2 Day Itinerary in New York: How to See the Best of the City in 48 Hours

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A two day trip to New York City gives you a little breathing room. You can see highlights of the city from downtown on up in this NYC 2 day trip. A lifelong New Yorker shows you how to see the Statue of Liberty, the 9/11 Memorial, walk along the High Line, and explore a couple of museums all in two days in NYC.

Central Park, on a 2 day NYC itinerary
New Yorkers – and tourists – relax in Central Park. Credit: Judy Antell / Vegetarian TravelingMom

NYC 2 Day Itinerary

With two days in New York City, you can take a bigger bite of the Big Apple. Instead of rushing from the 9/11 Memorial to the Empire State Building, you can savor the sights, and add stops like a ferry ride to see the Statue of Liberty, a walk over the Brooklyn Bridge and either the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Museum of Natural History. But don’t dilly dally; this packed two day itinerary maximizes your limited time in the city.

2 Day Itinerary – Breakfast

Hudson Eats
23o Vesey Street [on the second floor in Brookfield Place]
Opening hours vary; breakfast places open at 6 or 7am; 11am on Sundays

How to get there: Take the E subway to the World Trade Center or A or C subway to the Chambers Street Station.

How much can you cram into a 2 day trip to NYC?

Unless your hotel offers free breakfast, head to Hudson Eats in Brookfield Place, an upscale indoor food court with great options like Black Seed Bagels or avocado toast from Tartinery. When you get to the World Trade Center, be sure to spend a little time at the Oculus, the magnificent transportation hub built after 9/11.

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See the 9/11 Memorial on this 2 day itinerary for NYC.
9/11 Memorial. Photo: Pixabay

2nd Stop: Somber Memorial

Price: Free for memorial, $24 for museum; $15 for kids ages 7-17

Address: 180 Greenwich Street; turn right on West Street, left on Fulton, right on Greenwich

This leads to the next stop, just across the road, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. This free sight sits in the footprint of the World Trade Center. After wandering through here, go to the 9/11 memorial museum. You will want to spend about two hours here.

When I visited the museum, complete strangers started sharing 9/11 stories. Be prepared to have someone start chatting, or crying.

See the Statue of Liberty on this 2 day itinerary for NYC.
Statue of Liberty. Photo: Pixabay

3rd Stop: The Statue of Liberty

Price: $25.50 for adults, $16 for kids ages 4-12; $28.50 plus $19 for crown access

Directions: Walk south on Greenwich Street .7 miles to the water, or take a cab

For generations of immigrants, the Statue of Liberty was the first sight of America. The only way to get there now is to take a ferry, which stops at both Liberty and Ellis Islands. Reserve your ticket in advance; they do sell out. Be sure to choose NYC departure, not New Jersey. Try to get on a ferry between 11am and noon. Most people spend three to five hours exploring the statue and the museum.

TravelingMom Tip: Pick up a picnic lunch at Hudson Eats. Both Liberty and Ellis Islands have cafes, but they are the only game in town, and if you have fussy kids, or sudden hunger pangs, you might want to already have your lunch.

TravelingMom Budget Tip: If you just want to get a close up view of the Statue, ride the Staten Island Ferry, for free. The ride offers dramatic views of downtown Manhattan and pleasant breezes on a hot day. You don’t even have to get off in Staten Island. You can just ride back into the city and continue your day.

One World Observatory: the view from the top

285 Fulton Street, enter on West Street at corner of Vesey 

Admission: Starts at $34

Retrace your steps back to the 9/11 memorial. This time, you will go high in the sky. The reason for doubling back is you want to have enough time at the Statue. The observatory is more than a view. The cool elevators chart your ascent and a glass floor lets you look down to the street. For an extra fee, an interactive iPad offers history and information about various landmarks.

Brooklyn Bridge, on 2 day NYC trip
Pedestrian and biking paths on the Brooklyn Bridge.  Credit: Judy Antell / Vegetarian TravelingMom

Walk the Brooklyn Bridge

Take a short and inexpensive cab or Uber to City Hall. A mile long pedestrian and bike path, above the car traffic, takes you across the Brooklyn Bridge. Walk back or hop on the A train from High Street in Brooklyn to take you back to Manhattan. If you retrace your steps, take the 6 train uptown.

TravelingMom Tip: Pedestrian and bike paths are marked on the ground. Be sure to stay to your side or you will experience very colorful NYC language.

Dinner in Soho

If you take the 6 train get off at Spring Street. Balthazar (80 Spring Street), a French brasserie, is one block west. If that is too crowded or too expensive, Jack’s Wife Freda (224 Lafayette, just off Spring) has a reasonable priced menu of American food.

Collapse at hotel.

Day 2

Breakfast at Chelsea Market

75 9th Avenue (Between 15th and 16 Streets

Open Monday – Saturday from 7am – 9pm, Sunday from 8am – 8pm.

How to get there: Take the A, C or E train from Chambers Street to 14th Street. From there walk west one block. 

Chelsea Market, the former Nabisco factory, is filled with food stands and restaurants. Sarabeth’s, a sit-down restaurant, has phenomenal eggs, pancakes and muffins. There are other Sarabeth locations around the city.

Walk the High Line on a 2 day itinerary in NYC.
The High Line. Photo: Pixabay

1st Stop: Walk on the High Line

High Line
14th Street and 10th Avenue
Admission: Free

Walk one block west and look up. An abandoned rail line, the High Line opened as a park in 2009 and offers free tours, exercise classes and performances. Or you can just stroll and see public art, native wildflowers and a unique perspective on the city. There are also places to get a drink or a snack. And, there are clean public restrooms (not a given in New York).

See the Empire State Building on 2 days in NYC.
Empire State Building. Photo: Wiki Commons

2nd Stop: Empire State Building

Empire State Building
350 5th Avenue
Open 8am – 2am daily
Admission fee starts at $34

How to get there: Depending on your stamina, you can exit the High Line at 23rd Street or the northern terminus, 34th Street. If you leave at 23rd Street, you can take a crosstown bus to Sixth Avenue and get a free transfer to the F or M uptown, which you will take one stop to 34th Street.

Although the Empire State Building anchors midtown, the land underneath was once a farm. Annual events include group weddings every Valentine’s Day and a run to the top. From the observation deck, more typically reached by elevator, you can see the whole city, and parts of New Jersey and Connecticut.

See this Van Gogh at the Museum of Modern Art on a 2 day itinerary of NYC.
See this Van Gogh at the Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Wiki Commons

Arty Lunch at the Museum of Modern Art

Admission: $25 / adults; free / kids 16 and under 

Open 10:30am – 5:30 pm daily

11 West 53rd Street

Walk up Fifth Avenue, past the main branch of the New York Public Library at 40th Street. You can pop in here for a quick look at the glorious Beaux-Arts building and free exhibits. You will pass Rockefeller Center and the flagship Saks Fifth Avenue store. Turn left on 53rd Street for The Museum of Modern Art (aka MoMA)

MoMA (11 West 53rd Street) has several lunch options, including its high end restaurant, The Modern. The museum’s permanent collection includes a room devoted to Monet’s Water Lilies, Van Gogh’s Starry Night and masterpieces by Picasso, Warhol, Jackson Pollock and Robert Rauschenberg.

Dinosaurs or armor? Choose your passion

Can ou get to the Met on a 2 day NYC trip?
Statues at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Credit: Judy Antell / Vegetarian TravelingMom

Since you have just two days, you have to make a choice, the Museum of Natural History (Central Park West at 79th Street) or the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1000 Fifth Avenue, at 82nd Street). Younger kids might prefer the the Natural History museum, with its dinosaurs, space shows and giant whale. But the Met has a great armor collection, free family tours with sketchbooks provided and, in late spring to early fall, an annual rooftop installation.

Central Park
Central Park is ablaze with color in the fall. Photo; Pixabay

Central Park

Whichever museum you choose, you will be on one side of Central Park. From April to November, you can have dinner at the Lakeside Restaurant, in the Loeb Boathouse, and, before sundown, rent a rowboat or take a gondola ride (reservations required).

The park has a Children’s Zoo with an hourly procession of mechanical animals around an overhead clock, and a carousel. Belvedere Castle offers the highest vantage point in the park. This time, for free, you can take a breath, look over the city, and plan for your return.

Where To Stay

The Conrad New York is close to the 9/11 memorial and the great Battery Park City playgrounds. If you are taking a train into Grand Central Station, the luxurious Gand Hyatt New York is attached. Also in midtown, the Omni Berkshire Place sends milk and cookies to the room for kids. 

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About The Author

Judy Antell is the Free in 50 States editor of TravelingMom. Judy lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with her husband and three daughters. The vegetarian family loves to visit the farmer’s market for local, organic produce. They have bicycled in Europe, skied downhill and cross country across the US, and hit the beaches all over the Caribbean. They visit cities and small towns around the country, always seeking vegetarian food – and chocolate. Read her blog, http://wheelsandeats.blogspot.com

2 Replies to “2 Day Itinerary in New York: How to See the Best of the City in 48 Hours”

  1. I want to build an itinerary as wonderful as this one with the Highline and experiences I have not yet known. The tried-and-true would still be fabulous but if I’m fortunate enough to return to NYC, I want to branch out. Fabulous the way you explain directions and eats.

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