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The 50 best sights and attractions in NYC

From historical landmarks to newer destinations, here are the best sights to visit in NYC for tourists and locals alike

Photograph: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
Grand Central Terminal

You could never see everything New York City has to offer, but we tried to narrow it down to a somewhat manageable bucketlist. Whether you need to know the best places to take out-of-towners, the best views in NYC or the city’s most spectacular churches, we’ve got you covered. Explore away!

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RECOMMENDED: Find more of the best New York City attractions

The best sights and attractions in NYC

1

Empire State Building

Try imagining NYC’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. 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. —Tim Lowery

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Midtown West
2

Brooklyn Bridge

No mere river crossing, this span is an elegant reminder of New York’s history of architectural innovation. When it opened in 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge was a feat of engineering: It was the first structure to cross the East River and, at the time, the longest suspension bridge in the world. (It also made use of steel-wire cables, invented by the bridge’s original designer, John A. Roebling.) Now it attracts thousands of tourists and locals, who enjoy spectacular views of lower Manhattan and other city landmarks (such as the Statue of Liberty and Governors Island) as they stroll its more-than-mile-long expanse. Heads up, though: You may run into the occasional cyclist trying to navigate through the crowds on the pedestrian walkway. —Amy Plitt

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3

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. —Carolyn Stanley

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Central Park
4

The Statue of Liberty

Perhaps no other New York attraction is as iconic—or as avoided by tourist-averse New Yorkers—as Lady Liberty. The landmark was closed in the fall in order to repair damage sustained during Hurricane Sandy, but happily, it will reopen to the public on July 4. (Hor apropos.) Our tip: Dodge the foam-crown-sporting masses and skip the line for the ferry by prebooking a combo cruise-and-tour ticket (visit statuecruises.com for more information). A climb to the crown affords a panoramic view of New York Harbor and the chance to see the literal nuts and bolts of Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi’s creation. We also recommend stopping in the museum on Liberty Island, if only to marvel at the initial ambivalence of 19th-century New Yorkers when they were asked to fund the construction of the pedestal. Ferries depart from Castle Clinton—Jonathan Shannon

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Liberty Island
5

Grand Central Terminal

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. —Carolyn Stanley

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Midtown East
6

American Museum of Natural History

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. —Sarah Bruning

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Upper West Side
7

Staten Island Ferry

The price of a harbor crossing between Staten Island and lower Manhattan may be the only activity in New York City that’s cheaper today than it was in 1817. Back then, it was 25 cents; today, it’s free. This 24-hour ferry is a lifeline for commuters making their way from NYC’s southernmost borough, but it’s also a boat trip affording some of the finest views in the world. Keep your eyes peeled for Governors Island to the east and Ellis Island and Lady Liberty to the west as the Manhattan skyline recedes in the vessel’s wake. —Jenna Scherer

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Financial District
8

Prospect Park

After Olmsted and Vaux unveiled Central Park in 1859, they turned their attention south to create this bucolic Brooklyn destination. There’s plenty of room in the Long Meadow and Nethermead to bliss out on a patch of grass, while the Ravine, a towering indigenous forest, offers a woodland respite unparalleled in the borough. City planner Robert Moses was behind 20th-century additions like the zoo and the bandshell, where Celebrate Brooklyn! hosts free top-notch concerts all summer long. The Lefrak Center at Lakeside throws wild roller dance parties in the summer and hosts ice-skating in the winter. —Jenna Scherer

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Prospect Park
9

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. —Tim Lowery

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Midtown East
10

Yankee Stadium

The Bombers’ current field opened in 2009 to much fanfare and stands opposite the now-flattened original. It may not be the House That Ruth Built, but many elements of the new arena—the limestone exterior, the gatelike frieze around the top—mimic the old, plus cup holders at every seat and a high-def scoreboard are noticeable improvements. A museum behind center field aims to hold signed baseballs from every living Yankees player, but the most potent relic wasn’t allowed to stay on site—in 2008 the construction staff jackhammered out a Red Sox jersey a rival fan tried to install in the structure’s foundation. —Allison Williams

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The Bronx
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Comments

4 comments
Charles S
Charles S

Skip Yankee Stadium and go where the best fans and NY's best team play. Citi Field in Queens.

Aludra A
Aludra A

I would like to visit since this is my home where I was born and I miss the twin towers

jackgeiger
jackgeiger

Uh. 5 Pointz was white washed in November 2013, and demolished in 6 months ago.