New York City Guide: One Day In New York

Make the most of a single day in New York City with this suggested itinerary.

The Empire State Building A daytime view
••• Steve Lewis Stock/The Image Bank/Getty Images

More: One Day on the East Side | One Day on the West Side

So, you have just one day in New York City and you want to know how to get the most of New York City in the least amount of time? I've put together a great itinerary for one day in New York City that will give you a chance to get a big bite out of the Big Apple in just one day. (And then you can start planning your return visit!)

Making the most of a single day in New York City will require a few things.

First, be ready for an action filled day and wear good walking shoes. You'll be venturing all over the island of Manhattan, and the best way to do that is with a MetroCard. I'd also recommend you pick up a New York City street map -- it just makes getting around a little easier.

One Day In New York City Itinerary:

Breakfast: H & H Bagels
Morning: Metropolitan Museum of Art or American Museum of Natural History and walk through Central Park
Bus Tour: Ride the M1 Bus down Fifth Avenue
Lunch: Lombardi's Coal Oven Pizza
Afternoon: Greenwich Village
Dinner: Chinese in Chinatown or Lower East Side Delicatessen
Night: View New York City from the top of the Empire State Building
Night Cap: A Drink at New York City's Oldest Continually Operating Bar & Restaurant

Details and Directions: Breakfast through Lunch and Afternoon through Night Cap

One of New York City's signature breakfasts is the bagel. New York City is filled with great bagels, and you'd be hard pressed to find two New Yorkers who agree about which bagel is the best. To make the most of your day in New York City, I highly recommend starting out at H and H Bagels at 80th Street and Broadway (212- 595-8003). Not only do they have great bagels, their location on the Upper West Side is the perfect place to begin your day.

Getting There: With your MetroCard, take the 1 (red line) train to the 79th Street station. You'll walk one block north on Broadway and H & H Bagels is on the corner. Enjoy a bagel (everything, not toasted with cream cheese is my personal favorite) and coffee ($9 for two) while getting ready for a great day in New York City.

One day is certainly not long enough to explore all of New York City's fabulous museums, but with this one-day itinerary, you can choose to spend your morning either at the American Museum of Natural History or the Metropolitan Museum of Art(be aware -- the Metropolitan Museum of Art is closed most Mondays). If you go to the American Museum of Natural History, you'll walk through Central Park after your visit, and if you go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art you'll walk through Central Park en route to the museum.
These two museums could be explored for weeks or months, but you'll just have a few hours at either one.

(I urge you not to try and visit more than one museum per day.) I'd suggest you try the "Museum Highlights Tour" which is free with admission at both museums. Both museums offer Highlights tours at 10:15 a.m. and 11:15 a.m.(as well as at other times of the day). Consult the schedule for AMNH Highlights Tour and Metropolitan Highlights Tour if you're altering your plans or if you're visiting on a weekend.

Getting There: From H & H Bagels, you'll want to walk north one block and then east three blocks on 81st Street. This will put you at the entrance to the American Museum of Natural History. If you're heading to the Metropolitan, you'll want to enter Central Park at 81st Street and walk East across Central Park to the Metropolitan Museum, which is located on Fifth Avenue (which runs along the East Side of the Park) and 82nd Street. Watch your map closely, as the winding paths make it easy to head in the wrong direction. I'd recommend you print this map of Central Park. This walk should take you by the Shakespeare Garden, Delacorte Theater, the Great Lawn, the Obelisk and you can exit at either 79th or 85th Street.

No one should spend a day in New York City without enjoying a great piece of pizza, so our next journey will bring us to the oldest pizzeria in America -- Lombardi's. Like bagels, there are many great places in NYC for pizza, but Lombardi's is an excellent choice for a first time visitor.
Getting There: Regardless of which museum you saw, you should find yourself on 5th Avenue when you're ready to head to lunch. You'll get a chance to rest your feet and see lots of the city on Manhattan's M1 bus.

Your MetroCard will cover your fare, but make sure you catch one of the M1 buses going to "South Ferry." (You can always ask the bus driver if you're unsure.) Although the bus takes longer than the subway, you'll have a chance to see Central Park, as well as many of Manhattan's famous hotels and stores as you ride down 5th Avenue. The ride will take about 45 minutes or so, and you'll want to get off at Houston Street (native New Yorkers say How-ston not Hugh-ston). You'll walk two blocks south on Broadway (you'll pass Prince Street) and take a left onto Spring Street. Walk four blocks (the first block you cross is Crosby) and you will find the red awning of Lombardi's Coal Oven Pizza. Touted as the oldest pizzeria in America, you're sure to enjoy a slice of New York here ($20 for a pizza and beers for two).

Arriving around 2 p.m. during the week is ideal, as you're less likely to have to wait in line for a seat. Alternatively, if you want to make the journey more quickly, you can catch the subway from 86th & Lexington (3 blocks east and 4 blocks north of the Metropolitan Museum) and catch the 6 (Green Line) train to Spring Street. You'll miss the view, but it will cut your travel time significantly. Exit the train at Lafayette and Spring Streets -- walk east on Spring Street (you'll cross Lafayette and then Mulberry Streets) and Lombardi's will be on your right.

Details and Directions: Afternoon through Night Cap in New York City, New York City One Day Itinerary Overview

Now that you're full, it's time to walk off some of that pizza. One of my favorite neighborhoods for wandering is Greenwich Village. It feels like a bit of Europe with a trendy twist. Off of many of the main streets, you can find yourself on tree lined blocks with beautiful houses -- and it's hard not to notice how surprisingly peaceful it is, despite the excitement just a few blocks away.

Having your map (or printing one out of Greenwich Village will free you up to enjoy your strolling and to peek around interesting corners. For some other ideas of noteworthy finds in the area, see my Gourmet Tour of Greenwich Village and the Original Greenwich Village Food and Culture Walking Tour.
Getting There: From Lombardi's, walk 2 blocks north on Mott Street (Prince St. will be the first street you cross) and take a left onto East Houston. You'll walk about 2 blocks and you'll see the Subway for the B, D, F, V (orange line). Take the first uptown train one stop to West 4th Street.

The options available for dinner in New York City are virtually endless. Home to some of the world's finest restaurants, as well as many more affordable choices, it's hard to suggest just one place to have dinner, so I won't. Instead, you can choose from among these suggestions, or even branch out on your own to find something entirely different.

Chinatown: Chinese food in New York City is famously delicious, and surprisingly affordable. Two of my favorite Chinese restaurants are Wo Hop (17 Mott St., 212-267-2536)(dinner for 2, $30) and Oriental Garden (14 Elizabeth St., 212-619-0085) (dinner for 2, $40). Wo Hop serves classic Chinese-American cuisine from lo mein to chop suey, in a plain below street level location (there's a second Wo Hop on the same block -- be sure to go to #17, whose entrance is down a flight of stairs).

Oriental Garden focuses on fresh Chinese seafood, so fresh, it's still swimming in tanks when you arrive. You can also check out my list of Recommended Chinatown Restaurants for some other ideas.
Getting There: From the West 4th Street Subway, take the B or D downtown 2 stops to the Grand Street Station. Exit on Grand Street and walk west, crossing Bowery. If you're heading to Oriental Garden, take a left onto Elizabeth Street and walk two blocks. If you're heading to Oriental Garden, take a left onto Mott Street (one street past Elizabeth) and walk two blocks.

Delicatessen: Want to relive the orgasm scene in When Harry Met Sally? You'll certainly recognize many of the famous patrons pictured on the walls of Katz's (205 East Houston St., 212-254-2246) where you can experience a true taste of New York City with a corned beef (or pastrami) on rye, Dr. Brown's soda and a knish. They also have great hot dogs. These sandwiches don't come cheap ($10.50), but they are large and delicious.
Getting There: From the West 4th Street Subway, take the F or V downtown 2 stops to the 2nd Avenue station. If you exit at the front of the train onto 1st Avenue, you will cross Houston and walk East about 3 blocks to Katz's.

Now that you've spent the day running around the city, it's time to see it all from above. The view from the top of the Empire State Building at night is particularly exciting. You should consider purchasing your tickets online, to save time waiting to go up the elevator -- it's set up so there is one line for buying tickets and then a second line for waiting to take the elevator up and you can skip the first line by printing your tickets yourself. Audio tours ($6) are available as well, but I think the view speaks for itself.
Getting There: From the recommended restaurants above, you can take the B, D, F, or V train uptown to 34th Street. Walk one block east to 5th Avenue and take a left. The entrance to the Empire State Building is on 5th Avenue between 33rd & 34th Streets. (Regardless of where you had dinner, the Empire State Building is easily accessible: you can take the 1, 2, 3 or 9 (Seventh Avenue Lines), A, C or E (Eighth Avenue Subway) to 34th Street/Penn Station or the N, R or Path to 34th Street/Avenue of the Americas.)

Night Cap:
New York has unparalleled nightlife offerings, and it would be impossible to suggest something that would satisfy everyone from the club goer to the cigar smoker, but I'll make one final suggestion: check out Pete's Tavern (129 E. 18th St., 212-473-7676), the longest continually operating bar & restaurant in New York City (since 1864) and also featured in many movies and television programs.

Details and Directions: Breakfast through Lunch, Itinerary Overview