New York City is a place I felt like I knew even before I'd ever visited. A backdrop to countless movies and television shows, New York City has been making appearances in my living room for as long as I can remember. Planning a 5 day trip to New York City felt like making plans to meet a pen pal I've grown to know so much about, but never met in person. I was curious to experience this city of icons, bringing to life the Empire State Building, Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park, and Statue of Liberty.
Upon arrival, we were met with endless possibilities of things to see and do in New York City. It was simultaneously energizing and exhausting, especially for first time visitors. With no shortage of ideas for how to spend 5 days in New York City, we set out to explore this beloved city. Here's how our first trip to New York City turned out!
Our Trip to New York City- Visiting NYC in January
We decided to visit New York City in January and it turned out to be a great choice for someone like myself who isn't a big "city person". Being there in January was nice because not once did we have to wait in line at any of New York City's popular tourist sites, even though they were set up to manage large crowds (it must be madness in summer). Fewer people also made it easier to get standby tickets to tapings of the late night talk shows. Plus, there were a lot of good deals on hotels, Broadway shows, and city sightseeing cards like the NEW YORK CITYPASS and NEW YORK PASS.
We even got lucky with some unusually mild weather and were able to leave the winter gear at home. Although, I was kind of hoping to see Central Park covered in snow! How to Spend 5 Days in New York City- An Itinerary for First Time Visitors For our first trip to New York City, we definitely wanted to have the quintessential New York experience. We admired famous landmarks, attended shows, ate cheap pizza, and even had a museum day. Five days was the perfect amount of time for a first trip to New York City. We didn’t feel rushed and were able to visit all the main tourist attractions in New York City that were of interest to us. Even though we accomplished a lot on this trip, there are still so many things to do in New York City that we’d have no trouble finding ways to spend a future trip. Here’s a look at how we spent 5 days in New York City. We hope our NYC itinerary gives you some ideas of things to do on your first trip to New York City!

Day 1- Lower Manhattan, Brooklyn, Saturday Night Live
After a very early morning waiting in line for Saturday Night Live standby tickets, we headed down to Lower Manhattan where we took a walk down Wall Street, rode the Staten Island Ferry, visited the September 11 Memorial, and walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. The day ended on a high note by actually getting in to see Saturday Night Live! Wall Street & the Charging Bull
On our way to the Staten Island Ferry we took a quick walk around the Wall Street area, home to New York’s Financial District. Some highlights include the New York Stock Exchange, Federal Hall (site of George Washington’s inauguration), and Trinity Church (where Alexander Hamilton, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, is buried). South of Trinity Church, at Bowling Green, we saw the famous Charging Bull. Also known as the Wall Street Bull, this bronze sculpture gained notoriety in 1989 after the artist, Arturo Di Modica, dropped it off unannounced in front of the New York Stock Exchange. The Charging Bull was intended as a gift of encouragement to New York after the stock market crash of 1986, but officials at the NYSE weren’t impressed. Police hauled the sculpture away, but it was later given a permanent home at Bowling Green where it stands as a symbol of prosperity and the “power of the American people”, just as the artist intended.

Staten Island Ferry & Statue of Liberty
The STATUE OF LIBERTY is a must see on a first trip to New York City. To save money, we opted to take the free Staten Island Ferry, which sails past the Statue of Liberty, instead of paying for the ferry that takes passengers directly to Liberty Island. The memorial honours those individuals who died in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Their names are engraved on bronze panels surrounding two pools of water embedded in the footprints of the fallen Twin Towers. Water cascades down the edges of the memorial before disappearing into a hole in the centre of the pool. It was a solemn place to visit and brought back memories of watching that shocking event unfold on television. While most people were there quietly paying respects, unfortunately there were also many people taking smiling selfies in front of the memorial. So inappropriate.

Day 2- Central Park, Comedy Show
After only one day in the big city, I was craving some time in nature so we spent nearly the entire day exploring Central Park. We ended our evening by taking in a comedy show.

Central Park
Central Park was easily my favourite place in New York City. Even though there wasn’t the snowy scenery I was hoping to see in January, it still was a lovely place to spend the day. Central Park is full of bridges, archways, lakes, meadows, wooded areas, gardens, sports fields, and miles of paths- 58 miles, to be exact. The variety of activities and scenery (each area had its own look and feel), meant we had no trouble spending a whole day here. I feel like you could go to Central Park over and over again and still discover something new. A few of our favourite spots in Central Park were Belvedere Castle, Bow Bridge and the Lake, Gapstow Bridge, and the winding, forested paths of The Ramble.