Midtown Manhattan has endless skyscrapers, full sidewalks, and the streets are filled with honking and bicyclists swerving in and out of traffic. This part of the city attracts countless tourists daily to New York City’s most famous landmarks and unique attractions such as the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building.
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People are drawn to the bright lights of Times Square and are easily inspired by the energizing aura of the city. Exploring Midtown is on every to-do list for the New York City vacationer. Fifth Avenue is arguably the most popular shopping street which is filled with tourists and locals every day. Don’t be surprised if you run into a celebrity as well.
What is Midtown Manhattan known for?
Midtown and Lower Manhattan are the main areas of NYC where tourists visit. Everything is there, from attractions, tours all the way to your shopping experience. In Midtown NYC you can find the Empire State Building, Grand Central Station, the world-renown Macy’s department store, and more. Because there are so many things to do in this part of New York City, we wanted to filter out all of the noise so your trip is easier to navigate and you can focus on the best of the best.
Top 5 Things to do in Midtown Manhattan
You won’t be able to explore all of Midtown in one day. There’s simply too much to experience and a lot of it can be time-consuming. Below are the absolute things to do in this part of the city.
Our Top 5 Attractions in Midtown Manhattan
Empire State Building
New York Public Library
You’ve probably seen the iconic library from movies and photos. The beautiful New York Public Library is located right next to Bryant Park. As one of the most popular libraries in the United States, it is not only a destination for students, professors, or bookworms, but many New York visitors come to the public library to see this impressive building. For us, the old building, the smell of the books, and the silence make this place magical.
You will find it at 42nd Street 5th Avenue, right next to Bryant Park. Just like the park, the library is a great way to escape the sounds of the metropolis. In many films, the Public Library has already stood out. Many will recognize it from the hit series and movie Sex and the City.
The NYPL is a popular wedding venue as well. In the summer months, you will most likely see a wedding couple. Incidentally, the library has also secured a place in our top 10 for true New York insiders. At the Public Library, you have free Wi-Fi and also find clean toilets. Trust us. Clean toilets are very difficult to come by in New York City.
Top of the Rock
New York has numerous amounts of observation decks. One of the viewing platforms that is very popular is Top of the Rock and is arguably one of the best out of the five. From the top of the skyscraper, you’ll have the iconic view of the Empire State Building and the One World Observatory in the background. It’s a must-visit in New York.
What are the other things to do in Midtown NYC?
There are so many things to do in Midtown, Manhattan that it would be impossible for someone to go through all the attractions in just one day. With so many NYC attractions, tours, and sights, it would take multiple days and maybe even multiple visits to the city. With that being said, it’s ok if you don’t get to experience everything.
Visit the bright lights of Times Square
Most New York tourists have one common goal when they visit Midtown Manhattan. No matter how tired, how hungry, and how bad their jet lag is, one of the first things on their to-do list in New York City is to visit Times Square. Times Square stretches from West 45th to West 47th Street and is bordered by Broadway and 7th Avenue.
With more than 20 million visitors annually, Times Square is considered the most go-to spot for tourists. It’s always busy and those bright lights, they never turn off. It’s one of the reasons why the city is called “The City that Never Sleeps”. Additionally, the train station, Times Square-42nd Street is the busiest MTA station in the city. All of this is in the heart of Midtown Manhattan.
The Theater District in New York
Broadway is the mecca of this type of entertainment and it’s located here right here in Midtown. New York Broadway shows thrills the masses and it’s considered the birthplace of the late 18th-century musical. Musicals that are shown in New York are long-term box-office hits, such as the Phantom of the Opera, as well as modern pieces, such as Disney’s Aladdin or the Lion King. What’s unique are the many old theaters in which the shows are performed, which gives Broadway a special charm and ambiance.
Every year, Broadway brings in new shows to give it a refresh. It is often decided within a few weeks whether the production will remain on Broadway or will be discontinued. If the numbers do not perform as expected, the shows will be replaced. For example, the musical Rocky, or Spiderman were replaced.
Tickets for one of the musicals are always a great gift idea when you’re on vacation to New York. Every show is always well attended and often sold out. Our personal favorite is the show, Aladdin. People of all ages will enjoy this musical. Also, there’s this thing called Broadway Week where they offer discounted prices for shows!
Madison Square Garden – The Mecca of Basketball
Midtown Manhattan is home to probably the most iconic stadium in the world. Madison Square Garden (MSG), nicknamed “The Garden” bills itself as the “world’s most famous arena” and arguably so. MSG is home to the New York Knicks, the New York Rangers, and was once home to the WNBA team, NY Liberty. Just to give you perspective on how famous this arena is, Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier fought here and was dubbed “The Fight of the Century”.
Aside from sporting events, the arena has hosted some of the biggest shows and celebrities in the world. From Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston to Jay-Z and Drake, every major talent has performed here. Whoever performs here is a bonafide celebrity.
Personally, we have attended several New York Knicks games and the atmosphere in the arena is always great – even for those who are not into basketball, it is always an experience. New York is considered the “Mecca of basketball”. We also experienced a Rangers game and was also very exciting.
Visit Bryant Park in NYC: Different seasons
There is a haven of peace in Midtown Manhattan. When you make your way from Times Square towards 5th Avenue, you will find the popular Bryant Park. Located between 40th and 42nd Streets between 5th and 6th Avenues, it is directly adjacent to the New York City Public Library. It is known for its open-air movies in the evening during the summer. During warmer months, this oasis is a great place to relax and unwind in the metropolis. Many New Yorkers that work near the park spend their lunch break here. The large meadow in the middle of the park is often used for sunbathing or reading.
In the winter, Bryant Park ice skating is popular as the green lawn turns into an ice rink and the pathways become the Bryant Park Winter Village. Here, you’ll find many holiday vendors that sell holiday ornaments, souvenirs, and food.
Insider Tip: In addition to winter markets, there are certain days of the year that the city closes certain streets to make way for NYC street fairs. You’ll be able to buy food from local vendors and pop-up shops also make an appearance.
Grand Central Terminal
Grand Central Terminal is located close to Fifth Avenue and therefore great for shopping. The largest train station in the world is also the most visited building in New York. It’s walking distance from the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building and Rockefeller Center. Every day, 750,000 people pass New York’s most famous station.
Here is a little tip. Look up at the ceiling while you’re in the terminal. The ceiling has been painted mirror-inverted. The reason: the painter had kept the card upside down! Its official version, of course, was that it was wanted and the view was not painted from below, but from the perspective of God – that is, from above.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Midtown Manhattan is also home to famous St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The neo-Gothic church of stone and marble was consecrated in 1879 to the patron saint of the Irish. It can occupy up to 2500 people to find peace at any time of the day. It is the eleventh largest church in the world and offers an impressive retreat in the middle of 5th Avenue. (Address: 5th Avenue / 50th Street. Subway B D F M 47-50 Street).
Top of the Rock
The Rockefeller Center and its observation deck are usually mentioned in the same breath as the Empire State Building.
Billionaire John D. Rockefeller Jr. took down 228 properties in the middle of Manhattan to build a city within the city in the 1930s. Fourteen skyscrapers were part of this huge complex, including the General Electric Building, Radio City Music Hall, the Christie Auction House, and the NBC television station.
Rockefeller Center spans three blocks between Fifth Avenue and Avenue of the Americas (Sixth Avenue), West 47th Street and 52nd Street. With a height of 259.1m, the GE Building is the highest of the building complex. During the holiday season when the famous Christmas tree is set up, Rockefeller Center is bombarded with foot traffic. Top of the Rock is well worth the visit.
Top of the Rock vs. Empire State Building
One thing is for sure: They both offer equally breathtaking views of Manhattan and Central Park. Top of the Rock has fewer visitors compared to the Empire State Building which could lead to shorter wait times and in our opinion, a better viewing experience. Here is our comparison from Top of the Rock vs Empire State Building.
Insider Tip: The Rainbow Room
The Rainbow Room, which is a restaurant at the Rockefeller Center is open again. Located on the 65th floor at Rockefeller Plaza you will find not only the noble restaurant but also a bar, outdoor terrace, and rooftop lounge, called SixtyFive. Find more information about The Rainbow Room here.
New York’s Fashion Scene: The Garment District
Garment District is also known as Midtown’s fashion hub for its high density of fashion stores. This Midtown Manhattan neighborhood stretches between Fifth Avenue and Ninth Avenue, and from 34th Street to 42nd Street.
Most New York showrooms of major fashion labels and their headquarters are located in this area. Companies can be found here from all aspects of the fashion industry – from design and production to suppliers for fabrics and shawls, to wholesalers. No other city has a comparable concentration of fashion companies in an area.
Insider Tip: If you see people handing out flyers make sure to give it a quick look. These could be an ad for sample sales which is a great way to shop for high-end clothes at a cheaper price.
Famous NYC Skyscrapers in Midtown Manhattan
In Midtown Manhattan there are many skyscrapers worth taking in. In addition to the classics, such as Rockefeller Center, or the Empire State Building, there are some more under-appreciated buildings that bless Midtown’s skyline.
Met Life Building
Behind Grand Central is the Met Life Building. This office building was the largest of its kind at the time of its opening in 1960. A defining example of skeletal buildings in New York is Lever House (390 Park Avenue, between 53rd and 54th Streets).
The Chrysler Building
The Chrysler Building (405 Lexington Avenue) is also another iconic building that makes up the midtown skyline. Built by William Van Alen in 1930, the 311-meter-tall Chrysler Building was the tallest building in the world, surpassing the 283-meter Bank of Manhattan Company Building (now 40 Wall Street ). But just a year later, the Empire State Building mercilessly overtook 62 meters. At night it is very easy to recognize due to the illuminated tip. The Chrysler Building will also get an observation deck that will open in the near future.
One Vanderbilt is the newest skyscraper in the works in Midtown Manhattan. Construction started in 2016 and sits on 42nd Street and Vanderbilt Avenue. This will be the city’s fourth-tallest building, right after One World Trade Center. It’s scheduled to open sometime in 2020. Additionally, One Vanderbilt will come with an observation deck called “The Summit” and this part of the building will be open at the end of 2021.
Other Notable Midtown Buildings
The Seagram Building is located at 75 Park Avenue. It was designed by the architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and completed in 1958. The Seagram Building is 156.9 meters high and is a prime example of modern architecture. Another building worth noting is the Waldorf Astoria Hotel (301 Park Avenue between E49th and E50th). The Sony Building on Madison Avenue (550 Madison Avenue, 55th & 56th Street) is also known as the Chippendale Building.
The eye-catching Citigroup Center (from 53rd to 54th Streets, between Lexington & Third Avenue), with its light and dark stripes and pitched roof had construction problems in the late 1970s. It was not sufficiently protected against storms and therefore, to avoid panic, largely at night, made weatherproof.
Tours in Midtown Manhattan
Most tours in NYC start right here in Midtown Manhattan, which makes sense of course since a lot of the attractions are in the vicinity. These range from Hop-on Hop-off bus tours, going up to NYC observation decks to touring buildings such as Radio City Music Hall or Madison Square Garden. You’ll have numerous amounts of options so it really depends on your time and schedule. Here are our favorite tours below.
- New York City by Night – Night tours are pretty unique as you’ll get to witness the “City That Never Sleeps “under the lights. This tour will have guided-commentary and will drive around all the best sights and attractions in the area. You’ll pass by Times Square and many other iconic locations at night. Book here.
- Top of the Rock: Flexible Date Ticket – The Top of the Rock observation deck is considered one of the best observation decks in NYC. It’s a popular attraction among tourists. The flexible ticket will give you the ability to visit the NYC observatory within a month of your scheduled ticket date. Check out tickets for the Top of the Rock.
- Empire State Building: AM/PM Experience – When you think of New York City you most likely think of the Empire State Building. The skyscraper is part of NYC’s DNA. Witness NYC on top of the most iconic building in the United States during sunrise and sunset. This specific Empire State Building ticket will let you do just that.
- From Manhattan: Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn Half-Day Tour – Do you want to experience all of NYC? The city isn’t just Manhattan. There are a total of 5 boroughs. On this NYC bus tour, you’ll experience 4 out of the 5 and will take you through the main sights.
Where can I eat in Midtown Manhattan?
Midtown restaurants, bars, and cafes can be found on pretty much every corner of the neighborhood. Because so many tourists come here, it would only make sense to have food establishments set up. However, you should be aware that prices for food tend to be on the more expensive side in this part of the city. With that being said we love places like 230 Fifth Rooftop Bar, Ellen’s Stardust Diner for tourists, and if you’re looking for an NYC food hall, check out Urbanspace Vanderbilt.
Cafés in Midtown
If you’re looking for a quick break then you can always check out some Midtown cafes. There are artisanal tea and coffee shops and bakeries throughout the neighborhood and are great places to relax and recuperate from all the sightseeing.
Bars, Pubs & Rooftop bars in Midtown
After a long day exploring Midtown Manhattan, one of the best things to do is to grab drinks at one of the many bars in the area. One of the most popular spots in Midtown is 230 Fifth Rooftop Bar. It has outdoor seating and the Empire State Building is literally staring right next to you. It arguably has one of the best views of the city.
Lunch at the United Nations
The four-building skyscraper complex on the East River, built between 1949 and 1953, is home to the United Nations and also the headquarters for UN agencies such as Unesco and Unicef. In 1946, when the United Nations was looking for a place to build its new headquarters in New York, it was originally planned to be built on the grounds of the 1939 World’s Fair at Flushing Meadow Park in Queens.
But when a project called X-City on the eastern border of Manhattan failed, John D. Rockefeller Jr. bought the seven-acre property and donated it to the United Nations. The entire area has been declared an international territory and is not officially part of the United States. The United Nations Plaza has a public park on the East River and is peppered with works of art donated from various countries. It includes “Swords to Plowshares” by Yevgeny Vuchetich, from the Soviet Union in 1959, and a section of the Berlin Wall.
In front of the UN headquarters, the flags of each member country are lined up on First Avenue – starting with Afghanistan on 48th Street to Zimbabwe on 42nd Street. Our insider tip: Have lunch in the United Nations Headquarters and have lunch with the UN staff (sneakers are not allowed) (Address: United Nations Plaza, 1st Avenue / 46th Street).
Midtown Stores: Shopping in Midtown
Shopping in New York can be overwhelming as there are tons of stores in this city. Times Square has some big stores such as H&M, Uniqlo, and Levis. Then you have Herald Square and 34th Street which is home to the most store in the US, Macy’s Department Store. For high-end luxury shopping, then shopping on Fifth Avenue would be your best bet. This street is home to designer stores such as Gucci, Tiffany’s, Coach, and many more. Fifth Avenue is also home to the Apple Store which reopened in 2019 from renovations.
Where to shop in Midtown Manhattan
Macy's Herald Square
From 34th to 35th Street between Broadway and 7th Avenue is the legendary and huge department store, Macy’s. The building is 11 floors high – including a café, McDonald’s, and Starbucks. Macy’s at Herald Square is one of the most famous department stores in the world and is definitely the biggest. A number of brands such as Michael Kors, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Tommy Hilfiger, Burberry, and many more extend on the seemingly endless sales area.
Macy’s is filled with jewelry, handbags, jeans, dresses, household goods, a large well-stocked cosmetics department, and a complete floor full of shoes. In order to avoid the huge crowd that visits the department stores daily, we recommend you come early and during the week. Be sure to head up the ancient escalator to the 11th floor, which has been in operation since its opening in 1901. Macy’s at Herald Square is an icon you do not want to miss.
Apple Store 5th Ave
The Fifth Avenue Apple Store is the most popular Apple Store in the city. You won’t miss the store because the store entrance is this huge and beautifully-made glass cube. It’s also right across from The Plaza Hotel and Central Park. As you enter the store, you’re greeted with a lot of greenery giving the store a clean aesthetic. You’re also greeted with this amazing spiral staircase that takes you down to the store floor.
The M & M’s Store in Times Square is a real hot spot that you should definitely check out. Since 2006, tourists have come here to fill their bags with M & M’s. This is a personal paradise for someone that has a sweet tooth. In addition to chocolate, there are also many souvenirs from New York, for example, a Statue of Liberty in M & M’s style. So come by and choose between all the colors and different sorts of treats.
FAO Schwarz in New York
You’ll probably recognize their old store location in movies such as “Big”, “Heart & Soul” and “Chopsticks”. FAO Schwarz’s interior was the inspiration for Duncan’s Toy Chest in the movie “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York”. Aside from its film features, this toy store in NYC moved their store location to Rockefeller Center and is perfect for kids. It’s a hot-spot during the holiday season as well.
Nordstrom Flagship Store NYC
The Nordstrom Flagship store in NYC opened in 2019 and is the first Nordstrom for women in the city. It was a big move because the area is already saturated with multiple department stores but it also shows how successful Nordstrom is becoming. Nordstrom Men’s store is located right across the street.
Shopping on Fifth Avenue NYC
Just like we mentioned above, Fifth Avenue in NYC is loaded with designer stores and is one of the best shopping in New York destinations. You have Bergdorf Goodmans which has two separate stores across the street from each other. Each store is individually catered to women and men. Right down the block is Sak’s Fifth Avenue which is another luxury department store. Tiffany’s is also another store on Fifth Avenue. They are actually opening up a new store on the street and is scheduled to open up in 2021. Other stores on this infamous street are the likes of Gucci, Coach, Louis Vuitton, Victoria’s Secret, and many more. For sports, Niketown NYC and Adidas are located here as well. Shopping on Fifth Avenue definitely won’t take a day so it’s best to plan ahead of time.
Things to do in Midtown: Museums
NYC Museums are definitely not lacking and a good amount of them are located in Midtown Manhattan. The Museum of Modern Art which was recently renovated and opened back up to the public in 2019 is probably the most popular one in this section of the city. You also have the Intrepid Museum right along the Hudson River. Below are a few more museums in Midtown we recommend.
Museums in Midtown
Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum is located directly on the Hudson River. This museum covers the military and naval history of the US. The highlight of the museum is the 27,000-ton anchor ship “USS Intrepid” that is stationed on the river as well as the submarine “USS Growler”. This aircraft carrier was part of WWII and the Vietnam War. US Military aircraft, NASA spacecraft and various exhibits are also part of this unique museum (Address: USS Intrepid, Pier 86, 12th Avenue & 46th Street). With the New York Pass, the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum is already included.
Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
One of the most famous and is also considered in our top 5 museums in New York is the Museum of Modern Art or famously known as the MoMA. Founded in 1929, MoMA was the first museum to devote its collection entirely to modern art.
Manhattan’s mecca for art is 60,000 square meters after the renovation by architect, Yoshio Taniguchi. The renovation almost cost $860 million. Since its reopening in 2004, it had recorded some 2.5 million visitors. For over 80 years, it has been exhibiting work by modern artists from around the world (address: 11 W 53rd Street, between 5th & 6th Avenues). The MoMa is already included in the New York Pass.
Just a couple of blocks away from Times Square is the world-famous New York Madame Tussauds. Over 200 celebrities are presented as deceptively real wax figures to give you a fantastic experience and great fun. Grandiose snapshots and lots of entertainment are guaranteed. The New York Pass includes this tourist attraction.
Ripley's Believe It or Not!
SPYSCAPE Spy Museum
SPYSCAPE Spy Museum opened in 2018 and is an extremely fun museum in the Times Square area. It’s very hands-on and is definitely great for all ages. Here, you’ll learn the history of spies and discover the different technologies governments have used. You’ll also be put to the test with the many interactive activities scattered throughout the museum.
Honorable mention: International Center of Photography
For photography fans, The International Center of Photography exhibits images of well-known photographers as well as upcoming talent. In addition to the changing of exhibitions, the museum displays more than 100,000 photos for your viewing pleasure. The attached bookstore offers a well-stocked selection of excellent photography books.
What are the best Midtown hotels?
Staying in Midtown has many advantages. For one, you’re right in the middle of the action and everything you’ll ever need will be around you. There are train stations everywhere so getting to locations won’t be a problem at all. Also, if you stay on the higher floors of the hotel, you’ll have a gorgeous view of the Manhattan skyline. Some of the best hotels are Hotel Novotel, The Row NYC, YOTEL Times Square, and many more.
Our Perfect Day in Midtown Manhattan
Like we mentioned before, Midtown is huge and can be very overwhelming since there are so many things to do in Midtown. Depending on your length of stay, it can be difficult to figure out where to start first. It’s impossible to see all of Midtown in just one or two days. You’ll most likely need multiple days to experience this very busy area. However, if you follow this recommendation, we can assure you that your visit to the neighborhood will be smooth and fun.
Our recommended itinerary
- Have breakfast at Blank Slate NYC – This small cafe which has a sit-in section and caters to take-out as well is located on the border of Midtown and the Flatiron District. Their items are very good and one thing you’ll notice is that their ingredients are of high-quality and nutritious. (121 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10016)
- Visit an observation deck – Either visit the Empire State Building or Top of the Rock to see great views of Manhattan. That’s the reason you came here right?
- Shop on Fifth Avenue – This street is filled with many high-end stores as well as your favorite mainstream shopping stores. You’ll find jewelry, clothing, and even electronics along this street. (Fifth Avenue – 42nd Street to 59th Street)
- Lunch at Black Tap NYC – Black Tap NYC is an amazing burger spot but is also famous for its crazy milkshakes. One of their key items on the menu is their Bam Bam Milkshake which is loaded with Fruity Pebbles along with your classic strawberry milkshake. You can either go to the one on 35th Street or 55th Street. (45 W 35th St, New York, NY 10001, 136 W 55th St, New York, NY 10019)
- Visit the Museum of Modern Art – The MoMA is one of Manhattan’s most popular museums. It’s also the mecca for art and has been open since the 1920s. (11 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019)
- Coffee and pastries at Bluestone Lane Coffee – A quick coffee break is always needed. It gives you that time to rest and re-energize yourself for whatever it is you need to do. We recommend visiting one of the Bluestone Lane Coffee locations especially next to Bryant Park. (1120 6th Ave, New York, NY 10036)
- Enjoy a cocktail and amazing views at 230 Fifth Rooftop Bar – This is probably the most popular rooftop bar in all of NYC. The views are amazing and the rooftop is big enough to fit a good amount of people. In the winter, the rooftop bar installs heated “igloos” so you can enjoy the outdoors. (230 5th Ave, New York, NY)
Neighborhoods Nearby Midtown Manhattan
Midtown is the epicenter of tourism in NYC. It’s definitely the go-to location when it comes to places to visit in Manhattan. It’s definitely an area that tourists should check out. Once you’re finished with Midtown make sure to swing by the nearby neighborhoods below.
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How to Get to Midtown Manhattan
It really depends where in Midtown Manhattan you would like to visit. All of the trains go right into the city. For main locations such as Time Square, take the 7, NQRW, ACEor the 123. If you want to go to Grand Central, you can take the 7, S, or the 456. For Bryant Park, you can take the 7 and the BDFM lines.
Similar Neighborhoods to Midtown NYC
If you enjoyed Midtown, below are similar neighborhoods that we think you’ll enjoy.
What’s considered Midtown Manhattan?
Midtown is the area between 34th Street and 59th Street. You can find The Empire State Building and Macy’s on 34th Street. 59th Street is home to the southern part of Central Park, The Apple Store and The Plaza Hotel (which is famous for the movie Home Alone 2).
Is Midtown Manhattan safe?
Midtown Manhattan in general is safe. It’s perfect for tourists, but it’s also a prime spot for scams. Like in any other big city, make sure to be aware of your surroundings.
Is Midtown Manhattan expensive?
NYC is generally a little bit more expensive compared to other American cities. Living in Midtown can be quite expensive as well. People live in very small spaces but pay a premium price. Also, restaurants are on the pricier side because of rent and the flock of tourists that come to the city. If you’re looking for cheaper, but still great quality food, make sure to check out Queens or Brooklyn.
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Being a photographer and creative in general, New York City, I think is the perfect place to be. I moved to NYC from Boston in 2013 and never looked back. Loving New York has given me the opportunity to do what I love and share those images with you all.