The Best 72 Hour Beginner Guide to NYC
Let’s talk guide to NYC.
Feeling overwhelmed about your upcoming trip to NYC?
I get it, there is so much to see and do that it can seem frustrating to do it all. Especially in one trip to NYC.
Since we recently went to NYC, as first timers in the big city I reached out to some of my NYC friends about the MUST THINGS to see and do. Thanks to their recommendations we planned our trip accordingly. Here’s a guide to NYC for you.
Where to stay?
We stayed at the Graduate Hotel on Roosevelt Island, you can check out this blog post on why we were obsessed with our stay, and why we think you should stay there too.
Day 1/2: Grand Central Station | Bryant Park | Times Square
Technically we arrived in NYC around 3ish and made it to the hotel around 4ish. We got checked in, put up our clothes, decided to check out Roosevelt Island a bit, before deciding to try the Roosevelt tram for the first time. We thought it would be a good idea, to figure out how it works, and of course purchase our Metro cards. So after grabbing a quick bite at Granny Annie’s, we purchased our metro cards at the machines at the Tram station, and rode the tram over the East River into Manhattan.
Once we we landed, we walked a few blocks over to Moonstruck, because we were told they had the BEST chocolate mousse cake in the world. They weren’t lying. Then we decided to just explore a little bit.
Grand Central Station
We knew we wanted to visit Grand Central Station, and when we opened our maps we knew it wasn’t so far away, so we decided to walk. (Be warned, it is a walk!)
After checking it out, we decided to make our way over to Bryant Park for the world famous Hot Chocolate from Max Brenner. OH MY GOSH, this is hands down the best hot chocolate we’ve ever had. We sat at a cozy little table, and we could see the glowing neon lights from Times Square up ahead, so we walked right on over.
Times Square was a bit overwhelming and too crowed for my liking, but it was cool to see all the lights, and all the entertainment including street performers on the streets. Since it was a little too chaotic we decided to call it a night, and we decided to try and ride the subway for the first time back to Roosevelt Island.
Day 1: Dumbo | Brooklyn Bridge | Battery Park
Believe it or not, on our full first day one we hit the ground running. We caught the orange Astoria line ferry from Roosevelt Island over to Brooklyn Navy Yard. Then from there we walked to the bus stop to catch the bus over to Dumbo. It was like a 2 minute walk to the bus, and 2 min bus ride to the dumbo area. Another alternative is to take the Astoria line ferry over to Wall St. Pier 11. You can get off and hop on the blue line ferry over to Dumbo/Fulton. Definitely closer, but you’d have to time the ferries just right. But the ferry ride is very nice!
Once we arrived in the Dumbo area, of course we had to check out the awesome sights. We grabbed a quick little cup of Joe from Devocion and then walked over to the famous and picturesque Dumbo scene.
Right around the corner was Janes Carousel so we popped in for a quick carousel ride. It was so much fun. Also just absolutely beautiful, and right next to the East River.
Time Out Market
We decided to grab some grub to hold us over for our walk over the Brooklyn Bridge so we popped into Empire Stores to check out the Time Out Market. It’s right next door to Janes carousel. There is an array of food to choose from, so we decided to have a little fun and grab some snacks from different restaurants.
Once we were full and happy, we walked over to the Brooklyn Bridge walkway and began our walk. It’s definitely a walk, but a beautiful one. The scenery alone is worth making the trek across the bridge. Just know, it is a long walk, but you should enjoy it, and take breaks when needed. There is so much to look at.
Statue of Liberty View
When we made it onto the Manhattan side, we caught the subway over to Battery Park. From there, we walked over to The Staten Island Ferry terminal. We only had to wait a few minutes before we embarked on the ferry. Then we made our way across the river. This is a great and FREE way to see the Statue of Liberty. As long as you get a good spot on the railing. Once you get to Staten Island, you have to get off the ferry and back in line for the Ferry over to Manhattan. It’s pretty simple, and on the way back you can sit inside the boat and just relax. OR you can catch more views of the Statue of Liberty.
We were pretty hungry by this point so we decided to walk a couple of blocks over to the historic Fraunces Tavern. We didn’t realize you needed reservations. But they took us anyways, and we were able to sit inside their quiet piano bar upstairs. The atmosphere was incredible, and the charcuterie board, was amazing. My husband and I shared a steak with a side of their mac and cheese and mash potatoes. Also, their old fashion cocktail is just right, and the dessert, two thumbs up.
After dinner we realized that the 9/11 memorial was close enough by that we decided to make the small trek to check it out. The museum was closed, but the outside memorial was still open to the public. We took our time to pay tribute to all those who lost their lives.
More to see
After a full evening of so many wonderful things to see along the way, we couldn’t wait to make our way back to our cozy bed.
We hopped onto the subway, got out close enough to the Roosevelt Tram. Then we rode it over the East river onto Roosevelt Island. (As an FYI, you CAN take the subway directly to Roosevelt Island, but my daughter LOVED the tram, so we tried to ride it as often as we could.)
Day 2: East Side | MOMA | Fifth Ave. | Rockefeller |
I’m not going to lie, we woke up a little sore from the legs from all the walking! But we woke up HUNGRY and knew that we wanted some NYC bagels. So we hopped on the ferry over to E. 34th Street/midtown, grabbed another ferry over to Stuyvesant Cove 34th street. Once we arrived we walked though Stuytown, and saw a beautiful apartment neighborhood. Filled with playgrounds, farmers market, and lots of people walking their dogs. It was a nice walk and then we finally made it Tompkins Square Bagels.
Tompkins Square Bagels
I was so excited to try the breakfast bagels, and let me tell you, they did not disappoint. We picked up our bagels and walked over the park and had a nice little breakfast picnic.
We had to walk a bit to catch the subway from East side over to the MOMA, but the ride over was quick. We were told at the door that we couldn’t bring in ANY food, so the fruit we picked up at the farmers market back in Stuytown had to go. Instead of throwing them away, my husband gave them away, at least someone got to enjoy them. Once we walked in through the MOMA doors, I was floored. So many beautiful pieces of art, and yes, I cried when I say Starry Night in person. Wow. Breathtaking. We spent a few hours just mesmerized by all the art, and of course we purchased a lot of gifts from the awesome gift shop.
On the topic of shopping, we had to visit 5th avenue! My daughter wanted to go to the LEGO store and it was worth the 25 minute wait to get into the store. WOW, the inside decor was insane!! We spent some time making custom legos as gifts for some of our dear friends. We really loved the experience here. We also paid a visit to the Nintendo store to pick up some more gifts and amino cards, because our love of animal crossing is severe in this household.
Top of the Rock
After our little shopping trip, it was time for our reservation at the Top of the Rock. The line for this was nuts, but also because it was the first holiday weekend, it was just holiday chaos. We waited for a good hour, even though we had a reserved time, but the views from the top were incredible!!!!!!! Once we made it downstairs again, we decided to grab dinner from Bills Bar and Burger of New York. The shakes were incredible!
Then we walked around the Rockefeller Center a bit, checked out the tree and the ice skating rink (which I actually thought would be bigger) and then got in line for The Rockettes Show. Which is hands down one of the most amazing shows I’ve seen as of yet. My daughter loved it. By the time the show ended, it was getting pretty late, so onto the subway and onto the tram we went, back to Roosevelt Island.
Day 3: The Natural Museum of History | Central Park | NY Public Library | Off Broadway
I woke up on our final full day in NYC feeling sad. I knew it was going to be our final full day, and I still felt like we hadn’t done everything. But we also had another full day ahead, so I turned my frown upside down and off to the Natural Museum of History we went. (we used the city pass to have access to both top of the rock and the natural museum of history)
American Museum of Natural History
We’ve always wanted to come here, one for the incredible displays but also because of the movie, Night at the Museum. They were having an awesome shark exhibit, so we made sure to reserve a time for that. We got to check it out and it was so educational and interactive, we really loved it. It was such a treat for my daughter, since she’s homeschooled, to get to see a subject she loves up close and personal. There were a lot of really cool exhibits, and I really enjoy the planetarium.
Since we came out on Central Park west, we decided it would be the perfect opportunity to explore Central Park. We grabbed some hotdogs, sodas, and we had a little picnic. Then we walked and explored so many cool little trails. Lots of bridges, and beautiful waterways. We made it to a central hub where there were so many vendors and entertainers. We met the Bubbles guy, and he let my daughter make HUGE bubbles, and he even put her in one!
New York Public Library
Since it was our final day, my husband asked if there was any other place I wanted to see, which of course there were A LOT, but narrowed it down to NY Public Library because I have always wanted to see it. I had no idea it was going to be so gorgeous on the inside. Plus the gift shop was chefs kiss. So many amazing gifts for my reading besties. (also for me, because lets face it, I love libraries)
On the way to catch an off broadway show, we decided to grab some NYC pizza. Everyone recommended Joe’s Pizza so we grabbed a few slices from their Times Square location which was a short walk over from the library. The place was packed!! But we could understand why. The pizza was fantastic.
OFF Broadway | A Sherlock Carol
We walked the pizza off just a little, and then hopped onto into the subway for a quick ride over to the New World Stages to watch the off broadway production of A Sherlock Carol. There are not enough good things in the world to say about this incredible show and cast. I mean it was brilliant. When I say we LOVED it, I mean it. We couldn’t stop talking about it on the way back to the hotel. It was just so entertaining and the acting was top notch.
After the show, we went back to the hotel to pack up and get ready for our early departure the next day. We were feeling pretty tired and by this point, ready to be home to snuggle with our rescue pit. But, my hubs had a great last minute surprise for us. After we were packed up, we rode the tram over to Manhattan, and just one block away was Serendipity. We had reservations so that I could try the Frozen hot chocolate just like they did in one of my favorite movies ever, Serendipity with John Cusack, Kate Beckinsale. A classic. It was worth the HYPE!
That’s a wrap.
With a full belly and a full heart, we rode the tram for the last time onto Roosevelt Island. And off to sleep we went. We woke up the next day ready to embark on the 4 hour plane ride back home.
We absolutely LOVED our time in NYC, and although we didn’t get to do “everything” we got to do so many incredibly things in such a short amount of time. We feel incredibly satisfied with our trip, and the best part is we left with no regrets.