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3-Day NYC Itinerary

Updated: April 10, 2024

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

It is intended for tourists here for a short time, newcomers getting to know the city and even New Yorkers looking for ways to spend the day.

If you are looking for content written by locals and not enormous media corporations favored by Google, then you've come to the right place.

This itinerary is based on our local tour guides’ expert knowledge of the city and their understanding of how to make a short trip to New York City a satisfying one!

In the video below, one of our guides, Katie, provides an itinerary for a one-day itinerary 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 with us.

Our group consists of locals, like our guides, expats, regular visitors, and newbies to NYC.

You don’t need to join the group to read the posts, comments, and suggestions. So when you are done reading this post, check us out!


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 to 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 modes 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 reduced-price tickets or even 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 a money-saving NYC tourist attraction 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 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 guide to things to see in Times Square both day and night.

TIP: Keep your eyes open for the Naked Cowboy!

When you are ready to move on, walk south from 47th Street along 7th Avenue. At 42nd Street walk one long block east from 7th Avenue 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.

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.

New York Public Library

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.

From the library, continue walking east on 42nd Street two long blocks towards your next destination, Grand Central Station.

On the way, take a look up in the sky and you’ll see the shimmery, scalloped spire of the Chrysler Building

Grand Central Terminal

You'll enter this stunning NYC landmark 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.

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.

Rockefeller Center

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.

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.

From Rockefeller Center walk north along 5th Avenue to Central Park South, enter Central Park and walk to Gapstow Bridge.

Central Park

The minute you walk into this urban oasis, its beauty is apparent.

Check out our things to do in Central Park post, which includes a map, self-guided tour, and ideas for other ways 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).

TIP: Looking for that iconic photo locale? Check out our post on the best photo spots in Central Park.

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 getting cheap 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.


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.

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.

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 Trinity Church and walk south along Broadway to Battery Park at the tip of Manhattan.

Along the way, you will pass the Charging Bull statue, which happens to be where our Lower Manhattan GPS-enabled audio tour and our guided tour start.

Battery Park 

Since the 1800s, the site of the park has served New York City in several 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 you take a free ride on the Staten Island Ferry. 

Exit Battery Park anywhere along State Street and follow State Street south to the ferry terminal.

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.

From the ferry terminal, walk north on Whitehall Street which turns into Broadway. Continue north on Broadway until Cedar Street. Turn left.

Walk one block to Greenwich Avenue, turn right, and enter the 9/11 Memorial grounds.

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 where 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 part of or as the main focus of the tour.

Freedom Tower at One World Observatory

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.

We recommend 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 and ways to save on ticket costs.

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

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.

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?"

When you are done exploring the area, you will walk over the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan.

See our post on walking over the Brooklyn Bridge for detailed instructions on how to find the Brooklyn-side entrance to the pedestrian walkway.

Lunch in Chinatown

When you reach the Manhattan side of the bridge, you will be on Centre Street, the heart of NYC's civic district.

Walk north on Centre Street lined with neo-classical courthouses. At Worth Street turn 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 Canal Street, and turn left.

Walk one block on Canal Street to Mulberry Street and make a right turn. Walk north along Mulberry to discover Little Italy.

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.

It's a short walk from Little Italy to SoHo, and since the streets are perpendicular, you can easily make your own route from one neighborhood to the other.


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.

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 the place to shop for designer clothes!

SoHo is just south of the next neighborhood we recommend you visit, Greenwich Village.

An easy path is to leave SoHo by walking north on West Broadway until you reach Washington Square Park.

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 will love spending time in this one-of-a-kind New York neighborhood.


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 Attraction Pass Itineraries

Many people visiting NYC opt for a tourist attraction pass to take advantage of the great savings they offer.

These passes bundle tickets to popular attractions and tours and sell them at one reduced price.

By purchasing these passes you can save as much as 50% than if you bought tickets to each attraction individually.

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. 


Whether you want more advice about the attractions and neighborhoods included in our itinerary, or looking for other itinerary ideas, consider visiting our New York Travel Tips Facebook Group.

As you can see below, a lot of group members are happy to share their itineraries, suggestions and advice about touring NYC as well.

The tips are organized roughly in the order of activities in this itinerary.

Times Square

One of the most famous sights in Times Square is the Naked Cowboy. He’s not fully naked, so don't worry. Read more about him here.

Karen wanted to know where she could find him and 106 group members commented on her question. 

Times Square was always the answer. Plus, everyone had great things to say about him!

New York Public Library

While Dr Tracy points out that the New York Public Library is not a typical lending library (that is located at the corner of 5th Avenue and 40th Street), it has wonderful exhibits and also offers tours, making it worthwhile to visit.

Grand Central Station

As this 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

Rockefeller is fun to stroll through but if you want something a little more from your time there, we suggested being part of the outdoor studio audience of the Today Show.

These tips from group members are spot on! And just to be clear, they are talking about AM, not PM!

Knowing this, you might want to juggle your itinerary a bit and start your day with this activity.

Top of the Rock

Repeat visitors who love great views 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

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.


Who doesnt want to save money on theater tickets? Mary advises 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.

Lower Manhattan

This group member nearly followed our Day 2 itinerary PLUS had some of the best bagels in NYC!

Battery Park

Other than being a nice spot and where you catch the Statue of Liberty ferries, it's in a neighborhood that offers an alternative to hotels in Midtown, where most people gravitate.

Just hear what these group members have to say about Lower Manhattan hotels. Safe and convenient.

Staten Island Ferry

As Christy reveals, you might 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

Many travelers, like Kimberly, think the 9/11 Memorial and Museum must be visited together and require tickets.

Group members pointed out that there is no charge to walk around the memorial and see the massive cascading fountains.

They do point out though that the 9/11 Museum does require tickets and that it is a must-see.

Note that we didn't include it in our itinerary because it would take up several hours on Day 2.

Walk the Brooklyn Bridge

This group members asked a very common question, one that you may likely have as you plan out your time.

Group members were pretty much in agreement - generally 2-3 hours.

Group members had great ideas for saving some time, including taking either the NYC ferry or the subway one way and walk the other way.

If you decide to walk only one way there, do the walk back towards Manhattan from Brooklyn.


If you're looking for advice on the best places to eat in Chinatown, try this food crawl created by one of our group members.

Here's a fantastic money-saving tip. Don't shop Times Square for souvenirs - pick them up in Chinatown instead.


So if Chinatown is about cheap food and cheap gifts, what is SoHo about?

Greenwich Village

There are loads of fun things to see in Greenwich Village, as Tracey points out, this is where the exterior shots of the Friends apartment were taken.

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.

Little Italy

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!

Need some more suggestions? How about another four?!

For more ideas on your itinerary or any questions about your trip to New York City, check out our New York Travel Tips Facebook Group!

New York Travel Tips and Hacks

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: April 10th, 2024
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