Last Updated on June 9, 2021
I’ve shared the five best NYC attractions for first-time visitors, but what if you’ve been to New York City several times already? In this article, I am featuring five new attractions that I think are worth visiting, including a new observation deck, a fabulous new park, and a couple of temporary pop-ups that you can experience only in 2021.
Here are five new attractions to see in NYC in 2021:
1 The Edge Observation Deck
The Edge is the newest observation deck in New York City, and it is a serious competition for the existing observation decks – the most iconic one, the Empire State Building; Top of the Rocks, and One World Observatory atop the Freedom Tower, which opened in 2015.
What makes The Edge a true showstopper is its spectacular architecture: it is the highest outdoor observation deck in the Western hemisphere at a height of 1,130 feet, and it extends about 80 feet beyond the side of the skyscraper it is attached to (30 Hudson Yards). The Edge opened for the first time just before New York City shut down because of COVID-19, and is finally able to welcome visitors again. You’ll find yourself 100 floors above the streets, and you can enjoy 360-degree views that none of the other observation decks can offer: the New York City skyline seen from the west side of Midtown Manhattan.
The observation deck also features an anxiety-inducing 225-square-foot triangular glass cutout in the floor, and the angled glass walls of the sleek space will impress everyone, no matter if you consider yourself an architecture geek or not. In total, there are 79 glass panels, each one 9-foot high, offering an uninterrupted view over the skyline and giving you the feeling that you are standing right on the edge – a thrilling experience for sure!
Know before you go: You have to book a timed ticket in advance – and I recommend booking your ticket well in advance, since tickets sell out. This goes especially for the time slots around sunset. You can book a skip-the-line ticket here.
2 Yayoi Kusama at the New York Botanical Gardens
Renowned Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama was supposed to have an art exhibit in the New York Botanical Gardens in 2020, but because of the global pandemic that brought the world to a halt last year, her long-awaited exhibit had to be postponed. A year delayed, it finally opened in April 2021, and it was definitely worth the wait.
The 92-year old artist, famous for her colorful, dotted sculptures and art installations (infinity rooms in particular), created Cosmic Nature specifically for the New York Botanical Gardens. You’ll find trees wrapped in white-dotted red fabric, over a thousand mirrored stainless steel balls in a lake, a sculpture installed over a reflective pond, and a yet to be opened Infinity Room. You will also see sculptures with names like I Want To Fly To The Universe and My Soul Blooms Forever. The sculptures are randomly scattered throughout the Botanical Gardens, so you’ll stumble across them every once in a while while wandering the grounds.
I felt like I got to kill two birds with one stone when I made my way up to the Bronx to visit “Cosmic Nature” – I got to see new sculptures by an artist I adore, and I got to re-visit the 250-acre Botanical Gardens, which I hadn’t been to in a while. And spring is always a lovely time for that because many flowers are in bloom.
Know before you go: Be aware that the ticket I booked – the KUSAMA All-Garden Pass Ticket – only includes admission to the Botanical Gardens and all the outdoor sculptures. If you want to see the indoor spaces and indoor sculptures, too, you will have to book the combined Gardens & Gallery Pass. Also note that an Infinity Mirrored Room will be added on August 3. Cosmic Nature is on view until 31 October 2021.
3 Little Island
Little Island is a new park in the Hudson River, built atop 132 pylons resembling tulips, which make up the structure of the park. The unique setup above the water conveys the impression that Little Island is actually floating in the river. The unique 2.4 acre park has a hilly topography which makes it appear bigger than it actually is, and when you walk up the stairs to the highest point, you can enjoy fantastic views over the Hudson River, New Jersey and Lower Manhattan from a unique vantage point.
The small park includes an amphitheater (holding 687 people) overlooking the Hudson River, offering performances throughout the summer months. There are performances six days per week – you can check the events calendar here. Attending a sunset performance on Little Island is definitely one of the best things to do in NYC in 2021.
If you get hungry, you can grab snacks and drinks (including alcoholic beverages) at three food stalls in the park. Little Island is just around the corner from the Highline Park, so you can combine it with a visit to the Highline and Chelsea Market, or stroll down the Hudson River Greenway.
Know before you go: At the moment, you can visit the park without a ticket before noon, but after 12pm timed tickets are essential in order to avoid overcrowding. The park is open daily from 6am to 1am. You can get your free ticket here.
4 The Green at Lincoln Center
The square outside the Lincoln Center, a performance venue on the Upper West Side, is usually a bland concrete space that is not known to be a cool hangout spot. But this has changed now – at least temporarily. The square, officially named Josie Robertson Plaza, was transformed into a large green space in May 2021 and is now called “The Green”.
The 14,000 sq feet plaza has been covered in artificial lawn and is supposed to be enjoyed by New Yorkers as a chillout area. Should you get hungry, there is an empanada stand and a gelato vendor, and in case you get bored, you can enjoy free books from a small library cabinet courtesy of the New York Library.
There are some chairs to sit in, but most people enjoy the “lawn” and lounge on the ground. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to catch one of the many pop-up events and performances that are happening on The Green throughout the summer. I should note, however, that if you’re looking for a respite from the hustle and bustle of the city, you may be better of in nearby Central Park, where it is easier to find a quiet corner away from noise and people. When I visited The Green on a sunny spring afternoon, it was packed with families and strollers and the noise level was quite high.
Know before you go: The Green will remain open until September 2021, open daily from 9am till midnight. No tickets needed.
5 The Vessel
The Vessel is the centerpiece of a brand new neighborhood in Manhattan: Hudson Yards. The development was built over the West Side Yard, an industrial rail storage yard, and now houses several residential towers, a hotel, office buildings, a mall, and a performance venue. In the middle of it all sits the Vessel.
While the Vessel isn’t technically new (it opened in March 2019), it closed in January 2021 after three suicides off the structure in less than one year. It was unclear if the immersive sculpture, which is 150 feet tall and essentially a spiraling staircase with 154 interconnecting flights of stairs, would reopen. There are almost 2,500 steps and 80 landings – but no worries, you can take an elevator all the way to the top if the thought of climbing up 15 flights of stairs scares you (just be prepared to wait in line).
The sculpture itself is pretty to look at from the outside – made from shiny copper-clad steel – but immersing yourself in the artwork, i.e. walking up the stairs and seeing it from various angles and heights on the inside is what makes this is a truly memorable experience. Beyond the views of the Vessel itself, climbing to the top also rewards with stunning vistas over parts of Manhattan and the Hudson River.
Know before you go: There is a limited number of free tickets available per day, after these run out, tickets are $10 per person. You have to book your time slot in advance, and you have to be with at least one other person to visit the Vessel (a new measure to prevent more suicides). You can reserve your tickets here.