Things to do in New York City for a long weekend
The Big Apple!
The City That Never Sleeps! Empire City! The City of Dreams! You can never run out of things to do in Manhattan. So much action, controlled chaos, sites, sounds and iconic landmarks to explore. I like to hit the ground running and get in as much as possible with walking as my primary mode of transportation. If you suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out) like me – then you’ll want to walk as well so you don’t accidentally miss an experience. Plus you really pick up on the flavor of the city on each block, and the vibes do change depending on what area you’re in.
If you only have a few days to visit this busy city, there are some highlights to hit from dawn to dusk. I enjoy going to the city in the middle of the week as you get to experience New Yorkers with the mix of the tourists, and there’s definitely more bustle on the weekdays.
If you’re flying in to NYC, then I recommend taking ride sharing (Uber or Lyft) to your accommodations rather than a taxi. With a taxi you pay for the time, and if there’s traffic then the meter is still increasing even if you are not moving. Ride sharing services just charge for distance and you know the approximate amount ahead of time.
Area to stay in NYC:
Typically I stay in a hotel in or surrounding Times Square, (I always use either Hotels.com or Orbitz.com), which is the heart of Manhattan. It’s easy to venture in any direction, and there’s always something going on just below your hotel. There are several hotels on the side streets which are much more quiet than the avenues. You will often see interesting “characters” as well as spontaneous entertainment and loads of sidewalk vendors.
If you arrive in the city and cannot yet check into your hotel accommodations then drop off your luggage with the hotel and start your tour of the city.
The “crossroads of the world” with no agenda required. This area is always jam packed with people and free street entertainment. I enjoy people and billboard watching and going into the shops especially M&M’s World (3 levels!), Disney store, souvenir and gift shops, and reasonably priced clothing stores (lots of chains though).
Rockefeller City area
Rockefeller City is just a few blocks away where many morning TV shows are filmed. You’ll recognize the area. Radio City Music Hall is here. I really enjoyed the Tour of NBC Studios – they are known for loads of shows that you love. If you are in NYC from October through April then you can skate on the super cool ice rink!
Top of the Rock
This is right in Rockefeller Center and will give you awesome views of NYC from above. Plus they have a great reservation system and will give a range of time to take your quick elevator ride to the top, so you can plan the rest of the day around it. I prefer this view to the Empire State Building’s view. The view is less obstructed and the whole thing much better organized.
Catch a Broadway or Off-Broadway Show
If you’re an early riser, you can attempt to be in the surrounding audience for a morning news show right in Rockefeller Center (adjacent to Times Square). Line up early in the morning to see new anchors or concerts and to be part of the crowd. I’ve done this before, and it is a lot of waiting around, but it’s fun to say that you’ve been there and ask friends if they see someone in the crowd with a white shirt as the camera pans by you at 10mph. 🙂 Other shows that tape in that area are The Late Show, The Tonight Show, Late Night and The Daily Show. Note that although these are “late night” shows – they typically tape in the afternoon.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
The cathedral is just steps away from Rockefeller Center area. It is free to view the architecture and stained glass inside the lobby or, for a donation, walk through the pews get a closer look inside the Gothic Revival/English Gothic beautiful cathedral from 1878.
The Arts: Musicals, plays and dance tickets are usually high dollar. If you can find something you’d enjoy at TKTS (in the heart of Times Square) you’ll save a lot on same day or next day tickets.
Food in NYC
Famous restaurants are located all over the city. This link will take you to the top 20. I recommend Tavern on the Green (because it’s in Central Park), Brooklyn Bagel (because it IS the best bagel in NYC), Becco (wonderful Italian), and Famiglia Pizza (authentic pizzeria).
The 9/11 Memorial and Museum:
This is really a must-do. The city, and our world, suffered such a tragic loss on September 11, 2001, and the museum and memorial have been very lovingly and beautifully put together to honor all those who perished on that fateful day. The museum is located at the World Trade Center site underground. It takes about a half day to properly visit the outdoor plaza and indoor memorial and museum. Every moment in that space is impactful.
The High Line is basically a 1.5 mile walkway built on an old elevated train line. It’s a wide sidewalk that winds up the western side of NYC. It’s very well-done with gardens, art and some food/drink stands along the way. There are many areas to “get on or off” (meaning to walk up or down the stairs to the street level – some places have elevators) along the pathway. It’s a nice oasis after you’ve been meandering around city streets for days.
Central Park is lovely for a nice stroll, a horse & carriage ride, a bike ride (rental bikes), a bite at a restaurant, a picnic, to watch an event/show, take a class, go to the zoo, or just to chill. I loved the Klein Supermarket right next to Central Park. They have a deli inside as well as a nice selection of snacks for a picnic. Then walk a block or two and have a picnic.
Little Italy in NYC:
I love love love Little Italy! The streets are adorned with restaurants serving Italian deliciousness on red/white checkered tablecloths, the atmosphere is lively, the Italian flavors are in the air. It’s wonderful. The only negative part is narrowing down a restaurant! Good luck with that. I think they’re all spectacular. Mulberry Street feels particularly old world-ish Italian. Don’t forget to get the cannolis after your meal!