Top 10 Things to do in New York City (On a 3 Day Trip)

Statue of Liberty Top 10 New York
Quick trip? Then don't miss these famous landmarks in the "Big Apple"!

I could easily live in New York. It really is the city that never sleeps, but not only that, it never even gets tired! I visited one summer with some work friends, and am just waiting for the day when I get to return.

I was only in New York for three short days, but those days were certainly worth it! In the three days, I felt like I barely scratched the surface of what this fascinating city has to offer. I have the feeling you could spend a lifetime in New York, and be surprised each and every day by something new, if only you had the curiosity to explore.

Here's my list of Top 10 things to experience while in the good ol' 'Big Apple'.

1. Boat Tour of Manhattan

Our first day in New York was gloomy and overcast, and so the very first thing I ever did in New York City was buy an umbrella. I took the touristy route and bought one that proclaimed “New York New York” all over its black top. I love it to this day. I know, I know, I’m a walking tourist trap - but really, what is the harm in that? I am excited to be anywhere, and when I’m traveling, the place I’m visiting becomes the most exciting place in the world to me. Thus, I buy tacky umbrellas and get really excited about them.

We bought tickets to a Circle Line Sightseeing cruise boat tour, which took us around the tip of Manhattan Island and back again. We sailed past the beautiful Statue of Liberty, Immigration Island, and along the New Jersey shore, then up along the other side of Manhattan and under the Brooklyn Bridge before turning around and going back again.

On the boat tour of Manhattan - such great sights!

It was POURING down rain at the beginning of the boat tour, which caused nearly all of the occupants to cluster below deck where they were safe and warm. Not us Canadians! The warm (but strangely fish-scented) rain didn’t deter us, and we were rewarded by our stubbornness with prime seats on the top deck. We had excellent views of the Empire State Building, the Trump Tower, and many other major New York landmarks.

The Manhattan skyline during sunset.

2. Empire State Building

After looking at the Empire State building for so long, and from so many different angles, we decided to visit it in person. After a lovely Italian dinner in a quaint restaurant with a live opera singer (don’t ask me where it was - we found it after randomly strolling through the streets of Manhattan, getting lost about a million times), we hailed a taxi to the Empire State building. It was night by the time we arrived, but the view was not lost in the dark: in fact, I believe it was enhanced in the evening, as the lights of New York sprawled out as far as the eye could see. It was breath-taking!

A view of NYC at night from atop the Empire State Building

Many people complain that the Empire State Building is a waste of time: long line-ups, costly entrance fees, and an anti-climactic view once you reach the top. Well, I am here to say that we barely waited in line, the elevator ride was quick and efficient, the entrance fee was *slightly* costly (but how often am I going to go up there, for goodness sake? Get over the price), and the view was fantastic. I think, however, it is probably better at night. The day might offer a bit of a blander view without all those bright and sparkly lights.

3. Times Square

Our hotel was about three blocks from Times Square (and was only $99 per night - I thought that was a pretty good deal considering the gorgeous state of our rooms). We moved from the Empire State Building to Times Square and decided to spend some time exploring before we meandered back to our lodgings.

In the center of Times Square, enjoying the hustle and bustle.

Times Square is certainly exciting to see for the first time: the plethora of lights, images, sounds, people, colors, vendors... it is a whirlwind! But after the initial shock wears off, Times Square becomes another, more Technicolor version of an outdoor market. There are performance artists, street vendors, 24-hour restaurants, flashing TV screens, people shouting and laughing, horns blasting... at all hours! My female colleague Teresa and I were suckered into buying sketches of ourselves, which were fun to pose for but looked nothing like us in the end.

4. Metropolitan Museum of Fine Arts

The next day, Teresa and I explored the Metropolitan Museum of Fine Arts. The museum is so huge that you can't possibly explore it all in a day, or even two. My advice is to pick a couple of areas that you are most interested in, and enjoy those. I am into Egyptian relics, so I just adored the Egyptian wing with the Temple of Dendur. The majority of my time was spent in that section. I did find some other classics, such as Degas, to peruse as well.

rooftop art installation New York Met Museum
The rooftop art installation at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Fine Art.

5. Central Park

Once Teresa and I were done with the Met, we spend some time wandering Central Park. Once again, this place is so expansive that you could spend all day in the park and not even come close to seeing it all. I don't even know exactly what areas we did see, but what I do know is that I loved the park. If I were a resident of Manhattan, I'd be in Central Park every day.

Central Park is so beautiful, and there's so much to do!

Of the different areas in Central Park that we visited, my favorite was the Bethesda Terrace with its giant Angel of the Waters fountain and pond. The Lower Passage is architecturally beautiful, with sweeping arches and artistic panels. A performer with a grand piano of some kind was playing classic Dave Brubeck during our visit.

I also really liked the 'Alice in Wonderland' statue and of course, the various street artists. Naturally, I filmed as many of them performing as I could, because I'm a nerd like that.

The strangest grand piano I've ever seen in Central Park, NYC.

6. Visit Ground Zero and Pay Your Respects

Downtown Manhattan has a lot to see for the out-of-towner: Wall Street, Trinity Church, Battery Park. But if you are going to see anything in that area, you really need to go pay your respects at Ground Zero. When we were there, construction was just getting started on the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. There was nothing 'polished' to see, but it was powerful nonetheless.  There really aren't words to express the emotion you feel standing there. It is very sobering.

Preparing Ground Zero for the beautiful memorial that is there today.

7. Visit the Various Neighborhoods (Like Greenwich Village)

We also walked up and down Soho and Greenwich Village, enjoying the quaint apartment buildings, green spaces, restaurants, and boutiques. I really liked the areas on Greenwich with the cobblestoned streets and flower-festooned balconies. It felt very European. It was in these 'trendy' but cute neighborhoods we did most of our shopping.

Due to our time in SoHo, we had lovely spa day in the Upper East Side (see post #45. Spend a day at a spa (in New York City!) after what you might call a shaky start to the spa trip.

8. See a Broadway Show

We capped off the night by soaking in a performance of “Wicked”, which was amazing! It was fun to say we'd seen a musical on Broadway, but to be perfectly honest, it was nothing extraordinary. I thought "Wicked" was a spectacular show, but it would have been just as good in Calgary or Vancouver. What I am trying to say is that if you have very little time in New York, or limited funds, seeing a show on Broadway need not be a priority. It would be just as well to wait until the show travels to your nearest musical theater venue and see it there. Probably cheaper, too.

Seeing "Wicked" on Broadway was fun but a bit expensive.

What your local musical theater venue probably WON'T have are all the various street performers milling around outside. I had almost just as much fun watching the percussionist with a plain bucket do his thing as I did watching "Wicked'. Almost...

After the Broadway show, Teresa and I made our way back to our hotel. This is where the night started to get a little interesting, and proved for me, definitively, that this is the city that never sleeps - but is always ready for some excitement!

9. Rockefeller Center and Radio City Music Hall

We visited Radio City Music Hall and the NBC Studios (just outside though, no tour as they were both closed due to the late hour). Then we went to Rockefeller Center where I was sad to see that they do not have a skating rink available year round. (No, I didn't expect it. But I did wish it.) To quench my disappointment, Teresa and I went shopping around Times Square where I bought my first 'name-brand' purse.

Radio City Music Hall, all lit up at night.  Wish we had been able to tour it!

We got back to the hotel after wandering Times Square. We changed into club clothes because Teresa wanted to go salsa dancing with a friend at a bar in SoHo. We couldn't get a hold of her friend, but were all dressed up and looking good, so we went down to the hotel concierge to see if there was any place nearby that was known for dancing.

10. Go Clubbing in NYC

Teresa and I headed to this nearby club, only 11 blocks away (only!!). We walked because we’re dumb, but happily no one was mugged, raped, or murdered (thank you NYC!). We got to the address our concierge had given us only to find it was a male-only gay dance club. The bouncer was super friendly, and recommended a place one block away that he thought we might have fun at instead.

We arrived without incident at the other club. This one was an all-black hip-hop establishment (I hope that's okay to say, because really, that's what it was. We were the only white girls in the line-up when we arrived.) The bouncer wasn't sure about letting us in seeing as we didn't really fit the typical clientele image, but we must have seemed willing and ready to have fun dancing, so he lowered the cover charge for us and let us through.

Found me some of New York City's finest!

Teresa and I had so much fun - we danced in the middle of the dance floor, and trust me, we dance like your stereotypical 'white girls'. I have no rhythm and my feet don't usually even leave the ground.  I wiggle more than dance. We were the ONLY white girls in the entire establishment - no joke or exaggeration. The ONLY ones. Teresa was also dressed as a 1960s hippie, her usual style. I was dressed much too preppy. We didn't fit in AT ALL. But we had a BLAST being a ‘spectacle’- people were dancing with us constantly, and taking pictures with us, chatting with us, having a good time. We didn't leave the dance floor the whole time we were there. We didn't even have a drink, since we'd already missed last call.

By 4:00 a.m., the club closed, but not before we made new friends from Harlem, Queens, and Brooklyn who gave us numbers to call if we wanted to watch fireworks with them the next day for the 4th of July.

Watching the fireworks over the Hudson River on the 4th of July.

Finally we made it home to the hotel after getting lost once (lost at 4:30 a.m. in NYC - a bit intimidating). We crawled into our hotel beds and crashed - what a fun evening! You can pack A LOT into three days in New York, but prepare to be tired!

1 comment:

  1. Those are some great places you have visited. I am going to NYC next month around Christmas and I will probably visit most of them. I was fortunate enough to find available hotels with this site though. You know how it is around the holidays right?