7 days in New York Itinerary: how to spend a week in NYC

by Jan

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!

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 in Midtown East, which is an ideal location for a first-time visitor.  As it’s 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.

Times Square

Time Square, New York, USA

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

Midtown East

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

Boys in room full of silver bubbles at One Vanderbilt, New York

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.

If you’re visiting New York for the first time you really must climb up to one of the skyscrapers to get views over Manhattan.  There are four main viewing platforms, and they all have their advantages.  However, they are not cheap, so it’s worth choosing one before you plan your itinerary.

Grand Central Station and New York Library

Grand Central Station, New York, USA

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.

Lion Statue in front of New York public library, USA

Bryant Park

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

Chrysler Building, New York, USA

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, St Patrick’s Cathedral, the Rockerfeller Centre and the Empire State Building.  Luckily, these famous New York sights are all within walking distance of each other.

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.

Rockerfeller center, New York, USA

New York Itinerary - Day 3

Battery Park/Financial District

Manhattan Skyline from Staten Island, New York, USA

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

Statue of Liberty Manhattan, New York, USA

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.

Statue of Liberty, New York, USA

If you’re on a budget, you can see Lady Liberty from afar with a free trip on the Staten Island Ferry.  This 25-minute boat trip will take you around the statue and give you views of the Manhattan skyline.  However, you won’t get off for a close-up or visit the museums.

Battery Park

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.

The Oculus

Oculus New York, USA

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

911 Memorial, New York

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.

911 Museum, New York, USA

It is worth buying tickets in advance, as they do sell out.

One World Trade Center (Freedom Tower)

One World Trade Center, New York, USA

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.

Financial District

Wall Street sign in the Financial District, New York

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.

Merrill Lynch Bull, Financial District, New York

New York Itinerary - Day 4

Brooklyn

Places you’ll visit on day 4 of your New York itinerary:

  • Brooklyn Bridge
  • Dumbo
  • Brooklyn Heights
  • Prospect Park
  • Barclays Centre (basketball game)

Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn, New York

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.

Crossing Brooklyn Bridge , New York

DUMBO (District under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass)

View of Manhattan Bridge from Dumbo, New York

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

Baboon Brooklyn zoo, New York

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.

Brooklyn Nets Basketball Game, New York

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

Natural History Museum, New York

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.

Other museums you could visit near Central Park include the Metropolitan Museum, the Guggenheim (East side) and MOMA (the Museum of Modern Art).

Central Park

People sitting on grass with New York skyline backdrop

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

Black Tap Shakes, New York

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

The Vessel, Hudson Yards, New York

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

Railway track garden on the The High line, New York

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.

Little Island

Little Island, New York

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.

Chelsea Market

Chelsea Market, New York, USA

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

Playing Chess in Washington Park, New York, USA

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

USS Intrepid, New York, USA

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.

Intrepd Flight Deck, New York, USA

A Broadway Show

Lion King Broadway Show, New York

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.

You can discount tickets for Broadway shows from TodayTix.

Have you any thoughts or questions about our New York itinerary?  We’d love to hear your comments below.

Pin for later:  7-days New York itinerary:  How to spend a week in New York

PINTEREST: A SEVEN DAY NEW YORK ITINERARY

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