Must See Places In New York City: Perfect For First-time Trips

When deciding to visit the Big Apple, it can be a little daunting trying to figure out where to go, especially when there are so so many amazing landmarks and scenes from movies over the years. If it’s your first time in the US as well, making sure you have your itinerary full of the must see places is definitely essential when planning.

Although the last time I went to NYC was in the winter of 2014, I still have so many amazing memories of going there with my family, and you can see so many of these places regardless of the time of year too! I really hope that I can visit the big city again soon, hopefully when it’s not so cold either!

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If you’re interested in looking at things to do in New York City over the winter holidays, make sure you check out my post on that too!

The Best Places to See in The Big Apple

I’ve created this list of places to go see – most of which I got to visit on my last visit. Of course this is just a guide, so just take what sparks your interest!

Central Park

If you’re visiting the big city, you cannot miss out on visiting Central Park! It’s a perfect place to have a picnic, and you can always make a visit to the Central Park Zoo if you fancy. I really love Central Park as it’s absolutely HUGE – spanning at around 843 acres so it’s easy to find a nice quiet spot.

You’ll probably recognise Central Park from many movies and tv shows over the years, such as You, Gossip Girl, Fantastic Beasts, and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.

Empire State Building

If you grew up reading the Percy Jackson books like me, you’ll understand how much I wanted to go see the skyscraper! Although you can’t go up to the 600th floor, you can buy tickets to go up 86th and 102nd floors – tickets are $44-$77 for adults and $38-$71 for kids (6-12 years, under 6 go free).

Even if you just decide to go see the Empire State Building from the outside, I recommend going after dark as the building lights up!

If you’re interested in heading to the top of the Empire State Building, make sure you check out getting tickets too!

Chrysler Building

Even if you don’t know it by its name, you’ll probably recognise the Chrysler Building when you see it, which is situated in the East Side of Manhattan. The art deco building is actually the current tallest brick building with a steel framework in the world, and if you’re into architecture I definitely wouldn’t miss giving it a visit!

I remember when we were around East Manhattan, I’m not even kidding when I say we found the BEST pizza nearby for $1 a slice! I would 100% recommend trying to find some local food places in NYC, as they are often better than the big companies.

Grand Central Station

If you’ve seen pretty much any movie or show set in New York City, there’s a high chance that Grand Central Station will make an appearance – I always remember it being in the first Madagascar movie, but you may recognise it from Avengers Assemble or even Gossip Girl too.

It can get pretty busy during the day, but if you visit during off-peak hours then you’ll really be able to appreciate the Beaux-Arts style interior design and it’s stunning architecture, which gives the train station a kind of cosy feel to it too. If you’re in that area in the evening, you’ll also be able to see the Chrysler Building lit up, as well as the outside of the train station.

Rockefeller Center

If you’re in New York for the winter holidays, you cannot let visiting the Rockefeller Center go a miss. The Rockefeller Center is home to the famous large Christmas tree, which you will recognise from Elf, Home Alone 2, and Marvel’s Hawkeye. You can also go ice skating here too, which is on my bucket list of things to do next time I’m there for the holidays!

Situated on 5th Avenue means it’s a great place to stop by when window shopping, and only a couple of blocks away from Grand Central Station too.

Times Square

There is so much to do in Times Square, it’s often hard to know where to start. Time Square if often used in movies, where you’re spinning around trying to take in as much as possible (sometimes you do feel like Steve Rogers coming out from the ice after 70 years), especially if it’s winter time too!

There is of course all the giant electronic billboards scattered around the square, but it’s also in the theatre district of the city, so you can easily come here if you’re also planning on seeing a West End show like Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Wicked, or The Lion King – The square is only two blocks down from Broadway, so you could definitely add it to your itinerary!

Although I didn’t see it myself, you can of course also go to Times Square for New Years Eve to see the ball drop. I would definitely love to try and see it myself one year, and if you have the opportunity to go then you definitely should! I’ve heard that it can get super busy there with everyone wanting to be there for the turning of the new year, but if you wanted to have a more relaxed New Years Eve then there are plenty of places to watch fireworks over the city.


Visiting Chinatown is definitely a spot you can’t miss in most cities. I love the kind of magic you get from these districts around the world, and New York is definitely no exception.

Although we didn’t spend all that much time there, there is so much to see in Chinatown – from the bustling streets filled with cars and people, the buildings covered in neon street signs and lanterns, and the countless places to get street food, it’s definitely one of the places I’d love to go back to and explore some more.

The Flatiron Building

The Flatiron Building is another piece of extraordinary architecture in Manhattan (which I sadly haven’t seen with my own eyes as of yet). You’ll probably recognise this building without a doubt, as it’s one of the first skyscrapers of the city.

Built in 1902, you can’t miss this giant steel-framed artwork as it sits snuggly in-between 5th Avenue, Broadway, and East 23rd Street – one on each side of the building. As it’s right across the road from Madison Square Park, it’s the perfect spot to grab a bite to eat and rest your feet.

World Trade Center

A trip to NYC wouldn’t be complete without visiting the World Trade Center. Located within the Financial District of Manhattan, the WTC continues to have a unforgettable reputation and is bursting with history – the collapse in 2001 being no exception. Prior to the collapse it featured in many silver screen stories, some of my favourites include Trading Places, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, Superman (1978), and When Harry Met Sally.

Even though you can’t see the North and South towers themselves anymore, you can visit the National September 11 Memorial. Here you’ll see two huge square reflecting pools that were built in 2011, which are in the places of the two towers themselves.

If you’re interested in visiting the museum at the memorial, make sure you check out tickets here!

The Charging Bull and The Fearless Girl

Also in the Financial District of Manhattan, The Charging Bull or also known as the Bull of Wall Street, is a large bronze sculpture situated outside of Bowling Green. The 11 foot stall sculpture is said to be a symbol of aggressive financial optimism and prosperity, and was illegally left by the New York Stock Exchange Building in 1989 before being permanently installed at Bowling Green later that year.

Another sculpture The Fearless Girl was installed by the Charging Bull in 2017, but was later relocated to the original home of the Bull by the Stock Exchange Building. The Fearless Girl was installed for International Woman’s Day in 2017, which was to help with female empowerment and gender diversity in the workplace!

The Statue of Liberty and Liberty Island

Of course, when in New York, you have to see the iconic Statue Of Liberty. There are many ways you can see the statue, such as Brooklyn Bridge, Green-Wood Cemetary, and the Staten Island Ferry, as well as heading over to Liberty Island to see the statue up close and personal.

Although visiting Liberty Island isn’t necessary to see Lady Liberty, if you love all things to do with national parks and national monuments, I would definitely recommend heading over there. I haven’t been to the island personally, but it’s definitely on my list for next time! Tickets are $24 for adults and $12 for kids (ages 4-12) to get to the islands, which you access via ferry.

If you fancy heading to see the statue up-close, why not check out this boat trip around Liberty!

The Friends Apartment

If you’re a fan of the 90’s tv Friends, you’ll definitely want to visit The Friends Apartment on Bedford Street, just outside of West Village. You’ll immediately recognise this building, as it’s the one used for the outside shots of the apartment on the show – it’s definitely on my list to see next time!

The Stonewall Inn

If you’re apart of the LGBTQ+ community or just an ally, going to see The Stonewall Inn is a must when in Manhattan. This gay bar is the site where the 1969 Stonewall Riots took places, which was one of the defining moments in history for the gay liberation movement and LGBT rights in the US.

This historic landmark for the gay rights movement is now as US National Monument, and definitely should be on everyone’s itinerary!

Brooklyn Bridge

Located in the south of Manhattan to connect Brooklyn, I couldn’t recommend going to see the bridge more. The Neo-Gothic stone and steel suspension bridge was opened in 1883 and was actually the longest suspension bridge in the world when it was first opened!

It’s an absolutely beautiful bridge which you can walk over, and you definitely feel like you’re in some sort of movie when you look over at the skyline of Manhattan!

That’s all I have for my list so far! Hopefully next time I go to New York I’ll be able to find some more places to go explore! Do you have any favourite places in the Big Apple I missed?

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