How to Conquer New York City in Less than 3 Days

As young college-grads, people are constantly telling us to go travel before we are tied down with kids, commitments, etc., but when you work Monday-Friday with limited vacation time it’s not always feasible to take off and tour Europe for ten days. Knowing this wasn’t going to be possible for George and I, we decided soon after we got married that we would try to take small weekend trips every 3-4 months.
New York City was first on the list! We took advantage of the Fourth of July holiday weekend so we didn’t have to use any time off and with the help of Travelocity, I booked a flight + hotel package for a great deal!

Friday we still had work, so we both ended up working overtime that week and left early Friday to catch our evening flight to LaGuardia. Well that was kind of a waste because storms delayed our plane from getting to us so we were hours behind schedule– thankfully it was a direct flight.  Flying into New York City was the coolest thing ever. I have been several times, but George had not so flying in with an aerial view of the entire island was soo amazing. It felt like we were flying over a giant 3D model, pointing out all the landmarks as we went.
At the airport we bought week unlimited passes for the subway and took the bus to a station in Queens then switched to our line and got off just blocks from our hotel. Getting in at 2AM, the streets were pretty quiet but the friendly service at the check-in desk put us at ease and I could not wait to go to bed.
Let’s talk about our hotel.  So when I was browsing hotels trying to decide where to stay, I mostly was looking at what part of Manhattan I wanted to stay in, customer reviews, and amenities. I was pretty set on Row NYC near Midtown, but came across another that I just couldn’t pass up. My Gossip-Girl-loving heart rejoices as I say that we stayed at The Empire Hotel on Lincoln Center in the Upper West Side. I wanted a boutique hotel near Central Park and it could not have been more ideal. We got in so late that it was pretty dark, but when I woke up Saturday and opened the drapes, I was in awe.

Full disclosure, the room itself was a little tired and need of some TLC, but the location could not have been better and we didn’t even spend much time in our room.
After gazing out the window for quite some time, we headed out, my written itinerary in hand. We walked across the street to have brunch at The Smith before our first full day. We sat outside, enjoying the breezy, mild weather– just taking it all in. After a great brunch I ran through Starbucks and we walked around Columbus Circle, down 59th to catch a glimpse of the park, and take pictures with The Plaza. (Another side note, Home Alone 1 and 2 are easily my favorite movies and I watch them year-round so yeah this just added to the greatness.)

We wandered in and out of stores down 5th Avenue (Nashville, PLEASE get a Zara), went in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Lego Store, Rockefeller Center, and Grand Central Station before eating lunch at Urbanspace, a big open market with every food vendor you could think of.  We decided on some New York style pizza and a doughnut from Dough.



We finally headed back to the empire to rest our weary feet on the rooftop terrace.

For the first evening, we figured how much time it would take to get to Brooklyn from the Upper West Side and took the subway just across the water to have dinner at Shake Shack (diet is a four letter word) and ice cream from Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory while catching the skyline views from across the water.


We then walked back to Manhattan across the Brooklyn Bridge at sunset– one of the best parts of the trip– despite the gobs of foreign tourists with no comprehension of bike lane vs. walking lane vs. standing areas.

Sunday morning we got up and on our way, grabbing breakfast and coffee at Starbucks, because we had tickets to the 9/11 Memorial Museum for 9AM. I really have no way to put the experience of the memorial in words simply because it was so much to process. I will say it was the most well-done museum/memorial I have ever seen and the efforts of those who put it together does not go unnoticed. I think my heaviest moments were listening to the voicemails left with loved ones by those in the towers and on the planes and seeing the salvaged spire from the North Tower of the World Trade Centers in person. Although I was eight years old, I distinctly remember the live feed of the spire collapsing into a cloud of dust that was the North Tower.  As I said, words cannot do justice. All I can say is all Americans should go and see that we may remember and never forget.


After nearly four hours in the memorial, we returned to our hotel to get ready and head to Les Miserables on Broadway. Buying these tickets was a last minute decision because let’s be honest.. George ain’t into musicals, but I figured he would enjoy the plot of this one the most and you can’t do NYC and not see a show.  So we went and enjoyed it and followed it up with a random Mexican restaurant near the theatre district. After dinner we took the subway to Chelsea, got a doughnut from Doughnut Plant (umm yes so yum), and did some people watching on The High Line. George wanted to see Times Square at night so we stopped by before turning in for the night.

Monday (Happy Independence Day!):
Switched up breakfast and coffee with Dunkin Donuts this time before walking over to Central Park to rent bicycles and explore.  We got a discounted rate (thanks Groupon) and headed into the park for a couple hours. I have been to New York several times but had never actually seen Central Park and man oh man I loved it! Such an amazingly huge and beautiful place. The bike ride was a blast, but you couldn’t take them off the roads so we hopped off and walked them so we could see the lake, the mall, and Bethesda Terrace and Fountain.

After the park we had to check out of the Empire and make our afternoon flight back to Nashville, but we feel like we didn’t miss a thing on our weekend in The Big Apple.
Take-Aways and Tips:
DO get a subway pass– you won’t realize how much walking you’ll do even with the subway
DON’T buy drinks with every meal– it wasn’t that we were trying to be especially frugal, but drinks are soo expensive and it adds up quickly so limit it to drinks after dinner or mimosas with brunch maybe
DO eat dessert as often as you please– there’s so much to try and so little time
DON’T worry about wearing your cutest shoes to complete your outfit– comfort is key and the streets are so dirty that they’ll like get scuffed and stained
DO get a place in the city– being able to quickly return to our hotel to freshen up or turn in after a long day was so so nice
DON’T bring your selfie stick– extending a pole with your phone or iPad (yes we saw this multiple times) on it 4 feet in front of you in crowded spaces is not fun for anyone. Opt for a GoPro with a wide angle lens, ask someone else to take your picture, or stick to a close-up people!
DO rent a bike in Central Park– they’re not expensive and you can go from one end of the park to the other rather quickly
Thanks for reading and I hope this helps with ideas like all the blogs I found helped me when planning our NYC weekend getaway. Where to next??

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