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. Full of arts, culture, endless restaurants and a night sky where the stars are replaced by bright skyscrapers, New York is a magical place. Loud, boisterous and impatient, Manhattan especially, is a high energy place. Events don’t just happen here, they happen with a bang.
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. From Broadway to One World Trade Center, we’ve got them all here.
27. Chelsea Market
After making history as the place where the Oreo cookie was invented, the Chelsea Market has become one of the most popular food halls in New York City. The old Nabisco Factory has made way for a collection of high-end supermarkets, delis and specialty stores.
While the market is a great place to shop and stock up on produce, the various eateries are the real attraction. There are over 30 food vendors selling delicious eats at the Chelsea Market. Some of the popular places you should check out include the Chelsea Creamline, Num Pang for Cambodian and the amazing tacos at Los Tacos No. 1.
26. Madison Square Garden
Arguably the world’s most iconic stadium, Madison Square Garden, has a storied past that continues to evolve into the modern day. MSG remains an incredibly busy stadium hosting both the New York Knicks of the NBA and the NHL’s New York Rangers. In-between all of that, they still have time to be the second-busiest venue for concert sales on earth.
Experiencing a sporting event or a concert at Madison Square Garden is sure to be an unforgettable experience. But the stadium also provides an exceptional behind-the-scenes tour that allows you to explore the locker rooms and step out onto the court.
25. Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
For history and military enthusiasts and anyone that would love to set foot inside a submarine, you must visit the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. Featuring a spectacular collection of aircraft and amazing views of downtown Manhattan, the museum is a memorable experience from the get-go.
The major part of the museum is the USS Intrepid. This aircraft survived several close battles over the Pacific in World War II and has enjoyed a permanent home at the museum since the early 1980s. Along with this fighter plane, you can also explore a guided missile submarine, the only one available to the public in the country.
24. Chrysler Building
Since its opening in 1930, the Chrysler Building has held an important position in the famed skyline of Manhattan. Its stunning art deco design makes it easy to spot, even in a city full of amazing skyscrapers. For almost a year, the Chrysler Building, with its tiered arches and steel crown, was the tallest building in the world. Until the Empire State came along.
You can view the Chrysler Building from several spots around the city, including a glorious spot in Gramercy Park. But nothing tops exploring the elegant lobby, complete with an interior sourced from countries all around the world.
23. Coney Island
For the longest time, Coney Island was a seaside escape for New Yorkers seeking some sun, sand and a bit of fun. Although technically no longer an island thanks to a landfill that connected it to the rest of Long Island, Coney Island has kept its appeal among residents.
Today you can escape downtown on the train and explore the “island’s” many attractions. One of those being the Coney Island Cyclone, a classic wooden rollercoaster that began operating in 1927 and can reach speeds of up to 60 miles per hour.
22. Frick Collection
Henry Clay Frick made his name in the 1800s as an influential player in Pittsburgh’s coke and steel industries. But he quickly got out once he made his fortune to pursue his genuine passion, art. Until his passing in 1919, Frick collected an amazing amount of exceptional decorative pieces and work from prominent luminaries who existed well before his time.
Six years before he passed, his collection was turned into a museum. The Frick Collection has since become a must-see New York City gallery. The highlights are pieces by Rembrandt, Fragonard and Vermeer.
21. Greenwich Village
Once a literary haven for such prominent writers as James Baldwin, Jack Kerouac and William S Burroughs, Greenwich remains a great neighborhood to explore. This despite sky rocketing rental costs. The leafy streets lined with 19th century brownstone homes are the real attraction. The beautiful neighborhood vibe allows you to get lost in its streets as you wander along the footpaths.
Greenwich Village’s many cafes and bars, which were once home to our favorite authors and even Bob Dylan, are still inviting. While the first integrated nightclub in the US, Cafe Society, may have closed, Greenwich Village continues to provide some of New York City’s best nightlife.
Such is the importance of Broadway in everyday culture that this stretch of road has become known across the world. A visit to New York is not complete without catching a live show on Broadway. In fact, it remains a rite of passage for all New Yorkers. All told, Broadway has 41 venues, each with over 500 seats.
New acts such as Hamilton and the Book of Mormon have taken Broadway by storm in recent years. But the famous theater street is still well-served by classic shows, such as the Phantom of the Opera which has been running since 1988.
19. New York Public Library
In a city full of iconic attractions, the New York City Library stands out as one that many would instantly recognize. The library is a part of the third largest public library system on earth, giving readers and researchers an envious amount of access to literature, science, humanities and fine arts.
The building’s interior is stunning, however, it is the library’s entrance that is most likely to keep your camera busy. With a marble facade and a pair of large Corinthian beams, the New York Public Library is a masterpiece.
18. Museum of Modern Art
MoMA, as many would know it, is home to some of the most famous pieces of modern art. The Museum of Modern Art has a collection of 150,000 pieces. Some of the more renowned include Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh, the Dance by Matisse and Picasso’s iconic Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.
Along with their permanent exhibitions, MoMA puts on consistent short-term exhibitions. Including collections from ‘old masters’ and even solo shows from world renowned artists.
17. St. Patrick’s Cathedral
With a wondrous neo-Gothic design, the St Patrick’s Cathedral is a sight to behold. The original building opened in 1878, covering an entire block of Manhattan. The cathedral recently underwent a $177m restoration that returned it to its former glory.
Visiting the beautiful cathedral is free, and it is just as stunning from the inside. Walk through and admire the several side chapels and the two altars. The St Louis altar was designed by Tiffany and Co. Most memorable, however, is the Pieta, the rose window and the Gallery Organ which was added to St Patrick’s Cathedral in 1930.
16. American Museum of Natural History
Comprising four floors and 45 permanent exhibits across 28 connected buildings, the Museum of Natural History holds claim to being the best museum in New York City. The massive museum is incredibly captivating and has a way of guiding you through otherwise complex information. You could spend hours walking through and still not see everything.
With dozens of categories from anthropology to zoology, amazing fossils, and even a replica of a 95ft blue whale, there isn’t much the American Museum of Natural History doesn’t cover.
15. One World Observatory
Standing at 1776 ft (541m) representing the same year the USA became a country, One World Trade Center stands in place of the north building of the Twin Towers. The building took almost ten years to complete and upon opening, was the tallest building in the western hemisphere and the sixth tallest on earth.
Aside from admiring the sheer size of the building from afar, one of the best activities to do here is to head up to the One World Observatory. From the observation area you will have 360-degree views towards all of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty.
14. Staten Island Ferry
Before the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, among others, ferries shuttled residents of New York City across the harbor and the Hudson River. One of the last remaining ferries is the one to Staten Island, and it is one of the best free things to do in New York. Running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
While you may not be overly interested in exploring Staten Island, the trip itself is more than worth it. As you pull out of Manhattan, you will enjoy an amazing view of the city and the Statue of Liberty that you can’t get anywhere else for free.
13. Ellis Island
For over six decades since opening in the 1890s, Ellis Island was the point of arrival for over 10 million immigrants. The importance of this immigration is played out in real time, with half of the current US population having a connection with this historic island.
The place to visit here is the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration. Take the audio tour with hours’ worth of fascinating information and learn about the history of immigration in the USA.
12. Bryant Park
If you have visited the New York Public Library, you may be interested to know that it is in Bryant Park, a popular urban oasis. This beautiful green space helped revitalize the city and provides the perfect place to kick back with a coffee and enjoy some light reading.
During the summer, you will find movie nights held each week, while the chess tables are always busy alongside yoga on the grass. During the winter, Bryant Park also offers a rink and is a magical place to ice skate in front of many skyscrapers.
11. Metropolitan Museum of Art
The largest gallery in America is found in New York. The vast Metropolitan Museum of Art presents art and artifacts dating back centuries and from all corners of the globe. There are dozens of different sections of the museum that house everything from Egyptian mummies to old European armor and classical sculptures.
Popular parts of the museum that are not to be missed, however, include Rembrandt’s Aristotle, Van Gogh’s self portrait, and the Egyptian Temple of Dendur dated to 15BC.
10. September 11 Memorial
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.
9. High Line
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.
8. Grand Central Terminal
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.
7. Rockefeller Center
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.
6. Fifth Avenue
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.
5. Brooklyn Bridge
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.
4. Times Square
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.
3. Central Park
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.
2. Empire State Building
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.
1. Statue of Liberty
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.