New York is one of the world’s best-known cities. With thousands of famous sights, tons of backstreets, and various unique neighborhoods, it would probably take 100 trips to the city to be able to create a detailed New York guide. Instead, I’ve compiled a list of six major landmarks you have to see, regardless of how much time you have to spend in the city.
1 | The Empire State Building
Towering over Fifth Avenue, it’s a New York icon. Despite hearing many queue-related horror stories before our visit, we visited on Sunday, just after lunch, and went pretty much straight up! If you do get stuck in the queue, they have lots of screens and exhibits to keep you entertained.
Online tickets are valid for up to a year after purchase, which meant we could wait for the clearest day on our trip and still skip the ticket line. I wouldn’t recommend paying extra for the top observatory. Photo opportunities are limited from this level because of the glass, and we had a great view from the 86th floor without having to fork out an extra 20 US Dollars per person.
2 | The Statue of Liberty
Usually sold as a ferry tour in conjunction with Ellis Island, it’s the ultimate symbol of New York. Remember to allow at least thirty extra minutes for the airport-style security checks before boarding your boat. If you’re looking to save on some cash, don’t bother with the audio tour: rather than information about this famous statue, it focuses on recordings of people’s impressions of it and how it makes them feel. It was kind of cringe-worthy!
The best views are from the ground, so you don’t really need to bother with the pedestal/crown tickets. Taking photos of the statue was what we really wanted, and you’ll find the best views back over to Manhattan are before you reach the statue itself.
If you’re traveling over lunch or dinner time, I’d recommend getting food around the Statue of Liberty rather than on Ellis Island. Liberty Island has a large cafeteria and gift shop, with more choice than the snack shops on the ferries.
3 | Ellis Island
Don’t even think about heading back to Manhattan until you’ve stopped here! There’s so much to see, and you’ll find fascinating exhibits about America’s immigrant population and the role the island played. I’d recommend spending more time here than on Liberty Island. We ended up rushing to catch the last boat, but could easily have spent over two hours here alone. When planning your day, remember to check when the last boat will leave and don’t miss it!
4 | Central Park
The park isn’t as pretty in the winter (when we visited), but it’s still a good spot to amble around and kill an afternoon. The buskers and churros were the highlights for me!
It’s not that easy to navigate your way around Central Park. We were trying to find the zoo, but sadly failed. We saw plenty of statues, pretty ponds, and entertaining buskers instead, though! Be sure to check out the Literary Walk for 29 statues of famous writers, as well as the Wollman Ring at the end of 59th Street for some great people watching and the perfect spot to admire the skyline.
5 | MoMa (the Museum of Modern Art)
I have a confession to make: MoMa wasn’t on my sightseeing list initially. Jaded by too many European portrait galleries, art museums tend to remind me of bad school trips. It turns out there’s so much more to it. The incredible collection includes sculptures, weapons, and historical musical instruments. It’s also easy to cherry pick the galleries that appeal to you most, if you’re limited on time.
I’d highly recommend checking out the Egyptian temple. It looks like they just picked it up, shipped it, and put it down in America… and that’s pretty much what happened! Look for the Temple of Dendur on the map. You should also see the PixCell Deer. Hidden away in the Japanese section, we stumbled across this by accident. It turns out it’s famous, and with good reason: it’s taxidermy like you’ve never seen it before.
6 | Grand Central Terminal
We popped in to take a look on the way to the Empire State Building and were so glad we didn’t miss it. There are daily tours, but they’re quite long (75 mins) and expensive (25 USD); however, there is an audio tour if you prefer the shorter version. It’s actually a pretty good place to go for a low-key lunch, as the food court has lots of variety from bagels and muffins to Indian and Chinese food.