New York City—the city that never sleeps—is truly a wonder for locals and visitors alike. If you’re planning a trip, you’ll want to include some of NYC’s must-see attractions. But where to start? To make things easy on you, we’ve created a list of the things you must see in New York City—whether it’s your first trip or your fiftieth! At Beyond Times Square, we’ve taken the stress out of visiting NYC. Our tour guides are the best, and they’ll make sure you get the local experience of a lifetime. You’ll find a variety of excursions and tours the whole family can enjoy. Here are our top must-see attractions in NYC:
1. The Statue of Liberty
The Statue of Liberty is a symbol of hope and freedom. Immigrants coming to the United States dreamed of seeing the statue and starting a new life in the new world. To this day, this gift from France means so much to so many, which is why it’s at the top of our sights to see in NYC. You’ll arrive at Liberty Island via ferry and can visit the brand-new Statue of Liberty Museum, opening in May 2019, which is accessible to all Liberty Island visitors. Here you’ll find an educational experience that spotlights meaningful artifacts and a deeper understanding of the National Monument’s history. Her original torch will be housed in one of the three galleries, and on top of the museum, a view of the statue, Ellis Island, and New York City will be visible. Due to security measures, access to both the statue’s pedestal and crown are limited and require advanced reservations—along with the ability to walk up at least 162 steps on a narrow, confined spiral staircase on the way to the top.
2. Central Park
There’s no other park in the world like Central Park. Visiting the park is a must do in New York. It’s 150 years old and has 843 acres of lush green nature. The park is massive, but the great thing is you can visit it by foot, bike, or carriage. There are fun places to eat, snack, have coffee, and relax. There’s the Central Park Zoo, the Conservatory Garden, a carousel, sports fields, bronze statues, fountains, and numerous ponds and lakes—you can even go ice skating in the winter time at Wollman Rink. Strawberry Fields pays homage to John Lennon, Belvedere Castle provides great views, and Delacorte Theater offers free Shakespeare in the Park in the summer. With so much to do, you can easily fit a visit to the park into your trip itinerary and spend as much or as little time as you want.
3. Empire State Building
The Empire State Building is an architectural phenomenon. Standing at 1,454 feet tall, this Art-Deco skyscraper in Manhattan’s Midtown offers a breathtaking vantage point. On a clear day, you can see five states from the decks on the 86th and 102nd floors: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. Take a VIP tour limited to just 6 to 8 guests or enjoy the sunrise tour, where you can experience the city awakening for the day. The Empire State Building is open 365 days a year, between 8:00 a.m. and 2:00 a.m., with breakfast, lunch, and dinner available at the restaurant on the top.
4. Times Square
Times Square is everything you think of when you think about New York City: bright lights, bustling stores, flashing billboards, theme restaurants, hordes of people, lively entertainment, and Broadway shows. Many call it the Crossroads of the World. It’s centrally located, so you can easily have a look and spend as much or as little time as you’d like and enjoy exactly what you want. The energy is contagious and is an experience that needs to be on every visitor’s must-see list for NYC. Great landmarks such as the Empire State Building, Fifth Avenue, and Grand Central Terminal are right around the corner in Midtown.
5. Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, commonly known as the MET, is consistently ranked as one of the top five museums in the entire world, so it’s a must-see in NYC. There are more than 5,000 years of art from around the globe gathered in multiple exhibits throughout the MET. You can pick and choose which exhibits you’d like to see to customize your visit. You can also arrange a private tour, which will give you insider access without having to wait in line and will keep you away from large crowds. The MET is open seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. On Fridays and Saturdays it is open until 9 p.m.
6. Popular bagel shops
New York bagels are amazing and iconic—and need to be sampled to be appreciated! The following popular bagel shops have hand-rolled freshly baked bagels and large selections of spreads, eggs, and smoked-fish toppings:
- Absolute Bagels, 2788 Broadway, New York, NY 10025
- Best Bagel & Coffee, 225 West 35th St., New York, NY 10001
- Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee, 286 Eighth Ave., New York, NY 10001
- Ess-a-Bagel, 831 Third Ave., New York, NY 10022
- Tompkins Square Bagels, 165 Avenue A, New York, NY 10009
A trip to at least one of these bagel shops is a must-do in New York. The chances are that if you go once you’ll be back for more—the bagels are that good!
7. The Brooklyn Bridge
Since its opening in 1883, nothing quite says “New York City” like the Brooklyn Bridge. This iconic landmark captures the imagination of the City while showcasing the beauty of NYC’s skyline. From movies to television shows, the Brooklyn Bridge has always been a recognizable feature of the Big Apple. Take a stroll across its pedestrian walkway any time of year and take in spectacular views of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Statue of Liberty. You can start on either the Manhattan side or the Brooklyn side at any time of day. We recommend sunrise or sunset, so you can watch as the city lights come to life. Remember to bring a jacket or sweater as it can get windy and chilly up there!
8. Museum of Modern Art
Manhattan is also home to one of the largest and most influential modern art museums in the world. Midtown’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) has been delighting guests since 1929 by displaying contemporary pieces ranging from architecture to photography, film to paintings, and more. You’ll discover 300,000 books and catalogs, 1,000 periodicals, and 40,000 temporary collections at any given time. We dare you to look at everything!
As an admirer of modern and contemporary art, why not enjoy the museum with a personal tour guide? At Beyond Times Square, we offer a pre-opening tour of the museum so you can peruse the vast collection at a leisurely pace, without the crowds.
9. Rockefeller Center
One must-see attraction in NYC will always be Rockefeller Center. This large Art-Deco complex has 19 gorgeous buildings on 22 acres of land in Midtown Manhattan between Fifth and Sixth avenues. It was one of the most important projects during the Great Depression commissioned by the Rockefeller Family. In fact, it’s a New York City Landmark and National Historic Landmark. Not only does Rockefeller Center boast fabulous architectural details, but it also showcases beautiful artwork and statues throughout each building.
You’ll find plenty to do at the center. There’s the Top of the Rock Observation Deck, the famous Rockefeller ice skating rink, Radio City Music Hall, NBC Studios, FAO Schwarz, the Channel Gardens, and the annual Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, along with countless retail shops, restaurants, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral across the street.
10. The High Line
Explore the High Line, New York City’s answer to a declining infrastructure. This new urban park was built on top of an abandoned railway that was set for demolition. In 2009, the project opened to the public and had stoked imagination to visitors ever since. New York’s High Line Park has even inspired other cities around the U.S. to redevelop forgotten areas into public spaces for enjoyment. It has also prompted real-estate development while increasing home values in nearby neighborhoods.
Join the other 5 million annual visitors to this urban sanctuary. We offer a great tour that includes a personal guide that’ll give you a local’s point of view of the park, nearby neighborhoods, and some fantastic eateries.
11. Midtown’s Christmas windows
There’s no place like New York City at Christmas time. Think bright lights, shopping, villages, ice skating, carriage rides, and hot cocoa. With all of that, you might be wondering where to start first. We recommend the festive window displays on Fifth Avenue brought to you by all your favorite department stores. You’ll see gorgeous windows from Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys New York, and Saks Fifth Avenue, and can then wander down to Herald Square to see the windows at Macy’s.
Make a night of it and go on a leisurely walking tour of the windows. Stop in between for a toasty beverage or hot meal. These windows are on display right before Thanksgiving through the New Year, so you have the entire holiday season to check them out. If you’re wondering about the best time to go, keep in mind that the busiest times are on weekends and early evenings. While the windows are perfect at night, they still offer a spectacular view during the day.
12. American Museum of Natural History
On the Upper West Side of Manhattan, across from Central Park, lies one of the largest museums in the world. The American Museum of Natural History has 28 buildings that contain 45 permanent exhibition halls, not to mention a library and planetarium. On any given day, you’ll find 33 million specimens of animals, fossils, plants, meteorites, human artifacts, and more. The museum has so much material that not all of it can be displayed at one time!
This attraction is one that you must do in NYC at any time of year. Become one of the museum’s 5 million yearly visitors, and you won’t be disappointed. Since there’s so much to do and see, we’ve put together a scavenger hunt, which provides a fun learning experience for the whole family.
13. Grand Central Terminal
Nestled in the heart of Midtown Manhattan is one of the 10 most visited tourist attractions in the world. Grand Central Terminal—also known as just Grand Central—is truly a marvelous depiction of craftsmanship and architecture. It is a must-see in NYC. The sprawling structure is covered by marble, granite, and gold leaf both inside and out, and its ceiling boasts an astronomical display that is breathtaking. The Vanderbilts spared no expense in its construction. At more than 100 years old, Grand Central Terminal still functions as a bustling hub of transportation and commerce. Immerse yourself in its grand history with a guided tour, or stop for a bite to eat in one of its many food halls.
14. One World Observatory
One World Trade Center, also known as Freedom Tower, stands tall in the place of the Twin Towers that fell on September 11, 2001. The building stands as a beacon and sign to the world of New York’s resilience and determination. Seeing it from the ground is pretty impressive, but it’s even better to take a 47-second elevator ride up 102 stories to the top of the tower called One World Observatory. From there, you can see all of New York City, the Harbor, and beyond. This is a must-see in NYC for sure. The observatory features other attractions including virtual tours of the city and a sky portal that allows you to see the streets below through a glass floor with HD footage. You can even spend some time at the observatory restaurant called One Dine and enjoy a meal high above the city. Check out the Beyond Times Square program that includes One World Observatory and the National September 11 Museum.
15. 9/11 Memorial
Explore the 9/11 Memorial, a national tribute of remembrance and honor to those who perished in the attacks of September 11, 2001, and February 26, 1993. The footprints of the two towers that fell on 9/11 are now marked by two enormous reflecting pools engraved with the names of the 2,977 lives lost that day. The memorial features a park and museum as well. This experience is a must-do while in NYC. Visitors can take our guided tour to learn the full history of the World Trade Center. Your tour will end by ascending to the top and experiencing One World Observatory, with phenomenal views of this invincible city. Some original footings and other materials from the original Twin Towers remain in place below ground. Other artifacts and memorabilia can be found in the museum, along with a special tribute that visually and audibly projects the pictures and names of each victim in remembrance. It is a solemn experience that deserves a few hours of your time.
16. SoHo Shopping
When deciding on what you must do in NYC, shopping is most likely near the top of the list for many visitors. Named for being “South of Houston Street,” SoHo is known as one of New York City’s most prestigious shopping districts. It is home to an eclectic collection of designer stores and one-of-a-kind boutiques. Prada, Coach, Burberry, and Bloomingdales are just a few of the top designer stores you will find in this trendy shopping district. There are also many specialty stores and boutiques that sell anything from jewelry to art to furniture and books. SoHo’s diversity and variety will please even the most discerning shopper.
17. Greenwich Village Walk
If you are wondering what to see in NYC that has more of a local vibe, consider Greenwich Village. Greenwich Village is known as one of Manhattan’s most charming, desirable, and expensive neighborhoods. Take a guided walking tour of the Village’s historical landmarks, which will be unlike the typical tourist attractions you’ll find in other areas of the City. Here, stories of history pop up on virtually every corner in this picturesque area. You can even visit the site of a popular speakeasy that was used during the Prohibition era. The Village also boasts exclusive restaurants, bars, and shops that aren’t found anywhere else in Manhattan.
18. Chrysler Building
Ranked as the 91st tallest building in the world, the Chrysler Building is a must-see New York experience. While there are no tours or observation decks open to the public, the lobby and building architecture should not be missed. The building is a lasting example of Art-Deco design with stunning murals, clocks, and elevators adorned with custom-designed doors. If you love architecture or Art-Deco design, don’t miss out on a chance to view the Chrysler Building.
19. Yankee Stadium
From April to early October, you can catch a game at the home of the most storied baseball team in history—the New York Yankees. Arrive early, and take a pregame tour of the stadium to learn more about the 27-time World Champions. You’ll get up close to historic baseball artifacts in the New York Yankees Museum, visit Monument Park, and sit in section 105 to view batting practice. Classic Tours are also available during the week on non-game days, so if you’re in town while the Yankees are away, you can still enjoy a visit to the stadium. This tour includes a visit to the museum, Monument Park, the dugout, and press box. Just a 30- to 45-minute subway ride from Midtown to the Bronx, Yankee Stadium is a fun and easy must-see attraction in New York City for sports and non-sports fans alike.
20. Guggenheim Museum
The Guggenheim is a renowned art museum located on Fifth Avenue that collects and preserves both modern and contemporary art. The Guggenheim, a must-see in NYC, is one of the most influential architectural icons of the twentieth century. The museum is a cultural center and an educational institution full of sensational art that hosts film screenings, performances, lectures from artists and critics, gallery tours, as well as classes for adults and teens. Enjoy the Guggenheim with one of our guides before it opens to the public. Perfect for first-time visitors, the Highlights Tour focuses on the museum’s Frank Lloyd Wright-designed architecture, permanent collection, and introduces the special exhibition on view. Guests are free to explore the museum on their own after the guided tour.
21. Lower East Side
The Lower East Side is a “grittier” neighborhood of Manhattan that boasts some of the best food, music, and art. Destinations vary from candy stores and bookstores to doughnut shops and dive bars. A must-see activity in NYC is the Hester Street Fair held each Saturday with lines of vendors peddling their unique crafts and products. For a unique experience, try Economy Candy, an old-fashioned candy store that caters to both big and little sweet tooths. If art is more your scene, check out The New Museum, which focuses on emerging media from more contemporary artists. The don’t-miss experience of the Lower East Side is the Tenement Museum, which tells the history of this diverse neighborhood and the residents who lived there. Visit a tenement building that housed Holocaust survivors, Puerto Rican garment workers, and Chinese and Irish immigrants—just a few stories of the many families from more than 20 nations that first settled in the Lower East Side. Our Lower East Side tour introduces you to this unique and important section of Manhattan. You’ll learn about life in the tenements in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the people who lived here, and what they had to endure as they came to America.
Branded as a hip and artsy area of Brooklyn, Williamsburg is a vibrant neighborhood with aspects of old and new. There is a significant art and music scene in Williamsburg, evidenced by indie music performances and gallery shows from local artists. In a neighborhood full of creativity, it’s no surprise that you’ll find poetry readings, musical performances, and theater at Pete’s Candy Store, Music Hall of Williamsburg, or the Brooklyn Bowl. There are creative food vendors that line up on the riverfront every Saturday during the summer, bringing out crowds full of fun and hungry visitors. Williamsburg is also home to its own distilleries and wineries, most notably the Brooklyn Brewery and the classic Hotel Delmano, which show off the local flair and creative drinks.
Originally a location for a ferry landing, DUMBO is one of Brooklyn’s most historic neighborhoods with sensational views. DUMBO gets its name as a quick little acronym from Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass. Between the late 1800s and early 1900s, this was the center of American manufacturing, which is evidenced by the old buildings and warehouses that have been turned into luxury rentals and popular restaurants. There are several must-see locations in the area including the iconic view of the Manhattan Bridge featured in numerous films, the archway of the Manhattan Bridge, and the DUMBO Flea Market. For those more interested in shopping and eating, there are plenty of places to feed your appetite. Two of the best-voted pizzerias in the city are next to each other, Grimaldi’s and Juliana’s. There’s Luke’s Lobster Rolls near Jane’s Carousel. Or if you want to sit on the waterfront and enjoy a variety of Brooklyn’s top restaurants all in one place, you can’t miss the brand-new Time Out Market New York, opening in the spring of 2019. This massive food hall features three bars, an outdoor rooftop area looking out onto the East River and the Manhattan skyline, and 20 different restaurants picked out by Time Out editors, including amazing pancakes from Clinton Street Baking Co., a Mexican cantina from Alta Calidad, Kosher steak at Reserve Cut, seafood at the Mermaid Oyster Bar, Middle-Eastern fare from Miss Ada, pickles and Southern comfort food at Jacob’s Pickles, and Avocaderia, an all-avocado restaurant.
24. Harbor cruise
If you’re a first-time visitor or you want to view the City from a different angle, a harbor cruise is a great way to experience NYC. A harbor cruise can serve as an introduction, showing you many of the classic New York sights—the famous skyline, the Statue of Liberty, etc.—while also teaching you about the City’s history, architecture, and more, laying the foundation for the rest of your trip through NYC. And since most cruises are fully accessible and accommodating, a harbor cruise is a great way to see the must-see sights of the city without needing to worry about getting around.
A visit to New York—and an understanding of the City’s history and culture—isn’t complete without spending some time in Manhattan’s Harlem. There are many ways to learn about and appreciate this neighborhood’s rich history and tradition of authentic Gospel music and churches, and you don’t need to be religious or spiritual to experience it. Our fully guided Harlem tour explores this borough’s changing face, with a special focus on the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and 1930s. This period cultivated and nurtured the talents of great jazz musicians like Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway, and authors such as Zora Neale Hurston and W.E.B. Du Bois. The famed Apollo Theater and the Cotton Club still affect America’s artistic and cultural life today. You can even enjoy a gospel choir experience on Sundays, with additional hours required.
Every New York City visit should include a Broadway show—or two! This world-renowned Broadway experience is a must-see in NYC, but keep in mind that if you are interested in a specific show, you should get your tickets well in advance since many shows sell out. If you want to learn more, take a daily tour of Broadway and the Theater District to hear about the gossip, legends, and even the backstage secrets of Broadway and NYC theater throughout the ages. Or see Broadway up close through the backstage door. With our Backstage on Broadway experience, you will be met after the performance and escorted backstage to see what goes on behind the scenes of a Broadway production. You will also meet the cast members, take photos, and maybe even get some autographs. For Broadway lovers, this is an incredible, can’t-miss experience!
27. Lincoln Center
With so much culture, art, and history on one campus, a visit to Manhattan’s Lincoln Center also tops our list of things you must do in NYC. Some of the most prestigious performing arts and cultural organizations call Lincoln Center home, including the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic, and American Ballet Theatre. Plus, jazz at Lincoln Center is just down the street. Despite its standing as a world-renowned cultural center, Lincoln Center is very accessible to visitors, offering group tours as well as an app that allows you to explore individually at your own pace. And if you’re lucky, you may even be able to see a rehearsal in full swing.
28. Madison Square Garden
NYC is home to the famous—maybe the most famous sporting arena in the world—Madison Square Garden. Here, you can experience, depending on the season, a Knick’s basketball game or a Ranger’s hockey game at this famous venue. MSG also hosts the biggest name in music—Billy Joel is the resident musician with a monthly show. If you want to learn and see more, you can take their All-Access Tour. These guided tours are available multiple times a day and include the history of the Gardens, behind-the-scenes stories, and more. And like Lincoln Center, you might be able to peek in at a rehearsal or practice going on at this iconic venue.
Nothing tops off a trip to New York City like a slice of classic NYC pizza—and thankfully, there’s no shortage of places to get it. There are plenty of historic and authentic pizza places in each borough—here are our top picks:
- Joe’s Pizza in Manhattan
- Roberta’s Pizza in Bushwick
- DiFara in Midwood Brooklyn
- Speedy Romeo on the Lower East Side and Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn
- Rizzo in Astoria, the Lower East Side, and the Upper East Side
- Farinella on the Upper East Side
Any of these top pizza places are sure to give you an authentic New York slice. Enjoy your visit, and happy eating!
30. Radio City Music Hall
In terms of landmarks, Radio City Music Hall is one place you must see in NYC. Better yet, catch a performance. There most assuredly will be something going on that will catch your attention. To many, Radio City Music Hall is best known as the home of the Rockettes. While it is extra popular during the holiday season with its Christmas Spectacular, Radio City boasts incredible performances from countless artists all year. It is well worth the time to take a behind-the-scenes tour of the venue and learn of its rich history that started back during the early years of the Great Depression. It was during a struggling time in America’s economy when John D. Rockefeller made the bold decision to take a chance on New York’s speakeasy district. If he could only see it today, he would see that his dream and risk stood the test of time.
31. St. Patrick’s Cathedral
If you love architecture, you’ll need to visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Midtown, across the street from Rockefeller Center. This iconic church is more than 160 years old and is still just as glamorous as the day it opened in 1879. No detail was spared in the design and construction of this Gothic cathedral, and it needs to be on your itinerary when considering what to see in NYC since pictures don’t do it justice. The church operates regularly scheduled daily Masses and also offers a variety of guided and virtual tours that are well worth your time.
Shopping anyone? That is pretty much a rhetorical question in New York City, and who hasn’t heard of the fabulous Bloomingdales department store? Well, make sure you stop by for a visit. While there are a few locations in the City, and they are all great, we recommend its flagship at 59th Street and Third Avenue, where it’s been a favorite stop of high-end shopping since 1886. Top designers, cosmetics, and home décor can all be found at this iconic store—and don’t miss the phenomenal shoe department on the fifth floor. Called the Heart of Shoe York, this newly renovated space offers more than 26,000 square feet of designer shoes from more than 100 brands, with designer exclusives and shop-in-shops from luxury designers such as Jimmy Choo, Dior, Gucci, Givenchy, Oscar de la Renta, Tory Burch, and Stuart Weitzman to just name a few. They also feature designer meet-and-greets, emerging brands, contemporary designers, and an in-house shoe repair shop, so there’s truly something for everyone. It’s not just shoe shopping—it’s a shoe experience!
33. Macy’s Herald Square
Another department store that’s synonymous with New York City is Macy’s, with its flagship Herald Square location being like nothing you’ve ever seen before. This is not your standard store. Built in 1902, Herald Square is more like a mall, covering three acres of area with 11 levels of fashion and home décor. Walking through Macy’s is something you must do in NYC. The company is an NYC and American icon that is more than 150 years old and is most recognizable as the backdrop for the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It has also appeared in a number of classic movies such as Miracle on 34th Street.
34. Hudson Yards
Located on Manhattan’s West Side, Hudson Yards is an exclusive area that claims to be the “new heart of New York.” This booming area, home to Google and the High Line, is a vibrant, cutting-edge neighborhood that will include the largest private real-estate development in the history of the United States, state-of-the-art office towers, more than 100 retail shops including New York’s first Neiman Marcus, a collection of restaurants curated by chef Thomas Keller, and 14 acres of public space. The design is cutting-edge with an emphasis on gardens, parks, and sustainability within the city—and is attracting top retailers and businesses with an inclusive live, work, and play environment, which is a new concept for NYC. Don’t miss Thomas Heatherwick’s just completed Vessel, an impressive 150-foot-tall Italian steel installation with 154 interconnecting stairways that is the centerpiece of Hudson Yards’ public square and gardens. The Shed, a six-story performance and exhibition space with a retractable outer shell, is debuting in April 2019 and will include Soundtrack of America, a concert series celebrating the impact of African-American music on contemporary culture. After all this exploring, you can check-in at the Equinox to enjoy the spa, pool, lounge, restaurant, and culinary programs at the world’s first luxury-lifestyle hotel, with the same holistic philosophy as their fitness clubs.
How to get started
Now that you know what to see in NYC, you need to plan your trip. If you need help creating your itinerary, please contact Beyond Times Square to speak with one of our NYC travel experts. We’re a private luxury-travel company that specializes in offering exclusive trips that give clients the insider introduction to all NYC has to offer. We’ll be glad to help you with anything you need!