New York City In One Day

New York City in One Day - A realistic one day itinerary plus more ideas for extra days in the city

New York City is one of those places that is on almost EVERYONE’S bucket list. I happen to have a lot of family there, so I go there fairly regularly (Like once a year or every other year). I’ve gotten pretty used to navigating New York City, so I decided to give you a realistic itinerary on what you can do in one day (For those who are hard pressed for time)

The first itinerary is a bit more laid back. It’s one of the travel days we had with my family from Australia. There was a baby with us and we had a few extra travel days, so we weren’t in too much of a rush, but we wanted to get as much done as possible.

The second itinerary has, what I feel are, the bare necessities. A completely jam-packed schedule for those in a rush.

I hope you find this helpful.

\//Wake Up Early

Obviously, if you are reading this, you have limited time in New York to sightsee, so make the most of your time. You’re in the city that never sleeps!

So on this particular day, we woke up at around 7 AM and left the house at around 7:30 AM. (This was the day after my cousin’s holud, which is a ceremony we have before the wedding. We all had around 4 hours of sleep.)

Make sure you wake up early to make the most of your time there. (As you should for every vacation.)

//Get on the Subway, Cab, or Uber

This is the general rule of thumb for me: If you are not a New Yorker, don’t take the subway. You WILL get lost, your Metro Card will stop working, or some other bad thing will happen.

If you have a New Yorker with you, the subway is fine. My aunt who lives in New York took us around, so we took the subway. I do not recommend it to newcomers because it can waste a lot of time.

(If you have a few extra days, figure out the subway on the first day because it can save you a lot of money. Since this is for travelers with less time, I would suggest taking a cab to prevent confusion and time wasting)

//Grand Central Station

(Since on this particular day we took the subway, I’m going to continue this blog post through that itinerary)

The next stop is Grand Central Station. This place is absolutely beautiful and I highly suggest it. Also, my uncle and aunt from Australia are Quantico fans, so they were interested.

Grand Central Station-New York City In One Day-A Realistic Itinerary

We had a bunch of fun talking to each other from different corners of the room. Because of the architecture, you can hear what another person is saying from the other side of the room. You should try it while you’re there.

Grab breakfast while you’re there

I’m not one to eat much once I wake up. It takes some time for me to get my appetite, so I didn’t eat breakfast that morning. Neither did the rest of my family. We also didn’t want to waste time eating at the apartment.

(I don’t think I’ve mentioned this yet. We were staying at my grandmother’s sister’s apartment in New York. She’s in Bangladesh right now and let us stay there, which is awesome. She probably saved us around ten grand on hotels)

We stopped at one of the coffee stands and grabbed coffee and bagels. I’m not much of a coffee drinker, but I drank a lot of it last month, considering the traveling and lack of sleep.

That's my cousin Aynaan. We actually wore matching shirts on accident. That morning, she was coming down the stairs and I was going up, we just looked at each other. This was not planned at all.
That’s my cousin Aynaan. We actually wore matching shirts on accident. That morning, she was coming down the stairs as I was going up. We just looked at each other. This was not planned at all.

//Walk to the Rockefeller Center

We got here at around 8:30 after eating breakfast at Grand Central Terminal.

My uncle and aunt got a 5 attractions pass for New York (And Los Angeles, not that that’s relevant) Going to the top of The Rock was one of them, so we saved some money going up there.

New York City in One Day - A Realistic Itinerary

This has the best view of the city by far. I prefer it over the Empire State Building, simply because you can see the Empire State Building from The Rock. The sky deck also has much more space, so it’s not as crowded. The photo in the title image was actually taken from the top of the Rockefeller Center.

Make sure to book a time when you buy your ticket online. We went in the morning, so we beat the crowds, but we also booked a time.

Also, your ears will pop on the elevator like it does on a plane, so expect that. You’ll go up 85 floors.

New York City In One Day- A Realistic Itinerary

If you are scared of heights, don’t look up because the elevator ceiling is glass, so you are able to see how high up your going (Granted, if your scared of heights, you probably shouldn’t go to the top of the Rock, but let’s not get into that.)

//Uptown Bus Tour

Next, walk over to Time Square. Look around while you head over to a bus tour. We did the Hop On Hop Off bus tour, which I highly recommend. They will stop at famous destinations, where you can get off the bus. After you visit the attraction you can get on another bus.

Meanwhile, there will be someone talking through a microphone telling you about the historical significance of different places, along with interesting trivia like where Peter Parker learned he had superpowers. (Peter Parker is Spiderman if you didn’t know)

New York City In A Day- A Realistic Itinerary- Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour

The Uptown Loop takes you through Uptown and Midtown. Some famous attractions you’ll see on this loop are Central Park, the Chrysler Building, Rockefeller Center, Time Square, and Harlem to name a few. You’ll also see a few buildings that Trump doesn’t own with his name on them. (Did you know that a Chinese Insurance Company owns Trump Hotel? I didn’t. Also, according to my aunt, that hotel has the best 18-course dinner you will ever eat. If you’re interested.)

The bus tours run until 5:00 PM

//Eat Lunch at Time Square

You’ll get a good bulk of things done on this 2-hour bus tour. At this point, you’ll be hungry, so grab something from the hundreds, possibly thousands of food vendors in Time Square and have a seat at the multitude of tables and chairs in the Square and eat

Lunch at Time Square. We ate gyros.
Lunch at Time Square. We ate gyros.

 //Use The Bathroom

So finding a bathroom in Time Square is near impossible. There is a bathroom in the McDonalds, but there is a code on the bathroom door. You need to buy something from the restaurant and the receipt has the code you need to punch in.

A nice man near the bathroom gave us the code, so we didn’t have to wait in the long line for food, but once we were in the bathroom, the line was so long, we didn’t even end up using it.

After that, we went to a public bathroom near Grand Central. It’s actually really clean. There is a bathroom attendant and everything.

So pro-tip: Use the bathroom at Grand Central or McDonalds, if you’re willing to buy something from there. I have seen no other public bathrooms, so make sure you use the bathroom at a museum or skyscraper you’re visiting.

//Downtown Bus Tour

Next, hop onto the downtown bus tour. On this ride, you’ll see landmarks like the World Trade Center Memorial, Wall-Street, Battery Park, the Statue of Liberty, Chinatown, the Flatiron Building, etc.

The Flatiron Building
The Flatiron Building

It was almost 5 at this point, so there wouldn’t be any bus tours to take us back to Time Square if we went to the Statue of Liberty. We had also planned to go to the Statue of Liberty another day.

If you want to take a ferry boat to the island where the Statue of Liberty is, there will be an alternate itinerary at the end of this post. If you just want to see the Statue of Liberty from afar, like we do most of the time, you can get off at this spot at Battery Park.

There are also no ferries going to the island at this time, so it wouldn’t have mattered. We stayed on the bus tours the entire time because we were able to see everything from and learn the history from there.

//Explore Time Square

This tour will end in Time-Square. After that spend some time shopping and exploring. Take a million pictures in front of where the New Years Eve ball drops.

I recommend you go to the M&M Store. It is awesome. It has three floors and is so much fun to explore.

Time Square
Time Square

We also grabbed a snack and some coffee during this unscheduled break time. My baby cousin was very excited to get out of her stroller.

//Empire State Building

After exploring and shopping at Time Square, head over to the Empire State Building. The Empire State Building is open until 2AM, so we didn’t have to worry about being late for that one.

The line for the Empire is so long. It’s worse than it looks. It takes over an hour and a half to get to the top (Your ears will pop on this elevator, too). There is a bunch of historical stuff for you to read on the walls, but you’ll be happy to hear that the Empire State Building has WiFi.

The top is beautiful. Our itinerary for that day was good in that it started with a view and ended with a view.

At the top of the Empire State Building
At the top of the Empire State Building

//Take An Uber or Cab Home

At this point, we were exhausted and didn’t want to go through all the hastle of taking the subway. It was also late at night, so the subway wouldn’t be as safe. (Been there, done that)

We took an uber back to the apartment. (Our group was too big for a cab) Then we went home and collapsed in bed.

//Alternative Itinerary//

That was one itinerary for New York. It’s a bit more laid back. We had a bunch of down time and free time considering we had a few extra days and had a baby with us. (Factor in diaper changes and other stuff)

This is an itinerary for if you are in a HUGE rush and sleep doesn’t matter.

//Still Wake Up Early and Go To Grand Central Station

I’m still going with the “wake up early and take the subway to Grand Central Station” plan. It’s a beautiful place to start your day.

Instead of sitting down for breakfast, grab the coffee and bagel and head on over to Time Square.

//Downtown Bus Tour

I would personally only take the Downtown Bus tour if I was pressed for time because I am more interested in seeing the sights from that tour. A more detailed description is written on the last itinerary.

In front of Madison Square Garden
In front of Madison Square Garden

Again, some big attractions on this tour are Battery Park, the Flatiron Building, Madison Square Garden, Chinatown, Wallstreet, etc.

//Stop at Battery Park/Statue of Liberty

Get off at the bus stop at Battery Park. Walk through battery park and head over to where you grab tickets to see the Statue of Liberty.

The line is way worse than it looks. Our ticket was included in our “5 Sights Pass,” but we still had to go inside to verify it. After that, we got in line and had to go through security. That took less than 15 minutes. They are very efficient in managing the crowds and getting everyone through quickly.

After that, we got on the ferry.

//Ferry to Liberty Island


The ferry will take you over to Liberty Island to see the Statue of Liberty.

On the ferry
On the ferry

If you want to go to the top of the statue, you need to book at least 4 months in advance. If you want to see nice views, go to the Rockefeller Center or the Empire State Building. The only thing you’ll really get out of going inside the Statue of Liberty is being able to say that you’ve been inside the Statue of Liberty.

Nevermind that. You’ll still be able to get awesome photos in front of it. Take advantage of that.

With my cousins in front of the Statue of Liberty
With my cousins in front of the Statue of Liberty

//9/11 Memorial

After the ferry ride, walk over to see the 9/11 memorial. It’s like a 15-minute walk. You probably won’t have enough time to see the museum, but it’s still an iconic site you should visit.

//Take Subway or Tour Bus Back To Time Square

There is a subway right next to the World Trade Center. That can take you back to Time Square. You can also take the tour bus. I would recommend the tour bus because there are a few more sights to see, but if you want to fit in a museum or a broadway show, take the subway.

On the subway
On the subway

//Explore Time Square

I feel like exploring Time Square is a must when you go to New York. There are so many shops, photo opportunities, street shows… Just make sure you go there on your next trip to New York.

//Go To A Museum

I absolutely love Ripley’s Believe It or Not Odditorium. It’s so fun. You get to learn about all the weird and strange stuff that humans have done. (There’s a lot)

Ripley's Odditorium-New York City in One Day-A Realistic Itinerary

There are also a bunch of fun activities. Like my uncle and I went through a laser maze. It was timed and we had to get through it without touching any lasers.

Another fun museum in Time Square is Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. I didn’t go this time, but there are many creative photo ops in this museum as well.

This was actually taken at Ripley's, but you get what I mean.
This was actually taken at Ripley’s, but you get what I mean.

There are a bunch of other museums in New York like the Met and the Natural History Museum, but since we’re pressed for time, let’s stay focused on museums in Time Square.

//Broadway Show

If you are in New York, watching a Broadway Show is a MUST. They are so worth the money. Every time I see one, I am amazed.

Tickets can be a bit pricey, but I think they’re worth it. The price depends on the seats, so you can get tickets for less than $60 is you’re willing to forgo a better view. Don’t worry. The theatres are usually set up, so that you can see the stage from all the seats.

On this trip, we watched Matilda. It was so good. Make sure to watch it before January, because that’s when it closes. After that, it starts traveling. It’s coming to Atlanta next year, and I’m definitely taking my friends to go see it.

After watching the Matilda show. The song "When I Grow Up" was stuck in my head for the rest of the night.
After watching the Matilda show. The song “When I Grow Up” was stuck in my head for the rest of the night.

//Empire State Building

The Empire State Building is on most people’s New York bucket list, so this is a good way to end the night. I went into more detail in the first itinerary, so go there if you’d like more info.

View from the top of the Empire State Building
View from the top of the Empire State Building

//How Much This Costs

You can get different discount prices from different websites, so I’m not going to give any false promises, but here is the website for New York Attraction Pass.

Phew…that was a long winded post. It’s about 2500 words, and I haven’t even written an introduction or edited it yet.

So I haven’t been publishing as much as I would have liked to lately. I started writing a full trip recap, but that was more for me, not for you guys, so I scrapped that idea. Then I started writing this, but I haven’t felt like writing.

I fallen out of the habit, and I’m trying to get back into it, so sorry if I’ve kept you waiting, but I’ll try not to make you wait too long.  I hope you’ve enjoyed.


Have you ever been to New York? What’s your favorite thing to do there? What’s on your NYC bucket list?

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