During our travels, (trust us, we’ve been to a lot of cities) we’ve never seen a city like New York. There is something about it that makes it just so full of life and energy. Before heading back to Asia to build our app, we decided to do a cheeky side trip to New York, after all, it’s where dreams are made of (please tell me that everyone got that line!).
Unlike our other city break guides, we decided to spend 72 hours in New York. Although we didn’t have a lot of time, we managed to see and do everything that we wanted to do and more.
New York in 72 Hours: My Itinerary
Planning what to see and do while you’re in New York is a must are things are a little bit wide spread. However, with that being said, their subway metro system is so efficient that everything is less than 30 minutes to an hour away.
We wanted to combine sightseeing the must see places with our other interests-Broadway shows and food! We clumped up our day and what we wanted to see, based on the areas which made it easier to navigate around. See the full itinerary below.
Click Image to see the full breakdown of my New York City Break Itinerary
Things to See on your City Break in New York
Admittedly, Tom and I are not city people-naturally, New York is a big exception. One of our favorite attractions in this city is Central Park, an urban getaway in the middle of upper Manhattan. In fact, this place is recorded to be one of the most visited urban park in the US.
It’s vast size, amount of things to do, and overall ambiance made it a refreshing site to see in the middle of the busy hustle and bustle that New York City gives off. You can wander over to Strawberry Fields to listen to musicians play music from The Beatles, jog and walk along their many paths and roads, or even row a boat through the middle of the lake.
Cost to walk around Central Park: Free
911 Museum/ Memorial
When exploring the lower part of Manhattan, drop by the 911 memorial museum to commemorate the tragic event that shook New York on September 11. Here, you will find two beautiful water features that was installed in place of the two towers. Written around this water feature are the names of the victims of this tragic event.
The museum itself displays artefacts and other accounts from victims and family members. Since we visited this on our last day, we opted out from going inside the museum as we didn’t want to end our trip on a sad note. Instead, we wandered around the area and gawked at the towering freedom tower.
Cost of 911 Museum:
Youth (7-17) $15
Free: Tuesdays 5pm Onwards
Statue of Liberty
A visit to New York won’t be complete without visiting lady liberty. If you are looking to save money, instead of paying for the many boat tours offered within the area, hop on the Staten Island Ferry for a FREE viewing of the Statue of Liberty.
The ferry runs every 30 minutes and as soon as you reach Staten Island, you can catch the ferry heading back right away. The ferry gives you a great view of the Statue of Liberty and although it’s not as close as the tour boat gets, it still offers a great view.
Crossing the iconic Brooklyn Bridge is a great activity to do while you’re in the financial district area. Completed in 1883, this bridge connects the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn by spanning the East River.
Crossing it gives you the perfect opportunity to look back to see the Manhattan skyline, as well as the up and coming hip area of Brooklyn. We walked over it but renting bikes and biking across it is also a great and fun way to see it.
Top of the Rock
In order to get the best view of New York City, many people flock to either the Empire State Building or The Rockefeller Center’s Top of the Rock. Based on the opinion of the local New Yorkers that we asked, the view from Top of the Rock is much better as from there, you can also see the Empire State Building. We wary though that the line often takes long so if you do want to visit either viewpoint, it is best to book tickets in advance.
Insider Tip: If you don’t want to pay the steep $32 fee for the Top of the Rock observation deck, you can always visit the Rainbow Room Bar on the 65th floor. Buy a few cocktails and enjoy the equally stunning view of the New York City skyline. This is what we did!
Top of the Rock Observation Cost:
Adult …………………………………………. $32
Child (6–12) ……………………………….. $26
Senior (62+) ……………………………….. $30
Children under 6 admitted free
Bike the Big Apple Bike Tour
Since New York is pretty wide spread, biking through the city is a great way to see it. We did a bike tour with the guys over at the Big Apple where we got to see a completely different side of New York. Mike our guide was absolutely amazing. His story telling, knowledge of the city, as well as interesting facts made our day super fun.
Bike the Big Apple offers tours all over the city which vary on different days. From tours through central park and Manhattan all the way to tours exploring The Bronx which was what we did. We cannot recommend this experience enough as even though we were exhausted by the end of the day, biking is definitely a great way to see the city. As we were only there for a limited period of time, The Bronx tour was the one that fit our schedule.
Although we would have liked to explore more of Manhattan, the tour was still very interesting, showing us a different side of The Bronx. I was initially apprehensive about biking in such a busy city but the guides knew what they were doing and made sure that we were safe and secure. Each day has a different tour going on, giving you lots of options to choose from! They do tours around Brooklyn, a fun Friday night tour and many more.
The company itself has been running guided biking tours for almost 15 years and is highly safe and well recommended. The trips vary in length (the one we did took the whole day) but the crew does take you to different local spots for lunch, which is awesome. Do check them out as our biking experience was one of the highlights of our trip, as we saw New York from a local’s perspective. If you are interested in finding out information on the other tours, you can check out their website below.
Cost: $99. Check website for up to date prices.
Naturally, time square has to make it to this list. The bright lights, the overwhelming but impressive amount of advertising and people, there is something about this place that makes it so iconic. When you get there, try standing completely still and just look around you. I guarantee that you won’t see another place so alive and vibrant.
Insider Tip: The beautiful thing about New York is if the weather is acting up, there are hundreds of museums to seek solace in. For budget backpackers like us, museum free days are God’s gift! Here are a few interesting museums in New York and the days you can enter for free. Take note of them…oh and yeah, you’re welcome!
Related: If you’re looking for more ideas in what to do, check out this article on things to do in Manhattan.
Free Museum Days in New York City
- 9/11 Memorial & Museum (5pm to close)
- The Brooklyn Botanic Garden
- New York Botanical Garden (free grounds access; does not include entry to the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, special exhibitions like the Orchid Show and Holiday Train Show, Everett Children’s Adventure Garden, Rock and Native Plant Gardens or Tram Tour)
- Museum of Arts and Design (pay what you will, 6 to 9pm)
- Museum of Modern Art (4 to 8pm)
- Museum of the Moving Image (4 to 8pm)
- New York Aquarium (pay what you will, 3pm to close; 4pm to close in summer)
- New York Hall of Science (2 to 5pm)
- The Brooklyn Botanic Garden (10am to noon)
- New York Botanical Garden (free grounds pass, 9 to 10am)
- Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (pay what you will, 5:45 to 7:45pm)
- New York Hall of Science (10 to 11am)
- Queens Botanical Garden (April through October, 4 to 6pm)
For a complete and updated list of the schedule of free admission to New York museums, you can check it here.
Other Activities/Things to do in New York
Ahoy NY Tours & Tasting– $51 for a three hour food fest combining history, culture, and food. Now anyone who knows us knows that we take food very seriously! This company offers six different food spots around China Town and Little Italy. We recently sent two guest writers there and this was their experience:
“The Ahoy Food Tour brought us deep into the alleys of Little Italy and Chinatown, to discover the dishes that have brought comfort to generations of migrants and New Yorkers. From melt-in-your-mouth mozzarella to meat-filled mantous, our guide ensured that our mouths were busy moving throughout the 3-hour tour and that we understood the origins of these dishes and how they made their way across thousands of miles to New York.
Our other senses were equally engaged by his tales of gang wars, paper sons, and the sleazy glamour of these ethnic enclaves in yesteryears. We left the tour not only with full stomachs, but a much deeper knowledge of how each of the dishes we tried have played a significant role in the narratives of Little Italy and Chinatown. Definitely a must try experience for all food enthusiasts out there!”
If you’re looking for spots where New Yorkers eat, this is a top activity for your trip!
Night and Day Tour: Liberty Helicopters- $169 Experience New York like a boss and hop on a helicopter tour during the day and a water taxi trip to the statue of liberty complete with a glass of champagne.
Watch a Broadway Show– $80-150 through Last minute TKTS. Line up in their location in Times Square and avail of Broadway show tickets for 50-70% cheaper. They sell tickets to both Matinee and Evening shows. When we went, we saw the show Something Rotten which was extremely funny and entertaining! Broadway shows are a MUST when in New York. Apart from that, there are heaps of other ways where you can save money on Broadway tickets.
Where to Stay in New York
The Local NY
Being that New York is a city that literally millions of people visit, naturally, the price of accommodation is high. We luckily found The Local NY which is a fun little hostel that looks also like a trendy art gallery. They have a café and coffee shop at the entrance which also conveniently turns into a bar at night.
The hostel itself was stunningly decorated with art pieces all over. Every night of the week, there is something going on from live music to game nights. The staff were extremely friendly and accommodating. Between the trendy look of the place, the great overall feel and vibe, we would not hesitate to stay with the folks over The Local NY.
Other City Break Accommodation Options
This is New York! Finding accommodation on a budget is tough! Check out couch surfing or Air BnB (click and get free $39 voucher).
Editor’s Note: Incase you need more information, check out our full article on where to stay in New York
Where to Eat in New York – Food to Try!
New York is just one of those places that have no shortage of good food. During our time there, we tried a lot of New York staples. It was definitely a case of too much to eat…in too little time!
Shake Shack is one of those places that has slowly become a New York staple. Often noted as the In and Out counterpart in the East Coast, these delicious burgers have incredible flavors. They are greasy, flavorful, and has everything that you would ever want in a burger.
What we recommend: All their burgers and their peanut butter milkshake. Trust us-it’s to die for! There are also a few Shake Shack Burgers that have a special menu which you can order from. Check it out!
Because NY is so ethnically diverse, they also have every type of food available in this vibrant city. One of our stops care of our local friends was a meal at K-town for some Korean BBQ. Their pick? A small local place called Jongro BBQ by 32nd and 5th.
The food we had there was one of the highlights of our trip regardless of the fact that our eating was induced by a few too many bottles of soju. The place was packed with locals, which is always a good sign!
We recommend: Steak tartar served with pears, Soju with flavoring, and a variety of meat to grill.
Motorino for Pizza
Naturally, we couldn’t leave New York without having some pizza. Our stop? Hip and trendy Motorino Pizza, a place that has now expanded to different areas but was originally set up in Brooklyn. Nowadays, they have two branches, one in the East Village and one in Williamsburg. When we got to their store, we were glad to see it so alive and busy!
After all, seeing a crowd in a restaurant is always a good thing. Soon as we arrived we were happily greeted and shown to our table. We listened to the specials of that day and soon made our order, which included a buffalo mozzarella pizza and their infamous brussel sprout pizza. Although my initial order of Brussel sprouts scared Tom, he couldn’t have enough of it after taking that first bite.
They had very interesting flavor combinations and narrowing our choice to two flavors was rather difficult. We went to the East Village branch and although the place was small, it immediately gave off a vibrant vibe. Locals and tourists alike flocked to this place to find solace in pizza that was simple and delicious.
Throughout our whole dinner meal, we would see boxes of pizza being sent out for delivery. It was obvious that we went to the right place as pizzas were coming out of the kitchen so quickly. If you want more tips on where to go, check out this New York Pizza guide.
To top off our meal, we naturally had to have some dessert-something we definitely recommend! The chocolate mousse that we had was melt in your mouth delicious. I also do have to stay that the service that we got was rather awesome. The servers were warm and friendly, happily dishing out their personal recommendations when we asked about the menu.
What we recommend: Brussels sprout pizza, prosciutto di parma pizza. Also, do check out their brunch meals which runs from Saturday- Sunday 11am-4pm
The Halal Guys
A street cart legend serving delicious chicken or lamb over rice served with a side salad and white sauce. First of all, I love the halal guys. Cheap and affordable food that just hits the spot. Ask for extra white sauce and go easy on the spicy chili. It’s REALLY spicy!
The Counter Burger
I ate my first counter burger when I was in California a couple of years back. As usual, Tom was craving for burgers again so to say goodbye to good old American food, we sat down at The Counter, which is a place known for their customizable burgers. You can either overload yours with the weirdest combinations or stick with their tried and tested combinations.
Price Break Down of this City Break Weekend in New York
Surprisingly, there are plenty of free things to do in New York! Plan your trip accordingly and make the most out of free museum days.
- Accommodation – $150 (dorm room for three nights/per person)
- Food & Drink – $120
- Transport for the weekend – $30 (roughly $10 each a day)
- Sightseeing and Entertainment – $200 (Broadway show/bike tour)
- Approximately $500 for 72 hours in this awesome city!
We absolutely loved New York. According to Tom, it is one of those places that actually met his expectations. The bright lights, the fast-paced city life, and the vibrant people that we met along the way! There you have it folks, another city break guide for all you weekend warriors!