Things You Must See In New York City
Are you wondering what is on the must see in New York City list? New York City is the epicenter of all things famous, fashion, finance, food, and fun! That makes for an endless list of what you must see in New York City. Don’t panic, I don’t want to overwhelm you.
Let’s start with this list of the top 13 places you must see in New York City. While the places on this list are pretty much non-negotiable sites, don’t feel like it all has to happen in one day! If you plan well, this is totally doable in a short trip. Put on your walking shoes, get inspired, and see it all!
Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. Purchasing through these links earns me a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Many thanks for using these links!
Know before you go
When To Go
Conventional tourism says that the best time to visit NYC is mid June to early July and mid August through September. The fringes of the summer may be less crowded and a bit more breezy. The middle of the summer can be VERY hot, and the concrete jungle may be very uncomfortable for some. Fall is ideal with average temps in the 60’s and 70’s. The winter months can be wet, cold and windy, however, that being said, I highly recommend NYC in November and December. The holidays are delightful in the city, the festivities abundant, and the air can be crisp and invigorating. Consider a February or March trip when you may experience a surprise snow storm in the midst of a blue sky weeknd. Don’t let rain or snow slow you down!
Where To Stay
I suggest you look for VRBO rentals or Expedia hotels that feel affordable to you. You will be out and about and not spending much time in the room. From the upper west side to the lower east side, you can easily walk to the spots on this list and will fall in love with the charm and vibe of whichever part of town you choose. A big part of the New York City experience is the neighborhood culture, the local coffee shops, markets, and street venders, so embrace it! Look for 3 star hotels with 5 star reviews.
Where To Eat
So many choices, so little time. Here are some new favorites. They all have Gluten Free options.
Jack’s Wife Freida
Modern Bread & Bagel
La Pecora Bianca
The Waverly Inn
Getting around NYC is pretty easy. I always recommend walking because it is part of what New Yorkers do and you can see so much more! Not to mention, city walking is great exercise! Taxi and ride apps are always available. The subway and bus system is also very efficient and easily accessible.
You can purchase a Metrocard at subway stations and use it on the buses as well. Each ride costs $2.75, but a 7 day, unlimited ride card is $33 for one person use. The Regular Pay Per Ride cards allow you to swipe through the turnstile and pass the card to your travel partner behind you. It’s actually legit to do that with up to 4 people. So, buy one unlimited card for the trip or load up a regular card and use it for the whole family! Please take Covid precautions when using public transportation.
We all know that NYC has so much to offer, you could spend months there and not see it all. There are famous, historic, and exciting landmarks at every corner. Don’t be overwhelmed! Here’s a guide to the top 13 must see in New York City sites.
The high speed elevators will take you to the famous outdoor viewing area on the 86th floor. You can also ride a glass elevator to the new glass observatory on the 102 floor with window walls offering 360 degree views of Manhattan that will literally take your breath away.
#1 The Empire State Building
20 West 34th Street
The Empire State Building is open 365 days per year from 8 – 2 AM. Is it worth it? YES, a resounding YES! The views are beyond spectacular and the whole experience is so special. You may have sticker shock when you make the decision to take the whole family to the top of this iconic building, but I want to encourage you to take the ride.
The ESB was erected in 1931 and was the tallest building in the world at the time. At 1454 feet tall, it is a stunning Art Deco era skyscraper which has been featured in more movies and momentous occasions than you can count.
Do not feel compelled to spend $77 p/adult, $71 p/child. $75 p/senior for the 102 floor. Instead, spend $44 p/adult, $38 p/child, and $42 p/senior for the 86th floor.
I think you will be super happy and satisfied with the 86th floor and all the exhibits and displays that lead up to it. It is the spot where Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly, and Jules Munshin have a hilarious scene in On the Town, and where Debra Kerr and Cary Grant agree to meet in An Affair to Remember, and of course where Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan finally meet in Sleepless in Seattle. And do I need to mention King Kong and Superman? You get the idea!
Buy your tix for late afternoon and SURPRISE! You will be able to drink champagne and listen to music for the sunset experience. It is WINDY! But there are heating lamps and the famous viewing binoculars. I promise it will be one of the most memorable things you will do on your visit to NYC.
#2 The Chrysler Building
42nd Street and Lexington Avenue
Which building was the tallest building in the world before the Empire State Building? The stunning Chrysler Building completed in 1930 at 1048 feet tall, designed by William Van Alen. In the “race to the sky” Chrysler beat the Woolworth building because of its 125 foot steel spire.
Also the site of iconic NYC moments such as Godzilla and Spider Man, this building is not a spot to climb up and enjoy the view unless you are purchasing an office! But you can enjoy it from the streets surrounding. It is really Art Deco at its finest.
#3 The Statue of Liberty
Liberty Park in New York Harbor
Do you have to see it? Yes. The Statue of Liberty is a must see in New York City, at least once in your life. Not only is she iconic, but the windy boat ride in the New York Harbor is a tradition worth experiencing. Just a short walk from Wall Street on the tip of Manhattan is Battery Park which will give you a view of the lady herself at Liberty Park and Ellis Island.
Spend the extra time and cash if you can. Buy the Statue Cruise General Admission ticket so you can visit the Statue of Liberty Museum on Liberty Island and the Ellis Island Museum on Ellis Island. For $23.50 you can purchase tickets online from Statue Cruises or, in person, at the Castle Clinton Fort Monument at Battery Park Ferry Terminal. The boats depart from Battery Park very frequently. The Ellis Island museum is really well done and fascinating. And chances are you might discover some link to your family history. Buy the tickets online to save time waiting in line.
#4 New York Public Library
Bryant Park at 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue
Also known as the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building for his huge renovation donation, this is the flagship of New York City’s libraries. It was built in 1911 in the Beaux Arts style with marble and the iconic lions flanking the front. The interior is what you have to experience. The ceilings, wood paneling, reading rooms, exhibits, and artwork are well worth your time.
Did you know about their permanent collection of treasures? It’s free! Be respectful. Photography is limited and staying quiet is essential. It is both a tourist attraction and a research library. So, if you are traveling alone and have a rainy day, skip the cafe and grab a good book.
The Grand Central Station ceiling features 12 zodiac constalations, the order was reversed with east and west flipped. Eventually it was fixed, but Orion remains facinng backwards! It is painted with gold leaf stars and twinking lights.
If you stand in the four arched entry, you can whisper in one arch and your freind can hear you in the other arch diagonally across and 30 feet away!
#5 Grand Central Station
42nd Street and Park Avenue
This train station is one of the world’s top 10 tourist attractions because of its gorgeous Beaux Arts design. Built in 1913, it connects people to trains all over the metropolitan area and beyond. Enjoy the artwork in the main concourse’s 35,000 square feet!
It’s the iconic “meet me under the clock” spot for New Yorkers and tourists everywhere. This train station has more train platforms than any other train station in the world!
#6 Rockefeller Center
Between 48th & 51st Streets at Fifth Avenue
Rockefeller Center is actually 22 acres of 19 buildings, but the iconic spots are its Top Of The Rock viewing area, the famous ice skating rink, Radio City Music Hall, and the Rainbow Room on the 65th floor. This complex was intended to offer visitors grand displays of art and culture and it has succeeded since its opening in 1939. It is the home of many TV shows, movie premiers, and of course the world famous Rockettes. Go for a skate, for the views, for the mosaics and statues, or for pics by the Christmas tree – just go!
#7 Central Park
I have such deep love and affection for this park! You can wander here every time you visit New York and experience something different.
Start at the top or the bottom and wander your way east or west, depending on your next destination. Time will pass quickly and you won’t realize how far you have come! 843 acres of land in the middle of the most vibrant city.
You can find maps and tours at the Dairy Visitor Center, a Victorian Cottage built in 1871, mid park at 65th Street.
Central Park Zoo
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir
#8 Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 5th Avenue and Central Park
To know me is to know that I love art museums. A Lot! And the Met has a special place in my heart for its incredible permanent collection, its beautiful sitting areas, and its front steps.
During my years in New York, I spent many hours at this museum and relaxing on the front steps. I try to get there each time I go because it is one of the world’s most beautiful museums both inside and out, and is a part of the New York experience that you should not miss. It’s the largest museum in the Western Hemisphere!
There will be long lines at popular times, so get your tickets in advance and plan on grabbing a pretzel or hot dog while you wait to get in!
Times Square Fun Facts
It used to be called Longacre Square and was renamed when the New York Times moved in in 1904.
Broadway between 42nd Street and 47th Street has been closed to traffic since 2009.
The New Years Eve ball has dropped from the One Times Square Building since 1907. The current Times Square Ball weighs six tons with 32,256 LEDs.
#9 Times Square
42nd Street and Broadway
What more do I have to say? Quickly pass through Times Square or hang out for hours, and you will be sure to see things you have never seen before! It is wild and crazy any time of the day. Have your camera ready!
They say there are so many lights in Times Square that it can be seen from the International Space Station.
It’s known as the Crossroads of the World.
Broadway is called The Great White Way because of all the lights dazzling the theater marquees along Broadway.
#10 Washington Square Park
Be sure to head to Greenwich Village, and stroll through the iconic Washington Square Park. The almost 10 acre park is not just famous for its fountain and arch but is the historic spot of many a protest, many a movie set, and all kinds of art and culture. Surrounded by NYU campus buildings, the park and Village atmosphere is unique only to New York.
#11 One World Trade Center/911 Memorial/Oculus
There is a lot to take in here and you may want to spend a chunk of time on your first visit. The 9/11 memorial is a gorgeous plaza designed by Michael Arad and Peter Walker. It honors the 2977 people killed at the World Trade Center, in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and the Pentagon on 9/11 as well as the six people killed in the World Trade Center bombing on 2/26/1993.
The space features twin reflecting pools, each with cascading waterfalls which are surrounded by the names of 9/11 victims etched in bronze. White Oak trees grow around the pools. You will see roses tucked into the names of some because the foundation places the flowers on each of the victims’ birthdays.
I find the experience very powerful each time I have been. It is a must see in New York City.
Then wander to One World Trade Center, also known as the Freedom Tower, which is the rebuilt World Trade Center complex.
You won’t be able to miss The Oculus, which is the remarkable white architectural wonder. It’s a transportation hub designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, meant to resemble a dove leaving a child’s hands. The Oculus replaced the train station which was destroyed in 9/11 and hosts shops, restaurants, and a view of the Freedom Tower.
There is no fee to enter the memorial site.
It’s open between 10 AM and 5 PM.
#12. NY Stock Exchange/Wall St. Bull/Little Girl
Find your way to the corner of Broad and Wall St. and visit the one and only New York Stock Exchange Building. If you are there at 9:30 AM on weekdays, you can hear the opening bell!
While you’re no longer allowed inside, you can take photos with The Fearless Girl statue and in front of the famous facade of the exchange building.
The Fearless Girl statue was made in 2017 in honor of International Women’s Day and she is a 4 foot inspirational powerhouse! She was originally placed staring down the Charging Bull. Of course, that was controversial for the Bull artist, so she was eventually moved to the stock exchange building.
#13. High Line
Climb the steps from the Whitney up onto the High Line. This is a MUST see in New York City any time of the year. The High Line is a 1.45 mile walk from Gansevoort St. to 34th St. It’s a public park built on the historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side.
The neighborhood residents saved the old rail line from demolition in 2009 made it one of the best loved sustainable nature, art, and design filled spaces in NY. Open from 7AM to 7PM in the winter and until 10PM in the summer months.
Now you are ready to enjoy these 13 top must see in New York City spots! They’re some of the most famous and historic landmarks that help make New York City the special place that she is!