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72-hours in NYC: Your day-by-day guide


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Day 1

On your first day in the big apple prepare for a whirlwind ride through Manhattan. Today you will see a lot and will most likely be pushing your step counter to the limit. So, before you strap on your pedometer, I suggest you fuel up with a full breakfast (cooked or continental) at the quaint little Bluebell Café just up from our first viewpoint in Union Square.

This morning your sole aim is to soak up the atmosphere of the city, so take your time gazing up at the fire escapes decorating the red brick buildings and – perhaps most importantly – figuring out how to work the pedestrian crossings.

After enjoying a wander round Union Square start to head north through Gramacy Park and up to our first architectural landmark of the day – the Flat Iron Building. This recently pedestrianised area is the start of the Broadway high-street; feel free to take advantage of the outdoor seating and enjoy a cup of American coffee while enjoying the hustle and bustle of the midmorning traffic.

If you should feel inclined to do a little shopping (a quick wander through Macy’s being an obvious starting point) this will be our most budget friendly stop, though you will have time on 5th Avenue to explore the designer stores a little later on. 

Continuing up Broadway, keep your eyes peeled for the neon green signs which mark our lunch stop today – The Shake Shack. Boasting the thickest milkshakes you will ever have the pleasure of (attempting to) suck through a straw, and the most addictive cheese sauce in the whole of NYC – needless to say this stop is just as essential as the Empire State.

After lunch head further up Broadway to the one and only Time Square to experience the world’s most iconic display of light up billboards. Slip into an internal movie scene as the neon shop signs entice you in to dance among the latest musical advertisers.

As you come to the top of Time Square head to the closest bike rental. It’s time to leave the bright lights behind you for a while as you take a change of scenery in Central Park. If you have time for a pit-stop, I highly recommend you pause along the North West side of the park to seek out the Levain Bakery for a chocolate chip cookie the size of your face!

After a little downtime enjoying the breath-taking contrast of the ever expanding greenery against the backdrop of the New York skyline, return your bikes and walk away from Time Square toward 5th Avenue. Wander past the designer outlets, keeping your eyes peeled for celebrity shoppers.

For dinner I highly recommend heading south down 5th Avenue in search of the eccentric Japanese-American fusion restaurant, Koi, for its eclectic menu featuring sushi pizza and lobster tacos. But if you’re looking for something a bit more iconic, you can’t go wrong in New York’s signature Hard Rock Café located in the heart of Time Square.

As the sun sets, head a few blocks further to 350 Fifth Avenue or, as you might know it, The Empire State building. Your ideal arrival time at this iconic skyscraper is about 10pm when the sunset rush has ended. Climb right on up to the Observation Deck to be quite literally blown away by the spectacular 360° views of New York City at night.

If you’re still not quite ready to close your eyes on New York for the night, why not stop off at 230 Fifth Avenue, where you can grab a cocktail at the hotel’s free-entry rooftop bar and continue to enjoy the city skyscape into the early hours.

Day 2

It’s time to head downtown! Today is going to be action packed so I suggest grabbing a croissant to go as you jump on a southbound subway toward your pre-booked tour of ground zero and the 9/11 memorial museum. This is a poignant visitor attraction and does get booked up at high season, so I highly recommend booking your tickets in advance.

After your tour, wander down toward the memorial gardens as you hold on to those inner reflections a little longer and pay respects to the Vietnam veterans. Note: there are plenty of commercial lunch spots to grab a sub or a salad on route (Fresh & Co being my favourite find if you’re looking for something familiar feeling but still new and exciting).

Once you’re finished in the gardens, follow the crowds to the waterfront and catch (again, a pre-booked) ferry across to Ellis Island to see the monumental Statue of Liberty and grab a great snapshot of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Back on the mainland it’s time to cross the bridge itself (by bike or by foot) and spend the afternoon exploring Brooklyn, an area of New York which feels familiar even to new visitors for its frequented setting in much loved Hollywood movies and American sit-com’s. Walking along the waterfront Brooklyn-side, enjoy an alternative view of downtown NY and see if you can spot the Empire State and The New World Trade Centre amongst the skyscrapers.

As the evening draws in, take the subway back across the water and over to East Side Gramacy where you can find some of the city’s best independent restaurants. For a couple of my personal favourites take a read of my restaraunt reviews: The very best of New York’s backstreet dining.

Day 3

Brunching is on the cards today, but first set yourself up on a walking tour of the High Line – see for details and booking, or alternatively see the self-guided route outlines on the site. Whichever way you choose to walk the High Line, make sure you start off your tour at the North point and end at the South. This is of course so that you are closer to that all important brunch spot – The Smile.

Today is going to be a more relaxing day now that you’ve exhausted all the major sites and attractions. After brunch you need to get yourself on a sub over to Soho. Here you will find the one and only Bloomingdales nestled amongst a whole host of designer shopping outlets – Chanel, Prada, Burberry etc. Window shopping heaven – just be careful not to spend your dinner money!

When you’re done spending your imaginary lottery winnings, walk on toward Little Italy where I suggest you take a stop to enjoy a long lunch and a glass of wine as your main meal of the day. Alternatively, if you head just a little further you will hit Chinatown.

And now, what better way to spend your final evening than heading back up to the theatre district to enjoy a different set of bright lights on the Broadway stage. This requires a little forward planning because, believe me, unlike in the West End it is next to impossible to get last minute tickets to a Broadway show, no matter how big your budget might be. So make sure you’ve set yourself up with house seats long in advance of your visit.

After the musical it’s time to take a last walk through Time Square, enjoying the billboard lights by night and marvelling at the cascades of late night shoppers still pouring in and out of H&M.  

And, if you’re up for one final stop, why not takes advantage of the night and head up the Rockefeller Centre for yet another drink with a view.

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