Most Popular Tourist Attractions in New York - Top 10
No one could ever accuse The Big Apple of lacking bite when it comes to world-beating tourist attractions. From Brooklyn Bridge to the bright lights of Broadway, Central Park to the Statue of Liberty, MoMa to The Met, and the Empire State Building to Edge, there’s something for everyone here, and then some! Dive in for our guide to 10 of New York’s most popular tourist attractions…
NYC icons don’t come much bigger than Central Park. Explore 843 acres of manicured gardens, rocky ravines and pleasant glens but, fear not, if that sounds like a lot of hard work there are over 9,000 benches on which to rest weary legs. And, you know, you can also just leave your adventurer hat at home and potter around a few key Central Park attractions instead. We’re talking the peaceful, elm-shaded Strawberry Fields memorial to John Lennon, the romantic Bethesda Fountain, the meandering path that snakes around the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Belvedere Castle, a fairytale folly that doubles as a weather station. Hire a bicycle to see the sights at a leisurely pace or – why the heck not – strap on your roller skates and cruise the broad leafy avenues in style.
The Statue of Liberty
Believe it or not, the Statue of Liberty isn’t even one of NYC’s most-visited attractions, despite being indisputably its most iconic. That’s because the majority tend to view it from Manhattan observation platforms (more on these later), or perhaps from the Staten Island Ferry, rather than disembarking at Liberty Island itself for the real deal. But in fact nothing beats getting right up close with a roundtrip to Ellis Island, where you can visit the Immigration Museum and even set foot inside sections of the Green Goddess herself. Those with a head for heights will likely thrill to the idea of getting right to the heart (or indeed crown) of the definitive emblem of American freedom, with a 354-step climb up the internal staircase and into the famous headgear. A positively regal experience.
If you’re only going to visit one art museum in New York, make it MoMA, the most popular and arguably the best. Here, over 200,000 pieces of 20th and 21st Century art occupies some 700,000 square feet of prime Midtown Manhattan real estate. Dive in for some of the most famous modern masterpieces on the planet, including Dalí’s The Persistence of Memory, Van Gogh’s Starry Night and Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans, to namecheck just a few. In a word: wow.
New York has more sky-high observation decks than you can shake a very large stick at, many of which feature regularly in lists of the most popular tourist attractions in town. It’s not hard to see why. Just zip to the top of the One World Trade Center, Empire State Building or Rockefeller Center and let those far-reaching views across the iconic Manhattan skyline do the talking. You can even (gulp) take an al fresco stroll across the top of the 30 Hudson Yards building at relative newbie Edge, an experience for which only those with nerves of absolute steel need apply. Check out our comparisons between some of the biggest hitters here and here.
American Museum of Natural History
Who doesn’t love a natural history museum, am I right? And this one’s a doozy. Set inside a purpose-built 19th-century Romanesque Revival building on the edge of Central Park, its labyrinthine interiors showcase millions of ancient relics that chart the entire story of life on Earth. Highlights of this mind-bogglingly vast collection include a 122-foot-long titanosaur skeleton, a 34-ton section of the 200-ton Cape York meteorite, an Easter Island head statue, and an epic butterfly vivarium with around 1,000 of the free-flying critters.
It’s a fact universally acknowledged that no one leaves Manhattan without first bagging a selfie amid the dazzling lights and iconic yellow cabs of Times Square. Heck, you can even have your beautiful face beamed onto the huge digital billboard – your 15 seconds of fame for a mere $40. Bargain.
Grand Central Terminal
It takes a special kind of train station to make it into any city’s top 10 most popular attractions, let alone somewhere like NYC, but then the Grand Central Terminal is no ordinary station. Insta addicts flock to this Beaux-Arts beauty for its epic architecture and features that include a massive astrological ceiling mural (2,500 stars, fact fans), glittering chandeliers, the famous four-faced information-booth clock, and a fun whispering gallery. So good, in fact, that you’ll probably miss the train you rushed here to catch.
9/11 Memorial and Museum
Built on the former site of the World Trade Center, this stunning memorial and museum tells the human stories behind the tragic events of September 11, 2001, combining moving personal testimonies and memorabilia with multimedia presentations to provide a real insight into the day's events. The courageous stories told by survivors and first responders are frankly awe-inspiring, and twin reflecting pools – each almost an acre in size – provide serene spots for quiet remembrance.
Unleash your inner child in the birthplace of the theme park. There have been rides at Coney Island since the late 19th Century and the oldest ride still operating here – the 150-foot-tall Wonder Wheel in Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park – has been thrilling kids young and old for well over 100 years now. For more modern kicks, hit up the revived and revamped Luna Park, where 21st-century coasters with names like Cyclone, The Tickler and Thunderbolt are every bit as nerve-jangling as they sound.
Yes, Broadway shows can be a little pricey, but there’s really no better place on the planet to take in a spot of high-end drama or musical theater. Here’s where the likes of Meryl Streep, James Earl Jones, Julie Andrews and Idina Menzel cut their teeth. And where you, dear reader, can see the stars of today (and tomorrow) singing their lungs out at huuuge shows like Chicago, Hamilton, Wicked and The Lion King. Indeed, an evening of musical theater on Broadway might just be the quintessential Manhattan night out.