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Top of the Rock vs Empire State Building: view of Empire State Building from Top of the Rock Observation Deck

15 Fun Things to Do in Midtown, NYC (Beyond Times Square)

United States

This post was written in partnership with Moon Travel Guides.

Home to many of the most famous sights in all of New York, Midtown may be far from the trendiest neighborhood in the city… but it’s one that virtually all visitors to NYC will visit at least once, and there is absolutely no shortage of interesting things to do in Midtown.

It also happens to be our accidental stomping grounds in NYC: due to having a wonderful friend who lives a few blocks from Grand Central and lets us crash with him when we visit, we end up spending quite a bit of time in Midtown during all our trips to New York.

We teamed up with Moon Travel Guides to share a quick rundown of what you can find in Midtown–from the iconic to the (slightly more) under the radar.

Empire State Building or Top of the Rock: Girl with Binoculars on Empire State Building

To help with this post, Moon sent us a copy of Moon New York City to review, and we were impressed with what we found! If you want to help organize your trip to New York and get beyond the surface highlights of the city, Moon New York City (written by a native New Yorker, no less) is a great asset to bring along.

Our personal favorite thing about the book is how it is structured: every subsection, from sightseeing to restaurants, is divided into neighborhoods, making it far easier to navigate a trip to NYC than it would be otherwise.

If you make a list of the top, say, 20 things to do in Manhattan without knowing the layout of the city, it’s very easy to plan a day that involves seeing Central Park in the morning, visiting the Statue of Liberty in the afternoon, and seeing a Broadway show at night–but the logistics of that day would be a nightmare of long subway or cab rides.

Much better to plan your trip Moon’s way: pick a neighborhood, and focus on one place at a time.

Photo of a Macbook Pro, a notebook with mountains on the cover, and a red pen. A copy of Moon New York City is laying on top of them--use this to find some of the best things to do in MIdtown NYC!

For us, today–that’s Midtown.

Top Things to Do in Midtown NYC

Midtown is home to some of the most famous tourist destinations in not only New York City, but in the entire world.

If you’ve ever planned to visit any of these five iconic sights, you’ve planned to visit Midtown.

Weekend in New York City

Empire State Building

Once the tallest building in the world, visitors have been flocking to the Empire State Building since 1931 in order to appreciate what is arguably the best view of NYC around.

If you’re hoping to soak in some excellent skyline views, you won’t be disappointed by adding a visit to the top of the Empire State Building to your list of things to do in Midtown.

Empire State Building or Top of the Rock: View of binoculars at Empire State Building Observation Deck

Times Square

The square where night never arrives: walk through Times Square at midnight, and the entire place is still so bright that it almost still feels like daytime.

Crowded and crawling with pickpockets, Times Square definitely has a bad rap among New York locals… but it’s still a sight worth seeing once in your life.

Plus, if you’re planning on hitting a Broadway show during your trip to New York, odds are you’ll pass right by anyway!

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Fifth Avenue

Home to some of the most iconic storefronts in the world, including Tiffany & Co., Bergdorf Goodman, and Saks Fifth Avenue, Fifth Avenue is a shopper’s paradise and an interesting destination even for those not looking to make a purchase!

Moon New York City outlines some less shopping-heavy highlights of Fifth Avenue, including St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the iconic Plaza Hotel, so be sure to bring it along when hunting down the sights!

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Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center is best known for two things: its gigantic annual Christmas tree, and the view from the top (aka–The Top of the Rock).

Both of these things are well worth seeing, but be sure to stop by regardless to check out the Atlas statue and the lovely surrounding area! 

Radio City Music Hall is right around the corner, and people looking for things to do in Midtown with kids will no doubt want to drop into the impressive Lego or Nintendo stores.

Top of the Rock or Empire State Building: Photo of Girl in a Dress at Top of the Rock

Grand Central Terminal

Grand Central Terminal just might be one of the most famous film locations in the world, with countless movies and TV shows using it as a backdrop.

Don’t forget to look up when you’re inside–personally, I never knew Grand Central had a painted turquoise ceiling until I saw it in person, and it’s now my favorite aspect of the building.

If you’re hungry, also ducking down to the famous and incredibly beautiful Grand Central Oyster Bar while you’re there.

4 Days in New York City Itinerary: Grand Central Terminal

New York Public Library (Central Branch)

The Central Branch of the New York Public Library, famously guarded by its impressive lion statues, is a must-see for any bibliophile looking for things to do in Midtown.

Be sure to duck inside to check out the Rose Reading Room while you’re there!

4 Day New York Itinerary: Rose Reading Room at New York Public Library

Under-the-Radar Things to Do in Midtown NYC

I wouldn’t necessarily go so far as to call these things to do in Midtown hidden gems–but they’re definitely not as well-known than the options above!

Moon New York City is perfect for uncovering interesting spots like these that are somewhat less obvious to first-time visitors to NYC–not surprising when you know that the book was put together by a native New Yorker!

Morgan Library & Museum

Initially founded by Pierpont Morgan (think J.P. Morgan Chase Bank), the Morgan Library & Museum is extremely easy to access when visiting Midtown and is incredibly beautiful.

The museum is only a short walk away from Grand Central Terminal, and in addition to its gorgeous library, it also regularly houses interesting exhibitions.

During our last trip to NYC, for example, a fascinating Tolkien exhibition was in town.

Photo of the interior of the Morgan Library--if you love books, definitely add this place to your list of things to do in Midtown NYC.

Chrysler Building

Once considered the ugliest building in the world, the Chrysler Building (located at 42nd & Lexington Ave) is now known as an Art Deco masterpiece and is my personal favorite building in Manhattan.

You can see it from the street when you’re near Grand Central, so keep an eye out!

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St. Patrick’s Cathedral

The stunning Neo-Gothic facade of St. Patrick’s Cathedral looks almost out of place on modern, consumer-focused Fifth Avenue–but as it is arguably the most incredible religious building in all of NYC, it’s definitely worth adding to your list of what to see in Midtown.

4 Days in New York Itinerary: St. Patrick's Cathedral

Koreatown

Much smaller than famous Chinatown but incredibly fun to visit, Koreatown is packed full of delicious restaurants and entertaining karaoke bars.

If you are looking for a fun food experience in Midtown, we highly recommend diving into a feast of Korean barbeque while you’re here.

Murray Hill

Looking for endless options for eating absolutely scrumptious Indian food? Head to Murray Hill!

We haven’t been disappointed by a meal here yet–though like always, we do advise checking reviews before sitting down to your feast.

Photo of a silver bowl of chicken tikka masala taken from above. There's a silver spoon in the bowl.

United Nations Headquarters

Interested in global politics?

The UN’s headquarters are located in Midtown, and if you’d like, you can tour them during your trip to New York.

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Carnegie Hall

Arguably the most famous concert hall in the world, attending a performance at Carnegie Hall is a dream come true for many.

If you’re interested in the hall and don’t have the opportunity to take in a performance, though, you can still take a tour of Carnegie Hall to get a behind-the-scenes look at the iconic venue.

4 Days in New York: Taxis in Midtown

Bryant Park

Located right next door to the main branch of the New York Public Library, Bryant Park is the smaller, slightly less-touristy cousin of Central Park to the north.

In addition to a near-constant roster of daily events ranging from yoga classes to chess lessons, Bryant Park is also known for its excellent ice skating rink during the winter!

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Macy’s Flagship Store

Are you a fan of the classic movie Miracle on 34th Street?

If so, a visit to the gigantic–and original–Macy’s on 34th Street absolutely belongs on your list of things to do in Midtown.

If you’re visiting New York during the Christmas season, be sure not to miss the enormous Santa display on the eighth floor of the store!

Four photos on image. From top left: view of NYC skyline from Empire State Building, interior Morgan Library, interior Grand Central, old fashioned binoculars on Empire State Building. White text on a pink background in the center of the image reads "Fun Things to Do in Midtown NYC"

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Kate has been traveling the world full-time for more than 3 years. She tries to keep a balance between going on new adventures and exploring favorite destinations (like Italy!) in depth, and is always on the lookout for the next beautiful overlook and delicious meal.

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