Are you planning a visit to New York City? Our 7-day itinerary for New York is an ideal guide for first-time visitors to the Big Apple. In this day-by-day New York itinerary, we include all the iconic landmarks and major attractions, as well as some lesser-known places to visit.
As we’ve just returned from a week in New York with two teenagers, it’s a great time to share our itinerary. Although we’ve both been before it was our first family trip to New York, and we wanted to show the boys as much of the city as possible.
Check out our our recommendations on how to spend a week in New York, so you can plan your own itinerary!
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Contents: click to jump to a section
About our 7-day NYC itinerary
New York has five boroughs, each with its own unique neighbourhoods. To make the most of our week in New York, we grouped the itinerary for each day by area. This way we were able to make the most of our time and see as many sights as possible. Obviously, you can swap the days round as you wish.
We were based at the Fifty Sonesta in Midtown East, which is a brilliant location for a first-time visitor. As the hotel is so central, we travelled everywhere by foot or on the subway. Our itinerary includes a lot of walking, as we always find you can see more this way.
Now, read on to find all the details of how we spent a week in New York.
7 days in New York City – An Overview
- 1: Getting to New York/Times Square
- 2: Midtown East
- 3: Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island/9/11 Memorial and Museum/Financial District
- 4: Brooklyn/Williamsburg
- 5: Museum of Natural History/Central Park
- 6: Chelsea Market/Greenwich Village/High Line/Little Island
- 7: Intrepid Museum/Broadway Show
New York Itinerary - Day 1
Getting to New York
As we were coming from England, we flew to JFK Airport, the biggest airport in New York. JFK Airport (Kennedy International) is about 20km southeast of Lower Manhattan.
From JFK Airport you can take the AirTrain, which goes directly to Jamaica Station in approximately 10 minutes. AirTrain JFK connects with all passenger terminals at the airport. From Jamaica Station you can use the metro to get to your final destination.
Our nearest subway stop was 51st Street Station, which was a 3-minute walk to the hotel. We got from JFK Airport to the centre of Manhattan in about 40 minutes.
If you’re using the AirTrain and subway, ensure that your luggage is light and easily transportable.
Of course, you can take a taxi from the airport. However, this is more expensive and usually takes longer because of the traffic. If you do, take a yellow New York cab, which will have a fixed meter fare.
Accommodation in New York
We stayed at the Fifty Sonesta Hotel & Suites on East 50th Street. We picked this hotel for its amazing location, as it is only two blocks from the Rockefeller Centre, Times Square and the theatre district. It was so easy to step out of the hotel and walk.
Our room was ideal for a week’s stay in New York as it had a small kitchen, so we could get our own breakfast and make coffee. It had two queen size beds and a sofa bed, so we could all share one room.
Click here to see more details of the the Fifty Sonesta Hotel and book. Of course, there are hundreds of other hotels in New York and something to suit every budget.
Check here for the wide choice of New York Hotels on Booking.com.
Firstly, as soon as we’d settled into our hotel Fifty Hotel & Suites, we took a walk to Times Square.
Although Times Square is probably the most touristy spot in NY, it’s an area you must visit during your 7-day itinerary in New York. Times Square looks best at night, when the bright lights are at their finest. However, it’s worth a visit in the daytime too.
New York Itinerary - Day 2
Places you’ll visit on day 2 of your New York itinerary:
- Summit One Vanderbilt
- Grand Central Station/New York Library
- Bryant Park
- Chrysler Building
- Empire State Building
- The Rockerfeller Centre
- 5th Avenue
Summit One Vanderbilt
We started the first full day of our 7-day New York itinerary with a trip to the Summit One Vanderbilt Tower. This is New York’s newest skyscraper and offers some of the best views over Manhattan.
Not only that, Summit One Vanderbilt provides an immersive art experience, making the most of mirrors and lights to enhance your visit. Quite honestly, it was a fantastic way to start our week in New York. Plus, it gave us a bird’s eye view of all the places we’d planned to visit.
Grand Central Station and New York Library
From Summit One Vanderbilt, it’s a few minutes’ walk to Grand Central Station. With 44 platforms, it has more than any other station in the world. Take time to visit the main concourse, even if you’re not catching a train. It’s such an impressive building and looks way too good to be a train station.
From here, walk to New York Library, another stunning building with beautiful architecture and interiors. Luckily, admission to both these New York landmarks is free.
From New York Library, you can cross to Bryant Park, which is a good place for lunch. There’s a café and several food kiosks, or you could pick something up in Bryant Park Wholefoods Market, which is opposite.
Bryant Park is a small, but lively park, with a daily timetable of entertainment. At midday, you’re likely to see jugglers, board games and New Yorkers chatting over a coffee.
A walking tour of Manhattan central
For the rest of the afternoon, we did a self-guided walking tour of central Manhattan, taking in the best of its iconic buildings.
The highlights included the Chrysler Building, the Rockerfeller Centre and the Empire State Building. Luckily, these famous New York sights are all within walking distance of each other, so you can visit them all in one go.
You can also pop into St Patrick’s Cathedral, famous for its splendid architecture. In the graveyard of this historic landmark, you’ll find the gravestones of many famous New Yorkers, including Alexander Hamilton (founder of the Bank of New York).
Of course, you might prefer to climb up to the observation decks in the Empire State Building or the Rockerfeller Centre, as an alternative to Summit One Vanderbilt.
New York Itinerary - Day 3
Battery Park/Financial District
Places you’ll visit on day 3 of your New York itinerary:
- Battery Park & the Statue of Liberty
- Ellis Island & the National Museum of Immigration
- The Oculus
- 9/11 Memorial & Museum
- One World Trade Centre
- Wall Street and the Financial District
The Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island
The Statue of Liberty is one of the most iconic sights in New York and a must-see attraction for any first-time visitors with kids.
Buy your tickets for your visit to Liberty Island through Statue Cruises, who are the authorised vendors for Liberty Island visits. As well as your ferry ride to Liberty Island and the museum, admission includes a stopover at Ellis Island and a visit to the National Museum of Immigration.
Both museums are family-friendly and include an audio guide. The kids found them interesting and informative, especially the guide to the construction of the statue.
The Statue of Liberty ferry departs and returns to Battery Park. On return, you can wander around this area, which has several memorial statues and a small playground.
Afterwards, take a picturesque stroll alongside the River Hudson until you get to North Cove Harbour. From here, head to the second floor of the shopping centre to find Hudson Eats, a food court with something for everyone.
After lunch, head to the 9/11 Memorial Plaza. The best route is through the Oculus building. Also known as the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, this high-tech building serves as a train station and shopping mall and is one of the most unique buildings in New York.
9/11 Memorial Plaza & Museum
The 9/11 Memorial Plaza covers the area where the World Trade Centre twin towers once stood.
As you’d expect, the new 9/11 memorial, “Reflecting Absence”, is an impressive structure. Set in the footprints of the Twin Towers, waterfalls on all sides gush constantly into the pools and granite craters below.
It serves as a tribute to the thousands who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Centre in 2001. However, it is also a place for quiet contemplation and remembrance.
9/11 Memorial Museum
The 9/11 Memorial Museum provides an insight into the events that led up to the events of the September 11th bombings. It provides exhibits and artefacts rescued from the day and accounts from survivors and victims.
To be honest, we were in two minds whether to take the teenagers to the museum, as we thought it could be quite harrowing, but they both found it interesting.
One World Trade Center (Freedom Tower)
From the 9/11 Memorial, you can look up at the One World Tower, the tallest building in New York City. Alternatively, you can climb up the One World Observatory for amazing views over the New York skyline.
Afterwards, it’s just a short walk from the 9/11 Memorial to New York’s financial district. Take the kids for a stroll down Wall Street or stop for a photo with the iconic Charging Bull (or even a stroke of his genitals for luck!).
We also visited the graveyard at Trinity Church, where we found some of the oldest graves in New York.
New York Itinerary - Day 4
Places you’ll visit on day 4 of your New York itinerary:
- Brooklyn Bridge
- Brooklyn Heights
- Prospect Park
- Barclays Centre (basketball game)
One of best days in our New York itinerary was a day trip to Brooklyn. We started day 4 with a walk over Brooklyn Bridge.
The walk from Manhattan over Brooklyn Bridge is 1.1 mile (2km) long and takes about 25 minutes. Another option for crossing Brooklyn Bridge is to hire bikes. However, walking gives you more time for photos and views. Plus you can stop to look at the street vendors.
DUMBO (District under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass)
Once over Brooklyn Bridge, you can head down into DUMBO, one of the best places for photos of the bridge. You’ll find a variety of places to eat in Dumbo, so we stopped for tea and cake in One Girl Cookies.
Just a short walk from DUMBO, we stumbled upon Luke’s Lobsters. This lobster kiosk reportedly sell the “Best Lobster Roll” ever. The boys couldn’t resist, so they had a tasty (albeit expensive) lobster roll shortly after.
From here we took a stroll up to Brooklyn Heights, an affluent area with elegant brownstones and tree-lined avenues.
Prospect Park, Williamsburg
Prospect Park is Brooklyn’s equivalent of Central Park. It even has its own little zoo. Although Prospect Park Zoo is aimed at younger children, the teens had an enjoyable time here, especially when the baboons got a bit frisky!
On Sundays, Smorgasburg, a giant open-air food market takes place in Prospect Park.
Barclays Centre (a basketball game)
One of the highlights of our day trip to Brooklyn was a visit to the Barclays Center for a basketball game. Even if you’re not a sports fan, it’s worth getting tickets, as the atmosphere was sensational.
New York itinerary - Day 5
American Museum of Natural History & Central Park
Places you’ll visit on day 5 of your New York Itinerary:
- The American Museum of Natural History
- Central Park
American Museum of Natural History
New York has a fantastic choice of museums, many of which are adjacent to Central Park. So, on day 5 of our New York itinerary, we made a visit to the American Museum of Natural History.
This is a wonderful place to visit in New York with kids but allow plenty of time as the museum is gigantic. As are many of its exhibits!
Humungous dinosaurs, mighty sharks, and even gigantic gems. There really was so much to see. And that’s without a visit to the special exhibitions, such as the Hayden Planetarium.
AD: We were kindly gifted our tickets for this museum, but all opinions are our own.
Of course, you can’t spend a week in NYC without a visit to Central Park. There’s so much to see in Central Park that you could spend hours here.
Some of the must-see attractions in Central Park are Strawberry Fields (a memorial to John Lennon), the boating lake, the zoo, and Belvedere Castle. We walked to the end, explored the North Woods, and found turtles in the lake.
If you don’t fancy a walk in Central Park, you could hire a bike or go for a run. Spring is the perfect time to visit, as all the cherry blossoms are in bloom.
Black Tap Burger Bar
If you’re going to New York with teens, take them to Black Tap Craft Burgers for one of their crazy shakes. This bar sells the biggest, tastiest shakes we’ve ever seen. Don’t be surprised if you get a slice of cake or lolly on top of your shake!
New York Itinerary - Day 6
West Village (Chelsea/Greenwich)
Places you’ll visit on day 6 of your New York itinerary:
- Hudson Yards & The Vessel
- The High Line
- Chelsea Market
- Little Island
- Greenwich Village
- Washington Square Park
Hudson Yards & The Vessel
Start your day out in Chelsea at the beautiful honeycomb shaped Vessel. You’ll find the Vessel near Hudson Yards, on the west side of Manhattan. This new landmark in New York is a stunning sculpture and unique art piece.
Unfortunately, you can’t currently climb the Vessel, but you can access the lower floor for photos.
The High Line
From the Vessel you can walk South on the High Line. The High Line is an elevated park, built atop a former rail line, as part of an urban regeneration project. It’s a lovely green space, with some street art, plants, and views of New York above the houses.
On the other side of the High Line overlooking the River Hudson is Little Island. Built with an unusual tulip design, Little Island is a landscaped park on stilts. With a variety of plants and flowers, this urban oasis is one of New York’s newest green spaces.
It’s a fun place for children, with several interactive features such as the musical instruments and spinning spirals. There’s a café in the centre, a playground and amphitheatre. Admission to Little Island is free.
There are several access points to the High Line and halfway along, you should descend for a visit to Chelsea Market. Whether you like browsing vintage clothes, antiques, artisan jewellery or local food, this is a wonderful place for a wander.
Plus, with an excellent choice of street food, it’s also the perfect place for lunch.
Washington Square Park
After a walk through the fashionable area of Greenwich Village and a quick photo of the “Friends” apartment, we sauntered to Washington Square Park.
Washington Square Park is a lively public park, with vendors, street artists and plenty of picknickers. It’s a relaxed green space, where you can watch the world go by. Or, you can stop for a game of chess, with one of the locals. Expect to pay a small fee for the game.
New York Itinerary - Day 7
Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
Places you’ll visit on day 7 of your New York itinerary:
- The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
- A Broadway show
Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
One of the advantages of spending a full week in New York is that you have time for some of the lesser-known attractions. So, on the final day of our New York itinerary we visited the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.
The museum is set aboard the decks of the historic aircraft carrier. Not only do you get to see the Intrepid ship with its jet fighter planes, but Concorde and the NASA space shuttle Enterprise. If this isn’t enough, you can board an authentic nuclear submarine too!
AD: We were kindly gifted our tickets for this museum, but all opinions are our own.
A Broadway Show
Finally, you can’t take a trip to New York without a show on Broadway. Try to get tickets in advance as many get booked out. We chose the Lion King, which was fantastic.
Best travel guides for New York
If you’re looking for more information on the best things to see and do in New York, we always find the DK Eyewitness Top 10 Travel Guides very inspiring. As the name suggests, the Top Ten New York City travel guide provides top ten lists to everything, from museums and monuments to restaurants and bars.
Another good option for helping you get the most out of your visit is the Mini Rough Guide to New York. These travel guides come in a handy, pocket-friendly format, so are ideal for popping in your bag or pocket. And you can never go wrong with a Lonely Planet New York City Guide, which provide practical information from locals.
If you are looking to enthuse younger children about your visit to NYC, try the Kids’ Travel Guide to New York City. It will help prepare them for all the iconic landmarks on your trip.
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