Updated: Mar 1, 2020
This guide is best for both traveler and photo enthusiast.
1. Top of the rock NYC
Top of the Rock is located on the Rockefeller center (45 Rockefeller Plaza). For me it’s an experience that should be number one on the list. Expect heavy lines specially during the Holidays. It could be pricey at 32-38$ but the view is certainly worth it. The premium option is the VIP pass at 75$ which allows you to go visit unlimited times on the day of, meaning you can go in the morning, during sunset, or at night to see and experience the city in different times of day. Also, this option is great when you’re in a rush as the VIP pass allows you to skip the line.
If you are choosing between the Empire State Building observatory deck and the Top of the Rock, I would recommend the latter as you would be able to photograph and get a good view the Empire State building as a whole from it's vantage point. A surprising treat for landscape or cityscape photographers is that they allow tripods here for amazing long exposure photos.
If you have a longer time to explore NY and you want to save a little, you might want to check out City Pass. This pass offers a great deal of 6 attractions of your choosing for less. www.citypass.com/new-york
2. DUMBO Brooklyn "Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass"
Located along the intersection of Water st. and Washington st., is certainly one of the most photographed street is Aussicht; which is a German word for view. Tourists and locals wants to take a snap of the spectacular view of the Manhattan bridge and Empire State building so expect it to be very busy. Best time is to go early in the morning for portraits so the streets are less crowded. Also, a reminder that this is an active street and cars would be passing through.
Just a short walk from Aussicht is the Pebble Beach, which has an amazing view of the island of Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge. Cemented seats are available to serve as a perfect spot to watch the city transition from day to night.
3. Brooklyn Bridge Walkway
You can get off at the Brooklyn Bridge City Hall Station of the 4,5, or 6 train (green line) and walk towards the bridge to appreciate the Manhattan skyline. Personally, a better option is from the Brooklyn side as you would have a bigger perspective of the Manhattan skyline in the background; you could take the A and C train to High st. and walk towards the bridge from there. The entire length of the walkway is just over a mile so It’s possible to experience crossing the bridge at your own pace.
4. Grand Central Terminal
Another must visit spot for exploration and portraits is the Grand Central Terminal. On mid-day, It’s fascinating to observe New York residents and tourist pass through the main concourse. People would be walking on all directions, so be careful not to bump into someone. They are very strict here with the use of tripod. You need a permit which would be available by contacting through their website at least a week in advance.
5. The Oculus
The Oculus is a shopping mall and a gateway to the subway and PATH train. But because of it’s fascinating architecture which I always think it's similar to being inside the rib cages of a blue whale. Many visitors go there to take photos specially at the elevated platform on both ends when you enter from the street level. And it also makes an interesting background from the outside.
Beside The Oculus is the 9/11 memorial and One World Trade Center commemorating the events of September 11, 2001. The One World Trade Center has an observatory deck which offers a view of Manhattan from its downtown side.
The Oculus One World Trade Center One World Observatory
6. The Vessel
The vessel is a newer structure by the Hudson Yards which just opened March of 2019. It's has 16 stories and you can go inside and ascend to the top with a ticket, in which you could get for free by booking it online. You would need to book it for about a week in advance as it reaches its max capacity if you book it on the day itself. You can also avail the flex pass for $10 if tickets run out on the day of your visit.
7. Central Park
Central Park is located between upper west side and upper east side and it covers 843 acres. In it is a zoo, a castle and ice skating rinks during the winter. I want to emphasize 2 spots in the park.
The Loeb boathouse which offers boat rentals at $15 per hour cash only. You can row your boat through the lake take photos by the bridges. They also have a Venetian style gondola available. It is recommended you book in advance for the gondola.
The Bethesda Terrace and Fountain are designed in the Victorian Gothic style. It has been a popular spot for movie scenes. This area is a good spot for people watching and a popular spot for dog lovers. Not too far from this area is the Bow Bridge; Another favorite photo spot for visitors.
Bethesda Fountain Bethesda Terrace Bow Bridge
8. New York Public Library
The NYPL is located in Midtown, just a few blocks away from the famously over crowded Times Square. It is open to the public and if you make your way to the third level you would find the Rose Main Reading Room which has a glorious Morning Sky ceiling design.
9. SoHo and TriBeCa (Triangle Below Canal Street)
SoHo and TriBeCa streets are best for street and fashion photography. It does not only offer great selections for shopping and food grubs, but also building facades located in these area will surely add more flare in your photos. Pictured below is the walkway of NoMo SoHo Hotel which many enthusiasts visit for their portraits.
Other notable spots would include the Flatiron Building, Manhattan Bridge, Washington Square Park to name a few. If you have a little bit more budget, FlyNyon helicopter tours offer a helicopter ride over Manhattan for a more picturesque and breath taking view. More information on my previous blog. igjustin.com/post/helicopternyc
If you want to carry a travel guide on your journey, the best one I found on the market is Fodor's Full Color New York City Guide.