New York tourist attractions

Top New York attractions

No superlative, no cliché does New York City justice. It may not serve as the official capital of the US or even of New York State, but it’s the undisputed capital of the world in many regards.

  1. Statue of Liberty
  2. Empire State Building
  3. Metropolitan Museum of Art
  4. Brooklyn Bridge
  5. 9/11 Memorial & Museum
  6. Central Park
  7. Coney Island
  8. Times Square and Broadway

Best of all, you don’t have to look too hard for New York attractions. They’re just staring you right in the face: the raised torch of the Statue of Liberty; the iconic Empire State Building; the hype and hustle of Times Square. For energy and dynamism, cultural impact and sheer diversity, New York can’t be beaten.

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1. Statue of Liberty

There’s no greater symbol of the American dream than this magnificent torch-bearing statue. A steady stream of ferries circle the 305ft monument - it’s a thrill to see her come into sight as you sail through the New York Harbor breeze. A ferry ticket allows entry to Liberty Island grounds. To access the interior of the statue, the museum inside and the pedestal observation deck (168 steps up), you have to buy a special ticket in advance (no extra charge). For the most spectacular views, you’ll need a ticket to enter the statue’s crown (includes ferry) and climb 354 steps.

Tip: Book your “crown tickets” in advance if you can – they get snapped up fast.

2. Empire State Building

Still the most original and elegant skyscraper of them all, there’s no better way to take in the New York skyline. It stands at 102 floors and 1454ft – toe to TV mast – its Art Deco design a striking sight from wherever you are. Elevators take you to the main 86th-floor Observatory. The views from the outside walkways here are as stunning as you’d expect; on a clear day visibility is up to 80 miles. Now that’s New York sightseeing.

Tip: Beat the crowds with a Sunrise Experience, and watch the city wake up before the observatory opens to the public.

3. Metropolitan Museum of Art

You could easily spend a whole day (or week or month) at the Met, exploring everything from Egyptian artefacts to modern masters. Some say it’s America’s best museum, taking in over 2million works spanning the cultures of America, Europe, Africa, the Far East, and the classical and Egyptian worlds. The American Wing is close to being a museum in its own right, featuring every big name from Jackson Pollock to Edward Hopper. And you won’t forget encountering Damien Hirst’s 13ft tiger shark in a glass tank of formaldehyde, jaws open wide, on the second floor.

Tip: Between May and October, ascend to the Roof Garden Bar for incredible views and contemporary sculpture exhibits.

4. Brooklyn Bridge

A feature of countless movies, this iconic structure connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn was the world’s longest suspension bridge when it was built in 1883. Take the less-than-a-mile walk across to see beautiful views of the downtown skyline and Harbor Islands. The best sight is of the giant skyscrapers clustered in the Financial District, shoulder to shoulder through the spidery latticework of the cables - a mesmerizing glimpse of this 21st-century metropolis.

Tip: Get your bagel fix at Leo’s Bagels, near the bridge in Brooklyn, with huge dollops of cream cheese and various schmears.

5. 9/11 Memorial & Museum

The incredibly moving National September 11 Memorial & Museum was dedicated on 11 September 2011 to commemorate the ten-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Two memorial pools represent the footprints of the original towers, each around one acre in size, with 30ft waterfalls tumbling down their sides. The underground 9/11 Memorial Museum lies in between the two memorial pools. In its Foundation Hall are remnants of the original Twin Towers, a half-crushed FDNY fire truck and the heavily inscribed “Last Column”, the last piece of steel to be removed from Ground Zero in 2002. At the heart of the museum is the September 11, 2001 Historical Exhibition, a poignant blend of images, recordings and videos covering the 9/11 attacks minute by minute.

Tip: The Tribute in Light installation, of 88 searchlights, illuminates the night sky every year on September 11.

6. Central Park

No New York holiday would be complete without a day in the city’s most beloved swathe of greenery. Smack in the middle of Manhattan, extending from 59th to 110th streets, it provides a relaxing refuge from big-city life. If the weather’s nice, head straight to the Mall, where you’ll find every manner of street performer. Kids will enjoy the Carousel in Central Park, or simply watching the in-line skaters who congregate at the Mall or Sheep Meadow. Stop by Strawberry Field, the peaceful pocket of the park dedicated to the memory of John Lennon, who was murdered outside his home nearby. A round mosaic with the word “Imagine” at its centre is where people gather to listen to buskers strumming Beatles songs.

Tip: Winter in Central Park is just as delightful, with horse-and-carriage rides and an ice rink.

7. Coney Island

Ride on classics like the Wonder Wheel or Cyclone, or on the newer Thunderbolt coaster, high above the boardwalk, for a proper New York-style seaside thrill. Generations of working-class New Yorkers came to relax at this far point of Brooklyn, and its slightly shabby, raucous brand of entertainment makes it an intriguing place for tourists today. The boardwalk makes for a fun sunny-day stroll, and the 50-or-so rides of Luna Park (late March to Oct, days and hours vary), are a thrill. Considered the “birthplace of the hot dog”, devouring a big fat ‘dog on the beach is a must.

Tip: Summertime highlights include the 4th July Hot Dog Eating Contest, and the Mermaid Parade (3rd or 4th Sat in June).

8. Times Square and Broadway

The towering signs and flashing lights of Times Square, just north of 42nd Street where Seventh Avenue intersects with Broadway, bring a whole new meaning to the term “sensory overload”. More than 300,000 people pass through daily to see the spectacle of ostentatiously big advert screens, mass consumerism and dazzling bright lights. On New Year’s Eve, hundreds of thousands more come to watch the “ball drop”, New York’s famous ball’s 60-second descent down a flagpole, which marks midnight. The adjoining Theater District and its million-dollar Broadway productions is a major New York tourist attraction - taking in a Broadway play or musical is always an unforgettable experience.

Tip: TKTS booth at 47th Street in Times Square sells half-price, same day tickets for Broadway shows.

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