Blog · 10 Attractions and Exhibits in NYC To See Right Now

10 Attractions and Exhibits in NYC To See Right Now

March 12, 2023
Hall des Lumières in NYC Financial District

It’s hard to limit New York City to any single list of attractions. There’s just so much to do. Plenty of it is right here in Manhattan. Add in all five boroughs, and there’s far too much to pack into one trip or one year.

We already curated our list of the 12 top attractions in NYC. It features heavy hitters like the Statue of Liberty, Broadway, Central Park, and Chinatown.

But what about all the other amazing places? For this post, we’ll focus on some current exhibitions, lesser-known spots, and a few favorites that are getting an upgrade. I’ll also include a suggestion for where to stay near these sights (spoiler — it’s in the Financial District) because unless you’re lucky enough to live here, you’ll need a cozy home base for your adventures.

Ready? Let’s dive in.

1. Wonderland Dreams

Wonderland Dreams

Recently opened in October 2022, Wonderland Dreams is an immersive exhibit by artist Alexa Meade. Billed as the world’s largest painting, everything inside is paint-daubed and fanciful, like a mashup of Monet’s water lilies and Lisa Frank.

And I mean this in the most wonderful way. I’ve been to so many selfie-focused exhibits where everything feels a bit plastic. Wonderland Dreams is anything but. It really is art — detailed and beautifully themed for “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” the splashes of paint making you feel like you’re walking through a canvas.

Wonderland Dreams

Explore more than 20 whimsical rooms, from the tiny houses on Little Street to a glow-in-the-dark alley. Kids and the Instagram crowd will be especially enthralled (though we’re neither and we had a blast). Don a painted hat or coat and make yourself part of the scene. Join a tea party or step through a keyhole into a secret garden.

Wonderland Dreams

Upstairs, there’s a wine bar if you want to extend your visit. Although your arrival ticket is timed, you can stay as long as you like. I recommend going early to make the most of your visit.\

2. Hall des Lumières

Hall des Lumières
Credit: Mark Zhelezoglo for Hall des Lumières

I first heard of Culturespaces, the organization behind Hall des Lumières, for their work in France where they’re based. This is the group that gave us the Atelier des Lumières, the famous sound and light art installation in Paris.

Just opened in September 2022, Hall des Lumières is their first venture into North America. Fitting with their mission, the installation is located in a historic landmark, the former Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank at 49 Chambers Street. That makes it Manhattan’s first permanent center for immersive digital art experiences.

The inaugural exhibition is “Gustav Klimt: Gold in Motion.” You know who Gustav Klimt is, don’t you? No worries — neither did I. Apparently, he was a late 19th-century and early 20th-century symbolist painter from Australia. His work is vivid and filled with a mosaic of symbols, especially impressive splayed out on 30-foot-tall walls, ceilings, and floors.

You’ll see more than just Klimt’s art. You can read about the Beaux-Arts building housing the exhibit and admire its architecture. Downstairs, the former vault is covered in mirrors reflecting shapes, colors, lights, and more that change with the music. Bean bags on the floor let you recline and enjoy the show.

Hall des Lumières
Credit: Mark Zhelezoglo for Hall des Lumières

There’s also work by an Austrian painter and a mind-blowing contemporary piece involving dance where larger than life dancers interact with the lights and sounds.

Exhibits run for 10-12 months, so this one will close some time in 2023 and bring another. To see what’s playing now and grab tickets, visit their website.

3. Artechouse NYC

Immersive digital art experiences are definitely having a moment right now. While there are only two on this list, there are at least a dozen more in NYC alone.

One of the great things about Artechouse NYC is its central location. If you plan to visit Chelsea Market, you’re in luck. The technology-driven art center is located in the 100-year-old boiler room below Chelsea Market.

Just opened January 2023, the current exhibit is MAGENTAVERSE, a celebration of Pantone’s 2023 color of the year, “Viva Magenta.” It incorporates footage from outer space and natural elements in waves of purple-red projected on the floors and soaring walls of the Immersion Gallery. It’s blended with music that changes with the moving art.

Besides the 22-minute show, you can learn about past colors of the year through a touch-screen exhibit, play virtual instruments, or grab a magenta-inspired drink at the bar. Each timed entry is good for one hour, but that’s plenty of time to see everything. They’re open every day, so it’s easy to fit into your NYC visit.

Check the website to see times and what’s playing now. Exhibits come and go. Before MAGENTAVERSE, they just had a wild holiday installation called Spectacular Factory. You never know what’s coming next.

4. Lower Manhattan Ghost Tour

Sunset over a Statue of Liberty

Feeling a little spooky? You don’t have to wait till Halloween. The Lower Manhattan Ghost Tour is one of the newest walking tours in NYC, and it’s the perfect way to wind down your day as dusk rolls in.

We created it because there’s so much history here in Lower Manhattan. Some of it is well-known and celebrated, like President Washington’s inaugural address at Federal Hall, but much of it is strange, even chilling.

The tour covers landmarks like Battery Park, Trinity Church, the New York Stock Exchange, and much more. Don’t worry — your guide will keep you safe as you wander among the graveyards and ghosts.

Lower Manhattan Ghost Tour

It’s a great way to see much of Lower Manhattan in a leisurely two-mile stroll. Your local guide can not only tell you all about this area of New York but also provide recommendations for more to see and do in the city if you have the time. There’s nothing like getting insider tips from a New Yorker — they know the best spots.

This tour is a bit eerie but not designed to be scary, so I think it’s still fun for families. However, it does cover murder, mayhem, ghosts, and more in the light of real New York history, so it may not be a fit for all kids, depending on their temperament and preferences. If you like spooky stories, supernatural happenings, and unexplained mysteries, you’ll love this ghost tour!

5. Museum of Ice Cream

Museum of Ice Cream
Credit: Nicole Franzen

If phrases like “unlimited ice” and “NYC’s tallest indoor slide” aren’t enough to convince you that you need to visit the Museum of Ice Cream, maybe a sprinkle pool or stretchy booza ice cream will help.

New York City is packed with museums, and while each one has its own distinct vibe, perhaps none is quite as unique as the Museum of Ice Cream. It boasts three floors featuring 12 interactive experiences, all dedicated to America’s favorite treat. You can learn about the history of ice cream, which is actually pretty fascinating, or how it’s eaten around the world.

Interspersed with the photo ops, art, and facts are ice cream samples. The samples are individually sized, but you’re totally allowed to go back for seconds, thirds, fourths, or as much as you want (really!) before heading to the next room.

I went for their earliest time slot and was worried 10 a.m. would be too early to gorge myself on ice cream, but I found it wasn’t too much (assuming you don’t go for seconds), and they do a good job of pacing the sweets with the activities.

This is definitely a great activity for families. The staff are super enthusiastic and welcoming, and kids are awed by the idea of a world that revolves around ice cream. Truth be told, the adults are, too.

Museum of Ice Cream

Insider tip: Have a kid too timid for the slide —or maybe you’re not feeling up for it? No worries. There’s an elevator down that’s covered inside with a colorful cityscape of ice cream. Spend your time hunting for the (not-so-hidden) cherries and you’ll be at the ground floor before you know it.

6. Moynihan Food Hall

Moynihan Food Hall

Moynihan Train Hall opened in 2021, and the Moynihan Food Hall followed a year later, making it one of the newer food halls on the NYC foodie scene. Maybe you’ve been to Chelsea Market and toured Essex Market. But have you stopped into this tasty train hall yet?

Located midway between Hudson Yards and the Empire State Building in Midtown Manhattan, Moynihan Food Hall features 22 vendors with two more coming soon. (Pastrami Queen, famous for their kosher sandwiches, knish, potato salad, and sweets, is opening this June.)

Come hungry. You’ve got ramen, sushi, Southern cuisine, coffee, a brewery, multiple bakeries, burgers, and plenty more besides. A stylish bar anchors the space at the center, and there’s plenty of seating, even at lunchtime on the weekend.

It’s a dizzying array of choices. I tried Sauce Pizzeria first, opting for a slice of vodka. They’re known for their unusual flavors. The crust was cracker-thin, and the sauce was on point. Next, I visited Chopt, which I’d noticed elsewhere around New York but hadn’t tried yet. Their cobb salad is delicious, and honestly, sometimes you just need a salad when you’re out traveling because it’s the only thing green you’ll see all day, you know?

Moynihan Food Hall

Our last two stops were my favorite. NAYA distills modern Lebanese food into a quick-service, build-your-own bowl, roll, and salad experience. The entree I got was delicious and richly spiced, a delicate balance of meat, sauces, cheese, and veggies. With its generous portion, it was by far the best value of any food I bought in NYC that weekend.

Naya at Moynihan Food Hall

To round out our culinary experience, I stopped by Cha Cha Matcha, an adorably bright yet calming tea shop. Here, I splurged. They have coffee and tea in a rainbow of Instagrammable colors for under $10, but their smoothies are on the higher end. And so worth it. The peanut butter and cold brew smoothie, sweetened with dates and banana and given an antioxidant boost from the cacao and chaga, was the best thing I had all day. We still talk about it.

7. Top of the Rock

Top of the Rock
Credit: Tishman Speyer

Rockefeller Center isn’t exactly a hidden gem in NYC. At over 870 feet tall, it stands out in a crowd. But there’s a lot that’s new and coming for this popular Manhattan attraction. 

Conveniently close to Times Square, it’s right in the middle of all the touristy places you’ll be anyway, and the view from the top is one of the best in New York. At almost 850 feet above street level, the 67th, 69th, and 70th floors of Top of the Rock offer 360-degree panoramas of the city.

It’s incredible to be able to admire Manhattan from above and capture priceless photos without any glass between your lens and the cityscape. Each level is a little different, and it’s fun to point out the various landmarks, like the Empire State Building, the Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park, and even the Statue of Liberty, visible from your bird’s-eye vantage point.

Top of the Rock

There’s also a brand new exhibit called New Frontiers that just opened February of 2023. Located on the mezzanine level of the 67th and 69th floors, it covers the history and vision of Rockefeller Center as well as new and emerging art and technology. It’s even interactive thanks to some cool kinetic sculptures, a virtual drone, and more. I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s a must for your next visit to Top of the Rock.

Top of the Rock is open daily from 9 a.m.-11 p.m. with the last entry at 10:10 p.m. I recommend going just before sunset so you can catch the lingering daylight and the lights that come on during blue hour. You can get tickets, including an Express Pass that lets you skip the line, saving tons of time, on the Rockefeller Center website.

The new experience coming to Top of the Rock

The observation deck is open as it undergoes renovations, started this year, to prepare for an even better guest experience. It’s slated to finish in 2024. Here’s a peek at some of the new features coming:

  • Lunch on a skyscraper, where you can eat, securely seated on a rotating beam, more than 69 stories above Manhattan
  • Sky Lift, a circular glass platform that will elevate guests 30 feet above the 70th floor rooftop for an uninterrupted 360-degree view of the city
  • New mezzanine level, featuring interactive exhibits, digital models, a theater, and more telling the story of Rockefeller Center
  • Accessibility enhancements, a gift shop, art (like a new floor mosaic), and more

8. Hudson Yards

Hudson Yards - Edge NYC
Credit: Related-Oxford

Hudson Yards opened in 2019, so it’s not the newest attraction on this list. Yet plenty of people still haven’t made it over there, and if you haven’t yet, you need to go.

It includes The Shops & Restaurants at Hudson Yards, an upscale mall featuring some of the city’s best shopping and dining. 

There’s also the towering Vessel sculpture, made of interconnected stairs designed to give visitors varying viewpoints of New York. While the stairs on the Vessel are still closed, you can walk through and view it from inside on the street-level floor, and it’s still beautiful to see.

Vessel Interior
Credit: Michael Moran for Related-Oxford

Much higher than the views that the Vessel could have offered, however, is Edge, the highest outdoor sky deck in this hemisphere. It’s suspended in mid-air 100 stories above the ground, offering 360-degree views and the chance to sip champagne in the sky, reminiscent of the Champagne sips at the Eiffel Tower summit.

Edge Glass Floor from below
Credit: Related-Oxford

If you visit Hudson Yards on your own, it’s hard to get a sense of all that went into what it is today. Go with a local on a Hudson Yards guided tour and you’ll not only explore this chic corner of NYC — you’ll also get to walk the High Line and learn about the art, history, and stories there.

Read more about this destination in our guide to Hudson Yards.

9. RiseNY

Just when you think Times Square can’t pack in any more attractions, there’s RiseNY. Opened March 2022, this attraction is essentially New York in a nutshell. Don’t have time to see the Statue of Liberty or catch a Broadway show? You can get a taste of it all here.

Your experience starts with a film narrated by Jeff Goldblum. This sets the scene for what’s to come by covering New York’s vibrant history, centered on Times Square.

Then step onto the subway to travel (virtually) to your next destination, a museum within the attraction covering the best of New York in several exhibits. They highlight the people as well as the places, and there’s a lot here to discover, so you don’t want to rush through it.

Take a selfie with Oscar the Grouch or Bruce Springsteen’s guitar. There are loads of genuine artifacts from New York’s star-studded past plus photo ops, like the black-and-white kitchen from “The Honeymooners,” where you can put yourself in the picture. 

I especially enjoyed listening to Broadway songs surrounded by costumes from “Hamilton,” “The Phantom of the Opera,” and more.

RiseNY Broadway scene

But the finale is undoubtedly the best. 

You board a soaring ride worthy of a theme park as you fly over New York City and see all its best sights with 8k aerial footage. Hoisting you 30 feet in the air, the simulation ride includes turns, dips, scents, wind, and mist so you can suspend your disbelief and truly feel as though you’re flying. Assuming you can’t charter your own plane to fly all over New York, RiseNY is the way to go.

10. Little Island

Little Island

Opened during the pandemic, Little Island still has a newness to it, and even some locals don’t know about it.

It might remind you of Governors Island, the 172-acre park just south of Manhattan in the New York Harbor. But while it takes a ferry and a nominal fee (unless you catch a morning ride on the weekend) to get to that island, Little Island is just an easy stroll over a pedestrian bridge near Chelsea Market.

It’s also smaller, as the name suggests, but there’s still plenty to do. You can play with the musical instruments, spin in the chairs, listen to the audio tour, get in some good birdwatching, or just admire the many plants from the winding walkways. 

This is also a great place to picnic with views of Manhattan.While they were doing timed tickets to limit crowds during the pandemic, Little Island is now open for free and unlimited access. Stop by after a tour of the High Line. It’s a great addition to any visit to NYC, letting you soak up nature and feel worlds away from the city bustle.

Where to stay in Manhattan

Hotel Indigo NYC Financial District
Credit: Armando Rafael Photography

If you’re spending a few days in NYC, you want to be close to the action, so the Financial District is a great choice. I found the Hotel Indigo NYC Financial District to be perfect for this.

The hotel just opened December 2022, so it has all the latest updates. That means hard flooring in the rooms rather than carpet, outlets by the bed, a thoroughly upgraded and spacious shower, and all the nice amenities of up-to-the-minute modern accommodations. Rooms are compact but tidy, and the location — wow. You’re across the street from Trinity Church. I visited the churchyard and inside the church itself, which reminded me of European cathedrals.

I also walked to the Charging Bull of Wall Street (4 minutes), the Battery (5 minutes), and the new Whole Foods (2 minutes), where I picked up groceries to stock in the mini fridge in the room.

They do have a full-service restaurant and bar on site, so you can grab something to eat if you don’t want to hit up one of the restaurants nearby. I loved their bagel egg white sandwich in the morning — not greasy but filling.

Hotel Indigo NYC Financial District

And you’ll need to be filled up for your days of exploring. 

Looking for more to do in NYC? Get out and see beyond Manhattan! We offer a bus tour of Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx, a guided visit to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, and so much more.

We can’t wait to welcome you to New York.