New York is packed with things to do, but it can be overwhelming trying to decide what to tackle first on a trip to the city. Whether it’s your first time or you’re a frequent visitor, seek out these seven iconic attractions to make the most of your stay.
Housed on Liberty Island in the New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty remains one of New York City’s most emblematic attractions. The statue was a gift to the Americans from the French, designed by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi and built by Gustave Eiffel. The teal statue was first constructed in France before it was shipped over, then assembled and dedicated in 1886, complete with a ticker-tape parade. With her torch raised above her head (symbolizing lighting the way to freedom), Lady Liberty still greets visitors who arrive to the island by ferry from the bottom of Manhattan. General admission tickets give visitors access to both Liberty and Ellis Island. There are other ticket tiers, supplying entry to the statue’s pedestal, Liberty Island Museum and observation deck. Book far enough in advance and you’ll gain access to Lady Liberty’s crown, which delivers unparalleled views of Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Follow a local New Yorker through one of the city’s most famous landmarks, the Grand Central Terminal. Learn all about this buzzy transportation hub and marvel at the architecture along the way. The history of the station stretches back more than 100 years, and there’s plenty to learn from your knowledgeable guide on this unique tour.
There’s perhaps no better way to experience New York than by climbing to the top of the Empire State Building. The Art Deco skyscraper, completed in 1931, soars 1,454 feet into the sky, and it was the first building to have more than 100 floors. Each night, the tip of the building glows with a colorful light show – during major holidays, such as Christmas, the lights flash green and red. Although the Empire State Building has long served as an office building, it also welcomes 3.5 million tourists per year. Skip the massive lines to get in and fly straight to the outdoor 86th floor observation deck, where you’ll see panoramic views of New York City, and several surrounding states (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Massachusetts), from 1,050 feet up.
Located 102 floors up the shining blue Freedom Tower – the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere – is the One World Observatory. The tower officially opened in 2014, complete with a memorial for the Twin Towers below. Tickets allow visitors to skip the line and go directly to the observation deck after a 47-second elevator ride. The three floors of the indoor observatory showcase 360-degree views of New York City’s skyline, New Jersey and Brooklyn, plus offer a number of activities, like an audiovisual experience in the See Forever Theater, opportunities to ask experts about New York City history, and a chance to hop on top of the Sky Portal to walk above the city streets. There are also a few cafés and restaurants, in case you need a snack or want to have a drink 100 flights up.
The World Trade Center, once home to the Twin Towers, is now the site of the Freedom Tower, 9/11 Memorial, 9/11 Museum and the Oculus, a subterranean shopping center. Beneath the sailing tower are two cavernous pools − placed in the same spots that the towers once stood − etched with the names of all the victims who perished in 9/11. Nearby is the 9/11 Tribute Museum, which shares the stories of September 11, 2001 and celebrates the survivors and first-responders through artifacts, first-hand stories and videos. Take a guided tour of the World Trade Center Complex, learning about 9/11 and the heroes who saved so many lives. Tickets also come with access to the 9/11 Museum.
The largest art museum in the United States, the Metropolitan Museum of Art doesn’t welcome 7.3 million visitors per year for no reason: the enormous building stretches over several city blocks and into Central Park, boasting more than two million pieces of art. The sweeping stairs outside of the museum draw you into a space filled with French Impressionist paintings, Ancient Greek statues, contemporary photography and Ancient Egyptian coffins, among a host of rotating exhibits. Skip the lines that snake out of the entrance, plus gain access to the two other Met locations: The Met Breuer and The Cloisters.
A trip to New York is hardly a trip at all without seeing a story come to life on a Broadway stage. The hub for both Broadway and off-Broadway plays and musicals is Times Square, home to more than 40 theaters in Theater District. Some shows have graced the stage for years – like The Lion King and Phantom of the Opera – while others, such as Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen, have made headlines for their recent awards and popularity of tickets. Make sure to book in advance – shows often sell out quickly.