Before we get into the nitty-gritty of this itinerary for New York City (NYC), let me start off by explaining why this is one of my favourite places in the world.
I could spend endless days simply walking the streets of NYC, stumbling across old buildings and intricate architecture, wandering through any of its inner-city parks, shuffling through busy sidewalks and areas like Times Square, staring up at the skyscrapers contemplating just how many floors they rise, spotting landmarks that have appeared in movies I’ve seen, and wondering who might be sitting in the cars with heavily tinted windows as they pass. I can hear the soundtrack to the city in my mind right now: horns are honking and sirens are screaming. The crowds of people are creating a melody of jumbled chatter, a taxi driver is tooting trying to secure their next patron, and then, in those rare quieter moments, hearing almost nothing but the birds chirping or the squirrels rustling through the trees.
While I love being distracted by the city’s fast-paced, goings-on and contrasts of people whether they’re making their way to the office or the next tourist attraction, NYC can be completely overwhelming for some people. (Especially, when it comes to planning your trip and wondering how you’ll navigate such a big city.) With that in mind, as well as some inspiration from Taylor Swift’s “Welcome to New York” playing in the background, I’ve put together a three-day itinerary for New York City to help you see as much as possible. Just like the city itself, this itinerary for New York City is fast-paced and jam-packed full of things to see and do in a limited amount of time. P.S. I hope you like walking.
* Please note: In this itinerary for New York City, I have included three buildings with observation decks (The Empire State, Rockefeller Centre or One World Trade Centre Observatory) that offer incredible views over the city and its boroughs. I’ve placed each of them on the itinerary to show where they’d best fit with consideration to location and distance from other attractions if you should choose to visit any of their observation decks. (I’ve visited all three and I’d recommend Rockefeller.)
Itinerary for New York City – Day one
Day one will consist of exploring Manhattan’s midtown, where you’ll find some of the city’s most iconic buildings, such as the Empire State Building, and world-famous areas such as Times Square and Broadway.
Day one: Morning
Address: 175 5th Ave, New York, NY 10010, USA
What you’ll see: First, we’re off to the Flatiron Building. This building is pretty spectacular and has been a signature landmark to the big city due to its peculiar triangular shape since it was designed and opened in 1902.
Other details: If you’re visiting in spring, you might also be lucky enough to see the cherry blossoms blooming in the park right next to the Flatiron Building.
EMPIRE STATE BUILDING
Address: 350 5th Ave, New York, NY 10118, USA
How to get there: From the Flatiron Building, we’re heading down 5th Avenue for about 0.8 kilometres (roughly 10 minutes by foot) to the Empire State Building.
What you’ll see: What’s an itinerary for New York City without seeing the Empire State Building? Not a very good one. So here we are at what is possibly the most iconic building in New York. This 102 storey-skyscraper was tallest in the city for almost 40 years until it was surpassed by the Twin Towers in the early 1970’s. It is currently the third tallest building in New York City behind the One World Trade Centre and 432 Park Avenue.
Other details: Optionally, you can choose to visit the Empire State Building‘s two observation decks. Tickets for this start at USD 34, which works out to approximately AUD 45. The observation decks are open between 8 am to 2 am with standard admission, with special sunrise tickets available.
GRAND CENTRAL TERMINAL
Address: 89 E 42nd St, New York, NY 10017, USA
How to get there: We’ll exit the Empire State Building on 5th Avenue and continue walking until we come across 42nd Street. We’re going to head right on 42nd street (which will become East 42nd Street) until we reach our destination – Grand Central Terminal. These landmarks are approximately one kilometre apart and are about a ten-minute walking distance from one another.
What you’ll see: Just as its name suggests, the terminal is well-worth the visit just to see the classical architectural design. The infamous main concourse flaunts large arched windows, pediment statues, and a ceiling decorated with an astrology-themed mural. There’s a lot of interesting facts about Grand Central Terminal, I recommend you read up on them before going to truly appreciate the building and its history. Alternatively, if you have Netflix, there’s a great documentary series called Metropolis, which will let you in on a few of the city’s lesser-known – but incredibly interesting – facts and secrets.
Address: Bryant Park, New York, NY 10018, USA
How to get there: Exit Grand Central Terminal back onto 42nd Street and turn right (heading west, which will turn into West 42nd Street) until you come across Bryant Park on your left.
What you’ll see: The park is a lively centre for activities and catch-ups in the midst of the bustling 5th and 6th avenues. Bryant Park has a number of cafes and restaurants to purchase a warm or cold drink (depending on the season), light bites or a meal, which can be enjoyed on any of the park benches or tables surrounding the lawn.
NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY (NYPL)
Address: 476 5th Ave, New York, NY 10018, USA
How to get there: From Bryant Park, you’ll see the grand, white building – that’s the New York Public Library. But we’re going to head around to the front entrance of the library on 5th Avenue where you’ll be greeted by the NYPL’s marble lions.
What you’ll see: Whether you’re a complete bookworm or you haven’t picked up a book since high school, the New York Public Library is worth checking out. From its impressive collection of over 50 million items to its intricately designed interiors (particularly, the Rose Main Reading Room), it’s no surprise that tourists flock to see this free attraction.
Other details: The NYPL is open for visitors between alternative hours on weekdays, weekends and holidays, please be sure to look this up before you go. Please be mindful that the library is used by students and other community members as a quiet space, so be respectful when taking photographs and try not to make too much noise.
Day one: Afternoon
ST. PATRICKS CATHEDRAL
Address: 5th Ave, New York, NY 10022, USA
How to get there: Head out of the NYPL to the corner of 42nd Street and 5th Avenue. At the corner, we’ll turn left and continue down 5th Avenue for about 10 minutes, roughly another kilometre of walking. You’ll see the entrance to St. Patrick’s Cathedral on the right side of the road.
What you’ll see: This Neo-Gothic-style Cathedral was built in the late 1800’s, where it has since remained a place of worship and city attraction for around one million people every year. St. Patrick’s Cathedral has some interesting attributes including the 19 church bells, each with their own name, weight and tone. The building also contains a crypt where the late Archbishops of the church are entombed.
ROCKEFELLER CENTRE & TOP OF THE ROCK
Address: 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10020, USA
How to get there: From the corner of 5th Avenue and West 50th Street, we’re heading a short walk across the road to Rockefeller Centre.
What you’ll see: Well-known for its ice-skating rink in the cooler months and the beautiful Rockefeller tree around Christmas-time, Rockefeller Centre is a 22-acre tourist and commercial hub that comprises of 19 high-rise buildings. One of those is 30 Rockefeller Plaza, known for its observation deck named Top of the Rock*.
Top of the Rock has arguably some of the best, unblocked views of the city. If you are planning to visit one of the city’s famous observation decks, I would suggest this one! The lower deck is the best vantage point for that obligatory selfie with the Empire State Building (you might’ve seen them all over Instagram), as well as views of other major landmarks such as the One World Trade Centre and Central Park from the open top deck.
Other details: If you’re putting Top of the Rock on your itinerary for New York City, I’d suggest heading up to the observation deck about an hour before sunset. That way you’ll see the day, sunset and night view all within a few hours. Tickets start at USD 28, which is around AUD 38.
Day one: Evening
TIMES SQUARE & BROADWAY
Address: Times Square, junction of Broadway and Seventh Avenue, Manhattan, NY 10036, USA
How to get there: Turn right out of Rockefeller Centre onto West 49th Street and continue walking until you reach 7th avenue. Once we reach 7th Avenue, we’ll be heading left until we hit the vibrant billboards of Times Square.
What you’ll see: Walking through Times Square at night is something to see – if not just for the flashy, bright lights, which are all the more vibrant with a darker sky.
Another activity suggestion would be to see a play or musical on Broadway. Before my first trip to New York City in 2012, I’d not had much exposure to theatre, but seeing a musical or play on Broadway is certainly a bucket-list worthy experience.
Many of the theatres are located close to Times Square or Broadway (if the theatres aren’t on Broadway). I saw Wicked at Gershwin Theatre and The Elephant Man (starring Bradley Cooper) at Booth Theatre, and I’d recommend both. However, I believe that out of the two Wicked is the only one with current showings.
Other details: If you plan on going to Top of the Rock and seeing a Broadway show, please be mindful to make sure all times align. For example, you may need to swap the two items around on the itinerary to suit an early afternoon showing and head to Top of the Rock later in the evening.
Itinerary for New York City – Day two
Our second day in New York City is going to be slightly more relaxing, but there will still be walking involved! We’re going to be getting away from the bustling streets and blaring sirens to the sanctuary of Central Park before we head back to the craziness of Times Square for some retail therapy and finishing the day with a drink and views over the city.
Day two: Morning
Address: Central Park, New York, NY 10024, USA
This morning, we’ll be starting the day with a walk through Central Park. before we begin, the park spreads over hundreds of acres, and you’re probably not going to see all of it. I’d suggest entering the park at 58th Street, between 6th and 7th Avenue and heading to specific landmarks in the park from there.
What you’ll see: Covering over 842 acres of New York City, there’s so much to do and see in Central Park. Chose to spend your time at the Central Park Zoo, watch close to one hundred bird species glide through the trees or perch on branches, skate at the ice rink, visit the John Lennon memorial at Strawberry Fields, or paddle on the Central Park Lake in a small boat. And don’t forget to enjoy the small details – Read the quotes, marriage proposals, anniversary wishes and memorial plaques on some of the 10, 000 benches that exist within the park, or simply wander along any of the many pathways.
Other details: Once you’re inside the Central Park, there are volunteers who hand out park maps. I suggest you try to grab one of these maps so that you a) don’t get lost and b) you know which direction to proceed for landmarks you wish to see. Yes, you’ll look super touristy but there’s nothing fun about not knowing where you are in Central Park.
AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY (AMNH)
Address: Central Park West & 79th St, New York, NY 10024, USA
How to get there: The AMNH is located in the west of Central Park. In order to make our way to the museum, we’ll need to find the street called Central Park West between West 77th Street and West 81st Street, where the museum is located on the border of the park.
What you’ll see: Built in 1874, the AMNH is one of the largest museums in the world with 45 exhibition halls, a planetarium and a library.
Other details: Standard admission fee to the American Museum of Natural History will set you back USD 22 (approximately AUD 30)
Day two: Afternoon
Address: Times Square, junction of Broadway and Seventh Avenue, Manhattan, NY 10036, USA
How to get there: Leaving from the Central Park South entrance, we’ll take a right along 59th Street before turning left onto 7th Avenue and following that road to Times Square. From the Central Park South entrance, this is approximately a one-kilometre walk. Alternatively, if you are leaving directly from the American Museum of Natural History, you may consider catching a taxi or riding the subway if you don’t feel up to walking the distance (approximately half an hour).
What you’ll see: Whether you want to shop for new clothes, sports memorabilia or chocolate, you’ll find plenty of stores to empty your wallet in Times Square. If retail therapy isn’t your thing, there’s plenty of novelty tourist attractions, such as Madame Tussauds and Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. Or you can simply people watch and take in your surroundings from one of the many chairs and tables in the square (weather permitting).
Day two: Evening
EAST VILLAGE STREET ART
Address: Around 1st Avenue and East Houston Street, New York, NY 10002, USA
How to get there: To reach the East Village, I would recommend taking a taxi or using the subway system.
What you’ll see: So this addition to the itinerary for New York City aligns with my own personal interests in vibrant and beautiful streets murals. So if you’re like me and into street art and urban murals, the East Village has some incredible examples if you are prepared to walk around and seek them out.
Address: 180 Orchard Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10002, United States
How to get there: From the corner of East Houston Street and 1st Avenue, we’ll need to head south-east along East Houston Street for one block – where you’ll hit Orchard Street.
What you’ll see: Mr Purple is a trendy rooftop bar with incredible views of the city. You’ll get to see some of NYC’s most iconic buildings such as the One World Trade Centre and Empire State Building while enjoying light bites and drinks. The bar’s outdoor terrace even features a swimming pool.
Travel tip: Rooftop bars, such as Mr Purple, are a great alternative for those who don’t have it in their budget to visit the tourist-y observation decks. While you won’t get those 102-storey sights, elevated free views of the city for the price of a drink sounds pretty nice to me.
Itinerary for New York City – Day three
Our third and final day in the Big Apple is going to be another busy day of exploring. Today, we’re going to meet Lady Liberty, visit a few more of NYC’s iconic landmarks, and, of course, pay our respects at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.
Day three: Morning
STATUE OF LIBERTY & LIBERTY ISLAND
Address: Departure at Battery Park, New York, NY 10004, USA
What you’ll see: The Statue of Liberty is a world-famous national monument on Liberty Island. Since it’s installation, the statue has become an icon of freedom for the American people and around the globe.
Other details: To make the most of your time on day three, I’d recommend an early tour to the Statue of Liberty – a 9 am departure will see you return to the mainland around 12 pm. Prices start at USD 25.50, which is approximately AUD 35. If you wish to take a tour up to Lady Liberty’s crown, ensure you book tickets as soon as possible since these tours often sell out months in advance.
Day three: Afternoon
Address: Battery Park, New York, NY 10004, USA
How to get there: The ferry to Liberty Island will depart from the terminal in Battery Park, on return from the tour you can simply disembark from the boat at the same terminal and explore the park.
What you’ll see: Battery Park is a public space located on the southern shoreline of Manhattan. The park is home to several sculptures and memorials, one of those being The Sphere, which had previously been located in the Plaza of the World Trade Centre before the events of September 11, 2001.
CHARGING BULL STATUE
Address: Broadway & Morris Street, New York, NY 10004, USA
How to get there: From Battery Park, we’ll head down Broadway for two-short-minutes before we reach the location of the Charging Bull statue.
What you’ll see: Located in Manhattan’s Financial District, the Charging Bull is a large bronze statue of bull depicting a stance that suggests it is ready to charge.
Address: Wall Street, New York, NY 10004, USA
How to get there: We’ll leave the Charging Bull and continue down Broadway until we reach Wall Street. This will be another short two-minute walk.
What you’ll see: Here’s your chance to take a picture with an infamous Wall Street sign. The street has been featured in many Hollywood finance-themed movies, from classics, like Wall Street, to the more recent movies, such as The Wolf of Wall Street.
THE NATIONAL SEPTEMBER 11 MEMORIAL & MUSEUM
Address: 180 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10007, USA
How to get there: Continuing back on Broadway, we’ll be turning left onto Liberty Street and then right onto Greenwich Street. From Wall Street, the walk to The National September 11 Memorial & Museum is approximately half a kilometre and should take about eight minutes on foot.
What you’ll see: The National September 11 Memorial & Museum was opened on the ten year anniversary of September 11, 2001. The memorial was designed with two large, flowing pools the footprints of the two Twin Towers, which were completely destroyed. Each of the pools is boarded with plaques that name each of the victims who lost their lives in the 1993 and 2001 attacks.
ONE WORLD TRADE CENTRE & OBSERVATORY
Address: 285 Fulton St, New York, NY 10007, USA
How to get there: You’ll be able to see and access the One World Trade Centre from the same road as The National September 11 Memorial & Museum.
What you’ll see: The One World Trade Centre is currently the tallest building in New York City and sixth tallest in the world. The One World Trade Centre stands 546.2 metres in height to its tip.
Other details: This is the last one of the three major vantage points on this itinerary where you can also choose to visit the building observation decks. The ticket prices to the One World Trade Centre observatory start at USD 34, which works out to approximately AUD 45.
Address: Brooklyn Bridge, New York, NY 10038, USA
How to get there: Our last stop on this itinerary for New York City is just one kilometre from the One World Trade Centre and will take us about 12 minutes by foot.
What you’ll see: Completed back in 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge is one of New York’s most iconic bridges (and perhaps one of the most famous bridges in the world). You’ll have the opportunity to take photos on the bridge or – if you’re still keen to use those legs – you can walk all the way across to Brooklyn. If you have time, you can explore the borough of Brooklyn and maybe even catch a sunset silhouetting the Manhattan skyline.
You might also like to read: The beauty of New York snow in 11 photos.
Thanks very much for this compressive guide of NYC. I am going with my family (husband, 16 years old girl and 6 years old boy) to NYC next week for 3 days; would you say that a city pass is a good option for us if we are going to follow your itinerary?
My pleasure, I’m glad you’ve found it so helpful.
I’ve not purchased the city pass before so I’ve just had a quick look on the website to see what it actually offers you. The city pass offers entry to six main attractions so I think to get the value out of the pass, you would want to visit them all? I don’t have all of the attraction they offer listed on my itinerary but that doesn’t mean you couldn’t swap a few things out or around to suit you and your family’s interests. The other option I see on that site is the C3 pass, which allows you to choose three attractions rather than six. Here’s the link: https://www.citypass.com/new-york-c3. Have an absolutely fantastic time with your family in NYC!!
I Can’t thank you enough for writing this post. It’s super helpful in planning my upcoming trip. Question: what area do you suggest in terms of hotel?
I’m so glad my itinerary for NYC has been so helpful for you!
I’ve only stayed in two hotels in NYC, Manhattan Broadway Hotel and The Wellington Hotel, right in Manhattan (Garment District/ Midtown). I’ve stayed at both twice but definitely prefer the Wellington Hotel. I wouldn’t say either are overly fancy, but they are decent and clean. Some of the rooms in the Wellington are slightly dated in terms of decor but are well presented, and the foyer is really nice. (And the pillows are comfy!) I found the Manhattan Broadway was more modern but more basic, super small lobby but friendly, helpful staff. I personally don’t think the Manhattan Broadway compares to the Wellington in terms of price for the room (just had a quick search and the Manhattan Broadway is actually more expensive). I also love the location of The Wellington. It’s super close to Times Square, Central Park and Broadway. Heaps of restaurants around, Starbucks right across the street and a deli (which is where I purchased my breakfast each morning) just across the road. Only downside is I don’t think the hotel has free wifi, so you may need to double check as I haven’t stayed there in a couple of years and this may have changed. (I used to head across to Starbucks for my wifi fix). Unfortunately, I cannot offer any hostel options as I haven’t stayed at any myself. Best of luck with the rest of your planning! Have the best time 🙂
Very detailed and informative guide😀😀😀Also very well taken photos.I was wondering which camera type do you use to get these amazing shots?
Thanks so much, Jonathan! Most of these photos were taken with a Canon EOS 750D, but a few were snapped with an iPhone or Lumix DMC-FC37.
Loved this itinerary and all the photos 🙂
Thank you, Maria!
The big apple looks amazing for so many reasons.
I would love to stroll central park and catch a train from grand centre station and eat a famous street hotdog just to name a few
There’s so many sights to see and things to do in the city, I could spend a month there and there’d still be more to explore!
This post is worth everyone’s attention. When can I find out more?
This is an unbelievable 3 day itinerary and really helpful for someone like me who’s never been to NYC. Naively, I would have shown up thinking it was free to head up to the top of those observation decks lol.
Thanks so much for your comment! Most skyscrapers cash in on those incredible views they have over the city. But there are some places, such as rooftops bars, that can be a cheap alternative 🙂
nice guide! I’ve just come back from NYC and have been several times but still haven’t made it to top of the rock! My other favorite in Manhattan is strolling through Greenwich Village… so many great cafes and good people watching there 🙂 !
Thank you! There’s sooo much to see and do in NYC it’s difficult to see everything, even if you’ve visited multiple times! I’ve yet to make in to Greenwich Village – I’ll have to put that on my list for next time!
Thank you, your post is awesome and got me the final kick ass to book my flights for September. going back to the Eastcoast (NYC, Boston etc)
I’m so happy it inspired you to book your tickets! Hope you have the best time on the East Coast 🙂
Great itinerary and amazing photos! I was in NYC 2 years ago. It was winter, so it was not as beautiful as on your shots. I kinda regret that we didn’t go on one of the observatory decks because I love having an overview of a city. Well, maybe next time. I will bookmark the article!
Thanks so much, Nate! I’ve been there in Winter too, and the city definitely looks very different during each season. I do love Central Park covered in snow. 🙂
I’m heading to NYC this fall for the first time ever so I’ve bookmarked this. Visiting the 9/11 Memorial is on my “must do” list.
Enjoy your first time in NYC! 🙂 The 9/11 memorial is an extremely moving experience.