The hustle and bustle of New York City creates an excitement that is contagious. I love visiting NYC because it is unlike anywhere else. Each time you visit you could fill your days with new and exciting things. I don’t think I’ll ever feel like I’ve had enough time in New York. You could live in New York City for your whole life and never run out of things to do.
However…if it is your first time to NYC, there are some essential tourist activities that you have to do! It can be hard to plan it all while keeping in mind where everything is geographically. Here is a four day schedule that allows you to see the most in the least amount of time:
You have to start your vacation with a trip to this world renowned landmark. Make sure you take the essential New York City photo in the middle of Time’s Square. Beyond that, there is not much to see in Time’s Square besides retail stores that you probably already have at home.
Grand Central Station
Take the metro to Grand Central Station, the center of hustle and bustle of the metro. It’s so big that it houses what could be considered a shopping mall and full sized food court. The center of the station is a gorgeous atrium with grandeur ceilings and architecture. It is a surreal feeling standing in the middle of a massive atrium as the hustle and bustle continues around you.
5th Avenue is the center of many major NYC sights. Plus any store you could want will be here on 5th Ave. You could spend all day on 5th Avenue!
Start at the New York Public Library. Any book lover will be in awe of the gorgeous building and ALL THE BOOKS. Take a tour or just walk around and discover the amazing rooms yourself. (Open Mon & Thurs-Sat 10am-6pm, Tue & Wed 10am-8pm, and Sun 1pm-5pm) For more info, visit their website.
Next, stop by Saks Fifth Ave. Even if you just walk in to say that you went to Saks. (Mon-Sat 10am-8:30pm, Sun 11am-7pm)
Next door to Saks, check out St. Patrick’s Cathedral. 5th Avenue seems like the last place for such a stunning cathedral, which is probably why it seems even more beautiful. (Open 6:30am-8:45pm) Fore more info, visit their site.
End at Tiffany & Co. Eat a croissant out front if you really want the true Breakfast at Tiffany’s experience. Go inside to marvel at all the shiny objects. (Mon-Sat 10am-7pm, Sun 12am-6pm)
5th Avenue ends at Central Park and the Plaza Hotel. If you were like me and watched Home Alone 2 every Christmas, then the Plaza is a must see. Just wander inside and take it all in. I enjoyed a cup of tea from the coffee shop at the Plaza. They have a food court style area where you can shop and eat.
There is so much to see in Central Park, you could wander for days! I love getting lost in the park and stumbling across new places. If you want to see something specific, look at the map to make a walking plan. Grab one at your hotel or check out this website.
Eat at the Boathouse
There is something special about eating in the middle of Central Park. It could also be the gorgeous view of the lake. This restaurant is on the pricy side (but still not bad for New York standards). If you are looking to save some $$$ they have a cafeteria style restaurant right behind the boathouse. For all you chick flick lovers, this is where they filmed 27 Dresses. For hours and contact info, visit their website.
Empire State Building
This is a must in New York. Seeing NYC from up high is gorgeous during the day and at night. You can never go wrong with the Empire State Building. I am always stunned by how beautiful the view is from the top. Just make sure you leave plenty of time to visit the Empire State Building. You do have to wait in multiple lines to get to the top. Check out their website for tickets and more info.
Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island
The boat ride to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island is a fun trip in itself! First of all, you get an amazing view of the New York skyline from the Hudson. Plus you can get some pretty good pictures in front of the Statue and in front of the skyline. You can choose between getting off the boat at the Statue, Ellis Island, or both. It is now possible again to visit the crown on the Statue of Liberty. These tickets need to be booked in advance online (they usually sell out months in advance).
I loved touring Ellis Island. It is set up almost like a museum. It’s amazing to see the place where millions of people passed through to start their life in America. It was very meaningful to me because I had many relatives pass through Ellis Island (and obviously so many others have relatives pass through here too!) You can even look up the record of your ancestors who came through Ellis Island. They have computers available after your tour, but I suggest you look it up online ahead of time.
Book your ferry and entrance tickets on http://www.statuecruises.com/
Since the ferry pier is in the Financial District, this is the perfect time to check out Wall Street. It’s an easy walk from the pier to the famous Charging Bull Statue and the New York Stock Exchange.
9/11 Memorial and Museum
After Wall Street, walk over to the 9/11 Memorial (7:30am-8pm daily, $24 or free with CityPASS) This is a profound and sobering experience. It is a surreal feeling walking around where the World Trade Center once stood.
End your day with a musical on (or off!) Broadway!
Rockefeller Center is the center of many different famous locations including where the Today Show is filmed, the famous ice rink and Christmas tree, and the 30 Rock Building. There are so many things to do in this area! 30 Rock (short for its address, 30 Rockefeller Plaza) is home to NBC Studios. This is where they film SNL, Late Night with Seth Meyers, and the Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon among many more shows.
Star on a TV Show
If you can, I highly suggest you get tickets to be in the studio audience of a tv show taping while you are in New York. This will take a lot of planning ahead of time, but if it works out it is so much fun! To get more info on how to book tickets to see a show in NYC, click here. You have to get tickets very far in advance for most shows although some have stand-by for day of tickets. I was part of the audience of the Dr. Oz show and it was so fun to see the taping process and of course to see myself on tv!
Tour the NBC Studios
If you don’t get on a tv show you can still see all the behind the scenes of tv show tapings! The NBC Studios tour has been closed for some revamping, but will reopen in Fall 2015. This is a great way to see around the studio and see the sets of some of your favorite shows. Check out their website for more info.
Top of the Rock
Many people like the view from the Top of the Rock more than the view from the Empire State Building. You can see Central Park from much closer plus you can see the Empire State Building in the skyline along with all the other buildings. My suggestion on Empire State Building vs. Top of the Rock? Do both! I love seeing one view during the day when you can see all the details and one in the evening when all the buildings are light up against the night sky. For tickets and more, check out their website.
Ellen’s Stardust Diner
This diner is not known for their fabulous food, but they are known for their fabulous entertainment. All the servers in this diner are aspiring broadway stars. It is such a fun experience to eat a burger while your server belts out show tunes and dances around the restaurant. Definitely entertaining.
Go to a Museum
There are so many museums in New York that it makes it hard to choose! The most well known are the MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) and the Met (Metropolitan Museum of Art). Other popular museums include the Guggenheim, American Museum of Natural History, Intrepid Air and Space Museum…the list could go on forever.
Beautiful Art at the MOMA
Finish Your Trip Your Way
I have found that it is always a good idea to leave some open time during your trip itinerary. You can visit something you might have missed earlier or something that you want to return to. Spend the rest of your last day in NYC eating pizza in Brooklyn, ice skating in Central Park, eating at the Shake Shack in Madison Square Park or taking a cooking class at Eataly (an indoor Italian market). Or maybe you got a deal on a Broadway show? End your trip on the right note!
This post is in two parts – for all transportation and specific details you will need to plan your trip, check out the NYC details page.
A Little Bit About the City Pass
I would recommend getting the New York City Pass before your trip. It is $114 which sounds expensive, but it includes most of the entry fees that you will need on your trip. If you plan on paying anyway for a few of the attractions included then it will definitely help you save. Plus you get to skip all the ticket lines! To purchase the city pass check out their website.