New York's most popular tourist destination by far is New York City, and for good reason. It's the most populous city in the United States, and it contains so many world-famous landmarks and cultural attractions that you could spend your entire vacation there. But there's more to see in New York than just one city. Upstate New York (the rest of the state beyond NYC) is known for its elements of natural beauty like lakes, mountains, quaint New England towns, and more. Before you head to the airport, make sure you purchase New York travel insurance to protect yourself against the inevitable complications that accompany international travel.
New York joined the union in 1788 as the 11th state. Its nickname is "The Empire State", apocryphally because George Washington referred to it as "the seat of the Empire." New York City briefly served as the new nation's capital from April 1789 to July 1790. The state motto is "Excelsior", Latin for "ever upward", and the state anthem is "I Love New York." Its population was about 19.5 million permanent residents as of 2018; just short of 8.5 million of them live in the New York City metropolitan area. The state capital is Albany.
New York City
New York City is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, seeing more than 65 million visitors annually. There's no shortage of historical, contemporary, cultural, artistic, shopping, entertainment, or architectural attractions to keep you occupied. Here's a by-no-means-comprehensive outline of some of the must-sees of NYC.
First, of course, is the Statue of Liberty, located on Liberty Island. The statue was a gift from the French built in 1886. She stands just less than 152 feet and weighs 450,000 pounds. Visitors can take a boat out to the island to tour the base and pedestal, and those with advance reservations can go all the way up to the crown. During your excursion, you can also stop at Ellis Island to tour the Immigration Museum. The museum emphasizes the stories of thousands of immigrants who passed through the checkpoint before entering the U.S., and there's even an on-site computer database where visitors can search through the island's immigration records.
Next up is Central Park, a 2.5-mile by 0.5-mile park at the heart of Manhattan. The area has its own attractions, many of them free. Wollman Rink is open for ice-skating during the colder months. Belvedere Castle serves as one of the park's five visitor centers and offers panoramic views of the park and the city beyond. The Central Park Zoo is a family-friendly attraction exhibiting sea lions, penguins, monkeys, and pythons among many others, and a petting zoo with child-friendly animals like goats, sheep, and pigs.
Times Square is a major commercial, entertainment, and tourism-centric intersection in Manhattan. It's the site of the famed yearly New Year's Eve ball drop, an event that attracts more than a million visitors each year by itself. Family fare ranges from Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum to the Ripley's Believe It or Not! Odditorium to M&M's World New York. Times Square also contains a portion of Broadway, home to both new musicals and perennial favorites, and the Theater District. Glowing screens as far as the eye can see announce films, shows, special presentations, and other advertisements.
No trip to New York City is complete without a visit to the Empire State Building. The skyscraper is 102 stories tall and, for a time, was the tallest building in the world. Most visitors come for the 86th Floor Observatory, the city's highest open-air observation deck offering views of up to 80 miles. The Top Deck on the 102nd Floor sits at 1,250 feet above the ground and offers enclosed views of the city and beyond.
Beyond New York City
If you've had your fill of the big city's hustle and bustle, New York State has plenty of calmer, slower, more relaxing destinations to meet your needs. The most famous of these is Niagara Falls State Park, a collection of three waterfalls at the border of New York and Ontario, Canada. Horseshoe Falls, American Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls are located at the southern end of the Niagara River, have a minimum height of 160 feet, and move more than six million cubic feet of water per minute. Horseshoe Falls in particular is the most powerful waterfall in North America, measured by flow rate. The Maid of the Mist boat tour takes visitors out into the basin of Horseshoe Falls. The area's visitor center also offers a gift shop, dining options, and a film about the history and legends of the Falls.
The Finger Lakes region consists of a group of 11 narrow lakes in Central New York, west of Syracuse. The area is home to a number of small towns and lakeside resorts that get rather crowded during the summer. Popular hiking spots include the Cayuga Trail, the Seneca Lake Trail, and the Keuka Trail. Other outdoor destinations include Lake Placid, known for its winter sports and host of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics; and Lake George, a summer hotspot whose draws include swimming and picnicking on Million Dollar Beach, sightseeing on Prospect Mountain, and historical sites like Lake George Battlefield Park and the Fort William Henry Museum.
Finally, the Adirondacks are a great spot for outdoor sports and recreation. The scenic, forest-covered hills overlook smooth, crystal-clear lakes that invite tourists to hike, swim, canoe, and relax at lakeside cottages and resorts. The area's highest peak is Mount Marcy at 5,345 feet. If you plan to indulge in any outdoor recreational activities, check to make sure the sports are covered under your base travel insurance package. If they aren't, you can always purchase an additional hazardous sports travel insurance plan—just to stay on the safe side.
New York Cuisine
The cuisine of New York City is as diverse as the number of ethnic groups who call the city home. The prominent Italian-American community gave birth to New York-style pizza, known for its wide, thin-crust slices, and New York-style Italian ice. New York-style cheesecake is rich, dense, and creamy. Jewish delis offer bagels with lox, pastrami sandwiches on rye bread, corned beef, and potato pancakes called latkes. The city is also the birthplace of fusion foods like Chino-Latino and Cuban-Chino cuisine.
While you're planning your New York vacation, make sure to purchase visitor medical insurance and travel insurance for yourself or your visiting family.
Visitor medical insurance protects against financial losses from unexpected incidents like accidents, acute onset of pre-existing conditions, emergency medical evacuation / repatriation, return of mortal remains, and accidental death & dismemberment and more.
Travel insurance covers similar medical issues like emergency medical expenses and trip interruption, but it also includes more common travel issues like travel delays, passport replacement, rental car coverage, and ID theft assistance.
As always, we recommend that you read through your plan's fine print to make sure your coverage works for you.