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 write 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 so 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.
New York City Essentials
What’s the most essential thing one should know while traveling to a new city? Of course, how to get around or navigate a city.
How to Navigate New York City?
Please take out some time to understand the city’s layout algorithm to find your way around the city effortlessly and make the most of your time in NYC.
NYC is shaped by its five boroughs and their distinct neighborhoods; Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island.
Manhattan is the most popular one as it encompasses all the major landmarks or sights New York is known for.
Not to mention the Manhattan Skyline.
For most (we are guilty of being here), Manhattan is New York; New York is Manhattan. They don’t go beyond it.
Once you decode the Manhattan Grid System, you’ll be able to move about quickly from one place to another.
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Getting Around NYC
Manhattan with Hudson at one end and East River at another is connected to Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, and New Jersey by bridges.
It’s vital to know the plan of the city to avoid running around uselessly.
One needs to understand the Manhattan Grid System as well as the design of other boroughs.
Click here to know how to decode other boroughs.
Keep this map to navigate the NYC like a pro.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority takes care of public transportation in New York.
New York City Subway is the best way to explore the city. The subway caters to all the boroughs minus Staten Island. The subway ticket machines furnish with Metro Cards which can be recharged.
PATH is NYC’s subway that joins Manhattan and the WTC with Newark, Hoboken, Harrison, and Jersey City in NJ.
NJ transit is another most common public transportation but it just makes one final stop at Penn Station in NYC.
NYC Bus Transportation System caters to all the five boroughs. Keep the exact change or use the Metro Card to pay for the fare.
Yellow Cabs or New York City Taxis are comfortable but yes, expensive. Just make sure to check the light on the top of – the ones with red light are busy and the ones with yellow light are available.
We used the combination of different modes of transport according to the situation. We found Uber convenient as the payment info is saved in the app and you can call one to pick you up within minutes wherever you are.
And New York City is at its best when explored on foot.
There’s a reason NYC tops the most walkable cities list!
Walking gives you a chance to effortlessly explore the local culture unique to that place along the way. Walking in and around New York with no destination in mind is an attraction itself!
Pro-Tip: If you are taking a self-guided walking tour, I would suggest you start in Lower Manhattan through the Financial District to Chelsea and West Village.
New York Pass
If you plan to see all the iconic and famous sights like us, I’d suggest buying a New York Pass.
It not only gives you access to 100 plus attractions but also gives you fast-track entry to many of the attractions. Saves time, you know!
Time is super important when you have just 2 days to explore THE NYC.
Additionally, it saves a hell lot of money and the hassle of paying for entry tickets at all the attractions.
Choose the duration of the pass (1 to 10 days) depending upon your duration of stay in the city or the number of attractions you want to visit.
Where to Stay in New York City
Accommodation in NYC can add up eating up your budget. Choosing the right kind of place to stay in New York City from thousands of options that fit your style and budget can be overwhelming.
We have narrowed down the enormous options into some of the best hotels to stay in NYC for you to plan a hassle-free stay.
Midtown Manhattan, Chelsea, Financial District of Lower Manhattan, Lower East Side Manhattan, Upper West Side Manhattan, Upper East Side Manhattan, Greenwich Village, Williamsburg (Brooklyn), and Long Island City (Queens) are some of the best neighborhoods in NYC to stay.
Each neighborhood has its own vibe. Choose your vibe.
Here is our list of recommendations:
Budget or Solo-Travelers
Hotels in New Jersey
If you don’t mind a bit of early-morning subway commute, NJ is a great place to stay to explore NYC as it saves you a lot of money. You get luxury at cheap prices.
We always use Booking.com to book our stay anywhere in the world.
The best part is the free cancellation on almost all the properties. You can choose from more than 1,000 properties ranging from budget to luxury to stay in New York City.
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 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 that 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 times 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.
Our friends in Philadelphia had been the perfect host. Really! Can’t thank them enough for the unforgettable USA trip.
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, 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 it delivers a versatile, complete and classic introduction to NYC in 2 days.
Our itinerary listed 15 things to do in NYC with kids or without.
- Ride the Subway
- Explore the wonders of NYC on foot
- Climb the Empire State Building Observation Deck for the night view of NYC
- Climb the Top of The Rock at the Rockefeller Centre for the 360-degree view of NYC
- Walk the Brooklyn Bridge
- Walk the High Line
- Lightening experience at Times Square
- See a Broadway Show
- Climb the One World Observatory, the highest viewpoint in NYC
- Pay tribute The National September 11 Memorial
- Visit the Statue of Liberty
- Explore Central Park
- Try Bagels and Cupcakes
- Visit Grand Central Terminal, NYC’s historic train station
- Intrepid Museum
- 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 American Museum of Natural History Nevertheless, there’s always the next time, they say and I believe.
Mini-me made sure we visit 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?
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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 in a fast-moving train and admire the scenic views that are enhanced by the rainy weather.
The 81 miles journey took us 1 hour 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 the 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.
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 on us.
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 witnesses hordes of tourists every year.
We walked away from Madison Avenue to get rid of those barkers and sat on 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.
I loved the streets. I loved the people rushing in the streets. I loved the energy that NYC emits.
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 Big Apple.
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 the bus at a few attractions but the wait for the bus and search for the bus stop wasted a lot of time which 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.
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.
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 the upscale designer stores like Chanel and Prada and walking aimlessly on cobblestone streets gives you a different kind of high.
SoHo is much more than a shopping destination; it houses some of the famous art galleries, museums and much more which we couldn’t see because of time restrictions.
Taking in the Views from Top of the Rock
We stopped at Rockefeller Center en route to Times Square.
Climbing the observation deck atop Rockefeller Centre to be mesmerized by the 360-degree view of NYC was a grand experience.
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.
We had never walked as much as we walked in New York City.
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 of 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 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 the office 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 to get off the train.
We arrived at the World Trade Center station PATH.
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.
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 to come 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.
Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum
After a much-needed coffee break, we headed for the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum.
Mini-me had desired to see this particular museum. It was one of a kind of experience getting up close with air crafts, Concords, Submarine and Space Shuttle.
Quite a learning and entertaining experience!
Walking the High Line
Walking the High Line to one of the charming neighborhoods of Manhattan, West Village (Greenwich) was well-worth of all the pain in the legs.
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, architectural wonders – Central Park has it all.
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.
Climbing the One World Observatory, Finally!
Hoping that visibility must have been improved, we came back to One World Trade Centre.
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.
The lift takes as less 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.
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 at the 100th floor which takes your breath away.
Spectacular and expansive views of Manhattan Skyline in whichever direction you look.
One World Explorer iPad helped us in exploring the landmarks like Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, United Nations HQ, 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.
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.
There’s an elevator up to the pedestal but one has to climb around 160 steps (narrow maze-like staircase) to reach the crown.
It was mesmerizing to witness Manhattan Skyline 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.
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.
Dining at Hummus Market
After eating 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 at 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 the NYC off the beaten path.
I would love to explore more of 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 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 the NYC to plan your trip to New York with ease.
Best New York City Tours
Our favorite, Get Your Guide offers the best New York City tours and tickets to all the famous places and attractions at reasonable prices.
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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