NYC Travel Guide: New York CityPass Review + What I Visited in NYC

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I did it! I went to New York. After years (pretty much all my life, actually) of seeing the Big Apple on TV, I finally walked through the screen and travelled there with a group of friends. And I loved it! Just like I knew I would. Weirdly enough I feel like I knew what to expect from New York, and got exactly that. I have prepared a series of blog posts to share everything I have learned about NYC during this trip - with lots of pretty pictures, too! First post of the series: the tourist attractions we visited & what I thought of them.
My friends and I bought the New York CityPASS, which included the entrance to five key monuments and attractions in the city. With the pass, we visited the Empire State Building, Top of the Rock, the 9/11 Museum, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island museum of immigration, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History. I would say the pass is worth it if you want to check all those places off your list. I really enjoyed all the attractions, for different reasons, and did not regret seeing any of them at all.

THE PANORAMIC VIEWS: Empire State Building, Top of the Rock

For amazing views over New York like you always see on TV, head to the Empire State Building and/or the Top of the Rock. I particularly enjoyed the Empire State, because the part leading up to the lifts and the terrace is really cool. You learn about the building of the tower, about different films which have featured the iconic building, and you also meet King Kong, who is the absolute Empire State star. I thought this 'exhibition' was a really smart way to regulate traffic to the top - and give you your money's worth! Once you've seen all the inside has to offer, you find yourself outside, and the New York skyline welcomes you to the city... 

When you visit the Empire State Building, an extra visit at nighttime is included in your ticket. Even though that means visiting the same spot twice, you shouldn't miss it because there are considerably fewer people once the sun has gone down, and seeing all the sparkly lights in the night sky is also a beautiful experience.
The Top of the Rock is also worth seeing for beautiful sights over Manhattan and Central Park. We went there for the sunset, bearing in mind that you have to book ahead of time - you can't just show up and go in. The visit inside the building itself isn't as exciting and fun as that of the Empire State, but the views are equally beautiful. Sunset is obviously a very popular time for panoramas, and this proved true as we were surrounded by crowds of people at the Top of the Rock, especially where the bright orange sun was setting - people would just gather there and not move. At all. They probably stayed until it got dark. So if you're thinking about a sunset view of New York, remember that wherever you go, half the tourists of the city will be there too!

THE MUSEUMS: MET, American Museum of National History, 9/11 Museum

My friends and I visited three museums in New York, which were all included in the New York CityPass. I will start with the toughest visit, in fact the toughest visit I have ever done: the 9/11 museum. I could not visit New York without going there, even though I knew it wouldn't be easy. The museum is really well-made, it is actually a real business (I have mixed feelings about that) and I found that the exhibits were very informative. Although 9/11 was only two decades ago, it was such a key moment in our contemporary history and it is important to know about it. The museum teaches you so much about what happened, from the technical hour-by-hour recounting of the events but you also learn about the political action taken after the incidents, as well as the rescuers and of course the victims. The memorial to the victims, inside the museum, is beautiful and touching: the photos of every single known victim along with a few words from their relatives about them. To be completely honest, I do not think this visit is for everybody: I barely looked at the victim memorial as it was too tough and quickly got me very emotional. If you are easily affected by those types of events, you may not want to visit the museum at all - it is a personal decision to take, but not one to make lightly. For obvious reasons, I did not take any pictures inside the museum, though it wasn't prohibited - it was just a personal decision. I did take a picture of the memorial outside in the World Trade Center area, which is beautiful and very moving. 

Next on our list was the Metropolitan Museum of Art - the MET. Known for its famous gala where celebrities compete in dressing as extravagantly as they can, the MET is home to a variety of art collections, from an Egyptian temple to European paintings and music instruments from all over the world. As a museum lover, I knew I would enjoy the MET. But the truth is, the main thing I was excited for was its steps - as every Gossip Girl fan would be. The stairs of the MET are a star location of the show, and I totally felt like Blair Waldorf sitting there with my morning coffee, headband in my hair. (... Please don't judge.)

Fangirling aside, I would highly recommend visiting the MET for its beautiful collections. It is a vast museum and if you go in the morning, you won't feel the crowds around you, unlike you may do in the Louvre in Paris. The Egyptian section is great, and so is the European paintings section: they have an impressive amount of stunning French paintings, from Monet to Degas, but they also have a few Van Gogh, Canaletto, and a beautiful Caravaggio (I'm hunting down his paintings wherever I go.) I also loved the American Wing, where full rooms are reconstituted and show the domestic arts (aka furniture and interiors style) from the 17th to the 19th century. One last thing you shouldn't miss: the beautiful Charles Engelhart Court, especially stunning when bathed in the sunlight.

Last but not least, I visited the American Museum of National History. Yes, the one from Night at the Museum! I love the film, and was really excited to see the museum. Unfortunately, I felt like I did not recognise what I had seen in the film in the actual museum. The t-rex is there, and so is Gum Gum, but apart from that I did not see much that strictly reminded me of the film. It was a great visit nonetheless, because the museum is huge, beautiful and somewhat old-fashioned - in the best way. The windows with stuffed animals are impressive (though these may be controversial) and so is the full-size blue whale hanging over the room of the marine animals. All the rooms in the museum have something to tell, and you will not regret visiting.


On your first visit to New York, it's nearly impossible to miss a visit to the Statue of Liberty. As the Statue is sort of lost in the middle of almost nowhere at the west of Manhattan, it can be easy to forget that it's actually there - or so I found. But if you're a History nerd, then you will want to see the Statue of Liberty Museum and Ellis Island Museum of Immigration. The pass to visit these places is very comprehensive, because it includes to admission to both museums as well as the ferry trips to and from each place. 

My best tip to visit the Statue of Liberty would be to go early, and to dedicate a good part of your day to the visit. The ferry journeys between the Statue and Ellis Island will already take up quite a bit of your time, and the Ellis Island is so extensive (like, huge) you would need at least two hours there - if you are keen to see most of it, that is. I personally find the history of Ellis Island fascinating, and if I had known how big the museum was, I would have taken a whole morning just to visit it.
The Statue of Liberty Museum was actually a great surprise. The audioguide teaches you everything there is to know about the statue, and I was happy to learn a bit more about the relationship between France and the United States too - because Auguste Bartholdi, who designed the Statue, was a French artist. Woohoo!

Once you have seen the Statue from all angles and taken your fair share of selfies, it's time to take the ferry again to Ellis Island - the immigration centre where immigrants from all over the world would set foot on the American soil, and be taken through various examinations before being granted the right to live in the US. The museum is located inside the original building, and the main exhibition starts in the Registry Room, a huge hall that was of course made to impress - and where immigrants would wait, sometimes for hours, their turn for examinations.

The main exhibition takes you through all the steps an immigrant would follow at Ellis Island, from registration, to medical tests, money verifications and so on. All along the different rooms, the audioguide makes you listen to the testimonies of different people who went through Ellis Island, and narrate what they remember of the experience. The museum is very moving, and a remembrance of what the people who made America what it is today went through, before they settled in the country and got to call it home.


If it is your first visit to New York and you want to see all of its most important cultural and historical sights, definitely. The pass makes it so easy for you to just show up to all attractions and go in - no need to wait in line to buy tickets every single time. I do not regret getting the CityPass and the entry to all these places, as buying them one by one would have been more expensive - especially with the Empire State Building and the Top of the Rock, which are quite expensive in the first place. 
That said, if there are only a couple of these places that you'd like to see, then of course you should only visit those and it will be cheaper for you to pick and choose. I really think that if you're not really interested in a place, you shouldn't visit it just because it's popular or a 'must see'. You do you, and enjoy your trip to the fullest!

Have you ever visited New York? What would you love to see the most there?