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How to Spend ONE DAY in New York City: 1-Day Itinerary

How to Spend ONE DAY in New York City: 1-Day Itinerary

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New York City is at the top of many traveler’s bucket lists. I was so excited when I was finally able to visit this famous city– and it certainly did not disappoint! There is so much to do in New York City, whether you’re exploring the amazing food scene or diving into its history and culture, you’ll never stop moving as you explore the Big Apple. 

We were lucky to have 5 full days in NYC, which just barely scratched the surface! But, if you’ve got seriously limited time, you can still enjoy some of New York’s best sights.

It can be a little overwhelming to figure out exactly where to start, so to make your planning easier, we have put together the ideal 1-day in New York City Itinerary. 

You can stop by iconic places like the Statue of Liberty and the 9/11 Memorial, eat a world-famous NY pizza, and have a fancy night out on a dinner cruise! It will be a busy day, but one of the best ways to experience NYC! If this sounds like a great use of 24 hours, read on to find out how to spend one day in New York City.

Don’t have time to read the full article? You’ll need to make the most out of your one day in New York City! I recommend touring the Statue of Liberty, stopping by the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, checking out the Empire State Building, and finishing it off by taking a luxury dinner cruise on the Hudson!

1-Day NYC Itinerary

Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Cruise (Morning)

The Statue of Liberty as seen from a cruise in New York City
We loved the Statue of Liberty cruise on Viator!
Building on Ellis Island on tour in New York City
Ellis Island!

The Statue of Liberty is the worldwide symbol of the United States. Often referred to as “Lady Liberty”, I can’t think of a better way to start your one day in New York City than visiting this esteemed site!

The Statue of Liberty stands in the New York Harbor and was the first thing that immigrants would see as they made their way to the USA in the late 19th/early 20th century. It was a gift from France to celebrate the United States’ 100 years of independence, which is what so many immigrants were seeking as they made the trek across the Atlantic and arrived in New York. 

Ellis Island is where immigrants would first go to be processed and eventually settle in New York. This is another very historic place as it holds a huge significance for many New Yorker’s lineage. Ellis Island ceased operations in 1954 and is now a memorial sight you can visit! 

Visiting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are ideal things to do in New York, and since they are both best accessed by boat, taking a harbor cruise in NYC is the easiest way to get to them! This half-day tour includes a ferry ride to Liberty Island and Ellis Island, where you can visit museums and explore the historic sights. I love that this tour includes an expert guide, so you get a chance to learn about the long and rich history that shaped New York. It’s actually one of our favorite sightseeing tours in New York City!

This tour has an option of lengths and departure times, so you can fit it into your one-day NYC itinerary. I recommend taking the 4-hour tour option, so you have enough time to explore both places, but there are also tours for 30 minutes or 2 hours if your schedule is really packed. You can reserve the 4-hour tour of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island for $79 USD per person. 

Related Read: If you’re a foodie, you’ll love New York! You can take a New York City Food Tour so you can try as much of this amazing cuisine as possible in one day!

See the charging Bull of Wall Street (quick stop)

The Charging Bull of Wall Street, New York City
The Charging Bull of Wall Street, New York City

You’ve probably heard of Wall Street, where the legendary New York Stock Exchange is! Unless you’re really into finance, a quick stop will be suitable as you make your way through the city. The Charging Bull statue is yet another symbolic statue that is essential to New York’s culture.

The Charging Bull statue was illegally placed in front of the New York Stock Exchange in 1989 as a symbol of encouragement to the market. A “bull market” is a period of rising investment prices. Placing the charging bull in front of the most important finance building on Wall Street was a symbol that the market would turn around after the drastic Black Monday stock market crash of 1987. 

Arturo Di Modica, the artist of the statue, placed the bull in the night without being spotted by the authorities. However, in the morning, it was moved to Bowling Green (still on Wall Street) where you’ll find it today! Big-time investors on Wall Street love a bull market, so the statue holds great importance and is yet another symbol of NYC. 

Visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum (morning)

Bailey walks through the 911 Memorial and Museum in New York City
The steel beams that collapsed at the 9/11 Museum.
The 911 Memorial and Museum outside Memorial with the skyline of NYC in the background
The memorial!

If you only have one day in New York City, stopping at the 9/11 Memorial is one of the top things to add to your itinerary. There is no question of how impactful the attacks on the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers were in 2001. It was not only a heartbreaking tragedy to New York but to the entire world. Visiting the 9/11 Memorial and Museum is a poignant experience that gives you a look at what this city endured. 

The memorial consists of two pools where the Twin Towers once stood. They are quite large, and along the edge, you’ll see names of victims etched into the sides. Seeing the sheer size of the memorial and the number of people lost puts it into perspective, even more so. 

The memorial is moving, but I also found the museum to be quite insightful. You will need to purchase tickets in advance to enter the museum, but the memorial itself is one of the free places to visit in NYC. You‘ll find artifacts from the victims found in the rubble, old media reports, first-hand witnesses of the attacks, and even pieces of the wreckage. It’s another opportunity to learn about the event and understand how it rocked New York City. 

Elevator shaft from the World Trade Center that was destroyed sits inside the 911 Memorial and Museum in New York City
Debris from the attack!

There are specific time slots to enter the museum, but once you’re in you can stay for as long as you want. This is a great activity for a rainy day in NYC, as you’ll need at least two hours to see everything. You can purchase tickets in advance for $33 USD for adults, $21 USD for seniors, and $27 USD for kids. 

If you purchased one of New York City Attraction Passes, it covers entry fees and saves you money in the long run. The 9/11 Memorial and Museum is included in the New York CityPASS, the New York Pass, or Go City’s Explorer Pass.

Go up the Empire State Building

Binoculars and a view of New York City from the Empire State Building
The Empire State Building!
View of Downtoan Manhattan from the Empire State Building in NYC
Kids love the experience!

New York City has one of the most recognizable skylines, and that is largely thanks to the Empire State Building. This iconic building has been a part of New York’s culture since 1931 and has been featured in over 250 movies, like King Kong and Elf!

The Empire State Building was constructed as part of the “race to the sky” and was the tallest building in the world for 40 years until the World Trade Center was built. It is 102 stories high, which is 1,250 feet (380 meters), and has that classic Art Deco design. Its impressive height and polished style made it an instant icon of the city, so exploring it while you’re in New York City is an absolute must!

There are two observation decks at the Empire State Building where you can get incredible views of New York below. You can purchase tickets to visit the 86th-floor observation deck, which is the main one, for $48 USD, or you can pay extra to go up to the 102nd floor. You can also visit at peak times and catch an epic sunset from the top for $11 USD more. There is also a “skip the line” ticket available for $92 USD, which might be worth it if you only have one day in the city. 

You can visit the Empire State Building every day of the year from 8 am to 2 am! 

Note: You should book a timeslot to go up the Empire State Building online in advance here, otherwise you could be stuck in line for a long time! They only allow a limited number of people up at once, and people with bookings get priority.

Related Read: There are actually quite a few observation decks that give you epic views of the city. Check out the 5 BEST Observation Decks in NYC and add at least to your itinerary!

Angelo’s Coal Oven Pizzeria (lunch)

Angelo's Coal Oven Pizzeria in New York City
Photo credit: Angelo’s Coal Oven Pizzeria

With all this exploring, it’s about time to stop for lunch! If you only have one day in New York City, you gotta stop for a famous slice of New York-style pizza. With its thin crust and huge slices that you have to fold in half to eat, you’ll fall in love with this pizza as much as I did. Thankfully, a New York slice is pretty cheap, so you can eat as much as you want!

There are a lot of famous pizzerias in the city, but Angelo’s Coal Oven Pizzeria is amongst the best. It has been run by the same family for four generations since they first immigrated in the 1930s. Their Italian roots helped build this notable pizza scene, so you’re getting some of the best pizza in the world! 

Angelo’s is particularly amazing because of their coal oven which fires its pies to perfection. With the flavorful dough, creamy sauce, high-quality cheese, and fresh toppings, it deserves a chef’s kiss. It’s my top recommendation for a lunch stop, so you can refuel and keep exploring the city!

Angelo’s Coal Oven Pizzeria is open from 11:30 am to 10 pm on weekdays and until 11 pm on weekends! It’s about 2 blocks from Central Park, which sets you up for our next stop on the itinerary!

Explore Central Park (afternoon)

Bailey walks through Central Park in New York City
The park is huge!
Bailey and Daniel take a selfie in Central Park, New York City
Central Park!

After a morning of busy sightseeing, a leisurely afternoon in Central Park sounds just about perfect. Central Park is yet another famous NYC location, but has a different vibe than the bustling city. You can spend hours exploring this massive park, or simply sit in the sun and enjoy the large green space! 

Central Park has been open to New Yorkers since 1858 but was exponentially expanded over the following 15 years. Today, you’ll see locals still flocking to the park, as they love the expansive green space and activities that surround it. 

Central Park is 1.3 square miles (3.4 square kilometers) and has large grassy fields to relax in, such as Sheep Meadow, an old and historic carousel, an ice skating rink that’s open from October to April,  and even a castle. The Belvedere Castle dates back to 1865 and serves as a sort of museum these days, but it’s quite lovely to see!

There are a lot of ways you can experience Central Park. Of course, you can stroll through it on your own, lounge in the grass on a nice sunny day, or even take a private NYC tour that stops here. However, to fully soak up all the sights and history, I suggest taking a Central Park tour.

If you’re looking for a bit more adventure, rent a bicycle for $26 USD for the entire day! This lets you cover a lot of ground and see most of Central Park! You can book a bicycle in advance online here

You can also take a horse-drawn carriage through Central Park! If this is something you’ve always dreamed of doing, I can’t think of a better place to do it. You can reserve a 45-minute carriage ride for $75 USD for up to 4 people– what an experience!

Bateaux New York Premier Dinner Cruise (dinner)

Bailey enjoys her dinner with the Statue of Liberty in the background during the Bateaux New York Premier Dinner Cruise in New York City
It was a gloomy and rainy day but magical!
Bailey with her starter on the Bateaux New York Premier Dinner Cruise
The food was a highlight for sure!

If you only have one day in New York City, taking a dinner cruise is my top recommendation! Out of all the things we did during our 5 days in NYC, this was my absolute favorite activity, so I want everyone to experience it too! Taking a dinner cruise on the Hudson River gives you an excuse to dress up and have a fancy night out, and lets you see the city from an entirely new perspective– it’s a lovely evening!

We went on the Bateaux New York Premier Dinner Cruise, and while we’ve been on many dinner cruises before, this one was our favorite by far. This dinner cruise was luxurious from the moment we stepped on the boat. They had live music to set the ambiance and it is an all-glass boat, giving incredible views of the skyline, the Statue of Liberty, and Battery Park. It was amazing to see the city light up as the sun set, something I’ll never forget!

Bailey looks out the window on the Bateaux New York Premier Dinner Cruise and admires the view of the city skyline
So beautiful!

While the views are a huge draw for a dinner cruise in NYC, let’s not forget you’re there for dinner! They pulled out all the stops for this gourmet 3-course meal, it was probably the best thing we ate in our entire time in New York (and we ate a lot!). You can expect high-quality food, service, drinks, and views as you set sail along the Hudson River. 

Taking the Bateaux New York Premier Dinner Cruise was worth every penny in our book! Prices will vary depending on the day of the week and how far out you book it, but you can expect between $200-$300 USD per person. Be sure to book this cruise in advance, as it’s certainly popular and you skip this experience!

OR

See a Broadway show (night)

The cast of Book of Moorman say thankyou after an awesome show on Broadway in New York City
The cast of Book of Moorman
Bailey at the Book or Moorman Theater on Broadway in New York City
Bailey at the Book or Moorman Theater on Broadway in New York City

With only one night in New York City, it can be hard to decide exactly what to do! Seeing a Broadway show is such an important part of a full NYC experience, so this could also be a great evening activity! 

Broadway shows are such impressive productions, the logistics, set, prop design, and raw talent of the performers is mind blowing! Even if you’re not a huge musical fan, like Daniel, it can still be a very fun experience. We booked tickets to the Book of Mormon, and loved it! It has the same writers as South Park, so it’s funny from front to back, and even the musical scenes were enthralling (even Daniel was impressed)! 

But really, there are so many iconic Broadway shows that have been running for decades. The Lion King is one of the most popular productions and has been running since 1997, it’s put on over 5,000 shows! You can reserve tickets to The Lion King starting at $145, and prices will change depending on which seats you select and the date of availability. 

If you’re somewhat of a self-proclaimed theater nerd, you’ll love this walking tour of Broadway Theaters and Times Square! You will get to go behind the scenes of theaters and get the inside scoop on what it’s really like working on Broadway, as this tour is led by a real performer. This 2-hour tour is $39 USD and begins at 4 pm, so you can take the tour and then catch a show! 

Related Read: It’s no lie that NYC is an expensive city! Even if you’re traveling in NYC for one day, you can save money by using a New York City Attraction Pass– read our full guide to get the scoop here!

Go to a Speakeasy (night)

Daniel rings the phone at Please Don't Tell Speakeasy in New York City to gain entry
The pay phone to get into Please Don’t Tell!
Bailey enjoys a cocktail at Please Don't Tell Speakeasy in New York City
Cheers!

After you hit a Broadway show, you’ll be in the perfect area to find a speakeasy! New York’s speakeasy scene is huge, as it’s always been a hub of activity, even during the Prohibition Era of 1919. Prohibition made all sales and consumption of alcohol illegal, so any legitimate bar was shut down. Organized crime groups began to open secret bars all over New York, and it became a very lucrative business. 

While it is now legal to drink in the city, the charm of seeking out these hidden and historic bars is a super fun activity. Plus, the design and quirks of some of these speakeasies are so unique, in true New York form!

We visited The Woo Woo near Times Square after our Broadway show, as it was pretty close! It has a seedy 1980s vibe to reflect the early days of Times Square. However, our favorite speakeasy is Please Don’t Tell, and it’s hidden behind a hotdog restaurant. To enter, you have to go into a phone booth, press 1, and be transported to a small, cozy 1920s decor speakeasy. 

You’ll want to make reservations for Please Don’t Tell in advance, because it’s quite popular!

You can also take this speakeasy tour, which takes you to some truly hidden speakeasies, gives a down low of their checkered history, and lets you skip the line wherever you go! You can reserve this tour for $35 USD, but you will still have to pay for your drinks. This is a fun look at New York’s unique and lively bar scene, a perfect way to end your day in the Big Apple!

Related Read: Have a little more time? Check our two-day New York itinerary to get a few more ideas of how to best spend your time!

Know Before You Go

Bailey looks through the Binoculars on the 86th floor of the Empire State building viewpoint
The Empire State Building Observation deck is included in the New York CityPASS®
A man inside the 911 museum looks at a steal beam that fell during the World Trade center terrorist attack
So is the 9/11 Memorial and Museum!

What are the New York Passes you can buy?

NYC Passes are a great option if you’re planning on doing some major sightseeing while visiting New York City. You’ll essentially pay one flat fee for the pass, and have admission to various sites covered. It actually ends up saving you almost 50% of sightseeing costs, which is fantastic as traveling in New York can get quite expensive! There are a few different passes to choose from, so let me break them down.

The New York CityPASS® covers entrance to 5 attractions, which is perfect if you are planning on hitting a lot of sights during your one-day NYC itinerary. It already includes the Empire State Building Observation Deck and the American Museum of Natural History, and then you’ll select three more attractions from a pre-set list. This pass is valid for 9 days and is $138 USD, which is a great price, especially if you plan on extending your stay!

The New York Pass covers over 100 attractions and has prices tailored for how many days you’ll be using it. This is my top pick, as you can choose a 1-day option for $150 USD and have unlimited sightseeing for that day! The New York Pass has the most extensive list of attractions and gives you a lot of flexibility as you plan your 5 days in NYC. 

The New York City Explorer Pass by Go City allows entry for between 2-10 attractions, depending on which tier you choose. This is great if you have a handful of “must-sees” or enjoy tours, as there are a lot to choose from with this option. Prices start at $79 USD for 2 attractions and go all the way up to $264 USD for 10 attractions, depending on how much you want to see! The Explorer Pass by Go City covers a lot of sights, so check out what they offer before you decide on which pass to purchase!

Can you explore New York City without a car?

taxis parked on a busy street in New York City
Taxi is one of the most popular ways to get around for both locals and tourists!

Yes, this is actually the best way to explore New York City. You can use public transportation and walk to all of the main sights. The subway system is used by travelers and locals alike, just add some extra time into your itinerary to figure the system out. You can download the NYC Subway App and get a 7-Day Unlimited Ride Metrocard for $34 USD, and trust me, you’ll be using that a lot! 

Most of the time, you can take the subway close to whatever attraction you’re going to see, then walk a few blocks to find it. Uber and taxis are also an option if you don’t want to take the subway.

Is it safe to visit New York City?

Overall, New York is a safe city to explore. As with any major city, use caution at night, don’t carry valuables or large amounts of cash on you, and use your smart-traveler senses. If an area feels sketchy– it’s probably best you get out! But for the most part, New York is safer to visit than many movies and TV shows like to depict it – so don’t stress and enjoy your NYC trip!

Where to Stay in New York City

TBA Times Square Hotel Room
Our room at Delta Hotels by Marriott New York Times Square – classic, clean, and comfy!

New York City is huge – there is just no other way to put it! Even Manhattan (the area you’ll want to base yourself in) is a lot bigger than you think. That’s why choosing the right hotel in the right location is so important during your stay in New York, even if it’s just a quick trip!

Below, we’ve simplified it all for you by choosing a couple of the very best hotels available in the city. All three of these options have ideal locations close to attractions and the subway system. They all have amazing reviews, too, so just choose the one in your budget category and you’ll be ready to pack your bags!

Motto by Hilton – $$$

Motto by Hilton is a gorgeous hotel located in the Chelsea neighborhood only 600 meters from the Flatiron Building. The hotel features modern decor that has “speakeasy vibes.” In fact, they have a beautiful bar onsite that looks like the perfect place to sip an Old Fashioned. There are a variety of rooms on offer including some that are a little more budget-friendly, and some that are pure luxury with city views!

Prices start from about $400 USD per night plus tax. You can check prices and availability for Motto by Hilton online here!

Delta Hotels by Marriott New York Times Square – $$

Delta Hotels by Marriott New York Times Square is where we stayed the last time we visited New York, and honestly, we loved it! This hotel is the perfect combination of comfort and value for money. It was clean, modern, and our room had all of the amenities we needed for an enjoyable stay (air conditioning, k-cup coffee maker, steamer, large shower, big windows, etc). Plus, the location is ideal – it’s only a couple blocks from Times Square!

Prices do range, but they do go as low as $200 USD per night plus tax depending on the time of year and day of the week. You can check prices and book online here!

Nap York Central Park Sleep Station – $

For those traveling on a tight budget, Nap York is a budget hostel that’s an ideal choice. Although affordable, this property is immaculate and offers a ton of amenities for a great stay including air conditioning and a shared kitchen. The rooms are modern and the location is about as central as it gets! This property only offers dorm rooms, but they are affordable at as little as $100 USD per night.

You can check prices and book Nap York online on either Booking.com or Hostelworld.

Related Read: While you’re traveling on the East Coast, you can make a quick stop in Toronto, Canada! This city has so much to explore, so check out the 12 Best Tours in Toronto to continue your adventures!

Thanks for reading!

Daniel and Bailey take a selfie onboard the Bateaux New York Premier Dinner Cruise
Thanks for reading!

Even if you’re taking a quick, one-day trip to New York City, it will still be an amazing time! With so much to see in the city, you will certainly have a busy but memorable day. We spent 5 days in New York and it still didn’t feel like enough time, so that just means we will have to come back and explore some more. 

We hope you found this blog helpful as you plan your one-day in NYC itinerary. If you need more travel inspiration and advice, check out our other USA blogs! Here are some of our top recommendations below!

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