Go where the locals go in New York City. Hire a modern travel agent with ViaHero.

8 New York Attractions that Locals Love

Updated December 29, 2022

New York attractions range from the iconic (the Statue of the Liberty) to interactive (the Brooklyn Bridge) and everything in the middle depending on your interests and itinerary. Locals tell us that the following eight attractions are definitely worth seeing—and they give suggestions on how to enjoy these incredible spots like a native New Yorker does. 

Why see NYC like a tourist when you could enjoy it like a local? Our trip planners are NYC locals who can introduce you to a new layer of their city. Learn more

Central Park, Prospect Park, Riverside Park…

Central Park | Alex Simpson/Unsplash

New York may be an urban jungle, but locals tell us that this is a park city. Many of the best places to visit in NYC are parks—from the iconic Central Park in the middle of Manhattan, to the Hudson River views of Riverside Park, to the rolling hills and hidden trails of Prospect Park in Brooklyn. What makes parks a great place to see in New York City is that they are always free and open, despite the weather. Rain, snow, or sleet–that won’t stop New Yorkers from walking their dogs, taking long strolls, and going on runs. 

Where you decide to go may depend on your travel style, so get some local input. Our trip planners can recommend activities that fit how you want to see NYC! During the spring and summertime, locals are seen enjoying picnic lunches, playing volleyball, or even sunbathing in the parks!

The Statue of Liberty...but with a twist

Statue of Liberty | Avi Werde/Unsplash

If it’s your first time in NYC, locals tell us you should definitely see the iconic Statue of Liberty. Yes, you could take the ferry directly there (tickets are about $20 for anyone 13+, with extra costs to ascend to the crown). 

But if you’re looking for a unique way to enjoy NYC, our trip planners recommend hopping on a different ferry. The Staten Island Ferry is free and provides an excellent view of the Statue of Liberty from afar. Alternatively, you could zip over to Governors Island (locals say ferry tickets are just a couple of dollars) for a view from its shores. Locals also recommend taking a cruise that is offered every weekday at 2 pm and 4 pm, and an additional time slot at noon on Fridays-Sundays. These tickets are a bit pricier ($29) but include a complimentary drink of your choice and a cookie. Yum!

Local Tip:

If you’re visiting NYC in the summer, Governor’s Island is a great place to escape the city heat.

How ViaHero Works

Choose a local

Choose a local travel planner from your destination.

Message the local

Tell your local travel planner about your trip and preferences.

Get a guidebook

Your planner sends custom recs, itinerary, maps, reservations.

The Brooklyn Bridge (and Brooklyn!)

Brooklyn Bridge | Gianandrea Villa/Unsplash

Built at the end of the 19th century, the Brooklyn Bridge is beautiful, iconic, and, often, quite crowded. 

Locals say this shouldn’t damper your bridge enthusiasm! Walking across is a cool activity—you’ll get incredible views of both Manhattan and Brooklyn. If you’re looking to avoid crowds, aim to cross early in the morning. If you are not in the mood to walk, you can even bike across the Bridge, though your calves might dislike you later from all the soreness.  

Once there, don’t skimp on one of the coolest places to visit in NYC—Brooklyn itself. The DUMBO area at the base of the bridge is full of cute shops (and a great weekend flea market). Plus, it’s easy to hop on the subway to explore places like Williamsburg or Park Slope. (Our trip planners can provide detailed transit instructions!)

Local Tip:

You can also cross the Williamsburg or Manhattan bridges. You’ll find fewer crowds but it’s also noisier since the trains cross these bridges. If you are taking the train, make sure that you check the L schedule timings in advance, especially on weekends because there are often delays or weekend disruptions.

Hogwarts! Er, the Grand Central Terminal 

Grand Central Terminal | Fezbot2000/Unsplash

One look at the ceiling of Grand Central Terminal and you’ll feel like you’ve waltzed into the Harry Potter universe. (The ceiling is painted green-blue and covered with golden constellations—so beautiful!) 

There’s a good chance you’ll swing through Grand Central en route to something else. Locals recommend padding your itinerary so that you don’t have to rush to your train or subway. You’ll find a great food court here (really) and the station is lovely and clean. Also if you need a quick pit stop to charge your iPhone, you can stop by the gorgeous Apple Store and browse the latest devices to add to your collection.

Local Tip:

Grand Central is beautiful, but don’t ogle too much—it’s an active station, and you’ll irritate the commuters dashing for their trains. Also, skip Penn Station if you can.

What kind of traveler are you?
Let’s face it. People want different things when they travel. Rather than spending hours sifting through blogs and top 10 lists written by people who may have totally different interests than you, why not start by sharing a little about what’s important to you when exploring a new destination?
Select your travel preferences below and let a local travel planner with ViaHero take it from there. Your personalized New York City recommendations, itinerary, and maps are just a few clicks away.

The Empire State Building (but do it right) 

Empire State Building | Kit Suman/Unsplash

The Empire State building is one of those iconic NYC sights—when you see it, you know you’re here. Go ahead and take the elevator up if you’d like—you’ll certainly get a good view. 

Locals say if you want that iconic Empire State Building pic (and a spectacular Manhattan panorama) go to the Top of the Rock, instead. You’ll have a lot of observatory options in NYC, but this is the only one with a fantastic view of the Empire State Building. 

Not looking to spend $40 on a view? Use local advice to save money. Our trip planners tell us that the 230 Fifth Rooftop Bar has no cover and provides a fantastic perspective of the Empire State Building. (It is a rooftop bar, though—so expect pricey drinks!)

Pick a museum, any museum

American Museum of Natural History | Aditya Vyas

Locals tell us that it’s impossible not to visit a museum while you’re here, and there are so many options to pick from: The Met, MoMA, and the American Museum of Natural History are some local favorites to visit in New York, but there are well over 80 other museums to pick from! 

And we haven’t even mentioned the Whitney...or the Brooklyn Museum...or the smaller, more obscure museums throughout New York—like the ultra-cool New York Transit Museum.  

If you don’t know where to start, get some local advice. Are you into history? Art? Are you looking to save money or are you willing to splurge? Find a like-minded local who can point you in the right direction. There are also many great art galleries to peruse while you’re here– locals can direct you accordingly and you may even make a friend in the process.

"How did I ever not travel like this?! Ana’s local insight & planning was a game changer. It’s like having a digital concierge, travel agent, and local fixer all rolled into one!"
Sierra, recent ViaHero traveler to Portugal
Sierra, recent ViaHero traveler to Portugal

The Patience (and Fortitude) of the New York Public Library 

New York Public Library | Clay Banks/Unsplash

The New York Public Library is another Hogwartsian treasure in the middle of Manhattan. Scale the grand steps in front of the library and meet the two stone lions guarding the place—their names are Patience and Fortitude

If you’re traveling to NYC on a budget, locals tell us that NYPL is a great place to visit in Manhattan. Fun fact: there are 92 NYPL locations across the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island. Our trip planners recommend checking the library’s calendar. They offer fantastic events and temporary exhibits. 

Local Tip:

You’ll find excellent bookstores throughout NYC, from the well-known Strand Bookstore in Manhattan to the excellent Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn.

Union Square

Union Square has a year-round green market, where you can sample goods from local farmers, lounge in the nearby Madison Square Park, or listen to local musicians play their craft. This is a historic neighborhood, but one that is so easy to get to by trains (the 4, 5, 6, L, N, Q, and R go here!) or by foot. Locals also recommend checking out the holiday markets in November and December that feature multiple vendors–or you can just browse to get into the holiday spirit. There are a number of cozy coffee shops and bakeries too, so don’t miss out on a freshly baked scone while you’re here.

Local Tip:

One of the biggest bookstores in New York City, the Strand Book Store, is in Union Square and only a few short blocks from the train station. Check out the event schedule for any readings or events being hosted.

BONUS: Hudson Valley and the Catskills

Catskills | Thomas Loizeau/Unsplash

Although you'll find plenty of attractions to enjoy in the city, locals tell us there's more to explore upstate. 

It's easy! Hop on a Metro-North train from Grand Central and soon you'll be in an entirely different universe. We have locals in the Hudson Valley and the Catskills who can help you prepare for your upstate adventure. Learn more

Still have questions about travel to New York City?
Why not ask someone who lives there? ViaHero connects you with a local to help plan your trip. They’ll create a guidebook based on your personal travel style.
You’ll see a unique side of a destination and travel independently—all while saving time and money in the planning process. Find a local today.

Looking for more info?