New York City Perfect Weekend Itinerary

3 Days in New York City: The Perfect Weekend Itinerary

In a lot of ways, New York City is like its own country. It’s a melting pot of cultures and massive enough that each borough feels like its own separate city, with its own food scene, arts and attractions, and general feeling. From the hustle and bustle of the ever-busy Manhattan to the more laidback attitude of Brooklyn to the suburb-like streets of Staten Island, any visit to New York City has the potential to be totally new and different.

There’s so much to do in New York City that you may not know where to start when building your 3-day New York City itinerary. We’ve put together a plan for a 72-hour weekend adventure that will have you exploring beloved famous landmarks and more off-the-beaten-path spots. If you stick with these recommendations, you’re bound to have a fantastic time during your 3-day weekend in New York City!

If you’re still deciding where to stay then make sure to check out our article on the best boutique hotels near New York City!

How to Spend a Weekend in New York City

Getting Around New York City

Getting Around New York City: Weekend Itinerary

There are three airports in the New York City area. LaGuardia Airport and John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport are both located in Queens. There’s also the Newark Liberty International Airport across the Hudson River in Newark, New Jersey

Although you might find that flights to Newark are a little less expensive, you’ll be significantly adding to your travel time if you fly into New Jersey instead of New York City. In the long run, it’s just not worth it. 

LaGuardia is smaller than JFK and has a lot fewer daily flights. There are also limited international options, while JFK is a major international hub. So, if you’re traveling internationally, you’ll likely end up flying into JFK. If you’re flying domestically, you’ll probably be able to choose if you want to fly into JFK or LaGuardia. 

Both have their benefits and drawbacks. Since LaGuardia is a lot smaller, you’ll be able to get in and out faster than if you flew into JFK. However, JFK is more easily accessible by public transportation. And if you’re spending 3 days in New York City, you’re going to be using a lot of public transportation.

Not only is renting a car in New York City unnecessary, but it’s also not encouraged. New York City is very walkable, but it’s also bigger than you may think. Across the five boroughs, you’re looking at over 300 square miles! Walking the entire length of Manhattan alone may take you a full day, assuming you make some stops to take in the sights. 

Luckily, you don’t have to walk everywhere in New York City. The subway system will take you to four of the five boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens. If you’d like to get to Staten Island, you can take the Staten Island Ferry from Manhattan or hop on a bus.

Cabs are everywhere in New York City, especially in Manhattan. You can always order an Uber, but with New York City’s traffic, you may be waiting a while for the car to pick you up!


New York City Weekend Itinerary – Day 1

Ellen’s Stardust Diner

3 Days in New York City Itinerary: Ellen’s Stardust Diner

Start your day the Broadway way during your 3 days in New York City. Ellen’s Stardust Diner is the perfect breakfast spot if you’re looking for good tunes and great food. 

This ‘50s-themed diner boasts more than a menu of incredible treats, like Peanut Butter Cup Pancakes. This hopping breakfast joint is known for its singing waiters. The waitstaff at Ellen’s Stardust Diner are all working toward the same goal: to make it on Broadway. 

But in the meantime, these talented folks are putting on shows for the guests at Ellen’s. You’ll hear Broadway tunes, Disney classics, and pop hits, as well as holiday favorites if you’re visiting in the winter.

From Ellen’s, you’re going to want to keep the Broadway fun going. The best way to do that is to get your own ticket. If you haven’t already bought tickets in advance of your trip, visit Times Square to get in line at the TKTS Discount Booth

TKTS Discount Booth for Broadway Tickets

New York City 3 Day Itinerary Weekend Guide: TKTS Discount Booth

This booth has discounted, same-day tickets to shows both on- and off-Broadway. Don’t worry if the line is a little long. It moves quickly. But if you want to avoid the line altogether, you may also be able to get same-day tickets through apps like TodayTix.

Rockefeller Center

Weekend in New York City: Rockefeller Center

Now that you’ve secured your evening entertainment, it’s time to see the sights. And your New York City sightseeing wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Rockefeller Center. At 30 Rockefeller Plaza, you’ll find the Top of the Rock. 

At the pinnacle of the building’s 70 floors, you’ll step onto three levels of observation decks, giving you a 360-degree view of New York City. You can also take a Rockefeller Center tour to see some of the building’s historic spaces. If you’d like to take the tour and climb up to the observation decks, be sure to purchase a Rock Pass to get these two experiences together. 

Bryant Park

New York City 3 Day Itinerary Weekend Guide: Bryant Park

Next, you’ll take a short walk over to Bryant Park. Considered Manhattan’s Town Square, there’s always something to do here. In the spring and summer, it’s a lush, green wonderland with live performances by New York City talents. You’ll also find everything from beekeeping classes to bird-watching tours to yoga in the park. 

But in the winter, Bryant Park transforms into a winter village. You’ll dine your way around the park with seasonal treats, find artisan goods to check off your holiday shopping list, go ice skating, try your hand at curling, or even play with bumper cars on the ice. 

If you’re visiting Bryant Park in the winter, you may want to just grab lunch by trying different treats from the various vendors. But if you’re arriving when the winter village isn’t up, grab a table at Bryant Park Grill instead. This New American dining spot will give you a beautiful view of the park while you relax with a decadent meal.

Empire State Building

Weekend in New York City 3 Days Itinerary: Empire State Building

After lunch, continue on your 3-day trip to New York City by visiting one of the most popular attractions in the world: the Empire State Building. With observation decks on the 86th and the 102nd floors, it’s no wonder the view here is unmatched. Be sure to buy your tickets in advance, and don’t forget to check out the building’s art galleries on the 2nd and 80th floors. 

Now that it’s heading into the evening, it’s almost time for your show. But first, you need to dine in style. Hop on the subway or take a stroll over to Joe Allen, which is more than a restaurant. 

It’s a Broadway institution. This upscale yet comfortable dining spot boasts an eclectic menu with dishes from around the world. From calf’s liver to tostada to steak frites, there’s something for everyone on the menu, from the more adventurous diner to the visitor just looking for some casual fare. 

The perfect way to end the first night of your 3-day New York City vacation is by watching a Broadway show. Broadway shows have been entertaining New Yorkers and tourists alike since the 1700s. 

It’s a true tradition to step foot in these magical theaters. From dramatic plays starring famous players to toe-tapping musicals with songs that’ll be stuck in your head for days, these live performances are can’t-miss spectacles.


New York City Weekend Itinerary – Day 2

Tavern on the Green

New York City 3 Day Itinerary Weekend Guide: Tavern on the Green

After a long night at the theater, start the second day of your 3-day trip to New York City by getting a later start and grabbing brunch at the Tavern on the Green. Arguably one of the most famous restaurants in New York City, this Central Park landmark is a stunning, upscale spot. You’ll take in the beauty of the park while you dine on dishes like Honey-Roasted Figs and Organic Scottish Salmon. 

Central Park

Weekend in New York City: Central Park

Once you’re done with breakfast, you’ll already be inside the first stop of the day. Central Park is bigger than you might think. It’s 843 acres, and there’s so much to do packed inside this park. 

From Belvedere Castle to the Strawberry Fields to the Alice in Wonderland and Balto statues to the seasonal Wollman Rink to the Conservatory Garden to the famous carousel, it’s hard to see all these top attractions in one day! But by taking a tour, you’ll have a knowledgeable host to guide you on your journey. 

You have many different options when it comes to taking a Central Park tour, depending on how much energy you want to put in. If you’re looking for a romantic choice, you could take a horse and carriage ride. Not into the horse and carriage but still want to sit back and enjoy the ride? Book a pedicab tour. 

Or, for a more active choice, take a bike or walking tour. For something that’s a little active and a little not, you can take an e-scooter tour. But whichever tour you book, you’re guaranteed to see Central Park’s most incredible spots.

The Plaza

New York City 3 Day Itinerary Weekend Guide: The Plaza

For another iconic way to spend your weekend in New York City, your next stop is teatime at The Plaza hotel. You’ll have to book your reservation in advance to secure a spot, but it’s worth the preparation. 

The Palm Court inside The Plaza is a truly exquisite experience, featuring domed glass ceilings and intricate mosaics. It’s a picture of opulence. While the adults enjoy afternoon tea, kids can get their own teatime experience with the Children’s Eloise Tea, inspired adorably by Eloise at The Plaza.

Book a Room at The Plaza

Museum of Modern Art

Weekend in New York City 3 Days Itinerary: Museum of Modern Art

When teatime is over, take a walk to the Museum of Modern Art, or the MoMA, one of the best art museums in New York City. This Midtown Manhattan treasure features both permanent and rotating exhibits of some of the most impressive collections of modern art in the world. 

With almost 200,000 works of modern and contemporary art in the museum, you can guarantee that you’ll always have a new experience and see unique masterpieces when you visit this New York City landmark.

Since you’re over by Central Park still, you have an easy walk to get one last treat before you head out for the evening. Magnolia Bakery has several locations in the city, including its Central Park South location. 

If you have a sweet tooth, take a stroll to grab yourself a delicious treat. The bakery is generally delicious, but we highly recommend getting the famous banana pudding. It’s famous for a reason! 

Dinner Cruise

New York City 3 Day Itinerary Weekend Guide: Dinner Cruise

Now, it’s time to head to the harbor for your dinner and your final stop of the night. End the second day of your 3 days in New York City by taking a sunset dinner cruise. You’ll likely have to book this cruise in advance to reserve your table. 

But taking a sunset dinner cruise around the New York harbor allows you to dine in style while you take in the sights of the City That Never Sleeps. Watch the sun descend behind the skyline as the moon begins to glisten off the skyscrapers. It’s a truly magical way to end your second day in NYC.


New York City Weekend Itinerary – Day 3

Start the last day of your 3-day trip to New York City at George’s, a casual dining spot that can be found on the corner of Greenwich and Rector Streets. It’s a New York legend that’s been around since 1950, though it sadly had to rebuild after it was damaged by the 9/11 terrorist attacks. 

Today, George’s stands as a symbol of the strength and spirit of New York. It’s a homey place that invites you to dine on giant breakfast staples with friendly folks who are all eager to be there for one another. 

Ellis Island and Liberty Island

New York City 3 Day Itinerary Weekend Guide: Ellis Island and Statue of Liberty

You started your day off at one New York legend. Now it’s time for two more. Your next stop is Battery Park, where you’ll take a ferry to Ellis Island and Liberty Island. 

Statue City Cruises

Weekend in New York City: Statue City Cruises

You’ll need to grab a ferry ticket from Statue City Cruises, the only vendor authorized to provide transportation to these two iconic locations. If you don’t buy online and choose to buy in New York, be sure you’re purchasing from this vendor only. 

Ellis Island is where many families in the United States can trace their ancestry. This island once welcomed more than 12 million immigrants. Today, it stands as a monument to the American Dream. 

On Liberty Island, you’ll find Lady Liberty, the beacon that once invited these immigrants into their new home. The island has a museum dedicated to the Statue of Liberty, whose pedestal you can climb up to. 

The Brooklyn Bridge

Weekend in New York City 3 Days Itinerary: The Brooklyn Bridge

For lunch, you’ll head back to Manhattan to take in one incredible view at The Fulton. This waterfront seafood restaurant features one of the best views of the Brooklyn Bridge around. Indulge in a two-course lunch with only seasonal ingredients and wild-caught seafood. Don’t forget to treat yourself to one of the restaurant’s specialty cocktails!

From The Fulton, it’s time to venture over to the Brooklyn Bridge itself. You can take a walking or bike tour over the bridge or simply head over it on your own, enjoying the sights of Manhattan and Brooklyn on your journey. Walking the Brooklyn Bridge will generally take you about an hour if you’re going at a leisurely pace and stopping to take some beautiful photos. So be sure to bring comfortable shoes.

Prospect Park

Once you’re over in Brooklyn, hop on the subway to go toward the Park Slope neighborhood. Take a walk through Prospect Park, or go to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden to take in the flowers that are in bloom. 

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

If you’re visiting outside of the winter months and stopping by on a Sunday, be sure to check out Smorgasburg in Prospect Park. Called the “Woodstock of Eating,” this food festival features food and drink vendors serving up all kinds of cuisines, from Puerto Rican traditions to twists on Italian fare to rainbow grilled cheese sandwiches! 

Smorgasburg

If you’re not at Prospect Park on a Sunday or your weekend in New York City is happening during the winter, grab dinner at Pasta Louise instead. This charming Italian restaurant is a neighborhood favorite, and everything is made from scratch. You won’t find the latest culinary trends here. Instead, you’ll find classic Italian food that tastes like your Nonna made it.

Nighthawk Cinema

Weekend in New York City 3 Days Itinerary: Nitehawk Cinema

It’s time to wind down your eventful 3-day trip to New York City, and there’s no better way to do it than at Nighthawk Cinema. Also located in Prospect Park, this independent movie theater serves up food and drinks directly to your seats. 

Weekend in New York City: Nitehawk Cinema

It shows first-run movies, old favorites, and cult classics, often screening them in a series. First-run films also have their own specialty meals and cocktails. Definitely treat yourself to a boozy float for dessert! 


More Places to Eat & Drink in New York City

Buy a slice of the award-winning Nona Maria Pie at Bleecker Street Pizza:
This iconic pizza joint nearby Greenwich Village is one of the best places to get traditional New York-style pizza. It’s tradition to treat yourself to an inexpensive slice of pizza in the wee hours of the morning in New York, which you can do here since it’s open until 5 am on weekends.

Grab a pint at McSorley’s Old Ale House:

3 Days in New York City Itinerary: Mcsorley's Old Ale House

This East Village favorite is the oldest Irish saloon in New York City. It’s an unassuming New York City institution. Even President Abraham Lincoln once drank here.

Venture over to Staten Island for a grandma-made meal at Enoteca Maria:
This restaurant hosts a roster of real international grandmothers cooking up traditional food from their home country’s cuisine. Because no one can cook quite like a grandma can!


What to do if you have more than 3 days in New York City

Luna Park

3 Days in New York City Weekend Itinerary: Luna Park

Hop on the subway and head to the ocean at Coney Island, where you can ride the classic attractions at Luna Park. From the famous Cyclone to the soaring swings of the Brooklyn Flyer, you could easily spend a whole day here. As a part of the tradition, don’t forget to grab a hotdog at Nathan’s Famous, which got its start right on Coney Island.

Metropolitan Museum of Art or Met Cloisters

Weekend in New York City: Met Cloisters

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is a beautiful place to spend an afternoon, with plenty of art across centuries and across countries to explore. But it also tends to be very crowded. Instead, head over to Washington Heights to see the Met Cloisters, filled with art, greenery, and a chance to spend a quiet day in New York City.

3 Days in New York City Itinerary: Met Cloisters

Architecture Cruise

Take an architecture cruise. New York City is filled with stunning architecture, from the massive skyscrapers to the historic churches. Taking an architecture cruise provides you with an expert guide who can share the history and stories behind how these landmarks were created.

Roosevelt Island Tram

3 Days in New York City Weekend Itinerary: Roosevelt Island Tram

Take in one of the best views of New York City from the Roosevelt Island Tram. This aerial tramway connects Manhattan to Roosevelt Island. Although it’s a short trip, you’ll soar high above the city and get a bird’s-eye view of the iconic skyline.

American Museum of Natural History

New York City 3 Day Itinerary Weekend Guide: American Museum of Natural History

Explore the American Museum of Natural History. Located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, this museum is the largest natural history museum in the world and features exhibits all about the natural wonders of the past and present in our universe. 

We hope you enjoy your weekend trip to New York City! Should we add something else to our 3-day New York City itinerary? Let us know in the comments.


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Author

  • Jacqueline Gualtieri

    Jacqueline is a writer and editor pursuing the freelance life to explore the world. Born and raised in New Jersey, she spent her college years in Boston before settling down with her partner and puppy in Monterey, California.

    When she’s not writing, you can often find her planning her next trip. Road trips are her favorite, whether it’s driving across the country or simply exploring a new city in her own backyard. She loves uncovering the history of every new place she goes.

    Jacqueline has a restless passion for learning and makes it a goal to pick up a new skill every year. She’s picked up embroidery, crocheting, knitting, and cross-stitching, but she’s hoping to master more languages to help her in her travels. She’s also a published author, with short stories and poetry appearing in several anthologies.

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