This past weekend a friend of mine visited New York City and having never been here before, he wanted to see as much as possible but I only had three days to show him everything. That’s not a lot of time for the “Big Apple.” It made me think though. A lot of times travelers only have a short amount of time in a city. We see the highlights and move on to our next destination. So I thought, NYC is one of my favorite cities in the world and if I only had three days to show you New York City, how could we best spend it? So here’s what we did and how you can maximize your time too:
Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island
Though the line is really long, if you get here early you can avoid most of it. (Come late and you’ll have to wait a few hours.) Though the Statue of Liberty is interesting to see, the real highlight is Ellis Island where you can learn about the immigrant experience. If the line is too long, take the free Staten Island ferry for photos of the statue.
Hang out here for music performances, street performers, watch all the people who are willing to wait for hours to see the Statue of Liberty, or just relax. It’s a large and hectic park but a great place to just sit and rest for a bit.
Take a look at the bull, get your photo taken, and then walk to Wall Street and see where the bankers of America destroyed the economy. You often hear people demanding their money back!
Lunch: The Financial district is a great place to catch a bite to eat. I recommend Ulysses Folk House. They have a great outdoor patio, a good menu, and a wide selection of beer.
Trinity Church is one of the oldest churches in America. The church isn’t the original building but it’s still a beautiful church to see. Around its graveyard you will find the graves of many famous Americans, including Alexander Hamilton, one of America’s founding fathers.
New York’s City Hall is a great piece of architecture, has a stunning park, and a fountain, and a circular tablet about the history of the site.
Right near City Hall, the Brooklyn Bridge is an easy 25 minute walk if you don’t stop. Stopping to take photos and meander will make the walk about 40 minutes. You get a lot of great views of the city from the bridge.
Dinner: Since you are already in Brooklyn, have dinner here.
Night: If you aren’t too tired, head to the Lower East Side or East Village for some eclectic students, art, and bars.
Empire State Building
This historic building is a landmark in New York City. The 1930′s art deco interior is beautiful and the view from the top is breathtaking. You can get a real feel for how densely populated New York is. Get there early or during lunchtime to avoid the lines.
Grand Central Station
Grand Central Station is the city’s historic train station. Meant to be torn down, it was saved by Jacqueline Kennedy who raised money for its preservation. There are free historical tours on Wednesday.
This area is always filled with hustle and bustle. Wander around Rockefeller Center to see where they film The Today Show, eat good food, and take the elevator to the “top of the rock” and get another bird’s eye view of the city.
The lights of Times Square are mesmerizing. No matter when you come here, it will always be packed. During the summer, there are pedestrian areas where you can sit, hang out, and people watch. If you aren’t shopping or eating however, there isn’t much to do but it’s a fabulous place to people watch.
Lunch: Located on 44th and 8th is the Shake Shack, a great burger and shake place. The original is located down in Madison Square Park but even at their new branch, be prepared to wait up to an hour for your meal. The service is quick but the line is long.
Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)
After lunch, head over to the MOMA for lots of beautiful modern art, some weird modern art, and some great impressionist art. Van Gogh’s starry night is here. On Fridays after 4 p.m., the museum is free.
After a long day of sightseeing, head west to The Frying Pan, a bar on a barge on the Hudson River. Here you can drink with the after work crowd as you watch the sun set down over the river. Try to get here early because by around 6 p.m., most of the tables are taken.
The High Line is a converted train track that is now an urban walking park. It goes from 22nd street down to the meatpacking district. After a few drinks at The Frying Pan, head down to the Meatpacking District for dinner by walking through the High Line. Or sit down, relax, and watch the traffic go by from the viewing area on 16th street.
Dinner in the Meatpacking District: The Meatpacking District is where the trendy, rich, and celebrities come to see and to be seen. Yet despite its upscale nature, there are some affordable places to eat. I recommend Fig and Olive or Pastis.
Night: If you want a night out, you are right close to the West Village, which has some nice bars to hang out in.
A great way to relax in the city and leave the crowds behind is to spend the day in Central Park. It’s free, there are lots of little paths to walk, and, since it covers over 40 blocks, it’s easy to spend hours upon hours wandering around. During the summer months, there are often free concerts and theater productions in the park too.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Met is one of the biggest museums in the world and, if you only see one museum in New York, I would recommend this one. They have a wide array of art, historical artifacts, photography, and other exhibits. There’s even a real Egyptian tomb in here. There is a lot to see here so budget a lot of time. Just doing it in a few hours doesn’t do this place justice.
Lunch: Eat somewhere on the Upper East Side.
American Museum of Natural History
Made even more famous by the Night at the Museum movies, this museum also requires a lot of time. It’s very extensive and the exhibits are very detailed. I wouldn’t try to rush it. You’ll learn a lot about nature and human society. I particularly like the exhibit on the origin of humans as well as the section on space.
Dinner: Anywhere you desire. Just make it back in time for the Broadway show!
You can’t go to New York City, the theater capital of the world, without seeing a show. Highlights include: Wicked, Avenue Q, Memphis, The Lion King, Mamma Mia, and American Idiot.
New York City is a big place with a lot to do. Three days is barely enough to squeeze these activities in, let alone finding time to visit all the boroughs like Queens and Brooklyn. If you are coming to New York City and have the time, I would recommend coming here for at least 5 days. However, if pressed for time, following these tips could give you a full three days of fun and excitement in the city that never sleeps.
Not sure where to eat? Here is a list of my favorite places to eat in NYC to help you decide.