Top attractions in Manhattan: All the best sights to visit in NYC

Visit the most famous sights and top attractions in New York City, including the Empire State Building and Times Square.

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  • Top attractions in Manhattan

    Photograph: Wendy Connett

    The American Museum of Natural History

    Top attractions in Manhattan
  • Top attractions in Manhattan

    Photograph: Shahar Azran

    Apollo Theater

    Top attractions in Manhattan
  • Top attractions in Manhattan

    Photograph: Melissa Sinclair

    Battery Park

    Top attractions in Manhattan
  • Top attractions in Manhattan

    Photograph: Michael Kirby

    Central Park

    Top attractions in Manhattan
  • Top attractions in Manhattan

    Chrysler Building

    Top attractions in Manhattan
  • Top attractions in Manhattan

    Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    The Cloisters

    Top attractions in Manhattan
  • Top attractions in Manhattan

    Empire State Building

    Top attractions in Manhattan
  • Top attractions in Manhattan

    Flatiron Building

    Top attractions in Manhattan
  • Top attractions in Manhattan

    Photograph: Jeffrey Gurwin

    Grand Central Terminal, Main Concourse

    Top attractions in Manhattan
  • Top attractions in Manhattan

    Photograph: Ilenia Martini

    The High Line

    Top attractions in Manhattan
  • Top attractions in Manhattan

    The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

    Top attractions in Manhattan
  • Top attractions in Manhattan

    Josie Robertson Plaza (at Lincoln Center)

    Top attractions in Manhattan
  • Top attractions in Manhattan

    Photographer: Filip Wolak

    Little Italy

    Top attractions in Manhattan
  • Top attractions in Manhattan

    Photograph: Jessica Lin

    Macy's Herald Square

    Top attractions in Manhattan
  • Top attractions in Manhattan

    The Metropolitan Museum of Art

    Top attractions in Manhattan
  • Top attractions in Manhattan

    The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

    Top attractions in Manhattan
  • Top attractions in Manhattan

    Photograph: Alex Strada

    New-York Historical Society

    Top attractions in Manhattan
  • Top attractions in Manhattan

    Photograph: Moira Brazier

    New York Public Library, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building

    Top attractions in Manhattan
  • Top attractions in Manhattan

    Photograph: Michael Kirby

    Radio City Music Hall

    Top attractions in Manhattan
  • Top attractions in Manhattan

    Photograph: Jay Muhlin

    Rockefeller Center

    Top attractions in Manhattan
  • Top attractions in Manhattan

    Photograph: Filip Wolak

    Roosevelt Island

    Top attractions in Manhattan
  • Top attractions in Manhattan

    Photograph: Michael Kirby

    St. Patrick's Cathedral

    Top attractions in Manhattan
  • Top attractions in Manhattan

    Photograph: Krista Schlueter

    Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

    Top attractions in Manhattan
  • Top attractions in Manhattan

    Photograph: Michael Kirby

    South Street Seaport

    Top attractions in Manhattan
  • Top attractions in Manhattan

    Times Square

    Top attractions in Manhattan
  • Top attractions in Manhattan

    Photograph: Michael Kirby

    Union Square

    Top attractions in Manhattan
  • Top attractions in Manhattan

    United Nations Headquarters

    Top attractions in Manhattan
  • Top attractions in Manhattan

    The Whitney Museum of American Art

    Top attractions in Manhattan
  • Top attractions in Manhattan

    Photograph: Wendy Connett

    Washington Square Park

    Top attractions in Manhattan

Top attractions in Manhattan

Photograph: Wendy Connett

The American Museum of Natural History


The Empire State Building, the United Nations, Rockefeller Center: These are just some of the top attractions that are inextricably linked to Manhattan. Check out more of the borough’s best sights with our guide to Manhattan’s top attractions.

RECOMMENDED: The 50 best New York attractions you have to see

American Museum of Natural History

  • Critics choice

No matter which wing you wander through or where your curiosities lie (dinosaurs, gems or something else entirely), it’s hard to explore this Upper West Side fixture without being awestruck. You’ll immediately spot the rotunda’s hulking Barosaurus skeleton replica, but delving further into the museum’s collection, you’ll find actual specimens, such as Deinonychus, in the fourth-floor fossil halls. When you tire of dinos, head to the human origins and culture halls to learn more about our evolutionary history, or gawk at the famed 94-foot-long blue whale model in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life.

Apollo Theater

The 78-year-old Harlem institution has been the site of more than a few historic moments: Ella Fitzgerald’s first performance happened here in 1934; Live at the Apollo, recorded in 1962, practically launched James Brown into the mainstream; and a young Jimi Hendrix won an Amateur Night contest in 1964. Despite its storied history and grand decor, this living link to the Harlem Renaissance feels rather cozy inside. As of late, the theater has attracted big-name comedians (Aziz Ansari, Tracy Morgan, Jim Gaffigan) and huge rock stars (Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen), while still welcoming under-the-radar talent to its famed Wednesday Amateur Night.

Battery Park

This 25-acre green space is like Manhattan’s delicate fingernail, neatly plotted with monuments, memorials, gardens, sculptures and a farm-to-table café, plus killer waterfront views from the promenade. Though the area was named for the battery cannons it once housed, the fortified walls of Castle Clinton now protect little more than summer music concerts. If you prefer a quieter nook, seek out the stone labyrinth traced in the park’s lawns; it’s not actually a maze meant to confuse, but a prescribed stroll for meditation. The new SeaGlass Carousel will open in spring 2013 in a building shaped like a nautilus shell.

Central Park

Gotham’s love affair with its most famous green space is well documented in song, literature and film, but there’s still plenty to adore about the country’s first landscaped public park. Urban visionaries Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux sought a harmonious balance of scenic elements: pastoral (the open lawn of the Sheep Meadow), formal (the linear, tree-lined Mall) and picturesque (the densely wooded paths of the Ramble). Today, the 843-acre plot draws millions of visitors to its skyscraper-bordered vistas in all seasons: sunbathers and picnickers in summer, ice-skaters in winter, and bird-watchers in spring and fall. It’s also an idyllic venue for beloved cultural events like Shakespeare in the Park and the New York Philharmonic’s annual open-air performance.

Chrysler Building

We won’t argue if you want to call this glimmering pinnacle of Art Deco architecture NYC’s most eye-popping skyscraper. Triangle-shaped windows in its crown are lined with lights, creating a beautiful effect come nighttime. Oozing a moneyed sophistication oft identified with old New York, the structure pays homage to its namesake with giant eagles (replicas of ones added to Chrysler automobiles in the 1920s) in lieu of traditional gargoyles and a brickwork relief sculpture of racing cars, complete with chrome hubcaps. During the famed three-way race to construct Manhattan’s tallest building, the Chrysler added a needle-sharp stainless-steel spire to best 40 Wall Street—but was outdone shortly after its completion in 1930 by the Empire State Building.

The Cloisters

This Middle Agesmuseum may have been constructed in the ’30s, but it feels much older than that. Set in a bucolic park overlooking the Hudson River, the structure re-creates architectural details from five 15th-century monasteries and houses items from the Met’s medieval art and architecture collections. John D. Rockefeller, who donated the land for the museum, even purchased a tract across the river to preserve the pristine view. Make sure to inspect the tapestries, including the famous 16th-century Hunt of the Unicorn.

Empire State Building

Try imagining New York City’s skyline without the towering spire of the Empire State Building. Impossible, right? Taking a mere 11 months to construct, the 1,454-foot-tall emblem became the city’s highest building upon completion in 1931. (When One World Trade Center is finished, it will tower over the ESB by a good 300 feet.) During your visit, pay special attention to the lobby, restored in 2009 to its original Art Deco design. You can also impress your pals with these tidbits while queuing for the observation decks: In 1945, 14 tenants were killed when a plane crashed into the 79th floor during heavy fog; a terrace on the 103rd level was once intended for use as a docking station for airships; and the topper’s three tiers of lights can illuminate up to nine colors at a time. High-speed elevators shoot visitors up 1,050 feet to the 86th-floor observatory, where you can either peer out at the city from the comfort of a glass-enclosed pavilion or brave the elements on the open-air decks. Tickets to the 102nd Floor Observatory are an additional $17. Daily 8am–10pm: The New York Skyride Visitors take a motion-picture tour over, through and below the city streets ($29; seniors, students and children 6–12 $19).

Flatiron Building

This 21-story Beaux Arts edifice once dominated midtown. Although it’s now dwarfed by other structures, when it debuted in 1902, the triangle-shaped monolith represented the threat and the thrill of modernity: Naysayers claimed it would never withstand the high winds plaguing 23rd Street, while revered photographer Alfred Stieglitz—who captured it in an iconic shot in 1903—wrote that it was “a picture of a new America still in the making.” Today, it’s possibly the least tourist-friendly New York landmark. The space above the ground-floor shops, occupied by publishing house Macmillan, is inaccessible to the public, but during office hours you can admire black-and-white photos and read a few panels on the history of the tower in its lobby. If you want to see the “point” offices (just over six feet wide at their narrowest), we suggest getting to work on the Great American Novel.

Grand Central Terminal

  • Critics choice
  • Free

The 100-year-old transit hub funnels thousands of commuters each day, but it’s a destination in its own right: The majestic Beaux Arts framework is a spectacle of both form and function. Familiar features include the vaulted, constellation-adorned ceiling and the four-faced opal clock topping the main information booth, both located in the Grand Concourse. Meanwhile, ornamentation above the 42nd Street entrance includes a likeness of Mercury, the god of travel (naturally), and an ornate Tiffany-glass timepiece.

  1. 42nd St to 44th St, (between Vanderbilt and Lexington Aves)
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The High Line

  • Critics choice
  • Free

There’s something uniquely New York about this aerie. Built on an abandoned railway track, the space is ingenious in its use of reclaimed industrial detritus, a necessity in footage-starved Manhattan. But what we like best is how the pathway takes you above the city while keeping you rooted in urban life: Where else can you walk through a field of wildflowers or sprawl on a lush lawn as cabs zoom along the street beneath you? The third and final section, the High Line at the Rail Yards, is scheduled to debut in 2014, completing one of the city’s most popular sites (with more than 3.7 million visitors in 2011).

  1. Washington St, (at Gansevoort St)
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Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

  • Price band: 2/4

There’s more to this decommissioned aircraft carrier than an unparalleled collection of fighter jets, a Blackbird spy plane, a Concorde, the nuclear submarine USS Growler, a prototype space shuttle and a capsule that returned one of the first astrotourists to earth (though all are worth the price of admission alone). Permanent exhibits address the human element, from a harrowing 30-minute video with audiovisual effects about the kamikaze attacks the Intrepid suffered to a chance to see how the crew lived and admire their graffiti.

  1. Pier 86, Twelfth Ave, (at 46th St)
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Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Free

The largest campus of its kind in the world, Lincoln Center is home to a staggering array of theater, music, dance and film. Construction began in 1959 with the help of John D. Rockefeller III, largely in an effort to provide new stomping grounds for the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic and the Juilliard School. Today the complex encompasses 30 venues and 11 world-class resident organizations that mount thousands of events each year. Standing in Josie Robertson Plaza at twilight, with the fountain spouting white-lit jets of water and the lobby of the Met glowing golden behind it, is one of Manhattan’s more transporting experiences.

  1. W 63th St, (at Columbus Ave)
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Little Italy

  • Free

The 2010 census didn’t find a single Italian-born resident on or around Mulberry Street, but pasta-and-Parmesan purveyors still line the narrow lanes of Little Italy, and the recently restored Most Precious Blood Church (113 Baxter St between Canal and Hester Sts, 212-226-6427) holds fast. Old-world flavors abound at joints like the 120-year-old Ferrara Bakery and Cafe (195 Grand St between Mott and Mulberry Sts; 212-226-6150, ferraracafe.com), and every September, the deep-fried-zeppole carts mark the start of the Feast of San Gennaro. But modern joints are moving in too: Hidden under a souvenir shop, the speakeasy Mulberry Project (149 Mulberry St between Grand and Hester Sts; 646-448-4536, mulberryproject.com) mixes bespoke cocktails in a den dark enough for a mafia don.

  1. Mulberry St, (between Broome and Canal Sts)
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Macy's Herald Square

  • Price band: 2/4

It may not be as glamorous as New York’s other famous stores, but for sheer breadth of stock, the 34th Street behemoth is hard to beat. You won’t find exalted labels here, though—midpriced fashion and designers’ diffusion lines for all ages are its bread and butter, along with all the big beauty names. A new $400 million renovation will upgrade the entire edifice by 2015, but the store has already debuted a “world’s largest” shoe floor, home to 280,000 pairs. Thankfully, not everything will be brand-new: The project will restore the original 34th Street entrance, and some of the rickety wooden escalators—installed when this branch opened in 1902—will remain intact.

  1. 151 W 34th St, (between Sixth and Seventh Aves)
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The Metropolitan Museum of Art

  • Price band: 3/4
  • Critics choice

Sprawling doesn’t even begin to describe this Manhattan institution: It’s one of the few spots in the city where you could spend literally an entire day and see only a fraction of the holdings. Behind the doors of its iconic neoclassical facade lie 17 curatorial collections spanning countless eras and cultural perspectives, from prehistoric Egyptian artifacts to contemporary photography. Those seeking to satisfy their anthropological curiosity can explore the extensive assemblage of musical instruments, weapons and armor or the Costume Institute’s centuries of wearable art. And for committed museumgoers who have made their way through the permanent collections—an admirable feat—special exhibitions merit return visits year after year. Recent blockbusters have examined the career of the late designer Alexander McQueen and featured the works of Pablo Picasso.

  1. 1000 Fifth Ave, (at 82nd St)
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Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

Sure, you could spend a day getting lost in the permanent exhibits, which showcase all manner of priceless pieces from renowned artists. But just as essential are this museum’s other elements, including an attached cinema that combines art-house fare and more accessible offerings, a sculpture garden with works by Picasso and Rodin, and the Modern, a high-end restaurant and bar run by Danny Meyer. Free Fridays, an alluring prospect considering the sizable entry fee ($25 for adults), are best left to the tourists and penny-scraping students; visit the museum when you can hunker down for a while.

  1. 11 W 53rd St, (between Fifth and Sixth Aves), 10019
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New-York Historical Society

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

New York’s oldest museum, founded in 1804, was one of America’s first cultural and educational institutions. Instead of the niche perspective on NYC’s past that some of our favorite attractions offer, this institution gives a comprehensive look at the New York of yesteryear. Exhibits here are wide-ranging, covering all aspects of city life, and the museum’s permanent holdings—many of which are on view in the open-storage galleries on its fourth floor—offer a glimpse into quotidian urban living, with items such as vintage toys, furniture and clothing on display. A massive renovation, completed in 2011, made exhibits more compelling and interactive, helping visitors gain a clearer, deeper understanding of the city.

  1. 170 Central Park West, (between 76th and 77th Sts)
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New York Public Library, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building

  • Free

The century-old main branch of the NYPL is about as regal a setting for reading—either on your laptop or those old dusty things called books—as you’ll find in the city. Two massive Tennessee-marble lions, dubbed Patience and Fortitude, flank the main portal and have become the institution’s mascots. Once inside, check out the cavernous Rose Main Reading Room, spanning almost 300 feet and outfitted with chandeliers and stunning ceiling murals. Though it’s a classy setting in most instances, it’s also where Bill Murray uttered, “Are you, Alice, menstruating right now?” and “Back off, man, I’m a scientist” in Ghostbusters.

  1. Fifth Ave, (at 42nd St)
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Radio City Music Hall

  • Price band: 3/4

New York City is full of legendary performance venues, but few match Radio City Music Hall in terms of sheer elegance. The Art Deco concert hall remains one of the prettiest in the city: Designed by Donald Deskey, its interior features opulent chandeliers and lush carpets, while the stage and proscenium are meant to resemble a setting sun. Although Radio City is probably best known as the home of the Rockettes, a plethora of noteworthy performers have graced its boards, including huge pop stars (Lady Gaga, the Jonas Brothers) and indie faves (Pulp, Grizzly Bear).

  1. 1260 Sixth Ave, (at 50th St)
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Rockefeller Center

  • Critics choice

You’ll find plenty of iconic New York sites in this multiblock complex: The ground level alone is home to the tourist-packed ice-skating rink, the bronze Atlas statue and the Today show plaza. Higher up, Top of the Rock rivals the Empire State Building in panoramic city views. You may not be able to access the five private rooftop gardens if you’re not a Saturday Night Live cast member, but you can still peek at the spaces from Saks Fifth Avenue’s eighth-floor shoe department if you’re curious. Special credentials are not required, however, to inspect the Art Deco murals that appear in several buildings. Don’t miss the triptych above the outdoor entrance to 5 Rockefeller Center or the rinkside Prometheus statue; both purportedly contain secret Freemason symbols.

  1. 48th to 51st Sts, (between Fifth and Sixth Aves)
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Roosevelt Island

This mostly residential isle (technically part of Manhattan) is full of quirks; for example, the preferred method of getting there involves a four-minute trip on the city’s only commuter tram. There’s plenty to draw in visitors, notably the fancy new Four Freedoms Park (named for the principles outlined in Franklin Roosevelt’s 1941 State of the Union address), which opened in 2012. A Gothic lighthouse stands at the island’s northern tip, and the creepy ruins of the Smallpox Hospital (which operated from the mid–19th century until the 1950s) at the southern end are a part of Southpoint Park.

  1. Roosevelt Island
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St. Patrick's Cathedral

  • Free

Even though it faces off against the imposing Art Deco Rockefeller Center, architect James Renwick's Gothic Revival building holds it own with intricate marble towers, a cavernous ribbed vault, pointed arches and buttresses. But the real treasures are inside this active house of worship, which is bursting with awe-inspiring works. While the stained glass, along with much of the exterior, is currently covered in scaffolding for an ongoing $175-million restoration project, due for completion in 2015, the cathedral is still worth a visit. More than 200 saints are represented throughout the church, with many alters helpfully explaining their stories for those who cut Bible studies class. Seek out the alter of Saint Louis, just north of the Lady's Chapel, designed by the Tiffany workshop and donated by Jackie O's father Michael Bouvier. To the south of Saint Louis is an oversized copy of Michelangelo's Pieta, made by the same sculptor who fashioned the lions outside the New York Public Library on 42nd Street.

  1. 14 E 51st St, (between Fifth and Madison Aves)
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Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Frank Lloyd Wright’s concrete edifice became the home of the eponymous philanthropist’s collection in 1959; today, the iconic spiral is considered as much a work of art as the paintings it houses. In addition to pieces by masters such as Manet, Picasso and Chagall, the institution holds the most Kandinskys in the U.S., as well as one of the largest collections of Mapplethorpes in the world. And yes, there is a right way to see the exhibits: as Wright intended, beginning at the bottom and moseying around to the top.

  1. 1071 Fifth Ave, (at 89th St)
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South Street Seaport

  • Critics choice

One problem with being an active sightseeing draw right on the water: When a big storm rolls into town, you’ll almost certainly sustain some damage. Hurricane Sandy temporarily closed many of the attractions at the waterfront hub, including the Seaport Museum (currently under the management of the Museum of the City of New York), which charts the former wharf’s history. But many of these institutions are back up and running, and the Seaport will even welcome an outpost of the Brooklyn Flea this summer.

  1. 19 Fulton St, (at Front St)
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Times Square

  • Free

Manhattan’s heart was once a hub for vice, teeming with sex shops and drug dealers. Over time that notorious reputation has eroded, and now the area can feel like a tourist-clogged shopping mall. Still, changes such as the stairs above the TKTS booth and a pedestrian plaza along Broadway have improved the sightseeing experience…sort of. If the thought of attending the annual glitzy New Year’s Eve celebration gives you hives, you can see the midnight countdown re-created on a smaller scale at the Times Square Visitor Center, thanks to one of the Waterford crystal balls used in years past.

  1. Broadway, (between 42nd and 47th Sts)
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Union Square

  • Critics choice
  • Free

This gathering place was named for the union of two of Manhattan’s busiest thoroughfares: Broadway and Fourth Avenue (formerly Bowery Road). Political activism has played a large role in the site’s history; the square has hosted rallies, protests and assemblies from the Civil War through Occupy Wall Street. Nowadays, its biggest draw might be the year-round Greenmarket—the city’s first, started by a handful of farmers in 1976—which brings locally grown goods to thousands of New Yorkers every week.

  1. 14th St to 17th St, (between Broadway and Park Ave South)
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United Nations Headquarters

  • Price band: 2/4

Technically, the U.N. complex is international territory, but that doesn’t mean you get immunity when you enter (so don’t steal from the Delegates Dining Room buffet). The striking, 39-story Secretariat Building (designed by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer) is the complex’s most eye-catching structure, but it’s not open to the public. Visitors can instead tour the midcentury assembly room whenever dignitaries aren’t using it, or enjoy free art in the lobby. The U.N. even has its own post office, but the personalized stamps sold there are only good if mailed from that spot.

  1. U.N. Plaza, First Ave, (at 46th St)
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Whitney Museum of American Art

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Like the Guggenheim, the Whitney is distinguished by its unique architecture: a Marcel Breuer–designed gray granite cube. When Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, a sculptor and art patron, opened the museum in 1931, she dedicated it to living American artists. Today, the Whitney holds about 19,000 pieces by nearly 2,900 artists, including Alexander Calder, Edward Hopper, Jasper Johns, Georgia O’Keeffe and Claes Oldenburg. Still, the museum’s reputation rests mainly on its temporary shows, particularly the Whitney Biennial. Held in even-numbered years, the Biennial is among the most prestigious (and controversial) assessments of contemporary art in America. In 2015, the museum will move to a new Renzo Piano–designed edifice near the High Line and lease its Madison Avenue home to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

  1. 945 Madison Ave, (at 75th St)
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Washington Square Park

  • Critics choice
  • Free

The beatniks, folkies and hippies who famously flocked to this public space are still there, though sporting slightly different facial hair than their boundary-breaking predecessors. During warmer months, the park is one of the best people-watching spots in the city, as musicians and street artists perform in the shadow of the towering 1895 Washington Arch, a modest replica of Paris’s Arc de Triomphe designed by Stanford White (whose fingerprints are found on more than a few landmark NYC structures). Since 2007, the park has undergone a controversial, multimillion-dollar renovation—currently in its third phase—which has yielded more benches, paths, lawn space and vegetation.

  1. W 4th St to Waverly Pl, (between MacDougal St and University Pl)
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