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Best things to do in New York City

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Where in the world: USA  /  New York State  /  New York City
You'll get a unique taste of the Big Apple by choosing from a range of exciting things to do in New York City. Start at Tenement Museum and Ellis Island to see the city through the eyes of immigrants who shaped it about a century ago. The rich collections of MOMA and Metropolitan Museum of Art attract millions of visitors each year, but to experience the opulence of the early industrial age, check out Frick Collection, housed in an 18th-century mansion on Fifth Avenue. Whether you're a romantic or not, don't leave the city before you climb to the top of Empire State Building or without spending a relaxed afternoon in Central Park.

New York City is best known for its Observation Decks, Scenic Walking Areas, and Historic Sites.

Top 15 things to do in New York City

1. Central Park

In the midst of all of the city's concrete and high-rises, Central Park brings greenery and shady places for relaxation--as well as a zoo, carousel, skating rink, theater, and several fountains--to the northern part of the city. Stroll, bike, picnic, or people-watch among 341 hectares (843 acres) of lakes, jogging paths, woodlands, walkways, lawns, and trees. One of the country's major historical landmarks, the park hosts frequent concert, plays, and art shows. Stop by the Alice in Wonderland statue, a favorite place for photos.
Suggested duration: 6 hours
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2. The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The country's largest museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art houses vast series of collections, with more than 2 million works divided among 17 departments. Within this single building view thousands of pieces of American and European art, including notable works by Whistler, Sargent, Rembrandt, and Vermeer. The museum also notably contains what's considered the greatest collection of Egyptian art outside Cairo. One of the world's most prestigious centers of art and culture, the museum welcomes more than 5 million visitors each year. Step inside to see Roman statues, musical instruments, antique weapons, costumes, period rooms, Egyptian artifacts, and modern photographs. Consider a guided tour of the museum highlights. You may want to end your visit with a drink in the rooftop bar.
Suggested duration: 4 hours
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3. Empire State Building

The 103-story Empire State Building in midtown stood as the world's tallest building for nearly four decades, from its completion in 1931 until 1970, when it was surpassed by another New York skyscraper. Considered an American cultural icon, the building underwent a massive renovation in 2010 to make it more energy efficient and eco-friendly. Admire the Art Deco mosaics in the lobby, and then take an elevator to the observation deck at the top, where you'll have 360-degree views of the entire city. If you don't have time to wait in line for the top, visit the 86th-floor observatory, which at 320 m (1,050 ft) high still provides remarkable views. If you're in the city in the evening, try to catch a glimpse of the building to see its pinnacle bathed in lights.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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4. Top of the Rock

Get above many of Manhattan's high-rises at Top of the Rock, with an unobstructed, 360-degree view from the 70th floor. You can also gaze far and wide from protected outdoor terraces on the 67th and 69th floors. After a renovation that kept it closed for several years, the deck reopened in 2005. Designed to resemble an ocean liner's deck, the observation deck offers a bird's-eye view of many of the city's iconic buildings. A timed entry system helps keep the lines shorter and the experience less crowded than at other viewing platforms in the city. Save even more time by purchasing your tickets online.
Suggested duration: 3 hours
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5. 9/11 Memorial

Commemorating the watershed event of recent American history, 9/11 Memorial marks the spot of the two World Trade Center buildings that were destroyed during the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Gain a deeper understanding of the tragic events surrounding those attacks by taking a guided walking tour of Ground Zero. A museum features exhibits ranging from objects found in the rubble to multimedia displays offering the stories and final voicemails of those who died in the buildings. You can stop by the memorial's two reflecting pools, designed to inspire hope and renewal and to pay tribute to victims.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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6. The High Line

A breath of fresh air in the middle of the big city, The High Line is a 1.6 km (1 mi) linear park. It's built on a short section of an abandoned elevated railway that once ran along the lower west side of Manhattan. Redesigned and planted as an aerial greenway, the first few sections of the park opened in 2009. The elevated park features gardens, birdhouses, benches, artwork, and cafes, and offers views of the city and the Hudson River. View the exhibit of mirror sculptures designed to reflect the surrounding greenery. An installation of 700 purple and gray glass panes, calibrated to match the center pixel of 700 digital pictures taken every minute on the Hudson, creates an extended portrait of the river.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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7. Statue of Liberty National Monument

A gift of friendship from the people of France, Statue of Liberty National Monument long represented the first glimpse of the United States for thousands of immigrants arriving across the Atlantic Ocean from distant lands. The 93 m (305 ft) statue's large pedestal includes an interior exhibit explaining the significance of this icon of liberty and democracy. Designed by sculptor F.A. Bartholdi and dedicated in 1886, the statue represents the Roman goddess of freedom holding a torch and a tablet of laws. It's essential to book tickets in advance. "Pedestal" tickets give you access the inside of the pedestal, the museum, and the Fort Wood level. Reservations to visit the crown can fill up to six months in advance. Ferries depart from Battery Park, New York or Liberty State Park, New Jersey. Check the ferry schedules and leave plenty of time for the security screenings.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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8. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

Delve into the world of 19th- and 20th-century art at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). The museum houses more than 150,000 paintings, drawings, sculptures, prints, photos, models and design objects created between 1880 and the present. View works by some of the contemporary art world's most influential artists, including Van Gogh, Monet, Picasso, and Rousseau. Don't miss the museum's world-renowned art photography collection. Try to save time for the vast collection of films and books. You can sip refreshments at the Terrace cafe while overlooking the museum's famous sculpture garden.
Suggested duration: 3 hours
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9. Grand Central Terminal

Experience the bustling feel of the city at its transportation center, Grand Central Terminal. With old-world charm and impressive turn-of-the-century architecture, the two-story station covers an area of 19 hectares (48 acres), making it one of the largest terminals in the world. Wander the buzzing main concourse to admire the high-vaulted ceilings adorned with constellations, or the four-face clock that serves as the station’s icon. Head into the station's concourses for a wide array of restaurants and shops, including a market where you can pick up local produce and meat.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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10. Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Brooklyn

The 21 hectare (52 acre) Brooklyn Botanic Garden is home to a number of revered plant collections and themed green spaces. Its Shakespeare Garden boasts more than 80 plants mentioned in the works of William Shakespeare. Make sure to read the plants' labels to find the relevant quotations. Stroll the winding paths of the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden to find a temple dedicated to wolf spirits and a pond filled with koi fish. You can discover plants from different American ecosystems in the Native Flora Garden. The gift shop sells an impressive collection of bulbs and seeds.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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11. Times Square

Few places conjure up as many iconic images of New York as Times Square, the tourist center of the city, filled with bright video screens and LED signs flashing their messages 24 hours a day. Despite its name, this city landmark isn't a square at all, but the triangular intersections of several main roads in the middle of Manhattan. Stop at the prominent visitor center for restaurant and hotel recommendations, free maps, and ticket sales for many tourist attractions. Often called the crossroads of the world, the area features themed restaurants, theaters, and shops.
Suggested duration: 1 hour
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12. American Museum of Natural History

Navigate the wonders of the natural world at American Museum of Natural History, one of the largest museums in the world. Conveniently located across from Central Park, the museum complex features 45 permanent exhibits spread throughout 27 interconnected buildings. Admire the life-size displays of African elephants as you tour the Hall of African Mammals, or head to the Hall of Fossils to see fossilized skeletons of Tyrannosaurus rex or a giant Stegosaurus. Enhance your museum experience with an IMAX movie or a show in the planetarium.
Suggested duration: 3 hours
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13. Rockefeller Center

Dive into New York City’s rich history with a tour of landmark Rockefeller Center. Sprawling over 9 hectares (22 acres) of midtown Manhattan, the 19-building complex is home to some of the city’s most important financial and commercial headquarters. Take a guided tour of the complex to learn about the Rockefeller family and the center's remarkable architecture, or get a behind-the-scenes look at NBC Studios, where the Today Show and other programs are filmed. Head 70 floors up to the Top of the Rock observation deck to enjoy panoramic views of the city.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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14. Brooklyn Bridge

Walk across one of New York’s most iconic landmarks, Brooklyn Bridge, while admiring breathtaking views of the city skyline. One of the oldest suspension bridges in the country, it spans almost 486 m (1,600 ft) across the East River, connecting the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn. Take the subway to Brooklyn and walk back along the bridge toward Manhattan for the best views of the city, but not before wandering through the Brooklyn Bridge Park. If you’re hungry, stop for a famous slice of Brooklyn pizza before heading back over the bridge.
Suggested duration: 1 hour
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15. Ellis Island

Hear the tales of the 12 million immigrants who passed through Ellis Island when it served as the nation's busiest immigration inspection station, from 1892 to 1954. The immigration museum, housed in the station's main building, reveals details about the immigrants who came to the island and the staff who worked there. You can view informative displays, a short film, photos, art, and personal artifacts. Outside the museum, read the wall of honor for a partial list of the immigrants processed here. Before boarding a ferry to the island, be prepared for a thorough security check; sharp objects and large bags are forbidden. Purchase ferry tickets in advance to avoid waiting in long lines.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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