Travel + Leisure is exploring America one three-day weekend at a time. Here’s how to pack in the best of New York’s food and cultural attractions into a short trip. 

By Stephanie Wu
August 25, 2016
Getty Images

New York City is not necessarily the most relaxing place to vacation. But if you schedule your days by neighborhood, you can at least rest assured knowing you won’t be spending all your time stuck in New York City traffic or a muggy subway car. Here’s how to visit the best restaurants, bars, and shops of the moment in one long weekend.

Day One

Location is everything in New York, so no matter which hotel you’re checking into, make sure it’s within walking distance of a subway station. One recent newcomer we love is the beautifully designed 11 Howard in Soho (you won’t believe this used to be a Holiday Inn), or, for more of a splurge, the New York Edition (overlooking Madison Square Park) is a great option. And you can’t go wrong with a classic like the Surrey Hotel, which our readers voted the best in the city.

New York’s most classic food is the bagel, and we suggest Sadelle’s for a one-of-a-kind experience. The bagels here are baked in a glass kitchen and come out piping hot. Though there are tons of inventive flavors (including three types of everything bagels), opt for whatever has come directly out of the oven—you won’t regret it. You can, however, choose a cream cheese, and the scallion is a winner. If you have the time to sit down, order the salmon platter, which comes with as many bagels as you can stomach. Otherwise, get in the takeout line for a sandwich, and enjoy it in Washington Square Park, which is just three blocks away.

Book in advance for tickets to the Magician at the NoMad, an eye-opening (and truly unbelievable) show by Dan White. It’s well worth the price of entry (tickets start at $85), and it’s as entertaining—if not more—than any Broadway show. You’ll get two types of popcorn complimentary (one savory, one sweet), and a chance to drink the hotel’s impeccable cocktails without squeezing your way into the packed bar.

Have dinner afterward at Covina (reserve ahead of time or grab a seat at the bar), a few blocks away in the Park South Hotel. There, Tim and Nancy Cushman serve delicious low-alcohol cocktails (the Madeira Cobbler is a hit) and shareable dishes like hummus, fry bread, and pizza.

Day Two

Start the day with brunch at High Street On Hudson, the all-day restaurant from Eli Kulp. You can’t go wrong with any of the baked goods or sandwiches here, but a perennial favorite is the Bodega, with breakfast sausage, egg, and cheese on a black-pepper biscuit. You’ll be mere blocks from the new Whitney Museum, so plan to spend the afternoon there wandering around the exhibits, taking in the stunning architecture and outdoor spaces, and working off your food coma.

For a healthy afternoon pick-me-up, head a few blocks east to Matcha Bar in Chelsea, which serves a variety of matcha-based drinks, including a refreshing combination of watermelon juice, basil, and matcha over ice. 

Have dinner tonight in the East Village at Babu Ji, a casual Indian restaurant with incredible flavors. The only way to reserve a table is by booking the prix-fixe dinner (it includes the curry sampler, which we named one of the best dishes in America). Otherwise the restaurant is first-come first-served—there’s almost always a crowd outside.

You won’t have to stumble far for post-dinner cocktails. A few blocks north is Pouring Ribbons, an inventive cocktail bar with rotating seasonal themes. The drinks are categorized by how liquor-forward they are and where they lie on the sweet/sour spectrum, so even if you don’t recognize the obscure ingredients, you’ll be able to find a drink you like.

Day Three

Head to the Lower East Side to fuel up at the day at Mission Chinese Food. During their dim sum brunch, they serve mini versions of their biggest hits (mapo tofu, salt cod fried rice) in a traditional dim sum cart, so that you can try a bit of everything.

Afterward, do some shopping at one-of-a-kind boutiques in the surrounding area, including Le Labo, a cult-favorite candle and fragrance shop in Nolita where you can mix a custom scent; Superga, one of two U.S. outposts of the beloved Italian sneaker brand; C.W. Pencil Enterprise, an all-things-stationery store for those who still love the written word; and Veda, a jewel box of a shop that specializes in leather goods and breezy silk dresses.

Finish your weekend with one last incredible meal in the West Village at Via Carota, which is a walk-in-only spot. Grab a seat at the communal table and order a smattering of the hearty, spot-on Italian food to share—favorites here include the grilled artichokes, chopped steak, and any pasta dish. Wash it down a glass of wine from the expertly curated list, and toast to a successful, stress-free weekend in New York City.

For more long-weekend itineraries in America's best vacation destinations, click here.