The big apple is the largest city in the United States with many ingenious, world class attractions and famous landmarks. Take the ferry over to Liberty Island to see The Statue of Liberty, get a bird’s eye view of the city atop The Empire State Building, take in the scenery and attractions within Central Park, and be amongst the hustle and bustle of Times Square. Lodge in Times Square to be in the heart of the excitement of the city that never sleeps. NYC offers dozens of world class museums which includes the MET, The Natural History Museum, the MOMA, and the Guggenheim, so it‘s no wonder why visitors come from every nook and cranny of the planet to take in the excitement and catch a show on Broadway itself. Be sure to visit Madame Tussauds wax museum to get your picture taken with your favorite celebrity! Save money by getting a combination ticket in the form of a NYC CityPASS (which allows you to save 43% on admission to 6 NYC attractions) or a New York Pass (which allows you to see over 80 attractions for one discounted price). NYC is about a 2 hour drive from Philadelphia (94 miles), a 2½ hour drive from Atlantic City (125 miles), 4 hours from Boston (214 miles) and a little over four hours from Washington, DC (225 miles).
Top 12 Attractions
1. Statue of Liberty (1886) is located on the 12 acre Liberty Island in New York Harbor, but very close to NYC. This statue was a gift of international friendship from the people of France to the people of the United States, a symbols of political freedom and democracy today. This small, but well known island is accessible by Circle Line-Statue of Liberty Ferry, Inc. ferries only and includes visits to Ellis Island as well. Lady Liberty stands 152 feet high atop an 89-foot pedestal. If you just want a closer view of lady liberty, without getting off at Liberty Island, consider the commuter ferry that runs from Battery Park to Staten Island. This ferry offers amazing views of Lower Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and the New York Harbor for free. On July 4, 2009 the crown reopened, but only about 240 people are allowed into the crown each day, at the rate of three groups of 10 every hour. Crown tickets cost an extra $3 per person, on top of the ferry ticket price. The ten-story pedestal, museum and outdoor observation deck re-opened in 2004, while the torch continues to be off-limits to visitors since it closed in 1916. You must reserve either a Crown ticket (which includes pedestal and museum access) or a Pedestal Museum Ticket (which does not include crown access) a regular ticket or a 3-Day Flex Ticket.
2. Times Square - Ranked by Forbes as the number one most visited attraction in America, with a whopping 35 annual visitors. Home to the New Years Eve Ball Drop. Bigger doesn’t always mean better is a major commercial intersection in the borough of Manhattan in New York City, at the junction of Broadway and Seventh Avenue and stretching from West 42nd to West 47th Streets. The extended Times Square area, also called the Theatre District, consists of the blocks between Sixth and Eighth Avenues from east to west, and West 40th and West 53rd Streets from south to north, making up the western part of the commercial area of Midtown Manhattan. Learn more by reading our post about 20 Things You Didn’t Know About Times Square.
3. A trip to NYC would not be complete without visiting the Empire State Building (1931), although for those who plan to come on a busy day you can expect very, very long lines. This New York City Landmark and National Historic Landmark is home to the 86th-floor observatory which is 1,050 feet above the streets below, letting you see up to 80 miles away on a clear day with 360-degree views. Come day or night (or even right before sunset to get a day and night view) for a stunning view from this observation deck which over 110 million people have visited. There is a second observation deck on the 102nd floor that is completely enclosed and much smaller than the other. As you could amagine, prices are higher for this deck. The New York Skyride is another attraction inside this building, located on the 2nd floor. Experience a motion simulator attraction like no other, providing a 25 minute simulated aerial tour over the city. The Empire State Building was the world’s tallest building from 1931 to 1973, with a total of 102 floors. Also consider visiting The Top of The Rock observatory deck, instead (especially on a busy day).
4. Fifth Avenue is lined with prestigious shops and is consistently ranked among the most expensive shopping streets in the world. In 2008, Forbes magazine ranked Fifth Avenue as being the most expensive street in the world. Fifth Avenue originates at Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village and runs northwards through the heart of Midtown, along the eastern side of Central Park, where it forms the boundary of the Upper East Side and through Harlem, where it terminates at the Harlem River at 142nd Street. Traffic crosses the river on the Madison Avenue Bridge. Fifth Avenue serves as the dividing line for house numbering in Manhattan.
Going around the holidays? See the huge Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center and ice skate beneath it.
5. (Free) Central Park (1859) runs from 59th to 110th streets and 5th Avenue to 8th Avenue. Great place to play at the zoo, playgrounds, skating rinks and more. Get away from the hustle and bustle of the city to this large, grassy park that is located right in the heart of NYC. Make your trip romantic by riding in one of the many horse-drawn carriages. It’s not cheap, but it’s a fun way to get around the park. Experience the 843 acres of beautiful paths, lakes, ponds, and meadows. Those looking for more of a garden environment will want to visit the New York Botanical Garden, which we rank as one of the 12 Best Botanical Gardens In The USA. Be sure to also check out our post on 20 Things You Didn’t Know About Central Park.
6. See a Broadway show, like The Radio City Rockettes at The Radio City Music Hall or The Jersey Boys. Another classic is Phantom of The Opera, which opened on Broadway in 1988, making it the longest-running Broadway show of all time and Chicago is the second longest (currently in production) show of all time. Or stop by Carnegie Hall (1891) to hear the sound of first class acoustics to the tune of opera or jazz; past performers include The Beatles, Leonard Bernstein and George Gershwin. Disney has three Broadway shows: The Newsies on Broadway, The Lion King (the third longest-running Broadway show that is currently in production) and The Aladdin. 2013 Tony winners include: Matilda, Kinky Boots, Cinderella and Pippin.
7. See a world class museum, such as MoMA, The Museum of Modern Art, which was founded in 1929 and is home to artists including: Van Gogh, Matisse, Picasso, Warhol, Lichtenstein, Rothko, Pollock and Bourgeois. Must-sees including Van Gogh’s 1889 The Starry Night, Cézanne’s The Bather, Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, Henri Rousseau’s The Sleeping Gypsy, Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans and Gold Marilyn Monroe, Lichtenstein’s Girl With Ball, and Hopper’s House by the Railroad. MoMA is $25 but it is free if you come between 4pm-8pm. Be sure to also see the largest Museum in the Western Hemisphere, The Met, which stands for The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which receives over five million visitors each year, making it the cities most popular single-site tourist attraction. It would take you your entire vacation to see the entire museum, so plan on just seeing the highlights and consider taking their Museum Highlights Tour. The Met houses paintings from Renoir, Picasso and Rembrandt and the rarest and most expensive baseball card in the world, a 1909 Honus Wagner that is worth over $200,000. There is no true admission price, but it is recommended that you pay (it includes same day admission to The Cloisters) $25 for adults, $17 for seniors and $12 for students. Another classic is the Guggenheim Museum (1959), showcasing works by Degas, Van Gough, Picasso, Pollock, Kandinsky and a variety of other A-listers. Admission is normally $18 but free/by donation from 5:45 to 7:45 on Saturdays.
Pictured above is the Guggenheim, designed by renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
8. The Bronx Zoo is one of the best zoos in the country, featuring over 4,000 animals and 600 species. including the Asian elephant, polar bear, gorilla, lemur, giraffe, California sea lion, snow leopard, magellan penguin, alligator, and a butterfly garden. Children will especially enjoy the children’s zoo as well as the carousel and a guided monorail tour. Those who prefer to stay in the heart of Manhattan will want to visit The Central Park Zoo instead, which is smaller but much more convenient, showcasing animals including snow leopards, California sea lions, red Pandas, gentoo penguins and dart poison frogs. Save 10% at either when you buy your tickets online.
9. 9/11 Memorial & Museum was dedicated on September 11, 2011, the 10th anniversary of the attacks. Admission requires a reservation, which is free if made in person, or $2 if made over the phone or online (9/11 victims’ family members are exempt). This 8-acre memorial honors the nearly 3,000 people who died in the attacks on February 26, 1993 and September 11, 2001, featuring more than 400 trees and waterfalls that flow into two large reflecting pools, in the towers’ footprints, and the names of the men, women and children who lost their lives are inscribed in bronze parapets that surround the pools. The museum houses artifacts, pictures, videos and accounts from people from around the world. Next door you will find One World Trade Center (formerly Freedom Tower), which opened in 2014 with 104 floors, with a three-story observation deck on floors 100-102. It is considered a single tower replacement to the Twin Towers and it’s the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere and the 4th tallest building in the world.
10. Take a tour – one of the cities leading tours is the TMZ tour, which is brought to you by the makers of the popular celebrity gossip site and TV show. Unlike it’s sister attraction in LA, these tours operate from a nice warm closed in bus, which does make it a little hard to take that perfect snapshot through the tinted windows. Nevertheless, you will enjoy the warmth on a chilly day, as you get to go on a 2 hour tour through NYC’s hottest spots and you are likely to get a first hand look at some of your favorite celebs. They meet near Times Square and the cost is $49 for adults and $39 for children.
11. Yankee Stadium – The original Yankee Stadium, known as “The House That Ruth Built,” opened in 1923 and served as the Yankees’ home until 2008. The new Yankee Stadium opened in 2009 and is a must-see for any baseball fan. Visitors can take a guided tour, which includes stops at the clubhouse/batting cage area (only during the off-season or when the team is on the road), the dugout and Monument Park, as well as the New York Yankees Museum, which offers an insiders look to the Yankees.
12. Coney Island - This ever changing amusement district is home to Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park and Nathan’s Famous (which originated here on Coney Island in 1917) operate next to Luna Park, (formerly known as Astroland), which reopened in 2010 to include 28 rides, including two roller coasters. Other area attractions include MCU Park, the home of Mets and the 14 acre New York Aquarium, which features sharks, walruses, California sea lions, sea otters, penguins, octopi and many more. Also stop by Brighton Beach, just a short stroll away on the Boardwalk.
If you are looking for a bargain then you may want to go to DC or Vegas; NYC is pricey, but well worth a visit. You can save by going with a cheaper hotel in a great location (location is not something to compromise on when your paying for taxis left and right). Be sure to buy either the CityPass or the New York Pass if you plan on seeing a lot. After all, the city is ranked by Forbes as the most expensive US city to visit.
Grimaldi’s Pizzeria – New Yorkers love their iconic pizza pies and Grimaldi’s is among the towns top pizzerias, as a favorite among celebrities including Frank Sinatra and former NYC Mayor Guiliana. Other popular classic pizza joints include Di Fara‘s and John‘s. Also consider trying Lombardi’s, which became America’s first pizzeria in 1905.
Opaque - Dine in complete darkness! Many of the servers are blind (well, even if they weren’t, it wouldn’t do them much good!). The experience is designed to allow you to ignore the atmosphere and solely take in the sounds, feelings, and of course the tastes. It is quite pricey, in fact a three-sourse meal can cost over $100. But where else can you get such an experience (turn the lights off at home and eat?! Nahh.). They also have locations in LA, San Diego, San Francisco and Dallas.
Ellen’s Stardust Diner – The retro 1950′s themed restaurant is considered one of the best themed restaurants in all of NYC. They are the home to singing waiters and waitresses and they are conveniently located in Times Square, across from Carnegie Hall. They even have an indoor train and a “drive-in theater screen” which shows performances from the 1950′s. It has been featured on American Idol, The Today Show, and a movie starring Sarah Jessica Parker called “New Year’s Eve.”
Masa NYC – Those looking to spend an arm and a leg on a really good meal, this is your place. This Japanese/sushi restaurant is supposed to be the most expensive restaurant in the entire world! It’s at least the most expensive restaurant in NYC. The meals costs $450 per person, not including tip, tax or drinks. The sushi bar itself is a $60,000 piece of rare hinokiwood from Japan. Reservations for the 26 available seats are taken three weeks in advance. Many consider it be the world’s best sushi/japanese restaurant.
The adjacent Bar Masa is at least a little more affordable. Both are located on the fourth floor of the Time Warner Center.
*Fun Fact: A second Bar Masa opened in 2009 in the Aria Resort in Las Vegas.
Ted’s Montana Grill - Owned by CNN founder Ted Turner, this restaurant has become famous for its delicious bison, burgers, and salads. This chain has grown to have dozens of restaurants around the country.
American Girl Cafe – Anyone with a young daughter or grand daughter will have to bring their girl here to this full-service restaurant! Brunch is $19 per person, lunch is $22, afternoon tea is $19 and dinner is $23. Dinner is only offered at select times. Let your girl shop next door for dolls, t-shirts, posters, and all things girly!
Dine at one of the largest Chinatowns in the country.
Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs – Stop by Coney Island to experience this American classic. Like its neighboring roller coaster, the Cyclone, Nathan’s is holds a deep place in America’s roots. You don’t just get a World Famous Beef Hot Dog here, you’re part of a little piece of New York City history as you chow down on the famous boardwalk. And we recommend you ride the Cyclone before, not after.
Lucky Cheng’s- Located in Times Square, this unique restaurant is known for serving dinner served by glamorous drag queens. The Asian-American three-course meals come with a cabaret show featuring a bawdy comedian hostess and Asian dance performances by other drag queens. After the last show, karaoke and dancing for all.
Planet Hollywood Times Square - A true NYC tradition – see the Hollywood memorabilia and choose from a wide variety of menu options here at this celebrity owned restaurant.
Southern Hospitality BBQ – Leave it to Memphis boy Justin Timberlake to bring a touch of his hometown of Memphis to the Big Apple. This location is in Midtown West/Hell’s Kitchen (they used to have another location on the Upper East Side but it recently closed, who would’ve known that Upper East Side JAPs weren’t into BBQ?!). Get out of the rat race and get a dose of some good ‘ole Southern hospitality here at this fabulous BBQ joint.
Michael Jodan’s The Steakhouse – While most celebrity-owned restaurants close their doors in less than a year (Scott Disick’s Ryu closed in just 6 months), Michael Jordan’s has broken the cycle and continues to have rave reviews online. It is located in the Grand Central terminal. He actually has another location in Chicago.
The Spice Market – I’ve never eaten here myself, but my good friend La Carmina (who I recently interviewed for The USCityTraveler Interview series) highly recommends this incredible Southeast Asian Restaurant, which is located in the Manhattan Meatpacking District.
Daniel – Why not try the contemporary French cuisine at pro-traveler Stef Michaels’ (you know, Adventure Girl, the girl with over a million Twitter followers?!) favorite restaurant?! It’s located in Manhattan’s Upper East Side and definitely worth the splurge! Try it and send me an email letting me know how you like it. Tell ‘em Taylor sent ya!
DB Bistro – Also owned by celebrity chef Daniel Boulud and also a favorite of Adventure Girl, this French bistro is located one block East of Times Square.
TGI Fridays – Their Times Square location may not be all that unique but it is an American classic and it holds the title of “America’s largest Friday’s.” The first TGI Fridays actually opened in NYC in 1965 and has been a huge hit ever since, over 500 locations can be found across the planet.
Goldbar – Located in Little Italy on the Lower East Side, this luxurious eatery is covered from floor to ceiling in extravagant gold decor, decked out with crystal chandeliers, with floor to ceiling skulls covering its walls. They have tables that were custom-made to resemble Cartier bracelets and they even have glamorous gold chains separating the rooms. I think this should be their theme song.
Fraunces Tavern – This place opened in 1762, which makes it the 2nd oldest restaurant in America (right after the White Horse tavern in Newport, RI). It is currently located in New York’s financial district. Among the restaurants most famous events was in 1783 when they held a congratulatory party for George Washington and his troops after they pushed the British army out of New York.
The View NYC – New York’s only revolving restaurant is located on the 48th floor of the Marriott Marquis. It makes a 360° turn every hour, featuring a diverse American menu. What better way to take in the city skyline than to enjoy it while you dine.
Peep – This is a trendy yet authentic Thai restaurant in SoHo where the entire restaurant can be watched from the bathroom’s super-sreepy one-way viewing walls. Enjoy great cuisine with large portions – they won a 2013 TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence.
Ninja New York - Featuring Japanese-French-American fusion fare, the journey starts as guests are taken up the elevator and then through a secret path, where wild nijas come out of nowhere and scare the living daylights out of you!! Each dungeon like chamber houses a single table complete with surprises and scares from all angles. The the meal concludes with a lengthy magic show from yet another ninja, this time armed with a deck of cards.
3.5 Star- Hilton Garden Inn Times square (Avg. price $224-$503) Located a stones throw from Times Square, all 369, spacious rooms come complete with 32-inch flat screen TVs with HBO and on-demand video games, a microwave, refrigerator and coffee maker.
3.5 Star- Courtyard New York Manhattan/Midtown East (Avg. price $259- $522) Located just four blocks from fifth avenue and Rockefeller Center, this recently renovated, 31-story hotel offers spacious guest rooms (located on floor 14 and above) at affordable prices.
3.5 Star- Yotel New York (rooms from $149), featuring an ultramodern atmosphere as you check in at touch-screen kiosks similar to those found at airports, but only a bazillion times cooler. Guestrooms are decked out with purple mood lighting, near-silent heating and cooling systems, a Techno Wall fitted with a flat-screen LCD TV, lots of power points for laptops and other devices, Wi-Fi, an iPod or MP3 connection for playing music through the TV speakers and a motorized bed that expands to full size at the push of a button. The hotel’s tech de resistance is the world’s first-ever robotic luggage handler. A 15-foot robotic arm towering in the lobby behind a glass window, the Yobot picks up your luggage and safely stores it in a wall of drawers before or after check-in. It’s just 2 blocks West of Times Square.
3.5 Star- Doubletree Guest Suites Times Square (Avg. price $296-$707) We were very impressed when we stayed here four nights back in summer 2008. Prices may seem a little high, but you have to take into consideration that the front doors to the hotel put you in the heart of Times Square. Not only that, this all-suites hotel is just one-half block from Broadway, the Toys “R” US flagship store (they’ve got a huge ferris wheel!), Maddame Tussauds New York, Planet Hollywood, The Hard Rock Café and MTV Studios. The warm, freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, which are offered complementary in all Doubletree Hotels, are worth the stay in itself!
Fun Fact: Doubletree (founded in 1969) gives out approximately 35,000 chocolate chip cookies each day at its 200+ properties.
4 Star- Library Hotel (Avg. price $259-$529) This 60 room boutique hotel is unlike anywhere I’ve ever been before. Located just one black from Grand Central Station, unique features include a free wine and cheese reception every evening, and that each of its ten floors has a different theme. Not only that, each room features books themed to a different subcategory or genre; such as poetry, music, mathematics (I know which room I won’t be staying in!) or botany. A total of 6000 books can be found throughout the hotel. Rooms provide free Wi-Fi, ipod docking stations, slippers and bathrobes!
Stay in the heart of the action.
4 Star- Casablanca Hotel Times Square (Avg. price $287-$427) Ranked as the “number one” hotel in NYC on TripAdvisor (despite officially being considered a 4 star hotel), affordability and a central location (one block from Times Square) put this boutique hotel over the top.
4 Star- Sofitel New York (Avg. price $280-$608) This 30-story hotel opened in 2000 with 398-guest rooms. Heavily inspired by old world France, hotel staff are bilingual in both French and English. Spacious rooms are accented with art from NYC and Paris.
4.5 Star- Waldorf=Astoria is truly iconic, you may have seen it in the movie Scent of a Woman. Those of you who can’t afford to shell out $200 to $700 a night may want to come just for their incredible dining and nightlife options, which include: Bull & Bear steakhouse, Oscar’s American Brasserie, Inagiku Restaurant, and Sir Harry’s Bar/Lounge. Many celebrities have stayed and even lived within this hotel – they include Winona Ryder, Richard Gere, Michael J. Fox, Cuba Gooding Jr., Ewan McGregor, Tim Burton, Bertie Forbes (founder of Forbes magazine), Kid Rock, Alicia Keys; Paris and Nicky Hilton practically grew up here (it’s owned by the Hilton’s).
5 Star- Trump SoHo New York (Avg. price $399-$760) Spoil your self at this brand new contemporary, 46-story, 5 star resort, which opened in 2010 at a cost of $450 million. Valet parking for a small vehicle is a whopping $65 and valet for a large vehicle comes in at a cool $73!!! Why don’t they just include that in the room rate?!
5 Star- Trump International Hotel and Tower (Avg. price $552-$1,025) Built in 1969 and renovated a few decades later, this 52-story hotel is The Donald’s flagship hotel. He actually lives on the top three floors of this building in his $50 million penthouse, decorated in white and gold, which overlooks his very own ice- skating rink. He may not be running for president, but you can still live like a trump at this billionaires iconic high-rise. Relax in Trump Spa, home to a 55-foot indoor pool, or chill in the room while watching your 55-inch flat-panel HDTV. NYC is a 1 hour and 50 minute drive from Philadelphia.
5 Star- The Mark Hotel - Since reopening a few years ago, this ultra-chic, avant-garde retreat is housed in a 1920s-era building on the Upper East Side, featuring cool guest rooms that are outfitted with custom-made beds, Italian linens by Quagliotti, Bang & Olufsen sound systems, heated towel racks and deep soaking tubs. Their A-list clientele includes names like Scarlett Johansson, Justin Timberlake, Renée Zellweger and Anna Wintour. Ne sure to enjoy the culinary delights of their onsite restaurant from famed chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten and a trendy bar serving cucumber martinis and lychee raspberry Bellinis.
5 Star- Hotel Gansevoort has become a new favorite among celebrity clientele, as it was featured in the “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” spinoff “Kourtney and Kim take New York.” This ultra modern paradise is quite luxurious indeed.
5 Star- The Plaza Hotel has become one of cities most famous hotels. At one time it was even owned by Donald Trump. Many movies, such as Home Alone 2, have been shot here and you should definitely stop by and take a peek inside, even if you are not staying here. It’s located in a prime location, at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Central Park. Celebrity spottings include Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones (they got married there), Larry King, and Sharon Stone. If it’s good enough for Larry King, then it’s good enough for anyone!