There’s so much to do and eat in NYC, it’s enough to make your head spin and your top button pop! Here’s our suggested itinerary for three days in the Big Apple, focusing from Friday right the way through to Sunday. We’ve traded the Empire State Building for tacos by the beach, and Fifth Avenue for a brewery tour in Brooklyn. We’ve even squeezed in cheapskate tips for big discounts on museum entry. If you’re after a NYC experience with a difference, it’s time to cross over the Brooklyn Bridge.
Day 1 - Friday
All Day Museum Marathon
New York is full of world-class museums and, if you’re savvy enough, you can see inside all the big hitters in one day – and for fewer dollars than you’d think! If you’ve got more time you could easily spend a day in each, but a one-day marathon is possible.
Head straight to the Met (Metropolitan Museum of Art), grab a coffee and bagel from one of the vendors outside the museum and sit on the steps outside for a pseudo-picnic breakfast, soaking up the NYC vibe. The museum opens at 10am and, while the recommended admission price is $25, you can actually pay what you like – be it $20 or $2. Don’t be cheapskate, but it is perfectly acceptable to pay what you will. If you’re quick on your feet you can do a good survey of the Met in around three hours. As you race from 3rd Century art to iconic Andy Warhol pieces, be sure to check out the roof terrace for some fresh air and a gorgeous view of Central Park.
By 1pm, wrap up your whirlwind Met experience and stroll five blocks downtown (10 minutes' walk) to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the Guggenheim is worth a look inside if only to admire its winding spiral layout. You'll be tempted to stay for the excellent art collection, which ranges from impressionism to contemporary. Entry is $US22 for adults and the suggested entry loophole doesn’t apply here. If you’re on a budget and have time to spare, come back on Saturday instead and join the queue for the ‘pay what you wish’ entry from 5.45pm to 7.45pm (last ticket issued 30 minutes before close).
Your mind should be exploding with art by now, so it's time for a glimpse of nature and giant dinosaur bones to bring you back down to earth at the American Museum of Natural History. Arrive by 3pm and you’ll have two-and-a-half hours to ogle at the incredible Mammal Halls, perusing dioramas of African Elephants, giant Alaskan Moose and hundreds of other fascinating creatures. Don’t miss the Hall of North American Forests where you’ll feel dwarfed by slices of colossal tree trunks. Bend your mind as you look at Tyrannosaurus Rex fossils, and brush up on your Earth and Space knowledge at the Hayden Big Bang Theatre. Before you’re ushered out at closing time, admire the stunning foyer where familiar scenes from Night At The Museum were shot. The ‘suggested entry’ price is available at the AMNH although it isn't advertised – pay $1-$22 at your discretion.
By now you’re full of knowledge, but likely starving for food. The good news is a NYC institution, Shake Shack, is right outside the AMNH on Columbus Avenue. Grab a burger, cheesy fries and a legendary Frozen Custard and gear up for the final showdown in the museum marathon: MoMA. Friday nights equal UNIQLO Free Friday Nights, which means free entry to MoMA from 4pm to 8pm. The earlier you rock-up the better, but you should expect to queue; nothing worth having ever comes easy and this is especially true in NYC! Any other day of the week, you can visit MoMA from 10.30am to 5.30pm for $25 – purchase tickets in advance and skip the queue!
Day 2 - Saturday
Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg
All American breakfast at Pies-n-Thighs
Shopping in Williamsburg
Brooklyn Brewery Tour
Bound by Greenpoint to the north and Bedford-Stuyvesant to the south, Williamsburg is many things but foremost it's a hipsters' paradise. Flannel-wearing vinyl lover or not, if you like beers, burgers, green spaces and green juices, you’ll be well catered for in Williamsburg. Manhattanites can hop on the G, J, M, Z and L subway lines, with the latter landing you closest to hipster nirvana on Bedford Avenue.
If there was one thing you can't miss in Brooklyn, it’s breakfast (or lunch or dinner, for that matter) at Pies-n-Thighs. Much like the name suggests, this Brooklyn outpost serves up pie and fried chicken with a kitschy-Southern vibe. You can’t go past the most popular dish: three pieces of fried chicken with a biscuit and a side. Speaking of sides, just try to resist the creamy mac ‘n’ cheese, cheese grits or home-fries.
If you’re not a chicken eater, there are buttermilk pancakes and vegetarian options too. Don't forget to save room for pie! The pastry chef here has worked at New York institutions Magnolia Bakery and Momofuku Milk Bar, and brings her love for sweet things to Pie-n-Things with a range of pies and New York Magazine-approved donuts.
Now it’s time to walk those thighs and work off the pies! Make your way to Brooklyn Flea Market at Fort Greene, where over 150 vendors from April through to November set up for this weekly eclectic bazaar that’s part hipster hangout, part food stall heaven, and mostly full of excellent vintage and artisanal goods. Depending on how many calories you consumed at breakfast, you can walk in 45 minutes or take the subway a few stops.
If you’re just after the food, focus on the Williamsburg ‘Smorgasburg’ set right on the water by the East River Ferry. There are over 100 sought-after food stalls to choose from with everything from lobster rolls to ice cream sandwiches.
‘Billyburg’, as it’s referred to by locals, is a great place to pick up a great vintage find, a one-off jewellery piece, a second hand book, or smashing outfit from a local designer. Bedford Avenue is where you’ll find the unofficial Bedford Mini-Mall between North 4th and 5th streets. With plenty of bars and cafes to stop off along the way for sustenance, you might as well take it easy this afternoon and adjust to the Williamsburg way of life.
You can visit Brooklyn Brewery seven days a week. From Monday to Thursday, reservations are required for small batch brewery tours for up to 30 people each day based on a first-book-first-come basis. On Fridays, the rules are simple: line up from 5pm, doors open at 6pm. While there are no tours on Friday, you can still have your pick off different draught beers and you can order pizza to be delivered for dinner.
On Saturdays, the brewery is open from noon until 8pm and offers several free ‘no-reservation’ tours for the first 40 guests, released around an hour before the tour kicks off. Sunday is basically the same deal, but is only open until 6pm and rumoured to have a more sombre air – expect to hear some Neil Young on the speakers.
It might sound complex, but this great big convivial affair is sure to give you a typical Brooklyn experience and is well worth a little planning in advance.
Day 3 - Sunday
Today is a choose-your-own-adventure beach day. There are a number of sandy enclaves easily accessible from the city – in fact, from some spots you can still see Manhattan’s skyscrapers in the distance as you lap up the waves.
The Rockaways: For hipsters wanting an escape just outside of Brooklyn
Coney Island: Great for families, hotdog lovers and baseball enthusiasts
Sandy Hook: Escape to nature, quiet beaches and quaint village life
Morning though Afternoon
Rockaways: If you’re staying in Brooklyn, start the day with breakfast at Roebling Tea Room. Then it’s just a short stroll to catch the ‘hipster jitney’ (aka the bus) from Metropolitan and Marcy Avenue to The Rockaways in Queens. This old-school bus ride is an experience in and of itself. In less than an hour you’ll find yourself living the American dream, sunning yourself on the beach. For late lunch, don’t miss local Mexican institution Rockaway Taco, followed by a pina colada at Connolly’s Bar. Head back to the city or kick on at Caracas with cocktails and party tunes.
Coney Island: Yes, Coney Island is tack-to-the-max, but it also guarantees a silly day out of the city. All ages will enjoy the gentle waves at the beach, rattling on the vintage Cyclone Rollercoaster at Luna Park, eating hotdogs from Nathan’s, and checking out the hotdog-eating-competition hall of fame. Our best bet for Coney is getting along to a minor-league baseball game. Coney Island is home MCU Park and the Brooklyn Cyclones baseball team. Cheaper and less crowded than a Mets or Yankees game, it’s worth taking yourself out to the ballgame on Coney Island.
Sandy Hook: Take a Seastreak ferry from Manahattan and you can be at sunny Sandy Hook beach in 40 minutes. The beach ferry service is available from Pier 11 or East 35th Street seven days a week. Sandy Hook has loads to offer outside of taking a dip in the Atlantic – you can bicycle, go fishing or even surfing. Pack a picnic lunch or see what food trucks are going to be around, but bring cash because there are no ATMs on the island.
After an action-packed day by the beach, you’re going to want to head back to your accommodation, de-sand and recoup for a night in the Big Apple. If you’re looking for a low-key evening, head to the Lower East Side and settle into one of the area’s laid back bars. We recommend Freeman’s simple rustic food and drink offerings or, for a rowdier evening with live music, Pianos, The Bowery Ballroom, or Cake Shop.