A complete guide of what to do in Midtown, including all the best museums, architectural landmarks, attractions, parks, television show tapings, and restaurants.
Midtown is home to Times Square, Grand Central Station, Rockefeller Center, and some of the city’s most iconic hotels and shopping. It’s where the TODAY Show and SNL are taped and where the ball drops on New Year’s Eve.
Midtown makes up a large section of Manhattan. It’s northern border is 59th Street, just south of Central Park. The neighborhood stretches the full width of Manhattan and goes south to 34th Street. (There are many different definitions of Midtown, but I am sticking with this one).
Midtown encompasses several neighborhoods including Hell’s Kitchen, Clinton, Turtle Bay, Murray Hill, and the Theater District.
What to do in Midtown:
This guide of what to do in Midtown is divided into the following categories: museums, attractions, architectural landmarks, shopping, tv show tapings, parks, restaurants, and more things to do.
Museums in Midtown:
The Museum of Modern Art is committed to displaying works of modern and contemporary art, design, and architecture. The main attraction is Van Gogh’s Starry Night, which is part of the permanent collection. Sidenote: I love this photo I snapped of a stranger viewing a painting by Rothko.
In addition to the permanent collection, you will find special exhibitions that tackle topics like Architecture in Yugoslavia and that highlight the work of individual artists like Charles White and Bruce Nauman. The paintings in the photo are by Joan Mitchell and are part of the permanent collection.
Museum of Arts and Design:
This museum is devoted to documenting historic and contemporary craft, art, and design. The collection includes metalworks, ceramics, fiber, glass, wood, stones, gems, animal materials, enamels, works on paper, and mixed media. Ongoing exhibitions include highlights from the goblet collection, highlights from the jewelry collection, and a geometric patterned stained glass window by Judith Schaechter.
The Onassis Cultural Center:
This arts and education center is dedicated to sharing Greek culture and presenting the work of Greek artists spanning ancient Greek artifacts to contemporary artists. The center is centered around displaying temporary exhibitions, so check to make sure an exhibition is on view before you go.
The Chrysler Building is famous for it’s stunning Art Deco architecture and for being one of the tallest buildings in Manhattan. The building is filled with offices and doesn’t offer tours, but you should be sure to admire the way the building lights up in the skyline at night.
Another example of Art Deco architecture, the buildings that make up Rockefeller Center are adorned with sculptural Art Deco details. At Christmastime, Rockefeller Center is famous of its Christmas Tree and ice skating rink.
Empire State Building:
The 102 story skyscraper was the tallest building in the world for almost 40 years, and is currently the 4th tallest building in Manhattan. It has become a cultural icon thanks to appearances in King Kong, Sleepless in Seattle, and Gossip Girl. The observation deck is open 365 days a year and offers one of the best views of New York City. The observation deck is one of the most popular things to do in Midtown, so I recommend booking tickets in advance online.
Part of New York City’s Theatre District, Times Square is filled with big name stores, chain restaurants, giant digital billboards, costumed characters, and tourist attractions. Seeing it is an essential part of a visit to New York City.
Grand Central Station:
More than just a train station, the Beaux-Arts interior of Grand Central is an architectural and design wonder. From the celestial painted ceilings of the grand hall to the whispering gallery where archways carry secrets from one side of the hall to the other, there is lots to discover in Grand Central. If you want to learn all about the architecture and history, there are tours available.
There are 35 restaurants within Grand Central including a food court on the lower level that has a Magnolia Bakery and a Shake Shack.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral:
A Neo-Gothic style Roman Catholic Church just across from Rockefeller Center, this is an architectural landmark and a place of worship. Tours are available, as are daily masses.
St. Bartholomew’s Church:
An Episcopal parish on Park Avenue between 50th and 51st Street, St. Bart’s is a National Historic Landmark. Like St. Patricks Cathedral, it is an active church and daily services are held.
Attractions in Midtown:
Ripley’s Believe It or Not!:
Definitely a tourist attraction, this family friendly “museum” is located in Times Square has 20 galleries filled with curious oddities. There are interactive games, artifacts owned by Ripley, and experiential artworks.
This museums of miniatures lets visitors explore 25 cities on 5 continents.
An interactive spy museum blend historical stories of spies with exhibitions that tackle topics like encryption, surveillance, hacking, and special ops. Plus, there is a James Bond exhibition coming to the space soon!
The world famous museum of wax figures has a location in Time Square. Find wax figures of everyone from E.T. to Einstein inside. Maybe stay away from the super creepy and inaccurate Ed Sheeran statue though.
More things to do in Midtown:
See a Broadway Show:
Tickets for shows like Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and Hamilton need to be booked months in advance, but you can find same day tickets at the TKTS booth at a discounted price.
Top of the Rock:
On a clear day you can see the Statue of Liberty from the Top of the Rock. I like going to Top of the Rock because it gives you a great view of the Empire State Building.
New York Public Library:
NYPL’s flagship building on 5th Avenue and 42nd Street is a National Historic Landmark built in the Beaux-Arts style. It gained 15 minutes of fame when Carrie Bradshaw almost married Big at there. You should visit because it is one of the best free things in New York City! The Rose Reading room is gorgeous and visitors can opt to see it on their own, or as part of a guided tour.
Be sure to head down to the Children’s Library where you can see the real life stuffed animals that inspired Winnie the Pooh!
Madison Square Garden:
One of New York City’s biggest sports and music venues, this is where the Knicks and Rangers play. MSG hosts everything from the rodeo to rock concerts. Billy Joel is playing a series of shows there in 2019.
Radio City Music Hall:
You can opt to tour the Art Deco theatre or to see a show or concert. Musicians, comedians, and dance groups perform at this venue.
NBC Studios Tour:
NBC Studios, located at Rockefeller Center, offers tours. You can see the Art Deco interior architecture and tour television studios.
Shopping in Midtown:
The largest department store in the United States is in Herald Square.
Located in the Vanderbilt mansion, this high end department store carries brands including Prada, Jimmy Choo, Gucci, and Dolce & Gabbana. The chic restaurant on the seventh floor has lovely views of Central Park.
Tiffany & Co.:
Perhaps the most famous jewelry store in the world, and where scenes for Breakfast and Tiffany’s and Sweet Home Alabama were filmed.
After closing their NYC Flagship in 2015, this iconic toy store is back and now located in Rockefeller Center.
Saks Fifth Avenue:
Apparently their shoe department is so massive that it takes up an entire floor and has its own zip code. This seemed so unbelievable so I fact checked it, the zip code is 10022-SHOE, and there are 30,000 shoes in the department.
The flagship on Fifth Avenue has nine stories of shopping. You can find products from designers like Hermes, Jonathan Adler, Baccarat, and Saint Laurent.
The Chanel on 57th Street is the designer’s New York City flagship, and is the largest Chanel boutique in the United States. You can find limited edition pieces, jewelry, ready-to-wear clothing, handbags, shoes, and beauty collections.
Gucci’s New York City flagship is located within Trump Tower and is the world’s largest Gucci store.
Find this three story shop on the corner of 57th Street and Fifth Avenue.
This Japanese import sells affordable basics. I love their jeans and packable jackets.
TV Show Tapings in Midtown:
Saturday Night Live:
You can get tickets for the dress rehearsal at 8pm or the live tapping at 11:30pm. To get tickets you have to email email@example.com in August and explain why you want tickets to the show. Standby tickets which are distributed at 7am on the West 49th Street side of 30 Rockefeller Plaza on a one per person basis. Must be 16 or older to attend.
The Daily Show with Trevor Noah:
The show takes at 11th and 52nd Street on Mondays through Thursdays at 6pm. Reservations are required and you must be 18 or older to attend.
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver:
The show is filmed on Sunday nights at the CBS Broadcast Center on 57th and 10th Avenue and tickets are available up to 2 1/2 weeks in advance. Must be 18 or older.
Late Night with Seth Meyers:
This show tapes at Rockefeller Center on Monday through Thursday at 6:30pm, and tickets can be booked in advance. Monologue rehearsal tickets are also handed out at 11:30am. Must be 16 or older to attend, and no groups larger than 4 people are allowed.
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert:
The Late Show tapes Monday through Friday at 5:30. Must be 18 or older to attend.
The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon:
Each block of tickets opens up about a month in advance, you can also opt to go to the monologue rehearsal. Must be 16 or older to attend.
TODAY Show Taping:
The morning show tapes at Studio 1A in Rockefeller Center at 7am on weekdays. I think it is more fun to go when there is a concert on a plaza.
Parks in Midtown:
The largest park in Midtown, this 4 acre space is beside New York Public Library. In the winter it is home to Winter Village, a holiday market with an ice skating rink. During the summer the park is home to Broadway in Bryant Park, a performance series featuring musical numbers from Broadway shows. The park also hosts a summertime movie series.
A tiny park on 51st Street between Second Avenue and Third Avenue, Greenacre Park is a lush green space with a tranquil waterfall.
Where to eat in Midtown:
Russian Tea Room:
The beautifully decorated Russian Tea Room has been around for over 90 years. They serve Russian classics like borscht and caviar, in addition to an afternoon tea.
I love the Eloise books growing up and I have a soft spot for The Plaza. Last year my sister and I took our mother there for Mother’s Day. Tea at The Plaza’s Palm Court restaurant is one of the best and probably the most elegant afternoon tea in New York City.
Located in the theater district and decorated with hundreds of caricatures of celebrities, Sardi’s is a pre and post-theatre hang out. If you need to grab a meal before or after a Broadway show, this is your best option.
Blue Box Cafe at Tiffany:
This recently opened cafe has made it possible to have breakfast at Tiffany’s. The cafe is on the 4th floor of the Tiffany & Co. flagship and is open from 10am – 5:30pm.
Located within Grand Central, but hidden away from the crowds, you will find an elegant (and expensive) cocktail bar. The space was originally a private apartment, and it has recently been restored to bring the elaborate architectural details back to life. They have live jazz performances on Sundays.
Heads up, this place is very touristy. They are known for their massive family style portions of Italian food. I loved it when I was a kid.
One of my favorite spots for an affordable meal, Barn Joo serves up Korean food in a chic-meets-rustic space. I love the bibimbap, but there is also a menu of Korean BBQ that you cook at the table.
My favorite spot for a bagel is on 3rd Street between 50th and 51st Streets. They make over a dozen different flavors of bagels, which you can enjoy with cream cheese, eggs, or as the base for a sandwich.
This New York City based bakery chain is famous for their confections like cake truffles, cereal milk ice cream, and crack pie.
Part of the Momofuku restaurant empire, Bāng Bar is a counter service restaurant that serves breakfast and lunch. The menu consists of Korean style flatbreads rolled up with fillings.
An exceptional spot for ice cream with creative flavors like cookies & cream vs. peanut butter crunch. In addition to a large variety of ice cream, they serve fresh dipped donuts and other sweet treats.
The Halal Guys:
The most famous food cart in New York City can be found at 53rd and 6th and there is almost always a line.
Monday 17th of April 2023
Thanks for the this review.
Friday 1st of March 2019
What an extensive array of sights in midtown (pinned it). Good work Kit. Visiting you at the Pretty Pintastic Party # 250. Please check out my post, Tucson Gem Show Beauty and Fun #90
Chas' Crazy Creations
Wednesday 27th of February 2019
Such a great list with wonderful recommendations. I had the opportunity to travel to mid-town in October. I didn't nearly have enough time as there was so much to do. I hope to go back!
Wednesday 27th of February 2019
There is so much to do in Midtown! I hope you get back there soon!
Wednesday 27th of February 2019
Thanks for sharing these great tips on Sunday's Best Linkup. I plan to make a trip to New York this spring.
Wednesday 27th of February 2019
NYC in the Spring is delightful! You are going to have the best time!