Don’t know what to do in New York? Check out this 5-day itinerary for the best things to see and do in the city.
New York has never been on my bucket list. However, when I had the chance to actually visit the city, mainly thanks to a huge discount on the flight, I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised and I completely changed my mind.
In this article, you’ll find practical tips and suggestions about visiting the City that never sleeps.
General info about New York
I won’t talk about New York’s history because you can find information online. Geographically, it’s divided into five zones or boroughs: Manhattan, Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island.
A very important thing to keep in mind if you want to visit the city is the weather. Winter temperatures are quite cold, and summers are quite hot, with several days above 40°C. The best time to visit New York is during Spring or Autumn. I went there in June, and the weather was just perfect.
New York City can be expensive, but there are ways to save money while enjoying all the city offers. One way is planning and booking your accommodations and flights in advance.
You can also save money by taking advantage of the city’s many free or low-cost activities. New York City has many parks and museums that offer free admission, such as Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Additionally, many street fairs and festivals occur throughout the year and offer free entertainment.
You can save money on food by eating at local restaurants and food trucks instead of the expensive tourist areas. New York City has a diverse food scene with many delicious and affordable options. Finally, consider purchasing a CityPASS, which offers discounted admission to many of the city’s top attractions.
How to get around New York
Getting around the city is quite easy using the subway, at least from Monday to Friday. This is because on Saturdays and Sundays, many lines change, and you may have to wait for a train that will never arrive.
If you need help, New Yorkers are always ready to help you out by giving you some directions if you get lost.
Apart from these small drawbacks, the subway is definitely the best way to get around, especially if you don’t have much time and want to visit New York in 4 or 5 days. It’s better to get the MetroCard and CityPASS, which will save you a lot of money on ticket fees.
You will surely notice the incredible variety of animals you’ll see when walking around New York. I’ve found out that over 250 species of birds live in Central Park alone. You’ll most certainly see squirrels, chipmunks, and a few raccoons.
Top things to do in New York in 5 days
New York is really huge, but with good planning, you can explore it in 4 or 5 days. Here are some ideas on what to do in New York in 5 days:
Day 1 in New York
Start your trip with a visit to the iconic Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The Statue of Liberty is one of the most famous symbols of the United States, and a visit to this iconic monument is a must-do for any trip to New York. Take a ferry from Battery Park to see the statue up close and learn about its history and significance.
After your visit to the Statue of Liberty, head to Ellis Island, the gateway for millions of immigrants who came to the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
In Ellis Island, you can explore the Immigration Museum, which tells the story of the millions of people who passed through the island on their way to a new life in America.
After visiting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, stroll through Central Park and the Central Park Zoo. Central Park is a beautiful oasis in the middle of the city, and a visit to the park is a must-do for any trip to New York.
Head to Times Square in the evening to taste the city’s vibrant nightlife. Times Square is known for its bright lights, towering billboards, and bustling crowds, and it’s a must-see destination for any trip to New York.
You can then catch a Broadway show, visit one of the area’s many restaurants, or take in the sights and sounds of this bustling part of the city.
Day 2 in New York
On your second day in New York, spend the morning exploring the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET), one of the world’s largest and most important art museums. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, also known as the Met, is home to over 2 million works of art spanning 5,000 years of human history. Whether interested in ancient Egyptian art, European masters, or modern and contemporary works, the Met has something for everyone.
After you visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art, walk through the picturesque neighborhoods of Greenwich Village and SoHo. Greenwich Village is known for its charming cobblestone streets, cute cafes, and independent shops, and it’s a great place to explore on foot. On the other hand, SoHo is known for its trendy boutiques, art galleries, and designer stores, and it’s a popular destination for shopping.
In the evening, visit one of the city’s many rooftop bars for a stunning view of the city skyline.
Day 3 in New York
On day three, visit the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) to see some of the world’s most famous modern and contemporary artworks. You can see works by artists such as Vincent van Gogh, Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, etc.
After you visit MoMA, walk through the trendy neighborhood of Chelsea and visit the High Line, an elevated park built on an old railroad track. The High Line is a unique and beautiful public space and a walk along the park’s elevated pathways offers stunning views of the city. You can also explore the neighborhood’s many art galleries and independent shops in Chelsea.
Don’t forget to visit the Grand Central Station. It’s located at 42nd Street and Park Avenue, in the heart of Midtown Manhattan. It is the largest train station in the world by number of platforms, with 44 platforms on two levels.
The Grand Central Station is more than just a train station. It’s a beautiful historic building with a grand main concourse, a stunning ceiling painted with constellations, and a grand clock in the center. The station is also home to various shops and restaurants, from high-end boutiques and gourmet food markets to casual cafes and fast food restaurants.
In addition to its beauty and amenities, the Grand Central Station is also a major transportation hub, serving as a hub for the Metro-North Railroad and the New York City Subway. It’s a convenient and easy way to get around the city and a great place to start your exploration of New York.
In the evening, head to the East Village for dinner at one of the neighborhood’s many popular restaurants. The East Village is known for its diverse and vibrant food scene, and you’ll find everything from gourmet pizza and artisanal ice cream to authentic Japanese ramen and Korean barbecue. After dinner, you can also visit one of the neighborhood’s many bars or music venues to taste the city’s nightlife.
Day 4 in New York:
On your fourth day in New York, visit the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, located at the site of the World Trade Center. The National September 11 Memorial and Museum is a moving and powerful tribute to the victims of the 9/11 attacks, and a visit to the museum is a must-do for anyone interested in the events of that day.
At the museum, you can see artifacts from the attacks, such as pieces of the World Trade Center and the wreckage of the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania. You can also learn about the victims’ lives and the first responders’ bravery.
After your visit to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, walk across the Brooklyn Bridge and explore the vibrant neighborhood of Brooklyn. The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the most famous landmarks in New York, and a walk across it offers stunning views of the city’s skyline. In Brooklyn, you can visit the Brooklyn Heights Promenade for more great views or explore the neighborhood’s many shops, cafes, and parks.
In the evening, head to the West Village for dinner at one of the city’s many acclaimed restaurants. After dinner, you can also visit one of the area’s many bars or music venues to taste the city’s nightlife.
Day 5 in New York:
On your final day in New York, visit the American Museum of Natural History, one of the largest and most important natural history museums in the world, where you can see a wide variety of specimens, from dinosaur fossils and meteorites to plants and animals from around the world.
After visiting the museum, don’t forget to head to the Top of The Rock for a panoramic view of Manhattan.
You can then visit the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum on the Upper East Side to glimpse some of the world’s most famous modern and contemporary artworks. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is a unique and iconic building, and it’s home to a world-class collection of modern and contemporary art.
In the evening, walk through the neighborhood of Harlem and enjoy live music at one of the area’s many famous jazz clubs. Harlem is known for its rich cultural history, and it’s a great place to experience the city’s vibrant music and arts scene.
Photography tips for New York
Personally, I find New York much better at night. The lights of Manhattan seen from the top of the Empire State Building are amazing, although tripods are not allowed.
What is the ideal lens for photographing New York? It depends. I’ve almost always used the wide-angle lens to include bigger portions of the buildings in the picture, but a classic 24-105mm is definitely more flexible. You can still try some less “classic” shots using a telephoto lens. For light travel, I recommend a light but sturdy tripod.
Whatever you bring with you, even if it’s simply a phone, you’ll have much to photograph in New York City in 5 days.
Final thoughts about New York
In the end, I have to admit that New York is really a great city. I liked the vibe, and from a strictly photographic perspective, it has much to offer. There are many interesting museums, and whenever you get tired of the city, you can always relax in one of the numerous parks.
A special mention goes to the New Yorkers: always willing to help and generally friendly.