Ten Best Attractions for First Time Visitors to New York

No destination defines America quite like NYC. Its food, people, and attractions showcase the diversity upon which this country built its foundation.
 
But as one of the world’s largest cities, it can be difficult to know where to begin. So that’s where we come in handy – below, we’ll offer up ten ideas that’ll get your NYC itinerary planning started.

(1) The Oculus

All rail lines in the NYC area (or so it seems) lead to The Oculus. Boasting breathtaking post-modern architecture, this transportation node takes trains from a dozen subway lines and the PATH commuter rail line.

Built to resemble a dove, the skylights are orientated to provide a special 9/11 memorial. From the time the first tower was struck (8:46 am) to the collapse of the second (10:28 am), a sunbeam shines on the floor.

(2) Central Park

As one of America’s biggest cities, it’s easy to think of New York City as a concrete jungle. But at its center lies its green heart, Central Park.

Bordered at every edge by towering skyscrapers, this green space acts as Manhattan’s backyard. Within five minutes, residents and office workers can quickly find solace among its shady oaks and elms. 

And so will you, but there’s more to this park than just greenery. Its many ornamental bridges will amaze architecture buffs, while children will love its zoo. There are numerous seasonal attractions as well. In summer, catch musical performances on its greens, while winter offers opportunities to go ice skating.

(3) The High Line

An elevated viaduct guided freight trains into factories and warehouses on New York’s West Side for over a century. But as trucking stole more business from railroads, the High Line shut down permanently in 1980.
 
For nearly 20 years, this structure lay in limbo while its owners fought bureaucrats over its fate. Eventually, a bold redevelopment proposal called for its conversion into an elevated park. Its backers compared it to similar projects in Europe and ultimately won.
 
From 2009 to 2014, the High Line Park opened in phases. Today, it offers nearly a mile and a half of greenery, an old track, and spectacular views.

(4) The Vessel

Standing 16 stories high and resembling a honeycomb, The Vessel stands out among the buildings at Hudson Yards. Described more accurately, it is a series of stylish stairs and landings that, once you’re inside, will have you feeling like you’re inside an MC Escher painting.

And that’s exactly the feeling its designers intended to provoke. The fantastic views of Midtown Manhattan, easily had from any landing, are just a bonus.

(5) Little Island

Well, it’s not technically an island, but in Manhattan, space is at a premium. So, in 2013, multimillionaires Barry Diller and Diane von Furstenberg built their own “island” out of 270 concrete pilings.
 
Thanks to their various heights and shapes, they resemble a leaf floating on water. Atop these pilings, workers laid planted sod and trees, giving birth to Little Island. Apart from its gardens and greenery, numerous amphitheaters and performance spaces are located here. Drop by if you are visiting during the summer months.   

An Intermission: What if You Need to Answer Nature’s Call?

As you go from one end of NYC to the other, it’s inevitable. Eventually, you’ll need to use the facilities. But where? Unlike in Europe, public toilets can be hard to find here.

If you’re trying to find public restrooms in NYC,  there are several places you can count on. University buildings on the campuses of NYU or Columbia have them, as do department stores. And when that fails, stop in for a beer at a bar/pub, and use the bathroom there.

With that out of the way, let’s get back to the post. 

(6) Top of the Rock

There are scores of observation decks in New York City. But considering that, we feel the Top of the Rock is among the best. In all directions, you’ll see iconic sights – Central Park, the Empire State Building, and the World Trade Center are just a few of them.

You’ll have to pay more than $50 to access this observation deck but trust us: it’s worth it. 

(7) Empire State Building

Of all the skyscrapers in NYC, few can match the Art Deco swagger of the Empire State Building. Standing over 100 stories tall, this structure has been the tallest in NYC twice – from its completion in 1931 to 1970 and (sadly) from 2001 to 2012.
 
The Empire State Building also has three popular observation decks. While barriers somewhat obstruct its sightlines, their heights – at the 80th, 86th, and 102nd floors – overcome this downside.

(8) Statue of Liberty

Over her history, Lady Liberty had greeted millions of immigrants entering New York Harbor. And today, it remains an essential tourist attraction for visitors all over the world.

If you’re in a rush, you can get great views (for free) from the Port Authority ferries that cross between NYC and New Jersey. But if you want to visit Liberty Island, you’ll need to buy a ticket to board a Circle Line ferry.  

(9) Flatiron Building

Photographers: looking for a classic structure that offers numerous killer photo ops? If so, make time to check out the Flatiron Building. Located south of Midtown Manhattan in the Flatiron District, this 22-story structure bends like a triangle, with its apex at the fork of Fifth Avenue and E 23rd Street.

(10) Brooklyn Bridge

Unlike most suspension spans, the Brooklyn Bridge stands out for its stone piers. Upon its completion in the 1880s, it was the longest bridge of its type in the world. And since then, it has occupied a special place in the hearts of New Yorkers.
 
After crossing it, go underneath it to DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) for some smashing pictures of this special span.

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