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In this post, we list where to go for the best views of New York City, from on land and water as well as from the sky. Most visitors to NYC will visit one of the 3 famous skyscraper observation decks, such as the Empire State Building, but there are other, often free options.
SKYLINE VIEWS FROM BROOKLYN
You can enjoy great views of the Manhattan skyline by visiting the Brooklyn Heights Promenade (image below). The Promenade has benches, is never very crowded, and is an amazing place to relax and take in the beautiful views.
You can reach the Promenade by subway or car. Click here for directions to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade from your starting point.
You can also get to the Promenade by walking over the Brooklyn Bridge, something you should have on your “must-do” list. Just below this picture is information about the amazing views from the bridge.
Walking over the Brooklyn Bridge has so many amazing aspects. The bridge itself is a beautiful piece of architecture, but what is so special is the 360-degree view of the New York Harbor.
You will have spectacular views of Manhattan from the southern tip up to midtown Manhattan and beyond. You will see the skyline of Brooklyn Heights, DUMBO, the Manhattan Bridge and Williamsburg in the distance. You can even see the Statue of Liberty although she looks about 5 inches tall from the bridge.
Below is an embedded Google 360 view from the Brooklyn Bridge.
You can also get a great view of Lower and Midtown Manhattan from the Fulton Ferry Landing in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Both views are included in our 3-hour Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn Heights, and DUMBO Tour as well as our shorter Brooklyn Heights Tour.
VIEWS OF MIDTOWN MANHATTAN FROM LONG ISLAND CITY, QUEENS
Another terrific location for a view of Manhattan’s midtown skyline is from Long Island City in Queens. From the Long Island City Promenade, you can view the east side of Manhattan and this is the best spot in New York City to get a full panoramic view.
Getting here is very easy. Click here for directions to the Long Island City promenade. Free Tours by Foot doesn’t offer a tour that takes in this view, so you will have to do it on your own.
If you do head over to Long Island City up can find two of the best pizzerias in the city! See our post on The Best Pizza in New York City by Neighborhood.
VIEWS OF MANHATTAN FROM NEW JERSEY (Hoboken)
That’s right, New Jersey, in particular, Hoboken, Jersey City, and Weehawken. New Jersey enjoys arguably the best view of Manhattan, from almost top to bottom, as you can see the entire island from Battery Park to Washington Heights (shown the picture at the top of this post).
Getting to the neighborhoods of Hoboken, Jersey City, and Weehawken isn’t very difficult. These areas of New Jersey are connected to Manhattan by their own subway system known as the PATH train. You can take the PATH subway train from Midtown at 33rd and 23rd Streets, or from SoHo at 14th Street, or from Greenwich Village at 9th and Christopher Streets.
Tip: Visit Frank Sinatra Park in Hoboken. Click here for map and directions.
VIEWS FROM THE WATER
To see the other side of Lower Manhattan and to get some views of the Statue of Liberty, take the Staten Island Ferry on a trip to Staten Island and back. You will share the boat with commuters and other visitors. Most ferries have outside seating areas, which is great for taking pictures and enjoying the breeze. The ferry runs 24 hours a day.
Below is a video of using the Staten Island Ferry including views you can expect. You can read more at our in-depth guide on how to take the Staten Island Ferry.
Views of Lower Manhattan, Brooklyn Queens and Midtown Manhattan from the East River Ferry
The East River Ferry connects Lower Manhattan to Midtown Manhattan with stops at several points in Brooklyn and one in Long Island City in Queens. It’s a great scenic alternative to taking the subway, and gives you incredible views of both Lower and Midtown Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn (including the view from UNDER the Brooklyn Bridge!
Unlike the Staten Island Ferry, the East River ferry is not free, but a single ride is just $2.75 per person, the same as a subway ride. Check our East River Ferry post for more details.
Governors Island offers a unique view of the southern tip of Lower Manhattan, New Jersey, as well as Brooklyn all at once. The island is located just 7 minutes away from Lower Manhattan via ferry. The island is only open during the summer, between May and September on weekends and holidays between 10am-7pm.
Not only is the view from the Governors Island Ferry amazing, but once on the island, you’ll have the chance to take pictures on stable land and not from a moving boat! The island is vehicle-free and is a recreational park popular with locals for biking, picnicking and escaping the hustle and bustle of New York City. One of our favorite spots is the Water Taxi Beach, that offers great views and also has a small beer garden.
Further, you may visit exhibitions as well as family-friendly events on the island. Check out the Governors Island Event Calendar. To learn all about Governors Island, see our in-depth post Things to Do on Governors Island which also has directions on how to get there on the ferry.
There are a many different cruises and boat tours that circle Manhattan giving you fantastic views of the island from different perspectives. There are a lot of choices available and it can seem a little overwhelming so we’ve compiled all the information on the different types of cruises and tours offered by the most popular companies.
To help decide if a boat tour or cruise is right for you, read our post Which New York Boat Tour or Cruise is Best?
VIEWS FROM THE SKY
Take the Roosevelt Island Tram
The Roosevelt Island Tram is a fun way to get a view of Manhattan and New York from a unique vantage point. The tram connects Midtown Manhattan at 2nd Ave and 60th St. with Roosevelt Island. Roosevelt Island is in middle of the East River, between Manhattan and Queens.
Although the ride on the tram is about 4 minutes, these may be the most exciting 4 minutes of your visit to New York! The video below will give you a feel for what you will see.
The tram runs from 6 am till 2 am on Sundays through Thursdays and from 6 am till 3:30 am on Fridays and Saturdays. Click here for a Roosevelt Island self-guided tour as well as directions using the tram, which happens to take MetroCards which is a nice convenience.
Visit a Skyscraper Observation Deck
More likely than not, you planned on visiting at least one of the three famous observation decks at the Empire State Building, Top of the Rock or One World Trade Center (the Freedom Tower). All three of these decks offer unbelievable views for miles around.
The hard part is knowing which one to visit. You can certainly go to all three for three very different perspectives. But if you can only afford one, check out our post Empire State Building, Top of the Rock, or One World Trade Center Observatory?
You will find comparisons in cost, experience and how to find discounts as well. Whichever one you decide to see, you will have unforgettable views of the many skylines of New York City!
Take a helicopter ride
There is nothing like a bird’s eye view of New York City from a helicopter. We know that helicopter tours can be expensive and figuring out which one offers the best value can be difficult.
In our post Helicopter Tours over New York we’ve analyzed which New York helicopter tour is best – both quality and value wise. We also share some tips for finding discounts for helicopter rides.