3 Days in New York City Itinerary: Iconic City with Quirky Culture

When trees were in full bloom and the weather was supposed to be warm and nice, we spent 3 days in New York, exploring the iconic city with quirky culture like locals and, yes, visitors.

Last updated: July 2, 2024

3 days in New York Itinerary | Roads and Destinations
How to spend 3 days in New York City: Itinerary and guide

How to Spend 3 Days in New York City

In early May, without much planning or thinking over, we booked a flight to New York City, our home for the next 3 days. Technically, we spent three and a half days in New York City (or four including an almost 6-hour flight from Los Angeles). But arriving at midnight and staying right at the airport (TWA Hotel) hardly counts as a day of sightseeing. So I’ll narrow down our trip to New York City to just 3 days. 

Quirky Culture of Iconic City

Well, New York… Iconic, timeless, eccentric. A place where skyscrapers dazzle with their pomposity on a clear day and look timid, trapped in clouds when the sun ceases to appear. A city that never sleeps. A place where music never stops, and so does street noise, piercing, intrusive, and somehow unnoticeable once you get used to this side of New York City.

But above all these, New York is home to the most famous Roman goddess, Libertas, symbol of freedom and liberty. 

It’s been almost two decades since I last visited New York. Not just sprinting through JFK trying to catch a connecting flight, a pursuit that was not always successful, but actually walking the streets, attending a free jazz concert in Central Park (donations are always welcome), and checking some street art, both pretty and ugly.

Watch our New York adventures on YouTube

How to Get Around New York City

New York City has far more advantages (and disadvantages for that matter, but we’ll leave these for some other time) compared to other American cities. One of the biggest pluses is ease of getting around by local transportation. Fast, more or less reliable, and reasonably affordable, much cheaper than Uber or taxi – quite similar to city standards Europe has lived by for centuries. 

And yet on our first morning in New York City, we booked an Uber, more out of necessity. With only three days on our hands, we were not willing to waste half of the day traveling by subway from one neighborhood of New York to another. 

A ride from JFK to Brooklyn where we dropped our carry-on and backpacks and then to Central Park costs more than $100. During the next three days, we used the subway, trains, and buses to get around New York City, with the exception of one short and almost mandatory ride in an iconic yellow taxi. (So let me tell you, not all taxi drivers in New York are as chatty as Hollywood shows.)

3 days in New York Itinerary | Roads and Destinations
Brooklyn | 3-day New York City itinerary
New York Itinerary | Roads and Destinations
New York’s skyline

3-DAY NEW YORK CITY ITINERARY: DAY 1

3-Day New York City Itinerary: Central Park

Roshan who planned this 3-day trip to New York City had two things on his mind: the Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building. 

But first some green spaces…

Located in Upper Manhattan, Central Park is New York’s largest urban park. It’s home to artificial lakes and waterfalls, expansive meadows, and forested areas with an extensive network of running and biking trails. 

The cultural centers of the park are historic Bethesda Terrace and Bethesda Fountain where some New Yorkers like to perform or show their art to large audiences on an open price term.

Before moving to our main focus area of the day, Midtown Manhattan, we checked out two more landmarks of New York’s Central Park: Bow Bridge and Belvedere Castle. 

Bow Bridge, a cast iron bridge across The Lake, is approximately 60 feet long, normally busy during the day, and popular with photographers in early morning and evening, when the crowds depart. 

A short walk from it, perched atop a large rock outcrop aka Vista Rock, is Belvedere Castle. Belvedere means “beautiful view” in Italian. So the castle, which was completed in 1872, was erected with one particular reason: to enjoy the stunning scenery around. 

Over the years, the building went through some modifications, was used as the U.S. Weather Bureau and later abandoned. But the views are still as breathtaking as they were more than a century ago. 

Central Park | Roads and Destinations. jpg
Bethesda Terrace | 3 days in New York

3 Day in New York City Itinerary: More Things to Do in Upper Manhattan

We skipped museums this time around. During my previous trips to New York, however, I spent some time exploring its vast art collections. One of the best places to explore the artistic heritage of the city is the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The MET). Located in the Upper East Side, it’s known as the largest art museum in the Americas and one of the largest in the world. 

In the Upper West Side, within a 15-minute walk from the MET, you will find the American Museum of Natural History, another museum that any art lover should add to her or his 3-day New York itinerary.

The eccentric Guggenheim Museum, a part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, completes the museum-infused guide to Upper Manhattan. 

You can stop right here and head down to Midtown Manhattan, a section of New York we returned to a few times during the following three days. Yet if you have a little bit more time to spare for Upper Manhattan, head to the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. At 601 feet, it’s the world’s largest Gothic cathedral and one of the most important landmarks of New York. 

3-Day New York City Itinerary: Midtown Manhattan

New skyscrapers have joined New York’ imposing arena over the past few years. Millions of people have come and left. But despite all of these, walking the streets of this iconic city now I felt as if there wasn’t a time gap between my last and this visit. New York looked so familiar, like a home I’ve never left.

But since it was the first time visiting New York for Roshan, my mom, and Dylan, we did many things that probably mostly tourists do. Or maybe not exactly…

Broadway 

World-famous for its theatrical performances, award-winning sets and costumes, Broadway is a mecca for all musical lovers. 

Times Square

Neon lights and billboards bigger than life adorn the world-famous Times Square. The favorite five-block area of New York is jam-packed with attractions, stores, theaters, restaurants, and people. So watch your purse and steps while exploring these bustling streets of New York City. 

Rockefeller Center

The Rockefeller Center tops most of New York itineraries for a good number of reasons. From a vast art collection to expansive underground concourse, ice-skating rink, annual lighting of the Rockefeller Christmas Tree, and the Top of the Rock, one of best places to admire New York’s skyline, the Center is one of the favorite places in the city among locals and visitors alike. 

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Nestled alongside imposing skyscrapers on 5th Avenue, St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the largest Gothic Revival Catholic cathedral in the country. 

Chrysler Building

At 1,046 feet, Chrysler Building is the tallest brick building in the world. With its elaborate terraced crown graciously towering over Midtown Manhattan, it’s also one of the most recognizable “summits” of New York’s skyline. 

Grand Central Terminal 

A center of transportation, Grand Central Terminal is the world’s largest railway station. A place you will step into intentionally or unintentionally if you plan to spend three days in New York like a local and use public transportation instead of taxi. 

New York Public Library – The Stephen A. Schwarzman Building

Dylan and I can’t pass a bookstore or in the case of New York City, it was the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, a sought-after part of the New York Public Library and one of the world’s most spectacular libraries

As expected, it was grand and beautiful. The only downside, we couldn’t get inside the famous reading room, which is reserved for only research and quiet study in the afternoon.

3 days in New York City Itinerary | Roads and Destinations
Grand Central Terminal | 3-day New York City itinerary
3 days in New York City Itinerary | Roads and Destinations
Stephen Schwarzman Building | 3 days in New York itinerary

Bryant Park

Snugged behind the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, Bryant Park is a good place to take a break and enjoy street food at its many picnic tables. 

Street Food and Souvenir Shopping in New York

When in New York, do like New Yorkers do: ditch a fancy restaurant and grab a bite on the go at a foot truck or tent. Needless to say, it was the quickest way to replenish our energy before finishing our first day in New York by doing one of the two main things that lured us to the city in the first place. 

And since we arrived at our final destination of the day a little bit earlier and had to wait outside before being allowed to get inside, we did some gift shopping. Just small souvenirs, not too bulky and not too expensive. 

Note: You don’t need a specific location to do your souvenir shopping while spending 3 days in New York. The city’s streets are loaded to street sellers, souvenir tents, and gift shops. 

Empire State Building

Finally, the Empire State Building, the world’s most recognizable Art Deco skyscraper that stands at 102 stories and 1,454 feet at its pinnacle. After its completion in 1931, New York’s iconic landmark was the tallest building in the world for nearly four decades. You will find plenty of entertainment at the lower floors and some of the best New York views from its upper floors.  

Three-Day New York Itinerary: More Places to Visit in Midtown Manhattan

  • Hudson Yards
  • High Line
  • Hudson River Park
  • ARTECHOUSE New York City
  • Chelsea Market
  • Flatiron Building
  • Madison Square Park
  • Koreatown

3-DAY NEW YORK CITY ITINERARY: DAY 2

3-Day New York City Itinerary: Lower Manhattan

New York City didn’t pamper us with good weather the second day. But we had two things on our itinerary that we were doing, rain or shine. The day started with hopping on a train and heading from Brooklyn to Lower Manhattan and exploring some landmarks of this part of New York.

The Oculus at the World Trade Center

An architectural wonder, the Oculus is a shopping mall in Lower Manhattan.

9/11 Memorial and Museum

The 9/11 Memorial and Museum pay tribute to nearly 3,000 people killed in the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. 

Charging Bull on Wall Street

Charging Bull is a world-famous bronze sculpture in the Financial District of Manhattan in New York City that represents the ideas of financial growth and prosperity.

One World Observatory

Climb One World Observatory for breathtaking 360-degree views of New York City’s skyline and iconic sights.

3-Day New York City Itinerary: Statue of Liberty 

At 11 in the morning, we caught a ferry from Battery Park to Liberty Island to see the Lady of Liberty, as Dylan calls her, up close. 

A universal symbol of freedom and democracy, the Statue of Liberty is one of the main landmarks of New York City. 

Known for its green color, the byproduct of the natural weathering of the thin copper surface, the Statue of Liberty is 151 feet tall. It stands on a 154-foot pedestal, making the height of the entire monument 305 feet. 

The statue was given to the U.S. by the people of France as a gift of friendship. It was dedicated on October 28, 1886 and was designated as a National Monument in 1924.

Restaurant and Coffee Shop Hopping

The rain intensified right before we left the Statue of Liberty. So the Brooklyn Bridge, a bridge that connects Manhattan with quirky Brooklyn, had to wait until the next day. Instead we did some regular things: pizza, latte and hot chocolate, and postcard writing while waiting for the rain to stop, which didn’t. 

Statue of Liberty | Roads and Destinations
Statue of Liberty | 3 days in New York City
3 days in New York City Itinerary | Roads and Destinations
Restaurant hopping | 3 days in New York City

3-Day New York City Itinerary: SUMMIT One Vanderbilt 

Roshan had another surprise for Dylan in the evening. First opened in September 2020, Summit One Vanderbilt with its panoramic views and entertainment powered by AI soon redefined the concept of New York City observation decks.   

The vistas, obscured by heavy clouds, however, were non-impressive, or rather non-existing when we stepped inside the 93-floor skyscraper. Still the visit to Summit One Vanderbilt was somewhat a success thanks to a room filled with silver balloons of different sizes – Dylan’s favorite. The rest of the rooms didn’t stand a chance of meeting the high standards of a 7-year old.

3 days in New York City Itinerary | Roads and Destinations
Summit One Vanderbilt | 3-day New York City itinerary

3-DAY NEW YORK CITY ITINERARY: DAY 3

3-Day New York City Itinerary: Brooklyn Bridge

We finally walked across the iconic Brooklyn Bridge on our last day in New York City. A stunning engineering marvel of the 19th century, the Brooklyn Bridge was the first permanent bridge across the East River. At the time of its opening, it was also the world’s longest suspension bridge, approximately 1.1 miles long. 

Normally, it takes about 15-20 minutes to cross over the bridge. We spent close to an hour walking from Lower Manhattan to Brooklyn Heights. The design of the bridge as well as the views from it were too good to just rush from one end to the other without stopping, probably more times than it was needed.

3-Day New York City Itinerary: Jersey City

If time allows, spend the rest of the day on the other side of the Hudson River. One of the largest cities in New Jersey, Jersey City is a good place to enjoy New York’s city skyline surrounded by far fewer people. 

When in the city, be sure to check out the following landmarks.

  • Liberty State Park
  • Empty Sky Memorial
  • Colgate Clock
  • J. Owen Grundy Park
  • Hudson River Waterfront
  • Van Vorst Park
  • Downtown Jersey City

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