29 February 2024 • 6 Mins Read

The History Behind New York's Must-Visit Attractions

The atmosphere and liveliness of this iconic city, combined with plenty of tourist attractions, makes New York a popular school trip for secondary school pupils. If you’re wondering what there is to do in New York for history students, there’s plenty!

Empire State Building

Taking just over a year to build and costing more than $40 million, the Empire State Building is one of New York’s most popular attractions, with over 3.5 million visitors each year. Students can take a trip to the observation decks and experience breathtaking views across the city. 

Believed to have been built in competition with the Chrysler Building for the title of the world’s tallest skyscraper, the Empire State Building finished construction in 1931, and held its sought-after title for 40 years, until the World Trade Center’s North Tower was built.

Construction of this iconic skyscraper brought work to labourers during the Great Depression from 1929. The job was by no means minor - the project saw as many as 3,000 workers on-site each day; at its busiest, four and a half stories were constructed in one week! Although the building brought wages to thousands during one of hardest financial times in history, the Great Depression meant that once built, only 25% of its offices were occupied, with the building nicknamed by some as the Empty State Building.

Now, however, the building is a symbol of the city’s wealth, and brings in millions each year from its observation decks on the 86th and 102nd floors, which students can explore while viewing the city from an astounding height.

Times Square

The busy intersection in New York, home to large scale entertainment and attractions, was once a small uptown development. Previously known as Longacre Square, Times Square got its name when the New York Times moved their headquarters to the area in 1904. It was this newspaper that launched the first ever ball drop in the square for New Year, a tradition that has continued ever since.  Now the square -located between Broadway and Seventh Avenue, and West 42nd and West 47th Street - is the destination for big advertisements, live shows, food outlets and entertainment. School trips can explore this vibrant and dynamic part of the city on a stimulating walking tour.

Central Park

Central Park first opened in 1859, after taking more than 10 years to plan and develop at a cost of $10 million. It was the winner of a park design competition that came up with the layout, named the Greensward Park. 840 acres were acquired for the project in middle upper Manhattan, which was situated on swampy terrain unsuitable for commercial buildings. Central Park’s stunning green meadows, calming waters, bridges and classic architecture make it a must-visit destination in the city, contrasting New York’s overpowering buildings. On a Manhattan walking tour, students will learn about this stunning park and experience its landscape first hand.

Statue of Liberty

The Statue of Liberty attracts over 4 million visitors each year and was built to commemorate the centennial of the American Declaration of Independence. The iconic statue, full name Liberty Enlightening the World, was funded by French and American contributions. According to a New York newspaper, $102,000 was raised from donations, of which 80% was received in sums less than one dollar. On October 28th 1886, the Statue of Liberty was fully constructed and unveiled, and became a symbol of freedom for those immigrating into the USA as they travelled past on surrounding waters. Students can explore Ellis Island and visit inside the statue, look out from her crown windows and learn more about its inspiring construction.

School trips to New York

Educational trips to New York allow students to see the bigger picture – turning a textbook theme into real life. If you’re looking for things to see in New York, walking tours offer an easy way for students to explore the city’s rich history, while you can also visit Broadway, famous museums and its major shopping area – Fifth Avenue.

For history school trips, New York is a destination full of learning and experience in the heart of one of the world’s most vibrant cities. Get in touch with a member of the WST team to discuss what a New York school trip could look like.