The NYC Bucket List: My Top 14 Places to See

A couple of years ago, in 2010 to be exact, I visited New York for the first time; and since we were only there for five days, I felt like we had barely scratched the surface. So after my first and last trip to the Big Apple, I’d been hoping to go back. It was when I had heard that Anastasia was going to be on Broadway that I actually started planning a return trip, and listed all the things that I had to do and see.It would be an understatement to say that our trip last year was fantastic, and as New York remains to be my favorite city in the Americas, I’ve zoned-in on my favorites from my 2018 NYC Bucket List, summarizing the top things I would highly recommended for those who are planning to go on a little NY adventure; no matter what your interests may be, you’ll definitely have the time of your life.

1) Rockefeller Center

Established as a commercial hub in the city, Rockefeller Center is comprised of 19 buildings spanning through several blocks in the city – with the most popular building housing the Top of the Rock attraction, where you can get a panoramic view of the skyline.Though we decided to forego getting to the top of the building this time around, it didn’t stop us from visiting the heart of Rockefeller Center, pictured below. A dining, retail, and entertainment hub, there are several things to do herein, but simply admiring the view and atmosphere was enough for us.

2) St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Just around the corner from Rockefeller Center is the glorious St. Patrick’s Cathedral – one of the most popular churches in the country. With a seating capacity of 2,000 people, gorgeous interiors, and grand architecture, St. Patrick’s Cathedral is one of the places you must never miss-out on while in the city. If you get the chance, you should pass by when there’s a scheduled mass service, so you can witness the magical experience of the church choir echoing through the cathedral.

3) The Plaza

Known as one of the most luxurious hotels in the world, a dream wedding venue for most, and home to some of the classic films set in New York is The Plaza Hotel, with its location right by Central Park South.

In my opinion, it’s not enough to view it from its exteriors, so do take a look inside if you ever end up in this part of Manhattan. A tip: have brunch at the Palm Court or the basement of The Plaza Hotel, where they have several options to satisfy whatever your cravings may be.

4) Central Park

Of course, a trip to New York will never be complete without a visit to the massive Central Park, with several attractions herein that could easily take up a full day. My suggestion is that you set aside at least two half-day visits to the park, one during the day, and one in time for sunset, like we did.

Though we considerably had enough time, I felt like there’s still so much we missed-out on. Regardless, all the places we saw in Central Park are must-sees, as listed below with photos.

The Pond
Bethesda Fountain
Bethesda Terrace
The Mall
Overlooking Bethesda Fountain & Terrace
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Umpire Rock

5) Tribeca

This up and coming cobblestone neighborhood in Lower Manhattan is as hip as it can get, with trendy cafes, restaurants and boutiques to greet you at every turn – it truly is no wonder that many celebrities choose this part of the city as their residential space.With several historic buildings kept intact, simply walking through Tribeca is an attraction in itself, and who knows – you might bump into one or two celebrities along the way!

6) Times Square

Including this on my list will surely get some “how touristy can you get?” reactions, but Times Square truly remains to be one of my favorite places in the city. Flashing, multi-colored lights throughout several buildings, with retail, dining, and tons of entertainment options, this is why this part of the city will never run out of people rushing through its sidewalks and streets. With tons of things to do and places to see, it definitely makes it to my must never miss list.  

7) Statue of Liberty via the Staten Island Ferry

Missing out on getting a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty while in NYC is like going to the cinema and falling asleep throughout the whole movie – okay, I’m not sure if that comparison made any sense; but really – if you visit New York, you have to see the Statue of Liberty, right? If you’re like us, however, and you’re allergic to long lines & busloads of people and you would rather not spend half a day on the island, then do what we did and ride the Staten Island Ferry for free (yes, for free!) to get a glimpse of Lady Liberty and the gorgeous Manhattan skyline.

8) The High Line

Had I lived in the city, I’m sure The High Line would still remain to be one of my favorite places to visit in New York. Though I had already gone here during my first trip, our trip to the Big Apple last year led us to this area twice or thrice, as I couldn’t get enough of walking on an elevated pedestrian walkway, which provided as great vantage points for several of the city’s streets. As you explore The High Line, you’ll also be able to see a few works of art, as well as some areas for sitting, where you can simple take in the fresh air and admire the city & your surroundings away from the ground level.

9) Chelsea Market

Right by one of the exits of The High Line, you’ll find Chelsea Market, a dining destination with a ton of local food finds. While you can also find a few retail shops for small trinkets and the like, I enjoyed the food options the most, with my favorites being Los Tacos No. 1 for lunch (as noted on NYC Food Bucket List: What & Where to Eat) and Sarabeth’s to grab desserts to-go. 

10) Brooklyn

Away from Manhattan, Brooklyn is a borough in NYC that I will surely never tire of visiting. With the most popular pizzerias located herein, as posted on NYC Food Bucket List: What & Where to Eat, there are several attractions beyond foodie destinations, and my favorite being the Brooklyn Bridge Park, where you can get a lovely view of the Brooklyn Bridge with a backdrop of the Manhattan Skyline.

11) Brooklyn Bridge

Yet another thing that I didn’t get to do the last time that I made sure we didn’t miss-out on this time around is to cross the Brooklyn Bridge by the elevated pedestrian walkway.Aside from the great view, I loved the experience of walking from Brooklyn back to Manhattan instead of simply taking the subway. This fantastic attraction must never be missed if you’re visiting New York.

12) Westfield World Trade Center

Back when I first visited NYC, Ground Zero was beginning its rebirth, and I was stunned to see what it had transformed into. Though it had taken me 8 years to go back, a long time in real estate years, the way they transformed what was once a place of sorrow and tragedy to what is now a place of solitude and remembrance was astounding. They even got to capture this in the retail space called the Westfield World Trade Center, which was built within the vicinity, with its pure, white facade standing out. Once again, the architecture is one you must see up-close to fully-appreciate it, as the photos will never do justice. There’s a subway station right below it, so it won’t be difficult to get no matter what part of the city you’re coming from.

13) National September 11 Memorial & Museum

There are no words to describe how beautifully they built and created the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, so I won’t expound on this further, but will instead leave you with this: as soon as I entered the Museum, I started sobbing – up until the moment we exited; and to see the memorial thereafter with the names of the victims of this terrorist attack etched on the borders of the massive memorial was even more heart-wrenching than I could have ever imagined.

If you’re ever in New York, this is the Memorial & Museum you must not ever miss-out on.

14) Broadway

Last on this list, and more importantly, the top thing to do while in NYC – at least in my opinion – would have to be to experience Broadway at its finest. This trip began on the notion that I had to see Anastasia onstage, and of course, without passing up on the opportunity, we had to add two more shows to the list, namely: The Phantom of the Opera and Lion King. These three shows are those I suggest you watch, if you’re willing to spend a part of your budget on entertainment.

✪ Anastasia

Growing up as a fan of the animated film Anastasia, with my fascination for the Romanovs, seeing it live onstage was yet another dream come-true for my Anastasia-loving self, just a few months after we had visited St. Petersburg. Even if it’s one of the newer shows on Broadway, it did not fall short in terms of production, character line-up, songs, and so on; a true must-see while in New York. 

✪ The Phantom of the Opera

A classic: The Phantom of the Opera is a show I had never seen previously, but had been longing to do so, and where better than in the city of New York, where The Phantom remains to be the longest-running show, thirty years in at the time we watched in 2018.

✪ Lion King

Lion King will probably remain to be my favorite onstage musical show for the rest of my life – and this is not at all an overstatement. Despite seeing it in Singapore in 2011 and in London in 2015, with both productions stunning me with every fibre of my being, I tried to stay with normal expectations for the New York production, as I didn’t want to be disappointment in the end; but instead, what happened was, it even exceeded what initially was my suppressed high expectations, surely beating out the Singapore and London productions I had watched previously. Truly, Broadway does it best – and it was no different for the Lion King – the top must-see show in all of New York.

Ending on a high note, and if it isn’t obvious, New York is a great city to visit no matter what age you are or what interests you. With tons of things to do and places to see, NYC remains to be one of my favorite cities, and will always have something surprising in store for all kinds of tourists and travelers alike.So, what are you waiting for? Pack your bags, and book that ticket – it’s about time you visited (or revisited) what has been countlessly deemed as the greatest city on earth!