You will not run out of places to see and things to do in New York. For the first-timers who want to see the main NY attractions and only have 3 days, here are my suggestions:
Statue of Liberty
Start your first day in NY with a glimpse of the iconic Statue of Liberty. A gift from the people of France, the statue represents Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom. She carries a torch and a tablet bearing the date of the American Declaration of Independence. To get up close and personal, take the Ellis Island/Liberty Island tour. However, waiting in line and going through security can be an all day affair. A more relaxed, less convoluted way (and my chosen route) to see the Statue of Liberty is by taking the Staten Island Ferry. The ferries leave every 20-30 minutes, there are no waiting lines to board, and best of all: it’s free. Make sure you get a nice spot on the outside decks. The entire trip (from lower Manhattan to Staten Island and back) takes about 40 minutes.
While in the lower Manhattan area, here are other places you might be interested in checking out:
The 8-block long district is the home of the financial markets of the United States. Head over to the New York Stock Exchange to gawk at the building where fortunes are made and lost in a heartbeat. The Federal Reserve Bank offers a guided tour of their facility (reservations required.) More than 10,000 tons of gold are stored 80 ft. below its ground. Another place of interest might be the Trinity Church. It is a historic colonial era parish where some of the founding fathers of the United States worshipped.
On a nice day, take a walk across the bridge for a different view of the city.
World Trade Center
The site is still under construction, but spend a few minutes here if you want to get a feel for the area that a lot of people refer to as the place where freedom was lost.
Day 2: Spend your second day visiting the sights in Mid-Manhattan.
Empire State Building
No trip to NY is complete without it. Head over here as soon as they open to avoid the crowds on top. Also, save time by buying your tickets online. Invest on the audio guide ($8) which is packed with good information on the buildings you will see below.
Top of the Rock
Part of the Rockefeller Center, the Top of the Rock offers a view of the New York skyline including the Empire State Building. Avoid the ticket lines by booking yours online. If you go during winter, don’t miss the ice skating rink and the giant Christmas tree located by 30 Rockefeller Plaza. During the summer, this spot becomes a dining area. The Rockefeller Center has many other sites to see. Check here for more information.
Grand Central Terminal
This iconic building deserves a visit. If you have time, there is a free 1-½ hr tour of this grand architecture on Wednesdays at 12:30pm. Have lunch in the expansive dining area downstairs or head outside to Pershing Square.
After lunch, how about a visit to the Museum of Modern Art.
It contains modern artwork from very popular artists like Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Cezanne, Salvador Dali, Jackson Pollock, and many more. Avoid museum fatigue by going online to see the exhibits they offer beforehand, and focus your visit on just one or two floors. Don’t forget to take the free audio guide for information on the works you’re viewing. Mondays tend to be busier so keep this in mind if you don’t want to fight for a view of your favorite painting.
Where everyone congregates at the end of the day. Have a seat on the steps of the “red stairs” to rest your museum-tired feet and watch the city of New York in front of you. If you are planning on seeing a Broadway show tonight (which I highly recommend,) the TKTS booth is located beneath the red stairs. Join the line to get really great deals on a variety of broadway and off-broadway shows.
On your 3rd day, head over to the Upper Manhattan area.
Take a stroll along The Rambles, relax in front of the Bethesda fountain, visit Strawberry Fields, take a picture of the Alice in Wonderland statue, or have a picnic on the Great Lawn. You could easily spend half a day here.
Visit the 2 museums that flank the east and west side of Central Park: the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History. Admissions to both museums are donation-based if you buy your tickets on-site. (Online will charge you the full price.)
There are many more sites to see in New York. The above suggestions will fill your 3 days plus leave room to relax and pursue your own interests. One thing I’ve learned from my travels is to take my time to savor the sites instead of trying to see everything. My best days are usually composed of sitting in an outdoor cafe watching the crowd, or striking up a random conversation with the person sitting next to me on the subway.
New York can get really expensive. Stick to public transportation (subways and buses.) Fares cost $2.25 per ride. I suggest obtaining an unlimited Metrocard pass. A one-day “fun pass” is about $8.25. A 7-day pass is $27.
Subways can be tricky to navigate. If you have an Iphone, I recommend the New York Subway app (free.) It tells you which lines to take to get to your destination.
Meals in restaurants can cost about $20 per person. For cheaper alternatives I recommend the food carts around the city. They offer a variety of delicious food for about $6. I’ve had the best lamb gyro from one of these food carts.
And my most important travel tip: Have fun 🙂