From the bright lights of Times Square to natural beauty in Central Park, New York City offers so many unforgettable experiences. Since it can be difficult to narrow down your itinerary, we’ve compiled a list of essential destinations, iconic attractions and cultural gems that you must see on a visit to the Big Apple.
Plus, we’ve sprinkled in some incredible restaurants to keep you out all night in the City that Never Sleeps.
Empire State Building
When it comes to the most Instagrammable views in Manhattan, nothing beats the Empire State Building. This art deco landmark is the premier destination to soak in the New York City skyline. Head to the 102nd-floor observatory for sweeping views as far as the eye can see.
For classic New York City lunch or dinner nearby, head to Keens Steakhouse. Known for its oversized mutton chops, Keens is a mecca for all meat eaters.
The Great Outdoors
No matter how many times you visit, there is always a new place to discover in Central Park. Skip the more touristy areas in the 843-acre park, like the zoo and Sheep Meadow, and opt for an uptown experience.
North of 86th Street is where Central Park’s real magic happens. The North Woods is home to the Ravine, a waterfall inspired by the Adirondacks. Steps away, the Conservatory Garden features six acres of manicured floral perfection and benches.
And not too far from there, the Jackie Kennedy Onassis Reservoir has a jogging path with picturesque views of the Manhattan skyline.
If you’re traveling with kids, visit the Conservatory Water (near the Hans Christian Andersen statue) to rent model boats to play with in the pond or even the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre for a puppet show. Grab a coffee or cocktail at the lovely little Bluestone Lane.
Another outdoor jaunt for your itinerary is the Bronx’s New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx — a paradise for all things that bloom. The garden holds more than 1 million plant varieties on display year-round. Seasonal exhibits like the Holiday Train Show and the Orchid Show are guaranteed crowd-pleasers.
Statue of Liberty
Climb aboard a sightseeing cruise and fall in love with Manhattan all over again. We recommend booking a cruise with Classic Harbor Line. All of its cruises offer prime viewing of the Statue of Liberty from all angles, which means unbeatable pictures of Lady Liberty.
Keep the romance going when you disembark with a masterful dinner at Five-Star Del Posto, one of Manhattan’s gold standards for fine Italian dining. Or, if you’re looking for Italian that’s more low-key, head to Crispo and reserve a table in the tucked-away garden.
Spend the day getting lost in the corridors of the world-class museums along a stretch of Fifth Avenue known as Museum Mile. Visit The Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met), the Guggenheim and Met Breuer (the Met’s new outpost for modern and contemporary art.)
After taking in some of the artistic treasures, stop by Four-Star The Carlyle, A Rosewood Hotel’s legendary bar, Bemelmans, or its famous supper club, Café Carlyle. Both spaces ooze old New York charm and bring in top-notch live entertainment (Woody Allen plays every Monday night at Café Carlyle with the Eddy Davis New Orleans jazz band).
The Bright Lights of Times Square
Bursting with frenetic energy and neon lights, Times Square remains one of New York City’s busiest attractions. Wander through the crowds, embrace the chaos and bring your camera to capture the spectacle.
Pick up tickets to one of Broadway’s shining stars, like Hamilton or Dear Evan Hansen, and witness the magic yourself. Enjoy a post-theater meal at area favorites like Sardi’s, Joe Allen or Orso, where you just may spot the shows’ casts.
A midtown landmark, Rockefeller Center is best known for its oversized Christmas tree and ice skating rink. It’s a must-see during the holiday season — even though it will be teeming with tourists.
Zip up 70 stories to the Top of the Rock observation deck for breathtaking city views. While you’re here, go behind the scenes on the Tour at NBC Studios and learn about programs like The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Saturday Night Live.
Then treat yourself to our favorite neighborhood sweets. Jacques Torres Chocolate boasts one of the best hot chocolates in the city, Momofuku Milk Bar crafts quirky confections like birthday cake truffles and cereal milk soft serve and Black Tap Midtown concocts over-the-top, insta-famous milkshakes.
Grand Central Terminal
This beaux-arts landmark is so much more than a train station and deserves to be appreciated as its own destination. The twinkling constellation on the ceiling of the main concourse and the whispering gallery (an arched space whose acoustics allow you to talk to someone in the opposite corner) will delight even the most jaded New Yorker.
Grand Central has also become a shopping and dining destination — with more than 60 shops and 30 restaurants, there’s something for everyone’s taste. Don’t leave without having a classic cocktail at The Campbell, which reopened in May 2017 after undergoing a massive restoration.
Splurge on an incredible once-in-a-lifetime experience that will make your trip to New York City one that you won’t soon forget. Book a room at the Five-Star Four Seasons Hotel New York, which just completed a $120 million renovation in 2016.
The remodeled suites have the finest furnishings and extravagant amenities like oversized deep-soaking tubs, many with Jacuzzis that fill in two minutes, state-of-the-art technology and original artwork handpicked for each room. And for the grandest of celebrations, book the incomparable Ty Warner Penthouse.
A meal at the nearby Grill or Pool (which sit next door to one another) can’t be missed. Neither of these restaurants has spared any expense and it shows, with champagne pyramids and a $10,000 trolley cart. The theatricality, service and stunning décor make these see-and-be-seen places.
Eat Your Heart Out
New Yorkers take their food seriously, and it wouldn’t be a trip to the Big Apple without some major indulging. Your problem will be choosing where to spend your calories. You can never go wrong with NYC staples like pizza (Rubirosa, John’s of Bleecker Street, Kesté or Lombardi’s), burgers (Minetta Tavern, Burger Joint, Spotted Pig or Corner Bistro) or sushi (Sugarfish, Sushi Yasuda, Sushi of Gari).
But we recommend going for something more exclusive. Use every connection you have to try to land a table at Rao’s — notoriously known as the toughest table in town. Up in East Harlem, this family-owned Italian restaurant has hosted celebrities, dignitaries and gangsters alike.
If you manage to snag a reservation, prepare for a cast full of characters and an unforgettable meal.
Take It Downtown
Pay your respects to the people who fought for this great city at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. The memorial pays tribute to the nearly 3,000 victims of the September 11, 2001, attacks as well as the six victims of the World Trade Center bombing of 1993.
Next, head to Oculus, the transportation hub at the World Trade Center, to see the distinctive architecture from Santiago Calatrava.
Spend the rest of the day wandering through Tribeca, where you just may rub elbows with some local stars. Grab a bite at one of Tribeca’s classic restaurants, like The Odeon, Tiny’s, Bubby’s or Locanda Verde.
And if you have time to travel to another borough, we highly recommend a visit to Smorgasburg and the Brooklyn Flea market, the Queens Museum, Coney Island or a Yankees game.