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I remember my first time visiting New York City. I was there for work and had a little time to myself, and I was just overwhelmed, and all the New York City things to do that were on my list I never did. I saw Times Square, got lost on the subway, and saw the Lincoln tunnel, that was it. Don't let that happen to you! Check out this Ultimate Itinerary for five days, even if you only have one day pick the day that works for you!
Table of Contents
The Ultimate 5 Day Itinerary of New York City Things To Do
My dad grew up in New Jersey outside New York City and worked in the city for quite a while. So I sat down with my dad and picked his brain a bit on the must-see things to do, I added a few of my own a well!
For the sake of organizing the sections are broken into days. I have the attractions starting down at the south end of the Island by Tribeca and working our way north. Mix and max and make the best schedule for you!
Next depending how long you will be in town consider a New York City Explorer Passmany of the locations are included. You build your own pass by pick picking between 3-10 attractions from a list of over 84 to visit. The average savings on admission costs is around 25% (plus being able to skip the ticket window lines!)
Next, you should head on over to Groupon and search for New York City and under the ‘Things to do' section see what is available. At the time I am writing this, there are many hotel and restaurant discounts, discount tickets on the 9/11 museum, many discount tour packages, and many shows!
Also, you should try toschedule in an On Location Tour. This tour takes you to filming sets, and locations featured in many of your favorite films. Places you will see are locations from Friends (including their apartment building!), Glee, When Harry Met Sally, Modern Family, Seinfeld (including the soup man. “No soup for you!”) and more!
At one point make sure to take the subway. It’s an iconic way to travel the city. It’s not the most glamorous but something everyone should do at least once.
I always love to add a visual where I can check out the video below from Keep Your Daydream on their trip to New York City!
Ok on to the attractions!
New York City Things To Do Day 1
I know this looks like a super busy day and it is, but all these attractions are pretty close together, and some like the Bull are a picture opp and bam done.
The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island– This should be first on anyone’s visit to New York City as it is one of the most iconic monuments in the country. It stands for freedom and so much of our history, and so many of the country’s ancestors have stood on this island awaiting to start their new life. This has always been at the top of my New York City things to do list!
Battery Park and Castle Clinton – Castle Clinton is located in battery park and is a National Park site. The park is known for its waterfront views and views of Lady Liberty! There is a lot of history to learn here.
Wall Street (The Bull) – You have to get your picture take with the iconic Wall Street Bull. More than that just seeing the hustle of Wall Street should be on your bucket list.
Federal Hall – A museum built in the 1700s whos claim to fame is that George Washington was sworn into office here and you can even see the Bible he was sworn in on. It was the first capitol building in the country and later a customs house.
Trinity Church– One of the original churches in the country, the original building burnt down in 1776 but there is still so much history here!! This church is famous for its graveyard dating back to colonial times, and it is where Alexander Hamilton is buried.
World Trade Center and 9/11 Memorial & Museum– One of the largest attacks on American soil and one we have all seen in our lifetime. So many died and in my book alone that makes it a stop to make and pay your respects. Besides that, they now have a museum of the attack and a fantastic memorial now. So much history to pass on to our kids.
Old Homestead Steakhouse – Let's end the day by heading north a bit and eating at the first steakhouse ever in NewYork City!
New York City Things To Do Day 2
Bring your appetite today! This is a day of taking in the city from a few different perspectives, and tasting many parts of the city too!
Brooklyn Bridge– Start the day on the bridge. Everyone visits the bridge for different reasons. Some have a goal to take a morning run across it, and others (like myself) would just like to see it and take pictures and maybe drive across it.
China Town – Make sure to check out China Town. It's a site to see all on its own, but this is where you will start eating your way through the city! This little neighborhood in New York City will seem like you have stepped in a neighborhood in China and not a few streets down in NYC! Make sure to try out some food from Great N.Y. Noodletown!
Little Italy – Time for some more food. Like China Town, make sure to take it all in and grab some food at the original Lombardi’s and visit DiPalo Fine Foods. It's a family owned Italian Market.
Chelsea Market– Ok now get ready to try some fantastic food. You can find anything from fine dining food to grab and go food here. They also have lots of great little shops to walk and check out as well.
Empire State Building– The 1930 decor alone is well worth a stop here, but most of us have the Empire State Building on our list for its sheer massive height! Those of you who aren’t a fan of heights, like myself, suck it up because the views are breathtaking. For the least amount of wait time go early in the morning or during lunchtime. This attraction would be in your CityPASS if you chose to get one (and you should!)
Grand Central Terminal– This is one of the largest and most historic train stations in the country, and that makes this worth the stop. There are free historical tours every Wednesday if you happen to be in town. While still a hub for travel many visits it for the restaurants in the terminal. So make sure to grab some dinner or dessert here!
New York City Things To Do Day 3
Today I suggest grabbing a bus tour of the city. Now it's a toss-up, and you should pick which one works for you. First, there is a The Ride NYCit's part bus tour, part show, and entertainment. Then there is The New York PassIt's a bus tour but allows you to get on and off the bus that day as you wish.
Madame Tussauds– The famous 200-year-old wax museum known for its lifelike figurines of famous people like Micheal Jackson, Marylin Monroe, and even Donal Trump.
Times Square– The iconic Times Square! All the lights, sounds, and you never know what you will see. Most of the time you can find live entertainment right there on the street!
Rockefeller Center – If you are here during Christmas you have to check out there Christmas tree and go ice skating! Several NBC shows are filmed here, and there is food and plenty to take in.
St Patrick’s Cathedral– This huge historic church in the middle of the crazy downtown is a must see. There are some spectacularly stained glass windows, and the architecture just inside is breathtaking. They still have their candles to light in prayer as well.
Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum – Many claim this to be one of the top museums in the city if not the best. It is very hands-on, you can climb in helicopters, climb through submarines, and more. This attraction is included in your CityPASS as well.
See a Radio City Music Hall Show – I grew up hearing about Radio City Music Hall from my grandparents, so it has always been on my list to see when I visit the city. I highly suggest trying to grab tickets to a show and see the famous Rockettes here!
Sparks Steakhouse– I suggest heading back south a bit for dinner at Sparks Steakhouse. This steakhouse used to be a mob hang out and has a lot of history. In fact, one of the last big mob bosses got ‘wacked' right outside the steakhouse on the street!
New York City Things To Do Day 4
Spend the Day at Central Park! There are so many things to do in Central Park you could spend a few days here and not touch them all!
Central Park– I highly recommend a Carriage Ride around the park. It's a super fun way to get a tour and see a large section of the park. Take your time visiting each attraction today and just explore the park!
Central Park Zoo – Step into the zoo, and you will never guess you are in the middle of Manhattan! With over 1,400 different animals from penguins to insects, there is so much to see!
The Met aka The Metropolitan Museum of Art– We have all heard reference to The Met from book to movies. Many say plan 4-5 hours here as it’s the largest museum in the country! I say even if you don't have an interest in art you should visit and in which case you may only need an hour. Others might stay all day! Do what works for you and your family!
American Museum of Natural History – This is the Museum of Natural History featured in the Night at the Museum (all 3 of them!) If you watched the movie the exhibits shown are very similar to the real museum.
A Broadway Show – This would be the perfect night to catch a Broadways show! You can get discounted tickets via Groupon as I mentioned above. You can find some of the best shows here and some actors before they make it big!
New York City Things To Do Day 5
Today we head north of the park! The attractions today are a bit more spread out so don't be afraid to skip one if time doesn't allow!
Bronx Zoo – Yes I know you were just at a zoo yesterday if you are following the itinerary but trust me on this one. This is the largest zoo in the US with over 265 acres and over 6,000 animals. They have a ride called the Wild Asia Monorail. It is an open-air monorail where you ride sideways to view the animals. It runs along the outside edge of the Asian Wilderness section of the park and has a guide to narrate your ride. It's 100% worth the money!
Yankee Stadium – Even if you aren't a sports fan Yankee Stadium is something to view while in town. My hubby is a huge baseball fan and seeing Yankee stadium (even though he is an Indians fan!) is a huge bucket list for him! He wanted me to add that this is his endorsed must do New York City things to do on the list!
General Grant National Memorial– This is the final resting place of President Ulysses Grant and his wife. This is the largest mausoleum in North America as well. This is a National Park Sites so make sure your kids get their junior ranger badge as well.
Hamilton Grange National Memorial– Make sure to schedule a tour of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton's home! Learn his history and how he shaped our nation. The first floor of the house is furnished and available for tours. Again an NPS site so don't forget to get your kids junior ranger book!
You could end the day at a restaurant or watch another show!
So what do you think of this list of New York City things to do? What would you add to the list? Let me know in the comments below!
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