Planning a trip to New York is exciting but daunting in equal measure. In 3 days there is definitely not time to see and do everything, so you need to prioritise what matters to you.
We love walking, eating and experiencing a place, over ticking off places on a checklist, just to be able to say we’ve seen it. However, when in New York some of the iconic buildings and places simply have to be seen so it’s hard to strike a balance.
If you, like us, want to enjoy your stay and not feel completely exhausted when you return then we think this would be the ideal itinerary to follow.
Depending on where you are staying (anywhere in central Manhattan is good) either walk or catch the subway to 42nd Street Station which brings you out in the middle of Times Square. When you emerge from underground, the sensory overload is immediate with flashing lights, music, cars whizzing past and people everywhere. It wasn’t quite as overwhelming as we imagined, but after a quick walk around and a few selfies to say “we were here” we were ready to move on.
When you’ve had enough of the bright lights, head east along 45th Street until you reach 5th Avenue where you will find all the high end stores, which are great for admiring the window displays as you wander along. You will also find the famous Rockefeller Center just off Fifth Avenue, perfectly situated for a drink or bite to eat (and in our case warm up as it was pretty chilly). Rockefeller Centre does have an observation deck called Top of the Rocks if you fancy catching the skyline views from here but we planned to visit Summit One Vandebilt later in our trip.
When you are fully refreshed and refuelled, continue to walk up towards Central Park past shops such as Gucci, Armani and Cartier, when you reach Prada look over the road and you’ll spot Trump Tower nestled amongst the designer stores. As you approach Central Park you pass the Plaza Hotel to your left with it’s impressive lobby and facade. Peer in, to sneak a glimpse pure opulence.
Entering from the South East corner of central park you will immediately recognise it as the setting to Home Alone 2 (when Kevin meets Pigeon Lady). From here its up to you how much or how little of the park you explore. It’s two and a half miles to the north side of the park but there are many winding paths you can stroll along depending on how energetic you feel. If you’ve had enough of walking, then you can hire a horse drawn carriage to give you a tour of the whole park in comfort or an electric scooter.
Start the day with a walk along The High Line, which is an old freight line, situated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. It’s elevated position gives you a different view of New York and along the way there are many interesting art installations.
If you start at the northern end of The High Line the nearest subway station is 34th Street – Hudson Yards. From here you can stroll along the old track immersed in nature and art with a backdrop of skyscrapers. If you walk from north to south, you finish up close to Greenwich Village which is a laid back area with lots of lovely pavement cafes and quirky shops. Its also a great place for people watching, one of our favourite sports!
After enjoying a wander around The Village, head back towards central Manhattan to Grand Central Station. It has been in so many films, you just have to see it, and the architecture is simply stunning. It is also right next to Summit One an observation deck with a difference.
Summit One Vandebilt is a multi-sensory, immersive experience starting with the light show in the lift ride to the top of the 93 storey building. The experience is spread out over three floors and includes mirrored rooms, art installations and even a bar on the top floor. The best place for sipping on a cocktail with a stunning view!
You can spend about 2 hours there so well worth the money. My top tip is to visit around sunset so not only do the crowds tend to thin out but you can also see the city by day and night.
Head straight to the very southernly tip of Manhattan and catch the Staten Island ferry, which is completely free. This takes you past the most iconic landmark in New York, the Statue of Liberty and also gives you great views of Manhattan from the water. When you arrive at Staten Island there are some outlet shops and a zoo but we decided to get straight back on the ferry to Manhattan as it was our last day and there were other things we wanted to see and do.
When back in Manhattan, Ground Zero is only a mile from the ferry terminal so it should take about 20 minutes to walk there. I wasn’t sure what to expect and how I would feel visiting the memorial but felt it was something that I really wanted to do. What struck me above all, was how quiet and peaceful it was.
The 911 Memorial waterfall highlights the absence of the towers and the sound of the water cascading down into the pool gives you a sense of tranquility to help you reflect, away from the sounds of the city. There is also a museum at the 911 memorial which is supposed to be fascinating.
From here, our top tip is to grab lunch at the Shake Shack known for its delicious burgers. The branch that is near to the World Trade Centre is a lot quieter than the one in Times Square, which regularly has queues down the street, and the food is just as good!
A trip to Brooklyn was high on my wish list so a short hop on the subway from here and you can be over, or should I say, under the water. Brooklyn has a totally different feel to Manhattan with its elegant brown stones and cosy neighbourhood bars and cafes. A stroll around this area on a sunny afternoon is lovely and the views of the Manhattan skyline from Brooklyn are spectacular. Grab a drink in one of the cute little cafes or bars before heading back to Manhattan.
Walking over Brooklyn Bridge, simply has to be done. There are great views, fantastic architecture of the bridge and some bargains to be had from the street vendors. We came away with some New York Yankees caps, pens and a selection of key rings.
Evenings In New York
Most afternoons we headed back to our hotel for a well earned rest and possibly a quick cat nap (jet lag had us getting up very early!). Leaving us suitably refreshed to enjoy our evenings.
After a lot of discussion, we decided not to see a Broadway show. Instead, we opted to go and see a comedy show in one of the many comedy clubs in Manhattan. For us this was a much better option as the atmosphere was fantastic, we felt like we were doing something real New Yorkers might do and it was a lot cheaper.
Another evening we went to watch a New York Knicks game at Maddison Square Gardens. This was my husband’s choice so I wasn’t sure how much I would enjoy it. However, I have to say, it was one of the best sporting fixtures I’ve ever been to. The atmosphere was electric, the game itself was fast paced and exciting and the entertainment during every time out was great. Sometimes it was a cheerleading display by local kids, a competition or they simply fire t-shirts at you (which was surprisingly thrilling!).
New York has always been on my bucket list, but before I went I was worried it wouldn’t live up to my expectations. It actually surpassed them and it wasn’t the big iconic buildings that made it special. It was the little things like seeing the steam rising from the ground or grabbing a $5 slice of pizza as we wandered around Manhattan. In my opinion an itinerary is useful but make sure you allow time to just explore or even get lost and see what you find!
Laura loves travelling across the UK and abroad. She has two children and a husband who are often her travel companions. Beach holidays, cosy cottages, treehouse adventures and brunching are just a few of her favourite ways to spend her travel time.