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Things to Do & Must-See Attractions in New York City

New York City is one of the most iconic destinations in the world and the glamourous backdrop for countless films, books, and television shows. Among some of the Big Apple’s most famous landmarks are the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in New York Harbor, along with the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, and other skyscrapers that have long defined the city’s skyline. Manhattan is home to Times Square—whose lights you can find on at any hour—and Central Park, an impressive 843 acres of open fields, lakes, and paths for horse-drawn carriages, situated smack dab in the middle of the city. Shopping and trendy bars abound in the neighborhoods of SoHo and Chelsea, and the borough of Brooklyn is only a short subway ride away, a must-see for its arts and music scene, restaurants, and Coney Island. The 9/11 Memorial and Museum, which rests on the old site of the World Trade Center, pays tribute to the solemn events of 9/11, while the new One World Observatory offers panoramic views of the city. Opt to hit all of the top attractions with a hop-on hop-off bus tour, or catch bird’s-eye views with a helicopter tour. One thing’s for certain: the city will be awake at any hour to welcome you.
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Category

Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty

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The Statue of Liberty is one of New York City's (and the USA's) most iconic attractions. The monument was a gift from France in 1886, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The statue is 151 feet (46m) tall and stands, fittingly, on Liberty Island at the mouth of New York Harbor. Lady Liberty welcomes visitors and immigrants with the famous words, "Give me your tired, your poor / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."
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National September 11 Memorial & Museum

National September 11 Memorial & Museum

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It is a rare greenscape in lower Manhattan, shaded by rustling white oaks that were chosen for their muted yellow hue come autumn. Two enormous fountains, designed by architects Michael Arad and Peter Walker, mark the footprints of the fallen towers with plunging waterfalls. These are surrounded by bronze parapets, engraved with the names of those lost. Personal tributes are welcome, and may be incorporated into the Memorial Museum, due to open in 2012.  
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Ellis Island

Ellis Island

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NOTE: ELLIS ISLAND WAS DAMAGED BY HURRICANE SANDY IN OCTOBER 2012. IT WILL PARTIALLY REOPEN TO THE PUBLIC AS OF 10/28/2013 WHILE THEY CONTINUE REPAIRS.

The USA is largely a nation of immigrants, and no site underscores the fact more profoundly than Ellis Island. From 1892 to 1954 the island hosted the main immigration station for entry to America, processing more than 12 million third-class arrivals. Almost 50% of Americans have an ancestor who arrived here, having traveled on an often perilous journey across the sea. Today the island is part of the adjacent Statue of Liberty National Monument. The Immigration Museum is housed in an iconic red-brick building built in French Renaissance style, which replaced the original wooden building that burnt down in 1897. The museum brings the immigrant experience to life with a fascinating self-guided tour. Exhibits include photos, films, archive material, recordings, and the American Family Immigration History Center.

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New York City St. Patrick's Cathedral

New York City St. Patrick's Cathedral

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Located at 460 Madison Avenue, St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the largest gothic-style Catholic Cathedral in the country, as well as the seat of Timothy Michael Dolan, the archbishop of New York. Completed in 1878, St. Patrick’s Cathedral welcomes more than five million visitors each year who come to take part in mass, light candles, attend choir and organ recitals, participate in public programs and view the art and design of the building. Before entering, take in the white marble exterior, pinnacles and 330-foot twin spires reaching toward the sky. Inside explore the many chapels of the church, each one named after a different saint. Additionally, the Rose Window is 26 feet in diameter and showcases a masterpiece of 20th-century century stained glass art. Note: If you’re interested in visiting the crypt where all the Archbisophs of New York are buried you’ll need to make an appointment.

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Empire State Building

Empire State Building

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When it comes to buildings, New York's Empire State Building is top of the heap. The 102-story iconic skyscraper, completed in 1931, is not only an architectural wonder but it offers wondrous 360-degree views of Gotham from its two observation decks. Glass-enclosed high-speed elevators shuttle visitors to both decks, where high-powered binoculars allow for zeroing in on favorite New York attractions from above. The art deco skyscraper stands at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and W. 34th St.
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One World Observatory

One World Observatory

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Travelers looking to experience life on the top of the world need look no further than the spire of One World Observatory. The tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, this lower Manhattan skyscraper has a high-speed elevator that shoots visitors straight to the 102nd floor in less than 60 seconds. Impressive time-lapse technology showcases the transformation of the city from the 1500s to modern day as guests make their ascent.

The major attraction, known as the Discovery Level, is located on the 100th floor of One World Observatory. Visitors say the 360-degree views highlight the best of Manhattan and offer impressive looks at surrounding waterways and iconic city skyline. Several high-tech installations provide travelers with the unique experience of zeroing in on specific neighborhoods or checking out real-time footage of streets far below.

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Central Park

Central Park

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Central Park, a huge rectangular slice of oxygenating greenness, is New York City's lungs and soul. Taking up a mammoth 843 acres (341 hectares) in Uptown Manhattan, Central Park is laced with walkways, jogging paths, and woodlands.

Not just a place for relaxation, Central Park is also home to a zoo, skating rink, theater, reservoir, boating lake, fountains, bridle paths, and a carousel. If you’re feeling peckish after all that activity, drop into the Loeb Boathouse for a buffet brunch or dinner.

Popular photo stops in Central Park include the Alice in Wonderland and Balto the Malamute statues, the Belvedere Castle atop Vista Rock and the John Lennon memorial gardens at Strawberry Fields, opposite Lennon’s former home in the Dakota apartment building.

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Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge

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New York's most famous bridge crosses the East River from Manhattan to Brooklyn. Taking a walk across this historic suspension bridge is a must-do NYC activity, with fabulous views on every side.

Built in the 1870s and '80s, the Brooklyn Bridge was one of the first suspension bridges to be constructed in the USA. At the time, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world. The soaring Gothic towers at either end are particularly dramatic when floodlit at night, their tall elongated arches an iconic New York sight.

Check out the observation points under the support towers, with panoramic illustrations depicting the history of New York's waterfront, then stay on to watch as the city lights of Manhattan and Brooklyn switch on at dusk.

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Manhattan Skyline

Manhattan Skyline

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The skyline of New York City has starred in hundreds of movies, making it one of the most iconic man-made landscapes in the world. And while the former World Trade Center once stood as the defining image of this electric city, today’s landscape has shifted slightly—though it remains just as memorable.

Travelers who wander the Big Apple’s crowded streets will find themselves at the foot of dozens of architectural landmarks—from the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building to the sky-high spire of Freedom Tower. It’s easy to marvel from the pavement, but visitors who want to experience the skyline in all its wonder need explore beyond the sidewalks.

Travelers looking to go all out can fly high above the city in one of the popular and grand helicopter tours. But there are still plenty of options for those on a budget.

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Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

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The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum is a unique journey through all things military and maritime, with spectacular interactive exhibits. Located at Pier 86, the complex boasts authentically restored vessels, the most impressive being the World War II aircraft carrier the USS Intrepid and the submarine USS Growler.

You’ll also spy a British Airways Concorde, as well as Sikorsky, Skyhawk, and Vietnam-era Iroquois Huey helicopters. As for space memorabilia, the new Space Shuttle Pavilion is now open and showcases Enterprise, the first space shuttle. You can also visit a replica of an Aurora capsule and try out the virtual flight zone, which simulates the exhilaration of flying in a supersonic jet.

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New York Harbor

New York Harbor

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New York Harbor, located at the mouth of the Hudson River, is home to stunning views of the Big Apple and Lady Liberty. Ranked among the largest natural harbors in the world, this gateway to Manhattan is also one of the most scenic, offering travelers incredible photo ops along urban walking paths, bridges and piers. Visitors can Jet Ski, kayak and boat in the New York Harbor waters, where popular dinner cruises and sunset sails take place daily. This epic waterway also services major cruise liners as they enter and depart Manhattan. But even travelers who arrived in New York via land or air can experience the thrill and the beauty of the waterway on a Staten Island Ferry ride or one of the other public boats that transports both locals and visitors in and around the city.

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Governors Island

Governors Island

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Although a completely separate island that needs to be reached by way of ferry, Governors Island is technically part of the borough of Manhattan. To reach the destination -- which is open from late May through the end of September and is less than a half mile away from Lower Manhattan -- you can take a free ferry from the Battery Maritime Building at 10 South Street. Originally a military outpost, Governors Island began allowing warm-weather visitors in 2006. The island features 172 acres of history and tranquility through heritage sites, biking, picnicking, art and culture. Two remaining 19th-century forts, Fort Jay and Castle Williams, take visitors back to when the island was used for inner harbor defense. Additionally, because there are no cars or motorized vehicles allowed on the island, visitors enjoy renting bikes and cycling along the island’s 2.2-mile Great Promenade or to Picnic Point for some lunch and a direct view of the Statue of Liberty.

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Broadway

Broadway

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Broadway, one of New York's most famous streets, runs the full length of Manhattan. However for most visitors to New York the name Broadway is synonymous with theater, musicals and first-run shows. Broadway more than any other street in America stands for entertainment. The heart of Broadway is the few blocks surrounding Times Square. Book Broadway tickets in advance for guaranteed seats and pricing. Local sellers also offer last-minute deals (if not always great seats).

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Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met)

Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met)

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The Met is one of the world's most prestigious cultural hubs, up there with the Louvre, the British Museum, and the Vatican for sheer pulling power.

Around five million visitors a year flock here to drink in the rarefied air, rest their legs in the Egyptian Temple of Dendur, admire the Tiffany glass, and view Old Masters.

If time allows, you'll also find Roman statues, musical instruments, modern artworks and Egyptian artifacts. The Met is a fine place to immerse yourself in American art. A highlight is the series of period rooms, and paintings by Whistler and Sargent.

Take a tour of the highlights, dine on the Great Hall Balcony or have a drink in the rooftop martini bar.

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Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center

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For a memorable dose of Art Deco design in all its glory, immerse yourself in the 1930s Rockefeller Center. A complex of 19 buildings and gardens, the Rockefeller Center is where you'll find the famous ice rink and Christmas tree, Radio City Music Hall, the NBC Studios, and the Top of the Rock observation deck atop the soaring Art Deco GE Building at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. (Fans of the television show '30 Rock' will also recognize this as the TGS studio offices.)

For shopping and dining there are more than 100 stores, 40 eateries, and an underground shopping concourse.

Go behind the scenes on an NBC Studios tour, stopping off to have your photo taken at the news desk or give an impromptu weather report. Rockefeller Center tours highlight the rich assortment of Art Deco statues, sculptures, and murals on display, including the famous gilt statue of Prometheus in the Lower Plaza and Atlas on Fifth Avenue.

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Greenwich Village

Greenwich Village

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Greenwich Village is one of the most charming residential locales in New York City. The quarter’s reputation for the bohemian persists, but these days only the affluent can afford to live in these sought-after leafy streets.

In the west side of Lower Manhattan, the Village is a tree-lined area of low-rise townhouses, cafes and narrow angled streets far removed from New York’s ordered grid plan. New York University has a dominating presence here.

For visitors, this is walking territory par excellence, and you’ll find some great Italian cafes and restaurants tucked away in the narrow streets. If you’re pining for a stretch of green, the welcome lawns, statues, street entertainers, and dog-walking areas of Washington Square Park run off W 4th Street.

Drop into a coffee at beatnik-era Le Figaro, browse the vinyl at Bleecker Bob’s Records, or watch the local kids play basketball at the outdoor courts on 4th Street.

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Times Square

Times Square

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Times Square is a legendary NYC landmark, synonymous with all the glam and glitz of the Big Apple. It’s New York’s hub for flashing neon advertisements, Broadway’s famous theaters, rubbernecking tourists, and the ball drop on New Year’s Eve.

Of course, Times Square isn’t a square at all, but the triangular intersection of several main thoroughfares. Thankfully, Broadway is pedestrianised as it passes through Times Square, from 42nd to 47th Streets, with plaza seating allowing visitors to actually stop, look, and relax.

A visit to Times Square is an essential part of the New York experience, whether you come here to shop, dine, drink, see a show, or just gawp at the flurry of different architectural styles, spectacular neon signs, and bustling New Yorkers.

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St. Paul's Chapel

St. Paul's Chapel

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Located at 209 Broadway in Lower Manhattan, St. Paul’s Chapel is Manhattan’s oldest public building in continuous use. Moreover, it is the only surviving church from the Revolutionary Era, and holds much history from this period. Opened in 1766, it is part of the Episcopal Parish of Trinity Church and has been a place of worship and refuge for many over the years, including George Washington and Revolutionary War British Generals Cornwallis and Howe, who would go there to pray and 9/11 recovery workers who were cared for inside the chapel. If you’re interested in seeing where George Washington himself sat inside the church, there is an oil painting of the Great Seal of the United State over his pew. The interior of the church is less grand and more cozy yet elegant with glass chandeliers and an ornamental design above the alter created by a French veteran of the revolution, Pierre L’Enfant.

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Wall Street

Wall Street

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Wall Street is synonymous with New York's Financial District and the New York Stock Exchange. The history of early New York, of New World capitalism and American commerce all come together in Wall Street, named for the protective barrier that once marked the northern boundary of the tiny Dutch settlement known as New Amsterdam.

There are some grand examples of architecture on Wall Street, including the classic pediments and pillars of the New York Stock Exchange and the 18th-century Federal Hall, commemorating the site where the first US Congress convened and Washington was sworn in as president.

On Broadway at Wall Street, historic Trinity Church hosts choral concerts and has an interesting museum and cemetery.

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Chrysler Building

Chrysler Building

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The Chrysler Building is an outstanding example of flamboyant Art Deco architecture, in all its glory. A riot of shiny automobile-inspired curves and radiator-cap gargoyles, the 77-story skyscraper was built from 1928 to 1930. Its most striking feature is its pointed, zigzag-detailed crown and spire.

You can enter the lobby to gaze at the Art Deco splendor of its murals, but with no observation deck, that’s as far as it goes for visitors. Perhaps the best view of the Chrysler Building is from its arch rival, the Empire State Building.

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Top of the Rock

Top of the Rock

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Outdoor terraces provide protected viewing on the 67th and 69th floors, while the top 70th floor has unobstructed, open-air, 360-degree views. You can stay for as long as you like at Top of the Rock to watch the changing panorama of New York City unfold. While the views are similar to those from the Empire State Building, lines are shorter and the experience is less crowded at Top of the Rock. Plus, you get to snap an unbelievable photo of the Empire State!
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SoHo

SoHo

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SoHo, or “South of Houston,” is located in lower Manhattan and is renowned for its stylish boutiques, art galleries and trendy restaurants. The neighborhood is more relaxed than Times Square but can still get crowded due to its popularity with shoppers. Stroll down the cobblestone streets browsing stores like AvaMaria for shoes and accessories, Onassis for American menswear with a Japanese flare and Legacy for vintage pieces and antique jewelry.

You can admire the work of talented artists in galleries like Agora Gallery, American Primitive Gallery and the Brooke Alexander Gallery. Make sure to also walk down Broadway to take in the cast-iron buildings, as SoHo showcases the largest collection of this type of architecture in the world. For a drink, Jimmy at The James Hotel is a sleek rooftop bar with 360 degree views of Manhattan, 508 Restaurant & Bar is a gastrobrewery where you can pair craft brews with gourmet plates and The Room is a sultry wine and beer bar.

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American Museum of Natural History

American Museum of Natural History

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Located on Central Park West at 79th, the mission of the American Museum of Natural History is “to discover, interpret, and disseminate information about human cultures, the natural world, and the universe through a wide-ranging program of scientific research, education, and exhibition.”

The museum is expansive, and you can easily spend an entire day exploring it. Founded in 1869, the institution features space shows, an IMAX theater and permanent exhibitions on animals, space, dinosaurs, Theodore Roosevelt, human origins, global cultures and the environment. Check out the Hall of Reptiles and Amphibians to learn about the anatomy and behavior of these creatures, or the Hall of Primitive Mammals, which traces the evolution of lower branches of mammals like the armadillo and sloth. Additionally, the Hayden Big Bang Theater will make you feel like you’re experiencing the event in real time.

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Trinity Church Wall Street

Trinity Church Wall Street

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An Episcopal Church located in Lower Manhattan at the intersection of Wall Street and Broadway, Trinity Church is one of the oldest churches in the United States. In 1696, a small group of Anglicans were granted approval from Governor Benjamin Fletcher to purchase land for a new church. The next year, Trinity Church received a charter from King William III of England. Today, the Trinity Church you see is the third building in the same location, built in 1846 in a Neo-Gothic style. Until 1890 when the New York World Building was completed, its 281-foot spire and cross was the highest point in the city. Along with the building’s impressive architecture -- including intricate stained-glass windows, sandstone facade, Gothic spires, dramatic pointed arches and heavy bronze doors depicting bible scenes -- Trinity is known for its vibrant music program and dedication to outreach.

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