Do's and Don'ts for Three Days in New York

By Meg Jernigan; Updated August 11, 2017

Tips for a first-rate stay in the Big Apple

Do's and Don'ts for Three Days in New York

The list of New York City must-sees is long. Fill your days with a stop at 30 Rock, a stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge or the High Line, and standing in line for Coney Island’s seasonal amusements. You’ll need advance reservations to climb to the Statue of Liberty’s crown, and to avoid the crowds, get to the Empire State Building by 8 a.m. Experiencing the city’s singular vibe should be at the top of the list.

Three things not to miss

Start with a birds-eye view of New York City and surrounding areas from the One World Observatory atop One World Trade Center near the lower tip of Manhattan. The observatory is open from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m., but save time by booking tickets in advance online and remember to show up at least 15 minutes before the entry time printed on your ticket. Stop at the nearby 9/11 Memorial & Museum for somber reflection and remembrance.

Take in the masters at the Metropolitan Museum of Art or, if contemporary art is more to your liking, tour the Contemporary Art Center in Long Island City across the East River. Lovers of American art should add the Whitney Museum of American Art to their must-see itinerary, and fans of Frank Lloyd Wright know that the Guggenheim is worth the visit. Purchase a New York Pass online for free entry to many of the city’s museums. The pass also lets you skip the lines at many of the most popular venues.

If you’re traveling the city by subway on the 4,5,6,7 and S lines, rub shoulders with the locals at Grand Central Terminal. Begin in the main concourse and gaze upwards at the starry mural on the barrel ceiling. Look down at the commuters hustling across the concourse from one of the elevated passageways and belly up to the Oyster Bar for briny shellfish. The terminal has 30 dining options, 60 shops and a fresh food market. Metro-North trains that serve close-in stations in New York and Connecticut with connections to New Jersey also stop at Grand Central.

Two things to skip

Don’t spend any more time than necessary in Times Square. If you do find yourself there, take just a few minutes to snap some photos and gawk at the enormous animated signs, but ignore the hawkers and sharks who are there to part you from your money. If you simply must visit Times Square on New Year's Eve, keep in mind that you’ll be celebrating surrounded by a million other revelers.

Avoid overpriced tours unless you’re really in a pinch for time. Cruises around Manhattan Island sound like a great way to see the city, but you can get much of the same views from the free Staten Island Ferry or the inexpensive East River Ferry. Plan a walking tour, take the subway to points of interest on your itinerary or rent a bike.

Other NYC ideas

Get discounted show tickets. If you aspire to take in a Broadway show while you’re in New York, you may be able to find tickets to popular shows that typically sell out by joining the queue at the TKTS booth on Broadway for up to 50 percent off the price of same-day tickets. TKTS locations at the South Street Seaport and in Brooklyn sell tickets to matinees. The TodayTix mobile app lets you see what discounted tickets are available and to check for discount coupons from Ticketmaster and Telecharge. Check at theater box offices for ticket lotteries or cancellations.

Explore Central Park by bike. Rent a bike or join a tour of this 843-acre Manhattan gem. Along the way you’ll see the Imagine Mosaic, a tribute to John Lennon, the Bow Bridge and the Alice in Wonderland statue. Stop at the Central Park Zoo or pedal over to the Dakota on the park’s west side. This 1880s apartment building is noted for its intricate architecture and its status as the residence of many of New York’s notable.

Eat like a local. Order a house-cured pastrami sandwich at Katz’s Delicatessen. Skip the line by ordering ahead. Foodies should check out a few of celebrity chef and NYC local Anthony Bourdain’s recommendations for the best of New York. His pick for best dive bar, Sophie’s, is an East Village staple, but you’ll need to dress up for his pick for best restaurant, Michelin three-star Le Bernardin.

About the Author

Meg Jernigan