New York City’s five boroughs are home to some of the world’s most recognizable, cherished landmarks and attractions. From Times Square and Central Park to the Empire State Building and One World Observatory, the island of Manhattan packs more famous icons into one compact area than any other place on earth; and that’s to say nothing of the City’s four other boroughs—The Bronx, Brooklyn,Queens and Staten Island—each of which contains its own roster of must-see destinations. With so much to see and do, we’ve rounded up the attractions that belong on any visitor’s to-see list. To get a sense of the City’s full breadth of activities, be sure to visit our complete list of tours and attractions for more ideas.
New York City’s skyline is truly awe-inspiring. The skyscrapers, bridges, waterways, islands and monuments create a breathtaking panorama that is instantly recognizable worldwide. While you can feel the immensity of these surroundings from anywhere in the City, the grandeur of the cityscape is best viewed from above. One World Observatory is a lofty place to start. The observation decks, located on the top three floors of One World Trade Center, offer a truly stunning perspective on New York City—the sort of view that’s only available from the tallest building in the western hemisphere. For a more traditional experience, take an elevator ride up 1,050 feet to the 86th-floor observation deck of the Empire State Building; New York City’s second-tallest structure, this soaring art deco masterpiece offers a completely unobstructed, 360-degree view of the city below. For a spectacular vista that includes the Empire State Building itself, head up to the Top of the Rock, located on the 67th, 69th and 70th floors of 30 Rockefeller Plaza (home of NBC Studios). Note: One World Observatory, the Empire State Building and Top of the Rock are all open late, so don’t miss the chance to see the City lights shimmer after dark. For more on some of the City’s tallest and most-beloved buildings, read our skyscrapers slideshow.
Not sure where to look while walking through world-famous Times Square? Don’t worry—you’re not alone. With massive digital billboards whose bright lights make midnight look like midafternoon; star-studded Broadway and Off-Broadway shows (and reduced-price tickets to see them available from the TKTS Discount Booth); people peddling art and jewelry on the street; and, of course, the Naked Cowboy—who plays guitar in his tighty-whities—the expansive stretch of Midtown is a feast for all five senses. Visitors can shop in flagship locations of such stores as Toys “R” Us (which boasts an indoor Ferris wheel), take pictures with wax celebrities at Madame Tussauds, watch the ball drop on New Year’s Eve or grab a pre- or post-theater meal along Restaurant Row (West 46th Street, between Eighth and Ninth Avenues), where many eateries offer prix-fixe deals. And with Broadway closed to cars from West 42nd to West 47th Streets, Times Square is now more pedestrian friendly than ever.
Spanning 843 acres in the heart of Manhattan, Central Park is one of the world’s greatest urban oases, encompassing a diverse landscape of rolling fields, walking trails and tranquil bodies of water—all sculpted by human hands. Designed in the mid-19th century by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, Central Park is the centerpiece of the City’s public parks system. Among its attractions are the Central Park Zoo,Belvedere Castle and the Friedsam Memorial Carousel (which, weather permitting, operates seven days a week from April through October and intermittently the rest of the year). Sheep Meadow and the Great Lawn offer sprawling expanses where visitors can relax and enjoy the outdoors. In the winter, there’s ice-skating at Trump Rink, which provides a picturesque backdrop for that classic cold-weather pastime, and at a second Trump-run skating spot, Lasker Rink, in a quiet section at the northern edge of the park (each has a warm-weather alter ego, the former as amusement park Victorian Gardens and the latter as Lasker Pool). In the summer, the Delacorte Theaterhosts Shakespeare in the Park, outdoor performances of the Bard’s work. Elsewhere, Rumsey Playfield serves as the primary home forSummerStage, a citywide (mostly) free performing-arts festival featuring music, dance, theater and more. Notably, Rumsey hosts Metropolitan Opera recitals featuring singers and a pianist from the famed opera company. For more ideas on what to see while visiting the sprawling NYC green space, check out our slideshow of must-see Central Park sights.
No trip to New York City is complete without experiencing some of its world-class cultural institutions, and Museum Mile is a good place to start. This stretch of Fifth Avenue, from East 82nd to East 105th Streets—actually measuring a little longer than a mile—lays claim to one of the world’s densest concentrations of culture. Museums along the “Mile” include The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Neue Galerie, theSolomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the National Academy Museum & School, Cooper Hewitt, National Design Museum, the Jewish Museum, the Museum of the City of New York and El Museo del Barrio.
After moving to a new location in the Meatpacking District, the Whitney Museum of American Art continues to showcase one of the nation’s premier collections of works by 20th-century American and contemporary masters. On the Upper West Side, the mammothAmerican Museum of Natural History and the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space feature larger-than-life science exhibitions. And a block south, the City’s oldest museum, the New-York Historical Society, underwent an extensive renovation and expansion in 2011 and introduced the DiMenna Children’s History Museum.
The European masterpieces of the Frick Collection are housed in Henry Clay Frick’s magnificent Fifth Avenue mansion, and Midtown’sMuseum of Modern Art (MoMA) is home to some of the world’s most important contemporary artworks. Uptown, the Studio Museum in Harlem highlights the work of black artists, while the Cloisters houses an impressive collection of medieval art juxtaposed with the museum’s gorgeous architecture; it also offers charming gardens and stunning views of the Hudson. Brooklyn Museum, one of the largest and oldest art museums in the country, boasts a wide-ranging collection that spans cultures and artistic movements in its beaux arts home at the northern end of Prospect Park.
For other great cultural experiences throughout the City—including not only museums, but also music, dance and theater—check out our Arts, Culture & Entertainment page, art calendar and our arts and culture roundup.
The Statue of Liberty is New York City’s most recognizable landmark, a gleaming beacon for generations of immigrants seeking a better life in America. To visit the monument, buy tickets online in advance of your trip at statuecruises.com. (Though you can see Lady Liberty from land, the short ferry ride to Liberty Island will bring you up close and personal.)
The nearby Ellis Island Immigration Museum provides a fascinating view of a historic crossroads. At this site, visitors can explore the building that served as the first port of entry in the United States for approximately 12 million immigrants, as well as search ship manifests for passenger names in the American Family Immigration History Center. The Peopling of America Center further illustrates the story of American immigration, focusing on the earliest arrivals to New York (including Native Americans, as well as victims of the slave trade) up to 1892, when the Ellis Island processing station opened, and from 1954 onward, after the facility closed.
The original Yankee Stadium, known as “The House That Ruth Built,” opened in 1923 and served as the Yankees’ home until 2008. The new Yankee Stadium opened in 2009, and the team capped the venue’s inaugural season with its 27th World Series title. This monolith, which retains some of the more beloved features from the old hallowed iteration, is a must-see for any baseball fan. Visitors can take a guided tour, which includes stops at the clubhouse/batting cage area (only during the off-season or when the team is on the road), the dugout and Monument Park, as well as the New York Yankees Museum, which offers a fascinating look at the history of the storied franchise. Of course, professional sports in New York City go much deeper than just the Yankees. To see the City’s home teams (including the Yankees) in person, buy tickets to NYC sporting events here; for more about NYC’s relationship with America’s pastime, visit nycgo.com’s baseball section.
Though best known as the location of the US Open, Flushing Meadows Corona Park—which, at 897 acres, is the City’s fourth-largest park—boasts a range of worthy attractions. It was the site of two world’s fairs (1939–1940 and 1964–1965). The Unisphere, a 140-foot-tall stainless-steel globe built for the 1964–1965 World’s Fair, and the observatory towers, site of the final alien fight scene in Men in Black, serve as reminders of the event. Nearby, the New York City Building, built for the New York City Pavilion at the 1939–1940 World’s Fair and home of the General Assembly of the United Nations from 1946 to 1950, houses the Queens Museum. Inside is the not-to-be-missed Panorama of the City of New York, an impressively detailed 9,335-square-foot scale model of the City featuring every building constructed before 1992 as well as Citi Field (which in 2009 replaced Shea Stadium as the home of baseball’s Mets). Other Flushing Meadows Corona Park attractions include the Queens Zoo, the hands-on New York Hall of Science, Queens Botanical Garden, Queens Theatre and the annualHong Kong Dragon Boat Festival, a weekend-long sporting and cultural event held in August.
Spanning 265 lush acres, the Bronx Zoo is the largest urban wildlife preserve in the United States, home to several authentically re-created habitats that house more than 5,000 animals representing more than 600 species (including an ever-changing cast of “awww”-worthy newborns). See zebras, giraffes and lions roam the African Plains; take a safari through the 6.5-acre Congo Gorilla Forest; watch baboons play in Ethiopian highlands; and meet lemurs, crocodiles and cockroaches in the permanent Madagascar! exhibition—all before lunch. Daily activities, including sea lion and penguin feedings, keep visitors busy all day long, while the Bug Carousel, the 4-D Theater and the Children’s Zoo are perfect for kids. The Bronx Zoo is open seven days a week and offers pay-what-you-wish admission every Wednesday. For other wildlife experiences across the five boroughs, read our slideshow about NYC’s zoos and aquariums.
John Roebling’s engineering masterpiece was the world’s longest suspension bridge upon its completion in 1883. One of the most recognizable structures in NYC, the bridge has been featured in countless movies and television shows and, as the first land passage between Manhattan and Brooklyn, represents a critical piece of New York City history. Though the bridge is visible from the shores of both boroughs, it is best experienced through a leisurely stroll across its elevated pedestrian walkway. Here, visitors from around the world can share a path with New Yorkers making their daily commute; those walking across can enjoy views of downtown Manhattan and New York Harbor on every step of the 5,989-foot traverse. The Manhattan-side entrance is at Park Row and Centre Street, across from City Hall Park.
More than a means of transportation, the Staten Island Ferry is an attraction unto itself. For no charge, visitors can enjoy the 25-minute voyage by water from Lower Manhattan to Staten Island and take in the Statue of Liberty and amazing views of New York Harbor and the Manhattan skyline. The ferry—which runs 24 hours a day and serves beer until midnight—drops off visitors at the St. George Ferry Terminal, close to the Staten Island Museum and the St. George Theater, and just a short bus ride from the Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden. The latter is an educational and entertaining destination (a former retirement home for sailors) encompassing numerous institutions whose diverse offerings should appeal to all interests and ages. Among them are the Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art, the Noble Maritime Collection and the Staten Island Children’s Museum. Within walking distance of the ferry terminal is Richmond County Bank Ballpark, home of minor-league baseball team the Staten Island Yankees (they play from June through early September). Catch a game at this intimate stadium, which affords glorious waterfront views from the stands. For more things to see and do around the ferry terminal, check out our guide to St. George.
Lower Manhattan is the seat of the City’s government, the home of Wall Street and a place where much of America’s early history unfolded. The area is packed with cultural institutions, including the Skyscraper Museum and the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Battery Park features 25 acres of open space—including gardens and the Castle Clinton National Monument, a fort built in preparation for the War of 1812. Stone Street, an appropriately named cobblestone thoroughfare, features a wide range of worthwhile drinking and dining establishments including Harry’s Cafe and Steak, Vintry Wine & Whiskey and many more. Nearby, City Hall—one of America’s oldest functioning seats of municipal government—offers public tours. After visiting the premises, consider walking across the iconic Brooklyn Bridge, located just across the street. For more on downtown, see ourLower Manhattan page.
The memorial portion of the 9/11 Memorial & Museum at the World Trade Center was dedicated on September 11, 2011—the 10th anniversary of the attacks—with a ceremony for the families of victims, and opened to the public the following day. Admission to the memorial is free, and visitor passes are not required. Eight acres in all, the Memorial Plaza features more than 400 trees and provides a sanctuary for quiet contemplation. Waterfalls flow into two large reflecting pools, in the towers’ footprints, and the names of the men, women and children who lost their lives are inscribed in bronze parapets that surround the pools. The museum, located beneath the Plaza, houses exhibitions with artifacts, pictures, videos and accounts from people from around the United States and the world, amounting to a jointly told history of September 11, 2001. Note that there is a charge for admission to the museum; tickets can be purchased here. Also nearby, the 9/11 Tribute Center offers photos, walking tours and a collection of objects that bring visitors together in remembrance of 9/11 and its aftermath.
Queens is New York City’s most international borough, so a ride on the 7 train—the purple-hued subway line that cuts through Long Island City, Sunnyside, Woodside, Jackson Heights, Elmhurst, Corona and Flushing—can feel like a journey around the globe. Indeed, in 1999, the route was named one of 16 “National Millennium Trails” representing the legacy of the United States, as it features an abundance of immigrant neighborhoods along its stops. Riding the 7 is certainly an essential NYC experience for anyone who’s interested in world cultures. What should you do when you get off at each station? Well, eating is one great option. For guidance, check out our roundup of ethnic restaurants with tasty food along the diverse line. Conveniently, Flushing Meadows Corona Park is adjacent to Mets-Willets Point, the second-to-last 7 train stop. Also near the 7, you’ll find innovative contemporary art at MoMA PS1 in Long Island City. For more tips on what to do and see in neighborhoods along the 7 train,visit our Queens section.
If Prospect Park feels like Brooklyn’s answer to Central Park, there’s a reason—Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux designed both massive green spaces in the mid-19th century. For its part, the 585-acre Prospect Park is highlighted by the immense Long Meadow, whose name isn’t just an empty boast—at almost 1 mile long, it may be the longest continuous meadow in any American park. The meadow is a popular site for sports and picnics. Prospect Park as a whole is home to endless recreational possibilities, including not only the usual suspects like jogging and biking but also such rare treats as dog swimming—four-legged New Yorkers can make a splash at Dog Beach. The beach is part of Prospect Park Lake, where visitors are also known to go fishing (it’s a great place to catch largemouth bass—but anglers must abide by the “catch and release” rule). Prospect Park also contains Brooklyn’s only remaining natural forest, which spans 250 acres (in total, the park features more than 30,000 trees).
Other notable Prospect Park attractions include Lefferts Historic House, where visitors can view artifacts, churn butter, start fires with flint and steel, sew and otherwise experience some of the rural activities that once characterized life in Flatbush; the Prospect Park Zoo, home to a wide array of animals you’re unlikely to see frolicking through most parks, including red pandas and kangaroos; and theProspect Park Bandshell, which during the summer hosts Celebrate Brooklyn!, a mostly free concert series that has showcased Sonic Youth, They Might Be Giants, David Byrne and more. A newer development, Lakeside, has year-round ice/roller skating rinks, viewing terraces, a water feature and a café. Finally, the nearby Brooklyn Botanic Garden is one of the largest attractions of its kind; highlights include a scent garden for the blind, a serene Japanese tea garden and a recently opened Discovery Garden geared towards kids. Other neighboring sights include the Brooklyn Museum and the gorgeous main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. For many more worthy attractions west of Prospect Park, check out our guide to Park Slope.
For the true NYC experience, it’s essential to go out after dark. While it’s a fool’s endeavor to attempt a summary of the City’s nightlife offerings in just a few words, we can make some recommendations: be sure to spend some time in Harlem, where the Apollo Theater stages its famous Amateur Night—over the years, the Apollo has hosted performances by such stars as Ella Fitzgerald, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, the Strokes and comedian Chris Rock. Outside Harlem, the City is home to a bounty of other concert venues. B.B. King Blues Club & Grill, the Highline Ballroom, Irving Plaza and many more all host both rising and multiplatinum artists; check out our concert calendar for a list of notable upcoming shows. The Lower East Side and Williamsburg, meanwhile, are two of many neighborhoods that are full of bars running the gamut from classy joints to gritty dives to dancing dens. The five boroughs are also a humor mecca—NYC’s comedy clubs host headliners and rising stars every night of the week, and sometimes a big name will make an unexpected late-night appearance at one of the smaller venues. See our comedy calendar for specific comedians and weekly shows. And for more up-to-date going-out goings-on throughout New York City, check out our nightlife calendar.
The ups and downs of the nearly 90-year-old Cyclone roller coaster are a fitting metaphor for the Coney Island experience lately—every year seems to bring big changes to the quirky beachfront amusement district, but a visit there is always entertaining. The latest addition is theThunderbolt, a new coaster named after a ride that was shut down back in 1982. These days, classic Boardwalk institutions like Ruby’s Bar and Grill, Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park and Nathan’s Famous operate next to shiny thrill-ride tract Luna Park, whose Scream Zone twists, turns, drops and spins patrons into a state of pure bliss (or at least bliss with a splash of queasiness). Other area attractions include MCU Park, the gorgeous home of Mets minor-league affiliate the Brooklyn Cyclones (who play from June through early September), and the New York Aquarium, which features a menagerie of aquatic life including walruses, penguins and cownose rays. Also worth visiting on Brooklyn’s south shore is famed Russian enclave Brighton Beach, just a short stroll away on the Boardwalk. For even more things to do in the waterfront neighborhood, check out ourguide to Coney Island.
Presenting thousands of performances each year, Lincoln Center has established itself as a hub for New York City’s performing arts scene. The sprawling 16.3-acre Upper West Side complex is home to 11 organizations, including Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Metropolitan Opera and the New York City Ballet. If you’re looking for an enriching way to spend an afternoon or evening, Lincoln Center delivers with an extensive lineup of concerts, plays and film screenings throughout the week. The landmark space seamlessly blends classic elements with modern renovations, seen most recently in the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center. On Thursday evenings, the David Rubenstein Atrium—a gathering space complete with vertical gardens, an abundance of seating and a floor-to-ceiling fountain—presents free performances. Additionally, tours are available daily for guests in search of the story behind the center. Highlights include the majestic Revson Fountain,Alice Tully Hall and behind-the-scenes looks at top venues. Not sure what to do before your show? Lincoln Center’s bustling neighborhood is full of top-notch attractions, including the American Museum of Natural History, a mere 15 minutes away on foot, and Central Park, which is only a two-block walk.