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The Perfect 3 Days in New York City Itinerary for First-Time Visitors

Today, I’m sharing everything you need to know to have the BEST trip ever to New York City! There is truly no place like New York, and it holds such a special place in my heart. I can’t wait for you to experience one of the best cities in the world!

Tune in or read the blog version below!

Today I’m sharing all the insider tips and recommendations for the perfect 3 days in New York City itinerary for first-time visitors.

I grew up in New York City, I lived and worked in New York City before quitting my corporate job in 2017, and I go back every single year.

This guide is going to ensure you have the best time ever in one of my favorite cities in the world.

You have to add these things to do to your New York City bucket list! 

Girl standing in Times Square
City Lights

There is truly no place like New York and it holds such a special place in my heart.

I’m super excited to be answering common questions about visiting for the first time and going through the perfect itinerary that you can start with.

The 5 Boroughs Of New York

New York City is part of New York State, United States, and is made up of five boroughs:

  • Manhattan
  • Brooklyn
  • Bronx
  • Queens
  • Staten Island

When people first think of and say New York City, they mainly think about the attractions and skyscrapers in Manhattan, which is where I mainly stayed and worked.

A lot of these recommendations are going to be in Manhattan.

Most visitors visiting for the first time stay between Manhattan and Brooklyn.

I will be listing a mix of tourists and local attractions so you can see all that the city has to offer on your next trip.

When is the best time to visit New York City?

New York has four distinct seasons, and personally I love the city year round, so you honestly can’t go wrong.

It’s definitely a different experience throughout the year depending on what you are looking for.

Spring (March – May)

Temperature: Moderate, 50s to 70s F (13 to 24 C)

The air is brisk. Lots of plants and flowers are going to be blooming! Spring is a very comfortable time of year to visit and it’s mostly sunny with a few days of rain showers.

For outfits, think: light denim jackets with long pants, sandals or booties.

Summer (June – August)

Temperature: Very warm, 70s to 80s F (20 to 30 C)

Personally, Summer is my favorite time in the city as it just comes alive: the rooftops are open, outdoor seating is everywhere.

I feel like in general, people are just happier probably because of the sunshine and Vitamin D.

I personally would definitely recommend visiting in the summer because you’re guaranteed to have a good time. It’s sunny most of the days.

For outfits, think: short sleeves, shorts, dresses, summer dresses, sandals.

Fall (September – November)

Temperature: Breezy and cool, 50s to 70s (13 to 24 C)

Autumn in New York is super cozy. Leaves are falling.

I associate Fall with coffee, leather jackets, fall foliage. This is when I usually take my knee high boots out and it’s a very fun time to style yourself.

Fall is also a very comfortable time of year to visit and it’s usually less crowded than in the summer months.

Winter (December – February)

Temperature: Cold, 20s to 40s F (-3 to 7 C)

Rockefeller Building at Christmas

New York City during the winter time is truly magical. It is cold, but the energy and magic and the lights are like nowhere else.

Everything is decorated. People are cheerful and jolly. There are lots of tourists during this time, and I welcome that about the city.

Think Winter Mode: puffer jackets with snow boots, gloves, scarves, hats. It does snow in New York!

Day 1 – Explore Central Park and Midtown

And so let’s dive into our three day itinerary with the best things to do in New York!

Bike Central Park

Location: Between Upper West Side and Upper East Side

Central Park lake in the Spring

I love staying active, especially when exploring somewhere new, and New York has a great Citi Bike system.

The first time I took my husband Ragz to Central Park, we used a Citi Bike and it’s a great way to see the city without walking.

Spend your morning biking around Central Park and down the streets – you’ll feel so small among the giant skyscrapers!

Walk Down 5th Avenue

Fifth Avenue is lined with so many luxury and different department stores. Most brands’ flagships are on Fifth Avenue, like Gucci, Burberry, Apple, Tiffany.

You can start walking from Central Park, and it is usually full of people until around 50th street.

During Christmastime, you’ll see beautiful light displays on storefronts and the infamous Saks’ Light Show.

Rockefeller Center

Girl standing at the top of the Rockefeller

There is basically a little city inside the Rockefeller Center.

You can go ice skating, shopping, and to Top of the Rockefeller to get views of the city from above.

There are always people around and there is so much to do here.!

Bar65 at the Rainbow Room is on the 65th floor of Rockefeller, so if you want to skip buying tickets, you can head over to the bar instead.

🗽 Book Top of the Rockefeller

Empire State Building

The Empire State Building is one of the world’s most famous skyscrapers, an iconic Art Deco skyscraper on 34th Street.

You can also go up to to the top for insane views!

🗽 Book Empire State Building

Visit a Museum

There are so many different museums in New York.

Spend the afternoon browsing through one or a few:

Museum of Modern Art (MoMA): Extraordinary exhibitions and the best collection of contemporary, modern art.

🎟️ Get Tickets Here

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met): Encyclopedic art museum in New York City. Fourth largest art museum in the world.

🎟️ Get Tickets Here

The Museum of Natural History: Museum about nature and the known universe.

🎟️ Get Tickets Here

Visit Times Square

Visit Times Square at night because the lights are an incredible contrast to the night sky.

Watch a Broadway Show

There are so many theaters in the theater district. My recommendations are Wicked, Lion King, and Hamilton.

🎟️ Buy Tickets to Wicked

Day 2 – Lower Manhattan and Statue of Liberty

Walk Down High Line

The High Line is a public park above the west side of Manhattan. You can see views across the Hudson River into New Jersey.

Shopping in SoHo

Freedom Tower view from SoHo

SoHo stands for South of Houston and is a high end shopping mecca.

Explore Wall Street

Wall Street and the Financial District are my old stomping grounds and the Finance center of New York City.

It is the home to famous buildings like the Federal Reserve Bank and New York Stock Exchange.

9/11 Memorial and Oculus

Inside the Oculus in Financial District

South Street Seaport

The South Street Seaport is a historic area of New York City from Fulton Street to the waterfront.

There are restaurants, shops, bars, and events every weekend during the Summer.

Statue of Liberty

If you want to visit the Statue of Liberty, you can do so from the Financial District (FiDi). There is a ferry that takes you directly to Ellis Island, where the Statue of Liberty is.

Or you can see it from afar. There is a free Staten Island ferry that takes you from the Financial District to Staten Island and it gives you an amazing view of the statue from the boat.

🗽 Statue of Liberty Tickets

Day 3- Sunrise Walk and Explore Brooklyn

Brooklyn Bridge Sunrise Walk

Sunrise at the Brooklyn Bridge

On the third and final day, start with a sunrise walk across the Brooklyn Bridge over the East River.

I love walking it during sunrise because there is significantly less people so you can get the best shots of Manhattan.


DUMBO Manhattan Bridge View

After walking across from Manhattan to Brooklyn, you will end up in DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass).

It’s one of my favorite parts of Brooklyn to take my friends when they visit for the first time.

This is where you find the iconic photo spot of the Manhattan Bridge.

Read DUMBO Manhattan Bridge View: All You Need to Know.

Walk to Williamsburg

From DUMBO, you can walk to Williamsburg and just spend the day exploring the streets, coffee shops, and markets in Brooklyn.

Bonus Activities

Big Bus Tour

If you don’t walk to walk to sightsee, you can buy a ticket to a hop on hop off Big Bus Tour.

You don’t have to worry about navigating to your destination, you can go on as you like.

There are two floors, and you can get really nice views.

🗽 Big Bus Tour Tickets

Flushing, Queens

Chinese dim sum breakfast in Flushing

Flushing is in Queens, another borough of New York City, and I spent a lot of time here when my parents first immigrated from China.

There is a huge Asian immigrant community, which also means there is the best Asian food!

Attend an Event at Javitz Center

If you have time, attend an event at the Javitz Center. This is a huge convention center and they hold incredible events.

New York is truly the hub of so many industries so I would see if there are any events when you visit so you can open up new opportunities.

I’ve been to the New York Times travel show, where they have vendors and tourism boards and travel brands from all over the world.

You can network with professionals in your industry.

I’ve also been to the New York Auto Show multiple times.

Dinner Cruise

New York is surrounded by water, so if you do a sunset or dinner cruise, you can see the Statue of Liberty, the Manhattan Bridge, Brooklyn Bridge, and the city skyline.

It’s a very beautiful and romantic experience!

🗽 Book a Dinner Cruise

NYC Helicopter Tour

There’s no better way than to see New York from above!

🗽 Book a Helicopter Tour

B&H Photo

If you are a content creator or a creative, definitely check out B&H Photo. They’ve been around since 1973.

It’s one of the biggest commercial and retail tech hubs where you can compare and test the world’s latest technology gear.

Best Bars in New York City

230 5th: This is a rooftop bar on Fifth Avenue and I used to go there all the time in the winter they have winter igloos and it’s just the best views of the Empire State Building and Midtown and they have really good cocktails.

Katana Kitchen: New bar in Greenwich Village that’s very popular and trendy.

Bar 65 at Rainbow Room: Rooftop bar in Rockefeller with insane views during sunset. Free to enter.

Please Don’t Tell: My favorite speakeasy located behind a telephone booth in a hotdog joint called Crif Dogs.

Other amazing speakeasies with the best cocktails are: Death and Co, Raine’s Law Room, and Employee’s Only.

Best Clubs in New York City

Marquee: Open Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays with world class DJs.

Brooklyn Mirage: To go-to spot for raves and concerts.

PHD Rooftop: Hotel cocktail lounge with DJs and skyscraper views.

Le Bain at the Standard Hotel: Penthouse discothèque and rooftop bar on the top floor of the Standard Hotel.

Best Restaurants in New York City

In New York City, there are so many restaurants of all cuisines ranging from hole in the walls to Michelin stars. 

Delmonico’s: Since 1827, Delmonico’s was America’s first fine dining restaurant. They are home to the popular baked alaska and serve delicious steaks.

Fogo de Chão: All you can eat Brazilian BBQ steakhouse

Chelsea Market: My favorite market located in the heart of the Meatpacking District. Food, drinks, and cute retail shops!

2 Bro’s Pizza: You must try a New York slice at 2 bros. Affordable and yummy!

Thai Villa: My favorite Thai restaurant.

L’Artusi: Popular Italian restaurant.

Sushi Nakazawa: Michelin star sushi omakase experience.

Chama Mama: My favorite Georgian restaurant.

Double Chicken Please: Popular fried chicken spot with unique cocktails.

Halal Guys: A food cart on 53rd and 6th that I’ve been going to for years. They sell chicken and beef gyro with rice, salad, and an addicting white sauce.

Chipotle: My guilty pleasure fast food craving.

Flushing for Chinese Food: Take the 7 train to Flushing where you will feel like you’re in China. Everything is in Chinese. Best noodles, hot pot, dumplings.

Where To Stay In New York City

I always recommend staying as central as you can to experience the pulse and be in the middle of it all.

Knickerbocker – Times Square

Moxy – Lower East Side

Trendy and cool mid-range hotel located in a popular neighborhood with lots of bars.

Ace Brooklyn – Williamsburg

If you want to spend more time in Brooklyn, I recommend staying in Williamsburg.

Is 3 days enough to visit New York?

3 days is the perfect amount of time to get a taste of New York City.

However, if you are able to stay for longer, I would recommend doing so. You can never finish exploring this city as there is always something to see!

Tips for New York City

Getting Around 

  • Uber – Download the app and hire taxis on the go.
  • Subway – New York has a very connected subway system across all the boroughs.
  • Citi Bike – Download the app and get unlimited rides for a flat daily fee.
  • Walk

Walk Fast

New Yorkers walk fast. If you want to fit in, walk with a purpose, especially when crossing the streets.

Ragz always says I like am on a different pace when I’m back in the city.

You will feel the speed, you’ll feel like you’re walking too slow. So if you wanna fit in, walk faster else we can tell you’re not from here!

Reserve In Advance

Use OpenTable to make reservations.

Most restaurants you will want to make reservations at at least a few days before you don’t want to leave it last minute, especially if it’s a really popular one.

Buy a City Pass

If you’re planning to see multiple attractions, buy a City Pass so you can get tickets to 5 top attractions without having to pay for them all separately.

🗽 Check Pricing and Availability

What To Do Next

There is truly no city like New York.

I am so excited for you to visit and if I miss something or If you have any more questions, you can always find me in on Instagram!

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Danielle Hu

Danielle Hu

Danielle Hu is a multiple 6-figure travel influencer, business coach, and Founder of The Wanderlover. She has traveled to over 65+ countries running her online business and surfing in remote tropical destinations. Her mission is to help creatives and coaches achieve time freedom, location freedom, and financial freedom through online entrepreneurship.

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