45+ Best Things To Do In NYC: A Local New Yorkers Guide!

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The Best and Most Epic Things to do in NYC

New York City is undoubtedly a special place to visit any time you think of New York. After living in New York for over 12 years, going to College in Chelsea, NYC, and working in Midtown, Soho, and the Upper East Side, I’d say NYC and I have had quite a friendship. In fact, since I love New York so much, I am covering the best things to do in NYC during just about any time of the year!

In this New York travel guide, create your ultimate NYC bucket list! Throughout, you will find travel tips and tricks along with pop-up experiences to enjoy in NYC!

Best things to do in NYC include seeing the skyline

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1. Walk The High Line

Located in the neighborhood of Chelsea, the High Line was once an old lifted railroad, now turned into a green space! It’s one of my favorite things to do in NYC, especially now that it’s connected to Hudson Yards (more about that later)!

The Highline is 1.45 miles and gives a great perspective for you to look down to the street.  It is one of the best Free to do in NYC!

One of the best things to do in NYC is walking the Highline
View of the Empire State Building from the Highline

2. Visit Chelsea Market

Since you are in Chelsea, don’t forget to check out the Chelsea Market! Located in the Meatpacking District, the Chelsea Market has become internationally renowned and is considered one of the best indoor marketplaces in the world! There are 20+ Chelsea food vendors to choose from, so you will find something for everyone.  

This cool urban space has diverse and fresh food and an overall cool vibe to even just walk through. Free to visit!

Address: 75 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011

3. Explore the Vessel

The Vessel at Hudson Yards is one of the newer attractions in NYC and easily one of the best things to do! This funky yet cool honeycomb-shaped structure stands at 154 ft tall, and while you can no longer climb the Vessel, it still deserves a spot on any NYC bucket list!

You can still go inside the bottom of the structure for free and look up at the unique views. Additionally, the outside of the Vessel is very Instagrammable, and Hudson Yards always has something going on. From concerts at the Shed, to free outdoor movies on Fridays during the fall in NYC!

Address: The Shops and Restaurants at Hudson Yards, New York, NY 10001

4. Walk on The Edge

Also located in the new Hudson Yards complex stands NYC’s highest outdoor sky deck in the West Hemisphere! 

Suspended 100 stories up in the air with a glass sky deck; this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for sure! If you decide to visit The Edge at night, you can even enjoy champagne while looking at the NYC skyline all lit up! 

For the dare-devils looking for NYC bucket list experiences, you can also hang off the Edge! It is called City Climb, and you are harnessed in, but lean off the skyscraper which is over 1,200 feet above the ground!

Address: The Shops and Restaurants at Hudson Yards, New York, NY 10001 Enter at level 4

View of the Edge Observatory from One Summit
View of the Edge from Summit One Vanderbilt

5. Summit One Vanderbilt

One of my favorite observation decks happens to be NYC’s newest attraction, the Summit One Vanderbilt. This building is taking the NYC Skyline to a whole level! Experience mirror rooms, floor-to-ceiling glass windows, and more! There are even glass floor elevators that happen to be the largest in the world.

This is also a great activity to do in NYC at night for its insane view of the New York City skyline!

There are 3 different types of tickets to choose from. The Summit Experience $35 (day) $49 (night), The Summit Ascent $59 (day) $69 (night), and the Ultimate Summit $73 (day) $83 (night).

To get your tickets and learn more check out the Summit One Vanderbilt website!

Address: 45 E 42nd St, New York, NY 10017 Entrance located on the Main Concourse of Grand Central Terminal

Summit One Vanderbilt with Empire State Building

6. Helicopter Ride Over the City

This one is for all my adrenaline junkies! Personally, I am scared of helicopters, but when I get over that fear, I’ve always wanted to take a helicopter ride over NYC. You can do it during the day or at night, and it really is a one-of-a-kind experience! Can you think of a cooler NYC bucket list experience?!

From the photos I’ve seen, the views are sick (New York Slang)! Check out helicopter rides with Get Your Guide!

NYC at night black and white photo from across the water

7. Experience Top of The Rock

New York City is known for its incredible skyline and experiencing it from the Top of the Rock is no exception! Top of the Rock has 3 observation decks on the 67th, 69th, and 70th floors for panoramic views that include the Empire State Building!

You will want to get tickets in advance for this one since it goes by timeslots, or use a City Pass (more on this below).

Address: 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10112

Views from the Top of The Rock

8. Walk Through Times Square

Every New Yorker will avoid Times Square at all costs, but if this is your first time visiting NYC, it’s one of the best things to experience!

Make sure to see Times Square during both the day and at night when the City is all lit up! I’ll never forget how mesmerized I was when I saw Times Square for the first time!

In the Center of Time Square NYC
Times Square NYC

9. Stroll Through Central Park

You can’t visit NYC without heading to Central Park! Central Park is amazing during all seasons, and it’s one of the best things to do in NYC, so you’re in luck. With over 800 acres, you can get lost making your way through the park!

Some of the top sites to see in the park include Bow Bridge, Bethesda Terrace and Fountain, The Mall, Strawberry Fields, and Belvedere Castle, to name a few!

If you are visiting NYC during the summertime and want to experience New York like a real local, consider checking out Shakespeare in the Park which is also located in Central Park!

There are tons of great parks to visit in NYC, including Washington Square Park and Byant Park during the holidays.

While I am not a fan of zoos you also have the Central Park Zoo which is popular for those traveling with kids.

Related: Ultimate 4 Days in New York Itinerary

Central Park NYC at Bow Bridge

10. Check Out A Comedy Club

While walking down the city streets, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone told you about seeing a comedy show. NYC has a great comedy scene, and if you are into less touristy fun things to do, this is one of them!

Some of the most popular comedy clubs to visit in NYC include Gotham Comedy Club, Comedy Cellar, The Apollo, LoL Times Square Comedy Club, and Carolines on Broadway.

Gotham Comedy Club in NYC
Gotham Comedy Club in NYC

11. See A Broadway Show

Have you visited NYC without seeing a Broadway Play? It is easily one of the best things to do anytime you’re in NYC! I can personally vouch for Wicked, The Book of Mormon, and  Hamilton. It’s been said that the best way to get cheaper tickets is to go right to the box office or visit a TDF location.

There are also fantastic off-Broadway shows too which should certainly not be ruled out!

Playbill from a NYC Broadway play

12. Go Museum Hopping Around NYC

NYC has some of the best Museums in the world making it a can’t miss thing to do when visiting New York! 

Some of the best museums to visit in NYC include:

  • The MoMA
  • American Museum of Natural History
  • The Metropolitan Museum (The Met)
  • 9/11 Museum
  • The Morgan Library Museum (NYC hidden gem)
  • Guggenheim Museum
  • Whitney Museum of American Art
  • New Museum of Contemporary Art
  • The Jewish Museum
  • National Museum of the American Indian
  • Brooklyn Museum

Fun NYC fact: Did you know the MET is the largest museum in the USA?

Find out how to see some of these NYC museums for free here!

Visit NYC Museums including the American Museum of History
Inside the American Museum of History

13. Walk Around Grand Central Terminal

Grand Central Terminal is probably the coolest metro station in NYC! It’s a great place to people watch and enjoy the magnificent ceiling art! Besides transportation, you can find tons of dining options in Grand Central, including Magnolia Bakery. You can also check out the whispering walls! The entrance to One Vanderbilt Sky Observation is also at Grand Central Terminal. 

Grand Central Terminal sees around 750,000 visitors a day making it the second most visited place in NYC with Times Square being the first. During the time of its construction, it was the largest project New York had ever seen!

Grand Central Terminal NYC
Grand Central Terminal Station

14. Shop til You Drop in Soho

Soho is one of my favorite neighborhoods in NYC! Not only is the shopping amazing with top designer stores, but Soho also has some of the most charming cobblestone streets! You can also find really nice murals in Soho and the surrounding areas on Nolita and Little Italy.

Did you know Soho stands for South of Houston Street?

Shop in Soho while in NYC
Walking down the cobblestone streets in Soho

15. Walk Down Madison and 5th Ave

Since we are talking about shopping, I can’t leave out Madison and 5th Ave. If you are looking for a luxurious shopping experience, this is it!

Madison & 5th Ave are known for some of the most expensive shopping in the world! Here, you will find every top designer you could ever ask for! It is totally fine to do some window shopping too! The display windows are especially magical when they do their Christmas decorations!

16. Visit The Brooklyn Botanic Garden

If you are visiting NYC during the Spring or Summer, the Brooklyn Botanical Garden is easily one of the best things to see! I should add that the Garden is open all year round, but these are my favorite times!

Located in Prospect Park, the garden has 52 acres and 12,000 different plants!

If you are in NYC around March/April, check to see the Cherry Blossoms here!

Address: 990 Washington Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11225

Cherry Blossoms at Brooklyn Botanical Garden
Cherry Blossoms at Brooklyn Botanical Garden

17. See The Statue of Liberty

Lady Liberty is one of the icons of NYC! There are several places you can get a glimpse of her, including taking a trip to Liberty and Ellis Island to see her up close and personal, or even climbing up to the top of her crown!

If I am being honest, the closest I’ve gotten to her is from my free ride back and forth on the Staten Island ferry, but it’s on my list to see her in person!

Seeing the Statue of Liberty is one of the best things to do in NYC

18. Sunset Cruise Down the Hudson Harbor

If you are looking for something a little more romantic to do during your time in NYC, think about taking a sunset cruise down the Hudson. I’ve seen sunsets in a lot of different places, and NYC is one of my favorite places to see the sun go down. You can check out sunset tours here!

19. Visit the Oculus and 9/11 Memorial

In 2011 NYC was forever changed. Since the construction of the 9/11 Memorial and Oculus, the area has become very popular to visit among locals and tourists alike. The 9/11 museum and memorial remember those lost in the falling of the Twin Towers.

The Oculus is the World Trade Center train station that has now been turned into a piece of art! Inside, it’s not just a subway station, but a shopping mall too!

Address: 180 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10007

The Oculus in the World Trade Center Park
The Oculus NYC

20. Cross the Brooklyn Bridge & Explore Dumbo

You can’t visit NYC without making your way to the Brooklyn Bridge and exploring Brooklyn Bridge Park in Dumbo, Brooklyn! Crossing the bridge is totally bucket list-worthy IMO, and once you make it to the Brooklyn side, you will be treated to such a cute area of Brooklyn!

Next, head to one of the most instagrammable places in Brooklyn and all of NYC, with the Manhattan Bridge peeking through the buildings! You can learn more about finding the best NYC Instagram spots, including the Manhattan bridge shot, in my NYC Instagram Guide!

Additionally, this area offers some of the best FREE NYC skyline views

Brooklyn Bridge Park is one of the best things to do in NYC
View from Brooklyn Bridge Park

21. Visit Smorgasburg in Williamsburg

Smorgasburg is one of my favorite NYC things to do in the eating category. So if you are a foodie, this is for you! This outside market has dozens of food vendors with cuisines from around the globe.

On top of that, the view of the city from the Williamsburg location is priceless!

They are a little pricy, but the food is soooo yummy! They usually have 3 locations, the Oculus Center, Prospect Park, and Williamsburg.

Smorgasburg is generally open starting in the Spring and throughout the Fall. For more about visiting them, stay up to date with the Smorgasburg website!

View of NYC from Williamsburg
View of NYC from Williamsburg

22. Visit Madison Square Garden

I’ve walked by Madison Square garden every day to and from school or just anytime I am going to NYC since it’s located at Penn Station (Pennsylvania Station). 

Consider catching a basketball game, Hockey game, concert, or a tour through one of the most famous arenas in the world!

Address: 4 Pennsylvania Plaza, New York, NY 10001

Basketball Game at Madison Square Garden
Basketball Game at Madison Square Garden

23. Adventure Through Coney Island

Coney Island is one of the quirkiest/interesting places to visit. If you are strapped on time or not visiting during the summer, I would probably skip visiting, however.

If it is Summertime, make your way over and take a ride on the famous Wooden Rollercoaster, the Cyclone, head to Nathan’s Famous hotdogs, lay on the beach, or walk down the boardwalk.

Next, get Pistachio ice cream and candy galore at Williams Candy Shop!

NYC Insider tip: If you have a car and are looking for a local spot for food, check out Rolling Roasters for Roast Beef Sandwiches with cheese everything! It’s fast food, but it’s so good!

OR, if it’s the weekend, try the famous Totonno’s Pizza serving Coney Island since 1924. Don’t be surprised if the wait is really long!

Williams Candy shop in Coney Island, Brooklyn
Williams Candy shop in Coney Island, Brooklyn

24. Dyker Heights During the Holidays

If you are visiting New York City during the Holidays, you have to check out the Christmas lights at Dyker Heights! Find rows and rows of extremely extravagant Christmas lights where neighbors compete to outdo each other!

You can learn more about visiting the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights here!

Dyker Heights Christmas Lights

25. Shop at Woodbury Commons

If you are looking to shop at some premium outlet stores, Woodbury Commons will be right up your alley. They are located in Central Valley, NY just about an hour away from Midtown, NYC.

I personally have never been to the Woodbury Commons, however, it’s one of the most popular things to do amongst tourists who visit our City and I’ve never heard a bad review about it.

26. Admire the Empire State Building

While I would recommend paying for The Edge or Top of the Rock over going to the top of the Empire State Building, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t walk past it!

Maybe because I am a local, the appeal is different for me than it would have been had I not lived in New York, so by all means, go up if it is important to you. I just prefer being able to see the Empire State Building from the skyline and you can’t do that if you’re on the building.

Empire State Building is one of the best things to do in NYC

27. Visit One World Observatory

Another iconic NYC skyline observatory is One World Trade Observatory! Enjoy the views of Manhattan at over 100 stories up! You can get a totally different view from the financial district! You can even enjoy a gourmet meal at their One Dine and Bar located on the 101st floor! 

Address: 117 West St, New York, NY 10006

One World Trade Center at night in NYC

Check Out NYC Pop-Up Exhibits and Art Installations

New York City is known for having some of the coolest pop-up exhibits and art installations! Here are some of the best ones to visit right now!

28.  Artechouse NYC 

The nation’s first innovative art destination dedicated to the intersection of art, science and technology. Located in Chelsea, NYC, it is one of NYC’s newest hot spots! Get tickets and more information here!

29. The Friends Experience

Are you a huge fan of the hit series Friends? Well, now you can get the full Friends experience with newly added original props! Located on 130 East 23rd St (Corner of East 23rd St & Lexington Ave). Find Friends info and tickets here!

30. The Color Factory

Make a splash at the Color Factory in Soho, NYC. They opened in 2018 and bring together artists and creatives to work in color. Make sure to get your ticket ahead of time! They do not offer walk-in tickets.

31. The Museum of Ice Cream

If ice cream is your jam and you love instagrammable places, then you will want to check out this place out! Experience multi-sensory installations with trained guides that bring to life your most delightful dreams. Get tickets here.

32. The Floral Escape

New York’s newest popup screaming I am insta-worthy. If you love floral decorations and taking photos, consider checking them out at Queens Country Farm Museum. Find Floral Escape tickets here.

33. Kayak on the Hudson

From Spring until early Fall, the Manhattan Community Boathouse at Pier 96 offers free kayaking trips down the Hudson River. They are a non-profit organization that is entirely staffed by volunteers and supported by public donations.

Since kayaking is first-come, first-served, it is advised to arrive early at the dock. Your time on the water will typically last for about 15 minutes if there is a long line, but this is still an enjoyable, cost-free, and interesting way to experience NYC! Everyone is welcome, regardless of skill level, as long as they can swim!

Visit the Manhattan Community Boathouse website for more details.

Address: Hudson River Park’s Pier 96 Boathouse at 56th Street

Color factory in Soho
The Color Factory

34. Eat All The Best NYC Foods

Another one of the best things to do in NYC is to eat like a New Yorker! New York has some of the top restaurants and food, many of which are a must-eat in New York.

Some of the best foods to try include pizza, bagels, egg sandwiches, diner food, and Italian! Make sure to make it over to the Lower East Side for Katz’s Delicatessen and Russ and Daughters bagels!

Bacon Egg and Cheese on a Bagel sandwich in New York is a must eat
Bacon, Egg, and Cheese on a New York Bagel

35. Hang Out at an NYC Rooftop Bar

During a trip to New York, grabbing a drink or a bite to eat at one of the many rooftop bars is another one of the best things to do in the city. After all, New York does have one of the best skylines in the world. Because of this, there are, of course, a ton of awesome rooftop bars to choose from! Some of the best NYC rooftop bars to choose from include: 

  • Magic Hour Rooftop Bar
  • Mr. Purple
  • 230 Fifth 
  • Cantina Rooftop
  • Press Lounge
  • The Standard
  • Refinery Rooftop 

38. Take a Day Trip to Governors Island 

Just a ferry ride away, Governors Island has a ton to offer! During the Summer in NYC, you can often find tons of events and concerts. Governors Island also offers the really cool experience of being able to go Glamping! There are also tons of lawns to enjoy a picnic on while taking in the beautiful NYC skyline. Furthermore, they even have a small lavender field in New York.

Governors Island is one of the best things to do in NYC in the summer
Credit:HelveticaDoes/Depositphotos

39. See a Show at Lincoln Center for The Performing Arts

Another one of the best things to do in NYC is to see a performance at Lincoln Center! This iconic New York building hosts tons of events all year round. Whether you are feeling a ballet show, opera, or jazz, you will definitely have a lovely experience! 

Address: Lincoln Center Plaza, New York, NY 10023

40. Visit Long Island City

Often overlooked, Long Island City has tons to offer. From rooftop lounges and nightlife to museums and beautiful parks, and tons of incredible restaurants, there are plenty of awesome things to do!

One of my favorites is to hang out at Gantry Plaza State Park, which is located right on the waterfront! You can see great views of Manhattan from across the water, visit the Pepsi Cola Sign and the Long Island City sign, or just hang out on the lawn!

Gantry Plaza State Park boardwalk NYC skyline view

41. Visit Little Island

New York City has a new park in town, and it is one of the most unique parks I’ve ever seen! Built on 132 tulip-looking pillars, this park offers 2.4 acres to explore. From epic views, lush gardens, and an amphitheater for events, it is a must-visit on your New York City bucket list!

Address: Pier 55 in Hudson River Park at West 13th Street, New York NY 10014

42. Hit Up Some NYC Nightlife

NYC also has some of the best things to do after the sun goes down! I mean New York is known as the city that never sleeps, after all! So, if nightlife is your thing, there are plenty of bars, clubs, speakeasies, and lounges to choose from! Some of the best places to enjoy NYC nightlife include One Oak, Sei Less, House of Yes, Webster Hall, and Bounce!

Times Square NYC at night

43. Watch a Movie at Brooklyn in the Park

Another really awesome and less touristy experience to enjoy in New York City is catching a free outdoor movie at Brooklyn in the Park! Every summer, they put on an epic show for anyone who cares to join!

The lawn is usually packed out with people catching the show. Oh, and you, of course, will have a pretty epic view of the Manhattan skyline as a backdrop to your movie!

44. Join the Fun at an NYC Parade or Festival

If crowds and partying don’t bother you, make it to the city for one of the many awesome parades and festivals! New York holds one of the largest Saint Patrick’s Day Parades in the world!

We can’t talk about parades without mentioning the famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. There are also some pretty epic festivals full of great food, including the Feast of San Gennaro, which happens in September!

Macys window displays are one of the best places to see in NYC during December

45. Enjoy the Views at Brooklyn Promenade

If you love views of the Manhattan skyline, you will also want to add this local gem to your list of fun things to do in NYC. The Brooklyn Promenade was built in 1950; It expands 1,826 ft! Built right over the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE), this awesome pedestrian walkway is a favorite among locals to enjoy the views of the city!

Address: Montague St &, Pierrepont Pl, Brooklyn, NY 11201

The Brooklyn Heights Promenade views of the skyline and brookyln bridge
View of NYC from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade

46. Flushing Meadows Park

If you are looking for something that is a little more non-touristy in NYC, head over to Queens and explore Flushing Meadows Park. Besides being the 4th largest park in NYC, the Corona Flushing Meadows Park was also a part of the 1939 New York World Fair.

It is a great park to explore on a nice day, have a picnic, or even visit during the spring for cherry blossoms! 

You may even recognize the park from the movie Men in Black 2.

Address: Between Grand Central Pkwy and Van Wyck Expy, 11354

Globe at Flushing Meadows Park NYC Queens

47. Visit Radio City Music Hall

A more unique experience to have in NYC is taking a tour of Radio City Music Hall. During a visit, you can learn about the history of the Great Stage, see art deco masterpieces, visit Radio City’s secret apartment, and more. These tours last about 1 hour.

The Box Office is open Monday – Saturday from 10 AM to 6 PM, and pricing information is available by calling 212-465-6080.

Address: Tour Entrance & Ticket Sales located on 51st Street Between 5th and 6th Avenues1260 6th Avenue (Avenue of the Americas) New York, NY 10020

48. Catch a Live Taping

NYC is famous for the opportunity to experience a live tapping. Some of the shows you can attend include Good Morning America, Saturday Night Live, and The Daily Show. To attend, just check out 1iota for tickets.

If you want to try and be a part of SNL, you have to submit to their lottery. It will reopen for 2023/2024 August 1st. Additionally, you can get more details on getting tickets to see live tapings, on NBC here.


Getting Around NYC

Now that you know some of the best things to do in NYC, you will need to be able to get around. If you are staying in the City (Manhattan), the best way to get around is walking, using the Subway, Uber/Lyft, or renting a Citibike.

Most of the time using the Subway will be your best bet since traffic in NYC is crazy! The subway is totally safe, and you can use this guide to navigate the NYC Subway!

Navigate NYC Subway System
NYC Times Square Subway Station

Best Things to Do in NYC Bucket List Guide Wrap-up

Now you are officially ready to see some of the best things NYC has to offer! I hope you were able to add a ton of things to your NYC bucket list.

Additional NYC Resources

Have any questions about these best things to do in NYC to add to your bucket list or think one should be added? Let me know in the comments below!

If you found these best things to do in NYC helpful, I’d appreciate it if you could share it below!

Best things to do in NYC - New York City
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Samantha Oppenheimer

Samantha Oppenheimer (Sam Opp) quit her corporate marketing job in 2018 to travel the world and become a travel writer, blogger and content creator. She loves experiencing authentic travel experiences, photography, and nature. Sam shares helpful travel itineraries, travel tips, budget tips, and travel advice from her personal experiences. You can also find Sam's words featured in large publications including Mirror, Thrillist, and Well + Good.

15 thoughts on “45+ Best Things To Do In NYC: A Local New Yorkers Guide!”

  1. I’ve been to NYC 3 times now and still haven’t seen everything! There is always so much to do and just leaves me wanting to go back for more 🙂 Still need to check out the vessel!

    Reply
  2. A lot of these things weren’t there when I last visited NYC. I would really like to see the Oculus now that it’s complete. One thing I am sorry to see that closed was the Carnegie Deli.

    Reply
  3. Love this guide! I have done almost all of the things but when NYC shut down I couldn’t continue to get my adventures filled in this amazing city! Been here for only a year!

    Reply
  4. I’ve been to New York a few times but there are loads of things in here I’ve not seen and done. Will save for my next visit!

    Reply
  5. I grew up about 45 minutes outside of NYC and I have yet to go to Coney Island 🙁 I really need to make it there! Some wonderful gems here that I’m definitely going to keep in mind for my next visit

    Reply
  6. Wow — so many great ideas. I’ve visited many times but didn’t know about the Highline in Chelsea! The honeycomb is definitely on my list too 🙂

    Reply
  7. I love reading guides written by locals! It’s definitely the best way to find the hidden gems of the city and avoid what’s not worth it. Coney Island looks so fun; I’d love to go there! Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  8. I went to NYC only once and there are still so many things to do! I’ve never heard of the Edge before and it seems such a cool place to visit!

    Reply
  9. The Edge looks insane!! I visited NYC during Christmas in 2018 and absolutely loved it! Can’t wait to visit again someday 🙂

    Reply
  10. Love love love NY! I love taking day trips there. So much to see and do! I haven’t done a helicopter flight, yet, but it’s on my bucket list!

    Reply

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