Tourist attractions in New York

Attraction Guide for New York

Attraction

Notes

Details & rating

Diamond District

Why go?

If you’re looking for jewellery – this is the place to go.

How to make the best of it?

2 approaches – either go and have a browse – try stuff on & enjoy yourself. Or – if you are seriously shopping, have an idea of what you’re looking for and target the smaller independent stalls inside the big market shops. You stand more chance of getting custom made pieces and a good price here.

Listen to our podcast on this one. Short version is that we had our wedding rings made here & got a bargain & had lots of fun as well.Top rating from us.

MOMA

Why go?

One of the top modern art museums in the world this holds a fantastic collection by the greatest artists, in a purpose built space.

How to make the best of it?

It’s huge so make sure you’re fresh when you go in. Grab an audio guide as they are included with the ticket price. Also check out the ‘gallery talks’ – really worth joining one of these to get real insight into a few pieces and what art is about.

This is a stunning museum – but it is huge and we found it a bit overwhelming – probably because everything seems SO important! We didn’t love it as much as we expected to. But we really recommend the gallery talks as a way in to understanding the museum.Mid rating from us

$20 /under 16s free

Guggenheim

 

Why go?

The building itself is part of the experience. Built as a spiral, the exhibition space is different and interesting and used for temporary exhibitions. There is a Kandinsky Gallery and parts of the Thannhauser collection are always on view.

How to make the best of it?

Just walk Frank Lloyd Wright’s spiral! Enjoy the building as much as the art. From the entrance hall you can take photos, but nowhere else, so make sure to get some. Factor in time to visit the Kandinsky gallery which is well signposted

This is really very unusual and we liked it.

Natural History Museum & Rose Centre

Why go?

Fabulous Natural History museum – great building, massive collection & star of films such as Night at the Museum. The Rose Centre is dedicated to space travel and exploration & has an amazing planetarium.

How to make the best of it?

The basic entrance fee covers 45 halls in the museum and the Rose space centre. To go to the planetarium or the Imax, is another $8 per adult, $5 per child – or you can buy a ‘super saver’ which gets you in to all films/shows/exhibitions.

We went to the Rose centre and space show first before the queues got too big, and then spent some time in the museum. There are guided tours that last an hour and seemed to be focused on the dioramas. Or just pick the areas that hold a particular interest – you could spend all day in here!

Sue was very excited to be going to the Space Show and it didn’t disappoint – very very dark, great seats and no one eating popcorn! (Although if you’re on the QM2 – these are exactly the shows you’ll see there so save your dollars!)The Rose Centre is ok – if you’re really keen on space – otherwise head for the main museum. Sue loved the hall of marine life, Russell’s favourite was the Biodiversity Hall. Loads of guides hanging around very willing to engage in conversation.

Top rating!

$16/9

Open everyday

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Why go?

Their tag line is ‘5,000 years of art’ – a claim that makes perfect sense when you visit! A stunning building and collection that represents art in it’s widest sense.

How to make the best of it?

The $64,000 dollar question!! We recommend one of two approaches: join a tour – there are a variety on offer each day, or you could look at an organization like Watson Adventures and book on one of their scavenger hunts. Or – take the map and pick three subjects. Build in a stop in the café, or a trip to the roof garden – you’ll need a rest!

We both love love love the Met! We first visited not knowing what to expect – but it certainly isn’t a sedate place full of old paintings! Our first visit focused on musical instruments, the Egyptians (inc a whole temple!!) and American history. The 2nd time we took part in a scavenger hunt – running round for 2 hrs solving clues – which took us all over the museum.Top rating!

$20/under 12s free

Comic Strip Live

Why go?

If you enjoy stand up comedy then this is an experience worth having. No interval, 6 – 8 acts – you’re bound to like someone!

How to make the best of it?

Take cash – you have to buy your admission ticket ($20) and then drinks – and there is a $20 minimum cover charge, so the drinks are expensive. You need to arrive 20-30 minutes before the show starts to be seated. The show lasts 2 and a half hours. The weekends (Fri, Sat Sun) are considered to be the best nights as that’s when the better acts are on.

Great vibe, nice area – good range of restaurants to go and eat in beforehand. You’ll probably be sharing a table with other people – we learned some really interesting things from one of our companions – he was starting out in stand up too and had come to watch. He told us that they get paid according to their experience, so some would be doing it for nothing!Although they $20 cover charge was a shock, actually if you just consider it to be part of the entrance fee, $40 isn’t bad for 2.5 hrs of entertainment in NYC!

We can’t wait to go again – top marks from us

Rockefeller

Why go?

Top of the Rock has views to rival those of the Empire State Building and is a lot easier to get up! Great exhibition of the building of the skyscrapers including those iconic pictures of the guys sitting on the girders eating their lunch.

How to make the best of it?

Buy a timed ticket which allows you to skip the queues – you just walk straight into the mezzanine exhibit level. You buy advanced tickets do this online up to 2 hrs before, or by dropping into the box office when it’s quiet. You can buy a sunsetsunrise ticket that allows you to go back twice in one day.

Enjoy the exhibition, walk across the girder on the glass floor and then head for the 70th floor where you can walk around the spacious viewing area and see the whole of NY spread out before you.

We thought Top of the Rock was great! Loads of space to wander about, great views and the pictures and stories from about the construction sites was really fascinating. We liked this better than the Empire State Building – although we appreciate that it isn’t as iconic.Top rating from us – be brave – dump the Empire State – do this!!

$21/14 or $30/15 for the sunrise/sunset tkt

Open every day 8am-midnight

Ellis Island/Statue of Liberty

Why go?

Iconic image of NY and of the USA, the Statue of Liberty is an absolute must. Ellis Island is a fabulous museum that documents the mass immigration to the US and holds the records of those immigrants. These can be searched by all visitors.

Both accessible only by boat – you also get a fabulous view of the Manhattan skyline.

How to make the best of it?

Take the boat from Castle Clinton and position yourself on the right hand side of the boat as you look at the pointy end. Firs stop is Liberty Island – if you are desperate to climb up into the crown (allowed again now), then take an early trip & book your ticket to climb the 355 steps when you buy your ferry pass – only 250 people a day are allowed up there. Otherwise, stay on board and disembark at Ellis Island. Find out the times of the free shows and then plan you visit round those. Look up your relatives on the computers in the main hall and then visit the wall outside to find their names.

We didn’t get off at Liberty Island – we felt seeing the statue from the boat was close enough – also the huge queue to get back on the boat put us off!Ellis Island was so interesting! Neither of us are into the genealogy thing, but even we got caught up in entering old family names into the search engine to see what we could find – it’s all free! The exhibitions are great – contemporary information about immigration as well as a huge exhibition about the peak period of 1892-1954.

Both Liberty Island and Ellis Island are free – but you have to buy a ferry ticket

$12/5 (under 12s)

A surprise top rating from us!

St Patrick’s Cathedral

Why go?

This is America’s largest Catholic Cathedral and was built far out of the centre of town in 1878. Now, of course, it’s in a prime position on 5th Avenue, next door to Saks and opposite the Rockefeller Centre

How to make the best of it?

The best view of the façade is from the Rockefeller centre. Spend some time inside this very beautiful building – have a good look at the various altars, the fabulous stained glass windows and the general opulence of the place.

This cathedral was very busy when we visited – with tourists, school parties and worshippers – but the atmosphere was undiminished and we would absolutely recommend that you spend some time in here. Sue, as an ex-teacher, was especially pleased to find that one of the original side chapel altars is dedicated to St John Baptist d la Salle – the patron saint of teachers!

New York Public Library

Why go?

This is one of the top 5 public libraries in the world and is housed in a landmark building. It’s so much more than a library with a vast range of collections that include AA Milne’s original Pooh & friends to a Gothenburg bible watched over by portraits of the good and the great.

How to make the best of it?

Unusually in New York, this is absolutely free! If possible, join one of the twice daily guided tours where one of the very knowledgeable volunteers takes you round the whole library and then go and have another look at anything that particularly grabs your attention.

You can join for free and then use the reference section immediately; you can also use the internet free for 45 minutes. If the tours don’t coincide with your visit – talk to the people on the information desk – they are happy to tell you anything you need to know!

We went in here twice on our last visit – once to just pick up information and we ended up chatting to the information ladies for half an hour – all Anglophiles – they wanted to talk Shakespeare and landscapes! We then returned for a guided tour which was amazing. Our guide was so knowledgeable and passionate – at one stage she got quite tearful because she was so proud – which naturally set Sue off (What can I say? I have a soul!!)The tour is quite long – a good hour – but we would both recommend it.

Top rating!

United Nations

Why go?

Many say that this is the closest thing we have to a world parliament, and it’s headquarters are in New York. There are guided tours and it’s stuffed with works of art donated by various countries.

How to make the best of it?

You can have a look around the foyer where there will be an exhibition about some aspect of the UNs work & some of the art – notably Marc Chagall’s stained glass window outside the chapel. There are guided tours or audio tours and gardens outside. You can only access most of the building via a tour.

We were rather underwhelmed by the UN building. When we visited, the tours were shorter than usual because of extensive building work and we didn’t do one. We understand that the tours are frequently reduced because of council meetings and UN business (which seems fair enough!) Information on offer was simple and we felt that actually visiting didn’t leave a person any better informed than if they’d read the website.Low rating from us.

Frick Collection

Why go?

This isn’t an art museum, rather it is one mans collection displayed in his home and is intended to just reflect what he enjoyed. The house was designed and built as a home that would be properly lived in but would also display his art collection in the best way possible.

How to make the best of it?

Make use of the audio guide that is included in the entry fee as this gives real insight into why Frick chose various objects and paintings. Look out for the Holbein pair of pictures of Sir Thomas Moore and Cromwell. Watch the 20 minute film presentation as this serves to further develop your understanding and take time to sit in the indoor courtyard and enjoy the peace.

This is fabulous! There is such a lovely atmosphere – it really is a place where you don’t need a guide book – it’s just about enjoying the collection. The film gives a great insight into the man who built this collection and why. Sue found the presentation quite emotional – but that could be her age! We both enjoyed the art and that the experience seemed so serene.It’s of a manageable size as a collection which also helps.

Can’t wait to go back – top rating from both of us!

CMOM

Why go?

Strictly for the under 8s and their families this is an amazing place full of interactive play spaces and exhibitions for young children to enjoy. It’s very close to the Natural History Museum – so if you’re a family with children with a big age gap – this is where you could split up and all have a great time!

How to make the best of it?

There are several floors although some spaces may be closed when hired out for parties. Lots of lovely staff members to ask for advice. There is a reading floor, a nursery floor with beautifully looked after toys and equipment, the 2nd floor has a Dora the explorer exhibit and there is a splash area outside for water play.

You can go out and come back in on the same day as long as you collect a sticker and don’t lose it.

Russell has children (mostly grown up now) and Sue was primary school teacher so although we didn’t take children in here with us, we feel qualified to comment! It’s lovely! So clean and well looked after even though they must have a lot of wear and tear. Lovely toys to play with and areas to explore as well as the wonderful book and reading area. It is a bit expensive, but knowing that you can go in and out makes that a bit easier to bear!Closed Mondays

$10 each, under 1yr free

Central Park

Why go?

This huge park was one of the first to create various outdoor areas to be enjoyed by people with different interests, but all in one park. Lots to do and see – it’s easy to forget that you’re in such a huge metropolis (as long as you don’t look at the skyscrapers….!)

How to make the best of it?

Get hold of one of the maps and decide where you want to go – this park is huge, covering 834 acres. The visitor centres hold information about what’s happening today, including the various guided tours. They will also direct you to where you want to go.

The locals say that if you go north of the rinks it’s better as there are less tourists and people in general.

This place is packed with people! Great for sitting & watching, it really is a place which changes round every corner. Very easy to get lost because of the windy paths. Sue liked it more than Russell, but both found it quite overwhelming. We’d like to go and see a concert or play here – they happen regularly through the summer as perhaps that would help fix it in our heads. Mid rating from us – too many other things we wanted to do!

National Museum for American Indian

Why go?

This museum is a two in one experience. The museum is housed in the Alexander Hamilton US Customs House & as you enter the rotunda, it’s explained how this customs house was so successful, the revenue paid for Alaska and building Washington – amongst other things!

The museum itself explains North American Indian culture and customs both in the past and the present. There is also an art gallery that has temporary exhibitions by artists with North American Indian descent.

How to make the best of it?

Go up the steps to the main entrance which allows you to enter through the rotunda and learn about the customs house.

Then go into the main exhibition & work around it. Next visit the art gallery on the other side of the hall – talk to the guards – they have loads of information. Then it’s downstairs to look at the cases around the side of the auditorium and visit the gift shop.

This was great! We were really pleased that the exhibition wasn’t just about the past, but is very much up to date. There’s some interesting information for instance how families of current soldiers on active service are able to sew eagle feathers on their costumes because the man has gone to war and has fought – this is a warrior race, and the traditions may need to be adapted, but they’re still there.We had no idea that the customs house part was there – we found it really interesting & the murals around the ceiling are very impressive – look out for Greta Garbo!

Top rating from us – and it’s free!

St Paul’s Chapel

Why go?

This is the oldest surviving church building in the city. It was where George Washington prayed after his inauguration in 1789 & despite it’s proximity to the World Trade Centre, it survived the 9/11 disaster and served as a centre for the volunteers who supported the rescue teams for months after the attacks.

How to make the best of it?

The chapel has a memorial and exhibition relating to its work during the aftermath of the attacks. Read the information and hen take time to look at this beautiful church and its Waterford Chandeliers. Outside is the Liberty Bell that is rung three times a year on the anniversaries New York, Madrid and London attacks.

A visit to this chapel is a very moving experience – you can get a real sense of the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and the way that the city pulled together.It’s also an important part of New York’s history in that George Washington was here because he was inaugurated during the period when New York was the capital!

Well worth a visit, top rating from us.

Lincoln Centre for the performing Arts

Why go?

This is the home of the Metropolitan Opera, the New York City Opera and Ballet and the New York Philharmonic, as well as a number of other theatres and performance spaces.

How to make the best of it?

It’s always worth enquiring about tickets for performances – there are often some available. Guided tours are also available every day. Otherwise, just wander in the square admiring the facades and watching the arty types hanging around!

We went to see an opera here on last minute tickets – if we’re being honest, it wasn’t a great opera, but it was a great experience being in one of the most famous opera houses in the world.Worth a visit if you can get in – top rating from us.