How to do New York City in a weekend

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New York City is an amazing city that you can visit again, and again, and still discover something new each time you go. But you don’t necessarily need a lot of time to get something out of a trip to the Big Apple. If you only have one weekend to visit New York City you can still pack a lot into your stay.

Here are some tips for how to maximize your time and see New York City in a weekend.

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Do some advance planning

How to do New York in a weekend
Broadway sign (Image: Darren Johnson)

If you only have one weekend to spend in New York City, think about some of the things you don’t want to miss. Whether it be catching a show on Broadway or nabbing a table at a restaurant you’ve always wanted to go to, try to make bookings before you go so you won’t miss out on something you’re really looking forward to.

Decide on an area

How to do New York in a weekend
Times Square (Image: Aurelien Guichard used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license)

Where you base yourself in the city will make a big difference when it comes to how much you can see and do during your stay. Choosing a spot that gives you access to a variety of attractions means you can see more in a smaller window of time. Staying in midtown Manhattan, for example, means you have the Empire State Building, Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), Rockefeller Center and St. Patrick’s Cathedral all within a manageable area. Basing yourself in the Upper East Side puts you close to museum mile, Central Park and Madison Avenue. Think about the sites and attractions that you most want to visit and aim to base yourself in close proximity.

Be reasonable

How to do New York in a weekend
Central Park (Image: James Court)

You can’t see it all, nor should you push yourself to see more than you really have time for. If you rush, you’ll end up tiring yourself out and not giving yourself a chance to fully appreciate what you’re seeing. Make a list of what you want to see and do, then cut it in half. Having a rough itinerary is good (and those few aforementioned advance bookings), but over-planning can take the fun out of your vacation. Leave yourself time to slow down and enjoy your surroundings.

Itinerary tips

How to do New York in a weekend
Empire State Building (Image: ★ SimonPix)

What you see and do depends on where your interests lie, but we have a few tips for getting the most out of your trip.

Friday: Arrive to your hotel and check-in. Explore the area around your hotel to start getting a feel for the city. Depending on how early you’ve arrived, take that opportunity to visit a museum.

Friday evening: Have a drink at the hotel bar or ask the front desk staff to recommend a good spot for a cocktail. It’s a good idea to have made dinner reservations for Friday evening in advance, so you can relax after checking into your hotel knowing your dinner plans are already set.

Saturday morning: Have a light breakfast at your hotel, or at a nearby café, then head straight for the Empire State Building for amazing views over Manhattan. Try to go early, because the earlier you go, the shorter your wait time will be. Grab a snack or coffee once you’re back down and then head to 5th Avenue for some shopping (or window shopping).

Saturday afternoon: Have lunch near Central Park and explore the vast urban green space. Then get your culture fix at MOMA.

How to do New York in a weekend
Central park (Image: Doug Kerr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license)

Saturday night: Head to the Theatre District for dinner and then put those Broadway tickets you bought before your trip to good use.

Sunday: Get up early and head to Battery Park to catch a ferry to visit the Statue of Liberty. Have lunch or brunch after your visit to Lady Liberty, then explore Wall Street and the South Street Seaport. To really get a broad overview of New York, take a double decker bus tour. It may sounds super-touristy, but it’s a great way to see a lot of New York in a short amount of time and to learn about what you’re seeing.

Sunday afternoon: Head back to your hotel, check out and say goodbye to New York until next time.

Lead photo: Roman Iakoubtchik used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license

How to do New York City in a weekend was last modified: June 26th, 2019 by Jessica Padykula
Author: Jessica Padykula (292 posts)

Jessica Padykula is a Toronto-based writer and editor who regularly covers travel and lifestyle trends. When she’s not writing or researching a story she can be found planning trips to places near and far in a never-ending quest to travel the world.