New York, New York! A weekend in New York City has got to be the ultimate city break for many. It’s a huge busting metropolis and has something for everyone. You can’t see it all in one weekend and so you need to prioritise.
Our travel guide will be perfect if you’re into similar things to us, you can expect foodie stops, taking in some epic architectural highlights, boat trips, being active and exploring on foot. If that sounds like what you’re looking for then let’s begin!
Here’s our guide on what you should not miss when planning a city break in New York City.
Where to Stay
Book a hotel in lower Manhattan, most AirBNB properties are illegal within New York City so don’t get caught out just book a hotel. Although it’s expensive it means you’re right in the middle of all the main sites a first timer to New York wants to see.
On our latest trip to New York we stayed in the Redbury which was ok. We much preferred their LA property which was gorgeous but has now been sold. The Redbury in Manhattan is a bit worn in places (air conditioner systems are very noisy) and the rooms are very cramped – but it’s New York and space comes at a premium. If you’re budget tends to be mid-range like us you will find the Redbury is in your budget and in a great location.
Although I’d consider a different property next time if the price was right the location of the Redbury is a struggle to beat. So when searching for somewhere to stay start by checking out this neighbourhood which is called NoMad – north of Madison Square Garden.
Day 1 – Midtown Manhattan
If you can find an early flight then go for it and aim to land in New York for lunch time on your first day. Drop your bags at your hotel and head straight back out into the city.
There are a lot of sights you won’t want to miss in Midtown Manhattan. Arriving in the city around midday will mean you’re about ready for lunch. There are unlimited options but we recommend you first head to Chelsea Market. Here you have a range of options for food but even if you don’t eat here it’s worth a walk through. As well as food stalls you can also find plenty of shops here. It’s a very trendy market – welcome to New York City!
If you don’t find anything you fancy for lunch at Chelsea Market we recommend you head for some New York pizza. Minutes away from Chelsea Market you will find at Artichoke Basille’s Pizza on 10th Avenue and the slices here are excellent.
You can eat in or take away at Artichoke Basille’s Pizza but we recommend getting your slices to go. You can head up onto the nearby High Line to eat your lunch with a view of the New York skyline.
The High Line
The High Line is an urban park which has been created from a disused elevated train line. It is 1.45 miles long and had plenty of break out areas for sitting and relaxing – perfect for grabbing lunch with a view.
After lunch head north on the High Line towards the Vessel – a fancy piece of modern architecture you’re encouraged to walk around. As you head towards the Vessel you will enjoy the sights of New York while being above the hustle and bustle of a working city. Although New York is a huge tourist draw don’t forget that many of the people you will come across live here and are busy heading to and from work – be patient and enjoy people watching, you never know who you will see.
At the end of the High Line walk around 34th Street until you join Broadway. Turning left head up Broadway towards Times Square to get your first view during the day time. It’s busy day and night but the lights make visiting at night time a totally different experience – come back later for the night time views.
After you have experienced the mayhem that is Times Square head back down Broadway to 42nd Street. From here turn left which will lead you towards the New York Public Library
New York Public Library
The New York Public Library is huge and free to enter. There is a bag check as you enter the building but it doesn’t take long. This is the flag ship library of New York, a historic as well a beautiful building. Expect to spend around an hour exploring inside.
Grand Central Terminal
Heading out of the New York Public Library continue along 42nd Street and you will soon find yourself at Grand Central Terminal. We don’t normally recommend going into train stations just to have a look but we make an exception for this one.
Grand Central Terminal is listed as a National Historic Landmark. It has been featured in loads of films – so you will probably recognise it when you arrive.
You can catch the subway back to your hotel from Grand Central Terminal but before that take the opportunity to have a look around. You could grab a coffee or browse the shops or just admire how Grand this train station truly is.
Dinner and a Show
An weekend in New York wouldn’t be complete without seeing a Broadway show. Grab dinner first though. We would recommend Ayza Wine & Chocolate Bar in the NoMad neighbourhood. Ayza do a great selection of cheeseboards along with plenty of wine. We had our best dessert in New York at Ayza – New York Cheesecake fondue!
As for Broadway Shows well you really are spoiled for choice. We narrowed down our choice by theatre first. Unlike London’s West End there are more modern theatres on Broadway (and off Broadway) but we wanted to experience an older theatre. That decision narrowed our choice to just a few shows.
If you want to experience one of the older theatres as well then check out Playbill for whats showing at The Lyceum Theatre, The Hudson Theatre, The New Amsterdam Theatre or give the Broadhurst Theatre a try – we saw Anastasia there and it was fantastic.
After the show head back into Times Square to experience it at nighttime. A totally different experience to your walk through during the day. Even if you don’t linger there it’s worth another walk through.
Day 2 – Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn
Spend the full day today exploring Lower Manhattan and the DUMBO neighbourhood of Brooklyn. Get an early start and catch the subway to Wall Street before breakfast.
You can buy a multi ride ticket for the New York subway system but if you’re following this itinerary over a weekend it won’t be worth getting one. Buy a single fare at the entrance to your nearest subway station which costs less than $3 per ride.
Wall Street puts you in the heart of the financial district in Lower Manhattan. While you’re here pick up a New York favourite for breakfast – a bagel. At the Broadway end of Wall Street there is a great cafe where you can get your breakfast to go – Cafe Exchange. It’s a quick bites kind of place and has so much choice everyone in your group will be able to find something they like.
Take you bagels to go and head down Broadway towards the Charging Bull. It’s a nightmare to try and get a photo of it unless you’re there super early. We arrived about 9am and it was already crowded with so many people you could barely see it. Get your photos of the Charging Bull and the Fearless Girl if you can while you’re here.
Near the Charging Bull is Bowling Green. This is a great little park where you can sit and have your breakfast. It’s steps away from the Charging Bull so if you didn’t get a photo before breakfast then you can have a second chance after you’ve finished eating.
From Bowling Green head into Battery Park. If you want to visit Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty then book your tickets for the cruise this morning. You can book Statue of Liberty Cruises direct through the Statue Cruises Website. Cruises leave from Battery Park and expect to spend a few hours between visiting both the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
It wasn’t important to us to be physically on the island so we chose a different way to see the Statue of Liberty – more on that later. After a walk around Battery Park to take in the immigration and war memorials we took the subway to the DUMBO neighbourhood of Brooklyn.
DUMBO and the Brooklyn Bridge
You will find DUMBO to be a bit more laid back than Manhattan. There are plenty of cafes here and some spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline. The main reason we recommend you get the subway out here though is actually to walk back to Manhattan.
You might want to take the opportunity to grab lunch while in Brooklyn, there are of course plenty of options to choose from you are spoiled for choice. I’d recommend getting lunch to go and eating by the river front with a Manhattan skyline view.
The Brooklyn Bridge connects Lower Manhattan with Brooklyn and by far the best way to experience walking this bridge is to do so back towards Manhattan. We considered biking the bridge as you can rent bicycles across the city but we were so glad we didn’t. The bridge is very crowded and those on bikes constantly had to get off a push to avoid pedestrians – it would have been a nightmare.
The walk back to Manhattan across the Brooklyn Bridge is an unforgettable experience. The bridge is impressive itself but the view of the Manhattan skyline is breathtaking.
One World Observatory and the 9/11 Memorial
Just 10 minutes further walk from the Manhattan end of the Brooklyn Bridge is the site of One World Trade Centre. It’s not for everyone but for us it was important to visit here while visiting New York City.
First visit the Memorial Pools which are where the twin towers once stood. It’s a very calm area with the names of those who lost their lives written into the surrounds of the pools.
Next to the pools you can enter One World Trade Centre which is home to One World Observatory. The newest observation deck, and highest, in Manhattan. You can book tickets to skip the line on the One World Observatory website. We have to say that this had a bit more of a theme-park vibe than we would have liked, though the view is spectacular. We would recommend if you want to visit the observatory to do so before the 9/11 Memorial Museum.
The 9/11 Memorial Museum has been very respectfully done and is well worth your time. You will need a couple of hours here to take it all in. Tickets can be bought in advance on the 9/11 Memorial website. Inside you will see a lot of remains from the site of the old World Trade Centre. There are also several films to watch of accounts of what happened that day.
When you exit the 9/11 Memorial Museum before you leave this area be sure to take a look at the Oculus which is the impressive subway station for the World Trade Centre. The design is said to symbolise light continuing to shine through the darkness. A fitting memorial and not just a subway station.
Statue of Liberty Sunset Cruise
Instead of joining the masses on the Statue of Liberty Cruise we wanted a different experience. Manhattan by Sail exceeded our expectations for this when we went on their Statue of Liberty sunset cruise on the Shearwater schooner.
The Shearwater is limited to 49 people and it’s a large boat so doesn’t feel overcrowded at all. The cruise leaves from North Cover marina in Lower Manhattan, just a short walk from the World Trade Centre site.
The two hours we spent on the Shearwater are the most memorable we have of New York City. The views are spectacular of both the Manhattan Skyline and the Statue of Liberty. We were able to watch the sun set as we cruised by the Statue of Liberty – an experience we’ll never forget. Seeing the Manhattan skyline light up on our way back was also a spectacular sight. If there’s one activity we recommend you do in New York above all others – a sunset cruise on the Shearwater is it. You can book tickets on the Manhattan by Sail website.
Day 3 – Central Park
There’s one huge attraction we haven’t mentioned so far – Central Park. On your last day of your weekend in New York City head up to Central Park.
We can recommend breakfast with a breathtaking view at Asiate in the Mandarin Oriental. It’s pricey and it’s not really the food you’re paying for here it’s very much the view. The Asiate restaurant overlooks Central Park and you will struggle to get a better view of the park over breakfast it really is spectacular.
You can explore the southern half of Central Park with two or three hours at your disposal. Enter the park from Columbus Circle, the nearest entrance to the Mandarin Oriental hotel.
Follow signs for the Lake, this route will take you past Sheep Meadow and Strawberry Fields.
When you arrive at the Lake you can hire a rowing boat, which we recommend you do for an hour. An hour is enough time for you to get around the Lake at a leisurely pace.
Highlights of rowing around the Lake include many sights you will recognise from film and TV. Firstly you will row under Bow Bridge, from there you will get views of Cherry Hill and Ladies Pavilion from the water.
From the Lake head towards Conservatory Water which is minutes away. You can watch model boats sail on Conservatory Water and nearby you will see the famous Alice in Wonderland statue as well as a monument of Hans Cristian Andersen.
From Conservatory Water head south towards the Mall and Literary Walk which will lead you to the exit by the 5th Avenue subway station. From here depending on time available you could walk down 5th Avenue and see some of the huge designer shops – Tiffany’s is nearby if you want to re-enact the scene from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Otherwise if you’re out of time catch the subway out of the city from the 5th Avenue station as you leave Central Park.
We hope you find this guide for a weekend in New York useful. Let us know what your favourite sights are in New York City in the comments!