Like most of the great world cities, New York has an abundance of great attractions - so many, that it would be impossible to list them all here. What follows is but a sampling of the most high-profile attractions in New York City; more detailed info can be found in the district pages.
A general word of advice on sightseeing in New York: Tourists often spend their entire vacation in New York standing in line. This is often unnecessary; there are usually alternatives. For example, one can choose to avoid the Empire State Building during the day (it is open, and much quieter, late, until 2AM), skip the Statue of Liberty in favor of the Staten Island Ferry, and stay away from the Guggenheim on Monday (it is one of the only museums open that day). Also, there is no reason to stand in line for a Broadway show if you already have a ticket with an assigned seat. If you prefer, get a drink nearby and come back closer to curtain time, when you can walk right in. The lines for bus tours can be absurd because tourists all seem to have exactly the same itinerary - which is get on a bus in the morning in Times Square, get off for the Statue of Liberty, and finish on the East Side in the afternoon. Why not go downtown in the morning, and save Midtown for the afternoon? You will thank yourself for avoiding the crowds. Also, understand that buses are the slowest way to go crosstown in Midtown Manhattan during peak hours, and taxis are not much better. You are often better off on foot.
A number of multi-attraction schemes give reduced prices and line-skipping privileges.
See also the district pages for detailed information about attractions. Detail is gradually being moved from this page to the district pages.
Naturally, Manhattan possesses the lion's share of the landmarks that have saturated American popular culture. Starting in Financial District, perhaps the most famous of these landmarks is easy to spot - the Statue of Liberty, a symbol of the nation standing atop a small island in the harbor, and perhaps also the most difficult attraction to access in terms of crowds and the long lines to see it. Nearby Ellis Island preserves the site where millions of immigrants completed their journey to America. Within Financial District itself, Wall Street acts as the heart of big business being the home of the New York Stock Exchange, although the narrow street also holds some historical attractions, namely Federal Hall, where George Washington was inaugurated as the first president of the United States. Furthermore, there is a large statue of a bull that tourists often take pictures with. Nearby, the National September 11 Memorial at the World Trade Center Site commemorates the victims of that fateful day. Connecting Financial District to Downtown Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Bridge offers fantastic views of the Manhattan and Brooklyn skylines.
Moving north to Midtown, Manhattan's other major business district, you'll find some of New York's most famous landmarks. The Empire State Building looms over it all as the second-tallest building in the city, with the nearby Chrysler Building also dominating the landscape. Nearby is the headquarters of United Nations overlooking the East River and Grand Central Terminal, one of the busiest train stations in the world. Also nearby is the main branch of the New York Public Library, a beautiful building famous for its magnificent reading rooms and the lion statues outside the front door; and Rockefeller Plaza, home to NBC Studios, Radio City Music Hall, and (during the winter) the famous Christmas Tree and Skating Rink.
Still in the Midtown area but just to the west, in the Theater District, is the tourist center of New York: Times Square, filled with bright, flashing video screens and LED signs running 24 hours a day. Just to the north is Central Park, with its lawns, trees and lakes popular for recreation and concerts.
New York has some of the finest museums in the world. All the public museums (notably including the Metropolitan Museum and the American Museum of Natural History), which are run by the city, accept donations for an entrance fee, but private museums (especially the Museum of Modern Art) can be very expensive. In addition to the major museums, hundreds of small galleries are spread throughout the city, notably in neighborhoods like Chelsea and Williamsburg. Many galleries and museums in New York close on Mondays, so be sure to check hours before visiting. The following is just a list of highlights; see district pages for more listings.
New York City is home to some of the finest art museums in the country, and in Manhattan, you'll find the grandest of them all. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in Central Park has vast holdings that represent a series of collections, each of which ranks in its category among the finest in the world. Within this single building you'll find perhaps the world's finest collection of American artwork, period rooms, thousands of European paintings including Rembrandts and Vermeers, the greatest collection of Egyptian art outside Cairo, one of the world's finest Islamic art collections, Asian art, European sculpture, medieval and Renaissance art, antiquities from around the ancient world, and much, much more. As if all that wasn't enough, the Metropolitan also operates The Cloisters, located in Fort Tryon Park in Upper Manhattan, houses a collection of medieval art and incorporates elements from five medieval French cloisters and other monastic sites in southern France in its renowned gardens.
Near the Metropolitan, in the Upper East Side, is the Guggenheim Museum. Although more famed for its architecture than the collection it hosts, the spiraling galleries are ideal for exhibiting art works. Also nearby is the Whitney Museum of American Art, with a collection of contemporary American art. In Midtown, the Museum of Modern Art(MoMA), holds the most comprehensive collection of modern art in the world, and is so large as to require multiple visits to see all of the works on display, which include Van Gogh's Starry Night and Picasso's Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, as well as an extensive industrial design collection. Midtown is also home to the Paley Center for Media, a museum dedicated to television and radio, including a massive database of old shows.
In Brooklyn's Prospect Park, the Brooklyn Museum of Art is the city's second largest art museum with excellent collections of Egyptian art, Assyrian reliefs, 19th-century American art, and art from Africa and Oceania, among other things. Long Island City in Queens is home to a number of art museums, including the PS1 Contemporary Art Center, an affiliate of the Museum of Modern Art, and the Museum of the Moving Image, which showcases movies and the televisual arts.
In New York City, no museum holds a sway over children like the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan's Upper West Side. Containing the Hayden Planetarium, incredible astronomy exhibits, animal dioramas, many rare and beautiful gems and mineral specimens, anthropology halls, and one of the largest collections of dinosaur skeletons in the world, this place offers plenty of stunning sights.
Near Times Square in the Theater District, the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum takes up a pier on the Hudson River, with the aircraft carrier Intrepid docked here and holding some incredible air and space craft.
Over in the Flushing district of Queens, on the grounds of the former World's Fair, is the New York Hall of Science, which incorporates the Great Hall of the fair and now full of hands-on exhibits for kids to enjoy.
Another standout museum is the Transit Museum located in an abandoned station in Downtown Brooklyn. The old subway cars are a real treat and the museum is a must if you're in New York with kids (and well-worth it even if you're not).
Like all great cities, New York is made up of distinct neighborhoods, each of which has its own flavor. Many of the neighborhoods are popular with visitors, and all are best experienced on foot. See individual borough pages (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, and Staten Island) for a comprehensive listing of neighborhoods.
Though the image many people have of New York is endless skyscrapers and packed sidewalks, the city also boasts numerous lovely parks, ranging from small squares to the 850-acre Central Park. There are worthwhile parks in every borough, more than enough to keep any visitor busy. These include Fort Tryon Park in Upper Manhattan, which boasts grand views of the New Jersey Palisades, the grand Pelham Bay Park in The Bronx, the popular Prospect Park in Brooklyn, the famous Flushing Meadow Park in Corona, Queens, site of the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament, and the wondrous Greenbelt in Staten Island, a collection of beautiful parks and protected forests unlike any other park in the city. New York City is also home to portions of the Gateway National Recreation Area. Almost any park is a great spot to rest, read, or just relax and watch the people streaming past. To find out more about New York City parks, go to the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation website and the guide pages for each borough. Note that except for special events, all NYC parks are closed 1AM–6AM. The exception to this rule is parks affiliated with schools, which are closed for the entire time the sun is down.
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