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The best New York attractions

From historical landmarks to newer destinations, here are the best New York attractions for locals and tourists alike

Photograph: Shutterstock

Whether you're entertaining out-of-town guests or simply want to revisit iconic NYC spots, make sightseeing easier by consulting our definitive guide to New York’s best sights and top attractions. We've compiled our favorite sights in the city, featuring the NYC parks, art museums, culture spots and historical venues. Sights like the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty are perennial favorites, but we’ve also highlighted newcomers and lesser-known New York City attractions such as popular flea markets and Smorgasburg.

Do you want more great stories about things to do, where to eat, what to watch, and where to party? Obviously you do, follow Time Out New York on Facebook for the good stuff.

The 50 best New York attractions

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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Manhattan
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

One World Observatory

Despite occupying floors 100 through 102 of the tallest building of the Western Hemisphere, this one-year-old observation deck can be reached in just 60 seconds via a set of visually immersive 'Sky Pod' elevators. During the interactive tour experience ($32, seniors $30 and children $26), guests walk through some of the bedrock on which the building is built before entering the elevators, which are fitted with with floor-to-ceiling LED screens showing a video of the the city and buiding's history. Once at the top, the video concludes as the screen lifts up to reveal stunning 360-degree views of the Manhattan skyline. After soaking up the sights, head to One Café for casual fare, One Mix for small plates and cocktails or, the gem, One Dine for a full dining experience with large windows looking onto the horizon (reservations required). —Dan Q. Dao

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Financial District
6

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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. —Carolyn Stanley

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Central Park
7

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
8

The High Line

There are few places more pleasant than a sunny afternoon on the High Line. NYC's only elevated park is one of Manhattan’s most popular destinations, and it's easy to see why. A rail track that went out of use in 1980, the High Line was resurrected as a 1.45-mile-long green space in 2009, running from Hudson Yards to the northern edge of Chelsea. Today it’s an urbanite’s playground planted with wildflowers and grasses, offering walkers some of the best views in NYC, and that makes the park simultaneously removed from the city and an inextricable part of it. — Evelyn Derico

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Chelsea
9

Theatre District

Each year, about 13 million locals and tourists take in Broadway shows at one of NYC's 40 Broadway theaters. Most of those venues are located in the theater district—roughly, 41st Street to 52nd Street and Sixth Ave to Eighth Ave. Each season brings a new wave of megamusicals, plays and star-driven revivals. Some boast gold from the Tony Awards. At the height of the fall and spring seasons, be sure to check our homepage for new critics picks, reviews and cheap broadway tickets. Nosebleed seats at Jersey Boys might go for $62, but premium seats at The Book of Mormon go as high as $477. The savvy consumer can find discount tickets at most Broadway shows. NYC hurry—the curtain’s about to rise! — David Cote

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10

The 9/11 Memorial and Museum

In the footprints of where the Twin Towers once stood are North America’s largest man-made waterfalls, the bottoms of which seem to be impossible to see. The twin reflecting pools, the 9/11 Memorial designed by Michael Arad, are a solemn reminder of all that was lost during the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 and the World Trade Center bombing in 1993. Lining the pools, each one acre in size, are bronze panels with the names of the 3,000 deceased victims from the attacks, including the rescue personnel who died helping the other victims. For those who wish to pay their respects to the tragedy and learn more about the events that transpired, the museum serves as the leading collection of artifacts and documentation of September 11. Inside, visitors can hear first hand accounts of survivors, see picture and video footage of the attacks and see recovered objects such as a wrecked recovery vehicles, large pieces of warped metal foundation and the 30-foot National 9/11 Flag. — Tolly Wright

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Financial District
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Comments

16 comments
Allegra R
Allegra R

What the hell Smorgasburg & Madame Tussaud's are doing on this list, and no Tompkin's Square Park or Coney IslandIS BEYOND ME. Or, the Hayden Planetarium? NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM, anyone? Gah. 

Shannon S
Shannon S

Thanks for the suggestions! I just got back from nyc, I was able to see most of the touristy places, thanks to the hop on hop off sightseeing bus tour at https://www.extrapolitan.com

LOWER EAST SIDE H
LOWER EAST SIDE H

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Avishay V
Avishay V

New York City is amazing from museum to musicals to park to skyscrapers, China town the UN center and more and more.
You have to plan at least a week to explore New York
to see a high quality video guide for some of the attraction visit the link
http://bit.ly/1CXRyYg

Friendly-Hotels.com
Friendly-Hotels.com

I think there is probably a few hundred places to visit in New York City.  Great architecture and bridges; a wealth of museums; historic cafes and bars; parks, zoos and gardens to relax in.  Cuisine from all corners of the planet and the shopping is for everyone.  Love Central Park Botanical gardens, Bronx Zoo, the High Line and all the fantastic skyscrapers.  NYC has a lot going for it. 

Staceyrulez K
Staceyrulez K

This is good for my presentation #awesome New York is the most awesome place~well after Brazil😀

Randy S
Randy S

I recommend Soul Night Events for Summer fun in New York City www.soulnightevents.com

armida t
armida t

Thanks for sharing these New York City tourist attractions. Most people prefer to visit New York during spring time. Fall is another popular time when tourists flock to the city because of its famous foliage during this season.

Also I want to suggest some more New York tourist attractions like Ellis Island is regarded as one of the most popular attractions in the city of New York. 

Frick Collection

Housed in the former mansion of industrialist Henry Clay Frick, the Frick Museum has on display the most outstanding works of Western Art.

The Staten Island Ferry

The Staten Island Ferry is an NYC attraction fit for young and old, New York first-timers and those who have lived here for years. But it's a real treat for those on a budget.

Rubin Museum Of Art

Opened in the year 2004, Rubin Museum of Art is dedicated to the collection, display, and preservation of the art of the Himalayas and surrounding regions, especially Tibetan art.

Free U
Free U

@John L  For a free Uber ride (up to $30) use code UBERFALL14FREERIDE 

Anika
Anika

This is an amazing website for my yr 6 home work I couldn't find a better one than this well done

Cliff Strome
Cliff Strome

Nicely done Amy and staffers! If you search, on your iphone, my website: www.customandprivate.com and click on the tripadvisor icon you will see that my private tour business is ranked #12 out of 1,220 attractions in New York City. Please contact me directly at 212-222-1441 and find out why! Yours very tourly! :) Cliff Strome