Many people pass through New York City on their way to their final destination, via JFK, LaGuardia, or Penn Station. Others pass through the city for business, a day of training or a conference. Whatever the reason, it’s worth staying over a day or two to see some of the amazing sites the city is known for. And believe it or not, there’s plenty of time to see some of the most famous sites in America. After all, it’s the city that never sleeps!
1. Castle Clinton – The Castle is run by the National Park Service. It is free and open to the public. A moving memorial honors the men and women who served in our nation’s Armed Forces.
About Castle Clinton: The fort was originally built between 1808 and 1811 as a bulwark against the British. Constructed on the tip of Manhattan, the Castle sits where New York City first began. In the mid 1800s, Castle Garden was built nearby as an entertainment center. It was later used as a landing site for immigrants until the federal government built the Ellis Island immigration facility in 1892. In 1942, the National Park Service rescued Castle Clinton from demolition, restored the historic structure, and later opened it as a National Monument in 1975. Since that time, more than 3 million visitors a year pass through the site.
To get there: Take a downtown subway to the Battery Park stop.
2. Staten Island Ferry – If time constraints do not permit a full trip to Liberty and Ellis Islands, a great way to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island from afar is via the Staten Island Ferry. The ferry offers free trips from Manhattan to Staten Island 7 days a week, giving rides to more than 70,000 passengers each day.
To get there: Take a downtown subway to the Battery Park stop.
3. Liberty and Ellis Islands and the Statue of Liberty: If time allows, it’s definitely worth the trip to Liberty and Ellis Islands. Buy tickets online before arriving to save time. Reserved ticket holders are also able to go through the ferry line more quickly. Visitors can walk the grounds, grab a bite to eat in the cafeteria, purchase souvenirs, and enjoy some of the city’s best photo ops from these two islands. Take time to see the Statue of Liberty, one of the most iconic attractions in the US. Visitors can observe her from the ground or with a pedestal or crown ticket. On Ellis Island, be sure to explore the exhibits inside the Immigration Museum and see the short film on the island’s history. A free audio tour is also available on each island, if one is interested in (and has time for) more in-depth history.
To get there: Take a ride aboard one of Statue Cruises’ ferries to hop from one island to the other.
4. Central Park – A walk through Central Park is a must for first-time New York City visitors. There are so many free things to see within the park itself, such as the statue of Alice in Wonderland, the Gapstow Bridge, the Bethesda Terrace, the Conservatory Water which is often filled with model boats, and so much more. Hours of fun can be had for free in Central Park, but if money is no problem, some great activities that require an admission fee include the Central Park Zoo (order online to save some money), the famed Carousel, and guided park tours.
To get there: There are several trains and buses that stop at Central Park. Find a list here.
5. Empire State Building – One of the great things about New York is that it’s the city that never sleeps. Skyline views during the day are amazing, but seeing it at night from atop the Empire State Building is breathtaking. It’s only $32 to see one of the city’s most amazing views from 8 am until 2 am daily.
To get there: The Empire State Building’s website has a handy Google Map link to help visitors figure out the best way to get there.
6. 9/11 Memorial – If time does not allow a visit to the museum, it’s still worth the trip to the 9/11 Memorial, which is free and open to the public from 7:30 am to 9 pm every day. This 8-acre, moving memorial is a solemn reminder of the terrorist attacks on February 26, 1993 and September 11, 2001.
To get there: Check out the map on the 9/11 Memorial’s website for directions.
7. The Metropolitan Museum of Art – The Met is worth the visit, whether a visitor has one hour or five. The admission is $25 for adults, $17 for seniors, and only $12 for students. The Met has an app that makes getting around the enormous museum easy. In addition, the Met’s website also offers suggested itineraries, such as family itineraries that are entertaining for young children, treasures that were saved during World War II, and works that are visitor favorites, to name a few.
To get there: By subway, taxi, or a sidewalk stroll, there are many ways to get to The Met.
8. Macy’s – Ten and a half floors of clothes, shoes, accessories, jewelry, makeup and perfume, restaurants, and so much more, Macy’s was the first store in the world to install modern-day escalators. The old, wooden escalators are still in use, adding to the store’s nostalgia. The world’s largest store has its own visitors center and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. For fans of the movie Miracle on 34th Street, Santaland is located on the 8th floor.
To get there: Click here for directions and a map.
9. Times Square – What’s in Times Square? Everything! The world’s largest toy store, tons of restaurants, people dressed up as famous characters like Spiderman and Mickey Mouse, and (my personal favorite) the discount Broadway show ticket booth. Take a few minutes to wander through the 3-story Toys ‘R Us and have a photo taken with the giant T-Rex, minion, and transformer. Visit Candy Land and take a ride on the 60-foot Ferris Wheel before January 2016, as the store’s lease is up, and they are not renewing it. Look up and you’ll see the New Year’s Eve Ball on the 130-foot pole above One Times Square. And hop in line at TKTS for discount tickets to one of the famed Broadway shows currently running.
To get there: Click here for transit and parking information.
10. Federal Hall – History buffs should not miss Federal Hall. Admission is free, although it’s only open on weekdays. Located across the street from the New York Stock Exchange, Federal Hall is the birthplace of our nation’s government. Although the original building was destroyed, the current structure, a former Customs House, stands on the spot where George Washington was took his Presidential oath of office. Trinity Church is within sight and should not be missed.
To get there: Federal Hall is located on Wall Street. Click here for directions and subway information.