New York City Vacation (3.5 Days)

This spring, we took a trip to NYC. Planning a trip to the Big Apple can feel overwhelming. There are so many things to do, and we only had 3.5 days (4 nights). After much research, I narrowed down my list. I hope our New York City vacation itinerary will help you as you plan your adventure.

New York City Skyline with Blue Sky and Clouds

New York City Vacation Itinerary

Arrival Day (Tuesday)

Our flight arrived at Newark Airport around 2 pm. We took a cab to our hotel. I’m a big NO on taking a subway (or public transportation) with luggage. Many years ago, I learned that lesson the hard way!

By 3pm, we were at Juniors on 45th St in Times Square for an afternoon snack. 

The front of Junior's Restaurant

With our bellies full, we checked into our room at the Hotel Edison. This hotel is on 47th St, a quick walk from Juniors.

2 Beds in the Hotel Edison on a New York City Vacation

After checking into our hotel, we headed to lower Manhattan via the subway for a self-guided walking tour. We stopped at the World Trade Center Reflecting Pools, Trinity Church, the NYSE, and the charging bull.

Charging Bull in New York City

We took the subway from lower Manhattan to Lombardi’s to end the day with delicious New York City pizza.

Pepperoni Pizza from Lombardi's in New York City

Finally, we rode the subway back to Times Square and returned to the hotel.

Times Square at Night on a New York City Vacation

New York City Vacation – Day 1 (Wednesday)

We started the first full day of our New York City vacation with a tasty breakfast at Times Square Diner and Grill. Before the trip, I’d scoped out this place online since we needed a hearty breakfast to fuel the day.

I devoured my Strawberry Sensation stuffed french toast. Highly recommend!!!

French Toast with Strawberries

Next up was a tour of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. We took the subway from Times Square to South Ferry.

Statue of Liberty in New York City

This excursion began with a stop at the security check-in at 9 am before boarding the ferry.

Ellis Island was my #1 New York City must-see. I signed us up for the Ellis Island Hard Hat Tour so we could see as much of the island as possible. The ticket included:

  • Liberty Island
  • The Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration
  • Hard hat tour of the Ellis Island Hospital Complex
Inside of the Ellis Island Registration Room in New York City

We left Ellis Island around 3 pm and took the subway back to the hotel. We had dinner at a restaurant in the hotel called Bond 45.

Gold door with glass and sign for Bond 45 Restaurant

We had tickets that evening for Come From Away at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre at 7 pm on 45th Street (2 blocks from the hotel).

Stage with ornate trim in the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre in New York City

The show was fantastic! 

Day 2 (Thursday)

Day 2 began with breakfast at Toasties on 49th Street, a 5-minute walk from the hotel.

Outdoor Sign of Toasties Restaurant

We booked a Guided Private Underground New York Subway Tour for Thursday at 9 am.

In this private tour, Gary took us to various locations in the subway, where we learned about the history, construction, and subway art. We even had the opportunity to glimpse an abandoned station. 

New York City Subway Art - Panels with bright colors and futuristic depiction of a subway train

We loved this tour! So I’ve booked another private tour with Gary later this year.

The subway tour ended at Grand Central Terminal.

Inside the main terminal at Grand Central Terminal on a New York City Vacation. It has 3 large windows and a blue ceiling with paintings of constellations.

We grabbed a bite to eat at the Shake Shack, a restaurant chain founded in New York City. 

Order counter at Shack Shack in New York's Grand Central Terminal

We’d initially planned to visit the top of the Empire State Building after lunch on Thursday. But the weather wasn’t exactly ideal. We booked through TripAdvisor. Fortunately, they allowed us to change our tickets.

Looking up on the Empire State Building on a cloudy day of a New York City vacation

That afternoon, we visited the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side. We went on the Hard Times 1880s apartment tour at 3:45. This is such a neat experience!

Red building with buff color trim and black fire escape stairs. 5 stories tall. It is the home of the Tenement Museum in NYC.

We had dinner at Katz Delicatessen a few blocks from the museum and then rode the subway back to the hotel in Times Square.

3 piles of sliced meat from Katz Deli in NYC
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New York City Vacation – Day 3 (Friday)

I thought we’d try something a little different on the last day of our New York City vacation and combine breakfast with a tour. 

At 9:00 am, we went on the NYC Underground Donut Tour, which lasted about 2 hours. YUM!

4 different types of donuts at the Doughnut Project

We were able to squeeze in the trip to the top of the Empire State Building after the donut tour. However, I didn’t get to spend as much time exploring the museum or gift shop as I would have liked.

View of the skyscrapers and other buildings from the Empire State Building in NYC on a sunny day with blue sky and puffy clouds.

There isn’t a great way to get from the Empire State Building to our next destination, the Circle Line pier on the Hudson, by subway. We were in a time crunch, so we took an Uber.

We took a Boat Tour by Circle Line. This 2.5 hour cruise departed at 1:30 pm and circled the island of Manhattan, offering a different perspective of the island.

View of the Brooklyn Bridge from the water on a New York City Boat Tour

We ended the day with another meal/tour combo, the NYC Mafia Tour with Food Tasting. This tour began at 5:30 and lasted 3 hours. It combined historic mafia sights and stopped at three different eateries.

Tall pillar of wax with candles at a New York City restaurant

After this fun day, we were tired and full and had to pack up for our early morning flight.

We packed a lot into a 3.5 day New York City vacation. While there were several top-rated sites that we didn’t get to visit, it’s not possible to see it all in one trip. I’ll have to save those incredible places for another day.

Heading to the Northeast? Check out a Day in Boston and Philadelphia Fun: 21 Things to Do in the City of Brotherly Love.

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