The Dutch first settled the city in 1624 as “New Amsterdam.” It came under English rule in 1664. Because of its central location at the Hudson River, the town was a major trade center. New York was made the capital of the United States in 1789 when George Washington was elected.
Although it is no longer the capital of the United States, it moved to Philadelphia in the next year and to Washington DC by 1800. However, NYC remains the heartbeat of the country.
NYC is home to approximately 10 million people and offers tons of activities. You can barely scratch the surface on a typical visit of four or five days. But I wonder if even a four-month visit would be enough to see NYC. It is constantly changing.
It is impossible to see New York on one trip. There are thousands of restaurants in this city, as well as hundreds of museums, attractions, and plays. It’s essential to accept that you will only see a small fraction of the things you want to see, so you don’t have to move. It can take some time to get around the city.
How can you travel to NYC as a tourist? What are the top things to do and see in NYC? Is there the best way to get around NYC? What is the best way to make the most of your visit?
There are many ways to make the most out of your limited time in New York. To see all the highlights, you will need at least three days. However, a quick hits tour can be done in just two days. But I recommend 4-5 days to see all the major sights, without being too rushed.
I have lived in NYC for more than five years and run tours. I also wrote a guidebook about the city. I am now sharing my best New York City itinerary. This itinerary will help you plan your trip and ensure you get the most out of your time in New York City.
Notice: You will be extremely busy if you try to do everything in this itinerary. This itinerary is not meant to be a guideline but a collection of suggestions. You can pack it in if you wish. However, don’t rush. Meander. You can take your time.
Here’s my recommended New York itinerary for five days, featuring my top picks in New York:
Day 1: What to do in NYC
Enjoy a Walking Tour
Begin your journey with a walking tour. Many walking tours are available in the city, some of which are free. Some tours cover everything: history, food, booze, and TV/film. A local guide can give you a unique view of the city that never sleeps and answer all your questions. I take at least one of my friends on a walking tour when I visit.
These are three of my favorite walking tour companies that you should not miss:
- Take a Walk
- Foot Tours Free of Charge
- Bowery Boys Walking
Get Your Guide offers a variety of walking tours, as well as museum and food tours. There is something for everyone!
For more ideas, visit my top NYC walking tours.
The Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island
Although the queue for the ferry to Battery Park can be long, it is possible only to leave the majority of it if you arrive early. You’ll need to wait for a while if you arrive late. Ellis Island is the highlight of the combo. While the Statue of Liberty is impressive to view up close, she’s smaller than you might imagine. You can learn about the immigrant experience here and see the faces of those who built NYC. My family’s name is even on the wall. It’s a beautiful place with a lot of history.
Tip: Take the Staten Island ferry to take photos of the harbor and statue if the wait is too long. It’s closer than you’d like, but it’s quicker and more affordable.
Battery Park, +1 212 363-3200, nps.gov/stli/index.htm. Every day, 9:30 am-4.30 pm. The island is free to visit, but there is a USD 24 ferry ticket.
Explore Battery Park
This Park is located at the southern tip of Manhattan. It is where the Dutch built Fort Amsterdam in 1625 to protect their settlement. In 1664, the British took over the area and renamed it Fort George. The fort was destroyed in the American Revolution. However, the battery was rebuilt after the war. The defense can be explored; then, you can stroll through the Park to enjoy the stunning waterfront views of Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty, and the harbor.
You can take a photo of the charging bull statue built in 1989. Then walk down Wall Street to see the destruction caused by all the bankers. You can watch the people speeding through buildings to cause financial disasters, although there is heavy security.
The Financial Crisis Tour will teach you about historical market crashes and give you a deeper dive into the causes of financial crises. The BBC recommends it, and Wall Street experts lead the New York Times and. They will provide you with first-hand information about Wall Street life and explain why financial crises happen.
See Federal Hall
The NY Stock Exchange (NYSE) is just across the street from one of the city’s most famous museums. Federal Hall was built in 1770 when George Washington took the oath. You can also see the Bible on which he was sworn. It was also the location of the US Customs House, which was built in the late 1800s. This building is the US’s first capital. Although the original facade has been rebuilt, it is still one of my favorite attractions. The old vaults are my favorite. You should visit. Admission is free.
26 Wall Street, Financial District Lower Manhattan, +1212 825 6990. nps.gov/feha (Currently closed for renovations ).
Visit the Museum of American Finance
The Museum of American Finance is just down the street from the NYSE and Federal Hall. It is located in a historic bank building on Wall Street. It features permanent exhibits about the financial markets, money, entrepreneurship, and Alexander Hamilton (the creator of the US financial system). This is the perfect place to begin if you want to learn about Wall Street’s workings.
Financial District, Lower Manhattan. +1 212 908 40110, moaf.org. (Currently closed for relocation ).
The original Trinity Church, built in 1698, was a small parish church constructed by the Church of England. It was used by the British to base operations in New York when they seized New York from George Washington. Alexander Hamilton and George Washington worshipped there after the war. It dates back to the 1700s. Many famous Americans have been buried there, including Hamilton and Elizabeth, John Alsop (Continental Congress delegate), Albert Gallatin, founder of NYU, and Horatio Gates, a general in the Continental Army.
74 Trinity Place, Financial District, Lower Manhattan, +1 212 602 0800, trinitywallstreet.org. Every day, 8:30 am-6 pm.
The World Trade Center and the 9/11 Memorial and Museum are open to the public.
Nearly 3,000 people were killed in terrorist attacks in NYC on September 11, 2001. The somber Memorial is free. Next, take in the view from Freedom Tower. On the elevator, you will see photos of the city’s history and how it has changed over time. The museum offers a deeper understanding of 9/11 and the events that took place. The museum houses moving exhibits highlighting the tragedy’s significance and scope.
180 Greenwich Street Financial District, Lower Manhattan +1 212 26 5211, 911memorial.org Memorial is open daily between 10 am and 5 pm. The museum is open from 10 am to 5 pm every Thursday through Monday. Museum entry costs USD 26. The Memorial is open to the public for free. Mondays, 3:30 pm to 5 pm: Free Entry (Tickets must be purchased online em>
DINNER OPTION – Ellen’s Stardust Diner
This diner has been home to a beautiful waitstaff of dancers and singers since 1987. Actors and actresses work at Ellen’s between musical performances and tours. They sing and serve American diner food, including burgers, shakes, and lasagna while wearing 1950s-era uniforms. It’s incredibly cheesy, which makes it so much fun!
1650 Broadway, Times Square, +1 212 956 5151, ellensstardustdiner.com. Open daily, seven am-midnight. You will often find a line, so plan!
Day 2: What to do in NYC
See City Hall
New York’s City Hall, a magnificent piece of historic architecture, has a lovely little park filled with office workers during lunch. There’s also a circular tablet about its history. Take one guided tour to learn more about the building’s history and art. You’ll see the dome, the city council chamber, Governor’s Room, and the City Hall Portrait Collection.
City Hall Park. Pre-reserved tours can be booked for groups of 10-20 people on Mondays and Tuesdays at 10:30 am and individuals on Thursdays at 10:00 am. On Wednesdays at noon, there are first-come-first-served tours.
Take a walk on the Brooklyn Bridge.
The Brooklyn Bridge is located right near City Hall (see below). It’s a short 25-minute walk to Brooklyn and the waterfront park. The walk will take approximately 40 minutes, with stops for photos and wandering. As you walk across the Park, you can see the beautiful views of downtown. This walk is best done at night when Manhattan is lit up. If you want to be calm, get there early.
Relax at Prospect Park
Brooklyn’s Central Park is a 600-acre park that you can explore once you leave Manhattan. The Brooklyn Museum is also nearby. It has a vast and historical collection of artifacts, including over 1.5 million art exhibitions highlighting ancient Egypt, medieval Europe, and the colonial USA.
200 Eastern Pkwy, +1 718 638 5000, brooklynmuseum.org. Open Wednesday-Sunday, 11 am-6 pm. Tickets cost USD 16
Wander Rockefeller Center
The area is bustling with people. You can wander around Rockefeller Center and see the location of The Today Show. Shop, snack, then take the elevator up to the “Top of the Rock,” which offers a bird’s-eye view of the city. This is a great place to get a picture of the Empire State Building.
30 Rockefeller Plaza +1 212 698 2100, topoftherocknyc.com Every day, 9 am-11 pm. The Top of the Rock observation deck costs USD 40.
Radio City Music Hall
Radio City Music Hall is the American theater. Since the 1930s, this timeless monument to entertainment has attracted thousands of visitors (at that time, it was the largest auditorium in the world). The Rockettes precision dance troupe has been performing here since 1932. It has hosted many award shows, including the Tonys, Grammys, and others.
Visit Times Square
Times Square will always be crowded, no matter what time you visit. You can also find pedestrian areas to relax and enjoy the view. There are no shops, restaurants, or shows in the area. However, it is a great place to people-watch from the Top of the TKTS kiosk’s red steps. It’s best to visit at night when the site is lit up. It looks its best at night.
What to do in NYC Day 3
Take a stroll around Central Park.
Central Park is a great place to unwind in the city without the hustle and bustle. There are many paths to run, bike lanes, and lakes for rowing in, and it’s all free. It’s possible to spend hours exploring the Park, which covers more than 150 square blocks. Free concerts and theatre productions are held throughout the summer months. Get your tickets early to Shakespeare in the Park. The Park’s service offers free guided walks every Saturday at 11 am from late spring through early fall. I love to lay out in Sheep’s Meadow on a sunny, hot day with a book and some food.
Many excellent museums are located in and around Central Park (see below).
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Met is the largest museum in the world. If you only have time to visit one museum in New York City, this one should be it. The Met has many art and historical artifacts, photographs, and other exhibits. Its large Impressionist and Greek exhibits are my favorite. Although it can be chaotic and crowded, especially on weekends, many quiet areas are away from the masses. It is worth spending at least half a day here, as it will take too long to see the place.
1000 5th Avenue, Central Park, Upper East Side, +1 212 535 7710, metmuseum.org. Open Sunday through Tuesday from 10 am-5 pm and Fridays and Saturdays 10 am-9 pm. USD 25 admission (includes same-day entrance to Cloisters em>
The American Museum of Natural History
This museum is even more well-known for its Night at Museum movies. It also takes a lot of time. It is worth seeing the exhibits on marine life, human history, nature, and human history. The one about the origin of humanity is my favorite. It is fascinating to learn about our heritage. Take advantage of the section on space at the Hayden Planetarium. Neil Degrasse Tyson runs it. The exhibits are very detailed and cover the origins of the universe.
Central Park W., at 79th St., Upper West Side. +1 212 769 5100. amnh.org. Wednesday through Sunday, 10 am-5.30 pm. Special exhibitions are not included )… Admission is $23
Visit the Museum of the City of New York
This museum will tell you everything about New York City. It covers everything you need to know about New York City, including its architecture, parks, streets, and culture. Multiple rooms highlight different periods of NYC history with interviews, maps, interactive exhibits, and profiles of historical figures. This is the city’s best history museum. You can make the future NYC in Sim City style with an excellent exhibit here. This is a great place to take your childlike imagination!
1220 Fifth Avenue, 103rd Street, +1 212-534-1672. mcny.org. We are open Thursday through Monday from 10 am-9 pm and Friday from 10 am-5 pm. Admission costs USD 20
Watch a Broadway Show
New York City is the theatre capital of the globe. You must go to a show to visit New York City. You should catch an evening show while you’re here. My current favorites and highlights include the following:
- The Lion King
- The Phantom of the Opera
- Dear Evan Hansen
- School of Rock
- You’re Not Far
Prices for tickets vary depending on the show. For shows on the same day, discounted tickets can be found at the TKTS offices in the city (Times Square and South Street Seaport). You can also view what they have on their app.
Day 4: What to do in NYC
Go to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).
Visit the MoMA to see lots of modern art and some impressionist art. Modern art is something I don’t like. It’s not something I “get.” How can a shovel be on a wall? Although I wouldn’t say I like it, the museum has Van Gogh’s Starry Night and other post-impressionist art. This museum is a must-see for anyone who loves contemporary and modern art.
18 W. 54th Street, Midtown, +1 212 708 9400, moma.org. Every day, 10:30 am-5.30 pm (closed Saturdays). Admission costs USD 25. Every day, the MoMA’s Sculpture Garden offers free admission to the public between 9:30 am and 10:15 am.
Check out the Frick Collection
The collection includes paintings by European majors (there are many Dutch masters), as well as French furniture from the 18th century and Oriental rugs. To enjoy Dutch artists, you must spend some time here. I do. But check their website, as they have many wonderful temporary exhibits that feature famous works of art.
1 East 70th Street, (+1 212-288-0700), frick.org. We are open Thursday through Sunday, 10 am-6 pm. Admission costs USD 22. Thursdays, 4 pm-6 pm, admission is free.
Explore the Guggenheim Museum
The museum houses a well-known collection of contemporary, impressionist, and post-impressionist art. Frank Lloyd Wright designed the cylindrical museum, one of the 20th century’s most significant architectural designs. It is one of my favorite buildings and museums in the city.
1071 5th Avenue, Upper East Side. +1 212 433 3500, www.guggenheim.org. Monday-Friday, 11 am-6 pm; Wednesday-Friday, 11 am-6 pm. Saturdays open at 8 pm. Admission costs USD 25. Saturdays are available from 6-8 pm to pay what you wish.
See the Cloisters
The Cloisters, which is located all the way up above 204th Street, is a branch of the Met that focuses on medieval Europe. Very few people make it to the Cloisters. It took me many years to see it and I was ashamed of my delay. It was constructed with Rockefeller money, a combination of funds from five European abbeys built between 1934-1939. The view was to remain unspoiled by the agreement that the land along the river would never be developed.
It is a beautiful, peaceful building with a stunning secluded courtyard. It is one of the most popular things to do in the area. Daily, some tours provide information about the history and paintings as well as the exhibits and exhibits.
99 Margaret Corbin Drive, Fort Tryon Park, +1 212 923 3700, metmuseum.org/visit/visit-the-cloisters. Thursday through Tuesday, 10 am-5 pm. USD 25 admission includes same-day access to The Met.