Sunday, 18 March 2018

My First Trip To New York 10 Day Itinerary & How To Create Your Own

new york itinerary 10 days

I don't know about you but New York has always been at the very top of my list of places to one day travel to. And last Summer I finally made my dreams a reality by embarking on my first piece of solo travel to visit New York for 10 days.

As someone who loves a to-do list and just lists in general, I spent many weeks contemplating and coming up with an itinerary, one that would hopefully allow me to check off as many of the things I wanted to see and do whilst I was there and today I'm here to share that exact itinerary, as well as the tips and tricks that I learnt when I was actually there.

So here are my tips for how to create your own New York travel itinerary, whether you're there for a few days, a week or even longer, along with the actual itinerary I used during my own trip. Be sure to bookmark this if you're planning a trip to NYC in the future or are looking for places to visit on your next holiday there.

Group places that are relatively nearby together

You might not think it but Manhattan is a lot larger than you'd think and you can spend quite a bit of time on trains or buses or in the back of taxicabs or Ubers without even realising it. For example, to go from Times Square (where most of us will probably stay on our first visit) to the 9/11 memorial takes about half an hour on the Subway. If you were then to go up to Central Park then back down to Brooklyn then Midtown, you'd be wasting a lot of time and energy to do so, which is why you should really break the day down into separate neighbourhoods or areas and do everything you want to do there before moving onto the next.

I'll show you how I grouped places that were relatively nearby together in an effective way in my itinerary below.

Make good use of the Subway (and buy an unlimited weekly pass)

Unless you're made of money or traipsing around the city in high heels à la Carrie Bradshaw, it's just not cost-effective or practical to get around the city by car, most of the time. Not only will you quickly rack up quite the bill (money you would be much better spending on experiencing the city) but you'll often spend a lot of time in traffic (take it from someone who spent almost 3 hours getting from Midtown to Newark airport because of the traffic, almost missing her flight home). The easiest, quickest and cheapest way to get around has go to be by Subway. 

Don't let the different trains or stations worry you as I've done a full blog post on how to navigate the New York Subway system and how to make it work for you, so be sure to check that out for more info and advice.

Prioritise what you really want to see/do

Whether you're there for a weekend, a week or even a fortnight, there's no way you'll be able to see and do everything that New York has to offer. A way to instantly stop yourself from stressing out or worrying about not doing everything on your do list, is to really prioritise a handful of must-sees/dos. Chances are you won't be able to visit every musuem or tourist attraction that you've been recommended or wanted to see. Pick the ones that mean the most to you or your party. That way whatever you do and see above and beyond that are really a bonus, plus you've always got the excuse to pay the city another visit to check more of the places off of your list.

Be prepared to to go off piste or swap days around

Even though I was visiting in the warmest month of Summer, when it was so hot and humid that I was essentially a sweaty mess most days (especially when you go underground to catch the Subway as there was no air con at all on the platforms), it did rain at points, with one whole day (the day I had planned to go to Brooklyn and to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge but I instead chose to go to Woodbury Commons) being a bit of a write-off because of the bad weather, especially when I had no umbrella and was walking around in a Summer dress and sandals.

Also prepare to go off piste when you find a great little coffee shop or cafe to grab something to eat/drink or places you hadn't even thought of checking out or seen on the map. Those are usually the best finds as you've stumbled across them yourself and are the kinds of places that you'll be recommending to people when they next go.

Now let's get onto my personal 10 day itinerary itself, along with a couple of tips and tricks that I picked up along the way. I've left out the time when I would have been taking it easy or heading back to the hotel for a bit of a midday relax/nap and I had an early night most nights to make the most of the mornings when it was undoubtedly quieter and less busy.

My actual first visit itinerary:

new york itinerary 4 days

Day one - the ease yourself in day

Wake up ridiculously early thanks to jetlag - walk around Midtown (I was staying at CitizenM Times Square so had a good wander around Times Square and the surrounding streets then up to Radio City Music Hall and Rockefeller Plaza all before 9am on my first day) - go to the Grayline Visitors Centre to pick up bus tickets if you have some booked (get there for as soon as it opens as it gets crazy busy) - walk up to Central Park taking in the Hearst Tower (aka. my dream workplace), Columbus Circle and about a hundred adorable doggies on the way

Buy a Metrocard (weekly ticket) - get Subway to the Roosevelt Island Tramway (chicken out of actually riding the little cable car across) - do a spot of shopping/browsing at Bloomingdale's, SAKS Off 5th, The Container Store and Victoria's Secret - stop for a frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity 3 or a cupcake from the Sprinkles ATM - have a mooch around and just generally get aclimatised to New York City life - have an early night thanks to jetlag

new york itinerary 3 days

Day two - Downtown day aka. the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street and the 9/11 Memorial 

Take the Subway down to Battery Park - board the boat to Ellis and Liberty Island (or ride the Staten Island Ferry for free) - take about a million photos of the Manhattan skyline - if on Liberty Island, make sure to get a selfie with Lady Liberty herself and do the audio tour as you explore the island - since my name is Ellis, spend a few hours learning about Ellis Island - get the boat back to Manhattan

Have a stroll through Battery Park - try to catch a glimpse of the Charging Bull (there were so many people around it that I struggled to even get a good look) - check out Wall Street and the New York Stock Exchange - marvel at the Occulus buidling and One World Trade (watch that you don't get a sore neck from looking up) - pay your respects at the 9/11 Memorial (as a big 9/11 documentary buff, I spent an hour or so searching for names from those documentaries and just taking everything in)

Finally make a beeline for the Glossier showroom and spend what must have been over an hour trying everything out and getting a little spendy (see my full blog post on my showroom experience)

new york itinerary 5 days

Day three - Flatiron, Madison Square Park and Union Square

Head towards the Flatiron building - wander around the surrounding shops (there's a great LEGO store, Eataly, a Kate Spade New York, TJ Maxx/Marshalls, the Container Store and a brilliant Bath & Body Works all nearby) - have lunch at the original Shake Shack in Madison Square Park (keep an eye out for the parks infamous squirrels) - stop and listen to the brilliant musicians in the park (one guy played songs from both the Moulin Rouge soundtrack and La La Land aka. two of my all-time favourite musicals)

Head down to Union Square to do some serious shopping (you'll find the standalone NYX store, a massive Barnes & Noble, the best stocked Sephora in Manhattan and Dylan's Candy Bar) - if they have a market set up in the Square, be sure to have a browse

Find a rooftop bar (thankfully my hotel had a brilliant one) and call home to show them the views/update them with everything, put your tired feet up and have a cocktail or two whilst the sun sets

new york itinerary 7 days

Day four - Woodbury Commons

If, like me, you love shopping, take the bus to Woodbury Commons and dedicate a full day to shopping - I went solely to shop at the Kate Spade New York outlet but you'll also find All Saints, DVF, D&G, Gucci, J.Crew, Levis, Mulberry, Ralph Lauren, Saint Laurent and many more outlet stores

Get the bus back to the bus terminal - Project Runway fans be sure to make a beeline for Mood Fabrics (you might even get to meet Swatch the dog like I did) - hit up the nearby Duane Reade and Ricky's NYC to bring back lots of beauty bits - head somewhere fancy for dinner (I chose by Chloe. which was crazy busy but well worth the wait)

Woodbury Commons photo courtesy of Premium Outlets as it was far too rainy to get any of my own

new york itinerary 2 days

Day five - The High Line, Chelsea Market and the West Village

Get up early and walk The High Line (dedicate a good chunk of time to take everything in) - it will bring you out at the Chelsea Market - have brunch/lunch there and pick and choose from all the fantastic eateries in there - walk off all that yummy food with a wander around the West Village - TV fans be sure to hunt down Carrie Bradshaw's apartment and the Friends apartment (and of course take some photos)

Head to Washington Square Park via Milk Bar West Village (their cereal milk soft serve ice cream is to die for!) - grab a seat and watch the world go by - make sure to have a peek into the dog park, if, like me, you live for moments like that and all of the doggies running about and having fun inside - check out the Washington Square Park arch

how to plan new york trip

Day six - American Museum Of Natural History and Top Of The Rock

As I said above, pick a museum and spend the day there - head to the museum for it opening and most likely, join the queue - spend the day checking out all the different exhibits and shows - maybe do what I did and go a little crazy in the gift shops (there was so much NASA stuff for my Dad and even a Hello Kitty Musuem line)

Spend the evening at Top Of The Rock (I had planned on going in time for the sunset but got too impatient and took advantage of the significantly smaller line at about 6pm that night) - you can honestly spend hours up here without even realising - take in the views from all the different levels and be sure to have your camera or phone fully charged to take photographs like crazy

new york itinerary 6 days

Day seven - Checking off more tourist attractions (Grand Central Station, 5th Avenue and the Empire State Building)

Head for 5th Avenue to do some window shopping and some actual shopping if you feel so inclined (hello Lord & Taylor, MUJI and US Urban Outfitters) - spend some time in the New York Public Library (the architecture is truly incredible!) and Bryant Park - walk towards Grand Central Station (take in the brilliant view of the Chrysler building as you go) - recreate the opening titles of Gossip Girl by pretending to be Serena van der Woodsen on the steps of Grand Central - head downstairs where you'll find the Whispering Gallery (really, give it a try!), famous Oyster bar and even a full food court - grab a Magnolia Bakery cupcake or some of their amazing banana pudding and rest your feet for a little bit

Walk down towards the Empire State Building - I, personally, wasn't in a rush to go up to the top due to the crazy long wait times and restricted views but if it's on your list, head up and do exactly what I did at Top Of The Rock - you've got to check out the world's largest Macy's at Herald Square (it really is something!) - pop into the nearby Shake Shack to get your fix once more (it really was one of my favourite New York discoveries)

day in brooklyn itinerary

Day eight - Brooklyn Bridge and DUMBO

Get up early and get the Subway to the Brooklyn Bridge City Hall station ready to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan to Brooklyn - take your time and take in the spectacular views (just watch out for the cyclists!) - walk down to DUMBO (aka. Down Under The Manhattan Bridge Overpass) - find a spot to take a photo there (you may have to wait your turn to take a snap) - check out Brooklyn Bridge Park (you don't even feel like you're in New York anymore) and Jane's Carousel - get the subway back into Manhattan to the TKTS South Street Seaport (it's so much quieter than the Times Square TKTS) and get yourself a ticket to a Broadway show that night

Spend some time checking out Chelsea and SoHo/NoHo - head back up to the theater district to see your chosen Broadway show/musical (I saw School Of Rock and it was SO GOOD!) - experience Times Square at night (you genuinely forget that it's even nighttime, it's that bright) - revel in the novelty of shopping at close to/after midnight

what to see in new york

Day nine - 9/11 Museum and revisiting favourite places

One of my must-sees/must-dos was to visit the 9/11 Museum so I travelled down there for it opening that morning - prepare yourself for just how emotional it will be (I had a feeling that I would have almost desensitised myself to it after years of watching documentaries about it but seeing the faces of those lost that day and being where the towers once stood was really tough - it is, however, definitely worth doing and seeing, just incredibly emotional - seriously take tissues!)

Head back to some of your favourite places from your trip (if you have the time to do so) - for me this was Madison Square Park (for lunch, to visit the squirrels and to just watch the world go by) - Union Square (last minute shopping) - the Glossier showroom (to pick up some bits to take home for people)

what to see in new york central park

Day ten - Central Park and packing to go home

Enter Central Park at Strawberry Fields - walk across/take in the beautiful Bow Bridge - walk to the Bethesdea Fountain and Terrace (make sure to take in the Minton Tiles under the terrace) - walk past the Loeb Boathouse (I'd love to hire one of the boats one day) - check out the Hans Christian Andersen and Alice in Wonderland statues - grab a seat on one of the benches at the Conservatory Water pond and take your lunch with you - eat lunch as you watch the model boats and life go on around you

Begudgingly head back to the hotel to pack and to get everything ready for your trip home - look at when to come back next

So there you have it, my actual itinerary which I updated every day as I was travelling and my tips for how to create your own.

Don't forget to check out my Ultimate Guide To NYC for even more tips and tricks and photographs from my trip.

Is New York on your list of places to visit at some point? Have you been before? If so, what was your favourite thing you saw/did? And did you enjoy seeing what I got up to on my first solo trip?


first timers new york itinerary

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