20 Most Iconic Tourist Attractions in New York City (Slideshow)
American Museum of Natural History
Shutterstock/ Marco Prati
Contrary to popular belief, the exhibits at the American Museum of Natural History don’t come to life each night. Don’t believe us? See for yourself, as the museum offers sleepover events on a regular basis for parents and their kids.
Built in 1874 on Central Park West at 79th Street, the museum complex includes 27 interconnected buildings that house 45 permanent exhibition halls, a library, and the famous Hayden Planetarium. If you only visit one museum while in New York City, this should be it. General admission tickets start at $22 for adults, $17 for seniors and students, and $12.50 for children ages 2–12 — but these are only suggestions. The AMNM actually works on a pay-as-you-wish system.
They say the neon lights are bright on Broadway and they say there’s always magic in the air… and they’re right! Well, we can’t guarantee the magic part, but the neon lights are totally a thing. While the average tourist might not be impressed by the endless entertainment options on the most famous street for plays and musicals in the world, theater enthusiasts will always remember the overwhelming feeling of their first trip. Looking to see a show? Whether you see Wicked, The Lion King, Aladdin, Jersey Boys, Cats, Chicago, The Phantom of the Opera, The Book of Mormon, or Hamilton (good luck with that!), you really can’t go wrong.
Completed in 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge connects the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn and was the first steel-wire suspension bridge ever constructed. If you have the time (it takes about an hour) and it’s not 100 degrees outside, a trek across this 6,000-foot-long feat of engineering is absolutely worth it. And best of all, it’s absolutely free.
Just do yourself a favor and pay attention to the bicyclists zooming across the bridge at all hours of the day. Although it’s a landmark and popular tourist site, locals still use the bridge to commute around the city and they aren’t fans of slowing down for out-of-towners.
New York City is also home to Carnegie Hall, one of the most famous concert venues in the world. Built in 1891 by architect William Burnet Tuthill and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, some of the most iconic performers in history — from Tchaikovsky to Louis Armstrong to the Beatles — have played there.
The theater is located on 7th Avenue between 56th and 57th streets. Want to know the best way to get to Carnegie Hall, according to an old adage? Practice.
Central Park is more than just the home of the creepy pigeon lady from Home Alone 2 that ended up being integral to Kevin McCallister’s escape from the Sticky Bandits — there are also a few places inside worth seeing. Beatles fan? You’ll want to check out Strawberry Fields, a “Garden of Peace” funded by Yoko Ono, the widow of John Lennon, who was murdered outside of the nearby Dakota building in 1980.
Like literature? The famous Strand bookstore has a kiosk in Central Park at 60th Street and 5th Avenue, and there are Alice in Wonderland and Hans Christian Andersen sculptures on the east side of the park between 72nd and 75th streets. For more active pursuits, boats are available for rent at the famous Loeb Boathouse or you can stroll around the Central Park Zoo at a rate of $12 for adults and $7 for children.
Shutterstock/ Ned K
Situated on the East Side of Manhattan at the intersection of 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue, the 1,046-foot-tall Chrysler building was once the world’s tallest building. Although it only held the title for 11 months before getting passed by another member of this list in 1931, the iconic Art Deco-style skyscraper is still regarded as one of the finest buildings in New York City and the entire country. Interestingly, although it was once the headquarters of the Chrysler Corporation, the company never owned the building, as Walter P. Chrysler paid for it himself in order to pass it on to his children. Unfortunately, tourists can no longer ascend to the top, and will have to settle for visiting the lobby or viewing the building from afar.
Shutterstock/ Marco Rubino
Coney Island is a peninsular neighborhood located in the southwestern part of Brooklyn, most famous for its amusement park (Luna Park, home of the 89-year-old Cyclone roller coaster), boardwalk, and being the home of the original Nathan’s Famous hot dog joint, which was established in 1916 and is the site of the annual hot dog eating competition.
To the surprise of many, Coney Island has survived numerous financial ups and downs, as well as attempts of developers to get rid of the amusement park rides throughout the years — including efforts by Fred Trump (Donald Trump’s father), who, in the 1960s and 1970s, tried to bulldoze the rides and replace them with condominiums. (Ruining everyone’s lives is clearly in the Trump DNA.) Hurricane Sandy also destroyed much of the region in 2012, forcing massive renovations to take place. Take the D, F, N, or Q subway lines to the end to see and enjoy Coney Island while you can, before it washes away or President Trump decides to complete his dad’s unfinished business.
If your ancestors arrived in America between 1892 and 1954, they likely passed through Ellis Island. During that time, the island was the country’s busiest immigrant inspection station and it admitted more than 12 million people.
Interestingly, after more than 100 years of being thought of as part of New York State, a 1998 United States Supreme Court decision found that most of the island is actually located in New Jersey. Although most of Ellis Island had to be closed for repairs following the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, it has since been renovated and reopened. You’ll have to fork over $18 for the ferry ride over ($9 for children 4–12), but this fee also includes complimentary audio and ranger-guided tours, as well as transportation and access to the Statue of Liberty and its pedestal.
Grand Central Terminal
With all the hustle and bustle of the transit hub known as Grand Central Terminal (or Grand Central Station), it’s easy to forget about the location’s history and significance. Grand Central was built way back in 1871 and now covers a whopping 48 acres of space — including 44 train platforms, more than 100 tracks, and a basement dining concourse — and sees more than 20 million visitors every year.
Although you’ll likely be in the way of many commuters, be sure to take time to look up during your visit. On the outside, there’s the famous Glory of Commerce statue featuring Hercules, Minerva, and Mercury, and a 13-foot-tall clock containing the largest example of Tiffany glass. On the inside, be sure to check out the four-faced brass clock on top of the information booth and the astronomical ceiling conceived by French portrait artist Paul César Helleu and executed by James Monroe Hewlett and Charles Basing.
We felt the need to include at least one iconic food spot in this list, and they don’t get much more famous than Katz’s Delicatessen on East Houston in the Lower East Side (home of the famous “I’ll have what she’s having” restaurant scene from When Harry Met Sally).
Established in 1888, the deli features an extensive menu, but you won’t need it. Order a sandwich of either pastrami or corned beef, and that’s all you really need to know. Oh, and don’t lose your meal ticket. That’s important, too.
New York Stock Exchange
Shutterstock/ Stuart Monk
Located on the corner of Wall Street and Broad Street, the New York Stock Exchange is the world’s largest stock exchange by market capitalization of its listed companies. Founded in 1792, the building has been affected by numerous historical events in its 224 years. In 1920, a bomb exploded on Wall Street that killed 33 people and injured 400; the crash of Oct. 24, 1929 ushered in the Great Depression of the 1930s; the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks closed the NYSE for four days; and flooding from Hurricane Sandy closed it for two in 2012.
Tours are no longer conducted inside the building, but there are plenty of good photo opportunities outside. If you’re in the area, be sure to check out the adjacent Federal Hall National Memorial, where George Washington took the Oath of Office as our first president in 1789.
One World Trade Center
After the tragedies of Sept. 11, New York promised to bounce back stronger than ever — and it delivered. In addition to continuing to be the center of commerce and culture in the world, the city constructed a 1,776-foot-tall tower that opened in 2013 and is not only taller than the original Twin Towers, but is now the tallest building in the entire Western Hemisphere. The One World Observatory is now open to tourists for a cost of $34 for adults, $28 for children. While around the WTC complex, consider a visit to the 9/11 Memorial Museum as well ($24 for adults, $15 for kids).
Radio City Music Hall
Shutterstock/ Sean Pavone
The enormous neon marquees of Radio City Music Hall are worth checking out, even if you don’t have tickets to see the famous Rockettes of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.
After all, the venue on Sixth Avenue between 50th and 51st streets was once the leading tourist destination in the city. The 6,015-seat theater opened in 1932 and in addition to countless performances, it has also played host to events such as the Grammy Awards, Tony Awards, Daytime Emmy Awards, MTV Video Music Awards, and the NFL Draft.
Since you’re already at Radio City, duck around the corner and see the rest of Rockefeller Center, including the famous ice skating rink, the famous gold sculpture and Statue of Atlas, the iconic Christmas tree (if your visit around the holidays), and, if you’re not afraid of heights, the Top of the Rock observation deck ($32 for adults, $26 for children).
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Across the street from Rockefeller Center is the most famous church in New York City, St. Patrick’s Cathedral. This Roman Catholic place of worship was dedicated on Oct. 5, 1910 and has achieved iconic status since.
Stop in for Mass if you’re into that sort of thing, or just peek inside for a glimpse of the breathtaking Neo-Gothic-style architecture. If you want to find out more about the history of the building, guided tours are available year-round by appointment, and walk-ins tours are held in the months of September and October.
Statue of Liberty
As we previously mentioned, you can visit the Statue of Liberty (and ascend the pedestal) with the purchase of an Ellis Island ferry ticket, so seeing both is quite easy. If you want to climb further up the 130-year-old statue and visit the crown, it will only cost an additional $3 per adult or child.
Just be sure to set aside a couple hours, as it will take a while to hit all 354 stairs in cramped conditions. If you want to save some time and money, opt for a free ride around the bay on the Staten Island Ferry instead, which will provide plenty of photo-snapping opportunities.
The Empire State Building
Standing 102 stories and 1,454 feet high, the Empire State Building is one of the most famous skyscrapers in the entire world.
This is likely due to the fact that it was the tallest building for nearly 40 years, in the time between its completion in early 1931 and the topping out of the original World Trade Center’s North Tower in late 1970. Like the Chrysler Building, the ESB also features distinctive Art Deco-style architecture. Unlike the Chrysler Building, tourists can still go all the way to the top — if they’re willing to part with $52! The ticket includes an audio tour and access to the open-air deck and all exhibits. The skyscraper is located on 5th Avenue between West 33rd and 34th streets.
Also known as The Crossroads of the World (officially Broadway between 42nd and 47th streets), Times Square is a major commercial intersection and neighborhood in Midtown Manhattan. Of course, you probably already know this, as TS is arguably the most popular tourist destination in the entire city. Formerly a bit of a seedy area filled with go-go bars, sex shops, and peep shows, Times Square is now family-friendly (save for the Naked Cowboy and the topless “desnudas” ladies posing for photos with tourists) and includes attractions like Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, the Disney Store, M&M’s World, and chain restaurants such as Planet Hollywood, The Hard Rock Cafe, and Bubba Gump Shrimp Company.
Regardless of your opinion of the usefulness of the United Nations, it’s still worth visiting the intergovernmental organization located on East 42nd Street and 1st Avenue in Manhattan.
Unlike some other government buildings in New York, the United Nations still conducts guided tours, which run for an hour and include stops at the newly renovated General Assembly Hall, the Security Council Chamber, the Trusteeship Council Chamber, and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Chamber. You’ll need to buy a ticket, which costs $22 for adults and $13 for children.
It may not be the original House That Ruth Built, but that doesn’t change the iconic status of Yankee Stadium.
In fact, the new venue (built in 2009 after the demolition of the original) is a clear tribute to the old, with the iconic white frieze façade still lining the upper deck and the limestone exterior mirroring that was used back in 1923. We’d definitely recommend trying to catch a baseball game during your visit, but the stadium also hosts regular soccer matches and occasional concerts, football games, and hockey games from time to time too, and even has NYY Steak and Hard Rock Cafe locations that are open year-round.