New York 2 Days Itinerary for First-Time Visitors

by Anjali Chawla

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If you are pressed for time and only have a day or two to spend in New York, you can follow our New York 2 days itinerary to make the most of your time in the big dream city.

New York City in 2 days! Crazy? Yes. I mean, no, you can’t explore the world’s biggest city in just two days. Our friends who have been staying in NYC for 6 years now still haven’t seen it all.

Ours was a crazy crammed itinerary. We managed to see most of the major tourist sights in New York City in two days!

We went to New York City over 8 months ago and I still haven’t gotten around to writing about it. We squeezed a lot of places into the little amount of time that we had!

I’ll be honest here. When we planned for New York City, I didn’t do any research. Getting to NYC excited me so much that I forgot to do the backend work.

Anyhow, the city welcomed us with open arms and made us learn on the go.

In this post, I have also documented the mistakes we did and the lessons we learned during our 2 days in NYC with kids for you to thrive in the greatest city in the world. No doubt it is one of the Best Places to visit in the USA with kids.

A Trip to New York City – Planning an Itinerary

Chalking out an itinerary for the USA trip seemed like the most difficult and challenging part of the trip.

Narrowing down the list to a few places out of limitless astonishing places in the USA kept us busy for days.

New York City was on top of the list of places to be visited for a good reason, you know.

Out of 20 days of our USA trip, 2 days were dedicated to New York.


I know. I know. How silly of us to think that we can explore the world’s greatest city in just two days!

We were confused as to what to see and do in NYC in just two days. We had an endless list of recommendations from friends and of course, the internet.

After a lot of reading and searching on the internet about how to do NYC right, one thing was sure weekdays are best to discover NYC if you are short on time.

I took physical and mental notes.

I normally jot down all the important points in my travel diary and carry it all time during my travels. This habit makes my life simple while traveling.

We decided to cover the so-called cliché – iconic and famous sights during our 48 hours in New York. Don’t judge me here!

They might be touristy but it’s the first time we’d see the Iconic NYC landmarks we had been seeing in movies and photographs for years.

Makes sense?

Our friends in Philadelphia had been the perfect host. Really! Can’t thank them enough for the unforgettable USA trip.

If you are based out of Philadelphia, then don’t forget to check the exhaustive list of best day trips from Philadelphia with kids.

Our Rendezvous With the New York City

They say, if you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere!

They call it; New York City, NYC, Gotham, Big Apple, The Capital of the World, The City That Never Sleeps, The City of Dreams, Empire City, Hymie Town; I call it Pure Joy!

“Concrete jungle where dreams are made of, there’s nothing you can’t do, now you’re in New York!”
~ Alicia Keys

I had dreamed of visiting NYC since childhood.

As a kid and college-goer, I loved watching Hollywood movies and saw NYC as a backdrop for many classic movies.

Lofty sky-scrapers, yellow taxis, Times Square with its incandescent neon lights, gorgeous Lady Liberty, and Bustling sidewalks…the mental images of the city remained with me until one day I got a chance to feel, touch, and understand its soul!

Nothing ever becomes real ‘til it is experienced.
~ John Keats

Walking the streets of New York City was an utterly surreal experience.

I truly was star-struck by the city. NYC was everything I had anticipated and more.

Our New York 2 Days Itinerary

We made our New York itinerary in a way that delivers a versatile, complete, and classic introduction to NYC in 2 days.

Our itinerary listed 16 things to do in NYC with kids.

  1. Ride the Subway
  2. Explore the wonders of NYC on foot
  3. Climb the Empire State Building Observation Deck for the night view of NYC
  4. Climb the Top of The Rock at the Rockefeller Centre for a 360-degree view of NYC
  5. Walk the Brooklyn Bridge
  6. Walk the High Line
  7. Lightening experience at Times Square
  8. See a Broadway Show
  9. Climb the One World Observatory, the highest viewpoint in NYC
  10. Pay tribute to The National September 11 Memorial
  11. Visit the Statue of Liberty
  12. Explore Central Park
  13. Try Bagels and Cupcakes
  14. Visit Grand Central Terminal, NYC’s historic train station
  15. Intrepid Museum
  16. American Museum of Natural History

Surprisingly, 13 out of 16 must-dos were ticked off the list 🙂

We missed the Broadway Show, Grand Central Terminal, and the American Museum of Natural History Nevertheless, there’s always the next time, they say and I believe.

Mini-me made sure we visit the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC to cover up the loss in NYC 🙂

Day 1 in New York City

With loads of anticipation, we boarded an Amtrak train from Philadelphia to New York.

Rain Gods seem to have special love and affinity for our family.

Imagine the situation, you are visiting a place you’ve been dying to go and there comes the rain to wash all your plans.

You can’t really brood about the things that aren’t in your control.

So, What do we do?

Better let it be. Sensible, eh?

Suggested Read: How to Travel Around the USA Without Driving

Our first-ever experience of a train journey in the USA was beautiful.

It simply got better after a magical spell of rain.

It was breathtaking to look out the window on a fast-moving train and admire the scenic views that are enhanced by the rainy weather.

new york 2 days itinerary amtrek train journey on a rainy day

The 81 miles journey took us 1 hour and 25 minutes to reach New York.

It was 10 in the morning. Penn Station was brimming with people.

Think New York and images of crowded sidewalks and subways come to mind.

“It’s living up to the expectations,” I thought to myself. We hurriedly made our way through the sea of people to exit the subway.

Outside the subway, iconic yellow taxis and skyscrapers welcomed us.

The first glance of the prodigious city intimidated us. It was nothing less than a dream come true.

It took us some time to acclimate to the surroundings.

yellow cabs new york 2 days

Rain Gods, however, showed no mercy. It was raining cats and dogs and horses.

While we were contemplating how to explore and what to explore in this kind of weather, a group of barkers for Hop-on Hop-off tour buses ambushed us. BTW, if you find yourself in a similar situation like us, there are tons of things to do in NYC on a rainy day we didn’t know about then 🙂

They tried hard to sell their tours and were not ready to take ‘no’ for an answer.

Sigh! Commercialism is bound to happen in places like NYC that witness hordes of tourists every year.

We walked away from Madison Avenue to get rid of those barkers and sat at a bus stop across the street which served as a much-needed shelter from the rain.

Okay. We didn’t have rain gear. Ill-prepared, as I told you.


Despite everything.

I loved the streets. I loved the people rushing in the streets. I loved the energy that NYC emits.

new york city streets

After a brief stopover, we decided to explore New York City on foot.

The plan was as crazy as it sounds.

Walking the Streets of New York City

Crossing streets and neighborhoods (uptown and downtown) randomly; we explored the wonders of Manhattan.

Walking wet New York City streets was an experience in itself 🙂

Seeing NYC from a Different Perspective from a City Sightseeing Bus

After two hours of discovering and rediscovering (It was so confusing that many a time we found ourselves on the same streets and corners), we boarded a City Sightseeing Bus.

My daughter chose to sit on the top of the Double Decker bus.

We wore the ponchos given by the bus tour guide and sat comfortably listening to her narration of the past and present of the Big Apple.

new york city hop-on-hop-off bus

People on the bus were busy taking pictures of famous attractions like St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Flatiron Building, Central Park, Wall Street, and many more as the bus moved from one neighborhood to another.

We disembarked and embarked on the bus at a few attractions but the wait for the bus and search for the bus stop wasted a lot of time that could have been used to explore more of the city.

If you want to explore the city by sightseeing bus then I’d recommend booking a Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus Sightseeing Tour for 2 or 3 days as it saves you money.

Walking the Wall Street and Getting a Pic with the Charging Bull

A trip to New York City is incomplete without taking a walk on one of the oldest streets in New York City i.e. Wall Street and getting a cliché picture with the most iconic sculptures in the world known as Charging Bull.

new york 2 days itinerary wall street charging bull

The statue of a bull was surrounded by tourists waiting for their turn in a line to get clicked with it.

We walked along Wall Street to witness many notable buildings like The New York Stock Exchange, Federal Hall with George Washington’s huge statue outside, and 40 Wall Street.

new york stock exchange nyc in 2 days with kids

I and hubby explained the significance of the iconic structures to mini-me. The hands-on experience that our daughter gets is the most rewarding part of our travels.

Window Shopping at Soho

Whether you want to shop or not, SoHo needs your attention.

Exploring upscale designer stores like Chanel and Prada and walking aimlessly on cobblestone streets gives you a different kind of high.

Soho nyc usa new york 2 days itinerary
Soho new york 2 days itinerary

SoHo is much more than a shopping destination; it houses some of the famous art galleries, museums, and much more that we couldn’t see because of time restrictions.

Taking in the Views from the Top of the Rock

We stopped at Rockefeller Center en route to Times Square.

rockefeller top of the rock new york

Climbing the observation deck atop Rockefeller Centre to be mesmerized by the 360-degree view of NYC was a grand experience.

times square new york 2 days itinerary

Seeing the NYC of Dreams at Times Square

Dazzling Times Square at night stole our hearts. The drizzling made it look more vibrant.

Iconic Empire State Building

We wrapped the day after exploring the Empire State Building. The night view of the city from the 102nd floor was ravishing.

manhattan skyline from empire state building

We had never walked as much as we walked in New York City.

nyc in 2 days with kids tired after exploration

We decided to eat at our favorite food joint in America; Chipotle Mexican Grill. Mini-me loved the Kid’s Menu while we enjoyed the rice bowl and burritos.

Our stay at different hotels in different cities in the USA was booked by our friends.

As Barack Obama was in NYC at the time of our visit, all the hotels in central locations were full or rather costly so they had to book the hotel in New Jersey.

If we had our hotel in Times Square or some other prime location, we would have discovered more of the city.

Nevertheless, we were happy as the arrangement allowed us to see NJ.

We boarded the Path Train from 33rd Street to Hoboken (New Jersey) at around 10:30 p.m. and checked in to our hotel quite late.

The regret of booking a hotel across the river (NJ) vanished as soon as I walked the streets of New Jersey at night. It looked like mini-India.

We stayed at Ramada by Wyndham Jersey City and it’s an inexpensive yet lovely place to stay.

NJ can be an option to stay while exploring NYC for several reasons viz. Proximity to NYC, less expensive than Manhattan, and awesome connectivity.

PATH operates 24/7 allowing you generous time to capture the nightlife of the city that never sleeps.

Day 2 in New York City

To our surprise, the Hoboken station was crowded even at 7 in the morning. Most of the commuters included the daily workforce who have offices in NYC.

PATH was too cramped to get a place to sit. However, it didn’t bother me as I enjoyed observing the behavior of people of various ethnicity and culture.

This vibrant amalgamation of cultures is the essence of New York City.

Each and every face here tells a different story. I was busy reading those stories when hubby nudged me telling me to get off the train.

We arrived at the World Trade Center station PATH.

nyc subway path
wtc station path new york

It was our last day in NYC and also the weather was in our favor unlike yesterday, so we decided to make the most of it.

Exploring Oculus

We spent some time exploring Oculus, the World Trade Center Transportation Hub that apart from a train station encompasses retail stores and eating joints. You can grab a bite while exploring this insanely gorgeous train station.

We thought to start our NYC day 2 expedition with One World Observatory.

Climbing a number of escalators from Oculus took us to One World Trade Centre.

At the ticket counter, the girl warned us about very low visibility (almost zero) because of fog and suggested coming back later in the afternoon. Our Bad.

Exploring the Meatpacking District and Chelsea Market

We took her suggestion and boarded a taxi to Chelsea Market.

Mini-me grabbed a bite of Nutella and Strawberry Crepe at Bar Suzette Creperie while we sat at Chalait for our caffeine fix.

Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum

After a much-needed coffee break, we headed for the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum, one of the best museums in NYC.

Mini-me had desired to see this particular museum. It was one of a kind experience getting up close with air crafts, Concords, submarines, and the Space Shuttle.

Quite a learning and entertaining experience!

intrepid museum new york

Walking the High Line

Walking the High Line to one of the charming neighborhoods of Manhattan, West Village (Greenwich) was well worth all the pain in the legs.

Tired and hungry, we gobbled Cinnamon Raisin Bagels at Murray’s with a cup of coffee. Murray’s is one of the best places to get your High Line coffee.

Take a Stroll in Central Park

Post that, we headed to Central Park to spend some time people-watching while getting respite from the cacophony of NYC.

There’s so much to see and do in this iconic park in NYC but we didn’t have enough time.

From lakes to green meadows, picturesque bridges, lovely gardens, and architectural wonders – Central Park has it all.

central park new york city with kids

Live events in the park happen almost every day during summertime and are free mostly. The best way to explore Central Park is by biking.

We didn’t have enough time to do that though we would highly recommend renting a bike for kids from Central Park Sightseeing Bike Rentals if you have time.

Save 50 % by Renting a Bike From Central Park Sightseeing Bike Rentals Online.

Climbing the One World Observatory, Finally!

Hoping that visibility must have been improved, we came back to One World Trade Centre.

WTC one world trade center new york

Of course, the view at the top is the main attraction but the journey to the top is no less than that.

The Elevator that took us to the observation deck at the top of America’s tallest building displayed awesome CGI (Computer-generated imagery) time-lapse of New York City over the centuries.

one world trade center nyc

The lift takes as little as 47 seconds to reach the top floor at 1,268 ft. ThyssenKrupp (A German multinational) has designed and built all the escalators and lifts in One World Trade Centre.

One of the magazine quotes, “The speeds of lifts are comparable to Usain Bolt’s world-record 100-meter sprint.”

What an awesome experience it was though I felt dizzy for some time.

one world observatory nyc

The lift takes you to the See Forever Theatre which is a beautiful audio-visual experience (a trailer before a movie kind of) and then comes the Main observatory on the 100th floor which takes your breath away.

Spectacular and expansive views of Manhattan Skyline in whichever direction you look.

new york skyline views from one world observatory

One World Explorer iPad helped us in exploring the landmarks like Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, the United Nations HQ, the Brooklyn Bridge, and many more with ease but had to pay $15 for the one. It’s optional.

Liberty Island Ferry and Statue of Liberty

Our tickets for the visit to the Statue of Liberty were already booked by our friends.

After clearing the Initial security screening and then waiting for some time in the queue, we boarded the ferry that took us to Liberty Island.

liberty island ferry new york

ProTip: Leave your backpacks at the hotel and don’t carry the eatables as nothing is allowed inside. It took us a lot of time to take the lockers and stuff our backpacks inside as we had already checked out of our hotel in NJ.

statue of liberty new york

There’s an elevator up to the pedestal but one has to climb around 160 steps (a narrow maze-like staircase) to reach the crown.

It was mesmerizing to witness Manhattan Skyline from Liberty Island.

manhattan skyline from liberty island
Manhattan Skyline as seen from Liberty Island

It was late afternoon when we came back from the Liberty Island cruise.

Relaxing at One of many Cafes in Manhattan

We ate doughnuts and hash browns with a cup of coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts.

Paying Tribute at 9/11 Memorial

Visiting the National September 11 Memorial made me teary-eyed and emotional.

It was an overwhelming, strange, and weird feeling to witness a place dedicated to nearly 3000 (outrageous number) people killed during the disastrous event in the recent past.

national September 9 11 memorial new york city

The feeling of helplessness encompasses you knowing that terrorism still continues to be the greatest threat to the world.

Two pools with overflowing waterfalls on four sides look beautiful but as you touch the names of the victims inscribed along the edges of the pool, grief fills your heart.

Taking an Evening Walk at Brooklyn Bridge

We took a refreshing walk across the Brooklyn Bridge in the evening admiring the views of the city all lit up before we bid goodbye. We took lots of pictures of the Brooklyn Bridge. After all, it’s one of the most Instagrammable places in NYC.

evening walk at brooklyn bridge nyc

Dining at Hummus Market

After eating a savory stuffed Pita with Israeli salad at Hummus Market (My love for Mediterranean food is irritating sometimes…for hubby and mini-me), it was time to leave…no…it was actually a time to take NYC memories in our hearts forever.

On a side note, I know there are oodles of lavish places to eat in Brooklyn, however, Hummus Market is the perfectly seasoned veggie delight you should try when in NYC!

With a promise to come back again, we boarded a mega bus to Philadelphia.

Sometimes, getting a true feel of the city requires more than just witnessing the iconic landmarks; exploring beyond the known and famous. I want to see NYC off the beaten path.

I would love to explore more of the boroughs like Queens and Bronx next time.

Also, I’d add Bushwick to my list for its famous street art and of course, seeing one of the Broadway Shows.

See, the plan is underway. I’m coming back soon, NYC!

I’m still in a New York state of mind. Most of my conversations still start like, “When I was in New York City…”

Here’s the official guide to NYC to plan your trip to New York with ease.

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Our favorite, Get Your Guide offers the best New York City tours and tickets to all the famous places and attractions at reasonable prices.

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Have you been to NYC? What’s your favorite thing to do in the city? We are all ears.

I sincerely hope that our New York 2 days itinerary makes things easy for you while planning a First-ever trip to New York. If it does, could you please share it with others too 🙂

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new york 2 days itinerary

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Anjali Chawla

A story-weaver, and a writer, Anjali is a true-blue traveler. Her passion for travel and writing inspired her to handcraft this space she calls her virtual home. She travels far and wide to experience new cultures and bring back stories to share with her readers. Her hubby and her 14-year-old daughter are her best travel buddies. Join her as she unclothes the beauty and culture around the world, one place at a time.

11 thoughts on “New York 2 Days Itinerary for First-Time Visitors”

  1. Your safarnama to NYC looks very interesting. We all dream of visiting New York once in our life. Someday I will also visit the city of Joy.

  2. I’m so happy that you had a great experience in my hometown! The next time you’re here, you should visit the High line and have lunch there. The view is GORGEOUS. Governor’s Island is also very peaceful and beautiful; it’s great for biking!

    • Thanks for the recommendations, Cassandra! I’ll definitely check them out whenever I get a chance to visit NYC again.

  3. Aw, NYC. I’ve been many times as some of my family lived in New Jersey. We would go in the summers and buy out school clothes because they don’t have taxes on clothing. But I digress, NYC is a city that seemingly never sleeps. Venture to little Italy and have some amazing food there. See a play, get a hot dog from a street vendor. Around Christmas/New Year the city is lit up in festive lights. It’s truly magical

    • Thanks for reading, Tifanee! I’d plan my next visit to NYC sometime around Christmas now to witness the city of joy all lit up in festive lights 🙂

  4. I have been to NYC quite a few times. It is a beautiful city. Life is fast paced and there are people everywhere! It is a great place to explore, but honestly, I would not want to live there. I would prefer the quiet, cozy, friendlier suburbs instead.

  5. I have always wanted to go to New York. It is on my bucket list!! The pictures are amazing!! Looks like you had an awesome trip!!

    • Thanks for reading, Sauumye! I appreciate it. We had a rocking time! Whenever you visit, I would suggest you to plan for at least 4-5 days to get the real feel of NYC.

  6. your post about New york seems so dreamy..hope to visit soon to really feel what it’s like to be in te city of joy


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