By its grandeur, its originality and its extravagance, New York is definitely not a city like the others. Which is why I will not mention in this article the usual and unavoidable tourist spots (Empire State, Statue of Liberty, Times Square…) instead I will talk about original and/or unusual activities to do absolutely which will make your journey unique and unforgettable.
#1 – Air Transport – Manhattan in a Limousine
Manhattan in a Limousine
What is better than to start your holidays in New York with a bang? After a long journey in your plane (which is not always the most comfortable), you will have a great pleasure to sit in a really soft leather seat and to be driven to your hotel without moving an inch from your finger. The plus: seeing for the first time the skyscrapers in Manhattan through the windows of your limousine is almost magical and will stay in your memories forever.
Budget: starting from 40€
Booking: we chose Viator.com which lists almost every activity and excursion to do in NY at a reasonable price.
#2 – Appear for free on the giant screens in Times Square
Appear for free on the giant screens in Times Square
Who never dreamt of appearing on the giant screens of Times Square? The brand American Eagle understood this very well and offers you this opportunity for a minimal price!
You just have to go into the American Eagle Shop in Times Square and to buy any item there. A photograph will wait for you once you exit the shot and under the condition that you present your ticket, will take your picture and also ask if you want to add a little message which will appear next to your photo. Meanwhile, the prices of the brand are very fair, and they almost always give out -50% deals or offers like 1 pullover bought = 1 pullover gifted. As for me, I only bought a $10 scarf just to take the picture.Budget: Buy any item of any value at American Eagle
Booking: No booking – Still, you should go there during the off-peak hours (12AM-2PM or after 5PM) to avoid the crowd.
#3 – Take a look at the shooting location of famous series, films or TV shows
Take a look at the shooting location of famous series, films or TV shows
As for me, I went to see the famous apartment from Friends situated at Greenwich Village, but it’s also possible to go at West Village to see the apartment of Carrie Bradshaw (Sex and the City), or you could even go at the Upper East Side to take a look at some of the locations of Gossip Girl. There’s also a huge possibility that you could find a shooting while you’re there for a serie or a film because there’s a ton of shootings every week in New York!
However, if you want to know what are the next films and series that will be filmed in New York, rendezvous on Onlocationvacation.com
Another possibility if you want to be on an American TV set such as the famous Jimmy Fallon Night Show or even Good Morning America, the tickets are free. You just need to foresee and book your seats.Budget: Free
Booking: The TV shows tickets are available on the website 1iota.com
#4 – Go around in a helicopter
Go around in a helicopter
It’s not the cheapest activity, but still, this is also a must-do. So yes, it’s possible today to do your first helicopter your everywhere in France or everywhere else in the world…However, the best location to live this experience is still New York for me. You will stay in the air approximatively 15 minutes, and you will see almost all of the island of Manhattan, brush past the skyscrapers such as the Empire State and even fly above the Statue of Liberty. This is a great show, and the horizon is magnificent!Budget: starting from 117€/individual
Booking: we also chose to use Viator.com for this attraction. You can take a tour every hour for a big part of the day, from 9AM to 5PM.
#5 – A shooting photo with a professional photograph
A shooting photo with a professional photograph
When you’re on a trip in a couple or with a group of friends, it’s not always easy to take a photo together. So it’s either selfies until your arm is aching or your call a photograph-guide for a few hours. What was cool about this activity was the 2 in 1 service: the guide helped us to get some good looking photos for our memories of professional quality but also to take a quick guided tour of the city. In 2h we took photos in: Times Square, Central Park, Soho, and the Brooklyn Bridge. The photograph has been very amicable, smiling and even told us a few anecdotes about his favorite city.Budget: starting from 67€/individual
Booking: Still on Viator! More info about this activity here
#6 – Seeing a musical comedy at Broadway
Seeing a musical comedy at Broadway
New York is by default the birthing place of music and of the best of musical comedies. These shows are in English so you’ll have to understand a minimum of the language to appreciate it at its best. That night we went to see the musical comedy mama Mia. The theater in Broadway was not the biggest, but it made us be able to see the acting more closely.Budget: starting from 50€/individual
Booking: The best is not to book on the internet but to go directly at TKTS counter in Times Square the day of the play or the day before. They’ll give away tickets with sometimes a 50% deal. To check the current deals rendezvous on TKTS official website
#7 – Eat with the Traders in Wall Street
Eat with the Traders in Wall Street
Rendezvous around 11:45 AM, during the week. Take a hot dog and wait a few minutes calmly on the stairs that are in the front of the New York Stock Exchange. When the midday bell rings, you’ll be able to see an avalanche of traders flowing out from their offices, eat their hot-dog in 30 seconds, chat for a bit and go back to where they came from a few minutes later. This loud show will leave you breathless.Budget: The price of a hot dog $1-2
#8 – Take a picnic in Central Park
Take a picnic in Central Park
Visiting NYC without going through Central Park is almost heresy. Before going there for the first time, I imagined that this park was this loud, polluted and overall…pretty small. I was wrong…From the start, you can’t hear a sound from the city. The birds are singing, the grass is rampant, in short, a small nature patch in the heart of the city. About the size of the park, I was wrong there as well: in half a day we were only able to do 1/4th of the park by foot. The best is to take a bike, ride from one side of the park to other and then picnic in the grass when you’re feeling a bit hungry.Budget: Free
#9 – Seeing a Gospel choir at Harlem on Sunday
Seeing a Gospel choir at Harlem on Sunday
Another free activity to do on a Sunday morning. Rendezvous on the Harlem neighborhood (the best neighborhood to see a Gospel choir), and around 8AM, before the service begins. Normally, they will not mix you with the locals. You will be seated behind them or at the second floor. 2 churches are known for their services: the First Corinthian Baptist Church (1912 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr Blvd New York, NY 10026) and the Abyssinian Church (132 Odell Clark Place New York, NY 10030). Sadly, we weren’t able to go there during our journey… This gave us another excuse to return soon to New York.Budget: Free
#10 Let’s see a match!
Let’s see a match!
The Knicks, the Rangers, the Yankees, the Giants… Whatever the sport and the team you’ll choose, seeing a match will immerse you in the real life of an American! Be careful on the period you want to go because the sports seasons are generally starting in October and ends in May-June.Budget: starting from $50/individual
Booking: A lot of websites are selling tickets, NYCtickets for example or directly on the official websites of the teams.
Have a good journey and don’t hesitate to Share your tips/experiences in New York and your questions in the comments below!
My Essentials to visit New York:
- Lonely Planet (more useful than the Routard for the US)
- Cartoville New York (essential to locate yourself)
- My camera Canon 650D
- A replacement battery
- A UV filter for my camera lens/ polarizing for more vibrant colors.
- A plug adaptor
- My travel wallet
- A handheld external battery (USB)
The hotel where we stayed
Distrikt Hotel New York (recently renovated, just 5min away from Times Square by foot)