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NYC Tourist Attractions

Updated: November 1, 2023

It's easy to get carried away when recommending the 'must-see' tourist attractions in NYC.

As local walking tour guides, we each have our favorites. Collectively, we've pretty much seen it all and done it all in the Big Apple!

Here's our long list of NYC tourist attractions including the best free as well as the top ones that charge admission.

We also list family-friendly, nighttime, and neighborhood-specific attractions, with a New York City tourist map pointing them out.

Below is a map listing many other free landmarks and points of interest as well as resources for even more free attractions (there are over 100).

We list additional attractions that are completely free of charge.

Click the free New York attractions map for an interactive version.

Click the free New York attractions map for an interactive version.

Be sure to check out our master post on free things to do in NYC as well as our post on free museums and attractions.

There you will find even more free attractions, including paid attractions that offer free days.


TOP PAID NYC TOURIST ATTRACTIONS

We wish it weren't the case, but not all the best things to see and do in NYC are free. In some cases, tickets and the cost of admission are a bit higher than we'd like.

Still, that hasn't stopped any one of our guides from enjoying these attractions.

In fact, some of us see Broadway shows, visit museums, and attend sports games several times a year.

Below are what we think are the top 10 must-do activities for tourists to NYC, and beneath that are more fantastic sites that charge admission.

But before we list them, there is a way you can visit many of them for free or at a discount (who doesn't love saving money!)

If you plan to visit at least 2 of the city's top paid attractions, then look into an all-inclusive tourist attraction discount pass.

With some good planning, you will save enough that it's the same as if you are getting 1 or 2 attractions for free each day on top of the ones you pay for.

Our post explaining and comparing the various attraction passes can help you decide if getting one is right for you.

We also share tips on how to maximize your savings with these passes.


Our Top 10 NYC Tourist Attractions


EVEN MORE NYC TOURIST ATTRACTIONS

Click on any of these attractions for details and information on how to visit them.

Be sure to check out our neighborhood, nighttime, and family-friendly sections for more ideas.


FREE ATTRACTIONS IN NEW YORK

Ahh, now to the good part. One reason so many of us live in NYC is because of all the amazing things you can do for free here.

At the top of this list are things we enjoy over and over again - because you can walk the Brooklyn Bridge dozens of times and it never gets boring.

Every visit to Central Park feels like the first time. Walking the High Line never gets old. Free museums? As many as we can get to!

You could fill up many, many days (and weeks) in NYC seeing these attractions and not spend a penny on them!


Our Top 10


Museums


Memorials


Great Public Spaces


Famous Buildings


Free Shows and Music

Many of our walking tours stop at one or more of the above sights, like the Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park and the 9/11 Memorial.

Our tours are free to sign up for and operate on a pay-what-you-wish basis. That's why our guides strive hard to give you the best experience possible exploring the city with them.

Plus, we love to share our enthusiasm about NYC with others.


THE BEST ATTRACTIONS FOR KIDS

Here are activities your kids will love, just like many of us did when we were little (like the famous Blue Whale at the American Museum of Natural History).

This map includes our picks for the top 21 NYC attractions for children, tweens, and teens.

Click the family-friendly New York attractions map for an interactive version.

Our post on things to do with kids in New York City has loads more suggestions, while our 3-day kid-friendly NYC itinerary can help you organize your trip.


NYC ATTRACTIONS OPEN LATE

It may be a cliche, but it happens to be true that New York City is the city that never sleeps.

There is always something going on around town after dark.

These are the top 10 attractions with late-night hours, including free and kid-friendly attractions.

Top 10 Attractions with Late Hours

For even more ideas, see our in-depth post on things to do in NYC at night.


Free Attractions

In addition to what was mentioned in other sections, here are 5 more ideas.

Our Things To Do For Free post has loads more budget-friendly ideas for night.


Kid-Friendly

Here are 4 more kid-friendly places in addition to those above in other sections of this post.

Be sure to see our things to do with kids post for more nighttime things to do with kids.


NYC ATTRACTIONS BY NEIGHBORHOOD

If you haven't yet discovered, NYC is made up of hundreds of unique neighborhoods, each with its own personality and attractions.

Our neighborhood posts go into what makes each of these neighborhoods special and the many things to see in each.

To see where these neighborhoods are in relation to one another, see the interactive map in our NYC neighborhoods post.


Attractions from Midtown to Harlem


Lower Manhattan to the Financial District


Brooklyn Attractions

Be sure to also check out our post on things to do in Brooklyn.


TOURIST ATTRACTION DISCOUNT PASSES

We mentioned above that you can save quite a lot with a New York City tourist attraction discount pass.

Below we explain briefly how they work and what sets each of them apart.

For a greater explanation and comparison, click here.

Passes differ in what attractions are included, but there is a bit of overlap.

These are the top attractions available on all three major New York tourist passes.

  • Hop-on-Hop-off Bus Tour
  • Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island Ferry
  • Top of the Rock Observation Deck
  • Madame Tussauds
  • 9/11 Memorial & Museum
  • American Museum of Natural History
  • Museum of Modern Art
  • Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
  • Clipper City Sailing Cruise
  • Whitney Museum of American Art
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Inside Broadway Walking Tour

Note: We update this section every 6-months, so there could be discrepancies. Last updated in January 2023.

If you're looking for an attraction that isn't listed above, it may be included in one pass, but not the others.

Passes are one way to save money, but you should also take a look at Groupon and Living Social for other discounts they offer from time to time on some of the most popular activities in New York City.


New York Pass

The following attractions are not included with some of the other tourist passes in New York City.

  • Empire State Building
  • Rockefeller Center Tour
  • Catacombs by Candlelight
  • Fotografiska NYC
  • LEGOLAND
  • The Ride
New York Pass Reviews

Recommendation

If you are dead set on going to the Empire State Building, this pass may be right for you.

Plus, it includes other special experiences not found with the other passes.


New York Sightseeing Pass

These attractions may not be offered by other tourist passes.

Sightseeing Flex Pass NYC
  • One World Observatory
  • LOL Times Square Comedy Club
  • New York Aquarium
  • Central Park Zoo
  • Bronx Zoo

Recommendation

This pass is an excellent option if you want to see many top attractions.

It is especially good for families with children since it includes the Central Park Zoo, the Bronx Zoo and the Aquarium.

This is available as either an all-inclusive pass or a set number of attractions pass.

The "Before You Buy" section of our New York tourist pass post explains the difference between these options.


Explorer Pass

This list includes only attractions that aren't offered by at least one of the other New York tourist passes.

  • Empire State Building
  • Rockefeller Center Tour
  • Escape Virtuality VR
  • LEGOLAND
  • The TOUR

Recommendation

Many of these attractions are also included with the New York Sightseeing Pass.

The main difference between the two is that the Explorer Pass lets you pay one flat price for a certain number of activities.

This Explore Pass can be used at any time over the course of an entire month, affording you flexibility should you need it.


SPOTLIGHT ON THREE TOP NYC ATTRACTIONS

These three attractions are among the most popular with visitors to New York City -- and here's why.


Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

This national historic landmark is one of the most popular attractions in NYC with more than 3 million tourists every year, and for good reason.

The Statue of Liberty is recognizable by most Americans as the symbol of freedom. 

Lady Liberty was a gift to the United States from France commemorating the alliance of these two countries during the American Revolution.

It was formally presented to the U.S. ambassador on July 4, 1884, in Paris.

Ellis Island is a destination for those looking to learn about the plight of immigrants coming to the United States.

Tens of millions of Americans can trace at least one ancestor as an immigrant who passed through Ellis Island.

If you can't make it out to the Statue of Liberty, you can get a good view of her and New York Harbor from Battery Park at the tip of Manhattan and also from the Staten Island Ferry.


The Brooklyn Bridge

Another famous landmark in New York City, the Brooklyn Bridge is not just an iconic structure, but also a significant part of NYC’s past. 

When it was completed in 1883, it made it possible for people to cross the East River.

The free flow of people between Manhattan and Brooklyn resulted in the growth of New York City.

You can learn about the Brooklyn Bridge and its fascinating history on our pay-what-you-like Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn Heights, and DUMBO Tour!


Freedom Tower

One of the best things to do on a trip to New York City is to visit the Freedom Tower (officially known as One World Observatory).

It’s the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere and the views are breathtaking! 

One World Observatory

Adjacent to the Freedom Tower is the 9/11 Museum and Memorial.

The museum offers in-depth insight into the victims and heroes of the tragic events of 9/11.

The Memorial, which is free to visit, is a solemn, peaceful site.

The two massive waterfalls are the largest man-made fountains in North America in the footprint of where the Twin Towers stood. 


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About The Author

Stephen Pickhardt

Stephen is the CEO of Free Tours by Foot and has overseen the transformation of a local walking tour company into a global tour community and traveler’s advice platform. He has personally led thousands of group tours in the US and Europe, and is an expert in trip planning and sightseeing, with a focus on budget travelers. Stephen has been published and featured in dozens of publications including The Wall Street Journal, BBC, Yahoo, Washington.org, and more.
Updated: November 1st, 2023
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