New York City is one of the most popular locations in the world. The big city and bright lights appeal to both the folks that live in the area and those that want to visit. There are currently 8.5 million people living in NYC, along with 60+ million tourists visiting per year. It often leads to overpopulated areas that could make a day out turn into a disaster. One major reason for the large number of people trying to enjoy New York is the variety of landmarks, attractions and fun things to do.
We will look at some of the most interesting things for folks in NYC to do with a free day. There are the major landmarks that every tourist will want to check out if not residing in New York. However, the locals have a different mindset when it comes to fun things. It is easy to get spoiled by the major attractions. Luckily, there are enough under-the-radar things to do that can be enjoyed if you’re in the city for an extended time. Both sides will be examined when it comes to spending time in NYC. These are ten attractions in New York City all tourists should visit along with ten spots for the locals.
20 Tourist attraction: Empire State Building
The Empire State Building is among the most popular tourist attractions in the world. There are many tall buildings in New York, but the 102-story tall skyscraper landmark is located in the heart of Manhattan. Tourists typically rank it high as it is a rare experience worth witnessing at least once.
Most of the locals pay it no mind after seeing it once or twice. The Empire State Building is still an important part of New York that represents the city as the first visual that most associate with it. This is certainly one of the things more important for tourists as a memorable experience to witness for the first time.
19 Local attraction: Apollo Theater
One landmark location in New York City that every resident should attempt to check out is the Apollo Theater.
This entertainment venue is legendary for the various iconic musicians and comedians that have performed inside of it through the years.
The historic Showtime at the Apollo show takes place at this venue with talents trying to win over the tough crowd. Tourists may not have enough time on a trip to squeeze in all the important landmarks and a fun event like this. Locals have the fortune of being able to fit an Apollo Theater show into their schedule at some point.
18 Tourist attraction: Central Park
Central Park is the most popular park in New York City with various activities offered. Many people just go to enjoy the beautiful scenery and spend time with friends laying on the grass or sitting on a bench. However, there are quite a few options to spend your time in the 843-acre park.
Some of the perks of visiting Central Park would be the frequent concerts, horse-drawn carriages, biking paths, a zoo and many other fun things to do. Tourists typically visit Central Park over the other parks in the city for good reason. It was essentially designed for tourists to both see new things and have a relaxing time.
17 Local attraction: Prospect Park
One park that most locals in New York City favor over Central Park is Prospect Park. This one is in Brooklyn and often has a lot of the same options of fun as Central Park. Prospect Park has their own concerts, a zoo, a botanic garden and various other activities.
The main reason most locals prefer Prospect Park over Central Park is the smaller crowds. While it does get busy, it is significantly more convenient than Central Park.
Tourists go to Central Park for the memorable experience and location while locals enjoy the more serene atmosphere at Prospect Park with more peace of mind.
16 Tourist attraction: One World Trade Center
One World Trade Center is the latest major tourist attraction to become part of a New York City visit. It is the main building of the rebuilt World Trade Center following many years, work and money being put into the landmark.
The first few years of the One World Trade Center have seen it develop a great reputation as a top tier tourist attraction with overwhelmingly positive reviews. It is the tallest building in North America and the sixth tallest in the world. One World Trade Center provides a breathtaking view of the city from inside while celebrating the history of NYC on the elevator ride up.
15 Local attraction: IFC Center
No tourist is going to come to New York City with the idea of spending time in a movie theater as the ideal experience. That is part of the reason IFC Center is appealing to locals wanting a fun experience. The other reason is that the IFC Center is unlike any ordinary movie theater.
Many tremendous restaurants are in the West Village area close to the IFC Center. That adds to the appeal of dining fun before heading into one of the premiere theaters. The biggest difference is that the IFC Center plays blockbusters and cult favorites of the past on the giant screens. It is the perfect experience for a movie buff, especially if an all-time favorite film is showing.
14 Tourist attraction: Madison Square Garden
Madison Square Garden has the nickname of “the world’s most famous arena.” New York Knicks basketball games, New York Rangers hockey games, legendary concerts, WWE shows, and circus tours are some of the major events to help the venue become an iconic brand in the United States.
Many people put MSG at the top of their list when it comes to tourist attractions. The history behind the venue makes it a special place to visit at least once for an event. Madison Square Garden still has a full schedule with events most days of the week. The best way to experience it is by picking an act or an event that you’re passionate about.
13 Local attraction: Barclays Center
Barclays Center has become the rival of Madison Square Garden since opening in 2012. The venue was built for the Brooklyn Nets basketball team, but it has become so much more. Many top musical acts to stage shows to sporting events now choose Barclays over MSG due to the cheaper price to run the venue.
Locals have started to accept Barclays Center as the premier major venue due to the cheaper ticket prices and variety of events.
Saving money is a major part of living happily in New York City. The comfort, affordability and convenience of Barclays Center makes it perfect for locals to attend events.
12 Tourist attraction: Grand Central Terminal
Grand Central Terminal is the world’s most popular train station due to the history of it. The terminal was originally open back in 1871 and has become a landmark in New York City. Most locals hate having to travel through it due to the constant big crowds.
However, tourists eat it up due to the stunning visual of such a large and fascinating terminal. Aside from traveling in Grand Central Terminal, there are many fun things to do like learning about the history behind it or eating at one of the fancy restaurants inside. The experience here allows a tourist to get the combination of viewing life as a New Yorker while still appreciating the tourist appeal.
11 Local attraction: Museum of the Moving Image
There are many museums in New York City with quite a few being top tourist attractions. The Museum of the Moving Image may be the most underrated. Very few people visiting NYC will even consider visiting this museum due to being smaller than many others and for the location in Queens.
The Museum of the Moving Image delivers the perfect museum for locals wanting to see interesting exhibits without a huge crowd.
This museum is dedicated to film, television and digital media. There should be at least one exhibit here that will connect with anyone that has a fondness for enjoying pop culture.
10 Tourist attraction: Rockefeller Center
Rockefeller Center is typically the most popular tourist attraction come Winter for the beauty of it during the colder months. Christmas season is when most people dream of visiting Rockefeller Center for a couple of reasons; The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree lighting is an incredible event to witness live and the ice skating rink is fun to experience as well.
Other noteworthy things to do at Rockefeller Center are heading to the Top of the Rock observation deck for a stunning view of the city or taking a tour dedicated to the art and history of the location. Rockefeller Center is certainly a destination for tourists to have a great time.
9 Local attraction: Brooklyn Botanic Garden
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is located near Prospect Park and provides one of the most relaxing days someone can spend in New York City. A serene environment of beautiful flowers and fascinating plants will allow you to become one with nature.
Locals prefer the Brooklyn Botanic Garden over the other gardens in the city due to the peaceful nature. It feels like taking a trip away from the hustle and bustle of the city without having to leave. Spring is considered the best time to visit the Brooklyn Botanic Garden for peak Cherry Blossom booming and the annual Sakura Matsui festival celebrating it.
8 Tourist attraction: Brooklyn Museum
One of the most popular tourist attractions in Brooklyn is the Brooklyn Museum. This is one of the most historic museums in the New York area with fascinating exhibits coming in and out each month. An annual free event on the first Saturday of each month has become one of the hottest tourist events in NYC.
The Brooklyn Museum mixes history, art and relevant social exhibits important to the current times. A recent loan saw the Brooklyn Museum have an original Jean-Michel Basquiat painting on display. This is extra important as the iconic artist was a Brooklyn Museum member as a child, and his old card was part of the exhibit.
7 Local attraction: UCB Theaters
There is no shortage of entertainment events offered on a nightly basis in New York City. However, the two Upright Citizens Brigade theaters are a consistent source of great comedy. Improv is the specialty for these comedians trying to make their name with multiple shows offered each night of the week.
Amy Poehler, Donald Glover and Ellie Kemper are just a few superstars today that saw their careers start at UCB theaters. Many top comics make surprise appearances for the fun of it, like Jason Sudeikis and Thomas Middleditch. Locals have the luxury of attending shows any time they want with a chance to witness the next major television or movie stars at a cheap price.
6 Tourist attraction: The High Line
The High Line has become one of the most popular areas in New York City over the past decade. Many tourists visiting New York City want to ditch the old tradition of going to Central Park for a relaxing day by opting to hit up the High Line.
It is a park, greenway and rail trail that is now known as a fun outdoor spot. The view is breathtaking and puts the city in perspective when looking at everything from the High Line.
This is the ideal spot for tourists to spend a day eating a snack and enjoying each other’s company in a beautiful New York location.
5 Local attraction: New York Public Library
The New York Public Library is the second largest library in the United States and the third largest in the entire world. Anyone with a love of reading can appreciate such a massive library with more books than anyone would be able to read in a lifetime.
Tourists can’t appreciate the library fully without a library card, and most would not want to spend limited time in New York City at a library. That makes it a perfect attraction for the locals looking for a fun place to visit. Another fun aspect of the library is that it was featured in Ghostbusters, Seinfeld and other forms of pop culture appearances.
4 Tourist attraction: Times Square
Tourists go wild for Times Square when visiting New York City. The visual of the bright lights and giant crowd of people walking around is the perfect summary of what goes down in the Times Square area.
Many tourists love to spend a full day in Times Square wandering around the various places. Fun attraction spots like Ripley’s Believe It or Not and the famous Madame Tussauds Wax Museum deliver entertaining experiences for everyone in the family. There’s no shortage of great restaurants, live play theaters and shopping locations in Times Square, making it ideal for tourists wanting a big day of variety.
3 Local attraction: Bronx Zoo
One of the most memorable places one can visit in New York City is the Bronx Zoo. Tourists rarely spend any time in the Bronx due to the lack of attractions compared to Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. The Bronx Zoo is a long trip for tourists in the city, but locals have the time and transit options to get there.
There are four other zoos in the NYC area, but the Bronx Zoo is by far the largest. It is the only one with lions, tigers, gorillas, rhinos and other large animals. The Bronx Zoo even recently added intimate experiences which allows those paying a little extra to interact with young cheetahs or get tours meeting a variety of animals.
2 Tourist attraction: Statue of Liberty
The Statue of Liberty is the top tourist attraction in New York City for good reason. There are few landmarks as important to the United States as the Statue of Liberty. The iconic sculpture is frequently visited by tourists wanting to see it up close and personal.
A long walk inside of the statue allows you to get up to the pedestal for a view to the ground that is higher than most people expect. An option is available to pay for a tour that will provide more historical information and fun facts about the Statue of Liberty. It is worth it for those wanting the full experience as a tourist.
1 Local attraction: Coney Island
The entire area of Coney Island in Brooklyn makes the top spot for local attractions due to how many things you can do there. Most of the fun things in Coney Island are things offered in most other cities, meaning tourists will opt to visit other places.
However, the attractions at Coney Island are still packed with locals loving to visit in the summer. Most people would rank Luna Park as the top thing to do in Coney Island due to the roller coasters and other tremendous amusement park rides. There’s also the New York Aquarium and the Coney Island Beach. All of these things and more are located within minutes of walking distance from each other for a dream local day in Coney Island.