The Ultimate Guide for Your Weekend Trip to NYC

Whether you are looking for a rejuvenating break from your hectic job, or just want to experience something new over the weekend, New York City offers it all. It is the perfect place to find that inspiration and get reenergized for the upcoming week.

Like Alicia Keys has rightly put across in her song Empire State of Mind:

Now you’re in New York
These streets will make you feel brand new
Big lights will inspire you

Hear it for New York, New York, New York

New York is truly a magical land which can rekindle your spirit and a weekend in NYC is all you need to find your lost song.

Here is my ultimate guide for your weekend trip to NYC that will not just give you a taste of New York but also elevate your senses!

Table of Contents

Photo of a Hotel Room in New York

Where to Stay in NYC

The ideal hotel to stay at in New York City must be in the vicinity of the attractions you plan to visit. The best neighborhood to stay at is Midtown Manhattan because it’s at the center and at almost equal distances from Lower Manhattan and Upper Manhattan.

I stayed at Double Tree by Hilton New York Times Square West and had a wonderful experience. The price of the rooms is relatively cheaper compared to the other hotels, and the location is ideal as well.  Other hotels in this area include:

  1. NH Collection New York Madison Avenue
  2. Pod 39
  3. West Side YMCA

Attractions such as the Statue of Liberty, 9/11 Memorial & Museum, and Wall Street fall in Lower Manhattan while Central Park, the MET, and the American Museum of Natural History fall in Upper Manhattan.

Photo of Metrocard to Ride the New York Subway

Buying a MetroCard in NYC

When you’re in New York, you have to travel like a New Yorker. Period.

The best way to get around in New York City is by using the New York Subway system. Every day, almost 5.5 million people use the subway and it is one of the largest public transportation systems in the world!

In order to be able to use the subway, you need to buy a MetroCard. Read my detailed blog post on A First Timer’s Guide to the New York Subway to know more about using the subway and everything you need to know about the NYC MetroCard.

A Photo of a Sightseeing Pass in NYC

Buying a Sightseeing Pass in NYC

Whether or not you need to buy a sightseeing pass entirely depends on the attractions you plan to visit. Since most of the attractions that I have recommended below have an entrance fee, buying a sightseeing pass that covers it all, and that which gives a huge cumulative discount, is a viable option.

The best sightseeing pass to explore New York City is the CityPass. You can buy it online and use the QR code to gain entry at multiple attractions. For more information about this pass, and a detailed comparison of the popular NYC passes, check out my post below.

NYC Weekend Itinerary

Day 1: Statue of Liberty, 9/11 Memorial & Museum, Wall Street, Brooklyn Bridge

A Photo of Statue of Liberty in New York
Photo of Statue of Liberty in New York

Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island

Start your day by visiting the iconic Statue of Liberty on the Liberty Island.  Modeled after the Roman goddess of freedom, Libertas, the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of hope, freedom and democracy – the three pillars of the United States.

Expect to spend about 2 hours on the island if there is a short waiting queue. However, if there are long waiting queues, the tour might take up to 4 hours.

The entry to the island is free of cost. However, you need to purchase the ticket for the ferry. You can either buy the ticket at the counter in Battery Park or have it included in a sightseeing pass which you can just use.

Tips to Save Time:

1. Wake up early and stand at the queue for the first ferry.

2. Skip the visit to the museum on Ellis Island on your way back.

Photo of 9/11 Memorial & Museum in NYC
Photo of New World Trade Center in NYC

9/11 Memorial & Museum and World Trade Center

Any visit to NYC is incomplete if you don’t revisit the historical event of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States that led to the death of 2996 people. The twin towers of the World Trade Centre in NYC were destroyed in a coordinated terrorist attack by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda which changed the course of history for the United States.

A visit to the 9/11 Memorial will teach you about the motive behind the incident, the escape routes within the buildings and the consequences of the attack. Be prepared to be sad as you hear recorded conversations of frightened hostages, playing on loop.

The visit will also teach you about the renewed glory of the United States which is quite evident in the construction of its new World Trade Center building – standing tall and mighty; just like a phoenix rising from its ashes.

The total duration of the visit will take about 2 hours and one can buy the ticket at the counter or have it included in a sightseeing pass.

Photo of The Charging Bull in NYC
Photo of the Wall Street in NYC

The Charging Bull and Wall Street

After you visit the 9/11 Memorial, head over to take a picture with the Charging Bull. This is something that all tourists do and I still don’t understand why!

The charging bull represents the courage and can-do spirit of Americans, and New Yorkers in particular. It was installed by Arturo Di Modica in the year 1989.

Then, take a stroll through the magnificent streets of Wall Street, spotting mighty beige-colored skyscrapers and other financial buildings. Don’t forget to visit the New York Stock Exchange Building! (PS: Movie buffs will know what I’m talking about).

Photo of Brooklyn Bridge in NYC

Brooklyn Bridge

In the evening, head over to the Brooklyn Bridge which is the world’s first major steel-wire suspension bridge connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn. Spanning across the East river, this bridge is supported by four main cables, which descend from the tops of the suspension towers and help support the deck.

The views from the bridge are absolutely spectacular! They give you a 360 degree view of giant skyscrapers surrounding the river. But beware of the cyclist lane on the bridge. DO NOT cross it by any chance!

Day 2: Central Park, Museums, Empire State Building/Top of the Rock, Times Square

Photo of Central Park in NYC

Central Park

Begin your second day by taking a walk in one of New York City’s most popular urban parks – the Central Park. A morning walk in this park is bound to refresh your senses and give you the energy you need for the rest of the day. You can spot several skyscrapers from the park which is a perfect exemplar of NYC’s offering – beautiful nature amidst man-made wonders!

Some of the attractions in Central Park include:

  1. Belvedere Castle
  2. Strawberry Fields
  3. Bethesda Fountain and Terrace
  4. Conservatory Garden
  5. The Lake

Tips:

1. Central Park is huge! Plan the attractions you want to visit wisely to save time.

2. Visit the Trump Tower on your exit from the southern side.

Photo of Walrus at American Museum of Natural History in NYC

Museums

Depending on the time you have, you can either visit the American Museum of Natural History or the Metropolitan Museum of Art. You can’t do both on a single day because each museum is spanned across multiple floors and requires a minimum of 4 hours for you to just get a taste of the collection.

These museums are close to Central Park. So you can plan to spend, say, about 1 hour in Central Park and about 4 hours in one of these museums, or ditch the museums, and spend all of your time in Central Park itself, if the former bore you.

If you plan on visiting the museums, be prepared to wait in long queues. You can either buy a ticket at the counter or have it included in your sightseeing pass.

Note: Please maintain the decorum inside the museums and be careful around the artifacts.

Photo of NYC Skyline at the Empire State Building in New York

NYC Skyline

Because you are short of time, you will have to make a tough choice here. You can either choose the Empire State Building or the Top of the Rock Observatory to catch a glimpse of the New York City Skyline. But whatever you choose, make sure you include this in your itinerary.

Witnessing the NYC skyline will really inspire you. It is not about the buildings. It is not about the view. It is about what it holistically invokes in you. It’s all about you. Thus, you need to include this.

Both the Empire State Building and the Top of the Rock Observatory have entrance fees. You can either buy the tickets at the counter or have it included in your sightseeing pass.

Tip:

If you want my personal opinion, I would suggest you to pick the Empire State Building because apart from providing spectacular views, it is popular for its engineering. The Empire State Building has an elevator which operates at a speed of 1,200 feet per minute and can take you to the 80th floor within one minute!

Photo of Times Square in New York City
Photo of Times Square in New York City

Times Square

End your day by visiting the infamous Times Square! Known for its bright billboards and vibrant crowds, a walk amidst this glamorous neighborhood of Manhattan is surely going to blow your mind away.

Here is a list of things to do if you have more time:

  1. Watch a Broadway Show
  2. Visit the Madame Tussauds Museum
  3. Visit the Rockefeller Center
  4. Watch a Show at the Radio City Music Hall

Even if you don’t have time to do any of these things, the vibe of Times Square alone is enough to boost your energy and prepare you for the week ahead!

Although there are several things to do in NYC, the experiences that I have mentioned above are good enough to give you a piece of everything – the history, nature, culture and art. And more importantly, these experiences are definitely going to inspire you on your weekend trip to NYC!

LOOKING FOR MORE OPTIONS?

Then check out my 12 Places You Must See in NYC and Shouldn’t Miss! for more options and alternative things to do in New York City!

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