The largest and most populated city in the USA, New York City is often called the “city that never sleeps” because it is constantly buzzing with activity. The metropolis is the nexus of culture, art, architecture, history and entertainment. With so much to see and do in the city, it can be overwhelming to a New York novice. This comprehensive list outlines the top tourist attractions in New York City that travelers won’t find anywhere else.
Best Organized Tours
- Top of the Rock Observation Deck, New York Ticket · 2338 reviews
- Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Guided Monument Tour NYC · 1412 reviews
- NYC 9/11 Memorial and Ground Zero Tour with Museum Option · 1345 reviews
- New York in One Day Guided Sightseeing Tour · 1194 reviews
The National September 11 Memorial has been constructed in honor to those who were killed in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The names of those who died are engraved in two bronze panels flanking the Memorial pools. The pools are each nearly an acre in size and mark the footprints of the Twin Towers that once stood on that site. The National September 11 Memorial Museum serves to educate the public on the implications of the attacks through multimedia displays, archives, narratives and a collection of artifacts.
The High Line is a public park built on a historic freight rail line elevated above Manhattan’s West Side. The park is maintained and operated by Friends of the High Line, which fought for the preservation and transformation of the rail line into green space. Every month there are new fun and diverse activities for visitors. These include stargazing, tree tours and art tours along with season specific events such as the Haunted High Line Halloween in October. Some of the park’s attractions include naturalized plantings and splendid views of the Hudson River. The High Line also integrates cultural attractions into its design with architecture and art installations.
Grand Central Terminal has been dubbed the “world’s loveliest station” and is one of the top tourist attractions in New York City. The cavernous Main Concourse is home to the impressive clock made of pearly opal glass. Visitors are also treated to the elaborate astronomical ceiling decorations originally conceived in 1912. The lower level, home to the dining concourse and train tracks, offer diverse dining options including the Oyster Bar. Vanderbilt Hall just off the main concourse, which was originally constructed as a waiting room, now hosts the annual Christmas market and special exhibitions. The elegantly restored Campbell Apartment was meant to replicate a 13th-century Florentine palace, but now hosts tourists and commuters in its cocktail lounge.
A tour of Rockefeller Center, a complex of 19 buildings built by the Rockefeller family, offers a behind-the-scenes look at some of New York City’s greatest treasures. These buildings have housed many major corporations over the years including General Electric and are home to the NBC studios. At 70 stories high, the Top of the Rock observation deck gives visitors an unobstructed 360 degree views of New York City. The NBC Studios tour gives visitors the chance to glimpse the sets of their favorite NBC shows or sit behind a news desk. Rockefeller Center is also home to Radio City Music Hall, which was restored to reflect its 1930s glamor. Rockefeller Center transforms during the holiday season with the impressive Christmas tree overlooking the skating rink and Radio City Christmas Spectacular.
Ranked as one of the most expensive shopping streets in the world, Fifth Avenue is a prime destination for visitors with a taste for luxury. The section of Fifth that crosses Midtown Manhattan between 49th and 60th Streets is lined with high-end shops including designer showrooms and prestigious department stores. The section of Fifth Avenue between 82nd to 105th streets on the Upper East Side is referred to as the Museum Mile. Nine museums are situated along this stretch of Fifth including the Guggenheim and The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The Brooklyn Bridge, built between 1869 and 1883, is one of the oldest and most recognizable suspension bridges in the world. It spans 5,989 feet and connects Manhattan to Brooklyn across the East River. More than 120,000 vehicles, 4,000 pedestrians and 2,600 bicyclists cross the bridge every day. Visitors to the bridge can walk, drive, or bike across this famous New York City landmark. There is a pedestrian walkway situated above the traffic, where visitors can take in views of the harbor and both boroughs. The 2 km (1.3 mile) stroll across the bridge offers plenty of opportunities for admiring the New York skyline.
With over 39 million visitors annually, Times Square is the world’s most visited tourist attraction. The bright lights and big city feel of this commercial intersection have iconified this spot as “The Crossroad of the World.” Today, Times Square is a major center of the world’s entertainment industry. The annual New Year’s Eve ball drop, which began in 1907, has been a staple of the square’s allure. The shopping, entertainment and plethora of restaurants offer many activities and options for every type of visitor. It’s an area not to be missed on a trip to New York City.
Located in the center of Manhattan, Central Park is a sprawling 840 acres and home to Belvedere Castle, the Central Park Zoo among many other attractions. For naturalists looking to take a break from the big city, relaxing in the Great Lawn or a walk along the extensive paths throughout the park can offer a much needed respite. There are also plenty of outdoor activities to entertain visitors including catch and release fishing at the Dana Discovery Center, rowboat rentals from the Loeb Boathouse. The park boasts six miles of paved roads open only to joggers, bicyclists as well as skateboarders and inline skaters. Central Park is also especially friendly for families with playgrounds and the Tisch Children’s Zoo.
The iconic Empire State Building soars over a quarter of a mile above Manhattan and offers expansive views to the millions of visitors it attracts every year. On a clear day, visitors can see New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. There are two observations decks in the tower, on the 86th floor and 102nd floor. Both offer impressive views and interesting facts about the building’s extensive history and importance. The Empire State Building has made appearances in over 250 films and was named “America’s Favorite Architecture.” It is open daily from 9:30am until midnight and tickets can be purchased at the counter or online.
The Statue of Liberty, a gift from France to the United States, has welcomed new arrivals to the shores of America for over a hundred years. Lady Liberty on her pedestal stands at an impressive 93 meters (305 feet), which visitors can climb for views of Brooklyn and Gustave Eiffel’s supportive framework. For those who choose not to climb the 154 steps to the crown, the pedestal offers panoramic views of the harbor and downtown New York City. Guided tours of Liberty Island are offered throughout the day by Park Rangers and a self-guided audio, offered in nine languages, tour is included with a ferry ticket to the island.