The first face to greet throngs of dreaming immigrants tired from their long journey across the sea remains one of the most recognizable images of America: the Statue of Liberty. The colossal robed lady symbolizes American values at their purest for many people but is far from the only American icon in New York City.
The Big Apple offers many iconic images recognized across the world as quintessentially American. Travelers can glimpse the country’s tradition of entertainment at Coney Island, its architectural advancement at the Empire State Building and its musical innovation in Harlem.
Groups nostalgic for historic and culturally relevant attractions can tour numerous well-known New York City sites beyond a quick photo op. Instead of speeding past Grand Central Station or Central Park on a driving tour, groups can enjoy walking tours outlining their historic significance.
Travel planners seeking an itinerary packed full of impactful Americana attractions need look no further than historically and culturally significant New York City.
Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
A gift from France, the Statue of Liberty, which was dedicated in 1886, stands as a symbol of American democracy. Its long history began in the 1870s in France. Guests touring the site can learn the difficulties of building the 305-foot statue and how it welcomed 12 million immigrants entering the United States through Ellis Island.
Groups often tour the neoclassical sculpture alongside the neighboring Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration. To avoid a long wait for a ferry, groups can choose a private tour with priority boarding, in which a guide leads a tour of the Statue of Liberty Museum for insight into the statue’s original torches and other rare memorabilia. Participants then view panoramas of the city’s skyline from the statue’s observation deck before heading on a ferry to Ellis Island.
The island served as the United States’ main immigration entry point for 62 years. Many U.S. citizens have at least one ancestor who passed through the immigration checkpoint. In the Great Hall, visitors can learn how to trace their family there.
Other exhibits detail going through Ellis Island as an immigrant through personal stories, artifacts and family photos.
Whether it’s thrills aboard the famous Cyclone roller coaster or the nostalgia of walking down a historic 2.7-mile-long boardwalk, Coney Island is in the business of doling out plenty of fun. More than a century ago, Coney Island stood out among the country’s most popular seaside resorts. The “People’s Playground” suffered during the Great Depression, but in 2010, the area’s famous Luna Park reopened to its former splendor, along with new restaurants and bars.
The revamped amusement park retains its old-time carnival feel from the period when New York visitors flocked to the beach for its bathing pavilions, resorts and thrilling coasters. The island now features several separate amusement parks, including the original Luna Park, Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park and the New York Aquarium.
The Coney Island Museum recently reopened after a year and a half of renovations. Guests can now learn about the park’s heyday with exhibits and displays such as distortion fun house mirrors, vintage bumper cars and rare 1900s postcards.
Groups can explore the brightly colored beach getaway on their own or with a two-hour guided walk with New York Local Tours. During the tour, guides point out sites of interest, like original Nathan’s Famous, while regaling participants with tales of the notorious characters tied to Coney Island.
Each June, crowds turn out for the Coney Island Mermaid Parade to celebrate the beginning of the summer season. The parade pays homage to the Coney Island Mardi Gras parades of the early 20th century.
Empire State Building
Whether or not New York City visitors decide to ride up to the 84th floor on the Empire State Building, they can hardly miss this easily recognized landmark. The second-tallest building in the city needs no introduction after being featured in countless movies and television shows and virtually every skyline photo of the Big Apple.
This pencil-silhouetted Art Deco building serves as a monument of progress for New York City. Groups can skip the long lines and travel straight up to the Observation Deck to see all the city’s highlights from 1,050 feet high. Maps help onlookers find Central Park, the Hudson River, Brooklyn Bridge, Times Square and more. The open-air deck also offers high-powered binoculars for a closer look.
The 360-degree views of the city make it a perfect beginning or end to an itinerary of the city. A multimedia audio tour guides visitors through the exhibits and provides additional background on the building’s history.
The evening view of the building also dazzles guests with its dynamic lighting system, which features 16 million colors for almost unlimited combinations to celebrate various holidays and events.