New York City, New York!
So, you’ve arrived in New York City with only a short time to experience all the awesomeness that the Big Apple has to offer. If that’s the case, then here are our recommendations for the must sees…
New York City Pass
To get the best value for money out of your time in New York city, we suggest you buy a New York City Pass. Passes vary in cost depending on the number days you want yours to last for. Passes can last for 1, 2, 3, 5, 7 or 10 days, so you can select the one that’s going to suit your needs.
The pass gives you access to over 90 New York city attractions plus a one day hop-on, hop-off bus tour. We highly recommend you take the bus tour if you have time. You can use it to get you to many of the locations we suggest visiting in this post.
The pass also gives you fast track entry to the ten attractions below, and a handy guide book that includes information and maps.
New York City Pass Prices
Adult passes range form $119USD to $339USD and a child’s pass ranges from $89USD to $220USD. There are often online sales for these passes, so keep your eye out for those if you are planning a trip to the Big Apple.
Fast Track Attractions
The High Line Walk
The High Line is a free, major, historic public park in New York city that provides a wonderful, green, elevated space for walking and sightseeing. Interestingly it is also an example of nature reclaiming developed land. You are going to love the views!
History of the High Line
The High Line was originally an elevated railway line. It accommodated freight trains that were considered too dangerous to transport their goods at ground level. The line runs above the west side of Manhattan, from the Meat Packing District to West 34th Street.
The once busy line saw the trains stop running altogether by 1980. Left abandoned for almost 20 years, nature took over reclaiming the land as her own. The line was slated for demolition in the late 1990s. However, in 1999 local residents formed a coalition called ‘Friends of the High Line’ to save it from that fate. They worked to ensure that the structure would not only be preserved but repurposed as a public park.
In 2002 the then mayor of New York city committed to the redevelopment of the site into a one-of-a-kind park. A park you shouldn’t miss visiting!
High Line Opening Times
- Dec 1 to Mar 31 – 7.00am – 7.00pm
- Apr 1 to May 31 – 7.00am – 10.00pm
- June 1 to Sept 30 – 7.00am – 11.00pm
- Oct 1 to Nov 30 – 7.00am – 10.00pm
Park Entrance and Accessibility
The High Line is an accessible park with access points for wheelchair users located at the following park entrance points. Other park features including peel-up picnic tables, the beams play feature, and the Rail Track Walk are also wheelchair accessible.
Gansevoort and Washington Street (elevator access)
14th Street (elevator access)
16th Street (elevator access)
23rd Street (elevator access)
30th Street (elevator access)
34th Street and 12th Avenue (ramp access, 7am – sunset)
Other park entrances, via staircases, can be found at –
30th Street and 11th Avenue
Make sure you visit the historically significant Tiffany & Co. Foundation Overlook. This is the site where the original line was severed in the 1990s. From this vantage point you can see east into the Meat Packing District and west to the Whitney Museum of American Art. Both of these are also well worth visiting!
Sundeck and Water Feature
Between West 14th and 15th streets is an interesting water feature where walkers can dip their feet, during Spring and Summer. Not many public parks allow interaction with water features, so take advantage! The Diller – von Furstenberg Sundeck & Water Feature is a really fun element of this incredible park. Make sure you try one of the lounge chairs there as well!
Nature and Nurture
If you’re keen to see an example of nature reclaiming the land of the High Line, then head to the Interim Walkway. You won’t be disappointed in the views of the Hudson River and the city from here either!
To see some of the unique plantings in the park, stop at the Northern Spur Preserve. This area can be found at West 16th Street where the High Line crosses over 10th Avenue.
10th Avenue Square and Overlook
Just past these plantings you will find an amphitheatre made from reclaimed steel beams from the original railway. From this location you get incredible views of the Statue of Liberty and the Hudson River. It’s a fantastic location for taking some amazing holiday snapshots!
High Line Tours
Free tours of the High Line are led by very knowledgable volunteers from the Friends of the High Line organisation. You can check the tour times and dates in the link provided to their calendar of events. Other events at the High Line are also noted in this calendar.
The Rockefeller Center is an iconic New York city site to visit at any time of the year. However, if you happen to be in New York towards the Christmas / Thanksgiving holiday season, it is even more spectacular!
Not only is the Center, affectionately known as The Rock, an iconic piece of architecture, it is also home to some of the New York city’s most sought after attractions. So it has cemented itself as a must do Big Apple destination.
History of the Rock
The Center opened in 1933 before it was fully completed. It wasn’t fully finished until 1939. The building, and its fittings and fixtures, are famous examples of Art Deco design. It’s worth visiting just for that feature as far as we are concerned!
Attractions at The Rock
Top of the Rock
The Top of the Rock is an incredible observation deck situated, as the name suggests, right at the very top of the Rockefeller Center. The entrance is located on 50th Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues. You have to see the views, seriously!
The Top of the Rock is open daily from 8am – Midnight. Ticket sales close at 11pm and the last elevator goes up at 11:15pm. However, we suggest you buy the New York City Pass mentioned earlier in this post, rather than buy tickets at the attraction itself.
Rockefeller Center Tours
If you are a history, architecture, or art buff then this tour is tailor made for you! The tour’s guide is an expert historian, which is simply awesome. They walk you through the history of the building and its incredible works of art. Also included in the tour is a detailed description of the center’s buildings, gardens, and other spaces.
To buy an individual ticket for this tour visit the attraction website. Tickets are $27USD.
The Rink at The Rock
The ice skating rink at the Rockefeller Center opens in October each year. In order to avoid disappointment, we suggest you check the rink’s website for the specific dates for the time you’ll be travelling.
The rink can accommodate 150 skaters at a time. This seems like a lot of skaters, but at popular times you’ll need to be prepared to wait. You can bring your own skates or hire ones on site. If you aren’t a fan of waiting, then you can make advance reservations for the VIP Igloo and skip the lines!
Tickets are priced as follows –
Standard Ticket: $60USD – October 14 – November 17, 2017
Holiday Ticket: $75 – $150USD – November 18, 2017 – January 7, 2018
If you’re a first time skater then you can have skating lessons at the rink. Private lessons last for 30 minutes and cost $50USD. Semi-private lessons, for 2 people at the same time, cost $80USD ($40USD per person). You can have lessons from 8.30am – 5pm daily. Reservations are recommended if you’d like a lesson though.
Empire State Building
The Empire State Building is an icon on the New York city skyline. The much photographed and heavily visited site, is a tourist mecca for travellers to the Big Apple. No visit to New York city is complete without seeing it!
The building itself is an Art Deco skyscraper located on 5th Avenue. It is 102 storeys high with a large observation deck at the very top. The Empire State building was designed by Shreve, Lamb & Harmon and construction began on March 17, 1930. Ever since its opening it has been a popular New York city tourist attraction, with approximately 4 million visitors spending time at its two observatories every year.
The observatories are located on the 86th and 102nd floors. The former, which is the more famous, is also the highest open-air observatory in the city. You will no doubt have seen many photographs and movies featuring the 86th floor observation deck area. However, nothing compares to actually being there!
Two Distinct Observatories
The 86th floor is known as the Main Deck. It wraps around the building affording visitors an uninterrupted, 360 degree view of magical New York city. From here you will see Central Park, the Hudson and East Rivers, the Brooklyn Bridge, Times Square, and the Statue of Liberty to name a few. Check the etched skyline signs on the deck to see what it is you are looking at from the various vantage points.
The Top Deck on the 102nd floor is a closed observatory. To get to this observatory you take a ride in the manually operated, art deco, elevator. This is an experience all by itself! Even though the Top Deck provides a viewing experience from behind glass windows, it is nothing short of spectacular.
The 80th and 2nd Floors
Other areas in the building worth seeing are the 80th and 2nd floors. The 80th floor is home to the Dare To Dream Exhibit. This fascinating exhibit details the planning and building of the city’s most iconic building. It’s well worth spending some time here.
The 2nd floor is home to the Visitor Center and Sustainability Exhibit. Every visitor to the building passes through the visitor center to clear security. Immediately after the security area is the Sustainability Exhibit. This exhibit explains to visitors all about the environmentally friendly, energy-saving, retrofit that began in 2009.
If you are interested in sustainability you will enjoy this exhibit. Even it you’re not, it’s still very interesting.
Tickets and Opening Times
The Empire State building is open from 8am to 2am every day of the year. It is an included attraction, with fast track entry, with the New York City pass.
Standard tickets range from $30USD for a child to $36USD for an adult, to view the Main Deck. Main Deck VIP tickets are available for $65 per person and give you an express pass to the deck itself.
If you want to visit both observatories, tickets range from $50USD for a child to $56USD for an adult. VIP tickets can be purchased for this two deck experience for $85 a person.
Macy’s – New York City
Macy’s was established in 1858 and is known colloquially as the Great American Department Store. Their stores are in 740 locations across the US. However, their flagship store is in Herald Square, 151 West 34th Street.
Whether you are a shopper or not, it’s worth going to this store. Macy’s Herald Square covers almost 205,000 square meters, making it one of the world’s largest department stores.
Radio City Music Hall and the Rockettes
Radio City Music Hall
Located in the Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall is an historic must-see building! The building was commenced in 1931 and finished in 1932. The music hall officially opened on December the 27th 1932.
You can tour the building, even if you don’t have time to go to an event, through an organised tour. The main tour is called the Radio City Stage Door Tour. This tour is included with the New York City Pass.
If you are an Art Deco or history buff you may want to add on the Radio City Art Deco Tour. This specialised tour includes everything from the Stage Door Tour as well as a detailed look at the interior design of the hall itself.
Tours run daily from 9.30am to 5pm
Stage Door Tour Ticket Prices:
Children (12 & under), Students and Seniors: $19.95USD
Radio City Rockettes
The Rockettes have been performing their world renowned spectaculars for almost 100 years at Radio City. Initially movies debuted at the Hall supported by lavish Rockettes’ productions.
The Rockettes have been an integral party of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York city since the 1950s. They have also appeared in many television spectaculars.
From November to January each year the Rockettes perform their internationally famous Christmas Spectacular. This is a show you absolutely cannot miss if you are in New York during that time of the year.
We’ve been once, a few years back, and always talk about going again!
Tickets and Prices
Prices for the Christmas Spectacular range from $45USD to $700USD depending on days, times and inclusions. The more expensive tickets include premium seating and the VIP Elite Experience.
The VIP tickets give you entrance via your own private entrance to enjoy a pre-show reception in the Roxy Suite. There you will have the opportunity to meet the Rockettes and Santa. All whilst enjoying delicious food before the show. You will be escorted to the best seats in the house to enjoy the spectacular.
The Rockettes also make an appearance each year at the Rockefeller Center Tree-Lighting Ceremony. This is in amongst their other five to seven shows a week during the November to January period.
With around 42 million visitors each year, Central Park is the most visited urban park in the United States. The park has been open for 160 years and is managed by the Central Park Conservancy. It is a unique, and iconic, green space in the middle of one of the world’s busiest cities.
Getting Around the Park
The park covers 843 acres of land that is bordered by 5th Avenue, West 59th Street, Central Park West, and Central Park North. Maps of walking tours, running and cycling tracks, and playgrounds are useful tools when planning your trip to Central Park. We used the four self-guided walking tour maps this time around!
If you don’t fancy a walk, run or ride then you might like to try a horse drawn carriage. Whilst we didn’t try one on this trip, we have done it before. We can say without a doubt, it is extremely memorable. We thoroughly enjoyed freezing our Aussie butts off on Christmas Day in one of these horse drawn pieces of New York city history!
Things to See and Do
There is a spectacular array of things to see and do in Central Park. Amongst the things to see are castles, lakes, historic houses, water features, sculptures, the zoo, and the iconic carousel. You will not be bored, or disappointed, that you spent time in the park during your visit.
Central Park is free for visitors and is open every day of the year. The park opens at 6am and closes at 1am each day.
Parts of the park may be closed at various times throughout the year. To minimise disappointment it is worth checking the alerts and closures page of the Conservancy’s website. There you can check if something you want to see is affected by any closures.
Museum of Modern Art
If you are a lover of modern art, you cannot go to New York without spending some time at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). MoMA is situated in Midtown Manhattan at 11 West 53rd Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues. Outside of New York city proper, there is another site in Queens, MoMA PS1.
MoMA aims to celebrate diverse cultural, artistic, social, and political positions in its choice of art and artists. The museum presents a dynamic range of thought provoking, contemporary art work in static and temporary exhibitions. MoMA is generally considered one the the most influential museums of modern art in the world. It is both awe inspiring and breath taking at the same time!
Admission to MoMA is included in the New York City Pass or can be purchased separately.
Children 16 years old and younger – free
Full-time students with ID – $14USD
Seniors 65+ with ID – $18USD
Adults – $25USD
Times Square is another New York tourist Mecca! Be prepared…..because it is not a square! If you’re thinking that it will be like a European or South American capital city with a large, central square around which major historical buildings are located, you will be disappointed.
Times Square is in fact a major intersection in Midtown Manhattan. It is the intersection of 7th Avenue and Broadway. It encompasses the area from West 47th to West 42nd Streets. Many think of it as the heart of New York city, and the centre of entertainment and tourism for the city.
Famous for its bright, colourful billboards and advertisements it is a photographers heaven. You won’t be able to resist taking a heap of happy snaps and selfies here! Nearly 50 million visitors come to Times Square each year, around 330,000 every hour. Don’t expect to be there alone, you’ll have to patient to get an incredible shot.
TKTS Booths – A Poorly Kept New York City Secret!
One key location in Times Square is the TKTS discounted theatre ticket box office. If you are thinking of seeing a Broadway show, this is the place to get your tickets. It’s located behind the tiered, red seating in the centre of the intersection. There are also satellite booths at South Street Seaport, Downtown Brooklyn, and Lincoln Center.
Take advantage of the heavily discounted, same day tickets, that are available to many Broadway musicals and theatre shows. Discounts of up to 70% are available for numerous shows.
Be prepared to go early and queue! TKTS booths are always popular. For matinee performances they open at 10am. People line up from about 8.45am though. For evening performances they open at 3pm with queues starting several hours before that.
Queuing can be less at the satellite booths but you will still have to queue. Wear comfy shoes, dress for the weather, and bring something to drink, no matter which booth you got to. You’ll be in for a long wait, but it will be worth it!
Broadway is one of the theatrical epicentres of the world. Alongside the West End in the UK, it should be on every theatre buffs’ wish list. We never miss a show, or several, when we are in New York city. Neither should you!
There are 41 theatres showing professional plays and musicals throughout the Broadway area of Midtown. In those theatres there are 500+ seats, located in the Theater District and Lincoln Center along Broadway.
On this Round the World trip we decided to see a musical, Anastasia. Having lived in Russia for a year, the story was of great interest to us. The musical is based on the 1997 film of the same name, and tells the fictitious story of the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia.
The stage show for Anastasia was written by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty. Terrence McNally has also developed a book based on it. It is currently being performed on Broadway at the Broadhurst Theatre.
Tickets are normally between $363USD to $185USD depending on location in the theatre. However we only paid $120USD by buying our tickets at the TKTS booth.
We like to purchase from TKTS not only for the cheaper price, but also because the are a non-profit organisation that supports the performing arts.
The Attic Rooftop & Lounge
It prides itself on having both indoor and outdoor spaces for patrons to use whilst enjoying spectacular city views. We can vouch for the quality of the location and the views!
The Lounge is situated on the 15th floor and is styled in sleek, urban finishes that create an inviting space for talking, drinking and relaxing. With plenty of windows, you also get an amazing view of the cityscape from this area of the venue.
The Rooftop is on the 16th floor. It is a fairy light illuminated, partially open air space with sweeping views of New York city. This area also offers a covered, temperature controlled space for when the weather makes the outdoors uninviting.
Seating areas on the rooftop provide for intimate gatherings and larger groups. Making the space suitable to a multitude of revellers!
The Attic is a superb location to start or finish your evening. Enjoy a delectable cocktail, designer beer, or a top notch drink from the bottle list, whilst looking out over the impressive New York city skyline.
If you start your evening at The Attic and find it hard to leave, they do offer a menu of organic, locally sourced foods. Could it get any better?
Transport Options from JFK to New York
We took a shared Go Airlink shuttle transfer from the airport, to our first New York city hotel in Manhattan. For $28 one way, you can have a door-to-door transfer service, from JFK to the many hotels located all around Manhattan.
We were at our hotel just over an hour after leaving JFK! For our money, a shuttle service like the one we used is the most convenient way to get into New York city proper.
You can also use the AirTrain, which is cheaper. However, it takes much longer and you need to lug your bags much further. If you take this option it is best to buy a MetroCard. The AirTrain is free within the airport itself but to get to Manhattan you’ll need a MetroCard.
For accommodation options for your New York City stay see our post – Two New York Hotels with Charm and Convenience.
Are you ready to start planning your New York adventure?