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Things To Do In NYC Weekend: Must-Do Activities & Tips In 2023

Things To Do In NYC Weekend: Must-Do Activities & Tips In 2023

Discover the best of NYC in a weekend! From Central Park to Broadway shows, explore iconic attractions with expert tips for a memorable trip.


If you’re planning a whirlwind weekend in the city that never sleeps, you’ve come to the right place. New York City, or the Big Apple, as it’s affectionately known, is a vibrant metropolis with an endless array of activities and experiences to offer.

I’ve spent years exploring the nooks and crannies of this iconic city, and I’m excited to share my insider tips on how to make the most of your NYC weekend getaway.

Day 1: Exploring Manhattan

Morning: Rise and Shine in Central Park

Central Park is often called the lungs of New York City and for good reason. It’s a sprawling 843-acre oasis of greenery, walking paths, and recreational facilities right in the heart of Manhattan. Whether you’re an early bird or prefer a leisurely morning, Central Park caters to all.

Start your day with a relaxing stroll around the Central Park Reservoir, a serene body of water surrounded by a 1.58-mile jogging track. This spot is a favourite among joggers and offers fantastic views of the city skyline, especially during sunrise. If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can rent a rowboat at the Loeb Boathouse and paddle across the park’s largest lake.

Insider Tip: On weekends, you can often catch live performances by talented street musicians near Bethesda Terrace. It adds a delightful soundtrack to your morning.

Mid-Morning: Art and Culture at The Met

Just a stone’s throw from Central Park’s eastern edge, you’ll find the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met). This cultural institution is one of the largest and most prestigious art museums in the world. It boasts a vast collection spanning 5,000 years of art from nearly every corner of the globe.

With over two million works of art, including masterpieces by artists like Rembrandt, Monet, and Picasso, you could spend an entire day here and still not see it all. The Met operates on a “Pay What You Wish” policy, which means you can contribute what you can afford as your entrance fee. This is especially great for budget-conscious travellers.

Lunch: A Taste of NYC Street Food

As you exit The Met, you’re likely to find a few food carts parked nearby. Don’t pass up the opportunity to sample classic NYC street food. Try a hot dog with sauerkraut and mustard or a falafel sandwich, both iconic choices.

Grab your meal and enjoy it in one of the park’s picturesque spots. A favourite among locals is the Great Lawn, a vast green expanse perfect for a picnic-style lunch.

Afternoon: Empire State of Mind

No visit to New York City would be complete without taking in its iconic skyline. The Empire State Building, standing at 1,454 feet (443.2 metres), has held its place as one of the world’s most recognisable skyscrapers since it was completed in 1931.

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To avoid long lines and ensure you get the best experience, it’s a good idea to visit the Empire State Building in the late afternoon. This way, you can witness the city during both daylight hours and as it transforms into a glittering sea of lights after sunset.

The Empire State Building’s observation deck on the 86th floor offers breathtaking panoramic views of Manhattan and beyond. On a clear day, you can see up to 80 miles (128 kilometres) away. The building also houses an interesting museum dedicated to its history and construction.

Insider Tip: If you’re keen on experiencing the view without the crowds, consider purchasing the express pass, especially during peak hours.

Evening: Broadway Extravaganza

New York City is renowned as the world’s theatre capital, and no visit would be complete without catching a Broadway show. With a diverse range of productions, from classic musicals like “The Phantom of the Opera” to cutting-edge dramas like “The Book of Mormon,” there’s something for everyone.

It’s highly recommended to book your Broadway tickets in advance. Popular shows tend to sell out quickly, so planning ahead is essential. You can buy tickets directly from the theatre’s box office, but online booking is often more convenient.

For an authentic NYC experience, immerse yourself in the dazzling lights and energy of Times Square before or after the show. It’s a sensory overload that’s a must-see at least once in your lifetime.

Day 2: Exploring the Boroughs

Morning: Brooklyn Bound

Begin your second day with an exhilarating walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. This iconic suspension bridge, completed in 1883, not only connects Manhattan and Brooklyn but also provides stunning views of the cityscape, including the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline.

The best time to traverse the bridge is in the early morning when the sunlight is soft, and there are fewer tourists. You’ll likely encounter joggers, cyclists, and photographers, all captivated by the bridge’s grandeur.

Once you reach the Brooklyn side, explore DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass), a trendy neighbourhood filled with art galleries, boutiques, and inviting cafes. It’s an ideal spot to grab a coffee and a pastry while admiring the Manhattan Bridge from beneath.

Insider Tip: For an Instagram-worthy shot, head to Washington Street in DUMBO. Here, you’ll capture the iconic image of the Manhattan Bridge perfectly framed between two red-bricked buildings.

Mid-Morning: Brunch in Williamsburg

From DUMBO, take the subway to Williamsburg, another vibrant Brooklyn neighbourhood. Known for its hipster culture, Williamsburg is a haven for foodies.

Brunch here is a celebrated ritual, and you’ll find an array of options to satisfy your morning cravings. Try “Egg,” a charming restaurant known for its delectable avocado toast and fluffy pancakes. Alternatively, head to one of the local diners for a classic New York bagel with cream cheese and lox.

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Afternoon: Art and Adventure in Queens

A short subway ride away, you’ll discover the borough of Queens. Here, you can explore both art and adventure.

Begin your Queens adventure at MoMA PS1, an innovative contemporary art museum housed in a converted public school building. The museum showcases cutting-edge art in a unique space. Its rotating exhibitions often push the boundaries of traditional art, making it an intriguing visit for art enthusiasts.

Adjacent to MoMA PS1 is the vibrant Gantry Plaza State Park. This waterfront park offers stunning views of the Manhattan skyline and is an ideal spot for leisurely strolls or picnics. It’s also known for its iconic gantries, remnants of Long Island City’s industrial past.

Insider Tip: Queens is a melting pot of cultures, and its culinary scene reflects this diversity. Don’t miss the opportunity to savour cuisine from around the world at local eateries.

Evening: Harlem and Jazz

As the sun sets, head uptown to Harlem, a neighbourhood steeped in African American culture and history. Harlem has evolved into a vibrant, welcoming community with a lively arts scene.

Start your evening at the legendary Apollo Theatre. This historic venue has hosted some of the greatest musicians and performers in history, from Ella Fitzgerald to James Brown. Check the schedule for live events or the famous Amateur Night at the Apollo, a must-see for fans of music and entertainment.

Afterwards, indulge in some authentic soul food at a local restaurant. Harlem is known for its delicious comfort food, with options ranging from fried chicken and collard greens to macaroni and cheese. Sylvia’s Restaurant, a Harlem institution, is a popular choice.

Day 3: A Blend of Culture and History

Morning: Reflect at the 9/11 Memorial

Start your last day in New York City on a reflective note by visiting the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. This powerful and emotionally charged attraction commemorates the tragic events of September 11, 2001.

The centrepiece of the memorial is the twin reflecting pools, each built within the footprints of the original Twin Towers. These pools are surrounded by the names of the nearly 3,000 victims. Visiting the memorial is a solemn experience that provides an opportunity for reflection and remembrance.

It’s advisable to book your tickets in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons, as this is a popular destination.

Mid-Morning: Stroll Through Lower Manhattan

After your visit to the 9/11 Memorial, take a leisurely walk through Lower Manhattan. This area is rich in history and offers a glimpse into the city’s architectural heritage.

Make a stop at Charging Bull, a bronze sculpture that has become a symbol of financial optimism and prosperity. Nearby, you’ll find Trinity Church, a historic Episcopal church founded in 1697. The church’s gothic architecture and serene churchyard make it a peaceful place to visit.

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Lunch: Chinatown Eats

A short walk from Lower Manhattan, you’ll find the bustling streets of Chinatown. This neighbourhood is a treasure trove of culinary delights. From dim sum to hand-pulled noodles, Chinatown offers an array of dining options to suit all tastes and budgets.

To truly experience the flavours of Chinatown, consider dining at one of the local, family-run restaurants. These hidden gems often serve up authentic dishes you won’t find anywhere else.

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Afternoon: Explore Little Italy and SoHo

After your satisfying lunch in Chinatown, explore the neighbouring districts of Little Italy and SoHo. These areas are known for their charm and character.

Little Italy, though smaller than it once was, still retains its Italian-American heritage. You’ll find quaint cafes, bakeries, and restaurants serving up classic Italian dishes. Don’t forget to try a cannoli or gelato for a sweet treat.

From Little Italy, wander into SoHo (South of Houston Street). This district is renowned for its art galleries, high-end boutiques, and distinctive cast-iron architecture. It’s also a haven for street art enthusiasts, with vibrant murals adorning many walls.

Evening: Sunset at the Statue of Liberty

Wrap up your weekend in New York City with a visit to two iconic symbols of American history: the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

To reach the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, take a ferry from Battery Park. These islands offer insight into the immigrant experience and America’s commitment to freedom and democracy. You can explore the museums on both islands to learn about their rich history.

For the best experience, book tickets to the pedestal or crown of the Statue of Liberty in advance. The pedestal offers a close-up look at the statue’s design and structure, while the crown provides a breathtaking view from the top.

As the day draws to a close, watch the sun set over the harbor, casting a warm glow on Lady Liberty herself. It’s a fitting end to your weekend in this incredible city.

Final Thoughts

New York City is a dynamic metropolis that leaves a lasting impression on all who visit. This guide has highlighted just a fraction of what the city has to offer during a weekend getaway. Remember to plan ahead, but also allow room for spontaneity, as NYC often surprises with hidden gems and unexpected adventures.

With its world-class museums, iconic landmarks, diverse neighborhoods, and delectable food scene, your weekend in the Big Apple is bound to be an unforgettable journey through culture, history, and excitement. So go ahead, embark on your NYC adventure, and immerse yourself in the vibrant tapestry of this incredible city. Have a fantastic time exploring the Big Apple, and make your weekend a memorable one!

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