Best Places To Visit In New York City

best places to visit in new york city

[Disclaimer: I wrote this post back in 2012. Although the facts in this blog post have been updated and I do still recommend that you visit these places in New York City, I have not edited my past thoughts and opinions on matters, even though I don't necessarily agree with them now. So please excuse my younger, naive, mostly narcissistic, ever-exaggerating, accidentally non-pc, meat and dairy eating ass:]

I loved every minute that I was in New York, almost everything we did was outstanding, however, five places definitely stand out as even more outstanding, so outstanding in fact that they were epic:

#1. Best Views in New York City: Empire State Building

This is a cliche must do tourist attraction, but there really is a reason for it! My top tip: get there as soon as it opens (I think it's 8am)? We were pleased that we did as the queues get ridiculously long. Anyway it is in my top five because of this view: 

Best Views in New York City

I was so worried about how scared I'd be of the height that I didn't stop to think about how awesome the view was going to be. This cityscape is breathtaking, and an added bonus of being there early was that we got to see the sun creep up over the Chrysler Building:

must sees in new york city

Two silly things: firstly people/guidebooks all tell you that the Empire State Building is one of the tallest buildings in New York, but when you're walking through the 'concrete jungle' you don't see it looming above the others, and when you're next it it doesn't look taller than the others, so you don't believe them. However, when you actually get up the ESB you see how much taller it really is.. it must be some kind of magic or optical illusion, or probably just something simple that I'm sure some clever person is going to email me and tell me about (go on I love mail). Seriously though look at it's height:

must sees in new york city

But once you are up there you see that it towers above almost all of the rest (I think the new Twin Towers are taller). You can see all of the other sights, and on a good day see for miles to the other bits of New York that I don't know the name of (Brooklyn)? The second silly thing is, despite my vertigo I wasn't scared up there at all! Probably because there is a concrete wall up to about waist height (well my waist height). This was on the 86th Floor, where most people go ($29) but if you pay $17 more you can go up to the 102nd. We did and it was definitely worth it, there were hardly any people up there and the view was even more incredible:

best views in new york city

If you are scared of heights you may actually find this level less scary, it's all enclosed in glass so there literally is no way for you to fall out. We debated whether we should go up the Empire State at night or in the daytime, and opted for day. But to make sure that we weren't missing out on anything, we went to the top of the Rockefeller at night. This was nice as we got to see the Empire State and the Chrysler with all their lights on. I preferred the Empire State in the day, rather than the Rockefeller at the night, but that may just be me... so yeah, another tip: if you're going to go up both the Empire State and Rockefeller, go up one at night and up the other one in the day.

#2. Must Sees in New York City: Temple Emanu-El

Temple Emanu-El is the largest house of Jewish worship in the world. I felt very peaceful and spiritual or something by the time I'd left there, which I don't get very often. I'm a complete novice when it comes to architecture, but I like a good building and Temple Emanu-El is certainly one of them:

best places to visit in new york city

We went to St Patrick's Cathedral too and felt nothing at all.. St Patricks was very touristy and crowded and looked like the English Cathedrals (but a lot younger). So I preferred Temple Emanu-El a lot more. It's located at 1 E 65th St, which is right next to Central Park so if you're there you might as well pop over (it's free), no mater what your beliefs the architecture is stunning:

top attractions in new york city

#3. Top Attractions in New York City: Central Park

When we first walked into Central Park I said 'what's all the fuss about, this is basically the same as a park in Cheltenham', but then the Park goes on, and on, and on. It's massive. Plus there are loads of beautiful statues and lakes and even a zoo! This statue of a dog was on a big rock, lots of kids were climbing on it and were a little perturbed when I pushed them off and got on there:

top things to do in nyc

Okay I didn't really push them.. just waited for my turn. This is quite a famous pool, or at least I think it is - it always seems to pop up in films:

best views in new york city

Another great thing about Central Park is the amazing street artists that you can see there. We saw the afrobats and they were some of the most hilarious, talented people I've ever seen. They really included the crowd, by jumping over three members of it in a row!

must sees in new york city

#4. Best Places To Visit in New York City: Harlem

We went to Harlem extremely hungover and early on a Sunday morning, and I've got to admit my first impression was that I was going to die.. I felt really exposed and in the wrong place, and like I was going to be mugged! I know that sounds like a really prissy thing to say, but it's how I felt. So is Harlem safe?

Just as we turned to get back onto the subway and get the hell out of there, we heard Gospel music!! We stumbled into a Sunday morning Gospel service, and suddenly felt like we were in completely the right place. The atmosphere in there was incredible, everyone was so gloriously happy, it was wonderful. A teenage boy was sat with his mum and grandmother, singing along and beaming his head off, it was lovely to see this coming from my world of hoodies, happy slapping and king punches. The songs were easy enough to pick up, so we sung along. Then the service began, we only stayed out of respect, but I've got to say it's the first time Christianity has ever made sense to me. The tiny old lady who was preaching to us had a powerful voice and somehow managed to explain christian beliefs to us. Looking back on it now I feel like we may have been brain-washed, but in a good way.

We left over an hour later, and suddenly scary looking Harlem looked inviting and accepting. We felt guilty about how we'd misjudged it and wondered if the Church was some kind of portal, where you come out the other side with an understanding of Harlem (and Christianity). We didn't have too long to wonder though because the incredible African-American Parade had begun:

top things to do in new york city

My favourite part of the parade was this amazing heart stopping high school band. I say heart stopping, I mean that drum kind of music where you feel it in your SOUL! They did remixes of songs that were in the charts, and they did them better than the originals.

top things to do in nyc

When the parade finished we set of in search of where Billie Holiday grew up, and we stumbled across the band! 

best places to visit in new york city

Harlem was a complete roller coaster of emotions and very exciting, we also visited China Town, Little Italy and Brooklyn, although they were all great, Harlem was our favourite neighbourhood.

#5. Top Places in New York City: Peter Dillon's Pub

Last but not least we have Peter Dillon's Pub situated at 8 East 26th street. We went there on our first night in New York, we were knackered from our flight but pumped with adrenalin and wanting to do something. So we went to Peter Dillons simply because it was the nearest to our hotel (it's also near Central Station, a very convenient location). We ordered manhattans (we wanted to have manhattans in Manhattan) we'd never had manhattans before, and probably never will again. They are vile:

top places in new york city

Nevertheless we found that Peter Dillon's had a really relaxed but fun vibe, so a few nights later when we were appalled at the snobbishness and expensiveness of a different bar, we ended up going back to Peter Dillons.

must sees in new york city

I know what you are thinking, why out of all of the bars in New York would you go back to the same place twice? Because it's great. That second night was even better than the first, they had karaoke on, which is not always my best friend, but having heard the most beautiful rendition of Alicia Key's 'New York' I changed my mind. We ended up staying there until three in the morning, making friends with New York professors, the barmen and an actor who had been in Spiderman 3 and Law and Order! The bar staff were so lovely. When I went and ordered a water as I had run out of money, a random stranger bought me two Budweisers :) 

Another important note, I walked around New York City at 3am and felt as safe as houses! Safer in fact than I've felt walking around in some tiny towns in England (in the daytime)! New York has a pretty rough reputation, and it probably does depend on the area your in, but they've done a lot in the last ten years to smarten it up. We were right in the centre and felt absolutely fine.

Wrap Up: Best Places to Visit in New York City

So there you have it, one tall building, one place of worship, one park, one neighbourhood and one pub, that's worked out quite well as a list of top five places in New York (in my opinion). There are so many different things in NYC that I truly believe that everyone can find something that they love in New York City, that's why it's my favourite city. I visited the USA again five years later, if you're interested in our adventures from that time, here are some videos - enjoy :)

P.S.: my favourite vegan handbag Gunas come from New York - learn more in my blog post about them 

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We overland. We eat plants and fungi. We live outside as much as possible. We are all connected. A female travel blogger overlanding and writing about ecotourism, ethical and sustainable travel, socially conscious travel and housesitting. An online travel magazine since 2015.


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