Ask New Yorkers about their feelings for their city, and they will often respond, “There’s just one New York.” By that they mean: one city so full of museums (more than 40 major ones); historical sites; world-famous institutions; parks; zoos; universities; lectures; concerts and recitals; theaters for opera, musicals, drama, and dance; architectural highlights; presidents’ homes; and kooky galleries. Its diversions are limitless, and you will never be bored. If you had the speed and stamina of a Usain Bolt, you would still be hard pressed to cover all of the attractions in several months of touring.
Because your own time is more limited than that, I’m confining my coverage to two categories of sights in this chapter: First, the city’s “iconic” attractions, by which I mean the places universally associated with Gotham—the headliners that make the city so massively popular. These include the major museums (the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim, just to name two); the great historical and architectural sites (including Grand Central Station and the Brooklyn Bridge); and, in a category all its own, New York’s most sobering site: the 9/11 Memorial.
Second are the less famous attractions that, if they were magically transported to almost any other city in America, would instantly become that city’s top cultural draw and bring it acclaim, prestige, and millions of dollars in tourist revenue (no, I do not exaggerate). These attractions—such as the Tenement Museum, the Museum of the Moving Image, The Frick Collection—while lesser known, can add immensely to a New York City visit. And therefore it’s important occasionally to step off the tourist treadmill (Empire State, Times Square, Statue of Liberty) and try one of the so-called secondary sights. If you have the time, visit at least one of the places you might never have heard of before consulting this website.
A Worthwhile Sightseeing Pass
CityPass used to be New York’s best sightseeing deal. It split into two parts in 2016, one of which I recommend (the original), the other of which needs to be gamed. Here are the details:
THE ORIGINAL: With this one, you pay one price ($132, or $108 for kids 6–17) for admission to six major attractions:
- The American Museum of Natural History (including the Space Show or an IMAX film)
- The Guggenheim Museum or Top of the Rock
- The Empire State Building Experience
- The 9/11 Memorial & Museum or The Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art
- The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, or a 2-hour Circle Line harbor cruise.
Individual tickets would cost 40%-50% more, though I should point out that the Museum of Natural History charges only "suggested" admission fees, meaning you could get in legally for a dollar there, which drops how much you save a hair.
More important, CityPass is not a coupon book. It contains actual tickets, so you can bypass lengthy lines. This can save you hours, as sights such as the Empire State Building often have ticket lines of an hour or more.
CityPass is good for 9 days from the first time you use it. It’s sold at all participating attractions and online at www.citypass.com/city/ny. You can download and self-print the pass or you may buy the pass at your first attraction (start at an attraction that’s likely to have the shortest admission line, such as the Guggenheim). However, if you begin your sightseeing on a weekend or during holidays, when lines are longest, online purchase is the smarter way to go.
CITYPASS 3: Covering only three attractions, these passes can either be on your smartphone or paper tickets. Users have the choice of all the sites above, plus Hornblower Sightseeing Cruises. The problem is that, at $74/adult and $54/child, it’s not really saving you money if you choose the Museum of Natural History and two others, since the Natural History museum has a pay-what-you-like policy. You could, however, save up to 25% if you went for the Guggenheim, a Hornblower Cruise, and the Intrepid.
Subway stops for New York’s Top Attractions
American Museum of Natural History -- B, C to 81st Street
The Cloisters -- A to 190th Street
Ellis Island -- 4, 5 to Bowling Green or N, R to Whitehall Street 1 to South Ferry
Guggenheim Museum -- 4, 5, 6 to 86th Street
Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum -- A, C, E to 42nd Street–Port Authority
Metropolitan Museum of Art -- 4, 5, 6 to 86th Street
Museum of Modern Art -- E to Fifth Avenue or B, D, F to 47th–50th streets–Rockefeller Center
Brooklyn Bridge -- 4, 5, 6 to Brooklyn Bridge–City Hall
Chrysler Building -- 4, 5, 6, 7, S to Grand Central–42nd Street
Empire State Building -- B, D, F, N, R, Q to 34th Street–Herald Square
Grand Central Terminal -- 4, 5, 6, 7, S to Grand Central–42nd Street
Rockefeller Center -- B, D, F to 47th–50th streets–Rockefeller Center
Staten Island Ferry -- 1 to South Ferry (first five cars)
United Nations -- 4, 5, 6, 7, S to Grand Central–42nd Street
Yankee Stadium -- 4, B, D to 161st River Avenue–Yankee Stadium
Chinatown -- 6, J, M, Z, N, R, Q to Canal Street
Greenwich Village -- A, C, E, B, D, F to West 4th Street
Times Square -- 1, 2, 3, 7, N, R, S to 42nd Street–Times Square
Wall Street -- 4, 5 to Wall Street or N, R to Rector Street
Cathedral of St. John the Divine -- 1 to Cathedral Parkway (110th St.)
St. Patrick’s Cathedral -- B, D, F to 47th–50th streets–Rockefeller Center or E to Fifth Avenue–53rd Street
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.