New York City—or just New York—is not only the most populous city in the state of the same name, but also the most populated city and metropolitan region in the United States. Located at the southern tip of New York State, “the City,’ as it is often called, is generally considered the cultural, financial and economic hub of America, but it also boasts some of the coolest sites and attractions in the entire world, places that are visited by millions upon millions of people each year.
Located on one of the planet’s largest natural harbors, New York City consists of five boroughs, each of which represents a distinct county of New York State. These five boroughs, which include Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island, were consolidated into a single city way back before the turn of the century (1898), and over the decades they have become some of the world’s most oft-visited regions, offering plenty of things to do and see for visiting tourists.
From the “Great White Way” of Broadway to the torch-wielding, freedom-signaling Statue of Liberty to the neon lights of Times Square, New York City is a veritable paradise for vacationers, offering thousands of national monuments, museums, world-class eateries and trendy shops and boutiques.
In the article below we will highlight five of the coolest things to do and see while visiting the awesome city of New York, complete with a detailed description of each well-visited site and attraction.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
The pulsing energy of New York is palpable throughout the city, from the neon lights of Times Square to the skyscrapers of Wall Street. Known as the “City that Never Sleeps,” New York City offers thousands of great things to do and see, not the least of which is the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Displaying more than a whopping two million precious works of art—works that span an incredible 5,000 years—the Met, as it is known by locals, is a colossal museum that boasts an amazing and intricate maze of corridors and display rooms; so many, in fact, that it is virtually impossible to explore the entire museum in a single trip.
In addition to its many pieces of world-class art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art regularly hosts lectures from artists and art historians. These talks enable the average visitor to better understand the museum’s vast collection.
One of the main highlights of the Met is the famous “Temple of Dendur” (circa 15 B.C.), a sculpture showcased in a spacious atrium surrounded by a moat-like fountain of water, which is meant to represent the Temple’s original location near the renowned Nile River. Also popular is the recently revamped “America Wing,” a 30,000 square foot showroom that displays some of the most impressive pieces by American artists.
The stunning Islamic galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art offer guests a firsthand look at more than 12,000 Mudejar-themed paintings and sculptures, transporting their minds and senses to a civilization that dates back 13 centuries.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art additionally offers plenty of great amenities, including several nationally recognized restaurants, snack shops and an abundance of light-filled seating areas where visitors can rest and recharge.
Tip: The admission amount is “suggested,” which means that you can pay what you want to enter! (I usually pay the student price)
No trip to New York City would be complete without a trip to iconic Central Park, known throughout the world as one of the finest green spaces in a major metropolitan area.
Central Park, which offers residents a place to exercise and escape from the frantic pace of the “City that Never Sleeps,” is an urban paradise that treats tourists and visitors to a very authentic bite of the “Big Apple.” Most who visit this emblematic park do so at its busy southern end, from 59th Street to 72nd Street, a busy section known for its many attractions. However, regardless of how crowded Central Park can often get, particularly on weekends and holidays, visitors can always find room to spread out, enjoy a picnic, and just generally relax in the world’s most famous—and one of its largest—parks.
Central Park offers hundreds of things to do and see across its massive 843 acres, including yards upon yards of sprawling green meadows; sparkling lakes and streams; colorful botanical gardens brimming with local flora; bridges; performance centers; and classical architecture that reflect the history and culture of Central Park.
Many people flock to Central Park to tour the famous Belvedere Castle, a structure designed in 1865 that today serves as fully-functional weather station. The name “Belvedere” is from the Italian meaning “beautiful view,” a testament to the panoramic vistas the castle offers from its upper floors.
Central Park additionally plays host to a number of iconic statues, displaying the likenesses of people such as playwright William Shakespeare; scenes such as Alice in Wonderland; and the oldest public monument on the North American continent: the Obelisk. Visitors here can also take a spin on the 1871-built Central Park Carousel, and/or take in the performance known as “Shakespeare in the Park” at the Central Park Amphitheater.
Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
For a true taste of Americana at its finest, nothing beats a short cruise trip to visit both the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
From the colonial era to the present, the Statue of Liberty, for many immigrants, represented their first glimpse and impression of these United States—a statue that evolved from a hazily-defined figure in the distance, into a colossal statue symbolizing freedom and the American way of life.
It can often be difficult for visitors, when taking a cruise on the ferry to the statue’s home on Liberty Island, to contain their excitement and pride when the massive symbol of freedom comes into view. In addition, just a short hop away there is Ellis Island, which also holds major significance for many American and foreign visitors alike—a place that not only tells the story of the island itself, but of immigration dating back to the 1700s. A trip to Ellis Island includes a variety of galleries, photos, artifacts and even tape-recorded oral histories of those that endured the voyage to this land of liberty.
The national monument that is the Statue of Liberty welcomes thousands of visitors each day. For centuries this torch-wielding symbol of America’s open-door policy, which was originally a gift from France, has been welcoming immigrants to the United States.
The Museum on Ellis Island is today part of the Statue of Liberty tour. It is under the stewardship of the National Parks Service, and is well known for its educational value—a place where visitors can spend hours learning about Ellis Island’s history before, during, and after its use as America’s primary immigration station. The museum also recounts the stories of many who immigrated to America, and highlights what became of them after they arrived.
All tourists intending to make this trip must pre-purchase a ride on the ferry, which includes access to both Liberty Island and Ellis Island. Advanced purchases are highly recommended to avoid lines at the ticket offices and the chance that your preferred time will sell out. All people taking this tour must also pass through security screening before boarding any ferry, so tourists are encouraged to arrive at least an hour before their scheduled departure.
If you’re looking for something fun to do at night when visiting New York City—something a bit off the beaten path—make your way over to Brooklyn Bowl, an enormous bowling emporium with nightly concerts and great food and drinks.
The Brooklyn Bowl is a music venue, bowling alley and full-service restaurant, giving visitors a chance to enjoy many activities under the same roof. Featuring 16 lanes of self-scoring lanes, this little-known attraction is a great place to get some exercise while challenging your group in some friendly sporting competition. The lanes at Brooklyn Bowl are located just below the massive stage area, where local bands entertain large crowds with musical favorites and a colorful laser light show.
Part of the full menu at the Brooklyn Bowl Restaurant is their unbelievably tasty Blue Ribbon fried chicken, which according to many locals is the best fried chicken in the city. To wash it down, try one of the hundreds of beers that are on tap at the Brooklyn Bowl cocktail lounge, including many local micro-brews and all of your favorite domestics and imports.
Whether you want to test your skills aiming for strikes and spares, or simply kick back on one of Brooklyn Bowl’s massive Chesterfield sofas, this is definitely the place to be. To take your party to the next level, head to the elevated Bowlers Lounge where you can watch the musical show from the best seats in the house on eight massive, high-definition screens towering over the pins.
Brooklyn Bowl is located at 61 Wythe Avenue, Brooklyn.
Of course, when visiting New York you simply must get over to the famous Rockefeller Center, a complex that offers a number of great things to do and see.
Rockefeller Center was the brainchild of John D. Rockefeller who, in 1929, wanted to revitalize this now popular downtown area. Despite the famous Stock Market crash that occurred that year, construction on this project continued, providing much needed employment during the Great Depression. Today, this complex of 19 distinct buildings is more than worth visiting, if only to appreciate the architecture and art involved, as well as to enjoy the area’s shopping and dining.
When visiting Rockefeller Center, guests will be treated to sights such as the Today Show and can take in an episode of Saturday Night Live, both of which are filmed at the center’s NBC studios. On top of Rockefeller Center’s GE Building is the renowned Rainbow Room, the star of which is the silver and gold room itself, complete with a slowing rotating dance floor.
During the Christmas season, Rockefeller Center really comes to life, playing host to one of the largest lighted Christmas trees in North America and a beautiful ice skating rink where guests can take a twirl on the same ice where famous ice skaters once entertained onlookers.
Finally, at night you simply must check out the Top of the Rock tour, which features a ride up to the center’s 67th floor and observation tower, where guests are treated to panoramic views of the city’s bright and towering skyline—an experience that cannot be missed.
Rockefeller Center is open daily from 8AM to Midnight.