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How to Plan a Trip to New York: 5 Days in NYC

While many people decide to take a long weekend in New York, I highly recommend spending five days in New York City to see more sights! Here’s my 5-day NYC itinerary to help you figure out how to plan a trip to New York with five days to spend in the city. If you have more time, you could include some fun day trips from New York City in your 5-day trip to New York.

How to Plan a Trip to New York: 5 Days in NYC

Did You Get Travel Insurance Yet?

The Insurance companies I recommend are Hey Mondo and Safety Wing

Hey Mondo is great if you are looking for a great value flexible policy. They offer single-trip cover, annual multi-trip cover, and long-term travel cover. Safety Wing is great value, with monthly coverage starting at $39. It’s super easy to use, and it just renews each month. I currently use them as they offer me free cover for my son as part of my policy.

Read my full travel insurance post here, where I go into detail about all companies. 

NYC Itinerary 5 Days: Where to Stay

New York City offers various accommodation options to suit different budgets and preferences. If you’re traveling on a budget, I suggest staying at a hostel during your five days in NYC. NYC has several well-maintained hostels that offer affordable dormitory-style or private rooms. HI NYC Hostel, The Local Hostel, and Q4 Hotel are popular among budget-conscious travelers.

Mid-range options include Arlo NoMad, and YOTEL New York. These hotels are reasonably priced and conveniently located near some of New York’s top attractions.

Are you looking to splurge for your five days in NYC? New York City is renowned for its luxurious accommodations, and there are many high-end hotels to choose from. You can’t go wrong with the St. Regis New York or Ritz-Carlton Central Park.

Quick Tip: Book accommodation, tours, and transport ahead of time online to save money and stress. 
Best NYC ToursClick here to check out the top NYC tours
Best NYC Accommodation: Click here to check out the best accommodation in NYC
Best NYC Transport: Click here to book a bus, ferry, or train in NYC

New York Itinerary: 5 Days in NYC

How to Plan a Trip to New York: 5 Days in NYC

Day 1 

To get your bearings, you should walk the streets a little. It’s also a good idea to take some time to figure out the subway system.

Times Square

Midtown is known as “tourist central,” so don’t be shy! Go to Times Square for a quick photo, then go to 5th Avenue and head uptown to Central Park.

Central Park

Get lost in Central Park for a few hours, but bring lunch. You can buy food from the street vendors, but it’s mostly hot dogs and pretzels. I suggest stopping at a local deli and getting a yummy sandwich or picnic spread.

How to Plan a Trip to New York: 5 Days in NYC

Visit The Met

When you reach the end of Central Park, visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art (aka “the Met”), an iconic NYC museum. The Met operates on a ‘pay what you can’ system, perfect for traveling on a budget. If you visit during summer, don’t forget to check out the rooftop bar!

Dinner in Hell’s Kitchen

Go to the Hell’s Kitchen area for dinner to wrap up the first of your five days in New York. This area of NYC is famous for its mouthwatering restaurants, and you can find anything you have a taste for. From Italian at Esca to curry from Rin Thai Kitchen, Hell’s Kitchen has no shortage of incredible options.

Day 2

How to Plan a Trip to New York: 5 Days in NYC

Begin Using Your City Pass New York 3 Days Ticket

I strongly recommend buying a New York Pass if you want to do a lot of the tourist stuff. The 3-day City Pass gives you access to many top NYC attractions.

Get up early and head to 42nd Street to get in line for The Ride, a 75-minute bus ride through Manhattan and Times Square. If you want evening tickets, you must arrive at 8:00 a.m. The office opens at 9:00 a.m., but lines form early, so prepare for a wait. There is a McDonald’s where the queue forms, so if you go in a group, one person can grab breakfast while the others wait in line!

Madame Tussauds

Once you have tickets for The Ride, go next door to Madam Tussauds, a wax museum full of celebrity replicas. This is a fun place to take some pictures!

Madison Square Garden

From there, walk down 7th Ave and take a right on 33rd to arrive at the world-famous Madison Square Garden. Go straight in and book a tour, which is usually $30 per person—you’ll receive a time slot for your tour. We had 40 minutes to kill before our tour, so we grabbed food while waiting. The Madison Square Garden tour takes around 90 minutes.

Empire State Building

How to Plan a Trip to New York: 5 Days in NYC

Next stop: Empire State Building. You can walk there easily from Madison Square Garden. We lucked out on our visit—it had been raining all day with poor visibility, but as we headed there, the weather suddenly cleared! This also meant the queue was pretty much nonexistent.

Discovery Time Square

Our last stop of day two in NYC was Discovery Time Square, which has rotating exhibitions. We went to see a display about human bodies, and while it was interesting, I wouldn’t recommend eating directly beforehand.

Day 3 

How to Plan a Trip to New York: 5 Days in NYC

Booking Tickets

We spent the WHOLE morning of day three booking and picking up tickets! This wasn’t the most fun morning, but we got a lot done, which made the rest of our trip much more relaxed.

After queuing up for The Ride (because I didn’t manage to get tickets the day before), we went to Battery Park to pick up our Statue of Liberty tickets for another day.

We then went back uptown to Rockefeller Center to book evening tickets for Top of The Rock—it was around lunchtime, so we finished by grabbing Big Bus tour tickets. 

Lunch and The Ride

After lunch, we took our bus sightseeing trip on The Ride, which was equally fun and cheesy. If it’s your first time visiting NYC, I recommend checking it out. You’ll get an excellent overview of the city’s top sights and iconic attractions.

9/11 Memorial

Following The Ride, we hopped on the subway back downtown to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. You will need two to three hours here, and be warned, it’s very emotional. I think the experience of visiting is essential to understand New York City and its history better.

Top of the Rock

End day three with Top of the Rock and enjoy the gorgeous city skyline views at night. You can do Top of the Rock on any day of your NYC itinerary—it’s great anytime and a classic New York activity.

Day 4

How to Plan a Trip to New York: 5 Days in NYC

Grab Broadway Tickets from TKTS Times Square

Begin day four of your 5-day trip to New York by queuing up at the TKTS stand in Times Square to score discounted tickets for a Broadway show. Seeing a musical on Broadway is a MUST when visiting NYC, but tickets often come with a hefty price tag. TKTS offers same-day discounts on tickets, so if you’re lucky, you can get a great deal on tickets for an evening show!

Ride the Uptown and Downtown Loop of the Big Bus

One of the best ways to see the sights during your 5-day trip to New York is by riding the uptown and downtown loop of the Big Bus. Big Bus Tours takes tourists by some of the city’s most popular and iconic attractions. The entire loop takes around four and a half hours, and it’s nice to sit and get off your feet for a while.

Broadway Show in the Evening

If you score tickets in the morning from TKTS, wrap up day four by catching a show on Broadway. Broadway is a famous area of New York home to over 40 professional theaters. Whether you see a long-running classic or check out a new show, you’ll have a fantastic time spending a night on Broadway.

Day 5

To wrap up this 5-day NYC itinerary, I recommend visiting Ellis Island to see the Statue of Liberty. The only way to reach Ellis Island is by ferry, so purchase tickets in advance and arrive at the ferry port early in the morning. Touring the island and seeing the Statue of Liberty up close is an unforgettable experience.

New York City

New York Itinerary: 5 Days in New York FAQs

How to Plan a Trip to New York: 5 Days in NYC

Is It Worth Getting a City Pass New York 3 Days Ticket for Five Days in NYC?

I recommend picking up a ticket for City Pass New York 3 Days if you want to see and do a lot during your five days in New York. I saved a lot of money with the City Pass and got access to some attractions that would have been otherwise sold out. Check out the New York Pass before your trip!

What Are the Must-See Attractions for a 5-Day NYC Itinerary?

Key attractions include Times Square, Central Park, the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, Brooklyn Bridge, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and One World Observatory.

What Are the Best Ways to Get Around NYC During My Visit?

The NYC Subway is convenient and cost-effective. Consider purchasing a MetroCard for unlimited rides. Walking and using rideshare services like Uber or Lyft are also practical options.

NYC Travel Guide Planning

🚗 Where can I book bus or private transportation while I’m in NYC?

I strongly recommend using Bookaway. You can book almost all transport in the major tourist destinations through them online. They don’t just cover buses they also cover shuttles, ferries, and private drivers.

🎫 Where can I buy tickets for museums, attractions, and tours in NYC?

I recommend either Viator or GetYour Guide. They have a lot of options!

👩‍⚕️ What is the best insurance to have while traveling?

I recommend using Heymondo for a great value policy. The app also offers you 24/7 Dr Chat. For Digital Nomads check out SafetyWing digital nomad insurance.

I have also written a blog post covering all my recommended travel insurance here

✈️ Any flight recommendations?

WayAWay offers you cheap flights with cashback. You can use this code CLAIRE22 to get 10% off. Otherwise Skyscanner or Expedia are my go-to flight searching platforms.

📱What do you use for internet connection while traveling?

I’m a big fan of personal WiFi devices and they have saved my ass so many times when traveling. I wrote a full review of the top travel WiFi devices you can read here. I personally use GlocalMe as I can either pop in a physical sim card or use their local carrier.

With regards to my phone connection, I use e-sims while traveling, so rather than having to swap out my regular sim card I can download the app and buy a virtual sim card. I recommend using eitherAirhub or Alosim. Both have great coverage of multiple countries and are very easy to use.

🛏️ What is the best platform to use for booking accommodation?

The 3 best platforms that I normally use are Booking.comHotels.com, and Expedia They offer great deals and multiple options. I always check all three to be sure of the best deals.

🛅 Do you have any luggage recommendations for traveling?

I do have a complete list of the best packing and luggage products that I recommend, you can check the list here. I’m currently traveling with this suitcase and this backpack. 

How to Plan a Trip to New York: Final Thoughts

Five days is the perfect amount of time to spend in New York City to see the top sights and attractions. There are so many ways to spend five days in New York that it’s challenging to decide what to see and do. This 5-day NYC itinerary is the only resource you need to plan an unforgettable trip to the city that never sleeps.

How to spend 5 days in New York City

Traveling to NYC? Take a read of my other guides:

10 British-Inspired Places to Visit in New York City

The 11 Most Instagrammable Places to Eat in New York City

How to Spend a Weekend in New York City

5 Ways to Win at Christmas Shopping in New York City

Visit Dr. Rudolf Morgan for Some Dental Work in NYC

This post was proofread by Grammarly.

Alice

Monday 26th of June 2017

You had an amazing 5 days! Looking forward to do the same :)

Claire Summers

Monday 3rd of July 2017

Thanks, Alice :-) Hope you have a great time!

Manjulika Pramod

Friday 23rd of June 2017

Recently, I had a media accreditation for the IIFA that is happening in New York next month. I would have loved to do all the above but sadly I am not coming for it. I have heard so much about NYC and I really want to come some day.

Claire Summers

Monday 3rd of July 2017

It's an incredible city! I hope you have a great time and get to do a little bit of site seeing while you are there :-)

Abhinav Singh

Friday 23rd of June 2017

This is such a great guide for those who are short on time and know nothing about New York. I am inspired to visit. I think I will use the New York pass. The cost you mentioned makes it all the more appealing.

Claire Summers

Monday 3rd of July 2017

If you want to hit all of the expensive 'tourist' attractions and aren't afraid of packing your days then the New York pass is the way to go!

FS Page

Thursday 22nd of June 2017

I have to say, you seem to have made the best use of your 5 days in new york. And ended up creating a great itinerary for people to be inspired from. Getting lost in the central park is definitely something i look forward to some day.

Claire Summers

Monday 3rd of July 2017

I could easily spend 5 days just in the park!

Lee @ BaldThoughts

Wednesday 21st of June 2017

I love NYC. It's such a fun place to explore on foot and the City Pass is definitely the way to go. You get access to so many various exhibits and can save a ton of money. Glad you had a great time.