20 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in New York City

Jul 22, 2021

The most populous city in the United States, New York City (USA) is the center of the world's most significant metropolitan area, the "Big Apple." Its boroughs are home to 5.5 million people and the city boasts over half of the nation's population.

This guide takes an overview of New York City, its neighborhoods, and the best places to see and visit in the five boroughs of NYC. We've also included some additional sightseeing tips and things to do that aren't found in a New York City travel guide.

Times Square

Photo of Times Square
Times Square: en.wikipedia.org

Times Square, the busiest crossroads in the world, is the birthplace of New York City. The intersection of Broadway and Seventh Avenue was first developed in 1904 as part of a westward expansion of Manhattan and became a center of political and social activity as New York rapidly grew as a center of commerce. Between the early 1960s and the late 1980s, Times Square featured the world's first and largest open-air restaurant, the New Year's Eve Ball drop at midnight on New Year's Eve. On certain holidays, Times Square becomes a virtual party street, with drink-benders encouraged to drink at local bars. Public displays of affection, including kissing, dancing, and other acts that may be perceived as obscene, are forbidden. Over the years, Times Square has attracted many of the world's most well-known television and film producers. It is also a center for advertising and major media. Retailers and hotels, eager to have their name in the limelight, often set up permanent displays in Times Square and profit from the neon lights, advertising, and ensuing crowds.

Seaport District

Photo of South Street Seaport
South Street Seaport: en.wikipedia.org

New York City's seaport district includes a number of interesting sights, including the largest collection of early 19th century warehouses in the country, and Pier A, the first cantilevered Pier in America. The center of the Seaport District is a neighborhood called South Street Seaport, in the southern part of Manhattan and formerly the city's main wharf. The bustle of a busy city lives on along the waterfront, and warehouses, banks, restaurants, shops, and boutiques are lined on the stretch between South Street and the East River. Two attractions that don't often get enough attention in this part of New York are the National Museum of the American Indian and the New York Maritime Museum, both of which are located along the East River waterfront. Among the many restaurants and cafes available in the area, East River Seafood, offering a wide range of seafood dishes and a view of the Brooklyn Bridge, is one of the city's best. It's located at the foot of the Metropolitan Life Tower.

Central Park

Photo of Central Park
Central Park: en.wikipedia.org

Central Park is New York City's most visited park. Its star attractions include the first-rate zoo, Belvedere Castle, and the main attraction itself, the children's Carousel. The iconic 630-acre park also has its fair share of history and mystery. Its boathouse is said to have been built by William Shakespeare and Walt Whitman. An archaeological dig in 1980 in the gardens revealed the remains of a former Native American village. It also has a famous tunnel, large central water feature, and terraced hills with a Zen-like ambiance that are perfect for taking a break.

Brooklyn Bridge

Photo of Brooklyn Bridge
Brooklyn Bridge: en.wikipedia.org

The Brooklyn Bridge is the most famous of New York's 21,000 bridges. The original one, completed in 1883, is four lanes wide and spans 1,595 feet across the East River. The city's most beloved structure is impressive from both sides; it is especially spectacular at night when lit up in all its glory. It is also a popular spot for nighttime photography. From the Manhattan side, the bridge has a sidewalk and room for walkers. On the Brooklyn side, the bridge provides the entrance to a dense area of shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues.

Bryant Park

Photo of Bryant Park
Bryant Park: en.wikipedia.org

Named after a New York City policeman who was killed in the line of duty in the 1890s, the tree-filled, fenced and paved park is home to many different events each year. Highlights include the Boast Books Festival, New York Fashion Week, International Gardening Festival and numerous New York City Green Weeks, while last year's Making of Fashion event saw over 700 designers flock to Bryant Park to display their work. Bryant Park is also home to the The New York Times Headquarters. This landmark building, with its unique stone facade and white marble columns, was designed in the French Beaux Arts style by Stanford White. Completed in 1905, the NYT building was once the tallest structure in New York City.

Madison Square Park

Photo of Madison Square and Madison Square Park
Madison Square and Madison Square Park: en.wikipedia.org

Madison Square Park is the cultural center of New York, from its Victorian-era architecture to the tree-shaded seating and gardens. In addition to being home to the famous Delacorte Theater and Central Park, it is also the venue for events, public celebrations and meetings and is surrounded by office towers and hotels. Many outdoor activities can be enjoyed in Madison Square Park, including hiking and jogging, picnicking, children's play areas and sports, as well as concerts, marathons and bicycle races. An urban plaza with some 200 works of public art, the park is also the home of many legendary restaurants, pubs and clubs.

St. Patrick's Cathedral

Photo of St. Patrick's Cathedral (Manhattan)
St. Patrick's Cathedral (Manhattan): en.wikipedia.org

St. Patrick's Cathedral is the largest church in the United States, and has been the center of American Catholicism since its construction in 1884. Its gargantuan dimensions make it one of the most familiar Catholic landmarks, even though many New Yorkers may be unfamiliar with its fascinating history. Construction of the cathedral began in 1858 under architect Richard Upjohn. It was originally built to serve as the new main church for the American Catholic diocese of New York, but grew quickly beyond its original plan, necessitating alterations that would last for several decades. In 1887, architect Ernest Flagg was appointed to replace Upjohn and would spend most of his life on the cathedral's construction. In the course of his long and illustrious career, Flagg designed over 100 churches. Most notable among them is the nine-story Neo-Gothic Trinity Church, considered the epitome of New York style Gothic. His work at the cathedral also includes several wrought-iron screens, high windows, carved marble columns, and elaborate mosaics. The interior is a kaleidoscope of opulent pewing and elaborately decorated altars. Visitors can catch services at the cathedral or attend concerts.

Empire State Building

Photo of Empire State Building
Empire State Building: en.wikipedia.org

The Empire State Building is one of the most recognized structures in the world. It's instantly recognizable thanks to its Art Deco motifs, triangular shape, dark blue and white color scheme, and 76 stories set atop a skyscraper that begins at the bottom of the site's grand front steps. The top floors are home to numerous restaurants and bar-bistros, as well as the Empire State Building Skyline Restaurant and the observatory at the 102nd floor. At the very top of the building is a rotating glass floor, so guests can have a bird's-eye view of the city.

One World Observatory

Photo of One World Trade Center
One World Trade Center: en.wikipedia.org

One World Observatory (at the top of One World Trade Center) offers one of the most spectacular views in the city. Located at the top of the Freedom Tower, it takes visitors on a 270-degree journey across the Western hemisphere. At the heart of this journey is New York City, with the observation deck framed by the floor-to-ceiling windows of the Freedom Tower. Visitors can see a panoramic view of Manhattan, as well as Central Park and the rest of the city skyline.

Carnegie Hall

Photo of Carnegie Hall
Carnegie Hall: en.wikipedia.org

Carnegie Hall is best known as one of the premier venues for performances in the U.S. It is home to the prestigious New York Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as a prestigious list of performers including celebrated singers such as Paul Robeson, Frank Sinatra, and Peggy Lee. Even non-musicians love the place. Established in 1891, it's easily accessible from New York's Upper West Side or Harlem, and its famed building still has an imposing "Castle on the Hudson" facade. Inside, though, it's a different world, featuring plush carpeting, marble and wood flooring, and plush upholstered seats in the auditorium. Carnegie Hall also offers a vast range of events for all ages and interests, including performances by legendary musicians, arts education programs, and school tours.

Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

Photo of Liberty Island
Liberty Island: en.wikipedia.org

The world's best-known statue, Liberty Enlightening the World, dates to its unveiling in 1886 and was sculpted by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi from Paris. Fittingly the tower that supports Liberty was designed by French engineer Thomas Hancock, who had been hired to repair the structure's foot. Standing some 60 meters high, the statue is among the world's most photographed landmarks and inspired artists, filmmakers and even stage actors, including Garbo and Gary Cooper. The Statue of Liberty's unique history spans the nineteenth century, when she was fashioned for the centennial of the United States, and the 1960s when she was copied and counterfeited for political purposes during the Cold War. Today the grounds of the Statue of Liberty, at the tip of Liberty Island, are home to the US Ellis Island Immigration Center, which provides visitors a glimpse into the US Immigration history. Of the millions of people who passed through, just 120,000 were granted citizenship. The Ellis Island Complex also includes a museum to document the country's immigration history and an interactive immigration experience.

Grand Central Terminal

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Grand Central Terminal: en.wikipedia.org

A hub of the railroad network, Grand Central Terminal is the world's largest train station, with 11 platforms. The terminal's arrival hall, a vast space covered by a massive glass ceiling, is so large that it has its own zip code, 10022. Not only does the hall attract nearly two million visitors per year, but the train station is so beautiful that it was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1963 and was honored by the US Congress in 1985 as a National Monument. Today it is home to shopping outlets, luxury shops, a library and the Museum of the City of New York.

Radio City Music Hall

Photo of Radio City Music Hall
Radio City Music Hall: en.wikipedia.org

This Art Deco theater, built in 1931 and reopened in 2004, has been home to a diverse array of artists including Fred Astaire, the Marx Brothers, and The Rockettes. Be sure to visit the venue's fascinating museum that presents the history of the city's theater industry and looks at the entertainment that takes place on a daily basis. See the performers, too, as The Rockettes and New York City Ballet are on regular performance schedule. Headliners play at the recently renovated theater most months of the year with a range of concerts and entertainment shows.

Greenwich Village

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Greenwich Village: en.wikipedia.org

New York's Greenwich Village is a funky, artsy, bohemian neighborhood centered on the intersection of Seventh Avenue and Greenwich Avenue, just north of the Hudson River. Nestled in the center of Manhattan, it's known for its unique art galleries, trendy bars and nightclubs, and ever-changing mix of artists, models, dancers, musicians, and characters. Despite its reputation as one of New York's trendiest neighborhoods, Greenwich Village is still a great place to experience New York's vibe. The Village is especially vibrant during the weekend for block parties and special events. Greenwich Village is home to a variety of shops and cafes, as well as some of the city's best-known nightclubs, bars, and restaurants. Come to enjoy the city at its best.

Joe's Pizza

Photo of Joe's Pizza
Joe's Pizza: en.wikipedia.org

Located in a touristy area of Manhattan not far from Times Square, Joe's Pizza has been entertaining tourists with its traditional Italian cuisine since 1978. As a trademark, it is well known for its size: The pizzas are giant 12-inch pizzas with unusual toppings and traditional pasta dishes. They are delicious, with a crispy crust, and this is the one place that non-American's can find out what "Deep-Dish" means. They are the best in New York!

Museum of Modern Art

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Museum of Modern Art: en.wikipedia.org

In the heart of midtown Manhattan, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) opened its doors to the public in 1929. This museum houses the largest collection of modern art in the world and has played a major role in introducing the latest trends and innovations in art, which, as the name implies, spans the entire history of the medium and the years since World War II. Including works by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Paul Cézanne, Vincent van Gogh, Piet Mondrian, Edgar Degas, Joan Miro, Yves Klein, Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Chuck Close, Jeff Koons, Bruce Nauman, Mike Kelley, Norman O. Brown, Henry Geldzahler, Arthur Korn, Jasper Johns, and Andy Warhol, MoMA has collections from a number of other collections around the world. A particularly strong program is devoted to Japanese and African art, and the museum has developed strong relationships with American artists, such as David Hockney, who will lend artwork to MoMA for many years. Getting to MoMA from Central Park involves no subway or streetcars, but a 5- to 8-minute ride on the A line of the New York City subway, which stops at 11th Street-8th Avenue. This route takes passengers through Museum Mile, a stretch of 52 blocks along Museum Row in midtown Manhattan. To make it easy, MoMA is located directly across from the MoMA/NMA tower at 8th Avenue and 53rd Street, less than a block from Central Park.

Rockefeller Center

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Rockefeller Center: en.wikipedia.org

Rockefeller Center is a square block located at the center of the Midtown Manhattan business district. Designed by architect Norman Bel Geddes and completed in 1931, it is widely considered one of the great architectural landmarks of the 20th century. The center is constructed around a major fountainscape and has five interconnected spires, two of which are 190 feet high. The bronze bull overlooking the plaza is the work of Spanish sculptor Constantino Brumidi. The area's name commemorates the American business magnate, John D. Rockefeller Jr., who donated the property to the city in 1930. The buildings and fountains stand on formerly open ground, a portion of the original building site of New York's Grand Central Terminal, completed in 1913. In addition to its apartments and offices, the center is home to the New York City office of the United Nations, a museum, several shops and restaurants, and the famed NBC studios.

Washington Square Park

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Washington Square Park: en.wikipedia.org

This beautiful 5-acre park is one of New York's main attractions and a favorite among locals. Designed in 1858 by Central Park designer Frederick Law Olmsted, it became famous after appearing in the 1992 film Howards End, starring Winona Ryder and Emma Thompson. Travel to the city and visit the park, which is surrounded by well-tended walkways and open green spaces and is bordered by many of the city's top hotels, such as the Fairmont Grand, the Pierre, and the Hotel Beacon. Upon arrival, take a walk around the perimeter of the park and look for the 250-year-old Arc de Triomphe on Avenue of the Americas, located at the center of the park. Also explore the wonderful Café Carlyle, a prominent art deco landmark, while sitting at its front window and reading the New York Times. Afterward, take a stroll through the park, enjoying its many attractions, including a gazebo and bench, a fountain, a cricket-filled garden, and the ornamental benches and historical statues scattered throughout.

Union Square

Photo of Union Square, Manhattan
Union Square, Manhattan: en.wikipedia.org

More than 90 years after the October 1929 stock market crash, New York's most famous intersection remains the center of New York's financial district. The square itself is small, but it's the more than 140 shops, banks, and restaurants inside that occupy the surrounding streets that make it a destination in its own right. A family-friendly day out, the neighborhood attracts an eclectic crowd with food carts, ice-skating (in winter) and artists, and is just a short walk from two subway lines, making it a great option for traveling in and out of the city.

Broadway and Theater District

Photo of Theater District, Manhattan
Theater District, Manhattan: en.wikipedia.org

The Theater District is usually divided into two areas: Broadway from 59th Street to West 45th Street and West 45th to 65th Street; and the Off-Broadway area to the west, which includes the Angelika Film Center, Joe's Pub, and the McGinn/Cazale Theater. Major venues include the Nederlander Theatre, the Eugene O'Neill Theatre, and the Marquis Theater, which recently reopened after a $60-million renovation. Other venues are located on West 45th, West 47th, and West 51st streets. The Broadway playhouse theaters offer an excellent variety of musical productions. Some of the many options include the Gershwin Theatre, the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, the Majestic Theatre, the Minskoff Theatre, and the Newman Theatre. Others are the Cort Theatre, the Longacre Theatre, the Palace Theatre, the Signature Theatre, the St. James Theatre, and the Vivian Beaumont Theatre. The plays presented in New York are a mixture of contemporary and classical American theater. Tickets can be obtained at various box office locations.