New York City is a place I’ve wanted to visit again ever since my husband Gozie and I moved back to the east coast. But when I was initially thinking of traveling to the city, the pandemic was not kind, and New York City shut down. So when NYC opened back up, and things felt safe again, I started planning three affordable days in New York City, and I am sharing the itinerary with you today!
Whether you plan to fly, take a road trip, or arrive in the city by train as I did, you will be able to see NYC in three days and soothe your hunger for travel on a local level. In this post, I will also be sharing related videos to help guide you as you plan. I documented my whole experience, and I am happy to share everything with you.
Although I am not an NYC native, I know the city to be strong and exceptionally resilient. It has been hit hard during the pandemic, especially early on, but when we visited, it was hard to tell. Most shops and restaurants were open and excursions were available for booking. And it looked like the city was getting back to normal, although slowly.
Traveling during this time is different because there are a few more rules and guidelines you must abide by for each section of your trip (transportation, restaurants, excursions, and hotel). However, I think NYC has a good hold on overall safety, which is excellent because the city is becoming increasingly crowded despite the current state of life. The idea of having new regulations for your trip may seem like an obstacle, but they are put in place to keep you, other travelers, and residents safe, which is the most important thing.
This guide will be sure to give you everything you will need to plan your next trip to NYC.
Why should you take a train to New York City?
When I was planning my trip, I looked into the idea of taking a plane to the city, but I wanted to make this trip as affordable as possible. Flight prices were around $200 per person, which was not a price I wanted to pay. I also had to be mindful that the base price for a flight per person adds up. You then have to include the cost of transportation from the airport to the hotel, which is also pretty pricy.
I fell in love with train rides during my time living in Morocco. We were able to visit many Moroccan cities by train, and the rides were usually pretty affordable. So riding the train in the United States came to mind as I planned this NYC trip. I was able to book two Amtrak tickets for under $200, which I was willing to pay. I will say that to get a good “deal” when booking your train tickets, be flexible because, for certain dates, train tickets to NYC, or anywhere in the United States can be costly. So plan early and check ticket prices often.
Taking the train during this time is an excellent option to find a ticket that fits your budget. I found the train ride I was on to be the most relaxing mode of transportation I had been on in a very long time. Although, I have to add that the type of tickets we purchased put us in public coach cars. So if you are traveling with people you know, I think the experience can feel more comfortable than sitting next to a stranger.
The views from the train were beautiful as well. It was a treat to see so much scenery as we rode by. It was also great to stop in several different cities and envision my next train ride to one of the destinations we went through for a future trip.
I also think traveling by train during this time will hopefully help eliminate the number of plane horror stories we’ve all been hearing about lately. I feel like Amtrak is organized, they communicate well, and they have their stuff together compared to airline companies. I felt like my train trip was a lot less fuss than the many plane rides I’ve taken so far this year.
When is the best time to visit NYC?
The best time to visit the area this year is September to early November. Kids are back in school and it looks like work schedules are resuming as normal which means there will be fewer people will be in the city.
When we visited, it was the height of summer, but surprisingly the weather was nice. Unfortunately, it rained during the trip, but it did not deter us from exploring.
PLANNING YOUR TRIP
I recommend you book your accommodations as soon as you can. The city sees tons of visitors each day who are also looking for a place to stay.
While planning a trip, I browse through discount websites like booking.com. If I find a good deal, I will double-check with the hotel or tourist website first to see if the price is the same or less on the actual company’s website. I like to book direct if the price is the same or lower, but I will book on the discount website if there is a better price. It’s all about timing and patience.
Depending on where you plan to spend the most time, I recommend you book your accommodations in an area near most of the activities you want to do. For example, I knew we would be walking and taking the subway for most of our excursions, so booking a hotel near subway stops was vital!
The best advice I can give for your trip is to be flexible. I only had three events/excursions booked in advance. Everything else was tentatively planned, which allowed us a ton of freedom.
DAY ONE: ARRIVING IN THE CITY, LUNCH SPOTS, & LANDMARKS CRUISE
As we got off the train at Penn Station, NY, we walked 10 minutes to our hotel. We arrived in the city at about 11 am, and our check-in was not until 3 pm. So we dropped our bags off with the concierge, changed our shoes, and headed back outside to explore Times Square and find a place to get a veggie meal (since it was a veggie day for us).
There are many places to stay in NYC, and the price ranges vary. To keep things affordable but not cheap, I chose the La Quinta by Wyndham Time Square for our stay.
As mentioned, flexibility is key! On our itinerary, I researched a few restaurants that served veggie food so Gozie could look at the list and decide on a whim what he was craving. If you have specific dietary concerns, you should look up restaurants and options that best serve your needs. It’s hard to find the best restaurants options when you are out and about and already hungry.
We ended up at a spot called Taïm, a Mediterranean-style restaurant with meat, veggie, and vegan dining options. We also went to Bite next door because they had seating, and we wanted a table outside. So, we purchased a rosewater lemonade, got a table, and enjoyed our first meal in NYC.
The food we ordered was excellent and hit the spot after being on the train for about 3 hours and walking quite a ways to this area. I tried the falafel pita sandwich, and Gozie got the beyond meat kabab bowl. We both gave the restaurant 4.5 points out of 5, which is good! I recommend you check it out too!
If you aren’t in the mode for Mediterranean food, check out ByChloe for vegan burgers or JAJAJA for Mexican food. Both were options on my list that we did not have time to try. So if you check them out let me know what you think!
After lunch, we made the one-hour, forty-block trek to Hudson Yards for a Landmarks Cruise. The thing about the cruise once we got on the boat was that it was pretty crowded. Granted, not all of the seats were full, but it did feel pretty packed considering the circumstances.
Despite being crowded, we had a great time. The cruise allowed us to see many landmarks in a short amount of time without having to visit each place individually, which helped us save money and time. If we go back to New York City, we will choose a landmark to visit in more depth now that we know where everything is.
DAY TWO: A FULL DAY IN HARLEM!
We love taking time to relax in our hotel together when we travel. So we did not get out into the city until about 11 am.
Our second day in NYC was perfect for us to figure out how to ride the subway. It was a struggle at first because we couldn’t figure out our route. We got on the wrong train and almost rode to Brooklyn, which was not the plan for this trip.
Once we got ourselves together, we made our way to Harlem. Starting at the Schomburg Center on 135th Street, we began our walking tour. It was my first time doing something like this, and I can honestly say self-guided walking tours are my new favorite tourist activity. The one I purchased through Free Tours By Foot was wonderfully affordable. I loved that I could get the tour in advance, read the instructions, and plan my day based on the way everything was structured.
Of course, we had to stop for lunch, and we did so at Red Rooster Harlem. This restaurant was recommended to me by my twelve-year-old nephew. He has a good, slightly elevated taste in food and restaurants. Red Rooster was excellent and worth the price we paid for our meals which were a bit pricey. But because we budgeted pretty well for other parts of the trip, we felt it was okay to splurge on a delicious meal.
The last stop we made in Harlem was to celebrate Senegalese culture and food in New York City. Gozie and I enjoyed the event, and it was a nice last thing to do to round off our time in Harlem.
DAY THREE: NEW YORK CITY FOOD TOUR
We started our day with a scheduled food tour with Foods of NY, which I was excited about. I enjoy participating in food tours, not just for the food but for the overall experience of learning about the culture, history, and people of a neighborhood or city.
This particular tour was in Greenwich Village, Manhattan. It was great to try some of the neighborhood’s best dishes with Foods of NY on their Heart & Soul of Greenwich Village tour. During this event, we tried a fancy version of NY-style pizza. It was from a pizzeria called Artichoke, and the dish itself was unique. It was double dough layered with a creamy white sauce and tons of cheese. I enjoyed the texture of the crust because it was flaky and very buttery. Yum!
Of course, the nod to Indian food was a nice treat for Gozie and me. It had been a while since we had Indian cuisine from our time in Hyderabad, India. The unda bjuri roll and mango lassi were fantastic and really made us feel like we were back in India for a time!
There were so many other beautiful dishes we tried on the tour that I share in the food tour video. I would highly recommend you check out Foods of NY when you visit New York City. The professionalism and organization of the entire company were excellent and I am happy they were able to gift me the opportunity to share with you!
I know travel is very uncertain right now, but I hope this guide will give you some ideas of things you can do if you decide to make your way to New York City!
Take care and enjoy planning your New York Trip!
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— SPONSORSHIP DISCLOSURE —
This post was not sponsored. However, the food tour was kindly gifted to me by Foods of NY.