Have you ever paid a visit to New York State? If not, it’s high time you did. Not only is this state home to the one and only New York City, it also has tons of beauty, charm, and history to offer in other parts of the state. How do you narrow down which things to see and do? We recommend making a New York bucket list.
By making a travel bucket list, you give yourself a way to organize your thoughts and ideas, keeping only the best ones and ensuring you remember which things you wanted to do most while you’re in the state.
In this article we will share our New York bucket list with you. Hopefully this inspires you and gives you some bucket list ideas for a New York travel list of your own.
What is a Bucket List?
We are excited to share our incredible bucket list with you. However, before we do that, we feel it is necessary to address one important question: What is a bucket list? The answer to this is easy. A bucket list is a collection of places to go and things to do before you pass away. Keeping a bucket list helps keep you focused on your goals, ensuring you make the most of your time here.
You can keep one bucket list for everything, but we prefer to split our lists up into smaller, more manageable travel bucket lists. Today’s list is a great example of that. It focused only on New York and will hopefully give you some ideas for your own New York bucket list.
— Bucket List Vacations: New York’s National Parks —
The first items on our travel bucket lists are almost always national parks. The National Parks Service does an incredible job protecting gorgeous parks and creating learning opportunities for us, and we feel all of the sites they run are bucket list-worthy attractions.
We’ve listed our absolute favorite New York NPS sites below:
African Burial Ground National Monument
The oldest and largest excavated burial ground for free and enslaved Africans in North America, the African Burial Ground National Monument is a place that makes you stop and think. It plays an important role in educating people on the history of slavery in New York and the United States.
Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site
Eleanor Roosevelt was a fascinating woman, and as you might imagine, a visit to her home is also fascinating. See where the Roosevelts entertained company and walk through the nation’s first Presidential Library. Learn all about this amazing couple and how they lived their day-to-day lives.
Ellis Island at Statue of Liberty National Monument
Ellis Island was once the gateway to a new life for thousands upon thousands of immigrants. Today, the island has been made into a monument that reminds us all of the incredible price that so many paid for the freedom to live the lives they wanted and deserved.
Federal Hall National Memorial
Visit the place where George Washington was sworn in as President of the United States. This same site was also home to the first Congress, Supreme Court, and Executive Branch offices. Later, the current structure that stands on this site was used as a Customs House. A visit to such an important place is sure to yield plenty of learning opportunities.
Fire Island National Seashore
Want to escape into nature? We suggest a visit to Fire Island National Seashore. This gorgeous place features plenty of sandy beaches and dunes to explore, as well as historic landmarks and glimpses of local wildlife. You’re sure to leave here feeling refreshed.
Hamilton Grange National Memorial
Alexander Hamilton was an interesting character who certainly did his part to help shape a young United States. Learn more about this man and his life by visiting and touring his country estate, which he named Hamilton Grange.
Harriet Tubman National Historical Park
A determined and amazingly strong woman, Harriet Tubman spent her entire life fighting for human rights. She emancipated herself as well as several members of her family, after which she moved to New York and fought for women’s rights. Learn more about her amazing life at this national historical park.
Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site
Another wonderful place to learn about the Roosevelt family, the home of Franklin D. Roosevelt provides an awesome peek into what life might have been like for the 32nd President of the United States. We highly recommend paying this house a visit either before or after touring the Eleanore Roosevelt house mentioned above.
Lower East Side Tenement Museum National Historic Site
As mentioned before, thousands upon thousands of people flocked to the United States in search of a better life. Unfortunately, while many of them did indeed find a life of freedom, they also found one of poverty. Many of these poor immigrants were forced to live in cramped tenements. Learn what life was like for these individuals at this national historic site.
Sagamore Hill National Historic Site
Home of Theodore Roosevelt, Sagamore Hill is another historic presidential home that is well worth visiting. This place is home to 83 acres, several historic buildings, and a lovely look at the life of one of history’s most well known presidents.
Saratoga National Historical Park
On this site in 1777, American troops battled the British and won. This was the first time in world history that the British army surrendered, and it was a crucial victory for the American troops. Visit this site to learn how this battle changed the course of history.
Statue of Liberty National Monument
The Statue of Liberty is a must-see for anyone visiting NYC. The statue is seen as a universal symbol for freedom and democracy, and is a powerful reminder of who we are and where we started.
Stonewall National Monument
Another powerful New York monument is Stonewall. Before the 1960s, living as an openly gay individual was not only frowned upon but illegal. The Stonewall Uprising of 1969 helped provide momentum for the movement away from these discriminatory laws, and is a huge milestone for the LGBTQ community.
Women’s Rights National Historical Park
Another great place to learn about the history of human rights is Women’s Rights National Historical Park. This park tells the story of the first Women’s Rights Convention held in 1848 and some of the events that occurred thereafter.
There are also several awesome national trails that criss-cross over the state of New York. These include:
- Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route
- North Country National Scenic Trail
- Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail
- Appalachian National Scenic Trail
— More New York Bucket List Experiences —
Once you’ve decided which NPS sites to add to your list, you’ll need to look outside of the national parks system for more great ideas. Luckily, there are a lot of them—so many, in fact, that we had to work hard to narrow down the options.
Marvel Over the Adirondacks
Easily the most beautiful place in the state, the Adirondacks are a must-visit. This is a gorgeous range of forest-covered hills that go on for miles. They are particularly beautiful in the fall when the leaves change to bright yellows, oranges, and reds. While you’re there, be sure to check out the Ausable Chasm for an extra dose of nature’s beauty.
Cruise around the Thousand Islands
Along the St. Lawrence River, there is a 50-mile stretch of tiny islands. There are thousands of these islands in all, and cruises along the river give sightseers an opportunity to check them out and take in the unique beauty of the place.
Tour the George Eastman Museum
An enormous mansion once owned by the inventor of the Kodak camera, the George Eastman Museum gives visitors a chance to see what the man’s home would have been like over 100 years ago. Additionally, the museum features exhibits of photography and film that are very engaging and the perfect way to learn about this art form.
Hike Watkins Glen State Park
New York’s Finger Lakes area is a must-see, and our favorite thing to do in this area is hike the Watkins Glen State Park. This beautiful natural area features 18 waterfalls, awesome rock formations, and a 165-foot-high bridge that we dare you to cross.
Admire Niagara Falls
Obviously, you’ll want to see Niagara Falls while in the state. This is one of the most visited natural wonders in the country, and once you see it, you’ll understand why. The falls are absolutely enormous and are stunning to see. Be sure to take a boat tour so you can get up close.
Get Outside at Lake Placid
An amazing place to spend some time unwinding in the great outdoors, a visit to Lake Placid is a relaxing way to spend a day (or a few). Go boating or fishing on the lake, learn some Olympics history, and explore the cute shops and eateries the town has to offer.
Snap a Photo of the Empire State Building
If you’ll be in New York City, you simply must see the Empire State Building. Be sure to take a camera and snap a photo to prove you were there and you saw it. If you want to get an extra cool experience, ride the elevator up to the observation deck and take in some of the very best views of the city,
Stroll Central Park
Another must-do when you find yourself in NYC? Spending some time in Central Park. Go for a walk, let the kids play on the many playgrounds, and enjoy a picnic in the green space.
Catch a Show in NYC
If there is one thing New York City knows how to do well, it’s put on a show. For this reason, it is imperative that you see a show during your time there. We recommend catching a performance at the Lincoln Center if at all possible, but really any Broadway show will do.
Learn at the Museum of the Moving Image
We definitely think the awesome Museum of the Moving Image deserves a spot on this list. This wonderful museum is perfect for film and TV nerds, but will likely entertain and educate anyone at all. Check out props from popular films, try your hand at video editing, and more.
Have a Blast in Coney Island
Coney Island has been a summertime escape for decades. Why not see what the fuss is all about by visiting this historic vacation town yourself? Ride the Wonder Wheel, grab a bite at one of the many restaurants, and attend the annual Mermaid Parade.
Take In the Art at the Corning Museum of Glass
Run by the Corning Glass Works company, the Corning Museum of Glass is dedicated to preserving and sharing the art, history, and science of glass. Wander the awesome exhibits, make your own glass, and learn about the science and history behind glass-making.
Visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum
September 11th, 2001 was a tragic day that changed the course of history forever. Visit this touching museum to learn about the events of that day and pay your respects to those who lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks.
Wander the Storm King Art Center
This open-air art museum features one of the largest collections of outdoor sculptures in the United States. The contemporary pieces here are lovely and thought-provoking, and an afternoon stroll in this park could lead to some fantastic conversations.
Enjoy the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
Since 1939, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum has worked to preserve the history of America’s favorite pastime. The museum features exhibits on the most important players in baseball history and presents information using audio, video, and interactive displays.
Step Back in Time on Historic Huguenot Street
In 1677 a group of Huguenot families settled on what is now called Huguenot Street. Today, the street is considered the oldest continuously inhabited street in the country and features a visitor center, historic buildings, and many opportunities to learn about the history of the area.
Time Travel at the Farmers’ Museum
Another great opportunity to step back in time can be found at the Farmers’ Museum. This living history museum focuses on teaching visitors about history by demonstrating farming practices and the activities of day-to-day life in the early 19th century.
Be Awed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Finally, we simply must mention the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This gorgeous art museum is definitely one of the best in the country. While you’re there, make sure to check out the famous Met Cloisters.
With so many amazing things to see and do in New York, we don’t think you’ll be getting bored anytime soon. You’ll probably get tired by the end of each day though. For this reason, we highly recommend renting an RV while you’re there. This will ensure you can rest in comfort no matter where in the state you wander.
Why not check out our New York RV rental options today? We’re betting you find the perfect rig to book, and then you’ll be one step closer to your wonderful New York adventure!