New York City’s Big Five in the Big Apple

Manhattan's skyline.
Manhattan’s skyline.

The Best of All Worlds: How to Make the Most of New York City

By Oscar Davis

It’s called the Big Apple for a reason. In the 1920s, New York City newspaper reporter John Fitz Gerald used the term to refer to the fact that in the world of horse racing, New York City was looked upon as the place to win big. The moniker was soon adopted by Jazz musicians to similarly highlight the fact that the biggest and best players were to be found in New York City. The nickname faded before being revived in a 1970s tourism campaign in order to attract visitors to the city.

As a result of the aforementioned promotional campaign, the name stuck. And based on the fact that you can get and/or do whatever you want, whenever you want in New York City, it should come as no surprise. While it would be impossible to highlight everything there is to do in the city that never sleeps, this article has been put together to give you a taste of five places that you shouldn’t miss out on!

A Day Out in Manhattan

Despite being one of the five boroughs of New York City, Manhattan is often simply referred to as The City. The reason? Simply put, it is seen as the center of New York City and the New York metropolitan region, hosting the seat of city government and a large portion of the area’s employment, business and entertainment activities. 

Simply put, it is an absolute must if you are visiting the city, being home to the Empire State Building, Times Square, and the iconic, Central Park. We recommend taking a look at this comprehensive guide on the best things to do in Manhattan if you are lucky enough to go!

A man takes a photo of a van Gogh in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City
A man takes a photo of a van Gogh in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

While this particular site is actually in Manhattan, we decided that it deserves a specific mention due to its gravity. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is a must for any and all lovers of art and culture.

The museum houses more than 2 million pieces of art spanning over 5,000 years, providing spectacular insight into much of the history of human culture.

It was originally opened to the public in 1870 by a group of citizens who wanted to bring art to the public. Today, it still does just that with around twenty permanent collections, including ones focusing on medieval art, antiquities from Egypt, Roman vases, African masks, and objects from throughout the history of Islam.

New York Botanical Garden

When one pictures New York City, it is usually the image of bustling streets and skyscrapers that first comes to mind. While this is most certainly the heart and soul of the city, it also has another side. 

Situated in The Bronx, New York Botanical Garden is the perfect way to unwind and achieve serenity. Established in 1891 and situated on a 250-acre site, the garden is home to over one million living plants.

You can think of it as a living and breathing museum in which you can reconnect with the natural world through its comprehensive education programs in horticulture and plant science. Read about the most recent exhibit at NYBG.

New York City’s Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island

These two unique sites make for a perfect afternoon trip. The Statue of Liberty is one of the most iconic tourist attractions in the world. Many are unaware that this particular statue was a gift from French political thinker Édouard de Laboulaye, who wanted it to act as a welcome to the land of the free. Positioned on Liberty Island, the statue is 22 stories high and was first installed in 1886. In addition to the statue itself, the short boat ride there and back provides you with an incredible view of New York’s skyline!

Sailboats and the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor.
Sailboats and the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor.

12 Million Immigrants Came Through

A short distance away from Liberty Island is Ellis Island, which holds a unique place in the history of the United States of America. More than 12 million immigrants arrived on the shores of America between 1892 and 1954, and Ellis Island was usually their first stop. Here, they were processed before being officially welcomed to the United States.

By making the visit to Ellis Island, you get to experience what it was like for the millions of immigrants that traveled to America in the hope of a better life. It is an incredible location full of rich history, making it a must when one travels to New York City!

The Empire State Building

The new engaging experience at Empire State Building entertains like never before.
The new engaging experience at Empire State Building entertains like never before. Christopher Ludgate photo. 

The Empire State Building was once the city’s tallest…and although this grand famous building completed in the 1930s no longer can make this claim, it’s still a worthy member of the city’s Top Five Attractions.

GoNOMAD Senior Writer Christopher Ludgate recently paid a visit and shared his own take: “The Empire State Building is now indeed a nonagenarian. And she is more gorgeous and engaging than ever. Those new shiny big guys around town don’t outshine her.


She has style and she has grace. And she embodies a monumental history claimed by only a handful of local landmarks with her Art-Deco façade and tall slender core that now offers up an interactive time-capsule like it never had before.”

Fort Wadsworth

Located in Staten Island and overlooking New York Bay, Fort Wadsworth was one of the longest functioning military forts in the United States. Following its closure in 1994, having guarded New York City for more than two hundred years, it was transformed into a 226-acre public park. Fort Wadsworth had an important role to play in both World War I and II, so for any military enthusiast, this is a wonderful opportunity to gain a first-hand view of American history.

It truly is an incredibly picturesque location as it still retains its rich military history. In addition to the military buildings, you are able to perch yourself amongst nature and have yet another unique viewpoint of New York harbor. Moreover, there is a beautiful bike path, as well as the opportunity to go for a run through the fort itself, making this an attractive location for a multitude of reasons. 

The Bottom Line

New York City is somewhat of a bottomless pit when it comes to things to do. However, if you follow our advice and make a plan, you can easily make the most of your time there. As you can see from the aforementioned suggestions, you can basically have any type of trip you want. We suggest picking your favorites and then making sure to add some variation to your trip.

The true beauty of New York City is that it has so much to offer. If you embrace this head-on, you will most certainly have the trip of a lifetime. And once you start exploring, you’ll probably never want to stop!


oscar davis unsmushed

Oscar Davis is a freelance writer from Leeds, UK.

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