A Week in New York City: The Only Itinerary You Need

New York City is one of those destinations that make you wish you could be in two places at once - it’s big, busy, and chalk full of amazing things to see and do.

I was fortunate to have an entire week there, but I knew that in order to pack in as much as possible, I’d need to get a little creative and plan ahead.

It took me hours upon hours of research and referring back to the map, but in the end, I’ve devised what I think is the best way to go about a trip in the Big Apple - and I’m sharing it here with you.

Photo by  Andy Nichols

Photo by Andy Nichols

Break the City up Into Sections

Soho, Brooklyn, Greenwich Village...New York City is comprised of many a burrough, so I figured it made perfect sense to break out what I wanted to see and do into these burroughs, with the idea of making it to one or two neighbourhoods a day. After all, the subway is comprehensive but - as we would learn - slower than you think it will be.

Itinerary at a Glance

Day 1 - Upper Manhattan and Central Park

Day 2 - Upper Manhattan and Broadway

Day 3 - Greenwich Village, Meatpacking District, Chelsea

Day 4 - Lower Manhattan, Soho, Tribeca OR East Village

Day 5 - Brooklyn and DUMBO

Day 6 - Williamsburg and Bushwick

Day 7 - Coney Island (beach optional)

Day 8 (optional) - Yankees Game, Staten Island,

Harbour Cruise, Chinatown

Buy a 7 day metro card as soon as possible. It’s way cheaper and you won’t have to worry about having enough cash all of the time. Plus you’ll want the option to hop on for short trips if your feet hurt.

Photo by  Andy Nichols

Photo by Andy Nichols

Day 1 - Upper Manhattan and Central Park

Spend your first full day in NYC doing the classic stuff, amiright? Head first thing to the Empire State Building, then check out the Rose Main Reading Room if libraries are your thing (it’s very pretty and Bryant Park behind it is a nice spot to catch some shade), and wander the Rockefeller or take a tour.

Read More: Visiting the Empire State Building

Smelling beautiful old books in the Rose Main Reading Room <3 Photo by  Andy Nichols

Smelling beautiful old books in the Rose Main Reading Room <3 Photo by Andy Nichols

A highly sought-after lunch option is the Ess-a-bagel on 3rd Ave but it lines up early. We ended up at the New York Luncheonette just down the road and it was lovely for a giant sandwich and heap of fries.

After lunch, stretch your legs with a walk through Central Park. Pass Saks 5th Ave and/or the famed LOVE sign en route if you’re into that.

Photo by  Andy Nichols

Photo by Andy Nichols

Day 2 - Upper Manhattan and Broadway

Get up early and head to Ellen’s Stardust Diner on Broadway for breakfast. The staff are all gunning for their big break, so they spend most of their time taking turns performing and very little time actually serving. But you know what? It’s loud, it’s upbeat, the food is great - and it’ll be the cheapest performance you get in all of New York - extra tips included ;-)

You are going to want loads of time at the Met museum so I’d recommend giving yourself most of the day - you can come back later if you want to take a break and have some lunch in Central Park because you can re-enter in the same day with your ticket.

Later, I sincerely encourage you to take the time to head to the Roosevelt Tram. Just the ride is a fun experience, and Roosevelt Island is a weird little place, but the best part is that you get a whole view of NYC up there! All for free.

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You’ll likely need a little breather after that, so grab some dinner and maybe a nap before heading to check out Times Square and Broadway, whether you have tickets or not (though hopefully you do!). It’s certainly a sight to behold at night - sparkly, lit up McDonalds, anyone?

After the show, grab a drink at Grand Central Station’s Campbell Bar - you’ll get to see the station in a quieter moment, and the Bar dates back to 1910. Don’t miss out (casual won’t do, so make sure you’re dressed appropriately).

Read More: Campbell Bar - Stepping Back in Time

Photo by  Andy Nichols

Photo by Andy Nichols

Day 3 - Greenwich Village, Meatpacking District, Chelsea Market

Head to the incredible Highline Park for the morning, you’ll easily be able to stroll and enjoy the views for an hour or two. When it’s time to eat, head down to the Chelsea Market and grab a bite before strolling through the shops.

Head out on foot to Greenwich Village, home of Strand, a $1 Bookstore, loads of vintage and thrift shopping, the Friends apartment building (90 Bedford Street), and Carrie’s stoop (66 Perry Street). You could easily eat dinner in this hood, shop till you drop, and enjoy the nearby park.

If you’re short on time, you might consider combining Day 3 and Day 4 - but prepare to feel a little rushed around.

Photo by  Andy Nichols

Photo by Andy Nichols

Day 4 - Lower Manhattan, SoHo, Tribeca OR East Village

If you’re feeling energetic, I highly recommend walking the Brooklyn Bridge at some point during your stay. It doesn’t really matter which direction (we stayed in Brooklyn, so we walked into Manhattan over the bridge) but it’s such an immense pleasure just to be up there. Watch out for cyclists!

Since you’ll end up in Lower Manhattan, head over to see the Fearless Girl on Wall Street (or don’t, because if I’m being honest, it was less than exciting with hoards of people on a skinny, ugly sliver of street, all clamouring for the same photo), the Flatiron Building (iconic, also tough to get a good shot of), and then head to Staten Island Ferry.

The Staten Island Ferry was one of my very fave free things to do in NYC. In part, because I love a good boat ride. In part, because it feel SO Sex and the City (cue hair flip), and in large part because it’s the best, free view you’re going to get of Lady Liberty! Plan for about an hour and a half round trip (less if you don’t want to wait and get the side of the boat with views on the way back).

Photo by  Andy Nichols

Photo by Andy Nichols

East Village is home to Amy Poehler’s comedy club - UCB Theatre - but grab tickets a couple days in advance if you’re set on it. There’s also free live music nightly at Rockwood Music Hall and stand up at the Gotham Comedy Club.

Oh, and don’t forget to get an incredible donut ice cream sandwich or a famed ice cream bouquet at Stuffed Ice Cream if you’re insta-crazy - or ice cream crazy, come to that.

Read More: 16 Amazing Places to Eat & Drink in NYC

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Day 5 - Brooklyn and DUMBO

Brooklyn is a really big area, but where you really want to be is Brooklyn Heights. Stroll the tree lined streets and take in the beautiful and famed Brownstones. Then wander down Atlantic Ave and 5th Ave for some great thrift shopping. My faves were L Train Vintage, Out of the Closet, and Housing Works.

Be sure to grab a famous crazy cone from Emack and Bolios for an Instagrammable treat.

If you’ve got some time and money, definitely head to Di Fara Pizza for the most wonderfully New York slice you’ll ever eat.

Read More: Di Fara Pizza, an NYC Must

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But if you can’t hack the distance, then head on over to DUMBO for some great views of the Manhattan Bridge, some adorable and very hipster shops and spots, and loads of other excellent pizzerias (we really liked Grimaldi’s and their very reasonable prices).

Walk along the Brooklyn Promenade as the sun starts to dip, enjoy the twinkle of the city across the bay, and check out the pretty lights on the bridges. You may even find yourself wandering into a romantic little park or two along the way.

Photo by  Andy Nichols

Photo by Andy Nichols

Day 6 - Williamsburg and Bushwick

I didn’t get as much time in these areas as I would have liked - really just a quick stop-by one evening. But from everything I’ve read, it’s where I would have liked to spend at least a day - and maybe where I’d even want to stay next time I visit.

Bushwick is best known for two things: street art and thrift shopping. In other words, you can shop till you drop and take awesome photos while you do it. It’s everything I love! Check out this post by the Blonde Abroad for more details on where to go in Bushwick.

Nearby Williamsburg is maybe a little rougher around the edges, but had some charm. The Gotham City Lounge is a strange little place - we paid $2 for a PABST and a shot of whiskey. Doesn’t get much better, or weirder, than that. We grabbed dinner at a hot little spot called Archie’s Bar & Pizza Joint for a slice and a beer. It was trendy af but good.

Photo by  Andy Nichols

Photo by Andy Nichols

Read More: New York: Expectations vs Reality

Day 7 - Coney Island

Loads of people skip Coney Island but to those people I say, what the heck man? It’s such a New York institution! It’s so delightfully weird, and colourful, with amusement park food and rides and random games. And it’s on a BEACH. Missing out, if you have the time, just seems silly to me.

I only rode the Cyclone, which is the old and iconic wooden roller coaster. It was terrifying, you guys, and if you manage it you’ll have definitely earned yourself a delicious treat afterward (let’s face it, any reason to earn a treat is good enough for me).

You may not need an entire day here, in fact a couple hours would do just fine, but it’s quite far on the train. So plan a good chunk of time and use whatever’s remaining to fit in something else if you weren’t able to!

Photo by  Andy Nichols

Photo by Andy Nichols

Day 8 - Worthwhile Add-Ons

Going to a Yankees Game was one of my New York highlights, and it had nothing to do with the sport of baseball. I like a live sporting event mostly for the atmosphere and the food, neither of which disappointed at Yankee Stadium. The lines for the food were insane, however, so get there early if you don’t want to miss out on actual game time. Have a famous Nathan’s hot dog! And grab the LARGEST can of beer I’ve ever seen for $10.

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Another highlight for me was a sunset sail around the harbour. It was a little bit of an odd mix of people, part date night option, part girls gone wild, part middling aged tourists, but I didn’t mind it to be honest. We even headed into a storm and if anything, the added drama just heightened the experience (plus it was the first reprieve from an insane heat wave we’d had the whole time there). I booked in advance with Groupon and it was pretty affordable for a nice time. Drinks were pricey on board, but you know what? Worth it.

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Staten Island is somewhere I didn’t get to explore, but I think it would be a fun spot to check out! If you’ve been, you’ll have to let me know. I thought it would be a cool place to wander around and eat (so basically the same thing I do everywhere).

And last but not least, the original Chinatown in NYC (there are apparently a few different ones) is supposed to be amazing, according to our taxi driver anyways. And like every movie. Right? I do wish we’d found the time to check it out, but as you can see here, even a week in New York is never going to be enough to see and do it all! It’s a place that you could probably go back to a million times and just keep discovering anew.

Guess you better get booking that first New York trip, eh? ;-)

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