If you only have one day in New York City, you’re going to want to make it count! While New York’s museums and galleries rank among the best in the world, only the most serious of art lovers will want to spend their precious hours inside these labyrinth-like institutions.
Your New York City itinerary may be at the mercy of the weather, but the Empire City is one for every season. You’ll probably want to forgo that picnic in Central Park when the trees become capped with snow, but ice-skating at Wollman Rink is a pretty unbeatable alternative.
Here’s a rough idea of how you might map out your day in NYC; you might just pick one or two of these ideas and save the rest for next time, or take the challenge and try to hit them all. Speaking of maps, you’re definitely going to want to have one on hand – keep it at arm’s reach next to your MetroCard to truly economise your 24 hours in New York City.
Classic New Yorker breakfast-to-go
Bird's eye views from landmark buildings
Midtown madness at Times Square & Fifth Ave
Start your morning like a true New Yorker and grab breakfast to go. Whether it’s a bagel with a ‘schmear’ or a chewy doughnut paired with an espresso, New York’s cafes will have you fed, watered and on your way faster than the flash of a yellow cab. If all else fails, you're never far from a Starbucks (and free Wi-Fi).
To truly appreciate the scale of this city, you need to see it from a higher perspective. While the Empire State Building is hard to overlook, the ‘Top of the Rock’ at the Rockefeller Centre offers an arguably superior view, including that of the Empire State itself. Pick a platform and make your way there – to avoid the crowds, try to be at either building at 8am when they open.
It’s hard to tear yourself away from those stellar New York City views, but your time here is precious! Get back onto solid ground and get to know Midtown, Manhattan... well, as much as you can with these pesky time constraints. You’ll be able to tick off a whole heap of trademark sights as you meander around Midtown, including the dizzying billboards of Times Square and the department stores along Fifth Avenue that put the phrase ‘window shopping’ to good use. If you've got some budget to burn, the Bergdorf Goodman and Saks department stores will soon fix that.
Seeking serenity at the High Line
The tastes & TV glitz of the West Village
Tackling New York City in a day is no mean feat – where do you think the expression ‘in a New York minute’ came from? For your only afternoon in NYC, escape the chaos of the concrete canyons to the calm reprieve of one of the city’s favourite green spaces. While Central Park immediately springs to mind, an hour or two isn't enough to do her justice. A shorter, more modern and increasingly popular option for outdoor pursuits is the High Line.
This reclaimed elevated train line runs down the western edge of the Meatpacking District and is a real hot spot in the warmer months. Refuel with a quick bite from the street-food carts (including red velvet ice cream sandwiches for dessert) as you take in the elongated views from West 30th to West 14th Streets.
While you’re in this part of town, Chelsea and the West Village offer a glimpse of New York City as you know it from the silver screen – you can even visit the ‘actual’ Friends apartment building on Bedford Street! Food enthusiasts will enjoy whittling away their post-lunch hours in this neck of the woods, with Magnolia Bakery, the Spotted Pig, and the Chelsea Market all within reach, and a high concentration of boutiques in between.
Spending an afternoon in one of New York's villages will give you a different perspective outside the regular tourist traps. The West Village is filled with quaint brownstones and chic watering holes, oozing both 19th Century charm and modern-day cool.
Support the team at a basketball or baseball game or
Bargain theatre tickets for an evening on Broadway or
A fond farewell from Lady Liberty
As you’ve probably heard, New York is the city that never sleeps – so pop a Berocca and get ready to push past bedtime. There are countless ways to spend a night out in New York with kitschy bars on almost every block but, since you’ve only got one evening to spare, why not mingle with the locals at their favourite pastimes? If you’re visiting from September to April, you can catch the New York Knicks slam-dunking at the iconic Madison Square Garden, while the warmer months see the New York Yankees and New York Mets baseball teams step up to the plate both day and night
Simply can’t leave New York without catching a Broadway production? Don’t worry – there’s still time to make it happen, even if you haven’t booked your tickets in advance. There are three TKTS booths (at Times Square, South Street Seaport and Downtown Brooklyn) that sell discounted theatre tickets for same-day productions for as little as half price. You can download the TKTS app to see what shows are discounted on the day.
If you’d rather cap off a high-energy day with a low-energy evening, consider pre-booking a sightseeing cruise around the isle of Manhattan, or take the budget-friendly option of a round-trip on the free Staten Island commuter ferry. The Staten Island ferry offers one of the best views of the Statue of Liberty and runs well into the wee hours. While Lady Liberty has traditionally welcomed visitors into New York, she can just as easily bit you adieu.