There is SO much to do and see in New York City and unless you have a month or more, don’t even try to pack everything into one trip (plus, that would be incredibly expensive)! I have been to the Big Apple multiple times and even lived nearby and still, I find things that I can’t believe I haven’t done – maybe it’s just a good excuse to return!
We all know the staple NYC things you need to do — walk through Central Park, visit one of the countless art museums, shop in Soho, and eat a massive amount of vegan food, but what else!? Don’t worry; I have you covered with this unique lineup of things to do and see in NYC. I bet you won’t find some of them on other lists!
If you’re hitting the road and looking for travel recommendations, check out these companies that I use regularly. Plus, by using these links, you can support Veggies Abroad!
- Hotels: Booking.com— They highlight properties with sustainable practices!
- Travel Insurance: Travelex— They have multiple comprehensive plan options with fewer “gotcha” moments.
- Activities & Tours: Viator & Get Your Guide
- Trains, Ferries, & Buses: Omio — use code OMIOFERRY to save 10% on ferry bookings.
- House Sitting: if your travels are flexible and you love pets, you need to check out TrustedHousesitters. Use code VEGGIESABROAD to save 20% on a new membership!
- Earth Hero: Travel-friendly toiletries & products. Use code VEGGIESABROAD to save 10% on your order!
If you haven’t decided where to stay in NYC yet, be sure to check out my lineup of vegan-friendly hotels!
Unique & Fun Things To Do & See in NYC
#1 Find the best vegan shoes and accessories at Moo Shoes
78 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002
If one of the things that you want to do in New York City is shop, come here! Founded by sisters, Erica and Sara Kubersky, this unique NYC vegan-owned shop is full of an amazing assortment of vegan footwear, handbags, clothing, and much more. Whether you’re looking for a sleek pump or comfortable and sustainable sneakers this is the place to come when you’re in New York City. They carry notable brands like Birkenstock, Novacas, Dr. Martens, and many more. Aside from carrying killer kicks, they are committed to sustainability and ethics — only working with companies who guarantee their workers are treated fairly and humanely. If you’re lucky, you might also be greeted by one of the store’s adopted kitty greeters!
If you’re a luxury shopper, be sure to check out the gorgeous vegan and cruelty-free hand bags, shoes, and clothing at Stella McCartney’s Soho shop!
#2 Enjoy the beautiful gardens at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden
990 Washington Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11225
This beautiful 52-acre garden is a lovely place to visit year-round! In the spring the garden comes alive with fragrant flowering cherry trees, peonies, bluebells, and more. There are also many smaller gardens to explore like their popular Cranford Rose Garden which is home to thousands of different rose varieties, The Japanese Hill and Pond Garden, as well as wooded trails. There are also a few overlooks to take in the beauty of the gardens. Don’t miss (when it reopens) the diverse plant life in their conservatories — they are home to desert, tropical, aquatic, and orchid collections. Currently, tickets must be purchased in advance and are $18 for adults.
#3 Fill up on vegan cheese and more at Essex Market
88 Essex St, New York, NY 10002
New York City’s historic Essex Market has been providing fresh food to the Lower Eastside for over 100 years! There is a diversity of small businesses and vendors selling fresh produce and fruit, spices, hand-made gifts, and more! Your trip to Essex isn’t complete without a stop at Riverdel’s vegan deli counter. The team at Riverdel has created a vast assortment of artisanal cheeses — be sure to try their herbed chevre and balsamic fig cheeses — you won’t be disappointed. All your delicious delights from Riverdel can be enjoyed in the café seating area on the market’s mezzanine. The market is open seven days a week, but not all vendors operate daily.
#4 Marvel at Giant Plant Eaters at The American Museum of Natural History
200 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024
Located on the Upper West Side, this is one of the best museums of natural history in the world, and a NYC bucket list activity! It houses 45 permanent exhibits including The Rose Center for Earth and Space, North American Forests, Primitive Animals, and many more. Located in the dinosaur wing (I know, not a very scientific term), be sure to check out the Titanosaur, this plant-eater is one of the largest to be discovered and is so big it doesn’t fit in just one room! Many of the dinosaurs are made of mostly fossilized remains (about 85%), rather than casts. The museum is also home to a rotating selection of temporary exhibits, currently, you can dive into the life of Sea Lions or explore the beauty of natural gems and minerals.
#5 Stock up on cruelty-free beauty products at The Detox Market
76 E Houston St, New York, NY 10012
Let the experts help you find the best green beauty and wellness products to help you get your glow on! If you’ve been thinking of trying out a new lipstick or need something to relax, you’ve come to the right place! Their detox staff will help you find all the best things for your lifestyle and skin with a personal one-on-one shopping session for free! And don’t worry, they don’t take green beauty lightly — ingredients and ethics matter at The Detox Market. All their products from makeup to hair care are made with pure ingredients that are safe not only for their clients but also for the environment and none of their products have been tested on animals.
#6 Pick up some fresh produce and snacks at The Union Square Green Market
Union Square W &, E 17th St, New York, 10003
Located right in Union Square this farmers market is ensuring New Yorkers have access to fresh food year-round. The market is open on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays — with the largest selection of vendors on Saturdays. Even if you’re not interested in picking up fresh peaches or greens you will find a variety of freshly baked bread, wine, cooking demonstrations, treats for your pup, and much more! Be sure to get there early on a Saturday to avoid crowds and grab a table inside the Union Square park to “people watch”.
#7 Retrace the steps of millions of our ancestors at Ellis Island and say hello to Lady Liberty
Visiting this New York landmark was one of my favorite things — I loved learning the history and retracing the steps of millions of immigrants as they came to America in hopes of a better life. It was truly a moving experience and should give everyone a greater appreciation for everything they have today. There are multiple ways to visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. First, you can do it on your own by booking a ferry ticket on the Statue Cruise Line. The ticket is $23.80 and allows you access inside the Statue of Liberty Pedestal to enjoy views of Manhattan. It also comes with an audio guide that you pick up on Liberty Island and then again on Ellis Island. If you’d rather have a tour guide, check out this option through Viator. There is a lot to learn and see on Ellis Island. I thought we could make it through in an hour, but I was wrong. If you choose to visit the islands, you will pick up the ferry in Battery Park at Castle Clinton.
#8 Shop for deals and one-of-a-kind finds at The Brooklyn Flea Market then walk the Brooklyn Bridge
80 Pearl St, Brooklyn, NY 11201
Every Saturday from 10 am – 5 pm the area right next to, and under, the Manhattan Bridge becomes a shopping haven. Check out a variety of vendors selling hand-made items, vintage clothing, books, and much more. The area is also lined with cafes, shops, and great NYC street art. I suggest you grab a coffee and after you’re done shopping go explore DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) then walk over to the Brooklyn Bridge Park to enjoy views of the city and the waterfront or to just relax. From there, it’s a short walk to the Brooklyn Bridge pedestrian walkway at Tillary Street and Boerum Place. The walk across the iconic bridge is a great spot to get awesome shots of Manhattan, and of course, the beautiful bridge. If you walk the entire bridge it is just over one mile.
Bonus Brooklyn activity: Have a picnic at Domino Park! Start your day by grabbing an epic vegan croissant sandwich and coffee from Terms of Endearment in Williamsburg then stroll about a half-mile over to Domino. This little park is right on the water and features great city views, an outdoor taco café, bocce court, volleyball, and more fun!
#9 Learn the stories of NYC immigrants as they pursued the American Dream at The Tenement Museum
103 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002
America wouldn’t be America without the countless contributions of immigrants — from food, to where we live have all been influenced by immigrants. Located on the Lower Eastside, near the port of New York, The Tenement Museum was once a tenement home for families seeking to build their own American Dream. You can learn about the families who lived in these homes and the history of migration in New York’s Lower East Side starting as early as the 1880s. The museum offers guided tours of the apartments where families lived as well as walking tours of the neighborhood. Tours are offered Thursdays – Monday and tickets must be pre-reserved online. Online tours are also available.
#10 Limited time or first time to New York? Take a guided tour!
I know, you’re probably thinking, isn’t that a super touristy, non-unique thing to do in NYC? No, I think it’s a really efficient way to cover a lot of ground or get to investigate a special topics like ghosts or catacombs!
It’s also one of the best things to do in New York City for a first-timer. Even if this isn’t your first time in NYC, chances are there is a lot you haven’t seen and a guided tour can be a great way to do it. If it’s your first time, I suggest a hop-on hop-off bus — they cover a lot of ground, provide great history, and are pretty affordable — you can book onsite or online.
Another option is to hire a guide. Some allow you to customize your sights, while others hit just the major sights. Having a guide is great because you can ask questions and get a local perspective, which you miss by taking the bus.
Here are a few tour options I suggest that you check out:
More Vegan-Friendly NYC Trip Tips
Now that you have a great idea of all of the unique things you want to do in NYC, check out these other guides and articles to plan the rest of your Big Apple adventure.