New York City: Can’t Miss Things to Do and See

One of my favorite things to do when I lived in Connecticut was to come up with a list of places in Hawaii for my New England friends to visit. It started happening so often that I even made a word document. Whenever a friend reached out asking for advice on Hawaii, I would just send them that document. Now that I’ve moved back to Hawaii I get asked about once a year for my recommendations about New York City. I figured it was time I made a formal list for the Big Apple as well.

The 9/11 Memorial

I’ll admit it, I’m biased. I used to work right next door to ground zero. I watched the rebuilding and eventual opening of One World Trade Center. However, this powerful and respectful memorial surpassed all my expectations. It did a superb job of being able to capture the devastation and loss while honoring the victims. A trip to New York City would be incomplete without a stop at this memorial. #NeverForget

On the anniversary of 9/11 you can also see the Tribute in Light. This is an art installation that creates two vertical columns of light to represent the Twin Towers.

Tribute in Light in New York City

The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)

You will certainly find people that are a lot more appreciative of art than myself. However, even I stand in awe when getting to see the likes of Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night, Salvador Dali’s The Persistence of Memory and Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans as well as 200,000 other items. I used to be obsessed with Vincent van Gogh. I dare you to watch Vincent and Me and not be as well. It was such a surreal experience to finally get to see The Starry Night on my first trip to the MOMA in New York City.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met)

Can I just say one thing? Egyptian Temple of Dendur from 10 B.C. That’s correct 10 B.C. In this museum!

The Met in New York City

There is of course a plethora of other amazing pieces of artwork from various centuries and across the world. However, the Temple of Dendur remains my all-time favorite.

Not to date myself but since I already referenced one movie that was from the 1990s, here’s another one: The Thomas Crown Affair. I loved, loved, loved that movie and a big part of the plot took place around the Met and the artwork that it holds.

If all that hasn’t sold you, please note that the views of New York City from the rooftop bar on the top floor of the Met are stunning.

The Met in New York City

American Museum of Natural History (AMNH)

Clearly I’m now on a B-rated movie role now, so I’ll continue. How can you live in a post Night at the Museum world and not want to check out the real exhibits? Or here’s a little factoid for you super young Gen Xers or really old Millennials (aka my peer group that I assume is as well versed in the Friends universe as I am). Ross worked at AMNH as a paleontologist. (Come on – that’s cool stuff!). We took Emily to AMNH when we recently came back to New York City for a visit. She loved all the various animal displays.

Times Square

I get why New Yorkers hate this place. Believe me, I do. I spent two years with a commute that took me smack dab through Times Square. It was so annoying to deal with the congested foot traffic of tourists that added to my commute time. But for the non-locals out there, you have to love this most recognizable of places in the US. This is New York City. Home to the naked cowboy and Broadway and the NYE ball drop. Want to get out of Times Square for some place a little cheaper? That is easy to due considering that so many of the subway lines converge at Times Square.

Lastly, this is the place that I always felt the most safe commuting through. I’ll admit, I’ve had to burn the midnight oil from time to time at the workplace. Even in relatively safe suburbs, I would get a twinge of fear when walking to my car late at night. I was always worried just how well monitored the parking garage would be. But I never had those fears walking from my midtown office to Grand Central Station. The barrage of tourists still out and about at all hours of the night definitely make you feel safe as they wander on passed you with their camera phone and selfie stick in hand.

The Great White Way

Yes, tickets to New York City’s Broadway plays are expensive. Yes, the talent of the cast will ruin local productions for you forever. But seeing a production on the Great White Way is an experience you shouldn’t miss. This part of New York City is home to 40 plus theaters and some are over 100 years old. I’ll admit, I’ve been to some huge misses over the years (I’m looking at you Lestat) but most were phenomenal. I used to celebrate my birthday every year by going to see Wicked. And come on, it’ll make you feel cultured AF.

Chelsea Market and the High Line

I’ll admit it, for years I thought this was just another office building complex in New York City. It wasn’t until I went to meet a friend who worked in the building that I realized it housed retail stores and a food hall. Fun fact about me: I love food halls. And when you’ve had your feel of shopping and stuffing your face, head over to walk the High Line. The views of the Hudson are fantastic.

Central Park

This place is beautiful in any season.

When the snow falls, look to the steep hills to watch the kids sledding. Heck, join them as you can get a cheap plastic sled from any of the Duane Reade/Walgreens type of stores. You can also take your turn skating around Wollman Rink. I love the Central Park Zoo in the middle of winter, watching the animals come alive in the colder weather.

As the days grow longer and spring makes her welcoming appearance, you can sit and just take in the beautiful flowers blooming. Especially come to see the beautiful cherry blossom trees abloom with their varying shades of pink. Similarly, in the autumn one can come to take in the fall foliage. I’ve sat on a bench by myself in the late fall taking it all in and pinching myself that I lived there (okay a 40 minute train ride away but close enough).

Central Park in the Fall

And in the summer, you can make use of the various water activities, including gondola rides, paddle boating and model sailboat sailing.

Picture 199

Visit the Union Square Greenmarket

This farmers market is amazing. The food is so fresh and so varied with its rows of vendors selling everything from wine to roses. It continues to be the only place I’ve ever found squash blossoms. And the people watching is on point. My favorite was a local who would walk around the market getting his groceries with his cat calmly sitting on top of his head. No that wasn’t a typo. The cat just calmly stayed perched on his head while he shopped. If I ever win the lottery, one of the first things I’m going to do is to purchase an apartment near Union Square.


Bryant Park

I know I just gushed about Central Park, but Bryant Park is actually my favorite park in New York City. Located right outside Times Square it was so refreshing to see this green oasis after all that hustle and bustle. There is so much to do there despite its size. There is a beautiful outside-seating restaurant, a carousel (called Le Carrousel), ice skating in the winter, putt putt golf in the summer and people watching any time of year.


At 42,500 square feet, the NYC Flatiron location Eataly is the largest artisanal Italian food and wine marketplace in the world. Now this market has spread across the globe with several spots in the U.S., but back when it first opened, there was only one other Eataly, in Italy. We primarily went to eat food from one of the many restaurants but we also loved just perusing the aisles to see what groceries we could get, like a $1,000 bottle of balsamic vinegar. We may not have gone for that version, but picking up bread, meat, cheese and normally priced olive oil and vinegar always made for a wonderful picnic spread later on.

Grand Central Station

Grand Central Station used to be the place I would stumble into half asleep from my early morning commute and wish I had found a job closer to home. If someone had told me then that someday I would be adding this commuting hub to my places to visit, I would have laughed in their face.

It took moving away from the area (and the commute) to realize just how impressive this place is. If you don’t believe me, believe all the other tourists. Grand Central Station doesn’t have the highest number of commuters in the nation (that would be Penn Station), but it does have the highest number of visitors. There are so many restaurants to eat in (from Shake Shack to the famed Grand Central Oyster Bar), stores to explore (check out the amazing Apple store that worked hard when it was being built to blend into its surroundings), the fun Whispering Gallery and the beautiful celestial ceiling with the zodiac painted backwards.

If you liked this post, maybe you would like these New York City-related posts from Hawaii Girl Travels:

A Brooklyn Getaway: Revisited

Spa Castle: a mystical and magical place

Our 6-Day New York City Itinerary with a Toddler

The Best Restaurants in NYC: A Foodie’s Report

The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze: The Best Way to Kick Off the Holiday Season

Check out Destinations to see all the other places I’ve talked about.