new york in a day

New York In A Day – The Ultimate Itinerary

I just got back from a whirlwind trip to New York and although you can spend weeks or months there exploring the city, you’d be surprised what you can achieve in just a day. I’m serious – ONE DAY! Full disclosure we actually had 4 nights in Manhattan so we did have a little more time, but we ticked so much off the list on the first day I was amazed. New York in a day just doesn’t seem possible, I know, but if you are able to rally and willing to push through a pair of exhausted legs and maybe a blister or two, you can discover many of the incredible things this city has to offer. New York in a day can be done.

The city is renowned for being extremely expensive, but don’t let this put you off.  I was incredibly and pleasantly surprised at how many activities are free to enjoy. Seems pretty bizarre in the financial capital of the world but if you follow these tips below, the sting of your blisters won’t seem so bad 😉

Money Saving Tips for New York – NYC on a Budget

Activities for Free in New York


financial district new york


Your New York in a Day itinerary

This is a great itinerary if you have a short time in the city or a pain-in-the-ass layover at the airport. In fact, why not CREATE a short layover in between flights to break up travel time, have some fun and enjoy some culture in the Big Apple?

Obviously, in this short turnover, you really need to maximize your time. New York in a day is no joke. The best advice I can give is to base yourself on Manhattan Island. Try to find a hotel or AirBnb somewhere central and most importantly: near a subway station. This may cost you a little more depending on the time of year but it makes a huge difference to be in the heart of the city and is so worth it.


new york city


So get up early, pack yourself a day bag, put on some sensible shoes (I know, how boring) and get out there! It’s gonna be a long day…Make sure you read my New York City Travel Hacks – Explore the City like a Boss

This is an example itinerary of what you can do in New York in a day, with guideline times to help you stay on track. Your itinerary may differ depending on where you are based and how much time you spend on each activity. Make it work for you.


8am – Flatiron Building and Madison Square

Wakey wakey sunshine! Time to start your city adventure. The Flatiron building is by far one of the coolest structures in NY. We were lucky enough to be staying right around the corner from this awesome building, so activity number one was right on our doorstep. There is a nice little street side café placed in the centre of traffic so if you have some time (not now at 8am!), grab a beer and watch the hustle and bustle go by while admiring the architecture surrounding you.


flatiron building new york


Have a wander around Madison Square Park and admire the iconic Golden Street Clock in front of the Fifth Ave Building – it’s been there since 1909! The subway is conveniently located on Broadway (East 23rd St). It helps to understand the NY subway system as it’s different to the Underground system in London, for example.


fifth avenue golden clock new york


Grab a breakfast-to-go at Eataly

Just a block up from the Flatiron is the well-known Italian culinary delight called Eataly. Grab yourself a coffee and a to-go treat. You’re gonna need some sustenance if you want to achieve New York in a day. Eataly is not just one store but an Italian food hall of quality coffee, sweet pastries, deli treats, fresh pastas, aged beef, cannolis, pizza and more! If you’re a bit of a foodie then it’s worth a stop and a quick browse around.


eataly new york


09:30am – Walk The Highline

A 20 min walk from the Flatiron, down W 23rd Steet will take you to New York’s famous High Line. A linear public park built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. Either side of the walk way is surrounded by pretty gardens and the contrast of nature and high-rise architecture is quite unique. The perspective you get of the city from a slight height is pretty cool too. If you have time, take the “uptown” direction first to the top end of the walk way (or at least a little bit to get some good views) and then make your way back down until you get to the Chelsea Market.


highline new york



highline new york


10:30am – The Chelsea Market and Meat Packing District

Near the end of the High Line you will come across the Chelsea Market (street level). If you enjoy food markets and interesting food stalls it’s worth a quick visit. The building is an industrial-style labyrinth of trendy food stalls, restaurants, a really awesome seafood and lobster market, craft beer, home-made teas and more!


chelsea market new york


seafood chelsea market new york


After a quick peruse, make your way towards Greenwich village and wander the cobblestone streets through the meat packing district. Home to the Whitney Museum of American art and several trendy restaurants and bars, it’s worth a longer look if you have the time.


chelsea market new york


Walk Through Greenwich Village

Meander through the charming streets of Greenwich Village lined with greenery and brown-bricked buildings. It was known in the 20th Century as the Bohemian Capital and the birthplace of the 60’s counterculture movements. It’s also home to NYU and Washington Square Park which will be your next stop.


greenwich village new york


12:30pm – Washington Square Park

Find yourself a bench overlooking the fountain and have yourself a break. I’m sure your feet are hurting by now but let the beauty of your surroundings take away the pain. Take in the marvel of the Washington Square Arch, a beautiful white marble structure modeled on the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Watch the people milling around the fountain and maybe even catch some free jazz music in the park.



washington square park new york



washington square park new york


music washington square park new york


1pm – Lunch at Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ

Finally it’s lunch time – you’re halfway through your New York in a day itinerary! From Washington Square Park head towards Astor Centre where the giant cube is and make your way to the nearby Gyu-Kaku restaurant for some Japanese BBQ. It’s a fun and interactive concept with a small grill pit in the middle of each table, where you can grill your own meats. They offer awesome lunch specials for around $10 including a soup, salad, rice and edamame to accompany your choice of meat. The bibimbap special is also delicious and great value for money. If there are two of you (or more) I suggest getting one of each and sharing so you get a nice variety.


gyu kaku japanese bbq new york


2pm – Subway to Brooklyn Bridge

After lunch, grab a subway from Astor Place to City Hall. From there you can walk through the park, past City Hall itself, about 7 mins towards Brooklyn Bridge. I recommend just walking about halfway over the Bridge and turning around as it’s quite a way. We are, after all, trying to do New York in a day. It’s an impressive bridge to see and the view of the Financial District as you walk back is something to behold.


brooklyn bridge new york


3pm – Wall Street, NY Stock Exchange and the Charging Bull

Your next mission is a 15-20 min walk, down Broadway (or William St but Broadway is a more iconic street), into the heart of New York’s Financial District – the financial capital of the world! See where the wolves of Wall street anticipate and dictate the economy and marvel at the towering high-rises around you. Whenever you’re walking through the streets of New York – don’t forget to look UP. It’s an impressive perspective to say the least. At the point of Bowling Green sits the iconic Charging Bull. This 3,200 kg (7,100 lb) bronze statue, symbolizes the aggressive financial optimism and prosperity of Wall Street. If you can get past the crowds, don’t forget to give the bullock’s bollocks a little rub for good luck! Yes, it’s a thing…


charging bull new york


4pm – One World Trade Centre, 9/11 Memorial and The Oculus

One World Trade Centre, also known as the Freedom Tower is the main building of the rebuilt World Trade Centre complex. Located about 10-15 mins (walking) from Wall Street. You can’t miss it’s incredible architecture as it looms over the surrounding high rises. At it’s feet lies the site of ground zero. Two 1 acre pools with the largest man-made waterfalls in the United States mark the footprints of the Twin Towers. These pools were built to symbolize the loss of life and physical void left after the attack of 9/11.


911 memorial new york


It’s definitely an eerie feeling to stand there in the space where the Twin Towers used to reign, looking up at the “hole” in the skyline of high rises, and reading the names of the victims inscribed on bronze parapets surrounding the pools. It is, however a beautiful plaza and there is also the 9/11 museum if you have the time and desire to visit.


one world trade center new york


On a slightly more uplifting note, to the East of the memorial site you will see an incredible feat of design and architecture known as The Oculus. Some say it looks like a turkey carcass or whale’s rib cage, others say it’s a dove in flight. Acting as the centerpiece of the new train station, it’s really more of a shopping mall when you walk in.


the oculus new york


5pm – Subway to Times Square

Just around the corner from The Oculus is Cortland St Subway Station. From here take the R or W (yellow line) Uptown to 49th St Station. The ride takes about 25 mins and is 10 stops. Your feet will be grateful for the quick rest. From here you are just 2 min walk to Times square. You can’t miss it – follow the flashing billboards! Hang in there, you’re almost done with your New York in day itinerary!


times square new york


Times Square is just insane, and a bit of an assault on the senses, but in a good way. The gargantuan electronic billboards lining the buildings will leave you in awe. Take a second to let it all sink in; look up, look down and all around you. But most importantly – watch out for traffic! It’s hard not to get distracted while you’re walking.


times square new york


5:30pm – Book your tickets to Broadway!

Watching a show on Broadway is probably one of the most typical things to do in New York, and it’s such a blast! You could book tickets online through several different websites, but since you’re now in Times Square you can get discounted tickets at the TKTS Booth and save as much as 50%! Winning. Look for the red amphi-theatre style steps, on which people like to gather and sit watching the world go by. Behind these steps is the TKTS Booth. The evening Broadway shows are usually at 8pm, pick your favorite show and prepare to be entertained! We got to see Chicago, an absolute classic, and it was amazing.


broadway new york


6pm – Top of the Rock – New York from above

Just a 10 min walk away from Times Square is the famous Rockefeller Center. Visit the Top of The Rock and experience the city way up high from the building’s rooftop observatory. The queues are much shorter than going up the Empire State Building, another popular landmark of New York. I recommend buying tickets online with a scheduled arrival time (every 5 mins) to ensure you have a spot. The Rockefeller Building is not as high as the Empire State but some will argue that the view and overall experience is better. From here you get to actually see the Empire State as well as Central Park. This will definitely be a highlight of your New York in a day itinerary.



7pm – Grab a Famous NY Pizza Slice for $1

No doubt you will be completely ravenous after such a hectic day! You’ve got some time before the show starts so find a typical pizza joint near you and grab yourself a $1 slice. Hell for that price grab a couple! These little hole-in-the-wall type places are all over the city and great for a quick pit-stop. Ideally look for ones that have the blue “A” in the window. Every year the Health Department of New York make unannounced inspections of restaurants throughout the city. They grade them on a scale of A, B or C, “A” being the best.


new york pizza


8pm – It’s Showtime!

It’s been a long, hectic day and finally you get to sit down for the next couple of hours. Make sure you get to the assigned Theatre at least 10 mins before showtime, grab yourself a cold one, sit back, relax and enjoy the show! The shows are around two hours long with a 15 minute interval.


chicago the musical


10:30pm – Unwind with a Cocktail and Live Music

After the show, if you still have the energy I highly recommend enjoying a drink and some live music at The Rum House. This low-ceiling’d, vintage, candle-lit piano bar is located in the Hotel Edison, just off Times Square. They have fantastic cocktails, snacks, fun music and the best popcorn you’ve ever had in your life! Find yourself a cozy corner and let the craziness of the day melt away. You’ve just achieved New York in a day!


the rum house new york

Image courtesy of TripAdvisor


I hope you’ve enjoyed this itinerary to experience the best of New York in a day. Let me know if you’ve found this useful and have been able to pull it off! Feel free to share your experiences or questions in the comments below. Happy travels 🙂

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