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1 Day Itinerary for New York | What to do in NYC in 1 day

Simone de Beauvoir, a French philosopher from the early 1900s, was famously quoted saying, “There is something in the New York air that makes sleep useless.” It’s true.

New York is a forcefield; dynamic and buzzing, cosmopolitan and complex, with round-the-clock energy so contagious, you’ll see why it’s earned the nickname The City that Never Sleeps.

For those of you with limited time in this remarkable city, we’ve put together an ideal 1 Day itinerary for New York, a jam packed day that hits all the major sites and caps it off in true New York fashion with dinner, drinks, and a show.

But first, let’s tackle the question that you’re all probably wondering: Is one day in New York enough?

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Is one day in New York enough?

New York City, The Big Apple, The City that Never Sleeps… It’s made up of five boroughs, 300 square miles, 8 million people, over 80 museums, and over 25,000 bars and restaurants.

This doesn’t even count its extensive suburbs (New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut all lay claim to the so-called Greater New York City Area) and world renowned vacation hubs (we’re looking at you, The Hamptons and the Jersey Shore).

So, is it possible? Can this massive metropolitan behemoth—the most populous and iconic city in America—possibly be tackled in one day? The answer is yes, you can certainly tour New York City in a day, and we’ll help you do that with our 1 Day itinerary for New York.

But there are some caveats, of course. First thing’s first, you’ll have to get started early and move relatively fast; then, you’ll set your sights on just one or two boroughs (likely Manhattan and Brooklyn).

Lastly, you’ll have to focus only on the major sights, foregoing any lengthy museum visits. And if that’s all okay by you, then we’re confident you can spend one day in New York City like a pro.

NEW YORK CITY - Flatiron Building in New York, NY. Finished in 1902, the landmark skyscraper was designated a City Landmark in 1966 and a National Historic Landmark in 1989.

But is one day in NYC really enough? We’d truly be remiss not to mention that it’s ideal to spend more than 1 day in NYC, a city that has so much to offer, it can be overwhelming even for locals.

So that’s why we included a bonus section at the end of this 1 day itinerary for New York, where we’ll walk you through what to do in NYC if you find yourself with extra time.

Another important note is safety. First time visitors (or even return visitors) may rightfully worry about safety in this massive city. Rest assured, visitors who mind typical tourist precautions (i.e. pickpocketing) should not be concerned.

Solo travelers, we’ve kept you in mind too! This itinerary is perfect for those of you wondering how to spend a day in NYC by yourself—and safely, at that.

Now, without further ado, let’s dive into what to do in NYC for a day. Thoughtfully planned out with public transit and walking friendly routes in mind, this itinerary for one day in New York will hit all the major tourist sites and hopefully give you a taste of what it’s like to be a local in the Big Apple.

Overview Of 1 Day In New York Itinerary

  • Bodega Breakfast
  • Financial District
  • World Trade Center
  • New York Stock Exchange
  • Wall Street
  • Staten Island Ferry
  • Lunch like a Local
  • Brooklyn Bridge
  • Brooklyn Bridge Park
  • Manhattan Bridge Overpass/DUMBO
  • Empire State Building
  • Bryant Park
  • Times Square
  • Grand Central Station
  • Radio City Music Hall
  • Central Park
  • Pre-Show Dinner
  • Broadway Show

1 Day in New York

Here’s how we’re going to tackle your (admittedly very long, but very doable!) one day in New York.

Embarking from the public transit hub of downtown—the Wall Street/Financial District (FiDi) area—we’ll ease our way into Brooklyn, hop on the subway back to Manhattan, gradually heading uptown until we end the day with a Broadway show.

Grab your walking shoes, because seeing NYC in a day means you’ll be doing a ton of walking and subway riding, all of which is outlined in the itinerary.

Ready? Let’s jump in.

People ride yellow taxi cabs along 8th Avenue in New York. As of 2012 there were 13,237 yellow taxi cabs registered in New York City.

Bodega Breakfast

If you ask just about any local, they’d tell you that a day in NYC isn’t complete without a visit to their local bodega. ‘Bodegas’ are really just another name for convenience stores, but they’re a way of life in New York.

For a New Yorker, their local bodega—there’s usually one every couple of blocks—is where you can find everything from groceries to toiletries to flowers and, very often, freshly prepared food and coffee.

Many New Yorkers know their bodega owners on a first name basis, popping in for a breakfast sandwich, a coffee, and a friendly chat as they begin their day.

Since your journey starts downtown, we’ve identified some of the most typically ‘New York’ bodegas in the Wall Street/FiDi area, but there are plenty more beyond this list.

You have a long day ahead, so be sure to fuel up with something hearty, like an iconic bodega breakfast sandwich or an omelet. You might consider picking up a snack and water bottle while you’re there, too.

How to get here: By subway, take the NRW to Cortlandt St; the 1 to Rector St; the 4/5 to Wall Street Station; or the JZ to Fulton St. From there, the bodegas we’ve listed are all less than a 10 minute walk.

If you’re staying anywhere south of midtown (i.e. SoHo or the Lower East Side), the walk to FiDi down Broadway or West Broadway is pleasant and offers views of the World Trade Center.

Financial District

With your like-a-local bodega experience under your belt, it’s time for some sightseeing.

Once considered a stuffy, suits-only area for white collar workers that emptied out at night, the Financial District (lovingly referred to as FiDi by locals) has since evolved into a lively neighborhood with gorgeous architecture, solid food, and lots of sightseeing.

Below are some of the must-see spots in FiDi, each of which are within easy walking distance of one another. 

NEW YORK, USA - The Fearless Girl statue facing Charging Bull in Lower Manhattan in a cold winter day while snowing.

World Trade Center

Equal parts somber and beautiful, the World Trade Center is a non-negotiable while in NYC. Start by visiting the reflecting pools, deep water wells that stand in the exact locations of the former towers.

At the reflecting pools, you’ll find the names of 9/11 victims inscribed on the walls, and the nearby ‘survivor tree’, symbolizing the resiliency of the city in light of this tragedy.

The 9/11 museum is there too, which is well worth a visit if you have the time, but otherwise, we recommend just walking around and taking in the sights and feelings. 

Across the street is the ultra-modern World Trade Center subway station. Housed inside of a luxury shopping mall, this architectural feat was commissioned as part of the post-9/11 revival that FiDi underwent.

There’s usually a giant American flag hanging from the illuminated rafters of the A-frame building, making for a great photo opp. 

NEW YORK - Views of the Ground Zero in Manhattan Downtown New York. The Ground Zero is a symbol for the terrorist attacks on September 11 2001.

New York Stock Exchange

The New York Stock Exchange is the epicenter of FiDi, and arguably the epicenter of the world’s financial markets.

While the days of stock brokers running about and screaming out trade orders right on the market floor have passed, you’ll still get your share of Wolf of Wall Street vibes when you visit this iconic building. 

Famous Wall street and the building in New York New York Stock Exchange with patriot flag

Wall Street

Wall Street/FiDi isn’t just skyscrapers and suit-wearers; it has a quaint and European-like area, too. While walking around Wall Street, be sure to stop by Stone Street, and you forget for a moment that you’re in America.

An incredibly picturesque, cobblestone-lined street dotted by pubs and restaurants, Stone Street is popular after work and at night, too.

A ~10 minute walk from Stone Street, you’ll find South Street Seaport, once home to the Fulton Fish Market, which was an enormous, bustling market that serviced local restaurants and operated here as recently as the early 2000s.

Since shuttering its doors, the South Street Seaport area has undergone a transformation, featuring shopping, beer gardens, waterfront views, boat rides, and more.

Staten Island Ferry

Time to soak in some of those iconic NYC views. The Staten Island Ferry, though designed for commuters between Staten Island and Manhattan, is actually one of the best kept secrets for tourists in NYC. Why pay for a tourist boat ride when you can get it for free? That’s right: free.

The ferry is free to ride (even for tourists), and will delight you with unobstructed views of the Statue of Liberty and the lower Manhattan skyline en route to Staten Island.

Weather permitting, grab a spot on the upper deck for the best views. Once you’re in Staten Island, hop right back on the ferry to Manhattan, soak in the views once more, and it’s time for lunch.

New york city, new york. the staten island ferry on the hudson river in lower manhattan in new york city on a sunny day.

Lunch like a Local

Before heading to Brooklyn, we recommend grabbing a quick and easy lunch, as there’s some lengthy walking ahead.

If you didn’t already have a bagel for breakfast, we recommend Zucker’s Bagels & Smoked Fish. If you’re fixing for a slice of New York pizza, the iconic Joe’s Pizza has a location nearby. 

Brooklyn Bridge

It’s time to hit Brooklyn, our second borough of the day, easily reachable by foot. Walking slightly uptown from Wall Street/FiDi, you’ll find the walking entrance to the world famous Brooklyn Bridge in City Hall Park.

From here, simply follow the crowds of people eastward across the bridge; you can walk the entire way to Brooklyn, and there are plenty of spots for photos along the way.

Amazing view of New York city skyline and Brooklyn bridge with skyscrapers and East River flowing during daytime in United States of America

Brooklyn Bridge Park

Now that you’ve landed in Brooklyn, let’s get acquainted with this fascinating borough that so many New Yorkers claim as their favorite.

Parallel to Manhattan in ways beyond just its geography, Brooklyn is known for its quieter, slower pace of life, beautiful residential neighborhoods, sprawling parks, weekend markets, and incredibly trendy shopping and food scene.

Brooklyn really deserves a day of its own—the borough has so many micro neighborhoods within it that are worth exploring—but in favor of time, we’ll hit the key spots closest to Manhattan. 

The Brooklyn Bridge Park is a waterfront greenspace beneath the Brooklyn Bridge. Boasting incredible views of the bridge and Manhattan, this park is popular among both locals and visitors alike.

Check out Jane’s Carousel, a restored 1922 carousel built on the waterfront and still in operation today.

Overhead View of Park in Dumbo, Brooklyn of New York City. Brooklyn Bridge and East river

Manhattan Bridge Overpass/DUMBO

Just beyond Jane’s Carousel is the Manhattan Bridge, another iconic NYC bridge from which the local neighborhood, DUMBO, derived its name (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass).

Head to the intersection of Water and Washington Streets for one of the best views and photo opps in all of New York City. 

After all this walking, you might be ready for a coffee break. Consider hitting up a trendy Brooklyn-esque coffee shop before heading back to Manhattan, to get a small taste of this borough’s personality.

Stop by Joe Coffee Company, Devoción, or BEEPUBLIC Coffee before heading to the subway. 

Manhattan Bridge between Manhattan and Brooklyn over East River seen from a narrow alley enclosed by two brick buildings on a sunny day in Washington street in Dumbo, Brooklyn, NYC

Empire State Building

Say goodbye to Brooklyn, and hop on the F train at York St for a ~20 minute ride to midtown Manhattan.

When getting on the subway, be sure you get on the train headed towards Manhattan, otherwise you’ll end up deep into Brooklyn and have to backtrack quite a bit.

Get off the F train at Herald Square, and you’ll find the Empire State Building a short walk away on 34th Street between 5th and 6th Avenue. If you look up at the sky, you can’t miss it.

Pro tip: If you walk west along 34th Street (towards the Hudson River), you’ll eventually get a near full vertical view of the Empire State Building, making for a great photo opp.

The Empire State Building and New York City Skyline

Bryant Park

After you’ve ogled at the Empire State Building, let’s take a quick break at one of the most popular parks in Manhattan: Bryant Park.

A hotspot for business lunch breaks, winter Christmas markets, outdoor yoga classes, and more, Bryant Park is flanked by the New York Public Library on 5th Ave and the outskirts of Times Square on 6th Ave.

Be sure to stop by the iconic library building to snap a photo in front of the gargoyles, and consider taking a coffee break in the park.

How to get here: From the Empire State Building on 34th Street, walk six blocks north to 40th Street. Bryant Park spans 40th Street to 42nd Street between 5th and 6th Avenue.

Times Square

Now we head to a place that’s so iconic, so emblematic of New York City, it really doesn’t need any explanation. Times Square is the beating heart of New York City’s tourist attractions.

It’s chaotic, exciting, overwhelming, and loud. You’ll find street performers and vendors, endless shopping, and tons of restaurants (but we don’t recommend eating here). Set aside some time to wander and people watch while you’re here.

How to get here: From Bryant Park’s west side on 6th Avenue, simply walk west one more avenue to Broadway, and you’ll hit Times Square.

Times Square, featured with Broadway Theaters and LED signs, is a symbol of New York City, Manhattan. New York City. United States

Grand Central Station

In a country where public transit is adequate at best, Grand Central Station stands out as a diamond in the rough.

Considered one of the most beautiful train stations in the country, Grand Central Terminal is a stately, expansive building featuring towering windows, an ornate astrological mural on the ceiling, a famous four-faced clock, and a giant American flag.

The lower level houses shops, restaurants, and bars, and there’s even a hidden speakeasy inside the terminal, too.

How to get here: From Times Square, you can walk ~11 minutes due east on 42nd Street until you reach Grand Central Terminal at the intersection of 42nd Street and Park Avenue.

By subway, take the Times Square/Grand Central shuttle from the Times Square/42nd Street station to Grand Central/42nd Street, which takes approximately 10 minutes.

NEW YORK CITY, NY -  Grand Central interior in Manhattan, New York City. It is the second busiest station of the New York City Subway system with 42M passengers.

Radio City Music Hall

Home to the acclaimed Radio City Rockettes–a dancing group that is world famous for their synchronized kick lines–Radio City Musical Hall is an old school Art Deco theater that hosts concerts, comedy shows, and of course, the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.

If you happen to be visiting around Christmas time, we highly recommend grabbing tickets for this fun show (even if you don’t have kids with you!) Be sure to check out the theater’s show schedule to see if anything sparks your interest. 

Radio City Music Hall at Rockefeller Center in New York NY. Completed in 1932 the famous music hall was declared a city landmark in 1978.

Central Park

Undoubtedly New York City’s most famous park, Central Park is an urban oasis in the very center of Manhattan.

The park is quite large; it spans from 59th Street to 110th Street, but there’s much you can see in just the first 20 blocks or so.

If it’s a nice day, you’ll see tons of people sprawled across the fields having picnics, parties, and playing sports, showcasing the slower side of Manhattan life.

From the 59th Street entrance, walk north through the park for 20 to 30 minutes, and be sure to stop at the following landmarks along the way:

  • Central Park Carousel
  • The Mall and Literary Walk
  • Bethesda Terrace
  • Sheep Meadow
  • Strawberry Fields

How to get here: From Radio City Music Hall, walk 9 blocks north until you reach 59th Street (~10 minutes). Central Park’s southern edge is at 59th Street between Central Park West (8th Avenue) and 5th Avenue.

By subway, take the B/D line from the Rockefeller Center station until the 59th Street/Columbus Circle station (~8 minutes).

Try to end your visit to Central Park on the west side of the park (near Central Park West/8th Avenue) near 72nd Street around 5 or 6pm (depending on your plans for the evening).

Our next recommended stop on the itinerary is a pre-show dinner, followed by a Broadway play, and most plays begin at either 7 or 8pm.

Aerial view of Manhattan New York looking south up Central Park during epic sunset over the city.

Pre-Show Dinner

With your jam packed New York City day winding to an end, you’re probably ready for a good dinner.

A visit to New York wouldn’t be complete without a Broadway play, so we recommend ending on a high note with a pre-show dinner, followed by a Broadway play, and maybe even some post-show drinks.

The theater district is, unfortunately, known for subpar dining, but after tons of trial and error, we’ve found a few hidden gems.

Just be sure to make a reservation ahead of time and build in ample time before your show (plan for dinner and your walk to the theater after to take ~2 hours). 

How to get here:

From Central Park, exit the park at the 72nd Street exit and hop on the downtown C line from the 72nd Street station until 42nd Street/Port Authority Bus Terminal (~10 minutes), and you’ll be within a few minutes’ walk of all the above restaurants. By foot, you can walk due south from 72nd Street until Times Square (~30 minutes).

Broadway Show

The culmination of any great day in New York is a Broadway play. At any given time, there are over 25 plays happening on Broadway (and even more off-Broadway).

Pro tip: You can find the best ticket deals on Todaytix, a discount ticket retailer that all the locals use.

After the play, if you have any steam left in you, why not cap off the night with some post-show drinks? Here are some of the best post-show watering holes to check out, whether you’re looking for live music, an intimate setting, or panoramic views:

With that, your one day in New York is officially complete, and you’ve joined ranks with The City that Never Sleeps (which means you’re probably ready for a nice, long sleep yourself).

If the self guided nature of our itinerary isn’t for you, below we’ve listed guided tour ideas as well as ways to spend extra time in NYC, if you’re lucky enough to have some.

USA, New York, Manhattan. Broadway streets at night. Illuminated theatres, colorful neon lights, large commercial ads and people walking

What to do with extra time in NYC

NEW YORK,USA - The beach and the amusement park at Coney Island in New York City

Recommended tours in New York

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Author

  • Christina Germano Danczuk

    Meet Christina, a New York native with a love for Italy's limoncello spritz. Having explored 30 countries across the US, Europe, and Canada, her background in journalism and corporate communication, enriched by time in Germany, shapes her diverse travel experiences | As a devoted wife and mother, Christina effortlessly balances family life with romantic adventures. Specializing in family and couples' travel, she offers insights into journeys with children and intimate trips. Her expertise spans The Americas and Europe, with a special passion for integrating Italy's iconic drink, limoncello, into her travels.

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