You have a limited amount of time in New York City, and there is an unlimited number of activities. So how best to spend your time? Everyone is different, and you can submit a request for personalized advice, but here are some of our favorite tips.
How can I make the most of my sightseeing time?
New York is big, and the most popular attractions are spread far and wide. If you're not careful, you can spend a lot of your time traveling from point A to point B to point C instead of enjoying them! Here are our recommended steps towards building your sightseeing itinerary:
- Start with an escorted tour. Depending on if you choose a basic overview or a full day tour, you'll knock out some of your must-do items right at the beginning, while getting a great overview of the city and familiarizing yourself with the geography. Our favorite is the Manhattan Experience Tour - an 8 hour tour with lunch in Little Italy, a harbor cruise, a close-up view of the Statue of Liberty, and a visit to Top fo the Rock all included!
- Make your "Must See" and "Must Do" list. This is different for everyone - some people can't leave New York without walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, some want to see at least three Broadway shows, and some want a whole day at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. What is important to you?
- Plan your strategy in advance. Arrange the list geographically so you can plan your days with as little travel in between sites as possible (book with New York Guest and we will happily help you with this step!). You don't want to try to do Central Park and South Street Seaport in the same day - instead plan to pay your respects at the 9/11 Memorial before walking over to the Seaport, and spend the next day exploring Central Park and visiting the neighboring American Museum of Natural History.
- Plan some - but not all - of your meals. Having a few restaurant reservations is a good idea, especially if you want to visit an iconic New York steakhouse, catch the view from the River Cafe, experience the glamour of Eleven Madison Park, or partake in another one of NYC's high-demand restaurants. However, you don't want to be tied to a specific neighborhood until your 8pm dining reservation if you finish your sightseeing earlier than planned. Plus, you never know what kind of cool places you'll walk by on your travels. New York is a gastronomic wonderland, and you should experience as much as possible!
- Leave at least half a day free. Some of us feel inclined to map out every moment of our trip, but be wary of overplanning. It's bound to happen: you'll arrive with every moment planned out, only to hear about the cool new exhibit at Discovery Times Square, or to find out the Bronx Zoo is open year-round, or there is a festival happening that wasn't advertised outside of the city. You always want to give yourself time to build on your experience, so don't arrive with every moment locked in.
Are Multiple Entry passes worth booking?
Books of tickets to popular sightseeing attractions have become increasingly popular, and are somewhat of a knee-jerk buy for some travelers. Our opinion? It's only worth it if you were going to go to more than half of the included sites anyway. You don't want to be trudging through your fourth museum "because it's included" when you only really wanted to go to one museum. The best way to take advantage of multi-entry deals is with those that allow you freedom of choice. For short stays, we highly recommend Freestyle New York which allows you to choose 3 or 5 attractions from a long list. If you're getting a whole week in NYC (lucky you!) the Seven Day New York Pass is an awesome deal - take advantage of 1 or 2 of the over 80 included admissions per day and you've gotten more than your money's worth!
Should I visit the Empire State Building or Top of the Rock?
Our advice is - don't choose! See them both. The Empire State Building is the iconic aerial view experience, but the Top of the Rock is a larger viewing area and the view includes the Empire State Building (as well as a close-up view of Central Park). Now, you don't want to spend hours of your visit waiting in line to get to the top, so our best advice is to visit the Empire State Building first thing in the morning (they open at 8 AM) to see the daylight view of the city and avoid the worst of the crowds. Visit Top of the Rock after 9pm, for a view of the lit up city, including the colorful twinkling lights of the Empire State Building.
Both the Empire State Building and Top of the Rock are included as options in two of our favorite NYC sightseeing packages - Freestyle New York and the New York Pass.
Should I go to Liberty Island to see the Statue of Liberty?
This is a common visitor conundrum - what do do about Lady Liberty. She's an iconic site for New York and the USA alike, and is not to be missed. However, taking the ferry to Liberty Island is not necessarily for everyone. The line for the ferry is long, and the trip takes a while. If you just want to see the Statue up close, there are other ways!
When to Visit Liberty Island
- If you are interested in the Immigration museum at the base of the statue, or if you also want to see Ellis Island - definitely make the trip! It's educational, moving, and fascinating. Just make sure you give yourself at least four hours to do it all.
- If you want to climb to the crown - just be aware this is extremely limited and must be booked well in advance. It's also a narrow, dark, long trip - not for the faint of heart or out of shape, especially in the summer! However, those who do it are rewarded with an incredible view, and an amazing story.
The Best Alternative Views
- The easiest way to get up close and personal is with a cruise of New York Harbor - you'll get your picture perfect view, along with other spectacular views of the skyline and iconic landmarks, without eating up your entire day. If time is limited, this is the recommended experience.
- Take a dining cruise - you'll have a delicious meal while gazing over the lit-up skyline, have a beautiful view of Lady Liberty herself, and then dance the night away to live music. Aesthetically, this is an unforgettable way to visit the icon.
- For something really special and unique, a helicopter tour is an unforgettable way to see the city - and you'll see a close-up aerial view of the Statue. A unique experience to be sure!
Should I rent a car for sightseeing?
There is definitely no need to rent a car for your visit to New York - the traffic can be awful, and you'll spend way too much of your time looking for parking (and your money paying for it!). New York has the best public transportation system in the world, and it is easy to get anywhere by walking, subway, bus or taxi. For a day you plan to spend out sightseeing, book a double decker bus package for transportation and sightseeing combined. If your strong preference is to travel by car, we can assist you with chartering a vehicle for a day of sightseeing so that you can enjoy and not worry about driving or parking. Contact us to arrange this option.
Did you know...
New York Guest specializes in creating customized New York City vacation packages including hotel, sightseeing, Broadway tickets, airport transfers & more. Send us your travel dates and what you want to do and one of our expert travel planners will get to work right away on creating your ultimate New York City vacation! With our offices located in midtown Manhattan, we are truly the local New York City travel expert.