Looking to enjoy the most popular NYC experiences and the best tours in NYC that are most frequently booked? We’ve got you covered in this guide to all the famous NYC activities and tours in New York City from iconic skyscrapers, world-famous museums, to the Statue of Liberty, scenic cruises, helicopter tours, and more!
Each of these New York sightseeing tours mentioned also have a link where you can purchase the tickets directly from here to help you plan your trip and many of which include tickets that have a ‘skip the line’ feature so there are no long queues when you come to see these popular NYC experiences!
For more fun ideas, check out the best tours in Brooklyn as many of these NYC activities are based around the popular attractions in Manhattan.
And if you need help planning your visit, check out our itinerary and guide to a perfect Brooklyn weekend.
Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links meaning if you book one of these popular New York sightseeing tours from our links, we receive a small commission at no extra cost to you!
Popular & Best Tours in NYC
Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island
Throughout history, there have been several notable symbols of freedom in the world. One of them is the Statue of Liberty which was built in 1886 on the New York City Harbor, followed by Ellis Island.
From the late 19th century to the mid 20th century, Ellis Island was America’s biggest immigration terminal. Ellis Island can be reached only by ferry from New York or New Jersey, a trip that has proven itself one of the best tours in NYC and is also one of the national parks in NYC.
Buying a ticket for a ferry ride to go see these attractions ranks high among the well-known NYC activities. The round-trip ticket comes with multi-lingual audio guides that apprise you of the attractions’ rich history. Get your tickets in advance here.
Empire State Building General (Skip-the-Line Tickets)
The Empire State Building is a 102-story building built from 1930-1931 and one of the most iconic symbols of the city and tourist attractions. This majestic skyscraper is a symbol of New York City, one of the seven wonders of the modern world and one of the best New York sightseeing tours.
Touring the Empire State Building lets you rise over a thousand feet off the ground, provides you with an unobstructed, scenic view of the city. Two types of tickets are available to tourists: the general and the express tickets. If you’d rather skip all the lines filled with tourists, the express ticket is the one for you.
The building’s height and architecture provide superb viewing points of the city making it one of the best tours in NYC. Get your tickets in advance here.
See our full guide for tips and tricks for how to visit the Empire State Building for more information to help you plan your trip!
60-Minute Cruise Around the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island
If you’re looking for NYC experiences that inform as well as dazzle you with beauty and brilliance, a 60-minute cruise on a ferry around lady liberty is the perfect answer.
The cruise brings you within touching distance of the Statue of Liberty; the greatest emblem of freedom in the world, Ellis island; Americas’ largest immigration terminal, lets you cruise under the Brooklyn bridge and astonishes you with the beautiful Manhattan skyline, the most famous skyline in the world.
Several options of food and drinks are available at concession stands sealing it as one of the best tours in New York City. Get your tickets in advance here.
Sunset Boat Cruise to Statue of Liberty
Viewing a scenery that is already sprawling with beauty and brilliance at sunset makes it infinitely more magical. Such is the case for the sunset boat cruise to the Statue of Liberty. The view of this attraction and everything associated with it is one of the best NYC experiences you can have.
The one-hour boat ride of one of the best tours in NYC begins around the Statue of Liberty and moves on to Ellis Island, to the outstanding views of the Brooklyn Bridge, a scenic cruise along a shimmering Hudson River and the brilliant sprawl of the Manhattan skyline. Get your tickets in advance here.
Be sure to read our full guide on how to visit the Statue of Liberty for more tips!
New York Botanical Garden
A walk in the New York City Garden with its cornucopia of plants is a much-favored tour in New York City. Due to safety regulations, the indoor areas are currently closed and the number of visitors allowed has been reduced, which means you’ll need to buy a timed ticket in advance.
The horticultural design of the garden is splendid and soothing with over a million plant species in unique spaces spanning 250 acres of land. It allows you to leave the city without actually leaving the city. A tour of the garden is one of the best NYC activities can take up to 3 hours.
A garden pass is required to visit the New York Botanical Garden, it could be a Weekday All-Garden Pass or a Weekend All-Garden Pass. Get your tickets in advance here.
And if you’re looking to visit more botanic gardens, check out the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.
Pier 36 Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island Cruise
Touring on a 60-minute boat cruise around the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island from Pier 36 grants you a much closer view of the Brooklyn Bridge, lady liberty, it also brings you within a hundred feet of the monument and Ellis Island.
The boat departs from Pier 36, right under the Brooklyn Bridge on one of the best sightseeing tours in New York. Several options of snacks and drinks are made available for purchase, making this NYC experience even more memorable. Get your tickets in advance here.
Top of the Rock Observation Deck
Among the best tours in New York City and experiences is the Top of the Rock Observation Deck. This experience takes the visitors up 850 feet in one minute, the monument provides an extremely wide, panoramic view of New York City and its notable landmarks. This one-hour tour has been described as a NYC experience worth having.
Regardless of weather conditions, the Top of the Rock Observation Deck is open to visitors at all times. Participation in the tour requires a ticket, the timed-entry ticket is a one-time ticket that gives tourists access to the monument at a 30-minute interval. This is especially helpful now for safety regulating. Get your tickets in advance here.
Check out the best observation decks in New York City to see which one(s) you should visit on your trip!
9/11 Memorial and Museum Entry Ticket
The 9/11 memorial is a tribute to the people who died in the attack of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on the 11th September 2001, as well as those who died in the bombing of the World Trade Center on the 26th February 1993.
Visiting the memorial is a way to honor those who died in these attacks. The museum exhibitions include artifacts and memorabilia from the disastrous attack on the World Trade Center.
The memorial is free and opens seven days a week while the museum now opens five days a week. The museum ticket can be obtained in advance (as early as six months). Get your tickets in advance here.
Harbor Lights Night Cruise
A cruise along the New York Harbor is lovely enough during the day. At night, the beauty of the harbor and its attractions become even lovelier, more than enough to be one of the best tours in NYC.
The 2-hour boat ride starts at and ends at Pier 83, going around the harbor and coming within proximity to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
The city lights at night create a different kind of magic in the Harbor, especially the ones produced by the Manhattan skyline and its skyscrapers. Food, drinks, and an open bar are an added comfort on this New York City tour. Get your tickets in advance here.
One World Observatory (Skip-the-Line Ticket)
Touring the observatory is one of the must-do NYC activities if you intend to view the city in its entirety.
A Sky Pod transports people to the top of the observatory in less than 60 seconds. At the summit, the iconic landmarks, parks and waters lay sprawling in all directions in a picturesque view, making it one of the best tours in New York City.
The tickets are timed-entry, can be purchased in advance and they last the whole day! Get your tickets in advance here.
Summit One Vanderbilt
The most impressive new New York City attraction is the gorgeous, immersive Summit One Vanderbilt observatory and immersive experience featuring sweeping views of the city’s most iconic skyscrapers up close from a birdseye view, floor to ceiling mirrors, art installations by artists like Yayoi Kusama, and incredible picture-perfect opportunities every which way you turn.
The entire experience starts with a smooth, 42-second elevator ride with a flashing light exhibit which is the first of several installations to enjoy throughout your visit followed by the multi-level mirrored observatory, an outdoor Skydeck, the best cafe in the city for sweeping views, a 12 story glass elevatory, and more art installations along the way.
This is an incredibly popular NYC attraction, so reservation for a timed visit are required in advance.
Metropolitan Museum of Art (Skip-the-Line Ticket)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art or the MET was founded in 1870, the MET provides millennia’s worth of art from all over the globe and it takes about 5 hours to go through it all. A pre-purchased ticket grants visitors the opportunity of skipping the ticket line on one of the busiest NYC activities.
In the MET, the ancient meets the novel in a series of events and exhibitions as the museum tells the history of various civilizations from around the world. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of the best tours in New York City it is the most visited attraction in the country not to mention one of the best museums in NYC to visit! Get your tickets in advance here.
Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island & Pre-Ferry Tour
Most people only look forward to the Statue of Liberty tour, but there is a 2-hour pre-ferry tour which gives a great NYC experience and serves as a build-up of sorts to the ferry ride itself.
The activities include a visit to the Pedestal Museum where tourists learn more about the Statue of Liberty, the Ellis Island Immigration Museum where knowledge about the United States of America’s largest immigration station can be obtained.
More NYC activities associated with the pre-ferry tour include a tour of Battery Park while enjoying a scenic view of the harbor and guaranteed access to the ferry tour of the Statue of Liberty and other New York Harbor attractions. Get your tickets in advance here.
Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
The Museum of Modern Art was founded in 1929 in Midtown Manhattan. The museum prides itself in the collection of modern art and is regarded as one of the most dominant museums of modern art in the world and one of the best tours in NYC.
A one-time-only entry ticket grants access to some of the most unusual challenging contemporary art on the globe including the works by Frida Kahlo, Pablo Picasso, and Vincent Van Gogh.
An especially popular exhibition of the MoMa is Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” (my personal favorite painting). The entry ticket for this NYC experience can be purchased in advance. However, it expires after 24 hours. Get your tickets in advance here.
The Guggenheim is referred to by many as the most important building to be designed by famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright and home to masterpieces in the form of modern and contemporary art. It was named a National Historic Landmark in 2015 and visiting it was recognized as one of the great NYC experiences.
The Guggenheim Museum appeals to people of all ages, visitors who aren’t particularly excited about the exhibitions can’t help but admire the interior and exterior design of the building. For tourists who love art and like to spend time admiring and understanding each exhibition, the museum can be covered in about 3 hours.
The entry ticket grants visitors the option to skip the ticket and admission lines to commence one of the best tours in NYC. Get your tickets in advance here.
Edge Observation Deck
The honeycomb-like structure of the Hudson Yards Vessel comprises 16 stories, 154 connecting flights of stairs, and 2,500 steps making up a spiral staircase which is a popular NYC experience along with the brand new Edge Observation Deck.
Unfortunately, climbing the Vessel is closed until further notice, but you can still visit the Edge Observation Deck which is the sexiest new skyscraper visitors can enjoy to get a birds-eye view of the city and skyline and still enjoy the Vessel from around the base.
It provides a scenic view of the city from different heights and angles giving fresh perspectives to previously observed landmarks. Visiting dates can be booked as early as six months, cementing it further as one of the best New York sightseeing tours. Get your tickets in advance here.
American Museum of Natural History
For avid fans of history and biology, the American Museum of Natural History is a must-see tour in New York City. Or maybe you’re just a fan of the movie Night at the Museum which takes place here!
There is over 34 million specimens of ancient life form, products, and rocks in the museum’s permanent and temporary exhibition halls. The museum, dedicated to education and scientific research tells the story of the ages before man up to the point where man came to rule the planet and one of the most famous exhibitions is a skeleton of the Tyrannosaurus Rex.
The tickets generally last for 24 hours, although they can be upgraded to allow access to special exhibitions in a valuable NYC experience. Get your tickets in advance here.
60-Min Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island Sunset Cruise
The boat ride transports visitors around the New York Harbor for 1 hour, allowing them to observe the Statue of Liberty very closely (about a 100 feet), as well as Ellis Island.
Other scenic attractions along the Harbor are the Brooklyn Bridge, Hudson River, One World Trade Center, Empire State Building, Manhattan Bridge, and the Manhattan Skyline. With the sunset in the background, tourists are encouraged to snap pictures of the visible attractions to commemorate the NYC experience.
Cruising around the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island at sunset is among the most favored New York sightseeing tours and a great NYC experience. Get your tickets in advance here.
Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Times Square
Ripley’s is perfect for tourists who are fascinated by the strange and unexplained. Located in the middle of Times Square and the largest of its kind in the world, this attraction offers fun NYC activities.
Visitors are familiarized with the mysteries of our world as well as exhibitions and oddities including the Black Hole, Ripley’s Smash Dash, and over 500 artifacts. They are also challenged with puzzles to uncover the secrets of Ripley’s Relic. Ripley’s share proximity to other notable attractions.
The ticket expires after 24 hours, but Ripley’s is one of the most interesting NYC experiences. Get your tickets in advance here.
Edge Observation Deck (Skip-the-Line Ticket)
This is a brilliant piece of architecture, 1,100 feet of the ground with a suspended outdoor balcony made of glass floors and walls. This makes it a very efficient New York sightseeing tour.
There is no limit to how long visitors can stay on the observation deck, the view from the top of the 100-story building is a picturesque, 360 degrees view of New York City.
The entry ticket enables visitors to skip all the lines at the monument. It also makes available for tourists, the added option of selecting their preferred time and date of the visitation. Observing the city from the Edge Observation Deck is an important NYC experience. Get your tickets in advance here.
Statue of Liberty with Pedestal Access & Ellis Island Tour
This New York City tour grants access to the Statue of Liberty’s Pedestal but also provides visitors with the lovely scenic views of all the other attractions on the New York City Harbor. The tour also provides restricted access to attractions that are otherwise unavailable on the other tours along the Harbor.
The Statue of Liberty library and the Ellis Immigration library are made available for observation, information about the monuments are dispensed by multi-lingual tour guides. Several different perspectives of the harbor and the famous Manhattan skyline can be observed from atop the pedestal on Liberty Island. Get your tickets in advance here.
New York City Helicopter Tours
One of the best NYC activities and NYC experiences is hopping aboard a helicopter tour to get some of the most dramatic and epic views of the city!
Due to the mobility of the helicopter, the city is laid out before tourists at a 180-degree angle. A bird’s eye view of the city is observed from the helicopter, the water, the parks and the landmarks make up the most beautiful scenery. Apart from a scenic view of the monuments and attractions, the passengers get very close to the Manhattan skyline.
As the helicopter cruises past the many skyscrapers that make up the Manhattan Skyline, the passengers can observe the architecture more closely. Get your tickets in advance here.
Check out all the different options too in our guide to the best helicopter tours in NYC which covers the different types of tours as well as the pros and cons to each to help you decide which one to choose!
Museum of Ice Cream
Are you looking for tours in New York City that satisfy your sweet tooth? The extremely photogenic and pink-colored ice cream-themed museum is the place for you. The museum was founded in 2016 and the tickets are only valid for the duration of the time purchased.
Immediately after going through the entrance, visitors are given an ice cream sample. There are different exhibition rooms, each of them portraying a different ice cream theme, the most famous exhibition is the Pool of Sprinkles. Each room more Instagrammable than the next.
The pool is very popular among adults and children alike. Before going into the pool, visitors are asked to take off their shoes. You could say this one of the sweeter NYC activities! Get your tickets in advance here.
Statue and Skyline Cruise aboard the Luxury Yacht
Observing the Manhattan skyline from a perfect vantage point is one of the best NYC experiences. This is improved by watching and appreciating the famous skyline from the comfort of a regal 1920s style yacht.
The wonderful architecture of the buildings and landmarks can be observed from the water. Not just that, a scenic view of the Statue of Liberty is also provided for tourists in comfort and style.
This 1 hour, 30 minutes cruise which also gifts tourists with a beautiful view of Ellis Island, Battery Park, Governor’s Island, and the Hudson River is ranked among the best tours in NYC. Get your tickets in advance here.
New York City Explorer Pass With Over 85 Tours & Attractions
New York is an expensive city to live in. With that in mind, it is no surprise that prices are high. The Explorer Pass is an avenue for tourists to save money on their travels and sightseeing.
It is a very good deal for visitors who want to do some NYC sightseeing that enables them to save a lot of money (up to 54%) They also get to choose from over 85 attractions and tours like the Empire State Building, Top of The Rock, Statue of Liberty, The MET, New York Botanical Garden and so on.
This system is built in such a way that the high number of selected tours equal a more reduced price of the tours. Get your tickets in advance here.
Sunset Yacht Cruise
As far as luxurious cruises go, this is probably one of the more luxurious tours in New York City and best romantic dates in NYC. There are several kinds of sunset cruises in New York City including the Valentine’s Day Champagne Tasting Cruise, Sunset and Holiday Cocoa Cruise and the Evening Jazz Cruise.
For 1 hour and 30 minutes, the enchanting panoramic view of the Manhattan sunset from the water and the scenic view of various buildings and landmarks, attractions, and people are procured for tourists.
All these, along with the added service of music, food, drinks, and an open bar make this a memorable NYC experience. Get your tickets in advance here.
NYC Attraction Passes
If you want to enjoy multiple attractions on your NYC trip consider getting an attraction pass that you pay a price upfront to get into attractions all over the city for free. By purchasing an attraction pass you can save anywhere from 35-45% on your attraction passes and saving you hundreds of dollars on your visit!
CityPASS offers a 3 attraction pass or a 6 attraction pass with over 12 city attractions to choose from including popular observatories like the Empire State Building, The Edge, Top of the Rock, 9/11 Memorial & Museum, Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island, the Guggenheim, and more!
Another great option is the New York Pass which you can purchase anywhere from a 1 Day Pass to a 10 Day Pass that gets you into over 100 attractions. Once you purchase your New York Pass you download the Go City app and use that to get up to 45% savings on popular attractions as well as a few hidden gem attractions ranging from the Empire State Building to the Museum of Ice Cream and many of the NYC experiences mentioned in this guide!