New York City is known as the city that never sleeps. It’s home to some of the world’s most famous cultural landmarks, has been described in detail in countless movies, television shows, and books, and is maybe the most culturally diverse city on earth. If you’re going to be spending some time in New York City, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the insane number of options available and the sheer scope of the city. It’s massive and filled with anything that you might want to find or do or see. To help you with the overwhelm, the following will explore just a few of the major things you don’t want to miss out on should you find yourself in New York City.
There’s a reason Central Park is featured in almost every movie set in New York City; it’s absolutely gorgeous. It’s a rare treasure to find such a big green space within a bustling, high-energy city, and Central Park is way more than just a green space. Spanning 20 acres, this park is the most visited urban park in America; as of 2016, it was estimated that 42 million visitors each year wander through the park. More than this, it’s the most filmed location in the world, making each moment you spend in Central Park feel like you’re wandering around in a television show or movie. Rent a bike, have a picnic (or a New York hot dog from a hot dog cart), see Shakespeare in the Park if you’re visiting in the summer, or take a rowboat or gondola out on the lake. It’s a good idea to dedicate a fair bit of time to central park as it’s far bigger than you might at first realize and is a prime people-watching location.
The American Museum of Natural History
Located just across the street from Central Park, the American Museum of Natural History is one of the world’s foremost cultural and scientific institutions. It was founded in 1869 and has been working towards its mission of discovering, interpreting, and disseminating information about humanity, human cultures, the universe, and the natural world through education, research, and exhibition. Filled with mind-blowing artifacts and exhibits, the American Museum of Natural History is one of many cool things in NYC centred around history and culture. With 26 interconnected buildings and 45 permanent exhibition halls, this museum can keep you wondering and wandering for hours (give yourself at least three, but maybe more). It contains a planetarium and over 34 million specimens, including cultural artifacts, meteorites, human remains, plants, and animals, as well as specialized collections of frozen tissue, genomic data, and astrophysical data. The museum is more than 2 million square feet in size.
The Empire State Building
If you’re afraid of heights, you might want to skip this one, but if you’re not, this is one of the best ways to view New York City’s expansive skyline. The Empire State Building is 102-stories tall and built in the classic art deco style. Located in Midtown Manhattan, the Empire State Building was once the tallest building in the world until the World Trade Center was built in the 70s. The observation decks at the top make it a very popular tourist destination (roughly four million visitors each year) both during the day and at night. It’s hard to grasp just how big New York City is, but from the top of the Empire State Building, you’ll be able to see how far the city goes in every direction. Be prepared for a little bit of a chill, however, as even in the height of summer, when you’re up that high, things can be breezy. Bring a sweater to stay on the safe side.
The Metropolitan Museum Of Art
Sometimes nicknamed ‘the Met,’ the Metropolitan Museum of Art is the largest art museum in the western hemisphere. The permanent collection contains over two million works of art that are separated into 17 different departments. Located across the street from Central Park, the museum contains works from classical antiquity, Ancient Egypt, European sculptures, and endless paintings from all over the world in addition to American and modern artworks. You can find Islamic art, African, Asian, Oceanian, and Byzantine art, as well as collections of musical instruments, costumes, weapons, and armour. If there’s any kind of art that interests you, taking a lengthy stop at the Met (because a short one isn’t going to let you even scratch the surface) will be well worth your time.
New York Public Library
Like most things in New York City, the public library has been in far more movies than you realize and is far bigger than you could have imagined a library would be. The library has almost 53 million items and is split up across 92 locations. Unlike most libraries, this one is a private, non-governmental, independently managed, non-profit corporation. As a tourist, the branch you’re probably going to want to see is called the Main Branch (you’ll recognize the lion statues named Patience and Fortitude sitting just outside the entrance); it was declared a National Historic Landmark in the 60s and is well worth a visit.
The Brooklyn Bridge
Another one of the most iconic sights in New York City, the Brooklyn Bridge is a hybrid suspension/cable-stayed bridge that crosses the east river, thereby connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn. At the time of its building in the 1880s, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world. The bridge has been a classic part of the New York vibe ever since, at one point allowing horse-drawn vehicles to cross. Designated a National Historic Landmark, a New York City Landmark, and a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, the history of New York can be felt as you walk along this bridge. Be forewarned, just like everything else in New York, it’s huge and will take a lot longer to cross on foot than you might expect (at least half an hour). You don’t have to walk the full length though if you just want to enjoy the view.
The above list is only the beginning. New York is big and complicated and filled with the vibrant energy of humanity in every pizza shop and subway station. Be sure to leave some time for aimless wandering as New York City has a way of bringing out the spontaneous in everyone.