3-Day New York City Itinerary

Updated: May 5, 2021

New York City- the city that never sleeps. I've already written a 4-day itinerary, that's a little more open and not as jam-packed filled with things to do. So if you have 4 days (1 day dedicated to the awesome NYC museums) or you just like walking around and exploring on your own, check that out. If you only have 3 days and prefer a jam-packed itinerary to see the most you can in your short amount of time, continue reading!

Day 1: Mid-Town

Start your morning with a walk through Central Park, preferably starting at 86th street and making your way down. That way, you can see Belvedere Castle, The Lake, and other beautiful photo opportunities within the park. You'll also pass by the Metropolitan Museum of Art (aka the MET)- the most visited museum in NYC. So snap a famous Gossip Girl photo on the steps, or stop inside for a quick morning browse through the beautiful works of art.

With all that walking and exploring, I'm sure you worked up an appetite. So grab breakfast at Pick a Bagel. Just as the name says, you pick a bagel and add on your different spreads and toppings to create a massive sandwich. If you don't eat big portions, I highly recommend splitting it with someone.

After your filling breakfast, take a nice stroll down 5th Avenue to see all the expensive shops like Tiffany & Co., Louis Vuitton, Cartier, and more. Even if you can't afford to shop on this street, it's still fun to walk down and see it! If you're a Gossip Girl fan, take a small detour by turning down 51st street for one block to get to Madison Ave. Here you'll see the Lotte New York Palace- aka the home to Serena & the Van Der Woodsen bunch. It's quite beautiful. Then, pop back over to 5th Ave and continue on!

Once you get to 49th street, you'll see the famous Rockefeller Center. During Christmas time, this is where the huge Christmas tree and ice skating rink will be. All other times of the year it's more of a photo op than anything else. There's also the option to go to the Top of the Rock for $38 to grab some awesome shots of Manhattan! Once you're finished, walk by Radio City Music Hall and snap a photo of the beautiful sign! You could also catch a show of the Rockettes or any other show at the venue if you're interested.

Continue down 5th Ave to Bryant Park and Grand Central Terminal, which are right across the street from one another. Take a stroll through the park, and then pop inside the terminal to get a photo of the beautiful design and architecture. (Tip: Bryant Park has some of the nicest public restrooms I've ever seen, so utilize them!)

Only one street further from Grand Central Terminal, you'll find the Chrysler building. There's not much you can do here except snap a photo! If you want a great photo though, I recommend walking a little further to an overpass right after the 42nd St & 2nd Ave intersection. It's a beautiful shot of the Chrysler building surrounded by other buildings and the street below.

If you didn't go to the Top of the Rock, then make sure to head to the Empire State Building next and go up to the observation deck for $42. You don't need to do both, just pick one or the other.

So if you chose Top of the Rock instead, then go straight from your Chrysler photo-op to Times Square! You should be getting here just before dark if you started your day early enough, which is perfect. Times Square is one of those places you have to see both during the day and at night. So take a look around and go shopping while it's still light out, and hopefully by the time you're done it's dark. Now you can soak in all the lights around you!

For dinner you have multiple options depending on your budget and dietary needs. Junior's is a solid option right in Times Square with delicious food and even better cheesecake (average meal $15-20, average cheesecake $7-9). If you're looking for something cheaper grab tacos from Los Tacos No. 1 or a slice of pizza from one of the various places around the square. And if you're vegan, go to by CHLOE- I highly recommend the Guac Burger.

Day 1 RECAP:

  • Central Park

  • MET

  • 5th Ave

  • Lotte New York Palace

  • Rockefeller Center

  • Radio City Music Hall

  • Bryant Park

  • Grand Central Terminal

  • Chrysler & Empire State Buildings

  • Times Square

Day 2: The Village & SoHo

Start your morning by walking the High Line- a 1.5 mile park built on an elevated freight rail line. There are several different entrances to the park, depending on how much of it you want to walk. Just make sure you're walking towards the Chelsea Market, so when you're finished with your walk you can grab breakfast there! (Bonus: this isn't a must-see NYC item, but right across the street from the Chelsea Market is a Starbucks Reserve that I highly recommend popping into just to see it! I've seen a couple of Starbucks Reserves, but none as fancy and big as this one! Last photo below)

After you've finished eating, continue walking south to the FRIENDS apartment on the corner of Grove & Bedford for a quick photo op. Then, walk a couple streets further to Washington Square Park- which is also shown in the TV Show FRIENDS many times. It's a beautiful park with a fountain, huge arch, and plenty of seating around you to sit and relax for a little. (If you want a snack to eat in the park, check out Pommes Frites- a place famous for its fries and unique sauce options)

Once you're ready, head up to Union Square- another nice park filled with greenery and benches. A great place to sit and relax with friends, or just take a stroll. Then, continue east on 14th St, for 3 more blocks to get The Halal Guys for lunch- I highly recommend the beef gyro with their white sauce. Take your food to-go and walk up one block to eat it in Stuyvesant Square- yet another cute park.

Once you've finished your lunch, enjoy a nice long walk (about 1.5 miles) down to SoHo. You can always take the metro or bus if you prefer that to walking! The main thing to do in SoHo is shop- so walk up and down Broadway and shop until you drop. Or if you're on a budget like me, just window shop and admire the beautiful buildings! There's a great photo spot outside of the NOMO SOHO Hotel filled with plant arches if you want to take advantage of that. And when you're in the mood for something sweet, don't forget to stop by Levain Bakery for their world-famous cookies- their dark chocolate chip cookie is TO DIE FOR.

Once you're done shopping and exploring SoHo, head up to Madison Square Park. I always prefer to walk, but you can always hop on the R or W train for a couple stops to make it faster! Here you'll see a nice square filled with tables and chairs, with a view of the famous Flat Iron Building. (Tip: there's a nice photo op right across the street next to the gold clock!)

Finish your day by heading to 230 Fifth Rooftop Bar for dinner and drinks! It truly is an amazing view. I must warn you though, it's very pricey ($14+ for cocktails, $20+ for entrees). So if you're on a budget just head up to the rooftop to watch the sunset, and then grab a slice of pizza once you leave! Then, you can either head back to your hotel or walk through Times Square at night again (the latter is my choice for sure!)

Day 2: RECAP

  • High Line

  • FRIENDS Apartment

  • Washington Square Park

  • Union & Stuyvesant Squares

  • SoHo

  • Madison Square Park

  • Flat Iron Building

Day 3: Lower Manhattan & Brooklyn

Start your morning off by heading down to the Westfield World Trade Center, also known as the Oculus, for breakfast. The architecture of this building is immaculate, so you'll want to take some photos for sure. And there are plenty of food options to eat both inside and around the mall, so walk around and take your pick.

Once you've finished eating, head across the street to the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. You can walk around the memorial for free, but if you want to go to the underground museum it's $26 per adult. (Admission is free every Monday from 3:30-5pm)

Once you're finished, head down to Wall Street to see the New York Stock Exchange. In all honesty there isn't much to do in this area, but it's cool to walk around one of the busiest financial districts in the world. Make sure to snap a photo of the charging bull statue!

Next, make your way down to Battery Park to have awesome views of the Statue of Liberty. You can actually see the Statue of Liberty quite well from the park, but if you want to get up close and personal, you'll need to pay $26.25 per person. If you want to get closer than Battery Park, but don't want to pay that hefty price tag, you can hop on the Staten Island ferry for FREE. It takes 25 minutes and will pass by the Statue of Liberty fairly close so you can get better pictures. Then, just hop back on the ferry in the opposite direction to come back to Manhattan.

Next, it's time for the famous walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.The walk is just over 1 mile long, and can take anywhere between 30-60 minutes depending on how often you stop for photos. TIP: In the middle of the day there are typically lots of people traveling across the bridge- and your photos will reflect that. I was pretty lucky to not get people in my photo (below) around 1pm, but most of the time you'd have to go pretty early in the morning to get shots with no people. Just keep that in mind!

Once you're in the DUMBO neighborhood of Brooklyn, head to Washington Street for the popular Manhattan Bridge photo op. After your photo, continue up Washington St. to grab a coffee from Brooklyn Roasting Co. and/or a slice of pizza from Front Street Pizza. Then, head back to the water to eat/drink on the benches in front of Time Out Market so you can admire the Manhattan skyline.

Once you're finished, walk along the water to Brooklyn Bridge Park. You'll have a nice view of the financial district skyline, the Brooklyn Bridge, and will even be able to see the Statue of Liberty!

Then, end your day at the Time Out Market. Inside is filled with shops, restaurants, and bars with a hipster vibe/atmosphere. I highly recommend going up to the FREE rooftop garden to watch the sunset and see the Manhattan skyline sparkling against the dark backdrop of the night sky. Then, grab dinner inside the market afterwards. If you're vegan, there's an amazing vegan place called Vodega right down the street from the market. No matter what you decide to order as your main dish, you HAVE to get the potato mashies as your side. I still dream about them- they're that good.

Day 3 RECAP:

  • Oculus

  • 9/11 Memorial & Museum

  • Wall Street & NY Stock Exchange

  • Battery Park & Statue of Liberty

  • Brooklyn Bridge

  • DUMBO & Washington Street

  • Brooklyn Bridge Park

Wow... 3 days to see all of NYC? I promise you it may seem like a lot, but I've done this EXACT itinerary and never felt overwhelmed or rushed. Each day I still had plenty of down time to sit in parks, go shopping, or just stay somewhere to admire a view for awhile. Typically I'd start my day around 10:30am and be back in my hotel before 9pm, so if you start even earlier you'll have more down time. After doing this itinerary you'll feel like you've really seen it all- so next time you come back to the Big Apple, you'll be an expert!

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