Sightseeing - What Sights to See and How to See Them
 
New York City is a professional tourist’s dream – it has some of the world’s greatest and most iconic attractions, including the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Wall Street, Greenwich Village, the Rockefeller Center, and the list goes on… 

Unfortunately for visitors, if you try to see everything, you can end up missing some of the most important attractions that you originally came to see, and also miss some of the hidden gems that most tourists miss while standing in line at the major attractions.  The secret to seeing the sights is to know when to go to them, how to get quick entry, and how to plan a day of sensible sightseeing so you can batch sights together. 

If you book your trip online, you can easily put too much into one day than you can actually see, or you can plan on seeing a sight and miss dinner due to the lines.  strongly recommend when planning your sightseeing that you call or visit your hotel concierge desk so they can give you the proper itinerary that allows you to prioritize and properly sequence your sightseeing. They will save you a lot of time and heartache and tickets through concierges generally cost the same as they would at an attraction.

If you are in New York City for the first time.  Here is  list of 5 must see sights:
 
1. Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.  There are three ways to see these sights.  First, you can take the ferry to each of these sights.  If you plan on doing this, then plan a whole day around taking the ferry to both Liberty and Ellis Island.   For the best possible experience, you should hire a private guide to give you an intimate view of the Islands and their history. 

If you don’t have time, you can buy a boat tour of the harbor that will bring you past these attractions – these tours usually last one or two hours and guides will give you information and photo opportunities of these attractions.  Finally, if you want to see these sights but don’t want to venture onto the water, you can get a good view of them from Battery Park and take your photo of them.  You can also do this while on a guided walking tour offered in this area.   For more information on private guided tours of these Islands, or public walking tours in this area, ask your concierge.
 
2. Empire State Building and the Rockefeller Center.  There are two main ways to see the Empire State Building – from the street and from the observation deck.  If you are going to go to the top of the observation deck, you can plan to wait in line for two hours and sometimes more during summer months.  If you want an express pass to the top, you will pay a little more but you can bring your wait to ½ hour. 

There are also tours available that allow you to go to the top of the Empire State Building with a guide and a group of other tourists – both a walking tour and a pub crawl in the evening - these tours give you a history of the building a detailed history of the New York City skyline, as well as a chance to meet other travelers.  Ask your concierge about VIP or Empire State Building tour tickets.  If you want to see the Manhattan Skyline and are not particularly interested in the Empire State Building, you might consider the Rockefeller Center observation deck, which has stunning views of the skyline, including the Empire State Building, as well as a good view of Central Park and upper Manhattan. There are usually no lines for Top of the Rock.
 
3. The Financial District.  New York City, since its founding as New Amsterdam in 1624 as a Dutch Colony, has always been the center of commerce in the United States.  Today, it has grown into the financial capital of the World, and it all started on a small trading street called Wall Street during the years after the America Revolution, when George Washington took the oath of Office on Wall Street to become the first president of the United States.  Here, legendary figures in American history such as Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison argued about and eventually settled on the Bill of Rights, the modern U.S. financial system, and the future of the country as a democracy. 

In a little over two hours downtown, you can see the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Battery Park, the U.S. Custom’s House (one of the ten most beautiful architectural buildings in the world), Fraunces Tavern (where George Washington used to dine and drink with his officers), Wall Street (the site of the first U.S. congress and where George Washington took the oath office, the New York Stock Exchange, Trinity Church (the oldest and most beautiful church in New York City), and the Canyon of Heroes (lower Broadway, which is the site of the famous ticker tape parades).  If you want to see these iconic sights of American history, strongly recommend that you hire a private tour guide or join a publicly scheduled walking tour in this area.  Again, to schedule a tour, contact your concierge. 
 
4. The World Trade Center.  When it was completed in 1987, the World Trade Center contained two zip codes, its own postal system, and contained more office space than the entire city of San Francisco.  For a time, the twin towers were the tallest buildings in the world, and they became a symbol of American economic might and world trade.  This soaring complex became the target of Islamic terrorists, which successfully attacked and toppled the buildings on 11 September, 2001.  On this day, New York City pulled together and heroes from all walks of life emerged. 

Now, the New York City Port Authority is building a new Freedom Tower and extensive memorial and museum on the site.  The memorial will be open on 11 September, 2011 and the museum will be open the following year.  Most travelers make their way down to this site, but they see mainly construction walls and barriers with drawings of what the site will eventually look like.  The area is rich with history and stories of heroism, so the best way to see the site is to hire a private guide or to join a public walking tour in the area.  To schedule a tour, contact your concierge.

5.  If you are in New York City for the first time, the best way to see the main sights is through a publically scheduled or a private walking tour.  At a minimum,  recommend you take one walking tour through the main sights of old New York around Wall Street and the World Trade Center.  Most of your other time will be spent seeing the other “must see sights.”  If it is not your first time coming to New York, or you have more time for sightseeing, there are a number of other guided tours available in many neighborhoods that you can choose from.  If you had to see another neighborhood, would recommend:
 
a) Greenwich Village, which is the center of American Art movements, from literature, to music, comedy, rock and roll, etc.  Today, it is the most populated neighborhood for famous artists, including movie and television stars.
b) Times Square and the Theater District, the center of Broadway Theater District.  This is a great place where music and theater lovers to explore. 
c) Lower East Side, which is the center of the rich history of immigration in New York City, this area contains areas such as Little Italy and Chinatown, with colorful sights and sounds.
 
There is a lot of walking tour companies in New York City that offer private guided tours, and a couple that offer publically scheduled tours daily.  These can range anywhere from $20 - $40 depending on the company or tour guide that you choose to go through.   If you want a private walking tour for you and your group, you can expect to pay around $100 an hour for a quality private tour.  When choosing a walking tour company, recommend that you check the names of the companies you are considering on Tripadvisor.com and other travel review websites to see real customer feedback.  You should also consult with your concierge on what guide service they might recommend.

For photographers and photo enthusiasts, a few companies are now offering photo tours. 

6. Transportation Tours.  If you are in New York City for the first time, one of the best ways to get a good overall picture of New York City is by taking a vehicle tour.  You can cover a lot of ground on vehicle tours and get a lot of general information on New York City, and also get your bearing overall.  The hard part of driving tours is finding the time to stop and take pictures or learn information about a particular site.  There are various ways you can do this:
 
a) Double Decker Bus Tours: These are a great way to get around New York City and also see the sights.  You also get a chance to get on and off the buses as you choose, so it is a great way to augment your walking tours and general sightseeing. On the bus, you get a regular time schedule at bus stops around the city, a tour guide on top of the bus to narrate the sights as you go by, and a free map to assist you in sightseeing. If you choose this option, a 2 or 3 day pass will generally cost you $40 - $60.  This is great for first time visitors to New York City, as it allows you to get your bearings. 
b) Private SUV Tours: If you want to cover a lot of ground, but do so with a private guide and an exclusive tour, the best way to go is to take a private SUV Tour. For groups of 6 or more, you can rent a private Mercedes bus with a private guide, and this can be very cost effective.  You also get to customize your itinerary, pick your guide, and get a much more enhanced experience than a public bus tour. 

When you are looking at car tour companies, ensure that you find one that has a driver AND a tour guide.  Some of them have a driver and a tour guide, and this can greatly limit your ability to get in and out at major sites and take photos.  The best private SUV tours provide a guide who takes guests out of the SUV at key spots for enhanced discussions of attractions that allows you to see the buildings, go inside them, and take plenty of photos.  You can expect to pay $225 - $300 an hour for a private tour (the higher price is typically for a foreign language guide) – most companies have a four hour minimum. 
c) Other Tours: Helicopter, Boat, and Bike Tours: Manhattan has a great waterfront that is ideal for biking and getting around New York City. You can either do a self guided bicycle tour or one with a publically scheduled tour.  There are also a number of boat tours around the main sights of the New York City harbor, including the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Governor’s Island, Brooklyn, and New Jersey. 

Boat tours generally last 1 – 2 hours have a tour guide on board to narrate the sights you are seeing on the tour.  You can use regular boat companies, or sail boats.  Boat tours generally cost $25 - $50, and bicycle tours can cost $25 - $40.  If you want to get a bird’s eye view of New York City and get a unique view of the skyline, you can take a helicopter tour of Manhattan and the harbor.  These tours can last anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour and cost from $250 - $500 per person.
Like walking tour companies and private guides, encourage you to do your research on the different transportation tour companies you are choosing to see how they rate on tripadvisor.com and other websites that provide real customer feedback.  You should also consult with your concierge on what guide service they might recommend.