Building the perfect New York City itinerary is no easy task. The Big Apple is loaded with things to do and landmarks to explore—choosing the ones to fill your 5 to 7 days in New York City might seem near impossible. That’s where we can help.
Here, we’re breaking down everything you need to know about your visit to NYC, from logistics to cannot-miss landmarks to lesser-known sites. Keep reading to get in the inside scoop on what to do in NYC and how to do it.
How Many Days in New York City?
When asked how many days to spend in New York City, most people would say that no time is ever enough. The city is always on the move, introducing new landmarks and things to so all the time.
However, visitors experiencing the city for the first time should try to spend a minimum of 5 days in New York City. This will give you enough time to hit the highlights and see some of the best parts of the city, albeit with a very packed itinerary.
If you have 7 days in New York City, you’ll have plenty of time to check out the key neighborhoods of Manhattan as well as venture into the other boroughs. WIth a week in New York, you could head to Coney Island or spend a full afternoon lounging in Central Park.
No matter how you choose to spend your time, your New York City itinerary can be as full or relaxed as you want.
Getting To & Around New York City
As the largest city in the country, you have several convenient options for how to get to the city. There are three airports nearby: JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark. Both JFK and LaGuardia are located in Queens.
Newark is located across the Hudson River from Manhattan in New Jersey. You can take public transportation to and from the airports, but several transfers will be required. Taxis and rideshares are also available. Plan a minimum of one hour of travel time and always check the traffic conditions.
New York is also accessible via train from a number of cities on the east coast within a few hours, including Boston, Philadelphia and Washington DC – so you don’t have to fly to reach NYC. You can view train schedules here.
Once you’ve made it into the heart of the city, by far the best way to get around is the subway. NYC’s thorough subway system will easily get you anywhere you need to go.
When choosing where you stay, try to pick an accommodation within walking distance of a major station. This will make getting around far more convenient. You can purchase a one-week unlimited subway card or pay per ride. In a pinch, taxis and rideshare services are readily available.
5 to 7 Days in New York City Itinerary
Most of the landmarks on a New York City itinerary are located in Manhattan. We recommend spending a day in Brooklyn and one day venturing beyond NYC.
Mix and match items from this itinerary to create the one that’s perfect for your visit—these are the highlights as well as a few lesser-known sites. If you plan to visit a lot of attractions, consider purchasing the New York City Pass for combined entry into many tourist attractions.
Day 1 – Downtown NYC
Statue of Liberty
Spend your first day in New York City by paying a visit to one of the city’s most iconic landmarks: the Statue of Liberty.
The statue was a gift from France after the American Civil War ended. It became a National Monument in 1924. Lady Liberty, as she’s colloquially called, sits on Liberty Island just off the tip of Manhattan.
As a visitor, you must reserve a ticket to hop on the ferry that will take you to the island. Once there, you can walk around the island, listen to an audio tour, and even climb up into the statue’s torch.
It’s usually pretty busy as it’s one of the most popular sites to see in New York, so try to visit first thing in the morning to beat the crowds.
Most visitors will visit Liberty Island and Ellis Island in one go. The two are located fairly close to each other and are reached by the same ferry. Ellis Island is the famous immigration station that welcomed over 12 million immigrants to the country.
Today, the island serves as a museum and historical landmark that’s been expertly preserved. Ellis Island opened in 1892 and ceased operation in 1954. It was left untouched for 30 years before being turned into a museum in 1990.
We highly recommend you reserve an audio tour. It provides excellent contextual information and skillfully guides you through the buildings on the island. You can even look up ancestors of yours who might’ve passed through Ellis Island in the archives.
You can book tickets here to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in conjunction.
Battery Park, or the Battery, is the slice of green space that sits on the very tip of Manhattan. Here is the jumping-off point to take the ferry to Ellis Island and Liberty Island. It’s a nice place to stroll or relax after spending a morning visiting some of the city’s most iconic landmarks.
If you visit during lunchtime, prepare to see many New Yorkers dressed in official business attire having lunch and walking through the park. It’s located right next to Wall Street, which is where you’re headed next.
Wall Street and the Charging Bull
The New York Stock Exchange is located just off Battery Park and is worth a visit as you walk by. Tours of the stock exchange are no longer permitted, but you can walk up to the building and take a photo of the iconic pillared marble building.
Don’t leave the area without first visiting the Charging Bull of Wall Street. This bronze statue was built in 1989 and depicts a bull preparing to charge. It was meant to represent the country’s financial optimism and growth.
You’ve done a lot on your first day in New York City, but there is one more place to visit that is located near Lower Manhattan. If you’re not tired of taking boat rides, head over to Governor’s Island. This former coast guard base closed to save money in the mid-90s.
However, the buildings and green spaces have been preserved for visitors to enjoy. Few tourists make their way to Governor’s Island. From the dock, you can walk a short paved path to the top of a small hill to get excellent views of Lower Manhattan.
Due to how few people visit, you can certainly grab a picnic spot with a great view. It’s a great stop before or after dinner.
Day 2 – Ground Zero, Times Square & Broadway
National September 11 Memorial & Museum
You’re kicking off day 2 in New York City with a visit to Ground Zero. The National September 11 Memorial consists of two fountains located where the original Twin Towers stood before the 9/11 attacks. The memorial is free and open to the public every day of the week.
Take your time walking around the fountains. The 9/11 museum opened a few years after the memorials. It’s located right next to the memorial and you can purchase tickets in advance or onsite.
In the museum, you’ll walk through the events leading up to, during, and after the attack as well as pay homage to everyone who lost their lives on that day.
One World Observatory
Located right next to the 9/11 memorial is the One World Trade Center. At its top, you can find the One World Observatory.
Here, you’ll find excellent views of Manhattan and the surrounding boroughs. Try to purchase your tickets in advance to save you some time on site.
Upon arrival, head to the Sky Pod Elevator. It’ll take you to the 100th, 101st, and 102nd floors that provide exceptional 360-degree views. On a clear day, visitors can see up to 45 miles in every direction.
Make sure to check the weather the day that you’re planning to visit to ensure it’ll be clear enough for a good view.
Once you’ve wrapped up in Lower Manhattan, hop on the subway and head straight to the iconic Times Square. Among all the top things to do in New York City, Times Square is consistently listed among the top.
Here, you’ll walk through one of the world’s busiest pedestrian areas surrounded by towering screens that light up the area. At the tip, look closely to see the famous ball that drops every year on New Year’s Eve to ring in the new year.
You can find several options for shopping and talented street performers. Walk around and see the iconic sites, but don’t leave without seeing a show on Broadway.
The Broadway Theater District sits right next to Times Square. It’s the heart of American commercial theatre. Here is where some of the most famous musicals like The Lion King, Chicago, Wicked, and more began and are still performed today.
If you have time it’s well worth it to see a show. You can opt for a matinee or evening performance. Tickets range widely in price but generally tend to be more expensive during the weekend and evening.
It’s very important that you reserve a ticket as far in advance as possible for your New York City itinerary.
Day 3 – Midtown Manhattan Highlights
Empire State Building
The Empire State Building is one of the most iconic skyscrapers in NYC’s skyline and a must-see during your 5 days in New York City. This 102-story Art Deco building was built in Midtown between 1930 and 1931.
The view from the observation deck on the 102nd floor is a popular attraction for tourists. Visitors will get exceptional views of lower Manhattan, including One World Trade Center and the Statue of Liberty.
Even if you don’t want to go all the way to the top, take a peek into the lobby to admire its interior design made famous by countless movies and television shows. You can purchase tickets here.
Take a midday break to relax in Bryant Park. On a warm summer day, the park is filled with locals and visitors. Street markets and fairs are a common sight here. During the winter, the park is transformed into a winter market with a large ice skating rink.
Grab a bite nearby and head to the park to relax. Bryant Park is located about a ten-minute walk from the Empire State Building and directly in front of the New York Public Library if you want to pop inside.
Rockefeller Center and Top of the Rock
You might be familiar with Rockefeller Center from its many references in popular culture. It’s near the Radio City Music Hall, showcases the gold Prometheus statue, and is home to the famous Rockefeller Christmas Tree during the holidays.
The Top of the Rock is the observation deck at the top of Rockefeller Center. It’s heralded as one of the best views of New York City. Plan to spend about an hour at the site and take in the view.
Grand Central Station
Walk about ten minutes toward the East River and you’ll shortly arrive at Grand Central Station. This is the largest train station in the world, spread over 49 acres with 44 platforms and 67 tracks across two levels.
Construction began in 1903 and took ten years to complete before officially opening its doors to the public. The main hall is one of the most impressive parts of the station. This massive concourse sports a giant four-sided brass clock and a ceiling covered with constellations.
During your visit, find the Whisper Gallery. Because of how the arches here were built, two people can stand on opposite sides of the hall and whisper into the corners. The sound carries and the two people can speak even when the terminal is at its busiest.
Day 4 – Central Park & NYC Museums
New York City’s Central Park was one of the earliest urban parks built and influenced other cities nationwide to do the same. It’s a lovely collection of fields, forested spaces, ponds, and museums.
Here, you can comfortably spend a few hours watching baseball games, lounging in the grass, or walking through the countless trails and paved paths. If you want to see more than one area of the park, the best way to get around is on a bike.
You can rent a bike nearby or take a bike tour. Don’t forget to stop by Bethesda Terrace with the famous fountain and square that you’ve most likely seen in movies. There are also walking tours if you prefer.
American Museum of Natural History
As the largest national history museum in the world, a visit to the American Museum of Natural History should be added to your NYC itinerary. The museum is spread across four city blocks with about 25 connected buildings.
Here you’ll wander through several exhibits ranging from fossils to marine life. The museum is located on the west side of Central Park.
Some highlights during your visit might include a visit to the Hayden Planetarium, seeing the giant blue whale hanging from the ceiling, the butterfly conservatory, and much more.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Take a lunch break before making your way to the other side of Central Park to visit another iconic NYC museum: the Met. The Metropolitan Museum of Art contains art from some of the world’s most famous artists.
It’s the largest art museum in the Americas and it’s home to over two million pieces of art throughout 17 different departments, ranging from classic art to musical instruments. It’s located along the Museum Mile, the stretch of museums along the eastern side of Central Park.
You can easily spend a few hours wandering this museum. It’s highly recommended that you purchase a ticket in advance as the entrance line can be long. Don’t forget to visit the rooftop bar and restaurant before leaving for excellent views of Central Park. It is also possible to take a guided tour of the museum.
Day 5 – Explore Brooklyn
Kick off your fifth day in New York City by heading toward Brooklyn. The Brooklyn Bridge is your first stop. It’s perhaps the most famous bridge in the city, connecting Manhattan to Brooklyn over the East River.
It was the first suspension bridge to use steel for its cable wire and was the longest suspension bridge in the world at the time that it was built.
The walk across the Brooklyn Bridge is just over one mile and worth it for the unique views one gets of the bridge by walking across it. It’s a perfect way to start your day heading over to Brooklyn.
Brooklyn Bridge Park
Once you walk across the entirety of the Brooklyn Bridge, you’ll find yourself in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Here is one of the best parks for locals and visitors alike. It can get busy, but you’re rewarded with exceptional views of Manhattan.
From here you can also explore famous neighbourhoods in Brooklyn like Dumbo and Brooklyn Heights. Walk along the riverfront promenade to take in the great views, grab a bite to eat at a restaurant along the river, or do some shopping. You can also take a walking tour of the area.
Depending on the time of year, markets and events might be happening in the park.
Brooklyn Botanical Garden
Continue venturing into Brooklyn by paying a visit to the botanical garden. By far the best time to visit the garden is in the spring. During this time of year, the cherry trees are blooming, along with the garden’s 52 other species of plants and flowers.
There are both indoor and outdoor gardens and greenhouses that are open year-round.
After visiting the garden, go for a walk in Prospect Park and visit the boathouse. There are forested trails, giant fields, and a path that takes you around the entire park.
Day 6 – Chelsea & the Flatiron District
Walk the High Line
If you’re looking for a break from the more touristy activities in New York City, head over to Chelsea to walk along the High Line. Built on a former New York Central Railroad spur, this 1.5-mile-long elevated trail is filled with lush greenery and places to relax to enjoy the sites.
Along the walk, you’ll run into several outdoor art installations in between great views of the New York skyline. It takes most visitors 30 minutes to one hour to walk the entire High Line. Once you’re done, hopefully, you’ve worked up an appetite, so you can head to Chelsea Market.
Chelsea Market and Little Island
Seated squarely in the heart of the Meatpacking District is Chelsea Market. This shopping mall and food hall is an excellent stop if you’re looking for some tasty food and souvenirs. You’ll find everything from gelato to Thai food.
The market opened in 1997 and has gradually evolved into its current iteration over the years. We recommend you stop in for lunch or an afternoon snack before heading to Little Island. If you want to explore with a guide, you can organise a tour of the area.
Little Island is a relatively new addition to Manhattan’s list of attractions. This public park protrudes into the Hudson River. Flowers, greenery, and walking paths fill the area. Maybe take your food from Chelsea Market and have a picnic on Little Island. It’s about a ten-minute walk from the market.
Take some time to slow down in the city that never sleeps and relax in one of the city’s newest features.
Union Square and Flatiron Building
7 days in New York City wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Flatiron Building. This building is unique in its shape–it stands at 22 stories and it is shaped like a triangle.
Over the years, the Flatiron has been used as a hotel, offices, and apartment buildings. It’s had many owners and has been put up for auction more than once. Visitors can’t go inside the building, but admiring it from outside is the best view.
A short walk from the Flatiron Building brings you to Union Square. It’s one of the most lively squares in all of NYC. Here you’ll find a major train station that will get you wherever you need to go. But first, you should take a walk around the square.
Depending on the time of year, this square is filled with vendors selling holiday crafts or fresh produce. Street performers and people playing chess are also everywhere. The Strand, NYC’s famous bookstore, is also a few blocks away.
Day 7 – Coney Island or Rockaway Beach
You’ve probably heard of Coney Island and those seeing New York in 7 days will likely have the time to pay it a visit. This amusement park and beach combination is located in the southwestern part of Brooklyn. You can easily reach it by subway from Manhattan.
Between 1880 and World War II, Coney Island was the largest amusement park in the country. Over the years, it has expanded to become a popular weekend destination for both locals and visitors to New York.
During your visit, you can grab a hot dog at Nathan’s Famous, ride the towering Ferris wheel, or visit the New York Aquarium. You can also just spend an afternoon lounging on the beach.
If you’re looking to spend a day trip out of Manhattan and away from the crowds and long lines, heading to Rockaway Beach is a great option if you’re spending 7 days in NYC.
You’ll never entirely escape large sums of people in New York, but Rockaway Beach is less popular for tourists. It’s located on a narrow peninsula on the southeastern end of Queens that you can easily reach by taking the subway.
You have the option of relaxing on the beach, swimming in select parts of the beach where lifeguards are present, or walking along the boardwalk.
Where to Stay in New York
Broadway Plaza Hotel – Located in midtown close to the iconic Flatiron building, this 3-star hotel makes for an excellent base when visiting New York. They have a number of great rooms available, an excellent location for exploring the top tourist attractions and plenty of amenities on offer for guests. Click here to check availability
Archer Hotel – Those looking for luxury in NYC are going to love this sophisticated midtown hotel. There are a number of modern rooms on offer, a location perfect for exploring all that New York has to offer and a rooftop bar with incredible views of the Empire State and Chrysler Buildings. Click here to check availability
The Wallace Hotel – If you’re looking for a 5-star experience when you visit New York then you’re sure to love this opulent hotel on the Upper West Side. They have a number of plush rooms to choose from and it’s within a stone’s throw of Central Park. Click here to check availability
American Dream Hostel – Travelers visiting NYC on a budget will love this highly-rated hostel in midtown Manhattan. Located within easy reach of attractions like the Empire State Building and the Flatiron Building, they have dorms and private rooms available along with good common spaces. Click here to check availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more New York hotels!
The perfect New York City itinerary is a blend of historic landmarks and sites unique to NYC. In this ever-changing and vibrant city, you’ll have plenty of amazing ways to spend your time.
Are you planning a trip to New York? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!