The first semester of college is about settling in, finding your place, and exploring your surroundings. Students come to New York from all around the world, eager to learn and experience all the vibrant city has to offer. Coming here for school not only provides a unique formal education, but also an unparalleled cultural one, and if you don’t take advantage of it, you’re missing out. The first semester is about not only finding new places but getting all the touristy, on-the-beaten-path ones out of the way. There’s so much to do, and there’s still time before the end of the semester. So here’s 17 ideas of places to do and see your first semester in the city:
1. The Manhattan skyline from Brooklyn Heights.
The best way to see how dominating Manhattan really is? Try seeing it from across the East River.
2. Holey Cream, Manhattan
If a doughnut ice cream sandwich sounds good, you’re going to the right place.
3. The Transit Museum, Brooklyn
It may sound nerdy, but this is one of New York’s best museums––and that's saying a lot in this city. Here you can see vintage subway cars, turnstiles, and tokens dating since the beginning of public transit. This one is fun for kids and adults.
4. Coney Island
Even if you don’t ride any of the attractions, and even though it’s crowded, it’s worth going at least once to see the boardwalk and the beach.
5. Eat Chinese food in Flushing (Queens)
6. The view from either the Empire State or the Top of the Rock
It’s expensive and touristy, but it is a spectacular view.
7. Go to the Metropolitan Opera
Not only is the opera a spectacular experience, one that has represented “culture” throughout centuries, but most cities in the United States do not have operas. Therefore, many people who move to New York, particularly those from more rural areas, have never been to one in real-life and your time here presents a great opportunity to go.
8. Dominique Ansel Bakery
Where else can you get hot chocolate with marshmallows that bloom into flowers?
9. Go ice skating at Rockefeller Center.
It’s iconic, and you only have to do it once. If you want to save money and have your own skates, you can skate at Bryant Park when their Winter Village is set up (also something worth seeing).
10. The Metropolitan Museum of Art
This is––though I’m a little biased––one of the greatest art museums in the world. It’s so cool to be able to go there to see the artifacts we learn about in class, and equally cool to just go and wander.
11. The Christmas decorations up and down Fifth Avenue.
There’s no way of being unhappy when surrounded by sparkling lights and Christmas cheer.
12. The Highline
An old elevated railroad track converted into a park with great sights of both flower/wildlife and Chelsea? Don’t miss it.
Yes, it is worth traveling to Chinatown for a waffle-wrapped ice cream treat. Trust me.
A beautiful museum with fabulous artwork.
15. Go see a Broadway show
Or 6. Lottery and rush tickets are a good way to get discount admission, and there are so many great ones to see.
16. Greenwich Village
This is one of the most romanticized, charming, and historic neighborhoods in the city. With its twisting streets and quiet-but-energized atmosphere, it’s a great place to take a stroll and imagine the days when Hemingway, Kerouac, Ginsberg, Fitzgerald, Cummings, and so many others walked along those very roads.
17. Lincoln Center at night
Even if you don’t see anything, Lincoln Center––home to the New York City Ballet, The Metropolitan Opera, and The New York Philharmonic–– is gorgeous at night when it’s lights are on.
Happy exploring! The semester’s almost over; go find your favorite places and things!