50+ Things to Do in Midtown Manhattan

This guide to Midtown Manhattan is jam-packed with sightseeing information and things to do such as seeing the best attractions, family-friendly activities, things to do at night, free things to do and more.  

 

 


TOP 10 THINGS TO DO IN MIDTOWN MANHATTAN

This section covers our top 10 things to do in  Midtown Manhattan, many of which can be enjoyed during the day or night. 

Many of the items listed below are included for free or at a large discount in one of the several tourist attraction discount passes available in NYC.


(1) Times Square

Times Square is every bit as electrifying as it looks like in movies and TV. There is quite a lot to do in this small part of New York besides gazing at the giant billboards.

A great – and free – way to experience Times Square is to take a seat at the famous red stairs of the TKTS Discount Broadway tickets booth and watch the world rush by. 

 

 

Many of the most popular NYC attractions are in Times Square, like Madame Tussauds Wax Museum and Ripley’s Believe It or Not.

Of course, Broadway shows line the streets of Times Square. Planning to go to a show? See the section immediately below to find out how to save money on theater tickets.

There is also plenty of shopping and some fun restaurants. Our Times Square Guide lists stores and places to eat, as well as dozens of more activities to do in Times Square.


(2) See a Broadway Show 

At any given time, there are dozens of different shows playing on Broadway to choose from. If this is your first time going to Broadway, we suggest you stick with something tried and true.

Here are our recommendations:

 

 

While Broadway shows can be expensive, you can find discounts. See our post on how to get cheap Broadway tickets.

Also, look at ticket resale websites like StubHub, where you can sometimes find tickets for lower than retail prices.

If you are traveling with kids, see the family-friendly section of this post where we include shows geared toward a younger or family audience.


(3) Museums and Attractions 

Below are museums and attractions you can find in Midtown Manhattan. Some of them have free days/hours which can really help if you are on a budget.

Also, several of them are included for free with the purchase of a tourist pass (see below for details).

A number of these museums and attractions have night hours, making them an excellent choice for a night out in NYC (see below). 

These attractions are very family-friendly. Find more family activities below.


(4) Go to the Empire State Building or Top of the Rock 

The observation decks at Empire State Building or Top of the Rock both offer incredible views. The views are somewhat different and each has pros and cons.

 

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If you need some help deciding which observation deck is best for you, read our post comparing the Empire State Building, Top of the Rock, and One World Observatory.

As of March 2020, you can go to New York’s newest sky-high observation deck, Edge at Hudson Yards. Find out more about getting tickets to Edge.

For more suggestions about where to get fabulous views of the Manhattan Skyline and more, see our post, Best New York Skyline Views.


(5) Utilize a Tourist Attraction Discount Pass

If you’re looking to see and do as much as possible, using a New York City tourist attraction discount pass can help you save money and time. 

 

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 Many of the attractions included are located in Midtown Manhattan. These are just a few: 

  • Museum of Modern Art
  • Empire State Building
  • Madame Tussauds
  • Madison Square Garden All Access Tour

These passes save you money by bundling dozens of popular attractions and tours into one discounted ticket (up to 55% off).

Some passes include discounts on Broadway tickets, dining, shopping and more.

Read our post comparing the NYC tourist passes available to you.


(6) Explore Grand Central Terminal

Located in the heart of Midtown, this famed train terminus is free to explore. It is such a spectacular site to visit that there are multiple tours offered of this New York icon. 

Find out more from our post on tours of Grand Central. This post also includes details on things you can do without a guide if you visit Grand Central.

 

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 If you do go to Grand Central, you can also visit the lobby of the Chrysler Building, which is located next door and is also free.

For more free activities, see the free things to do section below


(7) Rockefeller Center

This massive complex of buildings covers three full city blocks from 48th St. to 51st St. between 5th and 6th Avenues. Like a city within a city, there are many things to do here. 

You might enjoy learning about Rockefeller’s Center’s history and its striking artwork, sculptures, and architecture. See various guided tour options from our post on visiting Rockefeller Center.

Other popular activities to do at Rockefeller Center are to take tours of Radio City Music Hall and NBC Studios.

You can be part of the live taping of NBC’s Today Show. Also, you can get a fabulous bird’s eye view of NYC from the Top of the Rock.  


(8) Dine and Shop

With so many places to eat it is very hard to narrow it down to just a few. Our post on Times Square has a long list of restaurants. Below we list restaurants that are kid-friendly.

On the west side of Midtown, an easy choice is ​​City Kitchen, a huge food market located at 8th Ave. and 44th Street that will suit all tastes. On the east side of Midtown, a reliable source for recommendations is this article, Best Affordable Lunches in Midtown East by Serious Eats. 

As for shopping, Midtown is a shopper’s delight! The stores along 5th Avenue from 42nd Street to 57th range from H&M to Tiffany’s. There are also wonderful specialty shops in Rockefeller Center 

Plus, stores in Midtown stay open late! Some as late as midnight! See the section on things to do at night in this post for a list of shops with late hours.


(9) United Nations

Yet another iconic building in New York City, the United Nations headquarters is not actually IN New York City! 

In fact, it is not even part of the United States. The land and the buildings upon it are under the sole jurisdiction of the United Nations, not the U.S. government. 

You can take a tour of one of the most important global institutions. The tours are quite interesting and are family-friendly if you are traveling with kids. 

Read our post on how to take a tour of the United Nations.


(10) Discover Midtown Manhattan on a Sightseeing Tour

We offer several options to explore Midtown Manhattan including several pay-what-you-wish guided walking tours of Midtown Manhattan.

 

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If you prefer to explore Midtown Manhattan on your own, try our GPS-enabled audio tour, narrated by one of our tour guides or by using our downloadable self-guided tour pdf. Both of these can be used any time of day or night. 

See below for details on Midtown Manhattan tours.

 


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FREE THINGS TO DO 

There is no shortage of free activities in Midtown Manhattan. As mentioned above, visiting Times Square and Grand Central Terminal are completely free. You can also visit some of the finest museums in the world for free on certain days of the week.

Here are a few more free activities in Midtown Manhattan. Be sure to check out our post on free things to do in NYC.


Attend a TV show taping

Most of the taping studios for popular TV shows are in Midtown Manhattan. Attending a live taping is free and fun.

It only takes up a  few hours of your day, leaving you with time to do other things in the area.

Here are some of the shows with studios in the heart of Midtown Manhattan: 

Our post Live TV Show Tapings has all the details and insider tips on how to get tickets tohese shows and many more.


Visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral

St. Pat’s, as it is commonly referred to by locals, is the largest Catholic cathedral in America. Its neo-gothic style is stunning and it is free to enter and admire. You can also attend services there. 

Our post on visiting St. Patrick’s Cathedral explains how to visit for free and also how you can take an official guided tour.


Relax in Bryant Park   

Bryant Park is an oasis of green in the heart of Midtown has a wide range of events and activities for people of all ages year-round.

In the summer, the park shows free outdoor movies and hosts a number of other free events.  Check out our Summer Guide to NYC.

In winter, they open an ice rink in the middle of the park. See our post on ice skating in New York City.


Take a Tour of the Historic New York Public Library

Read our post on how to visit the library to see visiting hours, what to see there and how to take a free tour.

The library is also included in our pay-what-you-wish Midtown Manhattan Tour.


Ride the Roosevelt Island Tram

The Roosevelt Island Tram, which some might refer to as a cable car, provides a skyline view of the city like no other. 

Our post on how to ride the Roosevelt Island Tram can tell you where to get the tram, the cost, schedules, and other details.

It’s not technically free, but it costs the same as a subway ride which is under $3! Be sure to read our self-guided tour of Roosevelt Island.


Go to Trump Tower

Though Donald Trump no longer lives here, Trump Tower is worth popping into if only for a few minutes to see where history was made.

Its glitz and glamour are tacky to some and attractive to others. Find out for yourself by visiting Trump Tower. In the five-level atrium you can get food and shop and here’s a little tip: they have public bathrooms!

It’s also free to take our self-guided tour of Donald Trump Buildings in New York City.


See a Broadway Show 

While we can’t guarantee that you can see a Broadway show for free whenever you like, there are a few ways you can save quite a bit of money on tickets.

During this twice-annual Broadway Week tickets for select shows are two-for-one.

In July and August, you can attend Broadway in Bryant Park, and see free, short performances by the cast of some of the top shows.

Ticket lotteries can get you $10 tickets to shows – though you are playing the odds. Still, give it a go!

Other ways to save big on Broadway tickets are by purchasing tickets at the TKTS booth in Times Square.

Find out more from our post on how to get cheap Broadway tickets.

If you are looking for other things to do in New York City that don’t cost a thing see our post on free things to do in NYC.

 


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THINGS TO DO AT NIGHT

Many of the activities in the other sections of this post can be enjoyed at night. Grand Central Can be visited 24 hours a day. Times Square is always bursting with energy at night.

Below are things to do at night, and while some can be done during the days well, they can be extra special at night.

For more ideas see our in-depth post on things to do at night in New York.


Get a Spectacular Night View of NYC

As we listed above in the Top Ten section, taking in the view from either the Empire State Building or Top of the Rock is a not to be missed activity. When visited at night, the view has an extra magical aura as the city sparkles.

Starting in March 2020, New York’s newest sky-high observation deck, Edge at Hudson Yards, is open for business. Find out more about getting tickets to Edge.

If you need some help deciding which observation deck is best for you, our post will surely help, Empire State Building, Top of the Rock, or One World Trade Center Observatory?

Tip: For more suggestions see our post on where to get the best New York Skyline Views.


Museums With Late Nights

Take advantage of fewer crowds by visiting a Midtown museum when they have late hours. Note that some of them are free to visit on their late nights.

Find out about other free museums in NYC.


Attractions Open Late

These attractions have quite late hours, some as late as midnight or 1 am.

Since they are in the heart of Times Square, you can have a full night out by grabbing a meal, going to one of these attractions and then people-watch in Times Square.


See a Comedy Show 

Carolines at 1626 Broadway at 49th Street is a legendary comedy club is where performers like Jerry Seinfeld, Billy Crystal, and Rosie O’Donnell got their start. 

Broadway Comedy Club at 318 West 53rd Street features at least four nationally known headliners for a performance that lasts from 90 minutes to two hours.

LOL Times Square is a casual comedy club offers a variety of lineups and even has a family option since as we know, New York-style comedy can be a bit raunchy at times. 

Also, see our post on stretching your dollar at the best NYC comedy clubs.


Experience the Midnight Moment 

Every night from 11:57 pm to midnight, you can witness the world’s largest digital art exhibition in Times Square. 

The billboards are synchronized resulting in three fabulous moments of the same whimsical imagery.

Watch a short video of the synchronization


Dine Out

Midtown Manhattan has hundreds of restaurants to choose from. Our post about Times Square has many suggestions.

To narrow down your choices by type of food, hours, atmosphere, cost, etc., try using YELP for current and honest reviews


Relax at a Rooftop Bar  

Midtown has lots of them, and they offer a more intimate, small-scale view of the city around you. Check out our rooftop bar guide.


Go Bowling

Bowlmor Times Square has 48 bowling lanes, an arcade, billiards, and lounge areas serving beer and alcohol.

It is open Sundays to Thursdays from 2:00 pm – 12:00 am and Fridays/Saturdays from 2:00 pm – 2:00 am. 


Go Shopping 

New York truly is the city that never sleeps. For 24-hour shopping, head to the Apple Store on 5th Avenue and 57th Street. Check your email, play on the latest gadgets and more.

Many stores around Times Square are open late. Familiar chain stores like H&M, Gap, Urban Outfitters, Superdry, Old Navy, Sephora are open until 10 pm or later. 

For the child in all of us, the Disney Store is open until 1 am!


People-Watch 

The cast of characters in Midtown is a sight to behold. You’ll see everything from street performers to people rushing nowhere, from tourists speaking every language to locals with New Yawk accents. 

Some great spots are Times Square (try the famous TKTS Red Stairs), the steps of the New York Public Library, a bench in Bryant Park and inside Grand Central. 

By the way, TKTS sells discount Broadway tickets, so check it out!

Our post on things to do at night in New York has suggestions for tghe entire city after dark.

 


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THINGS TO DO WITH KIDS

NYC is a city made for children, believe it or not! With so many kids living in NYC, there are loads of activities to enjoy for locals and visitors alike.

In the other sections of this post above, you’ll find other kid-friendly activities like bowling, going to an observation deck, and visiting the United Nations.

Below are activities that a kid-focused, but also fun for everyone in the family. Also, take a look at our list of things to do with kids in NYC and our 3-day itinerary of New York with kids.


Broadway Shows Appropriate for All Ages

These are superb shows that people of all ages will enjoy. 

To find out about saving money on tickets, read our post on how to get discount Broadway tickets.

Also, if you are traveling to NYC in February, be on the lookout for Kids’ Night on Broadway when young people aged 18 and under can see a participating Broadway show for free when accompanied by a full-paying adult.

Our post on things to do in NYC in February will keep you informed about the date.


The New Victory Theater 

If you are traveling with children between 2-12 years old, check out this special Broadway theater.  

This is NYC’s first and only full-time performing arts theater for children and their families.  Check their show calendar to see what’s on.


Kid-Friendly Museums

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is by far the best kid-friendly museum in midtown. Exhibits are more than paintings on a wall. Much of the museum is installation art and interactive exhibits. 

MoMA also has audio tours for younger children and a separate one for teens. Better still, admission is always free for visitors 16 and under. 

Another big hit with the kids is the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.

These museums are curated with kids in mind. They are engaging and interactive.

For a long list of museums in all of NYC, including those that do not charge admission, see our post on free museums in New York City


Specialty Kids Stores

While not exclusively for kids, these stores are heaven on earth for many children (and some adults too!)

  • LEGO Store
  • M&M’s Store
  • Nintendo World
  • FAO Schwarz
  • Disney Store

These and other kid-friendly stores can be found on our map of 25 things to do with kids in Midtown Manhattan.


Play in Bryant Park

All year long this park right near Times Square has a full children’s program ranging from StoryTime, and a free hour of music, stories, and jokes.

There is also an old-fashioned carousel open all year for $3 per ride. 

The park also has a reading room, two ping-pong tables, board games and other activities that are fun for any age. 


Go Ice-Skating 

Midtown is the site of the best ice skating rinks in NYC. You can go to the famous Rockefeller Center Ice Skating Rink, the rink in Bryant Park, and Wollman Rink in Central Park. 

Read our post on where to go ice-skating in New York City


Family-Friendly Restaurants

Kids love milkshakes. If they love hamburgers too, then Shake Shack is the place to get food.  

To cover all taste buds in one place, go to either the food court in Grand Central Terminal or City Kitchen, a huge food market with seating two blocks from Times Square.

Our post on things to do in Times Square has a large list of restaurants including family-friends ones in and around Times Square.


Midtown Comics

Midtown Comics is both a comic book store and a toy store. There is plenty to see (and buy) for kids and adults.

TIP: Superhero fans should take a look at our free self-guided Superhero tour to visit many sites from your favorite superhero movies!


Get a Selfie with Cartoon Characters

For the little ones, you can find a bunch of ‘cartoon characters’ around Times Square. Look for Elmo, 

They will happily post with you for a picture, but they will be happier if you give them a dollar for it.


Enjoy a Frozen Hot Chocolate at Serendipity’s 

This eatery has been around for over 50 years and is known for their signature dessert, the Frozen Hot Chocolate.

Enjoying this dessert is a quintessential New York experience, so much so that it has been the locale of several films and TV series, including, of course, the 2001 comedy Serendipity, Girls and Gossip Girl

For more activities, see our map of 25 things to do with kids in Midtown Manhattan.

 


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GUIDED TOURS OF MIDTOWN MANHATTAN 

Free Tours by Foot

We offer several walking tours of  Midtown Manhattan. Our tours have no cost to book and have a pay-what-you-like policy

 

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We also have a GPS-enhanced Audio Tour as well as a printable self-guided tour you can take any time. 

Reviews: We are proud to say that on TripAdvsor we are rated 5-stars with over 5,500 reviews.  Take a look at our full calendar of offerings. 


Get Your Guide Midtown Manhattan  Tour

This 2.5 hours guided walking tour is a very reasonable $20 and covers the iconic landmarks of Midtown such as Times Square, Broadway, 5th Avenue, Grand Central Terminal, the Empire State and Chrysler buildings and much.

When: Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 3 pm.     
Price: $25 per person (no discount for children). Book your tour here.

Reviews: This tour has a 5-star review on TripAdvisor and is also highly rated on GetYourGuide. Guests consistently rave about the quality of the guides, whom they said were extremely knowledgeable as well as entertaining.

The one negative review was a guest who had received incorrect information about the meeting place thus is in the tour. Management was quick to reply and apologize for the miscommunication. All in all, this is a tour worth looking into.


Turnstile Tours Food Tour

This company is one of the few companies to offer a Food Tour of Midtown Manhattan. With so many people working in the area, lunchtime is crazy with people scrambling for the best food at the lowest prices and the shortest waits.

That’s where street food comes in. It’s quick, cheap and tasty. This 2-hour guided tour takes you to 6 of the best street food vendors.

When:  Fridays at 2 pm    
Price: $54 per person (two years old and younger are free). Book your tour here

Reviews: This tour is rated as “Excellent” on TripAdvisor with comments about the guides being amazing and the food even better. Comments reveal the customers a high level of satisfaction: “Extremely informative and delicious”; “can not say enough of what a great time we had”.

Guides were  “extremely personable and welcoming”; and “definitely recommended if you’re in Manhattan and looking for something different to do.” There were no negative comments for this tour.

 


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MAPS OF MIDTOWN MANHATTAN 

Midtown Manhattan map

A very detailed map made by the MTA, New York City’s official Transportation System provider.Downloadable map from the MTA, the official NYC Transport provider. Here is a map for Midtown East and Midtown West.

Subway Map and Subway Stations in Midtown Manhattan

Midtown Subways

  • 34th St-Herald Square  B/D/F/N/Q/R/W trains
  • Times Square-42nd St  N/Q/R/W/1/2/3/7/S trains
  • 42nd St-Bryant Park  B/D/F/M trains
  • 5th Avenue-42nd St – 7 train
  • Grand Central – 42nd St  4/5/6/7/S trains 
  • Rockefeller Center 47th-50th St B/D/F/M trains
  • 57th St F train
  • 49th St  N/R/W trains
  • 50th St 1 train
  • 5th Avenue – 53rd St E/M train
  • 57th St- 7th Ave  N/Q/R/W trains
  • 5th Avenue – 59th St – N/R/W trains

TIP: For help using the subway, see our post about navigating the New York subway and which Metrocard to buy.

Map of Free WiFi in Midtown Manhattan

In addition to any Starbucks and McDonald’s in Midtown, there are now many kiosks sponsored by LinkNYC that not only have free wifi but you can also recharge your devices – all for free. Also, see our post on where to find free wi-fi in New York.

 


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