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Hi, I'm Georgina! A coffee-loving adventure enthusiast here to share my favorite travel tips with you! My goal is to inspire others to get out and explore this wild planet by camping, hiking, or wandering around a fun new city!

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  • Georgina D'Angelo

New York City Itinerary: The Best of NYC for First-Time Visitors

Updated: Jan 26

Welcome to the Big Apple, New York City! This bustling, vibrant, full-of-life city needs to be on everyone’s travel list. With an endless list of things to do, places to stay, and foods to eat, there is something for everyone to enjoy here. New York City makes for the perfect destination for first-time travelers!


New York City Itinerary - Alpacka My Bags

New York City is one of the most visited cities in the world, and it is the most populous city in the United States. It’s a popular travel destination for a very good reason. This city holds a rich history, famous monuments like the Empire State Building, delicious foods like pizza and bagels, world-renowned Broadway theater, and more.


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How to Spend 1, 2, 3, or 4 days in NYC


Made up of five boroughs, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island, it would be impossible to see all of New York unless you lived here. Each borough is unique with various things to see and do in each. If possible, stay at least three days in NYC so you can really explore different parts of the city.


It is helpful to have a basic itinerary for your NYC trip as there are so many activities and sights to choose from. Many attractions also require tickets to be purchased in advance, so you don’t want to arrive and not be able to do something you really want to. We have included various lengths of our New York City itinerary so you can fit it into your trip.


Before we dive in, take a look at some helpful info to know when visiting NYC! We’ll cover important details like the best time to visit NYC, how long to stay in New York City, and even what to wear in NYC.


In this article...



 

Best Time to Visit NYC


Best Time to Visit NYC

New York City is fun to visit any time of year, but some activities are better experienced in certain months. If you want to stroll through Central Park or even go on a bike tour, you should visit NYC in the summer. Maybe you want to catch the Radio City Christmas spectacular; this show typically runs from mid-November to early January.


Overall, if you want to enjoy nicer weather and smaller crowds. The best time of year to visit NYC is the shoulder months of summer. Plan a trip sometime during April through June or September through October. This way you will most likely avoid summer break crowds but still get to enjoy pleasant weather for outdoor activities such as leisurely wandering through Dumbo or Times Square.


How Long to Stay in New York City


You could never stay too long in NYC as there is always something new to do here. It is the perfect mix of city and nature, and it makes for a superb family vacation, couples getaway, and even solo adventure!


While staying for a week or more is a great option, you can still experience the best of New York in 3 to 4 days. Obviously, if you are able to, I highly recommend staying longer, but you’ll still have an amazing time even if you’re just in NYC briefly.


Keep in mind that this is a relatively expensive travel destination so longer trips can get quite pricey. Accommodations can be costly and food prices will add up, but it is also so worth the price to experience the buzzing energy, history, and food of New York.


Where to Stay in NYC


Where to Stay in NYC

As mentioned above, accommodation can be pricey in New York City. This will probably be your largest expense while in the city, but you do not need to stay in a luxury hotel in order to have a great time in NYC.


From hotels to Airbnbs, the options are nearly endless here, but one thing to keep in mind: book your NYC accommodation well in advance! In fact, after you have your flights booked, I suggest your next step be picking where to stay in NYC.


Take a look at some of our highly recommended options of where to stay in NYC:



What to Wear in NYC


A lot of packing is based on personal preference and the time of the year you are visiting New York. But below are some staple items to bring with you on your NYC trip.


Chances are you will be walking a lot, so having comfortable shoes and the right layers for the weather is very important.


What to Wear in NYC

Below, our top recommendations and personal favorites are linked for you to look at. We visited New York City in February and wore what's pictured above, for an idea. Take a look at what to wear in NYC.


Comfortable Walking Shoes: There is a lot to be explored by foot while in NYC. Having good walking shoes will make your trip so much more enjoyable. Don’t let blisters or sore feet ruin your time in New York. My super comfy go-to shoes are FitFlop sneakers.


Rain Jacket or Umbrella: It’s a good idea to always have a lightweight rain jacket or compact umbrella with you on your travels. Weather is unpredictable everywhere and you don’t want to let it ruin your adventures. Check out this travel umbrella.


Jacket or Coat: Along with rain protection, another warm layer is always a good idea to pack. NYC can get chilly any time of the year, so stay warm and bring your favorite jacket. My all-time favorite jacket is the Cotopaxi Teca Calido. It's available in many fun colors, and is reversible!


Sunglasses: While New York City might not be the sunniest place in the world, you don’t want to be squinting all day if it is sunny while you’re trying to admire famous monuments like the Statue of Liberty. The water in the Hudson River and Upper Bay will also be very shiny and reflective when the sun is out. Here's our favorite 2-pack of sunglasses.


Dressy Outfit: While in NYC, treat yourself to a fancy dinner at one of the many high-end restaurants or dress up for a fun night at a Broadway show or rooftop bar.


It’s always a good idea to have a dressier outfit on hand in a city; maybe you’ll do an impromptu photoshoot. I always love a romper to dress up or down!


Beanie and Gloves: If you are visiting New York between November and March, I definitely suggest you bring a pair of gloves and a beanie with you. It can get very chilly in NYC, especially when the winds pick up. Check out this gloves and beanie set!


Winter Coat: Don’t visit New York City in the winter without a winter coat. This is a must if you want to actually enjoy the city; freezing your bum off will be no fun. This hooded parka is available in multiple colors.


If you’re visiting NYC in the summer, you will be comfortable in shorts or dresses. It averages in the high 70s, generally staying between 65°F and 85°F from June through August. Short sleeves or tank tops are also a good idea this time of year.


It can get hot outside in the summer in NYC, but always bring a jacket with you! It cools down at night, and you never know if a Broadway theater or museum will be freezing inside.


How to Get Around NYC


How to Get Around NYC

First things first, getting here. To get to New York City, fly into JFK Airport or LaGuardia Airport. Both are decent options, it just depends on the best flight deals from your home airport.


The good news, rental cars are not necessary to get around NYC. In fact, you should definitely avoid driving here because the traffic is insane and drivers are chaotic if you’re not used to the insanity of big-city driving.


The best options when it comes to how to get around NYC are public transportation and rideshares, like Uber.


The NYC Subway and Buses: MTA


For a cheap and convenient option to get around NYC, use the public transportation system, or the MTA. All subway stations and buses allow tap credit cards, so you don’t even need to purchase a physical ticket.


Just make sure your credit card is tap enabled. This makes it very convenient when trying to visit multiple places as the subway and bus system cover a very large area in NYC.


The MTA is also relatively cheap at about $2.75 USD per person. If you don’t already have it, you should download the Google Maps app as it is the easiest to understand when going on a subway or bus journey in NYC.


It clearly states the stops, stations, subway lines, etc. so you can find your way even if you don’t know the route.


Uber or Rideshare


If you are traveling a longer distance, are in a time crunch, or have a larger group, order an Uber or similar rideshare for your journey.


I recommend this option over a taxi as they are often cheaper and more reliable. This is a great option when getting to the airport and back.


Remember, don’t rent a car in New York City. It will not be fun; driving here is insane with traffic and many pedestrians everywhere.


New York City Itinerary


Now we have the planning and packing details figured out, let’s dive into the fun stuff. There are so many things to see, foods to eat, and fun things to do in NYC, so Alpacka My Bags is here to help you plan your trip.


New York City Itinerary - Alpacka My Bags

It will make your trip go smoothly and the frantic planning won’t ensue if you use this helpful NYC itinerary. It’s here to make your life easier and your travel companions love you even more. Check out our New York City itinerary below.


One Day in New York City


If you only have one day to spend in the buzzing city of New York, and it’s your first time visiting, you definitely need to check off the most popular attractions and get a feel for the energy and vibe.


Stop 1: Breakfast at Liberty Bagels


You can’t visit New York City without trying one of its most famous and beloved foods. The bagel. And there is no better place to try them than at Liberty Bagels!


If you’re a big breakfast lover, try one of their bagel sandwiches that are topped with bacon, eggs, cheese, and more. If you have a sweet tooth, you definitely need to try the Birthday Cake bagel.


Stop 2: Times Square


With vibrant lights, digital ads, people everywhere, and tons of stores on every block, Times Square is a must-visit while in NYC.


If you can, I recommend staying near Times Square as it is a great central location to be based from. Stroll around 7th Avenue and Broadway and experience the full energy of NYC.


Stop 3: Chinatown and Little Italy


Head to lower Manhattan and stop at two famous neighborhoods located within walking distance of each other, Chinatown and Little Italy. Here you will find authentic Chinese bakeries, local family-run restaurants, Italian cafes, shops galore, and more.


Start on Mott Street to experience the best of Chinatown and stop for lunch or a cappuccino for incredibly delicious food.


  • Happy Veggie for delicious vegetarian classic Asian dishes

  • Artbean for unique coffees and pastries

  • Caffe Roma for an Italian cappuccino


Stop 4: Flatiron Building


Take the train back up to admire the iconic Flatiron building. One thing NYC is not missing is an amazing array of architectural beauties.


You can’t miss the Flatiron with its famous triangular clothes “iron” shape. It is also close to many stores if you’re in the mood for shopping.


Stop 5: The Empire State Building


One of the most famous buildings in the world, the Empire State Building is a must-visit in NYC, even if you only admire it from the outside. If you want to, buy tickets and make your way to the observation deck for killer views of New York below you.


Stop 6: Urban Space


A great option for dinner, Urban Space is located near Times Square and is a food hall that offers several different restaurants to choose from as well as a full bar.


This is perfect for any traveler, but especially those of you in a larger group. There are so many options, everyone will be happy. I highly recommend Bao by Kaya!


Stop 7: Broadway Show


A New York City classic, do not miss out on incredible theater and musical shows while in the city. Check out what is currently showing on Broadway’s website, and buy tickets on Seat Geek!


They are often cheaper here than on Broadway. I recommend buying tickets in advance if you really want to see a specific show.


Stop 8: Junior’s Cheesecake


End the day with a delicious, and huge, slice of cheesecake from the famous Brooklyn eatery, Junior’s. There is a location right near most of the Broadway theaters on 45th.


I recommend the carrot cake cheesecake, but they also have other pastries as well and a food menu if you’re still hungry after your busy day in NYC.


Two Days in New York City


One Day in New York City

Stop 1: UT 47


Breakfast lovers, vegans, and healthy food fans, this one's for you. And even if you’re none of those, this is a delicious spot to start your day and fuel your body for more exploring.


They have a great breakfast selection as well as several vegan options, Korean fusion dishes, and yummy coffees and juices!


Stop 2: MoMA


While the most famous museum in NYC is the Met, we highly recommend this smaller, yet still incredible museum. The Museum of Modern Art, or MoMA, is home to thousands of pieces of art spread over 5 floors.


They also have a rotating exhibit that changes every few months, so check out the MoMA website to see what’s currently on display!


Stop 3: Chelsea Market


Shops, restaurants, and architecture all in one, Chelsea Market is a fun, classic place to visit while in New York. After a few hours at MoMA, head to Chelsea Market for a plethora of options for lunch and shopping. If you’re hungry, I recommend Chote Miya or Takumi Taco!


Stop 4: Little Island


Great views and a fun interactive stop, Little Island is exactly that! Made up of several “little islands” to create a park with great views of the Hudson River and interactive exhibits. This is a fun stop by the coast.


Stop 5: High Line


Next, head to this elevated park to find beautiful views of Manhattan. The High Line is a great place to get fresh air and a fun way to start heading back up north.


If you visit at golden hour right before sunset, or just after sunset, the city lights look surreal making it even prettier.


Stop 6: V{IV}


Time for dinner! One thing NYC is not short on is food options. There are so many places to choose from, but V{IV} was one of our absolute favorite restaurants.


With an incredibly unique atmosphere, friendly staff, and a killer menu, this Thai restaurant will be perfect for dinner.


Stop 7: TBaar


You obviously can’t forget dessert after dinner. Head a few blocks down from V{IV} and stop by TBaar for some of the best boba and milk tea in town. It’s a delicious, yet light dessert and they have tons of flavors to choose from.


Three Days in New York City


New York City Itinerary - Alpacka My Bags

Stop 1: Gumption


Grab a cup of Joe and fresh pastry from Gumption to kick off your third day in New York. Close to Times Square, this is the perfect place to start the day and fuel up with a delicious, light breakfast.


Stop 2: Dumbo


No, not the elephant. Dumbo actually stands for “Down under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.” It is located in upper Brooklyn and is a quick train ride from Manhattan. Here you will find the perfect picture of the Manhattan Bridge framed between buildings. It’s a fantastic place to capture the vibe of New York City.


Stop 3: Pebble Beach


Next, head to Pebble Beach. This is about a five-minute walk from Dumbo, and it offers incredible views of Manhattan from across the bay. You’ll get to see the city skyline paired with the water below and the Brooklyn Bridge to your left.


Stop 4: Time Out Market


Stop for lunch at Time Out Market. With many restaurant options in one convenient location, grab a bite to eat from several spots and try a variety of things.


If the weather is nice, you can also order inside and then head to one of the outdoor patios to eat. You might even get a good view of the bay!


Stop 5: Ghostbusters HQ


Who you gonna call? This is a quick, but fun stop to make on your way back from Brooklyn. You won’t miss the Ghostbusters Headquarters with its big sign still up on the building. This is a fun photo opportunity too!


Stop 6: Grand Central Station


Step inside the world’s largest train station located in the heart of Manhattan, New York. Grand Central Station is a unique place to explore.


Not only will you find trains here, but a marvelous ceiling mural in the main concourse, a whispering gallery, restaurants, and more.


Stop 7: Joe’s Pizza


Whatever you do, do not forget to try pizza while you’re in NYC. They are very proud of their version of pizza made with hand-tossed thin crust, topped with lots of fresh toppings, and sold in giant slices.


The best place to try New York pizza is at Joe’s Pizza. Try the white pizza for a cheesy, delicious slice!


Stop 8: Mia’s Bakery


Last, but possibly most important, dessert. This time, head to Mia’s Bakery in Times Square for some mouthwatering dessert.


I seriously don’t think I’ve ever had a more delicious dessert than at Mia’s. Want a recommendation? Go for the tres leches cake and a lobster tail, you won’t regret it.


New York City Itinerary 4 Days



Stop 1: Carnegie Diner


Experience the classic diner vibe with yummy food and great options at Carnegie Diner. Fill up for a busy day ahead, you’ll need it for your fourth and final day in New York City!


Stop 2: Central Park


This famous park is a must-visit. Covering 843 acres, there is a lot to explore at Central Park. For the highlights, head to Bethesda Terrace, Umpire Rock, and Cherry Hill. In spring and summer, check out a local bike tour if you want to explore more of the park.


Stop 3: JoJu


Time for lunch. Stop by JoJu for amazing Vietnamese food. I highly recommend the Seitan Banh mi and vegetable spring rolls. This meal is all vegetarian, and they also sell milk tea boba here! It’s a quick, yet filling and delicious meal.


Stop 4: Ground Zero


Next stop, Ground Zero. Admire the beautiful monument that commemorates the victims of 9/11. This is a very moving place; there are two incredible fountains in place of where the two twin towers used to stand.


Stop 5: One World Observatory


Buy tickets for the One World Observatory and head to the top for breathtaking views of the city below you. Here you will get to experience 360° views, dining in the sky, educational films, and more.


You can even get the best view of the Statue of Liberty from Manhattan here!


Stop 6: Oculus


If you’re feeling like shopping or eating, head to Oculus next, the "whale tail" looking building next to Ground Zero. Step in and feel like you’ve been transported to another world.


This futuristic, modern mall is fun to see and explore even if you don’t want to shop. There is also a huge train station inside!


Stop 7: P.S. Kitchen


From the World Trade Center station in Oculus, head to P.S. Kitchen for a yummy vegan dinner. This restaurant is entirely vegan, but you would never know.


The food is delicious and a great place to eat even for non-vegans! If you’re really hungry, go for one of their burgers and truffle fries.


Stop 8: Magnolia Bakery


Grab your final dessert and end your super fun NYC trip with a sweet treat from Magnolia Bakery. There are several locations in the city, but the one on 6th Avenue is very close to P.S. Kitchen.


They are famous for their banana pudding, but if that’s not your thing, try a magic cookie bar or vanilla cupcake. They have lots of options!



Are you excited about your trip yet? This New York City Itinerary covers some must-see sights for first-time travelers as well as some unique, off-the-beaten-path places that we really want you to experience too.


Enjoy the vibrant energy of Times Square, try New York pizza and bagels, find amazing views from Pebble Beach, enjoy a Broadway show, and so much more while in NYC.


There are so many things to see, do, and eat in New York, but this 1 to 4-day itinerary really covers the best of NYC.


How long are you heading to New York City? If you are going to be in town longer than 4 days, check out these other fun things to do in NYC!


There is a reason New York is so popular, it’s waiting to be explored by you too. Save this New York City itinerary and get on that plane for the city trip of a lifetime!


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aboutME

Hi, I'm Georgina, adventure enthusiast and creator of Alpacka My Bags. I'm here for all of your travel and adventure planning needs! 

 

I've been exploring this beautiful planet since I was a child, so I decided it was time to share my travel tips with others to enjoy. After college, I knew the "traditional career path" was not for me.

 

I needed to travel and explore what this world has to offer. It sounds cliché but you do only live once. So I made going on adventures a priority, and soon realized that I wanted to share them with others so you can enjoy them too! 

My passion is spreading the travel bug and showing others that travel is attainable and so worth it. From itineraries to camping tips to packing lists, Alpacka My Bags has you covered!

Join me, and often my partner and my dog, as we find exciting adventures and travel recommendations for you! If you've been bit by the travel bug just as I have, I hope you find my tips useful for all of your future travels.

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