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Plan Your Trip to New York City: Best of New York City Tourism

Come for the big dreams and dazzling lights, stay for the local haunts and the world’s best pizza
The tallest buildings, biggest museums, and best pizza—NYC is a city of superlatives, and it lives up to every one of them. From the dazzling spectacle of Broadway to MoMA’s world-class galleries, the boutiques of SoHo, and the array of restaurants offering cuisines from every corner of the world, there’s a different New York to discover every time you visit. Beyond those iconic landmarks, though, New York’s secret side awaits. You’re likely to stumble upon indie vintage shops and locals-only brunch spots even on the shortest of strolls. And when the crowds and noise are too much to take, just look up—that skyline will remind you why you came in the first place.

Travel Advice

Essential New York City

The best free things to do in NYC

When I moved to the New York City area 20 years ago, I quickly learned to be creative in order to thrive in the nation’s most expensive place to live. From free Central Park concerts to no-fee days at top museums, there are plenty of complimentary activities to complement that buzzy city lifestyle, if you know where to look. Here are some of my favorites.
Rachel C, New York City, NY
  • Saturday Night Live
    50
    Put the “live” in Saturday Night Live by scoring a free seat in 30 Rock through the standby line. Though I’ve never received a ticket through the annual lottery, I’ve been in Studio 8H more than a dozen times by navigating the three-part process (a virtual line on Thursdays, outdoor line on Fridays, indoor line on Saturdays) to fill in empty seats. My tip: Go for dress rehearsal, where you’ll see sketches that never air.
  • New York Public Library
    14,627
    So much more than just a library, the Beaux-Arts main branch of the city’s library system, also known as Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, on Fifth Avenue between 40th and 42nd Streets is one of the most recognizable structures in town, spotted in movies ranging from Breakfast at Tiffany’s to Spider-Man. One of my ultimate city oases is the stunning Rose Main Reading Room, which I first experienced on a free docent-led tour.
  • Harry Potter New York
    220
    Wizards and muggles alike will be enchanted by the world’s largest collection of products from the magical franchise. Even if you’re short on galleons, there’s no charge to wander the 20,000-square-foot space, taking selfies with Instagram-friendly displays, like stepping into half-giant Hagrid’s shoes, entering the Ministry from a British phone booth, and, my favorite, posing under a book arch. On crowded days, a virtual queue is used, but I’ve had luck walking in before noon.
  • Staten Island Ferry
    23,003
    There is such a thing as a free ride—even one with quite a view of the Statue of Liberty. With departures from Lower Manhattan’s Whitehall Terminal around the clock daily, the massive yellow-orange Staten Island Ferry boats can take upwards of 4,000 passengers to St. George terminal in the southern borough. Even though I’ve taken it a number of times, I always find it hard to stop taking photos on the picturesque 25-minute journey.
  • Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site
    236
    Tucked on a nondescript Flatiron block, what I thought would be a quick stop at a National Historic Site turned into a fascinating nearly two-hour visit last summer. The free guided tour through the 1848 brownstone visits the restored rooms of the childhood home of the 26th president; I was especially taken by the original teddy bear replica and the actual shirt Roosevelt wore during an assassination attempt, complete with the bullet hole.
  • David Zwirner Gallery
    22
    Haute art can come at a cost, and though some museums (like the Met) are pay-what-you-wish for locals, the place to go for the finest free art are Chelsea’s galleries, with one of the standouts being David Zwirner Gallery. Back in 2013, I stood in line for hours here to see Yayoi Kusama’s works before the viral hype, so I totally trust their curation. Next up are the sculptures of Pakistani American artist Huma Bhabha.
  • Museum of Chinese in America
    131
    With more than 614,000 New Yorkers identifying as Chinese, I’m proud to see that Asian American history is being preserved in this Chinatown museum—and readily shared with the public by offering free admission during its opening hours Wednesday through Sunday. With 85,000 items in its collection, rotating exhibits highlight various facets of Chinese American life, which are enhanced by programming, like traditional dance, music, and other cultural arts.
  • Hershey's Chocolate World Times Square
    1,016
    Unlike most New Yorkers, I still find Times Square a joy to walk through; I even enjoyed it when it was part of my daily commute. In fact, on late work nights, I purposely passed through just to stop at Hershey Chocolate World, since they always hand you a free piece of chocolate. Enjoying my sweet treat, I’d then wander the aisles like I was in my own version of Willy Wonka’s factory.

Rent a Home for Your Next Escape

Popular homes in New York City

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Rooftop Bars With Iconic Views

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New York City Travel Guide

Travelers' pro tips for experiencing New York City

nywhiz
Typical tourist sites are spread out so no one location is going to be near everything. Most first time visitors stay in Midtown and many are convinced they must be in/near Times Square which is not true. Being near a subway stop is important. Being near multiple subway lines is even better. Staying a short train ride outside Manhattan is an option for budget travelers, but then it makes a difference which airport you use. Long Island City in Queens is a good area if you use JFK or LGA. Jersey City near a PATH train is better if you use Newark.

Check out more tips here.

In the words of those who've been there before ...

Scott S
New York is the Capital of the World.
jenn
It's a completely different world. Very fast-paced and diverse, but also loud (certain parts) and big! You can easily feel like an ant when staring up at all the tall buildings surrounding you . . . Last, but not least......you'll never get bored in this city!
Aynat62
It's the "City That Never Sleeps" with a vibrant and friendly atmosphere and something for everyone. And it's safe! The stereotype of being a dangerous city is outdated. It's safer than many other big cities around the world.
jcmtl1965
I leave a part of my heart in New York just to go back to get it later.
Risa L
New York City is infuriating, agonizing, complicated, confusing, and overwhelming. And all of that makes it the greatest city in the world … The city is always alive and always surprising. And the challenges are always rewarding. It’s the greatest city in the world. And welcome to my home.

What is the best way to get there?

Flying:

Three major airports serve New York City: Newark, LaGuardia, and JFK.

Train:

For travelers who want to take the train, Amtrak offers service into Penn Station.

Bus:

Additionally bus service is widely available.

If you’re flying, here’s some advice on getting from the three major airports into Manhattan.

If you’re driving into New York, plan ahead for how and where you’ll park.

Do I need a visa?

If you’re visiting New York from overseas, use the government’s Visa Wizard to see if you need a visa.

When is the best time to visit?

Aynat62
Each season offers something different in NYC. Spring is bursting with new foliage and blooms and the air is mild for street fairs and cycling or walking, Summer has the warmth and beaches and outdoor events like Shakespeare in the Park and 4th July fireworks, Fall has the colourful leaf changes with milder weather and big events such as Halloween and the NY Marathon, Winter is considered the best by many because of the very festive Holiday decorations and shopping.

Spring (April / May) and Fall (September / October) generally offer travelers the mildest weather with temperatures between 50°F and 60°F (10-15°C). If you come at the height of summer (July and August) be prepared for steamy weather with highs around 80°F (26°C) and up. Winters (December, January, and February) are chilly with temps averaging between 30°F (-1°C) and 40°F (4.4°C).

Check out this comprehensive month-by-month tip sheet with what to expect, how to dress, and what to do.

Walking

The least expensive and one of the most common ways to navigate NYC is on foot. When on foot, a map is handy south of 14th Street in Manhattan. North of 14th Street the city is laid out on an easily navigable grid.

Subway

If a location is too far to walk, the NYC subway is the best way to get around. Less expensive than a taxi, the subway allows you to easily bypass city traffic and efficiently make it from uptown to downtown and vice versa. The Metropolitan Transit Authority administers New York’s subway and buses, and their website has all the maps you could need to plan your trip.

Taxi

New York’s iconic yellow taxis are widely available for street hail, and an Uber or Lyft is always just a tap away on your phone. If you’re open to riding with other passengers Via is a great, affordable ride-sharing option.

Car

Driving into the city, or renting a car? An app like Parkwhiz or Spothero is a lifesaver that will get you in a garage near your destination instead of circling the block looking for a spot.

Check out more tips on getting around NYC here.

On the ground
What is the timezone?
Eastern Standard Time (or Eastern Daylight Time when daylight savings is observed).
What are the voltage/plug types?
110 - 12- Volts / 60 Hz. Plugs are flat pins.
What is the currency?
The U.S. Dollar
Are ATMs readily accessible?
Yes.
Are credit cards widely accepted?
Yes.
How much do I tip?
Restaurant
15-20%
Taxi
15-20%
Bellhop
$1 per bag
Salon or spa
15-20%
Tour guide
$2-5 per person in your group

Get more tipping tips here.

Are there local customs I should know?

If you stop on the sidewalk, move to the side
New York is crowded, and folks are on the go. If you stop to check your phone or look up directions, or want to take in a view, move to the side of the sidewalk. Same thing when you arrive at the top of an escalator. And on escalators New Yorkers stand on the right, walk on the left.
Be mindful of space on the subway
When on the subway, be mindful of how much space you're occupying. Manspreading and putting bags on seats are both considered bad form. If you see a pregnant or elderly passenger, or family with small children, it's expected you offer them your seat on the subway. When you board a train, move to the center of the car so folks can get on and off. It's also expected that when a crowded train reaches a stop, if you're near the doors, you'll step out to let passengers in the center depart.
Frequently Asked Questions about New York City


Some of the most popular restaurants in New York City include:

New York City is known for some of its popular attractions, which include:


If you're a more budget-conscious traveler, then you may want to consider traveling to New York City between March and May, when hotel prices are generally the lowest. Peak hotel prices generally start between September and November.