I’ve never met a single soul who hadn’t ever dreamed of visiting New York City.
Especially after moving to Europe, New York City is the epitome of the United States as a whole to many European natives. Most people I speak to here have The Big Apple on their bucket list, and for good reason.
Luckily, I’ve had the opportunity to visit NYC numerous times, and after five trips, this magnificent city still manages to leave me in awe.
While I don’t claim to be an expert, I think I’ve managed to condense New York’s main attractions into one weekend. Though, even if you had all the time in the world, I don’t think it would ever be enough for the City That Never Sleeps! Once you’ve been there, you’ll see why.
Here’s how you can fit everything in, even if you only have three days in New York City.
How to Spend Three Days in New York City
Start Off Your Morning With a Stroll Through Central Park.
We ambitiously began our walk from the north side of the park but didn’t realize just how much time it would take to walk the entire length of Central Park. You could easily get lost in its 843 acres for hours! This incredible green space really allows you to escape the city and offers endless outdoor activities like baseball, basketball, soccer, rock climbing, and even rowboats.
Lunch at the Loeb BoatHouse
After spending several hours meandering through Central Park, stop at The Loeb Boathouse for lunch. You’ll need a reservation, so make sure to call ahead, but trust me, it will be worth it.
This landmark restaurant, rooted in 150-year-old-tradition, sits right on The Lake. Its picturesque surroundings make it a romantic spot to enjoy a lovely day in the middle of Central Park. We were lucky enough to be seated at a table right on the water where we had a perfect view of the rowboats drifting across the lake. Aside from the incredible atmosphere, the service was amazing and the food was delicious!
Stroll Down 5th Avenue
Window shop on Manhattan’s most famous street, also known as Millionaire’s Row. This legendary lane proudly houses some of New York City’s most famous landmarks including:
- The Empire State Building
- SAKS 5th Avenue
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art
- FAO Schwarz
- New York Public Library
- St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Rockefeller Plaza is a national historic landmark right in the heart of Manhattan. You might recognize it from many Christmas movie scenes or from the famous ice skating rink that it transforms into during the holiday season. What’s really cool is that if you pay close attention, you can actually see the exact spot where the Christmas tree is placed each year! It is literally a gold plate with a Christmas tree engraved on it.
While there, you might want to visit the Top of the Rock observation deck for insane views of the city. If you want the best views of the Empire State Building, you should definitely head here.
There is also a bar right below the observation deck that offers equally amazing views of New York’s downtown plus cocktails. SixtyFive is a large cocktail lounge on the 65th floor of the Rockefeller Center. While it is not as high up as the Top of the Rock, you’ll still be treated with spectacular views with free access to the outdoor terrace. Their drinks are quite expensive, however, they do cost less than a single entrance ticket to the observation deck. It really is a luxurious treat that gives you those magical New York feels.
Exciting, colorful, and always on. Times Square is simply a must-visit if it’s your first time in the Big Apple.
Empire State Building
This building is so iconic, that you absolutely cannot miss it. I highly suggest you go up to the top to take in the dazzling views of NYC. It is very well organized, the staff is super friendly, and the observation deck really allows you to appreciate the immensity and power of the city.
Tip: Head to Top of the Rock (or Bar SixtyFive) during the day, and the Empire State Building in the evening for sunset (or vice versa). This way you’ll get both day-time views of the city and also see it all lit up at night!
New York-Style Pizza
End the day with a New York classic – Joe’s Pizza! Rumor has it that this tiny little shop serves the best pizza in all of NYC. The place is also super famous, and you may even recognize it from the movie Spiderman 2. Despite its celebrity status, the restaurant remains what it’s always been: a classic NY slice joint.
On day two, hop on the subway and make your way over to Brooklyn for a stroll through DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass). This vibrant neighborhood is incredibly picturesque with gorgeous architecture and outstanding views of the Manhattan skyline. There are also plenty of restaurants, cafes, a flea market, a riverside park, and even a carousel. I love this section of the city so much I could spend an entire day here every time I visit!
Walk Over the Brooklyn Bridge
While visiting DUMBO, you’ll also have easy access to the Brooklyn Bridge. Instead of taking the subway back into Manhattan, take some extra time to walk along the historic passage that connects Brooklyn to Lower Manhattan. Depending on the time of day, the bridge might be pretty busy. However, I still suggest you join the crowds and marvel at the vistas of the skyline and Brooklyn from atop the signature NYC landmark.
Visit the Oculus
Once you’re back in Manhattan, head to the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, also known as the Oculus. The impressive work of art, designed by Santiago Calatrava, is a strikingly elegant structure in the center of a solemn place. According to archdaily.com, the building’s skylight was designed to allow the “way of light” to pass through the main hall at precisely 10:28 AM as a symbol of the light that continues to shine on after the tragedy of 9/11.
The 9/11 Memorial and Museum, dedicated to those that lost their lives in the terrorist attack, is situated right by the Oculus. Even if you don’t go into the museum, you can still visit the memorial. It is a really moving experience, especially if you were old enough to remember 9/11.
Staten Island Ferry
As you walk toward the ferry port from the 9/11 memorial, make sure you walk down Wall Street. Though it can get extremely busy, it is the financial heartbeat of America. If you want to test your luck, pay a visit to the charging bull statue for a chance to get rich.
Hop on the Staten Island Ferry from the Whitehall Terminal, and ride over to Staten Island for free! The ride lasts about 25 minutes and you get great views of Manhattan as well as the Statue of Liberty. This is a great alternative to seeing the Statue of Liberty, but not having to pay the price to get to Liberty Island. Once you get to Staten Island, you’ll have to get off the ferry, but you can line up to get right back on. The ferry runs more or less every half hour.
After enjoying the views of Lady Liberty, I’d recommend grabbing lunch in SOHO. Personally, this is my absolute favorite neighborhood in all of NYC, and I could totally imagine myself living there. SOHO is sleek and fashionable, filled with chic shops, trendy restaurants, cobblestone streets, and cast-iron facades.
Stop by Tacombi for authentic, delicious and fresh tacos in an uber-cool atmosphere. Don’t forget to order a side of guac!
If you still have room for dessert, Little Cupcake Bakeshop has got you covered with delicious cupcakes and an amazing selection of flavors (think: banana Nutella, strawberry shortcake, and blackout chocolate).
Washington Square Park
In the evening, check out Washington Square Park. This green space in Greenwich Village can be recognized by its arch and a beautiful fountain. It’s usually busy with street entertainers, musicians and even people sitting at tables playing chess. Spend some time among the locals having coffee or people watching before heading to Da Andrea, a neighborhood favorite, for dinner.
At Da Andrea, you can enjoy wonderfully cooked Italian food (and wine) at a reasonable price. The atmosphere is cozy and the waitstaff is super friendly as well.
New York City Museums
If you have some extra time before leaving NYC, pay a visit to one of the city’s renowned museums.
I’d recommend either the MET or the Guggenheim. We ended up choosing the MET and stopped by the Guggenheim to admire its unique architecture from the outside. A New York icon, the MET offers a number of different exhibits, each one beckoning you to spend at least an hour or two visiting them. You could honestly spend all day at the MET, so this is definitely an activity to do when you have a lot of time.
The High Line
The High Line is an elevated 1.5-mile park formed on an old abandoned railway line, 30 feet above the ground. On the High Line, you’ll find plenty of greenery, open-air art installations, and relaxing nooks where you can sit back and people watch. It’s a great place to take a break from the madness of Manhattan and enjoy beautiful bird’s eye views of the city.
That Wraps Up Three Days in New York City
I hope you find this guide inspiring and take away some tips from it while planning your visit to New York!
Have you been to NYC? What would you recommend seeing in one weekend?