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The 42 Best Things to Do in New York City

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Our selection of the best things to do in New York City has been compiled over several years, with the help of editors and contributors past and present. We all call this place home, or did at one point, and put in the time living like tourists to figure out just how exactly to make the most of its myriad pleasures. What is the best way to see the Statue of Liberty? Where can one get the most “New York” meal, whatever that means to you? How do you get off the beaten path to avoid ceaseless crowds and discover something nobody else is talking about? We've got the answers to all of these questions and more, with recommendations spanning all five boroughs. Read on for the best things to do in New York City.

Read our complete New York City travel guide here .

This gallery has been updated with new information since its original publish date. Additional reporting by Andrea Whittle.

Balthazar NYC

Balthazar Arrow

Keith McNally's flagship restaurant—this is also the master behind such atmospheric Manhattan mainstays as Pastis, the Odeon, Minetta Tavern, and Morandi, each also worth a visit if I may suggest a “Keith McNally crawl”—is a high-ceilinged, brasserie-inspired scene to end all scenes. Martinis are omnipresent at the bar and in deep red-leather booths. So are steak frites smothered in peppercorn sauce. But the asset that's fabulous with the greatest diversity are the patrons—like if that New York magazine cover all convened to share a meal. Alison Roman once told Interview : “The food is so bad, it’s too expensive, I love going there.” She's being facetious for comedic effect—the food is just fine, but it is true that you're really going there to go there. With your expectations duly measured, enjoy an uncomplicated onion soup gratine and some yummy, well-buttered escargot for starters before moving on to the steak frites main event. For dessert, there's nowhere worth going more than the perfect profiteroles, poured with warm chocolate sauce tableside.

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Arthur Avenue

Almost every awning along the stretch of The Bronx's Arthur Avenue between D'Auria-Murphy Triangle and Ciccarone Park marks an Italian name possessing something—a pizzeria, a restaurant, a bakery. But just because it's all Italian, all the time along these two blocks doesn't mean all aren't welcome to come and patronize these establishments. It's some of the absolute best Italian food in New York City lined up for your convenience, bustling with life and good eats. Executive editor Erin Florio's relatives still do their Sunday shopping in the market, which she describes as "dusty but great." Poking around and picking a few things up there is really where it's at—bright seasonal produce, sausages of all stripes dangling from the ceiling, fresh-baked bread and vinegar-y imports from the old country line the walls in cans and jars. It's true one-stop shopping.

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This is the last independent, nonprofit cinema in New York City. Little has changed about this humble, unpretentious theater since it first opened in 1970 as a screening space for independent films—there's the big marquee outside, lighting up an otherwise quiet stretch of West Houston; a ticket booth with microphone and glass partition; and a red carpet underfoot. It's retro without feeling dated, a warm place out of time. Behind the concessions counter, by the way, are some very nice people selling some very good espresso and baked goods (try the cakes carrot and orange bundt) in addition to regular sodas and candies. From new and obscure cinema made outside the US to a dazzling assortment of global classics that has most recently included Midnight Cowboy and Le Samourai , you can rest assured that every last thing on the marquee is worth a few hours of your time.

Central Park Manhattan New York. Lawn with skyline in background

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To get that Nora Ephron New York experience, you have no choice but to take a stroll through Central Park while in the city. As you step off the crowded sidewalks of 59th Street into a mass of green, you’ll hardly realize what lies before you: 693 acres of man-made gardens, meadows, forests, and  hillsides. If you ambled down every one of Central Park’s pathways, you would walk 58 miles. Along the way, you pass sculptures, bridges, and arches, plus 21 playgrounds, a winter ice-skating rink, even a zoo . But you’d hardly notice the four major crosstown thoroughfares, which cleverly disappear into foliage-covered tunnels. Map your park route to stop at classic Central Park landmarks, like the Bethesda Fountain, Bow Bridge, Belvedere Castle, and the Strawberry Fields John Lennon Memorial.

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 Chinatown is one of the neighborhoods that makes lower Manhattan vibrant and unforgettable. After surfacing from the steps of the Canal Street subway station onto the sidewalk, meandering past thick crowds, neon light shops, and vendors peddling fake designer bags, you’ll find yourself in the narrow streets of Chinatown, where there are bright heaps of produce, succulent ducks hanging in windows, and restaurants old and new. Touching Tribeca, SoHo, Little Italy, and the Lower East Side, Chinatown has a rich history and began being populated by Chinese immigrants as early as the 1850s. You can visit in whichever way makes sense for you. Whether you spend an hour devouring a box of roast pork or duck from street-style Wah Fung No. 1 before you have to proceed elsewhere, or you spend half a day shopping for produce, dining out, and paying a visit to the Museum of Chinese in America , everyone will gain something from a visit to Chinatown.

Brooklyn Bridge New York City

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When the Brooklyn Bridge was constructed in 1883—extending 1,595 feet across the East River, connecting lower Manhattan to Brooklyn Heights—it was the longest suspension bridge in the world. Now, it’s a historic staple of the New York City skyline, transporting commuter car traffic underneath and touristic foot traffic above . Standing before arches and rectangles with city skyscrapers rising in the distance, will at once inspire a sense of grandiosity and slightness.

New York City The Noguchi Museum

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This intimate, meditative museum in Long Island City was conceived and built by Isamu Noguchi himself. Here, his mostly abstract sculptures and often-copied paper lamps are displayed across two levels of exhibition space and throughout a quiet, ivy-covered walled garden. Even if you're not familiar with Noguchi's work, you've probably come across one of his Akari light sculptures—geometric or globular lamps made of washi paper and bamboo that glow softly from within—which have become something of a modern design trope since he started designing them in the early 1950s.

10 places to visit new york

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A spring or summer day spent cheering at an NYC ballpark is a classic activity for a reason. Located in the Bronx, Yankee Stadium is the home field of New York’s 27-time World Champions. It’s a half-hour subway ride from Penn Station and approximately a 20-minute subway ride from Grand Central Terminal, making it easily accessible from Manhattan. It replaced the 1923 original in 2009 and cost $1.5 billion to build, making it one of the world’s most expensive stadiums. It seats 50,287 fans. New York Yankees games, obviously, are the main event here, but you can also attend concerts, college football, and soccer matches.

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Jewish Brooklyn: Tours of Hasidic Brooklyn Arrow

The pockets of Brooklyn inhabited predominately by the Hasidic are not often explored on the average Big Apple itinerary. There are two guided tours you can take of Hasidic Brooklyn: Frieda Vizel's of conservative Williamsburg and the Friedman family's of the slightly-more-flexible Crown Heights (none yet open us to the cosmopolitan Borough Park.) The former rendezvouses in the bus plaza just below the Williamsburg Bridge, the latter around the dining room table of a family home. From there, you're off to the races learning from people who know and love their subject deeply. You'll also sample kosher sweets and stop at the deli, dip into a toy store or wigmaker, and meet quite a few friendly faces. Both are excellent ways to immerse yourself, for a few hours, in the culture of some of Brooklyn’s more enigmatic inhabitants.

Cathedral of St John The Divine New York City

The Cathedral of St. John the Divine Arrow

The Cathedral of St. John the Divine on 112th and Amsterdam in Upper Manhattan’s Morningside Heights is the largest cathedral in the world and the sixth-largest church by area. Hundreds of thousands of visitors walk through these doors annually for a reason. The cathedral itself—and its remarkable Gothic architecture, story-telling stained glass windows, and 17th century tapestries—is already worth visiting. But there is artwork that is especially meaningful to New York City here as well, including Keith Haring's white gold and bronze altarpiece and a 9/11 memorial sculpture by Meredith Bergmann, which holds debris of the towers in it. The cathedral holds daily and Sunday worship services, which welcome all. There is no charge to pray, meditate, or contemplate in the cathedral. Visitors who show for sightseeing purposes can enter for $15 admission. Special tours are offered depending on the day of the week.

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Staten Island Ferry

One of the first things associate editor Hannah Towey did when she moved to New York City was board the (free! bright orange!) Staten Island Ferry by Battery Park at Manhattan's bottom, watch the sunset over the water on her way to that far-flung borough, and then turn around and get right back on for the return to Manhattan. Forget the outrageously expensive Statue of Liberty cruises and the discomfort of the official ferry (although Ellis Island, unfortunately the next stop on the same trip, is worth a visit)—here you see plenty of Lady Liberty, Governor's Island, and the skyline without opening your purse. It's a dreamy 25 minutes each way, passed easily watching the myriad terns dip into the ship's wake. This is not to say you shouldn't spend a few hours on Staten Island if you have the time—the Botanical Garden is as gorgeous as it is free, and the food is impeccable with abundant Sri Lankan options (try New Asha, although you can't go wrong anywhere) and excellent Italian at Enoteca Maria for nonnas and their appreciators.

Morgan Library and Museum New York City Interior

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The Morgan is like a multi-hyphenate millennial—only instead of actress/model/influencer/whatever, it’s museum/library/landmark/historic site/music venue. Inside the multimillionaire’s personal library, expanded into a must-see museum and cultural space, you'll find rare artifacts, paintings, and books, some dating back to 4000 B.C. that are worth more than your house. In particular the museum is home to one of 23 copies of the original Declaration of Independence; Mozart's handwritten score of the Haffner Symphony; the collected works of African American poet Phillis Wheatley; the only extant manuscript of Milton's  Paradise Lost ; and Charles Dickens’s manuscript of  A Christmas Carol . Swoon.

MOMA PS 1 Exterior New York City Museum

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The sister institution to MoMA   is no ordinary art museum. Located in a striking Renaissance Revival former public school building in Long Island City, Queens, MoMA PS1’s setting is just as interesting as its collection. All manner of cutting-edge contemporary art is shown here, with a collection over 200,000 pieces strong, from the likes of James Turrell and Ai Weiwei. The people-watching can be just as good as the art, as creative types from around the city come here to find inspiration.

Broadway New York

For locals and first-time visitors alike, seeing a Broadway show is a special experience, and one that is exclusive to New York City. Times Square is ordinarily a drag, but when you’re moseying into Midtown Manhattan for a show the bright billboards and lights don’t flash in your face—they dazzle in your eyes. A Broadway show's costumes, sets, songs, and stories are the stuff of dreams. Shows that could very well run forever include Wicked, The Book of Mormon, and Hamilton , but there's also an ever-rotating selection of revivals and debuts worth checking out. And that's not to mention the more daring fare happening downtown at theaters like the Public, Off-Broadway.

Inside Bemelmans Toulouse Lautrecinspired piano bar NYC

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At Bemelmans, Ludwig Bemelman's illustrations—you might remember them from the Madeline books—adorn the walls. In one panel, a bunny smokes a cigar in Central Park ; in another, a man hands a boy a clutch of balloons. This is a bar where gawking is permissible. The cocktails here very much depend on who’s making them: an Old Fashioned might be a bit watery, a whiskey sour too tart. But often a dirty gin Martini is just perfectly executed. Everything is expensive—it’s clear why you’re here—so take the edge off that sensation by digging into the free, hearty snacks that float your way.

Orchid path Orchid Show Cuba in Bloom at the Enid Haupt Conservatory The New York Botanical Gardens The Bronx New York USA

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The New York Botanical Garden has carefully manicured flower gardens, lush fields, winding hikes, and impeccable greenhouses. There are spaces that feel deeply intimate, as if you're truly separated from the world, and there are vast expanses where it's hard to believe you're still in the Bronx . In winter, the greenhouses host an annual train show recreating all of New York City in miniature; the warmer months bring every floral delight imaginable, from cherry trees to peonies. Plan to spend at least half a day here and pack a picnic.

Benches on the Brooklyn heights promenade with view on lower Manhattan cityscape and piers on the East River

Brooklyn Heights Promenade

It’s one thing to be in the midst of Manhattan, on the ground; it’s quite another to look upon it from across the river. In Brooklyn Heights, a couple subway stops away from lower Manhattan, the city’s image looms large before you. Arguably the best view of the skyline in the city, the Brooklyn Heights promenade hovers above the Brooklyn-Queen Expressway. Underlying the peaceful, tree-lined walkway, traffic rumbles below. The promenade stretches from Remsen Street at the south end to Middagh Street at the north. Around the corner, pedestrians can discretely cross a basketball court to access a suspended footbridge that zigzags down to the piers of Brooklyn Bridge Park. While in the picturesque neighborhood, make stops at the New York Transit Museum, the Sardinian trattoria River Deli, and the old-time dive bar Montero.

Grand Central Station interior

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Grand Central Terminal is more than just one of the busiest train stations in the world—it's a window into old New York and into a time when train travel was the ultimate luxury for the wealthy and a necessity for the working man. If you aren't commuting in or out of the city, avoid coming during rush hour, and take your time admiring the landmark architecture and checking out the top-notch dining and shopping.

911 Memorial and Museum

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Every American should visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum at least once. As you enter the museum, you descend from the street to bedrock level—the foundation of the former Twin Towers—and are placed in a meditative mindset, forced to recall where you were on that fateful day. The museum itself is a masterful balance: It's grand in scale, contemplative in its construction, and personal in its execution. It pays homage to the enormity of the loss, both physical and spiritual. 

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Located on four acres in northern Manhattan's Fort Tryon Park, the Met Cloisters is a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and is America’s only museum dedicated exclusively to the art and architecture of the Middle Ages. The building overlooks the Hudson River and actually incorporates five medieval-inspired cloisters into a modern museum structure, creating a historic, contextualized backdrop in which to view the art.

Sculpture hanging from ceiling at MoMA New York

Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) Arrow

Located in Midtown Manhattan, the MoMA is larger than it appears as you approach it from the street below. One of the world’s most influential museums—displaying the works of important artists like Van Gogh, Monet, Picasso, Matisse, Rothko, Frida Kahlo, Salvador Dali, and Diane Arbus—it has 630,000 square feet of space and attracts more than a million visitors a year. While making a beeline for the fifth-floor Collection Galleries to take in The Starry Night and Monet’s Water Lilies is understandable, don’t miss the exhibitions, which tell new stories and can only be experienced in a limited time frame. Allocate time to spend pouring over the remarkable books and objects in the famous gift shop, too—an NYC must-visit in its own right.

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Countless careers have been made and stars have passed through this world famous, legendary Harlem theater—Duke Ellington, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, Diana Ross, Lauryn Hill, and D’Angelo to name a few. The venue—which began as a white-only burlesque destination until 1934, when under new ownership it began welcoming and becoming central to the Black community—has been active for 88 years, with swing, blues, jazz, R&B, and comedy acts taking the stage. Today, visitors can attend events like Amateur Night at the Apollo, one of the city’s most long-standing, fame-making live shows. Capacity is 1,500, with three levels of seating, and contrary to the way it appears on 'Showtime at the Apollo,' is intimate without much legroom.

New York City Prospect Park

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Prospect Park is in many ways the Central Park of Brooklyn; in fact, it was designed shortly after by the same team of architects, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, and has many of the same features: sprawling meadows, walking trails, and picturesque bodies of water. In feeling though, it’s more rambling and less manicured than its touristed Manhattan counterpart. Prospect Park Woodlands is Brooklyn’s last remaining forest, with 250 acres of trees, turtles, chipmunks, 200 species of birds, and other fauna and flora. There's also basketball and tennis courts, a carousel, playgrounds, zoo, and a 3.35-mile loop for runners and bikers (they’re fast —watch out!). While there, make a trip to adjacent Brooklyn Botanic Garden , particularly lovely during cherry blossom season.

Coney Island New York City USA. Ferry wheel at amusement park with passageway in foreground

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Coney Island has a reputation as a circus-worthy tourist trap, which is exactly what it is. But you may be surprised by the old-timey charms of this beachfront American town. You’ll definitely be impressed by the food and drinks—Totonno's Pizza, Gargiulo's and Coney Island Brewery in particular. Locals and tourists hang out on the beach, eat ice cream cones on the promenade, and stand in line for the famed Cyclone roller coaster. The beach and boardwalk along with spots like Nathan’s are open year-round. The amusement park itself is seasonal. Events like the annual Mermaid Parade (crowded as they may be) are worth watching for the audacity and theatrics you can’t find anywhere else in the world but Coney Island.

10 places to visit new york

Lincoln Center Arrow

World-renowned performing arts center Lincoln Center is always worth visiting when the opportunity arises, and in October 2022, David Geffen Hall, home to the New York Philharmonic, reopened after a major renovation that improved the venue’s acoustics and spiffed it up with a modern look. The sprawling Upper West Side complex is also home to the Metropolitan Opera, the New York City Ballet, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and Juilliard. All kinds of music, dance, theater, and films show here; some highlights from the upcoming calendar include the rapturously energetic New York Film Festival (catch the latest films long before they hit theaters, embedded in one of the reactive audiences on this Earth), the operas like The Life and Times of Malcom X and La Boheme , and ballets like The Nutcracker . Whether you’re on a special date or reconnecting with old friend when you’re in town, seeing a live performance at Lincoln Center will always make for an elegant and memorable night out.

Flowers blooming in Washington Square Park in spring

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If people-watching is your sport, Washington Square Park is your place. Entertainment is a given in this intimate, not-quite 10-acre space, filled with career chess players, musicians, performers, students, sunbathers, strollers, and general throngs of Greenwich Villagers, desperate for a bit of fresh air. Take your time as you go through: Pause beneath Washington Arch, honoring our country’s first president (for whom the Park is named), and observe the laurel wreaths and intricate motifs that extend from the base to the keystones, atop which twin eagles perch like constant watchmen. Washington Square Park is the beating heart of this vibrant New York neighborhood.

The Met New York

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For nearly a century and a half, the Met has remained the cultural epicenter of New York City, thanks to forward-thinking exhibits and an extensive permanent collection. With its Gothic-Revival-style building, iconic tiered steps, and Central Park location, the building is a sight to be seen. But step inside its Great Hall—as a ceaseless parade of museumgoers move to-and-fro—and you’ll feel the overwhelming sense of possibility and discovery that lays beyond. If you've got limited time or compatriots with limited attention spans, start with the Temple of Dendur, a 2,000-year-old soaring Egyptian temple (the only complete one in the Western Hemisphere)

Musician performing at Blue Note Jazz Club New York

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Blue Note has been one of the best jazz clubs in New York, and the world, since the 1980s. It offers music every night at 8 p.m. and 10:30, and on Friday and Saturday nights has a late night series at 12:30 a.m., which showcases emerging talent. If you're looking to get a taste of jazz in NYC, you can do no better. Over the years, legendary musicians including Sarah Vaughan, Dizzy Gillespie, and Ray Charles have performed on the Blue Note Stage, as well as contemporary jazz acts such as Wynton Marsalis, Keith Jarrett, and Chris Botti. Tables are intimate, close-set, and all-ages (with the bar being 21-plus).

Union Square Greenmarket New York

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Union Square is a place of the people, not unlike the agoras of ancient Athens—and no offering of Union Square showcases this quality quite like the bustling Greenmarket. From upstate New York, the Berkshires , New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, vendors sell artisan bread, honey, fresh-cut flowers, heritage meats, pastries, seasonal fruits and vegetables both common and uncommon, and much more. Don't miss the free events, like book signings and more: Cooking demos take place at the Market Information tent daily, beer and spirits pop-ups show seasonally, and the education station offers tours and tastings.

Rockefeller Center Midtown Manhattan NYC New York City NY USA. Image shot 052008. Exact date unknown.

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Rockefeller Center sits in the heart of midtown Manhattan, both in terms of its physical location and its prominent place in the city's folklore and culture. Whether you want to check out a performance on the plaza outside the TODAY show, visit the Christmas tree, or practice your best moves on the ice skating rink, you're in for an iconic, family-friendly experience. If you buy a ticket to Top of the Rock, you'll enjoy spectacular views of the city below. No matter where you are, you're bound to be constantly pointing and shouting “hey, look at that!”

Front facade of the Olive Tree Cafe  Comedy Cellar Greenwich Village New York NY USA

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None of the promoters on MacDougal Street shouting “stand-up comedy tonight!” are trying to get you into the Comedy Cellar, where the show is already sold out. Blockbuster stars like Jerry Seinfeld and Eddie Murphy made their names at the Cellar; if you're lucky, one may show up the night you're there. Seating is intimate and close together, and there is a two-item minimum on food or drinks. It's 21-plus and vaccine-mandatory; be prepared to surrender your phone at the door, too. There's no bad seat in the house, but sit in the front at your own risk of getting (playfully) heckled by the host or a comic.

Museum of Natural History New York City interior Elephants

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Truly one of the world's great natural history museums, the American Museum of Natural History spans four city blocks just across from Central Park . All aspects of the natural world are represented here, from a vast collection of taxidermy mammals, to depictions of the life of Native American tribes, to an entire hall dedicated to marine life—including a life-size model of a blue whale. The crown jewel is the dinosaur floor, with an imposing Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton that dominates the room. The newest attraction comes in the form of the long-awaited Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation , which opened in May of 2023 and, among many other things, boasts a comprehensive insectarium and vivarium. Breathtaking architecture from New York-based Jeanne Gang doesn't hurt, either.

People walking in street in front of Strand Bookstore Manhattan New York

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With its towering stacks, filled with more than 2.5 million titles, this 94-year-old bookstore is less neighborhood haunt and more globally recognized institution. You could call the Strand's employees tour guides, considering their deft ability to find the exact title you're looking for and recommend a book you may not have otherwise plucked from the shelves. The store will make you question why you don’t read more; and chances are you won’t leave empty-handed.

New York City Bronx Zoo

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With more than 700 different animal species spread across 265 acres of parkland thoughtfully designed to mimic natural habitats, the Bronx Zoo is a great place to escape from Manhattan for the day, especially if you're traveling with kids. Don't miss the giraffe building, the Congo gorilla forest, the house of reptiles, the flamingos in the sea bird aviary, and the sea lions, who always make for an exciting show. If you want to blow the minds of a bunch of kids, you can do no better.

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Located in New York Harbor, only 800 yards from Manhattan and 400 yards from Brooklyn, walking onto quirky, car-free, brick-covered, 173-acre Governors Island feels like being transported to an alternate universe from the city—but in reality it's a quick, affordable ferry ride away. One-way fare is $4 and boats are serviced from Lower Manhattan’s Battery Maritime Building every day, as well as from Brooklyn Bridge Park and Atlantic Basin in Red Hook on the weekends. In the past couple of years, Governors Island has become an even more popular city destination, and has welcomed a slew of new luxury businesses. One is special in particular: Collective, the only place you can stay overnight on the island. Collective is a glamping experience, offering plush beds inside the tents, morning yoga, sunset cocktails, and iconic skyline views—Lady Liberty included, herself. Which is all to say, you’re by no means roughing it here. On the menu at their restaurant, you’ll find grilled seafood, gorgeous spreads of pastries, and more. Another luxury experience new to the island is QC NY Spa, with top-grade saunas and a skyline view-filled pool.

Brooklyn

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Located in Brooklyn on a hip stretch of Bushwick’s Jefferson Avenue, Elsewhere—a vast, three-story nightclub and live music venue with multiple dance floors, stages, and a rooftop—has become one of the city’s best nightlife destinations. Spinning disco balls and kaleidoscopic lights set the scene. A somewhat recent staple in the city’s nightlife scene, Elsewhere is a converted warehouse that opened in 2017. Blocks away from similar venues like Avant Gardener and House of Yes, Elsewhere stands out for its inclusivity, its intimate vibe in spite of its size, and for lifting up smaller, up-and-coming acts.

10 places to visit new york

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One of the best public beaches you can visit in New York City proper, Rockaway is a sandy, sprawling stretch of surf located in Queens on the Atlantic Ocean, complete with a 5.5-mile boardwalk of delicious concessions. A summery way to get there in style? Take the ferry from Wall Street or Sunset Park, Brooklyn, and let the wind blow through your hair as you take in the city views, sailing under the Verrazano Bridge and past Coney Island on the way. From just about everywhere else in the city, you can also get there via the A train. Each stretch has a different crowd and personality: Beach 90-106 is the busiest section, with the most food and drink options; Beaches 67-69 as well as 90-92 are the surfing zones; between Beach 153 and Beach 169 you’ll find Jacob Riis Park, which is popular with young people and is a summer gathering place for the city’s LGBTQ+ community.

Bedford Avenue Williamsburg Brooklyn New York United States of America

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Sip iced coffee in McCarren Park, catch an indie show at Baby's All Right, walk two blocks over to some of the city's most-coveted Italian at Lilia (with a month-in-advance res, of course.) This is the busiest thoroughfare in hip Williamsburg: Bedford Avenue—and the L train that feeds it—might as well be North Brooklyn’s own personal people-watching catwalk. Pedestrians with voluminous pants, dogs with miniature rain boots, and high-speed scooters will swish past you. As you make your way south from the subway station, likely en route from the East Village, you’ll pass local businesses that characterize the area, like Catbird (ethereal, vintage-inspired jewelry), Spoonbill & Sugartown Books (poetry, special design and cookbooks, cards), and Awoke Vintage (best-known for their genuine denim often from the ‘90s.)

Empire State Building

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Though many across town are trying, there's still no better way to enjoy Manhattan's cityscape than from the top of the Empire State Building. The 102-story skyscraper was the tallest building in the world for 40 years, and though it's been outgrown by dozens of projects across three other continents, it's just the classic viewing point. There are, of course, always long lines to buy tickets, but that's nothing a little planning and purchasing in advance can't solve. It's also still a functioning office building with a bustling Art Deco lobby, so the people watching on the way up is excellent.

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Tenement Museum Arrow

The Lower East Side Tenement Museum is, as the name implies, a historic tenement house (two, if you want to get technical). On a tour of the tenements, you’ll hear personal histories of the working-class individuals who lived there and see how they made do with cramped quarters to build new lives in America. On a neighborhood walking tour—the other way to visit the museum—you’ll learn about the evolution of the Lower East Side and how its thriving immigrant population made it the most densely populated area in the country during the 1900s.

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Industry City Arrow

This stretch of waterfront has been a hub of Brooklyn manufacturing since Irving T. Bush first developed his family's rail-marine terminal (then called Bush Terminal) in the mid-1890s to add warehouse structures. The sprawling campus that stands today in the quiet Sunset Park neighborhood is Industry City, the ripe and succulent fruit of decades' worth of redevelopment efforts. The idea here is one-stop shopping: Pick up a coffee from one proprieter and sip it while flitting through the Makers’ Guild’s wonderful artisan shops. There's also a slate of full-service restaurants and outdoor spaces—manicured lawns on-par with what you'd expect from those in a private, luxury apartment building.

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This is a really nice place to hang out for half a day—beneath the churning East Village, sweating it out in a no-frills den of functionality. Up a steep, nondescript stoop in that neighborhood and through a heavy door and you’re in, leaving your wallet in a safety deposit box in exchange for a locker room key and then down another stair to the subterranean saunas and steam rooms. They’ve got ‘em all here, from the red hot Russian room (where they also perform the platza venik treatment) to a more bearable Turkish, with a cold plunge and showers for in-between regulation. There’s also a bountiful food menu serving up such classics as borscht and beef stew to keep you nurtured.

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15 of the best things to do in New York City in 2024

Mar 23, 2024 • 9 min read

10 places to visit new york

A trip to Central Park is a classic stop on any NYC itinerary Marco Rubino / Shutterstock

Three life-changing words: New York City .

Millions are drawn to it; some never shake it. Monumental, artistic, cultural, commercial, cosmopolitan – the City That Never Sleeps is everything you've imagined. You'll never be bored here – the only problem is narrowing down what to do from the endless list of possibilities.

To help you get started, here's a list of my favorite inspirational highlights – all perfect experiences for your next trip. However, the big sights lure big crowds, so brace yourself. If you're after a calmer NYC experience, sights in the "outer borough" (beyond Manhattan) will generally be less crowded. 

Ticket costs can also be substantial, so consider purchasing a New York CityPASS , which offers good discounts on top attractions.

Where Locals Go: NYC locals share their favorite nearby vacation spots

A red kayak in the water in front of the Statue of Liberty

1. Visit the iconic Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

The iconic copper-green  Statue of Liberty dominates a small island in New York Harbor, casting a protective shadow over neighboring Ellis Island , the site of a stirring Immigration Museum . Still symbolic today, these two landmarks served as an uplifting gateway through which over 12 million soon-to-be-Americans passed from 1892 to 1924.

Planning tip: Boats to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island leave from The Battery in Manhattan and Liberty State Park in New Jersey. The monuments are often visited on a combined ticket – book well ahead, especially if you hope to spend time in Liberty's pedestal or crown.

2. Soak up the views from the Empire State and Chrysler Buildings

The tallest building in the world when it opened in 1931, the 1454ft  Empire State Building remains a much-loved character on the NYC skyline, although somewhat controversially, street-level views of this New York City skyline icon are about to be obscured by a luxury condo apartment. Vistas from the outdoor, 360-degree view, 86th-floor deck and the indoor 102nd-floor observatory are breathtaking, though – particularly at sunset. Look northeast at the art deco Chrysler Building , also once the world's tallest before being dethroned by the Empire State.

Planning tip:  Buy tickets in advance and devote a few moments to the second-floor Story of an Icon museum.

Interior of the 9/11 National Memorial Museum, New york City

3. Pay tribute to lost lives at the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum

The National 9/11 Memorial is located where the World Trade Center Twin Towers once stood. It features sobering tributes to the lives lost in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, most poignantly two sunken pools with cascades of water pouring into the fallen towers' footprints. Adjacent to the memorial is a profoundly moving museum with remnants and reminders of the tragic day.

Planning tip:  The memorial is free; museum tickets are best bought online in advance.

4. Have family-friendly seaside fun at Coney Island

Jutting like a Brooklyn thumb out into New York Harbor's Lower Bay, Coney Island boasts a wide beach, a popular seaside boardwalk and a lively amusement park, all reachable by subway in about an hour from Midtown Manhattan. Popular attractions include the family-friendly New York Aquarium , Nathan's Famous hot dogs , Deno's Wonder Wheel and thrill-filled Luna Park , featuring the wooden Cyclone rollercoaster – a city and national historic landmark.

Planning tip:  Walk to nearby Brighton Beach for classic Russian and Ukrainian eats.

A shot of the backs of a crowd of people inspecting a painting

5. Tour the vast collections at NYC's major museums

The Met  is NYC's most visited museum for very good reasons. With 5000 years of art from all over the world, two million individual objects and 17 acres of exhibition space, it's massive, astounding and seemingly inexhaustible.

An inside tip – the Met's often bypassed uptown Cloisters were cobbled together from authentic sections of European medieval monasteries. Tickets cover three-day admission to both Met branches.

Directly across Central Park from the Met is another significant museum with a broad scope: the American Museum of Natural History , where your ticket grants you access to more than 50 exhibits and 34 million artifacts!

Art lovers will find modern masterpieces from Warhol, Pollock and more in the Museum of Modern Art ; book ahead to skip the line, particularly at weekends. Somewhat smaller and less crowded, though definitely still comprehensive, is the Brooklyn Museum .

Detour: For something much more contemporary and free of hordes, try Brooklyn's Bushwick Collective Street Art .

Use this guide to plan the ultimate museum tour of New York City

A person sits in front of a lake gazing towards a two-towered apartment block

6. Hang out in Central Park

Hemmed in by buildings, Central Park serves up 843 acres of green space – meadows, groves, gardens and lakes, as well as restaurants, theaters, concert venues, fountains, skating rinks, ballfields, playgrounds and much more. Park Drive, although often crowded, is a favorite route for runners, skaters and cyclists.

Seeking some green space with fewer people? Brooklyn's Prospect Park , created by the same landscapers as Central Park, has all the same charm with far less throng.

Detour: For a leafy overview of Manhattan, consider cycling along sections of the 31-mile Manhattan Waterfront Greenway , especially the Hudson River Greenway segment.

Can't get enough of Central Park? Our local tells you where to find Central Park's best corners

7. Walk across Brooklyn Bridge to Brooklyn Bridge Park

Undoubtedly NYC's most beautiful river crossing, the 1596ft-long, stone-towered Brooklyn Bridge was one of the world's first steel suspension bridges when it opened in 1883. Today, a walk along its pedestrian passageway delivers delightful Manhattan and Brooklyn skyline views.

Brooklyn Bridge Park , the 1.3-mile, 85-acre green space on Brooklyn's East River shoreline, prolongs the pleasure (and the Manhattan views). Check out the waterfront, glass-enclosed Jane's Carousel and multiple revitalized pier-based leisure and activity areas.

Save these restaurants to your Brooklyn itinerary

Couple with bicycles looking at New York skyline

8. Gaze upon the Manhattan skyline  

Manhattan's tumble of buildings is a mesmerizing spectacle, changing in natural and artificial light, particularly at dusk and night. Harbor cruises are a fantastic way to enjoy it, but there are also numerous land-based vantage points along the East River.

In Brooklyn, head for Brooklyn Bridge Park, Brooklyn Heights Promenade, East River State Park in Williamsburg and Transmitter Park in Greenpoint. Over in Queens, go to Gantry Plaza State Park in Long Island City and Astoria Park.

Planning tip:  For a once-in-a-lifetime splurge and unbeatable views, take a helicopter tour over NYC; yes, it's pricey, but it's worth it.

9. See art and architecture on the High Line and at Hudson Yards 

The 1.5-mile-long High Line is one of New York's great surprises. This art-filled, community green space – featuring gardens, events, and amazing city outlooks – was crafted from an abandoned elevated railway. It can be packed on warm evenings when the unique modern architecture on all sides is illuminated.

The northern terminus of the High Line is at the Hudson Yards , Manhattan's newest luxury development, with gourmet restaurants, upscale shops and singular attractions like Vessel , a multilevel public landmark, and The Edge , the city's highest (101st-floor) open-air observatory.

10. Visit the landmark Rockefeller Center

Perhaps best known for its winter backdrop – a world-famous ice-skating rink and New York's giant ceremoniously-lit Christmas tree – the art deco Rockefeller Center is a busy, art-filled national historic landmark all year round.

Named for its entrepreneurial developer – John D Rockefeller Jr, America's first billionaire – it claims highlights such as the 70th-floor Top of the Rock observation deck, the Radio City Music Hall and NBC Studios Tours , as well as plenty of Midtown shopping and dining.

Crowds of people crossing a busy city street lined with theater signs and other entertainment in New York City

11. Be dazzled by the lights of Times Square and the Theater District

The neon lights really do shine bright on Broadway, especially in Times Square at the heart of the world's most celebrated theater district. Day and night, it provides billboarded sensory overload. In the area are dozens of marquee-fronted playhouses hosting box-office hits, alongside Madame Tussauds and National Geographic Encounter: Ocean Odyssey . Bryant Park, Midtown's small but activity-filled green oasis, and the lion-flanked entrance of the New York Public Library , a national historic landmark, are also nearby.

12. Ride the New York City Subway and Staten Island Ferry

The wheels never stop turning in NYC, aided by its sleepless subway , one of the world's biggest mass transit systems. Another iconic part of the New York transport network is the free, orange Staten Island Ferry , the cheapest way to grab pics of Lady Liberty.

For NYC urban transport history, the kid-friendly Transit Museum has climb-aboard subway cars from all eras. There's a museum annex and shop in Grand Central Terminal , a Midtown beaux-arts wonder with an unforgettably grand main concourse.

A close up of pink lily pads in the New York Botanical Garden

13. Support conservation at the Bronx Zoo and New York Botanical Gardens

Who'd have thought the US's biggest and oldest zoo is in NYC? The conservation-minded Bronx Zoo hosts 6000-plus animals in 265 acres of specially designed habitats. Adjacent to it is the New York Botanical Garden , a 250-acre, year-round nature showcase with dozens of indoor and outdoor gardens included in your ticket.

Planning tip: Smaller but impressive alternative zoos can be found at Central Park, Prospect Park and Flushing Meadows Corona Park (Queens). The 50-acre Brooklyn Botanic Garden is famous for its seasonally blossoming cherry trees.

14. Find art and entrepreneurs in Brooklyn

In a city that places a high premium on space, Brooklyn now claims three hip, rehabilitated industrial areas commandeered by entrepreneurs, artisanal makers, retailers, artists, start-ups and nonprofits. Industry City occupies six large warehouses on the Sunset Park waterfront.

Further south, 100-plus companies fill the vast and storied Brooklyn Army Terminal . And east of Downtown Brooklyn, the expansive, historic Brooklyn Navy Yard is a modern made-in-Brooklyn manufacturing hub.

15. Go to a game at a New York stadium

New Yorkers take outsize pride in their sports teams, so how better to absorb the city's energy than at a game? The Bronx's Yankee Stadium and Mets' Citi Field in Queens are grand open-air stadiums, while Manhattan's Madison Square Garden , home of Knicks and Liberty basketball and Rangers hockey, and Brooklyn's futuristic Barclays Center , where the Nets basketball and Islanders hockey teams play, are enclosed, so good for rainy days.

Planning tip:  If you'd prefer to see the Giants and Jets compete in the National Football League, their arenas are in nearby New Jersey .

And now for the hard part: should you go to a Mets or Yankees game? Two local experts weigh in

Keep planning your trip to NYC:

  • Find out which NYC neighborhood fits your vibe
  • Find the best time of year to visit
  • Getting around NYC is fairly straightforward –  find out how in our full transportation guide
  • Even better, read on for top tips to see New York on two wheels

This article was first published May 25, 2021 and updated Mar 23, 2024.

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Written by An NYC Local

35 Best Things to Do in New York City (For First Time Visitors)

By Antonina | Updated: January 31, 2024 | 4 Comments

Cool facts about NYC

I visited the city six times before making an official move to the Big Apple. As a local, I get to experience the Big Apple from a unique perspective and thought it might be fun to share the best things to do in New York City. Longtime readers know I’m not keen on small talk, so let’s dive right in!

Visiting New York City? If you haven’t decided where to stay (yet) check out our helpful guide on  Where to Stay in New York City (10 Best Neighborhoods & 3 to Avoid) . Don’t have time?  Here’s my favorite hotel in NYC, hands down.

nyc tourist attractions map, new york city tourist attractions map, new york city attractions map

The Best Things to Do in New York City

Visiting nyc things to do (table of contents), #1. stroll (or bike) through central park, #2. catch sunset from the top of the rock.

  • #4. Walk the Brooklyn Bridge
  • #5. Explore DUMBO
  • #6. Get Bagels & Lox at Russ and Daughters
  • #7. Visit Washington Square Park
  • #8. Visit the Largest Museum in America (The Met)
  • #9. Catch a Broadway Show
  • #10. Explore the West Village
  • #11. Visit the 9/11 Memorial (& Museum)
  • #12. Visit the New York Public Library
  • #13. See Grand Central Terminal
  • #14. Walk the High Line
  • #15. Visit the Chelsea Market
  • #16. Go Shopping in SoHo
  • #17. Visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral
  • #18. Visit Times Square at Night
  • #19. Explore Wall Street
  • #20. Grab Drinks at the Oldest Bar in NYC
  • #21. Try the Famous Chocolate Chip Cookie at Levain Bakery
  • #22. Visit Rockefeller Center
  • #23. Visit the American Museum of Natural History
  • #24. Try the World-Famous Cronut (Dominique Ansel Bakery)
  • #25. Check out the Morgan Library & Museum
  • #26. See the Statue of Liberty
  • #27. Visit the Strand Bookstore
  • #30. Order the White Pie from Juliana’s Pizza
  • #31. Catch a (FREE) Outdoor Movie at Bryant Park (Summer Activity)
  • Things to Do New York City (Seasonal)

Where to Stay in New York City

Getting around new york city.

  • Best Things to do in New York City

P.S. Make sure to pack your most comfortable pair of shoes while visiting New York City. If you need some guidance, here’s my guide on the best shoes for walking around NYC (one of our most popular posts!).

Things to Do Central Park

Ask any New Yorker about the best things to do in NYC for first-time visitors and Central Park is bound to come up, which is why it tops the list. Spanning 843 acres, Central Park is an architectural feat few can resist. Recognized as the first man-made park in the country, it was designed using a new concept (for the time), called landscape architecture.

There’s so many iconic spots to see in Central Park, I suggest reading 15 ICONIC Things to Do in Central Park . Biking is a great way to cover more ground, but walking is equally enjoyable. Just note, biking in Central Park a very popular activity in New York City, make sure you follow the flow of one-way traffic and keep in the slower lane unless passing.

Website : Central Park Featured Guide : 12 Great Spots to See Fall Foliage in Central Park

Things to do in New York City with teens, Top of the Rock

Seeing the city from above is a feeling you won’t soon forget. I’ve been to all 5 of the city’s observation decks and can confidently tell you that Top of the Rock has the best views.

The large glass panels offer unobstructed views of the city (unlike some of the other observation decks that use outdated fencing), giving you unparalleled access to the city’s most iconic buildings. You’ll see the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, Flatiron Building and the One World Trade Center.

I think that everyone should make an effort to see the city from above, which it why I consider visiting an observation deck as one of the most iconic activities in New York City.

Website : Top of the Rock Address : 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY Featured in : 18 Jaw-Dropping Views of NYC (For All Budgets)

Best martinis in New York City

#3. Enjoy Cocktails at the Best Bar in the World (Yes, Really) 

Dante dates back to 1915. It served as a staple for the community before slowly fading into oblivion before two Australians decided to breathe new life into this beloved NYC institution. The result was striking, within a few years of opening, Dante was named the  best bar in the world  in 2019 and appeared on the list again in 2020.

The menu is well curated with small fare and the drinks are perfectly crafted. The hardest part about this experience is getting reservations because this is one of the best things to do in New York City.

Happy Hour:  There’s two Dante locations in the West Village, and thankfully both have generous happy hour between 3pm and 5pm daily. Dante West Village offers martinis for $10 and Caffe Dante offers negronis for $10. The price/quality ratio can’t be beat!

Website: Dante Neighborhood: West Village Locations: 551 Hudson Street & 79-81 MacDougal Street

most iconic restaurants in NYC

#4. Order the Pastrami on Rye at Katz Deli

Omitting Katz Deli from a list of the most iconic restaurants in New York City is an inexcusable offense. Serving New Yorkers since 1888, Katz is officially the oldest deli in NYC. Not hard to see why, they make the best pastrami sandwich in New York. Fighting words, I know. But I stand by them.

Charred outer layers, generous seasonings and a texture that melts in your mouth, this stuff is irresistible and well worth the wait. But fair warning, the mile-high pastrami sandwiches are huge! I suggest splitting between two people. And at $25-30 per sandwich, splitting makes the steep prices easier to stomach (some pun intended).

Local’s Tip: Upon entering Katz, you’ll be handed a ticket. Don’t lose it! You’ll use this ticket to order your sandwich and when it’s time to leave, you’ll need to hand the ticket to the cashier to pay. However, if you lose the ticket you’ll be charged $50!

Website : Katz Deli Address: 205 E Houston St, New York, NY Featured in : 10 Iconic New York City Restaurants Every Local Needs to Try

Walking the Brooklyn Bridge

#5. Walk the Brooklyn Bridge

Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge is a must-do for anyone visiting New York City for the first time. Opened in 1883, the bridge took 14 years to build! It spans 1.1 miles across the East River and takes 30 minutes to cross.

My preference is to walk from the Brooklyn side toward Manhattan because the views are better. Take the subway to DUMBO (acronym for “Down Under the Manhattan Bridge” ) before making your way up the bridge.

what does DUMBO NYC Stand for?

#6. Explore DUMBO

Sandwiched between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, DUMBO is one of the coolest areas in the city to explore. But like most neighborhoods in NYC, DUMBO wasn’t always trendy.

This used to be an industrial mecca full of monolithic warehouses. Indeed, it was here where many notable inventions occurred, such as the cardboard box (admittedly this was an accidental invention) , Brillo pads and tin cans.

Landlords were having a hard time renting warehouses and office space, so they opened them up to tenants on the cheap (which attracted artists in hordes). But word got around, and over time, DUMBO became one of the hippest parts of town, the area was built out over the past 15 years and is a joy to explore.

Here’s some cool places to check out while exploring DUMBO:

  • Time Out Market (grab drinks at the roof top)
  • Admire Jane’s Carousel (hand-carved wooden carousel built in 1922)
  • Take a photo at Washington & Water St. (very famous photo spot)
  • Stroll Brooklyn Bridge Park for some of the best views of NYC.

You May Enjoy Reading: 20 Top-Notch Things to Do in DUMBO

iconic New York City restaurants

#7. Get Bagels & Lox at Russ and Daughters

Start your day the true New York way – grab bagel and lox (smoked salmon) from Russ and Daughters in the Lower East Side. This beloved Jewish deli has been serving New Yorkers since 1914 (more than 110 years!).

The bagels are exceptional, as you would expect, but the smoked fish is where they shine. Some of the best in NYC, this popular combo will set you back $25-30, but it’s a true NYC experience that can’t be missed .

Website : Russ & Daughters Neighborhood: Lower East Side Address: 179 E Houston St, New York, NY Featured in : You Asked, We Answered: Here’s the 15 Best Bagels in NYC

fall foliage nyc, washington square park fall

#8. Visit Washington Square Park

Located in the heart of the charming Greenwich Village, Washington Square Park is one of the most beautiful parks in New York City . The most notable feature in the park is the monolithic marble arch that sits at the northern entrance of the park, which was built to commemorate the centennial of George Washington’s inauguration.

Serving as the cultural hub of the neighborhood, the welcoming atmosphere attracts street performers, artist and social activists, making Washington Park one of the best parks in NYC for people-watching .

Website : Washington Square Park Featured Guide : The 15 Best Parks in New York City (Ranked by a Local)

Inside of The Met Museum in NYC

#9. Visit the Largest Museum in America (The Met)

With more than 2 million pieces of art spanning 5,000+ years, the Met is the largest museum in the country and the fifth largest museum in the world. Averaging 6 million visitors per year, it’s one of the most popular things to do in New York City.

Conveniently located within Central Park, it’s an easy addition to any NYC itinerary. Admittedly, the museum can get overwhelming if you don’t have a game plan! Here’s my personal guide on 20 EPIC Things to See at The MET .

Website: Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) Address : 1000 5th Ave, New York, NY 10028 Featured in: 15+ Best Things to Do on the Upper East Side

Moulin Rouge, Best Shows on Broadway

#10. Catch a Broadway Show

Yes, Broadway Shows are expensive, but the experience is unforgettable. I would suggest budgeting at least one show during your first visit to New York City. Broadway is a symbol of the city’s rich cultural history, which is why this iconic New York experience attracts millions of visitors a year. There’s so many great shows to choose from! You can easily find something everyone in the group will enjoy.

Local’s Tip: Certain Broadway Shows have a lottery system where you can apply to win free tickets in advance. Just go to the website of the show you want to see and apply for the lottery (if they have one). Seems like a long shot, but one of my coworkers won two tickets to Hamilton!

If you need some guidance, read: 10 Brilliant NYC Broadway Shows You Won’t Soon Forget .

best things to do West Village

#11. Explore the West Village

There are so many beautiful neighborhoods to explore in New York City, but nothing tops the charm of the West Village. Known for quaint tree-lined streets, beautiful brownstones (worth $15-30 million!) and meandering cobblestone streets, the area brims with cozy corner cafes, historic jazz clubs and some of the city’s best cocktails bar.

A perfect blend of old-world charm with the modern present, visiting the West Village should be on everyone’s list of the best things to do in New York City. The list of fun activities is never-ending, I suggest reading: 20 Great Things to Do in the West Village (+Helpful Advice) .

Fun things to do in New York City

#12. Visit the 9/11 Memorial (& Museum)

Sometimes I’m hesitant to mention visiting the 9/11 Museum because it’s such an emotional experience (you can’t help but cry). The 9/11 museum is a profound tribute to the 2,977 lives lost on September 11, 2001 and is truly one of the best things to do in New York City. It’s worth the visit, as long as you can emotionally brace yourself.

Whether you go to the museum of not, make sure to see the 9/11 Memorial (right next to the museum). Opened in 2011, the memorial’s design is named “Reflecting Absence” and features twin waterfalls that plunge 30 feet (the largest man-made waterfalls in North America) into pools that sit in the footprints of the former North and South Towers.

Interesting Fact: The One World Trade Center was built to replace the Twin Towers. Reaching an impressive height of 1,776 feet (this is not a coincidence, America declared its independence in 1776), the One World Trade Center is the tallest building in America and the sixth tallest building in the world.

Website : 9/11 Memorial & Museum Address: 180 Greenwich St, New York Featured in : 15 Unforgettable Things to Do in the Financial District

New York Public Library

#13. Tour the New York Public Library

When it opened to the public in 1911, the New York Public Library was officially the largest marble building ever built in the country. No small task, considering it took 16 years to construct this monolithic structure. The library is free to visit and I suggest swinging by to take in the grandeur of the building from inside.

Better still, the library has an extraordinary collection of rare items that they’ve recently put on public display for the first time ever. You can see Thomas Jefferson’s handwritten copy of the Declaration of Independence and the toys that inspired Winnie the Pooh. We were so enthralled with the exhibition, we ended up spending 1 hour looking around.

Website : The New York Public Library Address : 476 5th Ave, New York, NY Featured in : 10 FREE New York City Museums (That Don’t Suck)

Instagram spots in NYC Grand Central Terminal

#14. Admire Grand Central Terminal

Stepping into Grand Central Terminal for the first time is an experience you won’t soon forget. The Beaux Arts building feels like traveling back in time to an era of opulence few places replicate this well.

The celestial ceiling in the main hall is the star of the show, averaging 750,000 visitors daily. Chances are high that your subway stop might warrant a visit, but if that’s not the case, this gem is definitely worth a detour. One of the best things to do in New York City is to swing by and snap a picture with the iconic ceiling.

Website : Grand Central Terminal Address : 89 E 42nd St, New York, NY Featured in : 20 Iconic New York City Buildings (You Should Know)

Village Vanguard in the Rain NYC

#15. Spend an Evening at a Jazz Club

I’m not big on jazz (sorry!) but even I know better than to pass up an opportunity to spend a cozy evening at a famous jazz club in NYC. If you’d like to make your trip feel extra special, I suggest making reservations at a jazz club for a romantic NYC experience you won’t soon forget.

15 Best Jazz Clubs in New York City (You Won’t Soon Forget!)

Greenpoint Things to Do NYC Bar Blondeau

#16. Grab Drinks at a Rooftop Bar

There’s something magical about rooftop bars. Watching the stunning skyline light up for the night while sipping a delicious cocktail, it’s a great feeling! So, if you’d like to take your special someone on a surprise date while visiting NYC for the first time, head to a rooftop bar for the evening. There’s SO many great rooftop bars to choose from, but one of my go-to spots is Bar Blondeau in Greenpoint .

Helpful Guide : 12 Memorable Rooftop Bars in Brooklyn

High Line during fall New York City park

#17. Walk the High Line

The High Line is one of the most unique parks in New York City. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the elevated tracks this park was built on were originally used by freight trains delivering cargo to the city. The rise in trucking made freight trains obsolete, and for ages, the railroad track was abandoned until Mayor Bloomberg approved a plan to transform the derelict train tracks into a public park.

The High Line opened in 2009 and became an instant success. The elevated promenade stretches 1.5 miles and receives an average of 8 million visitors annually. It didn’t take long for folks to realize this as one of the best things to do in New York City. The High Line is a great park in New York City for kids, too! During the warm summer months there’s a handful of vendors selling balloon animals and ice cream.

Website : The High Line Featured Guide : 15+ EPIC Things to Do in New York City With Kids

Chelsea Market

#18. Visit the Chelsea Market

The Chelsea Market is a famous food hall mixed with unique shops, restaurants, spice markets, and cafes. The market has 35 vendors waiting to impress you with tasty treats and fare.

I had to add the Chelsea Market to my list of best things to do in New York City because it checks all the boxes (food, shopping and fun!). It’s easy bringing my out of town guests here for a sit-down meal, a quick bite or a souvenir. There’s always something to do at Chelsea Market or something to show off when visiting.

Fun Fact: The Chelsea Market is housed in the old Nabisco factory building, the birthplace of the Oreo cookie!

Website : Chelsea Market Address : 75 9th Ave, New York, NY Featured in : 20 Epic Things to Do in Chelsea

best stores in Soho

#19. Go Shopping in SoHo

SoHo is an acronym for “South of Houston Street.” Home to hundreds of stores and local boutiques, this trendy NYC neighborhood is known for being the shopping mecca of NYC. Spend some time window shopping, perusing art galleries or absorbing the historic architecture in this (very expensive) neighborhood. Then. rest your legs at one of the many cafes while watching the world go by.

Further reading: 30 SPREE-WORTHY Stores in SoHo (Local’s Guide)

St. Patrick's Cathedral NYC

#20. Visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Located right off 5th Avenue, this Neo-Gothic style cathedral has been stopping people in their tracks since 1879. The iconic cathedral took 21 years to build because construction halted during the Civil War.

With a seating capacity of 2,000 people per mass, this is one of the largest cathedrals in NYC. Touring the interior is a no-brainer and self-guided tours are free, so swing by if the doors are open. If you want a more in-depth experience, sign up for a guided tour .

The cathedral was recently renovated to the tune of $177 million, so you can bet it’s a sight for sore eyes. Welcoming more than 5 million visitors per year, visiting St. Patrick’s is one of the most popular things to do in New York City.

Website : Saint Patrick’s Cathedral Address : 5th Ave, New York, NY (5th Avenue & East 50th Street) Featured in: 12 Breathtaking New York City Churches

Best Things to do in New York City with teens

#21. Explore Times Square at Night

Times Square might be overwhelming, but it’s one of the most iconic things to do in New York City. As such, seeing Times Square (specifically at night) is something everyone should experience at least once. The area draws an average of 50 million visitors a year. The appeal? The famous bright lights of New York.

In fact, the buildings in this area are required by law to have a minimum amount of lights on display (to live up to the area’s reputation). When you’re ready to escape the blinding lights of Times Square, head over to  Los Tacos No. 1 – easily the best tacos you’ll eat in New York City.

Helpful Guide: 20 Epic Things to Do in Times Square (Perfect for First Time Visitors)

Stone Street in the Financial District

#22. Explore the Financial District

The seat of the country’s financial power, exploring the Financial District is one of the best things to do in NYC for history buffs. Between you and me, the area isn’t very lively (mostly corporate office buildings). However, visiting is non-negotiable because the area is full of historic significance and shouldn’t be skipped.

Walk down Wall Street and take in the iconic New York Stock Exchange (featured in so many films). Then, head over to the famous Charging Bull and take a photo (one of the most popular things things to do in NYC).

While exploring the neighborhood, make sure to swing by Trinity Church (right next to the New York Stock Exchange). This is the church where George Washington came to pray after his inauguration (which took place at Federal Hall). The church’s graveyard is the final resting place of Alexander Hamilton and his wife, Eliza.

Helpful Guide : 15 Unforgettable Things to Do in the Financial District (Local’s Guide)

fraunces tavern bar, whisky bars nyc

#23. Grab Drinks at the Oldest Bar in NYC

Located in the Financial District, Fraunces Tavern dates back to 1762, which officially makes it the oldest restaurant in New York City. It’s famous for being the place where the Sons of Liberty secret society met during colonial days. This is also where George Washington bid an emotional farewell to his troops before assuming the office of President.

Hamilton negotiated the end of the Revolutionary War here & even attended a meeting alongside Burr one week before the infamous duel that took Hamilton’s life. History buffs love this place, but you don’t need to know much about history to enjoy a cocktail or two. The tavern’s bar is well stocked and one of the best whisky bars in NYC not to mention these bartenders know how to make a mean cocktail.

Famous chocolate chip cookies in NYC

#24. Try the Famous Chocolate Chip Cookie at Levain Bakery

Levain makes the most famous cookies in New York City. Warm, gooey, rich and chocolatey — this bakery has re-imagined the childhood classic in a way most bakeries dream of. There’s a few locations in town (the original on the Upper West Side), each boasting long lines most days.

The biggest draw is the original chocolate chip walnut cookie that put them on the map. But fair warning, these cookies are massive! You can easily split one between two people. Any way you slice it, visiting Levain is one of the best things to do in NYC for foodies.

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

#23. Visit Rockefeller Center

A passion project of John D. Rockefeller Jr. (one of the wealthiest men of all time), Rockefeller Plaza was built during the Great Depression. Construction started in 1930 and lasted nearly 10 years (completed in 1939).

The project was a significant source of employment during the country’s most difficult economic times. At its peak, there were more than 40,000 construction workers tied to the job, when the country’s unemployment rate neared 25%.

In a lot of ways, Rockefeller Center was an investment in the future of NYC when things were looking bleak. The building was originally built to house the Metropolitan Opera but after the stock market crash in 1929, Rockefeller reimagined the space as a complex of commercial buildings alongside public areas.

As a whole, Rockefeller Center covers 22 acres and includes 19 commercial buildings, the most famous being 30 Rockefeller Plaza (which offers the best views of NYC, in my opinion) and Radio City Music Hall.

10 places to visit new york

#25. Visit the American Museum of Natural History

Welcoming 5 million visitors per year and spanning all aspect of the natural world, the American Museum of Natural History in New York City is considered one of the greatest natural history museums in the world.

Don’t miss the Hall of Ocean Life where you’ll have an opportunity to see a life-size model of a 94-foot blue whale — it’s an experience you won’t soon forget. Also, the taxidermy mammals are remarkable and have captivated both children and adults for years.

Website : American Museum of Natural History Address : 200 Central Park West, New York Featured Guide : 15 Best Things to See at the American Museum of Natural History

Dominique Ansel December 2022 Cronut

#26. Try the World-Famous Cronut (Dominique Ansel Bakery)

The best way to describe Dominique Ansel Bakery would be: Michelin-star quality at a fraction of the price. Often considered one of the most innovative bakeries in New York City, the Cronut (half croissant, half doughnut) put them on the map in 2013 and the lines (still) wrap the block, 10 years later.

The popularity of the cronut is so extreme, the bakery runs out within hours. The reason why trying the cronut is one of the best things to do in New York City (aside from the obvious) is that the flavors rotate every month and never repeat. Get it while you can!

Website:  Dominique Ansel Address: 189 Spring St, New York, NY 10012

Morgan Library & Museum

#27. Check out the Morgan Library & Museum

The Morgan Library & Museum allows visitors to step inside the private library of J.P. Morgan , which he bequeathed to the public after his death. The library is quipped with three floors of metal-enclosed walnut bookshelves, chock full of rare books.

Most notable items in the library include a handwritten score by Mozart , an original copy of the Declaration of Independence (there’s only 23), the only surviving manuscript of Paradise Lost and Charles Dickens’ manuscript for A Christmas Carol.

Website : The Morgan Library & Museum Address : 225 Madison Ave, New York, NY Featured in: 15 Exciting Museums in New York City (& What to See at Each)

Visiting the Statue of Liberty in NYC

#28. See the Statue of Liberty

A gift from France, the monolithic Statue of Liberty stands as a symbol of freedom and democracy. She holds a torch above her head with her right hand, and in her left hand, she carries a tablet inscribed with the date of the American Declaration of Independence.

The statue’s internal structure was engineered by Gustave Eiffel (yes, the same guy who built the Eiffel Tower!). Over the years, Lady Liberty has welcomed millions of immigrants to America, signifying the end of an arduous journey to the Land of Freedom.

As such, is it any wonder why we can’t talk about the best things to do in New York City without mentioning the Statue of Liberty? She is the symbol of our country, and you’d be remiss to pass on this unique opportunity.

The Statue of Liberty is perched on Liberty Island and you’ll need a ferry to reach it. But, if you’re okay simply seeing the statue up close – I suggest taking the Staten Island Ferry (which is free) and sails right near the Statue of Liberty.

Strand Book Store NYC

#29. Visit the Strand Bookstore

Founded in 1927, the Strand is the only remaining bookstore from “Book Row” which was a coalition of 48 bookstores that lined Fourth Avenue. Every single bookstore, with the exception of the Strand, closed during the Great Depression.

Today this large NYC bookstore is home to 2.5 million books and serves as a safe-haven for insatiable bookworms far and wide. Visitors are welcome to donate books and peruse the bookstore in search of something new. Definitely spend time exploring the deals on the racks outside the store as well, you might score a deal. The Strand has several locations but I suggest visiting the flagship store in the East Village.

Website:  Strand Bookstore Address: 828 Broadway, New York, NY 10003 Featured in: 12+ Charming New York City Bookstores You Can’t Help But Love.

General Grants Tomb New York City

#30. Visit the Tomb of President Ulysses S. Grant

Ulysses S. Grant was a decorated General and the 18th President of the United States. Grant’s wish was to be buried next to his wife when he passed. Seems like a simple request, right? Not quite. At the time of his death, his options for a final resting place were limited because women were  not  allowed to be buried in military cemeteries at the time. 

When Grant died from throat cancer in 1885, the mayor of New York offered to have him buried in NYC. His wife, Julia Grant, supported the offer and a fundraising effort to build what would become the largest tomb in North America ensued.

Grant’s Tomb is undoubtedly one of the most famous buildings in NYC due to its significance, making this a great New York City experience for history buffs. You can get free tours of the mausoleum through the  National Park Service .

Website : General Grant’s Tomb Address : W 122nd Street & Riverside Drive Featured in:   11 Important National Park Sites in New York City

best things to do in New York City with kids

#31. Soak in the City Lights from the (Public) Ferry

If you’re anything like me and jump at any opportunity to feel like you’re in a movie- listen up! Catching the city skyline from a ferry in general is pretty epic, but at  night — well, it’s unforgettable. The ferry is an extension of the city’s public transportation network, so the fare is affordable ($4 per person). One of my favorite New York City experiences with out of town guests is taking the ferry from DUMBO to Wall Street.

It’s a quick 5-minute ride, but it offers breathtaking views of Manhattan’s skyline from the water. In my mind, it’s one of the best things to do in New York City on a budget, especially with kids. There’s something special about being on the water, even more so when you’re in the Big Apple.

Local’s Tip: Download the ferry app so that you can see the schedule and purchase tickets in advance. Once you buy the tickets you just scan your QR code at the dock before boarding. It’s an easy system to figure out!

Best NYC pizza

#32. Order the White Pie from Juliana’s Pizza

Juliana’s white pie is easily the best in New York. The ingredients are minimal (mozzarella and garlic), so the flavors really shine through. And don’t even get me started on the crust – oh that dough!

Most evenings, the line is out the door and around the block, but if you go during lunch your wait time should be shorter/nonexistent. Pies run around $25 a piece and feed two. Eating authentic NYC pizza on your trip to the Big Apple is one of the best things to do in New York City, don’t miss it.

Website : Juliana’s Pizza Address: 19 Old Fulton St, Brooklyn, NY Featured in : 15 Iconic New York City Pizza Joints Good to Know: Juliana’s doesn’t accept reservations, first come, first served only. Lines move quickly!

Best Restaurants in Chinatown NYC

#33. Explore Chinatown

Chinatown in New York City (one of the oldest Chinatowns in the country) is home to the largest Chinese population in the Western Hemisphere. The vibrant neighborhood has an authentic feel few areas can emulate. Full of endearing shops and incredible restaurants, there’s so many fun things to do in New York City’s Chinatown. Whether you’re exploring the area as a foodie or culture enthusiast, one thing is certain – you’re bound to have a great time.

Complete Guide : 15 Exciting Things to Do in Chinatown (Local’s Guide)

Best breweries New York City

#34. Grab a Beer at McSorely’s Old Ale House

If you’re searching for one of the best historic things to do in the East Village, consider stopping by McSorley’s Old Ale House for some ale. Opened sometime between 1854 and 1862 (the exact year is debated), McSorley’s Old Ale House is one of the most historic bars in New York City.

So entrenched in history, not a single item has been removed from the walls since 1910. You can find Houdini’s handcuffs on a bar rail and wishbones hung by young men going off to World War I. 

This beloved NYC pub has hosted notable patrons throughout the years. Famous names include Abraham Lincoln, Ulyssess S. Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, John Lennon, Houdini and E.E. Cummings.

Website:  McSorley’s Old Ale House Address: 15 E 7th St, New York, NY 10003 Featured in: 15 Iconic East Village Activities

The One World Trade Center in the Financial District

#35. Admire the One World Trade Center

The One World Trade Center (also known as the “Freedom Tower”), soars to a symbolic height of 1,776 feet (the year America declared its independence). Not only is this the tallest building in the country (and 6th tallest building in the world), but it serves as a stark reminder of the tragic events of September 11, 2001.

Completed in 2014, the building has 104 floors and is topped with a 408-foot spire that adds to its iconic stature of this famous New York City building. You can gawk at the building from the ground level. However to truly appreciate its size, I suggest visiting the observation deck for panoramic views of NYC.

Representing the resilience of the American people, the One World Trade Center is arguably the most important building in New York City.

Website : One World Observatory Address : 17 West St, New York

Best ice skating NYC

Best Time to Visit New York City

My favorite time to visit New York City is during the holiday season (late November to December) because of the Christmas markets and decorations. My second favorite time to visit is during fall (mid-October to mid-November) because of the mild temperatures and beautiful fall foliage.

But there’s no bad time to visit New York City. Just know that winters can be brutally cold (between January and mid-March). And the summer heat and humidity is tough to handle (between July and August).

Lodging in New York City will not be cheap. Anyway you slice it, sleeping in the city that never sleeps is expensive. In fact, lodging will probably be the biggest hit to your budget.

With that said, for first time visitors, my recommendation is to stay in Greenwich Village or SoHo.

  • My favorite mid-range hotel in New York City is the Soho Grand Hotel . SoHo has a calmer feel than other parts of New York City.
Airbnb Note: Due to the current housing shortage crisis in New York City, the city prohibits rentals of entire apartments or homes for less than 30 days without the owner present in the unit. Essentially, it’s okay to book through Airbnb if you’re staying in a private room while the owner is present. You might be surprised to hear that prices are not any cheaper for this arrangement.

best things to do in New York City

Walking is a great way to get around

  • You will be doing a lot of walking during your first visit to New York City. The subway is efficient but sometimes it’s better to walk between places to absorb more of the city.

Uber and Lyft

  • Using Uber and Lyft is a great way to get around New York City, especially if traveling in a larger group. The last time I visited NYC with a group of friends Uber and Lyft were sometimes cheaper than the subway split between the 4 of us.
  • The subway is quite the New York City experience. I personally love taking it whenever I can but be warned – it gets terribly crowded during commute hours.
  • Also, in the summer, some of the subway stations are hot and muggy. Since the itinerary takes you to every corner of Manhattan, I suggest getting a MetroCard during your 4 days in New York.
  • What is more iconic than a bright gold New York City taxi? To know if a taxi is available for pick up, check the light on top of the cab. If the light is illuminated, the taxi is eager to take you! Credit cards accepted.

Getting to NYC from airport

Visiting New York City for First Time (Post Summary)

In sum, these are the best things to do in New York City during your first visit.

  • Stroll (or bike) through Central Park
  • Sunset at Top of the Rock Observation Deck
  • Lox bagels from Russ and Daughters
  • Walk the Brooklyn Bridge
  • Visit Washington Square Park
  • Explore DUMBO
  • Catch a Broadway Show
  • Go Shopping in Soho
  • White pie from Juliannas Pizza
  • Marinara pie from Rubirosa Pizza
  • Pastrami Sandwich at Katz
  • Visit the 9/11 Memorial (and Museum)
  • Explore the Oculus Mall
  • New York Public Library (& Bryant Park)
  • Spend an Evening at a Jazz club
  • Explore the Chelsea Market
  • Grab Drinks at a Rooftop Bar
  • Cronut from Dominique Ansel Bakery
  • Walk the High Line
  • Visit the MET
  • Explore Grand Central Terminal
  • Visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral
  • Visit Times Square
  • Stroll the Brooklyn Promenade
  • Explore the Financial District
  • Levain Bakery cookies
  • Eat your way through Essex Market
  • Visit the tomb of President Ulysses S. Grant
  • Hang out on Little Island
  • Soak in the city lights from the Ferry
  • Have a drink at the best bar in the world
  • Grab a Beer at McSorely’s Old Ale House
  • Picnic in Central Park
  • Explore Chinatown
  • Admire the One World Trade Center

First Trip to NYC (FAQ)

NYC is one of the largest cities in the world, so proper planning is key (that’s where we come in!). I suggest reading: 20 Helpful Tips for Visiting New York City for the First Time (Local’s Guide) and our guide to: 4 EPIC Days in New York City Itinerary .

The biggest attraction in NYC is the Statue of Liberty, but not all first time visitors choose to visit. The reason? It’ll eat up half a day! If you’re interested in history, definitely add the Statue of Liberty to your itinerary, otherwise, feel free to skip! This list will give you plenty to do in NYC for your first visit.

If you’re short on time, my personal list of the 3 coolest things to do in NYC is: walk the Brooklyn Bridge, visit the Top of the Rock Observation Deck and get a pastrami sandwich at Katz. I consider these can’t-miss attractions for first time visitors.

Map of the Best Things to Do in NYC

20 Epic New York City Summer Activities 10 Foolproof New York City Souvenir Ideas (Local’s Guide) Christmas in New York City: 20 MAGICAL Things to Do (5 to Avoid)

I hope you enjoyed this guide as much as I enjoyed creating it! Don’t hesitate to reach out with questions – happy to help!

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About Antonina

Hi there! I'm Antonina. Like so many folks, living in New York City was always a dream of mine. Now it's my reality! I started New York Dearest as a means to share my passion for NYC with locals and visitors alike.

You’ll Also Love

Lockwood in Greenpoint, Brooklyn

March 21, 2023 at 3:01 am

One place missed… Martinis at Sardis (Lunch, followed by a Broadway Show Matinee optional)

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December 26, 2023 at 11:08 am

I’ve read a lot of articles on what to do in NYC and yours is by far the best, thank you so much for taking the time to write such a helpful guide. I’m so excited to visit NYC soon and plan to do most of the stuff on your list, thank you a million times over!

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January 10, 2024 at 5:47 pm

I would like to visit on easter wknd are the main attractions opened

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January 10, 2024 at 6:00 pm

Hi Palmina, yes, most (if not all) of these attractions will be open Easter Weekend. Enjoy your time in NYC!

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The Empire State Building lit up with the skyline in the background.

The best attractions and things to do in Manhattan

From the Statue of Liberty to the High Line, these are the best Manhattan attractions in NYC.

Photograph: By Bryan Smith

Shaye Weaver

If you’re planning to visit New York City, it would be ridiculous not to start with Manhattan and its attractions. Though it's neither the biggest borough (that’s Queens !) nor the most densely-populated (that’s  Brooklyn! ), it is the center of the city: historically, geographically, and culturally.

Dominated by some of the world’s most iconic skyscrapers, here you’ll find globally famous attractions like the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, and Central Park. You’ve got some of the best restaurants in New York . And all the biggest and best  Broadway shows  are here because Broadway is literally in Manhattan. Whether you’re just visiting the Big Apple for the weekend or you’re a lifelong New Yorker looking for something new to do, these attractions in Manhattan are essential additions to your bucket list.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best New York attractions   RECOMMENDED: The best non-touristy things to do in NYC

This article includes affiliate links. These links have no influence on our editorial content. For more information, click  here .

Been there, done that? Think again, my friend.

Best Manhattan attractions

1.  one world observatory.

  • Towers and viewpoints
  • Financial District

One World Observatory

The tallest building in the United State, One World Observatory at World Trade Center lets visitors experience panoramic views of NYC on levels 100, 101, and 102. The tour begins with a thrilling trip in the Sky Pod elevators (some of the fastest in the world) which lead to a two-minute video presentation of gorgeous city images on floor 102.

Check out City Pulse on the 100th floor, which shows HD videos featuring notable NYC landmarks and neighborhoods. For a special dining experience, make a reservation for dinner or cocktails.

2.  Empire State Building

  • Monuments and memorials
  • Midtown West
  • price 2 of 4

Empire State Building

Some things get better with age. The Empire State Building—now approaching its 100th birthday—is definitely one of them. 

The Empire State Building became an icon when it opened in 1931 as the world's tallest building. Though the landmark may have lost its No. 1 height status, it's remained a beloved destination with incredible views of the city. Thanks to recent updates, it's not just about the views anymore. The building now spotlights art, architecture, and history; plus, it offers a slew of cool events and excellent dining options. 

Tourists tend to make the Empire State Building their first stop upon arriving in New York City, and they're onto something—it's worth a visit, no matter if you're a lifelong New Yorker or just passing through town.

3.  The Statue of Liberty

  • Liberty Island

The Statue of Liberty

In a city where almost everything is iconic, Lady Liberty is the icon of icons – certainly where tourists are concerned. Our tip is to avoid the foam-crown-sporting masses and pre-book a combo cruise-and-tour ticket . A climb to the crown – and why wouldn’t you? – affords a panoramic view of New York Harbor and the chance to see the literal nuts and bolts of Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi’s creation, which was given to the people of America by the people of France in 1886.

We thoroughly recommend stopping in the museum on Liberty Island, if only to marvel at the initial ambivalence of 19th-century New Yorkers when they were asked to fund the construction of the pedestal. 

4.  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Opened in 1880, the massive museum t akes up 11.5 acres within Central Park along Fifth Avenue, across two million square feet and receives more than 4 million visitors annually. Its collection, which spans 5,000 years of art history from pre-history to the present, boasts 36,000 objects, including 2,500 European Old Master, Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings, as well as the greatest collection of Egyptian art and artifacts outside Cairo—among them, the full-scale Temple of Dendur.

Other major attractions include The Met’s American and Lehman Wings; The Costume Institute; the Rooftop Garden , which offers spectacular views of the Park and the Midtown skyline; and, of course, its 29 amazing period rooms.

Time Out tip: To avoid the crowds, come on a weekday or visit for date night .

5.  Central Park

  • Things to do
  • Walks and tours

Central Park

Surely the world’s most famous public park, the startlingly enormous Central Park is one of the most beloved attractions in New York City, and an iconic fixture of numerous films, TV shows, and songs.

It’s surprisingly easy to forget you’re in Manhattan once you penetrate the idyllic, 843-acre plot, which was first brought to life in the mid-nineteenth century by urban visionaries Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux. Their thoughtful design reflects a harmonious balance of scenic elements that live on today: pastoral (the open, picnic-ready lawn of the Sheep Meadow), formal (the linear, tree-lined Mall), and picturesque (the densely wooded paths of the Ramble).

Rent a bike in Central Park.

6.  Chrysler Building

  • Civic buildings
  • Midtown East

Chrysler Building

If you want to call this magnificent pinnacle of Art Deco architecture NYC’s most eye-popping skyscraper then we’re not going to argue with you. Triangle-shaped windows in its crown are lined with lights, creating a beautiful effect come nighttime.

Oozing a moneyed sophistication oft identified with old New York, you can’t actually go up it as a tourist – it’s still in use as offices – but the magnificent art deco lobby is open to the public.

7.  The High Line

The High Line

Though it’s spawned many imitators, t here’s something uniquely New York about this wonderful aerial walk, built on an abandoned railway track, an ultra-smart move-in footage-starved Manhattan. What we like best is how the pathway rises above the city while keeping you rooted in urban life: where else can you walk through a field of wildflowers as cabs zip along the street beneath you?

8.  Theater District

Theater District

More than 13 million locals and tourists take in Broadway shows every year. Most of NYC’s 41 Broadway venues – that is to say, professional theaters with a capacity of over 500 – are located in the Theater District. Roughly speaking, that’s 41st Street to 52nd Street between Sixth Avenue and Eighth Avenue. Each season brings a new wave of mega-musicals, plays, and star-driven revivals. 

Tickets don’t tend to be cheap – although discounts are often available – but you would be remiss to leave New York City without taking in one of the season's best shows.

Get spooked on a haunted Broadway theater tour.

9.  9/11 Memorial and Museum in NYC

9/11 Memorial and Museum in NYC

The 9/11 Memorial & Museum is one of the most popular—and certainly the most heartbreaking—attractions in New York City. Located where the Twin Towers once stood, the memorial and museum tell the story of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The 9/11 Museum, located where the Twin Towers once stood, explores the history of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The museum houses artifacts, historical records, firefighting equipment and a memorial exhibition. Tours with expert guides are available. 

Outside the museum is the memorial, which honors the 2,977 people killed in the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 at the World Trade Center site, near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon, as well as the six people killed in the World Trade Center bombing on February 26, 1993. The Memorial’s twin reflecting pools are each nearly an acre in size and feature the largest man-made waterfalls in North America.

10.  Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center

Built by the fabulously wealthy businessmen John D Rockefeller, the construction of this enormous complex employed over 40,000 workers over nine years. Nowadays, more than 350,000 visitors make their way to the historic landmark every year, starting early in the morning with folks hoping to spot celebrities or appear in the background of the Today Show.

Always in demand is the NBC studio tour, which covers the network’s history and sites in 30 Rock. The busiest time to visit, of course, is December when the enormous, 70-foot Christmas Tree stands proudly above the plaza ice rink.  Book Online

11.  Grand Central Terminal

Grand Central Terminal

This iconic transit hub, which opened in 1913, is used by thousands upon thousands of commuters each day. And it’s also a destination in its own right: its majestic Beaux-Arts architecture is an awesome marriage of form and function. 

Famous features include the vaulted, constellation-adorned ceiling and the four-faced opal clock topping the main information booth. They’re both located in the Grand Concourse. Meanwhile, ornamentation above the 42nd Street entrance includes a likeness of Mercury, the god of travel (naturally), and an ornate Tiffany-glass timepiece.

12.  Whitney Museum of American Art

  • Art and design
  • Meatpacking District

Whitney Museum of American Art

Standing at the foot of the High Line along Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District, the 63,000 square facility features both indoor and outdoor exhibition space. True to its founder Gertrude Vanderbilt's wishes, the Whitney is dedicated to presenting the work of American artists. Its collection holds about 15,000 pieces by nearly 2,000 artists, including Alexander Calder, Willem de Kooning, Edward Hopper (the museum holds his entire estate), Jasper Johns, Louise Nevelson, Georgia O’Keeffe and Claes Oldenburg.

Three outdoor sculpture spaces provide views of the Hudson and the surrounding neighborhood. This is a goldmine for slightly lesser-known but fantastic exhibitions. 

13.  New-York Historical Society

  • Upper West Side

New-York Historical Society

History buffs will love this Upper West Side institution. Built in 1804, it's the oldest museum in New York City. In a nod to history, the museum kept the hyphen in its name—that’s how the city’s name was spelled back in the early 1800s. The New-York Historical Society features more than 1.6 million works that explore the history of the city and the country, including exhibits, art and historical artifacts.

The Patricia D. Klingenstein Library has more than three million books, newspapers, maps, photographs and more from our nation’s founding through slavery and Reconstruction and beyond. The Gilder Lehrman Collection is also housed in the New-York Historical Society, where you can view signed copies of the Emancipation Proclamation, the Thirteenth Amendment and the Constitution.

14.  Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

  • Upper East Side
  • price 3 of 4

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

Frank Lloyd Wright broke the mold on museum design when he completed his building for the Guggenheim in 1959. Since then, millions of visitors have come to the Gugg to gawk at its spiraling rotunda, but they stay for its daring art shows and its collection, which includes Peggy Guggenheim’s trove of Cubist, Surrealist and Abstract Expressionist works, as well as the largest collection of Kandinskys in the United States.

Beautiful and innovative both inside and out, what more inspiration do you need?

15.  Times Square

Times Square

Times Square in NYC—New York’s crowded attraction—is a global icon in its own right. It’s the "center of the world" and the epicenter of NYC tourism with the best Broadway shows and photo opportunities with The Naked Cowboy and even those creepy mascots.

Its fabled days of grime and crime are a distant memory, thankfully, but it still has much to experience, especially during the holiday season.

16.  New York Public Library, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building

  • Libraries, archives and foundations

New York Public Library, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building

Catch a glimpse of this monumental library’s Beaux-Arts facade and you’ll see why it took nine years and $9 million to construct (when $9 million was a lot of money). The grand columns, Tennessee marble lions dubbed Patience and Fortitude and spectacular Rose Main Reading Room make the library one of the most beautiful buildings in the city.

The contents aren’t too bad either: bibliophiles shouldn’t pass up the chance to look through the vast collection of books and literary ephemera, including the original Winnie-the-Pooh bear and first folio editions of William Shakespeare's Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies .

17.  Chelsea Market

  • Markets and fairs

Chelsea Market

More than six million people a year visit this former biscuit factory turned food hall: a fact that’s unlikely to surprise anyone who has ever braved the epic line for Los Tacos No. 1.

In addition to 35-plus eateries, Chelsea Market is home to the rotating boutique selection of Artists & Fleas, plus a selection of other local boutiques. The fact Google snapped the space up for a cool $2.4 billion a few years back only goes to show how iconic it really is.

Explore Chelsea Market and The Highline.

18.  Flatiron Building

Flatiron Building

When it debuted in 1902, critics thought the Flatiron Building wouldn’t last: they worried that a strong wind might topple the long, thin, pyramidal structure. Fortunately, architect Daniel Burnham’s smart solution to the problem of a triangular lot has proven nothing if not enduring, and the unique architecture is still very much in place. 

While it's still cool to look at, the building has been under scaffolding for years now, so set your expectations if you're heading there for a photo.

19.  American Museum of Natural History

  • Science and technology

American Museum of Natural History

If the American Museum of Natural History only contained the 94-foot blue whale model in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life and the 122-foot cast of the Titanosaur fossil in the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Orientation Center, then it would be worth visiting on those grounds alone.

What’s that, you want more ? Fair enough: you can also consider the vast collection of taxidermied animals, check out the dazzling Hall of Gems, explore the heavens in the awe-inspiring Hayden Planetarium, and get inspired in the new Gilder Center.

20.  Macy’s Herald Square

  • Department stores

Macy’s Herald Square

Though it’s no longer the biggest department store in the world, the original Macy’s location is no slouch, covering a prodigious 2.2 million square feet. You could spend days shopping in this 11-floor building, but buying stuff isn’t the only draw.

Visit in the spring to peep the extravagant Macy’s Flower Show, or wait until after Thanksgiving to take in the festive holiday windows and drop off your Christmas list to Old Saint Nick himself.

21.  Harbor helicopter tour

Harbor helicopter tour

For generations, the architects who have worked in Manhattan have known one thing: the only way is up. Take their lead and view the area’s iconic buildings, bridges, parks and statues from the air. Ideal for when your feet need time off from earth-bound site-seeing, a helicopter tour will sweep you up and around the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Empire State Building and so forth, including giving you a view of Central Park normally reserved for the birds.

Head to Pier Six on the East River and, well, prepare for lift off.

Looking for more things to do?

The best bike tours in nyc.

The best bike tours in NYC

For those looking to experience the city like a locals, hop on two wheels and join of the best bike tours NYC has to offer

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The 41 Absolute Best New York Attractions In 2024

The 41 Absolute Best New York Attractions In 2024

What to do in new york we've got you covered.

Image of author Steffen

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 have to see in New York City. In addition to that, I’ve included really beautiful and unique places that you should definitely visit! Further down, you will find the 👉 best New York attractions on a map .

TOP Attractions in New York

New York has so much to offer! If you don’t have much time, you should visit these eight TOP attractions in New York:

  • Summit One Vanderbilt
  • Edge Hudson Yards

Central Park

Brooklyn bridge, times square.

  • Statue of Liberty
  • The 9/11 Memorial
  • High Line Park

You can easily do these in two days. My list of the best sights in New York below in the article is ideal for a visit of 5 days to a week.

Buy New York sightseeing tickets online

New York City is just as busy as it was before the pandemic – in fact, it feels a little busier now that many are taking their postponed New York trips. Many of New York’s attractions require you to book time slots in order to visit them. Therefore, you should buy your ticket online in advance! These are the most visited attractions in NYC:

My budget tip: many attractions are included in the New York sightseeing passes – so you can save a lot of money on tickets. Which New York Pass is the best for you, I show you in my New York Pass comparison .

New York Attractions Map

New York Attractions

Our tips for visiting the top 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:

Try Our Savings Calculator

These are my favorite NYC attractions

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 the best attractions 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!

The Edge Observation Deck

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The Hudson Yards observation deck called Edge is New York’s newest and highest open observation deck. It opened in March 2020 and we were there – the view from up here is just sensational, and through the glass floor you can see over 100 floors straight down!

Are you looking for the ultimate thrill? Then check out the Edge City Climb !

Empire State Building

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 !

Brooklyn_Bridge_in_New_York_170614090305011

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!

Top of the Rock

Top of the Rock

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!

9/11 Memorial and Museum

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The 9/11 Memorial Museum is located at the 9/11 National Memorial and is probably one of the most emotional museums in New York. It is mostly located underground and displays debris from the former Twin Towers in addition to many of the personal belongings of those buried. Among them are fire trucks deformed by heat, a part of the antenna of the North Tower, a scorched elevator motor, the saving stone staircase (Survivor’s Staircase) as well as remains of sidewalks, street signs, bicycles and baby carriages that were in front of the World Trade Center.

Get personal tips & tricks, specifically tailored to your trip!

10 places to visit new york

We will provide you with individual tips & tricks as you prepare for your trip. How to plan, save money and make sure you experience the most of NYC are only some of the topics covered!

Specify dates

One World Observatory

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One of the newest activities in this list of top 10 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 best New York attractions that we highly recommend visiting. You can order tickets online here !

High_Line_New_York_171012162730002_1600x960

There are few parks as unique as the High Line. The elevated freight rail line was repurposed as a public green space that opened in 2009 and now offers amazing views of the city, as well as a place to relax and unwind. Its plant life is based directly off what was growing there while it was abandoned, giving this park a unique and interesting atmosphere! The High Line stretches from The Meatpacking District all the way to Hudson Yards-34th Street.

Times_Square_New_York_161004125754022

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!

Staten Island Ferry

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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.

It is at its current location in the plaza at Bowling Green in an act of “guerrilla art”. Guided tours through the Financial District as well as the Wall Street Insider Tour are hugely popular.

Cental_Park_Vogelperspektive

Central Park spans from Midtown Manhattan all the way up to Harlem. There are about 340 hectares of land and is a popular meeting place for New Yorkers. With about 35 million visitors per year, the man-made park is an attraction not only for tourists. New Yorkers love Central Park and its tranquility. Many events are held here such as the NYC Marathon. There are also tons of green spaces, walking lanes, and bike lanes. Central Park is home to Sheep’s Meadow, Bow Bridge, Bethesda Terrace, Central Park Zoo, and many other things as well.

Bryant Park

Bryant_Park_180508105745002

Bryant Park is located right in central Manhattan and is a quiet oasis between 40th and 42nd Street. Bryant Park is right in the cetner of Midtown Manhattan between 40th and 42nd Street, yet it still lends you the peace and quiet you need to get away for a few moments from the bustling city. Withg many small cafés dotted throughout the park this is the perfect place to unwind or relax when the weather is nice.

Brooklyn Bridge Park

brooklyn_bridge_park_180711162132006

You will find the beginning of Brooklyn Bridge Park just below Brooklyn Bridge. With amazing views of the skyline across the water and some great places to sit and enjoy the view, this park is a must-visit! For those of you who like running, this is an amazing place to do so, especially with the amazing Manhattan skyline view. There are also tons of green spaces, basketball, volleyball courts, and soccer fields.

The Vessel Hudson Yards

The Vessel

The Vessel is an attraction in the Hudson Yards – and it’s free! Designed by British Thomas Heatherwick (designer of the “Rolling Bridge and UK Pavilion at Expo 2010), “The Vessel” offers around 2,500 steps to climb up and down. The symmetrical steel structure, connected by 154 interwoven stair segments, attracts tourists from all over the world to climb the vertical distance of about one mile!

Note: The Vessel is unfortunately still closed at the moment. You can only enter at the bottom, the stairs are still closed and it is not known if and when they will be open to the public again.

One Vanderbilt The Summit

Summit One Vanderbilt Observation Deck

The New York City skyline is one of the most famous and recognizable skylines in the world. It’s a city filled with skyscrapers and tall buildings. In most recent years, it has been expanding which made way for new observation decks. The newest observation deck is located at the top of the One Vanderbilt Building and is called The Summit. This deck is the second-highest outdoor deck in NYC which follows the Edge and has been open since October 2021.

Flatiron Building

Bild1

The Flatiron Building is one of the most popular, beautiful and iconic buildings in NYC. The triangle shaped building likens the shape of a iron, hence the name. As one of the most photogenic spots in NYC this is definitely worth the visit for every tourist.

New York Public Library

new_york_public_library_new_york_public_library_180508105745004

The New York Public Library is one of the most famous buildings in NYC. Having featured in countless films and photographs, this is one of the best public libraries in the United Sates. The New York Public Library is not only a place for students, professors, and bookworms but also a must visit for toruists of the Big Apple.

Grand Central Terminal

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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.

Roosevelt Island Tramway

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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.

American Museum of Natural History

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The American Museum of Natural History is one of the more popular museums in NYC. If the name sounds recognizable it’s because the museum was the center of attention in the movie, Night at the Museum featuring Ben Stiller. Regardless of it’s Hollywood fame, the Natural History Museum is a huge institution that features numerous exhibits. This is a great place for families with kids so they can learn about the world’s geography, plants, different animal species and many other things.

The American Museum of Natural History is located in the Upper West Side in Manhattan and is the largest natural history museum in the world.

Domino Park

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This beautiful park opened up in Williamsburg in 2018. It’s called Domino park because the former Domino Sugar factory was located at that very spot. Now, it’s filled with greenery, food vendors and a playground for kids. It is located directly on the East River and you have a great view of the city from here. The park invites you to play volleyball or have a picnic.

Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

Museum of Modern Art MoMA in NYC

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. 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.

Guggenheim Museum

Guggenheim Museum

First off, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is an architectural masterpiece. Second, but most importantly, it is the permanent home of a large collection of art named after its founder. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright the bizarrely shaped building is one of the most famous in NYC. Not only is the outside spectacular, but it is constantly expanding its permanent collection. Also, many special exhibitions are showcased here throughout the years. It is definitely worth a visit!

Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island (Ferry & Stop)

Statue of Liberty Cruise

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.

A beautiful places to visit in NYC: Grand Banks

Grand_Banks_New_York_von_Loving_New_York_02_1600x960_1280x640

Water, a great view of Manhattan and a great atmosphere – the location is simply the best. You are sitting on a historic ship called F/V Sherman Zwicker on the Hudson River and can enjoy New York from the water when the weather is fine. The place also serves great drinks and seafood.

Governors Island

Governors_Island_NYC_220928121206067

When the weather is beautiful in New York City and you want to escape for a moment from the noise, the hustle and bustle, then a trip to Governors Island is something to consider. The Governors Island Ferry will take you across the East River for $4.

Since 2021 Governors Island is open all year round!

Jane's Carousel

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In the middle of the Brooklyn Bridge Park there is a beautiful carousel for young and old all year round. From there you can also enjoy the great view of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge.

Pier 54 - Little Island

Little Island New York

Not far from the Meatpacking District and the High Line, Little Island is one of the newest attractions in New York and is something very special: a park on 132 beautiful tulip-shaped concrete stilts in the Hudson River!

So beautiful: Gallow Green Rooftop

Gallow_Green_NYC_Rooftop_Bar_191003174859010

Gallow Green is a unique rooftop bar located above McKittrick Hotel. What makes it so special is its quaint and green atmosphere. The whole bar is overgrown with foliage and certainly does its name justice: It looks like a garden! Not to be forgotten are the delicious drinks that are served there. It’s even listed in our Rooftop Bar Guide as one of the 43 Best Rooftop Bars in New York .

This is one of the NYC attractions that you definitely shouldn’t miss! All you need is a subway ticket to take the cable car across the East River at heights of over 200ft. The views from the cable car are amazing and equally as impressive from Roosevelt Island!

One of the most instagrammed places in NYC: DUMBO

Best of Brooklyn

Don’t forget to capture the most famous photo on Washington Street in Dumbo: With the Manhattan Bridge and the tiny Empire State Building in the background, the street is popular with all tourists to take the perfect photo. Manhattan Bridge is the second famous bridge in Dumbo. If you like, you can also cross it on foot and enjoy the great view of the skyline as well as the Brooklyn Bridge from there.

Wall Street

wall_street_new_york_160914155930003-1

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 things to do 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.

It is at its current location in the plaza at Bowling Green in an act of “guerrilla art”. Guided tours through the Financial District as well as the Wall Street Insider Tour  are hugely popular.

Washington Square Park

Washington_Square_Park_160914155957003

Washington Square Park, centrally located in the Village, extends over almost 4 hectares. Close to New York University with its distinctive Washington Square Arch, a triumphal arch inaugurated in 1895, the park is a popular place to be when the weather is fine. Through the Arch you have a wonderful view along 5th Avenue to the top of the Empire State Building. 

If you are lucky, you can even enjoy a free jazz concert from the many jazz artists of the Village. Here, friends and family meet to relax, play chess, or just in general have a good time.

A park with a waterfall at Rockefeller Center: The Paley Park

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The entrance to the park, which is only 390 square metres in size, is at 53rd Street – and what immediately catches the eye: the 6-metre high waterfall. During the day in summer the waterfall’s spray mist is wonderfully cooling. And: it “swallows” all surrounding sounds and the park is such a spot with a really fascinating atmosphere! Midtown’s Paley Park is one of those secret places in New York that almost nobody knows about. A normal tourist doesn’t even consider the existence of such a park, but a New Yorker doesn’t either. The fact is that it is an oasis that radiates an aura of peace in the middle of the New York hustle and bustle.

Enjoy the sunset at Brooklyn Crab (Redhook)

Brooklyn Crab Red Hook

Brooklyn Crab is a real insider spot, which you can reach within 20 minutes from Manhattan on the IKEA Ferry. The seafood is sensational, you can sit indoors or outdoors and if you stay long enough you can enjoy the sunset over the Statue of Liberty.

Radio City Music Hall: So beautiful a night!

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The Radio City Music Hall is a very famous theater building in the middle of New York. It is part of the Rockefeller Center and is located in close proximity to the Top of The Rock and the Museum of Modern Art. When you see the Radio City Music Hall from the outside, it will seem like a journey 80 years into the past. In many movies you can see the old neon sign and therefore it is really famous.

Don't miss the Honorable William Wall on your next New York visit

Honorable William Wall

The Honorable William Wall, affectionately called “Willy Wall”, is the floating clubhouse of the Manhattan Yacht Club. The clubhouse is anchored in New York Harbor north of Ellis Island from May to October. What is so special about it? It’s definitely an insider’s spot, which not only gives you a great view of Ellis Island and of course the Statue of Liberty – you can also enjoy the sunset from here.

My favorite New York neighborhoods

Each neighborhood of New York has its own unique character and is worth exploring. However, if I had to limit myself to the most important neighborhoods that best showcase the city’s diversity, it’s these:

Soho New York

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Now known for their many excellent restaurants, shops and tourism, Manhattan’s SoHo, Little Italy and Chinatown neighborhoods offer the most varied stories of New York City. Take a 2-hour tour with a local guide and discover hidden gems and 19th century buildings.

DUMBO & Brooklyn Heights

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Home to many wealthy families and business people is the beautiful area in Brooklyn Heights and Dumbo. In this neighborhood you’ll find tree-lined streets, historic brownstone houses, breathtaking views of Lower Manhattan and super stylish lofts in abandoned industrial areas at the foot of the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges. This mixture gives this area of Brooklyn its special charm.

East Village

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Originally a part of the Lower East Side, the East Village in New York developed in the 1960s into an exciting identity of its own due to its multicultural influences and thus became its own quarter in the so-called “Village” of New York City.

Meatpacking District

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Go on a fun adventure in New York’s only park above street level- the Highline. Experience the Chelsea neighborhood from a whole new vantage point and find out more about the history of the famous Meatpacking District including how it developed into one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the world.

EATALY_Downtown_New_York0_1733x960

In 2010, Eataly was opened in New York by master chef Mario Batali. The pizza is very remeniscent of pizza and the wine selection is huge. You will also find a large selection of ecellent pasta, salads, and sandwiches. In terms of price, it has to be said in advance that a pizza starts at $15 and can cost $25. Nevertheless, this Italian food market is for me one of the most beautiful and best in the city!

Astoria Park

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One of the most beautiful spots in Astoria, Queens is Astoria Park. This popular park on the East River is a popular retreat for New Yorkers, especially in the summer. On hot summer days, they jump into New York’s oldest public pool to cool off. This is a rare sight, by the way, because you hardly find any outdoor pools in New York. Astoria Park just recently went under renovation as well and has revamped its track and field. 

Not only do you have a beautiful view of Manhattan, but you’re also right under the RFK Bridge and have a direct view of Hells Gate Bridge.

Williamsburg

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Brooklyn is famous for its bold and bright street art, but it’s not easy to know where to find these creative works. With this walking tour of the Bushwick neighborhood, take in the diversity and culture of the neighborhood’s urban street artists. Check out massive murals and intricate designs as you take to the streets to learn how Brooklyn’s best can turn anything with a surface into a stunning work of public art.

The best attractions of New York on a map

A map with all attractions of New York City with a View can be found here – just click on “FULL MAP” if you want to see more. You can click on each attraction on the map to find out everything you need to know!

Profilbild Steffen Kneist

I'm a true New York fan! Not only have I visited the city over 25 times but also have I spent several months here at a time. On my blog I show you the best and most beautiful spots of the city, so that you have a really good time! You can also find lots of insider tips in our New York travel guide . Also check out my hotel finder for New York !

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Best places to visit in new york state in 2024.

New York state captivates both domestic and international travelers with the most populated city in the United States, sprawling state parks and a few beach communities. Whether you want to visit New York City to see Times Square and go ice skating at Rockefeller Center, or retreat to the mountains of upstate New York, there are plenty of one-of-a-kind vacation spots in the Empire State. U.S. News considered sights, culture, adventurous pursuits and the opinions of experts and readers to compile this ranking of the best places to visit in New York state. Read on for vacation inspiration, and don't forget to vote below for the destinations you think belong on this list.

Niagara Falls

Adirondacks, new york city, the finger lakes, thousand islands, lake george, bear mountain state park, the catskills, sleepy hollow, letchworth state park, long island, fire island, saratoga springs, cooperstown.

10 places to visit new york

The tumbling, frothy falls – more than 3,100 tons of water flows over the edge every second – are the star tourist attraction in this New York destination that borders Canada. The best way to see Niagara Falls is on a Maid of the Mist boat tour, which takes poncho-clad visitors on an electric tour boat to the base of the falls. Or, more daring visitors can experience this natural wonder on a thrilling whirlpool jet boat tour. Just don't forget to check out the area's other unforgettable attractions, such as Niagara Falls State Park's hiking trails, Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens & Butterfly Conservatory or the nearby casinos.

10 places to visit new york

The Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York span roughly 6 million acres and are home to hundreds of communities, lakes, valleys and trails. Water lovers can canoe or kayak on Saranac Lake or go boating on Tupper Lake; hikers can tackle the area's 2,000-plus miles of trails; and skiers can shred powder on Whiteface Mountain near Lake Placid. Visitors will also want to save some time for checking out history-focused sights like the Lake Placid Olympic Museum and Fort Ticonderoga, as well as sampling regional beverages at local wineries and breweries.

10 places to visit new york

A hub for culture, the arts, food and sightseeing, New York City is a must-visit on many travelers' bucket lists – and for good reason. Everyone can find something to enjoy in the Big Apple. You can see a Broadway show, visit the world-famous Empire State Building, walk the High Line, check out the dozens of museums, eat your way through Manhattan's distinct neighborhoods on a food tour or shop till you drop along Fifth Avenue. Don't forget to stroll through iconic Central Park and visit its can't-miss attractions, including the Central Park Zoo and Conservatory Garden.

10 places to visit new york

A romantic New York getaway , the Finger Lakes region appeals to travelers seeking a relaxing retreat with lovely scenery. Skiing at the area's resorts, wine tasting at the Seneca Lake Wine Trail's wineries and boating and hiking at local state parks are all popular activities to enjoy in this part of northwestern New York. The Finger Lakes are known for their spectacular fall foliage, but with their wealth of charming towns and variety of seasonal attractions, the lakes are excellent to visit year-round.

10 places to visit new york

Despite its name, the Thousand Islands region is composed of more than 1,800 islands. The best way to see this vast area, which also stretches into Canada, is during an open-air boat tour. A scenic cruise here will take you past lighthouses, mansions and castles and include commentary about the real-life pirates who used to roam the islands' waters and the Gilded Age magnates who once called the region home. When you're ready to return to land, hike the trails in Wellesley Island State Park or fish in Mary Island State Park, both on Wellesley Island.

10 places to visit new york

Home to "The Queen of American Lakes," this town in New York's vast Adirondack mountain region is a vacation destination unto itself. Swim in Lake George's crystal-clear waters at Million Dollar Beach, or try your hand at aquatic activities like parasailing, water skiing, kayaking and more. Away from the lake, history buffs can brush up on their knowledge of the French and Indian War at the Fort William Henry Museum while adventurous travelers hike to the summit of Prospect Mountain for breathtaking vistas. Families will also appreciate the region's countless amusement parks and mini-golf courses.

10 places to visit new york

Located on the western banks of the Hudson River in the Palisades region of New York, Bear Mountain State Park offers sweeping views of the Hudson Valley and the surrounding highlands. The forested park's trails (including a stretch of the Appalachian Trail) take hikers through lakes, gorges and valleys. What's more, Bear Mountain State Park features a zoo, a swimming pool, a hand-painted merry-go-round and a seasonal outdoor ice skating rink, ensuring family fun both on and off the trails. (Note: Portions of this park are still closed due to storm damage sustained in July 2023. Please check the park's website for the current operating status.)

10 places to visit new york

With 98 peaks, southeastern New York's Catskill Mountains beckon to nature enthusiasts. About 40% of Catskill Park's 700,000-plus acres are designated as "forever wild," meaning you'll have access to sprawling spaces ideal for outdoor activities. In winter, the Catskills offer ample opportunities to ski and snowboard. Meanwhile, summer is perfect for hunting, hiking, boating and zip lining, among other activities. After a busy day outdoors, you can check out the region's art scene (the Catskills were home to America's first art movement – the Hudson River School) or enjoy the amenities at one of the area's top resorts .

10 places to visit new york

Made famous by author Washington Irving in his 1820 short story, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," this small town about 30 miles north of New York City is a must-visit on any Hudson Valley itinerary. Begin with a trip to Kykuit, the Rockefeller Estate, before heading to nearby Tarrytown to explore the grand Lyndhurst Mansion. In the evening, stroll through the famed Sleepy Hollow Cemetery on a lantern-lit guided tour. Keep in mind that this town becomes inundated with travelers around Halloween, so book your accommodations early if you are planning on visiting during the fall.

10 places to visit new york

Nicknamed the Grand Canyon of the East because of its impressive gorge, Letchworth State Park is a hidden gem for travelers who love the outdoors. The park is home to three large waterfalls and dozens more on tributaries, many of which you can see as you trek some of Letchworth's 66 miles of hiking trails. Additionally, the park offers ample opportunities to go whitewater rafting, kayaking, horseback riding, biking and even hot air ballooning. If you prefer winter sports instead of summer pursuits, arrive when temperatures fall to go cross-country skiing or snowmobiling.

10 places to visit new york

This 118-mile-long island is frequented by New Yorkers looking to escape the city to relax on white sand beaches with a glass of wine. Summer hot spots like the Hamptons and Montauk boast charming seaside allure and can't-miss stretches of sand, like Ditch Plains Beach, a popular place to surf. Meanwhile, family-friendly Jones Beach State Park is a more approachable option with a swimming pool, a mini-golf course and shuffleboard areas, among other amenities. Beyond beaches, Long Island boasts more than 50 wineries and tasting rooms, some of which are part of the island's North Fork Wine Trail.

10 places to visit new york

Those looking to get away from skyscrapers can travel about 60 miles southeast of New York City to reach this 32-mile-long, car-free barrier island. On Fire Island, you'll find several charming communities, including Ocean Beach (where most of the island's hotels, restaurants and shops are located) and Cherry Grove and Fire Island Pines (two of the island's top LGBTQ-friendly areas). Plus, Fire Island is home to Fire Island National Seashore, a protected area that welcomes bird-watchers and campers in droves. If you'd rather spend your vacation swimming, surfing or sunbathing, head to Robert Moses State Park in summer to enjoy its beautiful beaches.

10 places to visit new york

Ever since the Mohawk people came to Saratoga Springs and discovered its mineral waters, which were believed to have restorative properties, the town has blossomed into a popular vacation destination. Visitors can still drink from or soak in the town's mineral springs, 12 of which are located in Saratoga Spa State Park. However, many travelers now flock to Saratoga Springs to see one of the country's oldest racetracks, the Saratoga Race Course. Take a walking tour of the facility to learn more about its history and horseracing, or visit in August to attend the venue's premier event, the Travers Stakes.

10 places to visit new york

The presence of two renowned institutions – Ithaca College and Cornell University – makes Ithaca a true college town. But this small town in New York's Finger Lakes region is also known for its stunning natural beauty, so much so that its slogan is "Ithaca is gorges." Ithaca is surrounded by more than 150 waterfalls, as well as gorges and dense forests with hiking and biking trails. What's more, the town overlooks the southern shore of Cayuga Lake, a superb spot for boating, fishing and swimming. For groups with budding naturalists, follow Ithaca's Discovery Trail to must-see attractions like the Sciencenter and the Cornell Botanic Gardens.

10 places to visit new york

Cooperstown may be small, but it attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors every year thanks to its ties to America's pastime. Although most experts agree that baseball wasn't invented here, Cooperstown remains a mecca for sports lovers because of its must-visit sight, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. However, the village offers other kinds of attractions, too. Travelers can visit the Fenimore Art Museum to see impressive works of art or check out The Farmers' Museum's exhibits about local agriculture. Cooperstown also features beautiful neoclassical buildings, such as Hyde Hall, and a variety of breweries and wineries.

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17 Top-Rated Attractions & Places to Visit in New York State

Written by Shandley McMurray and Lana Law Updated Sep 16, 2022

The task of choosing a handful of top attractions to represent the entire state of New York is not an easy one thanks to its nearly endless number of things to see and do. From the historic to the most contemporary, New York State overflows with interesting places to visit.

Letchworth State Park, New York

New York City is undeniably the state's most popular tourist destination, and it's packed with famous attractions, restaurants, and shops. The borough of Manhattan is home to many of the city's top destinations, like Central Park, Times Square, the Empire State Building, and much more.

Upstate New York, as locals call pretty much anything north of the city, offers year-round vacation possibilities. In summer, the many lakes and mountains, along with New York's charming small towns , are the main attractions.

Winter is also a popular time to visit due to the ski resorts and luxury hotels and lodges that make great getaways.

Plan the perfect escape any time of year with our list of attractions and places to visit in New York State.

1. Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

2. niagara falls, 3. central park, 4. times square, 5. finger lakes, 6. lake placid, 7. lake george, 8. storm king art center, 9. cooperstown, 10. thousand islands, 11. the adirondacks, 12. the catskills, 13. letchworth state park, 14. darwin d. martin house complex, buffalo, 15. watkins glen state park, 16. george eastman house and the international museum of photography and film, rochester, 17. kingston.

Statue of Liberty

The Statue of Liberty is the nation's most iconic monument , a symbol of hope to millions of immigrants on their way to Ellis Island.

Tourists can visit both attractions via a ferry operated by the National Park Service that meets passengers at Battery Park and runs continuous loops throughout the day.

The first stop is the statue, where visitors can enjoy views of both the monument and the New York City skyline at no charge. You can also purchase tickets to access the pedestal or crown, although crown passes sell out at least six months in advance.

Be sure to wander through the museum in the base of the statue and check out the extensive educational signs, statues, and historic markers.

Ellis Island

The ferry stops next at Ellis Island, where there is a museum on the first floor of the main building, an architectural masterpiece that once served as the main processing center and hospital from 1892 to 1954. On the upper level, tourists can wander the rooms of the quarantine wing and see some of the original bunks and facilities used by those hoping to start new lives.

Inside are poignant exhibits, with walls of photos, documents, and personal stories that capture defining moments in American history, one person at a time.

Tourists should plan at least a half day to enjoy sightseeing at both attractions, or if pressed for time consider hopping aboard the ferry and using the ride to get phenomenal views of these New York City landmarks from many angles.

Official site: www.nps.gov/stli

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls is one of the natural wonders of North America, drawing millions of visitors each year. Located along the border of Canada and the United States, there are actually three waterfalls within the park: Bridal Veil Falls, American Falls, and Horseshoe Falls. Horseshoe Falls is the widest and tallest, dropping 167 feet from a 2,700-foot-wide ledge.

For the best panoramic view of all three falls, go up the observation tower, or take the famed Hornblower boat tour into the basin of Horseshoe Falls. It's one of the most popular things to do in Niagara Falls . In addition to park information and tour tickets, the visitor center has a gift shop, several dining options, and a theater that shows a 40-minute film about the history and legend of the falls.

Niagara Falls in winter on a cold day

The park also provides nighttime illumination of the falls and hosts spectacular fireworks shows on special occasions.

In winter, the falls transform into a frozen spectacle of massive icicles, freezing fog, and ice-covered trees and railings. On clear, calm days, the plume of mist rising off the falls stretches high into the sky and can be seen from as far away as the CN Tower in Toronto.

Official site: www.niagarafallsstatepark.com

Central Park

Although it may appear on a map as a small patch of green within the grid of Manhattan streets, Central Park is an expansive space that contains enough sights and things to do to last for days, if not longer.

Central Park is home to a wide range of attractions , from impressive architecture and peaceful gardens to skating rinks.

Bethesda Terrace is known for its stunning Bethesda Fountain, and the Mall , an idyllic, broad pathway canopied by the arching limbs of centuries-old American elms, begins at the terrace. Tourists will find several peaceful spots to relax, like the formal Conservatory Garden , the Shakespeare Garden , or the famed Chess & Checkers House .

Bethesda Fountain

Kids will enjoy the Central Park Zoo , which features sea lions, penguins, and other animals, and the younger ones will want to ride on the historic Carousel . The park also has, of course, expansive green lawns and enough playgrounds to keep kids busy for days.

Heckscher Playground lies mid-park between 61st and 63rd streets and boasts an extensive sprinkler area to help little ones cool off on a hot summer day. It dates to 1926 and also has slides, a giant sandbox, and climbing structures, as well as lots of open space to run around.

The Billy Johnson playground near the zoo features a stone slide beloved by kids. Be sure to bring a newspaper, or better yet, the lid of a pizza box to sit on while sliding, as it makes the ride faster.

Several ponds are also on hand to enhance the ambience. Pack a picnic and enjoy your meal with a side of people-watching.

Central Park can be toured by horse-drawn carriage for the ultimate romantic sightseeing experience.

Official site: www.centralparknyc.org

Times Square

There are weeks' worth of attractions and things to do in and around Times Square, but even a brief visit to experience the bigger-than-life excitement is worth the trip. The heart of Times Square is at the junction of Broadway and 7th Ave, where you will be mesmerized by the massive screens that announce everything from the newest films and shows to special presentations.

The pedestrian areas are full of artists, performers, and tourists taking in the cacophony of the city and the enticing smells wafting from the food trucks that line the streets. While in the neighborhood, a visit is not complete without dinner at Sardi's Restaurant and a show in the world-famous Theater District .

Times Square in the early evening

Traveling with the kids? You'll find plenty of family attractions, including Madame Tussauds , which has not only amazing waxworks and interactive exhibits but also offers a new perspective from the glass-walled viewing platform that protrudes over the sidewalk.

Times Square is also home to a staggering number of stores, big and small, and no visit is complete without a stop at M&M World where you can't help but smile. The Empire State Building , another NYC icon, is within walking distance of the square and is open until 2am for breathtaking views of the city below.

Finger Lakes

According to Iroquois legend, the long, narrow lakes in the landscape west of Syracuse were formed by the impression of the fingers of the Great Spirit. The numerous lakes that make up the Finger Lakes region offer a range of outdoor opportunities in a visually stunning landscape.

Cute towns and Finger Lakes resorts are dotted along the lakeshores of the main lakes, most of which are particularly busy during the summer months. Some interesting ways to explore the area are on the Cayuga Trail, the Seneca Lake Trail, and the Keuka Trail.

The town of Corning is home to the living history museum Heritage Village of the Southern Finger Lakes , as well as The Rockwell Museum , which features a variety of artwork. Auburn is also home to several attractions, including the Harriet Tubman House , the Seward House Museum , Willard Chapel, and the Fingerlakes Mall. Additional attractions include the Finger Lakes Museum in Branchport and the Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion State Park.

Mountain coaster at Greek Peak Mountain Resort

Seeing the falls at Watkins Glen State Park ; riding in a hot air balloon over Letchworth State Park , and having an adventure at Greek Peak Mountain Resort are among the best things to do in the Finger Lakes .

Adirondack chairs looking over Mirror Lake in Lake Placid

The world-famous winter sports resort of Lake Placid, at the foot of Whiteface Mountain , has twice hosted the Winter Olympics (1932, 1980). Today Lake Placid is a major tourist center , located in beautiful natural surroundings with lakes and hills.

While it is perhaps best known internationally for its winter recreation, particularly skiing, the town is a popular summer destination as well. All kinds of unique shops and restaurants line the main tourist strip in Lake Placid. Beautiful resorts are found along the shores and in the rolling landscape.

In addition to the actual body of water named Lake Placid, there is also the incredibly scenic Mirror Lake , which is a centerpiece of the town. The setting for this lake makes it one of the most beautiful lakes in New York State .

Lake George

The town of Lake George is located at the southern end of a 32-mile-long lake of the same name. The town is a major tourist destination in the summer, and the lake itself is the main attraction.

Many of the islands on the lake have been developed for camping, and the area is particularly popular with motorcyclists.

Million Dollar Beach , on Beach Road, provides swimming, picnic facilities, and volleyball courts. Sightseeing cruises are also a fun way to see the lake. Prospect Mountain offers a high scenic point for a view out over the lake and surroundings.

Historical points of interest around Lake George include Lake George Battlefield Park and the Fort William Henry Museum .

Storm King Art Center

Wear comfortable shoes when you visit Storm King Art Center, which was named for the nearby mountain overlooking the Hudson River. This magnificent outdoor sculpture gallery set among 500 acres of bucolic landscape is by far one of the most captivating attractions in New York state – and you'll want to walk around it all.

Not a walker? No worries. There's a tram on-site to take you past most of the massive sculptures, but you'll want to download the site's app to get the most detailed information about each piece. Also, since this is an open-air attraction, plan your visit for a nice day to get the most out of your trip.

Many of the ambitious works on display throughout the fields and hills of this unique exhibition change frequently, and the art looks different in every season. That means you're in for a new experience with every visit. And trust us, going once really isn't enough!

Storm King is open Wednesdays to Mondays from 10am to 5:30pm. Last entry is at 4. It will take at least two hours to explore the area, more if you'd like to stop and appreciate the impressive works, so plan your trip accordingly. There's a café on-site offering healthy lunches, drinks, and snacks to help ward off hunger pangs during your journey.

Address: 1 Museum Road, New Windsor, New York

Official site: https://stormking.org/

National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown

Cooperstown sits at the southern tip of Otsego Lake in central New York state. It is best known as the home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum , where baseball aficionados can admire the sport's legends and view memorabilia.

The Heroes of Baseball Wax Museum is a fun follow-up to the Hall of Fame, and although it is on the smaller side, it is fun to pose with baseball's greats in a laid-back atmosphere and enjoy their "baseball bloopers" film in the small theater.

Cultural attractions in Cooperstown include the Fenimore Art Museum and the Alice Busch Theater , which hosts the Glimmerglass Festival, an annual international opera event. There are also historic sites like Hyde Hall , once a sprawling colonial estate, as well as The Farmer's Museum , where life on Lippitt Farmstead and a historic village is brought to life.

Thousand Islands

Dotted all over a 50 mile stretch of the St. Lawrence River are thousands of little islands. They are located along a granite shelf extending from the Canadian Shield to the Adirondack Mountains in the United States, with the boundary actually running between the islands. It is an area of great scenic beauty any time of year, but especially vibrant in autumn during foliage season.

Operating between mid-May and mid-October, boat tours among the maze of islands show ever-changing vistas and include glimpses of holiday homes that range from the plainest of log cabins to the most luxurious of summer villas. One of the most amazing sights in the Thousand Islands is the stunning Boldt Castle dating from 1900.

The Adirondacks

The Adirondacks are a scenic range of forest-covered hills in northern New York state, with numerous lakes and recreational opportunities. The hills are part of the Canadian Shield and reach a height of over 5,000 feet.

The highest peak is Mount Marcy at 5,345 feet. The Adirondacks are a favorite holiday destination for New Yorkers. People come here to enjoy hiking, canoe on the extensive waterways, and relax at lakeside cottages and resorts in the Adirondacks .

This is a beautiful area to photograph in the fall, with an incredible display of New York autumn colors .

View over the Catskill Mountains

Another popular destination to experience nature in New York State is the Catskills. The rugged countryside of rolling hills and peaceful lakes is perfect for recharging your mental batteries. You can be as active as you like by undertaking activities like biking, canoeing, and hiking; or as lazy as you like by sitting by the pool, snoozing, or visiting the spa at one of the many top resorts in the Catskills.

In the winter, the Catskills transform into a snowy wonderland and draw skiers from far and wide to some of the finest ski resorts in New York .

Letchworth State Park

Letchworth State Park is home to three sets of waterfalls along the dramatic Genesee River Gorge. Steep cliff walls line the gorge, which is surrounded by forest, and it is often referred to as the "Grand Canyon of the East."

Middle Falls is the largest, with a 107-foot drop, and is illuminated at night from May through October. It's dubbed one of the best waterfalls in New York for good reason! Upper Falls is just as captivating, but only drops about 70 feet. It is surrounded by stunning rock cliffs and crossed by the photo-worthy Portage High Bridge.

The park offers a full range of facilities, from campsites and cabin rentals to trails, swimming, a playground, and concessions. Winter activities include snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and designated snowmobile trails.

One of the most memorable experiences in Letchworth State Park is definitely the hot air balloon rides that soar high above the phenomenal landscape, offering views that truly can't be beat. Book one during fall for the most impressive display of Mother Nature's best color show.

Darwin D. Martin House Complex

Darwin and Isabelle Martin commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to build a multi-structure complex in 1904, which he did at the height of his Prairie House era. It is considered by many to be his finest such work.

One of the top things to do in Buffalo , the house is open to the public and can be toured on either a Basic Tour or an In-Depth Tour, with guides who can direct viewers to the details and enhance visitors' understanding of the structure. Portions of the estate that were torn down over the years are being reconstructed.

Address: 125 Jewett Parkway, Buffalo, New York

Official site: www.darwinmartinhouse.org

Watkins Glen State Park

Watkins Glen is located at the southern tip of Seneca Lake within the Finger Lakes State Parks . The glen extends for two miles, dropping a total of 400 feet over 19 waterfalls, past 200-foot cliffs that were carved by the water.

In addition to admiring the gorge from its rim trails, visitors will find many things to do, including fishing, hiking, and even swimming in the park's Olympic-sized pool. The park has campsites for both tents and RVs, as well as picnic areas for day visitors. Guided tours of the gorge are available in season.

Official site: https://parks.ny.gov/parks/142/

George Eastman House in Rochester

The 50-room George Eastman mansion was completed in 1905 and originally included a stable, garage, barn, five greenhouses, and many gardens. Located in Rochester, the house has been restored to its appearance in the early 1900s, with photographs made by Eastman, as well as letters and notes that assisted in the restoration.

George Eastman House and the International Museum of Photography and Film

The outstanding International Museum of Photography and Film is located on the grounds and will be of interest to anyone with a passion for photography. The museum also showcases a number of traveling exhibits and movies on a regular basis. Be sure to check their website to see what's coming up.

Address: 900 East Avenue, Rochester, New York

Official site: https://www.eastman.org/

Ulster County Courthouse in Kingston, NY

Kingston is a quaint waterfront town that lies on the outskirts of the Catskills, about two hours north of Manhattan. It's a popular place to spend a weekend in New York , with a slew of fun things to do, especially during summer.

When the warm sun shines, this unassuming town really comes to life–in the form of outdoor concerts, festivals, and other fun events. Grab a bite on an outdoor patio by the Hudson River, hop on a cruise, or tour one of the area's multiple museums.

The Hudson River Museum is particularly interesting if you're a fan of all things nautical, while train lovers could spend hours in the Trolley Museum of New York .

Save time to practice a little retail therapy in the boutique shops Uptown , but do not miss a wander along the streets of the Stockade Historic District . This region is comprised of eight blocks of fairy-tale worthy buildings and so much charm, you'll want to stay longer.

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10 places to visit new york

10 Most Beautiful Places To Visit In Western New York On A Road Trip

  • Western New York is full of beautiful natural and cultural attractions, making it ideal for a road trip exploration.
  • Niagara Falls State Park is a must-visit, offering stunning views of the famous waterfalls and free entrance.
  • Other beautiful Western New York destinations include the Roycroft Campus, Whirlpool State Park, Devil's Hole State Park, Old Fort Niagara, and Letchworth State Park, each offering unique experiences and natural beauty.

Road trips are perhaps the most classic way to explore a lot of places in a short amount of time. Road trips can span thousands of miles, like the I-80 road trip, crossing the entire United States , or cover a relatively small area that happens to be full of awe-inspiring attractions.

Western New York is full of unique natural and cultural attractions, and a road trip is the perfect way to explore them all. While the route itself is less than 900 miles, a simple 15-hour drive end-to-end, New York's beautiful places and natural landscapes demand as much time as travelers have to spare.

In particular, Western New York is home to multiple state parks and bustling urban cities, making it the perfect landscape for an old-fashioned road trip. Visitors ready to hit the road can see one potential Google Maps route, starting at Niagara Falls and ending at the Finger Lakes here. Still, whether exploring on wheels or simply looking for towns, cities, and attractions for a quick getaway, there are many beautiful Western New York destinations to visit. Out of them all, these pretty places in West New York are worthy of people's attention for their beauty and wealth of attractions.

UPDATE: 2023/11/29 18:42 EST BY REENA JAIN

More Places To Visit In Western New York

Western New York is rich in breathtaking sights, from state parks to historical sites to the world-famous Niagara Falls. We've updated this list with four more beautiful places in Western New York to see on a road trip.

Related: 10 Natural Wonders That Are Solely Unique To New York State

Niagara Falls

Witness the most famous waterfalls in the us in america's oldest state park.

There is no better way to start a Western New York Road trip than at a waterfall so massive it spans two countries. Niagara Falls State Park, the oldest state park in the US, hosts the state-side portion of Niagara Falls.

There are a number of ways to view Niagara Falls within the park , including the Maid of the Mist boats and multiple viewing points set up to allow guests to see, hear, and feel the majesty of the Falls. Even better, entrance to the park is always free, so road trippers trying to make their dollar stretch can start on a spectacular and budget-friendly note.

  • Entrance Fee: FREE
  • Ideal Time Spent: ½ day

Roycroft Campus

This scenic campus in east aurora is a national historic landmark.

Another beautiful place to visit in Western New York is the Roycroft Campus in East Aurora, which was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1986. This complex is well known for having the best-preserved late-nineteenth-century architecture still surviving in the United States.

The Inn, Print Shop, Chapel, Copper Shop, and Furniture Shop are among the nine original fourteen structures that still survive on the campus. Although there is no admission fee, guided tours are available at an extra cost to help people understand the significance of these structures.

  • Entrance Fee: Free
  • Ideal Time Spent: 2-3 hours

Whirlpool State Park

See spectacular whirlpools and rapids on the niagara river.

Whirlpool State Park is certainly one of the best places to visit in New York and its western region for its scenic beauty, refreshing ambiance, and nature trails. This park is situated immediately above a hairpin bend in the Niagara River that forms a massive vortex. Its street level has many scenic viewpoints offering panoramas of the whirlpool and the rapids, while steps descend 300 feet from river level to the gorge below.

Hikers can access the rapids beyond the whirlpool via the Whirlpool Rapids Trail. They can continue down the Devil's Hole Trail and climb to the gorge's peak at Devil's Hole State Park. They can then return to Whirlpool State Park by taking the rim route.

  • Entrance Fee: $10/vehicle
  • Ideal Time Spent: 1/2 day

Devil's Hole State Park

Discover scenic hikes and the iconic devil’s hole gorge.

Devil’s Hole State Park is yet another one of the best places to visit in western New York New York because it gives visitors the chance to discover a variety of habitats and take in breathtaking geological formations. The park is home to a secret cave, the well-known Devil’s Hole Gorge, and scenic trails along the gorge rim.

There are many recreational activities in the park, such as fishing, birding, and picnicking, making it one of the most beautiful places to visit in western NY for nature enthusiasts and outdoor adventurers.

Old Fort Niagara

Explore this beautiful historic castle built by the french in 1726.

Visiting Old Fort Niagara is certainly one of the best things to do in Western New York for anyone interested in history and architecture. This stunning castle was originally built by the French in 1726 and renovated in the 1930s, and now it features interesting exhibits of clothes, furniture, small arms, and Native American items.

There are beautiful hiking routes in the neighboring Fort Niagara State Park, and the views from its ramparts are breathtaking. During the summer, guided excursions are also offered, giving visitors a glimpse into the bygone era of this place.

  • Entrance Fee: Adults: $20; Children (6 to 12 years): $12; Children 5 and under: Free
  • Ideal Time Spent: 2 hours

Related: 10 Tourist Attractions In Niagara Falls Recommended By Visitors

Niagara Gorge

Continue the niagara falls adventure on the scenic niagara gorge trail.

After taking in the roaring Niagara Falls, the road trip continues within the state park at Niagara Gorge. Given that the park is free to walk through any day of the year, it only makes sense to take as much time as possible to enjoy all the natural beauty.

The Niagara Gorge Trail is a fairly level 6.2-mile hike that offers overlook views of the Niagara River Gorge’s most famous and beautiful features. Natural wonders like the Devil’s Hole Rapids and Niagara Gorge Whirlpool are both visible from this hike, as are man-made feats like Sir Adam Beck and Robert Moses Power Plants.

Explore one of the most beautiful cities in Western New York

There is no doubt that Western New York is full of natural beauty, but the displays within the city limits of the region are equally worthy of a stop. East of Lake Erie and settled along the Niagara River, Buffalo’s scenery is matched only by its unique museums, galleries, and gardens.

Buffalo offers plenty to do and see , but it is particularly famous for attractions like Frank Lloyd Wright's Martin House Complex, Niagara Square, and the Buffalo Botanical Garden.

  • Frank Lloyd Wright's Martin House Complex Tour: $25/person
  • Niagara Square: FREE
  • Buffalo Botanical Gardens: $15.50/person
  • Ideal Time Spent: 2 days

Lake Ontario

Enjoy wildlife and sandy beaches in hamlin beach state park and ontario beach park.

One of two Great Lakes that touch down in New York, Lake Ontario brings with it beautiful views and perfect beaches. Hamlin Beach State Park and Ontario Beach Park both have sandy beaches for lounging, beautiful clear waters for swimming and fishing, and numerous hiking trails and camping sites.

The lake is also a great place for wildlife viewing, with Bald Eagles, Osprey, sturgeon, moose, otter, and more calling the lake and surrounding area home. For those driving through the sites of Western New York, Lake Ontario is the perfect stop to unwind and enjoy the outdoors before heading towards the urban sites more eastward.

The most neighborly city in America !

The other large city in Western New York, Rochester, is well-known for its beautiful art galleries and world-class museums, as well as its scenic nature parks. While Rochester is near Lake Ontario, the city has the least amount of water of the stops on this road trip. Thankfully, that has left more space in the city for attractions highlighting both the history and beauty of the city.

The George Eastman Museum , which highlights the history of photography, and the National Susan B. Anthony Museum and House , which highlights the legacy of the famous women's rights activist, both offer a different type of beauty. For a more traditional outdoor outing, Highland Park and the Seneca Park Zoo ensure that even time in the city is time spent in beauty in Western New York.

  • George Eastman Museum: $20/person
  • National Susan B. Anthony Museum and House: $15/person
  • Highland Park: FREE
  • Seneca Park Zoo: $12/person

Related: 10 Whimsical Winter Activities In Rochester, New York

Letchworth State Park

Soak in the beauty of the "grand canyon of the east".

A successful road trip through Western New York has to make the most of the wide variety of natural beauties in the region. After the sheer size of Niagara Falls, Letchworth State Park offers a different kind of extreme natural wonder and is easily one of the most beautiful places to visit in Western New York (or New York State as a whole, for that matter).

Known as “The Grand Canyon of the East,” the Genesee River has cut a gorge through the park with cliffs nearly 600 feet deep in some areas. Visitors can explore the park along over 66 miles of hiking trails by whitewater rafting along the river itself or even riding a hot air balloon over the green forests of Letchworth.

  • Ideal Time Spent: 1 day

Alexandria Bay

Explore the treasures of the thousand islands, including boldt castle and singer castle.

How about checking out some of the slightly more secret places in New York and its western region? With less than 1,500 residents calling this area home, the tiny islands of Alexandria Bay may seem unassuming after the array of giants along the trip so far. While Alexandria Bay itself may not be oversized, it acts as the gateway to the Thousand Islands region, a group of 1,864 islands along the US-Canada border.

Enjoying the beauty of Alexandria Bay can be done both on the water via a boat tour or under it with a guided diving tour. Historic man-made wonders like the storied and historic Boldt Castle and Singer Castle add to the beauty of the area. Finished with downtime at the sandy beaches of Scenic View Park or at one of the vineyards or wineries, Alexandria Bay is a gorgeous day trip for anyone driving through New York.

  • Boldt Castle : $7/person
  • Singer Castle: $14.75/person

The Catskill Mountains

Peaks, lakes, foothills, and historic sites make this perhaps the most beautiful place in western new york.

The Catskill Mountains truly represent all that is beautiful about Western Upstate New York , with rolling foothills, striking peaks, clear lakes, and historical landmarks. Trails crisscross the mountains, with starting points in each of the unique towns settled at the foot of the mountain range.

The Catskills are famous for their summer and winter outdoor activities; besides walking along the exceptional hiking trails in the Catskills , visitors can go rock climbing or mountain biking in the summer or enjoy some of New York's best skiing slopes in the winter. Lakes, rivers, and ponds provide beautiful backdrops for swimming, paddleboarding, and fishing (following all local guidelines).

Visitors can also explore the area around the Catskill Mountains by taking a tour down the Hudson River, driving along the Catskill Mountains scenic byway , or stopping in hidden gems like Bethel Woods, home to unique museums and a popular amphitheater.

  • Entrance Fee: Varies by Area and Town
  • Ideal Time Spent: 3–4 days

Related: The Catskill Mountain Railroad Is One Of The Most Scenic Winter Rides

Watkins Glen State Park

Visit one of the most beautiful state parks in western new york, with scenic hikes and 19 waterfalls.

Widely considered the most beautiful of the incredible state parks around the Finger Lakes , Watkins Glen is so unique it has earned its own place on the road trip map. The 2-mile-long namesake glen is home to 19 waterfalls, with hiking trails crossing over and under some of these beautiful features.

Those following the main hiking trail will get a bird's eye view of the park's beauty as they cross the 85-foot-high suspension bridge overlooking the stream Gorge. The park is so popular for its scenic views that it has its own app that provides updates and park information, including trails and highlights, so those in the middle of their road trip can easily plan ahead to make the most of their day in Watkins Glen State Park.

The Finger Lakes

Discover the natural beauty of this scenic region with 11 narrow lakes south of lake ontario.

The adventure in Western New York ends as it began, with a magnificent body of water. Unlike the roaring Niagara Falls, the Finger Lakes of New York are a group of 11 narrow lakes south of Lake Ontario.

The attractions around Finger Lakes could be a road trip all their own, with multiple state parks and outdoor adventures to be found, as well as plenty of Finger Lakes wineries and breweries , along with vineyards. Plus, foodies can rejoice; there are tons of excellent food stops on the Finger Lakes , too.

With so many scenic outdoor activities and one-of-a-kind cultural highlights, the Finger Lakes are the perfect final stop for this epic New York Road trip in the western area of the state.

  • Ideal Time Spent: 3–5 days

10 Most Beautiful Places To Visit In Western New York On A Road Trip

Do you love airport lounges? Airlines are stepping it up for you. | Cruising Altitude

10 places to visit new york

  • Airport lounges have become increasingly important to many travelers in the past decade or two.
  • Airlines have to work harder both to stand out and meet travelers' ever-evolving expectations.
  • Many airline-branded credit cards include access to the affiliated carrier’s lower-tier lounges.

Delta Air Lines opened the newest lounge in its network last month, the Delta One Lounge at JFK in New York. It’s a departure from the airline’s existing Sky Clubs. It caters only to premium cabin passengers and has much stricter access requirements than the airline’s other lounges – sorry, American Express Platinum cardholders. 

While I don’t always think a lounge visit is the best use of a traveler’s time , I’ll also freely admit that if I wind up getting to the airport early and have lounge access at my disposal, I’ll usually go anyway.

Experts and executives across the airline industry say lounge offerings have become increasingly important to many travelers in the past decade or two, and airlines have to work harder both to stand out and meet travelers' ever-evolving expectations.

“We are focusing on the hospitality, on the genuine care of our people, on the service they provide, and the culture we have created in the lounge,” Claude Roussel, Delta’s vice president of Sky Clubs and lounge experience told me. “The culture of service, the culture of ensuring every guest is taken care of.” 

In some ways, the evolution of airline lounges mirrors the evolution of airplane cabins , with premium offerings becoming more ostentatious in some ways but also more accessible to the average traveler in others. Achievable luxury and tiered, differentiated products for different price points seem to be the driving philosophy at most major carriers both in the air and on the ground these days.

A brief history of airport lounges

According to Henry Harteveldt, president of Atmosphere Research, a travel industry analytics firm, American Airlines opened the first airport lounge in the U.S. in the late 1930s at LaGuardia Airport in New York. But there was little innovation or access in the first decades, even as other airlines followed American’s model.

“These lounges were pleasant but almost utilitarian by today's standards,” he said. “Until 1972, airport lounges were restricted to travelers who were flying in the premium cabin, or, in the U.S., they were invitation-only.” 

Harteveldt said some basic food and beverage offerings were standard in most lounges, and in the early days of widespread internet use, they were often among the first places in airports to get Wi-Fi.

For nearly 60 years, however, lounges have been more like midmarket hotel lobbies than the luxurious escapes they have become more recently.

“Let’s fast-forward to the 1990s, and that’s when you really start to see airlines invest in the lounge experience. … Virgin (Atlantic Airways) basically said: Why should a lounge be stuffy and boring?” Harteveldt said. “Virgin had a craft cocktail program, they had a full buffet, they had spas. At the London Heathrow Clubhouse, I think there was initially a putting green and games.” 

And with that, the explosion of lounge attractions began. Delta led the charge in revitalizing U.S. airport lounges, according to Harteveldt. 

Roussel from Delta said it started with a simple directive from his boss about 10 years ago.

“Make Sky Club a reason to fly Delta,” he said he was told shortly after he joined the company. So Roussel and his team went on a mission to make lounges a more valued part of travelers’ experiences by improving the furnishings, food and beverage offerings and more.

“In my opinion, the Delta Sky Clubs played an enormous role in helping evolve its position from that of an airline to more of a lifestyle brand ,” Harteveldt said. 

Last week's Cruising Altitude: Don't fly a lot? You should still get a loyalty account. Here's why.

Why airlines care about their lounges

Many travelers just really, really want to go to the lounge before, between, or after their flights, and it’s a competitive disadvantage not to give them what they want.

According to data from Atmosphere Research Group’s 2024 first-quarter U.S. travel online study, 43% of business travelers and 37% of leisure travelers said lounge access was important to them, and about half of all travelers said they choose itineraries based on their ability to access an airline’s lounge.

“It’s a competitive necessity,” Harteveldt said. “When your competitors have something and you don’t, and it’s something that’s seen as meaningful to the traveler, you’re seen as deficient.” 

As more people are able to access lounges, either through credit card partnerships or expanded premium cabins, airlines have had to stratify their offerings. 

United introduced Polaris Lounges in 2016 for premium cabin passengers only, in addition to its Clubs, and American rolled out Flagship Lounges in 2017 in addition to its Admirals Clubs. 

Delta was a little late to the game with the Delta One Lounge, which caters to only premium cabin passengers.

“When you’re in a Sky Club in one of our hubs, you basically, we mix customers who pay $10,000 for tickets with someone who pays $500 or $600 for a ticket,” Roussel said. 

So a dedicated premium lounge functions much like the curtain between business class and premium economy on a long-haul flight. The big spenders don’t always want to deal with crowds and prefer a more exclusive space.

Airlines have also been under pressure recently as their lounges have become more crowded, and some have had long lines to get in at peak travel times. Roussel said the new Delta One Lounge has already helped alleviate some of those problems at JFK since it opened.

British Airways is also overhauling its global lounge network to address its passengers' changing demands and demographics.

“People’s travel has changed, we get to the airport earlier post-pandemic, more people flying for leisure, people want more, that means we need to adapt what we offer to meet our customers’ needs,” Calum Laming, British Airways’ chief customer officer, told me at an event the airline hosted in New York this spring to preview updates to various parts of its business. 

Laming said the airline wants to blend its British identity with local flavor in the destinations it serves to help give premium customers what they want wherever they go.

Plus, he said, “Britain is about bars. Expect a great bar” at every location as the new clubs open and old ones are revamped.

How you can get lounge access

For those who travel only once or twice a year, a lounge membership may not be worth it. But if your trip includes a long layover, day passes could be worth considering. More frequent airport visitors need to decide for themselves if the perks of the lounges available to them are worth the cost. 

Airlines increasingly reserve their most exclusive lounges, like the new Delta One Lounge, only for customers traveling in long-haul premium cabins or their most elite, invitation-only frequent flyers. (A throwback to a bygone era of lounge access, perhaps?) 

But that doesn’t mean all lounges are off-limits to the budget-conscious traveler.

Saf Dogan (@proudpassport) on Threads

Many airline-branded credit cards include access to the affiliated carrier’s lower-tier lounges. In addition, premium travel cards like the Chase Sapphire and Amex Platinum come with Priority Pass membership, which unlocks a network of lounges from different airlines as well as unaffiliated lounges in many airports.

But as with most things in air travel: The more you pay, the more you get.

Zach Wichter is a travel reporter for USA TODAY based in New York. You can reach him at [email protected].

The Key Points at the top of this article were created with the assistance of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and reviewed by a journalist before publication. No other parts of the article were generated using AI. Learn more .

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  • World's Best Awards 2024

This City Was Voted Best in the U.S. for the 12th Straight Year by T+L Readers, Who Say It ‘Can Compete With Any European Capital’

See the No. 1 pick and 14 more top cities in the United States, according to our annual "World’s Best Awards" survey for 2024.

How Voting Works

What readers loved.

  • The Full List

Wherever Travel + Leisure readers go in the United States, they look for cities with palpable history, walkable downtowns, regional cuisine, and robust cultural and artistic institutions. Many states in the South and West were highly represented this year, but readers did recognize a few classic Northeast destinations this year. One characteristic that seemed to capture readers’ hearts, no matter the destination? A strong identity, and a sense that the city was unlike others elsewhere in the country.

Taylor McIntyre/Travel + Leisure

Every year for our World's Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Over 186,000 T+L readers completed the 2024 survey. A total of more than 700,000 votes were cast across over 8,700 properties (hotels, cities, cruise lines, etc.).

Cities were specifically rated on the criteria below:

  • Sights/landmarks
  • Friendliness

For each characteristic, respondents could choose a rating of excellent, above average, average, below average, or poor. The final scores are averages of these responses. 

Readers rewarded past favorites like Chicago (No. 9), Honolulu (No. 4), and New Orleans (No. 9), all of which returned to the list, and once again showed their love for Charleston, which ranked No. 1 for the 12th year in a row. But for the first time, Annapolis (No. 12) and Aspen (No. 10) appeared in the rankings, indicating that readers are increasingly drawn to new regional culture and outdoor hubs. New Mexico and Texas also had a strong showing this year — each state claimed two spots on the list, for Sante Fe and Taos, and Fort Worth and San Antonio, respectively. 

The Full List 

1. Charleston, South Carolina

The Holy City earned the top spot yet again, thanks to its combination of historic architecture, walkability, and Southern hospitality — and, as many readers noted, its unbeatable culinary scene. “Charleston can compete with any European capital for its arts, entertainment, active lifestyle, and food,” said one voter. Many visitors noted that they had come to the city several times for different types of trips, such as couples’ weekends, family vacations, or friends’ getaways, and that they found new things to experience each time. Another reader chimed in that Charleston was, “a great example of a city that holds to their roots, but also strives to be current and welcoming to everyone.”

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Reader score: 87.99

2. Santa Fe, New Mexico

Sean Pavone/Getty Images

This artsy Southwestern destination has ranked high on our list for nearly 20 years, and it’s not just because of the 320 days of sunshine it receives each year, though it certainly doesn’t hurt. “Santa Fe is like its own country within a country,” gushed one reader. “It’s such a unique blend of culture and history that you don’t see in the rest of the USA.” Another visitor called its downtown, with Pueblo-style buildings and independent galleries, “a photographer's dream and a shopper's delight.”

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Reader Score: 87.43

3. Savannah, Georgia

Heather Durham/Travel + Leisure

Readers adore Savannah for its leafy parks, great shopping, carriage rides, and cemetery tours. “This is one of my family's favorite cities,”said one reader, adding “We try to get to Savannah and Tybee Island each year.” The Starland District, in particular, is thriving these days, with the debut of Hotel Bardo and must-visit restaurants like Brochu’s Family Tradition.

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Reader Score: 85.27

4. Honolulu, Hawaii

okimo/Getty Images

This island capital earned top marks for the natural beauty of its beaches, volcanoes, and hiking trails. But travelers also praised its shopping and Native Hawaiian traditions. “Aloha spirit abounds!” explained one visitor. “You can relax, go to a luau, go for a hike, go shopping, dive with turtles and dolphins. There is something for everyone.” Another traveler appreciated their interactions with locals, saying, “The people are the friendliest I have found on any of my travels, and the culture is mesmerizing.”

Reader Score: 85.17

5. New Orleans, Louisiana

Tessa Desjardins/Travel + Leisure

“It is ALL about food and drink in NOLA,” declared one reader. It’s a sentiment that’s widely shared — visitors most often praise the city’s eclectic mix of cuisines (like Creole, Vietnamese, Filipino, and barbeque) and its legendary bars and restaurants. Many travelers also appreciated the city’s laid-back vibe (it is the Big Easy, after all.) “New Orleans is a great walking around, let's-pop-into-this-place-kind-of-city,” according to one visitor. Others noted its superb history tours, festivals, and markets.

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Reader score: 84.53

6. San Antonio, Texas

dszc/Getty Images

Historic sites like the Alamo and the Mission are two notable entry points into this south Texas city. But contemporary attractions also abound — Museum Reach, a three-mile pedestrian park along the San Antonio River, has many public art installations. Readers also love strolling along the River Walk, which one reader said was “probably one of the nicest places we have ever visited in the States. It was exceptionally maintained and absolutely beautiful.”

Reader Score: 83.20

7. Fort Worth, Texas

benedek/Getty Images

“Cosmopolitan meets ranch” is how one reader described this thriving metropolis, whose slogan is “Where the West Begins.” Though Fort Worth retains its cowboy image with one of the country’s best rodeos and a daily cattle drive through the streets of the stockyard district, it’s not all ten-gallon hats — the cultural institutions, such as The Kimbell Art Museum, are world-class. “There are almost 20 theaters. You can attend the ballet, the opera, and symphony orchestra concerts,” noted one visitor.

Reader Score: 83.19

8. New York, New York

Alessandra Amodio/Travel + Leisure

The city that never sleeps lives up to its name: from Broadway shows, to iconic museums, to next-level shopping, to some of the world’s best restaurants, you’ll never be bored in the Big Apple. As one reader summed it up: “What can one say that hasn't already been said? NYC is a great place to visit. Costly, yes. Worth it? Absolutely. Reasonably clean? Yes. Fun? That goes without saying.”

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Reader score: 83.16

9. Chicago, Illinois

tunart/Getty Images

Whether you want to take in some of America’s great architecture on a Chicago River tour, catch a baseball game at Wrigley Field, or find the best deep-dish, you can do it all in this dynamic, walkable city, which also received praise for its easy-to-navigate public transportation. “I love Chicago. The food, the sports. Did I mention the food? From a cultural perspective it’s fantastic because of how many people are from all over the world. Multiple parts of town have different vibes that keep it fresh and exciting to visit,” said one reader.

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Reader Score: 82.44

10. Aspen, Colorado

DCrane08/Getty Images

While this mountain town is mostly known for its first-rate skiing (and celebrity-spotting at Hotel Jerome,) T+L readers also noted its year-round appeal and spectacular scenery. From hitting the trails, to checking out the renowned Baldwin Gallery, to having a drink at the legendary Woody Creek Tavern, readers found Aspen to be “a very well-rounded town full of great shops, museums, and restaurants.”

Reader Score: 82.41

11. Taos, New Mexico

Mona Makela Photography/Getty Images

This small city packs a punch. Located in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, it’s an adventure paradise for hiking and skiing, as well as rafting the Rio Grande. It’s also home to Taos Pueblo, a 1,000-year old continually inhabited Adobe community, and a rich Indigenous culture. Readers were also charmed by the town’s many independent galleries and shops. “Taos is for athletes, artists, and open minded travelers,” said one reader.

Reader Score: 81.36

12. Annapolis, Maryland

Richard T. Nowitz/Getty Images

Appearing on our list for the first time, this coastal city — known as “the sailing capital of the United States”— received top marks not only for its nautical charms, but also its historic sites, walkable downtown, and of course, crab cakes. Annapolis is also home to the U.S. Naval Academy, and many readers touted football games as a can’t-miss activity. “I love the culture and activities available in Annapolis. Whether you're visiting for educational purposes or coming to enjoy the Navy football games, you will definitely have a good time,” said one voter.

Reader Score: 81.26

13. Nashville, Tennessee

Readers can’t get enough of the nightlife in Music City. Whether it’s a lively honky tonk on Broadway, a Grand Ole Opry performance, or an open mic night at a quiet cafe, visitors are spoiled for choice when it comes to hearing top-notch artists. And while things can certainly get rowdy, “it’s not all bachelorette parties and cowboy hats,” as one reader notes —  there are dozens of places to catch great theater and art. The city’s strong culinary scene and efficient airport also received praise.

Reader Score: 81.18

14. Boston, Massachusetts

Violet Smirnova/Travel + Leisure

This New England capital captivates all types of travelers, whether you’re a history buff intent on walking the Freedom Trail, a baseball lover looking to catch a game at Fenway Park, or a gourmand seeking the best Italian food in the North End. “It's a perfect mix of old and modern,” claims one reader. Visitors also appreciated that the highly walkable city has distinct neighborhoods, each with a unique feel. Plus, Boston has welcomed several noteworthy hotels in recent years, including the first Raffles property in North America, which opened this September.

Reader Score: 80.75

15. Alexandria, Virginia

Photos by Coyle/Getty Images

This historic city, which is just five miles from Washington D.C. but feels worlds away, strikes the perfect balance between sophisticated and small-town. Readers were drawn to its picturesque waterfront of Old Town, and also praised attractions like the The Torpedo Factory Art Center and the Mount Vernon Trail, ideal for bird watching and easy bike rides.

Reader Score: 80.44

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On a clear blue-sky day, rows of purple lavender plants stretch to a row of trees far away.

Delighting in the Lavender Fields of Central Spain

By welcoming visitors with glorious scents and a natural beauty that rivals Provence in France, the annual lavender harvest has revitalized the medieval town of Brihuega.

Like many towns in Central Spain, Brihuega was losing its population as its young people searched for opportunity elsewhere. Now the town is growing thanks to its lavender-centered tourism. Credit... Emilio Parra Doiztua for The New York Times

Supported by

By Shaan Merchant

  • July 10, 2024

A day in Brihuega during the lavender bloom requires only one set plan: Get to the fields by sunset, to view an unexpected, lush swath of purple as far as the eye can see, with the orange glow of the Spanish sun directly behind it.

Brihuega, a small medieval town in the roughly 4,700-square-mile province of Guadalajara and about an hour’s drive from Madrid, is surrounded by farmland, villages and nature preserves of brown and soft-green hues. But each year in summer, on fields where some of the bloodiest battles of the Spanish Civil War were once fought, those colors change with the bloom of a thousand hectares of lavender, the equivalent of about 2,500 acres or 3,000 American football fields.

In the past decade, the lavender harvest has revitalized Brihuega, drawing welcomed visitors — and their euros — with natural beauty rivaling vacation favorites like Provence in France.

“Not to say anything bad about the French, but the Spanish, we’re maybe more — dicharacheros,” said Ángel Corral Manzano, the town’s major lavender farmer, using a difficult-to-translate Spanish term that means outgoing and talkative. “We’re very eager, excited to welcome you.”

Blooming industry

I first learned about Brihuega while studying in the nearby university town of Alcalá de Henares. Craving manchego cheese and jamón Ibérico one afternoon, I stumbled into Vinoteca Esencias del Gourmet , a wine bar. While I feasted on croquetas and cheeses and drank a spicy syrah, the bar owner, Javier Hernandez, told me about his hometown, Brihuega.

For generations, his family was the town churreros, the churro-makers. But like many young people in small Spanish villages, Mr. Hernandez left Brihuega.

“I couldn’t see a future,” he said. He wasn’t alone.

“Brihuega was starting to lose its population,” Luís Viejo Esteban, Brihuega’s current mayor, told me later in an email. “That was the trend before we started developing our socioeconomic model, principally on tourism.”

Now, Brihuega is growing, thanks to its lavender-centered tourism. Last July, during peak bloom, more than 120,000 tourists visited, Mr. Viejo said. Lavender annually generates between 4 to 6.5 million euros, roughly $4.3 to $7 million, according to a study from the University of Alcalá de Henares and Fadeta, a local rural development group.

“If you told me 10 years ago that, thanks to lavender, there would be so much tourism, that so many shops would open, so many restaurants, I wouldn’t believe you,” Mr. Corral said. “We’re just farmers. We live off the land and live for the land.”

Mr. Corral and his two brothers started planting lavender in earnest in 2007 after his oldest brother, Andrés, visited Provence and noticed the French region had similar terrain to his home.

Guadalajara already had espliego , a wild, mountain plant in the lavender family that is difficult to cultivate. But the Corral brothers started to grow French lavender, which is used in perfumes and high-end applications, and lavandin, a hybrid plant of espliego and lavender that can be used for commercial products, like cleaners.

“We had planted grains — wheat and barley — but we knew it would be good to diversify,” Mr. Corral said. Tourism was never in their minds. They started slowly, planting a few fields of lavender and lavandin at a time. But that grew as the brothers recognized a hectare of lavender — about two and a half acres — could make them a bit more money than a hectare of wheat. They later brought in Emilio Valeros, a Spanish perfumer, and the longtime “nose” for Loewe Perfumes , as a partner in their distillery to transform their crops into oil.

In 2013, the family hosted a sunset concert in their lavender fields, inviting 40 friends to drink beer and lavender gin and tonics. The event’s success evolved into the popular lavender festival the town hosts each July.

A sunset view

Two poolside lounges sit at an infinity pool with a tree and a small hillside covered in stucco-roofed buildings behind the pool.

During my mid-July visit, I was accompanied by Mr. Hernandez. We started at a bar, Los Guerrilleros , drinking ice-cold beer and eating fresh, shatteringly crisp guerrilleros, the bar’s namesake specialty of tempura-battered shrimp and anchovies. We then roamed the pedestrian-only streets decorated with lavender streamers and hanging purple umbrellas, stopping by the old washing fountains, the bull ring, the cathedral; we picked up lavender-laced cookies from the local bakery and shopped for gifts in the boutiques. Moorish walls surround the town and the Piedra Bermeja Castle , the roof of which offers picturesque views of the Tajuña River below, where, Mr. Hernandez said, the town’s kids learn to swim.

Last fall, Guadalajara’s first five-star hotel, Castilla Termal Brihuega , opened in a converted royal textile mill.

“Brihuega is the ideal site for the opening of Castilla Termal Brihuega for many reasons,” said the hotel’s chief executive, Roberto García, citing the region’s heritage, beauty and proximity to Madrid. The mill’s 19th-century gardens were deemed a cultural heritage site by the Spanish government.

As the sun began to set on my July afternoon visit, we drove out of town to view the lavender fields. We stopped at a scenic lookout and took in the vast fields of lavender on either side: The work of the Hermanos Corral was magnificent.

Family recipes, farther afield

The region’s charm and similarities to Provence do not end in Brihuega’s lavender fields. Guadalajara province boasts a bounty of appealing gastronomy, viticulture, hiking trails and bike routes, and charming stone villages.

The town of Cogolludo, a 45-minute drive north of Brihuega, is home to the Renaissance-style castle, Castillo de Cogolludo , but just outside the town is a winery with a renaissance of its own. La Finca Río Negro is a family-owned estate in the foothills of the Central System mountains, where flat farmland transforms into rocky hills with tall pines. Just on the other side of the mountains from Spain’s prominent Ribera del Duero wine region, this area once had a winemaking culture of its own.

“This town was important enough to have a palace and dukes; it made a living from viticulture,” said Fernando Fuentes, the Finca’s manager. “But then it was very poor during the postwar period. As people left for the cities, the vineyards were abandoned little by little.”

When Finca Río Negro opened in Cogolludo, there were no other vineyards in the region. “Twenty years ago, we weren’t seen as pioneers, we were just seen as crazy,” Mr. Fuentes said. Today, they make award-winning wines and have rediscovered and cultivated a variety of grapes endemic to the region, Tinto Fragoso. It has red fruit flavors with unexpected floral notes and spice from the French oak in which it’s aged.

I also visited Hiendelaencina — a town of under 150, once the site of a silver mine — for the lunch at Mesón Sabory . The decades-old restaurant has been serving locally grown and raised food in a home built in the 1870s. I wasn’t given a menu because they only serve what’s fresh.

My meal started with Patatas bravas: Chunks of crispy potatoes, fluffy inside, with a spicy bravas sauce, a recipe from the mother of Julián Illana, one of the owners. A salad of tomato and sweet onions came next and a plate of liver and heart, cooked with onions. There were more courses — chorizo and torreznos, fried pork belly — then a big black clay pot arrived with two roasted goat legs inside. I tore the tender meat off the bone, and used crusty bread to make little boats, or hacer barquitos, to sop up the juices.

“It’s just salt and water, nothing else,” said Mr. Illana. The recipes haven’t changed in 50 years. The suckling goats come from their family farm, and the clay ovens used for roasting are almost a century old. Thyme and rockrose are added to the flame and impress their flavor onto the goat that had roamed this land, eating these aromatics.

“The days you want to eat simple, honest, traditional food — that’s a good day to come to us,” Mr. Illana said.

After lunch, I drove west to Valverde de los Arroyos, one of the stops along the Route of Black Villages in Guadalajara, a series of villages built in slate. In Valverde, quartz specks make the stone shine gold in the sun, creating an otherworldly glint, like dragon scales. It’s also a starting point for several hikes in the Tajo Alto Nature Reserve . I opted for a short one, an hour up to the Despeñalagua waterfalls that come streaming down from the cliffs above.

Back in Alcalá de Henares, I asked Mr. Hernandez how he felt about the renaissance of his hometown.

“I’m so proud. There was a long history of the village, and now there are many more stories to be told,” Mr. Hernandez said. “I didn’t always see its future, but now I do, thanks to tourism, thanks to the lavender.”

Follow New York Times Travel on Instagram and sign up for our weekly Travel Dispatch newsletter to get expert tips on traveling smarter and inspiration for your next vacation. Dreaming up a future getaway or just armchair traveling? Check out our 52 Places to Go in 2024 .

Open Up Your World

Considering a trip, or just some armchair traveling here are some ideas..

52 Places:  Why do we travel? For food, culture, adventure, natural beauty? Our 2024 list has all those elements, and more .

Boston:  A destination steeped in history, as ever, has reinvented itself with outdoor spaces for drinking, dining and recreating, and more change in the air .

Spain:  By welcoming visitors with glorious scents and a natural beauty that rivals Provence in France, the annual lavender harvest has revitalized the medieval town of Brihuega .

Santa Fe:  Every spring, hundreds of bicyclists gather in the New Mexico city to ride through a high-desert landscape  rich in art, history and Indigenous culture.

Lausanne:  A new arts district, stylish restaurants and a museum that pays homage to the Olympics greet visitors to this Swiss city , home to the International Olympic Committee.

Orient Express:  The luxury version of this classic train journey costs $50,000. But for $1,000 or less, you can book the trip from Paris to Istanbul yourself .

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