This post lists where you can get incredible views of New York City.
Most are free, but for some, you will have to pay a minimal cost and others require that you purchase tickets.
- Best Free (Or Nearly Free) Views Of New York City
- NYC Observation Decks
- Views From Cruises And Ferries
- Parks With Views Of The Manhattan Skyline
- See The Skyline From A Helicopter
1. From Your Airplane
Well, this isn't exactly a free view --you did pay for your airplane ticket! Think of it as a freebie view.
Whichever airport you fly into, you are in for a treat!
The views of the New York City skyline and the rest of the city will blow you away.
The views are exactly what you have seen in photographs and movies.
2. Staten Island Ferry
To see the tip of Downtown Manhattan and to get an up-close view of the Statue of Liberty, take the free Staten Island Ferry on a trip to Staten Island and back.
Most ferries have outside seating areas, where you can catch great views as well as a nice breeze.
The ferry runs 24 hours a day. You will share the boat with commuters and other visitors.
You can learn more from our in-depth guide on how to take the Staten Island Ferry.
3. Brooklyn Heights Promenade
You can enjoy great views of the Manhattan skyline by visiting the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, especially at night.
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.
4. The Brooklyn 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
From the pedestrian walkway, you will have spectacular views of Manhattan from the southern tip up to midtown Manhattan and beyond.
Also, 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.
DUMBO is a historic and somewhat trendy neighborhood just across the river from Lower Manhattan and just to the north of Brooklyn Heights.
There are several waterfront parks all close to each other, so there is no shortage of space to throw down a blanket and have a picnic with spectacular views.
Read more about what to do in DUMBO.
5. Brooklyn Bridge Park
Located south of the Brooklyn Bridge, the views will take your breath away. There is plenty to do in the park as well.
There is even a carousel in the park.
6. Fulton Ferry Landing
You can also get a great view of Lower and Midtown Manhattan from the Fulton Ferry Landing in Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Click here for directions to the Fulton Ferry Landing.
You can also take the East River Ferry (see below) which stops right at Brooklyn Bridge Park.
7. Empire Fulton Ferry Park
This park is north of the Brooklyn Bridge so you can snap pictures from a different viewpoint.
There is a nifty restored carousel here that looks magical at night with the Brooklyn Bridge and Lower Manhattan in the background.
8. Roosevelt Island Tram
The Tram to Roosevelt Island travels over the East River to connect Midtown Manhattan and this small, mostly residential island.
This is a fun way to get 360-views of NYC and beyond from a unique vantage point.
Although the ride on the tram is about 4 minutes, these may be the most exciting 4 minutes of your visit to New York!
Once at Roosevelt Island, you can relax and have plenty of time to take pictures from Southpoint Park.
Use this Roosevelt Island self-guided tour to see the sights.
The tram runs from 6 am to 2 am on Sundays through Thursdays and from 6 am to 3:30 am on Fridays and Saturdays. Read more about taking the tram to Roosevelt Island.
For outrageous views from the sky, take a helicopter ride. It's not as cheap as the tram, but it is an outstanding experience!
9. Manhattan Bridge
Though walking over the Manhattan Bridge isn’t on most tourists' to-do lists, it is still something worth doing if you have some extra time on your trip.
The bridge itself isn’t aesthetically pleasing, but the walkway is practically empty compared to the crowded walkway across the Brooklyn Bridge.
The best views are from the lower level looking through the fence.
You’ll see Manhattan and also get a view of the Brooklyn Bridge against the skyline.
10. Pier 15 and the East River Greenway
This public pier at the South Street Seaport has two floors of observation decks with seats and benches.
The adjacent Greenway is narrower but in a more natural setting.
Both spots are lovely places to sit by the water and take in the fantastic views of the Brooklyn shoreline, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Manhattan Bridge, and the Williamsburg Bridge.
11. Time Warner Building
This shopping mall at Columbus Circle has a massive glass window on the 4th floor that offers a view of contrasts.
It’s an up-close look at the Monument at Columbus Circle with Central Park on the left and the beautiful Art Deco buildings along Central Park South and some skyscrapers peeking out.
During the holidays, there is a Christmas Market here and some of the best pictures can be taken then as the lobby of the building decks its halls with brilliant oversized stars.
It's also a great spot to watch the Macys Thanksgiving Parade!
Views From Cruises and Ferries
Views from the water are great because they are unobstructed and you will enjoy your time o a relaxing cruise or ferry ride.
You can opt to take a commuter ferry for the cost of a subway ride ($2.75) and you can great views of different parts of the city.
Ferries, however, are generally quick rides without specifically taking you to the best vantage points.
On the other hand, for a reasonable price, you can take a sightseeing cruise or boat tours that circle Manhattan giving you fantastic views of the island from different perspectives.
Sightseeing cruises are longer than commuter ferry rides and you also learn about the city during your trip.
The choices available 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?
13. East River Ferry
Though the East River ferry is not free, it's just $2.75 and you will get a multitude of amazing views from the water, depending on what route you take.
It's a great scenic alternative to taking the subway, so give it a try! Check our East River Ferry post for more details.
It's a great scenic alternative to taking the subway, so give it a try! Check our East River Ferry post for more details.
The East River Ferry stops in DUMBO, Brooklyn, and in the summer, the Governors Island Ferry also stops in Brooklyn, near Brooklyn Heights.
Skyscraper Observation Decks
More likely than not, you planned on visiting an observation deck to get sky-high views of NYC. All these decks offer unbelievable views for miles around.
The hard part is knowing which one to visit since they differ in vantage points and price ranges.
For some guidance read our post comparing the observation decks. We go over ticket prices, how to find discounts and the pros and cons of each deck.
Whichever one you decide to see, you will have unforgettable views of the many skylines of New York City! The pictures below show what you can expect to see from each of the observation decks.
Day or night, the views from this iconic building are outstanding. You can choose from two viewing platforms: the 86th Floor and the 102nd floor.
This view is looking south with a view of One World Observatory.
15. Top of the Rock
This is the view looking south. Top of the Rock is located in Rockefeller Center in Midtown which means you can see three of the five skyscraper observation decks along the nyc skyline.
16. One World Observatory (the Freedom Tower)
This is the view looking northeast. You can see the Brooklyn Bridge, the Manhattan Bridge and the Williamsburg Bridge.
One World Observatory is the tallest building in the Western hemisphere.
No matter what direction you look from One World Observatory, there are spectacular New York City views.
This stunning view is looking south from 1,200 feet high.
One small section of Edge has a glass floor so you can get a look at NYC from over 1,000 feet above the street!
With outrageous 360-degree views from atop SUMMIT One Vanderbilt, you take your pick of views!
Unlike the other observation decks, SUMMIT gives you a view of Central Park and so much more!
Parks with the Best Free Views
Many of NYC's parks offer the best views of New York City all for free.
We already mention the parks in DUMBO above. But there's even more, and with views of different parts of the city.
Visiting one of the parks below gets you a two-for-one! Enjoy a beautiful green space and get amazing skyline views!
19. Central Park
The view from inside Central Park is one of NYC's most iconic. This much-loved park is surrounded by some of the city's most beautiful buildings.
Just to name a few, you can see the Neo-Renaissance Beresford, the Plaza Hotel, and even the Ghostbusters Building!
For the most cinematic skyline from Central Park, go ice skating in Wollman Rink! For the most relaxing view, head to the Sheep Meadow, lie down and look up!
Other great views are from Belvedere Castle, Gapstow Bridge, and the Pond.
Find out more about things to do in Central Park here.
20. High Line Park
The High Line is a narrow, vertical park that stretches from 14th Street to 30th Street on Manhattan's west side parallel to the Hudson River.
What is unique about the views from the High Line is that you get a look at Manhattan inward as well as outward.
You will have views of Manhattan from a perspective different from most other locations in Manhattan. Read more about the High Line.
21. Little Island
Since Manhattan is long and gets narrower as you go toward the bottom, you can find views of Lower Manhattan from certain waterfront locations in Midtown Manhattan.
Little Island is one such location. Situated on the waterfront in Chelsea, this most unusual park provides a view of Lower Manhattan and New Jersey.
You can even see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island way, way off in the distance!
Long Island City Parks
It's easy to reach Long Island City and worth the subway ride for the fantastic panoramic view of the eastern skyline of Midtown Manhattan.
This captivating sunset view of the city is from Hunter's Point South.
24. Domino Park
This small waterfront park in Williamsburg was designed by the same architects as the High Line and Little Island.
The views of the city's skyline are great and it's especially good for families as it has a funky playground!
It combines Brooklyn’s past with its future. Some of the industrial structures that had been in this location for decades remain and are integrated into the park.
It makes for an interesting atmosphere.
25. Marsha P. Johnson State Park
This 7-acre park in the heart of Williamsburg has incredible views of Manhattan from its lush lawn.
There is also a sliver of a pebbly beach and you can stick your toes into the East River…if you dare!
In addition to the views, you can experience Smorgasboard, the largest weekly open-air food market in America.
Come for the views. Stay for the food!
New Jersey (in particular, Hoboken, Jersey City, and Weehawken) offers views of the Manhattan skyline on its west side.
The park is known for its fireworks on the 4th of July.
It is also the location of the Empty Sky memorial dedicated to the residents of New Jersey who died on 9/11.
Located in Hoboken, you can get great views of Midtown Manhattan and pose with Frank Sinatra's statue! Click here for a map and directions.
28. 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.