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26 best things to do in NYC right now

These are the places that you must visit in New York right now—new classics, old favorites, and other essential sites

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New York City has been called many things—the city that never sleeps, the capital of the world—but it could also be called "The City With Too Many Places to See." Between NYC's many iconic landmarks and and the new classics that regularly pop up, it can be overwhelming to decide which museum to visit, or what neighborhood is worth exploring, on any given day.

That's where we come in: Curbed's editors have chosen 26 sites—cultural institutions, parks, neighborhoods, even houses—that you must see right now. Some are the latest and greatest things to hit the scene, while others are always worth a look, no matter the season.

Looking for more things to do in the Big Apple?

[Note: Places are listed geographically, starting in Lower Manhattan and continuing north, then through the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island.]

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Statue of Liberty Museum

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The long-in-the-works museum dedicated to the history and significance of Liberty Enlightening the World—the 133-year-old symbol of freedom plopped in the middle of New York Harbor—debuted this spring, with exhibits and other artifacts that tell Lady Liberty’s story. (The coolest? The statue’s original torch, which was replaced with a copy during the monument’s centennial restoration.) It also provides a major opportunity for visitors to Liberty Island to see the Statue in a new way; a rooftop seating area will also allow for more public lounging (and Instagram-worthy views of Lady Liberty herself).

Woolworth Building

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Cass Gilbert’s copper-topped skyscraper was once described as “the cathedral of commerce,” thanks to its neo-Gothic architecture and its owner, retail guru F. W. Woolworth. The elegant building is currently undergoing big changes, as the uppermost floors are converted into ultra-luxury condos; thankfully, that won’t disturb the ornate lobby, which is off-limits to the general public but can be viewed on regular tours of the interior. 

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Tenement Museum

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One of New York City’s most underrated museums also happens to have one of the best museum gift shops. But do stick around for one of its tours, which examine the history of immigration in the city through the lens of the museum’s building at 97 Orchard Street, as well as the surrounding neighborhood.

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International Center of Photography

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After a few years of moving around Manhattan, the International Center of Photography has settled into a permanent space in the Essex Crossing megaproject. The museum’s focus—on “socially and politically minded images that can educate and change the world”—comes through in its initial exhibits in its new home, which include shows devoted to the history of hip-hop and photographs of the Lower East Side.

The Market Line

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The first section of the Market Line, a massive new food hall and bazaar in the Essex Crossing megaproject, is now open on the Lower East Side. Currently, the space has plenty of familiar faces—vendors include New York City institutions like Veselka, Nom Wah, and the Pickle Guys—with more to come in the next year or so.

Fotografiska New York

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Sweden’s celebrated photography museum debuted in New York City in 2019 in a landmarked building on Park Avenue. That 19th-century structure, known previously as the Church Missions House, was designed by architects Robert Williams Gibson and Edward J. Neville Stent.

Empire State Building

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If you had to pick only one building to represent New York City—its entrepreneurial spirit, its glamor, and its desire to be the biggest and best at everything—the Empire State Building would be it. And while a visit to its observation deck is one of the biggest tourist traps in the city, it’s worth doing at least once. It may not be as bad if you go as early as possible. Try around 8 a.m., when it first opens, to beat the crowds. The last elevator to the top of the building is 1:15 a.m., if you’re planning a late-night visit. Two new exhibits recently opened on the building’s second floor, giving visitors an immersive look at the building’s place in pop culture, its design, and more.

As of March 11, the highest outdoor observation deck in New York City will open to the public. Edge, which is perched off the side of 30 Hudson Yards, will debut with a platform that hangs 1,000 feet above the city, with a glass floor letting visitors peek down onto the streets below. Thanks to its perch at the western edge of Manhattan, much of the city is visible—as far as Queens and Brooklyn to the east, and New Jersey to the west. The Empire State Building is essentially at eye level. It’s unlike anything that exists in the city right now.

New York Public Library

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There’s never a bad time to visit the New York Public Library’s stunning main branch, but it’s especially nice as the weather turns cooler; it’s a perfect place to hunker down on chilly days and get work done, or simply wander and admire the architecture. Plus, its gift shop is filled with excellent items for bibliophiles.

The Museum of Modern Art

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In its 90th year, MoMA unveiled an ambitious renovation, helmed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro with Gensler, of its West 53rd Street home. The revamp added 40,000 square feet of fresh galleries in both a ground-up building (which rose from the ashes of the Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects-designed American Folk Art Museum) and the base of Jean Nouvel’s supertall skyscraper next door. It also includes a new museum store, a bigger lobby, and other additions that make the institution positively massive. (TL;DR: Make sure you’ve set aside plenty of time for a visit—at least three hours, if not more.) Here’s everything you need to know.

Central Park

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Don’t sleep on Central Park as the seasons change: Not only is it less crowded than in the warmer months (at least, if you avoid hectic areas like the Wollman Rink), but the scenery can be especially beautiful.

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Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

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One of New York City’s most unique buildings turned 60 in 2019: The Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, opened on October 21, 1959. Commune with Wright’s masterpiece (which is also a UNESCO World Heritage site) on your own, and experience the building as the architect wanted: by starting from the top of the circular rotunda and working your way down.

A large white circular building. In the foreground is a city intersection with a yellow tax cab. Shutterstock

Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum

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The Smithsonian’s design museum is one of the underrated gems of Museum Mile, and worth a visit if you’re already on the Upper East Side to visit the Guggenheim or the Met. Its exhibits cover myriad aspects of design—from fashion to furniture—and its permanent collection has textiles, drawings, and more. The gift shop is also stellar.

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The Met Cloisters

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It’s no stretch to say there’s an actual medieval castle in the five boroughs. The Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park is the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s annex celebrating the art and architecture of medieval Europe. The building isn’t just chock-full of art—paintings and icons, sculptures and tapestries—but is also itself a historic work. The Cloisters is made up of actual medieval architecture sourced from French monasteries and abbeys that has been reconstructed in the city. (The architecture of the museum is older than the United States itself.)

The Bronx Museum of the Arts

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This Bronx institution is known for its modern, accordion-style headquarters on Grand Concourse. The museum is known for championing artists of color, as well as artists who live and work in the Bronx. Its permanent collection includes more than 1,000 pieces in a variety of formats, and the museum has played host to the works of celebrated artists like Alvin Baltrop and Elizabeth Catlett.

New York Botanical Garden

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It’s never a bad time to visit the New York Botanical Garden, but winter is an especially nice season in the Bronx. The grounds are lovely to stroll even in the colder months, and the annual Orchid Show brings spectacular blooms to the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory.

A glass greenhouse at New York Botanical Garden in the autumn. The greenhouse has a domed roof. A pond lined with trees and shrubs is in front of the building. Shutterstock

Hunters Point Library

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After two decades of planning and years of delays, a major neighborhood amenity has finally opened in Long Island City. The new Hunters Point Library, designed by Steven Holl Architects, is a striking addition to the urban fabric. The new library is a square box covered in precast concrete (which has been treated with metallic paint to give the whole thing a subtle sparkle), with swooping windows carved into the exterior. From the inside, those windows offer some of the most spectacular Manhattan skyline views you’ll find in the city—and they’re free and open to every single person who wants to access them.

Hunter's Point South Park

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If you’re already visiting the new Hunter’s Point library, take some time to stroll through the waterfront park that’s adjacent to the building. The lovely green space—which is accessible via a NYC Ferry stop—is quite serene, with Manhattan skyline views and lots of nature to lose yourself in.

Albert Vecerka/Esto, courtesy WEISS/MANFREDI

Queens Museum

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One of Queens’s premier institutions has plenty to love: exhibitions that feature borough artists, a gift shop with tons of Queens-themed gifts, and The Panorama of the City of New York, a scale model of the five boroughs that’s one of the coolest relics of the 1964 World’s Fair.

TWA Hotel

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It’s official: The TWA Hotel is now open. The hotel’s opening will be the culmination of years of work to revive Eero Saarinen’s beloved midcentury landmark. The TWA Flight Center, a stunning example of Space Age architecture, closed in 2001, and has largely been hidden from public view since then, save for a few tours and events here and there. It has a number of restaurants—including a refresh of the terminal’s old Paris Café by Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and a cocktail lounge located inside a decommissioned Lockheed Constellation plane, known as Connie—as well as an ice skating rink.

Brooklyn Flea Winter Market

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This year, the Brooklyn Flea’s winter market moves to a new location—the massive office complex at 25 Kent Avenue in Williamsburg—and will have 60 vendors selling all manner of vintage treasures, as well as a Smorgasburg section with eats from Blue Chicken, Mao’s Bao, and more.

Brooklyn Navy Yard

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For the first time in decades, the Brooklyn Navy Yard is opening more of its 300-acre campus to the public. Several new buildings debuted this year, including the massive Dock 72 office complex and the much-anticipated Wegmans at the old Admiral’s Row. Those join the spaces that are already welcoming visitors, including Building 77 (and its food hall), and BLDG 92, now a museum dedicated to the history of the yard. The whole thing is also accessible via a NYC Ferry stop, which opened over the summer.

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New York Transit Museum

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One of New York’s under-the-radar gems is located in a decommissioned subway station, and features exhibits and programming that reveal the history of the city’s transit systems. Don’t miss the fleet of vintage subway cars located at the track level, with some of the trains on view dating back to the turn of the 20th century.

Brooklyn Historical Society

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The best repository for the history of Kings County is the Brooklyn Historical Society, which has exhibits and events dedicated to telling the story of the borough.

LeFrak Center at Lakeside Prospect Park Brooklyn

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In the winter, Prospect Park’s LeFrak Center becomes one of the borough’s best ice skating rinks, with public skating hours every day as well as clinics and lessons. The rink also plays host to other wintry activities, including curling and hockey.

Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden

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There’s something for everyone at this sprawling complex on Staten Island: several gardens, the Staten Island Museum, a building containing artifacts related to the borough’s maritime history, and even a gallery devoted to contemporary art.

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Statue of Liberty Museum

The long-in-the-works museum dedicated to the history and significance of Liberty Enlightening the World—the 133-year-old symbol of freedom plopped in the middle of New York Harbor—debuted this spring, with exhibits and other artifacts that tell Lady Liberty’s story. (The coolest? The statue’s original torch, which was replaced with a copy during the monument’s centennial restoration.) It also provides a major opportunity for visitors to Liberty Island to see the Statue in a new way; a rooftop seating area will also allow for more public lounging (and Instagram-worthy views of Lady Liberty herself).

Woolworth Building

Shutterstock

Cass Gilbert’s copper-topped skyscraper was once described as “the cathedral of commerce,” thanks to its neo-Gothic architecture and its owner, retail guru F. W. Woolworth. The elegant building is currently undergoing big changes, as the uppermost floors are converted into ultra-luxury condos; thankfully, that won’t disturb the ornate lobby, which is off-limits to the general public but can be viewed on regular tours of the interior. 

Shutterstock

Tenement Museum

Shutterstock

One of New York City’s most underrated museums also happens to have one of the best museum gift shops. But do stick around for one of its tours, which examine the history of immigration in the city through the lens of the museum’s building at 97 Orchard Street, as well as the surrounding neighborhood.

Shutterstock

International Center of Photography

After a few years of moving around Manhattan, the International Center of Photography has settled into a permanent space in the Essex Crossing megaproject. The museum’s focus—on “socially and politically minded images that can educate and change the world”—comes through in its initial exhibits in its new home, which include shows devoted to the history of hip-hop and photographs of the Lower East Side.

The Market Line

The first section of the Market Line, a massive new food hall and bazaar in the Essex Crossing megaproject, is now open on the Lower East Side. Currently, the space has plenty of familiar faces—vendors include New York City institutions like Veselka, Nom Wah, and the Pickle Guys—with more to come in the next year or so.

Fotografiska New York

Sweden’s celebrated photography museum debuted in New York City in 2019 in a landmarked building on Park Avenue. That 19th-century structure, known previously as the Church Missions House, was designed by architects Robert Williams Gibson and Edward J. Neville Stent.

Empire State Building

If you had to pick only one building to represent New York City—its entrepreneurial spirit, its glamor, and its desire to be the biggest and best at everything—the Empire State Building would be it. And while a visit to its observation deck is one of the biggest tourist traps in the city, it’s worth doing at least once. It may not be as bad if you go as early as possible. Try around 8 a.m., when it first opens, to beat the crowds. The last elevator to the top of the building is 1:15 a.m., if you’re planning a late-night visit. Two new exhibits recently opened on the building’s second floor, giving visitors an immersive look at the building’s place in pop culture, its design, and more.

Edge

As of March 11, the highest outdoor observation deck in New York City will open to the public. Edge, which is perched off the side of 30 Hudson Yards, will debut with a platform that hangs 1,000 feet above the city, with a glass floor letting visitors peek down onto the streets below. Thanks to its perch at the western edge of Manhattan, much of the city is visible—as far as Queens and Brooklyn to the east, and New Jersey to the west. The Empire State Building is essentially at eye level. It’s unlike anything that exists in the city right now.

New York Public Library

There’s never a bad time to visit the New York Public Library’s stunning main branch, but it’s especially nice as the weather turns cooler; it’s a perfect place to hunker down on chilly days and get work done, or simply wander and admire the architecture. Plus, its gift shop is filled with excellent items for bibliophiles.

The Museum of Modern Art

In its 90th year, MoMA unveiled an ambitious renovation, helmed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro with Gensler, of its West 53rd Street home. The revamp added 40,000 square feet of fresh galleries in both a ground-up building (which rose from the ashes of the Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects-designed American Folk Art Museum) and the base of Jean Nouvel’s supertall skyscraper next door. It also includes a new museum store, a bigger lobby, and other additions that make the institution positively massive. (TL;DR: Make sure you’ve set aside plenty of time for a visit—at least three hours, if not more.) Here’s everything you need to know.

Central Park

Shutterstock

Don’t sleep on Central Park as the seasons change: Not only is it less crowded than in the warmer months (at least, if you avoid hectic areas like the Wollman Rink), but the scenery can be especially beautiful.

Shutterstock

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

A large white circular building. In the foreground is a city intersection with a yellow tax cab. Shutterstock

One of New York City’s most unique buildings turned 60 in 2019: The Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, opened on October 21, 1959. Commune with Wright’s masterpiece (which is also a UNESCO World Heritage site) on your own, and experience the building as the architect wanted: by starting from the top of the circular rotunda and working your way down.

A large white circular building. In the foreground is a city intersection with a yellow tax cab. Shutterstock

Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum

Shutterstock

The Smithsonian’s design museum is one of the underrated gems of Museum Mile, and worth a visit if you’re already on the Upper East Side to visit the Guggenheim or the Met. Its exhibits cover myriad aspects of design—from fashion to furniture—and its permanent collection has textiles, drawings, and more. The gift shop is also stellar.

Shutterstock

The Met Cloisters