Things to Do in NYC: 72 Hour Guide

With bright lights of Broadway, art at The Met, and buzzing Times Square within reach, there’s no shortage of things to do in New York City in 72-hours.

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Wow! Sometimes you just have to see a city to believe it, and New York is certainly one of the biggest and the best. You can’t even count the options in the Big Apple for world-class entertainment. Let’s just say you won’t ever have an excuse to be bored. Guess that means you need to know how to even get started. Easy! Just follow this guide to find some of the best things to do in NYC when you’ve only got three days. Learn where to stay, what to eat, and so much more to make the most of your time in the city.

Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn

Lower Manhattan’s Financial District is chock-full of top hotels, including the Four Seasons, the Conrad, the historic Beekman Hotel, and Brooklyn’s The 1 Hotel. Farther north is where to find boutique hotels like the music-themed Made Hotel near the Empire State Building, the historic High Line Hotel in Chelsea, The Ludlow Hotel on the Lower East Side, and The Marlton Hotel in the West Village.

Pancakes topped with macerated blueberries and powdered sugar, served at Clinton Street Baking Co. in the Lower East Side in NYC for breakfast.

How to Spend the Morning

Start your day with some fresh air and a spectacular view of the sunrise as you take a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge — early but worth it! — from either the Financial District or the DUMBO area in Brooklyn. Bread and Spread in DUMBO is the spot for a yummy breakfast sandwich, or you could dig into a stack of flavored pancakes at Clinton Street Baking Co. on the Lower East Side. An early morning visit to the Empire State Building gives you a chance to really see breathtaking panoramas come to life.

Afternoon Activities

For lunch, carbo-load at Eataly, a super-sized market with shops and Italian food near the Flatiron Building in the Financial District. Or try San Marzano in the East Village or at L’Artusi in the West Village. For vegan or vegetarian options, ABCV near Union Square and Little Choc Apothecary in Brooklyn serve up more tasty options than you can handle.

White plate with the Eataly logo full of stuffed Italian pasta smothered in cream sauce and grated cheese at Eataly.

With your tummy full, it’s time to museum-hop your way through some of the area’s top attractions. Explore the New Museum, the Tenement Museum, or the International Center of Photography Museum on the Lower East Side — all great choices. In Brooklyn, don’t miss the Brooklyn Museum and the New York Transit Museum. The Whitney Museum in the Meatpacking District is all about American art, while the Rubin Museum of Art in Chelsea takes it to the other side of the world with the art and culture of Himalayan Asia.

Nighttime view of New York City from One World Observatory shows the skyscrapers and the city illuminated below.

An Evening Downtown

There’s nothing like seeing a city like New York lit up under the stars. Stop by One World Observatory to take in glittering nighttime views for as far as the eye can see from the 102nd floor. Have dinner nearby in the Financial District at the historic Delmonico’s restaurant. It’s an NYC hot spot that is famous for steak, chops, and lobster since its opening in 1837 — that’s right, 1837 — as the first fine dining restaurant in the U.S.

Midtown

Headed to Midtown? Talk about some great hotel options! Popular boutique hotels include the Baccarat, The London NYC, and The Gotham Hotel (no Bruce Wayne, sorry). The area is also home to dozens of hotels from well-known chains, like Kimpton, Hilton, Hyatt, and Marriott.

The Midtown Morning Agenda

Start the morning with a walk or a jog through Central Park before hitting the Shops at the Plaza for a French breakfast sandwich or a chia seed yogurt parfait at Epicerie Boulud in the Plaza Food Hall — hey, don’t knock it ’til you try it. If you’d rather sit down, grab breakfast and a killer view at Asiate in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel just off Columbus Circle.

People enjoying a beautiful summer afternoon by the fountain in front of the Museum of Modern Art in NYC

Afternoon Delights

Feeling traditional? Take a tour of Rockefeller Center and NBC Studios, or visit the Museum of Modern Art. For something a little more off the wall, try the new Spyscape: Interactive Spy Museum. If shopping is your thing, you can’t go wrong on Manhattan’s world-famous Fifth Avenue — you just can’t. The stores range from Bergdorf Goodman to Uniqlo and everything in between. A stop at the Museum of Arts and Design puts you in the right spot for brunch at the ninth-floor Robert restaurant overlooking Central Park.

Nightly Events

Does it get any better than Midtown for nighttime fun? Get tickets to a Broadway show, or check out a comedy club in Times Square. If you’re hungry, Restaurant Row has you covered with pre-theater classics like Joe Allen, Le Rivage, and Becco.

Uptown

Remember Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl?” Well, this is her turf, and “nice” is an understatement. It has some chain hotels, but it’s also home to the contemporary NYLO on the Upper West Side and legendary grand dame hotels The Pierre, The Lowell, and the Plaza Athenee on the Upper East Side.

How to Spend the Morning Uptown

Gospel music is the perfect harmony for Sunday brunch at Sylvia’s restaurant — a Harlem institution since 1962 — or you could splurge on a delicious brunch at the Plaza Hotel’s iconic Palm Court. Sylvia’s puts a classic soul food twist on breakfast, while brunch at the Plaza is a century-old tradition. Want some healthier? Sarabeth’s on both the Upper West Side and Central Park South serves healthy brunch bites like kale salad and eggs, fresh blended juice drinks, and garden omelets — along with sweetly sinful pancakes, French toast, and waffles.

People enjoying the colorful art by Kehinde Wiley hanging on the walls of the Studio Museum of Harlem.

An Uptown Afternoon

There’s certainly no shortage of cultural attractions in this fancy part of town. Spend the afternoon visiting the National Jazz Museum and the Studio Museum in Harlem, or take in the best of Museum Mile on the Upper East Side. It’s where you find the best cultural nuggets of gold, like El Museo del Barrio, the Jewish Museum, The Guggenheim, the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. On the Upper West Side, hit up the American Museum of Natural History.

Things to Do in the Evening Uptown

Have dinner at the inventive Upper West Side Chinese restaurant Red Farm, or chow down on stick-to-your-ribs Italian pasta and seafood at Marea on Central Park South. Of course, you’re Uptown, so don’t rule out fancy French cuisine with vegan options at Cheri restaurant in Harlem. After dinner, catch a performance at Lincoln Center on the Upper West Side or at the Apollo Theater in Harlem.

What are your favorite things to do during a 72-hour stay in New York City? From the bright lights of Times Square to peaceful moments in Central Park, tag us on your journey on Instagram!

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