From musicals to cuisine to the most popular tourist attractions, experience the best New York City has to offer in a week.
The Big Apple.” “The greatest city in the world.” “The city so nice they named it twice.”
Whatever you call it, New York City is bursting at the seams with life and culture. Even so, it’s not impossible to explore it in a week—if you have a solid plan.
You can find most of the iconic NYC activities in Manhattan, and you can get just about anywhere in Manhattan with a MetroCard and a good pair of walking shoes. Your first stop once you get into town should be at the nearest Metro station, where you can buy a 7-Day Unlimited Pass for $32. You’ll get your money’s worth on day one, and by day two you’ll be a Metro pro.
Broadway on a Budget
Let’s be real: you haven’t experienced NYC until you’ve seen a Broadway show.
And if you think you can’t afford it, think again.
If there’s a popular show that you’re dying to see, check whether that show offers a lottery for tickets. These tickets are often heavily discounted—tickets to Dear Evan Hansen, which often start at $119, cost only $42 through the lottery. Hamilton—a show that’s notoriously hard to get into at all, let alone for a reasonable price—awards lottery winners $10 tickets.
The TKTS booth on Times Square (47th Street and Broadway) is a more reliable option. TKTS sells discounted same-day Broadway tickets for the more established, less trendy productions—you won’t find tickets to Hamilton or Dear Evan Hansen here. The office opens at 10 am for matinees and 3 am for evening shows. Arrive 30 to 60 minutes early for a good spot in line, and be prepared to wait about an hour once the booth opens.
The good news? Once you’ve bought one ticket through TKTS, that ticket is your fast pass to skip the line for the next seven days.
Visit TKTS on your first full day in town, and use it for the rest of the week to see as many discounted Broadway shows as you can afford.
The Halal Guys
The Halal Guys restaurant lives right at the intersection of affordability and deliciousness. The menu is limited but the flavor is not. Find multiple locations south of Central Park, and one on the Upper West Side. If you can get only one item, get the combo platter with lots of their famous white sauce.
Make a trip to Up Thai (1411 2nd Avenue) for dinner after you’ve spent hours wandering around the galleries of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The restaurant is cozy and dimly lit, with hanging lanterns, exposed brick walls, and plenty of greenery adding to the ambience. Whatever else you order, get the fried rice clay pot, and finish off the meal with a mango sticky rice for dessert.
When you’re ready for dessert, head to Serendipity 3 (225 E 60th Street). The frozen hot chocolates have earned their reputation, as has the indulgent Forbidden Broadway Sundae. With celebrity visitors ranging from Bill Clinton to Sarah Palin to the cast of High School Musical, you know it’s going to be good.
Patzeria Perfect Pizza
This small pizzeria is the perfect place for dinner after you’ve been sitting in a Broadway show for three hours, when it’s late and you’re starving. It’s a small and unimpressive storefront, and that’s the point. This pizza is greasy and delicious—the perfectly authentic New York pizza.
Seeing the Sights
The Empire State Building
See the city from the 102nd story. The Empire State Building is open every day of the year from 8 am to 2 am. Visit between 8 am and 11 am to beat the crowds. Adult tickets start at $54 for the top deck, but you can often find cheaper tickets on sites like Groupon. Make sure your ticket includes the 102nd floor to get the full experience.
Grand Central Station
Take 30 minutes to stop at Grand Central Station on your way from point A to point B. Admire the architectural details, such as the constellations painted in gold on the main ceiling, and take advantage of an acoustic phenomenon in the Whispering Gallery, where you can talk to a friend from opposite corners of the room.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
At the Met, you can not only view five thousand years of human art, but also decide how much you pay for the experience. The museum suggests donation amounts ranging from $12 to $25, but you could walk in for free if you wanted. Plan to spend the better part of a full day here—you won’t want to feel rushed.
This massive urban park is more than two miles long and draws 42 million visitors every year. Take a ride on the famous carousel—one of the largest in the United States, and open seven days a week. Skate around one of Central Park’s three ice rinks. Visit Belvedere Castle, a mini castle that was built in 1869 and has since been renovated and turned into a visitor center. View the animals at the Central Park Zoo, or just stroll around and take in the nearly 850 acres of land the park comprises.