New York City: Top visitor attractions, sights, things to do and others to skip

With eight million residents, and 50 million global visitors each year, imagine the plethora of answers you get when you ask what New York City has to offer. Truth is, even the most touristy, if not cliché, attractions won't disappoint. But to relegate a New York visit to the obvious would mean missing out on a wonderful array of sights and sounds that, though found along a less-beaten path, will still offer a genuine taste of the Big Apple.

Skip the Empire State Building for the Top of the Rock

For the same cost as conquering the Empire State Building, check out views from atop Rockefeller Plaza, at 50th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues. You save time on shorter lines and, because you're in a TV and theater hotspot, spotting a celebrity is not far-fetched. Go all the way to the 70th floor for unobstructed 360-degree open-air views of New York City (including the Empire State Building).

Skip Central Park for the High Line

The Big Apple is teeming with green open spaces, and Central Park reigns supreme. However, the High Line is quickly becoming a secret getaway for park lovers. Located in Manhattan's West Side Meatpacking District – home to trendy eateries, nightclubs and fashions boutiques – the High Line is built on an abandoned elevated railway. It's an oasis, with sweeping views and beautiful landscaping. The High Line opened in 2009, and the City will soon begin construction on the final section of the railway line.

Skip the Bronx Zoo for the Central Park Zoo

The Bronx Zoo is legendary, and it has enough wild fun for an entire day's visit. But if you're limited on time, and are in Midtown, check out Central Park Zoo. Tucked away near the 5th Avenue entrance to Central Park, this zoo can be navigated quickly and offers a peek at sea lions, polar bears, snow leopards, penguins, tropical birds and more. Kids will love the petting zoo.

Skip Manhattan for Brooklyn

Manhattan is the epicenter of the planet, many contend, but it's tough to ignore Brooklyn's recent tourism rise. The two boroughs are connected by the Manhattan Bridge and the famed Brooklyn Bridge, with the best views for an out-of-Manhattan walk. Several stylish hotels have opened up in this eclectic zone in the last few years, and the culinary scene is growing. Act like a kid at Coney Island, picnic at Prospect Park or stroll through family-friendly Park Slope, home to intimate eateries and slick shops.

Skip MOMA for the Museum of the Moving Image

New York City houses museums for all tastes and interests, and the Museum of Modern Art is internationally renowned. But the Museum of the Moving Image – which is dedicated to the history of filmmaking and which reopened in 2011 after a major revamp – can be a fun, affordable alternative. Movie buffs will love the artifacts and parents will appreciate the kids' workshops and family matinee screenings on weekends. A quick drive or subway ride gets you to its Astoria, Queens location.

Skip the Cab for a Ferry

Cruising in a cab can help you see the City, but a ride on the water can offer a much more vivid perspective. For a few dollars, the ferry ride across the Hudson River to Jersey City offers a full landscape view of Manhattan. The State Island Ferry delivers beautiful sights of the State of Liberty. And the East River Ferry links Midtown East (at 34th St.) with Brooklyn, Queens and Governor's Island via double-decker catamarans.

Some other ideas:

Dinner for brunch: the brunch culture – the idea of a lengthy, leisurely, breakfast-inspired meal in the middle of the day – is gaining steam throughout the Big Apple, with per-person pricing usually ranging between $25 and $55. Sidewalk tavern for the pub in the sky: perched atop trendy hotels, some of the hippest spots for a drink double as great view points, including The Boom Boom Room at The Standard and The Press Lounge atop the Ink48 Hotel. Subway for sidewalk: some of your favorite haunts will be the ones you stumble upon and didn't read about in a guide book, so walk far and wide and enjoy the sights, sounds and tastes this city has to offer.

Gabe Saglie is Senior Editor for Travelzoo and is one of the site's 250 deal experts from around the world who rigorously research, evaluate and test thousands of deals to find those with true value.