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Kimberly
Chicago

New York City

What are the top 5 can't miss tourist attractions in NYC?

I'm going to NYC for the first time and I want to see classic tourist spots like Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, Central Park, etc. Are these places really tourist traps or are they worth visiting? Any tips on how to do them the "right way"?


17 Answers

top answer by
Regan from Brooklyn

Here's how to see the right tourist attractions in NYC. Skip Statue of Liberty for Ellis Island instead. Skip Top of the Rock and Empire State for a drink on the roof of the The Metropolitan Museum of Art at sunset. But the Ground Zero museum is interesting.  The only touristy things I would recommend are:



Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Statue of Liberty (attraction)
  2. Ellis Island (neighborhood)
  3. The Metropolitan Museum of Art (attraction)
  4. Ground Zero (attraction)
  5. Central Park (attraction)
  6. High Line Park (attraction)
  7. Ellis Island (attraction)
  8. Brooklyn Bridge (attraction)
7 thanks


answered by
Ellen from Dallas

A walk around the Flatiron District - the newest "it" area for shopping and eating - is touristy but fun. Start with a walk through Madison Square Park to see lots of buildings new and old, people- and dog-watch from a park bench, and end up at Eataly for lunch or dinner. Or head downtown to Greenwich Villageto see the trendy brownstones, shops and - of course - the iconic, most-famous and fabulous Strand Book Store Inc. You're also a very reasonable walk from neighboring SoHoTriBeCa and - if your feet are comfortable - High Line Park.


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Flatiron District (neighborhood)
  2. Madison Square Park (attraction)
  3. Eataly (restaurant)
  4. Greenwich Village (neighborhood)
  5. Strand Book Store Inc (attraction)
  6. SoHo (neighborhood)
  7. TriBeCa (neighborhood)
  8. High Line Park (attraction)
5 thanks


answered by
Fritzi from San Francisco

I think the Federal Reserve Bank of New York tour and Wall St are two great "only in New York" experiences. The Fed tour is free, you must book on line in advance. The building is beautiful and you see our gold bullion reserve. 

Taking the Circle cruise around Manhattan at night is so beautiful.  

New York is 24/7 so include some clubs: get a New Yorker or NY Magazine and find an applealing music or dance space.  

Also don't miss visiting Grand Central Terminal and the main reading room at the 42nd street public library. Both are spectacular.  

Have fun.


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Federal Reserve Bank of New York (attraction)
  2. Wall St (attraction)
  3. Grand Central Terminal (attraction)
4 thanks


answered by
Jenn from Boston

I grew up in New York, but never visited the Statue of Liberty until just before I moved to the west coast. I think it's a must at some point in your life, if not on this first visit. Going to the crown is amazing, but you need to book it months in advance. Definitely look into a city pass to help save you money on the top tourist attractions. This is a good one: http://www.citypass.com/new-york If you have any interest in air and space, I recommend the USS Intrepid. Google crowd calendars to see if you can find a best day and time to visit the places you want to go. We went to the Empire State Building mid week in February for sunset. We barely had a line and the views were amazing! Good luck!


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Statue of Liberty (attraction)
  2. USS Intrepid (neighborhood)
4 thanks


answered by
Courtney from Los Angeles

Hi, Kimberly--

Here are a few of the places I'd try to check out while I'm there:

High Line Park - former elevated railway turned park. Best thing in NYC right now in my opinion

Madison Square Park - it used to be where all the best drug dealers hung out, now it's where all the cool kids sit and people watch. 

Lower East Side - adorable little shopping streets (9th street is a favorite of mine) with tons of restaurants. Whitmans is a great place to grab a burger (even to go). I would definitely check this area out before it becomes too gentrified. 

If you're up for a real adventure, experience the Russian & Turkish Baths "spa" experience (note: some days here are men only, some are women only so check before you go). 

Harlem - gorgeous area architecturally. St. Nicholas Park is a lovely place to walk around. 

Carl Schurz Park - totally underrated park in NYC--stunning views of the East River.

Strand Books - I know this seems random, but there's no better place to people watch real New Yorkers in action.  

The Frick Collection - one of the city's best museums and one even a lot of New Yorkers have never been to. A total gem you should not miss. 

New-York Historical Society - sounds like the kind of place your grandmother would take you, but it's really more like where your hippest, most interesting friend goes on Saturday afternoons.  

The Morgan Library & Museum - You're going to want to start book collecting after you see this place. Trust me. 

TriBeCa - outdoor cafes, fabulous shopping, and endless celebrity spotting. A bit contrived but still a lot of fun. Bagatelle New York is great for a splurge lunch. 


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. High Line Park (attraction)
  2. Madison Square Park (attraction)
  3. Lower East Side (attraction)
  4. Whitmans (restaurant)
  5. Russian & Turkish Baths (attraction)
  6. Harlem (neighborhood)
  7. St. Nicholas Park (attraction)
  8. Carl Schurz Park (attraction)
  9. East River (attraction)
  10. Strand Books (attraction)
  11. The Frick Collection (attraction)
  12. New-York Historical Society (attraction)
  13. The Morgan Library & Museum (attraction)
  14. TriBeCa (neighborhood)
  15. Bagatelle New York (restaurant)
4 thanks


answered by
Alyce from Melbourne

Ellis Island is definitely a sight to see... You will go by the Statue of Liberty and don't necessarily need to get off the boat here.  I lived in New York for many years and never physically went to see it.    

As for the Empire State Building Observation Deck I would save your money and instead go to the Top of the Rock.  The view of Central Park is amazing and it is less crowded.  Plus then you can walk around 5th Ave and see the beautiful shops.   The tourist Hop On Hop Off New York City tours are actually a pretty fun way to see the city... I recommend the downtown loop.  Other than that just walk as much as you can! Check out the West VillageThe Metropolitan Museum of Art,  and Chelsea Market and have fun!!


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Ellis Island (attraction)
  2. Statue of Liberty (attraction)
  3. Empire State Building Observation Deck (attraction)
  4. Top of the Rock (attraction)
  5. Central Park (attraction)
  6. 5th Ave (attraction)
  7. West Village (neighborhood)
  8. The Metropolitan Museum of Art (attraction)
  9. Chelsea Market (attraction)
4 thanks


answered by
AJ from United States

Tourist traps or not...all are classic NYC spots worth visiting.  Central Park in particular is a living, breathing, city park and a beautiful place to stroll.  Go to the The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Modern Art.  Have a sandwich at Katz's Delicatessen or appetize at Russ & Daughters or have a $1 slice of pizza anywhere you can find it.  Unlike in many other cities where tourist traps really are traps to be avoided, there's just so much history, character and sense of place, that those are all places worth experiencing for the first time.


I don't have any "insider" tips for you, but I also can't think of a better way to see the classics than with new eyes.


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Central Park (attraction)
  2. The Metropolitan Museum of Art (attraction)
  3. Museum of Modern Art (attraction)
  4. Katz's Delicatessen (restaurant)
  5. Russ & Daughters (attraction)
4 thanks


answered by
Nars from Boston

Can't skip Times Square for its giant billboards and the crowd (certainly touristy). Here's a small list:

http://www.ruebarue.com/new-york/attractions


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Times Square (attraction)
3 thanks


answered by
Eve from Milan

I'm a NYC native and I think the Empire State Building is quite special, despite it being touristy. From May through Oct, I suggest the Roof Garden Café and Martini Bar at The Metropolitan Museum of Artfor a fantastic view over Central Park. Ellis Island is great too. Circle Line boat tour around Manhattan (the 3 hr one) is fantastic in the warmer months. I would prob skip Statue of Liberty if time is limited. Don't miss Central Park. Try out a neighborhood or two in Brooklyn (maybe Brooklyn Heights and the promenade by the water, an area right over the BK Bridge (a lovely bridge to cross by foot in the warmer months), or the trendy hipster area of Williamsburg). Just walk around! Or take city buses if you want to be above ground to see what's around while you move about the city... Don't take those tourist buses!


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Roof Garden Café and Martini Bar (restaurant)
  2. The Metropolitan Museum of Art (attraction)
  3. Ellis Island (attraction)
  4. Central Park (attraction)
  5. Brooklyn (neighborhood)
  6. Williamsburg (neighborhood)
3 thanks


answered by
Georgia from Long Island (New York)

it really depends on what you find interesting.  Ellis Island and Statue of Liberty are great, but require a ferry ride ($) so the earlier the better to not waste your day on a waiting line.  there is a donation tour from "Save Ellis Island" that tells you about the hospital facilities that are being conserved.  the Empire State Building Observation Deck is also a time consuming thing and not worth it unless the sky is clear.  there is the option of Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Plaza that is the next best view and has a studio tour.  5th Ave shopping is really nothing more than mall stores that you can see at home.  instead I would window shop the designers on Madison or go down to SoHo where there are boutiques and food.  another must see is The Metropolitan Museum of Art- beautiful but will ask for a donation to get in.  has food trucks outside where you can people watch on the steps, or go in and make your way up to the roof garden-martini bar for a great view of Central Park- time it for sunset and its magic time.  while at the Met- you can also stroll uptown to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum or just cut across the Park and see Central Park Zoo or The Loeb Boathouse Central Parkon the way to American Museum of Natural History.  I would also suggest checking out Lincoln CenterUSS IntrepidNew York Public Library or South Street Seaport for free outdoor movie nights and special events.  I am not a fan of Times Square- maybe the tackiest tourist trap - but it is the gateway to Broadway.  the TKTS Times Square vendor has same day show tickets but might be cash only.  however, I would check sites like Theatermania.com  or Broadway.com for fun listings that might be off-off broadway.  also a good resource: NYC.go has listings of all kinds of things happening by date.  look for walking tours (food, celebrity, history) and scavenger hunts- always fun.  always so much going on, if you have a more specific interest, 


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Ellis Island (attraction)
  2. Statue of Liberty (attraction)
  3. Empire State Building Observation Deck (attraction)
  4. Top of the Rock (attraction)
  5. Rockefeller Plaza (attraction)
  6. 5th Ave (attraction)
  7. SoHo (neighborhood)
  8. The Metropolitan Museum of Art (attraction)
  9. Central Park (attraction)
  10. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (attraction)
  11. Central Park Zoo (attraction)
  12. The Loeb Boathouse Central Park (restaurant)
  13. American Museum of Natural History (attraction)
  14. Lincoln Center (attraction)
  15. USS Intrepid (neighborhood)
  16. New York Public Library (attraction)
  17. South Street Seaport (attraction)
  18. Times Square (attraction)
  19. Broadway (attraction)
  20. TKTS Times Square (attraction)
3 thanks


answered by
Carly from Wisconsin

I visited NYC for the first time last year and I would say the only tourist trap I really experienced was Little Italy and Chinatown New York. I think they are both worth a walk through to see them but don't get sucked into an overpriced Italian restaurant. Otherwise, a few places I don't see on the many list below is McSorley's Old Ale House - it is the oldest bar in NYC and still have wishbones hanging on lights from soldiers before going off to war. There is sawdust on the floor, only light or dark beer and they only take cash. They barrow electricity from the building next door. Its a pretty cool place. John's Pizzeria is a hidden gem of an awesome pizza place. We went for lunch when it was less busy. On the way, stop at all the street markets. Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre East is a great comedy club. Fat cat jazz is in a basement of a building with nice jazz where you can sit on a couch with locals or play some shuffle board while drinking. Make sure to try out the bagels while you are there too!


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Little Italy (neighborhood)
  2. Chinatown New York (neighborhood)
  3. McSorley's Old Ale House (restaurant)
  4. John's Pizzeria (restaurant)
  5. Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre East (restaurant)
2 thanks


answered by
Peter from Bloomington (Indiana)

Jazz at the Village Vanguard -- not the most glamorous room in the city, but one with a lot of history.


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Village Vanguard (attraction)
2 thanks


answered by
Anna from Athens

During my first visit in NYC I did everything a guide mentions!! I started off with a hop on hop off tour and did the downtown loop, uptown loop and Brooklyn.

I visited Empire State Building Observation DeckStatue of Liberty (and Ellis Island). The visit at the statue was worthwhile. Also visited the museum and reached up to the statues pedestal!

I briefly visited Central Park. Went to The Metropolitan Museum of ArtMuseum of Modern Art and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (the latter mainly for architecture).

I walked an awful lot! 

My favorite neighborhoods are SoHo and Greenwich Village!

The question is how much days you have there and what season you're going to visit. If it's a busy season, better book some things in advance (e.g. visit to the Statue of Liberty). 

I have some suggestions on my blog here(from my first visit): http://aspectsofstyle.com/2013/10/31/new-york-city/

Here are some "extra" things you can do (and some overlapping with the first post). http://aspectsofstyle.com/2015/01/09/three-days-in-new-york-city/

And a few restaurants suggestions here: http://aspectsofstyle.com/2015/02/19/3-restaurants-in-nyc-worth-visiting/

What you really need is to put a map down, see which places you absolutely want to visit and make a detailed plan. To this day, my trip to NYC was my most organized one!!


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Empire State Building Observation Deck (attraction)
  2. Statue of Liberty (attraction)
  3. Ellis Island (attraction)
  4. Central Park (attraction)
  5. The Metropolitan Museum of Art (attraction)
  6. Museum of Modern Art (attraction)
  7. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (attraction)
  8. SoHo (neighborhood)
  9. Greenwich Village (neighborhood)
2 thanks


answered by
Bonnie from United States

I think visiting classic NYC destinations are great for a first time visitor. I think you would be disappointed if you didn't.

If you don't want to be too "touristy" there are great ways to see NYC landmarks in a different way. You can go to the Empire State Building at night-the lines are much shorter.

You can take the Staten Island Ferry and get an amazing view of the Statue of Liberty.

If you head to the Pier 2 Roller Rink at Brooklyn Bridge Park you can get amazing views of Manhattan. 

You should also pick a few neighborhoods to wander around. The Lower East Side and the West Village are great neighborhoods to explore. 


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Empire State Building (attraction)
  2. Staten Island Ferry (attraction)
  3. Statue of Liberty (attraction)
  4. Pier 2 Roller Rink at Brooklyn Bridge Park (attraction)
2 thanks


answered by
John

Yes they are tourist traps but that's ok. What's funny is I've never been to the Statue of Liberty(I've seen it enough times).


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Statue of Liberty (attraction)
2 thanks


answered by
Perla from Alexandria (Virginia)

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. The Metropolitan Museum of Art (attraction)
  2. Hell's Kitchen (attraction)
  3. Museum of Modern Art (attraction)
  4. Times Square (attraction)
2 thanks


answered first by
Mike from West Chester (Pennsylvania)

If you're into history, genealogy, etc., the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are highly recommended. If you just want to pay a lot for a great view of the city, the Empire State Building is for you.  


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Statue of Liberty (attraction)
  2. Ellis Island (attraction)
  3. Empire State Building (attraction)
2 thanks




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