. The main concourse’s ceiling features an astronomical ceiling, a four-sided brass clock, and Tennessee marble for the stairs and floors. There is shopping and dining in Grand Central Terminal as well. This is one of the Top Things to do in Midtown Manhattan.

It’s a hub for subways and commuter trains, along with a shopping and casual dining center. Travelers can take Long Island Rail Road and MetroNorth trains from Grand Central. A shuttle, S line, is located downstairs in the subway area between it and Penn Station. 

Located at 89 E. 42nd St. Terminal Open From 5:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Free to enter.

High Line

Created from an abandoned New York Central Railroad Spur, the nearly one-and-a-half-mile elevated walking path and park is a must. Created in 2009, High Line is a destination for locals and travelers alike. As a bonus, it’s free, unless you want to grab a snack or a quick coffee along the route. This is one of the Top Things to do in Midtown Manhattan.

Located from Gansevoort St. to 34th St. with multiple entrances, some with elevators. Open 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. during the warmer months. Closes at 7 p.m. during the winter. Free

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Visit the Intrepid during your 4 day NYC itinerary.
With a retired Space Shuttle and the Concorde along with a submarine, the Intrepid offers all kinds of kid fun. Credit: Catherine Parker

Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum 

Clamber across the deck of the USS Intrepid to see a retired Concorde and one of NASA’s retired space shuttles. The Space Shuttle Enterprise is one of several on display across the U.S. This is one of the Top Things to do in Midtown Manhattan.

Then explore the USS Growler, a submarine. Along with several different military aircraft.

Located at Pier 86 W.46th St. at 11th Avenue, it is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Adult admission is $36, students are $34, and kids ( 5 to 12 ) are $26. You can also use a CityPass.

Junior’s Restaurant and Bakery 

With all the walking, it’s time for dessert. I recommend NYC-style cheesecake. Topping the best cheesecake list for years, it’s dense, not-too-sweet, and creamy. I ordered plain, and I didn’t share. It also holds for next-day snacks if you have a refrigerator. I might have eaten leftovers for breakfast.

Located at 1515 Broadway at 45th St. and 1626 Broadway at 49th St. Open Sunday and to Thursday from 7 a.m. to midnight and Friday and Saturday from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Little Island

Created from piers, Little Island is one of the newest areas to explore in Lower Manhattan. Located at Pier 55, the island and its gardens appear to float about the water. Enjoy a stroll to its high point for views of the Hudson or attend a live performance. It’s one of the top things to do in Manhattan with kids since they like exploring the island with its winding walkways.

Located at West 13th St. at Hudson River Park. Open daily at 6 a.m. and closes at midnight during the summer, 11 p.m. in the spring and fall and 9 p.m. during the winter. Free to enter.

Macy’s Flagship Store

Visit the Herald Square location for floors of shopping. Its front displays are legendary during Christmas.

151 W. 34th St. is Open Monday through  Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Madison Square Park

With the original Shake Shack, this park is a good stop for lunch. Find lots of tables, mostly in the shade.

Located at 11 Madison Ave. Open daily from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.

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Visit the MoMA during your 4 day NYC itinerary.
Take in the art at the MoMA, like Starry Night by Van Gogh. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

MoMA

See some of the most recognizable works of art, head straight for the Fifth Floor of the Museum of Modern Art. Find Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh, Dance by Henri Matisse, along with works from Andy Warhol, Frida Kahlo, and Pablo Picasso. Great for kids with short attention spans.

The MoMA provides guides for family visits. Visitors can also browse the gift shop for unique souvenirs. This is one of the Top Things to do in Midtown Manhattan.

Located at 11 W. 53rd St. Open From 10:30 a.m. To 5:30 p.m. Adult admission is $28 online. Kids under 16 get in free. 

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The Morgan Library and Museum

Explore Pierpont Morgan’s three-story library, rotunda and study. The opulent interiors are a must for readers and Harry Potter fans since it looks like Hogwarts.

Located at 225 Madison Ave. Open Tuesday though Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Closed Mondays. Adult admission is $22, students are $13 and kids (12 and younger) enter for free.

Museum of Mathematics

In a facility dedicated to math, learn how it provides structure along with patterns to the world. With hands-on exhibits learn about the importance of math in the everyday world.

Located at 11 E. 26th St. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. This location will close for an expansion in 2024.

New York Public Library

Between the granite lions on Fifth Avenue, this iconic Beaux Arts Library isn’t a traditional lending library. It’s a research library, and its name is the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. With its beautiful reading rooms, it is a popular destination for reading and studying. Additionally, it is also a popular destination for travelers. This is one of the Top Things to do in Midtown Manhattan.

The New York Public Library offers free weekday tours, and I recently went on one. During the 60-minute guided tour, I learned about the building’s architecture and the addition of archival storage under neighboring Bryant Park. We toured its many decorative rooms, rich with details and art. There’s even an iconic set from the Sex in the City movie inside the library.

The tour is free and reservations are required. The visitor center’s website offers the best place for information. There is also a free exhibit on the ground floor of the library with some of the most treasured items from its collection, the Polonsky Exhibition of New York Public Library’s Treasures.

Located at 476 5th Ave. in Manhattan. Open from Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (8 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday). Free to enter.

Radio-City-Music-Hall
The exterior of the Radio City Music Hall. credit: Catherine Parker

Radio City Music Hall

Next, tour the legendary theater and home to the Rockettes. After the Top of the Rock tour, stay at Rockefeller Center and tour Radio City Music Hall. Art Deco theater features rich architectural details from a bygone era along with some of Bob Mackie’s Rockettes costumes. This is a 60-minute guided tour.

Located at 1260 6th Ave. Seasonal tours are Monday through Saturday between 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Adult admission is $33. students and kids (12 and younger) are  $29. Reservations required.

Rockefeller Plaza 

Walk through Rockefeller Plaza, which features seasonal displays like the Christmas tree, ice skating rink, and summertime cafe. The Prometheus statue is another must-see during your visit. This is one of the Top Things to do in Midtown Manhattan.

The LEGO Store features NYC landmarks built in LEGOs, a must for all ages. There is also a Food Hall inside Rockefeller Center’s concourse level. It is free to enter. 

Located at 45 Rockefeller Plaza.  Open 24 hours a day.

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Take the Roosevelt Island Tram during your 4 day NYC itinerary.
Hop aboard the Roosevelt Island Tram for the best views of Midtown. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Roosevelt Tram

The bright red tram cars climb up and over the East River to get to Roosevelt Island. Get off and re-board to return to mid-town for some of the best views of Midtown.

It is located at the intersection of 59th St. and 2nd Ave. If you purchase an MTA MetroCard for the subway, you can ride for free or $4 roundtrip.

Top of the Rock

With some of the best views of Central Park, heading up to the observation area of the Rockefeller Building is also the best way to see landmarks like the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building. A quick elevator ride later, visitors can explore three different floors all with incredible views. This is one of the Top Things to do in Midtown Manhattan.

Located at 30 Rockefeller Center. Open from 9 a.m. to midnight.  Adult admission is $40, kids (6 to 12) are $34. Reservations are a must during the busy season. A CityPass can be used for the Top of the Rock.

Tour St. Patrick's Cathedral during your 4 day NYC itinerary.
Walk through St. Patrick’s Cathedral, one of the top architectural sites in NYC. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Regardless of religion, St. Patrick’s is a masterpiece of architecture. Take a few minutes to walk through the Neo-Gothic Cathedral in the center of Midtown. During my last visit, I saw a girls’ choir performing, and the acoustics were unbelievable. This is one of the Top Things to do in Midtown Manhattan.

Located at Fifth Ave. between 50th  & 51stSt. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Free to enter, though donations are accepted. There is also an iPad-led audio tour available, narrated by Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

the Vessel
The Vessel is 16 stories high and located in Hudson Yard. credit: Catherine Parker

The Vessel

It is a 16-story sculpture with 154 inner-connected flights of stairs and 80 landings. It was originally opened to the public in 2019, but you can no longer enter.

Located at 20 Hudson Yard.

The Shed

It is a performance and display space for the creative arts ranging from performance art, to visual art to pop culture.

Located at 575 Hudson Yard.

Times Square

As a top NYC destination, Times Square offers lights and energy 24-7. Head to Times Square in the evening or after a show to see just how bright it truly is. Find street performers, art installations, shopping and dining. This is one of the Top Things to do in Midtown Manhattan.

Located at the intersection of Broadway and 7th Avenue. Always open and free to enter.

United Nations Headquarters

As the headquarters for the United Nations,  the complex includes gardens along with the General Assembly, the Secretariat and Conference Buildings. For an in-depth tour, reserve the guided one-hour tour (available in six languages)

Located at 46th St. and 1st Ave. Open Monday to Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission for the tour is $28 for adults and $15 for kids 5 to 12 (kids under 5 not allowed on tours).

The Whitney Museum of American Art

Anchoring the southern end of High Line Park, The Whitney showcases contemporary art from the 20th and 21st centuries with a focus on living artists.

Located at 99 Gansevoort St. Open every day from 10:30 to 6 p.m. during the summer. Closed on Tuesday during the school year. Adult admission is $30, students are $24 and free for those 18 and younger.

Where to Stay

Disclosure: Consideration for brands mentioned.

Using A NYC MetroCard With Kids

Use the subway to get around, a must-have skill for teens who will be exploring on their own in a few years.To explore NYC via the subway, head to the nearest subway station to purchase an MTA pay-per-ride subway card.

I prefer to use the MetroCard vending machines, but cards can be purchased at the subway station booths. The vending machines accept credit cards and are usually faster than the booths, which might be closed.

Each fare is $2.90 when using a MetroCard, and you get a 5% bonus when you load more than $5.50 on each card. A single-ride ticket is $3 via the vending machines or booth.

The MTA unlimited passes come in 7-day and 30-day options. Stick with a pay-per-ride card unless you will ride the subway more than 14 separate times.

Tips and Hints for the NYC Subways

  • MetroCards can be used on subway trains and local buses.
  • A $1 new card fee applies to all new cards.
  • Free transfers between trains at the same station.
  • Metro cards bend easily so keep your cards in a protected place, like a wallet.
  • If this is your first trip to NYC, stay away from Express trains and buses.
  • Up to three kids 44″ and under can ride for free with an accompanying adult.
  • Free kids usually crawl under the turnstile before the paying adult swipes their card or use the nearby accessible gate.
  • Get a card for each person to swipe so you don’t look like a tourist. Kids 12 and older should be able to navigate by swiping Metrocards and moving through turnstiles.
  • Know if you are traveling Uptown (Bronx/Queens) or Downtown (Brooklyn). Trains and subway platforms will be labeled, and maps are in each train car and multiple spots in the subway station.
  • Since there are lots of stairs to navigate, pack your lightest stroller.
  • Hold hands if traveling with smaller kids, especially during peak periods.
  • Make sure your child knows to go to an NYPD officer or MTA personnel if he or she is lost. Give kids a card with contact information in case of emergency.

Know Before You Go:

  • Travel like a New Yorker and take the subway. Or grab a cab or other car service.
  • Free public restrooms are hard to find. Pack hand wipes, bleach wipes and hand sanitizer to clean up. McDonald’s is reliable but be prepared to buy a drink to get the key.
  • Wear comfortable shoes, you’d be surprised how much walking you can do in NYC.
  • The streets of New York are safe, but be aware of who and what is around you at all times.

One of the top areas to explore in New York City is Midtown Manhattan. From the Empire State Building to the MoMA find lots to experience. With parks and even cathedrals to see, spend a day walking between Central Park South and 14th Street. Here's the Top Things to do in Midtown Manhattan. Where to go in Midtown Manhattan | Top Sites in NYC | Best Tours in NYC #Manhattan #NYC

Catherine Parker has a passion for travel and seen all 50 U.S. States. As a former flight attendant with one of the largest airlines, there isn't a North American airport that she hasn't landed in at least once. Since clipping her professional wings after 9/11, she combines her love of the open road with visiting architectural and cultural icons. She is based out of Central Texas dividing her time between writing and restoring a pair of 100-year-old houses. She shares her life with her three kids and her husband.

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