New York City is a destination I believe everyone must visit at least once in their lives. I don’t care if beaches or ancient history are more your thing, Manhattan is simply something you must experience.
I’ve done the city quick and I’ve done it slow, and the good news is that you can totally catch the highlights of NYC in three days. That doesn’t mean it won’t take some planning and sacrifice, because it will. I said NYC in three days was doable, not ideal! But I’m going to pass along some tips to help you make that weekend adventure happen.
How to make NYC in three days achievable:
Start by picking a centrally located hotel. You don’t want to be wasting your time traveling from one end of the island to the other. We found the Hampton Inn Manhattan-Times Square North to be perfect. It was within walking distance to Times Square, Rockefeller Plaza, and The Gershwin Theater. A few minutes away was a Subway stop that connected us to everywhere we wanted to go and our stay included a free breakfast.
As for touring, break down your days based on location. You don’t want to be crisscrossing the city and wasting precious time. Make a list of what attractions are close together and dedicate a few hours to each. Aim for a morning activity, an afternoon one, and something for the evening.
Here are a few examples of daily itineraries:
1. Head to Rockefeller Plaza and do Top of the Rock. I recommend this spot for your city view so that you can include the Empire State Building in your photo! Spend a few hours at the MET, at least spending the time to walk through the Egyptian, Greek and Roman Art, and the French Decorative Art. I struggled to not spend an entire day there, but trust me, you don’t have the time! Have a late lunch in the cafeteria before going for a stroll through Central Park. Enjoy a Broadway show in the evening.
2. Head South first thing and catch a ferry to the Statue of Liberty. Have lunch at the Ellis Island Museum and spend an hour or two wandering the exhibits. Take the time to watch the short film and stop to read the plaques. It’s emotional and humbling. Have dinner in Times Square and enjoy the lights and fun shopping!
3. Head South again. Spend an hour or so paying tribute to those fallen at the 9/11 Memorial. Walk the Brooklyn Bridge and snap a scenic photo. Stop at Washington Square Park on your way back towards the city center. Do a little research as to whether you want to eat famous cupcakes or pizza – NYC offers both!
If some of those items don’t fit your travel style, here are a few options to consider switching in:
* American Museum of Natural History
* Grand Central Terminal
* Coney Island
* Staten Island Ferry
* Lincoln Center
* Columbia University
* NBC Studios
* Tenement Museum
* The MET Cloisters
* Bronx Zoo
Consider a Hop On Hop Off Tour. I know these aren’t everyone’s thing, but if you need to cover a lot of ground fast they can be really handy. Generally they’ll charge you one fee for 48 hour access, which will include transportation on the bus with multiple stops at hot spots, a guide, and entrance to select attractions. The beauty of these tours is that you can at least see a famous landmark without taking the time to actually explore it. If the idea of riding the Subway in an unfamiliar city makes your palms sweaty, this is your best bet!
Your schedule may change dramatically based on the season of your visit, so consider the time of year. A winter trip means you can skate in Central Park or at Rockefeller Plaza. At Christmas there will be trees and lights and special entertainment that will demand your attention! Summer and Fall means leisurely strolls and picnics in the Parks and Zoo’s. Pack accordingly and be prepared to do a lot of walking!
New York City is ready and willing to entertain you no matter when you visit. Have a chat with your travel crew about what you believe it has to offer you and make a schedule based on your interests. By doing NYC in three days, you’ll leave the door open to come back and explore it on a deeper level in the future.