(Last Updated On: January 10, 2024)

Not in any particular order. Just cool places I’ve visited that are unique to NYC!

Empire State Building

The classic icon! What’s not to like? Just think of Sleepless in Seattle, An Affair to Remember, Elf, not to mention King Kong! (Full list of movie/TV/book ESB appearances)

Use the Empire State Building as a reference point to figure out where you are in the city. It’s not the tallest building there, but has a unique look. Also it’s just so cool! Each time I looked at it it hit me again “I am in the coolest city in the world!”

It’s expensive to go to the top but something to do at least once. Also it’s the only way to get into the gift shop! You can’t just stop by to go to the gift shop, you have to buy a ticket to the top. It’s kind of like a DisneyLand ride where you walk straight into the gift shop as you exit the ride. But, trust me, there are plenty of ESB souvenirs available for much less elsewhere in the city.

After my first visit, on subsequent trips I skipped going to the top again because I preferred to see the ESB as part of my view instead of taking pictures from it.

At night the top is often lit up in different colored lights to honor various holidays and events.  You can see what the meaning of the colored lights are in this calendar.

*Tip! FaceTime your friends back home from the top of the Empire State Building! Share the view with them live to brighten their day!

Grand Central Station

I guess it’s technically called “Grand Central Terminal”, but then you can’t make the hilarious joke when you’re there: “Boy, it’s like Grand Central Station in here!” HaHA!

It’s really fun to visit here, even if you aren’t catching a train or subway. Another iconic NYC location, seen in so many movies! It is a huge building with beautiful architechture, shops, pop-up markets and charming restaurants.

Metropolitan Opera House (the Met)

I’m no fancy-schmancy person, but I did really want to got to The Met! I’d heard of it and seen it in movies all my life. It did feel like such a fancy thing to do! So I got a ticket to see The Marriage of Figaro. This turned out to be kind of like an episode of Three’s Company, with mistaken identities etc. I wasn’t able to get into it, but I think maybe if I was seeing a more serious opera it would have met my expectations more.

However, the building itself did meet my expectations! Such gorgeous fountains in the front of the building! It was amazing to sit in the balcony seats and see the enormous stage. The lobby and theater chandeliers were just beautiful! I couldn’t capture how sparkly and dazzling they were in person.

Macys Thanksgiving Day Parade

This is one of those bucket list things. It’s not like I’m some parade aficionado, but I have been watching this on tv for about the past 50 years. Seemed like something I should see once in person!  I’m really glad I did, what a unique experience!

I researched all the options for it. My first plan was to splurge on a parade route facing hotel room. But as I thought more about it I realized it would be a lot of money to all cram ourselves around a window to see, and probably we’d end up just watching it on our hotel room tv! So I decided to immerse us in the experience instead, for free. 

A few of us headed down to 6th Ave and W. 48th St.at 6AM to stake out a spot for the rest of the group. We used hotel blankets and towels to claim our sidewalk space. We were able to get a large spot right behind the front line folks who’d showed up even earlier! Though freezing out, it was a festive atmosphere. Everyone was in a good mood, excited about the parade, being in New York and Thanksgiving! We chitchatted with our blanket neighbors. 

Once the parade started and the rest of our group had arrived our blanket neighbors let us step forward to stand on their front row blankets. It was amazing to see how large the balloons are and watch the handlers maneuver them. They actually rotate the stop lights out of the way for the balloons before the parade starts. 

The Plaza Hotel

The Beatles stayed here on their first visit to America! What’s not to like?! There are many iconic movies and people who have been here, take a look at the link!  Another fun thing was visiting the shoe shine stand. My boots have never been so shiny!

NBC Studio Tour

The tour of the NBC studios was one of the highlights of one visit to New York. An NBC page leads your group through the building. It was fun cramming into the elevator and not knowing who you’d see when the doors opened. We happened to glimpse actress Debi Mazar, done up in 1940’s garb.

You get to see the sets of Saturday Night Live, The Tonight Show, Late Night, and the NBC Nightly News set. Your group also gets to star in your own “talk show”. You’re given a script and instructions on where to go on the talk show set. Lots of laughs and fun. Photos aren’t allowed inside so I just have a few in the vicinity. You can enter the building for free and shop at the “Shop at NBC Studios“. The shop includes a Today Show desk which is fun for photos.

Times Square and Broadway

I’m a proponent of walking thru Times Square multiple times during a visit to New York.  Not really to shop or eat, there are better places, but, man, the atmosphere!  Those lights, the people, Broadway Shows all around on the side streets, and great photo opportunities!  Beware of strange costumed characters there… do NOT take a picture with them.

Sex and the City Tour

It was so much fun as a Sex and the City fan to get to see all the iconic spots from the show! We took a 3 1/2 hour bus tour, starting in front of the Plaza Hotel. We had a very engaging tour leader who offered history and gossip about the show.

Stops at:

  • Carrie’s apartment
  • The bar owned by Steve and Aidan
  • The store where Charlotte bought her Rabbit
  • Buddakan, where Carrie and Big’s wedding rehearsal dinner took place
  • Magnolia Bakery

The bus drives by:

  • The church where Samantha meets “The Friar”
  • The furniture store where Aidan designed his pieces
  • New York City Public Library, site of the ill-fated wedding
  • SJP’s shoe store
  • Jefferson Market Garden where Steve and Miranda got married

Central Park

Another great spot to wander around.  It will probably take a few visits.  A highlight is seeing the Imagine tribute to John Lennon.  The Dakota building where he and Yoko lived is across the street from the Imagine tribute area.  Apparently they live(d) on the 7th floor where the black railing is.

The restaurants in the park are iconic fun! See my exciting NYC restaurant page for details!

The Edge and Hudson Yards

The Edge is a triangular platform at the top of Hudson Yards.  Apparently it’s the highest outdoor sky deck at 100 stories up.  It even has a “hole” in the floor (covered by glass or whatever) so you can look straight down 100 stories.  When I was there some yahoos were laying down on the glass looking down.  Crazy.

The Edge is a relatively new vista point.  It is pricy (as they all are), about $40 to go to the top. If you’re a Rockafeller you can buy expensive champagne at the top also. It is very impressive! I liked being able to see the Empire State Building as part of the skyline.  

Hudson Yards is a complex with restaurants, shops and other stuff.  The Vessel is one of the things to see there.  It is “an interactive artwork landmark” made up of interconnecting flights of stairs. Unfortunately after it opened a few years ago people used it as a tall place to jump off of to commit suicide and it’s been closed to climb ever since.  It is an odd looking and unique thing to see.

Madison Square Garden (esp. Billy Joel)

My first visit to Madison Square Garden was to see Billy Joel.  I was very impressed with Madison Square Garden. So efficient at moving 20,000 people in and out! I never found myself in a “herd” of people like I inevitably do at the other Arenas.

My seat was in the very last top row, but the view was better than I expected! Plus the video screen was right there, AND there was a snack/ drink bar right behind this row! The bathroom was a nearby elevator ride down one floor. What’s not to like?

Billy Joel still sounded great at age 72. I’ve always liked Billy but never considered myself a huge fan, and I was surprised to find that I knew 99% of the songs he played word for word. As did the rest of the audience. It gave me chills quite a few times hearing the crowd all singing along together. I highly recommend trying to see Billy here at Madison Square Garden if you get the chance, even if you’re just a casual fan!

What are your favorite NYC must see spots? Let me know in the comments! Thanks for reading!

Map of mentioned Sights

Be sure to check out all the posts about New York City

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