Is New York City Worth Visiting? Top Tips and Reasons to Visit

It’s popular, but is New York City really worth visiting? In this article, I’ll dive into reasons to visit, things to know before you go, and some cons to the city.

If you’re like most people in the world, New York City might’ve popped up on your radar more than a few times.

There’s something about the buzz of the Big Apple that catches your attention—the towering buildings, the streams of yellow cabs, and the relentless pulse of the city.

But let’s get real: Does NYC deserve the hype? I’m here to break down what makes the city an amazing travel destination, plus a bunch of extra info that will help you decide for yourself if NYC is worth visiting.

The TL;DR though? New York is a magnificent city and there are many, many reasons to visit. I’ve visited the city on three separate occasions and truly loved the experience, and I’m still chomping at the bit to go back and experience more.

8 Top Reasons to Visit New York City

1. An Incredible Restaurant Scene

The gorgeous skyline of NYC with lots of skyscrapers and a river running next to the city.

If even a small part of you is a foodie, you’ll adore NYC. The city practically serves up the world on a plate – you can find just about any type of cuisine in New York.

Dive into spicy Thai curries in one block, savor the hearty notes of Italian pasta in the next, and then dig into the aromatic spices of an Indian biryani or a Moroccan tagine.

NYC boasts 72 Michelin-star restaurants, but you can find incredible food at all price points. Plus, restaurants in New York are really a vibe – the city thrives on outdoor eating, with tables lining the sidewalks.

And if you have a sweet tooth (hi, guilty), there are endless dessert shops to try.

But if we’re talking quintessential NYC eats, then pizza and bagels immediately come to mind. The iconic NYC-style pizza slice, thin and cheesy, is an absolute must-try.

And I never considered myself a bagel enthusiast until I took a bite of a NYC bagel. Chewy, toasty, generously slathered in cream cheese—absolutely delightful.

Of course, my “To-Try” list of restaurants is always getting longer, but these are a few of the standout restaurants that I’ve enjoyed in New York City:

Los Tacos #1: A relatively straightforward takeaway taco stand that makes everything on-site. It has a cult following for good reason – the tacos are beyond delicious.

Liberty Bagels: A dizzying array of bagels and schmear (cream cheese) options. I got the French toast bagel with fresh strawberry cream cheese and it was incredible.

Ippudo Ramen: Real ramen is a relatively new favorite food for me, and this restaurant serves a variety of savory, comforting broth and noodles bowls.

2. Street Food Options Galore

Street food is just as iconic in NYC as the top-rated restaurants. Stands on almost every corner of NYC offer a quick bite to appease your hunger, with dozens of stands congregated around Times Square.

While hot dogs reign supreme as the quintessential NYC street food, the city’s carts and trucks serve up a smorgasbord of treats, including snacks like smoothies, skewers, churros, ice cream, and pretzels.

If you’re traveling with kids, the allure of street cart snacks will get everyone excited and in a good mood (Trust me, I speak from experience, ha!)

3. World Class Museums

NYC’s museum scene is impressive and varied, catering to art lovers, history buffs, and quirky deep dives alike. Some of the top art museums in the city are the MET, the Guggenheim, the MoMA, and the 9-11 Museum – and all are world-class museums offering a top-notch experience.

At the Met, you’ll wander through rooms showcasing Greek and Roman art (including swoon-worthy statues), Medieval Art, and European Sculptures and Paintings (this was my favorite room – I almost cried looking at one of Monet’s Water Lilies pieces and The Dance Class by Degas).

There are also rooms for Egyptian Art, Modern Art, and very interestingly, American Art. In this last room, you’ll get to experience the massive “Washington Crossing the Delaware.”

(Can you tell I loved the MET? I wouldn’t really even consider myself an art museum lover, but I was SO happy with my couple of hours here.)

The MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) and Guggenheim both showcase modern art. The MoMA houses thought-provoking modern masterpieces that can challenge your perceptions, while the spiral building of the Guggenheim isn’t just for show – inside, you’ll find a world-class collection of modern art.

Finally, the 9/11 Museum is more than an exhibit; it’s an emotional walk through history. It’s a place of remembrance, packed with personal stories and artifacts that piece together the narrative of that fateful day.

I visited with my dad, and we were both in awe as we walked through the evocative exhibits – there was almost an air of reverence in this museum.

Pro Tip: You must buy tickets ahead of time with a timed-entry reservation – you can grab your tickets here!

4. Historical Monuments and Buildings

As someone who absolutely loves a good monument, I love how New York City is adorned with structures and symbols that are steeped in history and significance.

The Statue of Liberty, standing tall in New York Harbor, is more than just a monument; it’s a beacon of hope, freedom, and one of the most recognized icons globally.

In the heart of the city, Trinity Church is a historic church with beautiful architectural details, while the soaring Gothic architecture at St Patrick’s Cathedral would fit in anywhere in Europe.

Grand Central Station, is one of the main public transportation hubs in the city, and the main hall has opulent details like the grand dome and iconic clock.

And for those who appreciate literature and stunning architecture alike, the New York Public Library, with its majestic lion statues, is an iconic building in New York, and the Morgan Library, with its lavish details, is a hidden gem.

5. Hustle and Bustle

One of the things that I love, and indeed, draws many visitors, is the energy that practically pulses through New York City. While yes, the crowds can sometimes be thick, it’s hard to deny the invigorating nature of the constant motion of the city.

Whether it’s the quick footsteps of morning commuters, the buzz of lunchtime crowds, or the thrum of an after-dark party, New York City is always on the go.

6. One of the Most Famous Skylines

The NYC skyline is a sight to behold—towering skyscrapers, iconic buildings, and structures that have been immortalized in endless movies and photographs. Buildings like the Empire State Building, The Chrysler Building, and One World Trade Center stand tall against the skyline, defining the city’s profile.

You absolutely cannot visit New York City and not stop by a skyline observation deck. While there are several options, you really can’t visit NYC and not go up the Empire State Building!

View from the top of the Empire State Building

Then, at night go up to the Top of the Rock, where you’ll get incredible views of the Empire State Building. By night, the skyline twinkles, with the lights reflecting off the Hudson and East Rivers.

It’s truly magical, and in my opinion, the opportunity to admire the skyline is a reason to visit NYC in and of itself.

Stephanie’s Pro Tip: Observation decks all require advanced timed-entry ticket purchase. Grab your tickets for the Empire State Building here and the Top of the Rock here.

7. Fantastic Public Transportation Options

Navigating NYC is a breeze, thanks to its extensive subway system, where a multitude of subway lines easily transport you from Uptown to Downtown, Brooklyn to Queens, and almost everywhere in between. You can hardly walk two blocks without stumbling upon a subway entrance, ready to carry you away to the next attraction.

Frequent services and well-signed stations make it user-friendly, even for newcomers (Pro tip: Google Maps now has a public transit tab, which gives step-by-step instructions on where to go on the subway).

And while you can get a Metro Card (and it can save you money if you’re there for several days), you can also just swipe your credit card at the turnstile, and away you go. There’s something about hopping on the subway, a quintessential New York experience, that makes you feel like you belong in the city.

8. Beautiful Parks and Squares

New York City may be known for its towering skyscrapers, but it’s also dotted with lush green spaces. Central Park is the crown jewel of NYC’s outdoor areas and a definite must-see. It’s not just big; it’s filled with enchanting spots, from its winding paths and serene ponds to the iconic bridges and lawns.

Then there’s Washington Square Park, nestled in the heart of the Greenwich Village. It’s beloved by both locals and visitors and easily recognized by the iconic arch honoring George Washington. It’s a great place to people-watch, enjoy street performers, or just relax by the fountain.

A unique “park” in New York is the Highline, a long, skinny walking path constructed on an old railroad track in the West Side neighborhood. It’s elevated one story above ground level, and offers a cool mix between urban and green living.

Over in Brooklyn, Prospect Park is the borough’s answer to Central Park, designed by the same landscape architects. It offers its own array of picturesque meadows, a boathouse, and plenty of space for all kinds of outdoor activities

Other Things to Consider About Visiting NYC:

✔️Is NYC Safe?

Mostly. NYC is considered a pretty safe place for tourists. The city has done a lot to clean up its act over the years, and most of the areas you’re likely to explore are welcoming and secure. You probably won’t wander into neighborhoods that are known for being risky because they’re not on the typical tourist trail.

But, like any big city, there are some common-sense tips you’ll want to keep in mind. For instance, Central Park is beautiful by day but it’s wise to steer clear of it after dark. The same goes for the Financial District; it’s buzzing during business hours but can feel a bit eerie at night because it empties out.

If you’re riding the subway late in the evening, it’s a good idea to avoid empty cars and stick to where there are more people. In general, any place that seems deserted is better to bypass, especially if you’re on your own.

Pickpocketing can happen, especially in crowded areas like Times Square or on packed subway cars, so keep a close eye on your belongings. Carry your bag in front of you, and if you’ve got a wallet or phone in your pocket, make sure it’s secure and not easily grabbed.

Safety from petty crime in NYC is all about being aware of your surroundings and not making yourself an easy target.

✔️Is NYC Expensive?

Yes, New York City is indeed a pricey place to visit. Getting into the city from the airport by cab might set you back over $100, and if you opt for an Uber, it’s not much less at around $80. Once you’re in the city, dining out can also be a wallet-thinner, with many sit-down restaurants charging $30-40 just for an entrée.

Accommodations? Well, ‘expensive’ is an understatement. Hotel prices are often sky-high, with many running into the hundreds per night. And while NYC is brimming with free activities, paid attractions can add up fast. Visiting any of the city’s famous observation decks starts at $40 a pop, entrance to the MET is $25, and the 9-11 Museum tickets are around $30.

But don’t be discouraged; there are plenty of ways to keep your spending in check:

  • For a quick and affordable meal, hunt down one of the city’s many pizza joints. You can snag a delicious slice for as little as $4.
  • Instead of taxis, navigate the city like a local using the subway system. It’s far less expensive and takes you almost anywhere you need to go.
  • Take advantage of the numerous free experiences available throughout the city, from parks and street performances to certain museum admission days. There’s no shortage of ways to enjoy NYC on a budget.

✔️Best Time to Visit NYC

There’s no truly bad time to visit New York, and each season has its pros and cons. Here’s a quick run-down:

Spring: The blooming of cherry blossoms and a milder climate make spring a delightful time to explore the Big Apple. The crowds are manageable, and the city buzzes with outdoor markets and cultural festivals.

Summer: New York in summer is lively and vibrant, with long days perfect for rooftop bars, outdoor concerts, and picnics in the park. Be prepared for hot and humid weather, and a spike in tourist numbers, especially around key attractions.

Fall: The crisp air and colorful foliage provide an exquisite backdrop for city walks in the fall. This season sees a variety of food and film festivals, and with somewhat fewer tourists, there’s more breathing room at popular sites.

Winter: The city turns into a winter wonderland during the colder months, with incredible holiday decorations and events, like the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting. While it can be bitterly cold, the festive spirit and usually lower accommodation rates (particularly in Jan-Feb) can make it worth the chill.

✔️How Many Days Do You Need in NYC?

If you’re planning a trip to NYC, the amount of time you spend there really depends on what you’re after.

Having visited a few times myself, I can say that a single day can give you a taste of the excitement, but to really get a feel for the city, I’d recommend at least three days. That way, you can cover the big sights like the Empire State Building and the hustle of Times Square without having to rush too much.

Five days in the city gives you the perfect amount of time to see those famous spots and also have a few off the beaten path experiences. It’s enough time to see the highlights, find a few local spots for food, and maybe even catch a show or visit a lesser-known neighborhood or two.

✔️Top Places to Visit in the City

Biking in Central Park

This is my personal list of the top, most noteworthy places that you just can’t miss in NYC:

  • Central Park
  • Empire State Building
  • Statue of Liberty (either visiting the island or just taking the Staten Island Ferry past it)
  • Times Square
  • 9-11 Memorial and Museum
  • Walking the Brooklyn Bridge
  • Catching a Broadway Show
  • The MET
  • Washington Square Park

✔️Downsides to NYC

Navigating New York City can sometimes feel like a sensory overload. The streets, while alive with energy, can often be less than pristine, with garbage and smells that are a far cry from the romanticized version of the city.

Crowds are another reality—swarming around the must-see sights, often turning a leisurely sightseeing trip into a bit of an elbowing contest. And where there are attractions, there are lines: snaking queues for museums, landmarks, and even some famous eateries, all eating into your precious exploration time.

The cost of experiencing NYC is steep. From dining out to entrance fees at various attractions and the price of accommodations, you’ll feel the pinch in your wallet.

Lastly, the soundscape of New York is a constant hum—sirens, chatter, traffic; the city’s heartbeat is undeniably loud. While some find it exhilarating, for others, the lack of quiet can be a challenge.

Is New York City Worth Visiting? The Wrap Up

I absolutely think New York City is worth a visit – there are a myriad of reasons to visit and exciting things to do in the city. It’s a bucket list experience and destination, and I think it lives up to the hype (as I’ve been writing this article, I’ve been scheming to figure out how I can get back in the next few months – ha!).

If you don’t like big cities, then NYC might not be for you, but if you’re open to exploring the concrete jungle, I’d say start packing your bags 🙂

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