If you’re planning on visiting New York any time soon, you might be stunned, albeit a bit overwhelmed, by the sheer number of attractions you simply can’t miss out on. In a state with so much to do and see, what should take priority in your already busy itinerary?
Famous tourist attractions of New York State include the Statue of Liberty, Niagara Falls, Central Park, Rockefeller Center, Broadway, Fifth Avenue, Times Square, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. These sites represent both natural and manmade icons of New York.
Read on to learn more about these attractions and what makes them worthy of becoming a part of your itinerary while visiting New York State.
1. The Statue of Liberty
Although less than two centuries old, the Statue of Liberty has arguably become New York’s – if not America’s – most iconic monument. Serving as a symbol of hope to the many immigrants who were able to make their way to the US in the early 1900s, it represents the core principle upon which the country was built: freedom.
Aside from holding immense historical and spiritual importance, the monument is also a sight to behold. Being the tallest statue in the US, standing at a proud 151 feet (46 meters), the Statue of Liberty is simply breathtaking. What’s more, you can view it for free. However, if you want to climb all the way to the crown or pedestal, you’ll have to purchase tickets, and due to high demand, these sell months in advance.
The statue is, however, only accessible by ferry, so if you’re not the biggest fan of boats, you might just have to gather up some courage before booking a trip. Otherwise, the short journey is quite pleasant. You’ll embark on Battery Park, and the whole thing shouldn’t last more than 15 minutes – that is, if you’re not planning to climb to the crown and enjoy the view from up there.
All in all, considering how accessible (albeit a bit crowded) a trip to the Statue of Liberty usually is, I highly recommend adding the monument to your list of attractions to see while in New York.
2. Niagara Falls
What makes New York so unique is the fact that it boasts not only man-made but natural wonders as well. Niagara Falls is a prime example of the latter. The attraction is known worldwide for its breathtaking views, and millions of tourists travel to take them in every year.
Here, you’ll actually see three different waterfalls: American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls,and Horseshoe Falls, with the last being the tallest. However, all three equally contribute to the fairytale-like atmosphere at the park.
On-site, you’ll find an observation tower from which you can marvel at the beauty unraveling in front of you. While the gorgeous views alone are enough to keep you entertained for a good amount of time, the park also offers some great shops and restaurants, among which you can stroll around after a long day of sightseeing.
Niagara Falls has even been dubbed the honeymoon capital of the world, and for good reason. Between the romantic, dreamy scenery and the many great restaurants and accommodation options available in the area, it’s no wonder newlywed couples want to celebrate their love here.
Make no mistake, though: everyone (and I mean everyone) is bound to have the time of their life visiting Niagara Falls, from families to friend groups or single travelers looking to experience a new adventure. So, if you’re ever in New York State, don’t skip this one-of-a-kind attraction.
3. Central Park
If you’ve seen enough movies based in New York, you already know that Central Park is one of the most iconic landmarks in the city. While at first glance, a park built in a city might not seem like a sight to behold, this vibrant, lively patch of greenery nestled between the concrete jungle that is New York is nothing short of amazing.
Between the beautiful nature and the many sights and activities to enjoy here, Central Park is an attraction that shouldn’t be missed by anyone visiting New York. If you’re feeling a bit extra, you can even hire a carriage ride to take you around the park.
Central Park is even located, as the name suggests, right in the city center, so there’s really no excuse for you not to visit it. Don’t worry if you’re not big on carriage rides; you can also bike or walk around the park, but get ready for some exercise, as there are 2.5 miles (4 km) to cover.
4. Rockefeller Center
While in the city, you can’t miss out on seeing Rockefeller Center. Sure, it’s a touristy, kind of cliché attraction, but there’s a reason why so many people are rushing to marvel at what many consider to be New York’s cultural representation.
The entertainment center is home to a wide array of shops, media companies, and, most famously, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, on top of which you’ll find an observation deck. The view from the latter will likely leave you breathless.
If you’re lucky enough to book a Christmas trip to New York, don’t forget to skate on the iconic skating rink right near the giant Christmas tree. If there’s one activity that’ll get even the moodiest skeptics into a festive mood, this is it.
Attending a Broadway show is surely one of the highlights of anyone’s experience in New York, especially if you’re a theater fan looking to enjoy the crème de la crème. While the shows you might be able to see will depend on the timing of your trip, you’re guaranteed to enjoy some timeless classics and excellent premiering shows all year round.
Tickets can sometimes be hard to get a hold of; after all, the demand is insanely high. However, if you’re lucky enough to be able to plan your trip a few months in advance, you might be able to snag a few tickets for even some of the most popular shows, like Hamilton, Chicago, or The Lion King.
If you want more information on ticket availability and prices, as well as what shows you can expect to view during your trip, be sure to check out Broadway’s official website here. Trust me, you don’t want to leave New York without marveling at the richness and beauty of its theatrical culture.
6. Fifth Avenue
If you’re a shopping enthusiast, you’ll likely feel your heart rate rise as you hear the words “Fifth Avenue.” This iconic shopping street in New York is home to the physical locations of some of the most coveted brands in the world.
This luxurious, breathtaking avenue won’t entertain only the shopaholics, though, as the countless shops, restaurants, and one-of-a-kind architecture all contribute to an attraction that shouldn’t be missed by anyone visiting New York.
7. Times Square
Times Square, which many consider the heart of New York City, might be one of the most famous attractions you’ll come across during your trip. Millions of visitors flock to the square each year, whether to admire the colorful, eye-catching billboards or to take advantage of the great shops, cafes, and restaurants in the area.
You might be surprised to learn that this famously wholesome attraction where families so often gather to celebrate the New Year was actually a hub for vice once. The area was notorious for being a location where local drug dealers operated, and many deemed it to be one of the sketchiest areas in New York.
Luckily, the square moved on from its infamy and has now become a staple landmark of New York. It’s known for its lively atmosphere and busy streets, which characterize the entire city itself. While the crowds can feel suffocating to some, the area offers enough charm for tourists to go back every year, as it perfectly captures the never-resting nature of New York.
8. Metropolitan Museum of Art
If you’re an art lover, I’d be willing to bet that visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art (or the Met, as it’s more commonly known) is the first item on your bucket list.
The museum is home to more than two million (yes, you read that right) art pieces, the oldest of which date back more than 5,000 years ago. It is no surprise that the Met is the largest museum in the US, so whether you’re a history buff or not, visiting this museum is guaranteed to be the experience of a lifetime. The collection is both historically and culturally rich. The pieces you’ll see here originate from all over the world, including Asia, Europe, Africa, and Oceania.
If it isn’t already clear, I highly recommend adding a stop to the Met to your New York itinerary.
9. Museum of Modern Art
If 5,000-year-old pieces don’t spark your interest, another museum might make for a more interesting stop in your New York journey. The Museum of Modern Art (or MoMA) is widely reputed because it holds some of the greatest masterpieces of recent times.
However, if you’re planning on taking in all MoMA has to offer, you’ll have to clear quite a bit of time from your schedule. Since the museum is home to one of the most extensive collections of modern art, you’ll want to designate at least 2-3 hours to be able to explore it properly.
Here, you’ll be able to marvel at Claud Monet’s Water Lillies and Vincent Van Gogh’s The Starry Night, just to name a few. The museum has branched into two locations, so hopefully, you won’t have to go out of your way to visit it. However, if you’re keen on viewing a specific piece, I’m afraid there’s no choice but to commute.
The best thing about MoMA is that if you go during some specific hours, you’ll be able to visit free of charge. So, not only is this museum a must-see attraction, it’s a budget-friendly one as well. For more information, check out MoMA’s official website.
10. Lake George
Visitors flock to Lake George all year round, but the scenery is especially lovely during spring and autumn. Here, you’ll be able to enjoy plenty of outdoor activities while taking in the gorgeous views. You can even rent a paddleboat or kayak for a scenic trip that’ll be hard to forget. What more would you want from a peaceful retreat?
So, if you’re tired of the busy streets and colorful billboards, make a quick trip to Lake George. The destination has always been extremely coveted, and for a good reason. Not too long ago, it was a place the city’s elite fled to when they needed some peace and quiet. Today, the destination has become a safe haven that welcomes all visitors.
While the nature here is nothing short of breathtaking, the many shops, cafes, and cozy accommodations really turn Lake George into a tourist attraction. So, even if you’re not the kayaking type, I guarantee you won’t get bored easily here.
11. Brooklyn Bridge
If you’ve never heard of Brooklyn Bridge, you’ve probably never seen a rom-com (or any other genre of movie, for that matter) based in New York. This architectural wonder was built in the late 1800s as a connecting point between Manhattan and, you guessed it, Brooklyn.
Walking the bridge will allow you to take in some truly breathtaking views, especially during nighttime. The skyline itself is something that you would have thought you’d only see in animations or in “I Heart NY” merch.
The Brooklyn Bridge is one of New York’s most iconic cultural landmarks, filled with emotional weight, both joyful and sad. However, what remains true is that crossing the Brooklyn Bridge isn’t only a must when visiting the city, but it’s also one of the most budget-friendly activities you can enjoy during your trip.
12. St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Here’s another architectural and cultural attraction that deserves a spot in any “Famous Attractions of New York State” list. St. Patrick’s Cathedral is a prime example of Gothic architecture, with its marble facade, magnificent bronze doors, and gravity-defying spires, leaving millions of visitors speechless each year.
The building may be close to two centuries old, but its architectural style still feels as relevant as ever. While neighboring buildings, namely the Rockefeller Plaza, might be taller and flashier, St. Patrick’s Cathedral can still somehow steal most of the spotlight through its character and style.
Remember that if you want to marvel at its beauty, you’ll have to purchase tickets in advance, as they are in high demand if you want to save time and buy them online, head over here.
13. Thousand Islands
Thousand Islands, true to its name, is a collection of almost 2,000 islands stretching over 50 miles (80 km) along the St. Laurence River. The view is truly something to behold, especially during fall when the colorful leaves create a palette you only thought you’d see in masterful paintings.
Remember that though the collection comprises thousands of individual islands, some are barely big enough for one person. Still, while most of the islands aren’t that impressive by themselves when seen together, they make for one-of-a-kind imagery. Some islands belong to Canada, but since most of them fall on US land, I couldn’t help but list the attraction as one of the most famous in New York State.
14. The Catskills
From one breathtaking location to another, the Catskills boasts some of the most scenic views you can enjoy in New York. Here, you’ll not only marvel at the beautiful scenery, but you’ll also be able to partake in plenty of outdoor recreational activities, such as hiking, biking, or even canoeing.
If you’re not much of a hiker, you can still have a great experience at the Catskills by visiting one of the gorgeous resorts and booking a relaxing spa day. And if you happen to travel here in the winter, don’t forget to sharpen those skiing skills, as the snow turns the province into a winter wonderland.
Many small country inns also offer comfortable accommodation and delicious local meals, offering you the chance to get away from the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple.
During the fall, you can take a vintage train to admire the spectacular leaves changing color.
15. Long Island
Last but certainly not least, Long Island deservedly closes out our list of the most famous tourist attractions in New York State. The island is especially buzzing during summertime when visitors and locals alike are desperately trying to escape the scorching heat by enjoying a cocktail on the soft sand beaches.
The natural beauty of Long Island is perfectly complemented by a wide array of accommodation options, spanning from cozy to luxurious. You’ll find plenty to do and see here, as the stores, restaurants, cafes, wineries, pools, and golf courses all offer something that every type of traveler can enjoy.
So if your timing doesn’t allow you to enjoy the skiing trails of the Catskills, Long Island is the perfect destination for a city getaway.