New York City is probably the most visited city in the United States. Famous for its nightlife, art, food, and fashion culture, New York is one of the world’s most amazing places.
Popular sites are at almost every corner, there is always something to do in the City, and you can spend weeks exploring it. Almost every nation and culture is presented here. Some people come to NYC for a Broadway show, some for great shopping opportunities, and some just for good sightseeing. And here is our list of top things to see, do, and try in New York.
Top 20 Attractions
Empire State Building
You can’t imagine the skyline of New York without a towering 1454-foot-tall, 102-storey-high Empire State Building. It took 11 months to build it and ever since 1931, it has been one of the tallest buildings in New York. You should pay special attention to the lobby, restored in 2009, which has its original Art Deco style back these days.
There are two observation decks at the top of the Empire State Building. They both offer magnificent view of the city. If the weather is nice, you can see as far as New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. The viewing point on the 86th floor is the highest open-air observation deck in New York. The deck on the 102nd floor is 1250 feet higher, but it’s enclosed. The line can be ridiculously long, so try to avoid peak hours and buy your ticket online beforehand.
Times Square is one of the most popular tourist attractions in New York, crowded almost all the time. It was named after the New York Times tower in 1904. Before that, it was called Longacre Square. The best time to visit is evening, when it’s all covered in light from billboards and screens. However, the square is exciting at any time of the day. Times Square is also, where all the main New Year celebrations take place. The famous “ball drop” at midnight, in front of the huge crowd, is an event known all over the world.
When constructed in 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge was an engineering miracle. At that time, it was the first structure crossing the East River and the longest suspension bridge in the world. Thousands of tourists come to the bridge, to enjoy the stunning view of Lower Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty, and the Governors Island.
The bridge itself, with its Gothic-shaped arches and suspension cables, can be seen from multiple ferries or from the East of Manhattan. When walking along the bridge, beware of the cyclists. Also, if you prefer to take a bike, think twice. The pedestrian traffic is quite heavy, so it might be challenging.
The Statue of Liberty
One of the most popular tourist attractions not only in New York, but all over the world, the Statue of Liberty is as much appreciated by travelers, as it is avoided by New Yorkers. If you also want to avoid huge tourist crowds, try to prebook your ferry ticket. The top of the Statue offers a great panoramic view of New York Harbor, but you’ll have to wait a long time in queque, keep that in mind.
This art-deco-styled building is the most eye-catching skyscraper in New York. Its triangle-shaped windows, lined with lights, create a beautiful view during the nighttime. However, during the daytime, you can enjoy the sophisticated and unique ornaments of the building: eagles, related to ones added to the Chrysler automobiles in the 1920’s, and a brickwork relief sculpture of racing cars.
Grand Central Terminal
Opened over a hundred years ago, this railway hub has funneled millions of commuters ever since. Over 700 thousand passangers use it daily these days. And although the place is technically just a passageway, the building is a great tourist destination itself. Marvelous Beaux Arts framework, beautifully restored ceiling, and the four-faced opal clock all add to the place’s magical appeal. You will also find the symbol of Mercury, the god of travel, and an ornate Tiffany-glass timepiece over the entrance from the 42nd Street. A vast selection of restaurants and retail shops are also situated inside.
Constructed in 1902, at that time, this unique building represented the age of modernity. Alfred Stieglitz, a photographer, who caught it into the iconic shot in 1903, called the building “a picture of a new America still in the making”. Some people claimed, the Flatiron building will never withstand the winds of the 23rd Street. As we see after more than a hundred years, they were wrong. Unfortunately, nowadays the building is not very tourist-friendly. You can’t access the Macmillan publishing house, which occupies all the space above the ground floor. However, you can enter its lobby and admire beautiful black-and-white photos of the past during the office hours.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
St. Patrick’s Cathedral, with its massive bronze doors, fine marble façade, rose window, 330-foot spires, bronze baldachin, and the Great Organ, is the greatest example of the Gothic Revival in New York. Built in 1879, the cathedral can seat 2400 visitors at the same time and attracts millions of visitors every year, both piligrims and tourists. In 2016, the cathedral renovation was finished and costed the city 200 million dollars.
New York Public Library
Designed in the Beaux Arts style, the New York Public Library, opened in 1911, with its impressive rooms and an enormous book collection, is a fascinating tourist attraction, filmed in numerous movies and TV shows. The Main Reading Room alone occupies two city blocks and stretches for almost 300 feet, decorated with chandeliers and fabulous ceiling murals.
Washington Square Park Arch
The towering Washington Arch, erected in 1895, is a nice replica of the Arc de Triomph, situated in Paris, and the favorite place of New York folkies, beatniks, hippies, and hipsters. During the warm time of year, it’s a great place to see street performances, listen to some music, or just watch people passing by. After a multimillion-dollar restoration during 2007 – 2014, the park got multiple new benches, lawns, paths, and vegetation.
A walk in the Central Park must be on your to-do-bucket-list for New York City. The park is just huge, 0, 5 mile wide and 2, 5 miles long. Its numerous attractions include the Central Park Zoo, Strawberry Fields, the Belvedere Castle, the Lake, and a great Wollman Rink, to go skating during the winter season.
Governors Island is the perfect place to spend a weekend with your family, have a picnic with your friends, or just enjoy a peaceful walk with your sweetheart. Enjoy the magestic view of the New York Harbor and Lower Manhattan, while having a relaxing day-along-with-nature on the picturesque island.
The former rail line, the place has become a major tourist attraction in the recent years. Nowadays, it’s a public park, filled with greenery and situated above the city streets. This oasis, the part of Manhattan’s West Side, stretches from Hudson Yards to the northern edge of Chelsea, and you can start your promenade from any point. Some of them offer elevators, while others are only accessible by stairs. The walk offers some unusual art installations, benches, and the whole new perspective of the city underneath.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, most commonly known as the Met, is one of the most famous museums in the USA. First opened in 1870, it now contains a two-million-works collection of art, which covers the period of over 5000 years. The museum is divided into three locations, the one at Fifth Avenue being the main, however.
The Met Cloisters, situated in Fort Tryon Park, is focused on the medieval European art. Its building, constructed around medieval chapels, halls, and cloisters, is truly unique and worth seeing.
The philanthropist’s collection of this museum contains one of the world’s largest collections of Mapplethorpes, the largest number of Kandinsky works in the USA, as well as some famous pieces of Manet, Chagall, Picasso, and other masters of art. To see the exhibition in the meant way, begin at the bottom and head to the top. By the way, the building itself, constructed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1959, is also worth a look at. The iconic spiral is considered the work of art, as much as the paintings inside.
American Museum of Natural History
One more highly popular museum in New York, the Museum of Natural History offers curiosities for everybody, no matter, what your taste and interest is. Explore dinosaur skeletons, head to the human origins exhibition, or admire the 94-foot-long blue whale model. No matter, which direction you take, you won’t be disappointed.
If you want to really feel the atmosphere of New York City, visiting a Broadway show must be on your bucket list. Over 13 million tourists and locals visit the shows annually. The Theatre District, as well as the Broadway street, encompass 40 theatre venues, where you can enjoy one of the multiple performances. Keep in mind, for the most popular shows, you need to buy tickets way in advance.
Another iconic place in New York City, Rockefeller Center is a huge entertainment and shopping complex in the heart of Manhattan. Top of the Rock Observation Deck at an Art Deco skyscraper, is simply a must-visit. Skating on the huge outdoor rink during the winter season is one of the most popular things, which both New Yorkers and visitors enjoy. And right after Thanksgiving Day, they install a huge Christmass tree, which marks the beginning of a holiday season. To avoid long lines for the observation deck, we recommend buying your ticket in advance via the Internet.
Radio City Music Hall
Situated not far from Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall is a famous entertainment venue and a popular city site. Opened in 1932, this art-deco-style theater offers musical performances, movies, and hosts the famous Rocketts dance company. Major cultural events, such as Grammy and Tony Awards, are also held here.
Opened in 1891 as the first concert hall in New York, Carnegie Hall is known to have some of the world’s best acoustics. You can come and enjoy one of the numerous performances or just take a guided tour and find out about the history of the hall. Anyway, you are sure to have the greatest time!
Top 10 Dishes to Try
Pizza came to New York in the 1890’s with Italian immigrants and has become a real specialty of New York. Classic New York pizza is thin, floppy, with mozzarella cheese and marinara sauce. You can pick up a slice of pizza at one of the numerous pizza spots across the city, as the locals do, go to a pizza place with your friends, or order one to your hotel. By the way, the first pizza restaurant in New York, opened in 1897 by Gennaro Lombardi, still stands on Spring Street. By the way, you should keep in mind, in New York, a 14-inch pizza is usually referred to as “small”.
Cooking a perfect bagel, chewy on the inside and crispy on the outside, is a real art. New York boasts some of the world’s best bagels. They were brought to the city by the Eastern European Jews in the 1880’s, and haven’t lost their popularity ever since.
The citizens of New York are so much into doughnuts, that the City Reliquery Museum even had an exhibition of doughnuts once! The legend says, doughnuts were brought here by the Dutch immigrants in the 17th century. In 2013, the sweet industry came up with a new phenomenon – a hybrid of a doughnut and a croissant, called the cronut, which quickly achieved a high level of popularity among New Yorkers.
Hot dogs are the same symbol of New York as yellow taxis or skyscrapers. Traditionally, they are made of ground pork, beef, or both, and flavored with garlic, mustard, and nutmeg. In 1871, German butcher Charles Feltman started selling first hotdogs in Coney Island. In 1915, he opened Original Nathan’s Famous Frankfurters in Brooklyn, which still works and sells hotdogs. The place is definitely worth a visit if you are heading to Brooklyn.
New York Cheesecake
New York cheesecake is known all over the world, but surely worth trying in the city of its origin. Made of cream cheese, eggs, sugar, and cream, it melts inside your mouth. The restaurant owner Arnold Reuben claimed, he invented the first cheesecake in 1929. The most popular place nowadays is Junior’s Cheesecake in Brooklyn, which was opened in 1950, and the recipe was not changed since then, transferred from father to son through the three generations of the family.
The legend says the first hamburgers were cooked in New York for homesick German sailors from Hamburg in the early 1800’s. These days, numerous restaurants of the Big Apple serve all kinds of burgers from all over the world. Even if you don’t appreciate fast food, you can’t leave New York, without trying one of its famous burgers, that’s for sure.
Pastrami on Rye
This thinly-sliced pastrami, served hot on toasted caraway-flaked rye bread, definitely deserves its place on your food bucket list for New York City. Brought from Romania by the Jew immigrants and first cooked by kosher butcher Sussman Volk in 1887, it has been a traditional dish of New York ever since. Take a piece of advice: for a perfect New York lunch, order pastrami on rye with a side of dill pickles. You won’t regret it!
Another Eastern European food immigrant of the 1900’s, knishes are served all over New York these days. Borrowing the name from the Yiddish “dumpling”, knishes are made of thick dense dough, with various fillings. You can find them at diners, butcher shops, Jewish delis, and from numerous street vendors. New York classics are potato knishes with spicy brown mustard. However, mushroom, spinach, and other vegetables are also popular.
Something in between an Italian ice and an ice cream, spumoni was invented in Naples and brought to the New World by the Italian immigrants, along with pizza. Spumoni combines three flavors, traditionally, chocolate, pistachio, and cherry, but those can vary. For example, cherry is most often replaced by vanilla, cremelata, and cannoli.
Although cooked all over the world, cupcake is a must-try in New York. The struggle between cupcake shops in the City has become really intense in the recent years. Therefore, visitors have a vast variety to choose from, and it’s great!