30 New York Landmarks You Need to See Before You Die

Published On 06/06/2016 Published On 06/06/2016

New York has the most National Historic Landmarks of any state: 261, to be exact. But unless you’re dying to wear a T-shirt that says, “I’ve been to every New York Landmark, bitches!” you’re probably only really interested in the coolest spots. So, we scoured the entire Empire State to find them -- from Manhattan landmarks you can now sleep in, to a famous artist’s home in the Hamptons, to a remote log cabin visited by US Presidents in the Hudson Valley. If this list doesn’t satisfy your inner history nerd, take a self-guided tour with this handy NYC landmark map (which includes places you probably pass by every day on your way to work; hi, Grand Central!).


Kykuit, the Rockefeller Estate

Pocantico Hills
While a trip to Kykuit will make it difficult to return to your infinitely smaller New York City apartment, the home of one of the wealthiest Americans in recorded history feels like a mini vacation -- even if you can see the Manhattan skyline 25 miles to the south from Kykuit’s hilltop perch. Visitors can tour the lavish estate of Standard Oil founder and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, and set new life goals while roaming the six-story stone house and beautiful sculpture-dappled gardens, featuring works by Pablo Picasso, Henry Moore, and Alexander Calder.

Brooklyn Heights Historic District

You’ll want a day to meander the city’s first historic district, home to over 600 pre-Civil War houses, architectural gems like Grace Church, and plenty of juicy fodder on the rich and famous. Take a free guided walking tour or stroll through America’s first suburb at your leisure, stopping at 24 Middagh St, the oldest home in the Heights, built in 1824; Arthur Miller’s home at 31 Grace Court (where he completed Death of a Salesman in the late '40s); and Truman Capote’s five-story townhouse at 70 Willow St (where he wrote Breakfast At Tiffany's and A House on the Heights).


Green-Wood Cemetery

A visit to this 1838 cemetery is like getting the coolest history lesson of your life. Amidst 150-year-old trees and glacial ponds -- a verdant oasis that inspired the creation of Central and Prospect Parks -- lie the answers to basically every Jeopardy question. At Green-Wood, which also happens to be a Revolutionary War site, you’ll find the graves of famous mobsters and civil war heroes, New York mayors, baseball legends, the co-founder of the MET, the inventor of Morse code, Leonard Bernstein, and actor who played The Wizard of Oz.

Jackson Pollock House and Studio

East Hampton
If you’ve ever lingered before Ocean Greyness at the Guggenheim or One: Number 31, 1950 at MoMA, it’s time you head east to see where the magic happened. In 1945, Jackson Pollock purchased this 19th-century house for $5,000 and remained living and working there until his death in 1956. Whether you’re into art or not, exploring the home of one of America’s greatest painters and getting an up-close look at his life is no small thrill, especially when you stand over his studio floor, which is covered with drip-style remnants from paintings such as Autumn Rhythm, Convergence, and Blue Poles.


Eastman Museum

For film and photography buffs, reasons to get out of town don’t get better than Kodak founder George Eastman’s estate, which also happens to house the world’s oldest photography museum and leading film archive collection. In addition to perusing the picturesque grounds and objet d’arts, visitors can enjoy myriad screenings, ranging from Our Man in Havana to classic bond films, as well as exhibits like Photography and America’s National Parks (June 4–October 2, 2016).

Governors Island

The colonial militia of 1755 could not have imagined that the headquarters for the US Army and Coast Guard would turn into a destination for myriad summer jubilees. Take a free ferry ride over to Governors Island to revel in the present -- and the debut of 10 acres of parkland in The Hills -- and pay respects to its past as one of the country’s longest continually operated military installations. After touring the 2.2-mile promenade on a free cruiser, testing out the hammock groves, and perhaps fox-trotting at a jazz age party, explore Fort Jay and Castle Williams, two of the harbor’s largest coastal fortifications, which helped stave off the British Navy during the War of 1812.


New York State Capitol

If you only do two things on your visit to Albany, make sure it’s dining at New World Bistro Bar (one of the 13 best restaurants in NY outside NYC) and touring the Capitol building. Constructed between 1867 and 1899 atop State Street hill, the late 19th-century architectural marvel’s recent restorations, including the Million Dollar Staircase, the War Room, and the Hall of Governors, are worth a trip.


West Park
The next time you’re at your desk daydreaming of outdoor adventures, consider Slabsides. The Adirondack-style cabin, hand-built by the famed nature essayist John Burroughs and his son in 1873, is the coolest excuse to go for a walk in the woods. As you make your way through the 170-acre John Burroughs Sanctuary to reach the well-preserved hut that inspired the writer’s work, you’ll be following in the footsteps of illustrious guests such as Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir, Thomas Edison, and Henry Ford. Though the cabin is only open on the third Saturday in May and the first Saturday in October, the grounds and hiking trails are accessible year round.


Poe Cottage

If you’ve ever binge-watched Sherlock Holmes or Law & Order, you’ll want to take the D train to Kingsbridge Rd to see where the inventor of detective stories spent the last years of his life. From 1846 to 1849, it was in this small wooden farmhouse that once looked out over the shores of Long Island that Edgar Allan Poe wrote ”Annabel Lee” and “The Cask of Amontillado.” “The Tell-Tale Heart” author would roam the woods and riverbanks while his wife put food on the table by foraging in the neighboring fields.

Lake Mohonk Mountain House

New Paltz  
Opened in 1869, the Mohonk Mountain House has gone from a 10-room inn and tavern to a 600-room gathering place for US presidents (five to be exact) and dignitaries from around the world. The all-inclusive Victorian castle resort, one of our top weekend getaways from NYC, is surrounded by thousands of acres of protected land, including 85 miles of hiking trails.

Jeffrey M. Frank/Shutterstock

Fort Ticonderoga

Fort Ticonderoga’s lush and peaceful perch on the banks of Lake Champlain makes it one of the US’s most beautiful battlegrounds. It outlasted two wars and five skirmishes, including the first major American victory of the Revolution, when soldiers stormed Fort Ticonderoga and captured it from the British on May 10, 1775.

Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower

An iconic fixture on the Manhattan skyline since 1909, the Met Life Tower was the company’s world headquarters until 2005. Modeled after Campanile in Venice, the striking building at the southeast corner of Madison Square Park recently became the New York EDITION hotel, which features The Clocktower restaurant, helmed by British Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton and restaurateur Stephen Starr.

Flickr/Tom Bastin

Tenement Building

You’ll never lament your current living situation again after getting a taste of the immigrant experience in New York City between 1863 and 1935. The Lower East Side Tenement Museum is housed within a five-story brick building that sheltered around 7,000 people from over 20 nations throughout 72 years. Through restored apartment exhibits, tours, and reenactments, you’ll discover how immigrants forged American identities during some of the country’s darkest years.

Huguenot Street

New Paltz
Trendy beer gardens, restaurants, and cocktail bars have been popping up in New Paltz lately, but it’s what’s just off Main St that’s worth making the hour-long Adirondack Trailways bus trip. Step inside the 17th century in this 10-acre National Historic Landmark District, founded by several Huguenot families in 1678, where you’ll see seven historic stone houses, archaeological sites, and a burial ground for the first French Protestant settlers.

Flickr/Keith Ewing

Darwin D. Martin House

Frank Lloyd Wright referred to his six-structure Martin House as “the opus,” and kept the blueprints on his drawing table for almost 50 years. Situated in the Parkside neighborhood of Buffalo and built between 1903-1905, the estate-turned-museum is one of Wright’s most celebrated Prairie houses.

Manitoga, The Russel Wright Design Center

Step inside the pioneering mind of Russel Wright, the modern industrial design doyen of the 1940s and '50s, at his striking home and woodland sanctuary in the Hudson Valley. Take a 90-minute tour of the house and grounds, which includes the breathtaking 75-acre gardens and “Dragon Rock” studio, where Wright created nature-inspired dinnerware.

Flickr/Neil R

Montauk Point Light

The oldest lighthouse in the state sits at the easternmost tip of Long Island, where it’s been flashing 19 nautical miles out to sea since President George Washington gave the OK to have it built in 1796. A trip to Montauk isn’t complete without admiring this historic beacon, be it from Camp Hero State Park or inside the museum, where 19th-century whaling industry artifacts and documents signed by Thomas Jefferson are on display.

Carnegie Hall

Since 1891, the Italian Renaissance building at 881 7th Ave has remained one of the world’s preeminent performance spaces. The brainchild of Andrew Carnegie began its first of 46,000 events with the American debut of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, followed by concerts by everyone from Bob Dylan to Louis Armstrong to Billie Holiday. If you want to hear all varieties of great music, take a seat in front of Carnegie Hall’s acoustically perfect stage.


Ellis Island

Upper New York Bay
Whether or not your ancestors were among the 17 million people who traveled through the federal immigration station between 1892 and 1954, Ellis Island is a fascinating place to trace one’s lineage or simply marvel at the varied history -- from the largest gateway to America, to a prison for pirates.

Saratoga Spa State Park

Saratoga Springs
Aside from horse racing and the best pizza in the state outside NYC, Saratoga Springs is known for its healing mineral springs. Established in 1835, 2,379-acre Saratoga Spa State Park is a must-stop for travelers seeking a stress-relieving getaway. Book a room at Gideon Putnam Resort, then unplug while you explore five hiking trails, play a round of golf, visit the Saratoga Automobile Museum, and soak it all in at the Roosevelt Baths and Spa.

Flickr/Steve Harris

New York Public Library

Built on the former Croton Reservoir and opened in 1911, the Beaux-Arts behemoth at Fifth Ave and 42nd Street is a utopia for bibliophiles, history buffs, and architectural mavens. Take a tour of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building to discover fascinating factoids about the New York Public Library, where you can find 125 miles of shelving, 2.5 million research works, a 1493 copy of Christopher Columbus’s letter announcing his discovery of the New World, and 40,000 restaurant menus from the 1850s to now.

Washington Irving’s Sunnyside

Retirement homes aren’t what they used to be. At Sunnyside, where America’s so-called “Founding Father of Literature” spent his final days, you’ll wonder how someone who wrote The Legend of Sleepy Hollow could possibly have lived in such a dreamy place -- or “snuggery,” as Irving would say. After a visit to Sunnyside, head to nearby Old Dutch Church, site of Ichabod’s headless horseman encounter, and Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, where Irving and several other notable figures are buried.

Niagara Reservation

Niagara Falls
Instead of flying all the way to Zambia to see spectacular waterfalls, take a six-hour road trip to experience the rush that is Niagara Falls. At America’s oldest state park, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, get up close to the crash-and-boom -- that would be 750,000 gallons of water per second -- on the Cave of the Winds tour or the Maid of the Mist boat ride. If you opt for the latter, let your stomach settle, then eat lunch at one of these restaurants in Niagara Falls that don’t suck.


Brooklyn Bridge

East River
Early in the morning, before selfie sticks and commuters storm the Brooklyn Bridge like the elephants that once tested its weight, you can still enjoy an iconic walk between the boroughs. Since 1883, the first steel wire suspension bridge has remained a New York City treasure, worthy of being named the “eighth wonder of the world.”

Adirondack Forest Preserve

Adirondack Mountain region
The largest National Historic Landmark in the United States comprises 2.6 million acres of state land within the Adirondack Park. The Preserve’s remote backcountry woos campers and hikers year-round along its 1,800 miles of trails, and is an outdoor playground for mountain bikers, rock climbers, and fishermen.

Federal Reserve Bank of New York

Although the block-long, Renaissance Revival-styled Federal Reserve Bank is something to behold, it’s what’s inside, on the basement floor, that’s worth a visit. Book a free Museum & Gold Vault Tour, which will have you seeing gold stars for the rest of the day. Opened in 1914, the bank began storing gold during World War II, and still remains the world’s largest known depository of monetary gold, with about 508,000 gold bars in its 122 blue cages.


Central Park

For many New Yorkers, Central Park makes the urban jungle bearable. Designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, the 843-acre sanctuary opened in 1876, and is the most visited urban park in the United States, with 37.5 million visitors each year. Among its man-made features -- 5,000 trees, seven bodies of water, 136 acres of woodlands, 58 miles of walking paths, and 36 bridges & arches -- are large 450-million-year-old schistose metamorphic rocks and glacial outcrops, like the one on the west side of Central Park Lake that’s great for picnicking.

General Theological Seminary

The High Line Hotel recently opened in the former student quarters of the General Theological Seminary, which was built in 1895 on an apple orchard owned by Clement Clarke Moore, author of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. Plan a staycation, or just enjoy cocktails or an Intelligentsia Coffee in the Parisian-style courtyard while taking in the towering Gothic-style brick façade.


Statue of Liberty

Liberty Island
Since 1886, the 305ft-tall copper symbol of freedom, officially known as "Liberty Enlightening the World," has stood watch over the New York harbor. Originally designed by sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi as a Muslim peasant woman, she continues to be NYC’s most iconic landmark, offering crowning views of the city.


The Plaza

While a lot has changed in New York City since The Plaza first opened in 1907 with rooms for $2.50/night, the French chateau-styled landmark still reigns over the city’s luxury hotel scene, especially after receiving a $450 million dollar restoration in 2008. After dining at the Todd English Food Hall, wander the 282-roomed property -- where the Beatles wrote "Michelle" and Miles Davis recorded Jazz at the Plaza -- then go for drinks at The Champagne Bar.

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Lauren Matison is a New York-based travel writer and co-founder of who spent the first five years of her life living in a landmark (shout out to Brooklyn Heights!). Follow Lauren on Twitter and Instagram.



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