Company Logo - Home Link

3-Day NYC Itinerary

Updated: December 1, 2023

This post is a detailed sample itinerary for spending 3 days in New York City.

It is intended for tourists and other newcomers to the city, as well as other itinerary ideas. Let's dive in!

We are a group of local walking tour guides who offer tours throughout the city.

Every day, we use our local experiences to help our guests with ideas for things to do after our tours.

And, in the video below, one of our guides, Katie, provides our itinerary for day 1 in NYC.

We also used ideas from the roughly 225k members of our popular NYC Travel Tips Facebook Group, many of whom share their itineraries.

The group consists of locals, like our guides, expats, regular visitors, as well as newbies to NYC.

There's no need to be a member to search for and read the posts, comments, and suggestions.

Check us out once you are done with this post. A link to the group can be found at the bottom.


If this is your first visit to New York you may feel overwhelmed by the number of sights you want to see.

So, we've created these itineraries that will help maximize your time so you can make the most of every day. 

This 3-Day New York itinerary assumes that you are using the NYC subway and other forms of public transportation, but taking a taxi or Uber could sometimes save you some time.

NOTE: We also have several related posts:

Also in this post are links to other posts with in-depth information about the sites recommended as well as information on how to visit them and how to purchase tickets when necessary, including how to get discounts or free entry.

If all you have is one day, we have a one-day itinerary that gives you a hearty taste of New York, taking you to plenty of places you've heard of and always wanted to see.

If you are traveling with kids, tweens, and teens, you may want to look at our 3-day itinerary with kids in New York City.

Sheep Meadow Central Park

Be sure to look at our comprehensive guide of things to do in New York City for even more ideas.

If you are planning on using one of the hop-on-hop-off buses to get around NYC, almost every stop listed below is near a bus stop. 

Take a look at our post on which New York bus tour is best for you.  

Did you know that by purchasing an NYC discount traveler pass, you can save as much as 55% on the cost of attractions that are likely on your ‘must-see’ list?

Read our post comparing NYC tourist attraction discount passes to see which pass, if any, is right for you.


Throw yourself right into the heart of the city in Midtown Manhattan.

Times Square

Times Square is actually a triangle between Broadway and Seventh Avenue and 42nd Street to 47th Street.

Subways that go to Times Square are the 1,2,3,7, N, Q, R, and Strains. A quick stroll should be enough to give you a sense of New York’s energy.  

However, to learn about Times Square’s history and fun facts, use our things to see in Times Square post for both day and night.  

When you are ready to move on, head back to 42nd Street and walk east one long block to 6th Avenue.

There you will find Bryant Park, a calm park to catch your breath from the frenetic pace of Times Square.

There are food kiosks along the west side of the park. At the far end of the park, the magnificent building you see is your next stop, the New York Public Library. 

Tips From Tourists

You'd be surprised how often travelers ask about the best places to eat or shop near Times Square, and while there are plenty of great options, most tour guides will tell you to avoid spending money in this area.

In this very helpful comment from our New York Travel Tips group, toy can see that even Buzz managed to avoid the upcharge and get everything they wanted in other neighborhoods.

New York Public Library

Exit Bryant Park on 42nd Street and walk down to the corner of 5th Avenue where you will find the main branch of the New York Public Library built in 1913.

Step inside to see the grand Beaux-Arts lobby and the giant Reading Room, where a scene from the 1984 film Ghostbusters was filmed.

Don’t forget to say hello to ‘Fortitude’ and ‘Patience’, possibly the world’s most famous pair of lions.

Click here for more information about the library and to find out about tours of the library, including our tours and tours offered by the library itself.

Tips From Tourists

As Dr. Tracy points out in this comment, the New York Public Library is not entirely open to the public, but they do still have exhibits and offer tours, making it worthwhile to visit.

Grand Central Station

From the library, continue walking east on 42nd Street two long blocks. On the way, take a look up in the sky and you’ll see the shimmery, scalloped spire of the Chrysler Building

Enter the station (officially named Grand Central Terminal) through the doors at the intersection of 42nd Street and Park Avenue.

Read our free guide to Grand Central Terminal to learn more about its history, architecture, and secrets.

For a more in-depth learning experience, consider one of the many tours of the terminal, including guided and self-guided options.

The lower level has restrooms and a very large, high-quality food court. It’s a great spot to grab lunch before heading to the next stop on the tour.

Tips From Travelers

As this New York Travel Tips group member notes, one of the better-known secrets of Grand Central Terminal is its "whispering corner."

This is a corner of the building where the acoustics are so good that you can hear people whispering from across the room.

Rockefeller Center

Leave Grand Central and walk back along 42nd Street to 5th Avenue to do some window shopping.

Enter Rockefeller Center by walking along the short pedestrian path known as The Channel Gardens, located along 5th Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets.

Straight ahead of you is the behemoth 30 Rockefeller Center and beneath it is the lower concourse where the famous ice skating rink and Christmas tree are in the winter months.

For ideas of what you can see at Rockefeller Center, read our self-guided tour.

Popular options here include the Top of the Rock Observation Deck (next stop), as well as tours of NBC Studios, and Radio City Music Hall.

There are also plenty of places to get some food here.

Additionally, you can be here in the morning for a taping of the Today Show or come back in the evening to be an audience member for the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.

Both are free to attend. 

Tips From Travelers

If you are interested in seeing the Today Show, members of our New York Travel Tips group on Facebook recommend getting there early.

As such, you might want to make this the first stop on your itinerary in order to experience the live taping!

Top of the Rock Observation Deck

For a bird’s eye view of New York City, the observation deck at the top of 30 Rockefeller Plaza is in many ways the better option than the Empire State Building or One World Trade Center.

One of the benefits is that tickets are for specific time slots so you aren’t wasting time waiting in line.

Also, at the Top of the Rock, you can get a selfie with the Empire State Building, the Freedom Tower (One World Observatory), and you – all in one picture!

See our Top of the Rock visitor’s guide for tickets and hours.

If you aren't sure which skyscraper view is best for you, read our post comparing the big three: Empire State Building, Top of the Rock, or One World Observatory.

Tips From Travelers

There are multiple observation decks in New York City, and it seems like they plan a new one every few years!

However, a lot of repeat visitors who love getting a great view of the city will often recommend a return trip to Top of the Rock.

One of the reasons travelers and locals alike tend to prefer this location is because it's a great vantage point to see all the other historic buildings in NYC, especially the Empire State Building.

Central Park

Enter at 59th Street and Central Park South and make your way to The Pond and Gapstow Bridge for a great photo op.

Check out our things to do in Central Park post, which includes a map and self-guided tour as well as other tips to enjoy your visit.

Download our audio tour app and let us guide you through the park any time of day.

We also offer pay-what-you-wish guided Central Park tours as well.

If you skipped out on some of our earlier suggestions, then you should have time to visit either the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the American Museum of Natural History - or both.

Both are located along the sides of Central Park.

You are also near the Guggenheim Museum and the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA).

Tips From Travelers

As Lynn points out, you can easily spend several hours leisurely walking through Central Park, and with so much to see and do, who would blame you?

That said, you can make the process a lot faster by using one of the many transportation options in the area, including pedicabs, carriage rides, and bike tours/rentals.

Wrap up your day with a Broadway Show 

There’s no better way to wrap up a trip to New York City than seeing a Broadway show. 

It is even better when you can save on tickets! Find out how from our post on ways to get discount Broadway theater tickets

Before or after your show, there are many things to do at night in Times Square.

For more evening ideas, check out our guide to 40+ things to do at night in NYC.

Tips From Travelers

Here are a few tips from users of our New York Travel Tips group on Facebook.

Mary notes that single seat tickets on the day of your visit could be quite affordable. Jennie suggests asking for rush seats, which are also same-day tickets.

The only problem with these options is that you'll likely have to stand in line at the box office to get them!


Historical New York - Lower Manhattan

Take a look at our guide to things to see and do in Lower Manhattan.

Trinity Church

At the intersection of Wall Street and Broadway is this gothic revival church that was built in 1846.

Trinity Church, whose spire is 284 feet (86 m) tall, was once the tallest building in New York City.

Trinity Church NYC
Trinity Church

Step inside to admire the stained glass windows and stroll into the cemetery and see the grave of Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the US Treasury (and whose face is printed on the $10 bill). 

Use our self-guided tour to get the most out of your trip to Trinity Church.

When you leave the church, walk a short distance east on Wall Street until you reach Broad Street. 

Tips From Travelers

Tammy here has a helpful tip for those who have trouble getting into the cemetery: you can see Hamilton's grave from the street!

Obviously this isn't going to be the best way to see the landmark, but if the cemetery is closed, it might be your only option.

Wall Street

For all the sites along Wall Street and the Financial District check out our self-guided tour of Wall Street.

There are three buildings not to miss, all located at the intersection of Wall and Broad Streets.

Federal Hall was on this site where the first U.S. Congress met after America gained its independence and where George Washington was sworn in as the first U.S. President.

The hall is open to the public free of charge.

Inside the hall are exhibits that display several hidden gems, including the Bible used by President Washington at his swearing-in.

There is also a National Park Visitor Center and free bathrooms.

On the southwest corner is the New York Stock Exchange.

On the corner across from the Stock Exchange is a short limestone building with no name plaque. Built in 1913, this was formerly the headquarters for J.P. Morgan & Co.

The Wall Street side of the building retains pockmarks caused by the shrapnel from a 1920 domestic terrorist attack, still unsolved, which killed 40 people.

Walk back to Broadway and walk south to Battery Park at the tip of Manhattan.

Along the way, you will pass the Charging Bull statue.

It's from here that our Lower Manhattan GPS-enabled audio tour and our guided tour start.

Tips From Travelers

If you're looking for a quick bite before heading to your next destination, it's worth noting that Liberty Bagels is right in the heart of the Financial District, and they have some of the best bagels in the entire city!

Seriously, whenever anyone in our Facebook Group asks where to get the best bagels in New York, there are usually at least a half dozen locals and travelers recommending this restaurant.

Battery Park 

Since the 1800s, the site of the park has served New York City in a number of ways.

First, it was where New York built a fort, Castle Clinton, to defend against the British in the War of 1812.

In the second half of the 19th Century, before Ellis Island was built, the former fort structure was an immigrant depot.  

The park has a beautiful waterfront with vast views of the New York Harbor including the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. There are many things to see in Battery Park.

Should you decide to visit these places, here is our guide to visiting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

Keep in mind that visiting Lady Liberty will eat up several hours of your day, not even including Ellis Island.

Instead, we recommend that you take a free ride on the Staten Island Ferry. 

Tips From Travelers

Sadly, the food vendor experience that Taylor mentions above is not entirely uncommon, but there are ways to avoid being ripped off.

Other group members note that there's actually an official NYC Parks website that provides approved pushcart vendor prices in all park areas, including Battery Park.

As of 2023, you should not pay more than $4 for a hot dog or $3 for a 12 oz soda.

Staten Island Ferry

As a time-saving, budget-conscious alternative to visiting the Statue of Liberty, we recommend a free ride on this commuter ferry.

In fact, this is our #1 out of 10 free things to do in NYC.

During the boat ride, you get a good view of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island and stunning views of the Lower Manhattan skyline.

The ride there and back is about 50 minutes, slightly longer in the high season, and doesn’t require a ticket.

The ferry runs frequently during the week and slightly less often on weekends. 

Tips From Travelers

As Christy reveals, you might actually want to consider coming back to ride the Staten Island Ferry at night.

Not only is the Statue of Liberty well-lit and pretty easy to see after dark, but you can also get an excellent view of the city skyline when the sun goes down!

National September 11th Memorial and Museum

Plan your visit to the Memorial with our detailed guide Visiting the 911 Memorial and Museum

Enter Memorial Plaza from Liberty Street and Greenwich Street. There is no entry fee to this public memorial plaza.

You simply walk onto the plaza and can spend as much or as little time as you want there.

The centerpieces of the Memorial are the Reflecting Pools, two massive cascading fountains set in the exact location that the twin towers stood. 

For details on the other sites within the Memorial, we have a short, self-guided tour.

We also offer several pay-what-you-wish tours that include the 9/11 Memorial as a part of or as the main focus of the tour.

Tips From Travelers

Although our itinerary doesn't factor in a visit at the 9/11 Museum, it's worth noting that this attraction isn't open on Tuesday.

Sadly, it does take a few hours to see everything at this museum, so you probably won't have enough time for this activity.

Freedom Tower at One World Observatory

Freedom Tower view daytime

As an alternative to visiting Top of the Rock for your 360-degree bird’s eye view of New York City, visit the Freedom Tower atop One World Trade Center.

It is recommended that you purchase your tickets in advance, as you must select a specific date and time. Tickets are $32 and up.

Read our guide to getting tickets to the Freedom Tower for more information.

TIP: General admission tickets are included for free with the purchase of the Sightseeing Unlimited and Sightseeing Flex passes.

You should also read our sections on combo tickets and discounts

Tips From Travelers

Many travelers who have been to One World Observatory recommend visiting just before sunset, allowing you to experience a unique view of the city.

Getting tickets at least 15-30 minutes before sunset ensures you'll have enough time to get to the top of the building and enjoy the view!

Sunset on the High Line

Take the A or C train uptown from Fulton Street Station to 14th Street and 8th Avenue.

Walk to 10th Avenue where you will find the 14th Street entrance to the High Line, an old elevated train track that was converted into a free, urban park with incredible views of the Hudson River waterfront.

The High Line is narrow but long and runs to 33rd Street and Hudson Yards. There are exits every two blocks and wooden lounge chairs to sit back and watch the sunset.

The buildings along the High Line have an interesting history as well which you can learn about on our High Line self-guided walking tour and our audio tour.

Of course, you can always join our pay-what-you-wish High Line/Chelsea tour as well.

Finish up with food from one of the dozens of food shops at the Chelsea Market on 9th Avenue and 16th Street.

Tips From Travelers

You know how they say a picture is worth 1,000 words?

We'll keep it short: if you can't afford One World Observatory, don't sweat it. You can still get an amazing view of an NYC sunset from the High Line.


Live Like A Local - Do what New Yorkers do on their days off: walk, shop, and eat.

Walk the Brooklyn Bridge

Head over to Brooklyn by subway to begin your walk over the bridge. If you can, take the East River Ferry to the Fulton Street Ferry Landing.

When you land, you could explore the beautiful Brooklyn Bridge Park and DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) before heading over the bridge.

For information about subways, starting points, and the history of the bridge, check out our self-guided tour of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Including time to take photos of the incredible views of the skyline and the harbor, give yourself 45 minutes from start to finish of the bridge.

If you are curious about life outside of Manhattan, we have two tours of the area, our 2-hour Brooklyn Heights Tour and our 3-hour Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn Heights, and DUMBO Tour.

And if you are wondering how the neighborhood got its name (no, it's not named after Disney's loveable elephant), read our post on What does the acronym DUMBO stand for?"

Tips From Travelers

One thing to keep in mind when it comes to catching the ferry to Dumbo is that you'll want the blue line.

This ferry departs from Pier 11, and it should be pretty affordable.

Lunch in Chinatown  

Chicago chinatown food tour bbq king

From the bridge exit, walk north on Centre Street, through the civic district lined with neo-classical courthouses.

On Worth Street make a right and walk one block to Columbus Park, always filled with locals playing cards, socializing, or doing tai-chi.

One block past the park is Mott Street, the main street of Chinatown.

If you want to delve deeper into this fascinating enclave, we have a self-guided tour of Chinatown.

There is no shortage of inexpensive restaurants along Mott and the side streets.

After your meal, walk north on Mott Street to Grand Street and make a left.

Tips From Travelers

If you're looking for advice on the best places to eat in Chinatown, you'll find our New York Travel Tips group is full of very opinionated locals with their own favorites.

Our theory for why there are so many disagreements about which restaurant is best? They're all excellent!

That said, both Irene and Kylie here agree that Nom Wah is an excellent spot for tea and dumplings.

Little Italy 

Technically Little Italy starts when you cross Canal Street, but Chinatown has become so crowded that most of Little Italy is more like a Chinatown extension.

For the most authentic Italian experience, walk along Grand Street and Mulberry Street where you can find some of the oldest Italian food shops and restaurants in all of America.

We have a self-guided tour of the neighborhood that could help you plan out what you will want to see.

Tips From Travelers

Most locals and travelers in our Facebook Group agree that the best time to visit Little Italy is in the evening, so you might even want to come back here a bit later!

For what it's worth, many people consider DaNico to be one of the best restaurants in the area.


Walk through this trendy, fun neighborhood and its Historic Cast Iron District with impressive, decorative buildings.

Peek into some of SoHo’s impressive art galleries and fashionable boutiques.

Our SoHo Neighborhood Guide can help you locate the highlights of the neighborhood.

Note: To get a deeper insight into these great neighborhoods, in just two hours, we offer a pay-what-you-wish  SoHo, Little Italy and Chinatown Tour.

Tips From Travelers

If you're wondering what the vibe is like in SoHo, the New York Travel Tips group lists off some of their favorite activities in the area.

Whether it's simply people watching or getting tattoos, there's plenty to see and do here.

For those with deep pockets, this is definitely the place to do some shopping for designer clothes!

A night out in Greenwich Village

For a huge variety of restaurants and nightlife, the Village is THE place to go. Start in Washington Square Park to see the buskers and performers near Washington Arch.

Here’s our self-guided Greenwich Village Tour including a neighborhood guide with suggestions of where to eat, shop, and see live music or comedy.

If you are interested in a more thorough exploration of this cultural and historical neighborhood, we offer several pay-what-you-wish guided tours.

We have a Greenwich Village Neighborhood Tour, and a Ghost Tour, and to sample different foods in the area, try our two-hour guided Food Tour.

To eat at your own pace, here is our self-guided Food Tour.

No matter how you choose to explore Greenwich Village, we guarantee that you spent time in this one-of-a-kind New York neighborhood.

Tips From Travelers

As Tracey points out, the filming location for the exterior of the apartment from Friends is located in Greenwich Village.

Of course, the actual apartment was just a set, but there is a special exhibit called The Friends Experience that recreates the set for visitors.

Tips From Locals and Travelers

Whether you want some more advice about the attractions and neighborhoods included on our itinerary, or you're looking for other itinerary ideas, consider visiting our New York Travel Tips group on Facebook.

As you can see, you'll find that a lot of people are more than willing to share their own personal itineraries, and they often provide a lot of helpful advice about touring NYC as well.

For example, Jimmy notes that the Citi Bike is an affordable and fun way to get around the city, and that the subway is quite easy to use as well.

This city can seem daunting, but it doesn't need to be that way. Our Facebook Group and many others are very helpful sources for both information and inspiration!


There are many other itineraries that you could use to help plan your trip.

Many of our neighborhood guides, some of which we linked to in the content above, can help you plan out a 1/2 or full day in just one area. 

Lastly, we have created several things to do posts, including top things to do, things to do at night, for free, as well as a family-friendly list.

Tourist Discount Pass Itineraries

Many people visiting NYC opt for a tourist discount pass.

These passes essentially bundle together popular attractions and tours and provide a single price that discounts the ticket prices by as much as 50%.

Each of these passes offers its own itineraries to help you best maximize your savings.

See our comparison post to help you decide which pass (if any) is best for you. 

About The Author

Stephen Pickhardt

Stephen is the CEO of Free Tours by Foot and has overseen the transformation of a local walking tour company into a global tour community and traveler’s advice platform. He has personally led thousands of group tours in the US and Europe, and is an expert in trip planning and sightseeing, with a focus on budget travelers. Stephen has been published and featured in dozens of publications including The Wall Street Journal, BBC, Yahoo,, and more.
Updated: December 1st, 2023
Back to Top