Julie Itinerary, United States 60 Comments

With 5 days in New York City, you can visit the icons of New York…the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, Times Square, and Central Park…and also have enough time to explore different neighborhoods, try new foods, and see a Broadway show. We put together this 5 day New York City itinerary to help you have the best experience here.

About this New York City Itinerary

New York City is massive and the list of places to visit is long. We have been visiting New York City on a regular basis for the past 22 years. I went to graduate school in New Jersey and Tim and I would frequently day trip into the city. Since then, we try to visit New York City once a year, simply because we love this city. In fact, we even started and ended our around the world trip right here. To me, New York feels more like home than Baltimore, the city where I was born and raised.

In general, I grouped sites together based on their location in order to save you time walking and using public transportation. This will keep you from spending unnecessary time on the subway and from backtracking through the city.

You can do these days in any order.

The provided walking distances are the amount of walking you will do to get between sites. These do not include the amount of walking you will do inside of museums, art galleries, etc.

Note: Sights in New York City are open, although several sights have reduced hours of operation or require a reservation in advance. I recommend getting updated hours on the official websites for each sight as you plan your trip (the links are provided for each sight). 

New York City Itinerary: Day 1

One World Trade Center, the 9/11 Memorial, Staten Island Ferry, and SoHo

Walking distance: 1 mile plus 0.5 to 1 miles in SoHo

How to Use This Map: Click the tab in the top left hand corner of the map to view the layers (points of interest, restaurants, and the walking route). You can click the check marks to hide or show layers. If you click the icons on the map, you can get more information about each point of interest.

If you click the star, this map will be added to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.

One World Observatory

One World Trade Center is the sixth tallest building in the world and the tallest building in the western hemisphere. This skyscraper stands next to the footprints of the original World Trade Center buildings that were destroyed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The One World Observatory, which is the observation deck on One World Trade Center, is a great place to take in your first view of New York City. From here, you have awesome views of Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and New Jersey. Plus, by being here early in the day, you get to beat the crowds and have a more pleasant experience.

Manhattan View

Looking Down on Manhattan

Read about the entire experience and get tips on purchasing tickets in our post:

How to Visit One World Observatory

I recommend buying your tickets online in advance. If you purchase tickets online in advance, you will skip the ticket line but could still wait in line for the elevator to the Observatory. You have the option to pay more money to also skip the elevator to the Observation deck and the elevator back down to the lobby. 

Cost: tickets start at $43 adults, $37 youth (6 – 12 years)
Hours: Daily 9 am to 9 pm; open until 10 pm on holidays and during the summer; opens at 8 am May 1 to September 4; Hours are reduced for 2021, click here to learn more.
Getting Here: One World Trade Center is accessed from the World Trade Center station on the E line, the Rector Street Station on Line 1, the Fulton Street on Lines 4 and 5, or the Cortland Street Station on Line R.

9/11 Memorial Plaza

After your visit to the One World Observatory, spend some time at the 9/11 Memorial Plaza. The 9/11 Memorial Plaza is an 8-acre park where the World Trade Center Twin Towers once stood. The foundations of the Twin Towers have been converted into reflecting pools and the surrounding area is now a grove of trees.

American Flags 5 Days in New York

9 11 Memorial 5 Days in New York

9/11 Memorial Museum

At the 9/11 Memorial Museum, learn about the story of 9/11 through a series of exhibits, artifacts, and interactive technology.

Cost: $26 adult; $15 youth (7 – 12 years); $20 (13 – 17 years)
Hours: 7:30 am to 9 pm (Memorial); 9 am to 8 pm (Museum)
Website: www.911memorial.org

The Oculus

The Oculus, also called the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, is a brand new, state-of-the-art train station. It sits right around the corner from the World Trade Center. You know you are in the right spot when you see the brilliantly white, space-aged looking structure.

Oculus 5 Days in New York

The Oculus opened in March 2016. It connects the PATH (trains from Newark and Hoboken, New Jersey) to the New York City subway system. It is also a shopping mall and a place to grab a bite to eat.

It’s worth a quick visit and it’s free!

Lunch at Pisillo Italian Panini

Two blocks from the Oculus is a great little Italian sandwich shop. This is popular lunch spot for locals and business people working in the area. These sandwiches are enormous and can be split between two people.

Pisillo Panini

Wall Street

On your way to Battery Park, wander through the Financial District and take a stroll down Wall Street.

Staten Island Ferry

A ride on the Staten Island Ferry is one of New York City’s best free things to do. During this ride, you have great views of the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan Skyline.

The ferry leaves from the Staten Island Ferry terminal, next to Battery Park. Simply get in line and board the next ferry. The ferry is enormous, with multiple decks and inside and outside seating.

I recommend taking a seat outside on the back of the ferry. From this point you can watch Manhattan slowly recede as you approach Staten Island. To your left will be the Statue of Liberty.

Staten Island Ferry View 5 Days in New York

Ferries leave every 30 minutes and are more frequent during rush hour. A one-way trip takes about 25 minutes.

You are not permitted to stay on the ferry and ride it round trip. Once you are in Staten Island, exit the ferry, get back in line, and re-board the ferry. We were able to get right back onto the same ferry without having to wait for the next one (on a Monday morning in February).

The entire round trip ride takes about one hour.

Get the full details about the Staten Island ferry on the official website.

Spend the afternoon in SoHo

SoHo is a neighborhood in Manhattan that is home to art galleries, trendy shops, and restaurants. It gets its name from its location “South of Houston Street.”

Spend the afternoon wandering and shopping here.

To get to SoHo from the Staten Island Ferry Terminal using the subway, walk to the Whitehall Street Station. Take the R line four stations uptown to Prince Street.

For dinner, we highly recommend Piccola Cucina Osteria. This tiny restaurant serves traditional Sicilian food. We have eaten in Little Italy many times but this restaurant is so much better than any place in Little Italy. The food is amazing. It’s a small place so I recommend making a reservation in advance.

Piccola Cucina

5 Days in New York dinner

For dessert, you have two options in the area. Just across the street from Piccola Cucina Osteria is Dominique Ansel Bakery. This bakery has unique desserts…how about trying a cookie baked in the shape of a cup and filled with milk? Yum!

One block from Piccola Cucina Osteria is Black Tap, a restaurant that is legendary for its gigantic milkshakes topped with cookies, brownies, and even slices of pie. If you want to take a cool food photo on Instagram during your trip to NYC, this is a good place to put on your list. Expect to wait in line for at least 30 minutes.

Black Tap Sundaes

New York City Itinerary: Day 2

Art Museums, Central Park, Rockefeller Center, Times Square

Walking distance: 4 miles plus Central Park (an additional 2 to 4 miles)

Take Your Pick from Four Art Museums

There are a bunch of fabulous art museums in Manhattan. Spend the morning in the one that sounds the most interesting to you.

The Museum of Modern Art

The Modern Museum of Art (MoMA) has one of the world’s best collections of art from the 18th century to today. See The Starry Night by Van Gogh, The Persistence of Memory by Dali, and works of art by Matisse, Monet, and Picasso.

Hours: Daily 10:30 am to 5:30 pm; open until 9 pm on Friday and the first Thursday of each month
Cost: Adults $25, under 16 years old are free
Friday afternoon special: from 5:30 pm to 9 pm admission is free on Friday
Website: www.moma.org

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Met is enormous. It’s so big that you can measure the size of this museum in acres (13 acres!!). Come see one of the best collections of ancient art from all around the world.

Hours: Daily 10 am to 5:30 pm; open until 9 pm Friday and Saturday
Cost: Adults $25, children under 12 are free; tickets are valid for 3 days
Website: www.metmuseum.org
Travel Tip: Purchase your tickets online in advance to skip the line. You can also join this skip-the-line tour of the MET. 

The Guggenheim Museum

This is another modern art museum. The building, which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, is also a work of modern art.

Cost: Adults $16, children under 12 are free
Hours: 10 am – 5:30 pm; open until 8:00 pm Tuesday and Saturday
Website: www.guggenheim.org
Pay What You Wish: from 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm on Saturday you can “pay what you wish” to enter the museum, cash only. The suggested admission is $10.

The Frick Collection

See world-class art by Vermeer, Renoir, and Rembrandt in a beautifully designed residence.

Cost: Adults $22, children under 10 are not permitted
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday 10 am to 6 pm; Sundays 11 am to 5 pm; closed Monday
Pay What You Wish: pay what you wish on Wednesdays 2 pm to 6 pm
Website: www.frick.org


Where you choose to have lunch depends upon the art museum you visit. If you chose the MoMA, here are two recommendations:

Patsy’s Italian Restaurant: This family-owned restaurant has been in business since 1944. Frank Sinatra made this place famous and many other celebrities have dined here, including Ben Stiller, Tom Hanks, Oprah Winfrey, James Gandolfini, and many more. I recommend the Eggplant Parmesan (it was the best I ever had!).

The Black Tap: This restaurant serves craft burgers and beer but it’s famous for its over-the-top milkshakes topped with brownies, cookies, and slices of cake and pie (mentioned under Day 1 as a dessert destination near SoHo).

If you picked one of the other art museums, explore the area around the museum for lunch spots.

Central Park

Central Park is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the world. Therefore a visit to New York City would not be complete without at least a quick stroll through part of the park.

Central Park is much more than a tourist destination. For New Yorkers, this is a treasured green space, a spot to lie out in the sun, go for a run, and take the kids to the playground.

Spend part of the afternoon exploring Central Park. You can simply wander through it on your own two feet, rent bikes and cycle a lap or two through the entire park, or do something very touristy and go for a horse and carriage ride. There are numerous places to rent bikes just outside of the park. We have the best luck one block south of the park around 5th and 6th avenue.

The Mall Central Park

The Mall

Bow Bridge New York City itinerary

Bow Bridge

Notable spots to visit in Central Park are the Imagine Mosaic at Strawberry Fields, Bow Bridge (one of the most photographed locations in the park), Belvedere Castle, Sheep Meadow, and The Mall.

Explore Midtown Manhattan

For the rest of the afternoon, stroll through midtown Manhattan. From Central Park, pop into The Plaza, one of the most famous hotels in the world. Then stroll down Fifth Avenue until you get to St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

5 days in New York

St Patricks Cathedral 5 Days in New York City Itinerary

Top of the Rock Observation Deck

Across the street is Rockefeller Center. For another awesome view over the city, consider a visit to Top of the Rock, an observation deck on top of Rockefeller Center. In my opinion, you get one of the best views of New York City from this observation deck. To the north you see Central Park, Harlem, and the Bronx. To the south, you not only get to see the Empire State Building, but you also get to see the towering skyscrapers of the financial district (and One World Trade Center) off in the distance.

Top of the Rock View

Hours: 8 am to midnight 7 days a week
Cost: Adult $38, children 6 – 12 years $32
Website: www.topoftherocknyc.com
Travel Tip: If you come back at twilight, this would be a magical spot to watch the sunset over New York City. Tickets are an additional $10 at sunset.
You can also purchase your tickets in advance through Get Your Guide.

While in the area, you can also take a tour of Rockefeller Center and Radio City Music Hall. Just note, if you do choose to take a tour, you will have to skip most of the activities planned this afternoon.

Times Square

From Rockefeller Center, it’s just a five-minute walk to iconic, crowded, chaotic, touristy Times Square.

Times Square New York City itinerary

Times Square in February New York City itinerary

This is one of the most famous intersections in the world. Every New Year’s Eve, thousands people gather to watch the ball drop, making this the most famous place in the world to welcome in the New Year. During the other 364 days of the year, Times Square is almost as crowded, as street performers put on shows and visitors from around the world gawk at the millions of lights that adorn the neon billboards.

It seems like Times Square is always changing. Every year, there are bigger and better billboards, new stores designed to draw visitors in, and crazier street performers on the streets. It is a crowded, overwhelming place and not everyone enjoys this experience. Take as long (or as little) as you like in this dazzling, gaudy place.

PRO TRAVEL TIP: If this is your first time in New York City, it’s worth seeing Times Square in the daytime and at nighttime. It really is neat to see all lit up at night.

New York Public Library and Grand Central Station

There are just a few more spots to visit on this very busy afternoon. From Times Square, walk to Bryant Park and the New York Public Library. The library is free and it is worth a quick visit. It’s a beautiful building on the inside and has been featured in popular movies such as “Ghostbusters,” “The Day after Tomorrow,” and “Sex and the City.”

Rose Reading Room

Rose Reading Room the the NYC Public Library

A few blocks from the library is Grand Central Station. This is the largest train station in the world, with 44 train platforms. The Grand Concourse is a gorgeous spot to visit. Walk up the steps to the Apple Store and watch the show as hundreds of people crisscross the Grand Concourse.

Grand Central Station

Inside of Grand Central Station is the Grand Central Market. This is a small market but it is a great place to put together a meal. With fresh fruits, pastas, cheese, and wine, you have the option to assemble a picnic dinner here.

End the day with dinner and drinks. If you like the idea of Japanese food, consider going to Momosan Ramen & Sake, just a few blocks from Grand Central Station.

New York City Itinerary: Day 3

The Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the Tenement Museum & a Food Tour

The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

If it’s your first time in New York, the Statue of Liberty is a must see. You can visit just the Statue of Liberty or you can visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island together as a round trip excursion from Manhattan.

Statue of Liberty 5 Days in New York

At the Statue of Liberty, you can climb the base of the statue or go all of the way to the crown. Both of these options require advance tickets, and they do sell out, so make sure you book your tickets well in advance.

Ellis Island was an immigrant inspection station and approximately 12 million immigrants were processed here between 1905 and 1954.

Ellis Island New York City itinerary

Liberty Island (the location of the Statue of Liberty) and Ellis Island are connected by ferry with Battery Park (on Manhattan).

The entire visit, from Battery Park to Liberty Island and Ellis Island, and then back to Battery Park, takes about 4 hours. You will take a ferry from Battery Park to Liberty Island. After seeing the Statue of Liberty, catch the next ferry to Ellis Island and tour this island. Then take a ferry back to Battery Park.

PRO TRAVEL TIP:  Tickets tend to sell out in advance. As soon as you know your travel dates, consider booking your Statue of Libery tickets.

Cost: $22.50 Adults, $12 children 4 – 12 years for the Crown Reserve Ticket
Hours: Ferries depart from the 9:30 am to 3:30 pm
Website: Book your tickets in advance on www.statuecruises.com

You can also join one of these guided tours of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.


Tenement Museum

Now that you learned about what it was like to be an immigrant arriving in the United States, continue the experience with a visit to the Tenement Museum. Located on the Lower East Side, learn about what it was like to live as an immigrant between the 19th and 21st centuries.

Numerous tours are offered. Visit the Tenement Museum website for full details.

To get to the Tenement Museum from Battery Park, walk to the Broad Street station and take line J uptown four stations to Delancey St/Essex St (8 minutes).

Take a Food Tour in Manhattan

Little Italy and Chinatown are places that are frequently listed in guidebooks. For years, we loved spending an afternoon wandering through Chinatown or dining at a restaurant in Little Italy. However, in recent years, things have changed. Now, most of the restaurants in Little Italy are mediocre, overpriced restaurants that are well worth skipping. On our most recent visit to New York, Tim and I stopped into one of these restaurants for a drink and even the wine was mediocre.

Little Italy 5 Days in New York

If you are curious about Little Italy and Chinatown, they are still worth a quick visit. But you should know that there are much better places in New York for quality Italian and Chinese food.

A better way to spend the afternoon is to take a food tour in Manhattan. We have not done this, but it is high on our list to do on our next visit to New York City. From my research, Foods of NY Tours is on my list to try. They offer various tours in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Consider taking their Nolita & Little Italy’s Secret Tour or the Flavors of Chinatown. Just make sure you book your tickets in advance because they do sell out!

NIGHTLIFE IN MANHATTAN:  If you want to go out for drinks, we recommend Death & Company. This speak-easy bar serves amazing craft cocktails. They also sell several cocktail books. We love Cocktail Codex (it’s an essential cocktail book if you like to make mixed drinks). Their book called Death & Company: Modern Classic Cocktails also gets stellar reviews, but the recipes call for very specific liquors and infusions, and you would have to have a very well-stock bar to make many of these drinks.

New York City Itinerary: Day 4


Walking distance: 4 miles

Brooklyn is becoming one of New York City’s hot spots to visit. With historic neighborhoods, a fabulous food scene, and some of the best views of the Manhattan skyline, this is a great place to add to your New York City itinerary.

Since Brooklyn is so large, it’s impossible to visit all of it in just one day. With just one day you can visit the neighborhood of Williamsburg and the areas along the East River. Think of today as a mini food tour combined with some of the best views of Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge.

Dumbo New York

Dumbo (Down under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass)


Brooklyn New York City Itinerary

Williamsburg, Brooklyn


Manhattan Skyline 5 Days in New York

Brooklyn Bridge in Snow

Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge

The day starts in Williamsburg, a wonderful neighborhood with boutique shops, a variety of restaurants, and the Brooklyn Brewery. Then, take a ferry on the East River to Dumbo and the Brooklyn Bridge. From here, enjoy one of the best views of the Manhattan skyline, dine on the best pizza in the city, and end with a walk over the iconic Brooklyn Bridge.

Get the full details in our article: One Perfect Day in Brooklyn

PRO TRAVEL TIP: This Brooklyn day trip works best on a Saturday or Sunday. Both Brooklyn Bowl and the Brooklyn Brewery open midday on the weekend, versus 6 pm during the weekdays. Plus, midtown Manhattan and the popular touristy sites in New York can be very crowded on the weekends, so Brooklyn makes a nice escape from the crowds.

New York City Itinerary: Day 5

Empire State Building, Chelsea Market, the High Line & Hudson Yards

Walking distance 3 miles (if you include the option to visit Greenwich Village)

Empire State Building

Start the day with a trip up the Empire State Building. Completed in 1931, this was the tallest building in the world for 40 years until the North Tower of the World Trade Center was completed in 1970. The Empire State Building has been featured in over 250 TV shows and movies and is listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.

Empire State Building View

Looking north from the Empire State Building.


View of Manhattan

Looking south from the Empire State Building.

If you don’t mind waking up early, you can watch the sunrise from the top of the Empire State Building. Tickets are limited to 100 visitors and need to be purchased in advance. It’s pricey, costing $100 per person, and tickets are only available for Friday and Saturday mornings.

Cost: standard tickets start at $42 for adults and $36 for children
Hours: Daily 8 am – 2 am
Website: Get the full details on packages and VIP experiences on the official Empire State Building website.
Get Your Guide: You can also purchase your entrance tickets in advance through Get Your Guide.

Chelsea Market

From the Empire State Building, visit Chelsea Market for lunch.

The Chelsea Market is food paradise!! This is one of our favorite places in Manhattan for lunch. Inside of the market are numerous small restaurants selling food from around the world. Our favorite restaurants are Los Tacos, the Lobster Place, and Takumi. There are also a number of boutique shops if you like to go shopping.

Chelsea Market New York City Itinerary

Los Tacos No 1 5 Days in New York City itinerary

How to Get to Chelsea Market from the Empire State Building: From the Empire State Building, it is a 3-minute walk to the 34 St – Herald Square Subway Station. Take the D train (orange) towards Coney Island. At W 4 St – Washington Square, transfer to E train (blue) towards Jamaica Center. Exit at 14 St/8 Ave and walk one block to Chelsea Market. This takes 16 minutes. Or, take a taxi, Uber, or Lyft.

Optional: Ground Zero Museum Workshop

One block away from Chelsea Market is the Ground Zero Museum Workshop. This museum documents what life was like for the workers and firefighters at Ground Zero during the recovery effort. Filled with artifacts and photographs, this is a great museum to visit if you want to learn more about what it was like to be at the World Trade Center site after the terrorist attack.

This is a kid-friendly museum and if you want your child to learn about 9/11, this museum is the perfect place to take them.

Cost: Adults $25, children 4 – 12 years old $19
Hours: Wednesday through Friday 11:30 am – 3 pm; Saturday and Sunday 11 am to 3 pm; closed Monday and Tuesday
Website: Learn more about the museum here.

Optional: Greenwich Village

Spend an hour or two in Greenwich Village. Greenwich Village was the location of the 60’s counterculture movements and the modern LGBT movement. Now, the “bohemian days” are long gone, due to rising housing costs and gentrification of the neighborhood, but this is still a wonderful spot to visit.

The High Line

Mid-afternoon, walk the High Line to Hudson Yards. This is a public park and elevated walking path that was built on a historic freight line.

High Line

It’s free to visit and one of Manhattan’s prettiest walks. Currently, you need to make a reservation if you will be here on the weekend (to limit crowds because of COVID-19). Get updates and make your reservation here.

The High Line starts near the Whitney Museum, but you can also get onto the High Line from Chelsea Market.

It takes about 30 minutes to walk from Chelsea Market to Hudson Yards.

Hudson Yards, the Vessel, & the Edge

Spend the rest of the day in the ultra-modern Hudson Yards.

What was once a storage yard and jumble of train tracks has evolved into Manhattan’s newest ultra-modern neighborhood.

The trains and their tracks are still here, but this small city has been built on a state-of-the-art platform that is elevated above the railroad tracks. Glass-plated skyscrapers, a shopping mall, a performing arts theater, and two of Manhattan’s very popular attractions, the Vessel and the Edge, can all be found here.

The Vessel

The Vessel is closed indefinitely. Since its opening in 2019, four people have committed suicide by jumping off of the Vessel. 

Start at the Vessel. The Vessel is a spiral staircase where 154 flights of stairs, for a grand total of nearly 2,500 steps, are linked together. A visit here lasts 30 to 45 minutes. It’s fun to visit and fun to photograph.

The Vessel

Cost: Entry is free the first hour of the day (10 am to 11 am). For the remainder of the day, tickets cost $10 per person.
Hours: 10 am to 8 pm daily
Reserving Your Tickets: I recommend reserving your tickets in advance. On this New York City itinerary, a visit between 3 and 5 pm works well. If you visit Greenwich Village and/or the Ground Zero Workshop Museum, you will have to keep an eye on the time so you are not late for your time slot.

The Edge

The Edge is the newest addition to the Manhattan observation decks. Hovering 100 floors above the city streets, this sky deck offers jaw-dropping views over Manhattan. Adding to the thrill is the glass floor, where you can peer down to the city streets far below.

New York City Itinerary

The best time to visit the Edge is at sunset. These tickets sell out in advance, so make your reservations once you know your dates of travel. If you can’t get sunset tickets, you can arrive mid to late afternoon and stick around for sunset.

Cost: Tickets start at $36. There is an additional $10 fee for sunset tickets.
Hours: 8 am to midnight
Getting Here: From the Vessel, enter The Shops at Hudson Yards, which sit right next to the Vessel. Take the elevator to the 4th floor and follow signs to the Edge.

LEARN MORE: How to Visit the Edge

If you want to have dinner in Hudson Yards, Peak restaurant at the Edge is pricey but the views of Manhattan are spectacular. For the best experience, make a reservation in advance and request a table with a view of the city skyline. Mercado Little Spain and Estiatorio Milos (Greek food) also get great reviews.

PRO TRAVEL TIP: Depending on your timing, you might be able to fit dinner in between the Vessel and the Edge, particularly if you have sunset tickets for the summer, when the days are longer.

More Ideas of How to Spend Your Time

See a Broadway Show

Seeing a show on Broadway is a quintessential New York experience. You can book your tickets in advance, or buy them the same day through TKTS in Times Square. 

Run in the New York City Marathon

The New York City Marathon is an awesome thing to add to your bucket list if you are a runner. In one day you will tour all five boroughs of New York, ending in Central Park. Afterwards, you get to eat all of the pizza and gelato and crazy sundaes at Black Tap you want. Tim and I did this in 1997.

Learn more about the race here.

Should You Buy a New York City Pass?

There are a bunch of different “money saving” passes to choose from. Offering advice on the right one would take another blog post. I recommend reading this if you want to learn more about all of the different passes that are available.

Using the Subway

To get around New York City, we recommend using the Subway. The New York City Subway is functional but it is dirty, smelly, and in great need of renovation work. It may not be pretty but it will get you where you need to go cheaply and efficiently.

New York Subway 5 Days in New York City itinerary

I recommend downloading the NYC Subway app on your smartphone (it’s free!). This is the app I use to find routes between destinations.

I also recommend purchasing a 7 Day Unlimited Ride Metrocard. It costs $33 and you can ride the subway an unlimited number of times in seven days (there is not a 5 day unlimited ride Metrocard). It costs $2.75 per ride on the metro. If you ride the metro 12 or more times (which you will do on this itinerary) the card pays for itself.

Hotel Recommendations

There are literally hundreds of places to choose from in New York City. On our most recent visit, we stayed at the Intercontinental New York Barclay, located in midtown a few blocks north of Grand Central Station. This is a nicer property than where we normally stay but they were offering a special price during our visit. It is a great hotel and in a very convenient location, being near Grand Central Station and within walking distance of many of the main sites in midtown.

For more recommendations, take a look at our article Where to Stay in New York City: Best Hotels and Neighborhoods for Your Budget. Get an overview of New York City’s most popular neighborhoods with recommendations on where to stay in each of them.

More Information about New York City

THE EDGE:  How to Visit the Edge: Photos, Tips & Is it Worth it?
THE VESSEL: How to Visit the Vessel: Photos, Tips & FAQ’s
ONE WORLD OBSERVATORY: How to Visit One World Observatory
OBSERVATION DECKS: Best Observation Decks in NYC: Ranked by Price, Location and View
BROOKLYN: One Perfect Day in Brooklyn

If you have any questions about how to spend 5 days in New York City or how to plan your New York City itinerary, comment below!


Recommended Reading and Travel Guides:

Planning a trip in the United States? Read all of our articles in our United States Travel Guide.

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Comments 60

  1. Hi, loved the itinerary.
    We followed your itinerary for Death Valley exactly and it was perfect, thank you.
    We live in California and we would be visiting the East Coast for the first time. We have a weeks time,3 days in NY and one day each in Boston, Washington,PA and Niagara. I found your itinerary for Niagara and that is very helpful although we wont be covering the Canada side. Can you pls suggest an itinerary for 3 days in NY and any suggestions for our entire trip would be helpful, thanks in advance.

    1. Post

      For your first time in NYC, I recommend doing days 1 and 2 of this itinerary. For your third day, start off with the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in the morning and visit the Empire State Building in the afternoon. You can also visit Hudson Yards and the Edge (if you want more great views of the city) and have dinner in Chelsea Market on the third day. If you want to see the Edge, it would also be possible to add it on to the end of day 2, since the Edge is open so late. These days can be done in any order. If you will be doing this in the summer, I recommend booking your tickets in advance so you get the times and dates you want, without waiting in long lines. Have fun on the East Coast! And if you haven’t see it yet, we also have a one day walking tour of Washington DC. Cheers, Julie

    1. Post

      No, I don’t have a budget for this itinerary. There are a lot of factors that would influence the overall cost, including the time of year you visit NYC, what hotel class you choose, if you pay for the sights individually or use some sort of sightseeing pass, and how frequently you dine in restaurants vs. grabbing a quick bite to eat. Cheers, Julie

  2. Wow this is really great info!! I am planning on going next month and was wondering if you have been during the travel regulations? Was curious to see what your experience was during this time. Thank you!!

    1. Post

      No, unfortunately we have not been to New York City in about 2 years. I think this is our longest stretch of time in the past 2 decades. With the crowds and the issues that the city had early on during the pandemic it seemed safer to stay away. But I am contemplating going back soon, maybe in a few months for an overnight stay. I really miss the city. If you want to do the museums, One World Trade Center, etc…check to see if they are open. If they are open now, just know that it can change at any time. With Spring Break and Easter coming, they could add restrictions. If the touristy sites aren’t open, it is still nice to stroll the neighborhoods, walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, ride the Staten Island Ferry, etc. I hope you have a nice visit and it all works out! Cheers, Julie

      1. Julie,

        I am very grateful for your site with so much useful information. You are helping me plan our family’s trip to the national parks – Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion, Grand Staircase-Escalante. I had to check out your 5 days in New York itinerary and I think you really set up some great experiences! Regarding New York during this pandemic, one thing I want to mention is that the wildlife has really picked up in the city parks! Central Park currently has a regular snowy owl and a frequently seen coyote! As well as a groundhog that my children are keeping an eye on, and other impressive large birds, like grey herons and egrets. The other thing I wanted to mention regarding your comments about an “eating tour” in New York is that during “regular times” the Tenement Museum has a special program that involves an evening tour and a meal that coincides with the family/culture/time period you learned about on the tour. I hope safe conditions return and the fun things like that can be back in full swing soon.

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          There’s a coyote in Central Park?! That’s crazy!! Thank you for the tips and enjoy your road trip!! Cheers, Julie

    2. Hi Ricardo,

      I live in New York and I was on Julie’s site for tips on my family’s upcoming visit to the Grand Canyon, Zion, and Bryce. (Thank you, Julie and family!) Most of the “big” museums in New York are open, but everything requires tickets purchased ahead of time, to better spread people out. The plus here is that places are less crowded, the minus is that places can sell-out. Of course, masks are required everyplace indoors, pretty much. Still, you can do most “New York things,” I would say. Look up the details on the websites of the places you want to see.

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      2. Ali, thanks so much for the info! It’s been 12 years since I’ve been back to New York so I’m excited to be back next month. Thanks again Julie & Ali!

  3. Hi! Thanks a lot for all the useful information! I saved a lot of time planning the trip with my family. I can’t find the shopping list that has “nothing to do with traVelling”. Can you send me the link?

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  4. is there a way to print this information? we used a lot of it to plan our trip to NYC in December but id like to be able to print it.

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      I’m glad you like our itinerary! You can print a PDF version, but it will be long, because of the ads. Currently, we do not have a more streamlined version available. Using Google Chrome, go to File -> print -> more settings -> save file as PDF and then print the PDF. I hope you have a great time in NYC! I love Manhattan in December. Cheers, Julie

  5. Wonderful and very useful travel itinerary. We just spent a week in NYC and your blog helped me hugely with planning. Thank you.

    Here are a few additional tips:
    TOTR: we had adverse weather, zero visibility. It’s worth noting that the timed ticket can be exchanged on site on the day for another slot. Worth noting, admission is on-the-dot only. They didn’t let us in even for being 2mn early!!!
    American Museum of Natural History: fans of night at the Museum or not, it’s a fabulous museum and it’s practically free! You can pay-what-you-wish at the ticket counter. We chose to pay half price to support the museum.
    We found that food was altogether super expensive! Pack a picnic if you can!
    Citibike: we hired bikes which are parked all over NY. Great with older kids. Sunday in Harlem was quiet. Also a great way to discover Brooklyn.
    The Vessel at Hudson Yard: wonderful experience ! Views are great! It’s free but you need to book a time slot online. Combine it with the Highline and lunch at Chelsea Market.

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  6. Hi Julie!
    This helps a lot
    Today is my first time in NYC & I got no chance to research ittinerary.
    This blog is an instant answer.
    Btw I would like to ask you a question about NYC metro 7 days pass. It costs 75 USD. (I checked this from laurelton station)
    How to buy one at 33 USD?
    Thank you

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      Hello Susan. The 7-Day Metrocard costs $33. Here is the link to learn more (including where to buy it). I am not sure what the NYC metro 7 days pass is, but the Metrocard is a better deal and this is what we use when we visit NYC. Cheers, Julie

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