Top 10 Things to Do in NYC for First-Time Visitors

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    The Best Things to Do in NYC

    10 Things to Do in NYC for First-Time Visitors
    ••• Jen Davis / NYC & Company

    Inimitable New York City – with its soaring skyscrapers, Broadway marquees, world-class museums, colorful neighborhoods, and pleasant parks – is positively abuzz, brimming with boundless activity and potential for adventure. As such, for the first-time visitor, navigating the city's seemingly endless possibilities can understandably feel a bit overwhelming. That's why going in with a bucket-list, like our curated list of expert picks for the top 10 things to do in NYC for first-time visitors, is downright essential. While the city extends to include five boroughs, of course (all with their own distinct charms), first-time travelers tend to initially dig in on Manhattan's must-see sights and world-class icons. Accordingly, here are 10 Manhattan essential sights and attractions for any newbie to NYC.

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  • 02 of 11

    Take in Sweeping Skyline Views

    10 Things to Do in NYC for First-Time Visitors
    ••• One World Observatory. Tagger Yancey / NYC & Company

    In Manhattan, it's all about those jaw-dropping skyline views. Get up to vertigo-inducing heights to really gain perspective on the city's unique island terrain and skyscraping architecture. There are a trio of dedicated observatories that propose just such primo perches: the classic Empire State Building, of course, with indoor and outdoor observation decks on both the 86th and 102nd floors; the multilevel decks (spanning floors 67 to 70) at Rockefeller Center's Top of the Rock; and the newest Downtown addition at the 2015-debuted One World Observatory, straddling the 100th, 101st, and 102nd stories atop the Western Hemisphere's tallest building at One World Trade Center.

    Of course, you can nab a sweet view for free, too, by wandering out onto the 19th-century span of the Brooklyn Bridge, or can get a pretty spectacular one for just the price of a tipple. Pair sparkling city panoramas, with cocktail in hand, at favorite rooftop/high-altitude watering holes like The Roof...MORE at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, overlooking Central Park; Bar 54, the city's highest rooftop bar, set in the heart of Times Square; or Bar SixtyFive, in classy Rockefeller Center.

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  • 03 of 11

    Set Sail Into New York Harbor

    10 Things to Do in NYC for First-Time Visitors
    ••• Schooner saiing with Classic Harbor Line. Classic Harbor Line

    It's easy to forget, while in the midst of Manhattan's sprawling concrete jungle, that you're actually on an island at all. Indeed, New York City owes much of its success to its island setting (which has long allowed it status as a thriving maritime port), situated at the mouth of New York Harbor and flanked by the Hudson and East Rivers on two sides. Sailing Manhattan Island's waterway perimeters is a wonderful way to gain insight into its unique geography and staggering architectural proportions – not to mention the chance to wave at Lady Liberty (who comes perched on an islet in the harbor) from the boat. You can hop on one of the classic tourist-oriented sightseeing boats (like The Beast speedboat, Staten Island Ferry, or Circle Line), or get more creative with NYC boat trips that even locals love (like schooner sailings aboard Classic Harbor Line or hands-on sailing lessons with the Offshore Sailing School).​

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  • 04 of 11

    Explore Central Park

    10 Things to Do in NYC for First-Time Visitors
    ••• Central Park's Bethesda Terrace. Christopher Postlewaite / NYC & Company

    The lungs of New York City and essentially one enormous communal backyard for green space-starved Manhattanites, Central Park is where just about everybody comes to kick back, unwind, exercise, and get centered in nature. Spanning a massive 843 acres, the park is home to numerous worthwhile attractions, including the Great Lawn (ideal for picnicking), the Loeb Boathouse (grab a bite or rent a canoe), Strawberry Fields (for John Lennon fans), the Central Park Zoo (penguins, anybody?), the Jackie Kennedy Onassis Reservoir (a popular jogging circuit), and more. Whether you wander leisurely on foot, go for a run, or rent a bike, you're sure to appreciate the urban oasis that the park provides.

    Prefer to tackle the vast terrain with an expert guide? Several companies provide guided park tours, including official park tours. During the warmer months, you can opt in to enjoy the park along with a side of entertainment, too, with annual events like the music-filled SummerStage programming,...MORE or the beloved free performances via Shakespeare in the Park.

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  • 05 of 11

    Watch a Broadway Show

    10 Things to Do in NYC for First-Time Visitors
    ••• Cats on Broadway. Noam Galai / Getty Images Entertainment

    Nowhere does theater bigger or better than Broadway in NYC! Take a stroll through Manhattan's Theater District, offshooting the Times Square area, and you'll be spoiled for choice, with marquees set aglow with ads for the latest shows and stars (with Hollywood celebrities often stepping in for special Broadway stints). The choices are plentiful and ever-changing, with the hottest tickets requiring booking well in advance. Can't quite decide? Check out our picks for 5 must-see shows on Broadway for fall 2016 (and beyond) that'll give you some show ideas beyond just the much-buzzed-about Hamilton. Got kids in tow? Sneak a peek at our choices for 5 great Broadway shows for kids, for a production that the whole family's sure to enjoy.

    Of course, Broadway's pricey, so do try to scout for savings. Hit up the TKTS booth in Times Square for same-day theater ticket discounted at up to 50 percent off; or, time your visit to coincide with the biannual Broadway Week (held in...MORE fall and again in winter) to nab two-for-one deals on select shows.

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  • 06 of 11

    Take in The Met

    10 Things to Do in NYC for First-Time Visitors
    ••• Halls of antiquity fill the Met. Tagger Yancey IV / NYC & Company

    The massive Metropolitan Museum of Art – better known as The Met by most New Yorkers) – tops our list of the can't-miss museums in NYC. Measuring in as the largest museum in the Western Hemisphere, visitors could easily get lost for hours taking in any one of the collections here, with a staggering selection of arts and artifacts spanning some 5,000 years of world cultures. Peruse Greek and Roman statues from antiquity, stare at the intricacies of Egyptian hieroglyphics and sarcophagi (don't miss the astounding Temple of Dendur), or wander through halls dedicated to pretty much every other culture and era, including African, Indian, Byzantine, an Islamic artworks. There's an impressive display of European paintings, too (including Rembrandts and Vermeers, as well as plenty of Impressionist pieces); if that wasn't enough, look out for more than 30 special exhibitions held every year, too.

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  • 07 of 11

    Walk Across the Brooklyn Bridge

    10 Things to Do in NYC for First-Time Visitors
    ••• The Brooklyn Bridge connects Brooklyn and Manhattan. Julienne Schaer / NYC & Company

    A leading NYC landmark and the city's most celebrated bridge, traversing the neo-Gothic span of the Brooklyn Bridge on foot has marked a New York rite of passage since it first debuted in 1883. Architecturally elegant, with twin arched towers and an artful web of suspension cables, the bridge not only proposes a practical means of connecting pedestrian (and vehicular) traffic between Downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn, but it also presents exhilarating panoramas over both borough's skylines, as well as out over New York Harbor and onto the East River. Before you set out on this most memorable trek, read up on everything you need to know about the Brooklyn Bridge (including its colorful history and some interesting stats), then stock up on some tips for walking across the bridge (like how to access it from Manhattan), to ensure that you make the most of it.

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  • 08 of 11

    See the Statue of Liberty & Visit Ellis Island

    10 Things to Do in NYC for First-Time Visitors
    ••• Lady Liberty in New York Harbor. Marley White / NYC & Company

    You'll undoubtedly be sharing the experience with throngs of other tourists, but navigating the lines and crowds is well worth it for the chance to gaze upon the modern-day colossus that is the Statue of Liberty. A symbol of American democracy – and onetime beacon of hope and promise for immigrants arriving to U.S. shores by boat via New York Harbor – is indeed, still today, an inspiring sight to behold. Dating to 1886 (as a gift from France to the American people), the monumental 151-foot-high sculpture (sculpted by Frédéric Bartholdi and engineered by Gustave Eiffel) sits atop a pedestal out on Liberty Island, which guests reach via Statue Cruises ferry service from Battery Park in Downtown Manhattan. Just be sure to plan ahead, since access to the statue's pedestal or interior (including its crown) can be arranged with advance reservations only.

    While the statue may garner most of the glory, don't overlook a visit to neighboring attraction Ellis Island. Now a national...MORE museum of immigration, the complex once served as federal immigration station and processing center for new arrivals to the U.S. between 1892 and 1954 – expect an altogether insightful presentation, via artifacts, photographs, and multimedia exhibits, of the immigrant experience in America. Best of all, entry's included with your ferry fare, so plan ahead to make a day of it.

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  • 09 of 11

    Visit the MoMA

    10 Things to Do in NYC for First-Time Visitors
    ••• MoMA is a treasure chest of contemporary art. Alex Lopez / NYC & Company

    Manhattan's Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is a mecca for modern art lovers, boasting one of the world's most impressive and extensive collections of contemporary art, spanning paintings, sculptures, installations, and more. Works from big names like Van Gogh (look out for The Starry Night), Picasso (including his famous Les Demoiselles d'Avignon), Warhol, and more line the halls, and a busy schedule of special exhibitions, films, educational programs, and cultural events ensure the museum is always abuzz with something new for art enthusiasts.

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  • 10 of 11

    Hit Up the High Line

    10 Things to Do in NYC for First-Time Visitors
    ••• The High Line is a favorite of locals and tourists alike. Marley White / NYC & Company

    New Yorkers can't agree on much – where to get the best slice of pizza, what's the best sports team, you name it. But one thing that we can all come together on is in absolutely loving the High Line. Indeed, the 2009-debuted High Line park has proved to be one of the city's most beloved public projects, having transformed an old abandoned train trestle into an elevated, 30-foot-high urban green space. Stretching for nearly 1.5 miles from the Meatpacking District (next to the Whitney Museum of American Art) to the massive high-rise development underway at Hudson Yards, look out for these 10 highlights along the High Line en route, including landscaped gardens and lawns, public art installations, overlooks, and more. Bonus: Check out, too, the slate of free events and activities that the park hosts year-round.

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  • 11 of 11

    Go to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum

    10 Things to Do in NYC for First-Time Visitors
    ••• The 9/11 Memorial pays tribute to what was. Marley White / NYC & Company

    Many visitors to NYC feel compelled to not only pay their respects to the site of 9/11's Ground Zero, but to also see how the World Trade Center area has gone on to reinvent itself since that fateful day in 2001. The outdoor National September 11 Memorial, which opened in 2011, fills in the imprints of the original Twin Towers with two reflecting waterfall-fed pools, traced by memorial walls that depict the names of 9/11 victims (it's free to the public). In 2014, the adjacent National September 11 Memorial Museum opened its doors, serving to present the story, impact, and significance of September 11 through historical artifacts, multimedia displays, archives, and oral histories. The museum (admission fees apply) unfolds at the foundation, or bedrock, of the former World Trade Center site and centers on two core exhibitions. The "In Memoriam" exhibit pays tribute to the nearly 3,000 victims of the attacks, while a historical exhibition examines the events surrounding...MORE the three American sites struck during 9/11, including contributing factors to the tragic incident, as well as its aftermath and worldwide impact.