3 Day Weekend in New York Itinerary (For First Timers!)

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A long, 3-day weekend in New York is a great chance to see the highlights of one of the biggest and best cities in the world.

But to make the most of your time, you’ll need to be prepared for a non-stop, whirlwind trip through the most popular sights and most iconic attractions.

New York is a city that never stops giving, and a weekend in New York will never be enough to see everything, but you will be able to have an excellent New York itinerary.

You will also quickly find yourself wanting to return to the Big Apple, as each area and district has its own culture and history, and it’s always a fascinating place to delve deeper into. 

For first-timers though, we’re using our first-hand experience from 10+ trips to Manhattan to put together this comprehensive guide to spending a 3 day weekend in New York.

Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet New York City (Travel Guide)

3 Day Weekend in New York Itinerary

I would recommend a bare minimum of 3 days to hit the highlights of New York City.

With that said, be prepared for a crazy, packed 3 day New York itinerary in this guide of the best things to do in Paris.

Before you start your long weekend in New York, though, I highly recommend purchasing the New York City Explorer Pass.

This little gem is going to give you access to pretty much everything listed in this guide and a 48 hour Hop on Hop off bus ticket.

Get the New York City Explorer Pass online to save time and money on your trip.

Location is Everything: Where to Stay in NYC

Horse Carriage Central Park New York City

New York City has a huge range of accommodation, so you will be able to find just about anything to match your budget.

The secret is to be in a good location.

We’ve been to New York City no less than 10 times and we prefer to stay in the area between Times Square and Madison Square Garden.

This area is super convenient for the metro, public transportation, walking, dining, and attractions. Which is important to maximize your time in the city.

Some hotels we have stayed at and enjoyed in this area include:

We have also stayed at these properties outside of our recommended district. While they are nice, we hands-down prefer the area we mentioned above.

Day 1: New York Itinerary

Day one of your New York itinerary begins in the touristic center of the city, at the classic destination of Times Square.

From here, you’ll be exploring the heart of New York, as you visit some of the most famous attractions and landmarks, including the likes of Grand Central Station and the Empire State Building.

Make sure you are wearing a good pair of walking shoes because you’ve got a lot of distance to cover today. 

Times Square 

Times Square - Weekend in New York
Times Square in Manhattan

Times Square is one of the best places to start your 3 day weekend in New York because it’s a classic square that you can easily use a reference point for the rest of your stay.

More than this though, Times Square is easily the most famous and recognizable square in the city.

Renowned for its enormous neon advertisements and New Year’s Eve countdowns that are broadcast around the world. 

It’s always a busy and bustling place to be, right in the middle of Manhattan, and you can find many famous hotels, shops, and theaters all around Times Square. 

Our Top Recommended Tours:

New York Public Library

3 Day Weekend in New York
New York Public Library

From Times Square, take a short walk across the city to the iconic building that houses the New York Public Library.

This elegant building is home to a vast collection of books from around the world that number into the millions and the interior of the library is stunning to see.

It’s one of the largest libraries in the world, and the grand building dates back to the early 20th century and has become an enduring symbol of the city and its ethos for learning. 

Our Top Recommended Tours:

Rockefeller Center

3 Day Weekend in New York
View from Top of the Rock

Next up on your New York itinerary, you’ll be visiting the Rockefeller Center, another famous and popular tourist attraction in the city. 

The Rockefeller Center is a classic stop on the first day of your weekend in New York.

You can spend a few hours exploring the 19 different buildings that make up the complex.

There’s a lot to see and do here, from admiring the artwork and statues to making the journey to the ‘Top of the Rock’ for excellent views over the surrounding city.  

Our Top Recommended Tours:

Grand Central Station

3 Day Weekend in New York
Grand Central Station

From the Rockefeller Center, it’s time for another short walk to Grand Central Station.

Train stations aren’t exactly always high on the list of sightseeing attractions in a city, but Grand Central Station is a cut above the rest.

This is one of the most popular attractions in the city in fact, and it has to be included in your New York itinerary if it’s your first time in the city.

The building is beautiful, with an ornate interior that’s lined with giant chandeliers.

More than this though, Grand Central Station is home to a wide array of shops and restaurants, making it a good place to stop for a snack, or for lunch.

Our Top Recommended Tours:

Empire State Building

3 Day Weekend in New York
Empire State Building

Your tour of the city continues with a trip to what is perhaps the most recognizable name on the New York skyline, the Empire State Building.

At 102 floors in height, this is one of the tallest buildings in the city, measuring up to over 400 meters in height if you include the huge antennae.

On the 102nd floor, you can find an incredible observation deck, where you can enjoy the best view of New York, as long as you aren’t afraid of the dizzying height.

It’s a truly impressive view, and you can see for mile after mile in every direction because the observation deck offers a unique 360-degree panoramic viewing area. 

Built in 1931, the Empire State Building has a long history behind it too. For many decades, it was the tallest building in the world.

Although in recent years, its crown has been taken by ever taller structures around the world, no one else can beat this classic New York sight in terms of heritage.

Our Top Recommended Tours:

Take in a Broadway Show

3 Day Weekend in New York
Broadway in New York City

End the first day of your New York itinerary by spending the evening enjoying the delights of a Broadway Show.

Broadway is one of the world’s most well-known theater districts, and you can find 41 professional venues in the area offering superb theatrical performances.

The most common productions are musicals, including popular shows such as Hamilton or the Lion King. 

Shows are on every night, but you’ll need to book in advance for the most sought out venues and performances throughout the year.

It’s the perfect way to end your first day in New York.

Our Top Recommended Broadway Show options:

Day 2: Weekend in New York

Day 2 of your weekend in New York, will have you visiting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island before you spend the rest of the day exploring Central Park and the many museums that are found in the area. 

Statue of Liberty

3 Day Weekend in New York
Lady Liberty

The Statue of Liberty is easily one of the most instantly recognizable landmarks in the entire city because this towering statue is known the world over.

A symbol of liberty and freedom, the statue was gifted to New York by the French and unveiled in 1886.

It’s come to represent the city’s ideals and has become a wider symbol of American independence.

Take a boat across to Liberty Island to stand in the shadow of this colossal statue.

Our Top Recommended Tours:

Ellis Island 

3 Day Weekend in New York
View of the Statue of Liberty from Ellis Island

Next up, you’ll be taking another boat, this time to Ellis Island, which is found just a short journey from Liberty Island.

Ellis Island is in many ways another symbol of New York, as this was the point at which many hundreds of thousands of immigrants arriving from Europe through the early 20th century would be processed. 

The island is now home to a museum, which includes the preserved remnants of a quarantine area.

It’s a fascinating look at both the dark and bright sides of emigration to the United States. 

Our Top Recommended Tours:

Central Park 

3 Day Weekend in New York
Central Park in New York City

Back on dry land, you’ll be spending the rest of the second day of your New York itinerary exploring Central Park. 

This is the largest public park in the city, and you can spend hours walking through and strolling along all the different pathways that stretch across the hundreds of acres of public space in the center of Manhattan.

It’s a beautiful escape from the urban confines of New York, and you’ll welcome the greenery and the relatively fresh air. 

You can visit the Central Park Zoo, enjoy the waterways and the pleasant, grassy areas, and you can also visit the many museums that surround the park too.

In close vicinity to Central Park, or on the edge of the park itself, you can spend the afternoon calling into some of the city’s most famous institutions.

This includes the American Museum of Natural History, the Guggenheim Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

Our Top Recommended Tours:

Day 3: Weekend in New York

3 Day Weekend in New York

Day 3 of your weekend in New York, will be more a somber day in many ways, because now is the time for you to learn more about New York’s defining historical event, 9/11.

You’ll visit Ground Zero and see how the event has shaped the city that you see today, as well as seeing other iconic parts of the city too. 

Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge New York City
Brooklyn Bridge at sunset

Start the day by strolling over the famed Brooklyn Bridge.

Spanning the East River from Brooklyn to Manhattan, the beautiful work of engineering has stood here since 1883, and was the first connection across the river.

Our Top Recommended Tours:

Wall Street

3 Day Weekend in New York
Famous Wall Street Bull

From the Brooklyn Bridge, head across Manhattan to Wall Street, another equally famous part of the city, although of course, for different reasons.

Walkthrough the money-making capital of the world, and admire the grand buildings along the street, including the New York Stock Exchange. 

Our Top Recommended Tours:

9/11 Memorial and Museum

3 Day Weekend in New York
9/11 Memorial

End your final day in the city, and the last part of your New York itinerary, with a look at the tragedy of 9/11. 

You can visit Ground Zero, where the 9/11 attacks occurred, to see the moving memorials created in the aftermath.

Ground Zero is also the site of a museum that’s dedicated to the event, and that tells the tale of the people caught up in the tragic events.

It’s somber, but it’s necessary to see how the events shaped the New York that you’ve been exploring already for the previous few days. 

Our Top Recommended Tours:

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About Lina Stock

Lina is an award-winning photographer and writer that has been exploring the world since 2001. She has traveled to 100 countries on all 7 continents. Member: SATW, NATJA, ATTA, ITWA

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