New York City is only as far as your laptop.

By Andrea Romano
December 08, 2020
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A trip to New York City absolutely needs to be on any traveler’s bucket list.

Unfortunately, in 2020, traveling there isn’t the best thing to do while the COVID-19 pandemic is still going on. But if you’re aching to travel, there are still a lot of ways to enjoy the Big Apple without putting yourself or others at risk.

High angle view of cast iron architectural buildings in the Soho neighborhood of downtown Manhattan, New York City
Credit: Getty Images

Virtual experiences have been surging in popularity since the pandemic began. Not only are they a sort of salve for people who really love going to new places, they also make certain destinations more accessible for those who can’t prioritize travel in their budget.

And one major city that lots of people want to visit is New York. It has theater, great food, famous museums, one-of-a-kind attractions and more for tourists to enjoy.

While you may not be able to visit NYC any time soon, you can still get that New York experience online, at home. There are a ton of resources for virtual tours in NYC, so we picked out some of the most iconic things to do in the city that you can experience with just your Wi-Fi connection.

Take a walk along the Brooklyn Bridge

This virtual walking tour takes you from Brooklyn to Manhattan along the iconic Brooklyn Bridge. YouTuber Action Kid took a walk across the bridge from Cadman Plaza East, taking all viewers along for the trip. It was originally filmed in 2018, so don’t be too shocked at the lack of mask-wearers.

Explore Central Park

New York City has over 1,700 parks, and perhaps the most famous is Central Park, which takes up some hefty real estate in Manhattan. Even in real life, it can take hours to explore every corner. There are quite a few ways to enjoy the park from home, including viewing the park’s #MondayMeditations, which show you beautiful views of nature in the park, or take a virtual tour via YouVisit. This virtual tour takes you to some the best spots in the park, like Strawberry Fields and Bethesda Terrace, with accompanying audio.

See nature at New York Botanical Garden

One of the best places to see the wonders of nature is at New York Botanical Garden. This beautiful, massive garden in the Bronx has tons of virtual experiences on its website, ranging from virtual tours of the gardens to classes on botany.

See the animals at the Bronx Zoo

One of the best zoos in the city has been here to deliver cute animal content throughout the pandemic. The zoo hosts live webcams of sea lions, sharks, and more animal species, as well as offering virtual zoo “visits.”

Discover the past at the American Museum of Natural History

One of the most popular museums in the city has to be the American Museum of Natural History. While you may not be able to get to the Upper West Side, you can still see dinosaurs, the origin of humans on earth, and lots more scientific discoveries at the museum thanks to its many virtual “field trips.”

Visit Santa at the St. George Theatre

The holidays are a very special time in New York City. Other than walking tours to see the many lights and window displays along Fifth Avenue, virtual visitors can also get a virtual visit from Santa courtesy of the St. George Theatre. These chats cost about $40 for five to eight minutes with St. Nick himself, which goes to benefit St. George Theatre Restoration Inc, a non-profit organization.

Listen to the New York Philharmonic

Everyone has been looking for ways to thank the frontline workers in the midst of the pandemic, including the New York Philharmonic. The organization created an online concert for essential employees like doctors, nurses, and post office workers, but anyone can go to YouTube and enjoy it for themselves.

Enjoy a concert from Carnegie Hall

The famous Carnegie Hall hasn’t been slacking on creating beautiful music in 2020. While going to an actual concert may not be in the cards for tourists and locals alike, anyone can still enjoy a “live” performance on the concert hall’s website. There is also an opportunity to donate to this non-profit organization if you like what you hear.

See on and off-Broadway shows from Manhattan Theater Club and Broadway HD

New York City is a performing arts town, so it’s been very different in the city without its theater. While theaters will remain closed into 2021, there are still ways to see a musical or play from home. If you’re looking for big Broadway performances, subscribing to Broadway HD is the perfect way to see some of the most iconic on-stage musicals from past years. Or, if you’re looking for a free option, Manhattan Theater Club has a playlist of its best off-Broadway performances on YouTube.

Step into Grand Central Station

Stepping off the train into Grand Central Station is a one-of-a-kind experience you can only get in New York City. This iconic and beautiful station has been featured in films and TV shows, especially its gorgeous ceiling that shows different constellations. If you can’t get on the train, you can still visit the station virtually via YouVisit.

See breathtaking views at the Empire State Building

There’s no better view of the city than from the Empire State Building. Luckily, I Love NY 360 has a virtual tour that will take your breath away. This 360-degree virtual tour has a view from the 102nd floor of the building, where you can see the city for miles, including some of its outer boroughs.

Remember September 11 at the 9/11 Museum

The 9/11 Museum is one of the most-visited in the city. This solemn dedication to the lives lost on September 11, 2001 is a must-go if you ever have the chance to see the city, but until then Google Street View has you covered. If you want to “walk” around the fountain at the memorial, you can easily do so at your leisure.

Visit the Guggenheim, the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum, MoMA, and more

New York is a city that’s bursting with museums. You can easily see lots of famous New York institutions on Google Arts and Culture, or some museums have even put together their own tours on their websites. Places like the Guggenheim, the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum, and MoMA all have ways to enjoy art, history, and culture online.

See the beauty of the New York Public Library

The New York Public Library isn’t just a place to check out a book, it’s also a gorgeous piece of architecture that design buffs would love. Many tourists love to browse the shelves, but since that’s extremely limited right now, you can still enjoy a virtual tour to see the beautiful midtown building.

See Times Square (without the crowds)

It’s a common joke that New Yorkers like to avoid Times Square like the plague, but there’s no reason not to like a virtual tour that allows you to enjoy this bustling square without bumping into people on all sides.

Marvel at the Statue of Liberty

The National Park Service has you covered when it comes to famous national parks and landmarks, including Liberty Island, where the Statue of Liberty calls home. Tourists love to flock to this place and enjoy the view from Lady Liberty’s crown, and luckily you can do this from the comfort of home. In fact, there is a store of virtual experiences involving New York landmarks online.

Create your own slice at the Pizza School

What do you think of when you think of New York food? Pizza, of course. Getting a pizza slice in the Big Apple is truly a quintessential experience that everyone must try when they eventually come to the city. But if you have the craving now, you (and your family) can make your own thanks to the Pizza School online.

Andrea Romano is a freelance writer in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @theandrearomano.