Fast paced New York City is an invigorating metropolis, and often considered one of the best cities in the world to live in. There is SO much to see and do here that even local New Yorkers walk around in a daze most of the time, so figuring out where to even start exploring this sprawling apple, as a tourist, may seem a little daunting. So why not start at the very top, by taking in a breathtaking view of the city’s skyline, and then diving head-first into the endless maze that is New York’s very best tourist activities. Here’s our top picks of the best things to do in New York City.
Enjoy the view of the city’s skyline
Whilst thousands ascend to the top of the Empire State Building to take in the breathtaking views of the city, we think nothing beats including the building itself in our view of the skyline. For this, you’ll need to reach the Top of the Rock Observation Deck in the Rockefeller Centre, from where grand sweeping views of NYC and beyond are utterly mind-blowing. Splurge on an early morning sunrise ticket and not only will you see how the city wakes from its slumber, but you’ll also not be dealing with huge crowds. New York’s nightlife has a way of making tourists sleep in, so most decide to come here at sunset instead.
Lose Yourself in Times Square
Some visitors liken Times Square to an atomic bomb, claiming the shockwave of energy the place generates can be felt blocks away. Times Square is indeed an insanely buzzy, busy and hectic place, and makes for a brilliant introduction to New York City. Between the glittering billboards, hordes of baskers, photo-crazy tour groups and average Joes just trying to actually cross the roads, Times Square is the heart and soul of the city and offers a myriad of attractions; which is just as well, because we liken Times Square to the Bermuda Triangle. Once you’re in, you’ll have a hell of a time trying to get out! Shop till you drop, pop in to see the waxy celebrities at Madame Tussauds, wake a stroll down 42nd Street, and bargain hunt for a ticket to the latest Broadway shows.
Escape to Central Park
The world’s most famous city oasis is staggeringly huge and incredibly gorgeous, which is probably why it has been the most beloved NYC nook for over a century and a half. Measuring over 314 hectares, the park is an absolute city dream, and every single New Yorker would quote this as their number one reason for loving this city so much. In Central Park you can walk around all day, take leisurely boat rides on the lakes, picnic under the shade of an old oak tree, visit the Belvedere Castle, the Central Park Zoo, and enjoy the plethora of live music and concert gigs held here throughout the summer months.
Go Museum Crazy
When it comes to world-class museums, there are few cities in the world which can give New York a run for its money. Whether it be history, culture, art, nature or science that you’re into, you’ll find a museum aimed specifically at your interest. Here’s a quick rundown of the most popular:
Museum Of Natural History: spans the gamut from pre-historic to modern times, with interactive displays, giant exhibits and over four floors of excellent displays of Mother Nature’s most iconic creations. Animal-world lovers may want to plan a full day visit.
Metropolitan Museum of Art: the single, largest historical art museum in the world is home to over 2 million permanent exhibits, and hundreds of temporary ones. Once here, you can take a step back in time to Ancient Egypt, Rome, Greece, through Renaissance Europe right up to the present day. A visit here needs to be tackled with a cunning plan: grab a map at the front desk, circle your favoured time in history and make for a quick exit afterwards, if you don’t get side tracked that is. An exceptional New York institution; if you only visit one museum in your life, make it this one.
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum: one of the most avant-garde museums in New York, the Guggenheim collections are housed in one of the most celebrated landmarks in the city. The architectural gem is well worth a visit and the displays are an eclectic mix of the weird, wacky and wonderful world of modern art. If you like that go in, if not just come to take a look at the museum from the outside.
Hayden Planetarium: star-struck astronomers will not get enough of this place! Come along on a space journey as Whoopi Goldberg (or rather her voice) sails you through the intricate maze that is our universe. If science field trips were this good when we were in school, we may have paid more attention.
Visit Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty
Recently closed for extensive repairs due to Hurricane Sandy’s destructive visit, the Statue of Liberty is quite possibly the most recognized landmark in the world, and is set to reopen on the 4th July 2013. This most historical icon was the first glimpse immigrants had when they arrived, and still nowadays it represents all that is (or was) fair, good and prosperous in the new world. Head to Liberty Island to climb the Lady herself and don’t forget that your entry ticket includes a visit to the nearby Ellis Island Immigration Museum , which is also temporarily closed. The ferry ride itself is brilliant and makes for a great photo op of the skyline, the statue and the Brooklyn Bridge.
Watch a Broadway Show
Even musical loathers tend to get swept up in the glamorous world of Broadway, the live entertainment strip being far too magnetic to ignore. From classics like the Phantom of the Opera, to Annie, the ever-popular Lion King and Jersey Boys among many others, there ain’t a show on earth which is not represented on Broadway. Take a night out and come see what the fuss is all about; check out the latest show lists here and be part of New York’s entertainment history for a few hours.
Catch a Sporting Event
Grabbing tickets to see a major sporting event at Madison Square Garden, or the Yankee Stadium should definitely be on the top of the to do list of all sport lovers. Whether it be baseball, boxing, hockey or football (the Yankee kind), spending an entire afternoon trapped in New York’s sport-obsessed world is as entertaining as any museum or landmark can hope to be. Tennis enthusiasts can also make their New York vacation rather memorable by coinciding their trip with the US Open at Flushing Meadows.
Spend a Day on Coney Island
Coney Island used to be New York’s favourite playground at the turn of the 20th century, yet was left to almost totally decompose for decades before being resurrected in the last few years. Nowadays, Coney Island is re-emerging as one of New York’s very top attractions and most favoured week-end outing spot. Here you’ll find a myriad of fun and thrilling rides, including the head-spinning Cyclone, as well as the world-famous Nathan’s hot dog stand, great beaches, a fantastic boardwalk and loads of stalls, restaurants and cafes.
Shop in SoHo
New York’s foremost gay-friendly neighbourhood is home to some wicked meccas no shopaholic should miss. Haute couture lovers tend to stick to big name stores along 5th Avenue, yet if you’re looking for more eclectic, groovy gear then SoHo is definitely the place to come to. Besides, the atmosphere here is much more laid back, prices lower and the vibe ever-so-hobo-chic-cool. Lots of people to watch, coffee to sip, pizza to gorge on and shoes to buy. Purrrrrfect.
Admire St. Patrick’s Cathedral
With all the fun stuff New York offers one may be tempted to forgo the city’s best architectural landmark, but don’t even contemplate leaving the city before you have a chance to admire the colossal and rather impressive St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Smack in the middle of Madison Avenue sits this intricately carved, Gothic inspired 13th century cathedral. The striking spires, incredible stained glass windows, massive pipe organ and overall feel of this church is really quite bewildering, especially if visiting during daily mass service or, at its best, during the Christmas period.
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