There’s so much to do see and do in New York City! If you have limited time in New York, you’ll definitely want to make the most of your time. As a native New Yorker, I’ve been asked by a few people for a weekend itinerary for only two days in New York City. I hope that this itinerary helps you see the best of New York in 48 hours!
What you’ll see with two days in New York City and some notes on my itinerary!
This 48-hour New York itinerary is quite high-pace, so please wear comfortable shoes as you’ll be walking a lot! I tried to limit how many paid attractions that this itinerary includes as New York is expensive enough and half the fun is seeing all the different neighborhoods!
Within this itinerary, you’ll see Lady Liberty (from a distance), Wall Street, the 9/11 memorial, Chinatown, rooftop views of NYC, the Brooklyn Bridge, 5th Avenue, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Central Park, Rockefeller Center, and Times Square. You’ll also get a small taste of Brooklyn and its wonderful pizza! If you’re visiting during the holiday season, click for my Christmas guide to NYC. (Feel free to move things around if you’re in New York for two nights.)
For convenience’s sake, I’d recommend staying in Midtown. On a mini staycation in New York, I stayed at Pod39. This chic and affordable hotel has a great location near some of New York’s most famous buildings (Empire State Building, New York Public Library, Chrysler Building, etc.). It also has a nice rooftop lounge. Another great pick by the same chain is Pod51, which is a quick walk to Rockefeller Center with modern amenities and a good price tag. Both are near lots of great New York restaurants serving up classic New York dishes. Those on a lower budget will want to look up the Vanderbilt YMCA. For more affordable hotel picks in NYC, click here.
Day 1 in NYC: Lower Manhattan & Brooklyn
Coming in from JFK Airport? Click for my guide on how to get from JFK to Manhattan by public transit. No taxi needed. No traffic either! From LaGuardia, take the bus to the subway. Although LaGuardia is often a mess, it’s a short journey to midtown Manhattan.
Trying to figure out what to bring? Click for my packing list for NYC that includes all the seasonal info you’ll need to figure out what coat to bring. I recommend packing light as it’s just a weekend. Also, you’ll definitely want to go shopping while in New York. Click for my favorite affordable shopping picks.
Have a bagel & coffee by your hotel
Drop off your bags at your hotel and go out for a bagel to start off your weekend in NYC. Although you can troll the top lists for bagels in New York, I’ve honestly not ever had a bad bagel with schmear (cream cheese) in New York City. Coffee is another story, so if filter black coffee is your thing, you’ll be happy. Otherwise, there is not a shortage of Starbucks or local coffee shops around if you take your order to-go.
See Lady Liberty (from a distance)
Although the Staten Island Ferry has some of the best free views of NYC, you have limited time and although it goes regularly, you’ll need to wait for the next ferry back. If you’re up very early, I’d say go for it.
If you’re short on time, the views from Battery Park aren’t bad for getting your iconic photos of the Statue of Liberty in the distance. I absolutely love the Statue of Liberty, but I’d recommend saving this for a later visit when you can devote a day to visiting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
Wander down Stone Street
One of Lower Manhattan’s beautiful hidden gems has to be Stone Street, which is right around the corner from Fraunces Tavern. Fraunces Tavern is where George Washington planned part of the American Revolution. It’s paid to go in, but you can admire it as you pass. Stone Street is one of the oldest streets in New York and it’s made with cobblestones. It’s just a gorgeous little street framed by Dutch Colonial Revivalist buildings.
See Wall Street
There’s nothing like seeing Wall Street in person. If you’re here on a weekday, you’re sure to see suits walking around here going to/from the exchange. Of course, you’ll want to find the Charging Bull for the iconic photo! (I also recommend stopping into the historic Trinity Church, which is the final resting place of some of the Founding Fathers.)
Take a moment at the 9/11 memorial
I believe that it’s important to take a moment to pause at the 9/11 memorial. As a New Yorker, I ask that you don’t take smiling selfies here. This is a somber place and it’s inappropriate to do a photoshoot here. Although the museum costs money and takes time to go through, at least pause by the memorial within the footprints of the World Trade Center for a few minutes.
Step into the Oculus
The Oculus is one of New York’s most impressive new buildings. This underground mall/subway station is something of a modern church. You’ll understand why everyone, even New Yorkers, often stops by the stairs to enjoy the view. Instead of shopping within the mall, I recommend stepping into the nearby Century21, one of my favorite budget stores to shop at in NYC.
Within the Oculus, you can descend further into the subway to save on walking for later in the day. Click for my guide on how to take the subway in NYC! Otherwise, use Google Maps to route yourself to Chinatown on foot. It’s about a mile, but you’ll pass by a few sites worth the stop-off if you’re into history and architecture. These include the Woolworth Building (one of New York’s iconic buildings), the African Burial Ground National Monument, and Gracie Mansion.
Enjoy eating in Chinatown for lunch
New York’s Chinatown is a must-see during your two days in New York! Although Chinatown is definitely gentrifying, you’ll still find some great food here. I recommend having some cash on you as some restaurants are cash only. I always love to stop off for a bubble tea and I can’t resist the handmade noodles at 88 Lan Zhou Handmade Noodles. You also cannot go wrong with dim sum.
Take in rooftop views at the Crown
In the heart of Chinatown, you’ll find a really nice rooftop bar called the Crown (21+). They’re open during the day, so consider avoiding the crowds while enjoying a cold beverage with a view. I came up here on a cloudy day during the day and it was a surprisingly relaxing experience as I sat outside in the afternoon. (A proper Chinatown guide is coming soon!)
Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge
Walking the Brooklyn Bridge is a classic New York activity not to be missed! Even if the weather isn’t so great, the walk along the bridge is absolutely stunning with panoramic views of Manhattan and Brooklyn. It’s free and so worth it. Even I like to be a tourist sometimes. 😉
Enjoy a pizza from Juliana’s
Once you’re in Brooklyn, pick up a pizza pie from Juliana’s or sit down for great pizza. The line can be long, but it moves quickly. Do like a New Yorker and wash your hands, so you can pick up your pizza. Don’t eat your pizza with a fork and knife! Not a pizza person? Click for my food recommendations on Downtown Brooklyn.
Enjoy the sunset at Brooklyn Bridge Park and enjoy New York’s nightlife
After a delicious meal, sit enjoying the magic of New York’s skyline from across the East River. Stroll along Brooklyn Bridge Park and maybe peek at the beautiful brownstones. Enjoy the moment.
After you’re done sitting in the park, I’d recommend finding a bar while it’s still happy hour. One of Brooklyn’s best breweries is Other Half Brewing Company although Circa Brewing Co. also serves up delicious locally made craft beer. If you’re looking for a bit more, hop on the subway to Williamsburg for a fun night out or return to Manhattan to prepare for a night out in Chelsea’s clubs!
Day 2 in NYC: Upper East Side and Midtown
Breakfast at Sarabeth’s
Sarabeth’s is one of the best brunch places in New York City. My mom’s favorite dish here is the Lemon Ricotta Pancakes, but you can choose from the extensive menu. Whether you’re craving french toast, pancakes, or eggs, you’ll find something delicious to at here. If it’s a Saturday or Sunday, arrive early because brunch is BIG in New York City!
Stroll down 5th Avenue
There’s nothing like strolling down 5th Avenue as you admire the beautifully ornate mansions and Central Park on the other side. This is easily one of the most beautiful streets in New York and it’s always lovely walking here throughout the year.
Enjoy art at the Met
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is easily one of my favorite museums in New York City. Within the Met (as we call it as New Yorkers), you can enjoy European masterpieces, ancient Egyptian art, and even admire musical instruments. It truly has something for everyone. If the weather is good, consider climbing up to the rooftop for panoramic views of Central Park and a coffee. It’s easy to spend an entire day here, so come with a plan with what you want to see. Don’t forget to channel your inner Blair on the Met Steps for the Gossip Girl fans!
Enjoy a late lunch at Papaya King (on a budget) or somewhere else in the UES
If you’re wanting to try an authentic New York hotdog, Papaya King is a classic institution where you’ll get a better deal than at the hot dog cart outside of the Met. This cash-only joint serves up delicious NY-style hot dogs, curly fries, and smoothies. It’s budget-friendly! For something a bit nicer or just healthier, you’ll have many options on the Upper East Side within a few blocks.
Stroll through Central Park
Who can resist the charms of Central Park? After you’re done with the Met, go for a long walk through Central Park. Be sure to find Belvedere Castle and the Bow Bridge, which are charming spots to sit out enjoying the park. Two classic locations not to miss are the Loeb Boathouse and the Bethesda Fountain/Terrace. If it’s a nice day, sit down on a bench and people watch!
Hop onto the subway for finding affordable dinner
Your options are limitless in New York, so look on Google or Yelp for the full range of options as there are always new restaurants opening up, including pop-ups. The Village, Lower East Side, Hell’s Kitchen, and Chinatown are good places to head for dinner if you’re not on a Michelin star budget. Hop onto the subway once you narrow down what you’re looking for. 😉
Another good option is heading down to 34th to Koreantown for Korean food. (I was recently at Baekjeong NYC). If you haven’t yet experienced a pastrami sandwich, head to the 2nd Ave Deli for a pastrami sandwich on rye. (Avoid eating in Times Square.)
See Times Square at night
Before you leave New York, you need to experience Times Square at night. (You can move this to earlier in the trip if you have more than one night!) It’s like daylight and although I don’t recommend eating here, you have to see it once. For those of age, head to St. Cloud Rooftop Bar for stunning views of Times Square from above. Most stores tend to be open later, so this is also a great chance to pick up some last-minute souvenirs before you head to the airport. I hope that your two days in New York City was great!