The Best of New York City in 3 Days Itinerary

Plans for a long weekend in New York City, but aren’t sure what to do? To help make your trip planning just a little easier, we’ve put together a New York City itinerary to help you make the most of your three days in NYC.

From cruises and tours to museums and the great outdoors, you’ll get a real slice of New York life.

Of course, with so many people claiming “you haven’t really been to New York unless—” you may have difficulty deciding just what to do on your vacation. That’s where we come in.

We’ve put together all of the “must-see” and “must-do” New York City attractions and organized them into one easy-to-follow ‘Best of New York City in 3 Days’ itinerary.

Not only will this 3-day itinerary save you time and eliminate stress on your trip, it will also save you money.

This itinerary includes:

  • Empire State Building
  • Circle Sightseeing Liberty Cruise
  • Museum of Modern Art
  • Top of the Rock
  • Radio City Music Hall
  • American Museum of Natural History
  • Central Park Bike Tour
  • Brooklyn Bridge Walking Tour
  • 9/11 Tribute Center
  • SHARK Speedboat Ride

Remember, this 3 day itinerary is just one of many ways to experience New York City.

The New York City Explorer Pass® gives you the flexibility to create your own itinerary, so you can choose from dozens of top attractions and create a vacation tailored to your interests.

Only have a few days in in NYC? We’ve also put together a 1 day and 2 day itinerary.


Stop #1 – Empire State Building

Empire State Building

Empire State Building

Begin your day with a visit to one of the most iconic buildings in all of New York City – the Empire State Building. Ascend to the 86th floor of this architectural marvel for some of the best views and photo opportunities.

In addition to being a fascinating structure, the Empire State Building is also steeped with historical significance. There’s a lot to offer for architecture buffs, for example, with regards to its art deco décor. Don’t forget your camera!

Getting In: We recommend reserving at least 2 hours for this attraction. This early in the morning elevator lines should be modest, but they will add to your overall time spent at the attraction.

Stop #2 – Lady Liberty Cruise


Next you’ll want the chance to see another one of New York’s famous landmarks – the Statue of Liberty. Of course, it can often be difficult to get great photos from Liberty Island itself because you’re just too close to the statue.

The Lady Liberty Cruise is actually one of the best ways to see the famed Statue of Liberty, as it provides an appropriate photographic perspective along with detailed, informative narration about the structure.

Getting In: This cruise lasts 75 minutes.

Lunch in Hell’s Kitchen

Hop off your cruise and head east into the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood. Although it was once a developing neighborhood, today it’s filled with hidden gems and delicious restaurants, from Italian to Irish and, of course, New York-style pizza.

Stop # 3 – Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)


Spend your afternoon in one of the best art institutions in the world – the Museum of Modern Art. Located in an airy and contemporary space, their significant collections of painting, sculpture, drawing, photography, and more are thought-provoking and inspiring.

The world’s greatest artists are all represented at this museum. You’ll see works by Monet, Warhol, Seurat, Dali, Picasso, Pollack, and more. Be sure to check out the gift store before you leave!

Getting In: We recommend reserving between 2-3 hours for this attraction.

Dinner in Midtown

Midtown is one of the busiest areas of the entire city, and it’s filled with tons of restaurant options for you to choose from. You could choose to dine at the MoMA’s own Modern restaurant, or wander mere blocks away for choices as diverse as French, Chinese, Cuban, Greek, and contemporary American fare.


Stop #1 – Top of the Rock


Now it’s time for a whole new aerial view of New York from the Top of the Rock. It’s one of the most popular things to do in all of NYC, and it’s truly a unique perspective on the city.

The Top of the Rock actually has three floors of indoor and outdoor observation decks, plus 360-degree views of the city below. Some of the landmarks you’ll be able to spot from this vantage point include the Chrysler Building, the Freedom Tower, Central Park, and more.

Getting In: We recommend reserving between 1-2 hours for this attraction. Anticipate modest wait times this early in the morning.

Stop #2 – Radio City Music Hall


If you leave New York without touring this iconic theater, you’re really missing out. Radio City Music Hall is one of the best-known venues in the music industry, and it’s famed around the world for its performances and productions.

Take a “Stage Door Tour” of NYC’s premier concert venue and see behind the scenes stuff like the Celebrity Guestbook and the Great Stage. Don’t forget to scope out the art deco architecture!

Getting In: This tour lasts 1 hour.

Lunch in Midtown

It’s impossible to exhaust your restaurant options in Midtown, so try out someplace new for lunch. You’ll find everything from salads and sushi to pasta and pizza, so whatever you’re in the mood for, you’ll be able to enjoy it for lunch. If you’re a beer lover, why not check out Heartland Brewing?

Stop #3 – American Museum of Natural History


This attraction is a favorite with adults and kids alike. The American Museum of Natural History is filled with natural wonders, historic artifacts, and exciting, interactive exhibits that span a vast array of subjects.

Some of the highlights of the museum include their impressive collection of dinosaur fossils, a beautiful room filled with gems and minerals, the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life, and their detailed dioramas of various animal life.

Getting In: We recommend reserving between 2-3 hours for this attraction.

Stop #4 – Central Park Bike Tour


Next, explore the great outdoors with a bike ride through Central Park. A Central Park bike tour is an ideal way to get some fresh air and an eco-friendly way to tour one of the city’s most beloved landmarks.

Some of the many of the top Central Park attractions you’ll see on your tour include the Cherry Hill fountain, Strawberry Fields and Imagine Mosaic, Shakespeare Garden, Belvedere Castle, and the Great Lawn.

Getting In: This tour lasts 2 hours.

Dinner near Central Park

Whenever you tire of biking or feel the need to refuel, stop for dinner in one of the many restaurants that are just a few short blocks away from Central Park. You can choose to venture East or West, but expect things to be a little more expensive along Park Avenue and Madison Avenue.


Stop #1 – The Brooklyn Bridge


This is another one of those can’t-miss landmarks you’ll want to make sure you get a chance to see before leaving NYC. Take a tour of the Brooklyn Bridge and the DumBo neighborhood with experienced and insightful tour guides to get a real feel for the area.

You’ll learn about the inspiring and exciting history of this iconic bridge, plus get a chance to explore the boutiques, shops, art galleries, and tasty restaurants in Brooklyn.

Getting In: Advance reservations are required. This tour lasts 1.5-2 hours.

Stop #2 – 9/11 Tribute Center


Founded by the September 11th Families Association in order to commemorate the lives lost in this tragic event, the 9/11 Tribute Center is a meaningful and poignant attraction.

At this center, you’ll be able to hear the story of 9/11 from those who were there that day – family members who lost loved ones, recovery workers, nearby residents, and 9/11 survivors. This tour includes a visit to the Memorial.

Getting In: We recommend reserving about 1-2 hours for this attraction. Tours last 1 hour.

Lunch in Downtown Manhattan

Explore the area a bit south and east of the 9/11 Tribute Center for some great downtown Manhattan lunch choices. If you haven’t had a chance to try a slice of New York-style pizza yet, now’s your chance!

Stop #3 – SHARK Speed Boat


After you’ve thoroughly digested your lunch, head to the SHARK Speed Boat for some thrills that rival any theme park. This exciting cruise is actually a high-speed tour of NYC’s top landmarks, in addition to being a great time.

While you probably won’t slow down enough to snap too many photos, this ride is definitely going to be the most exciting event on your New York itinerary. Be prepared for a little splashing, too!

Getting In: This tour lasts 30 minutes.

Dinner on the Lower East Side

Since you’ll be right in the neighborhood after disembarking from your cruise, check out the eclectic dining scene of the Lower East Side. There are lots of Asian options, plus some Italian (both high end and inexpensive), Mexican, and steakhouses.

Let’s Recap

So there are our suggestions for how to make the most of your three days in NYC. Ride a little, cruise a little, tour a little, and explore a little – it’s all here.

Visit all of the above attractions with a 10-Choice New York City Explorer Pass® and save big on combined admission prices.

Explorer Pass holders can also save even more on shopping, dining, and additional attractions with the included extra discounts.

New York City Explorer Pass

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