Hi There! I hope you’ve all been great! Sorry it’s taking me so long to get this post out, I recently started a new job and am trying to find how best to fit blogging in my work day. Anyways, I always love sharing my travel experience with all of you and hope you all enjoy my New York Getaway Guide! If you haven’t checked it out, I posted my New York Fashion Guide including some of the most Instagram Friendly places – many will be included in here as well! If you’re short on time (3-4 days) then use this quick Getaway Guide to make sure you hit up all the MUST SEE places in New York efficiently.
Note: This Getaway Guide should probably be renamed to Manhattan Getaway Guide because I didn’t spend much time outside of Manhattan. However, I plan on going back to New York in the future and plan on simply adding to this Getaway Guide therefore this is a work in progress 😉
The island of Manhattan is probably the most well known borough of New York and is typically where people are referring to when they say they’re going to New York. For simplicity purposes, I’m going to break Manhattan up into three sections; Lower, Mid, and Upper Manhattan. For tourists and visitors, I think this is the easiest way to visually see and navigate your way through the metropolis. I’ve included a more detailed map of the neighborhoods in Manhattan for your reference!
Day 1: Lower Manhattan
For my Bay Area folks this is the East Coast version of the Financial District in San Francisco. Also for my history buffs, this is really where a lot of the history of New York really starts (both Indigenous and American), thanks to the easy water access. The Native American’s that originally settled in New York thousands of years ago originally settled in the Lower Manhattan area, eventually followed by the Dutch, Britain, and currently the United States of America…
The Financial District
Lower Manhattan has a tremendous amount of concrete structures and buildings with grey facades and concrete structures. With that being said, you’ll notice you’re surrounded by a ton of greys…I mean the buildings are practically all concrete and given that New York is basically a “City in the Sky” you’ll be in the shade for about 90% of the day, just a heads up….
World Trade Center and 911 Memorial
We actually landed in NYC on September 11th and decided that we would go there on the actual day to try and get more of the “experience” (hoping I’m not offending anybody). It actually back fired for us because they close the museum and public areas off for most of the day and open it only for families. They did open it to the public at 3 pm but since we were so limited on time we didn’t have enough time to return!
The grounds are actually pretty large here so give yourself a couple of hours to do the WHOLE thing….there is the World Trade Center which is like a mix of commercial stores on the first two levels and offices above. There is an oculus (round opening) in the roof of the building that they only open on 9/11, so that was a neat treat we did get to see!
The World Trade Center is connected to One World Trade Center, now the tallest building in New York. There is even a viewing deck up there if you want to get a even crazier view of NYC. Then there is the 911 Memorial and Museum. All of these and associated tours are included in your New York Pass so if you’re planning on checking a couple of those then consider the pass!
Castle Clinton, Ellis Island, and Liberty Island
If there is any museum you should check out while in New York, it would HAVE to be the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. It’s definitely not the MET or a Smithsonian but given the current situation in America, especially on immigration, I think it’s a worthwhile place to spend some time. It really breaks down the history, politics, and trends within that affect past, present, and most likely future of U.S. Immigration Policies. Regardless of which side you stand on the issue, it is worthwhile to educate yourself on the FACTS!
It’s easily accessible via ferry (also included in your New York Pass) and you can also visit Liberty Island where the Statue of Liberty is located. Recommend giving yourself 3 hours if you want to check everything out!
Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridge
If you have any interest in architecture then New York is definitely a treat….they have everything from some of the world’s most amazing skyscrapers, innovative construction in their transit systems, and of course bridges. Manhattan is a total island and connected through several bridges, tunnels, and subway lines. There are several bridges that have pedestrian walkways and worth checking out, if you have time!
The Brooklyn Bridge is probably one of the most photographed bridges in the world AND you can walk across it! In addition, there is the less popular, but gorgeous Manhattan Bridge. If you have time, I would recommend checking at least one of them out!
Chinatown, Little Italy, Lower East Side
If you’re wondering where all the local New Yorker’s are hanging out it’s probably in one of their posh neighborhoods located just outside of all the hustle and bustle. Since it is sooo easy to get around New York via the subway line, DON’T YOU DARE JUMP IN A TAXI, I recommend staying in one or more of the neighborhoods. Some of the popular areas you proably have heard of are the Chelsea Neighborhood, Chinatown (there’s actually 3 despite what the map may show), Little Italy (the best cannoli’s you’ll find in NY), Tribeca, and The Lower East Side.
I definitely recommend finding a cute Airbnb in one of these neighborhoods so you can start your morning off at one of the most adorable cafe’s known to man kind, grab some authentic dim sum, or check out some of the local small shops. I’ve also heard from other New Yorkers that these neighborhoods give you a little more of “Old New York” vibes. We stayed in Chinatown and had AMAZING access to all of the subway lines and could easily walk to 3 stations. For $32 you get a 7-day unlimited metro pass (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED).
Day 2: Midtown
Midtown is the mecca or center of Manhattan, at least from a visitor’s perspective. After spending some time in the Financial Area you might be wondering where are all the lights and crowds that NYC is so infamous for. Well head on over towards Midtown to check out some of New York’s most popular places like Times Square, Radio City, Rockefeller Center, etc. If Lower Manhattan is the old then Midtown is the new new…
Just go there and take it all in…the smog, the crowds, big cities, big lights, just take it all in…
Times Square, or Madness Square, is just full of life! There isn’t much to really do there in actual times square…of course there is a ton of shopping, eating, shows, tours, etc nearby so the options are endless on entertainment. But just stand in the middle of Times Square for like 5 minutes and just take it all in…you’re in the Big Apple Baby!
If you’re only in New York for a few days and trying to get the most bang for your buck in each neighborhood, I would recommend looking into something like the New York Pass. If you’re already planning on hitting up some of the top spots like Top of the Rock or 911 Memorial, your ticket costs are already included and you can generally skip the line. It’s only worth it if you plan on doing at least 10 or more of the activities on there because they are somewhat costly. Basically everything I’m sharing on this Getaway Guide and More are included with the New York Pass. Check out their site to see all that they offer to see if it’s worth your time and money! You can decide last minute (like us) and purchase it once in New York and just download the app!
Top of the Rock
Hands down, one of the best views of New York around! My personal favorite view of New York is across the water on the New Jersey side. You can really get a great shot actually SEE the New York skyline and how expansive it is. However, if you can’t get across the river, or don’t want to waste the time for a silly view, then this one of the best you’ll get. If you get the New York Pass, the elevator ride to the top is included.
Note: If you only have time to visit one view point, Top of the Rock or Empire State, I recommend going to the Top of the Rock. You get a great view of the Empire State building from the Top of the Rock and for some unknown reason to me, it’s not the other way around. However, if you have time to do both, then I recommend that you check one out during the day and check the other out at night so you get both views!
In addition, if you’re into art, history, art-history, architecture, or Old American families then spend some time in the Rockefeller Center and Plaza. They even offer free tours, which I highly recommend because you get a great tour of the intricate artwork and construction of the building (again if that’s something you’re into).
Empire State Building
What used to be one of the tallest building’s in the world and still one of the tallest building’s in the United States and New York and definitely a MUST SEE when in New York is the Empire State Building. Equally magnificent views as the Top of the Rock and 911 Memorial but this building has so much American History and really is a positive symbol for America during one of our history’s most turbulent times, the Great Depression.
I recommend visiting the Empire State Building for many many reasons but mainly because there’s gallery/museum that is free for all visitors and you can see historic photos of the design, construction, and effort that was needed to complete this project. Fun Fact, the Empire State Building was constructed in just a little over a year!! We can’t build ANYTHING in America today that would last as long as the Empire State Building in that short amount of time!
Day 3: Upper Manhattan
You can totally just get lost (and I recommend you do) in Central Park. I mean the park is very expansive, if you walked the entire perimeter it’s about 4 miles! The park is broken up in several sections but the most common area that people hang out is the south side which is just north of all the madness in Midtown. If you’re on a family trip this is a great spot for the kiddos with plenty of activities, slides, random vendors performing and selling goods, endless opportunities. If you’re a couple, this is a great place to grab lunch or bring a lunch for a picnic of some sort…this is a New York classic and is a MUST SEE!
Fun Fact: Central Park is almost entirely man made!
The MET and More…
New York has everything! I mean…they even have some of the best Museums in the world…thinking Smithsonians (Yes, they’re not only in DC), the MET, the MOMA, the Guggenheim, Museum of Skyscrapers, Museum of Transport, and so many more hidden all throughout the City. Your London pass gains you entrance to a ton of these museums and some of the biggest ones (like the MET) are actually free! If you’re in NYC and have some time, I recommend checking it out.
Many of the museums are conveniently located near Central Park so I would combine these two activities together. Keep in mind Central Park expands over 50 blocks (north and south) so it’s close depending which part of Central Park you’re at! We didn’t have much time so we didn’t check out most of the museums that I would have liked, but we did check out the New York City Museum. It basically divided New York into 4 time periods and each time period had it’s own exhibition room. They went into pretty good detail about New York history, politics, pop culture, the city’s perseverance through many world events, and much more!
Thank you all for reading! If you’ve been to NYC let me know what your thoughts were on the blog and what your itinerary looked like! I always love to hear what you all do on your travels!