With famous New York landmarks like the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center or the Brooklyn Bridge around every corner, it can be hard picking the attractions that you want to see on your trip to NYC. Below you will find a list of our favorite attractions that we think you must see in NYC.
The Top 10 New York Attractions that you must see!
While the mention of NYC undoubtedly brings to mind many of its famous buildings and attractions, it can be very difficult picking which ones you want to visit during your trip. Our list below of 10 things to do in New York is in no particular order and is based on our experiences with each attraction as well as what we think makes for a good trip to the Big Apple. We wanted this list to be honest and helpful which is why, for example, we have left out the Statue of Liberty!
Is visiting the Statue of Liberty worth it?
Nope! We just don’t think it’s worth going to Liberty Island! Before you call us crazy, let us explain: We definitely think the Statue itself is iconic and is something you have to see and take a picture of when you’re in NYC – we just don’t think it’s worth taking the ferry over onto Liberty Island.
With extremely long lines to get onto the boat, a less than ideal view from the bottom of the statue (you can get a much better view and indeed much better pictures from a cruise or the Staten Island Ferry!), there is not much on Liberty Island which we thought was interesting enough to warrant the long waiting times. There is a new Statue of Liberty Museum since 2019, which is nice, but only worth it, if you’re a real fan of the Statue of Liberty. While you used to be able to climb up into the crown of the statue, this is now only possible in small groups and the tickets are often sold out months in advance.
Our tips for visiting the top 10 New York attractions on a budget!
If you are on a family holiday, or visiting the city with a group of friends and need to book 4 tickets for each attraction, or are alone but just have a tight budget set for your trip, we have something really special for you. NYC sells discount attraction passes which allow you to visit all of the must-see NYC attractions for less while giving you the flexibility of deciding what you want to see once you get there!
Offering discounts of up to 70% on many sights, tours, and attractions New York City sightseeing passes are the ultimate way to save money. Find out which one will save you the most based on the attractions you want to see here:
The Top 10 NYC attractions on a map
1. The Empire State Building
The first of our must-see New York attractions is the world-renowned Empire State Building. The view from the observation platform of the Empire State Building will take your breath away and is a sight that you won’t soon forget. An absolute must-see during a visit to New York! We have compiled everything you need to know about the Empire State Building, including our tips & tricks, important info regarding ticket options, and whether going to the 102nd floor is really worth it.
Our tip: Either go really early or very late at night!
That’s when queues are not as long. Even better – Tickets with Fast Lane access are available here – or get one of the New York discounts passes that includes tickets to the Empire State Building!
2. Brooklyn Bridge: New York City’s most famous bridge
An official city landmark and the second of our must-see New York attractions: the Brooklyn Bridge. Be sure to walk across the bridge to enjoy the fabulous views onto the city skyline, especially in the early evening hours! The view from Brooklyn across the East River is also spectacular and is definitely a must-see. New tours are available that take you across the bridge into Brooklyn and these are quite popular. You can find the most popular tours on this page.
Our tip: Make a day out of it! We recommend you check out the beautiful Brooklyn Bridge Park and spend the afternoon walking around DUMBO if you time it right you can head back across the Brooklyn Bridge at sunset when the views are especially beautiful. If you get hungry, don’t pass on pizza at Juliana’s, the line may be long but this is definitely some of the best pizza you can get in NYC!
3. Top of the Rock Observation Platform
The next activity on our list of must-see New York attractions is the observation platform on the top of the Rockefeller Center. The Top of the Rock observation deck will give you fantastic outdoor views of New York and is one of our favorite places to view the city from above.
The best thing about this observation deck is that you have a great view of downtown Manhattan, the Empire State Building as well as Central Park in the other direction. This attraction ranks high among our top 10 things to do as this is where most iconic pictures of the Empire State Building are shot from. If you’re in town during the holiday, make sure to check out Rockefeller Plaza and the famous Christmas tree in NYC.
Our tip: Go in the late afternoon!
The Top of the Rock observation platform is also less crowded than the Empire State Building making the view much more enjoyable. Tickets for the observation platform are available here – or get one of the New York discount passes that include a ticket to the Top of the Rock!
4. One World Trade Center
One of the newest activities in this list of top 1o New York attractions is the observation platform on top of the One World Trade Center. The OWTC is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere and is close to where the Twin Towers once stood.
Our tip: Go first thing in the morning or in the evening!
With a height of 1,776 feet (541 meters), the One World Observatory gives you amazing views of Manhattan and the surrounding boroughs. The 9/11 Memorial and Museum is also one of the top 10 New York points of interest that highly recommend visiting. You can order tickets online here! The Memorial and Museum tickets are also included in the New York Pass and the Go New York Explorer Pass!
5. 9/11 Memorial & Museum
The 9/11 Memorial Museum definitely belongs on our list 10 things to do in New York. The museum examines and displays the events and implications of the attacks on September 11th. The 110,000 square foot museum takes you on an emotional journey of artifacts, media displays and personal stories that allow visitors to learn about the women, men, and children that died.
Prepare to hear intimate stories of loss, compassion, reckoning, and recovery as you wander through space, which includes a range of over 1,970 recorded oral histories. You’ll see first-responder vehicles, monumental steel remnants, memorabilia, and personal effects.
6. High Line Park
The High Line Park ranks high among our list of top 10 New York activities. The idea to convert an old stretch of freight train track into a park that runs above the streets of the city makes, for a unique place to relax away from the bustle of the city streets.
It runs between Gansevoort Street and 34th Street and is a very popular local spot to stop and have lunch away from the office, or take an afternoon stroll and relax on the many of the public spaces it provides. It also gives you some amazing views of the city streets below! The entrance is free and it is definitely worth checking out!
7. Times Square: Crossroads of the worlds
There is no doubt that you cannot miss this must-see New York attraction. Times Square always has something going on and is packed with people at all times of the day. Being in the middle of the buzz and watch the thousands of people and cars go by is definitely an experience.
The best of Times Square has to offer, however, is at night. That’s when the LED screens light up the whole square as if it were broad daylight! There is also a pedestrian zone where you can sit down and relax or several rooftop bars right around the corner that offer sensational views!
8. Wall Street & Charging Bull: The Financial Center
Manhattan’s Wall Street is home to the New York Stock Exchange and the headquarters of numerous banks. It is definitely one of the most popular 10 things to fo in NYC on this list, as it has been featured in countless movies and tv shows. One icon of Wall Street is the Charging Bull statue, which is located near the Stock Exchange.
9. Staten Island Ferry: A free boat trip in NYC
A ride on the Staten Island Ferry is not to be missed. The free crossing of the southern tip of Manhattan affords sensational views of the skyscrapers. It is also the best way to see the Statue of Liberty from up close without paying for a cruise! As mentioned before, we rarely recommend taking the ferry over to Liberty Island as there is not much to see and you can take much better pictures if you are not standing right beneath the statue.
The best thing yet: the ride is free!
10. Central Park: New York’s largest park
Last but not least on our list of 10 must-see New York attractions, is Central Park. This green oasis in the midst of the city stretches from 59th Street to 110th Street and 5th Avenue to 8th Avenue. It was established by the city planners early in NYC’s history and remains a popular destination for New Yorkers to this day.
The running route (6 miles) that takes you once around the park is a lot of fun and a place where you can find me at least twice a week. If you are looking for something a little more relaxed, you can rent a rowboat and cruise around on the various lakes in the summer months.
More attractions in New York City
Of course, there is so much more to see aside from our top 10 attractions in New York City. Hang on tight for more NYC sightseeing and more attractions, that you shouldn’t miss while visiting the greatest city in the world.
Bryant Park is a green oasis in the middle of busy Manhattan. Situated between 40th and 42nd Street on Fifth & 6th Avenue, right behind the New York Public Library – Bryant Park in New York City is definitely a must-see.
Bryant Park is a small park in Midtown Manhattan, yet it still lends you the peace and quiet you need to get away for a few moments from the bustling city. The fact that you can do so right in the center of Manhattan is great. There are chairs scattered throughout the park, or a huge lawn you can sit on when it’s dry. In the summer, you can catch a movie outdoors. In the winter, you shouldn’t miss the beautiful winter village in the park.
The iconic Flatiron Building near Madison Square Park
The Flatiron Building in New York is undoubtedly one of the most striking, renowned and beautiful skyscrapers in the city. Its footprint is a triangle and its shape is thus somewhat reminiscent of an iron – hence its name, the Flatiron.
Designed by architect Daniel Burn and built-in 1902, the building is of historical significance to New York City. Today, it is purely an office building. It is so iconic the whole district is named after the building – the Flatiron District of Manhattan.
New York Public Library
The famous New York Public Library is an old Library in the middle of Manhattan and right next to Bryant Park. You’ll find this iconic building on 42nd Street on Fifth Avenue. This location is a place of silence, which is a crazy feeling when you walk inside and feel the contrast from the noise of the city. Some of you may know it from movies like Sex And The City. Yes, this is where Carrie was supposed to get married.
It’s very close to Grand Central and adjacent to Bryant Park. So you can scratch those three off your list at the same time.
The Statue of Liberty
The fact that the Statue of Liberty is missing from the top 10 list is not an accident. It is always too busy and crowded and you can take much better pictures of the Statue from further away. Instead, we recommend you take a boat tour around Manhattan that makes a brief loop around the Statue of Liberty giving you a good photo opportunity, or take a ride on the Staten Island Ferry!
Just recently, there is a new museum, the Statue of Liberty Museum, that opened on Liberty Island. It tells you everything about the history of the Statue of Liberty. First-timers often visit the Statue of Liberty. Be aware though that it will take away at least 4-6 hours of your day if you want to see everything from the Statue of Liberty to the Immigration Museum.
Dumbo in Brooklyn: Washington Street
Dumbo itself is worth visiting, but most tourists walk off the Brooklyn Bridge and then head straight to Washington Street. This place is very famous for its remarkable photo location. You’ll get the Dumbo vibes plus the Manhattan Bridge with the Empire State Building in the background. Come early to avoid the crowds. Otherwise, your Instagram photo will have a lot of people in the background trying to take the exact same photo as you.
Grand Central Station
You can’t visit New York City and not have a peek of the stunning Grand Central Station. The Grand Central Station is the largest train station in the world and is the busiest building in New York City in terms of visitors.
Did you know: the painting on the ceiling (image of the sky) was painted in its mirror image. The painter accidentally held the image upside down! The official reason, of course, is that this effect was by design. The painter claimed that the image reflects God’s view of the sky from the celestial sphere, i.e., from above, and not from below. It’s a must-see and absolutely worth going.
The Edge Hudson Yards Observation Deck
This attraction in NYC isn’t opened yet, but it is already possible to purchase tickets. The triangular Edge extends 80 feet off of the south which will offer incredible views of New York City. You’ll be able to see Manhattan as well as New Jersey which is right across the river. From the Edge Hudson Yards Observation deck you will be able to see the iconic Statue of Liberty and the beautiful Central Park. To enjoy these spectacular views at the Edge you will have to hop on a 60-second ride on two double-stacked elevators.
The new observation deck in New York City, the Edge will open in March 2020. Tickets are on sale already and in high demand. We cannot wait to experience the incredible views from Hudson Yards’s sky-high observation deck next year.
The Vessel in Hudson Yards
The Vessel at Hudson Yards finally opened in March 2019. The original concept for the Vessel was revealed in 2016. 3 years later tourists, as well as locals, are now able to climb the 2,500 stairs to the 150-foot-tall, honeycomb-shaped public art installation at Hudson Yards.
Roosevelt Island Tramway
This is one of my favorite things to do in New York City and should be on your list if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a few hours. Most NYC visitors don’t know that we actually have a tramway leaving from Manhattan, the Roosevelt Island Tramway. The final destination is Roosevelt Island, which is a small island between Manhattan and Queens. While riding the tramway is already an attraction on its own, Roosevelt Island is worth exploring as well.
The new Museum of Modern Art
The Museum of Modern Art houses a variety of contemporary artworks ranging from architecture and design to photography, paintings, and sculptures. Designed by Yoshio Taniguchi, the Museum of Modern Art reopened after renovations on November 20, 2004. Coinciding with MoMA’s seventy-fifth anniversary, the museum opened its redesigned space for exhibitions, education, and scholarly research. It is a must-do if you’re into art. Especially after their reopening, it is really worth it going.
MoMA has a reputation for displaying the world’s finest collection of modern and contemporary art. The MoMA reopening will bring new galleries and spaces for performances and events to the visitors. Visitors can expect a bigger, more diverse MoMA after the reopening. Masterpieces have been cleaned and touched up; galleries are completely reorganized. Read more about what has changed at the MoMA in New York City here.
American Museum of Natural History
The American Museum of Natural History has dedicated its 5 floors to our planets’ history. It covers everything from dinosaur fossils to faraway galaxies, discussing the worlds past and present.
It’s educational and entertaining and perfect for both adults and children. Located in the heart of Manhattan close to Central Park, the American Museum of Natural History is one of the world’s greatest scientific and cultural institutions housed in an architecturally magnificent building complex.
The Cyclone in Coney Island
When it’s summer out, it is time to head to Coney Island. Not only to walk the boardwalks and feel entertained but also to enjoy a ride on the iconic Cyclone which is one of the city’s landmarks and a great memory of the old Coney Island.
This rollercoaster has been around for over eight decades, but it’s as popular as ever. The wooden roller coaster today, as well as what a thrilling ride. The rickety cars rock and vibrate which makes it seem like it’s not the most trustworthy ride.
The Cyclone was designed in 1926 by the entrepreneur Jack and Irving Rosenthal after they had a small piece of land between Surf Avenue and the boardwalk. Holders of the New York Pass will receive a four-hour wristband so you can access Luna Park.
Calling New York City my home after moving here 5 years ago still means living my absolute dream life. Ever since I've been exploring this amazing city for Loving New York to hook you guys up with the inside scoop, top attractions, events and everything in between. I'm your go-to person for the hidden gems, best restaurants and the absolute best things to do in the city that never sleeps.