The Big Apple, a concrete jungle where dreams are made true, the exciting city that never sleeps. New York’s diversity and density make it a city of magnetic energy that will make you feel reborn. It’s the kind of city you can spend a few months in and not see even a tiny part of it. Obviously, one day in New York City is not enough time for all the great sights and activities, but it’s still enough to give you a good feel of the place and its atmosphere. Even though New York is concentrated around 5 boroughs, this one day in NYC itinerary will mostly cover sights on Manhattan Island.
What’s the best time to visit New York City?
Autumn is definitely the most beautiful part of the year to visit New York. With warm days and cool evenings, it’s the most pleasant time for exploring the city. By that time, the locals are already back from their summer vacations and the tourist crowd is reduced.
One Day in New York City Itinerary
Follow this guide and make the most of your trip even if you’re short on time. These are the top sights and things to do during your one day in New York City.
Reach Manhattan Island from the Grand Central Terminal
Whether you’re fresh off the airport, or if you already have an accommodation somewhere in the city, the best point to start your Manhattan journey is at the Grand Central Terminal. The historical train terminal was supposed to be torn down in 1975 but was saved by Jacqueline Kennedy, who raised money for its preservation. The site is worth a visit not just because of the vast expanse of this Beaux-Arts building and its sky-painted ceiling, but because of the unbelievable energy of the people racing around and that beautiful insane hectic activity.
Enjoy the Manhattan bird’s eye view from the Top of the Rock Observation Deck
For the spectacular 360° panoramic view, it’s popular either to visit the Empire State Building or the Rockefeller Center observatory decks. If spending only one day in New York City, the one at the Rockefeller Plaza should be a much better option. First of all, it’s cheaper, the tickets are for specific time slots (so you won’t be wasting your precious time) and you’ll get to have the Empire State Building in your photos. Plus, you’ll have a much better view of the Central Park.
Enjoy Times Square Neon Lights
Even though it’s best to visit after dark, Times Square is packed with people (and cars) at any time of day. Walk trough the crossing of the 7th Avenue and Broadway, sit on the ruby red stairs of the TKTS kiosk and enjoy a great view of the hustle and bustle in the square. The crowd and the striking neon billboards make the Times Square vibe pretty unique.
Stroll down the 5th Avenue and pass by the Empire State Building
The Fifth Avenue is where some of the world’s best shopping takes its place. From high-end names to more affordable brands, the Fifth Avenue is an exciting place for every shopping lover. Even if you’re not that into buying things, checking out the windows at brands like Tiffany’s can be fun too. Also, don’t forget to raise your head up from time to time. Many tall buildings and skyscrapers, including the Empire State building, are hard to be seen from that perspective, which you surely don’t want to miss.
Check out the Wall Street
You don’t need to know much about economics to know about the world’s most famous financial district. The Wall Street was named after the wooden stockade that once walled the Dutch colony protecting it from the British invasion. The bustling street, like many others NYC streets, fascinates mostly because of all the people who are rushing about. Don’t miss the New York Stock Exchange building and take a photo with the statue of the Charging Bull.
Take a free Staten Island ferry
Like many other NYC tourist attractions, this one is for free. The 20-minute ferry ride is a must because of the up-close look at the Statue of Liberty and stunning views of the Lower Manhattan skyline. The Staten Island itself is not worth spending already limited time. Leave that one for some longer visit and get right back on the same ferry.
Walk the Brooklyn Bridge
It’s time to move away from Manhattan Island a bit. A 30 minute Brooklyn Bridge walk will get you a lot of wonderful views of both Brooklyn and downtown Manhattan and take you to the Brooklyn Bridge waterfront park in the Dumbo area. The park has a great buzz, and it’s a perfect place to relax after a walk and a great place to snap some nice photos.
Watch the sunset from the High Line Park
Out of many iconic NYC parks, the High Line Park is the most unique one. This urban park, built on an old elevated train track, offers incredible views of the Hudson River waterfront and the whole Chelsea neighborhood. The atmosphere is the best at sunset, when you can relax at one of the many wooden lounge chairs and watch the city going through all those beautiful colors and shades.
Spend the night at Greenwich Village
Greenwich Village is a lovely area of NYC with a great ambiance, uplifting vibe and many quaint bars, cool shops and a huge array of restaurants. It’s the perfect place to have a late dinner and some unforgettable night out. It’s a great area for a stroll and a wander. Still, if you’re too tired to walk around, hit the Bleecker Street, Christopher Street or Mcdougal street.
Where to stay in New York City?
CitizenM New York Times Square
218 West 50th Street, New York, NY 10019
CitizenM New York Times Square is a contemporary hotel located in the heart of Manhattan island, just next to Times Square and pretty close to Central Park. The hotel features yoga facilities, a fitness center and the exclusive rooftop bar.
18 9th Avenue, Greenwich Village, New York, NY 10014
Gansevoort Meatpacking is a modern, bright and super comfortable accommodation that features a rooftop terrace with a heated year-round pool and other facilities such as fitness and business center and yoga classes. It is located in the Meatpacking district, close to the High Line Park and Chelsea Market.
HI NYC Hostel
891 Amsterdam Avenue, Upper West Side, New York
HI NYC Hostel is a perfect choice for young travelers or backpackers who want to be located central and still not spend a fortune on the accommodation. It’s also a great place for some social interaction and meeting other travelers.
DAY TRIPS FROM NEW YORK
Yes, New York is a world-renowned city, but sometimes its traffic and hectic nature can be quite overwhelming. Fortunately, there are ways to get away from it all, and day trips from New York are an excellent way to do that. You can do a lot in this part of the States, so here are some of the most popular choices for you.
Want to do some shopping, but New York is simply too pricey for you? The solution is a trip to Woodbury. More precisely, to its outlet mall. It’s about an hour and a half away, so the amount of time you have to invest is reasonable and well worth it if you’re a shopping fanatic. More than 200 shops, all with discounted prices, are there for you to enjoy at your own leisure, plus you can sometimes even get a booklet with even more discounts. Talk about a shopping Mecca, right? A great way to relax and spend a day off.
If you want to change the scenery a bit for the day, why not hop on over to Philadelphia? Again, you’re about an hour and a half away, but a great thing is that you can catch a train to Philly on Manhattan. See where the United States were born, check out the famous Liberty Bell and learn all about the country’s history, but don’t forget to enjoy a delicious Philly cheesesteak. This is city break at its very finest.
Long Island is a great place for a short getaway. It’s close and offers a lot of things to do and see, but most importantly it offers a way to relax. Grab a bowl of the traditional clam chowder, enjoy exquisite wines from the serene vineyards that are scattered all over the place and don’t forget to visit the Oyster Bay Festival if you’re here in October. This is a great way to fill your lungs with fresh seaside air and renew your energy.
Storm King Art Centre
Now this is something really special. A huge part of land with enormous sculptures all over the place and meadows and woods in between them. If you’re a fan of the modern art, this is something you have to see. Various exhibitions, concerts and other events are also held here, so check what’s going on when you’re coming – you could get even more from your day trip.
Extra tips for visiting New York City
– Yellow taxis are a very popular way of transportation and they are widely spread around the city. Still, keep in mind that sometimes, during daytime traffic, subway can be a much faster option.
– Don’t forget to download the Subway Map before you head of the city streets. You’ll definitely gonna need it at one point.
– New Yorkers are very talkative and happy to help. If you need directions or even some company, many would be happy to help or accompany you.
– The customary tipping rate in the restaurants is around 15% to 20% of your total bill for a good service, or at least 10% for a bad one. At the bar, it is common to tip a 1 USD per beverage.
– Always double check the bill – in some touristy areas tips can be included.
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Make sure you have everything you need
What to pack for your next trip?
Make your next trip as simple and as enjoyable as possible by packing smart. It’s amazing how much stress top travel items can save you, so choose carefully.
Things like lightweight travel backpacks, for example, are ideal for short trips and allow you to move around with ease, and a passport holder will make sure you keep your documents safe at all times.
Check our travel checklist guide for 2021 to make sure you haven’t missed anything, and travel to your next destination in style and with maximum comfort.
Anca is a travel writer and the founder of One Day Itinerary - the biggest collection of travel itineraries for those who are time-limited or just want to maximize their time while traveling. Although she easily becomes homesick for Croatia, she thinks travel is essential to her happiness. She has traveled to more countries than she is years old and doesn’t plan on changing that fact. In her travel guides she aims to inspire people to travel whenever they have a spare day (or two).