Summer in NYC: A 4 Day Itinerary

NYC Skyline

We travelled as a family of 4 to NYC in July 2017.  I spent plenty of days, hours, and minutes planning this trip.  We are big movie/tv buffs so we decided to incorporate our vacation into seeing the top film/tv shooting sites of interest to us.   

“There is something in the New York air that makes sleep useless.” – Simone de Beauvoir

Movie/TV ‘Must See’ Spots (in a list according to us)

  • Friends: Apartment Building, Fountain
  • Felicity: NYC, Dean and Deluca, Bleecker Street
  • You’ve Got Mail: Shop Around the Corner, Cafe, Brownstone
  • Seinfeld: Cafe, Apartment
  • Smurfs: Castle in Central Park
  • Home Alone; Lost in NY: The Plaza Hotel
  • just to name a few….

Our 4 Day Itinerary included arriving on a Friday via Amtrak and leaving on a Monday at noon. I was sure to pick a hotel within walking distance from Grand Central Station to make the ease of travelling simpler as well and time not wasted in getting from arrival point to check-in point. We wanted to pack in as much as possible without feeling drained or overwhelmed. We achieved that for sure!

Grand Central Station
Grand Central Station NYC

Day By Day in NYC

Friday: Arrival via Amtrak from Albany NY. We drove to Albany – stayed the night – and boarded the train Friday morning. Upon arrival we headed to the Hilton Doubletree Metropolitan which was only a few blocks from Grand Central Station. We were greeted with warm chocolate chip cookies upon arrival. Not an upscale hotel, but absolutely perfect for our needs. Since we arrived in the morning, our room was not ready. No problem! They stored our luggage so we could explore. We headed towards 5th Avenue stopping upon St Patricks Cathedral Church. Magnificient. We were lucky enough to sit in on a service with the choir in full ‘sing’. Highly recommended.

We left there and headed up 5th Avenue towards Central Park stopping in shops and stores along the way including Rockefeller Centre. We passed The Plaza (Check that off the list – Home Alone 2: Lost in NY) and walked into the glorious Central Park. We stolled the lovely park for a bit, then headed back into the concrete jungle to find Dean and Deluca (Anyone who has watch Felicity would know of this coffee shop – although the one in the TV Show is in SoHo). Taking it all in on the first day, we headed back to shower and change and head to Times Square to purchase Hop On/Off Tour Bus tickets and Broadway tickets for that night.

Times Square was electric (and I’m not taking about all the technology screens). The energy, people, events….. A must see stop for anyone going to NYC. We were approached by TopView Sightseeing Bus Tours and we purchased a 48 hour pass which included a ferry transfer past the Statue of Liberty. I was going to prebook this prior to coming but I am glad I didn’t.  Although my kids are clearly – not children – they put in for the price, 2 adults 2 kids.  Saved a nice chunk of money.  

We then made our way over to the Majectic Theatre to see The Phantom of the Opera. This would be my second time seeing the production, but there is something about seeing it in NYC. Magical.

Phantom of the Opera, Magestic Theatre, NYC

Saturday: Breakfast at Ellen’s Stardust Diner. If you are like me and love music, singing, musical theatre or anything in between; this is the diner for you. BUT…. GO EARLY TO AVOID THE LINE-UPS!

We then headed over to catch our Hop ON/OFF bus into Manhattan to see sites off our list. We sat up top of the cool double decker tour bus and were given ear buds to put in to listen all about NYC and the sites we would be driving past. We could get off at any of the designated bus stops and get back on to continue at any time. First stop: SoHo/Greenwich Village to find the ‘Friends’ apartment building.

Greenwich Village, Friends Apartment

From there, we headed to Ground Zero. I must say… a very emotional moment.  We are not American, but deeply had an impact on that day.  We paid our respects to those lost, said a prayer, and took in all the scenery.

We decided to walk a bit to take in the city.  We walked across Manhattan to the Brooklyn Bridge. Oh MY!  Stunning.  We walked up it for a while then turned around and walked back.  We found our bus stop and headed back to Times Square.

We fell upon a street closure full of food trucks and tables.  Amazing.  We were able to purchase our dinner from here (only a fraction of the cost in a restaurant).  We were tired out from all the walking, so we headed back to the hotel.

Sunday: We got up early again and headed over to the Hop On/Off Bus stop in Times Square. Today, we were headed back into Manhattan to the Ferry Ports. We were going to take the ferry to see the NYC skyline, go past the Statue of Liberty and up to Hell’s Kitchen area to depart. From there, we transferred to another bus (all areas have different bus routes as per location). We headed up to the Upper West Side in search of ‘Shop Around the Corner’ from You’ve Got Mail, Seinfeld spots, Upper West Brownstones and a bit more of Central Park.

First stop – we found the You’ve Got Mail ‘Shop around the Corner’ shop.  A dry cleaner now but cool to see.  We walked up and down the lovely Brownstones to find the cafe in the movie, Kathleen Kelly’s brownstone used in the movie, Seinfeld’s apartment, Seinfeld’s cafe, an outdoor Antique show (an Antique TV show was being filmed while we were there), then into Central Park to find the Castle that was in Smurfs.  Also saw John Lennon’s location where he was shot and his tribute plaque.  We caught our bus again and took it around Central Park over to the Upper East side.  Being another day full of walking, we got off a few blocks from our hotel and went back to rest and eat.  

Seinfeld, Upper West Side, NYC

Monday: Our last day in NYC. We decided to relax in the morning seeing any last minute sites near our hotel and catching the Amtrak train at noon. We walked the vicinity of our hotel area up to Rockefeller Centre and back to the Hilton Doubletree Metropolitan to prepare for headed out to Grand Central Station for our return home.

 General Tourist Areas We Explored

  • Times Square
  • Phantom of the Opera
  • St Patrick’s Cathedral
  • Saks Fifth Avenue
  • Rockefeller Centre
  • Tiffany’s
  • Radio City Music Hall
  • Central Park
  • Ground Zero
  • Brooklyn Bridge
  • Statue of Liberty
  • Upper West Side
  • Grand Central Station
Thoughts and Tid Bits….

Would I go back? YES! In a heartbeat!

Would I stay at the same hotel? Yes, but it would be nice to experience a different hotel for review purposes.

What area’s would I explore more? Upper East side, Greenwich Village, SoHo and see another Broadway show.

Look for food vendors or street food ‘fair’ closures as meal options to reduce the cost or stay on budget during your vacation

Don’t be afraid to be spontaneous and go off the beaten path. We fell apon the Antique Show in the Upper West Side and a television program filming it. We were in one of the shots and even had to sign waivers. (We were told it would air about 7-8 months later, but we never did find our NYC TV debut).


Hop on/off bus is a very user friendly option to see NYC. Not expensive (but not as cheap at the subway system or transit).

Train to get to NYC. NYC traffic was a nightmare. I would highly recommend arriving to NYC via Amtrak or an Airline of choice.

Don’t stay directly in Time’s Square. Yes, it is exciting, thrilling, lights everywhere, but expensive. A few short blocks away are plenty of affordable and desirable hotels to choose from.

Brooklyn Bridge, NYC
Brooklyn Bridge

All in all, we LOVED NYC. It is the city that never sleeps, but you don’t come to NYC to sleep. You come to experience everything it has to offer (scenery, broadway, historic buildings and sites, people, parks, shopping…..). You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll be in awe. Package all that up in your luggage destined for dreams and you’ll have a trip of a lifetime. I promise.

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