Are you planning a trip to New York City?
If you’re here on a day trip to NYC, Packing light is the key to enjoying your day walking around the city.
The Big Apple is full of fun-filled destinations you’d think it’s IMPOSSIBLE to make an itinerary for only a day in NYC. So if you’re torn on what destinations to pick, we walk you through all the essential NYC experiences here for you to conquer New York City in one day.
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- 24 hours in New York City – What to do in NYC for a day
- 1. Fill up on breakfast
- 2. See the Statue of Liberty
- 3. Visit Battery Park
- 4. Walk across The Brooklyn Bridge
- 5. Visit a pizzeria
- 7. Window shop at Fifth Avenue
- 8. Visit Rockefeller Center
- 9. Walk through Central Park
- 10. Visit the American Museum of Natural History
- 11. Panoramic view of Times Square at night
- Spending a day in New York City
- Know before you go…
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24 hours in New York City – What to do in NYC for a day
1. Fill up on breakfast
The most important meal of the day! You need to fill yourself to have enough energy because spending one day in NYC requires A LOT of walking.
There are several hole-in-the-wall cafes and breakfast joints around New York.
2. See the Statue of Liberty
It was originally NOT in our itinerary, but we can’t resist crossing this bucket list item! The Statue of Liberty has been New York’s symbol for as long as I know, and seeing it in person is an awesome experience.
Situated on Liberty Island, you can see the Statue of Liberty from afar or take a closer look by booking a ferry boat. Since we only have a day in New York, we opted out of taking a ferry boat. Besides, looking from afar is free!
If you have the time, we suggest that you actually go to Liberty Island and see the statue up close. You can even enter the crown and take amazing pictures with the view.
While looking at the Statue of Liberty is probably your main objective, the place has a lot more to offer. There are the ferry rides, jet ski tours, and the beautiful views of the National 9/11 Memorial & Museum to name a few of the must-visits around Lady Liberty.
3. Visit Battery Park
Facing the New York Harbor, Battery Park is a great place to visit, especially if you have kids with you. After reading a review about the SeaGlass Carousel in the park, our kids got so excited about stopping by. Even Tony got on the carousel with our youngest!
Another notable attraction in Battery Park is the Castle Clinton. What used to be a fort is now the park’s main attraction. Its history as an aquarium is also shown by the bioluminescent design of the SeaGlass Carousel.
If you have places to go to after your visit in Battery Park, you can go to the southeastern part of the park and pick a mode of transportation to bring you to your next destination.
4. Walk across The Brooklyn Bridge
Riding a ferry boat is fun and knowing that your end point is THE Brooklyn Bridge makes the ride even better.
We rode a “jumbo ferry” – as my daughter calls it – to go to the most popular spot in New York, the Brooklyn Bridge. They say that if you want a true New York City experience, you have to walk across this iconic bridge!
After your short walk, or if you opted for a ferry boat ride across, you can pick a place to eat around the area. There are LOTS of options!
5. Visit a pizzeria
New York offers a wide variety of cuisines. You can have Thai, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and other types of food whenever you want. Above all, New York is known for some of the best pizza in the country.
Beware, getting into the famous pizza joints around the bridge is hard and requires your long patience for the line to move. Try to reserve in advance or get there before the peak dining hours to prevent long queues!
7. Window shop at Fifth Avenue
The City of Dreams is truly a haven for those who love shopping. In the borough of Manhattan, you can enjoy a walk around the “Most Expensive Street in the World”, Fifth Avenue!
From the street, it’s easy to tell that the items sold around here can be REALLY pricey. But no worries, walking around is free! Who knows, maybe this is where you’ll find your new awe-inspiring fashion style.
If you want a more detailed summary of things you can do in Fifth Avenue, visit this page.
8. Visit Rockefeller Center
A few city blocks away from Fifth Avenue in Manhattan is one of NYC’s top summer attractions, the Rockefeller Center. Having just a day in NYC, you have to plan ahead on which of the several activities you would want to experience in this 19-building complex. You’ll need more than a day to take time and enjoy ALL of the attractions in here so just pick one or two!
Do you love high places and panoramic views? If yes, the Top of the Rock Observation Deck is the best place for you! Or do you love knowing the history of all the places you pass by? You can hear about that with The Rockefeller Center Tour. Get a Rock Pass and you can experience both!
Other notable hot spots include the Concourse, an underground spot for food and transportation, and the Channel Gardens, which is always decorated in coordination with the season!
9. Walk through Central Park
New York is so jam-packed with exciting destinations that just a turn of your head will lead you to seeing another one. Bounded to Fifth Avenue is the Central Park a green paradise in the middle of a busy city.
Take a break from the bustling streets by stopping by Central Park. Among all the destinations on this list, this is the most family-friendly for me and the most picturesque by far. The park’s top spots are the museums, playground, the green space and the horse-and-carriage rides. All of these are also kid-friendly activities.
If you’re looking for less moving and more sightseeing, the cherry blossoms, strawberry fields, and Belvedere Castle can satisfy you with their rich colours!
Concerts are sometimes held there too. Plan ahead and you just might see your favourite artists right in front of you on the day of the trip.
10. Visit the American Museum of Natural History
One place we regret not visiting was the American Museum of Natural History. Since visiting the museum was put on a later time in the itinerary, we ended up not going due to the kids’ exhaustion. If we went there earlier on in the trip, I’m sure we’ll all love it!
A perfect mix of education and fun, the largest natural history museum in the world is a great destination if you have kids with you on the trip or if you’re a history buff of any kind.
With their different events and exhibitions, the American Museum of Natural History aims to teach children and families about the science around us. You can drop by their tri-level Museum Shop before leaving to take home a souvenir from here.
11. Panoramic view of Times Square at night
Your one night in New York City can easily be the best part of the trip if you can get a glimpse of the Time Square’s panoramic view like we did.
When we walked around the square in the morning, it is clear that it’s a hot spot with the number of tourists present. In the daylight, staying in Times Square is not as busy and some would say, not as exciting..
But when night time came and we saw the city lights from our hotel room windows, we felt that the trip was worth it. If you want to get a view of Times Square from above, I can’t recommend Crowne Plaza Times Square enough!
The night lights of the City That Never Sleeps is a view we can’t get enough of and you need to see it with your own eyes too!
Spending a day in New York City
Spending 24 hours in the Big Apple can go so many ways. You can enjoy yourselves and get tired a little earlier than expected like we did, or you can keep the adrenaline all throughout your stay.
If you can afford to spend a week in NYC, that’s even better! Either way, you’ll have fun! We were tired in the end but it’s still an experience we will never regret. Who knew New York City had a lot to offer even to us, a family that visits a new state every week or two?
New York in a day is certainly a tight squeeze, but better than never. Don’t wait for someday, chase your own happiness and make your own NYC itinerary now!
Know before you go…
For anyone wanting to visit the United States of America on a vacation, business trip, or for changing transits without an American visa or passport, an ESTA USA is always required.
You can submit an ESTA application quickly and easily via the online form, and paid safely online through Visa, Mastercard, American Express, or PayPal.
ESTA is valid for two years. During this validity period, you are allowed to make an unlimited number of trips to the US. For more information, you can check out their official site.
In case you need to deposit your luggage while in NYC, you can refer to this guide for a list of luggage storage areas. Stasher also offers affordable luggage storage in NYC near all major transportation hubs.