3 days in New York: A Travel Guide

So, you’ve hit the Big Apple and you have three days to explore – what’s next? Well, they don’t call it the ‘Big Apple’ for nothing – with 304 mi² of sights, lights and wild nights, there’s plenty to fill your time.

Here are my picks for spending 3 days in New York City, with a mix of big-hitting sights, lesser-known spots and time to feel the energy of the city. This is going to be the best 3 days in New York EVER.

Day 1 – Central Park, High Line and Staten Island Ferry

If you’ve just arrived then jet lag could get the better of you today, so I’d recommend a chilled out first day experiencing the most laid-back areas in the city first.

Central Park (2-3 hours)

In the morning, head to Central Park and hire a bike (1 hour $15 / 2 hours $20 / 3 hours $25 / all day $40) to pedal around the world’s most visited urban park at your own pace.

Try a mooch around Sheep Meadow, which is great for sitting and watching the world go by, or have your photo taken with George Delacorte’s Alice In Wonderland statue. Hire a rowboat and paddle across the lake, or take a refreshing swim in Lasker Pool, which also converts into an ice rink in the winter months.

You can even head to the zoo, visit Strawberry Fields (a monument and gardens dedicated to legendary Beatle John Lennon) and get your photo taken at the fountain in the intro to infamous TV show Friends.

Sadly, Central Perk, the café that Ross, Joey and co hang out in, isn’t nearby, but there are plenty of coffee shops to recharge your batteries along the way. A good tour of the park will take you about 2-3 hours with a few stops along the way.

Lunch (2 hours)

Once you’ve worked up an appetite, make your way a few blocks southwest of Central Park to the area of Hells Kitchen for lunch. It’s an achingly hip area with loads of choices for lunch, but I’d recommend K Rico, an American restaurant with some of the best seafood and steak you’ll find in the city.

High Line (2 hours)

Once you’ve eaten your fill, jump in a yellow cab and ask for the starting point of the High Line, at 34th Street and 12th Avenue.

The High Line is a disused railway line running above the city streets, that’s now been converted into a 1.5 mile long outdoor garden, with chill out zones, art exhibitions and lots more, depending on the time of year.

Walk the length of the line south to the Meatpacking district, where you’ll find plenty of bars and restaurants to provide you with a pick-me-up. You can also hop off the line along the way to explore the city at street level. One of my favourite places is Chelsea Market, near the end of the line, for artisan food shopping.

Staten Island Ferry (2 hours)

Walk to 14th Street subway station (red line) and get the subway down to the end of the Manhattan peninsula, South Ferry Station, where it’s a short walk to Whitehall station, the jumping off point for the Staten Island ferry.

This 25-minute ride to Staten Island will provide incredible views of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty, and best of all, it’s totally free! The boat won’t take you to Liberty Island, but then, who wants to climb a statue when they’re jet-lagged, anyway?

Once you get to Staten Island you can either turn around and come back again, or enjoy this area for the evening. If heading back to Manhattan I’d suggest watching the sun set from Battery Park, before heading back to your hotel and a night on the town.

Day 2 – Museums and Broadway

Today it’s time to sample all the culture the city has to offer. Galleries and museums are some of the best attractions in New York, and you can save up to 27% if you book with CityPASS.

Museum options (4-5 hours)

With the CityPASS C3 you can choose 3 attractions for the current price of $76 (correct June 2017), from the following:

  • The Empire State Building Experience
  • Top of the Rock Observation Deck
  • American Museum of Natural History
  • 9/11 Memorial & Museum
  • Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises
  • Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
  • Guggenheim Museum
  • Hornblower Sightseeing Cruises

I would recommend saving with the Empire State Building or the Top of the Rock for tomorrow, and choosing two other attractions for today.

Fans of architecture can marvel at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim, while the 9/11 Museum will take you back to the day that rocked a nation. If you’re more of a fan of science, try the American Museum of Natural History, where you’ll experience everything from a 94-foot whale to the largest dinosaur ever discovered.

The price of the pass includes entry to the attraction but not transportation so plan your day carefully to ensure you know what the nearest public station is to each, and how to get between the two.

If you want to do more, then CityPASS also offers a slightly more expensive pass that gives you even more attractions to choose from.

Broadway (2-3 hours)

By night, a Broadway show cannot be missed – everything is on offer from classics like Cats to more modern productions like Hamilton. Seek out the TKTS booth in Times Square, at South Street Seaport (199 Water St; enter at the corner of Front and John Sts) for discounted tickets on the day.

If you’d rather plan your tickets in advance, Broadwaybox.com lists discount codes for up for 50 percent off Broadway shows, and TheaterMania.com lists show discounts online and offers a paid service called the Gold Club, which comes with additional perks.

Day 3 – Shopping and Empire State Building / Top of the Rock

Spend your last day in New York browsing for bargains and finding souvenirs to take home for loved ones (and yourself!), before getting a show-stopping aerial view of the city from one of its highest buildings.

The best places to shop in NYC (2 – 4 hours)

Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s are the quintessential New York City attractions for shopaholics, and both are of course worth a visit if you’re addicted to designer labels at decent prices. Both are pretty huge, and could easily take a few hours each to explore, so spend your time and your dollars wisely!

If your credit card has no limit, then a walk up Fifth Avenue is a must, with stores such as Tiffany & Co, Saks, Cartier and Armani all vying for your attention.

For those on a stricter budget, Chinatown is bustling with street vendors selling knock-off designer goods at cheap prices. Just be sure to haggle with a huge smile on your face for the best deals.

Brooklyn Flea Market is another shopping Mecca, with vintage and handmade goods on display in a very intagrammable setting, and bookworms should head for Housing Works Bookstore Café, which doubles as an incredible bookstore and place to refresh with a brew.

Taking to the sky (1-2 hours)

Later in the day, you can view your favourite shops from 86 floors up at the Empire State Building. Nothing offers panoramic views like the observation deck, so why not book a double visit and go back at night to see the city lit up like a Christmas tree?

Alternatively, you can head to the Top of the Rock, on the top floor of the Rockefeller Center for the best views of Central Park and the rest of the city. Both the Empire State Building and Top of the Rock are included in your CityPASS, and are best enjoyed at sunset.

If you’re travelling in May or July, then try to time your visit with Manhattanhenge, when the sun sets perfectly in the middle of streets all across the city.

I hope you’ve found some inspiration for your 3 days in New York. I’d love to hear your suggestions below.

This post was brought to you in collaboration with CityPASS.


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Hayley is the author behind A Life of More, a travel and lifestyle blog with the goal of helping you to live a happier and more fulfilled life, whether you're currently travelling or happily settled.

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Comments 4

  1. Anne Morgan

    Great guide with a bit of everything. New York is high on my list of places to go to – one day I’ll get there and be able to do all these things!

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