Perfect New York Itinerary 3 Days

New York City is on practically everyone’s bucket list, and for good reason. Not only is it an icon of American history and culture, but it also has so many amazing things to do. I’ve been to New York over 10 times (it’s possible to drive from Washington DC) and have crafted the perfect New York itinerary for 3 days.

 

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when thinking about what to do in New York. In this 3 day New York itinerary, I’ll share the best things to do in New York City on your trip and help you decide what you really want to try to fit in by giving you options depending on whether you’re a foodie, history buff, or view seeker!

Table of Contents

Photo purchased on shutterstock.com

Getting There

 

Bus, train, drive, or fly? I’ve done all four, which have pros and cons depending on your budget and where you are traveling from. I’ll outline each below.

 

Drive

If you’re taking a car or coming to New York, you can drive here, but there are some things you should know.

 

Tolls are expensive to get into the city, and you’ll have to cross over one from almost any direction to get there. Once you are in the city and over the bridges, you will likely not have to worry about any more tolls. All New York toll roads are cashless and require a small removable transponder to pay your toll. Toll booths in New York are managed by E-ZPass, and transponders can be obtained online.

 

New York is famous for its traffic, and it is sometimes terrible. A few miles can take you over an hour to get across, so plan ahead!

 

Last, parking on the street is hard to come by in most areas and will likely have restrictions. I’d recommend you plan ahead and pay for parking before getting to New York to save time and money. Many hotels and garages will charge more than $50 a day for parking, so it’s best to plan ahead so you aren’t stuck with a giant bill.

 

Bus

Many different bus lines operate up and down the East Coast, and while not always the most convenient, they tend to be the cheapest way to get to New York.

 

MegaBus, Greyhound, Peter Pan, Best Bus, and more offer bus tickets to New York for as low as $5. I took one of these buses, and while it did take longer than the other options below, it was the cheapest.

  

Train

Amtrak lines connect New York to essentially every major city along the East Coast with regular and high-speed service daily in and out of Penn Station and Moynihan Train Hall. The train hall is right in the center of Manhattan, making it a great place to start your New York trip.

 
 

Flights

There are three airports close to New York City, and you can fly into any of the three and take public transit to get into the city.

 

JFK International Airport

John F. Kennedy International Airport in Jamaica, Queens, is New York’s largest airport. It’s about 15 miles from Midtown Manhattan and is served by over 70 international and domestic airlines. From JFK, you can catch a cab to anywhere in Manhattan for a flat fee of $52, plus tax, tolls, gratuity, and a surcharge of $4.50 during peak hours from 4 to 8 pm on weekdays.

 

If you want to skip the private ride, JFK’s AirTrain operates 24/7 and links the airport to several public transit options for an $8 ticket. Hop on the AirTrain Red line to catch the Long Island Railroad or the J-Z and E trains at Jamaica Station, or take the Airtrain Green line to connect to the A train at Howard Beach station. Taking the Long Island Railroad from Jamaica Station will take you to Manhattan’s Penn Station in about 20 minutes.

 

LaGuardia Airport

LaGuardia Airport in East Elmhurst, Queens, is approximately eight miles from Midtown and serves mostly domestic destinations, with a few flights arriving from Canada. From there, ride a metered taxi (which will also charge tolls and tips) or catch one of two city buses (the Q70 and the M60) to connect with the subway. You’ll need patience for the latter and the swipe of a MetroCard for $2.75.
 

Newark Liberty International Airport

Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, New Jersey, is 16 miles from Midtown and is a hub for domestic and international flights. Metered taxis will transport you to the city, though it can cost around $100 with tolls and tips. AirTrain Newark, however, connects to NJ Transit for an easy, cheaper ride into Penn Station in under 30 minutes.

 Where to Stay
 

There are so many amazing areas to stay in New York it’s hard to narrow it down, but below, I’ll outline three areas I’d recommend for your trip, ranging from the cheapest to most expensive options. All are located close to the places on this itinerary and accessible by subway.

Long Island City

Long Island City sounds super far from Manhattan, right? Well, it’s just across the water from Midtown Manhattan (pictured above on the right) and is just two train stops away from many sites worth visiting. Long Island City is known for its gleaming high-rises with sweeping views of Manhattan. Innovative art galleries, performance spaces, and pockets of trendy bars and restaurants can be found all over this area.

This area is more affordable than Manhattan, but still very convenient to get to everything on this itinerary. Generally speaking, it’s the cheapest area on this list for hotels!

Recommended hotels:

Lower East Side

If you’re looking for a more local feel in a neighborhood with some of the best food, then this is the perfect place to stay. The eclectic Lower East Side is where gritty alleys and tenement-style buildings mix with upscale apartments and chic boutiques. Nighttime draws hip, young crowds to the area’s trendy bars, music venues, and restaurants. The neighborhood’s Jewish heritage lives on through Orchard Street’s Lower East Side Tenement Museum, fabric stores, and traditional delis such as Katz’s and Russ & Daughters.

Recommended hotels:

  • Hotel Indigo (great rooftop, modern feel, rooftop pictured on left of this section)
  • Moxy Hotel (trendy, easy parking)

Midtown Manhattan

Midtown Manhattan is full of the most popular things to do in New York. It’s centrally located, but also the most crowded of the three areas I am recommending. This is not a good spot to stay if you drive in, as parking is the most challenging/expensive in this part of the city. It is the most convenient location and walkable to many things on this New York itinerary (3 days) for most trips; I wouldn’t recommend staying in this area, but because this is a short one, being centrally located can be a good thing.
 

Recommended hotels:

Getting Around

Public Transportation

The New York City subway system is one of the best systems in the world for public transportation. You’ll find a local subway stop just a few blocks away from almost everywhere on your New York itinerary. I would highly recommend getting a subway pass and taking it for the majority of your trip!

You can get a prepaid card, or you can get a single trip card. If you’re paying per ride, you get one free transfer within two hours of your first swipe (bus to bus or train to bus only). Once you exit through the subway turnstiles, you can’t transfer to another line or reenter the station without paying again.

An unlimited card gives you as many transfers as you’d like, but you can’t use it at the same station within 18 minutes of your first swipe, so individual or pay-as-you-go cards are the best options if you’re sharing with travel companions.

For contactless payment, you can either pick up an OMNY card and top up your account online or tap your contactless credit or debit card or electronic device on an OMNY reader to pass through the turnstile.
 

Taxis or Uber?

New York City has the most expensive Ubers in the U.S., at $34.74 per 6.2 miles.
 
Both conventional taxis and Uber charge fares based on a combination of time and distance Ta. s do not have surge pricing and use old-world pricing, but riders might have to wait longer when demand exceeds supply. Uber does not differentiate between cruising and stop-and-go traffic, while taxis charge different rates based on speed.
 
The results might shock you. She found that without tips or surge pricing, hailing a cab was always less expensive than an UberX or a standard Lyft. Cab prices averaged 35-83% less than a ride-share. Prices for the same rides on the taxi cab app CURB varied.
 
I say all this to tell you, expect to pay a lot when you get a taxi or Uber in New York, expect to be stuck in a lot of traffic, and avoid this when possible.
 

Day 1: Central Park, Upper East Side, Midtown

On your first day in New York, it’s time to see some of the most iconic sites that the city has and take in some of the biggest sites to knock those off your list. Spend a morning in Central Park, then head to the Met. From there, walk around the Upper East Side (stroll Madison Ave), then end your day in Times Square.

Central Park

 
This is one of the most magical places in New York and the perfect place to start your trip. Start at the southern part of the park and walk from there in order to do everything on this itinerary. I’d recommend choosing 1-3 stops listed below. Otherwise, you won’t have enough time to do everything on this itinerary!

 1. Picnic in Sheeps Meadow or by the Pond: Grab a bagel from pretty much anywhere before going into the park. Bring it with you into the south side of the park and choose a spot. You can either hang out in Sheeps Meadow, which is known for its picnics and you’ll likely see lots of New Yorkers hanging out here on a nice day. The Pond is home to the Gapstowe Bridge and close to Wollman Rink (where you can ice skate in the winter!).

 2. Central Park Zoo: This is a stop I’d recommend making with kids or if you are an animal lover. Not far from the Pond, you’ll find the Central Park Zoo.

$20 for Adults / $15 for Children (3-12) & free (2 & under) / $17 for seniors (65+)

TIP: General admission tickets are included for free with the purchase of the All-Inclusive Sightseeing Pass and up to 50% off with the purchase of the New York Explorer Sightseeing Pass, both of which are tourist discount passes.

3. Bethesda Terrace and Fountain: Bethesda Terrace and Fountain are two architectural features overlooking the southern shore of the Lake in New York City’s Central Park. The fountain, with its Angel of the Waters statue, is located in the center of the terrace. This is one of the prettiest and most famous parts of Central Park!

 4. Rent a Row Boat: Central Park Boathouse has partially reopened, and the rowboats are available to rent as of June 17, 2023. Until notified, boats are available by walk-up and paid for with credit card or Apple Pay only. Online bookings will soon also be available through reservation service OpenTable. The restaurant’s interior is being upgraded, and plans to reopen this fall.

5. Belvedere Castle: Walk through the Ramble (a beautiful part of the park, especially in fall) to one of the most iconic features in Central Park. This miniature castle is located atop the huge rock outcrop known as Vista Rock, the second highest natural point in Central Park. 

The entire complex, completed in 1872, was designed as a place from which to enjoy views of the surrounding landscape; the building originally had no windows or doors, as it was intended as an open-air lookout tower. It houses a welcome center, gift shop, and lookout point worth climbing to!

 From Belvedere Castle, head to the Met!

 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of the world’s largest and finest art museums. Its collection spans 5,000 years of world culture, from prehistory to the present and from every part of the globe.

While its entire building space is technically smaller than the Louvre, the Metropolitan Museum covers the largest floor area of any museum in the world, at an incredible 2 million square feet.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art was founded in 1870 by a group of American citizens – business people and financiers as well as leading artists and thinkers of the day – who wanted to create a museum to bring art and art education to the American people.

After exploring for a few hours, make sure to take a break and head up to the Met’s rooftop. They have drinks and bites to try with a view overlooking Central Park and Manhattan. It’s beautiful and a great stop from all the walking you’ve been doing!

General Admission: Adults, $30; Seniors (65 and over), $22; Students, $17; Children (under 12), Free. The New York Pass grants free same-day admission to all of the Met Museum locations.

You can also book a Met Tour through Walks Tours, one of my absolute favorite tour companies!

Open 10 am – 5 pm Sunday – Tuesday & Thursday (closed Wednesday), 10 am – 9 pm weekends.

Madison Ave

 
If you have more time and want to do some shopping, Madison Ave is the right way to walk back down to Midtown Manhattan to get to your evening in Times Square!

Madison Avenue features the flagship boutiques of the finest fashion & jewelry designers, world class art galleries, exquisite restaurants, spas, and salons for exclusive pampering. Shop small designers, or maybe you just like to window shop from the most famous luxury stores It’s all possible here!

Times Square

 
End your day in the iconic Times Square. Times Square in New York City is one of the most iconic and bustling places on Earth. This area, located at the intersection of Broadway and Seventh Avenue, is home to some of the world’s largest billboards and signs, making it a must-see destination for any traveler or tourist.

The most famous street and section of Times Square is Broadway. This is where you’ll spot the flashy lights and advertisements, where the ball drops on New Year’s Eve, and the heart of the commercial district in this area where you’ll find shops, restaurants, and the TKTS ticket counter to get Broadway tickets. You’ll want these for day two, but more tips on getting them later!

While in Times Square, I’d recommend eating at Serafina for some fantastic Italian. They have a few locations, are quick, and serve up good eats.

If you plan on exploring New York at night, this is the night to do it! Take a cruise along the river to take in the views, visit an observatory at night, or hit the bars on the Lower East Side. There’s a lot to do at night in New York!

Day 2: Hudson Yards, Chelsea, Broadway

 
On day two, we’re checking out Hudson Yards, home to the Edge Observatory and the Hive. From there, walk the Highline over to Chelsea Market. Get a late brunch at one of the fantastic spots and see Little Island. After that, head back toward Midtown and the day with a Broadway show!

Hudson Yards

 
Hudson Yards is NYC’s built-up neighborhood with new real estate, a fancy subway station that serves the 7 train as well as a handful of attractions like a one-million-square-foot retail center with over 100 places to go shopping in NYC, eat at cute restaurants, cultural performance venue The Shed, a five-acre innovative park and Vessel—a giant, metal beehive It’s also home to Edge—NYC’s highest observation deck.

I’d recommend exploring Hudson Yards in the morning and getting a brunch reservation at Peak (at the Edge) in the morning for a perfect start to your day!

Peak is a stunning restaurant space located on the 101st floor at the summit of the 1,296-foot tall tower, one level above Edge – the highest observation deck in the Western Hemisphere. Peak is a modern American destination, blending stunning views of New York City with elevated menus Plus when you eat here, you get free entry to the Edge.

Edge tickets are $38 a piece, and a meal at Peak will run you about the same. Why not get food AND a view for $38 instead of just the view? Make sure you make a reservation in advance to secure a spot.
Open 11 – 10:30 pm on weekends, 11:30 am – 10 pm on weekdays.

Note: Entry into the Edge and many other things on this list are included in the New York City Go Pass. It’s worth checking out for your first trip!

Highline

After getting a fantastic view of New York City, walk to Chelsea Market on the Highline.
 
Prior to 1934, Tenth Avenue was known as “Death Avenue” because of the many accidents caused by then at-grade trains that ran on the street. New York Central Railroad built a new elevated train to service the area and improve safety; the West Side elevated, which we now know as The High Line. 

Trains passed through approximately 30 buildings, including meat packers and the Nabisco factory, which added to the neighborhood’s distinctive architecture. Freight traffic began to decline in the 1960s as trucking became the preferred mode of commercial transportation, and the last train ran on the elevated in 1980.

In 1999, a group of activists rallied to save the structure and convert it into a unique public space. This is how the Highline began. It offers unique views of the city, incredible art installations that change regularly, and a way to become a part of the history of the city.

Open daily from 7 am to 10 pm, free.

Chelsea Market

 
Chelsea Market is an excellent spot for lunch or even just a snack if you choose to have brunch at Peak. It’s got a wide variety of food stalls inside to choose from, with all sorts of great foods New York is known for.
 

Chelsea Market is housed in the former National Biscuit Company (Nabisco) factory complex, which was built in the 1890s. The building’s architecture and industrial history make it an interesting and unique location for visitors. You’ll find everything from gifts and flowers to home goods and gourmet specialty foods.

Get a haircut, find the perfect bottle of wine, or catch an immersive art installation at Artechouse. Chelsea Market regularly hosts live music, sample sales, and other events. Check here for the latest events.

Little Island or Whitney Museum of American Art

 
If you’re looking for a bit of time outside, head to Little Island. “Little Island is a public park and performance space in New York City. It is a relatively new addition to the city’s parks and recreational spaces, officially opening to the public in May 2021. Little Island is situated on the Hudson River, near the Meatpacking District and Chelsea neighborhoods of Manhattan.
 
The park was funded by media mogul Barry Diller and his wife, fashion designer Diane von Fürstenberg, who were inspired by the idea of creating a unique public space on the Hudson River. Little Island is a popular destination for locals and tourists, offering a mix of nature, art, and entertainment in the heart of Manhattan. It has quickly become a beloved addition to New York City’s cultural and recreational scene.

If you’re interested in another museum, head to The Whitney Museum of Art. The Whitney Museum of American Art, often referred to simply as the Whitney, is a renowned museum in New York City dedicated to showcasing American art from the 20th and 21st centuries. It was founded by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, an art patron and collector, in 1930.
 

The museum has undergone several relocations and expansions over the years and is currently located in the Meatpacking District of Manhattan. The Whitney’s collection includes a wide range of American art, from paintings and sculptures to multimedia installations, photography, and works on paper. The collection features works by prominent American artists, both historical and contemporary.

Broadway

No trip to New York is complete without seeing a show on Broadway. When buying Broadway tickets, be aware of the show’s schedule, seating options, pricing, and any special promotions or discounts available.

It’s also a good idea to purchase tickets well in advance, especially for popular or high-demand shows. Lastly, watch out for any potential scams or fraudulent ticket sales and buy from reputable sources to ensure you receive valid tickets for the show you want to see.

You can find Broadway tickets through various sources, both online and in person. Here are some common ways to purchase Broadway tickets:

  • Official Broadway Websites: Many Broadway shows have official websites where you can buy tickets directly. These websites often provide information about show schedules, ticket availability, and pricing. Popular official ticketing websites include Telecharge and Ticketmaster.
  • Online Ticketing Platforms: You can purchase Broadway tickets through popular online ticketing platforms such as Ticketmaster, Telecharge, Broadway.com, TodayTix, and StubHub. These platforms provide a convenient way to browse shows, view seat availability, and make online bookings.
  • Discount Ticket Services: There are several services that offer discounted Broadway tickets, including TKTS and TodayTix. TKTS has a physical booth in Times Square, another at South Street Seaport, and a mobile app that provides same-day discounted tickets for many Broadway and Off-Broadway shows.
  • Theater Box Offices: You can visit the box office of the specific theater where the show is playing to buy tickets in person. This is often the best option if you want to purchase tickets on the day of the show or if you prefer the personal touch of speaking to a box office representative.
  • Ticket Resellers: Be cautious when using ticket resellers or third-party sellers. While some legitimate resellers like StubHub exist, be wary of scalpers and buy from reputable sources to avoid scams and counterfeit tickets.
  • Lotteries and Rush Tickets: Some shows offer lottery systems where you can enter for a chance to purchase discounted tickets. Rush tickets are also often available at the box office on the day of the show, usually at a lower price. These options are particularly popular for popular or sold-out shows.
  • Discount Websites: Websites like BroadwayBox and Goldstar offer discounted tickets for Broadway shows. They may have special promo codes to help you save on ticket prices.
  • Subscription Services: Consider subscription services like Broadway.com’s Season Ticketing, which allows you to purchase tickets for a series of Broadway shows at a discounted rate.
  • Hotels and Packages: Some hotels in New York City offer packages that include Broadway tickets along with your stay. These packages can be convenient and offer some cost savings.
 

Day 3: Lower Manhattan, Lower East Side or Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn

In Lower Manhattan, you will find the 911 Memorial and Wall Street. After the morning there, spend your afternoon eating to your heart’s content on a Lower East Side food tour. This part of the city has some of the most iconic/amazing food in NY. Stop by the Brooklyn Bridge when you’re done.

 Photo purchased from Shutterstock
 

911 Memorial and Museum

The 9/11 Memorial, also known as the National September 11 Memorial, is a solemn and poignant tribute to the victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States. It serves as a place for remembrance, reflection, and commemoration.

Visiting the outdoor 9/11 Memorial is free, but there is an admission fee to enter the museum. It’s advisable to book museum tickets in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons, as it can get crowded.

The memorial plaza is generally open daily, and the museum’s hours may vary. Be sure to check the official website for up-to-date information on opening hours and any special events.

The entrance fee into the 9/11 Museum is well worth it, in my opinion. Visiting the 9/11 Memorial and Museum is a profoundly moving and meaningful experience. It allows visitors to remember and pay their respects to the lives lost on that tragic day and to learn about the historical and cultural significance of the World Trade Center site.

It’s a place for reflection, unity, and honoring the bravery of first responders and all those affected by the events of 9/11.

Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash
 

Wall Street

From the 9/11 Memorial, walk over to Wall Street. This is a historic street in the Financial District of Manhattan, New York City. It is famous for its association with the financial industry, including the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and the Federal Hall National Memorial.

While the interior of the NYSE is not open to the public, you can stand outside the iconic building at 11 Wall Street and take photos. You may also see traders and financial professionals entering and exiting the building.

Here are a few sites worth seeing while on Wall Street.

  • Federal Hall National Memorial: Federal Hall is a historic site where the first President of the United States, George Washington, was inaugurated in 1789. The building now serves as a museum and visitor center, offering exhibitions about American government and finance history.
  • The Charging Bull: Located near Bowling Green, the Charging Bull is a famous bronze sculpture that has become a symbol of Wall Street. Visitors often take photos with this iconic artwork.
  • Trinity Church: Trinity Church, located at the intersection of Wall Street and Broadway, is one of the oldest churches in New York City. The church and its historic cemetery are open to the public, and you can explore the church’s beautiful architecture and learn about its history.

Lower East Side or Statue of Libert

 

Lower East Side

The Lower East Side (LES) is a vibrant neighborhood located in the southeastern part of Manhattan, New York City. It has a rich history and is known for its diverse culture, artistic scene, and wide range of dining, shopping, and entertainment options.

The Lower East Side is famous for its diverse food scene. You can try traditional Jewish delis, modern eateries, trendy cafes, and international cuisine. Katz’s Delicatessen is an iconic establishment known for its pastrami sandwiches. This makes it the perfect spot for a food tour with some of the most well-known food spots in the city in the neighborhood.

Sidewalk Food Tours and Free Tours by Foot do several food tours all over New York City, and I’d recommend using them for this tour. They have a really unique model; you pay what you want at the end of the tour. We paid for our own food, and it was easy for people to share things or only get samples instead of ordering too much. You then paid our guide a generous tip at the end.

No time for a food tour? Visit Essex Street Market instead. This market has served the neighborhood for over 75 years and features a selection of food vendors, offering everything from artisanal bread to fresh produce and international cuisines. 

Note: The New York City Go Pass includes a Lower East Side Food tour. It’s worth checking out for your first trip! 

 

Statue of Liberty

A visit to the Statue of Liberty is not just a tour; it’s a meaningful and educational experience that allows you to connect with the history of the United States and the ideals of liberty and freedom. It’s advisable to plan your visit well in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons, to secure your preferred tour options and times.

You must purchase tickets in advance to visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. You can do this online through the official website of the National Park Service or through authorized vendors. There are various ticket options, including Crown access, Pedestal access, and Reserve tickets. Be sure to choose the one that suits your interests and preferences.

Ferries to Liberty Island and Ellis Island depart from Battery Park in Manhattan and Liberty State Park in New Jersey. Most visitors depart from Battery Park, which offers the closest proximity to the statue.

Upon arrival on Liberty Island, you can explore the island and get up close to the Statue of Liberty. Take time to walk around, take photos, and enjoy the views of Manhattan and New Jersey from the island’s grounds.

Many tours include a visit to Ellis Island, which was once the primary immigrant processing station in the United States. The Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration offers a comprehensive look at the immigrant experience.

There are food concessions on Liberty Island and Ellis Island, where you can purchase snacks and meals. Restrooms and gift shops are also available on both islands.

Note: Entry into the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island and many other things on this list are included in the New York City Go Pass. It’s worth checking out for your first trip!

Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash
 

Brooklyn Bridge

Visiting the Brooklyn Bridge is a famous and iconic experience for tourists and locals alike. The Brooklyn Bridge connects Manhattan and Brooklyn, providing stunning views of the city skyline and the East River.

Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge is a wonderful way to take in the city’s beauty, experience a piece of its history, and enjoy the unique charm of both Manhattan and Brooklyn. It’s a memorable and picturesque activity that you can easily combine with exploring the neighborhoods on either side of the bridge.

The bridge has a designated pedestrian walkway and a separate bike lane. Be mindful of cyclists and stay within the pedestrian area. You can rent bikes in Brooklyn or Manhattan if you prefer to bike across. It is approximately 1.1 miles (1.8 km) long and takes about 25-30 minutes to walk across leisurely. Plan some extra time for stops to take pictures and enjoy the views!

Want other options? Consider some of the following things:

In this 3 day New York itinerary, I'll share the best things to do in New York City on your trip whether you're a foodie, history buff, or view seeker!
In this 3 day New York itinerary, I’ll share the best things to do in New York City on your trip whether you’re a foodie, history buff, or view seeker!
In this 3 day New York itinerary, I'll share the best things to do in New York City on your trip whether you're a foodie, history buff, or view seeker!
In this 3 day New York itinerary, I’ll share the best things to do in New York City on your trip whether you’re a foodie, history buff, or view seeker!
Meghan

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