Planning a trip to the Big Apple? There are endless things to do in New York City, NY. If you’re in search of a vacation packed with rich history, famous art, and astonishing skyline views, start packing your bags for your NYC holiday. As over 8.5 million people call this city home, it’s bustling with energy. With the diversity of activities, there’s something for everyone in this metropolis.
Connect with your family history by browsing the records of immigrants at Ellis Island, with a view of the Statue of Liberty in the distance. Look through some of the finest art curations in the world, from The Whitney for more modern art to The Metropolitan Museum of Art for historical and classical pieces. Take a ride in a sky pod up to the 102nd floor of the One World Observatory for a dazzling 360-degree view of the city’s horizon, cocktail in hand.
Trying to decide what to see first on your NYC holiday? Use this guide to the best places to visit in New York City to plan the perfect itinerary.
Got more travel plans on the horizon? Check out all our other attractions guides and our New York Travel Guide for more ideas on where to go, when to visit & what to do!
Best places to visit in New York City, NY
In the center of Manhattan is one of New York City’s iconic landmarks: Central Park. Sounds of sirens and traffic fade away into 843 peaceful acres of chirping birds, shady paths, and outdoor fun.
Central Park feels like an oasis amidst the hustle and bustle of Manhattan. Depending on which season you visit, the activities vary.
Do you prefer a winter wonderland or a grassy green atmosphere?
In the winter, find your way to Wollman Pond for ice skating. Or, enjoy a horse and carriage ride through the park. The perky coachmen are great storytellers and tour guides.
In the warmer months, pack up a lunch and enjoy a picturesque picnic with a view of NYC’s skyscrapers peeking out from behind Central Park’s treeline. Head to the lakes for a gondola ride or to rent a boat.
If you’re into theater or shows, you can find a number of performances like Shakespeare in the Park, live music, and even magic shows.
New York City is a melting pot of cultures from around the world, and Ellis Island is one of the greatest symbols of this. Ellis Island was a major port of entry for over 12 million immigrants. Today, its history and the tales of the immigrants seeking the American Dream are preserved in museums and sites on the island.
Embark to Ellis Island by ferry from either Battery Park or Liberty State Park. Once you’ve arrived, explore the very building that the original immigrants passed through. Inside lies the National Museum of History. The museum showcases lost or forgotten items of the immigrants, original photos, journal entries, and many more artifacts.
Ellis Island offers a fantastic opportunity to learn more about your own family heritage as well. Visit the American Family Immigration Center for its database of over 65 million records. Discover connections to your own ancestors and their journey to the new world. A family history lesson is a vacation experience like no other!
Amusement park fun meets rich New York City history at Coney Island. Coney Island is actually an entire neighborhood in Brooklyn. But if you venture toward New York Bay, you’ll discover the beach and boardwalk, where you’ll find old-timey arcades and rides, shows, and delicious carnival food.
Approaching the boardwalk and carnival area, you’ll hear the dings and whistles of games and rides around you. Take your pick from classics like bumper cars, roller coasters, and a Ferris wheel with an incredible view of the Big Apple from the top. You’re never too old for the circus! You’ll be astounded by the performers at the Coney Island Circus Sideshow.
When you’re ready to eat, check out Nathan’s Famous for their vintage atmosphere, and unique loaded hotdogs. (Think: chili cheese style dogs!)
To wash it all down, mosey over to the Coney Island Brewing Company for a frosty craft beer. Sit outside for interesting people-watching at Coney Island.
The High Line
Typically, train tracks and public parks don’t go together. But The High Line in Manhattan’s West Side proves this pairing can equal a beautiful collision of history and nature. (Well, granted, the tracks are out of commission.)
The raised freight rail was converted into an urban oasis in 2009. The High Line currently features restaurants, outdoor art, and stunning landscaping and is among the top tourist attractions in New York City.
Atop the converted rails, you can wander through pathways with flowers, trees, and bushes all around you. You’ll notice modern artwork and sculptures to admire periodically.
Grab a snack from the open-air food court, then relax for a while on the benches made from original wood from the train tracks. Take in the stunning views of West Village and the Hudson River.
The High Line’s design honors the history of the tracks. The location of the Diller-Von Furstenberg Sundeck and Water Feature was chosen as it’s where water used to accumulate on the original tracks. Today, it’s where you’ll find children splashing in the sprinklers and fountains.
Empire State Building
Ready for a bird’s-eye view of the Big Apple? Sitting in the center of Midtown Manhattan, the Empire State Building features a 360-degree view of the city. Even if you only have one day in NYC, a visit to the Empire State Building is a way to experience New York from a whole new perspective.
After you take the elevator up, you’ll make your way through exhibits outlining the construction of the Empire State Building and what life was like in New York during this time in the 1930s. This is also where you’ll begin your queuing for the two observation decks.
Spend as long as you like on the 86th-floor outdoor deck appreciating the spectacular view of New York City. If you look closely, you can see the Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park, and the Statue of Liberty.
For an extra special experience, take the glass elevator up to the 102nd floor for an even more impressive view!
Hunting for the perfect al fresco dining atmosphere in New York? Or maybe you’re looking for artisanal shopping, outdoor shows, or an escape to nature from the concrete jungle of NYC? Bryant Park has all of this—and more!
Located along 42nd Street just blocks from Times Square, Bryant Park is a great spot for families as it has lots of open space to frolic, play, or picnic. Your little ones will love to swing, crawl, and slide the day away at the Funkytown Playground.
You’ll find something interesting going on every day at Bryant Park: From a juggler’s meet-up, to dance classes, and live performances, you can join in or sit back and watch.
The shops around the outskirts of Bryant Park sell hand-crafted jewelry, New York-themed souvenirs, and artwork. If you’re looking for a bite, the Bryant Park Cafe is known for its phenomenal food and a fantastic happy hour.
Top of the Rock
One of the best spots for a breathtaking NYC view is Top of the Rock in Manhattan’s Rockefeller Center. The building’s Art Deco style is a reminder of its inception during the Great Depression. It’s the perfect atmosphere to immerse yourself in NYC history before you take in the views of the city as it is today.
The 67th and 69th floors are sprinkled with art and exhibits. You’ll be mesmerized as you walk along the Radiance Wall, full of dazzling crystal clusters and asymmetrical blown-glass panels.
In the Beam Walk exhibit, you’ll have a chance to recreate the famous photo of workers perched on a beam above the city. Then, from the 70th-floor observation deck, you’ll have an unobstructed, breathtaking 360-degree view of the city.
PRO TIP: Visit the Top of the Rock an hour before sunset to see the brilliant daylight views of the city transform into sparkling city lights by night!
One World Observatory
The One World Trade Center is famous for being the tallest building in the United States and for the attractions found throughout its many floors. One of which is the One World Observatory, the perfect place for viewing the New York City skyline.
Spanning the 100th and 102nd floors of the One World Trade Center, the One World Observatory includes jaw-dropping views, gourmet dining, and entertainment.
Take the lightning-fast sky pod elevator to the 100th floor and begin your One World experience with the See Forever Theater. This walk-through audiovisual presentation captures the pulse of New York and culminates in the first view you’ll have of the skyline.
You can grab a coffee at the Illy Cafe and enjoy the views of New York’s horizon further, making your way to the other floors.
For a one-of-a-kind dining experience above the city that never sleeps, make reservations at the One World Observatory’s restaurant. Have a toast to New York City as you dine 102 floors up above the city. This meal will surely be unforgettable!
Statue of Liberty
She’s tall, green, and symbolizes freedom: Any guesses? If you guessed the Statue of Liberty, you’re correct! As one of the most famous landmarks in the world, visiting this historic statue on Liberty Island is a must for any New York City itinerary.
Soak in the history of Liberty Island and Lady Liberty herself at the Statue of Liberty Museum. You’ll find interactive exhibits like a virtual simulator that brings you through the inside of the statue, memorabilia, and the original torch.
You’ll learn about her origin as a gift from France around the 19th century. Thie gift celebrated America’s centennial of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the (then recent) abolition of slavery. The torch, sunbeam-like crown, and broken shackles at her feet take on a whole new meaning when you understand the rich history of Lady Liberty.
Sharing the same ferry route, Ellis Island and Liberty Island could be visited on the same day if you come early enough.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
New York City is a major hub of international art and culture. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is a perfect example of this. Its permanent collection alone features two million pieces and the rotating exhibits include millions more. Whether you’re a seasoned art critic or someone who just enjoys appreciating interesting, historical, or beautiful masterpieces, the MET has a style of art to suit anyone.
Weaving through the pristine halls and many exhibits, you’ll find art from different times and places through world history. Admire the astonishingly well-preserved Emperor’s Twelve Symbol Festival Robes from China. Gaze upon the bronze statue of Eros Sleeping from 3rd century BC, Greece. Appreciate the Native American Yup’ik mask from 1900.
If you’d like to see some of the more well-known works, check out Emanuel Leutze’s enormous “Washington Crosses the Delaware,” and works by Georgia O’Keefe, Vincent van Gogh, and Claude Monet.
Washington Square Park
Make your way to Greenwich Village and you’ll come across Washington Square Park. The feeling here is lively and upbeat, with street performers and musicians livening the atmosphere. There are many people out and about, some lounging by the fountain, and others playing chess. Take a leisurely stroll through the park to see who and what you can discover.
The Washington Square Arch is the iconic marble archway towering over one entrance to the park. If you enter under it, take a closer glance at the fine details carved into the marble. It’s quite a sight to behold in the evening, as it’s lit up! The pure white marble is gorgeous against the dark night sky with the city lights glittering behind it.
Whether you come to Washington Square Park for a picnic, a show, or sightseeing, you can guarantee you’ll find something uniquely New York.
Brooklyn Bridge Park
After spending time inside museums all day, you might be ready to enjoy New York City’s outdoor scenery. Head to Brooklyn Heights, and you’ll find Brooklyn Bridge Park. The park’s 85 acres of land are made up of sprawling fresh green spaces, sports fields, and its namesake iconic landmark: The Brooklyn Bridge.
Walking through the 85-acre park, you’ll see families, older couples, joggers, dog-walkers, street performers, and more. It’s everyone’s favorite park to come to because it’s maintained so well.
In the distance, you’ll see The Brooklyn Bridge, a famous suspension bridge. From across the waters of the East River, you’ll have the perfect photo op to get a shot of this landmark!
Madison Square Garden
If you’re into live music or sporting events, Madison Square Garden may find its way onto your New York trip itinerary. Built in 1879, Madison Square Garden is a historically significant venue that would be interesting for anyone to see. Scope out the events being held in Madison Square Garden while you’re in town.
Madison Square Garden hosts massive names each year from hip hop artists like Chris Brown to alternative singers like Twenty One Pilots, or classics like Billy Joel. Big-time sports teams play at MSG as well, like The New York Knicks and New York Rangers.
Scope out the events being held in Madison Square Garden while you’re in town: It may have something interesting on for you while on holiday!
American Museum of Natural History
Old or young, everyone will find something of interest at the American Museum of Natural History. This world-renowned museum lines four city blocks and borders Central Park West. Its size is impressive, but it only makes sense considering how many treasures it holds. Within the walls of this legendary museum are wonders of our natural world on earth and of the extraterrestrial world.
As you enter the main lobby, you’ll be face to face with the huge fossilized T-Rex. Once you’ve snapped a few shots for your IG, begin your adventure through the immaculate and fascinating exhibits.
Astronomy enthusiasts will want to head to the Hayden Planetarium Space Show. Archaeologists will be intrigued by the prehistoric-themed sections of the museum, while marine biologists may scurry off to the aquatic life area.
In the American Museum of Natural History, the immersive and lifelike recreations of the animals (extinct or not) bring the experience to life. The in-depth explorations into the solar system and the mysterious world of the deep blue sea are vivid and understandable through the museum’s exhibits.
Whitney Museum of American Art
If you want to visit a museum with thought-provoking pieces that spark discussion, The Whitney Museum of American Art should be at the top of your list of what to do in New York City. The popular art museum often features a mix of classical art and modern art that represents social issues. Located near The High Line in the Meatpacking District, the Whitney Museum has diversely curated collections of art for art lovers to enjoy.
Currently, the Whitney is holding its Whitney Biennial exhibit. This year it’s called “Quiet As Its Kept,” a reflection from 63 artists on their experiences through society today, expressed in their respective art forms. From film to sculptures, abstract art, dance, and more, their variety of art is astounding. As you pass through their quiet halls, you’ll surely find a piece that resonates with you and makes you feel something!
Note that many works of art at the Whitney Museum of American Art discuss graphic or adult topics; this should be considered if you’re traveling with a family.
Along the southern tip of Manhattan awaits one of the major New York City points of interest for gardens, art, and the marvelous skyline. Come join the Manhattanites who frequent The Battery seeking out the peaceful atmosphere of the park.
Escape the hustle and bustle of downtown areas in Battery Park. Walking through the landscaped paths you will literally have a chance to stop and smell the roses.
Take your time, pausing every now and then as you approach the many magnificent statues of the park. Many of these are memorial statues to the Vietnam War and the Coast Guard.
The location of The Battery is ideal to see the true New York City horizon, complete with the Statue of Liberty in all of her glory. It’s also close to a convenient boarding spot for the Staten Island Ferry.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
When you need a break from the commercial stores lining Fifth Ave, stop by St. Patrick’s Cathedral. This Catholic church stands out amongst the modern structures and skyscrapers of Midtown Manhattan.
Built in 1879, St. Patrick’s Cathedral is currently home to the Archdiocese of New York. Churchgoers, architecture admirers, and anyone needing an escape from fast-paced NYC life will enjoy a stop here.
The Neo-Gothic architecture is incredibly detailed inside and out. After walking up the steps and entering, you’ll hear sonorous organ music echoing around the cavernous ceilings and likely smell incense burning.
RELATED: Best Day Trips from New York City
You can attend Sunday mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral while on holiday. Or simply stop by to check out the vibrant stained glass, beautiful madonnas, and intricate designs.
Where to stay in New York City for sightseeing
For most travelers, the top choices for where to stay in New York City fall within Manhattan. To get close to the city’s top points of interest, narrow your accommodation search to areas like Midtown, SoHo, Chelsea, and the Upper East Side.
Set on the west side of Midtown, this family-friendly hotel offers comfortable rooms at a price point that’s quite reasonable for central Manhattan. Fuel up with a continental breakfast before hitting the streets to explore. The hotel is within walking distance from top attractions like Times Square, Top of the Rock, and Central Park. After a day of sightseeing, relax with a cocktail at the hotel’s rooftop lounge, enjoying views over the city.
citizenM New York Times Square
For staying in the heart of Manhattan, you can hardly find a better place to lay down your head than the citizenM. The sleek 4-star hotel is just steps from Times Square and plenty of other top-notch places to see. Although citizenM’s accommodation model is minimalist, the hotel does offer a handful of cool extra amenities, including a rooftop bar and a gym with skyline views.
The Dominick Hotel
Looking to splurge on your NYC trip? Savor a luxurious stay at The Dominick Hotel, SoHo’s only Five-Diamond accommodations. The 46-story luxury hotel features four on-site restaurants, an outdoor pool, a terrace, and a full-service spa. Relax in your luxurious room, delighting at the spectacular views over Manhattan and the Hudson through the floor-to-ceiling windows. NYC sightseeing hotspots like the High Line, Washington Square Park, and Greenwich Village are within walking distance.