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10 things no one tells you to do in New York but you should try before your cruise

Norwegian Breakaway sailing from NYC

If you find yourself sailing out of New York, New York or Cape Liberty (Bayonne), New Jersey, you might be considered a pre-cruise stay in The Big Apple!

While a vacation in New York is nowhere near as convenient as a cruise, there's so much to see and do in the city! You can enjoy delicious food at some of the most famous restaurants in the country, see a Broadway musical on Broadway, enrich yourself with a visit to a museum, or even people watch in one of the parks. 

Here are 10 things that you should do in New York before your cruise that aren't just seeing a Broadway musical, eating and drinking (you're going to do enough of that on your cruise), or visiting Times Square.

For a one-stop shopping destination, go to Hudson Yards

Hudson Yards Mall Exterior View

The Shops & Restaurants at Hudson Yards opened in March 2019, and you may be familiar with it because of the famed Vessel attraction located outside. 

Inside is truly a shopper's paradise with 750,000 square feet of retail space. From luxury stores like Cartier, Dior, Louis Vuitton, and Rolex, to every day fashion retailers including H&M, Levi's, LuluLemon, and Uniqlo, there's something for everyone at Hudson Yards!

If the weather is less than ideal, it's perfect because everything is under the same roof! You won't have to worry about trekking outside from retailer to retailer in the cold, rain, or blistering summer heat. 

If you get hungry, you can stop for a bite to eat at fast-casual restaurants -- think Shake Shack, Fuku, Sweetgreen for salad lovers, and Bluestone Lane coffee -- or sit down for a longer meal and rest break at Electric Lemon, Hudson Yards Grill, Mercado Little Spain, or Queensyard. 

Visit Dumbo, Brooklyn

View of NYC from Dumbo

Time Out Market in Brooklyn is like a foodie's heaven. There are so many NYC favorites, including Jacob's Pickles, Ess-a-Bagel, Mr. Taka Ramen, and Clinton St. Baking Company. Plus, you get an incredible view of the New York skyline from the rooftop (and yes, there's a bar!). 

If you visit on a Saturday or Sunday during the spring or summer, there's even a neat flea market close by under the Williamsburg Bridge.  

It's a great place to visit if you're short on time in the city and want to try a few different food vendors. 

Walk along the Shuman Running Track around the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in Central Park

Shuman Running Track NYC

A great place to escape the crowds of New York is in Central Park. If you're looking for a quiet place to walk and take in the views of the city, try the Shuman Running Track, which begins near West 87th and East 86th Streets.  

It's less than a fifteen minute walk to three major museums (the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and American Museum of Natural History), making it a convenient stop before or after a visit. 

Be sure to grab the quintessential hot dog and/or pretzel while you're there! 

Book lovers should head over to Strand Bookstore near Union Square 

Strand Book Store NYC

Dubbed "the undisputed king of the city's independent bookstores" by The New York Times in 2016, Strand Bookstore is one of those places where you could easily spend a whole afternoon. 

Inside, you'll find over eighteen miles of books along with board games, stationary, apparel, vinyl records, and even a coffee kiosk for an afternoon pick-me-up.

You should check out their events before you go, as they host many in-person with New York Times best-selling authors!

Plus, if you forgot a beach or catch-all bag for your cruise, it's a great place to pick up a cute tote bag and souvenir (or another book to read while at sea)!

Afterwards in the adjacent Union Square on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, you can stroll through the Union Square Greenmarket. 

Visit the Met Cloisters in Fort Tyron Park

Met Cloisters

It's expected for the Metropolitan Museum of Art to be a must-see attraction on any New York tourist's agenda. However, at the top of the island of Manhattan you'll find the Met Cloisters, America's only museum dedicated exclusively to medieval art and architecture. 

The museum recreates a European monastery; the Cuxa Cloister, for instance, was party of the Benedictine monastery of Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa, which was originally founded in 878. The pieces featured in the museum were purchased by George Grey Barnard and transported to the United States. 

Purchasing a ticket to the Metropolitan Museum of Art includes same-day entry the Met Cloisters and vice vera, meaning you could visit both museums if you wanted to!

Below are the ticket prices as of January 2023:

  • Adult cost $30.00
  • Students tickets with a valid ID cost $17.00
  • Seniors over 65 cost $22.00
  • Children under 12 are free 

Be aware that both museums -- Met Cloisters and Metropolitan Museum of Art -- are closed on Wednesdays. 

Plus, the hours for the Met Cloisters are shorter than the infamous museum on Fifth Avenue. Current hours are Tuesday - Thursday from 10am to 4:30pm, while the Metropolitan Museum of Art is open from 10am to 5pm Sunday - Tuesday and Thursday, as well as 10am - 9pm on Friday and Saturday. 

Get a Coca-Cola made the old-fashioned way

Old Fashioned Soda Machine

(Pictured is an image of a traditional 1950s soda fountain in Midway, Kentucky)

Located on the Upper East Side is Lexington Candy Shop, a luncheonette that originally opened in 1925 and has been continuously owned and operated through three generations of family and partners, where you can order a Coca-Cola made the old fashioned way by mixing Coca-Cola syrup with seltzer water. 

If you find yourself to be hungry, they have an extensive menu that features classic old school diner items such as french toast, pancakes, hamburgers, club sandwiches, and ice cream sundaes.

However, expect this restaurant to be quite expensive. A sandwich will run you about $18, while a Coca-Cola is close to $4. There is also usually a bit of a wait.

Attend a sporting event

Yankee Stadium, Bronx

If you're cruising out of the New York area from late March through October, you might find yourself wanting to spend your time in the city at a baseball game. Whether you find yourself navigating to Yankee Stadium in the Bronx or Citi Field in Queens, you're sure to enjoy the atmosphere of watching a baseball game in the city. 

Beware of food and drink prices inside of the stadiums, though. While you can probably snag a ticket for pretty cheap, purchasing food and beverages at the game will cost you. A single beer, for instance, starts at $11.75 at Citi Field, which makes the drinks onboard a cruise ship seem like a deal!

One of my favorite ways to save money on tickets is to purchase them through Gametime. I've scored a ticket for as low as $10 before! My seats weren't great, but I personally don't care too much about where I'm located during sporting events. 

In the winter months, there's hockey and basketball to choose from. Madison Square Garden is centrally located to other tourist attractions in Manhattan, meaning you won't have to sacrifice your entire evening to travel to another borough. Even Barclays Center is only about a thirty minute train ride from Midtown. 

Hang out on Little Island at Pier 55

Little Island NYC

Little Island is an artificial island park in the Hudson River that opened in May 2021. The park was designed as a solution to repair Pier 54, which had been damaged by Hurricane Sandy. 

While Little Island is open year-round, you usually need reservations in the summer months. Sometimes, there are events that require paid admission, but tickets are no more than $30 per person. 

From June to September 2022, the park hosted a series of programming dedicated to supporting New York City-based artists. On Thursday nights, for instance, residents and visitors alike could go watch comedy, spoken word, or poetry performances. 

Summer 2023 events have yet to be announced; however, you can expect for there to be programming for the whole family to enjoy in one of the most picturesque parks of New York City. 

The park is usually open from around 6am - 9pm, but check the hours on the website before you go. 

Skip the Empire State Building and Top of the Rock and go to SUMMIT One Vanderbilt instead

Summit One Vanderbilt

Heading to the top of an observation deck to take in the skyline is one of my favorite things to do in the city. There's nothing quite like looking out over the buildings are feeling so powerful yet invisible at the same time. 

SUMMIT One Vanderbilt is a relatively new observation deck that opened in October 2021 and is unlike any other in that "blends elements of art, technology, architecture, and thrill" to create an immersive experience that has some of the best views of the city. 

Three out of four-stories feature an art installation called Air, which was designed by artist Kenzo Digital. If you're brave enough, step onto one of two glass boxes that protrude from the building and hang 1,063 feet above Madison Avenue! This is known as "Levitation." 

The base ticket does not include access to Ascent, the world's largest glass-bottom elevator that takes you up about 1,200 feet. 

Take it from me, you'll want to wear pants and bring a pair of sunglasses! There's one room that is made up entirely of mirrors. 

Of course, observation decks tend to be one of the pricer attractions. Here are the prices for the three different tiers of tickets as of January 2023:

  • SUMMIT Experience starts at $39.00 for adults and $33.00 for children. During sunset hours, the prices increase $10. 
  • SUMMIT Ascent starts at $59.00 for adults and $53.00 for children. During sunset hours, the prices increase $10. 
  • Ultimate SUMMIT starts at $73.00 for adults and $67.00 for children. During sunset hours, the prices increase $10. The only difference between this ticket and Ascent is that it includes a signature cocktail or mocktail. 

SUMMIT One Vanderbilt is open every Wednesday through Monday from 9am - 10:30pm; the attraction is closed on Tuesdays. 

Swingers adults-only mini-golf

Mini Golf Stock

(Pictured is a stock photo of mini-golf and is not indicative of what the actual experience is like)

Mini-golf is a fun activity offered onboard most cruise ships; however, Swingers is an adults-only indoor miniature golf course located in the Nomad neighborhood of Manhattan that specializes in "crazy golf" courses. 

On each course, you'll face obstacles such as slingshots and a golf ball roller coaster. You'll also find six cocktail bars, three street food vendors, and live DJs. 

There are three different courses you can choose from, and playing just one starts at $22 per person during off-peak hours and $26 during peak hours. Designated off-peak hours are all day Monday, as well as Tuesday through Thursday before 5pm. 

If you just want to go for the atmosphere, that's welcome, too! You don't have to actually play crazy golf to hang out at Swingers and enjoy their food and beverage offerings. 

They're open seven days a week between the following hours:

  • Monday and Tuesday: 4:30pm - 12:00am
  • Wednesday: 3:00pm - 12:00am
  • Thursday and Friday: 3:00pm - 1:00am
  • Saturday: 12:00pm - 1:00am
  • Sunday: 12:00pm - 10:30pm

Things to do in New York


This is a just a list of 10 things to help guide your time in The Big Apple. Of course, there are thousands of other ways you can spend your time! Perhaps you do just want to eat, drink, and relax before an action-packed week onboard your cruise. 

Maybe it's the opposite; maybe you want to do as much as you can in as little time as possible since you're prepared to sit by the pool every day with a fruity cocktail or beer in hand.

Is there another way that you like to prepare for your cruise while in New York? Let us know in the comments, as well as what your favorite activities in New York City are!

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