Ever since I was 10 years old I had a bunch of posters of New York in my room and I was often dreaming about how it’s going to feel when I first visit this magnificent city. In 2019 my partner and I spent 3 amazing days in the Big Apple and it was even more fun than I imagined it would be. New York exceeded all my expectations and I will definitely return there in the future.
If you’re also planning to spend 3 days in New York City and you’re not sure what is there to do, then you should keep reading. To help you make the most out of your 3 days in NYC I’ve put together this itinerary that will eliminate stress on your trip.
Where to stay in NYC? What is there to do in 3 days in NYC? What to eat in New York City?
You will find all of the answers to these questions in this blog post.
This 3-day New York trip itinerary includes:
Ground Zero NYC
Grand Central Station
Top of The Rock
Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
Where to stay in NYC?
There are 5 best areas in New York where I would recommend you to stay:
Upper East Side
Chelsea & Greenwich Village
Soho & Lower East Side
Midtown is a perfect neighborhood for your first visit to New York, especially if you want to see a lot of sights in the shortest time possible. It’s an area with the largest selection of hotels in different price ranges. All of the most famous sights (5th Avenue, Times Square, the Broadway theaters, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Rockefeller Center, Central Park) are within in a walking distance and you can easily get to other parts of the town too as all of the major subway lines run through Midtown.
The Upper East Side is for travelers who are more into luxury, shopping and museums. There you will find a lot of beautiful buildings and luxury boutiques. 5th Avenue which is part of the Upper East Side is home to the city’s most famous museums like Guggenheim, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Jewish Museum and Goethe Institute. Hotels in this area are a little bit more expensive than in the other districts and it has a smaller selection of restaurants and bars in the lower price ranges.
Chelsea and Greenwich Village are good places to stay if you’ve been to New York before and have already checked out all of the main sights but would like to experience a more authentic side of New York life. It has a lot of cute little restaurants, comedy clubs and jazz bars. You will find a wide selection of really good restaurants in every price range and great hotels at reasonable prices. Wall Street, Brooklyn Bridge and Statue of Liberty are only a short subway ride away.
Soho and the Lower East Side are very trendy and “hip” districts. Soho is best-known for its beautiful cast-iron buildings and its many art shops. Both areas offer a diverse street scene with a lot of trendy restaurants and boutiques in different price ranges. You can get to many other parts of the city on foot from here which is really awesome.
Queens is a very ethnically diverse area with lots of exciting places you can see. A lot of tourists prefer to stay in Queens because restaurants and bars are more authentic and affordable than in Manhattan. Also, you will find a lot of accommodations here with reasonable prices.
We booked a room in the Hilton Garden Inn hotel in the Financial District. The Financial District is located in Lower Manhattan and a lot of business travelers choose to stay here because of the nearby financial institutions. If you book a hotel in this area, you will find that weekends are way more affordable than weekdays because business travelers have already left. Hilton Garden Inn is right next to the Staten Island Ferry and Battery Park, where you can hop on a ferry to Liberty and Ellis Island. Wall Street, One World Trade Center and 9/11 Memorial are also very close.
What to eat in NYC?
There are some really famous NYC foods that you should definitely try, for example classic New York bagels with the traditional toppings like lox, smoked fish and creams cheese. We tried one in H&H Bagels and it was delicious!
Second thing you have to try is the “dollar slice” or a piece of pizza priced at $1 or less. You can find the list of best dollar pizza joints here. We grabbed one in Percy’s Pizza and weren’t dissapointed (another quick tip: try the Pepperoni one).
Combo over rice is another signature dish that you need to try while visiting New York. It’s basically chopped lamb and chicken over rice and you will find the best one at the Halal Guys. They have a few brick-and-mortar NYC restaurants so you can easily avoid the lines in the Midtown cart.
Our very first meal in New York were noodles from Xian Foods. Their noodles are extremely flavorful and filling. The portions are very generous and another best thing is that you won’t have to wait long to get your order.
When we were exploring Brooklyn we found Jacques Torres shop where you can buy amazing handmade chocolate treats, hot chocolate and ice cream sandwiches. You can even sample your favorite flavors.
If you’re more into street food then you should definitely add Turnstyle Underground Market to your NYC travel list. Turnstyle offers more than 30 unique eateries, shops & pop-ups. There you will find everything, from craft coffee, fresh juices to Bolivian specialties and Tawianese dumplings. We stopped by at the Bolivian Llama Party and we ordered their famous saltenas. They were soooo good! Highly recommended.
On our last evening in New York we decided to have dinner in Giardino 54 because we were craving some proper Italian food. Giardino 54 is a restaurant that offers authentic Italian food, Italian beers and delicious Italian wine. It’s a very cozy spot with a charming and romantic atmosphere.
What to do in NYC in 3 days?
One World Center
We arrived to New York early in the morning and Uber dropped us off right in front of the One World Center which is the main building of the rebuilt World Trade Center complex in Lower Manhattan. It is the tallest building in the US and when you’re standing right in front of it, looks really impressive. Near One World Center you will find Ground Zero. Ground Zero includes an 8-acre memorial plaza dedicated to both the victims and survivors of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 and February 26, 1993. Walking by the 9/11 memorial can get really emotional but it’s worth stopping by.
From Ground Zero we walked through Lower Manhattan to the famous Brooklyn Bridge. We were there on Saturday so the place was packed with tourists! You have to bring your camera with you because the views are stunning. It’s particularly amazing to see the Manhattan skyline build as you ascend the bridge.
When you cross the bridge you will arrive at Dumbo (acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) which is one of the most visited spots in Brooklyn. It’s filled with restaurants, bars, shops and has great views of the Lower Manhattan skyline.
From Dumbo we walked back to Manhattan and decided to stop at an iconic site in New York called Times Square. Times Square is definitely a melting pot of a wide variety of cultures and a major entertainment hub. It’s one of the most popular tourist destinations and the world’s busiest pedestrian area. One could say it’s a mini world on its own since it’s home to a variety of attractions and activities. You will find everything, from street performers, shopping malls to Broadway theatres and musicals.
Top of The Rock
Our last stop that day was Top of The Rock , which is a six-level observatory atop the Art Deco 30 Rockefeller Plaza. The upper decks of Top of The Rock are 850 feet above street level. This place offers beautiful views of the city's well-known landmarks like Chrysler Building, Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park, Hudson and East River.
I would recommend you to go there right before sunset and then wait to see the sparkle of New York at night too. General admission for Top of The Rock is around 38$ (35eur).
Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
On our second day in New York we decided to first take the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in the morning. You can get to the Statue of Liberty 2 ways, either through New Jersey or Batter Park (Manhattan). If you’re coming from the New Jersey side there should be less crowded. I would recommend you to buy your tickets in advance via StatueCruises which is the official contractor for the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island cruises. If you’re planning on visiting it during the weekend then you should prepare for quite long lines or go early in the morning. We bought the general Reserve Ticket that costs around $18 (15eur) and gives you access to Ellis Island, the grounds of Liberty Island, priority access to the screening facility, and the Statue of Liberty Museum. One thing that I didn’t know before this trip was that if you want to see the interior of the Statue and climb to the crown, you should reserve the tickets at least 3 months ahead.
The ferry ride from Battery Park to Liberty Island was one of my favorite and unforgettable moments. You will get to experience the most wonderful view of the Manhattan and iconic Statue of Liberty (I probably have 1000 photos just from that ride). Once you arrive at Liberty Island, you can take a walk through the park to the Statue and observe some more amazing views of Manhattan.
Next stop is Ellis Island and I would recommend you to give yourself at least 1 hour to explore it. Ellis Island was once a major portal for more than 12 million immigrants entering the US between 1892 and 1954. You will have the chance to learn about New York City’s rich immigrant past in a museum which is dedicated to sharing stories of people who left everything behind in order to call America their home.
We arrived back in Manhattan later in the afternoon and decided to spend a couple of hours wandering the streets in Soho which is an area that I absolutely fell in love with. This very artistic neighborhood is one of New York City’s prime shopping districts. It’s filled with cute shops, art galleries, restaurants and cast-iron architecture which this area is especially known for. Cast-iron architecture was very popular during the industrial revolution as during that time many people were convinced that iron is more substantial and fireproofed than steel. This place is perfect for taking some very instagrammable photos.
We finished our second day in New York by visiting Turnstyle Underground Market where we ordered really delicious Bolivian food.
On our last day in New York we first decided to explore the Hudson Yards and go look for the Vessel which is the structure and visitor attraction built as part of the Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project in Manhattan. This honeycomb-like structure is designed by Thomas Heatherwick and consists of 154 flights of stairs, 2,500 steps and 80 landings for visitors to climb. Unfortunately we didn’t have the chance to explore it on the inside because they already ran out of tickets for that day, so make sure you buy it well in advance.
Wherever we travel we’re trying to visit at least one museum and for our NYC trip we chose Guggenheim. It opened its doors in 1959 and you can find Guggenheim museums in other countries too. You can visit them in Dubai, Venice and Bilbao. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, Guggenheim is very popular with fans of modern art and architecture. The museum has an extensive permanent collection of modern art from Picasso to Pollock and before you commit you can always check their website to see what the current exhibition is. Once you’re there I would recommend you to start on top. Take the elevator up to the top floor and then work your way down the spiral interior. It’s the best way to escape the crowds.
Since our flight back to Chicago was later in the evening we still had a couple of hours to spend in this amazing city. Our last stop was Central Park. Central Park is the largest green space in Manhattan and really represents the heart of it. It’s a serene and beautiful area where you can spend hours exploring, running, cycling or having a picnic with your friends and family. If you feel like you need to escape from the chaotic city streets then this is the perfect place to do it.
Is 3 days enough in NYC?
New York is a huge city and 3 days might not be enough to see everything and explore every neighborhood however it should be enough to see a lot of its most popular attractions. As you can tell from this travel guide, your 3 days will be jam-packed and that’s why I would recommend you to start every day as early as possible to make the most of your days in NYC.
I already know that my next trip to New York will be a bit longer than just 3 days and I’m looking forward to exploring the places I haven’t been to on my last vacation there.
Now it’s time for you to start planning the trip to the Big Apple! Feel free to reach out if you have any questions.