- 1 of
PHOTO BY: Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Best Spot to See It All
Don’t let the pricey admission fee dissuade you: The elevator ride to the top of One World Trade Center alone is worth the investment, whooshing you up 102 floors in 47 mind-blowing seconds as the elevator walls display an immersive time-lapse video of the island of Manhattan’s evolution from the 1500s to present day. Step off the lift, and you’re treated to exhilarating views in every direction from the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, and the sixth tallest in the world. The vista is unmatched, though older visitors who remember the previous towers may need a moment. Standard admission prices start at $34. Senior tickets (65 and older) start at $32.
- 2 of
PHOTO BY: Volkan Furuncu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Timeless and Timely
Originally installed directly in front of the New York Stock Exchange as a piece of guerilla art during the Christmas season of 1989, the iconic bronze charging bull statue was artist Arturo di Modica’s reaction to the 1987 stock market crash. The NYPD was unamused and quickly impounded the illegally placed statue. But after a public outcry, it was permanently installed a few blocks away at the corner of Broadway and Whitehall Street. Last year the bull was joined by artist Kristen Visbal’s Fearless Girlstatue, which stands directly in front and stares it down.
- 3 of
PHOTO BY: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
It's Show Time
The stars come out every night on the Great White Way. And even if you haven’t planned ahead, you can still get tickets to a show. Just hit the TKTS booth in Times Square, where lucky theatergoers can snag seats at Broadway and off-Broadway shows at discounts as high as 50 percent. Don't expect to snag a seat to Hamilton (you'll have to book way ahead for that one) but School of Rock, Spongebob Squarepants and The Phantom of the Opera are among popular or long-running shows recently available via TKTS, and they're great shows for both you and your grandkids. The nonprofit Theatre Development Fund operates the booth — and three smaller outlets at South Street Seaport, downtown Brooklyn and Lincoln Center. There’s no digital or online purchase option — you have to be at one of the booths to buy tickets — but you can track show availability on the TKTS website or by downloading its mobile app.
- 4 of
PHOTO BY: Rudy Sulgan/Getty Images
Most Iconic Setting
Nestled in the heart of midtown Manhattan between Fifth and Sixth avenues, Rockefeller Center is much more than just the set of NBC’s Todayshow. It’s an Art Deco treasure. OK, that’s not what draws the sign-waving throngs each morning to see Savannah, Hoda and Al do their morning-show routine, but take some time to walk around and take in the intricate details of the buildings — inside and out. It’s a window back to a more glittery, glamorous time in the city. At the holidays, visitors gawk at the famous Christmas tree. And all winter long, the skating rink is packed. Take a ride up to the Top of the Rock observatory. It’s just a short walk up the street to Radio City Music Hall, and a few more blocks to get to Carnegie Hall (and you don’t even have to “practice, practice, practice").
- 5 of
PHOTO BY: Dennis K. Johnson/Getty Images
The Ground View
Sometimes the best way to get a sense of a city is to feel its pavement beneath your feet. Walking tours abound in the Big Apple, with all sorts of options to learn the history and culture of the five boroughs, while getting some exercise to boot. Among the unique, and uniquely moving, ambling itineraries is the Heroes of the World Trade Center walking tour, which runs every afternoon in downtown Manhattan and brings somber walkers past and through the site of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Big Onion Walking Tours offers offbeat fare, including a Gangs of New York tour and an Art, Sex and Rock & Roll tour. And for history buffs, New York Historical Tours offers time-capsule walks that take you from the Colonial era to the Gilded Age and the Roaring Twenties. Another fun jaunt is Central Park’s Hidden Secrets tour, which takes walkers into the little-known nooks and crannies of the city’s sprawling emerald jewel.
- 6 of
PHOTO BY: UN
Shhh! Don't Tell Anyone About This One …
The United Nations Headquarters runs daily tours and welcomes more than a million visitors each year. If you go, get there early: The security screenings are understandably stringent. Make time to walk through the Ark of Return, the outdoor memorial that honors the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade. While it’s hard to miss that monument, you’ll need to look a little harder to find the Meditation Room, an unassuming little chamber that’s located just to the side of the main information desk and is open to the public, free of charge. With backless benches and art-covered walls, it’s a quiet, peaceful oasis hidden in plain sight inside one of the most visible buildings in one of the busiest cities in the world.
- 7 of
PHOTO BY: Getty Images
Best Outdoor Outing
New York Harbor cruises not only offer a different perspective on one of the most famous skylines on the planet, they also allow passengers to take in the same view of the city as the immigrants who streamed across the Atlantic Ocean to the city a century ago. Statue Cruises offers boat rides from Manhattan to Ellis Island, where visitors can tour the Statue of Liberty and search for their ancestors at the Ellis Island Immigration Museum.
- 8 of
PHOTO BY: Randy Duchaine/Alamy
Grand and Unique
Perhaps no building encapsulates the hard beauty of the city better than Grand Central Terminal, which somehow manages to remain gleaming and glamorous in the middle of even the busiest rush hour. Don’t mind the jaded commuters — take the time to walk up the grand staircase and look down upon the cacophony below, before turning your gaze to the gorgeous astronomical mural painted on the ceiling above. Then wander down toward the lower concourse, outside the Oyster Bar, and find the confluence of four archways known as the “Whispering Arch.” Even during the busiest hours, two people can stand in opposite corners of this area with backs toward each other and hear each other whisper. Legend has it that jazz musician Charles Mingus proposed to his wife at the spot. If you want to keep a secret, don’t tell it there.
- 9 of
PHOTO BY: Bruce Yuanyue Bi/Getty Images
For the Grandkids (and the Grandkid in You)
The High Line snakes up the lower west side of Manhattan, a leafy green outdoor lover's dream built atop what was once a railroad line. Now it’s one of the most popular walking trails in the city, and a model for other cities to turn old infrastructure into modern, useful public space. The urban park offers a respite from a frenzied sightseeing schedule and an opportunity for you and the grandkids to burn off some pent-up energy. The High Line has been recognized for its accessibility: It was designed with walkways that accommodate the width of two wheelchairs, multiple elevator access points spread throughout the 1.5 mile-long park, integrated companion seating, and picnic tables with clearance for wheelchair use. Looking for more grandkid-bonding opportunities? The Brooklyn Bridge Park is a pot of family-fun gold right across the famous bridge, with playgrounds, fields, volleyball courts and, yes, even a beach.
- 10 of
PHOTO BY: Andrew Burton/Getty Images
The city is known for its modern and eclectic dining scene, but if you leave without having a classic deli sandwich, you’re doing it wrong. The thing is, a lot of the classic delis have disappeared in recent years — a moment of silence here for the dearly departed Carnegie, which served its last overstuffed sandwich back in 2016. Thank goodness, then, for Katz’s, which endures at the same Houston and Ludlow lower Manhattan spot where it opened in 1888. Katz’s is most famous for its pastrami on rye, but it’s impossible to make a bad meal, especially if you order using that famous line from the quintessential New York rom-com When Harry Met Sally ..., which was filmed right here: "I'll have what she's having."
- 11 of
PHOTO BY: Getty Images
Best Museum for All Ages
Get your Holden Caulfield (or Ben Stiller) on at the American Museum of Natural History. The iconic exhibition halls off Central Park West feature everything from towering dinosaur fossils to space-age memorabilia — and be sure to make time for a show at the Hayden Planetarium, which dates from 1935 but was gussied up in an extensive 2000 renovation. The museum is gearing up for its 150th anniversary in 2019, and recently instituted its first admission fee (though New York residents can still enter for less, or for free, under a pay-as-you-wish system). If your museum tastes run more toward the classical and you're not toting around any grandkids, it’s a reasonable walk through Central Park to the Metropolitan Museum of Art on the East Side. Also nearby: the Guggenheim, with exhibits that lean toward the avant-garde.
AARP Travel Center