Reasonable amount of time to spend in NYC?
December 10, 2018 2:46 PM   Subscribe

We are possibly taking a trip to NYC to see a Broadway show - the timing will depend on when we can get tickets, but likely April-ish. We've never been before, and would love to do some sightseeing - how long is long enough for a quick trip to actually see things? Recommendations welcome!

So tickets for Hadestown go on sale this week, and we're hoping to get some, which will give us an excuse to visit NYC, which has been on our list.

We're doing a larger vacation a little later in the year, so we can't spend too much time there. We'd like to visit some of the typical tourist attractions - statue of liberty, times square, etc. Also, maybe a couple of museums - the Met is on the list. And, of course, we love curiosity shops and atlas obscura/roadside attractions sorts of places.

How long is long enough, assuming that we'll be back for a longer trip? is a long weekend good?
posted by needlegrrl to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (23 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
48 hours is fine; a long weekend is certainly enough.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:07 PM on December 10, 2018

A long weekend isn't "too short" for a trip to NYC, but you'll have to edit. Remember that you'll be having to haul from one end of Manhattan (at least) to the other; especially if you eschew cabs, it takes time. My one piece of advice would be to drop all those "typical tourist attractions" as unworthy of significant attention (unless you really want to spend serious time communing with dead relatives at Ellis Island). I love NYC, but I've never seen a big city where the "typical tourist attractions" are more hyped, more irritating to arrange, and less interesting. It's one thing to do them when you've got oodles of time and maybe need to do something silly for a break, but not on a short trip.
posted by praemunire at 3:10 PM on December 10, 2018 [7 favorites]

The Met and most other museums are closed on Mondays, so do it over the weekend proper or make your long-weekend a Friday-Sunday.

(Lesser-known fact: your ticket to the Met also gets you in to the Cloisters which should be absolutely stunning in April. Eat at Malecon before going back downtown.)
posted by basalganglia at 3:32 PM on December 10, 2018 [5 favorites]

Assuming you go to the show in the evening, a full weekend is plenty (e.g. arrive Friday, show Saturday night, leave Sunday evening or Monday morning).

Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty are too time consuming for a short trip. (I think Ellis Island is worth it, but it's definitely not speedy. I haven't bothered with the Statue of Liberty.) I would pick two museums or attractions that you really care about, do those and spend the rest of the time wandering around to things that are interesting, but where it won't be the end of the world if you decide to have a cup of coffee instead (e.g. the Stand, yarn shops, whatever floats your boat). I'm admittedly the sort of person who goes to Rome and doesn't see the Sistine Chapel, but I don't think any of the standard "New York sights" are universal must sees (and just save yourself and skip Times Square, unless you have to pass through it incidentally to get to the theatre). The good thing about NYC is that you can probably find something that is specifically interesting to you--if you're me, you should skip the Met in favor of the Neue Galerie. But you're not necessarily me.

That said, the Tenement Museum is very good.

(I am not a fan of the Met and am really not a fan of the Cloisters, so I'm going to point out that the beautiful part is the walk through Fort Tryon Park to get there, which is free. I don't know that I'd come all the way up here just for the view, though.)
posted by hoyland at 3:39 PM on December 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

You can see something new and interesting in New York on a trip of any length between 1 day and the rest of your natural life.
posted by jacquilynne at 3:40 PM on December 10, 2018 [32 favorites]

Okay, I realize my last post is not necessarily helpful, but it is true.

There's two ways to approach this question -- figure out how long you can afford to be in New York and then scrupulously edit your list of things you want to see to the ones you can fit into that space, accounting for travel time and your willingness to get up early while on vacation OR figure out all the things you really must see and then fit them into the smallest space possible with the same constraints as above. If you do the second and find that you can't afford the time, then you can always fall back on scrupulous editing.
posted by jacquilynne at 3:40 PM on December 10, 2018 [5 favorites]

The Met is now open 7 days a week, so a Monday wouldn’t be a problem. I like taking visitors on the Staten Island Ferry as an alternative to going to the Statue of Liberty it’s free and has a nice view of the Statue of Liberty.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 3:55 PM on December 10, 2018 [3 favorites]

I think 3 full days is nice, although a bit decadent considering the cost of lodging. Is what restricting you budget or time?
It looks like you are from Atlanta. I think I'd come on a early morning flight and find a hotel that would allow me to leave my bag there before check in - or allows early check in (Choose your hotel carefully- some areas are shuttered up in the evenings and some places are still lively). The flights are quick and cheap!
I'd leave on a flight Sunday evening so I had 3 full days.
posted by beccaj at 3:57 PM on December 10, 2018

I’d skip the Statue of Liberty for now- the island aspect makes it take up a large portion of your day shuttling on ferries. Also, they are currently constructing a new museum on the island, and I wouldn’t visit until it is open.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:58 PM on December 10, 2018

I don't live in NYC but I have done lots of two night/three day visits and I think that is a totally reasonable length of time. If you walk the High Line you will end up (or start) at the Whitney, which is a fine museum with a lovely view from the balcony. If you aren't desperate to get right up to the Statue of Liberty you can actually spot it from the High Line, and you can see the Empire State Building from the High Line as well. If you want another evening activity I will plug Sleep No More (as I have here before), as long as you are willing to move to see your theatre. I found the memorial pools at the former World Trade Centre site very moving. It is a 15 minute walk from the WTC site to the Brooklyn Bridge and if you can get going early to beat the crowds the view is worth it. I think you should walk through Times Square at night because it is Times Square and while those who live in or near NYC may avoid it like the plague it is indeed full of all of those ridiculous bright lights, a million other tourists and almost as many touts, just like you imagine it will be. I also like the Tenement Museum, especially as a small, manageable museum but you need to book in advance. Walking through Grand Central and getting a bite to eat in the food court is fun. The MoMA, the Met and the Guggenheim are all stuffed with amazing art but also very crowded so choose carefully.
posted by Cuke at 3:58 PM on December 10, 2018 [4 favorites]

jacquilynne said basically what I came to say. NYC is a big enough place that you'll never be able to see everything in it that's worth seeing, and even if you could, by the time you were done it would all have changed and it would be time to start again! Don't try to see everything—just try to see lots and lots of good things in whatever time you have. Same with life, really.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:11 PM on December 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: What is primarily restricting us is time, although we don’t have unlimited funds.
We’d like to get a nice view of the Statue of Liberty, which it sounds like we can do without the time commitment.

I really want to see the unicorn tapestries, which are in the Cloisters, thus the Met.
posted by needlegrrl at 4:47 PM on December 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

If it isn't clear, the cloisters and the Met aren't especially near one another. I'd say both in a long weekend are too much.
posted by JPD at 5:32 PM on December 10, 2018 [6 favorites]

Disagree about Times Square, a walk through after dark is a total OMG sensory overload but it's often on the way to other things. The subway ride up to the Cloisters is not that long if it's important and it is a lovely museum. Do take time to wander through neighborhoods, chinatown is intense, the village is still 'cool', midtown around the garment district on a week day is actually fun to see the racks of cloths being wheeled down the street. You'll have a great time, do some planning but allow for alt surprises.
posted by sammyo at 6:27 PM on December 10, 2018

moma isn't too far from times square
posted by brujita at 6:57 PM on December 10, 2018

If you take a circle line boat tour, it will circle Manhattan, loop around the Statue of Liberty and give you nice views of the Brooklyn Bridge. I believe it is 3-4 hours, but it can be a nice break from running around. Bring a jacket!
posted by soelo at 7:05 PM on December 10, 2018

As a heads up, it's approximately an hour between the Cloisters and the Met on Fifth Ave by public transit. (You can go the whole way on the bus or take the subway to 81st and find a crosstown bus. The time is the same.) If you're doing both in one day, I'd start on 5th Ave first thing in the morning to avoid the crowds and then go up to Washington Heights. Me-mail me if you want lunch recs near the Cloisters, as I live right by there. Both in one day is a lot, but I'd do it because the tickets are so darn expensive for visitors. (It might be worth looking how much a membership costs--it might get all of you in on two days for only a little more than the tickets, as I think you get a guest pass.)
posted by hoyland at 7:14 PM on December 10, 2018 [2 favorites]

Both in one day is a lot, but I'd do it because the tickets are so darn expensive for visitors.

FYI, the current Met ticket policy (changed this year I think) is that: "Any full-priced admissions ticket is valid for three consecutive days at The Met Fifth Avenue, The Met Breuer, and The Met Cloisters.
posted by lalex at 9:33 PM on December 10, 2018 [8 favorites]

Staten Island Ferry will also give you a decent view of the Statue of Liberty, for free. I understand the Circle Line's is better, though.
posted by praemunire at 10:13 PM on December 10, 2018

Yeah, locals love to hate on Times Square and we avoid it at all costs, but if you've never been to NYC before, walking through at night is pretty neat. They have also closed most of Broadway to cars, so it's actually not even the worst thing ever in the world to walk through now, as there's more room for pedestrians.
posted by Grither at 4:42 AM on December 11, 2018 [4 favorites]

Three days is fine. Manhattan isn't really very big. Take cabs. The cabbies are having a hard time surviving till Uber goes bankrupt, and they need the money. Also, NYC weather in April is characterized by grey semisolids falling from the sky and decoalescing upon the sidewalks.

Sip delicately from the Whitney, the Met, and MOMA. Any one of them can blow out your visual cortex in an hour or so. Look for particular exhibitions and particular works of art you want to see, see them, get the hell out, and go to lunch. God help you if you get lost in the Met. You will wind up wandering for hours through Assyrian winged bull sculptures and Pacific Island art that appears to have dropped straight down from outer space and will be unable to see anything properly for months afterward.

Your Met ticket will also get you into the Met Breuer, a nifty little showcase modern art museum on 75th and Madison. Again, check whether there is anything you actually want to see there.

Take the Staten Island Ferry to see the Statue of Liberty. It costs nothing, you don't have to go through elaborate security theater, and you get a nice view of the Wall Street glass obelisks coming back.

Don't bother with the Village, East or West. It is all rich young people and poor old people. There are some nice old dive bars in the East Village, if you like that sort of thing, but otherwise, go for the art museums uptown.
posted by ckridge at 8:11 AM on December 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Even as a frequent tourist I try to avoid Times Square when possible but if you've never seen it you really should! Also it's pretty close to the Walter Kerr Theatre. Just keep in mind it gets really crowded around the time Broadway shows start so it will take longer to walk through it than you might expect.

You could spend a week in New York and not even see all the notable highlights. If you only have a long weekend, you only have a long weekend! I don't think you will regret a 3-day trip. The city can actually be a little bit exhausting; you might find three full days tires you out.
posted by grouse at 8:27 AM on December 11, 2018

I've spent partial days in NYC and been very satisfied. If you have a show, you'll see Times Square and walk down 42nd street while singing the song. There's not really much to do except be swarmed by people, though I once had a coffee in front of a Strand bookstore popup cart that was kind of nice to sit and watch. The Herald Square Macy's with the wooden escalators is a few blocks south at 34th Street and 7th Ave, probably a good idea to see it now since retail is in big trouble. The Empire State Building is two long blocks to the east on 5th. I would pick one tall building to see, ESB wasn't that great in my opinion but if you really like When Harry Met Sally or are into the history it might be a better choice. The World Trade Center is really neat, especially at sunset, if you're going to be down near Battery Park anyway to ride the Staten Island Ferry and see the Brooklyn bridge. Lot of fun to walk across, in either direction, though obviously very windy.

Whatever you do, try to clump the walks and attractions together, it takes 30 minutes minimum to get from the southern tip of Manhattan to the Upper West Side.
posted by wnissen at 9:19 AM on December 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

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