Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to create the ultimate one-day in New York City itinerary! And before you even think it, I know. seeing all of NYC in a day seems like a total mission impossible.
And it kind of is since the gut-wrenching truth is that NYC is beyond massive. Therefore, although you can see A LOT of NYC in a day, you definitely won’t be able to experience all that this beyond awesome metropolis has to offer in a single, twenty-four-hour period.
Yeah, it’s just not gonna happen.
However, with the help of a 30+ year local like me, you’ll be able to knock a ton of super cool things off your NYC bucket list.
That’s why, if it’s your first time in NYC, then this epic guide to seeing NYC in a day is totally for you!
Because in this guide to one day in New York City, you can expect to find a ton of secret, insider tips that will help you quickly and easily enjoy one day in NYC.
This way, you can do a whole lot less stressing and, you know, actually, enjoy your trip to NYC like a real live local.
Trust me on this, I’ve lived here for well over 30 years and know exactly what to do, how to get around, and where to stay while enjoying the best of the city that never sleeps.
But enough chitty chat. Because you’re a busy human who wants to swan dive into this epic guide to one day in New York City right now!
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Where to Stay During Your One Day in New York City Itinerary
Surprising to exactly no one is the fact that hotels in NYC can be next-level expensive. So, budget accordingly because it will be difficult to find anything under $100 per night that isn’t a total cockroach-infested dump.
Thankfully though, if you’re only planning one day in New York City, then you can obviously splurge a little since you’ll really only be there for a single night.
And while I do outline all of the best areas to stay in NYC in this blog post right here, I would definitely try and stay in Midtown or the Village since both are pretty centrally located – making it easy to see NYC in a day without going broke or totally mad.
However, If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, you could also try spending the night in places like Astoria, DUMBO, Williamsburg, and Long Island City. You know, to help you save those hard-earned dollar bills.
Just do yourself a favor and don’t stay too far away from Midtown. Because if you stay too far away from Manhattan, you might just spend your precious day in New York City riding the subway – and doing nothing else.
So, keeping all of these factors in mind, here are some fantastic hotel options for visitors of every budget, all of which are centrally located, well-reviewed, and just overall amazing places to stay.
Pod 39 – Tucked away in the stunning neighborhood of Murray Hill is this chic and trendy pod hotel. It has rooms that start at a reasonable $120 per night and that are within walking distance of the best Indian restaurants in the city (yum). Now, are the rooms here small? Yeah, kind of.
But, they’re also super clean and come fully outfitted with everything you need for a comfy, although sometimes cozy stay. And, added bonus? You’ll also get to spend the night inside a historic home from 1918 and can choose between queen-size beds or stainless-steel bunk beds that come TVs and bedside shelves.
So, what are you waiting for? Book your room now and see why everyone gives this place such rave reviews.
414 Hotel – Located just down the street from Times Square in Hell’s Kitchen, the divine rooms at this budget-friendly hotel start at just $159 per night and include a ton of different amenities.
So, if you have visions of mini-fridges, flat-screen TVs, and iPod docks swirling through your head, then you already know just how rad this place really is.
Heck, there’s even a working fireplace in the lobby that you can get all cozy around while chatting with some of the supremely friendly staff members here. Rooms here are also incredibly comfy and centrally located – making it easy to do everything on your one day in New York itinerary.
The James New York – This posh hotel in SOHO is centrally located and features well-appointed, luxurious, incredibly clean rooms that start at just $177 per night.
All rooms here are also exquisitely decorated and feature tall ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows, glassed-off bathrooms, all-natural linens, and friendly staff members who routinely bend over backward to meet your every need. Trust me, book a room here and you will not regret it. Because I book a swank staycation in NYC, it’s always here.
The Bowery Hotel – Contrary to what the name might suggest, this Nolita hotel is pretty dam luxurious. So, book a room at this exquisite, 5-star hotel and won’t spend anything less than $300 per night.
But, you know what? It’s totally worth it since all of the beyond stylish rooms here include free Wifi, free bike rentals, and stellar city views. Service is also exceptional so if you have some money to burn, then embrace the glory of the luxe life here.
How Much Does One Day in New York City Cost?
Honestly, the cost of your one day in New York City itinerary really depends on things like:
- Where you stay
- What museums you visit
- Where you eat
- How you get around
So, if you eat at nothing but five-star restaurants with elaborate tasting menus, book a room at the Plaza Hotel, and take taxis everywhere, then yeah, your one day in New York will cost A LOT.
However, if you use TodayTix to nab cheap Broadway tickets, splurge only on Empire State Building tickets, stay at one of the more affordable hotels mentioned above, use the subway at $2.75 per ride, then you could probably get away with spending around $322 for one full day and night in NYC, as outlined below.
- $120 for one hotel room
- $67 for the Empire State Building
- $15 on public transportation
- $60 food (food halls/street vendors/bagel places) – if you can afford it, I’d try and do one nice, sit-down meal in NYC for between $20 and $30 per entree (see my recs below in the evening section).
- $60 Broadway tickets
Total = $322
And yes, the amount it costs you to see NYC in a day is obviously going to vary based on what show you see, when you visit the Empire State Building, how much you walk, the hotel you stay in, and where/what you eat.
Now, I know that sounds like a lot but if you think about it, it’s really not too bad since you’re in NYC. Plus, that price includes absolutely everything you would spend money on, minus souvenirs. So yeah, not too terrible for one day in New York, IMHO.
Pro Tip: I’d avoid Uber and Taxis in NYC just because they are expensive and SLOW since you always get stuck in traffic. Although, taxis and an Uber can be surprisingly affordable if you’re traveling as part of a group (4 or more people).
Morning: One Day in New York City
Okay, let’s start this one day in New York City itinerary with the most important meal of the day…breakfast! And if you trying to do NYC in a day, then the only conceivable breakfast option for you is, of course, an iconic, NYC bagel.
Thankfully though, there are a ton of amazing bagel places scattered all across the city. So, depending on where you plan on spending the night, you can try any of the following:
- Ess-a-Bagel (Midtown) – This place is right near Grand Central and has a ton of amazing bagels to choose from. Get a cinnamon raisin bagel with some chocolate chip cream cheese and you will NOT regret it.
- Bo’s Bagels (Upper West Side) – An epic bagel place where you can get “The Andrew”, or a bagel with egg, sausage bacon, Vermont maple syrup, and scallion cream cheese. It sounds weird but it’s really good.
- Tompkins Square Bagels (East Village) – This is the king of all bagel joints in NYC and a place where you should get an untoasted everything bagel with cream cheese.
- Russ and Daughters (Bowery) – This hoping bagel joint has been around for well over 100 years and is the place to go for a quintessential bagel with lox and cream cheese. Yeah, #youarewelcome.
So now that you’ve carb-loaded like a beast running a marathon, let’s haul ass and continue our one day in New York City itinerary by heading over to one of my favorite places in the city…the Brooklyn Bridge.
Pro Tip: Get here as early as humanly possible (aka before sunrise) to avoid the crowds. I’d also suggest wearing comfy shoes, watching out for rogue bicycles, and walking from Brooklyn to Manhattan since the views are better. in this direction.
And since you’re in DUMBO (aka Down Under The Manhattan Bridge Overpass) anyway, DEFFO check out some of the quaint cobblestone streets, amazing street art, and cool AF boutiques that proliferate throughout this area.
You can also snap some sick AF photos at Pebble Beach in Brooklyn Bridge Park before heading to the intersection of Washington Street and Front Street for that iconic shot of you standing in front of the Manhattan Bridge – with the Empire State Building perfectly framed by the bottom of the bridge.
If you have time, you can also stop for a pie of awesome pizza at Juliana’s (way better than Grimaldi’s) before going for a spin on Jane Carousel’s, which is vintage awesomeness at its finest.
Optional NYC in a Day Side Trip
Okay, because you have a lot to see and not a lot of time for this one day in New York City itinerary, some tough choices need to be made.
So, depending on how much you NEED to see the Statue of Liberty and the World Trade Center, you could always skip this part of my one day in NYC post and go right to the afternoon section.
Because it really all just depends on what you NEED to see and where your interests lie. But, if you do want to see Lower Manhattan, then I’d prioritize the Statue of Liberty and the World Trade Center Museum and Memorial/Occulus since they’re both kind of right there.
Statue of Liberty – To get the best free views of the statue of liberty, I’d hop on the Staten Island Ferry. Not only is it totally free, but this ferry runs twenty-four hours a day and has departures from Battery Park every 15 to 30 minutes. The ride itself also only takes about 25 minutes (one way), making this a great addition to any one day in New York City itinerary.
The World Trade Center Museum and Memorial – If you’re really short on time but still want to see the World Trade Center, then you could always skip the museum and just see the Memorial itself. It’s a really somber but beautiful tribute to all those who lost their lives during the 9/11 attacks. It’s also free to visit and well worth your time if you only have one day in New York City.
But, if you have the chance, definitely try and visit the 9/11 Museum. It’s extremely well done, providing visitors with great information about the events that occurred on that tragic day. it also does a really great job of honoring the victims. So much so that you should definitely bring a hankie since you WILL cry.
You also MUST buy a skip-the-line ticket since this museum is extremely popular and lines to get inside can be hella long. And when you’re seeing NYC in a day, you really don’t want to spend 3+ hours waiting in line.
The Occulus – Let’s be real, this is a giant transportation hub/mall at the World Trade Center. So, you’re really here for the awesome architecture and the epic photo ops since there’s not a whole lot to do here per se. It’s also built right atop Ground Zero and serves as a low-key 9/11 memorial too. You also can obviously see both the 9/11 Memorial and the Occulus while you’re here since they are about a 5-minute walk from one another.
And if you’re feeling a bit peckish, grab some delish Italian food from Eataly while you’re here. It’s part grocery. part epic Italian restaurant owned by the one and only Mario Batalli. So, you could easily grab something to go or dine in with a giant plate of fresh gnocchi/pizza.
Pro Tip: Honestly, I’m not super into the Financial District since I think it’s kind of overrated. However, some other popular attractions in the area include the Charging Bul Statue (just a photo op), the Fearless Girl Statue (another photo op), Trinity Church (Alexander Hamilton is buried here), and New York Stock Exchange (you basically admire the exterior and then biz-ounce).
Personally, though, I’d skip all of these during your one day in New York City since there are a ton of other cool things for you to see and do while enjoying NYC in a day.
Afternoon: One Day in New York City
Okay, from Lower Manhattan, you’ll want to hop on the 4/5/6 train (4/5 are express trains and faster) and take it all the way to the MET on Fifth Avenue.
The MET – Just get off at the 86th street station and walk 10-minutes to the museum. Now, because you only have one day in New York City, you probably won’t have time to see the inside of the museum.
Although, getting skip-the-line tickets to the MET is 110% worth it since this is easily one of the best museums in the world.
And some major highlights include:
- Taking in the views from the rooftop bar in the summer
- Temple of Dendur (giant Egyptian temple transplanted here from Egypt)
- Greek and Roman Sculpture courtyard area
- Assyrian Sculpture Court – See the epic lamassu.
- Head to the second floor, turn left, go through the hallway here and marvel at all the Impressionist piantings here from Van Gogh and various other artists.
- And so much more.
Yeah, you could easily spend an entire day here so see what you can.
And FYI, the MET no longer offers pay-what-you-wish admission. Yeah, this option is only available in person and to residents of Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania who pay in person and who present a valid ID.
So, if you’re not from any of these places and want to visit the MET, then avoid the long lines and book your skip-the-line ticket now.
Central Park – Because the MET sits right on the east side of Central Park, this iconic green space is a great place to go after you’ve stopped by one of the coolest museums in NYC.
And while you could absolutely spend the remainder of your day here, you may only want to do a short, 45-minute walk through the park as you make your way back downtown.
Some highlights that you may want to see along the way include the Alice and Wonderland statue (it’s right by the MET), Bethesda Fountain/Terrace, Sheep’s Meadow, the Loeb Boathouse (you’ll see all the pretty rowboats here), Belvedere Castle (also right by the MET), the Central Park Carousel, etc.
Sadly, you probably won’t have time to see Strawberry Fields since it’s all the way on the other side of the park and closer to the Museum of Natural History.
And if you’re worried about getting lost, just walk downtown (the street numbers will decrease), parallel to Fifth Avenue, near the perimeter of the park. Eventually, you should come out at the Plaza Hotel and can continue walking down Fifth Avenue.
Along the way, you’ll see some of the most famous landmarks in New York City, including:
The Plaza Hotel – This is the first site you’ll see as you exit the park and continue with your one day in New York City itinerary. A lot of people like to have afternoon tea here but I’d skip it since it’s expensive and not super delicious (Kings’ Carriage House is WAY better).
There is an awesome food court here in the basement though. So, feel free to stop by for some great eats if you’re feeling a bit hungry (Doughnuttery has great bite-size doughnuts, Lady M has epic crepe cake, and Epicerie Boulud has awesome French baked goods).
St. Patrick’s Cathedral – This is probably the single-most famous church in New York City and is a neo-Gothic, architectural gem that is well worth a quick look inside if you’re trying to see NYC in a day. It’s also totally free to visit and just a great place to go to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and this one day in New York itinerary.
Rockefeller Center – This is the immortal plaza where the aptly named, Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is proudly displayed every year. This is also where you can see a live taping of the Today Show, marvel at the Atlas Statue (it’s right on Fifth before you enter Rockefeller Center), or head up to the Top of the Rock for some awesome views of the Empire State Building.
You could also venture around the corner to Radio City Music Hall or embrace your inner child at the over-the-top Lego store. Whatever you do though, don’t leave without first taking a photo of the immortal fountain here.
New York Public Library – To get here, continue down Fifth Avenue and then turn left on 42nd Street. You’ll see Bryant Park and the New York Public Library on your right, guarded by the famous marble lions, Patience and Fortitude.
Step inside for a quick look at the stunning architecture of the Rose Reading Room (the ceilings, in particular, are stunning). If time allows during your one day in New York, you could also visit the DeWitt Wallace Periodical Room on the first floor (home to the Declaration of Independence and the Gutenberg Bible) or pick up a free audio guide from the info desk in Astor Hall.
Grand Central Terminal – Get back onto 42nd Street and you’ll eventually hit Grand Central Terminal on your left (as you walk away from Times Square). Not only is it totally free to visit but if you step inside this beaux-arts style wonder, you’ll able to marvel at the constellation embued ceiling above the main concourse while you’re here.
Pro Tip: If you have time, definitely stop by the basement-level food court here. Not only is it cheap, but there’s tons of great food to eat here, including Shake Shake, Magnolia Bakery (get the banana bread pudding), and Doughnut Plant doughnuts.
Since you’re short on time, I’d just hop on the 6 train at Grand Central, get off at 33rd Street station, and walk to the Empire State Building from here.
Empire State Building – Not only is this easily the single most famous building in the entire city, but it’s also home to one of the best views in all of New York.
So, since you only have time to visit one NYC observatory during your one day in New York itinerary, let this one be it.
Sure, it’s a bit expensive and yes, you won’t get stunning aerial views of the Empire State building since you’re on the building itself, but the views from the 102nd and 86th floors are totally worth your time.
It’s also more of an experience than just a view since the exhibits here do a great job of explaining the history of the building and how it came into being.
That’s why, if you’re a history nerd like me, you’ll love adding the Empire State Building to your one day in New York itinerary.
Just do yourself a solid and get your skip-the-line tickets now since lines are insanely long and you don’t have any time to waste as you attempt to see most of NYC in a day.
Pro Tip: Time your visit for sunset to enjoy the best views possible. Yes, you may have to pay extra for tickets but it’s so magical and totally worth it. it’s also pretty chilly/windy at the top so bring a sweatshirt. And lastly, check the weather before you visit to make sure it’s not cloudy when you stop by. Because it can get super overcast at the top and is not a fun experience when you spend all that money on a ticket and can’t actually see anything.
Evening: One Day in New York City
Before we get into the pure awesomeness that is Broadway, let’s first discuss great eats in the Theater District.
Because one of the best things to do with one day in New York is to go out for a nice dinner prior to the start of your evening, Broadway performance.
So, here are my picks for some of the best places to eat in the area.
- La Masseria NY (48th street)– This Southern Italian restaurant oozes old-world charm and is known for great carbonara, meatballs, burrata, and delicious desserts. It’s popular though so definitely make a reservation.
- Los Tacos No. 1 (43rd Street/Times Square) – Try the cactus tacos for something unique but the steak tacos are the best (all on corn tortillas). It’s also near Times Square and really informal if you’re looking for a cheap meal in the area.
- Trattoria Trecolori (47th Street) – Another solid Italian restaurant in the area that serves great chicken parm, homemade paste with marinara sauce, and delicious alfredo.
- Le Bernardin (51st Street) – Super high-end seafood restaurant that is a great place to go if you’re looking for an extra-special night out on the town. Make a reservation and do the 8-course tasting menu if you have the budget for it.
Honestly, I could not in good conscience create this one day in New York itinerary without mentioning Broadway. Because even if you hate musicals, you should 110% see a Broadway show.
Trust me on this. I’ve seen hundreds of Broadway shows and not only are they awesome (most of the time) but there truly is a show out there for everyone – even if you hate traditional theatrical performances (cough, see The Book of Mormon if you hate musicals and are into raunchy humor).
However, there is absolutely NO reason you should pay full price for a Broadway show…EVER. So, to see a Broadway show like a real local, check out my full guide on how to get cheap Broadway tickets at the last minute.
This way, you can quickly and easily get 50% off any Broadway tickets that you buy when using awesome things like the TodayTix app (a total lifesaver a must-have when visiting NYC).
Pro Tip: You can save even more money by seeing an off-broadway show instead of a Broadway show. The shows are just as good as their cousins on Broadway but a whole lot cheaper. The only difference is that they’re inside a smaller theater (usually under one hundred seats so you’ll get epic views)- hence the reduced ticket price.
And while there are a ton of different shows on Broadway – many of which have A-list celebrities in the cast – some of my personal faves include The Lion King, Aladdin (not as good as Lion King and definitely more for kids), Chicago, Phantom of the Opera (#LEGEND), and Wicked, just to name a few.
Also please be aware that if you want to see Hamilton, you’ll need to book your tickets well in advance and pay a ton of money for them. And while you could also join a ticket lottery for cheap tickets (like $20 cheap), there is no guarantee you’ll actually get them.
Now, once your show finally lets out, stop by Junior’s and share (yes, the slices are THAT huge) a quintessential slice of New York-style cheesecake.
They’re made daily with Philadelphia cream cheese and are served up fresh and delicious amidst the nostalgic, yester-year vibes of their outpost in Times Square.
And while the classic is my favorite, there are a ton of different flavors for you to choose from. FYI, Junior’s also totally lives up to all the hype, so you’ll quickly understand why they’ve been in business for 70+ years.
Pro Tip: If you have time and can get there before they close at 7:00 pm, stop by Eileen’s Special Cheesecake (in Nolita) for a delicious dessert that you can get to go and eat after your show. Trust me, Eileen’s is the best since they have been in business since 1974 and serve delicious, totally authentic, NY-style cheesecake. And yes, the salted caramel is my favie fave.
Now, once you’ve licked your plate clean (no judgment here), swing by Times Square and enjoy the bright lights of the big city.
Real talk? I flipping hate Times Square, as most locals do. But, I also understand that the technicolor neon lights, glowing theater marquees, and animatronic ads of Times Square are pretty dang impressive to anyone visiting the city for the first time.
So yeah, definitely check it out and see what all the fuss is about before you hit the hay for the evening. Just do yourself a favor and be aware of your surroundings since pickpockets love to frequent this tourist mecca of mayhem.
Also, be on the lookout for creepy AF people who walk around dressed up like famous cartoon characters (think grown adults in Elmo suits and Dora the Explorer outfits). They aren’t dangerous but they WILL charge you an obscene amount of $$$$ to take pictures with them.
Yup, you’ve been warned.
Map of Once Day in New York City Itinerary
Additional NYC Travel Resources You’ll Love
- 16 Best Indoor Activities in NYC
- 19+ Fun Things to do in NYC at night
- 16 of the Best Breweries in NYC
- An Expert’s Guide to Summer in NYC
- 30 Amazing Free Things to do in NYC
- The Ultimate Local’s Guide to Fall in NYC
- 25 Most Romantic Getaways in the USA
- 20 Best Gifts for a Road Tripper
- The Ultimate NYC Solo Travel Guide
- 20 Best Places to Shop in NYC on a Budget
- 22 Romantic Getaways in Upstate New York
Well, my NYC-loving friend, that just about concludes this hella epic one day in New York City itinerary!
Tell me, did everything on your New York in one day itinerary make this list? If not then let me know in the comments below and I’ll be sure to check it out.
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