Seeing New York in 2 days can definitely be a bit of a challenge. You will probably be able to just scratch the surface. But if that is all you have, you may as well try to make the most of it. New York is a city that deserves a lot of time – I have lived there for a prolonged period of time and I hardly think I have discovered all that it has to offer.
The good news, though, it that with 2 days in New York you will at least be able to see the main attractions. The only way to do it is with a well planned itinerary that you respect in full – an itinerary that is crafted so as to minimize the amount of time you spend moving from one place to the other, and that in fact allows you to walk your way through the city and see its most important landmarks.
One important thing to note is that you will have to keep your timing – eat lunch on the go, drink a cup of coffee to keep you going, and finally sit down for a meal at dinner.
Many of us find planning itineraries a lot of fun. Others however see it as a bit of a hassle. That’s why I am here for you!
In this post, I will explain what to see and do in New York in 2 days. I will add some tips that will help you skip the lines at the most popular attractions and – possibly – save some money too. Follow this itinerary, and you’ll hopefully manage to make the most of New York
Continue reading to discover all the places to visit in New York in 2 days.
A Fantastic Itinerary To See New York In 2 Days
Before I share my detailed itinerary that will allow you to see New York in 2 days, let me stress that it is important that you book entries to all the tourist attractions, and that you do so in advance. If you don’t do this, you may end up stuck in the line at the ticket counter or, in the worst case scenario, you will get to the attraction only to find out that it is sold out and you can’t get in.
In order to be as helpful as possible, I will let you know any time I recommend making advanced reservations.
Follow this itinerary and you will have two fantastic days in New York.
The starting point when I planned this route was that you have at least 2 full days in New York – which implies sleeping there 3 nights. You will have to start your days very early – no later than 8:00 am – and opt to have lunch on the go and sit down for a meal just for dinner.
The idea with this itinerary is to have you visiting attractions that are relatively close to each other all on the same day, so that you can minimize the use of public transportation and maximize your time.
You will visit a number of places in the heart of New York – those that you really can’t miss; and a couple of more that will make your experience even more memorable.
BE WARNED: This is a packed itinerary.
For both days, I will tell you the starting point and the walking route from one place to the other. You can use public transportation to get to your starting point and then to get back to your hotel at night. I will also link to a map of the recommended daily itinerary.
Continue reading to discover what to see and do in New York in 2 days.
Day one of your New York in 2 days itinerary will be packed. You will visit the Statue of Liberty (the ferry departs from Battery Park), 9/11 Memorial and the World Trade Center; walk to Wall Street and all the way to Brooklyn Bridge, which you’ll cross to get to Brooklyn Heights for stunning views of Manhattan.
GOOD TO KNOW: This itinerary will keep you out and about for a good 12 hours. If you feel it’s too much, cut on a couple of attractions – ie, you can decide to skip a visit of the Statue of Liberty but just do the express ferry ride around it; or you can decide not to go up the World Trade Center Observatory.
Map of day 1 New York itinerary
Click here to open up the recommended itinerary for your first day in New York. You’ll be able to see the walking distance from one place to the other, and have a chance to rearrange the order of the various visits according to your tastes and needs.
Recommended lunch spots
Battery Park. You will find several eateries, delis and bakeries where you can grab a quick bite before you continue exploring. The easiest thing to do is eating lunch right after you get off the ferry from the Statue of Liberty.
Eataly. Located south of the Oculus, you will find plenty of Italian style quick bites.
Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
Even if you have just 2 days in New York, you still have to make it a point to visit the Statue of Liberty. One of the most popular city landmarks, the statue is thought to be the very symbol of the United States.
The views of the Statue of Liberty from the ferry are splendid. Once you get there, you will have the chance to go to the Pedestal, where there is an interesting museum about the history of the statue, and even the crown. Tours usually continue to Ellis Island.
GOOD TO KNOW: Tours of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island last between 3 and 4 hours. If you feel that’s too much, opt for a cruise around them that lasts 60 minutes. You’ll still get incredible views.
TIP: I wholeheartedly recommend catching the very first ferry to the Statue of Liberty, which departs at 8:30 am. This way, you will have enough time to visit the rest of the attractions.
Keep in mind that you will have to get to Battery Park to catch the ferry. Make sure to get there well in advance as there may be a bit of a line to get on the boat.
These are the best tours of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island:
- Early Access Statue of Liberty Tour with Statue Pedestal Access & Ellis Island Tour
- Statue of Liberty priority or flexible ticket
- 60-minute cruise around the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
- Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island 4 hour guided tour
- Statue of Liberty pedestal, Ellis Island and pre-ferry tour
- Statue of Liberty pedestal express and Ellis island
- Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island early access tour
- Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island tour from Battery Park
TIP: Make sure to book your Statue of Liberty tour well in advance to grab the earliest available tour!
Even when you are visiting New York in 2 days, 9/11 Memorial is a must!
The memorial is made up of twin reflecting pools that are meant to be the footprints of the Twin Towers. You will get to see a man made waterfall – thought to be the largest in North America. The Memorial also has some bronze plaques with the names of those who died in the 1993 and 2001 terrorist attacks.
GOOD TO KNOW: You can opt for either a guided tour or a simple skip the line ticket. Either way, factor in about 2 hours to explore.
These are some good guided tour options for 9/11 Memorial and Museum:
- 9/11 Memorial Tour & Priority Entrance 9/11 Museum Tickets
- 9/11 Memorial Tour with Priority Entrance Observatory Tickets
- 9/11 Memorial and Museum skip the line entry
- Ground Zero 9/11 Memorial tour
- 9/11 Memorial, Ground Zero and optional museum entry
For a truly hassle free day, you may opt for one of the two excellent tours below. They include guided visit to the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, 9/11 Memorial, One World Observatory and the Oculus. In other words, most of the attractions on your day 1 New York itinerary.
- Statue of Liberty Tour, Ellis Island, & 9/11 Memorial Tour with 9/11 Museum Tickets
- Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island & 9/11 Tour with Priority One World Observatory Tickets
World Trade Center Observatory
This New York in 2 days itinerary is meant to give you the most memorable views of the city. Hence, you should try to go up the World Trade Center Observatory. With its 541 meters, this is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, standing proud where the World Trade Center once stood.
The view from the Observatory is spectacular – you can see all the way to the Statue of Liberty.
TIP: You will likely make it to the World Trade Center at around 3:30 pm. Plan to spend around one hour there before continuing your exploration.
These are some good skip the line options to visit the World Trade Center:
- One World Observatory exclusive ticket with two drinks
- One World Observatory and World Trade Center tour
- One World Observatory skip all lines
- One World Observatory all inclusive flex package
It makes sense adding Wall Street to your day 1 in New York itinerary as it’s really close to the World Trade Center and on the way to Brooklyn Bridge.
Wall Street is one of the most famous streets in the world – I am sure you’ve seen it a million times in TV shows, movies and news. Make sure not to miss the statue of the Charging Bull and that of the Fearless girl.
Brooklyn Bridge and Brooklyn Heights
You may think it is far, but with 2 days in New York you will definitely have enough time to walk across Brooklyn Bridge and all the way to Brooklyn Heights.
The bridge was completed in 1883 to connect Manhattan to Brooklyn across the East river. It’s the first ever suspension bridge built. You can walk across it: the views of the bridge, as well as the views from the bridge are truly stunning.
Once you get off the bridge, you can walk to Brooklyn Heights Promenade to get the most incredible views of Lower Manhattan.
Brooklyn Heights, right on the other side of Manhattan from the bridge, is the first suburb of New York City. It is a gorgeous area, with beautiful old buildings, historic churches and – from the Brooklyn Promenade – a spectacular view of Lower Manhattan, which includes New York Harbor and even the Statue of Liberty.
Depending on the time of year you are visiting New York, you’ll get to this part of town either in the late afternoon, in time for sunset, or in the evening, and you’ll get a splendid view of all the illuminated buildings of Manhattan.
Spending more than 2 days in New York? Make sure to consider the other things to do in Brooklyn.
If you are running on time, you may want to pop in inside the Oculus. This incredible building works as the World Trade Center Transportation Hub. It pretty much is a shopping mall – you can also grab a bite there. It’s worth going just to observe the incredible architecture.
Day two of your New York in 2 days itinerary will be intense, but the good news is that you don’t have to start too early. Furthermore, you can trim it down to focus strictly on what you like. You will first visit a museum (I will give you 3 you can pick from), Central Park, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Rockefeller Center. You can go all the way to the Empire State Building for stunning views and finish off at Times Square.
Map of day 2 New York Itinerary
Click here to see the map for the recommended itinerary for your second day in New York and get an idea of the walking distance from one place to the other. You can easily adjust it based on which museum you decide to visit – they are all located close to Central Park. Feel free to ditch the attractions you are not interested in!
Recommended lunch spots
The Plaza Food Hall. Located right outside the southern entrance of Central Park, you’ll find a variety of places where you can grab a quick meal.
Sarabeths Central Park South. A more pricey option in case you’d rather sit down for a meal, it’s one of the best restaurants in the area.
OPTION 1: Metropolitan Museum of Art
There are so many museums in New York that it’s hard to pick which one to visit. If you are visiting New York in 2 days, you definitely have to narrow down your choices. I recommend opting for the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met), known to be one of the best art galleries in the world with pieces that range from ancient Egypt to the modern era.
Keep in mind this is a huge museum – if you are into it, you may even spend a full day browsing the collection.
GOOD TO KNOW: Re-admissions are allowed at the MET, so you can leave and come back on the same day to continue your visit.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: MET opens every day from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm, except on Fridays and Saturdays when it closes at 9:00 pm. Admission is $25.
PRO TIP: If you are visiting New York during a Friday or Saturday, you may walk this itinerary the other way around and leave the MET as your last stop, as you can stay in until 9:00 pm.
OPTION 2: Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
MoMA is truly my favorite museum in New York. Unfortunately, if you are planning to visit New York in 2 days you won’t have time for two museums so you have to pick which one – this would be my choice to be honest. This gallery is home to some truly iconic works of modern art. You can see paintings by Vincent van Gogh, Warhol, Matisse, Gauguin, Picasso, Dali and Pollock.
You can buy tickets to MoMa in advance to skip the lines. These are the best options:
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: MOMA is open every day from 10.30 am to 5:30 pm. On Fridays it closes at 9:00 pm. On the first Thursday of each month at 9:00 pm. Admission is $25.
OPTION 3: The Guggenheim
If you are a design freak, you will find time to visit the Guggenheim even when you are seeing New York in 2 days. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and opened in 1959, the exhibits are ever changing so make sure to check what’s on when you are planning to visit.
Tickets to the Guggenheim can be bought online – they usually include admission to special exhibits too. Here are the best skip the line options:
- Guggenheim Museum admission ticket with skip the main line option
- The Guggenheim skip the line
- Guggenheim Museum New York
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The museum is open daily from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm. Closing time is 8:00 pm on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Admission is $25.
Even when visiting New York in 2 days, you absolutely have to pop into Central Park!
You will honestly be impressed by how an urban park can make you feel so distant from the buzz of the city. Central Park is huge (315 hectares) and – great news – it is free to visit. If you want, you can explore the park by bike. You can book your bike rental here.
Among the landmarks you should visit inside Central Park there are: Strawberry Fields, aka John Lennon’s memorial; Bethesda fountain and terrace; Belvedere Castle; the Lake and Gapstow Bridge.
RESPONSIBLE TOURIST TIP: Do not ride a horse pulled carriage in Central Park, or anywhere in New York. These animals are often exploited.
Read more about responsible tourism on my post “The Complete Guide To Becoming A More Responsible Traveler.”
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
St. Patrick’s Cathedral is perfectly located on Fifth Avenue, near the south corner of Central Park, so you can quickly pop in for a visit. This Gothic style church was first inaugurated in 1878.
Not far from St. Patrick’s Cathedral you’ll find Rockefeller Center, a series of buildings in Art Deco style that were commissioned by the oil magnate Rockefeller family. The center is famous for the Christmas tree – so make sure not to skip it if you are visiting around Christmas season.
There you will also find the Top of the Rock, a 1930s Art Deco skyscraper. You can go up for impressive views of Midtown and Downtown, but keep in mind that entrance is timed and you need to get tickets in advance.
These are the best options:
TIP: If you only have time to go up one skyscraper on your second day, I recommend opting for the Empire State Building rather than the Top of the Rock. It is simply iconic!
Grand Central Terminal
You may end up passing through Grand Central quite often when you visit New York in 2 days, as this is a major transportation terminal. But in case you are not actually passing through by chance, make it a point to go. This station was built in 1913 and it is a gorgeous building, with shops, restaurants and more.
If you are keen on learning more about the history of the station, you can book your self-guided tour of Grand Central here. It lasts about one hour.
Empire State Building
The Empire State Building was completed in 1931 and at the time it was the tallest building in the world. It is the place to go for breathtaking views of the city, and you have to go if you visit New York in 2 days. Go at sunset, and you will be impressed. Go at night, and you’ll get the chills. You can even go at sunrise if you have the budget to splurge.
GOOD TO KNOW: Factor in about one hour to 90 minutes for your visit.
The only issue with the Empire State Buildings is that there usually is a line to get to the observatory, so if you are tight on time you really need to book your tickets in advance.
These are the best tours and skip the line tickets to the Empire State Building:
- Empire State Building Observatory tickets
- Empire State Building general and skip the line tickets
- Empire State Building day and night entry
- Empire State Building sunrise experience
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The Empire State Building opens from 8:00 am to 2:00 am daily.
Times Square is one of the most iconic landmarks in New York – the kind of place that, much like the Statue of Liberty or Wall Street, you always see in movies, TV shows and news. It’s in the heart of Downtown Manhattan – close to Grand Central Terminal and Madison Square Garden, so you really can’t skip it.
Your itinerary will end there, so you will get there at night, when all the lights are shining and illuminating it.
Guided Tours Of New York
This New York in 2 days itinerary is completely doable independently, provided you book skip the line entrances and tours to visit the various attractions. Joining a guided tour of New York, however, may be a good idea to maximize your time. These are a few good options:
- Statue of Liberty Tour, Ellis Island, & 9/11 Memorial Tour with 9/11 Museum Tickets – an excellent tour that lasts 8 full hours and takes you to the Statue of Liberty and the highlights of Lower Manhattan.
- Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island & 9/11 Tour with Priority One World Observatory Tickets– a fantastic option to visit the Statue of Liberty, 9/11 Memorial and the One World Center Observatory.
Using A 48 Hours New York Pass
If you plan to visit New York in 2 days, you may want to consider getting the New York Pass to enjoy discounts (you can save up to 41% in total) and skip the line access to a lot of attractions. The good news is that city passes usually come with transportation. You can get your pass here or here.
The New York CityPass includes entrance to many of the attractions mentioned in this 2 days in New York itinerary, including the Empire State Building, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Top of the Rock Observation Deck or Guggenheim Museum; the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island, the 9/11 Memorial & Museum.
One thing to keep in mind is that though you will have access to the various attractions, you will still have to make separate reservations for each of them.
Practical Tips To Make The Most Of New York In 2 Days
Where to stay in New York
There are many excellent places to stay in New York. If you plan to visit New York in 2 days, however, I think you are better off staying in Manhattan – that’s where you will mostly be exploring anyways.
The issue here is that Manhattan is actually huge! If you go near Madison Square Garden or Lincoln Center, you will be right at the center of the action, but it’ll be chaotic. You can opt for the southern bits for a quieter atmosphere where you can easily walk around.
These are the best places to stay in Manhattan:
- French Quarters has nice, cozy room despite the fact they are a bit small. It’s conveniently located at walking distance from a lot of attractions. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- Hotel 50 Bowery is a nice boutique hotel located in Chinatown, with nice, larger rooms. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- CitizenM New York Times Square has comfortable, well organized rooms in contemporary style and in an excellent location.Top floor rooms are better but more expensive. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
When to visit New York
Any time is a good time to visit New York. Honestly though, if you only have 2 days in New York you are probably better off visiting in the late spring or in September, when days are longer, the weather milder and you can spend more time out exploring.
How to get to New York
New York is very well connected to the rest of the world through its airports. I recommend flying to JFK as it’s the best connected to the city. Skyscanner is the best site to look for flight deals. Occasionally, Air France also has excellent deals.
Getting from JFK to Manhattan
There are several ways to get from JFK airport to Manhattan. You can use the bus, taxis, uber and even the AirTrain and subway.
Taxis are the easiest way to get to Manhattan. You don’t have to worry about the price as they have a flat rate of $52 to which you just need to add the tolls and a $4.50 surcharge during peak hours (between 4:00 and 8:00 pm on weekdays). Ok, it is not cheap – but if there is a few of you it’s not so bad.
UBER costs more or less the same as taxis – if you don’t have internet to use the app, or don’t have the app on your phone, just get a taxi as it is much easier.
Shuttles are a much cheaper yet comfortable option to get to Manhattan. They start at around $20 and can be booked online beforehand. You can book yours here.
Finally, you can also use the AirTrain which takes you to Manhattan for less than $8. Beware that the AirTrain has 3 different lines.
How to move around New York
You can easily move around New York by subway, which works 24/7 – though keep in mind that service is limited at night. New York is served by an incredible web of buses, and there are yellow cabs and Uber.
Keep in mind that this itinerary was drafted to minimize the use of public transportation. You will need to use it to get to your starting point each day, and back to your hotel in the evening.
Luggage storage in New York
If you need to drop your bags somewhere, you may want to check LuggageHero to see what the most convenient location for you is. Among the storage locations you will find Grand Central Terminal, Port Authority Bus Terminal, Penn Station, and Times Square.
Other useful tips
Get a guide book
Make sure to get a good guide book that will help you move around town – especially if you are visiting New York in 2 days, you want to make sure you don’t get lost and that you have concise information at hand. Here are a few good ones:
Get a data plan for your smartphone
It may be a good idea to verify whether your smartphone will be working in New York. If you are visiting New York in 2 days, you want to make sure you have enough data to allow you to navigate the internet if necessary – at least Google Maps. In doubt, you can still download the maps to use them offline.
Mind the scams
As all proper tourist destination, New York is not immune to scams. The most common scams you need to watch out for are the ones involving costume characters posing for photos in Times Square – they will demand a tip as soon as you take a photo with them; and the Staten Island ferry – it’s free, you don’t need to pay any ticket!
Also beware of the typical taxi scams and of pickpockets, especially when riding the subway.
Get a good travel insurance
Whether you visit New York in 2 days or in 2 months, make sure to get a good travel insurance. Get yours here.
Check out my post “Why You Need A Good Travel Insurance.”
Further readings about the United States
Are you planning a trip to the United States? Make sure to read my other posts:
- 35 Incredible Things To Do In New York City
- A Complete Guide To Visiting The Statue Of Liberty
- A Wonderful Itinerary For A Day In New York
- A Fabulous Itinerary For 3 Days In New York
- An Easy To Follow Itinerary For 4 Days In New York
- 5 Days In New York: An Easy To Follow New York Itinerary
- A Great Itinerary For A Week In New York
- A Great Itinerary For 3 Days In San Francisco
- The 10 Best Places To Visit In California (That Aren’t Just Cities)
- 15 Unmissable Things To Do In California
- 10 Things To Do For A Fabulous Trip To Miami
- Seven Adrenaline Filled Things To Do In Yellowstone (With Kids!)
- 10 Not To Miss Hikes Near Denver
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