Alyssa has been writing about exciting travel topics for Trips to Discover since 2013. After living the big city life in Chicago, Washington, DC, and Atlanta, Alyssa sold the bulk of her possessions and became a digital nomad, living full-time in her camper and working from wherever she could find an outlet and an internet connection for her laptop.
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Although New York City is made up of five amazingly diverse and unique boroughs, the most popular one to visit for first-time travelers is Manhattan. This is where so many of the iconic landmarks, top museums, and tourist attractions are, and it’s so huge that you could easily spend your whole vacation here without venturing too far out. Here are some essential outings to plan for your trip to Manhattan.
Central Park has been the setting of so many movies, television shows, and books, and it’s a must-visit destination when you’re in Manhattan. This is a free attraction in New York that is beloved by both tourists and locals, and it’s a wonderful place to get a touch of nature in a city that is made up of so much concrete, steel, and traffic. Highlights of Central Park are the sheep meadow, vintage carousel, wide-open green spaces, and playgrounds for kids.
MoMA is New York City’s modern art museum and an essential place to visit when you’re in Manhattan. Here you can see masterpieces of Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali, Van Gogh, and many more famous artists. There’s always something new and exciting going on at the museum, with rotating exhibits and ongoing events.
Times Square is unlike anywhere else in the world and a must-visit attraction in Manhattan. With its bright lights, flashing billboards, and endless photo opportunities, this is an exciting place to walk through and people-watch, shop, and perhaps get some Broadway theater show tickets. Of course, Times Square is most popular on New Year’s Eve as the ball drops to ring in the new year.
While you may need a little luck and patience to attend a TV show taping, this is a really unique way to spend time in Manhattan and immerse yourself in the culture of New York. Popular TV show tapings are The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, the Dr. Oz Show, Good Morning America, Late Night with Seth Meyers, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and Saturday Night Live. For many shows, you’ll need to arrive at the location early to get a spot or apply for tickets online in advance. Day-of-the-show stand-by tickets are sometimes available as well. Rockefeller Center is a popular spot in Manhattan because this is where the Today Show is filmed. You can also take an NBC studio tour and experience the winter holiday festivities here in December.
To get a little fresh air and exercise, plan to check out the High Line, which is a lovely trail built upon an abandoned railroad track. You’ll feel like you’re above the city while being surrounded by lawns and wildflowers. The High Line just opened to the public in 2009 and is 1.45 miles long. During the spring, summer, and fall, you’ll often see food vendors along the High Line offering, brunch, or a snack after your walk.
New York is famous for lots of amazing foods, and pizza is at the top of that list. New York-style pizza comes in thin, wide slices designed to be folded to eat. There are many top-notch pizza spots in Manhattan to try it for yourself and see what all the hype is about. Some favorite pizza places in Manhattan include Bleecker Street Pizza, Joe’s Pizza on Carmine Street, and Patzeria Perfect Pizza.
The September 11th attacks changed Manhattan forever, because this is where the Twin Towers fell and so many New Yorkers lost their lives. To pay your respects and learn more about the events that took place that day, visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. Here you’ll find reflecting pools with the names of the thousands of victims and serene waterfalls that stand in the place of the former Twin Towers. There is no charge to visit the memorial, which is open daily. While you are here, also consider visiting the museum, which features artifacts, narratives, and interactive technology. There is a growing permanent collection here in 110,000 square feet of museum space.
One of the most exciting things you can do during your time in Manhattan is to head to the theater district and watch a Broadway show. The theater district is between Sixth and Eighth Avenues and between 41st Street and 52nd Street. You can buy your show tickets online in advance of your trip or look for last-minute discounted tickets for same-day shows when you arrive.
5th Avenue is one of the most famous shopping streets in the world and a major roadway in Manhattan. Some of the best shops are between 39th and 60th Streets along 5th Avenue. Here you can see iconic stores like Tiffany & Co., Louis Vuitton, Prada, and much more. Feel free to just browse or splurge if you have some money to spend!
It’s hard to miss the Empire State Building when you’re in Manhattan, and not that you’d ever want to! Dating back to 1931, this art deco icon symbolizes American innovation and has been designated as a wonder of the world. Visitors can take an elevator ride to the observation deck on the 86th floor for awesome city views. This is a busy attraction, however, so plan to arrive early. Numerous ticket options are available, and include an interactive self-guided multimedia tour that you can use with an app.