3 Days in New York City: Ultimate Itinerary

3 Days in New York City: Ultimate Itinerary

If you are planning a trip to New York City (NYC) and looking for the perfect 3 days in New York City itinerary, you have come to the right place!

 

New York City, the city that never sleeps, is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to experience the best of American culture, history, and entertainment. We have visited the Big Apple almost 10 times, and each visit brings something new and exciting.

 

From iconic landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty and Times Square to Broadway shows and sports teams, there is something for everyone in this bustling city. With so much to see and do, it can be overwhelming trying to plan the perfect trip. That is why we have created this ultimate 3-day itinerary for New York City.

Table of Contents

How Many Days Do You Need in New York City?

Friends Apartment | 3 Days in New York City Itinerary

Is 3 days in New York City enough? The answer is, it depends. While some may argue that you need at least a week to experience all the city fully offers, 3 days is plenty of time to see the main highlights. We have added a section in this blog to give you a few ideas on what to do with an extra day or two.

Where is New York City Located?

Times Square
Times Square | 3 Days in New York City Itinerary

New York City is located in the northeastern region of the United States, specifically in the state of New York. There are multiple airports you can fly into including John F. Kennedy (JFK), LaGuardia (LGA), and Newark (EWR).

 

New York City is made up of five boroughs – Brooklyn, Bronx, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island.

 

Manhattan is often considered the heart of the city due to its iconic skyline featuring famous landmarks such as the Empire State Building and Central Park. Brooklyn offers a more laid-back vibe with trendy neighborhoods and great food options. Queens is known for Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, and the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, which hosts the US Open! The Bronx is home to Yankee Stadium and the Bronx Zoo. Lastly, Staten Island offers a quieter suburban feel with beautiful parks and waterfront views.

 

Why should you visit NYC?

Yankees Game
Yankee Stadium | 3 Days in New York City Itinerary

There are so many reasons to visit New York City, which is why it is one of the top tourist destinations in the world! The city offers endless entertainment through sports, theater, museums, and other diverse cultural experiences. 

 

Every time we visit, we find something new to do, which is why we keep coming back! NYC also has incredible restaurants and bakeries, many of which are famous around the world. We’ll get more into that later!

 

3 days in New York City is a great amount of time to experience the city and see some of its main attractions. Even if you have more time, there is always something new to explore! 

3 Days in New York City Itinerary – Overview

This New York City Itinerary is meant to maximize your time in this huge city. The first day will be spent exploring the iconic landmarks in Midtown Manhattan and catching a Broadway show.

 

On day two, we’ll enjoy one of the many available sporting events and visit the Statue of Liberty. Finally, on the last day, we’ll visit the most iconic museums and Brooklyn.

Day 1: Manhattan & Broadway

& Juliet on Broadway | 3 Days in New York City Itinerary

Central Park

Start day one in New York City at the iconic Central Park. This massive park offers a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of the city and it’s perfect in the morning. In the morning, there won’t be many tourists and the park will be relatively quiet. 

 

Central Park is home to many famous landmarks such as the Bethesda Fountain, Strawberry Fields, and Belvedere Castle. When we went, we took a ride on a horse-drawn carriage and it was a great way to see more of the park.

 

Central Park
Central Park | 3 Days in New York City Itinerary

Top of the Rock

After exploring Central Park, head towards the Top of the Rock observation deck. This attraction offers the best views of New York City from one of its tallest buildings. Plus, it’s less crowded than the Empire State Building and has a 360-degree view. You could also opt for great views at the One World Observatory, but we believe Top of the Rock is the best!

Top of the Rock | 3 Days in New York City Itinerary

Rockefeller Center

After you visit Top of the Rock, stroll through Rockefeller Center where you can find high-end shops, ice skating rinks, and the famous Christmas tree during the holiday season. This was always on our bucket list, so we had to come here during the Christmas season! You can also take a tour of NBC Studios to see how your favorite shows are made. Maddy did an NBC Studios tour on a school trip in high school and loved it!

Rockefeller Christmas Tree
Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree | 3 Days in New York City Itinerary

Times Square

No trip to New York City is complete without a visit to Times Square! Filled with bright lights, billboards, and street performers, this iconic location is always bustling with tons of energy. Be sure to grab some classic New York City souvenirs from the many shops scattered around the area. There will also be many food vendors if you want to grab a slice of pizza or a hotdog! Sometimes Times Square can be a little too crowded for our taste, but you at least need to stop here.  After all, it’s where the famous New Year’s Eve ball drops every year!

Times Square
Times Square | 3 Days in New York City Itinerary

Grand Central Terminal

A little cool and quick stop is Grand Central Terminal. This beautiful train station is a transportation hub but also features stunning architecture and unique shops. You can even catch a glimpse of the “whispering gallery” where you can hear someone whisper from across the room due to the acoustics. 

Flatiron Building

Another iconic landmark is the Flatiron Building, known for its distinctive triangular shape. This building has been featured in numerous movies and TV shows, making it a must-see for pop culture lovers. Originally, people thought the building would topple over due to its unique design, but it has stood the test of time! This stop isn’t a must, but if you’re in the area, it doesn’t hurt to stop by. 

Flatiron Building
Flatiron Building​ | 3 Days in New York City Itinerary

The FRIENDS Experience

Calling all FRIENDS fans! This is a must-see attraction for any lover of the hit TV show. You can step into Monica and Rachel’s apartment, have a coffee at Central Perk, and relive some of the most memorable moments from the show. We’re huge FRIENDS fans, so we definitely had to come by. We saw a few of the sets, but couldn’t do the entire tour due to time constraints. During our time in NYC, we also were able to see the famous FRIENDS apartment!

the FRIENDS Experience
The FRIENDS Experience | 3 Days in New York City Itinerary

Chelsea Market

If you’re a foodie like us, Chelsea Market is the place to be! It’s an indoor food hall with a variety of delicious options. It’s great for families or large groups because everyone can find something they like. We recommend trying the lobster roll from The Lobster Place and the tacos from Los Tacos No. 1. And don’t forget to stop by Doughnuttery for some mini doughnuts if you’d like a little dessert!

Washington Square Park

From Chelsea Market, take a stroll through the heart of Greenwich Village to Washington Square Park. It’s such a beautiful park with a large fountain and plenty of green space to relax or have a picnic. Plus, there are always street performers and musicians adding to the nice atmosphere. When you’re in the city sometimes you can miss nature and grass, so it’s a nice change of pace. 

Washington Square Arch
Washington Square Arch | 3 Days in New York City Itinerary

Broadway Shows

No trip to New York City is complete without catching a Broadway show! Maddy is a huge musical theatre fan so she’s seen at least 10 Broadway shows. A few of her favorites are Moulin Rouge, & Juliet, Miss Saigon, and Mean Girls. 

 

Also, New York City is one of the only places in the world where you can see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on stage! This two-part play is a must-see for any Harry Potter fan, with stunning special effects and a great story. We really hope they turn it into a movie one day!

 

Overall, the talent of the actors, the music, and the set designs on Broadway are just incredible. Some of our best hacks include entering the Broadway ticket lottery daily to win discounted or FREE tickets to shows! You can also go to the box office of the show you’d like to see and ask to purchase partial view tickets for a discounted price. 

 

Most often, this simply means you will be sitting very close or in the box seats that prevent you from seeing a very small portion of the back side of the stage. This does not affect the show’s quality in any way, but it allows you to get up close for a cheaper price.

 

After catching a show, it’ll be pretty late and a good time to head back to the hotel. 

Cursed Child on Broadway
Cursed Child on Broadway | 3 Days in New York City Itinerary

Day 2: Statue of Liberty & Sports

Statue of Liberty

When in New York, you must visit the famous Statue of Liberty, located on Liberty Island in the Hudson River. A really fun tour you can take is a 4-hour Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Tour. On this tour, you will have a round-trip ferry ticket for the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, as well as access to the Liberty Island Museum and Immigration Museum. 

 

This tour is beautiful in the summer and early fall, so we highly recommend it if you’re in NYC from May to October. 

Statue of Liberty
Statue of Liberty | 3 Days in New York City Itinerary

Wall Street

After your Statue of Liberty tour, take a stroll down Wall Street. This famous street is known for its iconic bull statue (Charging Bull) and is the city’s financial hub. You can also visit the New York Stock Exchange and see where millions of dollars are traded every day!

Federal Hall

A short 5-minute walk from Wall Street is Federal Hall, a historic building where George Washington was sworn is as the first President of the United States! Today, you can visit this site for free and explore exhibits about American history and government.

9/11 Memorial & Museum

From Federal Hall, walk over to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. This moving tribute to the victims of the September 11th attacks features two reflecting pools that sit in the footprints of the Twin Towers, as well as a museum with artifacts and exhibits honoring those who lost their lives. This is a very sad part of your trip, but we believe it’s important to pay respect to the victims and their families.

9/11 Memorial & Museum
9/11 Memorial & Museum | 3 Days in New York City Itinerary

One World Observatory

From the 9/11 Memorial, take a short walk to the One World Observatory. Located on the 100th-102nd floors of the One World Trade Center, this observatory offers stunning views from the highest point in New York City! You can also learn about the history of the building and its construction through interactive exhibits.

One World Trade Center
One World Trade Center | 3 Days in New York City Itinerary

Sporting Event

During your time in the city, there will be no shortage of sporting events to see! New York City boasts 2 football teams, the Giants and the Jets, as well as 2 baseball teams, the Yankees and the Mets. You can also catch a basketball game with the Knicks or the Nets, or a hockey game with the Rangers or Islanders. It’s honestly amazing how many teams there are, especially within the same sport, making it an exciting and unique experience for sports fans!

 

We haven’t visited Madison Square Garden yet, but we have seen a New York Giants, New York Mets, New York Yankees, and a Brooklyn Nets game! The atmosphere at the games is electric, and we just love the vibes here.

New York Giants Game
New York Giants Game | 3 Days in New York City Itinerary

Radio City Music Hall

If you’re near Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall is a cool place to pass by. Whether you go to see a comedy show or the famous Rockettes, it’s a must-see landmark in New York City. You can also take a tour of the theater and learn about its rich history.

 

As huge football fans, we wanted to at least pass by it since the NFL draft used to be held here.

Radio City Music Hall | 3 Days in New York City Itinerary

Day 3: Museums & Brooklyn

Brooklyn Bridge

For your last day in New York City, it’s time to visit the most famous museums, as well as Brooklyn. You’ll want to start very early to fit all of these into your itinerary!

 

Your first stop of the day will be visiting Brooklyn Bridge! The Brooklyn Bridge is a must-see in New York City and offers amazing views of the city skyline! Our photos on the bridge were some of our favorites in the city! After taking some photos, cross over to Brooklyn and explore the neighborhoods such as DUMBO and Williamsburg.

View from Brooklyn Bridge | 3 Days in New York City Itinerary

Brooklyn Bridge Park

Once you cross over the Brooklyn Bridge, head straight to Brooklyn Bridge Park. This park offers stunning views of the bridge and Manhattan skyline, as well as plenty of fun activities such as walking paths, sports fields, and playgrounds. It’s nice to stroll along the waterfront and enjoy a picnic with the beautiful scenery during the summer and fall months.  

Brooklyn Bridge | 3 Days in New York City Itinerary

New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

After a relaxing morning, take the metro to New York’s Museum of Modern Art. With its extensive collection of modern and contemporary art, MoMA is a must-visit for any art enthusiast. This museum has something for every art lover, from famous paintings like Van Gogh’s Starry Night to sculptures like Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. Even if you’re not deeply into art, it’s still a fascinating spot. Just seeing Van Gogh’s Starry Night is incredible, as it’s one of the most famous paintings in the world. A good amount of time to spend here is about 2-3 hours.

Metropolitan Museum of Art

From the Museum of Modern Art, you can either take a long walk (about 30 minutes) or take the New York City Subway if your feet need a break on your way to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. If you choose to take the subway, be sure to look out for the famous “subway art” that can be found in many stations throughout the city. Once you arrive at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, also known as The Met, you may be overwhelmed by its size. 

 

This massive museum has over 1.5 million works of art from all around the world, spanning over 5,000 years of history. One of the most iconic pieces in The Met is the Temple of Dendur, an ancient Egyptian temple that was transported to New York City and reconstructed inside the museum. The other must-sees are “Washington Crossing the Delaware”, “Perseus with the Head of Medusa”, and “Self-Portrait with a Straw Hat” by van Gogh. There’s so much to see here, but the Met has a great one-hour self-guided tour you can use!

Metropolitan Museum of Art
Metropolitan Museum of Art | 3 Days in New York City Itinerary

American Museum of Natural History

If it’s still before 5 PM and you’re in the mood for more museums, head to the American Museum of Natural History! This museum is not only one of the largest natural history museums in the world, but it’s also famous for its appearance in “Night at the Museum”. Some highlights that can be seen here are the Stegosaurus, Blue Whale Model, and Dinosaur Mummy exhibits, among many more! You can easily spend a whole day exploring all the different halls and exhibits, but if you map out your favorites beforehand, you can do it in a couple of hours.

High Line

If you’re doing well on time and want something else to do, take a stroll on the High Line! This elevated public park was converted from an old railway line and offers beautiful views of the city. Along the way, you’ll also find various art installations and gardens to enjoy. Plus, this is a great place to relax and enjoy the sunset. 

High Line
High Line | 3 Days in New York City Itinerary

Final Night

For your final night in New York, you can wander and enjoy the hustle and bustle, or even see another Broadway show! There’s so much to see and do here, so there are endless possibilities!

Best Tours from NYC if you have one extra day

If you have more time in New York City and would like to take a day trip, you can head over to Philadelphia! Philadelphia is one of our favorite U.S. cities and is only 90 minutes away by Amtrak train. You can explore historic sites such as Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell and try some delicious Philly cheesesteaks at Geno’s Steaks. We’re also huge fans of the Rocky movies, so a picture with his statue and a run up the iconic steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art was a must!

 

There are also guided tours available from NYC to Philadelphia, which makes it even easier to plan your day trip. These tours include transportation, a knowledgeable guide, and entrance fees to the most popular attractions.

 

Another great option for a day trip from NYC is Washington D.C. It’s a little further than Philadelphia and is a 3-hour train ride, but if you’re interested in visiting the nation’s capital, it’s definitely worth the trip. You can visit famous monuments and landmarks such as the White House, Lincoln Memorial, Capitol Hill, and the Washington Monument! There is so much more to do here that we can’t even cover, but trust us when we say you won’t have a problem with finding things to do!

Where to Stay in NYC

In New York City, there are countless options for accommodations. From luxurious hotels to cozy Airbnbs, you can find something that fits any needs and budget. If you want to stay in the heart of all the action, we recommend looking for a hotel in Manhattan, specifically in neighborhoods such as Times Square or Midtown. This will give you easy access to all the popular attractions and also plenty of dining and shopping options. The only problem is that it is very expensive! 

 

If you’re on a budget, consider staying in one of the outer boroughs like Brooklyn or Queens, where you can still find affordable stays. In Brooklyn, the best neighborhoods to look for are Williamsburg and Park Slope, known for their trendy vibes and unique attractions. Williamsburg is considered the best overall because there are so many unique restaurants, bars, and stores. 

 

Queens also offers great options in neighborhoods like Long Island City and Astoria, which have a more residential feel but still have easy access to Manhattan.

 

Lastly, for the biggest bargain, stay in an Airbnb in Union City, New Jersey. It’s very cheap and you can take an easy bus ride each day into the city. 

Barclays Center
Barclays Center | 3 Days in New York City Itinerary

Where to Eat

One of our favorite things about New York City is the food!! We have so many favorites and we recommend going to as many as possible.

 

Restaurants:

 

  1. Tony’s di Napoli – a delicious Italian restaurant with two locations: Times Square & Upper East Side. 
  2. Katz’s Delicatessen – famous for their pastrami sandwiches, this deli has been around since 1888.
  3. Arriba Arriba – located in Hell’s Kitchen, this Mexican restaurant offers great food and margaritas.
  4. The Smith Restaurant – with multiple locations, this American Brasserie offers a wide range of dishes and great ambiance inside.
  5. Los Tacos No. 1 – as previously mentioned, this is a must-visit for authentic and delicious tacos in the city.
  6. John’s Pizzeria – a New York City classic, this pizzeria offers delicious coal-fired thin-crust pizzas.
  7. Melt Shop – a nice quick eats spot with multiple locations for delicious grilled cheese sandwiches and tater tots. 

Dessert: 

 

  1. Schmakary’s – known for their amazing cookies and unique flavors like Funfetti and Red Velvet. Our favorite place before or after a Broadway show!
  2. Carlo’s Bakery – home to the famous “Cake Boss”, this bakery offers delicious pastries, cakes, and cookies. Also, has one of the best cannolis we’ve ever tried!
  3. Junior’s Cheesecake – an iconic spot for New York-style cheesecake. Try the original flavor or mix it up with a seasonal option. One of the best cheesecakes we’ve ever had!

We could write about many more restaurants and bakeries, but these are a few of our favorites! Many of these have been around for a long time and are NYC staples.

Carlo's Bakery
Carlo's Bakery | 3 Days in New York City Itinerary

Best Time to Visit NYC

The best time to visit in New York City is based on your interests! There is always something to do in the city, but some times of the year may be better suited for certain activities. 

 

For example, spring and fall are great options if you’re a fan of outdoor activities and beautiful weather. The temperatures are mild and there are plenty of parks and outdoor events to enjoy.

 

If you want to experience the hustle and bustle of NYC at its peak, then summer might be the best time for you. The city is alive with tourists and locals enjoying outdoor concerts, street fairs, and rooftop parties.

 

But winter can also be a great time to visit if you prefer a quieter atmosphere. We loved being here during the Christmas season! The city is decked out in festive decorations, with numerous holiday markets, ice skating rinks, and shows to enjoy. You can also see the famous Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree! 

 

If you’re here for the sports, then that is determined based on each season! If you’re here in the summer, it’s great to catch a baseball game, but if you’re here in the fall, NFL games are great! Seeing the Knicks and Nets would be best in the winter and spring. 

 

No matter what time of year you choose to visit NYC, there will always be something going on. 

NYC in Winter
NYC in Winter | 3 Days in New York City Itinerary

FAQs about 3 Days in New York City

1. What are the must-see attractions in New York City for a 3-day trip?

In three days, make sure to visit iconic spots like the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, Central Park, the Empire State Building, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Don’t miss walking across the Brooklyn Bridge and also catch a Broadway Show! A sporting event is also always a must for us. 

 

2. What’s the best way to get around New York City?

The best way to get around NYC is by using the subway, which is efficient and cost-effective. Walking is also a great option for exploring neighborhoods and individual boroughs. 

 

3.  How can I save money on attractions in New York City?

If you plan on going to as many attractions as possible, consider purchasing a New York City All-Inclusive or Explorer Pass, which offers entry to most of the big attractions.

 

4. Are there any safety tips for tourists in New York City? 

In New York City, we generally feel safe, but you still need to stay aware of your surroundings. Keep your belongings secure from pick-pockets and avoid poorly lit areas at night!

Citi Field
Citi Field | 3 Days in New York City Itinerary

Final Thoughts on this 3 Days in NYC Itinerary

Overall, we love New York City, or else we wouldn’t have gone there 10 times! It’s also very easy for us to get there from our home in Buffalo, NY. Nevertheless, there’s sooo much to do here and we get really excited each time we visit. We catch a different Broadway show and sporting event everytime we go, along with visiting more famous restaurants here. We believe a trip to NYC is essential for any traveler who lives in the United States or is considering traveling here. As always,  we hope our itinerary will help you make the most of your time in this amazing city and we wish you safe travels!

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