Any city can be exhilarating. If you come from a suburban or rural area, it can be especially magical, but even lifelong urbanites recognize the excitement and wonder of cityscapes. With so many things to do on any given day or night, it can be overwhelming to try and make plans, but that’s one of the best things about the city. You can drive in with no plan at all and still find a million things to do on a moment’s notice.
If you’re currently sitting in a crowded downtown coffee shop and staring at your laptop in search of the perfect city activity (or if you’re just bored and looking for new surroundings), read on to discover some of our favorite things to do in the city.
Your Big-City Checklist
See a movie in the park. During the summer, many cities show movies in the park. Bring a blanket, snacks, a light sweater, and enjoy the magic of cinema.
Volunteer. Cities often have the greatest need for good-hearted volunteers to help out at food drives, soup kitchens, and more. If you want to make a difference, the city is the perfect place.
Go to a dive bar. Dive bars are essential destinations for all city tours—especially to converse with locals and get a feel for the city’s culture. Alternately, consider taking part in a pub crawl.
Go on a ghost walk. Cities are brimming with history, and good ghost stories are never in short supply. If you like macabre experiences, consider taking a ghost tour.
Attend a sporting event. What better way to absorb the city’s energy than to go to a local game and cheer on the home team with other enthusiastic fans?
Go to a play. Sure, there are great professional theaters like the Majestic in New York and the Pantages in L.A., but don’t write off the local theater companies. You’ll find just as much talent in a regional 99-seat theater as you can on the Broadway stage.
Visit a dog park. Does your four-legged friend also need something fun to do in the city? Head to the local dog park!
Go to a museum. Art museums, history museums, science museums—learn something new and expand your horizons. Most cities have free museum days, so keep an eye out.
Geocache. Although the geocaching trend has died down somewhat, there are still some great geocaches waiting to be found in cities worldwide.
Attend a live concert. Specifically, catch some of the local bands. As with local theater, you’ll be surprised by the talent that’s out there waiting to be discovered.
Go to a farmers market. Because you’ll need your vitamins and minerals if you want to keep your energy up for that big city exploration.
Do yoga in the park. Or even tai chi (if that’s more your speed).
Take a bike ride. Many cities now have kiosks where you can rent bicycles or even motor scooters and explore the streets on your own terms.
Visit a landmark hotel. Big cities are known for their grand historic hotels: The Raleigh in Miami, Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans, and the Parker House in Boston (to name a few). Stay the night, lounge by the pool, or just explore the historic grounds.
Shop. This one’s a no-brainer. Shopping should be a major part of any trip to the city. Make sure to hit local independent boutiques.
Go to a local restaurant. If you’re tired of the same chain restaurants, head over to Yelp and look for a highly rated local joint to try. Big cities are home to some of the best eats on the planet.
Join a Meetup. If you’re looking to make new friends so you don’t have to enjoy the city alone, sign up for a local Meetup event and make some memories.
Search Instagram. No matter what activities you partake in, you’ll want to find great spots for your feed. Instagram can be a great tool to find new, cool places to go eat or hang out at.
Go to a local art gallery. You may discover the next Monet.
Get on a tour bus. Even if you think you know the city, you’ll be surprised by what you might learn on a professionally guided tour.
Visit a used bookstore. If you’re a bibliophile, we probably don’t need to remind you about the magic of an unsuspecting used bookstore in an otherwise crowded city.
Have a spa day. Just because you deserve it.
Take public transportation. Exploring the city by subway or bus enables you to see corners you may not otherwise notice. It also spares you the stress of navigating dense urban traffic on your own.
Watch the street performers. If you happen to be in a location like Times Square or Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade, you can find some real talent.
Look for events in the local newsweekly. Those free weekly papers like The Village Voice are filled with great tips on local events.
See the nightlife. If you’re into the club scene, you won’t want to miss the best nightclubs in the big city. Prepare to spend heavily if you want bottle service.
Go to a zoo. Again, assuming you’re in a city that has a zoo.
Visit a convention. There are comic book conventions, interior design conventions, health conventions, and so much more. If you have a hobby or interest, there’s probably a convention for it.
Attend a speed-dating event. Looking to find love in the city? Speed-dating events are extremely popular.
Get out of your comfort zone. Depending on which city you visit, you may have access to zip lines, indoor skydiving, or even seaside roller coasters.
Get a tattoo. You know, to commemorate your trip to the city.
Take a class. It’s easy to find cooking classes, crafting classes, and other types of activities in the city. You can also paint while drinking wine (aka paint and sip).
Do karaoke. Grab your group, rent a private room in a karaoke bar, and cast your inhibitions to the wind. Remember, you don’t sound as bad as you think.
Attend an open house. Even if you’re not in the market to buy, it’s fun to check out the local real estate and tour your dream home.
Google weird things to do in your city. For instance, did you know that Austin has a towering Cathedral of Junk? Or that Las Vegas has a pet shop where you can play with exotic animals? See what’s available in your city.
Looking to make the most out of your weekend? Read on for 30 affordable, fun things to do.