Sightseeing in New York City is on another level. It’s arguably the most famous place in the world. Packed with stores, restaurants, bars and endless places to visit, NYC is a lot for even New Yorkers to handle. Mix the city’s features with its sheer size and popularity, and it’s easy to see why nearly 63 million people flocked to NYC in 2017 alone. Preparing for your first trip to NYC can be a daunting task. We’ve got you covered. Check out our list below!
If you're heading to NYC for the first time, there are at least 15 reasons you should read this article. Click To Tweet
1. Visit Central Park
If you could only visit NYC once, Central Park could single-handedly make your trip one of the most memorable of your life. It’s a beautiful park (in every season). Concerts are held there. It’s a massive (nearly 850 acres), living, breathing tourist attraction. Go there for a bite to eat, to get your daily fitness fix, people watch and so much more. Take half or an entire day to take advantage of the playgrounds, fountains, bridges and museums.
Here are 26 Fun Things to Do in Central Park
2. Pass by Times Square
Walking through Times Square for first time visitors to NYC is like a rite of passage. The scale of the gigantic billboards is impressive. The number of establishments is dizzying. Go there, let yourself be mesmerized for a few moments and move on to somewhere a little more interesting.
Disclaimer: The irony of Times Square is that you’ll probably see more tourists there than locals.
For more information, visit the official Times Square website.
3. Glimpse the Statue of Liberty
The Statue of Liberty is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world. You haven’t been sightseeing in New York City if you haven’t seen Lady Liberty. Is it one of the most cliché touristy things to do? Absolutely. Is it still worth doing? Again, absolutely. You wouldn’t skip the Colosseum in Rome, or the Great Wall of China. Why would you skip the Statue of Liberty? You can see it with one of the many tours offered in NYC or see it for free via the Staten Island Ferry.
4. Cross the Brooklyn Bridge
New York City is comprised of 5 boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island. There are bridges connecting many of the boroughs to one another, of them, one of the most famous, is the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s over 130 years old and stretches across the East River (Brooklyn to Lower Manhattan), and is an iconic part of NYC’s gorgeous skyline. What’s one of the best parts of the bridge? It’s pedestrian friendly.
Here’s everything you need to know about crossing the Brooklyn Bridge by foot.
5. Hang Out at Battery Park
Located in south Manhattan, Battery Park is a 25-acre green haven. It makes environmental conservation and biodiversity efforts look easy. From its days as a point of defense against potential enemies to its modern-day public gardens, harbor views, and the unique SeaGlass carousel, the Battery is a key piece of NYC’s identity. Don’t miss it.
Visit the Battery for information on this amazing park.
6. Gaze Up at the Freedom Tower
While sightseeing in New York City, stop by the One World Trade Center, previously known as the Freedom Tower sands tall as a beacon of hope in NYC. It offers a 360-degree view of the city, insight on 911, a museum and a park (created in memory of 9/11 victims). There are also interesting facts about how New York City has grown and changed over the years.
Browse the 911memorial website for more details.
7. Ascend the Empire State Building
While on the topic of skyscrapers, the Empire State Building is one of the most iconic in the world, let alone NYC. You’ve likely seen it in movies, TV shows, magazines and more. And it’s no less impressive in person. The view from the top of this giant yet sleek building can sometimes be foggy, but on a good day, it’s stunning. Check the weather before you go and arrive early to beat the crowds.
8. Walk Through Grand Central Terminal
Saved by former First Lady Jackie Kennedy in the 1970s, NYC’s most famous train station is now a popular destination for tourists. Check out the Dining Concourse and the Oyster Bar restaurants for delicious food. Step into the time machine that is Campbell Apartment Bar. It’s fancy and expensive with a 1920s theme, but the experience is worth it. You can even break a sweat at the Vanderbilt Tennis Club if you reserve early enough in advance.
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9. Rockefeller Center
The Rockefeller Center and the surrounding area is one of the busiest places in New York City. Like many other parts of the City that Never Sleeps, there are plenty of great places to eat and shop around. Head to the Top of the Rock(efeller Center) to cross this off your sightseeing in New York City to-do list.
Hint: You can see 2 other immense skyscrapers from here, as well as an entire grid of beautiful buildings, the water and more.
Check out the Rockefeller Center for more information.
10. Head to the Museum
Museums are a huge part of NYC culture, and with good reason. The city is home to several dozens of them, all catering to different aspects of art, history and more. Many of NYC’s museums have free days or entry times. If you’re on a budget or cheap date, a museum is always a safe bet. Here’s a short list:
Also, here’s a list of the 25 Best Museums in New York City
11. Get Theatrical on Broadway
If you’re into theater and the arts, a visit to Broadway is a must. Kill two birds with one stone by hitting Times Square and catching a musical or play right after. Hamilton, the Lion King, Aladdin, the Phantom of the Opera, School of Rock, Frozen and many others are available for your viewing pleasure. Shop around online for discounted tickets.
Visit broadway.com or download the app for more details.
12. The Cloisters
The Cloisters is such a unique and remarkable museum that it deserves its own section.
It’s the only museum of its kind in the US. It’s entirely dedicated to medieval art. Located near Fort Tyron Park, the Cloisters museum displays actual cloisters, serene gardens, European tapestries and more. Who knew anyone could get so close to Europe without leaving Manhattan? This is usually a highlight for history buffs sightseeing in New York City.
13. Catch a Sports Game
They may not always be the champions, but New York is a major sports city. With 2 Major League Baseball teams, 3 National Hockey League teams, 2 National Basketball League teams, 3 National Football League teams (depending on who you ask), 1 Major League Soccer team and several international and minor league teams, catching the game is always an option. Grab a friend. Buy a ticket. Grab a hot dog, a drink and have some fun.
14. Become a TV Star
Okay, becoming a TV star is a bit of a stretch. That said, you can be a part of the live studio audience for a few New York based TV shows. Good Morning America, the Today Show, the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Live with Kelly and Ryan and more filmed in NYC. Make a reservation as soon as your flight and accommodation are booked. Many of them give tickets away at no cost.
With its cosmopolitan food scene, you can taste a bit of every country in the world from an NYC restaurant. It’s no wonder New York has the highest number of eateries per Capita in North America. Try a food tour, street food or a Michelin-star restaurant. There are options for every price point imaginable.
Get started with Eater New York’s 38 Essential Restaurants in New York City.
Headed to NYC on a Budget? Read some of our best travel tips below to make your bank account happy.
First-timers to NYC typically stick to the more touristy activities. If that sounds like you, get yourself an NY City PASS or C3 Pass. Save time and money. Skip the ticket counter. Have fun.
See the graphic below for details
New York City is impressive in more ways than one. It’s the kind of place where you could spend a lifetime and still discover new places to visit and things to do every day. But if you’re a newcomer or just haven’t checked many major attractions off your to-do list, this is a good starting point.