…experience NYC like a local
These recommendations are alternatives to traditional ways of seeing New York City attractions. Some will save you time, some will save you money and some both. Many of them are free!
Find your personal balance – pick the things you and your family really must see and do, but use the tips below to blend in some authentic New York City – the same way as real New Yorkers.
There are so many amazing New York City attractions and over time, I do recommend you see them all. Those of us who live here, have seen them over decades, while also living our every day lives in Manhattan.
Many of these attractions are time consuming, expensive or both. And if you have children, are on a short trip or just plain old don’t like to do “touristy” things, long lines and waits are never a good thing! If a lot of New York City attractions and sightseeing are on your agenda, then find out if New York City Pass Discounts are best for you.
Top of the Rock or Empire State Building?
See the different views for yourself…
Top of the Rock
30 Rockefeller Plaza
Best For: Sweeping 360° vista view of NYC that includes the Empire State Building. Shorter lines and cheaper than the Empire State Building (also a great attraction).
NYC Insider Way: Have a friend who works on the 63rd floor of 30 Rock, or try and go during their Starlight Music Series.
TOTR is in the heart of Rockefeller Plaza, where the Today show tapes and the famous skating rink resides. Also the background for the popular TV Show, 30 Rock. It re-opened in 2005, after a 20 year hiatus, and showcases a three level observation deck with a total surface area of approximately 55,000 square-feet (5,110 m2). The upper deck is 850 feet (260 m) above street level. Floors 67 and 69 have outdoor terraces which feature fully transparent, safety glass. The 70th floor provides a completely open air, unobstructed 360-degree view of New York City and beyond. See the NYC Insider Guide to Top of the Rock.
Empire State Building
350 5th Ave, 33nd/34rd
Best For: Patient (long lines) movie and history buffs who’ve always wanted to see the Empire State Building.
NYC Insider Way: Work on the 71st Floor of the ESB.
The Empire State Building is one of the most popular attractions in New York City, both for the tour and history of the building as well as the spectacular views of New York City it offers from the Observation Deck. Our Empire State Building facts include NYC Insider tips and the best ways to tour this world famous icon, whether you are short on time or budget.
Make sure to understand the different lines and New York City Pass options. See the NYC Insider Guide to Empire State Building
New York City Passes all include admission, but you still may have to wait on the ticket line to get your “voucher,” and they do not get you priority at the elevator line.
Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
The Modern – Dining Room or Bar
The Modern is part of Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group, which also owns Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, Eleven Madison Park, Tabla and many other of NYC’s top rated restaurants. The dining room overlooks a wonderful sculpture garden in the middle of the museum and food itself is practically art.
See more Insider Tips on NYC Museums.
Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met)
Every Friday and Saturday night, from 6-8 pm, The Met hosts a classical string quartet above the Great Hall. The atmosphere is magical and it doesn’t get more quintessential New York.
You can purchase cocktails and appetizers at the Balcony Bar, and if you get there early enough, grab one of the little tables with candles. A lovely way to see some beautiful art and no ticket purchase is necessary.
The MET Roof Garden Café
Definitely not a New York City attraction, but rather what REAL New Yorkers do all the time!
During the summer, be sure to check out the Martini Bar on the Roof Garden Café, an informal, outdoor setting with breathtaking panoramic views of the Manhattan skyline. More Info: Metropolitan Museum of Art NYC
Statue of Liberty
Most people don’t know Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are two different islands.
The guides recommend you take 2.5-3 hours to see one island or 5-6 hours to see both. Reservations to see the inside of the Statue of Liberty need to be scheduled months (up to a year) in advance.
This is the most popular New York City attraction. For those of you who would still love to see this amazing world wonder, but are looking for alternatives:
Staten Island Ferry is a great choice for those with less patience for lines and Museums. Kids love the SI Ferry. It’s free, passes very close to Lady Liberty, runs every 30 minutes and takes approximately 25 minutes each way. Schedule about 45 minutes total.
21 South End Ave (West Thames St), Battery Park City
A reasonably-priced, family-friendly restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating. The best part? Lovely views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and New Jersey.
RISE – restaurant on the 14th floor of the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Battery Park City, with outdoor summer seating. Try spending the $12 Statue of Liberty ticket price on a martini, while watching the sunset over the Statue of Liberty and other panoramic views of the water and the city.
View of the Statue of Liberty from RISE
Definitely try the “New Yorker” three tier platter, especially if you are with children. The mini hot dogs, hamburgers, pastrami sandwiches and pizza deli sandwiches are so much fun and delicious! Call for hours – they open around 4pm.
E 42nd Street (Park and Lexington)
Completely restored back to it’s 1913 splendor, Grand Central is a midtown destination for five restaurants and cocktail lounges, 20 casual international eateries, gourmet foods from the Grand Central Market and the 50 unique specialty shops throughout the concourses. Not only is there no admission cost, but you can take a free tour, a New York Tourism luxury.
Best For: People watching, daily commuters from Connecticut and Westchester, and astrological ceiling mural, painted in gold leaf 125 feet overheard.
NYC Insider Way: actually commuting through GCT every day. Good news for you; be thrilled you’re on vacation while you’re watching others go to work!
More New York City Attractions
Titanic – The Artifact Exhibition
Titanic Exhibit Closed – see Disovery Center Times Square
CLOSED JANUARY 2010 – Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
76 Mercer Street
Exhibit about New York’s place in rock and roll history.
Best For: Music buffs.