One thing I’ve learned since moving to New York City is that even if I spent the next ten years living here, I still wouldn’t have enough time to explore every corner of this city.
There’s so much to do, see and eat — it’s no wonder why travelers flock here in droves each year. Below, I’ve come up with the ideal itinerary for a three-day visit to the city, perfect for a Friday to Sunday trip. That being said, three full days is the minimum number of days you should spend in New York, especially if it’s your first time.
Feel free to pick and choose from the list of things to do below and make your own itinerary as you go. I’d love to hear how you paired my recommendations with your own; drop a comment below and tell me what your three days in the city looked like.
DAY 1: TOURIST SITES
There’s only one way to start your first day in New York City: Grab a New York bagel. A few of my favorites are Tal Bagels, Kossars, Ess-a-Bagel and H&H Bagels.
I recommend hitting the most touristy sites on your first day, since a lot of them are located within Midtown:
- Climb to the top of the Empire State building to see the city from 86 stories above — get tickets ahead of time here. If you’re not into spending $36 for a view, there are plenty of rooftop bars around the city that have wonderful views as well.
- Feel the chaos that is Times Square.
- Check out the Harry Potter-esque New York Public Library, which sits next to Bryant Park.
- Visit the iconic Grand Central Terminal.
- Visit a museum: The Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met) is my personal favorite, though other options include the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and the American Museum of Natural History.
- Walk through Central Park.
- Hit a Broadway show at night, such as Phantom of the Opera, Wicked, Hamilton, the Lion King and more.
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DAY 2: NEIGHBORHOOD HOP
Now, let’s see the real New York! Rule No. 1: Saturdays should always begin with brunch.
- Brunch is huge in this city, so I suggest making a reservation ahead of time. For pancakes, head to Clinton St. Baking Co., but prepare for a wait. For an iconic Jewish breakfast of salmon and cheese spreads paired with bagels and bialys, head to Russ & Daughters Cafe.
- Head to Hudson Yards to check out famed chef José Andrés’s Mercado Little Spain, a Spanish food hall of sorts. You’ll probably want to take a photo with the Vessel while you’re here, too.
- From Hudson Yards, hop onto the High Line and walk it all the way down to the end, until you’re in the West Village.
- Walk around this wonderful neighborhood (one of my favorites) and have lunch at one of its many beautiful restaurants.
- Walk over to Washington Square Park for live music (there’s always someone playing some type of instrument here in the warmer months) and snap a photo at the iconic arch.
- Make your way down to Soho and window shop along the cobblestone streets. If you’re down to brave the wait, grab a slice at Prince Street Pizza, one of the top pizza spots in the city.
- From here, you can either go further downtown and check out Wall Street and the 9/11 memorial, or alternatively head across town to the East Village, a great dining neighborhood. For a very New York meal, hit up local favorites Momofuku Noodle Bar or Momofuku Ssäm Bar.
- Lower East Side has a ton of bars, and if you want to check out the NYC bar scene, end your night here.
DAY 3: BROOKLYN, BABY
I highly recommend spending some time in Brooklyn, Manhattan’s much more chill neighbor.
- Some standout breakfast options include Chez Ma Tante (Greenpoint), Olmsted (Prospect Heights) and Hunky Dory (Crown Heights).
- Williamsburg is that hip neighborhood where everyone is dressed to be cool, every coffee shop is Instagrammable and thrift shops are aplenty.
- Head to Domino Park for an expansive view of the Manhattan skyline and the Williamsburg Bridge. A great nearby lunch option is famous pasta restaurant Misi, though reservations are recommended.
- Brooklyn Bridge Park serves up another gorgeous skyline view, and it’s a great place to spend a sunny day as well as witness local life in Brooklyn.
- It’s walking distance to Dumbo, home to the Instagram-famous Washington Street where the Manhattan bridge perfectly aligns between the buildings.
- The new Time Out food market recently opened here too, with great dining options from all over the city (Fish Cheeks, Juliana’s, Breads Bakery and Clinton St. Baking Co.)
- If you’re up for it, catch the sunset from the Brooklyn Bridge. Walking over only takes about 25 to 30 minutes.
I know it seems like a lot to pack into three days, but getting around New York is really easy if you’re using the subway system. If you’re able to cross everything off from the list, good for you! But the idea here is to pick and choose what suits you best — I hope you enjoy your three days in the city!