Discover the ultimate 3-day itinerary for NYC! I'll take you through all the must-see sights, what order to do it in, where to eat, and more.
NYC packs a lot into a small space. It's a destination you can visit again and again and always manage to find a new hidden gem or favorite spot.
With the long list of New York sights to see, neighborhoods to wander, restaurants to try, and things to do, planning a first-time trip can be overwhelming.
Pre-planning is an absolute must. You'll also want to make sure your NYC itinerary makes logistical sense. Retracing your steps and bouncing all over the city wastes precious sightseeing time.
My 3 Day itinerary for NYC will show you how to organize your day. I've mapped things out to make logistical sense and ordered it so you can beat the crowds at the most popular sights.
Fit in what you can but assume you'll be back so you can dive deeper into the different neighborhoods, explore the less touristed areas, and start to find your own favorite spots.
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This map shows everything listed in this 3 day itinerary for NYC. Click the icon in the very top left to see a list view of each pinned location. Click the top right button to enlarge the map. Click the star to save to your own Google Maps account. To access this map once saved (after clicking the star), open Google Maps (on your phone/computer/tablet), click the menu button, go to "your places", select "maps", and you will see this map listed.
- Blue - day 1 sights/attractions/activities
- Brown - day 1 restaurant/cafe recommendations
- Red - day 2 sights/attractions/activities
- Purple - day 2 restaurant/cafe recommendations
- Black - day 3 sights/attractions/activities
- Yellow - day 3 restaurant/cafe recommendations
NEW YORK CITY ITINERARY DAY 1
MIDTOWN and Times Square
The start of your 3 day itinerary for NYC will begin in Midtown. This is the tourist hot spot of New York and includes areas like Times Square.
Embrace being "just another tourist" and prepare for crowds. Everything is fairly close together so you'll be able to get a lot of your NYC sightseeing priorities done on day 1.
Flatiron and Madison Square Park - the Flatiron building is one of the most famous and photographed buildings in NYC. Take a quick look and then take a wander through Madison Square Park. This is where you'll find the original Shake Shack.
If you're a fan of Eataly, this is one of my favorite locations. It's a great spot to grab a coffee, gelato, or snack.
Another option for a coffee stop is Devocion.
Empire State Building – experience some of the best views of NYC. Get your (overpriced) tickets ahead of time online and try to book the first time slot available. The visiting hours vary throughout the year, but typically it's 10:00 am to 12:00 am. Tickets start at $44 and you'll choose your entry time when you purchase them.
5th Avenue - walk up the famous shopping street of Manhattan to arrive at your next stop.
New York Public Library - a NYC landmark with the iconic twin lions guarding its entrance. This library is worth a walk by, at minimum, on the quickest itinerary for NYC.
If time allows, check out the inside (free entrance) or join one of the free-hour long tours at 11:00 am and 2:00 pm Monday through Saturday. The interior and exterior have been used in several movies and TV shows, so it will probably look familiar.
Grand Central Terminal - this world-famous train station is an impressive sight with its massive windows, sky-painted vaulted ceiling and large roman pillars. View the hustle and bustle in the main concourse before heading to your next stop.
Rockefeller Center and Rockefeller Plaza - the flag-lined plaza is always bustling with activity and makes for a fun photo opportunity. During the holidays this is where you'll find the famous Christmas tree complete with ice skating in the square.
If you skipped the Empire State Building but would still like to see a birds-eye-view of the city, visit The Top of the Rock Observation Deck.
St. Patrick's Cathedral - take a look at the largest Gothic cathedral in the US. Tours are available if you'd like a more in-depth visit. Otherwise, take a quick peek inside and then move on.
Times Square - probably one of the top NYC sightseeing attractions...always bright with endless lights and screens and always crowded. Try to come back late at night and see Times Square in its full glory.
Broadway - you can't visit New York City without seeing a Broadway show. If you're a deal hunter like me, visit a TKTS booth (the location at Times Square will be the most convenient, but other locations include South Street Seaport, Lincoln Center, and Brooklyn). This is where you can grab same-day tickets discounted up to 50%.
Visit Broadway.com to research what's playing before your trip.
- Boqueria W40th - Spanish tapas.
- Quality Italian - high-end Italian steakhouse.
- Quality Bistro - gorgeous space serving French classics.
- Per Se - Thomas Keller's 3 Michelin star restaurant with a set menu.
New York City Itinerary Day 2
The High Line, Greenwich, and SoHo
Today we'll visit some of my favorite areas in New York. This is where you'll find cobblestone streets, solid bakeries, upscale boutique shopping, and many of New York's finest restaurants.
The High Line - an old, elevated railway track that was converted into an urban walkway filled with gorgeous landscaping and views. This is your first stop of the day as it gets pretty crowded. The High Line makes for a nice evening stroll as well.
Chelsea Market - any craving can be satisfied inside this large indoor food market. Take your pick from vendors selling coffee, pastries, seafood, sushi, ice cream, wine, and more.
Hop back on The High Line to walk the rest of the path and get off to explore Little Island. A recent addition to the New York City attractions list, this quirky little park is worth a quick wander.
While visiting Little Island is free, you need to make a reservation if you're visiting Friday through Sunday after 12:00 pm.
Walk 15 minutes to arrive at our next stop; Greenwich Village.
Greenwich Village and Washington Square Park - the neighborhood located right below the Chelsea Market and a great area to wander. Walk to Washington Square Park where you'll find a mix of NYU students, musicians, and chess players.
There are several great spots for a snack or brunch/lunch in Greenwich Village. To satisfy your sweet tooth try Mille-Feuille Bakery (read about here).
Below are several restaurants or cafes I recommend if you want to sit down and take a break:
- Bluestone Lane - cafe with salads, sandwiches, avocado toast, and excellent coffee.
- Jack's Wife Freda - cute all-day bistro.
- Pastis - Parisian bistro with a killer burger.
- Sant Ambroeus - upscale Italian cafe.
SoHo - right below Greenwich Village is one of my favorite areas, SoHo! Here you'll find cobblestone streets, upscale boutique shopping, pop-up shops, and some of the best bakeries in NYC including Dominique Ansel (read about here) and Laduree.
Take a moment to slow down and aimlessly wander. The main shopping streets are parallel to each other (Spring St, Broome St, and Prince St).
This is a great spot to end your day 2 New York City Itinerary.
Some of the best restaurants and bars in NYC are in SoHo and the surrounding neighborhoods.
These are some popular dinner spots I recommend. Reservations are a must for all these options.
- La Esquina - speakeasy-style Mexican restaurant with a party atmosphere and great margaritas. It's located in a basement with a hidden entrance.
- Bar Primi - affordable Italian with large portion sizes. This is a good family-friendly option.
- Balthazaar - extremely popular, upscale French cuisine.
- Dirty French - new to the scene, French cuisine in a trendy atmosphere. The chicken crepes for two are divine.
- Beauty and Essex - club-like atmosphere with inventive small plates. I saw Lady Gaga here once.
Itinerary for New York City Day 3
Brooklyn Bridge, 9/11 Memorial, Ellis Island/Statue of Liberty, Central Park
Cross the Brooklyn Bridge - one of my favorite memories in NYC was getting up at the crack of dawn and crossing the Brooklyn Bridge before all the tourists arrived.
It's absolutely worth it to get up early. My experience early in the morning vs going in the afternoon where you're fighting crowds of people...night and day difference.
Plus, if you want to have time for the last few stops on this 3 day itinerary for NYC, you'll have to get up early to fit everything in (start no later than 8:00 am).
Pictures in Dumbo - apart from the Brooklyn Bridge, this is one of the most Instagrammable spots in NYC.
9/11 Memorial - this is a must for any New York City itinerary. It's an 18 minute metro ride from Dumbo. A moving and eerily quiet memorial. If you have time, visit the heartbreaking 9/11 museum. You'll want to get tickets in advance.
*You may be wondering why I didn't list Wall Street since its close to the above NYC sights. Unless seeing the famous bull is on your list I would skip Wall Street. There's not much to see and it's quite dead on the weekends.
You most likely will have to choose between the last two stops, unless you are an insane speed demon.
Option 1: Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty - the boat ride around both islands is a minimum of 1 hour and 15 minutes. If you get off to explore, add in wait times, etc., this could easily take 3 to 4 hours.
Leave the planning to someone else and join a tour:
Option 2: Central Park - take a break from the urban jungle and explore this 843 acre park. You could easily spend half a day here with the walking paths, bike lanes, zoo, lakes (some allow boats you can row around in), and more.
Rent a bike (or join a tour) and zip around the exterior for a quick peek or slow down and explore by foot.
To the east of Central Park is the Upper East Side. This is a popular area for designer shops and is also home to the top museums including the Guggenheim, the Frick Collection, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art (aka the MET).
Dinner - since this is the last night of your 3 days in NYC, I would focus less on finding a spot close to where you end your sightseeing and more on spending time in an area you really liked or an area you haven't explored yet.
Here are a few dinner spots I have not listed yet but highly recommend. These are mostly in SoHo/Greenwich. This area really does have some of the best restaurants.
- L'Artusi - one of my favorite Italian spots. It's small, lively, and every single item is incredible. Prices aren't bad for NYC.
- Buddakan - Upscale Asian in a gorgeous building.
- Don Angie - Upscale Italian/American, famous for their rolled lasagna.
- Tao Downtown - while the food is good (not blow your mind good, but good), the atmosphere is SO fun...just look at pictures on Google Maps.
- Rosemary's - cute/casual spot for pizza.
I hope this 3 day itinerary for NYC helps get your planning started. There's a lot to see in New York City, so this will be a very active and filled 3 days.
Plan on a lot of walking and learn to use the metro early on in your trip. Google Maps does a great job of detailing walking routes as well as metro routes.
Have extra time on your 3 day NYC itinerary? Book a tour or activity!