New York City in Three Days
by Jonathan Zeller, 04/04/2012
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It's your first trip to New York City, and you're only staying for a three-day weekend. While it's impossible to take in all the excitement of the five boroughs in such a short time (lifelong NYC residents discover something new every day), you can still enjoy many of the City's essential attractions. Read on for a plan that will help you make the most of your time—these are the sights and sounds you must experience before you leave.
Day One (Midtown)
See the Skyline
New York City is defined by its skyline, and all city skylines are measured against New York's—the silhouette created by Manhattan's buildings is nothing short of iconic. In fact, NYC is home to more than 100 buildings measuring 500 feet or taller.
While you can feel this immensity everywhere in NYC, it's best experienced from the observatories at the Empire State Building and at Rockefeller Center's Top of the Rock. Once you've enjoyed the scenery from amid the skyscrapers, you can try a vantage point that lets you see all of Manhattan in perspective: cross the Brooklyn Bridge on day three of your itinerary, and the nearby Brooklyn Heights Promenade will provide precisely this ideal lookout.
Walk Through Times Square
Times Square is where it all happens. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, the bright lights, big screens and bustling crowds perfectly embody the excitement of the city that never sleeps. For the greatest effect, visit after sunset—all that wattage will make you think it's still light out. And now that much of the area is closed to vehicles, you can safely stroll in the streets. While you're in the area, dine at one of the popular eateries on Restaurant Row, or shop in the huge flagship stores with spectacular extras that are attractions in and of themselves. (Toys "R" Us, for example, has an indoor Ferris wheel.) From Times Square, take a 15-minute stroll—heading north on Sixth Avenue, you'll pass classic sites like Rockefeller Center and Radio City Music Hall—to The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), where you can visit one of the world's finest collections of contemporary art.
Give Your Regards to Broadway
Nobody does live theater like NYC. Whether you're into dramas, comedies or musicals, you'll find them in the City's Theatre District, where the shows burst with eye-popping sets, A-list celebrities and, above all, pizzazz. You can see a long-running show like Chicago or Mamma Mia!, newly acclaimed musicals such as Once and The Book of Mormon or projects featuring film stars (Matthew Broderick, Scarlett Johansson, Alec Baldwin) in stage roles. All of the performances demonstrate why this famed NYC thoroughfare has become synonymous with theater itself. Visit the TKTS Discount Booth in Times Square for discounted tickets to some shows, and climb the red steps for an unmatched view of the area.
Day Two (Uptown, the Bronx and Queens)
Travel Museum Mile (Upper East Side)
The storied Museum Mile actually measures a couple of blocks longer than a mile. Regardless of its precise length, this Upper East Side stretch of Fifth Avenue may have more culture per square foot than any other place in the universe. The tour starts at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, on East 82nd Street, where you can view limited-time exhibitions as well as objects in the museum's permanent collection, which consists of more than 2 million works of art that span the breadth of human history. Walk your way uptown to the modern and contemporary artwork housed at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. The journey continues on to East 104th Street at El Museo del Barrio, which showcases Caribbean, Latino and Latin American art. All told, the mile boasts 10 world-class NYC museums.
Go Wild (The Bronx)
The City is known for its cultural offerings, famous skyscrapers and Central Park, but many don't realize that NYC is home to the world's largest urban zoo—the Bronx Zoo, located in Bronx Park and operated by the Wildlife Conservation Society. The zoo's more than 250 acres house 4,000 animals representing in excess of 600 species. Visitors can marvel at the tremendous diversity of life on Earth while learning about creatures ranging from Madagascar hissing cockroaches and king cobras to snow leopards and sea lion pups. Architecture fans will be impressed by the structures here: Rainey Memorial Gates, the Rockefeller Fountain and the Beaux-Arts buildings of the zoo's Astor Court are all landmarks.
Those visiting the Bronx will find that it is also paradise for flora fanatics. The New York Botanical Garden, located in another section of the expansive Bronx Park, is a National Historic Landmark, and its 250 acres are home to more than 1 million plants. The Garden features the largest herbarium in the Western Hemisphere, a renowned scientific research program and an extensive schedule of fascinating programs and exhibitions.
Catch a Ball Game (The Bronx or Queens)
The Mets and Yankees both play in new stadiums that juxtapose cutting-edge amenities with homages to NYC's unparalleled baseball history. The plaques at Yankee Stadium's Monument Park reveal this rich past with tributes to all the greats—Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Reggie Jackson, Thurman Munson and many more. Citi Field's majestic Jackie Robinson Rotunda salutes the renowned baseball hero and civil rights pioneer. Both arenas conjure an experience that transcends the game itself.
Day Three (Lower Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island)
Cross the Brooklyn Bridge (Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn)
The Brooklyn Bridge was the world's longest suspension bridge when it was completed in 1883. Though that record has long since been surpassed, the bridge is still an iconic structure and an inspiring symbol of humankind's ability to invent and achieve. The landmark also provides one of the most dramatic walking routes in New York City. As you cross over the East River from Manhattan to Brooklyn, snap photos of Downtown and New York Harbor along the way (the pics will be helpful when recounting the trip back at home). Waiting on the other side of the bridge is Brooklyn Heights, one of the City's most picturesque residential neighborhoods.
Ride the Staten Island Ferry (Lower Manhattan and Staten Island)
This five-mile, 25-minute boat ride from Lower Manhattan to the northern tip of Staten Island is free—and the views are priceless. Throughout the journey, you'll take in magnificent vistas of Lower Manhattan and New York Harbor. At the end of the ride, ferry riders are transported to the historic St. George District—home of the Staten Island Museum and the magnificent St. George Theatre, which is eight decades old.
Experience American History (Lower Manhattan and New York Harbor)
For more than a hundred years, the Statue of Liberty, with her ascendant torch lighting the way to a better life, has symbolized the promise and opportunities of the United States. Looking up at the statue during a ferry ride in New York Harbor, it's easy to imagine how immigrants must have felt as they first arrived here.
Come Back Soon
There's only so much you can do in three days—so we hope you'll come back soon and explore even more of the City. For tips on what experienced travelers should do and see, read the many features and listings on nycgo.com.