Some posts on this site contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, I may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). Read the full disclosure policy here.
New York City is one of the most dynamic places in the world. It is a center of business, art, and culture. In a city of endless possibilities, it is important to know the absolute best sides of it and to prioritize the best places to visit in New York City when traveling. Coming from a tourist that has visited the Big Apple so many times, she no longer needs directions to navigate the city, here is her breakdown of the most iconic places you must see at least once in New York City.
Guest post by Alexandra Dishnica
Top 5 Places to Visit In New York City
Times Square is one of the first places to visit in New York City and one of the most iconic sites. Lying in the heart of Manhattan it is known for its bustling streets, colorful light displays and advertisements, and fun stores and shops. Given that it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, there are a variety of activities that are bound to please everyone.
Want to take a picture with one of your favorite celebrities? New York is full of politicians, actors, and athletes, but there is no guarantee that you will actually get to see them. Instead, visit Madame Tussauds and snap a few pictures there. It is known as the “World’s Greatest Wax Museum” and this comes as no surprise due to the fact that there are over 200 wax figures here! In addition, there are special effects 3D experiences that you can purchase as well. Purchase tickets on their website online or at the door.
For those of us that would rather see a show on New York’s authentic streets, Times Square is full of street performers. Whether it be dancers, acrobats, artists, or costume play, you are sure to find a free and authentic show in Times Square. One of my favorites was a classical pianist that invited the audience to sit under his piano. He told us that the music was clearer from underneath the instrument. All of these shows, just as the pianists, are interactive and spontaneous. More often than not, people are eager to give a dollar or two to the performers for their outstanding work.
Wondering where to stay in New York City? If you want to be in the middle of the action, consider staying at the Marriott Marquis Hotel. You’ll be on Broadway, across the street from Times Square. A 3-minute walk separates you from the subway. Check out other options on this interactive map:
It is relatively easy to make your way around the area due to the abundance of taxi cabs and a nearby subway station, but if public transportation is not your forte, board a sight-seeing tour. Most of them are double-decker buses that take you around attractions in Manhattan, but walking tours are also available for those that prefer it. These tours are great as they walk you through the history of Times Square and describe intricate details about its significance. They also take you to Times Square Tower, the iconic skyscraper where the ball drops every New Years Eve.
Times Square also has a variety of shops. Besides the basic Sephora and Gap, there are endless stores that are unique to this area. For all chocolate lovers like myself, visit M&M or Hershey World. Other cool shops like Swatch New York and the Disney Shop can also be found at Times Square. Dining here is just as inventive and new as the area itself. Take a trip to Cuba at Havana Central Times Square or say hi to your favorite characters like Forest Gump at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Other great eats are Dos Caminos, Butter Midtown, and The Ribbon.
Watch a Broadway Play! The first few times I visited New York, I never watched a Broadway play, but once I went, I kept coming back. There’s a reason the plays get so much hype. Everything is precisely planned out- the lighting, the seating, the music, the dancing, which invokes different moods and emotions. Each musical is carefully crafted for everyone’s enjoyment. My favorites are Wicked, Mean Girls, and Once on This Island. Broadway plays need to be planned ahead of time and sometimes can be expensive. Overall though, it is worth it to attend at least one.
Soho is my favorite district in New York City. Odds are that the cute boutique, delicious food shop, or stunning street art and murals that you pinned on your Pinterest board are located in Soho. The design of the buildings that compose the neighborhood are truly gorgeous. Soho is also part of the Cast Iron District which is reflected in the architecture of the area. Many find appeal in this architecture as it gives a subtle break from New York’s towering skyscrapers.
There are plenty of affordable places to shop in Soho such as Zara, the RealReal, the Levi Shop, or the Vintage Twin. My favorite place to go for a snack is the DŌ store, which sells a variety of cookie dough flavors in ice cream cones. From there, I love to take a short walk to Washington Square Park and eat my cookie dough from a bench admiring the great arch in the center of the park.
New York is known as one of the fashion capitals of the world which it owes in part to Fifth Avenue. Fifth Avenue is known for its luxury stores, and rightfully so. You can find Tiffany and Co’s, Bergdorf Goodman, Louis Vuitton, Saks Fifth Avenue, and more just walking down the street. My favorite time to visit Fifth Avenue is during the winter because of the window and light displays that the designer stores set up. Each window is intricately staged with colorful lights and festive props that makes you feel like you are in a living Hallmark movie. The best holiday displays are known to be at the Saks and Macy’s on Fifth Avenue. Central Park also has several entrances off of Fifth Avenue. This section of the street is known as “millionaire’s row” due to the excessive amount of luxury stores and expensive real estate.
In addition to shopping and walking through Central Park, there are plenty of other attractions on Fifth Ave. One of the most popular is the Empire State Building. Here you can purchase a ticket and climb up to the 103rd floor to enjoy panoramic views of the lively city. For art lovers, the Met, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Museum of Modern Art also lie off of Fifth Avenue.
Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty
The Statue of Liberty is one of the most popular images associated with New York City. Taking the ferry to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty is a great way to learn about this nation’s history and more about the iconic landmark. Purchase tickets for the ferry online or at Battery Park. The ferry will take you to Ellis Island and Liberty Island. Historically, Ellis Island was an immigrant inspection center. On Ellis Island, you will have access to the National Immigration Museum, a symbol of the American Dream. The museum is very informative and has many interactive exhibits that describe the history of the Statue of Liberty and early immigration to the US.
Given that both the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are located on the water, there are plenty of places around Battery Park to see the statue from afar as well.
Final Thoughts on the Best Places to Visit in New York City
Every time I leave the city, it calls me back in again. However many times I may push myself through the crowded Times Square streets or find my red, cushioned seat at the next Broadway musical, I will always cherish the first time I was able to appreciate the city’s authenticity. New York City is a wonderful place to visit. I hope that you too will be able to enjoy these top 5 places to visit in New York City.
Alexandra Dishnica is a travel blogger from Boston, Massachusetts. She has her own website, Alexandra Dishnica’s Travel Blog where she writes about her perspective traveling as a teenager and emphasizes the importance of cultural authenticity. In addition to travel, Alexandra is committed to immigration advocacy. She is involved in several studies revolving around US immigrants and has started her own podcast, Dishing on Immigration, where she shares immigrant stories. Alexandra urges everyone to follow their dreams and pursue what they are truly passionate about.
Interested in more blogs about things to do in New York state? Check out these posts:
- Niagara Falls – Which side is better, the US or Canada side?
- So Much to Do in the Finger Lakes Region!
- Why you should visit the Corning Museum of Glass