If you are in New York City for under 24 hours, planning an itinerary that allows for the most out of your Big Apple trip can seem like a daunting task. With so much to do and so little time, you'll need to develop a solid travel plan. Fortunately, we've put together a comprehensive list of things you can do on one short day in the Concrete Jungle.
However, 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 as you'll likely be walking over 10 miles.
You'll be venturing all over the island of Manhattan, and the best way to do that is via NYC's public transit network, which requires a MetroCard; you can purchase an unlimited day-pass at any MTA subway station. We'd also recommend you pick up a New York City street map—it just makes getting around a little easier.
From breakfast at H&H Bagels to a morning exploring the many museums and parks of Manhattan to an NYC pizza lunch and afternoon perusing the shops and attractions of Greenwich Village, read over the following itinerary and plan your trip to the city.
Morning Itinerary: Breakfast, Museums, and a Bus Tour
One of New York City's signature breakfasts is the bagel and New York City is filled with great bagels, though you'd be hard-pressed to find two New Yorkers who agree about which one is the best. To make the most of your day in New York City, we highly recommend starting out at H & H Bagels at 80th Street and Broadway—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.
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).
These two museums could be explored for weeks or months, but you'll just have a few hours at either one. We'd suggest you try the "Museum Highlights Tour" which is free with admission at both museums. 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. 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.
Afternoon Itinerary: NYC Pizza and Greenwich Village
Regardless of which museum you visited, you should make your way to Fifth Avenue, where you can catch the M1 bus downtown using your unlimited daily MetroCard.
This above-ground form of transit gives you a pretty great view of Manhattan's famous Fifth Avenue shopping district. The ride should take about 45 minutes to get to Houston Street, where you should disembark for your next part of the day: lunch.
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 Coal Oven Pizza. Like bagels, there are many great places in NYC for pizza, but Lombardi's is an excellent choice for a first time visitor. Arriving around 2 p.m. during the week is ideal, as you're less likely to have to wait in line for a seat.
Getting There: From Houston, you'll walk two blocks south on Broadway, passing Prince Street, and take a left onto Spring Street. Walk four blocks, passing Crosby first, and you will find the red awning of Lombardi's; alternatively, if you want to make the journey more quickly, you can catch the subway from 86th & Lexington (three blocks east and four blocks north of the Metropolitan Museum) and catch the 6 (Green Line) train to Spring Street.
Now that you're full, it's time to walk off some of that pizza, and one of the best neighborhoods for wandering around 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 city 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 the Original Greenwich Village Food and Culture Walking Tour.
Getting There: From Lombardi's, walk two blocks north on Mott Street (Prince Street will be the first street you cross) and take a left onto East Houston. You'll walk about two blocks and see the Subway for the B, D, F, V (orange line). Take the first uptown train one stop to West 4th Street.
Night Itinerary: Dinner, a View, and a Night Cap
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, but if you're in the mood for some of the best Chinese food in the United States, head on over to Chinatown.
Chinese food in New York City is famously delicious, and surprisingly affordable. Two local favorite Chinese restaurants are Wo Hop (17 Mott Street) and Oriental Garden (14 Elizabeth Street). Wo Hop serves classic Chinese-American cuisine from lo mein to chop suey, in a plain below-street-level location while Oriental Garden focuses on fresh Chinese seafood that's still swimming in tanks when you arrive. You can also check out our 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.
Now that you've spent the day running around the city, it's time to see it all from above, and 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 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.
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 we'll make one final suggestion: check out Pete's Tavern (129 East 18th Street), the longest continually operating bar & restaurant in New York City (since 1864) which has also been featured in many movies and television programs. Here, you can grab a drink before heading out of the city on your way home.