How to See New York City in Five Days

Back in Austin after a fantastic trip to NYC! I’m calling the next few blog posts “Discovering Beyond ATX.” I’m going to type out my family’s whole itinerary because I honestly feel like we saw all of New York City in five days. Obviously, that’s hyperbole, but our trip was pretty incredible. I’d highly recommend anyone follow in our footsteps to see the city. Before we begin, here are a couple of things to note:

  1. We had five full days in New York and two days for travel. Our entire trip was seven days, but day one and seven weren’t really anything besides travel.
  2. We purchased an NYC CityPASS, which helped decide what landmarks we visited (and allowed us to skip some lines). The CityPASS links here are affiliate links, so if you like the itinerary I’ve produced for you, please purchase CityPASSes through the links on this page.
  3. We didn’t see very many museums – only the MET and the 9/11 museum.
  4. We walked 6-10 miles each day.
  5. Food wasn’t really a priority on the trip. We ate when we needed to, but I wasn’t researching the ‘best food’ in NYC or anything.
  6. Our itinerary didn’t involve anything in the Bronx or in Harlem.
  7. We left our apartment (rented through Home Away) in Queens each morning around 9am and made it to Manhattan around 9:40am. We were back in Queens each evening around 6pm. If you’re ready to go hard, you could definitely fit in more things by leaving earlier or staying out later.

Day One – Travel to NYC

  • We flew from Austin to JFK direct on American. It was an easy flight. The plane was nice with screens that showed “Lady Bird.” I didn’t watch it because I got too anxious to do much of anything besides listen to my meditations.

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  • SIDEBAR: Let’s talk for a second about travel anxiety. I used to get incredibly anxious while flying. So much so, there were times when I wasn’t sure I could get on a plane. It’s not a fear of crashing, but more claustrophobia mixed with general anxiety. I have thoughts like, What happens if I NEED to get OFF the plane and I CAN’T, or What if I have a heart attack right now? or general feelings of not being able to breathe because my chest is so tight I feel like I can’t take a deep breath. I completely understand these thoughts are irrational but that’s anxiety –  I cannot control those irrational thoughts. That is, until I found the Meditation Studio app. Everyone is obsessed with the Calm app right now, but hear me out. Meditation Studio has guided meditations that are created to help you deal with anxious thoughts. Meditation Studio’s meditations are very structured and specific. It’s way more than just “breathe in, breathe out, focus on your breath” and gets into the exact anxious thoughts and feelings you are having. I can listen to the “Anxiety Release” meditation three times in a row (21 minutes in all) and at the end, I am completely relaxed for the rest of the plane ride. If you struggle with anxiety, I recommend the Meditation Studio app.
  • Back to TRAVEL! When we landed at JFK we hopped in a cab to the Woodside neighborhood in Queens. We decided on a cab because they’re lined up ready to go, and we didn’t have to worry about Uber’s surge pricing (which is pretty much a 24/7 thing in New York). If you’re familiar with subway-type systems, you could take public transit to Queens (via the air train and the Long Island Railroad), but that still would have cost our family $30. So, cab it was. It ended up being $38 plus tip.

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  • We booked our apartment in Queens using Home Away. It was a three bedroom third-floor walk up, with two bathrooms, full kitchen, and balcony patio. It was also right down the street from the 7 train, which was super convenient. Cost: $260 a night. After searching through many hotels, we couldn’t really find anything that had at least two rooms that looked halfway decent for under $200. The apartment was extremely quiet, even though the neighborhood had La Guardia airplanes flying overhead every two minutes.  
  • Isabelle was our host, the owner of the building. She literally walked us all around Woodside, showing us restaurant after restaurant, where to buy groceries, where to catch the subway… everything! She repeatedly told us, “If you have any questions, just text me.” While having a host this involved isn’t what everyone wants, it was perfect for our family. If you’re interested, this is the exact listing: Chez Isabelle.

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  • It was already pretty late when we arrived, so we just walked down the street and ate some shockingly good burgers at F. Ottomanelli Burgers (they deliver, too) and then waited for Ryan to arrive!

Day Two – Circle Line Sightseeing Tour (Landmarks), Chelsea Market, High Line, and New York Public Library

  • Waking up in NYC was such an exciting feeling! First, we walked to Cornerstone Cafe, where we ate breakfast sandwiches and drank coffees. It was super quick, which was what we needed. It wasn’t really anything special, though.

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  • After breakfast, we took the subway to 34th street and walked up to Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises. There are several different tours, but we did the “Landmark” tour. Pro tip: You have to arrive 1 hour early to get a good spot! The waiting goes pretty fast though because you wait in a few different places. Also, from what I saw, I don’t think there are many benefits from buying the upgraded tickets… but hey, to each his own. Overall, the cruise was AWESOME. It takes you from the Hudson River, around to the Statue of Liberty (very close), up the East River to the Manhattan Bridge, then turns around and goes back. The U-shape is nice because that means it doesn’t matter which side of the boat you sit on. You’re going to get an amazing Manhattan skyline view on either side. We felt like we’d seen all of the city by the time the tour was over! The tour is an hour and a half long.

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  • After the cruise, we got back on the subway and went to Chelsea Market. Chelsea Market is an indoor urban food court, shopping mall, office building and television production facility located in the Chelsea neighborhood. There are tons of shops, food choices, and of course, people. The market has a strong industrial hipster-foodie vibe. Instagramers, you’re going to want to take your time here.

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  • I got the vegetarian pizza at Filaga and a matcha latte from Chalait. There are tons of places to eat! Be ready to stand – there aren’t many tables. However, if you take your food and walk a little, there are tables in various spots around the main alleyway. I’d recommend doing a lap of the whole market first, then deciding on a place to eat.
  • After walking through Chelsea market, we walked the High Line from 14th street to 30th street. The High Line is an elevated, out-of-use railway that has been converted for public use. It’s beautiful, the views are amazing, and there are even food vendors along it!

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  • We exited the High Line to get back on the subway towards our next destination – the New York Public Library‘s main branch. It’s a stunning piece of architecture.
  • We went back to our apartment after the library. My dad and brother went to a Met’s game (easy on public transportation!) and I went back into Manhattan later that night to meet up with some old friends.
  • If you’re following this as an itinerary, you could either go to a baseball game yourself, or you could use this evening time to see a museum, eat a nice meal at a renowned NYC restaurant, or visit another landmark we might have skipped.

Continue reading Part Two of the itinerary here. 

Want to follow our schedule? Get your CityPASS here:


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