You want to visit New York in 5 days? I hereby offer you my itinerary to discover the Big Apple in only a few days.
New York is an incredible city that deserves to be discovered in at least a week, or more. But in 5 days you will already have had the time to discover the must-sees and to get a feel of the city. Just to make you want to go back for a second stay/trip one day! 😉
Here is a program that will allow you to visit New York in just a few days.
If you follow it, you'll be blown away haha! 🙂 Are you ready? Let's go!
VISIT NEW YORK — Day 1: TIMES SQUARE & CENTRAL PARK
If you arrive in New York late in the day, Day 1 may be quite short. With jetlag and fatigue, this is not the day to visit museums! I suggest you visit New York quietly by walking through Times Square in the evening.
If you arrive a little earlier, I would advise you to drop your luggage at your hotel and then head for Central Park (by the way, if you still don't know where to sleep in New York, I have a complete article on the subject to help you out!)
There are often beautiful sunsets in Central Park, so going there on your first evening is a great idea! At least that's what I usually do when I arrive in New York.
Times Square in the evening
This is New York's iconic square, one of the busiest places in the Big Apple! This will help you get into the New York atmosphere: this district really never sleeps!
Some come here to celebrate an event or just to admire the facades of the buildings. But it's when night falls that you'll realise – with all the neon lights on, the huge billboards and the gigantic screens – that New York is truly a city like no other. It has a certain effervescence, an extraordinary atmosphere. Imagine this place during the New Year's Eve party and the countdown shouted in unison by thousands of inhabitants!
It is also possible to discover this place by taking a guided walking tour. The advantage is that some of these guided tours are available in the evening – perfect for a first day. It will last about 2 hours and will allow you to learn more about Times Square, but also about Broadway which is just next door.
Other tours do include Times Square in their programme, but it is only one part of the tour. These tours actually offer a more global visit and discovery of the city 🙂 Of course, they will last longer (about 6 hours in total). You will have to spend almost the whole day on it – but it is definitely worth it! Still, you can only book them if you arrive early in the day, or if you decide to not do the tour on the first day.
Enjoy Central Park
Not far from there, you have Central Park – another must-see place in New York!
This park is called the "green lung of Manhattan" and covers more than 300 hectares. It is GORGEOUS!
You can explore it on foot or by bike, but there is so much to see that you won't have time to visit it in its entirety. Between the green paths (including 'The Mall'), the footpaths, the bridges, the fountains (the 'Bethesda' fountain being the most popular), the various lawns and water features, it would take you a whole day to explore every nook and cranny.
As such, since your stay in the city won't be very long, I suggest you spend only two to three hours in Central Park, and focus on the park's landmarks such as the Strawberry Fields Monument (built as a tribute to singer John Lennon), go sailing on The Lake, spend some romantic moments on the Bow Bridge or sit on the Sheep Meadow lawn for a bit.
Note that there is even a zoo, so if you come with your children, they may want to see the animals there.
Additionally, you can rent a bicycle by the hour in Central Park. If you want to see more of the park, this can be a good way to get around more quickly by renting one for a few hours. However, remember to book your bikes in advance. This way, you will be sure that your bikes will be available as soon as you come, and you will be able to go straight into the park. A lot of people rent bikes as soon as there is a ray of sunshine – and it’s first come, first served! For more information about renting a bike in Central Park, you can follow this link.
For your first day, I recommend visiting New York quietly to recover from your flight and to not be too tired for the next few days.
NEW YORK itinerary — DaY 2: STATUE Of LIBERTy & ELLIS ISLAND + WORLD TRADE CENTER & BROOKLYN Bridge
On this second day in New York, you're in for a treat 🙂 Start the day with the discovery of the emblem of New York – the Statue of Liberty!
You'll see that 5 days go by very quickly when you want to visit New York , so there's no time to lose once you're in the city 🙂
Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
This is one of the must-see places to visit once in NY. You really have to get close to this great lady!
Head to the southern tip of Manhattan (in Battery Park) where you'll find the port of embarkation for Liberty Island. The Staten Island ferry will take you to two different islands: Liberty Island, where the Statue of Liberty is located; and Ellis Island, where you can visit a free museum about the history of immigration to the United States.
You can get close to the Statue of Liberty for free (you only need to buy your ticket for the Staten Island ferry ride). You can also walk around the island, see the statue up close and enjoy the views over NY. You can even enter the statue – though you will have to pay for that.
If you want to visit New York in only 5 days, I don't necessarily advise you to visit the Statue of Liberty, but to at least take the ferry to see it up close.
Flex ticket : £14
Access to the Pedestrial
Crossings are free for children under 4 years old.
Some of the activities around the Statue can be done quickly, such as the one-hour cruise around the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island. This can be a good compromise to the Ferry: although you won't be able to go to the island directly, you'll however get to pass under the Brooklyn Bridge, admire Manhattan's Skyline from the Hudson,... 🙂
Inside the Statue of Liberty, you will find a museum that will give you lots of information about the statue and its construction. It is also possible to climb to the crown level from where you will have a nice view of the NY skyline.
Tours of Liberty Island and Ellis Island are open to the public every day of the year (except December 25th) from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The World Trade Center
If you want to visit New York in 5 days, there is NO WAY you can skip going to Ground Zero.
The area where the former twin towers were located has become tragically famous. At the World Trade Center site, known as Ground Zero, you will find the Memorial dedicated to the thousands of victims of the 11 September attack. Their names have been engraved on the edges of huge basins.
This visit is all the more moving if you follow it up with a visit to the 9/11 Museum. There you will find pieces of the collapsed towers and personal belongings of the victims found in the rubble. The museum is also full of documents to see and videos to watch.
I'll talk more about this later in the article, but you can also go to the One World Observatory platform to view the site from above. This is a good experience, especially as you can buy a combined ticket to access the different sites. This is quite handy if you want to discover the different sites, and you will also pay less by taking the combo ticket than if you bought each admission ticket separately.
The Brooklyn Bridge
The Brooklyn Bridge, one of the oldest bridges in the country (late 19th century), is another NY landmark to see. Not only is its architecture incredible, but the view it offers is also amazing. To make the most of it, cross it on foot (upper deck) – it will take you about 20-30 minutes: it's less than 2 kilometres long.
I recommend crossing the bridge in the morning: you'll have the sun at your back and you'll be able to get some very nice shots of the skyline in front of you. Of course, seeing a sunset from the bridge is another moment not to be missed!
Two other ways to discover this bridge:
By bike: get on a bike and go on a guided tour of the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan. The bike ride lasts about 2 hours and you will cover a distance of about 20 kilometres. It’s really nice to see as much as possible in a short time 🙂
During a cruise: as I mentioned for the Statue of Liberty, different cruises are available on the Hudson River and allow you to discover the different emblems of the city: the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty,... You will benefit from live commentary during the cruise, and you can even enjoy a cocktail or a meal if you wish 😊
If you want more information about this, you can follow this link.
NEW YORK ITINERARY — DAY 3: MUSEUMS
Day 3 of our 5-day New York itinerary is dedicated to museums. Even if you are not a big art lover, doing at least one museum while visiting New York in 5 days is for me a must. You can report this day according to the weather: museums are perfect for a rainy day! So don’t forget to check the New York forecast.
If the weather is going to be bad at the end of the week, place the days to visit the museums at the end of the week instead.
The MOMA, Museum of Modern art
Dedicated only to modern and European art, you can admire the most beautiful works of Van Gogh, Picasso, Cézanne, Kandinsky, Matisse...
The MoMA is open every day (except Thanksgiving and Christmas) from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (and until 8 p.m. on Fridays).
Address: 11 West 53rd Street
Senior (+ 65 yrs old)
Admission is free for children under 16 and members.
The Museum of Natural History
You have to go there, if only to see the collection of dinosaur skeletons it houses (especially the tyrannosaurus). But the American Museum of Natural History also has the largest collection of objects in the world and is full of treasures to admire at least once in a lifetime: a giant blue whale, a room with meteorites...!
Located east of Central Park, it is open from Wednesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Address: 79th Street west of Central Park
Here are the entry fees:
(3-12 yrs old)
Admission is free for children under 3 years old.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET)
It's impossible to stay in NY without visiting one of the greatest museums in the world!
However, you would need several days to visit completely, so I advise you to choose between the museum's different sections: Contemporary Art, European Art, Egypt, Greece and Rome, America, Africa and Oceania.
A must-see is the Egyptian temple, the collection of arms and armour, the Iranian carpets as well as the Roof Garden Cafe – a rooftop terrace with a superb view.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is open from Sunday to Thursday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. except Wednesday (it is closed) and from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
Address: 1000 5th avenue (& E 82nd street)
As for the prices:
Admission is free for children under 12 and members.
And if you're in the area, the Guggenheim Museum is not far away: don’t hesitate to go there, if only to admire its very special architecture!
Visit New York in 5 days — Day 4: Grand Central Terminal & The High Line
For this fourth day, let's take a step back and discover New York in a different way 🙂
The High Line
The High Line is an old disused overhead railway line on the west side of Manhattan. It was transformed into a sublime promenade in the late 1990s. It is a sort of park suspended about ten metres above the ground and goes all the way to the Hudson Yards neighbourhood.
New Yorkers love to walk there to get some fresh air, to do some sport, to participate in various activities (yoga, urbanism, exhibitions...) and especially for the various views of NY they can have (the Empire State Building, 10th Avenue, the Hudson River, the Meatpacking District...). The walk in the afternoon is pleasant, and just beautiful in the evening.
You can access it for free by taking stairs or lifts.
Grand Central Terminal
Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan is another must-see on your trip. Why? Because it's not just a train station – it's a true little museum! Its architecture is already amazing, with a hall with magnificent bay windows and a ceiling representing the starry sky. But you should also see its four-faced clock and its basement. There you will find an amazing market with many shops and restaurants.
The station is open daily from 5:30 a.m. to 2 a.m., and is free to visit.
Address: 89 East 42nd Street
New York itinerary — Day 5: Shopping + observatory
Day 5 is shopping day! And the temple of this activity is and will always remain "5th Avenue" – one of the main attractions of the city. Alright, so you'll see mostly chic boutiques and big brands like Cartier or Tiffany – but you really owe it to yourself to go there at least once in your life!
Then, you'll find other great shops near Times Square. Don't hesitate to go and have a look at them, especially "M&M's".
Additionally, don't forget to go to Macy's. This 11-storey department store remains an icon, and is the largest shop in NY! And don't forget that as a tourist, you'll get a 10% discount (which you can ask for at the Visitor Center). Nice, isn't it? 😊
If you're more into fashion boutiques, head to SoHo. Prefer to hit the flea markets? Then head to Brooklyn, in Williamsburg to be precise, for some great deals! You'll find plenty of vintage goods.
But if you don't have much of a budget, opt instead for the outlets: gigantic shopping centres where you can pick up pretty nice finds at reduced prices (up to 70% off): Dior, Burberry, American Eagle Outfitters, Lacoste.... You can, for example, visit the Century 21 chain in Manhattan. You should know however that most of the outlets are located outside the city: "Empire Outlets" on Staten Island (about 100 shops) or "Woodbury Common Outlet" in Central Valley.
GET A BIRD'S EYE VIEW FROM ONE OF NEW YORK'S OBSERVATORIES
If you want to see New York in a different way, head to the top of one of its huge buildings. There are so many to choose from that you'll be spoilt for choice!
You can buy a ticket on the spot, but I advise you to book your ticket in advance – well before you leave for NY. This will save you the queue at the entrance! You can check the prices on specialised platforms like Tiqets, but you can also book your ticket directly on the official websites of these skyscrapers. The advantage of using Tiqets, for example, is that you will pay in pounds (which can save you conversion fees) and you can sometimes benefit from discounts – which will not be available on the official websites. Moreover, you will be able to book your activities on a single platform (no need to create several accounts as you will have to on the different official sites) and you will be able to ask for help if you need it.
For those of you who come to visit New York in 5 days only, I recommend doing at least one observatory.
If you want to do more, you will need more time and a bigger budget.
TOP OF THE ROCK, THE ROCKEFELLER CENTER OBSERVATORY
From the top of this skyscraper (70th floor), you will have a 360° view of all of Manhattan and the surrounding areas. Its strongest point is that you can see the other famous buildings of the city such as the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building. You'll also get a nice view of the north side of Central Park.
Top of The Rock is open every day from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. (last lift at 6 p.m.).
Here are the prices for a classic ticket:
Admission is free for children under 12 years old.
In addition to the classic ticket, there are VIP and other tickets to discover the Rockefeller Center Tower, and more…
Take advantage of being in the building to visit the Rockefeller Center and enter its various shops ("Lego Store", "Nintendo"...). And if you come to NY in winter, go to the ice rink for some skating, and admire the gigantic Christmas tree.
The Empire State Building
It is impossible to go to New York without taking a look at the Empire State Building: it’s the most famous skyscraper in the world! Located in the middle of Manhattan, you can see it from afar – but imagine yourself climbing to the 86th floor of this famous building, or even to the 102nd floor! There are excellent observatories from which you will have an incredible 360° view.
From the 86th floor you can see the Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park, the Statue of Liberty.... And from the windows of the 102nd level, you will have an even more breathtaking view that stretches for almost 130 kilometres.
The Empire State Building (ESB) is open daily from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. (last lift at 1:15 a.m.) and there is no time limit to your visit. You can stay on the observation decks for as long as you want.
Address: 20 W 29th St, New York, NY 10001
Here are the ticket prices (for access to the 86th floor):
Admission is free for children under 6 years old.
As with the Top of the Rock, there are other tickets that will allow you to live unique experiences such as witnessing a sunrise from the Empire State Building, or a ticket that will allow you to access the monument twice: during the day and at night, so you have the opportunity to enjoy two very different views 🙂 More details below.
You also have the option of taking two tours: one during the day and the other at night when the sun sets. This will give you two completely different views of the city. This AM/PM Experience costs $61 (£47) for an adult and $52 (£40) for a child. For a sunrise tour - "Sunrise on 86th Floor" - you will be charged $114.81 (£89). The early morning panoramic view is breathtaking, so there's plenty of photo opportunities!
If you can, I suggest you go to the ESB late in the day, just before dark, and stay there until the city lights start to come on one by one.
Note that whichever you choose, you will have access to the exhibitions on the 2nd and 80th floors. These exhibitions will take you on a journey through the history of the ESB and show you how NY changed from the 1920s to the present day. To make the most of your visit, download the free ESB app!
You can do it before your visit or on site, from Apple Store or Google Play, if you have internet on your phone.
On your way to the ESB, swing by the Flatiron Buiding. This building nicknamed the "iron" is another symbol of NY that’s not to be missed! Located at the intersection of 5th Avenue and Broadway Street, it can't be visited, but you can still take lots of pictures of this building that you have probably seen in a lot of movies.
THE ONE WORLD TRADE CENTER TOWER: THE ONE WORLD OBSERVATORY
The One World Trade Center (541 metres high and 108 floors) is the tallest tower in New York since 2013.
It was built in place of the World Trade Center’s twin towers.
If you have the opportunity to climb to the top to enjoy the view from its observatory, the One World Observatory, don’t hesitate!
Open since 2015, the observatory occupies 3 floors: the 100th, 101st and 102nd floors. It is open from 9 am to 9 pm every day (and from 8 am from May to September).
Address: 285 Fulton St, New York, NY 10007
Tickets always sell out fast, so buy yours early.
Children under 5 years old have free access to the platform.
There are also other tickets available: premium “no-queue” tickets, "combo" tickets combining this visit with other sites in the vicinity, such Ground Zero, 9/11 Museum, the memorial,... Ideal if you want to discover the different monuments around this iconic place in the country and the world.
Also worth seeing is the Oculus station, which is located at the foot of the tower. Its hall is just incredible!
HOW ABOUT GOING EVEN HIGHER?
There's an extra activity you can do – if you can afford it of course: a helicopter flight over New York! It's not cheap, but it will give you an unforgettable memory of your stay.
You can choose the duration of the flight, but in general people opt for the flight which lasts between 15 and 20 minutes, for about £150/person (on Viator for example). This flight gives you time to see many monuments: the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street, the Empire State Building, Ellis Island...).
If you want more information about this activity, you can follow this link. You will then be able to see the availability for your dates, the different existing flights (15, 20 and 30 minutes) as well as the programs and flight plans.
I had the opportunity to do one such flight during a trip to New York, and I keep very good memories of it! I still remember the passage over Central Park with the doors open and my feet hanging in the air.... So awesome 🙂
Tourist Passes, a great asset!
If you are planning to visit a lot of sites in New York, I advise you to get a City Pass – a tourist pass. There is nothing better to make your life easier, especially if you have only 5 days to visit New York. Several passes are available, and they are quite advantageous financially, as they allow you to get up to 50% off the price of entry to a site or off the price of an activity.
These passes will really make your life easier during your stay. Firstly, you will avoid long queues at the entrances to tourist sites, which is quite practical for a short stay. Secondly, they give you access to a large number of New York's must-see attractions (to choose from a list: Empire State building, New York Museum of Natural History, Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET), Top of the Rock, Guggenheim Museum...). Some of them even give you access to the unlimited sightseeing bus (Hop On Hop Off bus).
The price of the pass depends on the number of attractions you choose or the number of days you will use it. It also depends on the website where you buy your pass. Here are the most popular passes:
5 attractions, 3 of which you can choose between several options
Valid for 9 days upon activation
Adult : £90.50
New York Pass
90+ activities to choose from
Valid for 1, 2, 3, 5, 7 or 10 days
Adult: From £104
Child : From £90
2 to 10 activities to choose from
Valid 30 days after activation
Adulte : From £47.50
Enfant : From £33
New York SightSeeing Pass
Sightseeing Day Pass :
150+ activities to choose from
Valid for 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7 or 10 days
Sightseeing Flex Pass:
2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 10 or 12 attractions
Valid for 30 days upon activation
Sightseeing Day Pass:
Sightseeing Day Pass :
Adult: From £99
Child : From £76
Sightseeing Flex Pass :
Adult: From £51
Child : From £44.50
3, 5 or 7 activities of your choice + 3 days Hop On Hop Off bus
Valid for 1 yr
Adult: From £80
Child : From £64.50
HOW TO GET AROUND IN NEW YORK?
If you don't know yet how to get around New York, I advise you to use the New York Subway System: the underground network is very complete. To do this, you will need to buy a "MetroCard" (at an underground station). You can use it to buy single underground tickets (about 3$ or £2.30) or to travel for an unlimited period of time (7 days for example).
You can order your MetroCard before your stay.
Type of card
7-Day Unlimited Ride MetroCard
The bus is also a good alternative, as it will allow you to go to places not served by the underground. In addition, bus operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can also use a "MetroCard", or you can buy a ticket from the driver (Remember to prepare cash!).
And then of course there are the famous New York yellow cabs. You'll have to pay £2 for the basic fare and add about 40 cents every 300 metres or so.
Don't forget that New York is a huge city and that you will also have to walk a lot. So remember to bring comfortable shoes with you.
That's it, that's the end of this article! I hope these information will help you visit New York in the best way possible 🙂In any case, I can tell you in advance: it will be a trip that will be forever engraved in your memories. If you still have any questions or suggestions to share on how to best visit New York, feel free to leave a comment 😊