Most NYC travel guides are written by native New Yorkers. This guide is different, because it’s written by an experienced NYC tourist. I’ve visited over 20 times, but I’ve never actually lived there!
And over the years, I’ve learned a thing or two about being a tourist in NYC. So I created this Sightseeing NYC Guide with everything I’ve learned to help you plan your trip.
This list is mostly NYC classics mixed with a few up-and-coming gems. But I also encourage you to leave some extra time on your trip to explore the smaller, lesser-known neighborhoods that make New York City so special. A couple of my faves are Williamsburg (Brooklyn) and Little Italy (Manhattan).
One last note: this guide is focused mostly on Manhattan, with a little taste of Brooklyn. But there is so much more to NYC than just Manhattan, and if you have the time on your trip, I highly encourage you to explore the other Burroughs of NYC, too!
So from one NYC tourist to another, here’s are my top attractions and helpful tips for visiting each of them.
Sightseeing NYC – My Top Picks
1. Walk Along The High Line
What: A 1.5 mile abandoned railroad elevated above the west side of Manhattan. It’s now a park and walkway up above the streets!
Where: There are several places you can enter at. I recommend entering at Gansevoort Street and walking North, all the way to the end (which will take you right to The Vessel, the next place on our list!) You can view a list of all entrances on their website. (NOTE: only some entrances have elevators – we learned this the hard way visiting with our stroller! The site lists which ones have elevators and which ones only have stairs.)
When: The earlier you can go, the better. It gets absolutely packed in the afternoon and evening. I love to go in the morning and grab a nice cup of coffee to enjoy on my walk!
2. The Vessel
What: An extraordinary new landmark in Hudson Yards. It’s a spiral staircase soaring into the sky with dozens of vantage points of the city & the river.
Where: Here is the address on Google Maps. If you’re walking The High Line, The Vessel is right at the Northern-most exit.
When: Same as The High Line… the earlier, the better! This place is the latest Instagram hotspot and is packed.
Tickets: No tickets needed to view from the outside, but you do need tickets to go inside. They’re free, however there are limited quantities and assigned time slots. Starting at 9:30am, you can get same-day tickets from the kiosks outside The Vessel. You can also book online in advance here.
3 – Statue of Liberty (via the Staten Island Ferry)
What/Where: I’ve got a PRO TIP for you on this one! Don’t bother with the time, effort or money getting to Liberty Island to tour the Statue of Liberty. I’m sure the tours are great, but you can view it for FREE on the Staten Island Ferry – it rides RIGHT by it on the water!
Grab a spot either on the North side or on the front/back of the ferry. You can get get great photos and videos as you ride by! Then just hop on the next ferry right back to Manhattan, and you’ll pass right by the Statue of Liberty again! The total roundtrip will take less than an hour!
When: Anytime! I absolutely love riding the Staten Island Ferry at sunrise and sunset, the views over the water and Manhattan skyline are incredible!
Tickets: None needed! It’s free. Just show up and get on first so you can get a good spot.
4. The Oculus
About: Also known as the World Trade Center Subway station. This atypical monument was built at Ground Zero, where the Twin Towers fell. It’s modern, clean, bright architecture is absolutely incredible. There’s nothing else like it in New York City.
There’s a ton to do around the station, the 9/11 Memorial Museum is definitely work visiting while you’re in the area.
Where: Here is the address on Google Maps. Pretty much every subway in Manhattan will take you right to it.
When: It’s a popular subway station in NYC, plus it’s a shopping mall, so it’s always going to be crowded. Your best chance at avoiding the crazy crowds would be to visit mid-morning, after rush hour.
5. Brooklyn Bridge
About: The internet-famous stone suspension bridge. A total New York City icon. And 100% worth all the hype. You absolutely cannot miss it!
Where: The Brooklyn Bridge connects Manhattan and Brooklyn over the East River. Use this Google Maps address for the Manhattan entrance onto the bridge. Then walk all the way over the bridge into Brooklyn, and you’ll be in DUMBO (the next place on our list!) The pedestrian walkway across the bridge is one mile long.
Pro Tip: While walking into Brooklyn, don’t forget to turn around and take photos with the Manhattan skyline as your backdrop!
When: If you love your photos (like I do) then trust me on this one… go at sunrise! It’s the only time of day without crazy crowds. Plus the lighting for photos is to die for.
Pro Tip: Going alone? The bridge is full of photographers, so ask someone to take your photos for you! I always end up finding someone local who knows exactly how to photograph the bridge to perfection, and the photos they take of me come out so good! (Side note: obviously be careful giving your phone/camera to a stranger. I never approach someone that’s there alone.)
6 – DUMBO
Where: DUMBO is in Brooklyn, between the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge. Once you’ve walked over the Brooklyn Bridge, you’re right there!
What: DUMBO is a a famous neighborhood in Brooklyn. It stands for “Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.” You know that Instagram-famous photo spot of the blue bridge in-between the two red buildings? That’s in DUMBO. Here is the exact address to that famous photo spot.
It’s also beautiful neighborhood to explore, with loads of great restaurants and parks. All with incredible views of the Manhattan skyline. Walk along the water in between the two bridges, the views can’t be beat! We love taking our daughter on the famous Jane’s Carousel on the water.
Pro Tip: Grab brunch at 1 Hotel’s Rooftop Lounge. The floor-to-ceiling windows make for INSANE views of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Skyline. The food and drinks were perfection. And wait til you see the views from the bathroom. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.
When: Anytime! If you want crowd-free photos, you’ll need to get up early, just like everywhere else in New York City. My photo shown here was taken around 3pm and we just embraced the crowds!
7 – Times Square
What: Because no trip to New York City is complete without experiencing the chaos of Times Square.
Where: Times Square is in Midtown Manhattan at the intersection of Broadway and 7th Ave. Google Map address linked here
When: My advice? Don’t bother visiting Times Square during the day or rush hour. The magic of the lights at nighttime is the main attraction and makes the crowds worthwhile.
Eat: I typically avoid eating around Times Square as it’s crowded and overpriced. If you’re in a pinch, Europa Cafe has nice coffee & snacks at a reasonable price. Also Ellen’s Stardust Diner is fun and delicious – it’s a 1950s diner with aspiring Broadway artists as the staff who give frequent performances.
Pro Tip: Call me crazy, but my favorite time to visit Times Square is AFTER midnight. There are zero crowds, all the tourist traps are closed, and you get to walk along the street and enjoy the glowing lights all to yourself. It’s absolutely magical. I’ve done this many times and it never gets old.
A Few More of my Favorite Spots to Explore in NYC
Way too vast of a place to put into one tiny paragraph. I like to rent a CitiBike on 8th Avenue between 71st and 72nd, and then mindlessly explore Central Park without any plan. I usually end up finding a relaxing place to sit and read a good book. plus there are a zillion amazing places to stop and take photos.
Take photos in front of the iconic Flatiron building. Walk around inside ABC Home (the most gorgeous store I’ve EVER seen) and dine at ABC Kitchen (their cocktails & appetizers are amazing!) Walk to Union Square and check out the market. Grab coffee and dessert at Breads Bakery (the best cappuccino I’ve ever had.)
Stone Street is a popular nightlife spot in the Financial District. Bar hop here one night! It’s a cobblestone side street with lots of live music and outdoor seating. It’s a more fun, casual vibe than the rest of the nightlife I’ve experienced in Manhattan. Ulysses was one of my favorite bars and has awesome live alternative music.
Still Want More?
Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, Metropolitan Museum, Fifth Avenue, Wall Street, One World Observatory, The Top of the Rock Observation Deck, New York Public Library, Grand Central Terminal…. Okay seriously, I need to stop. There are just too many amazing attractions in NYC.
I’ve barely scratched the surface here. I could go on forever! The options are truly endless, and that’s why New York City will always have my heart.
What are your favorite spots in NYC? What would you add to my list? Let me know in the comments below!
This post is not sponsored. (But if any of these places DO want to sponsor me, please email me because I’m ALL for it!)
Meet the Writer
Hi, I'm Teresa!
Thank you for taking the time to read my little space on the internet. I’m a digital creator, blogger & environmental advocate.