There is so much to do in New York City and this post will break it down for the best itinerary for 3 days in New York City.
We recently visited New York and I just fall in love with that city every time. I have some of my favorite things I do every time and some touristy stuff just for fun. I broke down what I think are must-sees in New York City.
We’ll go over the best itinerary for 3 days in New York City, what to do in New York, 3 day itinerary, things to do in Manhattan, and more.
This post is all about the best things to do in 3 days in New York City!
3 Days in New York City:
Day 1 – Iconic New York
Your first day in New York City and you are going to want to get all the fun spots that may be a bit touristy but you honestly can’t visit New York without seeing them. It makes me so excited just thinking about them!
Bagels for Breakfast
No trip to New York is complete without a fresh bagel. Ess-a-Bagel is one of the top recommendations and a perfect location for the activities on your first day. I learned that the best way to know if a bagel is good is if you can smush it and it will return to their original form. Ess-a Bagel passes the test. You can get a plain bagel and cream cheese or a breakfast sandwich on a bagel.
Now as you walk with your bagel head over to the Rockefeller Center. This iconic spot is famous for its holiday magic. I would love to visit New York during the holidays and this would probably be my first stop. With Top of the Rock and window shopping, it’s still a fun place to see. Plus you have to stop by Radio City Music Hall while you’re here.
Now for the most touristy, most iconic site in all of New York, Times Square. I get so excited every time I come here because it’s exactly what you picture. Larger than life, dirty, crowded, so many smells, and sounds. It’s hectic but exactly what you are looking for when you visit Times Square. Be sure to climb up the steps on the south side of Times Square for a cool view over the square and check out how tiny the New Year’s Eve ball is on the North End!
For lunch, you have a few options in the area. First are the Halal Guys. They are an Arabic food truck that is the best of the best. You will always see people here (which is a good sign) and you can get a hearty meal for only $7 bucks. You can also find a hot dog stand and try an iconic “dirty water dog.” It is what it sounds like and if you’re brave enough to try, I would. And lastly No. 1 Tacos is a pretty good and cheap taco spot (for the east coast) that’s also close.
From Times Square, we can make our way up towards Central Park. The best route is to go up the iconic 5th Avenue. I have to say it’ll likely just be window shopping because if you can truly afford to shop on 5th Avenue, you probably aren’t reading this blog. They do have some stunning window displays and you can walk through if you dare! The best one to see is Tiffany & Co!
If you wanted, you could spend a whole day in Central Park. It is so huge and there is so much to do. Since you are only in New York for 3 days though, walking from the entrance near The Plaza to The Met will get you through a few of the best sites and a feel for all the life that is in New York. You’ll pass Gapstow Bridge, walk the Mall and Literary Walk, go through Bethesda Terrace, see the rowboats and the Loeb Boathouse, and Cedar Hill.
There are tons of museums in New York but if you are looking for iconic, you should definitely visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Admission is $25 but there is plenty to see inside to make it worth it. It’s not only paintings (like Van Gogh) but also Greek sculptures, Asian murals, Egyptian temples, and African artifacts. It’s a stunning museum and you can head up to the rooftop for a drink overlooking Central Park. The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden is a work of art itself and complete with a full bar. This is the perfect spot to head to during sunset.
If historical art is not your thing, be sure to at least stop the outside. There is also the American Museum of Natural History, the Guggenheim, the Museum of Modern Art, and plenty more!
Now for dinner, we have to try some traditional New York pizza. Pizza is actually all you could eat in New York and be just fine. You can either jump over to Nick’s Pizza or San Matteo Pizzeria e Cucina in the Upper East Side (where the Met is located) or you can hop on the subway to some great spots. Head over to the Upper West Side for Mama Too’s. Or up to East Harlem for Patsy’s Pizzeria. There are plenty of great spots, but not all spots are great. Do a bit of research to find the best and enjoy!!
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Day 2 – Midtown Manhattan
Our second day in Manhattan is my favorite. Running around Midtown Manhattan is perfect to make you feel the New York vibe. You have seen some of the iconic New York attractions and now you want to feel more like a local. There are still options for touristy stuff (like the Empire State building) and of course, good food.
Grand Central Terminal
This huge train station is so much more than just a train station. Its gorgeous architecture is alluring and gorgeous. It’s a masterpiece and it’s a train station. We highly recommend just stopping in quickly to at least see how grand it really is. Be sure to look up at the ceiling and notice the lights and the constellations. There’s also the iconic clock in the central information booth. By far, my favorite thing to do is head downstairs to one of the square walkway intersections. Have one person stand in one corner and the other on the opposite side and if you whisper in the corners, the echo will travel perfectly to the other person! It’s hard to explain but such a unique design! It’s even cooler if the place is packed!
Empire State Building
There are plenty of ways to see New York from above these days. But none is more iconic than the Empire State Building. Truthfully, if you’re only here for a few days and really want to see New York from above, you should only do one of them. My favorite is the Empire State Building but newer buildings (like The Rock and The Edge) are higher and have better views. The Empire State Building isn’t totally about the views though. The history and architecture are incredible and something about the way the observation deck feels makes it just that much more special.
The Flatiron Building is an icon of New York. That late 19th-century architecture is just what you think of when you think of old NYC buildings. This is a bustling intersection located just across from Madison Square Park so a perfect way to hit two birds with one stone. If you are looking to get some Instagram-worthy photos, head over to the sidewalk on the far right and you will find a Tiffany & Co. street clock. A great foreground prop for a beautiful building in the background.
Madison Square Park
My favorite way to experience Madison Square Park is with a picnic. There is so much shade and plenty of grass to sit and people watch. There are two AMAZING options for lunch for your picnic. First is the obvious, Shake Shack. This is the prettiest Shake Shack you will find so it does seem fitting. The lines around lunchtime are crazy, though they do move quickly. If you have never had Shake Shack before and like burgers, we highly recommend trying it here. I am salivating just thinking of these burgers.
If you’ve had Shake Shack before, we recommend heading across the street to Eataly. This magical market paradise will leave you in awe. They have multiple restaurants inside but if you’re here on a nice spring day, you got to get back outside! We recommend picking up some cheese and deli meat to make your own picnic or stopping by the deli to get a delicious fresh-made sandwich. Whatever you do, be sure to pick up a chocolate chip cookie from here because they are the best cookies I have ever had from a restaurant. Wow.
Greenwich Village is one of the most popular neighborhoods in Manhattan and for good reason. It’s an artsy neighborhood with plenty of cafes, Jazz clubs, brownstone buildings, NYU students, and boutique shops. This is truly where you’ll feel like a local walking around popping into art galleries and homemade clothing stores. There is tons of history in Greenwich Village and truthfully it just feels like you’re walking through a movie set the entire time.
Be sure to head over to the center of Greenwich Village, Washington Square Park. The Washington Square Park has the recognizable Washington Square Arch (as seen in Friends). These are the things I love to just stop by and say I’ve seen. This is a great park to hang out and walk around if you’d like or keep moving and see more sights. Speaking of Friends, the exterior shot of the Friends Apartment building is located in Greenwich Village. You can find it on the corner of Bedford and Grove Streets.
Rooftop Dinner & Drinks
Hopefully, the weather is nice for you this evening because there are tons of rooftop bars and restaurants in midtown that you have to try at least once. If you are looking for a casual park-like atmosphere, head up to The High Line. This is a converted rail line that is now a park with plenty of food options. For more of a sit-down atmosphere, try Arlo NoMad or Spyglass Rooftop Bar for epic views of the Empire State Building. And if you are ready to dance the night away, the PHD Rooftop Lounge is a perfect destination.
If you can’t make it up to a rooftop destination, there are plenty of highly restaurants in Greenwich that it is a perfect spot for dinner.
Day 3 – On the Water
The Brooklyn Bridge is a gorgeous piece of architecture and a fun way to see the New York City Skyline. By walking or riding a bike over the bridge you get to the top level with all the cars below you so you will have insane views. Walking over the East River at sunrise is the best way to enjoy the bridge itself and not be slammed in with thousands of other people. Sunset is the busiest time, but it makes sense because the view of the sunset from the bridge is beautiful. That’s why I love the sunrise option.
If you walk all the way across the Brooklyn Bridge, you’ll be in Brooklyn. Now, you could spend your whole trip in Brooklyn and still have more to do, but it might be best to take advantage of your time here in the morning. Heading into DUMBO (Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass), you will find an epic view of the Manhattan Bridge. On Washington Street, a cobblestone street with brick buildings on either side, you will get a perfect outline of a pillar on the Manhattan Bridge. You’ll want to get here early to avoid the crowds and get your photo with no one in it. You can also head to Brooklyn Bridge Park and Jane’s Carousel. There are some great breweries and food in DUMBO as well if you are hungry. A good breakfast spot in DUMBO is AlMar or Vinegar Hill House.
Statue of Liberty
Once you head back into Manhattan we can do a bit of sightseeing. There are quite a few ways to see the Statue of Liberty. The easiest and least time-consuming is viewing her from Battery Park. It’s not the best view but Battery Park is beautiful to walk around and at least you saw her. You can also take the free Staten Island Ferry. You can hop on get some great views passing Lady Liberty and hop right back on. Another option is to take a harbor cruise. This would be a good option for a sunset cruise or a cocktail cruise. And of course, you can always visit Liberty Island. If you are dying to climb up to the crown, this is definitely the best option for you.
Now, one of the most heart-wrenching beautiful museums and memorials that I have ever been to is the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. I highly recommend visiting this and if you aren’t able to do everything on this list, this should certainly be up there. The plaza is gorgeous with the Memorial Pools stating all the names of those lost during the 1993 bombing and 2001 terrorist attacks. There is an underground museum that will take your breath away. Again, we highly recommend this stop. It was beautifully done.
Now, I am saving the best for last, I could honestly eat here more but with only 3 days in New York City, one will have to do. Katz’s Delicatessen is a staple of New York. With movies filmed here (like When Harry Met Sally) and a perpetual line out the door, you have to try the pastrami sandwiches at Katz’s Deli. I promise it’s worth it. They give you a taste of the pastrami at the counter and it will melt in your mouth. The sandwiches are HUGE, so it’s best to share. And of course, you get some delicious deli pickles on the side. Mmmm my mouth is watering just thinking about it.