The Perfect Itinerary To See New York In 2 Days

The Perfect Itinerary To See New York In 2 Days

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.

New York in 2 days

You can’t skip the Statue of Liberty!s

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

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.

views of New York

New York always offers very rewarding views

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:

TIP: Make sure to book your Statue of Liberty tour well in advance to grab the earliest available tour!

9/11 Memorial

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:

PRO TIP

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. 

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:

The Bull

The Bull – one of the symbols of Wall Street

Wall Street

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.

Brooklyn Heights

The views of Manhattan from Brooklyn Heights

BONUS: Oculus

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

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 the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 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. 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.

New York in 2 days MET

The MET is a must – even when you only have 2 days in New York

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.  

TIP: If you want to skip the line to enter MET, you can get your tickets online here or here.

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.

Central Park

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.”

Central Park

Central Park is simply iconic

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.

Rockefeller Center

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.

New York

Stunning views of New York

Empire State Building

The Empire State Building is the place to go for breathtaking views of the New York, 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. 

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:

Times Square

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. 

Brooklyn

Walking around New York – a fantastic way to discover the city

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:

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.

Grand Central New York

Grand Central – more than just a station

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:

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.

2 days in New York City

Moving around New York is fairly easy

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:

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Discover how to make the most of New York in 2 days - via @clautavani

 

35 Incredible Things To Do In New York City

35 Incredible Things To Do In New York City

There are so many things to do in New York that you’re never quite done exploring.

Not many people know it, but at some point in my life I lived in New York City. After a short visit in December 2000, when I had a long layover on my way back to Sardinia, I realized that there were too many things to do in New York that I’d have to go back. So I made sure to get a job there, which would give me the chance to properly explore the city.

During my first time in New York, I did all the classic touristy things. After all, as self professed unsuccessful backpacker I see no point in going to a major tourist destination and skip the tourist attractions that make it just that – attractive. I am the kind of person that will spend hours in line to visit the Colosseum in Rome, or that will lose her balance because of a heavy backpack during a multi-day hike (that’s what happened during my Jesus Trail in Israel).

So, for all those of you who enjoy tourist attractions as much as I do, I have decided to put together a selection of the unmissable things to do in New York, with a few tricks on how to make the most of them even when time is limited.

things to do in Manhattan

Admiring the view from the Empire State Building is one of the things to do in New York – photo courtesy of David Mennerich (flickr)

35 Fantastic Things To Do In New York

Take in the view from the Empire State Building

One of the nicest things to do in New York is taking in the amazing views. There’s nothing like enjoying great panoramic views of a city, even more so if that city is New York. I have been on top of the Empire State Building a bunch of times, and every single one I get the chills. My advice is to go right before the sun sets, to take in a magnificent view both during the day, and then at night.

The obvious issue with timing is that there may be lines for the tickets, and even going well in advance may mean having to wait before being able to ride the elevator to the observatory. Last time I went there with my sister, it took us well over an hour. The good news is you can buy tickets to the Empire State Building Observatory online, and thus skip the lines. No more timing issues!

These are the best tours and tickets to the Empire State Building:

things to do in Manhattan

Visiting the Statue of Liberty is one of the unmissable things to do in New York – photo courtesy of m01229 (flickr)

Visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

It would be absurd to go to New York and not visit the Statue of Liberty. This is the symbol of the city – actually, the symbol of the United States, that has inspired so many immigrants looking for a better life.

The typical starting point to visit the Statue of Liberty is Battery Park, from where the Statue Ferry leaves. As it gets closer, the views of the Statue and of Manhattan are impressive. Once there, it is possible to get to the Pedestal to visit the museum and learn about the history of the Statue.

A proper visit of the Statue of Liberty generally continues on to Ellis Island, to visit the museum. A guided tour is actually a good idea – and one of the best things to do in New York – since not only there will be a guide to explain all the history and technical aspects of the Statue and the museum, but it will also allow you to skip the inevitable lines. Tours of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island can even be bought online.

These are the best tours of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island:

Take the Staten Island ferry

Most things to do in New York are quite expensive, so it is a relief to know that the Staten Island ferry is actually free. This ferry goes along Upper New York Bay 7 days a week, and goes between Whitehall Street and St. George on Staten Island. It gets more than 22 million passengers every year, each and every one enjoying the 25 minute ride thanks to the incredible views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, as well as those of Lower Manhattan.

Wander around the Meatpacking District

One of the nicest things to do in New York is wandering around the Meatpacking district. Among the places that you shouldn’t miss there, make sure to hit the Ground Zero Museum Workshop, where you will be able to find out more about the lives of those who helped in the rescue works in the aftermath of the attacks. There is an interesting exhibit of photographs, audio and artifacts. 

Another interesting museum in the Meatpacking District is the Whitney Museum of American Art, which houses an incredible collection of works by American artists. 

Lat, but definitely not least make sure to spend some time in Chelsea Market. It’s the perfect place to grab a bite, with the fabulous bakeries!

Walk the High Line

One of the few things to do in New York that are free is walking the High Line. This is a railway viaduct that cuts down the west side of Midtown Manhattan. Abandoned in the 1980s, it’s been subsequently turned into an elevated park of about 2 km which was designed by Piet Oudolf, a Dutch landscape architect. The park opened in 2009. It runs through Chelsea, so you can visit the market before you actually walk the High Line. The highlight is the view of the Hudson River.

Visit New York Public Library

This has to be one of my favorite places in New York. You will recognize it from the gorgeous facade right on Fifth Avenue. It is a massive building with a vast collection of books in subjects such as social sciences and art. You can even go on a guided tour – they are held Mondays to Saturdays at 11:00 am and 2:00 pm. 

TIP: Watch out for special exhibits!

things to do in Manhattan

Times Square is one of the unmissable places to visit in New York – photo courtesy of SouthernWI (flickr)

Go to Times Square

One of the most classing things to do in New York is visiting Times Square. Indeed, nothing screams New York more than Times Square. We have all seen it a million times: during new years’ eve celebrations, and day in day out on the news whenever they mention the stock exchange. In fact, there’s no way to avoid Times Square, for it is the heart of Downtown Manhattan – close to Grand Central Terminal, Madison Square Garden, Fifth Avenue, etc.

Yet, seeing it in person is a whole different experience. It is a bit overwhelming – bright and shiny as it is. But it really deserves a visit. Seeing Times Square is – quite simply – one of the things to do in Manhattan.

Pay a visit to National 9/11 Memorial and Museum

Whether you visit this memorial or not, it is up to you. I was in New York on 9/11 so to me it is a way to pay respect to the thousands of people who died on that day, as well as those who died in the 1993 bombing. Hence I feel compelled to include it in the list of things to do in New York.

The memorial consists of twin reflecting pools that are an acre in size and that are meant to be the footprint of the Twin Towers. There is a man made waterfall – the largest in North America. You’ll also see bronze panels that report the names of those who died on the two different attacks.

Perhaps a tour may help you better appreciate this memorial and its museum. These are the best ones around:

Go up One World Trade Center Observatory

It took almost ten years to complete this skyscraper which, with its 541 meters, is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere and is located where the World Trade Center once stood. Its name comes from the north skyscraper of the Twin Towers.

The view from the Observatory is 360 degrees and from there you can admire all the way across Upper New York Bay and the Statue of Liberty, and the Brooklyn Bridge on the other side. The best time to go up is right before sunset – the light is magic then!

These are the best ticket options to get to the Observatory:

Go to Wall Street

Among the unmissable things to do in New York there’s paying a visit to Wall Street. This is one of the most famous streets in the world and it gets regularly mentioned in movies, news, tv shows and what not. As it is located in lower Manhattan, you can head there once you are done visiting 9/11 Memorial and Museum – or even better, go before for a chance to see lots of businessmen and women on their way to work, all dressed up in power suits. 

Two things you can’t miss in Wall Street are the statue of the Charging Bull and that of the Fearless girl. 

Visit Rockefeller Center

Famous for the Christmas tree that is lit – a bit too early if you ask me – as Christmas season begins and for the ice skating rink that goes with it, the Rockefeller Center is one of the most famous places to visit in New York. It is made up of 19 buildings, 14 of which is a fantastic Art Deco style. There is a sunken plaza in the center. All of the buildings were commissioned by the oil magnate Rockefeller family.

Make sure to admire the Atlas statue – it was first placed in 1936 and it is right in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, on Fifth Avenue.

Go up the Top of the Rock

For impressive views of Manhattan, one of the nicest things to do in New York is going up the Top of the Rock – that’s the nickname of the 1930s Art Deco skyscraper located at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. It’s not as tall as the Empire State Building, but I promise the views are special: you get to see Midtown and Downtown skyscrapers as well as Central Park.

There is a timed entry to go up the Top of the Rock – so you may want to book your tickets in advance. These are the best options:

Visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Visiting St.Patrick’s is one of the most iconic things to do in New York. The Gothic Cathedral of New York was inaugurated in 1878 and is located on Fifth avenue, where it occupies an entire block. Chances are you’ll come across it while walking along the street, so you may as well pop in for a quick visit.

things to do in Manhattan

One of the nicest things to do in New York is visiting Central Park – photo courtesy of vogueonthego (flickr)

Explore Central Park

Think that there’s nothing better than a walk in the park to get away from an urban jungle? Well, Central Park is indeed a park, but also much more than that, and visiting is free. The park is actually huge. From Columbus Circle, its southern boundary, to the northern one, it is 4 km. It is 800 meters wide. The whole surface is 315 hectares.

Yes, Central Park is much more than a city park. It is a tourist attraction in and of itself, with some incredible landmarks: Strawberry Fields, aka John Lennon’s memorial; the beautiful Bethesda fountain and terrace; Belvedere Castle; the Lake; Gapstow Bridge (one of the most iconic sights in the park) and more.

Central Park is also a very romantic place to spend some time with your loved one (for more romantic cities, check out this post).

Another nice thing to do is exploring the park by bike. You can book your bike rental here.

To be honest, finding one’s way across Central Park isn’t easy. That’s why I recommend taking one of Central Park Tours. They are 100% responsible (no animal use, which to me is a bonus as I can’t stand the use of animals in tourist attractions), and great value for money.

Then go to Bryant Park

Not far from New York Public Library, this used to be a place for drug dealers and prostitutes but its reputation changed once it was finally renovated in the 1990s. It is a lovely place to hang out – less touristy than Central Park. It’s not uncommon to come across groups practicing yoga or even martial arts. Hanging out at Bryant Park is one of the most offbeat yet nice things to do in New York. 

TIP: If you visit New York in the summer, don’t miss the Monday movie nights!

Get lost in the Metropolitan Museum of Art

One of the unmissable things to do in New York is visiting the MET.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met) is one of the finest art galleries in the world, with works that range from ancient Egypt to the modern era. The museum is so vast (there are 19 curatorial departments that host various collections) that it takes an entire day to explore, if not more. The good thing is that re-admissions are allowed on the same day, so it is possible to leave and come back to continue the visit. If you want to skip the line to enter MET, you can get your tickets online here or here.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: MET is open 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.

things to do in Manhattan

The Guggenheim is one of the places to visit in New York – photo courtesy of Moody Man (flickr)

Go around in circles at Guggenheim Museum

The Guggenheim Museum is one of the must sees of New York. It was was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, and opened in 1959. The building is a real work of art, both on the outside and on the inside. The hosted exhibits change regularly, so make sure to check what’s on when planning to visit. However, if you ask me it actually is the architecture of the building that is simply unique.

Tickets to the Guggenheim can conveniently be bought in advance to skip the line and to get access to special exhibits too. Here are the best skip the line options:

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The museum is open daily from 10:00 am, and closes at 5:30 pm on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Closing time is 8:00 pm on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Admission is $25. 

Admire some real iconic art at MoMa

There is little doubt that visiting MoMa is one of the things to do in New York.

Home to some truly iconic works of modern art such as Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night, or Warhol Campbell’s Soup, as well as works by Matisse, Gauguin, Picasso, Dali and Pollock, MoMa is a great place to spend an afternoon. I went for the first time with a journalist friend of mine who specialized in art, and it gave me the key to understanding and appreciating modern art.

Tickets to MoMa can be bought 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, except for Fridays, when it closes at 9:00 pm, and the first Thursday of each month, when it also closes at 9:00 pm. Admission is $25.

things to do in Manhattan

The United Nations is one of the places to visit in New York – photo courtesy of United Nations Photo (flickr)

Learn about international affairs in the United Nations Headquarters

As I said at the very beginning of this post, the first time I visited New York I fell so in love with it that I vowed to live there, at least for a while. I then started looking for jobs in the city, and I eventually landed an internship at the United Nations (UN) Headquarters. After having visited the headquarters on a guided tour, I got to spend a few months actually working there.

Not many know, but there’s actually more than one United Nations building. We are used to seeing always the same one in the news, but the entire area where this is located, called UN Plaza, is home to the various offices and departments of the UN.

One of the most interesting things to do in New York is visiting the United Nations Headquarters, in a guided tour of about one hour. The tour goes to the main lobby, the General Assembly Hall, the Security Council Chamber, the Trusteeship Council Chamber, and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Chamber in the renovated Conference Building.

Visit the American Museum of Natural History

This is a nice museum to visit if you are traveling to New York with children, as it is bound to keep them entertained with the interesting exhibit of animals such as the Alaskan brown bear, the blue whale, mammoths and tyrannosaurus rex. 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The entry fee to the main exhibit is $23 for adults and $13 for senior and children. The museum is open daily from 10:00 am to 5:45 pm. It is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

thing to do in New York

Walking across Brooklyn Bridge is a must when in New York – photo courtesy of Joe Hunt (flickr)

Walk across Brooklyn Bridge 

Brooklyn Bridge is one of the landmarks of New York and one of the things to do in New York is admiring the views and walking across it.

The view of it, and the view from it are simply amazing. But there’s more. The bridge, completed in 1883, links Manhattan to Brooklyn across the East river and is the first ever suspension bridge built. You can cross it as a pedestrian – last time I was in New York there was a parade and it was incredibly crowded, so if you are shooting for an empty place, make sure to double check for events and races!

Admire the views of Manhattan from Brooklyn Heights

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.

Guided tours of Brooklyn Bridge and Brooklyn Heights also include a visit of DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Overpass), which used to be an industrial area and is nowadays a beautiful artistic district packed with shops and galleries.

Go to church in Harlem

Ok, I don’t mean to literally go to mass. Indeed, one of the most fun things to do in New York is listening to a gospel choir, and there’s no better place to do that than Harlem. I went there the first time I visited New York and enjoyed the experience so much that I took my sister there when she visited me. The music and singing are very cheerful and a lot of fun, and anybody listening is bound to be in a really good mood afterwards.

There are gospel choir tours of Harlem, which add to the already fun experience of listening to the choir also a visit to Apollo theater and other landmarks of this part of the city.

This is the best gospel choir experience in Harlem:

things to do in Manhattan

Chinatown is one of the coolest areas of New York – photo courtesy of Alejandro Mallea (flickr)

Walk around SoHo, Little Italy and Chinatown

SoHo is one of my favorite areas of New York, just so scenic and so picture perfect. I also like Little Italy – though the Italian in me won’t ever fully appreciate the food served in the restaurants there. And Chinatown feels like a whole different planet, with all the small shops and restaurants.

One of the nicest things to do in Manhattan is visiting these 3 neighborhoods, which are right next to each other. There even are guided tours that take to all the important landmarks – ie the site of the first ever recorded murder case in New York City. You can book yours here. 

Dance to a musical in Broadway

If you love musicals as much as I do, then one of the things to do in New York that you are bound to enjoy the most is heading to Broadway for a show. There are a whopping 41 theaters, some of them with lights that are more than a century old, showing a variety of shows every night. If you like a quirky one, try to get tickets for The Rocky Horror Picture Show – it was my first ever musical in Broadway, with lots of interaction between the actors and the audience, and it was a lot of fun.

You can get tickets to broadway shows online. Here you can get tickets to the Lion King and here those for Aladdin.

Do a Greenwich Village food walking tour

One of the nicest things to do in New York is eating. The selection of restaurants, the street food scene, the eateries available are all incredible and it would be a pity to miss out. A cool way to enjoy at least some of all the amazing food on offer in New York is by taking a food tour. There’s various around town. I like Greenwich Village so I recommend you opt for a food tour in that area.

Have a slice of pizza

The Italian in me may scream at the thought of pizza that is not baked in a wood and brick oven, but let’s face it: New York thin crust pizza is pretty tasty. For as heavy and greasy as it is, this is comfort food at its best and I honestly recommend trying it! 

There are many places in town where you can grab a slice of pizza – which you absolutely have to eat with your hands. Among the best ones there are Artichoke Basille’s Pizza and Juliana’s Pizza.

And a bagel

You may think you know what good bagels are – but trust me, until you have them in New York you have no idea of what the real thing is all about. Whatever your taste in food, one of the best things to do in New York is trying both a savory and a sweet bagel. Sweet ones are packed with fruits and cinnamon, spread with sweet cream cheese; savory ones often come with smoked salmon and cream cheese. Ess-A-Bagel is the place to go.

Admire Grand Central

Built in 1913, Grand Central is not just a train station – it’s an architectural wonder. You will surely end up there at some point during your visit, so make sure to wander around a bit and take in the incredible building, where a multitude of shops and restaurants are located.

As Grand Central is quite close to Madison Square Garden, you can make sure to pop in there as well when you visit!

You can book your self-guided tour of Grand Central here.

And the Flatiron Building

Located on Fifth Avenue at the end of Madison Square, this interesting looking skyscraper resemble an iron. It dates back to 1902 and it’s 87 meters tall. It’s one of those iconic buildings you just want a photo of!

Attend a show at the Metropolitan Opera House

Speaking of shows, one of the best things to do in New York is seeing ballet or opera at the Metropolitan. The Metropolitan House of New York is located in Lincoln Center. It’s a massive modernist building where – if you go there during the season – you can attend opera or ballet. I recommend doing so – I went to see La Boheme and enjoyed every minute of it!

Hang out in Union Square

One of New York’s most famous gathering places, Union Square is full of life and art – with monuments, art installations, a market (though not every day). The area where it is located is also famous for nightlife and the incredible restaurants, and it has a more local feel than downtown. Make sure you go on Saturdays for the market, and hang around a little longer to enjoy dinner.

Go to Coney Island

One of the nicest things to do in New York if you have enough time during your visit is to go to Coney Island, which for a long time was used as New York seascape. The waterfront, which for a long time was mostly abandoned, has now seen a new influx of visits and the amusement park is a famous attraction. The rollercoaster is from 1927 and one of the oldest functioning in the world!

Shopping!

New York really is shopping paradise and everyone knows that shopping is one of the things to do in New York. Whether you decide to walk along Madison Avenue, Fifth Avenue or go for the quirkiest boutiques of Soho or the Village, you will be in for a real shopping extravaganza. You just need to prepare your credit card because – don’t say I didn’t warn you – New York is not cheap!

Go for a baseball game at the Yankee Stadium

If you are a baseball fan, you really should pay a visit to the Yankee Stadium, best if for a game. The old stadium has been replaced in 2009 by a new one, from where you cam enjoy great views of the game below. 

You can visit the stadium museum at Monument Park and then stay along for a game. 

Standard tickets for a game are in the range of $20 USD and can be bought directly on the Yankee Stadium website. 

brooklyn heights view

The views of Manhattan from Brooklyn Heights are splendid

Other Useful Information To Plan Your Trip To New York

When to visit New York

If you ask me, I’ll tell you that any time is a good time to visit New York. I visited during Christmas time and it was pure magic; I lived there throughout fall and winter and loved to see the color changes and to experience it under the snow. And I went in the summer and enjoyed the incredible vibe. So, to make a long story short: go whenever you feel like it!

Where to stay in New York

A city like New York has no shortages of places to stay. The only two issues when looking for accommodation in New York are picking the right area, and finding something that doesn’t blow the budget.

I used to live in Manhattan (initially near Madison Square Garden, then near the Lincoln Center) and I loved it, though it could be chaotic at times. The southern bits of Manhattan are definitely quieter and give more of a feeling of neighborhoods where it is pleasant to walk around, and I would recommend staying there.

These are the best places to stay in Manhattan:

Here’s an even more detailed list of where to stay in Manhattan for under $200 a night.

Another option could be staying in Brooklyn – after all, the public transportation system in New York works really well. I love converted buildings and

These are the best places to stay in Brooklyn:

How to get to New York

New York is fantastically connected to the rest of the world through its airport. You can fly to JFK, Newark and La Guardia. If you can, make sure to opt for JFK as it is the one best connected to the city.

Getting from JFK to Manhattan

From JFK, you can count on buses, taxis, uber and even the AirTrain and subway to get all the way to the town.

Taxis are a convenient and fast way to get to your final destination. They have a flat rate of $52 to which you need to add the tolls and a $4.50 surcharge during peak hours (between 4:00 and 8:00 pm on weekdays). It’s honestly expensive, but if you can share the costs with other people, it’s not that bad.

UBER costs more or less the same – so if you don’t have internet to book your UBER, you may as well opt for a yellow cab.

Shuttles are a much cheaper yet comfortable option. They start at around $20 and can be booked online prior to your arrival. You can book yours here.

Finally, you can count on the AirTrain which takes you to Manhattan for under $8. Keep in mind that the AirTrain has 3 different lines.

This post explains everything you need to know on how to get from JFK to Manhattan in more detail.

Getting from JFK to Brooklyn

You can get from JFK to Brooklyn via cab for around $65 – so in this case you may really want to opt for an UBER.

The AirTrain costs just as much as it does to get to Manhattan – make sure to pick the right line and to change at one of the stations there to get your connecting subway to your final destination.

How to move around New York

New York is super easy to move around. The subway works 24/7 – though service is limited at night – and you can also count on a web of buses, on the yellow cabs and on Uber. I recommend walking as much as you can – as with anywhere, it really is the best way to experience a city.

Using the New York CityPass

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. Most passes also come with access to transportation. You can get your pass here or here.

The New York CityPass includes entrance to the Empire State Building, the American Museum of Natural History, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Top of the Rock Observation Deck or Guggenheim Museum; the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island or Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises, the 9/11 Memorial & Museum or Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.

Other useful information

No matter where you travel in the world, make sure to also get a good travel insurance. Get yours here.

Check out my post Why You Need A Good Travel Insurance.”

Further readings about the US

Are you planning a trip to the United States? Make sure to read my other posts:

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Discover the top things to do in New York - via @clautavani