They call New York the city that never sleeps for a reason. There so many things to do that most people don’t even know where to begin. But the trick to sightseeing in NYC is eating the Big Apple bite by bite, hitting up all the must-see attractions one at a time, and working your way through the multi-faceted city’s many neighborhoods and areas in the process. Sound complicated? It’s not at all. Just start right here with our list of the top 20 icons and sights to see and soon you will be navigating NYC like a local.
1. The Statue of Liberty
A trip to Lady Liberty is mandatory when visiting New York City. Get to the 300-foot-high copper statue by way of ferry from Battery Park, then climb up the stairs as far as you can go for awesome views over lower Manhattan and the Hudson River. A gift from France to the U.S. to commemorate its 100th birthday, the Statue of Liberty is now one of the major symbols of not just the city, but the entire country. Built in 1875 by sculptor Auguste Bartholdi, the Statue of Liberty welcomes visitors to the Big Apple from around the world.
2. Central Park
A glimmering green work of art that looks like an island of nature in the middle of the concrete jungle from the air, Central Park is one of the most famous parks in the world, for good reason. Giving residents of the most densely packed urban area in the U.S. a much-needed oasis to walk, play and breathe in, Central Park is also loaded with attractions that simply should not be missed by visitors no matter what season of the year you are visiting. From renting a boat at the Loeb Boathouse and rowing around the lake to catching an outdoor performance of Shakespeare in the Park at the Belevedere Castle, Central Park offers many days worth of sightseeing opportunities in and of itself.
3. Times Square
Lit up like broad daylight by neon signs 24 hours a day, Times Square is a bustling and popular place that lies at the heart of Midtown Manhattan and must be seen by all who visit NYC. Besides the fantastic broadways shows and endless eats on restaurant row, Times Square is also just a great place for people-watching and soaking up the full-on energy of New Year City in full throttle. For the kids, Times Square offers many fun activities worth diving into, including the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum and Madame Tussauds Wax Museum.
4. The Empire State Building
Take the elevator to the observation deck on the 86th floor of this art deco historic skyscraper for amazing views of the NYC skyline. Built in 1936, the Empire State Building was the tallest building on earth for many years and is now a true NYC icon that can’t be missed. Give yourself a couple of hours for visiting the Empire State Building, as there is often a long line to buy tickets and take the elevator.
5. The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Wander through the Egyptian and Ancient Greek halls before marveling at some of the masterpieces of modern art in this world-class museum that holds treasures from around the globe. Known simply as the “Met,” this is the most famous of NYC’s many museums and should be on the top of any itinerary to the city. The geographically designated collections allow you to literally walk through history, time period by time period, an experience that the whole family will love.
Enjoy an authentic slice of the Far East right in the middle of lower Manhattan in Chinatown, a historic district that still bustles with street markets and Asian flavors. Be sure to come with an empty stomach to enjoy the many culinary offerings here – from dim sum to chop suey – and also be on the lookout for unique souvenirs for the folks back home. Don’t forget to pop into the Museum of the Chinese in America to learn all about the founding of the neighborhood as well as the Mott Street Market – an open-air food and fish market that is as close to China as it gets in the Western Hemisphere.
7. The Brooklyn Bridge
Take a walk across the first steel cable suspension bridge in the world for awesome views of the Manhattan skyline. Once on the Brooklyn side, soak up even more views from a riverside bench in the Brooklyn Bridge Park. From here, it’s also worth exploring the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood, with its elegant brownstones, and the nearby DUMBO district, where cobblestone streets lead to boutiques and restaurants housed in restored waterfront warehouses.
8. The American Museum of Natural History
From exploring cosmic evolution in the planetarium to strolling among the dinosaurs, the Museum of Natural History is a magical castle of scientific delights for the whole family. Located on the west side of Central Park, this is the top natural history museum in the country and a great way to spend an entire day learning more about the amazing world we all live in. The American Museum of Natural History offers a variety of shows and presentations throughout the day in its many thematic areas. Try to check the schedule ahead of time so you don’t miss out!
9. One Trade Center
Ready for a bird’s eye of the Big Apple? Then visit the One Trade Center, the tallest building in the western hemisphere. Built on the former location of the Twin Towers, the One Trade Center sports an amazing 360-degree observation deck that gives you simply the most incredible views out over New York City. Don’t miss the 9/11 memorial located at its base either!
10. Prospect Park and Park Slope
Prospect Park in Brooklyn is the multicultural borough’s own Central Park, a lush green space complete with hikes to waterfalls, a nice zoo and a carousel for the kids. The surrounding Park Slope neighborhood is a bustling historic brownstone district of high-quality eateries and local coffee shops well worth exploring by foot after visiting the park. Come on the weekends to check out one of NYC’s most active farmers markets and catch an outdoor concert in the Prospect Park Bandshell.
11. Grand Central Terminal
Be whisked back to the glory days of train travel in this palatial and historic train station that still connects the NYC subway system with many of the regional rail lines. Opened to the public in 1871, this United States National Landmark has more train platforms than any other train station in the world. Stop by the grand concourse to check out the ceiling art and the dining areas and feel the grandeur of life on the rails for yourself. Make sure to swing by the New York Transit Museum Store for collector’s items, and check out the “whispering gallery,” where the acoustics of the hallways allow you to throw your voice across the room.
12. The High Line
Explore one of the world’s most innovative feats of urban planning at the High Line Park. Stretching all the way from 14th Street to 34th, this above-ground park was made by transforming an old elevated railroad line into a pedestrian-only greenspace that allows you to walk from lower Manhattan to midtown completely above and away from the traffic down below. Its also more than worth it to pop into Chelsea Market, a historic food court and shopping mall created from the former Oreo cookie factory, which the High Line passes right by.
13. Rockefeller Center
Famous for the outdoor ice skating rink and Christmas tree that goes up here every holiday season, Rockefeller Center is actually a must-see attraction all year round. From some of the city’s top shopping and dining opportunities to the Top of the Rock observation platform – which actually covers three entire floors – Rockefeller Center is a fun and action-packed NYC destination for the entire family. Both NBC Studios and Radio City Music Hall are located here as well: Tour the first and catch a live show in the second!
Feel like you just walked onto a movie set in the South of Houston area (SoHo for short). Featured in many Hollywood flicks, this historic cast-iron district is also packed with top boutique shopping opportunities, as well as some of the city’s top restaurants – especially along Spring Street. When in SoHo, also check out the nearby Tribeca neighborhood, home to many celebrities and artists and a great place to grab a cocktail in a lush lounge after shopping the afternoon away. For one-of-a-kind items, stop by the Museum of Modern Art Design store, where cutting-edge fashion, furnishings and other household accessories can be found.
15. The NYC Public Library and Bryant Park
Guarded over by two giant stone lions, the New York City Public Library is an icon of the city and has been featured in many different films and television series. Inside, explore the historic Beaux Arts building’s luxury reading room. Outside of the library and built right over its underground stacks, you will find Bryant Park, a tree-dotted urban sanctuary that draws the office crowds from nearby midtown at lunchtime. Bryant Park hosts a wide range of activities throughout the year, including the popular Bryant Park Summer Film Festival, where Hollywood hits are screened in the open air.
16. Fifth Avenue
Ready to die and go to shopping heaven? Then hit Fifth Avenue. This famous stretch of the Upper East Side is home to famous boutique department stores like Barney’s New York, as well as tons of independent designer shops. It’s also one of the best places in NYC to grab lunch or an afternoon cocktail and watch the people pass on by.
17. The Guggenheim Museum
Designed by famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright, the Guggenheim Museum is an architectural wonder worth checking out even if you just swing by to see the exterior. Inside the museum, the massive space holds one of the world’s largest collections of abstract and impressionist art – a must-see NYC attraction for any art lover out there.
18. St. Patrick’s Cathedral
If there is one church that is an absolute mandatory sight in New York City, then St. Patrick’s Cathedral is it. Located in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, this Gothic Revival masterpiece sports 330-foot spires, massive bronze doors and a great organ that still plays during mass. Built in 1879, the cathedral is a historic landmark of NYC and was lovingly restored to its original glory in 2016.
19. Battery Park
Take a walk along the waterfront at Battery Park, located at the very tip of lower Manhattan. Battery Park and the neighborhood adjacent to it, known as The Battery, are also home to some unique NYC attractions that are well worth checking out. Pop into the National Museum of the American Indian for an indigenous history of the United States and stop by Castle Clinton to learn about New York’s unique position as the immigrant gateway to the country.
20. Little Italy
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the area of lower Manhattan now known as Little Italy was ground zero for the flood of immigration that came from the boot-shaped Mediterranean country in droves. Still home to some of NYC’ss oldest and most well-loved Italian eateries and cafes, Little Italy is a great place to soak up some old-world charm while visiting the Big Apple.