new york skyline

New York was such a fun trip. There were things to do at every corner of the city. It was jam-packed for five days! If you love the fast-paced life Nyc is the destination for you. This can be an expensive trip but if you plan well you can save money and get the best out of your time here. Using this 5 days in New York guide and reading about the top things to do, you will be able to get a sense of how long to plan your trip depending on which activities you plan on doing! 

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ITINERARY ROUND UP :

ARRIVING IN NEW YORK

We flew into JFK airport after a 7 and half hour flight. We then jumped into a taxi and headed towards our hotel. The journey was about half an hour as we were staying on the upper east side of New York. As a consequence of the long flight, I fell asleep in the taxi! We took a look around our apartment dropped our bags off and we were ready to start our 5 days in New York adventure! 

Top Tip: check out the New York pass to save money on activities especially if you are doing 5 days in New york or more!

VISITING CENTRAL PARK

We decided that this would be a good starting point as it was only a few blocks away from our hotel. We wanted to make sure we made the best out of the 5 days in New York. Making our way towards the park up lots of hills! Once we arrived at the park it was buzzing. There were so many runners in the park and the park was so much bigger than what I thought it would be. We Walked under the shady trees as we approached the first river. This was our first real city skyline we were able to see across the other side of the pond. We carried on walking around the lake until we came to a narrow path. As we continued down the path as the park started to open up. 

There were stalls along the edges of the paths selling painting and handmade crafts. I bought some cute fridge magnets from one of the vendors. What a great way to remember out 5 days in New York. Giant bubbles were being blown glistening in the sun shinnied down between the trees. It was so beautiful.

top things to do in new york. walking to central park. Yellow school buses 5 days in new york
My first photo of many in our 5 days in New York!

The Lakes!

We then headed towards the Water fountain and the boating lake. It was so pretty. I sat by the wall and looked at the Turtles sunning themselves on the rocks as tourists were out in rowing boats on the lake. 

We walked along a winding path seeing tables and chairs all being set up. There was some sort of live event happening in the part that day as we saw catering vans pulling up and waitresses running around. Just behind all of this chaos was a world of calm. Walking past an open field with kids playing games and couples having picnics. Here stood a castle looking building in the distance so we headed towards this. There was a small lake that looked out towards the castle and as we walked along the dock we saw hundreds of turtles.

Top things to do in new york. 5 days in new your . Central park boating lake
Turtles sunbathing in the park

Lunch Time

Next, we walked around the park for about 2 hours as we seeing the attraction points of the park. We started to head towards the city as we decided it was time to grab some food. Horse-drawn carriages were walking along the edge of the park as we started to see hot dog vans and food trucks. I looked up and here we were, Right in the centre of it all. The peacefulness we had was now gone and into the hustle and bustle

 Heading down 7th Avenue to grab some lunch. We stopped at the Wellington Hotel park cafe, this was a typical American diner. For lunch, we had grilled cheese and pancakes! It was nice to be able to get some shade and have a drink of fresh-pressed orange before we headed out to explore times square. I was loving day 1 of 5 days in New York so far! 

WALKING AROUND TIMES SQUARE

We walked down 7th until we reached times square. Just trying to get across the busy streets was a mission. There were taxis and bikes everywhere, bloggers taking photos and models standing in the middle of the crossroads trying to get that Instagram worthy photo. There it was! the iconic times square… the view we had seen in so many movies.

 It was so busy it was hard to see what was actually around us. Billboards playing videos on every corner and people trying to sell us mixtapes everywhere we went. We took a seat in the TKTS red steps right in the centre of the square. This gave us time to try and take in what was going on around us and where to go first! As we were sitting down a lady appeared in a bright red dress, who started to sing. She was filming a music video on the steps that we were sitting on. Everyone looked very shocked and didn’t know how to react for a start..then a group of teenagers stood up and started to dance with her. This was a very strange moment but something that we wouldn’t forget in a hurry.

Times Square TKTS seat.  5 days in new york. Top things to do.
Sitting in the TKTS seats in times square

  We took a look around and headed towards the Disney store (naturally), We had a look around and I bought a “NEW YORK’ Disney plush. finally, we headed back outside and spoke to a few different guides about trips and tours before heading off.

TOP TIP: Times square is ridiculously busy so keep an eye on your bags. This however is a great place to book tickets if you have not bought a new your attraction pass as there are so many vendors trying to sell the same tours you can try and barter with them on a deal.

We visited times square a few times while we were in New York, mainly because its the hub of the city. I would recommend going at night as it’s amazing to see all the buildings lit up at night. If you have time there is also Ripley’s believe it or not and M&M world in times square which are big attractions.

CLIMBING THE EMPIRE STATE BUILDING

One of the most iconic buildings in the world. We headed in the general direction of the building looking around at all the shops and cafes. popping into a few souvenirs shops on the way buying a miniature empire state and statue of liberty as well as some postcards! As we came around a corner we could finally see it! The building was so grand inside! The elevators were shiny and regal looking. Firstly we made our way through the visitors centre which had a mini empire state building and information on all the walls about the building. This is where we queued up to buy our tickets.

Here We Go!

 Once we had our tickets we went up to the 86th floor which was the inside observation deck. We learnt more about eh building and its construction here. Sitting on the windowsill and looked out at the city below us. WOW. Just wow. This was the most incredible view. We could see all the tiny looking taxis whizzing around the busy streets and as you look across you can see the Hudson River and all the skyscrapers surrounding it. Once we had walked around and read all of the info boards we headed outside. 

5 days in new york. Top things to do view from the empires state building
How stunning is the view ?

Outside

Its a bit windy! therefore we really could have done with a jacket. There was a tall rail that surrounded the outside of the building. We found our way through the crowed right to the edge and looked down. Not for the faint hearted. It was incredibly chilly up here and the wind made it hard to hear what each other was saying. There were binoculars that you could use to get a closer look at the city. The views were just so stunning. Once we had looked around all sides of the building pointing out what building could recognise and just generally enjoying the view we made our way back down towards to gift shop. I can never miss a Gift shop! consequently I bought something. I love buying souvenirs and postcards so this is always a must for me.

TOP TIP:  Book in advance to avoid disappointment. The empire state building is very busy and ticket lines can be super long. This will also save time rather than having to queue. You are definitely better to visit in off peak times so you can make the most of the view without having to be sandwiched in by people.

5 days in new york. Top things to do .Empire state building
How stunning are these views

VISITING GRAND CENTRAL STATION

Now if there is ever going to be a flash mob this is the place I expect it to happen. Despite me wishing this didn’t happen. We only briefly visited grand central but it was a great spot to stop by and take a peak at and its free! On our way back one evening we decided to pop by as we were walking back to our hotel from times square. Such an iconic place to see as its been used in so many great movies.We visited in rush hour so the place was packed which added to the magic of the place. It was nice to see the beautiful architecture and the stunning ceilings. Worth popping in to when you are walking around the city.

9/11 MEMORIAL MUSEUM AND ONE WORLD TRADE CENTRE TOUR

This was the most important things that we did while being in New York. We made our way over the centre and stopped outside to look at the water fountains. This gave you a sense of scale of how much devastation happened here. We took a few minutes to reflect on everything that happened here and take in some of the names that were on the waterfall.

Inside The Museum

Once we managed to get our tickets we made our way inside things started to become real. Even though I was to young to remember the actual event it was one of the saddest and hard hotting places I have ever been. We saw all sorts of items that had been recovered from the day. The scariest item we saw on the first part of the tour was a fire engine that had been completely crushed. This was such a shocking sight to see as you cant believe that something so robust could be crumpled up so small.

5 days in new your. Top things to do. 9/11 memorial museum
outside the museum the one world trade centre

We walked around more fo the museum looking at artefacts and reading stories of those who had tragically lost there lives in the attack. There was a room which had photos of every person in the attack, as you walked round trying to take in what you were seeing, you could see the pain in everyones eyes. It was very difficult but gave such a sense of scale of the devastation.

Then later on there were images of the falling man. This was probably the hardest part of the museum for me. There were interviews and screen showing footage from that day. This was hard to watch as you put yourself in that situation and think about the impossible decisions that were made that day.

This is truly an interesting museum to talk around and learn more about the events that happened that day, however, it’s a very upsetting place to visit so think carefully before you decide to purchase your ticket. I am very glad that we had the privilege of looking around the museum. Once we had finished our tour we went outside to get some air and found a cafe to sit, have a drink and reflect.

WALL STREET AND THE FINANCIAL DISTRICT

After sitting down to have a spot of lunch we headed towards wall street and the financial district. As we were walking around we were surrounded by briefcases. It was like being in an episode of suits. This was a glance into the busy life of the brokers and bankers of New York. We walked around through the hustle and bustle taking in the grand buildings. We stumble across a Starbucks, so we decided to take a seat, grab a coffee and people watch for a while. This was the grandest Starbucks I had ever seen as there was a lobby outside of the shop with palm trees and gold walls. It was so hot outside so the air-con was welcomed with open arms.

Battery park

We wandered some more before we came to Battery Park. While we were strolling around we looked out across the Hudson. We were right on the edge of the city looking out. The views were stunning. 

As we walked around there were increasing numbers of guides selling tickets for the Statue of Liberty. We took some leaflets and headed towards the ticket office. Once we had our tickets we joined the line to board the boat.

 5 days in new york. Top things to do. Battery Park
The view of Battery park from the boat

STATUE OF LIBERTY TOUR

Once we were on board we went up to the second level to take a look at the views of the city as we left for liberty island. The sun was shining and glistening down on the water. Lady Liberty came into view and we could see people looking so tiny walking around the base of the statue. I was so excited to finally be able to see such a historical monument.

 5 days in new york. Top things to do. New York skyline from liberty island
The view from the boat

Once we had arrived at the island we decided that we would purchase the audio tour. This was a numbered tour that pointed out key parts of the island and told us their history. The first stop was by the railings of the island. We could see the New York skyline from here. I definitely wanted to make sure we grabbed a photo here!

Audio Tour

We followed the railings around and ended up at the base of Lady Liberty. Walking around the statue learning the history of the island. At the end of the tour, we headed across to the gift store and then to the island museum. In the museum, there was the original touch that Lady Liberty held and a model of how the statue was built. There were all sorts of illustrations and models in the museum and lots of interesting facts to read. Did you know that the statue of liberty is made out of copper about as thick as two pennies pressed together!

Ellis Island

Once we had finished our tour we headed back towards the boat and boarded for Ellis Island. I loved learning all about the history of immigration and what went on here. The island was really interesting and we learnt so much about the history of what happened here. Once we had finished on the island we waited for the boat back to New York. The line time was lengthy and we were stuck out in the sun for quite a while. I really was desperate for a drink at this point. Once we finally managed to get back on the boat we grabbed a drink as we had been out in the sun for so long and took our seats watching the city grow as we become closer to the shore.

TOP TIP: Remember to take some pack some drinks as you maybe out in the sun for a long and not always with access to buy one

TRUMP TOWER 

When we were walking around 5th Avenue we saw numbers churches, they look so out of place compared the modern architecture of the square skyscrapers. All of the top designer shops were down this street and we saw so many people dressed in high fashion walking around with huge Gucci and Chanel bags.

 5 days in new york. Top things to do. Trump Tower
The lobby in trump tower

Inside The Building

We had a look in the windows of all the shops before stumbling across trump tower. There were people dressed up as Donald Trump as they protested outside of the building. I had decided to take a look around, Once we had passed the armed guards and gone through security we were free to walk around. Everything was gold. We took the gold escalators up to the first floor and took a seat at a marble table in Starbucks. I enjoyed a chocolate lollipops while drinking a Coffee.  Another great free place to check out while you are wandering around which we didn’t plan on visiting in our 5 days in New York.

 5 days in new york. Top things to do. Starbucks Trump Tower
Our view from Starbucks

VISITING THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE

So we jumped on the subway and headed to lower Manhattan. As we were walking around past city hall the bridge started to come into view. we made our way towards to bridge bounds of people were rushing around and people selling bottles of water but the edge of the bridge. We started to walk up the bridge and the heat was scorching. we walked to the centre of the bridge looking at the traffic below our feet.

Once we reached the centre we stood and took in the view. The heat was so intense we struggle to stay outside. We made our way back down the bridge on a stroll back towards the city to grab some food.

 Brooklyn Bridge
Walking to the centre of the bridge

AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY

Night at the museum? Who hasn’t heard of the natural history museum? I decided we should arrive very early in the morning as we hadn’t pre-booked tickets. There were queues of school waiting to go into the museum so we had to wait for a little while. Once we were inside we picked up a map and paid for our tickets, (tickets are only a suggested amount so you can actually choose how much you pay to enter- we paid the suggested amount of $19) we made our way the first point on the map. I wanted to see the mammals first as this is my favourite part of any museum.

Mammals!

We walked into a room which was all about mammals when we looked infant of us there was the biggest sculpture of a whale hanging from the ceiling. I couldn’t believe my eyes at the size of this room. Once we had looked at all of the mammals we walked through some tunnels and made our way to then “native people of New York” section of the museum. 

I admit we did get lost a few times walking around the museum as all of the corridors and staircases looked the same. We spend the morning walking around taking in all the different sections that we were walking through before we finished up in the dinosaur section. This was so iconic as this entrance hall had been used in so many cool films over the years. It took us a few hours to get around the whole museum but there were so many things to do and see you could spend a whole day here. I enjoyed our time at the museum it was definitely worth $19!

 5 days in new york. Top things to do. American museum of natural history
Outside the museum

BROADWAY

Okay so I have always wanted to watch a broadway show and this was something we hadn’t actually planned into our 5 days in New York but boy am I glad we did!

As we were walking down 7th avenue to get to the top of the rock, we started to see crowed appearing. We turned around as saw that we were outside the Minskoff theatre where they were showing the Lion king. We took our chances and went inside to see if they had any showing available for later that day…The man behind the counter said they had tickets for a showing in the next 10 minutes if we wanted them. So we grabbed our tickets and made our way up to the theatre. We bought a souvenir cup and headed to our seats. We were in the lower section and had a fantastic view.

Buying Our Tickets

The show was truly incredible and I am so glad that we stumbled upon the theatre. This is something worth doing when you are in New York. However, I wished we had planned this ahead of time so that we could have tried to get a better deal on the tickets/ plan. The cost of the tickets as they were nearly $200 pp. We took our cups and programs and headed out for the rest of the evening humming the songs as we went. 

The lion king ticks on broadway
Sitting down ready for the show

TOP OF THE ROCK

We headed towards the Rockefeller centre and looked for the top of the rock observatory. We couldn’t find it initially as we went into the wrong building. Once we found the right building we headed up the ticket booth and we purchased a guide that pointed out all of the prominent buildings in the city. We walked through the first part of the building and we stopped at a photo booth. The photographers told us to sit on a bench then they added in backgrounds behind us.

69th Floor

Once we were in the elevator we looked at the roof and it started to play a video of the building through time. We saw the iconic “Lunch at the top of a skyscraper” photo come to life through the video. Once we then arrived on the 69th floor. We walked around inside and checked out the views. It was pitch black outside so the whole city was lit up. It was so beautiful. We then went through the glass doors out onto the balconies that surrounded the building. Now, this was the best view of the city!! It was nice and quiet as it was late in the evening so we pretty much had the place to ourselves. We walked around all sides of the buildings trying to spot the buildings on the guide we had purchased.

Up Another Level!

Once we had done this we headed to the 70th floor. This went around the whole outside of the building with just a glass panel as a wall around it. This gave us the best view. we spent quite a while up here just taking in the views and getting some awesome shots. This floor was busier than the last. We still were able to get great views the whole way round. Once we had finished our tour, we headed back inside and went to view our photos. They were so awesome! they had photoshopped us onto the beams in the skyscraper images I spoke about earlier and made it look like we were sitting above the city! We had to buy these. 

Top things to do. View from top of the rock observatory
My favourite view in our 5 days in new York

TOP TIP: Remember to take some extra dollars to be able to buy the photos here as they really are great keepsakes! they also give you a digital file so you can send it straight to your friends and family. We only planned enough money for 5 days in New York so some extra dollars would have been great!

LAST NIGHT IN THE CITY

This was a great way to end our 5 days in New York City. Once we left the observatory we headed back towards the subway. We crossed the road to find a Dunkin’ Donuts we got a slushie. We took a seat next to a water fountain opposite the Rockefeller plaza where the Jimmy Fallon show is aired and just enjoyed the city for our last night. 

  Jimmy Fallon show next to dunkin donuts
sitting drinking our slush and enjoying our last night

We managed to fit a lot into our short time in the city and loved everything that we did. I hope that this 5 days in New York guide has given you some insight into awesome things you can do when in New York City. If we missed any cool trips please let me know in the comments below so we can add them to our list for next time! 

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Written by

Iemexploring

Hi there my name is Emma and I love to travel. I hope that some of my stories will help inspire you with your own journeys and our tips and guides will give you ideas of fun things to do when you are traveling around!