31 Essential New York Bucket List Activities & Food

Updated

When people think of New York, they’re most likely to think about the bright lights of the city that never sleeps. While New York City is certainly worthy of any travel bucket list, the state has a lot to offer beyond Manhattan. One of the leading destinations in the country, here’s everything you need to add to your New York bucket list. 

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From the mountains of the Adirondacks to the sprawling metro area of NYC, what’s on your New York bucket list? You could spend a lifetime exploring this large state, but we’ll highlight the things you absolutely must check out. 

New York Bucket List Trip Destinations

Aside from New York City, what destinations should be on your New York bucket list? These might not be what you think of when you think of New York, but they’re plenty worth the visit. 

1. Escape to the Hamptons

Not just for the rich and famous, the Hamptons are a two-hour drive from New York City. This is where locals and travelers alike find a group of seaside towns perfect for a relaxing getaway on the water. 

2. Experience the beauty of upstate in Buffalo

One of the largest cities in New York is Buffalo. Though not as glamorous as New York City, it’s still home to quite a bit of charm. In this student- and family-friendly hub, you’ll find endless landmarks, activities, museums, and more. 

3. Get up close to Niagara Falls

New York is home to the US side of Niagara Falls. Though the town itself is small, visiting Niagara Falls is an absolute bucket list must. You can get up close to the 3,000 tons of water gushing over the cliffs each second with a boat tour. 

4. Enjoy a big small town in Rochester

Rochester, New York, is considered a mini version of New York. With its own cultural district, booming businesses, and historical landmarks, this is one of the many hidden gems in New York state. 

5. See why so many love Long Island

Lastly, the quickest escape from the hustle of city life is Long Island. Just an hour from New York, this area is made up of four counties. Known for its family-friendly charm, sandy beaches, and parks, this is the best of both worlds. 

Outdoor Activity, Hike, and Adventure Bucket List Ideas for New York

Because New York state is so synonymous with the big city, it’s hard to believe this is also a focal point of many outdoor activities. From hiking to rafting, here are the best outdoor activities to add to your adventure bucket list. 

6. Hike in the Adirondacks

With over six million acres of mountains and greenery, the Adirondacks is the perfect spot for any adventure-seeker. Home to hiking, swimming, fishing, kayaking, and endless mountain air, this is a rustic place that you’ll never want to leave. 

7. Visit the famous Catskills

The Catskills mountains are famous for a lot of reasons. Home to the Hudson River Art Trail and the infamous Woodstock festival, this is a stunning place to take in nature. 

8. Travel the famous Appalachian Trail

New York includes a portion of the Appalachian Trail, and this is a great place to explore. While you might not feel up to covering the full scope of the Appalachian Trail, hike the stretch near Bear Mountain Bridge to take in the best views of the Hudson River. 

9. Soak up Taughannock Falls

Located off Cayuga Lake, Taughannock Falls is well worth the visit. This stunning spot is full of gorges and rim trails, though the real sight to behold is the Falls. The family-friendly trail makes it accessible to all, and you can get up close to this feat of nature. 

10. Go horseback riding in Saratoga Springs

For some old-world charm, head upstate to Saratoga Springs. This picture-perfect town is filled with Victorian houses, gardens, and 18 mineral springs. The best way to take in the parks of this town is by horse!

11. Sail on Lake Placid

Lake Placid is one of the biggest lakes in New York, and it’s the perfect spot for water sports. Go sailing, boating, or just lounge on one of the many beaches for the perfect outdoor afternoon. 

Spring and Summer New York Bucket List Ideas

During the spring and summer, New York state positively blooms. The city comes to life with gorgeous weather, warm days, and endless sunshine. Here’s how to make the most of these magical seasons. 

12. Visit a New York winery

Did you know New York is home to its own wine region? It’s true, and it’s known as the Finger Lakes. This array of beautiful lakes has over 100 vineyards and wineries. The best way to enjoy a glass of your favorite wine is by looking across the picturesque landscape. 

13. Visit a real castle

Along the St. Lawrence River, you’ll find Thousand Islands. This 50-mile stretch is filled with (as the name implies) thousands of islands. If you only visit one thing here, make sure it’s the Boldt Castle. 

14. Walk above the trees

The newly opened Wild Center in the Adirondacks is a great way to take in the park in a completely new way. The “Wild Walk” lets visitors stroll on an elevated trail amongst the treetops. 

15. Attend a music festival

In the summer, you’ll find a never-ending list of music festivals. From the kid-friendly Falcon Ridge Folk Festival to the Governors Ball, the summer is the perfect time to turn up the volume and get outside. 

16. Take in the thrills

Did you know there are a lot of theme parks in New York state? Adventureland in Long Island is a common spot for people in the city, but there are many others to choose from. These are only popular in the summertime, so be sure to get tickets early. 

Fall and Winter New York Bucket List Ideas

Though New York (particularly upstate) is known for its brutal winters, don’t let that keep you away. There’s an undeniable magic to New York during this time of year, especially as the seasons change. 

17. See the state capital 

Despite common misconception, New York City isn’t the capital of NY state. Albany is the state capital in upstate NY, and there’s a lot to do here. During the winter, take in the changing seasons, the New York State Museum, and the Schuyler Mansion. 

18. Learn about baseball history

Baseball and New York state go hand in hand. In Cooperstown, you can visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Full of American culture and history, this is perfect for all ages. 

19. Hit the slopes

One of the greatest vertical drops east of the Rocky Mountains is Whiteface Mountain in the Adirondacks. You can ski, snowboard, or just sip your favorite hot chocolate. 

20. Warm-up at an indoor water park

Another way to spend the cold months is inside warming up at an indoor water park. The Kartrite indoor waterpark and resort is the perfect place. 

21. Visit a snow-covered museum

Finally, your New York bucket list for the winter wouldn’t be complete without a museum. The Vanderbilt Museum and Planetarium in Long Island is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and it’s one of the largest in the US. 

Bucket List Foods and Restaurants in New York

There are so many things to add to your food bucket list for New York that it’s hard to narrow it down. If we had to pick just a few must-try favorites, these would be it. 

22. Enjoy a classic pastrami on rye

Brought to New York by Romanian Jews in the 1800s, this is a New York classic. Found at any kosher deli, this sliced beef pastrami is paired with brown mustard on rye bread for a yummy sandwich. 

23. Try New York pizza

Every part of the country has its own take on pizza, and New York state is no exception. Known as coal oven pizza, this is one of the best pizzas you can grab. Whether you get a slice on the go or you sit down with friends, compare this pie with other favorites. 

24. Grab a bagel and lox

The perfect on-the-go meal, a bagel and lox is the true definition of melting pot cuisine. From immigrant communities, this is a combination of Polish bagels and Scandinavian salmon. The most iconic bagel and lox is sold at the Russ & Daughters in NYC. 

25. Get a slice of NY cheesecake

Though cheesecakes date back to ancient Greece, New York created what we now know as the classic NY slice of cheesecake. Made with cream cheese, this dense, smooth dessert still attracts crowds from across the globe. 

26. Snack on some buffalo wings

A finger food classic for sports fans everywhere, the buffalo wing originated in Buffalo, New York. Created in the 1960s, this snack is a mainstay on menus across the state. 

New York City, New York Bucket List Ideas

Lastly, it wouldn’t be a New York bucket list without a section specifically for New York City. Since NYC is considered the greatest city in the world, it would take a lifetime to get through all there was to discover here—but start with these top picks. 

27. Explore all five boroughs

Though most people think of Manhattan when they think of NYC, there are actually five boroughs to explore. Take in all of the sights by visiting the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island as well. And, when you are in Manhattan, be sure to check out the Statue of Liberty.

28. Take in world-class art

There are so many amazing museums in New York City, but some of the best are the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim, and the Museum of Modern Art. Better yet, many of these are completely free. 

29. Give your regards to Broadway

This famous street is home to some of the best shows in the world. With 41 mainstream theaters to choose from, you might just stumble upon the next big hit on the stage.

30. Walk along the High Line

A modern city, sometimes it can feel like New York is disconnected from the greenery you get in other parts of the state. A walk along the High Line, a public park that’s over a mile long, shows how the city takes advantage of any green space it can find. 

31. Cross the Brooklyn Bridge

Lastly, the most iconic view in New York City is from the Brooklyn Bridge. Spanning the East River, this suspension bridge is easy to recognize. It takes about 30 minutes to walk across, and you’ll see the most breathtaking view especially at sunset. 

Experience the Empire State

Empire state of mind, anyone? From towering cities to endless mountains, New York state is a diverse place to explore. Whether you’re visiting for the art, history, culture, or natural beauty, there’s so much to fall in love with in New York. 

Are you creating your own New York state bucket list? This guide is for you. Created by a previous New York resident, these things will leave you longing for another trip to the Empire State.

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