New York City is one of my favourite places to visit. I’ve been twice now, the first trip being our honeymoon back in 2008 and the second saw me getting stranded in a very dark hotel room as Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012 and all the power went out for a few days!
New York is one of the biggest and most popular tourist destinations in the world, largely because it contains a plethora of entertainment, attractions, and noteworthy sights. This means that pretty much anyone can find plenty to do in the city. The problem, for a lot of travellers, is there’s simply too much! With all of the offerings of New York City at your hands for a brief vacation, it can be very hard to narrow things down and plan your trip.
In order to help with that process, I’ve put together a list of 10 of the very best sights and attractions across the city. Naturally there’s plenty to do that doesn’t make this list, but if you cover a handful of these items, you should be off to a great start on your trip to New York. So here goes:
1. Central Park
Central Park, on its own, is an incredible attraction. The sheer size of it is actually difficult to comprehend, and there’s something very cool about being able to enjoy sprawling green fields and tree cover with a border of skyscrapers lining the surrounding area. But the park is also a lot of fun because there are so many additional attractions within. It has its own zoo, a modern castle, baseball and soccer fields, boathouses, restaurants, and more.
2. Metropolitan Museum of Art
There are tons of amazing museums in New York, and different ones might appeal to different people. If you’re curious about finding the perfect fit, Smithsonian’s picks of five must-see museums can give you a nice selection of very different exhibits to consider. But for the best all-encompassing experience, it’s difficult to beat the Metropolitan Museum of Art, often referred to simply as the Met. As one of the biggest museums in the world, it just has some of everything.
3. Columbus Circle
This is a personal preference, but for little glimpses of the city at its finest, Columbus Circle stands out as a place to see. It’s an easy stop, as it’s right on the southwest corner of Central Park, and it’s a pretty breathtaking city block. A vast roundabout packed with taxis and horse-drawn carriages fresh from the park, the circle is surrounded on all sides by towering, gleaming skyscrapers. Its ground level is marked by an eclectic mix of coffee shops, glass-walled building lobbies, hotdog stands, and one giant golden statue commemorating U.S. sailors from the Maine battleship.
4. Brooklyn Bridge
Because it’s made up of various boroughs divided by water, New York is known for its bridges that ferry unfathomable amounts of traffic back and forth on a constant basis. Among them all, the Brooklyn Bridge also functions as a tourist attraction. Connecting Brooklyn and Manhattan, it’s a massive and impressive structure, particularly when you consider it was built in the 1800s! The bridge is walkable, too.
5. Washington Square Park
Like Columbus Circle, this is more of a sight than an attraction or activity, but I’d still recommend Washington Square Park as a place to check out if you want to get a feel for some of the different atmospheres within the city. Essentially a wide open space situated at the edge of New York University, it’s a beautiful area packed with people that often feels more laid back than other popular neighbourhoods closer to midtown. It’s also a great place to catch some amazing street performances, despite policy changes that have at times made it more difficult for performers to work there.
6. World Trade Center
The new World Trade Center, built where the Twin Towers were tragically destroyed in the events of Sept. 11, 2001, is still incomplete, but it’s already a stunning area and a fitting monument to New York’s collective perseverance. Its signature building, One World Trade Center, is now the fourth tallest building in the world, and the NY Post says its observation deck is “out of this world.”
7. Flagship Stores
Major retail stores may not sound like noteworthy attractions in a city as towering and magnificent as New York. For many, though, they’re must-see stops. In fact, flagship locations for Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s are even highlighted as part of BA’s page on New York travel, where potential travellers are guided through some of the most significant things to see and do in the city. It may or may not be for you, but if you like to shop—or are simply intrigued by the idea of stores large enough to span multiple city blocks—visit some of these flagships.
8. 5th Avenue Cathedrals
Manhattan’s 5th Avenue is known mostly for high-end shops and luxury hotels and condos. However, it also has a few breathtaking chapels and cathedrals lining the streets. St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the most famous one, often mentioned among the city’s greatest sights, but the Saint Thomas Church is also a treat to see.
9. Yankee Stadium
New York has a lot of famous sports stadiums, and mayn local fans are a little bit sour on the new Yankee Stadium, which was built in 2009 to replace the historic old one. While an element of tradition was lost, the new stadium is about as impressive a sports venue as you can find in the world. Filled to the brim with monuments to the Yankees’ history (and in some respects that of New York), the stadium also emphasises fan comfort.
10. Governors Island
Finally, there’s Governors Island, which is my personal favourite off-shore attraction in the city. Once essentially an island fortress, it has been transformed into a park of sorts with walking and cycling routes, areas set aside for art exhibitions, and plenty of food and entertainment options—all in view of the island of Manhattan.