One of my favorite past times has become planning trips. It was kind of an accident due to the fact that the first time we ever went to NYC and decided to “wing it”, we realized that doesn’t really work. In a place like New York making sure all of the details match up so that everything is done as efficiently as possible is a MAJOR key! If you are going for a week, things are naturally more spread out, but I love a good challenge of a three or four day trip (including travel days)! I wanted to share our recent trip itineraries for those who may be considering a weekend NYC trip of their own. Some may think I’m craaazy for how specific it is, but I know I can enjoy a fun city if I don’t have to think about what’s next. When planning, I always calculate how long a walk from one point to the next will be, and this will be easiest when you know where you are staying. Below is based off where we always stay, and where I would highly recommend staying as far as accommodations and location are concerned!
We always book an early flight into the city and a late flight out of it. We leave out of Atlanta and fly into LGA and there are flights going about every hour. We like to get into the city before lunch so that we have a mostly full day to see all the things! We ALWAYS stay at the Lotte New York Palace. Not only is it iconic, but it is also a stunning hotel with the comfiest beds (very important with such a busy few days). Book through Expedia, they price match and if you aren’t using Skymiles or reward tickets you can get some good flight + hotel bundle deals. The cheapest day to travel is Saturday so try to book a Saturday to Monday or Tuesday trip.
With an early flight, we get to the hotel at around 10:30. When we get to the hotel we will check in and drop our bags off for holding until our room is ready–sometimes we can get in our room right away, and sometimes we have to wait.
This probably won’t be a huge surprise to most, but I don’t travel to New York very traditionally. I hate Times Square and am not into the Big Bus tours! If you do want to do that, there are easy spots to throw those kinds of things in.
Here we go with an easy way to see a lot in three days in New York. Whenever I plan a trip I always give myself plenty of time in between stops for the unexpected as far as getting a car, traffic or let’s be honest…getting lost, so you will notice that as well!
10:30 Check-In – Most hotels will hold your bags for you until your room is ready, drop them there and don’t waste a minute at the hotel!
11:00 Lunch at Shake Shack – Best burger ever AND it originated in New York!
12:30-4:00 Explore – We chose the following spots because if you take a taxi to Washington Square Park, the first fews spots will be within walking distance and then catch a cab for the last few if you’re feeling weak early.
– Washington Square Park – See the arch, see the fountain and see the abundance of NYU students, it’s basically their campus.
– Stumptown Coffee – Grab a latte for your walk, they’re amazing here!
– Greenwich Village – Perfect time to see some iconic brownstones and walk-ups.
– SOHO – Shop, shop, shop. Any brand worth mentioning has a store in SOHO. The cobblestone streets and refreshingly bright buildings are a sight for sore eyes, too!
– Flatiron Building
4:45-7:00 Sunset Cruise – We did a sunset cruise on a small yacht and it was the coolest way to see the city! You get a lot accomplished as far as sights are concerned since it includes a view of all sides of Manhattan, Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan Bridge and Statue of Liberty!
7:00 Dinner at Chelsea Market – This is walking distance of the Chelsea Pier, and it is more casual, but there is something for everyone.
9:30 Top of the Rock – Ok, this place is so touristy but I love it. Rockefeller is one of my buildings in New York because of the history and how iconic it is. The view from here is better (in my not-so-humble opinion) than the Empire State Building, so if you only do one, I would pick this one! Buy your tickets in advance, and when you get to the top, go all the way up where there is no glass between you and the view. There are some hidden stairs and signs that say “upper deck” that will get you there. We got the “Sun and Stars” pass so we could see it during the day and night, you’ll get a discount that way by going twice as long as it’s within 24 hours.
10:30 Magnolia Bakery – There is one next to Rockefeller, and you won’t regret grabbing a late night dessert here. They are known for their banana pudding, but the cupcakes are also AMAZE.
9:00 Breakfast at SaraBeth’s Central Park – Make these reservations pretty far in advance, as they book up fast. I would recommend the fat and fluffy french toast with a mimosa. It’s a heavenly combination.
10:00-3:00 Central Park and Upper East Side – We walk through Central Park up to Bethesda Terrace/Fountain, and while you might be tempted to take a pedicab, don’t… unless you’re willing to give up your first born child for it, so just wear comfortable shoes and walk! Along the way you’ll see bridges, ponds and even ice skating. It is the most beautiful scenery, and you’re sure to find some amazing jazz music to serenade your walk. After Central Park, we will walk back through the park and get to the Upper East Side. Walking through the residential part of UES is reason enough to go there, but you will also find The Met Museum and the best macarons you’ll ever have at Laduree, guaranteed! There are beautiful store fronts and A LOT less tourists to deal with as well! After we have strolled through UES, we love to make our way back to Fifth Avenue. You’ll find iconic flagships stores and some really cool shops, so if you’re into shopping, this is a must.
3:00-4:00 Top Of The Rock – Yes, we saw this twice. We wanted to see it in the daytime and at night since you can see Central Park during the day (and in the Fall, this view is unbeatable). TOTR never seems too crowded because they are so strategic in how they do everything!
4:00-5:30 Grand Central Station – Another beautiful spot that you will want to just relish in. This one doesn’t take long but is a must see.
6:00 Dinner at The Polo Bar – We ate at The Polo Bar, which is Ralph Lauren’s restaurant and the hype was TOTALLY worth it. PRO TIP: If you are interested in making a reservation here, be sure to call them 30 days in advance at 10:00am and do not book on Open Table even though that is what the website says. They only put really early and really late reservations on Open Table so if you want to eat at a normal time, give them a call! It felt like such an exclusive place considering you couldn’t even walk in the door without a reservation! The interior is exquisite, complete with mahogany, cognac leather + plaid. It’s so RL! It is upscale American food so I got the burger, Nathan got the steak and both were phenomenal!
After dinner we were determined to find a rooftop bar with a great view. NYC is known for the pretension of their rooftop bars, but once you find one…the view is totally worth the hassle. A nicer and more private option is Salon De Ning at the top of The Peninsula Hotel. Lucky for us, it is just across the street from The Polo Bar. If you walk past the main entrance to the hotel you will see a door that says “SN”, enter there and walk all the way back until you find an elevator. Take it all the way to the top and enjoy the beautiful views of Fifth Avenue.
9:00-10:00 DUMBO and Brooklyn Bridge – Head to Water St. first to see the official view of DUMBO (Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass) and grab a croissant and coffee from Almondine before walking the Brooklyn Bridge. From Water St., you will walk in the opposite direction of DUMBO and walk up a hill to see signs for stairs to get onto the Brooklyn Bridge. Once you’re there just enjoy the views but be sure to walk on the left side and stay out of the bikers lane…they WILL run you over.
– Chinatown or Little Italy if you’re looking for a trip through a smaller neighborhood with a unique energy. I kind of dig the adrenaline rush that Chinatown gives.
– Financial District
– One World Trade
12:00 Check-Out – Again, when you check out just drop your luggage to do some last minute exploring before leaving.
12:30 Lunch – The Plaza hotel is dreamy just to walk in and if you need an excuse to do it, then lunch can be just that! In the basement of the hotel they have a Food Hall that has options from sub sandwiches to sushi. You get to see the hotel and grab a quick bite of really good food. Before you go, grab some donuts from Doughnuttery to snack on!
1:30 Upper West Side – You will stroll along Central Park South to Columbus Circle and head up the west side. For how many wealthy people live at Central Park South, it has always been so ironic that it smells like horse crap. Here you can see Lincoln Center, The Museum of Natural History and obviously all of the You’ve Got Mail spots.
3:00 Hotel to Airport
- When we used to vacation in the city, we’d avoid the subway for the most part so we could stare out the window on our rides around the city, but it is certainly the most cost effective travel option (and directions on apple maps now shows transit options, which makes it way easier to navigate). If you are leaving your hotel, a bellman will hail a cab for you. If you’re not comfortable hailing one on your own, Uber and Lyft are heavily available everywhere. Try walking everywhere though, it’s the best way to see the city! Remember that comfortable shoes are SO necessary. I’m not saying to rock your Sketchers, but make the investment into shoe inserts.
- It’s a grid system! The Streets are numbered, the Avenues have names and numbers. Numbered “streets” go north and south, “avenues” go east to west.
- If you’re craving a hot dog from a hot dog cart, please don’t settle for any cart on any corner. Billy’s on the Upper West Side, and “New York Hot Dogs” outside the Met will leave you with little regret compared to others.
- Google maps will be your best friend but don’t start walking somewhere until you know where you’re going and if you’re trying to figure it out stand to the side. If not, you’re asking to be bumped or yelled at by a local…or potentially me.
- Most restaurants in New York (or at least the best ones) will require reservations at least 30 days in advance so set your alarms to make sure you get the best time slot.
Other food options:
The Bagel Store in Brooklyn (rainbow bagel, google that ish)
Fig + Olive
The Melt Shop
Bryant Park Cafe
John’s Pizza for “New York Pizza”
This is what has worked for Nathan and I and if you hustle, it’s totally possible to leave feeling satisfied! An entirely different post is being reserved for New York at Christmas, because, of course, it is a completely different trip! Happy traveling!