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The state of New York offers plenty of incredible travel opportunities, from visiting NYC to experiencing the magic of Niagra Falls. Whether you want to check out iconic landmarks like the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building or explore famous attractions like the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the legendary shops of Fifth Avenue, New York accommodates diverse desires.
Fair warning, however, New York has so many options that it can be easy to get overwhelmed when figuring out what to do during your stay. Our New York travel guide covers the state’s most famous tourist attractions and some of its most unique experiences.
Because New York offers so many unique adventures, we’ll break things down into two sections: a New York City travel guide with the best things to do in the Big Apple and a New York state travel guide that outlines the best places to visit in New York State.
- Best Things to Do in New York
- 1. Visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
- 2. Take in the Sites of Central Park
- 3. Go Behind the Scenes at Radio City Music Hall
- 4. Explore the New York Catacombs by Candlelight
- 5. Experience the Magic of New York City During the Holidays
- 6. Visit the World Trade Center 9/11 Memorial & Museum
- 7. Experience More Incredible Views of the New York City Skyline
- 8. Take a Tour of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Natural History Museum
- 9. Don’t Overlook the Boroughs of New York
- 10. Eat Like a Native New Yorker
- 11. Dive into the Fascinating History of New York City
- 12. Explore the Culture of Staten Island
- 13. Learn the Secrets of Popular New York City Landmarks
- 14. Take a (Literal) Cruise Around New York City
- 15. Cheer on the New York Yankees
- 16. Visit Sites from Your Favorite TV Shows and Movies
- 17. See at Least One Broadway Show
- 18. Consider a Tourist Pass
- Best Thing To Do in New York State
- 1. Explore the Beauty of Buffalo
- 2. Visit the Corning Museum of Glass
- 3. Experience Niagra Falls
- 4. Discover the Thousand Island Region
- 5. Enjoy the Rural Beauty of Long Island
- 6. Visit New York’s Most Opulent Seaside Community
- Where to stay in New York
- How to Get Around in New York
- Travel Tips for Visiting New York
- Lock in Your Trip
- Luggage Considerations
- Consider the Best Time to Visit
Best Things to Do in New York
1. Visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
As one of the most recognizable monuments in the United States, the Statue of Liberty has welcomed countless people from all over the world to New York City.
Suppose you’ve yet to visit the monument or Ellis Island, which served as the gateway to America for over 12 million immigrants. In that case, it’s worth adding both to your New York travel itinerary.
Check out this access pass that includes everything you need to explore both. It includes round-trip ferry service, entry to the Statue of Liberty Museum and the Ellis Island National Immigration Museum, and even self-guided audio tours. You can explore both sites at your own pace.
2. Take in the Sites of Central Park
No matter what part of New York you stay in, carve out an afternoon to explore Central Park. Situated between the Upper East and Upper West Sides of Manhattan, the park is a sprawling urban oasis perfect for taking a break from the city’s dynamic energy.
When it comes to exploring Central Park, it won’t take you long to discover that there are a huge number of options. Relax as you take in the scenery on a beautiful private horse and carriage ride, or learn about the park’s most famous sites along a private pedicab tour.
If you’re feeling more active, you might go for a Central Park bicycle tour or even zip around on an electric scooter. Even if you decide to show up and hang out for a while, you’ll quickly understand why New Yorkers can’t get enough of Central Park.
3. Go Behind the Scenes at Radio City Music Hall
As the largest indoor theater in the world, Radio City Music Hall has become a celebrated New York landmark in its own right. Be sure to check and see which shows or concerts are playing at the venue while you’re in town, or better yet, go for a backstage tour.
Get a behind-the-scenes look at the theater’s incredible Art Deco architecture as your guide reflects on the building’s intriguing past. You’ll even get to meet one of the world-famous Rockettes in person.
4. Explore the New York Catacombs by Candlelight
First opened in 1815, the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral is one of the most stunning landmarks in Lower Manhattan. While largely known for its incredible architecture, the Cathedral also serves as the site of Manhattan’s only Catholic catacombs.
Dare to venture into parts of the Cathedral that are usually restricted from visitors on a magical candlelit catacombs tour. Along the way, you’ll learn all about the Cathedral’s fascinating history and visit the final resting places of prominent New Yorkers of the past.
5. Experience the Magic of New York City During the Holidays
From the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, New Yorkers don’t play around when it comes to the holidays. If you’re lucky to visit New York City during the holidays, you’ll find plenty of ways to indulge in the holiday spirit.
Check out the sparkling lights of Central Park, the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, and the Saks Fifth Ave Light Show along a cozy Christmas horse and carriage ride. Enjoy ice skating at the yearly Winter Village ice rink in Bryant Park, or go on a holiday yacht cruise with cocoa and jazz.
This epic 4-Hour Christmas lights tour is also a great way to experience the legendary holiday cheer of the Dyker Heights neighborhood from a luxury bus.
Along the journey, your guide will regale you with New York holiday history as you travel through neighborhoods like Chelsea or stop to admire the view from the Brooklyn Heights Esplanade.
6. Visit the World Trade Center 9/11 Memorial & Museum
Americans everywhere will always remember the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Pay your respects and hear the powerful stories of those involved in the attacks at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.
Continue your journey with a visit to the One World Trade Center, aka the Freedom Tower, which was built as a symbol of resilience to fill the void left by the twin towers.
Now the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, the tower is home to the One World Observatory, which offers spectacular views of the city from its 102nd floor.
7. Experience More Incredible Views of the New York City Skyline
While the views from One World Observatory are incredible, they aren’t the only place to experience New York City from above. On the western side of Midtown Manhattan, you’ll find the Edge Observation Deck, an all-glass floating observation deck with unobstructed views of New York from 1100 feet in the air.
Then there’s SUMMIT: One Vanderbilt, a 93-story high multi-sensory experience, blends art with stunning city views. Last but certainly not least, there’s the Empire State Building, where you’ll enjoy amazing views from an 86th-floor observation deck and a new 102nd-floor renovation that now features windows from the floors to the ceiling.
No matter which you choose, it’s worth taking advantage of the opportunity to enjoy a front-row seat to the beauty of the New York skyline. Plus, you’ll come away with plenty of incredible selfies.
8. Take a Tour of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Natural History Museum
The New York Metropolitan Museum of Art is widely recognized as one of the most incredible collections of artwork in the world. The only issue is that it’s massive, making it entirely possible to spend the entire day there without seeing everything.
That’s why it’s never a bad idea to see the best the Metropolitan Museum offers on a small group tour with a guide that will introduce you to all the highlights. You can even book a private tour led by an expert guide who will give you the inside scoop on everything from incredible artifacts of ancient Egypt to masterpieces by some of the greatest painters in history.
If dinosaurs and space are more your thing, then be sure to check out the American Museum of Natural History, located across from Central Park on the Upper West Side. The Natural History Museum offers 45 halls of exhibits and interactive experiences where you’ll find everything from prehistoric fossils to a planetarium space show.
9. Don’t Overlook the Boroughs of New York
While there’s plenty to do in Manhattan, the boroughs of New York City are a treasure trove of culture and diversity. Set out across the Brooklyn Bridge to learn about the history of the iconic Prospect Park, or head up to Harlem for an epic 4-hour gospel tour or a Harlem Renaissance walking tour.
Set out for a full day of adventures in Harlem, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Coney Island, with a full-day borough tour led by a licensed tour guide. Or learn about the distinctive cultures of Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens with this highly-rated Spanish-speaking tour.
10. Eat Like a Native New Yorker
New York City has long been known as a cultural melting pot, so it’s no surprise that it’s full of amazing cuisine from all over the world. Check out some of New York’s most iconic food on a tasting tour of the West Village, complete with a visit to Washington Square Park.
You might also opt to explore the cuisine of Soho, Chinatown & Little Italy or go on a walking tour of Hell’s Kitchen. You can even go on a bagel tour or craft a little grub with a Peruvian cooking class in the Upper East Side.
If you want NYC’s best street food, pizza, or anything in between, you won’t have a problem finding delicious walking tours dedicated to each. Round out a day of great food with a relaxing drink in a rooftop bar overlooking the city.
11. Dive into the Fascinating History of New York City
New York City is brimming with historic buildings and fascinating history just waiting to be explored. Get to know areas such as Greenwich Village with a walking tour highlighting the neighborhood’s artistic heritage.
Or enjoy amazing music among the many incredible jazz clubs in Harlem’s historic jazz district. Learn how the Meatpacking District got its name while enjoying the most educational lunch ever on a tasting and history tour of Chelsea Market, complete with amazing views of the Hudson River on the iconic High Line.
Visit some of the most historic pubs and bars in New York City on a Prohibition Tour or explore the shadier history of New York City with a gangsters and ghosts tour through Greenwich Village, Chinatown, and the Five Points. You can tap into your inner Soprano with a Maifa-theme tasting tour of Little Italy and the East Village.
12. Explore the Culture of Staten Island
The famous Staten Island ferry connects Manhattan to the borough of (you guessed it) Staten Island, located right on the southern tip of New York City. The free ferry trip is a great way to look at the Manhattan skyline, the Statue of Liberty, and the Brooklyn Bridge as you cruise down New York Harbor.
Once you reach the island, head to Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden, where you’ll find attractions like the Staten Island Museum.
Check out the modern art at the Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art or explore one of just two authentic outdoor Chinese classical gardens in the U.S. at the New York Chinese Scholar’s Garden.
13. Learn the Secrets of Popular New York City Landmarks
One of the most fascinating things about New York City is that it’s filled with stories and history that could easily go unnoticed by the casual observer. Grand Central Station, for instance, is not just a hub of public transportation, but a fascinating building filled with unique architecture and hidden gems.
Learn all about the history of one of the most famous buildings in New York on the Secrets of Grand Central Station walking tour. Be sure to stop by the Grand Central Oyster Bar before or after your tour to enjoy some of the freshest seafood in the city.
Discover the secrets of New York’s “Park in the Sky” on a 2-hour guided tour of the High Line, where you’ll find some of the city’s best street vendors. Or learn about the four-decade-long history of Wall Street with a tour of the financial district.
Or travel back through time to an age when Fifth Avenue was home to some of the most elite citizens of New York City on a Gilded Age walking tour. Your tour guide will point out architecture remaining from the illustrious mansions of Millionaire’s Row and the golden age of Fifth Avenue.
14. Take a (Literal) Cruise Around New York City
Given that New York City is surrounded by water, it’s no surprise that you’ll find plenty of great cruises available. Pass beneath some of the most famous bridges in New York as you set sail down the Hudson River, cruise around Battery Park, and sail up the East River on a Circle Line Landmarks Tour.
Or learn about the architecture of New York from aboard a 1920s-style yacht cruise, led by members of the American Institute of Architects New York Chapter (AIANY).
You’ll learn fascinating facts about everything from the Art Deco spires of Wall Street to iconic NYC landmarks such as the Woolworth Building and the Brooklyn Bridge.
15. Cheer on the New York Yankees
If you find yourself in New York during baseball season, then be sure to head over to the Bronx for a Yankees game! Join thousands of New Yorkers in cheering on the 27-time winners of the MLB World Championship games.
Don’t worry about finding a great place to grab dinner, as Yankee Stadium has plenty of great dining venues like the Hard Rock Cafe. If you want to make a day out of your visit to the Bronx, then consider heading over early to enjoy a visit to the stunning 250-acre New York Botanical Garden before the game.
16. Visit Sites from Your Favorite TV Shows and Movies
Given the many TV shows and movies set in New York City, you’ll have no problems visiting plenty of recognizable filming locations. You can find show-specific tours dedicated to sites featured in TV shows like The Sopranos or Gossip Girl.
Or you can opt for a more comprehensive tour of over 30 East Village filming locations that have appeared in projects like When Harry Met Sally, Broad City, Russian Doll, and many more. If comic book heroes are more your thing, this superhero-themed tour is just your ticket.
See Related: Best Restaurants in New York City
17. See at Least One Broadway Show
It’s an unwritten rule that if you’re going to visit New York City, you have to experience the magic of Broadway at least once! Check out classics like The Lion King or innovative hits like Hamilton. You’ll discover the indescribable thrill of live theater at its finest.
Pro tip: If you’re looking to save money and don’t have your heart set on any particular show, head to the TKTS stand in Times Square. There, you can find discount tickets at incredible prices for shows that have yet to set out for the night.
18. Consider a Tourist Pass
If you plan to do a great deal of sightseeing, it’s worth considering investing in a New York Pass that offers access to over 100 different attractions and tours in one.
Go City also offers a great New York pass that allows you to choose from between 2 – 10 of the most popular attractions, such as the Empire State Building, Edge, MoMA, and more.
Best Thing To Do in New York State
1. Explore the Beauty of Buffalo
Buffalo, which lies right along the Canadian border in Western New York, is widely known for its world-famous chicken wings.
Get the inside scoop on the hidden history of Buffalo’s best chicken wings on this Wing Ride tasting tour, complete with bike rides along the Buffalo and Niagara Rivers, as well as a visit to an artistic bar in Silo City.
Be sure to also venture outside the city for a visit to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Graycliff estate, a masterpiece of organic architecture perched on a cliff overlooking Lake Erie. You’ll learn all about the fascinating history of the estate as you stroll through the building and restored gardens.
2. Visit the Corning Museum of Glass
If you’re looking for a great day trip from Rochester or Ithaca, then it’s well worth a drive down to the Corning Museum of Glass. A true hidden gem, the museum contains 50,000 unique pieces from throughout history.
Learn about the history of glasswork from Ancient Rome and Colonial America to the modern day. You’ll even have the chance to watch an expert glassmaker craft a new work from hot molten glass.
3. Experience Niagra Falls
No New York State visitors guide would be complete without suggesting a trip to Niagra Falls, which marks part of the official border between eastern New York and Ontario, Canada. While Niagra Falls State Park offers free entry year-round, plenty of great tours can help you make the most of your trip.
Consider a 2-day Niagra Falls tour from New York City, complete with a visit to Watkins Glen State Park and a Maid of the Mist boat tour along the falls. Or you can opt for an epic 3-day bus tour with visits to Niagra Falls, Watkins Glen, and even Washington D.C.
4. Discover the Thousand Island Region
The Thousand Islands region, which lies between New York and Canada, is perhaps one of the most underrated attractions in New York State. Stretching along the St. Lawrence River from northern Lake Ontario, the area is a treasure trove of natural beauty.
Set out on an unforgettable boat tour along 27 stunning miles of the area as you view “Millionaire’s Row” and Rock Island. You’ll also have the option to take a self-guided tour of the incredible Boldt’s Castle along your journey.
5. Enjoy the Rural Beauty of Long Island
If you’ve had your fill of Fifth Avenue shopping, consider taking a day to escape to the countryside. Set out on a wine and fruit-picking bike tour from Mattituck or a sunset e-bike tour of Sagaponack and Bridgehampton.
You can even get a behind-the-scenes look at a working oyster farm in Southold Bay. You’ll discover a scenic, rural oasis right outside the city.
6. Visit New York’s Most Opulent Seaside Community
The Hamptons, a collection of seaside communities that sprawl along the eastern end of South Fork on Long Island, include a number of high-end summer homes owned by celebrities such as Robert de Niro, Anderson Cooper, and Jay-Z & Beyonce.
If you want to spend a day living the life of a New York VIP, then look no further than this exclusive full-day private Hamptons tour.
Where to stay in New York
If you’re looking for great places to stay outside of NYC, then you’ll likely find it a bit easier to narrow down your options. Things can get a bit more complicated when sorting through the hundreds of hotels throughout New York City and its boroughs.
If you’re a first-time visitor to NYC, it’s hard to go wrong with a hotel in Manhattan. From lower Manhattan to the Upper East and Upper West sides, it’s possible to find hotels within walking distance of amazing attractions.
Let’s dive deeper into some of the best choices for different types of travelers to help you pinpoint the best hotel for your stay.
- Best Boutique Hotel: Casablanca Hotel by Library Hotel Collection
- Best for Mid-Range Luxury: The Cloud One New York-Downtown
- Best for Business Travelers: The Wall Street Hotel
- Best for Location: Margaritaville Resort Times Square
- Best for Luxury: The Sherry Netherland
- Best Historic Hotel: The Hotel Chelsea
- Best for In-House Entertainment: The Roxy
- Best for Families: The Peninsula New York
- Best Hotel in Buffalo: The Richardson Hotel
- Best Resort Near Niagra Falls: Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino
How to Get Around in New York
If you plan to visit areas outside of NYC, then it’s definitely worth considering renting a car. But if you plan to stick to New York City, you’ll generally have much better luck with public transportation, like NYC’s excellent subway system.
The OMNY system is the easiest way to pay subway or bus fare, so it’s worth familiarizing. It will accept credit cards, debit cards, OMNy cards, or even smartphone or wearable device payments to take you wherever you want.
NYC’s famous hop-on sightseeing buses are also a great way to see the highlights of New York at your own pace and even come with optional free entrances to the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty. Lastly, the Moynihan Train Hall at Penn Station is great for road trips, as it offers trains to many amazing areas across the state.
Travel Tips for Visiting New York
New York is a one-of-a-kind destination for everyone, from art lovers to nature lovers. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your visit.
Lock in Your Trip
It’s definitely worth investing in some rolling luggage when traveling to New York, as you may end up toting it through the subway or along the sidewalk en route to your hotel. A high-quality backpack or side bag can also be handy on your daily adventures.
Consider the Best Time to Visit
If you plan to visit areas such as Niagra Falls or Buffalo, June to August is usually the best bet to avoid blistering New York winters. When it comes to New York City, however, pretty much every season has plenty of perks.
The holidays can be a truly magical time to visit New York City. However, it’s also gorgeous in the early fall, making September to early November a favorite for many travelers. Others prefer the bright sun and cool breezes of springtime and summer when it’s often possible to find free concerts across the city.
- About the Author
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Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a full-time traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers experience a fully immersive cultural experience as he did initially living in Italy. He’s a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wanderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). After visiting 12 countries and 13 national parks in a year, he was devoted to creating and telling stories like he’d heard.
Plus, after spending more time on airplanes and packing, he’s learned some incredible travel hacks over time as he earned over 1 million Chase Ultimate Rewards points in under a year, helping him maximize experiences as much as possible to discover the true meaning of travel.
He loves listening to local stories from around the world and sharing his experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time.