New York City is arguably more packed with attractions than any popular tourist destination in the world. While most cities and vacation spots offer up a few things you’re supposed to see and do, New York can wear out any traveler with its exhaustive list of recommended sights and activities.
So how do you know which ones to prioritize? Well, as someone who’s now traveled to New York often enough to know my way around a little bit, I thought I’d help out potential visitors by sorting through some of the most popular attractions and telling you whether they’re worth your time or not! So here’s my buy-or-sell list of what to do in New York City.
Statue Of Liberty
The Statue of Liberty is arguably the most famous statue in the world, and always listed as one of the truly iconic sights of New York City. Timeout’s list of NYC attractions places it at #2, right after the Empire State Building, and makes the valid point that one reason tourists enjoy it is that it’s shunned by locals. My opinion? Don’t bother visiting. Sure, it’s an incredibly impressive monument, but the real wonder of it is that it’s a skyscrape-sized humanoid statue jutting up out of the water! Such a thing is coolest when viewed from the airplane on your way in, or from the ground in the city. Once you tour inside, you may as well be anywhere. Plus, visiting takes a lot of time out of your day.
Empire State Building
It’s no longer the tallest building in town (actually, it’s not even second), but the Empire State Building is the enduring icon that defines New York City. So should you visit? Well, truth be told the outside almost blends in at this point, as the skyline has gotten so impressive. That said, however, a New York travel tips page from British Airways claimed that “no visit to New York is complete without witnessing the awe-inspiring 360 degree view from the top.” While that’s slightly dramatic, I agree in principle. It’s touristy, sure, but riding to the top of this building to look down on the biggest city in the world is unlike anything else. Go for it.
I’ll keep this one short and sweet: Central Park isn’t just a place you should visit when traveling to New York, it’s a place you’ll almost need to visit. The streets of the Big Apple really are exhausting, and the park is a gorgeous place to stop and rest. It’s also a fun place to bump into street performances and other weird cultural displays.
Grand Central Terminal
Sometimes when I think about New York, I wonder how it is a train station (excuse me, terminal) has become a tourist attraction. Free Tours By Foot describes it by saying, “you definitely shouldn’t miss seeing the largest train station in the world,” as if this is an ordinary consideration for tourists. Now, the terminal is incredibly large, impressive, and beautiful. Also, if you’re in the area anyway, I’d say go ahead and take a look. But it’s by no means something to go out of your way for if you’re really trying to experience the city.
This one is a difficult call for me to make. The fact is, the name Yankee Stadium once belonged to one of the most historic venues in all of sports. Now, it labels a state-of-the-art replacement built in 2009 that houses more of a museum of Yankees history, as opposed to the palpable aura that existed in the old stadium. Nevertheless, if you’re a sports fan, I recommend stopping by if it’s baseball season. The new stadium isn’t oozing with historic appeal, but it’s a gorgeous, breathtaking arena.
I’m choosing not to give any one museum its own section, because there are just too many famous ones to sort through. New York culture magazine Gothamist has written up a comprehensive overview of museums in the city, and it’s a great list to consult if you want to make sure you’re not missing anything. But for my part, rather than telling you to see or avoid anything in particular, I’d say it depends what you’re looking for. For a sharp, clean venue and modern art, be sure to stop by the MoMA; for older collections and open spaces with intriguing interior architecture, visit the Met or the Frick House; and if you like a bit of natural beauty with a museum visit, check out the Cloisters. These are just a few of an incredible number of options.
That covers a lot of the major attractions! Of course, there are still Broadway shows, restaurants and bars, concerts and events, but those depend a lot more on scheduling and personal taste. For the big-time tourist spots, hopefully this list can help you to see the important stuff and save some time.