Top NYC Cultural Attractions
New York City is known as America’s melting plot, so it would make sense that there is no shortage of cultural attractions that you can check out to learn more about the history of the city or just to have something to do. We’ve put together a list of great places to check out throughout Manhattan and beyond to help you get to know the Big Apple.
Can’t-Miss Cultural Attractions in New York City
The holy grail of parks, Central Park is the largest park in Manhattan, spanning 843 acres. It features 7 bodies of water, 36 bridges, and 58 miles of pathways, attracting approximately 38 million visitors annually. Created in 1857, Central Park is a pivotal part of New York City and is the most-visited urban park in the United States.
Central Park includes many famous attractions, including the Central Park Carousel, Strawberry Fields, Central Park Zoo, Belvedere Castle, and the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. If checking out the historical sights isn’t your thing, visitors can always explore the park via the many forested pathways or get active on the Great Lawn.
New to the city and don’t know where to begin? A great introduction to the park is attending an event, such as a concert or walking tour. This calendar allows you to filter events by interest, date, or price.
The Bronx Zoo is world-renowned for its large and diverse animal collection, as well as its award-winning exhibits. It is also one of the largest zoos in the US by area, comprising 265 acres or park lands and naturalistic habitats. Other than allowing visitors access to some of the world’s most unique animals, the zoo also is dedicated to conservation; it is part is of an integrated system of four zoo and one aquarium managed by the Wildlife Conservation Society and is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
Museum Mile (and then some)
5th Avenue is home to what is often referred to as the “Museum Mile” – a mile-long stretch of road that’s chock full of museums and other fine art institutions. World-renowned museums along this stretch are the El Museo del Barrio, Museum of the City of New York, Jewish Museum, Cooper-Hewitt National Museum of Design, Guggenheim Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art (aka the MET), and the Goethe House German Cultural Center. If none of those tickle your fancy, there are endless other museums around the city.
If history is your thing, the American Museum of Natural History has hundreds of natural wonders within its walls – everything from dinosaurs to space travel. Art lovers rejoice, as New York City has many world-famous art museums to explore. As previously mentioned, the MET is one of the most impressive art museums in the US, if not the world. First opened in 1880, the MET contains 5,000 years of art under one roof. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art are three cutting-edge contemporary art museums that are also favorites among tourists and locals alike.
9/11 Memorial and One World Trade Center
One of the most poignant things you can do as a New Yorker is visit the 9/11 Memorial, located in the shadows of the shiny One World Trade Center. Where the twin towers once stood are now two memorial pools, with the names of those who lost their lives etched in the surrounding walls. Visitors are also welcome to take a ride to the top of One World Trade Center where not only can you get an impressive view of the city, but also learn about the foundation of which New York City was built upon.
One of the most diverse cities on the globe, New York’s many cultural neighborhoods can make you feel like you’ve been transported out of the US. Everyone is familiar with Chinatown or Little Italy, but we recommend taking the time to explore the some of the lesser-known neighborhoods. In Queens, stop by Astoria for some of the best Greek food in the city. While you’re there, you can also check out Little India in Jackson Heights. In addition to solid Indian food, the area also is home to many Afghani, Bengali, Tibetan, and Columbian establishments.
Make your way north to the Bronx and you will find an influx of Puerto Rican and Dominican influences. Craving authentic Polish food? Head to Greenpoint in Brooklyn, where you will be surrounded by locals engaged in conversations in Polish and the tempting smells of pierogi and kielbasa.
Empire State Building
The most iconic building in all the city, both visitors and locals alike need to make the trip to the top of the Empire State Building for world-class views and a decent history lesson. The 86th floor observatory is the tallest open-air observatory of its kind in the city, providing 360-degree views of NYC and beyond. Be sure to take advantage of the high-powered binoculars and download the Observatory Experience app which teaches you about your view from every direction.
New York Stock Exchange/Financial District
The City of New York was created in the Financial District in 1624, and the district comprises the offices and headquarters of many of the city’s major financial institutions, including the New York Stock Exchange. The area is rich in history, including many buildings that played an important role in the birth of American democracy.
The New York Stock Exchange is the world’s largest stock exchange by market capitalization and the driving force behind Wall Street and the Financial District. In addition to the World Stock Exchange, the Financial District (or FiDi) also houses the headquarters of several other major exchanges and financial institutions, including NASDAQ, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and the former World Trade Center complex.
Statue of Liberty
The Statue of Liberty is an iconic piece of not only New York history, but American history. A gift of friendship from France, it is recognized as a universal symbol of freedom and democracy. First opened in 1886, and designated as a national monument in 1924, it stands proudly today in Upper Bay. Its proximity to a certain immigration point has made Lady Liberty synonymous with those seeking a better life in America; immigrants and their families would pass the statue as they made their way to Ellis Island when they landed in New York.
Pro tip: If you don’t want to pay to visit the monument, take a trip to Staten Island. The free Staten Island Ferry passes by the Statue of Liberty for an up close and personal view without the price tag.
If the bright lights and infectious energy of the city are more your scene, take a stroll down Broadway in Midtown Manhattan. The famous stretch near Times square, where Broadway crosses Seventh Avenue, is home to many (41 to be exact) different theatres, housing an ever-changing array of commercial, large-scale plays and musicals. Because of this, the surrounding areas is also known as the Theatre District.