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While New York City can feel overwhelming. There are tons of things to do in the city, and squeezing them all into one weekend might seem a superhuman task. As much as you can’t see everything, planning the perfect weekend in New York City is more than possible. 

Find a place to stay that will be the perfect launch pad for your adventures, and get ready for a fantastic weekend in the Big Apple.

This 2-day itinerary in New York City will focus on Manhattan, with a small stroll in Brooklyn. Traveling to NYC for just a weekend simply doesn’t give you enough time to explore the other boroughs so we’ve narrowed it down to our best bits.

TOP TIPS FOR TRAVELING TO NEW YORK CITY

2-Day New York City Itinerary

new york skyline lit up at night across the baynew york skyline lit up at night across the bay

NYC is full of personality, entertainment options, movie locations, and surprises. Add on the fact that it is among the most visited places in the world, and you get the recipe for a fantastic weekend. 

If our 2 day itinerary in New York City taught us anything, it’s that there is a lot to uncover in this iconic spot. The choices of what to see and do are endless, so much so that the span of a weekend is barely enough to capture the feel of what makes New York City so incredible. 

For those looking to make a longer trip, check out our suggestions for off-the-beaten-path things to do in NYC for an extra unique stay.

If you are new here, we love our travel itineraries at Going Awesome Places. You will see a lot of similarities with other ones we’ve created such as 6 Days Missouri Itinerary in the Ozarks and 8 Day Iceland itinerary.

In this one, you will find a day-by-day breakdown, boxes labeled “What you need to know” with details for main activities, restaurant and accommodation recommendations, trip planning maps, and more.

What is the New York City region?

distant view of nyc from the hudson riverdistant view of nyc from the hudson river

Located in the state of New York, New York City is one of the largest urban conglomerations in the world. In addition to the famous Manhattan, the city comprises four more boroughs: Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island.

While Manhattan and Staten Island are islands, Brooklyn and Queens are geographically part of Long Island, and the Bronx is attached to the US mainland. The five different boroughs are linked by bridges, tunnels, and ferries.

Another geographical element that dominates New York City is the Hudson River, which runs along the city’s western shore, forming the border with New Jersey. The eastern side of NYC is instead bathed by the East River, which separates Manhattan from Brooklyn and Queens. Staten Island lies to the south on the New York Bay.

In Manhattan, you won’t have problems getting around as the area is fantastically connected by subways, buses, rails, taxis, and Ubers. The subway is also the best transport option to reach Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. For Staten Island, you will need to take the bus or ferry.

Given its extension and the large population of immigrants from over 180 countries, New York City is a cosmopolitan place that we are always excited to travel to. Following our 2 day itinerary in New York City will give you a good feel of its culture, energy, and diversity – and all almost without having to take any public transport. So, wear your most comfy shoes, and get ready to explore New York City.

Day 1 – Midtown Manhattan

overlooking central park with nyc surrounding in the backgroundoverlooking central park with nyc surrounding in the background

Supposing you arrived in NYC on Friday evening, you have plenty of time to make the most of your jam-packed weekend in the Big Apple.

Get out of your hotel in Midtown Manhattan and grab a coffee and a delicious bagel at Bagel Shop to enjoy them in the first iconic site of NYC: Central Park. At 693 acres, Central Park is enormous, and you can easily spend an entire day there.

We suggest walking by a few of Central Park’s main attractions while you finish your breakfast before heading to the next stop. Belvedere Castle, Bethesda Fountain, and the Shakespeare Garden are unmissable.

After a relaxing hour in the park, it’s time to visit NYC’s world-renowned museums. Around Central Park, you will find three of the best museums in the city, namely the MET, the American Museum of Natural History, and the MOMA.

statues at the metropolitan museum of artstatues at the metropolitan museum of art

Depending on your interests, you will choose how to spend the next two hours or so of your morning. Personally, we found the Metropolitan Museum of Art the most complete in terms of artistic offerings. Its permanent collection displays artistic expressions from different cultures worldwide and throughout time. Inside, you will see everything from ancient Egyptian papyri to contemporary American paintings. 

The American Museum of Natural History is instead ideal for traveling with kids since it boasts impressive exhibits of dinosaur fossils. 

The Museum of Modern Art, or MOMA, is one of the top five most visited museums in the United States. The museum houses some of the most famous paintings in the world, including works from Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gough. Paintings aren’t the only type of artwork found in the MOMA though, as you’ll find popular films, architectural work, sculptures, photography and more.

TIP: The MET and the American Museum of Natural History are next door to Central Park, just a 15-minute walk across the park from each other. So, if you are having a long weekend in New York City, you might very well visit them both. Instead, the MOMA is located south of the park in Midtown.

Continue with a half-hour’s walk to the southern end of Central Park – unless you decide to visit MOMA: in this case, you will be just 5 minutes from the next attraction. St. Patrick’s Cathedral is so striking that stopping by is an absolute must.

This Neo-Gothic St. church is surrounded by sky-scrapers, looking almost out of place here. Inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral you will find high-vaulted ceilings, rose windows, and a unique system of catacombs that you can tour. Take a quick look around the church just to appreciate the architecture, before heading on, this weekend itinerary is packed with many more things!

rockefeller center rink bar lit up in the eveningrockefeller center rink bar lit up in the evening

Next up is the iconic Rockefeller Center. This larger complex has stunning Art Deco buildings housing many recognizable stores (like Lego and Nintendo) and the Radio City Music Hall, the famous theater home to the Rockettes. 

TIP: The plaza right in front of Rockefeller Center is where you will find NYC’s gorgeous Christmas Tree and the famous ice-skating rink during the winter season.

However, the Rockefeller Center’s real centerpiece is the observatory deck of the Top of the Rock. Ascend at 850 feet, and get ready to be astonished by fantastic views of Central Park, the Empire State Building, the One World Trade Center, and all the way to the Hudson River.

The tickets to the Top of the Rock are valid for a whole day, so how much time you spend on this attraction is entirely up to you.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Address: Entrance to the VIP Lounge is located at 52 W 50th St., New York, NY 10112, USA.

Hours: Multiple times per day, from 9:20 a.m. to 10:10 p.m.

Price: 

  • General Admission Off-Peak Timed-Entry – $43.55.
  • General Admission Sunset Timed-Entry – $59.88.
  • VIP Timed-Entry – $174.20.

Other Info:

  • Lift tickets are not included in the package and must be purchased separately on-site.

You will surely be hungry by now. You can snatch food inside the Rockefeller Center or walk 10 minutes towards the Theater District. A place that we particularly love for a meal with Caribbean and Latin American flavors is Margon – their Cuban Sandwich is to die for! 

flag hanging inside busy grand central terminalflag hanging inside busy grand central terminal

With a full belly, you will be ready to walk for another 13 minutes to get to Grand Central Terminal. This expectedly busy station is featured in many TV shows and movies and is known for its beauty. Three features of the Grand Central Terminal are too cool not to see.

The first is the Zodiac Ceiling in the main hall. The green-colored ceiling is painted with twelve constellations and decorated with more than 2,500 stars, 59 of which are illuminated by LED lights.

The second must-see is track number 61, once the private line of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Last but not least is the Whispering Gallery, whose exceptional architecture creates a jaw-dropping acoustic effect.

Half an hour should be enough for getting a feel of the Grand Central Terminal. Next up is Bryant Park. Less than 10 minutes on foot from the station, Bryant Park is a lovely green space lined by tall buildings.

view inside new york public libraryview inside new york public library

Perfect for a moment of relaxation on a sunny day, the reason why we include Bryant Park in the itinerary is the New York Public Library. The famous Stephen A. Schwarzman building with the lion statues out front is gorgeous, and it boasts many more wonders on the inside, especially the Rose Reading Room.

TIP: The New York Public Library is free to visit, but tourists are not allowed inside the historic Rose Reading Room. So how can you see it? Just tell the library personnel that you are there to study or research, and you will be granted access!

You will feel particularly inspired after the New York Public Library, so there is no better time to marvel at one of NYC’s top landmarks, the Empire State Building. This Art Deco skyscraper, with 102 floors, was once the tallest in the world. 

So iconic that it has been featured in numerous movies and TV shows, such as King Kong, but the Empire State Building mainly hosts offices rather than exciting film studios. However, you can also find shops, eateries, and three observation decks inside.

If you haven’t taken advantage of the Top of the Rock, you should climb up the Empire State Building’s 102nd floor for expansive views of Manhattan.  

TIP: If you plan to head to the famous viewpoints of the Empire State Building, you should absolutely book your tickets in advance as it is such a popular attraction.

broadway street sign in front of skyscraperbroadway street sign in front of skyscraper

The perfect weekend in New York City can’t be complete without catching a phenomenal show on Broadway. So get the subway line B or D from 34 St-Herald Sq. stop and get off at 7 Av. to be right where the action takes place!

Personally, we prioritize seeing a Broadway show every time we visit NYC, as we love it. So, even if you are not that much into theatrical performances, we highly recommend doing this quintessential New Yorker experience. 

TIP: You will find shows for every taste and budget. Some tickets, like Hamilton, might be exorbitantly expensive or nearly impossible to come by. In contrast, the tickets for long-running classics, like Wicked, are very easy to get and can be pretty affordable. Check out the official website to secure your spot!

outside shake shack sign above entranceoutside shake shack sign above entrance

With the excitement after the Broadway show, you will probably realize how late it is – and how hungry you are! A 5-minute stroll will get you to Times Square. Before venturing around, enjoy a delicious pizza at Joe’s Pizza Broadway or a fantastic burger at the NYC-founded Shake Shack.

Times Square is at its best at night. Giant and bright billboards, illuminated window shops, street entertainment, and delighted tourists all around make ending your first day in NYC in Times Square just perfect.

Day 1 Summary

Driving time: No driving time

What you’ll do:

  • Central Park
  • Museum (, American Museum of Natural History, or MOMA)
  • St. Patrick’s Cathedral
  • Rockefeller Center & Top of the Rock
  • Grand Central Terminal
  • Bryant Park & New York Public Library
  • Empire State Building
  • Broadway Show
  • Time Square

Where you’ll eat:

  • BreakfastBagel Shop – This is hands down one of the best bagel spots in NYC for its massive bagel-filling options.
  • Lunch Margon – Great venue for a quick, budget-friendly, and delicious Caribbean and Central American lunch, with vegetarian options.
  • DinnerJoe’s Pizza Broadway – This pizza place is popular for a reason: their freshly made pizzas are mouthwatering and huge. You can order single slices or an entire pizza, and either way, you won’t be disappointed. Note that you will need to queue to eat here. 

Where you’ll stay:

  • Pod 39 Hotel – Its central location, a stroll away from Times Square, doesn’t make the rooms at this hotel noisy. On the contrary, you will sleep like a baby in the greatly-equipped rooms. At Pod 39, guests also find a restaurant and a seasonal rooftop lounge & bar.

Day 2 – Lower Manhattan & Statue of Liberty

people sitting along river overlooking brooklyn bridge in distancepeople sitting along river overlooking brooklyn bridge in distance

What better way to kick off the second day of this 2 day itinerary of New York City than by walking across the iconic Brooklyn Bridge?

Among the most recognizable bridges in the world, the Brooklyn Bridge connects Manhattan with Brooklyn. Take a relaxing stroll over the 1.1-mile-long bridge, stopping from time to time to snap pics. Once you are off the Brooklyn Bridge, head left to find yourself in the DUMBO district. 

Before exploring Dumbo, it’s time for a bite! We loved having breakfast at Dawn’s TIL DUSK. After the meal, it’s time for a quick stroll around DUMBO. Not-to-be-missed is the iconic photoshoot spot for taking the ultimate pic of the Brooklyn Bridge that you will find on Washington Street.

DUMBO and the other Brooklyn districts are beautiful. With plenty of things to do, but with the limited time of one weekend in NYC, you should head back to Lower Manhattan. So walk on the Brooklyn Bridge the opposite way, where you will be treated to stunning views of Manhattan’s skyline.

evening view of the world trade center memorial and museumevening view of the world trade center memorial and museum

Once off the bridge, in 10 minutes, you will be at the 9/11 Memorial. This spectacular memorial is extraordinary as it is a moving piece of art called “Reflecting Absence”.

Looking at the footprint of the Twin Towers and the two giant pools in their place with the list of the names of those who lost their lives during the terrorist attacks is an emotional experience. Take your time paying your respects and, if you feel like it, check out the 9/11 Museum.

Walk more south through the Financial District. Make sure to pass by the district’s main sites – the New York Stock Exchange, Federal Hall, Trinity Church, and the Charging Bull.

When you reach the Charging Bull statue, the very symbol of Wall Street, you will be at Battery Park. From this river-side park, you can catch a glimpse of the one that is the #1 icon of New York City and America itself, the Statue of Liberty.

sail boat heading towards statue of liberty as the sun setssail boat heading towards statue of liberty as the sun sets

Curb your enthusiasm for a moment, and have lunch before setting sail for Lady Liberty. Just steps from Battery Park are many restaurants serving various cuisines, from Mexican to Italian to American. If you feel like having a good burger and a refreshing beer, Broadstone Bar & Kitchen is the right choice. 

The perfect weekend in New York City continues with catching the ferry to see the Statue of Liberty up close. During the cruise, you will also admire Ellis Island, Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges, and One World Trade Center. The experience is a total delight! If you had more time in NYC, you could also visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island – but that’s something for a more extended trip.

OUR RECOMMENDED TOUR

Address: Meet at Pier 36, at 299 South St, New York, NY 10002, USA.

Hours: The cruise starts at 10:50 a.m., 12:20 p.m., 2:20 p.m., 4:20 p.m., 5:50 p.m.

Price: Starting from $32.99.

Other Info:

  • The cruise lasts for 1-hour.

The afternoon proceeds with discovering a wonderful Manhattan neighborhood, Greenwich Village. Once off the ferry, walk to East Broadway subway station to take the F line. In an 8-minute ride, you will get to stop at W 4 St-Wash Sq, where you will find Washington Square Park.

With the stunning Washington Square Arch at its center, this park is a great spot for people-watching as artists, poets, and students of the nearby NYU frequent it. 

From Washington Square Park, it’s easy to explore the West Village, one of the oldest parts of New York City. Affectionately nicknamed ‘The Village’, the area was the heart of the modern LGBTQ+ movement. You can still see important historical landmarks (one among them the Stonewall Inn bar) and buildings featured in 1990s sitcoms, particularly Carrie Bradshaw’s and the ‘Friends’ apartments.

Your NYC weekend itinerary needs to include a visit to another fabulous Manhattan neighborhood, Chelsea. You will find Chelsea north of the Greenwich Village, just 20 minutes on foot from it. 

Chelsea is a culturally diverse area, home to more than 200 art galleries, many of which are free to enter. So, if you are into contemporary art expressions, it might be a good idea to check them out.  

people exploring the busy chelsea marketpeople exploring the busy chelsea market

Before it’s too dark, check out the High Line, a public park built on the site of a former train track. Then, let’s head to the main reason everyone should visit this neighborhood: the iconic Chelsea Market. Overflowing with boutiques and shops, the Chelsea Market is also one of the best venues in NYC for food!

Inside the one-block-big market, countless restaurants and food stalls serve different cuisines. There isn’t a more perfect venue for dinner. If you are like us and love Mexican food, stop by Los Tacos No. 1, which is said to serve up some of the best tacos in New York – and we couldn’t agree more!

Your weekend in New York City has come to an end, but the city has so much more to offer – so we are sure that you will plan your next trip to the city soon.

Day 2 Summary

Driving time: No driving time

What you’ll do:

  • Brooklyn Bridge
  • DUMBO
  • 9/11 Memorial
  • Financial District
  • Battery Park
  • Statue of Liberty
  • Greenwich Village
  • Chelsea

Where you’ll eat:

  • BreakfastDawn’s TIL DUSK – A cute spot for a lovely breakfast. They serve delicious cakes and cookies, with lots of vegan and gluten-free options.
  • LunchBroadstone Bar & Kitchen – This modern gastropub is ideal for tasting classic and innovative burgers or sharing tasty tapas-style appetizers with your travel companions.
  • DinnerLos Tacos No. 1 – Come hungry because the tacos here are out-of-this-world!

Alternative location to stay:

  • Hilton Garden Inn NYC Financial Center/Manhattan Downtown – Located next to Battery Park, this mid-range Hilton hotel has comfortable rooms with modern amenities. On-site, guests will also find a 24-hour fitness center and the Garden Grille & Bar to enjoy breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.

Map Of New York City

Below is an interactive Google Map with every location featured in the 2 day itinerary of New York City pinned, which will help with your trip planning.

TIP: Expand the map and create a copy in your logged-in Google account. This way, you can access it in your Google Maps app under the ‘Saved’ entry.

Closing Thoughts

There are many different ways to craft the perfect weekend in New York City. With so much to see and do, you can barely scratch the surface of what NYC is about in two days. 

Here are the things that we just love about the itinerary:

The views – New York City has an incredible number of viewpoints. From state-of-the-art observatory decks to strategic spots for admiring the Manhattan skyline to the ferry cruise to Lady Liberty, you won’t ever forget NYC vistas.

The vibe – A magnet for dreamers and a haven for hustlers, New York City has many different vibes corresponding to its many boroughs and districts. Depending on where you are in the city, it corresponds to a specific atmosphere that makes the city an endless surprise. 

The entertainment – There’s a lot happening in the Big Apple at all times. Nicknamed ‘the city that never sleeps’, we are always blown away by the number of choices to have fun. The best to us are Broadway shows, which you can’t miss from every NYC trip.

Frequently Asked Questions

When is the best time to go to NYC?

New York City is at its best from April to June and September to early November when the weather is nice, and you can walk around without freezing from the cold or melting from the heat. 

How many days do you need in New York City?

While two days is a great start to getting a feel for NYC, you will want to spend at least four full days in the city to fully take advantage of its attractions and experiences.

How much do you tip in NYC’s eateries?

At restaurants, even those that serve breakfast, you must leave a 15% – 20% tip, which is calculated from the total receipt. Sometimes, the tip is suggested already at the bottom of the bill.

Is New York City expensive?

Yes. The two things you will spend more on during your weekend will be attractions and meals. Since you are staying in the city for such a short time, accommodation won’t be that expensive – although the discourse is different if you are taking a longer trip to NYC.

What you should read next

Travel Resources For Your Next Trip

If you’re in the process of planning your trip and putting together your itinerary, these are genuinely the best resources that the Going Awesome Places team stands by 100%.

Credit cards: Don’t get burned by hidden fees on top of terrible exchange rates. When we travel now, we use the Wise Card. Simply load it with the currency you need before you go and use it as a regular VISA or their digital wallet card. Use their free app to track how much you have and top up when you need to.

Flights: Of all the booking search engines, Skyscanner is the most helpful and easy to use thanks to their Everywhere feature. Kayak is also another that’s we will often check as well.

Car Rental: If you’re looking to save money, these car rental coupon codes will be a true game-changer. Otherwise, DiscoverCars and RentalCars are great places to start.

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Airport Parking: You’ll need a spot to leave your car at the airport so why not book a spot at a discount. Use code AWESOME7 to get at least $5 off at Airport Parking Reservations or Park Sleep Fly packages.

Data: We’ve been a huge fan of wifi hotspot devices like PokeFi (use code GAP24300) because their rates are so good and you can use it globally but recently, we’ve really loved using eSIMs. The best one is Airalo. Save money by getting region-specific eSIMs and use referral code WILLIA9500 to get $3 USD credit on your first purchase. Ubigi is another one that we’ve had success with where they uniquely offer 5G coverage. Use code AWESOME10 to save 10% on your first order.

Hotels: Our go-to is Booking.com because they have the best inventory of properties including hotels and B&Bs plus they have their Genius tier discounts. The exception is Asia where Agoda always has the best prices. TripAdvisor is also useful for reviews and bookings.

Vacation Rentals: Your first instinct will be to check Airbnb but we always recommend checking VRBO as well if you’re looking for a vacation rental.

Tours: When planning our trips, we always check both Viator and GetYourGuide to at least see what’s out there in the destination that we’re going to. They often have different offerings and prices so check both.

Travel Insurance: Learn how to buy the best travel insurance for you. This isn’t something you want to travel without.

  • Insured Nomads – Popular insurance provider for frequent travelers and comes with great coverage and special perks.
  • RATESDOTCA – Search engine Canadians looking for the cheapest insurance including multi-trip annual policies.
  • SafetyWing – A perfect fit for long-term nomads.
  • Medjet – Global air medical transportation.
  • InsureMyTrip – Best for seniors, families, and those with pre-existing conditions.

If you need more help planning your trip, make sure to check out our Travel Toolbox where we highlight all of the gear, resources, and tools we use when traveling.



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