It breaks my heart to see what’s happening to New York City during COVID-19. I visited the city for the first time a little less than a year ago with my younger brother and sister and fell in love with it. We only spent one weekend in New York City and we tried to make the most of it.
Of course, you can’t see the whole city in only three days. We just happened to find a cheap flight to the city that arrived around 1pm on Friday and left late on Sunday. It was around $100 so I couldn’t really pass it up.
This was the first time that any of us had been to New York City, so we packed as much as we could into those three (really 2.5) days. If you’re looking for tips about your own first-time visit to NYC check out this article.
I’ll share our itinerary with you with a few tips on what I think we could have done differently to make it a better vacation.
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Day 1 of a Weekend in NYC
We arrived at Laguardia at around 1pm on Friday afternoon. The drive into Manhattan took us about 45 minutes and then we arrived at Hotel Belleclaire on the corner of Broadway and 77th street.
I chose Hotel Belleclaire because it was a reasonable price ($274/night) for three of us. Yes that seems high, but I couldn’t find anything cheaper that wasn’t a roach motel in Manhattan. I knew I wanted to stay downtown because we didn’t have much time in the city so I didn’t want to spend it in transit.
Once we got to the hotel we had time to sit our things down and then we turned right back around to head out the door. The metro was our next stop where we purchased the metro card and loaded enough money for a few rides on there.
Tip: Take the metro instead of uber, taxi, or renting a car. It’s much cheaper and for those who aren’t familiar with public transport it isn’t as scary as you think. If this southern girl can do it, so can you. ASK the hotel concierge if you aren’t sure.
Alive After Five Cruise
We took the metro all the way to the lower tip of Manhattan (South Ferry) and walked up to the Seaport District where the Hornblower Cruises’ Alive After Five Cruise started out. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this.
Be sure to get there early so you can get a good spot on the top deck by the railing. If you’re of drinking age they’ll give you a wristband and there is a bar up top. Unless you have impeccable balance, I wouldn’t recommend wearing heels. We saw a few close-calls.
This is the perfect introduction to the city. You go around lower Manhattan and have an incredible view of all the skyscrapers. For someone who doesn’t see that everyday it’s an incredible skyline. Then you head to the Statue of Liberty where they stay for a while so everyone can get their photos and videos. Again, incredible.
Finally, you head back toward the seaport district but you continue past the dock up to the Brooklyn Bridge. This is absolutely beautiful at sunset. By the end of the trip I was starving though, so I was glad to see us dock again around 8pm.
The seaport district is adorable with little raised flower beds lining cobblestone streets. There are many restaurants with outdoor seating and it’s a popular spot during good weather.
We decided on Dorlan’s Tavern & Oyster Bar because of another blog I had read before our trip. It was absolutely packed so we had to wait a few minutes, but we did get a table. I ordered fish & chips and they were wonderful, but the atmosphere was not for me. It was SO LOUD I could barely hear our conversation.
The Battery Conservancy
Once we finished eating we walked back towards the metro and did a bit of exploring in the South Ferry Terminal and then stumbled upon the entrance to Battery Conservancy. We walked in just far enough to see a building with a strange blue-ish glow coming from it.
As we got closer we figured out it was a carousel full of fish made to look like seaglass that you could ride in. We watched the carousel for a bit then headed back to our hotel.
Day 2 of a Weekend in NYC
We left the hotel early today, maybe around 7:30am. We took the #1 line down to the WTC Cortlandt stop where you come out in the Oculus. This can be slightly confusing to get out of the building, but if you just follow the signs to exit then you can make your way around it on the street to get to the memorial.
One thing to note is you aren’t supposed to take photos in the Oculus center. The 9/11 Memorial was definitely the most somber part of our trip to New York City. The Memorial Fountains are huge and there are so many names inscribed around those fountains that it’s difficult to comprehend.
In such a sobering place, there was one thing I found to be a ray of hope and light. There is one tree planted off by itself with a plaque that reads “The Survivor Tree.” First responders found the tree in the aftermath of 9/11 among the rubble and destruction. The tree was taken to a plant nursery and rehabilitated until it could be returned to Ground Zero in 2010.
It serves as an incredible reminder of resilience during tragedy.
After about 45 minutes at the Memorial we started walking towards the Brooklyn Bridge. You don’t realize the magnitude from pictures but this thing is massive. I would recommend not visiting midmorning on a Saturday though. It was very crowded and while there are separate walking and bike lanes many people ignore that so it gets a bit crazy.
I would recommend visiting the Brooklyn Bridge very early in the morning, probably around sunrise.
Our next destination to hit was the Tenement Museum which we arrived at after walking through Chinatown. This was a 30 minute walk and one of the most interesting things to look out for are the produce markets. I had never seen these types of fruits or vegetables!
The Tenement Museum is all about the history of immigrants that lived in New York City. You can tour the apartments of actual immigrant families and learn what it was like for them during the time that they lived there.
Once we got to the museum we found out it was not self-guided. They do guided tours only and all the tours were booked that morning. Terrible planning on my part.
Tip: Call before you visit any of the smaller museums or look at FAQs and the “Plan Your Visit” page online.
We decided to buy a couple souvenirs and book a tour for the next day. Across the street we ventured into a little shop called Davidovich Bakery who serve bagels, specialty teas, and other desserts. The man and lady working behind the counter were so nice and talked us into tasting some of their teas.
They were very good salesmen because we all ended up buying drinks they were so tasty. It’s definitely worth a stop if you’re in that area. We didn’t have long though because next up was The High Line. This was an old railway above street level that was converted into a park.
The High Line
It’s a neat perspective of the city since you are about one or two stories up walking between buildings. All along The High Line there are gardens and art exhibits to enjoy. It’s the perfect thing for a mild Saturday.
Foods of New York Food Tour
By this time it was just early afternoon! We had a food tour with Foods of New York scheduled for 1pm. This is a can’t miss tour! No matter how many times you’ve been to the city, I’m sure you’ll learn something from the knowledgeable guide. You get to try many different restaurants over the span of three hours. We went to eight total restaurants and each had an interesting story.
Some of the most memorable were the artichoke pizza from Artichoke Basille’s Pizza, a breakfast burrito from Masala Times, and a popsicle from La Newyorkina. Our tour guide, David, ran his own catering company out of Greenwich Village and he was awesome! He knew a bit about everything: the town, the food, and the history of it all.
Be warned, if you do this tour (Heart & Soul of Greenwich Village) you’ll be on your feet the whole time except for in one restaurant. Make sure to wear good shoes! In addition to all the food, we saw the filming location of a few movies and walked through Washington Square Park.
After the food tour ended, we took the metro to our hotel to change and go out to a Broadway Show that night. We decided to walk to Times Square and on our way we went through Central Park where many people were out with a picnic and there were softball games going on. There were also row boats available for rent at the lake and I so wish we had time for that while we were in the city.
Before the show we decided to stop and get the famous New York style pizza at Angelo’s Pizza right as you get into Times Square. We had to pick up our tickets at the box office in the New Amsterdam Theater for Aladdin.
I was very skeptical about Broadway even though I had heard nothing but good things. I thought there was no way that a show could be that good. Let me just tell any of you other skeptics out there GO TO A BROADWAY SHOW. I’m not gonna say it will change your life, but it will give you a much greater appreciation for live shows if you haven’t been to anything like it before.
I thought the actors would stick closely to the script and for the most part they do, but they also throw in little comments relevant to the times and to make the performance their own. The only thing I regret is how tired I was during the show. After all that walking it felt so good to sit down and my eyelids just kept drooping.
Tip: If you can swing it, plan in some rest time. Since we were trying to see New York City in three days it wasn’t much of an option for us.
Once the show was over we went to Carlo’s Bakery in Times Square. My sister is a wonderful baker and she even made my wedding cake. I think I made her mad when I told her the vanilla cupcake with vanilla icing at Carlo’s was the best one I’d ever had…
Day 3 of a Weekend in NYC
Top of The Rock
We had tickets to visit Top of the Rock (TOTR) when it first opened at 8am. We had no idea where to go so I’m glad we got there a little early. There is a helpful street level map here. I thought it was the building that the Today Show Studio was in, but it’s actually the one across the street.
Make sure you buy tickets in advance online so you don’t have to purchase them at the counter. If you arrive before 8am, you must line up outside the building and wait to be let in. Finally, we were able to go up and it was so neat as we almost had the place to ourselves since it was early.
Before you get to the top there is an exhibit on the history of the Rockefeller Center. We didn’t spend much time here since they didn’t interest either my brother or sister. The view truly is beautiful from the top though. It was a bit hazy that morning, but we could still see the skyscrapers of Manhattan. A few that stuck out were the Chrysler Building and Empire State Building.
There are multiple levels you can visit, but after about 20 minutes everyone was ready to come down and head to breakfast. We decided on brunch at Sarabeth’s and we did not choose wrong. Do yourself a favor and order the basket of muffins. It comes with a few different types of muffins and biscuits plus jam and butter. It was my favorite part of the meal.
After brunch we walked around for a while just exploring. We came by the Public Library and a gorgeous church that had just finished a service. We also stumbled on Grand Central Station and walked in just for a bit.
Tenement Museum (Again)
We didn’t have time for much more though because we had to go back to the Tenement Museum for our tour. We signed up for the Hard Times Tour and if history interests you then I highly recommend it.
Our group learned about two families – one that lived in the apartment building during the 1870s when the Panic of the 70s happened and another that lived there during the Great Depression. They have many other tours available and you can find all the information you need to visit the museum here.
After our tour we stopped by Davidovich Bakery again and then walked to the Gangster Museum. After a 20 minute walk we found a sign on the door stating the museum was closed due to illness. The Museum of the American Gangster is a very small museum and only a few people run it.
Again, terrible planning on my part.
Last Hours in New York City
At first we thought about trying to go to the Natural History Museum which was pretty close to our hotel. However, after I took us to the wrong subway stop and we were running short on time we decided just to have a late lunch instead.
So on the way back to our hotel we passed a restaurant called Harvest Kitchen and I’m so glad we found it. It truly brings the outdoors in with huge windows surrounding the patio and open bays between the patio and regular dining area.
I had a cheeseburger and local beer and it felt so good to sit and rest for a minute. We were all so tired. Before we went back to our hotel to pick up our luggage we stopped at Levain Bakery for one last treat.
The bakery is so very tiny that only a few people can fit in at a time. You have to line up on the street but the line moves very quickly. Levain is best known for their cookies and I can assure you they are worth the money and the wait. I got the chocolate chip with walnuts and it was phenomenal. I’m not even a huge fan of nuts.
It was the perfect ending to our three days in New York City.
A Weekend in New York City
Of course there are many things you can do to see more of NYC than we did. Saturday we spent about 1.5 hours figuring out that we wouldn’t be able to see the Tenement Museum that day.
Sunday we had a similar issue with the American Gangster Museum. If you are visiting a smaller museum make sure to call ahead or do your research online about museum policies.
Related: How to Plan Your Dream Vacation
We still packed a lot into one weekend so I hope this will inspire you to make the most of your visit! The best way to do this is don’t plan on winging it. Figure out the things that you want to see and do and group the ones that are close together.
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I couldn’t pass up a $100 dollar ticket, either. I love to see what other travelers do with their time in NYC. I’ll be checking out the after five cruise, without my heels! I do think you should have modified your comment and told your sister the Carlo’s cupcake was better than everything BUT your wedding cake., lol. Glad to know Levain is worth the wait; I just missed it last visit and am determined to go next time. Great post, you certainly sightseed hard!
Oh yes, I highly recommend the cruise! Everyone says the Staten Island Ferry is cheaper and that’s true, but Alive After Five is a party. You are probably right about my sister’s cake. I’ll make it up to her! Haha. Levain was delicious you will definitely have to go when you’re back in the city! Thank you!
You have reminded me how much I love New York and that I really am due a return visit, if for no other reason than I should visit the Ground Zero Memorial. I was last in NYC in 2001, just before 9/11 – and yes, I visited the WTC.
I agree completely: everyone should visit a Broadway Show. The best live performance I have ever seen was on Broadway.
Oh yes, I hope you can go back soon the Memorial alone is worth the trip. New York really is a special place.
This is my kind of sightseeing – non-stop. Except for good food breaks. I presume when I get to New York, my experience will be much the same. So I’ll be using this as a blueprint for my trip.
I always try to make the most of the time I have. It seems like there is never enough! Glad you liked the itinerary.
I love NYC and all its energy! We used to live about an hour north and would take the train down frequently. I try to get back at least once a year. I’ve experienced many of the things you’ve listed, but not the Tenement Museum so will definitely take that tour the next time I visit.
How nice that you lived so close! If you like history then you’ll love the Tenement Museum. The people who work there are also wonderful storytellers so it’s very interesting.
I went to New York in 2018 and was a bit disappointed. Probably just an anti-climax after a lifetime of waiting to go. However, recently I can’t shake the feeling of NEEDING to go back! This post just made me even more desperate to get back there. Great post, thanks for the inspiration!
I definitely understand that! I do that to myself sometimes also. Thank you, I do hope you’re able to go back soon!
I absolutely loooove NYC! I went there twice and I am sure I will visit again. 2,5 days is short but really worthy for that cheap flight you got! Thank you for the tips!
I loved it too! Hope you’ll be able to visit again soon. It was definitely a short weekend, but made me realize I’d like to spend much more time there!
We had booked to spend 4 days in NYC at the end of July – sadly it is looking increasingly less likely that it will happen. Still, there is always 2021. Whenever we get there, I can’t wait to see some of these iconic landmarks. Reading your post has got me very excited about our visit!
Oh I do hope you get to visit soon! If not in July, spring is really beautiful there especially in Central Park. I’m glad you enjoyed!
We love NYC, and am so glad we took the family two years ago. There is so much to do and we will definitely visit again and The High Line is something that is on the list.
I’m the same way, I went a year ago but am dying to go back. Hope you’ll be able to visit again! The High Line is definitely a neat spot.
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