New York, you either you love it or you hate it.
Some people have included a trip to New York in their bucket list. Those who have ticked it either lived their Carrie Bradshaw dream, or felt underwhelmed with the “concrete jungle” character of the city.
But beyond these impressions, expectations, and memorable movie moments, New York has a lot to offer. As the “city that never sleeps,” it satisfies the artsy, culture-vulture, shopaholic, hipster, and foodie in you.
While 48 hours is definitely too short for experiencing the city in its full glory, there are some top-of-mind spots and activities you can do to hit that tip of the New York iceberg.
Whether you choose to take it easy or do as many things as you want and be like the city (read: no sleep), here are some of the things you can do to make the most out of your 2-day New York vacay:
This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.
- Bagel breakfast
There’s no better way to kick-off your New York expedition than to sink your teeth (literally and figuratively) into what the city is most known for… bagels!
Get your bagel and cragel (croissant + bagel) fix at The Bagel Store in Williamsburg. It’s known for rainbow bagels and other quirky flavors like cotton candy and bacon schmear.
You can also try Pietro Nolita and The End Brooklyn for tomorrow’s breakfast, if your bagel cravings aren’t satiated just yet.
- Walk This Way Thru Harlem
Jump on a subway (a must do in New York) and join this tour organized by Hush Hip Hop Tours. Check out your first NY borough and learn about Harlem.
Not a hardcore hip-hop fan? Fret not – you’ll still enjoy this tour as you learn about hip-hop and the story behind some of the most famous names like Biggie, Tupac et al. You might even end up being a hip-hop fan afterwards!
- While you’re in Harlem, why not try Red Rooster and their incredibly must-have crispy bird sandwich. You can also check out the live music here every night (except Wednesdays) as well as the gospel brunch just downstairs, at Ginny’s Supper Club.
If you’re keen to do something touristy, then grab an NYC City Pass and walk around some of the major spots in the city.
Cue music: Empire State of Mind by Alicia Keys!
- Empire State Building, which is best for getting a full 360 view of the New York city line
- Top of the Rock, also best for getting that perfect Instagram shot with the city as your backdrop
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art to satisfy your craving for some art and culture. Re-enact some Met Gala moments while you’re at it.
- Geek out at The Natural History Museum, Guggenheim Museum, Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, and the New York Public Library
- Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island
- Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises
- 9/11 Memorial & Museum
If you’re not the type to join the crowd, you can opt for something less-touristy and go for therapy… shopping! Go to lower Manhattan and say hello to Fifth Avenue. Let the shopaholic in you run wild.
Want to see those famous Hollywood moments in real life? Central Park is the best place to start. You’ll surely find:
- The rock by Pinebank Arch in Elf
- The Bethesda Fountain, Bow Bridge and Columbus Circle from Enchanted
- Bandshell and the Conservatory Water from Breakfast at Tiffany’s
- Where Harry and Sally had a stroll in When Harry Met Sally
Hankering for some sports? It’s time to get into the NFL action. Head over to the Madison Square Garden and see a live American sports game. That, or banter with strangers in a sports pub downing cheap beers throughout the night. Try East Village Tavern or 4th Barn Sports Bar, which are some of the best in the city.
If you like something more laidback, you can go to a piano bar like Marie’s Crisis in the West Village. It used to be a prostitute’s den since the 1850s, turned into a boy bar in the 1890s, survived the Prohibition era, and is now a piano bar that “draws a crowd of gay locals & musical-theater performers in dimly lit digs.”
Just the history alone is a sure-fire way to have a classic New Yorker experience.
Other options if you want to dive deep into the New York trendy nightlife are:
- Cloud Social Rooftop Bar at the Knickerbocker Hotel
- Westlight at the William Vale in Williamsburg, Brooklyn
- The Happiest Hour
- Slowly Shirley (located under The Happiest Hour)
- The Garret
- Bathtub Gin
- Refinery Rooftop
Time to bring out your inner New Yorker and go for a walk along The High Line in Chelsea. If some greenery and great views are what you’re looking for, then you’re in for a treat. This is best done early in the morning while the sun is still friendly to the skin and most people are just about to get ready for work.
LUNCH UNTIL AFTERNOON
You cannot – I repeat – you cannot leave New York without having tried Brooklyn pizza! If you feel adventurous and didn’t have a big breakfast, then you can embark on a mission to find the best in the lot. A Slice of Brooklyn Bus Tours can help you with this. (It’s better to book ahead to guarantee your spot.)
Starting in Manhattan, the tour will take you around Brooklyn and these amazing food spots:
- Grimaldi’s, which is known to have that drool-worthy Margarita pizza
- L&B Spumoni Gardens for a bite (and more) of Sicilian-style pizza
- Brooklyn Brewery for some day drinks. It’s got its own epic history, but if you just want to cap off the tour with some beers (or join another one c/o the Brewery at 5 PM), this is the perfect place to go.
If you’re not the type to join tour groups, just make sure to drop by the places above and especially DUMBO – Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass. Look for that famous spot where the bridge meets the street! Check out the Brooklyn Bridge and the famous Brooklyn Flea Market, especially if you’re there on a Sunday between April and October.
For the art and culture enthusiasts, an alternative walk may be found in the Greenwich Village, said to be the epicentre of New York’s 1960s counterculture movement. The area is lined with cafes, jazz clubs, brownstone buildings, and theaters. You can also find Carrie Bradshaw’s flat in Sex and the City as well as the Washington Square Park.
End your 2-day trip with a bang! Depends on what your mood and preferences are, you can do any of the following:
- Jump on a free ferry ride to Staten Island to get the best views of the city and the Statue of Liberty.
- Catch a show at St Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn while seeing the whole Brooklyn Bridge through the glass rooftop.
- If you’ll go during winter, ice skate at the Rockefeller Center and relive that Elf moment where Jovey (Zooey Deschanel) and Buddy the Elf (Will Ferrell) shared their first kiss.
- Have a nightcap at the Brooklyn Bowl, where you can throw in some buffalo cauliflower, mac and cheese bites into the mix, or the Wythe Rooftop Bar just across the road for something more upscale and sleek.