The Best of New York City in 3 Days Itinerary
With more diverse culture and world-class attractions than you'll know what to do with, The Big Apple is known by many as the best city on earth. The island of Manhattan alone will provide you with more than enough to do in a 3-day trip.
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 when you use the New York Explorer Pass.
Sound good? Read on!
Day 1: Times Square & City Tour
Attractions: NBC Studio Tour, Top of the Rock, Times Square, Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, City Sights Downtown Tour
Dining: Skylight Diner, John's Pizzeria, Katz's Delicatessen
8:00 AM: Breakfast at Skylight Diner
Start your day bright and early with a big breakfast at Skylight Diner, located in the Hell's Kitchen area of NYC since 1966. Skylight is conveniently located near Penn Station (a quick train ride from Times Square), and the prices and portions are much more reasonable than anything you'll find in Times Square. Traditionally a Greek restaurant, this 24/7 diner has a little of everything.
Walk to Penn Station; catch a train to Rockefeller Plaza. About a 20 minute ride. The E subway line towards Parsons-Archer is the most direct route.
9:30 AM: NBC Studio Tour
Now that you're in Times Square, your first stop will be the NBC Studio tour at 30 Rockefeller Plaza (the infamous 30 Rock building). Inside NBC's New York operations, you'll find the filming studios for "Saturday Night Live," "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon," "The Today Show," and more. This 70-minute tour will kick off your Times Square experience by putting you in the heart of the action.
11:30 AM: On Top of the Rock
Now that you've seen what's inside of the building, check out the famous view from above at the Top of the Rock Observation Deck. The 6-level observation deck, located 800+ feet above the street, gives you one of the most spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline, including a view of the Empire State Building!
12:30 PM: Lunch at John's Pizzeria and Explore Times Square
Spend a few hours exploring Time Square and testing out some New York-style pizza at John's Pizzeria on West 44th Street, in between 7th and 8th Avenues. It's about a 10-15 minute walk from Rockefeller Plaza to Johnny's so it might be a good idea just to do some sight-seeing on your way over. Of course, you'll want to take a walk down Broadway, and make sure you check out the Times Square Visitor Center. If you're traveling with kids, visit the Times Square Toys 'R' Us store to see the 60-foot indoor Ferris wheel.
3:00 PM: Madame Tussauds' Wax Museum
Your next Times Square stop will be Madame Tussauds' Wax Museum, where you'll find all your favorite celebrities. From Madonna, to Derek Jeter, to Notorious BIG, take photographs with sculptures so real looking that you could even fool your friends.
5:00 PM: Tour Manhattan with the City Sights Downtown Tour
Now that you've gotten a good look at what Times Square has to offer, round off your day by hopping on the City Sights Downtown Tour. The ticket booth and departure point are located at the City Sights NY Visitor Center right inside Madame Tussauds. This way, you can get a feel for the city in the evening and make sure you see all of NYC's top landmarks. Plus, your 24-hour pass allows you to take the bus again tomorrow to some of your destinations.
Dinner at Katz's Deli
When your City Sights tour hits the Lower East Side (the Williamsburg Bridge at Orchard Street), hop off and head up to Katz's Delicatessen, a NYC staple. It's the oldest and probably the most famous Deli in NYC, recreating the flavors of the "Old World" since 1888. Some of the biggest hits are the Reuben and the sinfully delicious cheesecakes—another New York classic.
Day 2: Midtown & Statue of Liberty Cruise
Attractions: Empire State Building, City Sights Downtown Tour, ZEPHYR Liberty Cruise (Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Brooklyn Bridge), Grand Central Terminal, 5th Avenue
Dining: Murray's Bagels, Pacific Grill, Juniors Restaurant OR Oyster Bar & Restaurant
9:00 AM: Breakfast from Murray's Bagels
Today, start your day off the New York way with a traditional NYC bagel. Murray's is a big name in Manhattan, and you'll enjoy full-flavor, plump, golden-topped bagels you can only find in New York. Plus, with its convenient location in the Midtown section of the Avenue of the Americas, you're within 10 minutes of your next stop.
Walk Northwest to 14th Street and catch a subway or commuter train up the Avenue of the Americas to 33rd Street. The ride will only be a few minutes; then walk east on W. 33rd Street until you hit 5th Avenue and see the Empire State Building.
10:30 AM: Empire State Building Observatory
Congratulations, you're at the world's most famous skyscraper and New York's biggest icon, The Empire State Building. After you've gotten your fill from the outside looking up, ride the high-speed elevator up the 86th floor and snag a view from the observatory. The 360-degree NYC views are absolutely stunning.
12:00 PM: Hop back on the City Sights tour bus
With your 24-hour pass still valid, get back on the City Sights tour bus at 34th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues for convenient and leisurely transportation to the South Street Seaport.
1:30 PM: Lunch at Pacific Grill
Now that you're at the South Street Seaport, enjoy some seafood or pasta at Pacific Grill on the dock of Pier 17. You'll enjoy a lovely view of the Manhattan Skyline and the Verrazano Bridge while you eat.
3:00 PM: Pick up your tickets for the ZEPHYR Cruise
Present your Go Select New York pass at the Circle Line booth on Pier 16.
3:30 PM: ZEPHYR Seaport Liberty Cruise
Climb aboard the ZEPHYR Seaport Liberty Cruise on Pier 16, and prepare to sail in luxury past NYC's most famous landmarks, including the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, Governor's Island, Ellis Island, the World Financial Building, the Chrysler Building, and Battery Park.
5:00 PM: Head towards Grand Central Terminal
Get on the subway at Fulton Street (the 4 or 5) and ride to the Grand Central Terminal stop on 42nd Street.
5:30 PM: Grab dinner in Grand Central Terminal
It doesn't get more New York than Grand Central Terminal. Plus, there are lots of dinner options to choose from. For an inexpensive New York chain, try the landmark Juniors Restaurant, famed for its 10oz. steak burgers. If you're looking for more of a "fine dining" experience, continue on the afternoon's seafood trend and tryOyster Bar & Restaurant.
Evening Adventure: Explore 5th Avenue
Spend your evening window-shopping and taking in the extravagance of 5th Avenue, "the most expensive street in the world," celebrated for its prestigious shopping, as well as hotels, bars, and other glamorous attractions. The main tourist area is between 49th Street and 60th Street.
Day 3: Central Park & Museums
Attractions: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Central Park, American Museum of Natural History
Dining: Sarabeth's, Picnic lunch in Central Park, Miss Mamie's Spoonbread Too, Hungarian Pastry Shop
9:00 AM: Breakfast at Sarabeth's
Start your third day of travel off with a delightful breakfast at a favorite restaurant among New Yorker's, Sarabeth's. It's particularly known for sweet "spreadable fruits" to top your pastries with. Sarabeth's on the Upper East Side by Central Park is also a convenient location for your day's attractions.
10:00 AM: Walk along Central Park to the Met
It's about a 10-minute walk down 5th Avenue to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
10:15 AM: Visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art
You're at the most-visited attraction in New York, and there's tons to explore! The Met has so many collections and exhibits that you can't possibly see it all in one visit, so you may want to do a little research ahead of time to figure out what you're most interested in.
12:30 PM: Pick up Picnic Supplies
You have several options for picnicking food, depending on what you're in the mood for. You could pick up some groceries from a market like Citarella on 3rd and 75th, look for a farmers market, stop in El Paso Taquería (they have Mexican sandwiches that are less messy than tacos), or if you're willing to travel a ways from the Met, head to Bouchon Bakery on the southwest corner of the Park in the Time Warner Center. Of course, you could always just grab a famous New York hotdog from a street vendor!
1:30 PM: Picnic Lunch in Central Park
There's no better way to experience Central Park than to enjoy a nice picnic while people-watching. Walk around for a bit and find your favorite spot. We suggest picking up or printing out a Central Park map ahead of time, as it's a big place!
3:00 PM: American Museum of Natural History
Your second museum of the day, on the west side of Central Park, is one of the biggest museums in the world. The American Museum of Natural History is most well known for its impressive collection of dinosaur fossils and the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life, which houses a 94-foot whale model.
5:00 PM: Take the Subway to your Dinner Destination
Hop on the subway outside the American Museum of Natural History (at 81st St) up Central Park West to the northernmost part of Central Park. Depart at Cathedral Parkway and walk west on 110th St. to Miss Mamie's Spoonbread Too.
5:30 PM: Dinner at Miss Mamie's
Miss Mamie's Spoonbread Too on the way Upper West Side serves up some serious soul food. You'll feel like you're in an Alabama kitchen in this cozy dining room with a red and white checkerboard floor. Everyone - from Columbia students to uptown church ladies to VIPs like former President Bill Clinton - feels at home at this inexpensive soul-food restaurant.
Evening: Dessert at Hungarian Pastry Shop
Save room for dessert; Hungarian Pastry Shop (just down the street from Miss Mamie's) has some of the best pastries around. You'll love the old-fashioned atmosphere and huge chocolate croissants.