Something of a delicate balance, when you take a trip having everything planned to the minute doesn’t allow you much freedom but it pays to have some idea of what you are going to do. After all, putting in a bit of work prior to visiting a major city will ensure that you get the most out of your experience.
Arguably the most famous single city in the world, NYC has a lot of competition for a title like that but everyone should go there at least once. However, since it is such a busy city that stays up all hours of the night, you would need to dedicate yourself solely to sightseeing for a seemingly endless period of time to see all it has to offer. For that reason, it seems abundantly obvious that a list like this one that focuses on the 20 best things for tourists to do in New York City is needed.
In order for a destination to be considered for possible inclusion in this list, it first and foremost needs to exist within the area of New York City. On top of that, there needs to be something about it that will make going there a memorable and enjoyable experience for tourists. In some cases that may mean that it is a world famous locale that you will enjoy being able to say that you saw it in person. In others, the destination may be off the beaten path but so remarkable that it will make for a fascinating experience as well as being something unique to tell your family and friends about.
20 Little Italy
One of two areas of New York City that feel like you are entering into a wholly different country, Little Italy is heavily influenced by the place from which it gets its name. The kind of location that you could waste an entire day or more in, once you take in the ambiance and feel of Little Italy then you can move on to trying out its amazing food or many attractions. For instance, while you are there is every reason in the world to check out places like Di Palo’s Fine Foods, Christmas in New York, the Italian American Museum, and Ferrara’s Bakery. Of course, on top of all of that, if you don’t try out some of the famous pizza places in this area you will be missing out.
19 Brooklyn Bridge
A tourist attraction that has appeared in far too many TV shows and movies to list here, there are some pretty good reasons why the Brooklyn Bridge is known around the world. Providing an amazing view of the East River, walking across its promenade by foot is estimated to take around 40 minutes and has been enjoyed by millions of people. Once you finish that mini adventure, you can pull up a seat on one of the many benches that are situated to give you a great look at the bridge itself and take in how visually stunning it is as well.
18 Comedy Cellar
The kind of place you can walk in and feel the history, the Comedy Cellar has been the stomping ground of nearly every comedian of note that has built any kind of reputation in America. Of course, on the night you make it there you may only get to watch relative unknowns, but there is every reason to believe that one of them may be a star in the making.
If that isn’t enough to pull you in, it is a well-documented fact that to this day huge stars continue to show up here for a set while they are working out their material.
Either way, we can guarantee you you'll laugh all night.
17 American Museum of Natural History
The home of more than 30 million different artifacts across 45 exhibition halls, the American Museum of Natural History is the largest of its kind in the world by a pretty wide margin.
Made up of 4 city blocks in NYC, where space is in very high demand, that alone proves how valuable it is not only to its owners but also the people that travel from around the world to see it.
After all, you can go here to learn more about the land, sea, and even outer space, in addition to providing a great look into the history of our planet.
16 Gulliver’s Gate
Named after the classic story Gulliver’s Travels, this fascinating New York City attraction will stand out even among the many outside the norm things to do on the island. Featuring depictions of landscapes from across the planet, you will see miniaturized versions of famous locales from Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas here. In all likelihood, that description will bring to mind thoughts of your typical dioramas, but this place is so much more than that.
What makes these displays so spectacular is that they employ “sophisticated software and mini-satellites that control thousands of tiny, kinetic objects, including cars, trains, planes, and boats.”
As such, the mini cities are realistically on the go as well.
15 Bushwick Collective
Started by a local by the name of Joe Ficalora, the Bushwick Collective was designed to take away from the industrial and dirty feel of Brooklyn at the time. Worked on by a slew of talented artists, the area has become a de facto open-air street art museum that is colorful beyond belief and lacks any of the stodginess that turns some people off. They use the sides of buildings as a canvas and there is any number of different styles represented throughout the city. All of this inspired Vogue’s Anna Wintour to name it one of the seven coolest neighborhoods in the world.
The second area of New York City that has been heavily influenced by another country to appear on this list, there are several things Chinatown has in common with the country it got its name from. Right off the hop, you can’t walk through this area without being overwhelmed by an endless array of bakeries, shops, restaurants, and places like that. On top of that, you can also check out fascinating businesses like the Museum of Chinese in America, the Mahayana Temple Buddhist Association, and Columbus Park. If all of that weren’t enough, you can leave the area with various products that would be hard to come by in the vast majority of stores near you.
13 Central Park
Something of an oasis inside one of the busiest cities in the world, at times Central Park has had a bad reputation but there are lots of times of the day you can enjoy much of it without worry. Combining many of the best elements of the greatest parks in the world, if you lay out a towel and enjoy a picnic or something like that you can also sit and watch the city go by. Of course, it should be noted that you will likely find yourself surrounded by loads of other people, but as long as you are comfortable among crowds, this destination is likely for you.
12 Metropolitan Museum of Art
An incredibly huge museum that you could easily get lost in, the Metropolitan Museum of Art not only has something for pretty much everyone but there are a staggering amount of exhibits there.
Said to be the home of more than 2 million different pieces of art, there are representations of 5,000 years’ worth of human expression that have found their home there.
As such, if you are even a passive fan of the art world and you want to take in as much of it as possible without focusing on any specific discipline then this is a great place to spend a day.
11 Trinity Place Vault Bar
Admittedly a pretty gimmicky place, the food and drink you can consume at the Trinity Place Vault Bar have little to do with why it is a great place to go for tourists. However, it should be noted that all of that should be stellar based on the many glowing reviews of the place you can find out there.
Instead, the main reason you should make your way here is that it was built inside an old bank vault.
The type of thing that most of us have only seen in TV shows and movies, just walking by the massive vault door is an experience worth having.
10 Empire State Building
One of the most attractive places to go in New York City for a long list of reasons, the Empire State Building is the 5th tallest building in the United States and 28th in the world as of 2017.
However, for more than 40 years, from 1931 until 1972, it was the single tallest building on the planet.
Proof positive of how amazing it was when it was first built, this mainstay of the New York skyline still holds a place in a lot of people’s hearts. Offering up mind-boggling views from its 86th and 102nd floors, on top of that you have to appreciate this building as a symbol of the city itself.
9 Radio City Music Hall
Two attractions in one entry, the Radio City Music Hall is a great place to see a show or take a tour of a piece of pop culture treasure. The largest indoor theater in the world, it was built by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and opened in 1932.
Meant to celebrate the end of the Great Depression, it was designed to be “a place of beauty offering high-quality entertainment at prices ordinary people could afford” and lived up to that lofty goal.
Open for decades and hugely significant in terms of our shared pop culture, even if you’ve never been near the place The Radio City Stage Door Tour is worth the price of admission. After all, there aren’t many opportunities to see how a stage show works from the inside like this.
An incredibly dark day that has haunted the world ever since, the horrors that took place on September 11, 2001 should never be forgotten. For that reason alone, taking some time to visit the memorial that was built at the home of the Twin Towers is well worth it. That said, on top of the value of paying tribute to those that were lost on that day, it can also serve the purpose of reminding you about what is truly important in life.
7 Museum of the Moving Image
The setting of some of the best movies ever made, New York City isn’t only a great place to shoot a film but it is also worth visiting to learn about them too.
Situated in the Astoria, Queens part of NYC, within the walls of the Museum of the Moving Image you can get up close and personal with a long list of props and artifacts from real-life film sets.
Once you’re done with that, you can also catch a screening at the state of the art cinema or play one of the 14 retro arcade games that are present. All of those awesome attractions aside, many people will be most excited to learn about “The Jim Henson Exhibit” where 47 puppets from The Muppet Show are housed and you can watch archival footage.
6 Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Worthy of checking out even from afar, the one of a kind design of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum building is quite something to take in. In fact, the museum itself is such a work of art that it has been consistently named as one of the most acclaimed buildings of the 20th century for good reason. Of course, it isn't to say that you shouldn’t bother to walk through its doors since you will be greeted with views of art that has been carefully curated for 80 years. In short, every aspect of visiting the Guggenheim has value.
5 Times Square
Right off the hop, we’re going to say this, in all likelihood visiting Times Square once is going to be more than enough to satisfy you. After all, the place is filled to the brim with humanity and pretty much every local avoids it like the plague due how big of a headache the place is. That said, if you enter this city even for a day, it really does seem like it is an absolute must to at least make an appearance here considering how famous it is. This is especially true since there are so many wild things to see here, including the many bright lights, pop culture figures, the famous cowboy, and so much more.
4 Nintendo World
The brand that brought the video game industry back to the forefront after the popularity of the Atari hit a wall, Nintendo has been near the forefront of the business ever since.
For those reasons, to say that the company has some dedicated fans is an understatement.
More than that, a large percentage of other people can be described as casual admirers at the least. For everyone that falls under those two categories, it would be pretty fun to spend a day at Nintendo World, a 10,000-square-foot tribute to the company in the heart of NYC. If you end up making your way there, you can look forward to trying out a slew of game demos from many different systems but for us, the real draw is the exhibits looking at Nintendo history.
The place where many of the world’s best performers, producers, actors, and writers do their thing, if you want to see the best of the best in the play world this is the place to be. Made up of more than 3 dozen theaters that are located near the hubbub of Times Square, even if seeing plays has never been your thing, it would be shocking if there wasn’t something for you here. In fact, so much time, energy, and money is spent to pull off these shows, it is a real shame that everyone can’t make a pilgrimage here from time to time. On top of that, even if you just want to see a celebrity in a different way, there are many stars that tread the boards during their time off TV and film sets.
2 The Morris-Jumel Mansion
Not a place for the weak of heart or those that are turned off by anything scary, The Morris-Jumel Mansion is believed by many people to be the most haunted place in New York City. Said to be the former home of a French couple, he passed away under dubious circumstances. Then his widow married Aaron Burr, the former American Vice President, who met his untimely end 3 years after moving in. Finally, she is said to have lost her mind during the final years of her life and now is believed to roam the hallways of the mansion all these years later.
Taking things up a notch, the current owners have also thrown in things like freaky mannequins to weird out patrons even more,
so it is a great place to go for those looking for an adrenaline rush.
1 Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
A beacon of hope that has welcomed millions of people to the land of opportunity since it was first dedicated in 1886, the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of what has made America great. As a tourist, you won’t be going to see this landmark as a part of the final leg of a journey to your new home but that doesn’t mean it is any less majestic. Additionally, that is to say, nothing about what it feels like to walk though Ellis Island, the busiest immigrant inspection station the country had for 60 years. When you combine all of that you have a landmark for the ages that tourists should enjoy.