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Exploring New York: Your Complete Guide to Spectacular Sightseeing!

New York Panoramic View

Some people love big city life, while others aren’t keen on it. The idea of visiting NYC might be a turn-off for some.

I found myself somewhere in the middle, unsure of what awaited me in the Big Apple. My expectations leaned toward a concrete jungle: cold, structured, and bustling with people rushing around. But to my surprise, I discovered quite the opposite. Amidst the heart of NYC, I encountered accommodating and friendly New Yorkers, and the energy was simply electric!

Yes, concrete dominates the landscape, but nestled within are countless other treasures. It’s hard not to crane your neck upward; the skyscrapers stand tall, vying for their place in this majestic urban sprawl.

On our arrival night, we reached the city around 10:00 PM, and even by the time we left at 1:30 AM, the city showed no signs of slowing down. NYC truly never sleeps. So, if you’re planning a visit, bring a hefty appetite for the Big Apple. You’ll need it!

Let’s delve into what should make it onto your must-do and must-see list. I’ll also provide you with links to secure your tickets, ensuring you’re fully prepared.

New York Travel Tips

In this guide about New York, you’ll find tons of tips to save money and enjoy the best sights. Look out for tips with links for tickets and must-see places. But the big one: get a Sightseeing Flex Pass! It saves heaps, up to 65%, even covering the hop-on hop-off bus. Totally worth it!

This guide will also show you which famous spots are covered by the NYC Sightseeing Flex Pass, proving its value. You’ll easily spot the landmarks included as you explore.

You can also read all about the NYC Sightseeing Flex Pass here: How it works and what you get.

Best Free Things to do in New York City

It will take you about two hours to walk around the park. By the way, that is if you walk at NYC-pace. If you take a leisurely walk it will take slightly longer. Central Park is an urban park in New York City located between the Upper West and Upper East Sides of Manhattan.

Central Park is a tranquil oasis nestled within the bustling metropolis of New York City, inviting you into a world of natural beauty and serenity. Its sprawling landscapes, winding pathways, and serene lakes offer an escape from the urban clamor, transporting you to a haven of tranquility in the heart of Manhattan.

Whether you’re strolling through the vibrant foliage of the Ramble, admiring the iconic Bethesda Terrace, or taking in the picturesque views from Bow Bridge, each step unveils a new facet of this enchanting park. With its meadows, woodlands, and cultural attractions like the Central Park Zoo and the iconic Strawberry Fields, it’s a place where nature and city life harmoniously coexist, offering an immersive experience that captures the soul of New York’s diversity and allure. A visit to Central Park promises a rejuvenating retreat, an exploration of scenic beauty, and a chance to immerse yourself in the vibrant tapestry of this urban sanctuary.

It may not be the largest park in NYC, but it is certainly the most famous one for its beautiful landscape.

  • Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx 2,765 acres.
  • Greenbelt, Staten Island 1,778 acres.
  • Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx 1,146 acres.
  • Flushing Meadows/Corona Park, Queens 898 acres.
  • Central Park, Manhattan 843 acres.

There are plenty of Central Park paid activities included in the Sightseeing Flex Pass, like:

  • Bus Tours: On Location Tours – Central Park TV and Movie Sites. 
  • Biking: Central Park Bike Rental; and a 2-hour Central Park Bike Tour.
  • Walking: Manhattan and Beyond Central Park Walking Tour.

Carl Schurz was a German-American soldier, statesman, and philanthropist. Central Park tends to get all of the love. However, Carl Schurz Park may just be the Upper East Side’s best-kept secret. Located on East End Avenue between 84th and 90th streets, this 14.9-acre oasis is home to two dog runs, a playground, basketball, and pickleball courts, and even the Mayor’s House (Gracie Mansion). The park’s waterfront location offers beautiful views of the East River and Roosevelt Island Tramway, as well as the Queensboro and Triborough and RFK bridges. Contrary to the majestic vibe of Central Park, Carl Schurz offers much more of a neighborhood feel—and best of all, should you be curious to check out Astoria, Long Island City, or Brooklyn Navy Yard, the ferry’s 90th Street terminal is right on the park’s edge.

Carl Schurz Park may just be the Upper East Side’s best kept secret min
Carl Schurz Park

Little Island, located in New York City’s Hudson River, has drawn numerous visitors since its opening. This “floating” greenspace boasts open lawns, vibrant flora, and a hidden garden, all accessible for free. Make sure not to overlook the park’s amphitheaters—The Glade and The Amph—for breathtaking views of the Hudson River.

To reach Little Island in New York City, you can use various modes of transportation:

  • Public Transit: Take the subway to the nearby stations like 14th Street or 34th Street-Hudson Yards. From there, it’s a short walk to the park.

  • Bus: Several bus routes stop near the park, allowing for convenient access.

  • Ferry: Consider taking the NYC Ferry to the Hudson River Park Pier 66/West Midtown Ferry Terminal, which is close to Little Island.

  • Walking/Cycling: If you’re nearby, walking or cycling along the Hudson River Park’s pathways can lead you directly to the park.

LES Gallery Nights in downtown Manhattan, specifically the Lower East Side, are vibrant evenings celebrating art and creativity. Galleries in this area open their doors to the public, showcasing a diverse range of contemporary art. It’s an opportunity for art enthusiasts, collectors, and anyone curious about art to explore various galleries, exhibitions, and art spaces in one neighborhood. Visitors can interact with artists, view cutting-edge works, and immerse themselves in the dynamic art scene of downtown Manhattan. These monthly events are fantastic opportunities for art lovers to engage with the thriving artistic community of the Lower East Side. They’re usually between 4 pm and 8 pm, but it’s best to check out their latest website updates.

The Polonsky Exhibition at the New York Public Library stands out for its remarkable collection of rare and significant items. It showcases centuries-old manuscripts, historical documents, and rare books, offering a glimpse into pivotal moments in human history. What makes it spectacular is the diversity of materials on display, spanning different cultures, languages, and eras. Visitors encounter treasures like ancient texts, illuminated manuscripts, maps, and literary works that have shaped our world. The exhibition’s curation and presentation provide a rich, immersive experience, offering insights into the evolution of knowledge, culture, and humanity itself. Address: 476 5th Ave, NY.

Little Island, New York City, top things to do, best sightseeing ideas, first time in new york city
Little Island
New York Public Library, free historical exhibition min
NY Public Library

So this is not the tallest building in NYC, but it sure is one of the most dramatic-looking buildings in the city. It’s been famously photographed by many photographers because of the triangular steel-framed architectural design. Once named the Fuller Building, it has 22 levels and is 285 feet / 87 meters tall. Go to 175 Fifth Avenue in the Flatiron District of Manhattan to snap the building. Alternatively, the city sightseeing bus also stops here.

Madison Square Park is a public park located on 11 Madison Avenue in the Flatiron District of Manhattan. It’s a green space known for its serene atmosphere, featuring sculptures, lush greenery, and pathways. The park often hosts public art installations, and events, and offers a relaxing spot amid the bustling city. All at no cost to you!

Flatiron Building New York City
Flatiron Building
Madison Square Park, free things to do in New York min
Madison Square park

Most Exhilarating New York Experiences You Must Try!

The Empire State Building stands tall, at 443 meters high, as an architectural marvel and a timeless symbol of New York City’s skyline. Beyond its towering height, it holds a legacy of innovation and craftsmanship, earning its place among the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. As you ascend to its observation decks, you’ll be greeted by breathtaking panoramic views that stretch across the city, offering a mesmerizing perspective of Manhattan and beyond. Its art deco design and iconic stature hold a unique charm, inviting you to witness the city’s dynamic energy from an unparalleled vantage point. Visiting the Empire State Building isn’t just about witnessing its impressive structure; it’s about experiencing a piece of history, capturing the essence of New York’s grandeur, and creating memories that will endure long after you’ve taken in its magnificent views.

Since the Zoo is in such close proximity to Central Park and the Wollman Rink it is a great call for the kiddies. They’re very much into conservation and there is plenty to do at the zoo. For instance rides, animal feeding, and exhibits.

It’s not just about observing wildlife; it’s about fostering a deeper appreciation for our planet’s biodiversity and experiencing a slice of nature’s marvels right in the heart of Manhattan.

Empire State Building
Central Park Zoo Seal swimming NYC
The Zoo is at the southeast corner of Central Park, East 64th Street.

The Statue of Liberty holds a unique place in the world’s imagination for various reasons. Firstly, it stands as a powerful symbol of freedom and democracy. Given as a gift from France to the United States in 1886, it became a welcoming sight for immigrants arriving in New York Harbor, symbolizing hope, liberty, and opportunity.

Beyond its symbolic significance, the statue is an engineering marvel. Designed by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, it stands at an impressive 305 feet (93 meters) tall, including its pedestal. Its construction and design were ahead of its time, contributing to its awe-inspiring presence.

The Statue of Liberty’s visual appeal is another factor in its iconic status. Its neoclassical design and the green patina that developed on its copper surface over time add to its beauty and historical significance.

Moreover, this statue serves as a reminder of the historical alliance between France and the United States, rooted in their shared commitment to liberty. It also coincided with the abolition of slavery in the United States, adding further layers of meaning to its symbolism.

Lastly, as one of the most recognizable landmarks globally, the Statue of Liberty continues to draw millions of visitors each year. Its cultural significance extends far beyond New York City, making it an enduring symbol of freedom and a testament to the values of liberty and opportunity.

NYC is proof that not everything, that is worth doing, must have a price to it. You’ll be surprised that you can indeed see the Statue of Liberty via a free ferry! Namely, The Staten Island Ferry. The duration of the trip is about 25 minutes. Besides the Statue of Liberty, you will also enjoy views from NYC Harbor, the Brooklyn Bridge in the distance, lower Manhattan, New Jersey, Brooklyn, Governors Island (a National Monument), and some of Wall Street’s famous skyscrapers. 

Travel Tip(s)

Rush hour is exactly that, a rush to get good seats. So go early to get a good spot! And by the way, you’d rather want to stand. If you sit, people will block your view!

Staten Island Ferry New York

If you’re concerned about transport to and from the ferry, buy a Hop-On-Hop-Off bus ticket. One of the stops is right at the ferry! I’m a big advocate for the bus because of its convenience.

Travel Tip(s)

A big advantage of the bus is that it actually can serve as your itinerary to see New York. You don’t have to plan a thing. Just go with the wind and enjoy NYC. I highly recommend it. 

Venturing to the Edge Observation Deck in New York unveils an unmatched experience atop the city’s skyline, perched on the 100th floor and reigning as NYC’s tallest outdoor observation platform, unmatched in the entire Western Hemisphere. Here, you’ll find yourself standing at the pinnacle of urban exploration, gazing out through the glass walls that stretch from floor to ceiling, offering unobstructed views that encapsulate the spirit of this iconic city.

New York skyscraper Edge Observation Deckdge Observation Deck
Edge Observation Deck, New York City
Travel Tip(s)

Best time to visit? Aim for April through June, the vibrant springtime, offering fewer crowds and agreeable weather. November’s Thanksgiving and December’s festive Christmas season, leading into the exhilarating New Year celebrations, bring New York City alive with a contagious spirit.

This is where the city’s history began, in Downtown Manhattan. You’re in for breathtaking views and an absolutely lovely perennial garden. It’s famously being maintained by amongst others, volunteers from city residents! There are bike lanes, pedestrian walkways, and beautiful lawns to enjoy. And then the park has the SeaGlass Carousel. A magical ocean-themed carousel for kiddies.

Harry Potter fans will not be disappointed when they walk into the world of Harry Potter at 935 Broadway.

Experience the wizarding world of Harry Potter like never before.  

  • Magical shopping experiences.
  • Become part of the adventure with virtual experiences!
  • Step into the Butterbeer bar for a tankard of the wizard’s drink of choice!
NYC Battery Park in Downtown Manhatten
An aerial view of Battery Park
Visit Harry Potter Store on Broadway things to do in new york adventure wizarding experience
The top sights to see in New York, Harry Potter

Times Square, located in midtown Manhattan, is a must-see spot in New York City for its lively atmosphere and bustling energy. It’s a vibrant hub filled with bright lights, huge billboards, and a constant buzz of excitement. From the iconic Broadway shows to a variety of restaurants and shops, there’s always something happening. It’s a place that captures the lively spirit of the city and offers an experience that’s both thrilling and unforgettable.

This is quite extraordinary. It’s a piece by Max Neuhaus called “Times Square”.

To check it out, head to the Broadway Pedestrian Plaza between 45th and 46th Streets, close to Broadway and Seventh Avenue. Early mornings are probably the best time to experience it when it’s a bit quieter.

Picture this: amidst all the city noise, there’s this secret auditory artwork right under your feet. It’s like the sound of a ringing bell blending with everything else around.

What’s fascinating is, it’s been there for ages, but most people don’t even notice it as they walk by! It’s really easy to miss. But once you catch that sound, it’s something you’ll remember every time you pass by.

Evenings are easily sorted because going to a Broadway play is simply a must while you’re here. The Broadway Theater District has plenty of variety.

Explore the Museum of Broadway—an awaited gem showcasing 500+ productions from the 1700s till today. Delve into props, lavish costumes, production insights, and exclusive glimpses you wouldn’t find elsewhere.

By now, I believe, you have the feel for New York City. A lot of walking, that’s for sure.

However, there is help in the form of either a taxi, underground transport, or pedicabs. Getting a pedicab at Times Square is a good time to do so. Most of them are quite savvy around the city and have a lot of information to share about the attractions they pass by. So it’s like a little guided tour of a completely different nature. Another unforgettable experience!

Travel Tip(s)

The New Yorkers speak English, deal in American Dollars (USD), and their time zone is usually UTC−05:00 (EST), but when it’s summer, it switches to UTC−04:00 (EDT).

Broadway Times Square New York
Pedicab New York

One of the niceties of a holiday is being snapped in front of something world-famous. Particularly the charging bull. The intense bronze sculpture was created with the Black Monday stock market crash of 1987 in mind, symbolizing Wall Street and the Financial District. 

Instagram spots in New York City, photo opportunities, sightseeing

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Best areas and places to stay in New York

In brief, you have two choices. Either stay smack in the heart of NYC or find accommodation on the outskirts where the prices are much lower. We chose the latter. However, if you do the same, make sure your accommodation is within walking distance of a train station. We commuted in and out with no problem whatsoever. And it actually was quite nice to enjoy the contrast between city life, and life on the outside. 

Cheap Flights to New York

New York Airports
  • JFK Airport
  • Newark Liberty Airport
  • LaGuardia Airport
  • Islip Airport
  • White Plains Airport
  • Stewart Airport

In conclusion, I hope you enjoy your sightseeing in New York City as much as I did. I did not even touch on our culinary experiences, so I will leave it for another time!