It's impossible to experience everything New York has to offer during a short stay. Even locals are always discovering something new in their native city! But we've pulled together what we consider to be the best itineraries for NYC visits from one to six days. Try them out, discuss them with your savvy traveler friends, and then add your own tips and tricks to help others get the most out of what's surely one of the most exciting urban areas anywhere.
If you have 1 or 2 days, you'll want to devote your time to visiting museums and iconic New York attractions, as well as that most New York of activities, shopping. I recommend bringing a comfortable (yet stylish – this is a fashion capital, after all!) pair of walking shoes.
Since museums tend to open earlier than stores, grab a coffee and bagel near where you're staying and head to the mother of all New York museums, the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Plan to spend at least three hours wandering through the halls and exhibits that interest you most.
You'll probably have had your fill of art by lunchtime, when it's time to continue your strolling outdoors. Choose between walking into Central Park, directly behind the Met, from which you can walk all the way through the park, or down Fifth Ave, which runs directly parallel to the park, and where you can gaze into ornate multi-million dollar apartments and ancient mansions patrolled by the ubiquitous NYC doormen.
For a real taste of New York ladies who lunch, exit the park anywhere on the east side and walk one block east to Madison Ave. At 61st and Madison you'll find one of the city's most fabled department stores, Barneys. Before you peruse the merchandise, head up to the ninth floor for a spot of lunch at Fred's restaurant.
After you have your fill of food and finery, cut back one block west to Fifth Avenue and two blocks south to where Central Park ends at 59th St. Here you'll run smack into the newly renovated Plaza Hotel. Take a peek inside to see the renovated lobby and beautiful chandeliers. Then either cross the street to the Apple store's glass tower and the mega toy store FAO Schwartz, or continue south down Fifth Avenue, where you'll soon come upon Henri Bendel, Trump Tower, Gucci, Tiffany, and every chain store imaginable.
When your shopping stamina wears out, head for an early pre-theater dinner (of course, you've made reservations at least a week in advance!) at Anthos, rated one of the top 10 new restaurants by The New York Times (the chef, Michael Psilakis, was also nominated for a 2008 James Beard Award). Then, depending on your time and the state of your feet, either walk or cab it over to a Broadway show (for which you either bought tickets in advance or made a detour earlier in the day to the Times Square TKTS booth to pick up).