Last updated on January 16th, 2017
You might not want to consider yourself a tourist, but let’s face it, we’re all tourists once in awhile – especially when visiting New York City. In such a large city with so many things to do, I encourage you to embrace your inner tourist and head out there to explore all the touristy things to do in Manhattan with a purpose and a mission.
New York City is one of my favorite cities in the world. It is like no other place – so crammed and concentrated into one small island, yet offering a world of options and experiences that you can’t possible dream of covering in just one trip, even if you fall in love and end up staying for years! There is so much to explore in Manhattan, alone, that you could spend weeks seeing them all.
That is why we’ve curated a list of the top 25 touristy things to do in Manhattan to give you a great head start when exploring this vibrant and amazing city.
You might also like: Shortcut Travel Guide to Manhattan (print it and take it with you!)
⇒ Wondering where to stay in New York City? See our hotel recommendations at the end of this post.
Empire State Building
The Empire State Building is a 102-story skyscraper located on Fifth Avenue between West 33rd and 34th Streets. Visitors wait in sometimes very long lines to be shuttled to the top on the elevator to see the incredible view of New York City from above. It is open 365 days a year from 8am – 2am.
Address: 350 5th Ave, New York, NY 10118
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
From the outside, St. Patrick’s Cathedral is an impressive display of architecture that captivates tourists. You can also take a guided tour if the interior of the cathedral to learn more about the history and structure of the building. Tours take place at 10am on specified days. Check the website for more information.
Address: 5th Ave (between 50th & 51st), New York, NY 10022
Broadway and 42nd Street
If you’re into musicals, there’s no better place in the world to be than 42nd Street in New York City, especially at the crux of Broadway and Times Square, where you’ll be surrounded with Broadway musicals on every corner. The options are immense! If you aren’t set on a specific show in advance, visit the TKTS discount ticket booths (Times Square, South Street Seaport and Brooklyn) to save 20-50% off on same-day or next-day tickets for performances. The options fluctuate and it’s always best to arrive early!
Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge
Completed in 1883, The Brooklyn Bridge connects Manhattan with Brooklyn over the East River. It is architecturally stunning and draws many tourists who come to see and walk along the hybrid cable-stayed/suspension bridge, one of the oldest of its kind in the United States.
Central Park Zoo
While quite small, the Central Park Zoo manages to provide a fun and engaging environment for local families and visitors with its collection of animals and exhibits – from the penguins to the grizzly bear! You can get 10% off tickets by buying them online. Hours vary, so check online before going.
Address: 64th St and 5th Ave, New York, NY 10021
Walk the High Line
It’s not a dangerous highwire act, don’t worry! The High Line is a 1.45-mile-long park built on an elevated section of an old New York Central Railroad track called the West Side Line. The park transformed the otherwise unused eye sore into a beautiful respite from the city below. It often gets very crowded. It runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street, between 10th and 12th Avenues.
Location: Gansevoort Street to West 34th
One World Trade Center Observatory
The tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, One World Trade Center is a symbolic 1,776 feet tall and is now a New York landmark in the heart of downtown. While it is primarily and office building, it also houses the One World Observatory. Tickets are $34 for adult standard admission, but there are many different packages to consider, including sunset entry.
Address: 285 Fulton St, New York, NY 10007
Statue of Liberty & Liberty Island
The Statue of Liberty is by far one of the most visited tourist attractions in New York City. The statue was gifted to the United States by France in 1886 as a symbol of freedom and democracy and she looms over the city like a guardian, beckoning visitors to cross the water on the ferry to see it up close on Liberty Island.
Ellis Island, not far from the Statue of Liberty, and reached by the same ferry, was a gateway to over 12 million immigrants to the United States between 1892 and 1954. Today, Ellis Island houses a museum of immigration and you can sometimes find the names of your ancestors who immigrated through Ellis Island on a commemorative plaque.
Located in the middle of the hustle and bustle that is New York City, it’s no wonder that Central Park is one of the most-visited parks in the world. Locals spend time in the park sunbathing, walking and running, while tourists can often be seen taking horse-carriage rides and having their caricature drawn by a street artist. Check out our post on 5 fun things to do in Central Park.
Window Shopping on 5th Avenue
Some of the best window shopping in the world can be found along 5th Avenue, home to a myriad of high-end designer shops and department stores like Saks Fifth Avenue and Tiffany. Still one of the best times to enjoy this area is during the Christmas season for the decorative window and lights displays.
Location: Rockefeller Center, located between 49th and 50th Streets, to just west of 5th Avenue.
South Street Seaport
Once a busy trading port for the city, the South Street Seaport has been renovated and restored to preserve the historical significance of the area and bring it back to life. Another extensive renovation is expected for this area that will further bolster its appeal. For now, you can find beautiful views of the Brooklyn Bridge, along with dozens of eating and shopping choices.
Address: One Seaport Plaza, 19 Fulton Street, New York, NY 10038
Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, often called the Met, is the largest art museum in the United States, and it receives millions of visitors per year. The permanent collection contains works of art from classical antiquity and ancient Egypt, paintings and sculptures from nearly all the European masters, and an extensive collection of American and modern art.
Address: 1000 5th Ave, New York, NY 10028
The National September 11 Memorial is a tribute to the lives that were lost in the 2001 and 1993 attacks on the World Trade Center. It is an extensive complex that includes reflecting pools situated on the ground where the buildings once stood, as well as a museum. The memorial is free to visit and is open every day from 7:30am to 9pm. Tickets for the museum cost $24 (subject to change), and can be purchased online. Save 42% off general Museum admission and visit five other top New York City attractions with New York CityPASS.
The most iconic view of Rockefeller Center for visitors takes place during the winter when the plaza turns into a skating rink, but the plaza also houses a farmer’s market, dozens of shops and cafes, plus the popular tourist attraction, Top of the Rock Observation Deck.
Address: 45 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10111
Radio City Music Hall
Radio City Music Hall is an entertainment venue located in Rockefeller Center. The Music Hall opened to the public in 1932 with a stage show. It then morphed into a theater for first-run movies, and now features concerts and live stage shows.
Address: 1260 Ave of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
One of my favorite things to do in the city is walk through food halls and markets. Chelsea Market is one of the best in the city. Located in the Chelsea neighborhood, the market has over 35 vendors in a one-square-block space. There are so many choices and things to see that it’s possible to spend half a day walking around in there.
Address: 75 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011
Manhattan’s Chinatown is a neighborhood wedged into Lower Manhattan between Little Italy and the Civic Center. Chinatown in NYC is one of the oldest and largest populations of Chinese immigrants in the West. The densely packed streets are filled with shops and markets.
Grand Central Terminal
Despite its name, Grand Central Terminal is not just a train station anymore. The main concourse in the center of the station is a huge space that is often used as a meeting place. There are dozens of shops, cafes and restaurants to explore. On the dining concourse, you’ll find many more restaurants, including The Oyster Bar, which is the oldest business in the terminal.
Address: 89 E 42nd St, New York, NY 10017
The Cloisters, a smaller second location of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is located in Fort Tryon Park in Upper Manhattan. It contains an extensive collection of Medieval European art, architecture and gardens. If you buy a ticket at the museum ticket counter, the amount you pay is up to you. The ticket includes same-day admission to The Met Fifth Avenue, The Met Breuer, and The Met Cloisters.
Address: 99 Margaret Corbin Dr, New York, NY 10040
Battery Park is a 25-acre public park located at the southern tip of Manhattan. It affords a wonderful view of the Statue of Liberty and a nice foot path for a stroll. It also has convenient access to the Staten Island Ferry (which in itself is a great touristy activity in Manhattan) and the ferries that service Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.
Madison Square Garden
Madison Square Gardens is a multi-functional arena in the heart of the city. The Garden is used for professional basketball and ice hockey, as well as boxing, concerts, ice shows, circuses, professional wrestling and other forms of sports and entertainment.
Address: 4 Pennsylvania Plaza, New York, NY 10001
American Museum of Natural History
The American Museum of Natural History was founded in 1869 and has become one of the preeminent museums of natural history in the world. Museum exhibits include the famous fossils and dinosaur halls, earth and planetary, birds and reptiles, biodiversity and the environment and human origin and cultural halls.
Address: Central Park West & 79th St, New York, NY 10024
Everyone has seen the flashing billboards of Times Square. It is not only a major commercial intersection, it is a true icon of New York City and often the first thing people think in relation to the city. Times Square is located at the junction of Broadway and Seventh Avenue. It stretches from West 42nd to West 47th Streets. When you find yourself walking around that area, make sure you know how to speed walk or you might get trampled by the crowds!
Where to Stay in New York City
There are so many neighborhoods to choose from in New York City. How is a first-time visitor supposed to pick? If you don’t know the city well, I recommend staying in Midtown so you can easily get to all parts of the city. Stay near a subway stop so you can get around easily. While it might be tempting to stay in Times Square, it doesn’t give you an accurate picture of how charming New York City can be and it can be really noisy and crowded. It’s best to stay outside of that area.
Here are a few of our recommended hotels. You can read reviews of book directly through any of these links:
- The Quin ⇒ Trip Advisor | Expedia | Booking.com
- Kimpton Hotel Eventi ⇒Trip Advisor | Expedia | Booking.com
- Intercontinental The Barclay ⇒ Trip Advisor | Expedia | Booking.com
What are your favorite things to do in New York City – either as a tourist or as a local? Share it with us in the comments.