Post overview: Best tourist attractions in New York City
Man, New York City is a treasure trove of tourist attractions, landmarks, iconic sights and most of all – a point of inspiration.
But even though eight million people call the five boroughs home there are millions more who only have a short time to visit. If you need to plan the top tourist attractions in New York City to make the most of your time, this post is for you.
In it I’ll go over the most iconic attractions in NYC that will entertain just about anybody. Not beholden to buildings or events, this is essentially a “must-see” hit-list of New York City’s best points of interest.
But I can feel myself getting ahead of myself. What do you say we dive right into what you’re here for?
Visiting New York City? If you haven’t decided where to stay (yet) check out our helpful guide on Where to Stay in New York City (The best neighborhoods for first timers +2 to avoid). Don’t have time? Here’s our favorite hotel in NYC, hands down.
Best Tourist Attractions in New York City
#25. Fifth Avenue
The most famous street in New York City, and maybe in America has to be Manhattan’s very own Fifth Avenue.
Famous for its luxury stores (it’s the most expensive shopping street in the world) and historic buildings, Fifth Avenue is a great place to start this list of the best tourist attractions in New York City.
Its genesis is Washington Square Park in the Greenwich Village. From that point it runs north before coming to a dead end at the Harlem River on 142nd Street.
But don’t worry, first time visitors don’t need to walk the 10k (6.2 miles) to get a taste of what the famous thoroughfare has to offer.
The stretch of Fifth Avenue between 42nd and 59th Streets (a little under a mile) is riddled with some of New York City’s most iconic sights. In fact, we recommend the area on our one day, two day, and three day NYC itineraries.
We’ll go further in depth on some of the major tourist attractions NYC has to offer on Fifth Ave further down this post. For now just imagine doing some of the best shopping in New York City as you parade down the avenue.
Address: Fifth Avenue, between 42nd and 59th Streets
#24. Flatiron Building
Ladies and gentlemen, let’s get real: the Flatiron Building needs no introduction. The intriguing triangular shape makes this one of the most iconic buildings in New York City!
Built in 1902 at the bustling intersection of Fifth Avenue and Broadway, this is one of the most photographed spots in the city today.
Boasting French and Italian Renaissance influences, the building was first met with hesitation from New Yorkers. They were convinced that between the odd triangular shape and building height, it would fall down. Heck, even the New York Times originally called it a monstrosity.
But alas, the Flatiron Building has not only withstood the test of time, but the test of adoration as well. It has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in New York City, and many imagine the Big Apple without it.
Unfortunately the Flatiron Building has been wrapped up in a web of scaffolding since 2019. In May of 2023 it came under new ownership. They now hope to have the scaffolding down in a few months, fingers crossed!
Address: 175 5th Ave, New York, NY 10010
#23. Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
Home to world-renowned paintings like Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night, Claude Monet’s Water Lilies and notable works by Warhol, Basquiat and Dali, it’s no wonder MoMA is constantly crowded with happy visitors.
How many, exactly? Well in 2022 more than 3.2 million. But, before the pandemic the museum was averaging well over 6 million visitors for a decade. The numbers serve as proof the MoMA is one of the best tourist attractions New York City has in its arsenal.
You don’t have to be an avid art connoisseur to appreciate the real-life paintings you grew up studying in school. The paintings are well curated and displayed in a modern and airy environment for an experience anyone can enjoy.
Must see at MoMA: The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh, Andy Warhol’s Campbell Soup Cans, Frida Kahlo’s Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair, Monet’s Water Lilies, The Persistence of Memory by Dali, and Picasso’s work.
Address: 11 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019
#22. Lincoln Center
The Lincoln Center is home to the Metropolitan Opera House, New York Philharmonic, New York City Opera, New York City Ballet, the School of American Ballet, Julliard School of Music, the Chamber Music Society and the Film Society.
In other words, the Lincoln Center is the cultural capital of the Upper West Side and one of the best tourist attractions in NYC.
The venue sits on 16-acres and consists of five concert/theater buildings, a library, band shell and two outdoor plazas which welcome more than 5 million visitors a year.
This is the place to go to see world-class opera, theater, ballet and jazz. Therefore, thankfully, there’s never a shortage of exciting events to attend.
One of my absolute favorite shows held at the Lincoln Center is the Nutcracker ballet, which is among the premier Christmas-time shows in New York City. The show alone makes it one of the top tourist attractions in New York City during the holidays.
Address: Lincoln Center Plaza, New York, NY 10023
#21. Time Out Market
Located in picturesque DUMBO and offering stellar views of Lower Manhattan is the Time Out Market.
As a hub of some of the Big Apple’s best restaurants, the market has quickly evolved into one of the most popular tourist attractions in New York City.
The market was founded by Time Out, a media company with a focus on food. The first Time Out Market opened in Lisbon IN 2014. After striking success the company decided to open one across the Atlantic in NYC in 2019.
Present day it’s home to 21 unique dining experience that represent the best of what the Big Apple has to offer. Whether you need a morning bagel or an evening sushi date, you’ll find it under Time Out’s roof.
And speaking of roof – Time Out Market has a fifth floor rooftop bar that is both scenic and refreshing.
You’ll enjoy stunning vistas of the Brooklyn Bridge and Lower Manhattan both on its terrace or indoors from the window. My local’s tip is to visit Monday through Friday from 4-7PM for one of the best happy hours in the city.
Address: 55 Water St, Brooklyn, NY 11201
#20. American Museum of Natural History
Often considered the best museum in NYC for kids, the American Museum of Natural History is home to 33 million specimens. If that sounds overwhelming, fret not, typically only 3% of the collection is on display.
Welcoming 5 million visitors per year and spanning all aspect of the natural world, the American Museum of Natural History is one of the most popular tourist attractions in New York City.
Guests are invited in by two massive dinosaur skeletons housed in the entry hall. Don’t worry though, unlike in the movie Night at the Museum these don’t come alive.
From there, you can tour the impressive permanent collections or take a look at the exciting rotating exhibits.
Don’t miss the Hall of Ocean Life where you’ll have an opportunity to see a life-size model of a 94-foot blue whale — it’s an experience you won’t soon forget. But look at me already getting ahead of myself.
For those interested (or if you already have tickets) we’ve written article outlining all the best things to see at the American Museum of Natural History.
Furthermore, anybody visiting after the spring of 2023 will get to gawk at the brand-spanking new Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education and Innovation wing.
Address: 200 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024
#19. The High Line
The High Line is one of the most unique parks in New York City. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, High Line Park was born from an eye-sore.
The elevated tracks this NYC tourist attraction was built on were originally used by freight trains delivering cargo to the city. A practice that became moot with the rise in trucking.
For ages, the railroad track was abandoned and neglected, a blight on the neighborhood. That is until Mayor Bloomberg approved a plan to transform the derelict train tracks into a park for the people.
The High Line opened in 2009 and became an instant success. The elevated promenade stretches 1.5 miles and receives an average of 8 million visitors annually. Leaving this beloved park off a list of the best tourist attractions in New York City would be unforgivable.
As a local, I can tell you that I thoroughly enjoy visiting the High Line regardless of how many times I’ve seen it. The park swells with giddy tourists and locals alike, so the people-watching opportunities are endless.
You can park yourself on any number of benches and enjoy a snack from a vendor as you enjoy both the people-watching and city views alike. Not to mention, in the spring this place is a plant-lover’s paradise!
#18. Little Island
Piggy-backing off the High Line is Little Island, a park a stone’s throw away from the aforementioned.
Unique and memorable, the park extends out over the Hudson River on concrete platforms. The views are spectacular and the experience feels like being on an adult playground.
If there’s a hot day in the forecast you can expect to find locals stretched out on the numerous lawns with picnic baskets and friends. The paths are littered with giddy visitors enjoying one of the best tourist attractions in NYC.
Best of all the park is small, and combined with its convenient location makes for one of the best tourist attractions in New York City you can squeeze into a tight schedule. Just do a quick loops and continue on your way!
Address: Pier 55 in Hudson River Park at, W 13th St, New York, NY 10014
#17. Broadway Theater District
Most folks who visit New York City will at least look into a Broadway show, and more than 12 million actually purchase tickets and attend. With numbers like that the Theater District is well placed as one of the best tourist attractions in New York City!
But what is Broadway, exactly? Broadway is a collection of 41 professional theaters in New York City with a capacity to seat 500 or more spectators.
When a performance debuts at one of these theaters it’s going on Broadway (theaters with smaller capacities are called Off-Broadway).
The name comes from the nearby road, also named Broadway, which serves as the main thoroughfare of the district. The area between 40th and 54th Streets is what’s known as the Theater District and the hub of Broadway.
We’ve written article covering the best Broadway shows in New York City, and also give tips for getting tickets. Whether it’s a musical for the family or a thespian date night, the Theater District has something for everyone.
#16. The Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET)
Founded in 1870, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) is often considered the best museum in New York City and it’s not hard to see why.
With more than 2 million pieces of art spanning 5,000+ years, the Met is the largest museum in the country and the fifth largest museum in the world. Averaging 6 million visitors per year, it’s also one of the most popular tourist attractions in New York City.
If you only have time for one museum while visiting NYC, this is the one. Plus, it’s conveniently located within Central Park, so you don’t have to go far out of your way to visit.
Admittedly, the museum can get overwhelming if you don’t have a game plan. I suggest picking one or two topics you’re interested in and sticking to those.
There’s also some notable pieces you absolutely can’t miss. Washington Crossing the Delaware, The Temple of Dendur, Vincent van Gogh’s Self Portrait with a Straw Hat are among the top-sights.
For a more in-depth guide check out 20 Epic Things to See at The MET. You don’t want to come ill-prepared to one of the best tourist attractions in New York City, so do yourself a favor and make a list of can’t miss artwork.
Address: 1000 5th Ave, New York, NY 10028
#15. Chrysler Building
A pillar of the New York City skyline for nearly 100 years, the Chrysler Building has captured the hearts of all who lay eyes on it. It’s become an instantly recognizable New York City tourist attraction thanks to its Art-Deco architecture and stainless steel peak.
At the time of construction everyone was vying for the honor of building the tallest building in the world, and the architects behind the Chrysler Building were no exception.
Impressively, the goal was achieved and the Chrysler Building officially became the tallest building upon completion in 1930 at 1,046 feet.
The kicker? This iconic NYC building only held the title for less than two years, thanks to the Empire State Building 1931 opening.
Regardless, the Chrysler Building is often regarded as one of the most popular tourist attractions in New York City. Unlike other famous skyscrapers though you’ll have to admire it from a distance.
It’s a private building full of offices, and unfortunately not open to the public.
Address: 405 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10174
#14. Washington Square Park
Much like Brooklyn Bridge Park, Washington Square Park is another iconic park weaved into the fabric of the city’s culture. As one of the most iconic tourist attractions in New York City, I can honestly say I’ve never seen the park empty.
Located in the heart of the charming Greenwich Village and NYU, the park has been a hub for countless demonstrations, rallies and protests.
On a day to day basis however it’s the meeting ground of suited businesswomen, relaxed college studens and wide-eyed tourists. The stars of the show tend to be the talented street musicians that give the park an easy-going vibe.
But Washington Square Park is perhaps best known for the monolithic grand marble arch that was built to commemorate the centennial of George Washington’s inauguration.
There seems to be a gravitational pull on this place because (like most New Yorkers) I can’t help but swing by whenever I’m within a one-mile vicinity.
For all its charm and history, Washington Square Park isn’t void of whiffs of marijuana or homeless people. I don’t tell you this to dissuade you from visiting though, I just didn’t want you to be surprised when you arrive.
Quick history lesson: During the late 18th century, this area was a burial ground for indigent victims of illness and disease. As the property slowly morphed into Washington Park, it became the epicenter of many movements and protests. As such, Washington Square Park is one of the more important historic park in New York City.
#13. Rockefeller Center + Top of the Rock
The Rockefeller Center is a series of 19 commercial buildings in Midtown, Manhattan just off of Fifth Avenue. 30 Rockefeller Plaza is the crown jewel, and odds are you’ve seen it yourself, either in New York or on the big screen.
Remember that end-scene for Home Alone 2: Lost in New York? Or the ice-skating rink final battle in Marvel’s Hawkeye? Or any episode from the The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon? They’ve all filmed here!
Today’s it’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in New York City. Riddled with shops, restaurants, a beloved observation deck and a bustling plaza, most first time visitors will find one reason or another to visit.
The entirety of Rockefeller Center feels like NYC’s living room, made evident by the large groups of visitors that congregate here every day of the year, but especially so during Christmas to see the beloved Rockefeller Tree.
It’s estimated that as many as 500,000 people visit the Rockefeller Christmas tree, which is likely the most famous Christmas tree in New York City. Needless to say you’ll be sympathizing with sardines in no time.
To avoid the traffic jam you might opt to visit Top of the Rock, another one of the most popular tourist attractions in New York City. It’s the observation deck at the top of 30 Rockefeller Plaza.
In my opinion, this is the best NYC observation deck to see New York City at night, but you can enjoy jaw-dropping city views no matter when you visit.
Address: 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10111
#12. St. Patrick’s Cathedral
St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the most beautiful church in New York City. There I said it.
Located right off 5th Avenue, this Neo-Gothic style cathedral has been stopping people in their tracks since its completion in 1879. Indeed, for nearly 150 years the St. Pat’s has been one of the most famous tourist attractions in New York City.
Welcoming more than 5 million visitors per year, this iconic New York City cathedral took 21 years to build because construction halted during the Civil War.
With a seating capacity of 2,000 people per mass, the cathedral is as massive as it is beautiful. Touring the interior is a no-brainer and self-guided tours are free, so swing by if the doors are open.
You’ll be amazed by the stained windows, which consist of 3,700 stained glass panels. You’ll also notice the 20 alters located within the confines of this sacred space. Two of them were designed by Tiffany & Co.
There’s also a basement crypt that serves as the final resting place of every cardinal of New York. The cathedral was recently renovated to the tune of $177 million.Safe to say it’ll continue being one of the most popular tourist attractions in NYC.
Address: 5th Ave, New York, NY 10022
#11. New York Public Library (Stephen A. Schwarzman Building)
The main branch of the New York Public Library (NYPL) is the epitome of beauty. Designed in a Beaux-Arts style, this building stands in stark contrast to the glass and iron it surrounds.
When it opened to the public in 1911, the New York Public Library was officially the largest marble building ever built in the country. No small task, considering it took 16 years to construct this monolithic structure. But the wait was worth it — more than 50,000 people showed up on opening day.
And it’s remained one of the best tourist attractions in New York City since. There are multiple rooms in the library you can peruse, even if you don’t have a NYPL card.
Of course you’ll want to mindful of your noise level. There are folks working and studying in the reading rooms. Staying quiet will be easy though. This is one of the most beautiful tourist attractions in New York City and being left speechless is a symptom of its architecture.
Fun fact: The two lions in front of the library are called Patience and Fortitude, here’s why.
Address: 476 5th Ave, New York, NY 10018
#10. Bryant Park
Right in the New York Public Library’s back yard is Bryant Park, another popular New York City tourist attraction. The 9.6 acre park is small, but it punches well above its weight.
The park is tucked into the shadow of towering office buildings that make up the heart of Midtown Manhattan. It’s not uncommon to find all the chairs and benches full during sunny days.
It’s a hub for the folks that work in the plethora of office buildings that surround the park. The park benches swell with locals during the busy lunch hour most seasons of the year.
The park is also a hotbed for free community activities. Regardless of the season of your visit you’ll likely have the opportunity to enjoy at least one event (free yoga, birding tours, chess, etc.)
Word to the wise: Bryant Park has some of the best public bathrooms you’ll find in NYC. There’s often a line, but it moves fast since an employee mans the door and keeps loiterers away.
#9. Grand Central Terminal
Stepping into Grand Central Terminal feels like stepping into a European train station. The Beaux Arts design transports visitors into an intricately detailed main hall that boasts a striking celestial ceiling.
It’s unbelievable that a 110-year-old train terminal still serves more than 750,000 visitors daily. Countless folks just visit since it’s one of the most famous tourist attractions in New York City, but a large percentage are also commuters who use the terminal as part of their daily commute.
Over the years Grand Central Terminal has become synonymous with New York City itself. In fact, this the third most popular tourist attraction in New York City (after Central Park and Times Square).
While you’re at Grand Central Terminal don’t forget to get a close up view of the clock above the information booth in the center of the concourse. Valued at a whopping $20 million, the clock has been nicknamed “the jewel hidden in plain sight.”
Address: 89 E 42nd St, New York, NY 10017
#8. Brooklyn Bridge
The Brooklyn Bridge is as ubiquitous as the Statue of Liberty or Empire State Building, standing as one of the most famous tourist attractions in New York City.
Hindsight is 20/20 and most folks can’t imagine the Big Apple without the bridge, but it was a trailblazing architectural feat when it was inaugurated in 1883.
Upon completion the Brooklyn Bridge was the first steel-wire suspension bridge and the longest suspension bridge in the world! Spanning an impressive 1,595 feet it dwarfed every bridge that came before.
Walking the modern-marvel takes approximately half an hour depending on your pace, and trust me, you should. As one of the most popular tourist attractions in New York City the bridge is too big an icon to ignore.
#7. Wall Street
Most folks have heard of Wall Street, even if they don’t know exactly what it is. To keep things brief, Wall Street is an eight-block long street in the Financial District that’s both historic as much as it’s a mecca of finance.
The intersection of Wall and Nassau Streets is a hub of famous New York City tourist attractions. You’ll be at the foot of the New York Stock Exchange, Federal Hall and the statue of the Fearless Girl.
History buffs will love visiting, since Federal Hall is where George Washington was sworn as the first president of the United States. Entry is free and well worth the stop, and there are tours offered by the National Park Service.
The New York Stock Exchange is the financial heart of our country (and a major economic artery of the world). Plus the statue of the Fearless Girl sends a message to big companies to hire women.
Wall Street itself is only a stone’s throw away from nearby New York City tourist attractions, too. I know I can’t list a neighborhood as an attraction, but it’s so small it’s worth mentioning Trinity Church, the Charging Bull and the Battery are all within shouting distance.
For a more in-depth guide to Wall Street check out 20 Fun Things to do in the Financial District (You Won’t Soon Forget).
Address: Wall St & Nassau St, New York, NY 10005
#6. One World Trade Center
The monolithic One World Trade Center (also known as the Freedom Tower or One WTC) is the tallest building in the United States, tallest building in the western hemisphere and seventh-tallest building in the world.
But how tall, exactly? The One World Trade Center stands at a dizzying 1,776 feet! The building’s height is by design, in reference to the year America signed the Declaration of Independence.
Heading up to its 100th floor viewpoint is a giddy experience. Its observation deck, One World Observatory is one of the best tourist attractions in New York City.
The highlights from the 100th floor viewpoint include the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, the Brooklyn Bridge and New Jersey. It’s the southernmost observation deck in NYC, and all five boroughs are visible this high up.
You can of course simply admire the One World from a distance, snapping photos and looking up at its grandeur. Just because it’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in New York City doesn’t mean you have to go knocking on its door.
Address: 285 Fulton St, New York, NY 10007
#5. 9/11 Memorial and Museum
The 9/11 Museum does the vital job of making sure we don’t forget the magnitude of September 11th, 2001. The tragedy is hard to swallow, but the museum is well worth the price of admission.
The museum along with the 9/11 Memorial Pools are some of the most important attractions tourists visiting New York City should visit. The two cascading pools stand in place of the Twin Towers, representing a void that will never be filled.
Around the perimeter of the pools is a barrier with the names of the nearly 3,000 people who lost their lives that day. Even if you only have one day in NYC I would still suggest taking the time to pay your respects.
Bonus: Part of the new World Trade Center complex, the Oculus is a mall right behind the 9/11 Memorial. You won’t miss it, the design looks futuristic and prehistoric all at the same time. You can step inside for a light shopping spree or to access the subway hub underneath. The mall is also among the best tourist attractions in New York City.
Address: 180 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10007
#4. Statue of Liberty
We can’t talk about the best tourist attractions in New York City without mentioning the Statue of Liberty!
This iconic symbol of American ideals saw more than 4.2 million visitors in 2019, and there’s a good reason this mammoth icon has such a draw.
Having welcomed more than 12 million immigrants between 1892 and 1954, the statue’s fame is embedded in American history.
The Statue of Liberty is perched on Liberty Island and you’ll need a ferry to reach it ($$). But if you’re okay seeing the statue close but in passing I suggest taking the Staten Island Ferry (which is free) and then taking it back to Manhattan.
Address: New York Harbor, New York, NY 10004
#3. Empire State Building
Arguably the most iconic building in New York City, the Empire State has such a good view even King Kong had to climb it and see it with his own eyes. Mr. Kong, I hope you found this article of the best tourist attractions in New York City helpful.
The building tops out at 1,454 feet. The height held the world record for tallest building in the world for 40 years (1931–1971). Currently it’s the seventh tallest building in New York City, but the most iconic.
Some of the most notable attractions you can see clearly from the top include the Chrysler Building, Bryant Park and the lights of Times Square. Even the One World stands proudly in the distance.
But word to the wise, it is windy up there! Anybody wearing a dress or skirt runs the risk of having a Marilyn Monroe moment. Having said that, wear shorts underneath or better yet, pants.
Address: 20 W 34th St., New York, NY 10001
#2. Times Square
Times Square might be overwhelming. But it’s iconic and is one of those “can’t miss” tourist attractions in New York City!
As one of the most famous tourist attractions in NYC, Times Square (specifically at night) is something everyone should experience at least once on their trip.
The area draws an average of 50 million visitors a year. The appeal? The legendary bright lights of New York.
In fact, the buildings in this area are required by law to have a minimum amount of lights on display (to live up to the area’s reputation). The bright buildings make Times Square not only one of the best tourist attractions in New York City, but of the entire world.
And as an added reason so many of us grow up wanting to visit Times Square is thanks to the annual New Years Eve festivities. It’s estimated more than one billion people watch the ball-drop annually!
Bonus: Two of our most most popular articles are 20+ Epic Things to Do in Times Square (Perfect for First Time Visitors). And our Guide to Celebrating New Years Eve in Times Square (Is it Really Worth it?)
#1. Central Park
It’s no secret Central Park is the most popular park in New York City, and one of its premier tourist attractions. I mean have you been? The park exudes charm and inspiration with every winding path.
The park is the most filmed location anywhere in the world, and it somehow manages to sneak into everyone’s dreams of NYC. As a local who lives within shouting distance of the park I admit- it lives up to the hype.
Whether you want to exercise, have a romantic stroll with your date or tire out your kids (both two and four-legged) before you take them home the park is the gift that just keeps giving.
Central Park is also one of the most famous tourist attractions in New York City because it’s ripe with photo-taking locations. Trust me when I say your friends will be envious of the surreal looking backdrops.
Top New York City Tourist Attractions (Post Summary)
- Central Park
- Times Square
- Empire State Building
- Statue of Liberty
- 9/11 Memorial and Museum
- One World Trade Center
- Wall Street
- Brooklyn Bridge
- Grand Central Terminal
- Bryant Park
- New York Public Library (Stephen A. Schwarzman Building)
- St. Patrick’s Cathedral
- Rockefeller Center + Top of the Rock
- Washington Square Park
- Chrysler Building
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET)
- Broadway Theater District
- Little Island
- The High Line
- American Museum of Natural History
- Time Out Market
- Lincoln Center
- Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
- Flatiron Building
- Fifth Avenue
Best Tourist Attractions in NYC (Helpful Map)
And there you have it, my friends. My roundup of the best tourist attractions New York City has to offer. I hope you found the post helpful and entertaining. Until next time, cheers!