Oh New York, you beautiful city, you. It might just be the most touristy, overcrowded, obscene places in the world. But that is the same reason why it is such a magnet and why we all gravitate towards it. The same things that make New York a madhouse or a freak show are the exact same reasons why people love it! If you plan to spend 48 hours in New York, you will surely experience the magic at some point or another.
Unlike the city of Los Angeles where I am from, New York City is an actual city.
Apologies to my LA-lovers, but New York not only has the skyline, crowds and vibe worthy of calling itself a city. It also has the history, where so many of our own family members landed themselves before starting a life in America.
It truly is one of the most spectacular things in the world, knowing that most of our families starting by stepping foot off the boat onto New York soil.
Many of these sites listed below can be seen with the City Pass New York. The pass allows you to see the The Empire State Building, American Museum of Natural History, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Top of the Rock Observation Deck, Guggenheim Museum, Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island, Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises, the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, and the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum for the price of $122. (Please note, some of these options you must choose between and cannot see ALL of them).
If you have more than 48 hours or if sightseeing is a major part of your trip to New York, this will save you approximately $280 (adult price) if you were to see every site on the list. If you only plan on visiting two of these sites during your trip to New York, I would skip this pass.
Similarly, if you are planning to visit New York in more than two days, I have listed several other options within the text of the itinerary. From restaurants to sites, you’ll have enough activities to fill your schedule for weeks!
7 am Breakfast The Bagel Store
New York is KNOWN for its bagel scene. Lox bagels, everything bagels, and even cragels! What’s a cragel you may ask? A cragel is a croissant and bagel combo and is found in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn at The Bagel Store. This place is famous for its rainbow bagels and eccentric flavors like cotton candy, bacon schmear and, of course, the cragel.
This family-run business has the friendliest staff you’ll find in New York and the bagels, whether you like ‘em plain or you like ‘em weird, are AMAZING! The store delivers across the country so once you’ve tried them you can have them long after you travel back home.
Other options: Pietro Nolita, The End Brooklyn
8 am Brooklyn Bridge and DUMBO
One of the most iconic scenes in New York is found halfway between Brooklyn and Manhattan atop the famous Brooklyn Bridge. Not only do cars make this commute to and from the city, but there is an upper level that you may walk across. The best time of day to visit this famous spot is between the hours of 6 am and 8 am during the weekday.
DUMBO is also legendary, with its famous bridge-meets-street scene. If you have the time, swing by the Brooklyn Bridge Park as it also has a great view, but not worth missing the first two items if not on the schedule.
10 am One World Trade Center
Do you remember where you were on September 11th, 2001? I remember it so clearly, it was a day of such horror and tragedy that even as a middle-schooler, I knew that what was happening was pure evil.
Start your morning paying tribute to the Americans who lost their lives at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. Afterwards, check out the newly rebuilt One World Trade Center where you can view the city from its observatory at 102 floors up. For those architect lovers, head over to the Oculus and marvel at its design.
12:30 PM Enjoy the Best Italian Food at Gelso & Grand
In the heart of Little Italy is one of the tastiest and aesthetically pleasing Italian restaurants I’ve ever dined at! We were lucky enough to be treated to lunch here by Gelso & Grand’s owners and had no choice but to be surprised by the decadent meals they decided to grace us with. The three of us enjoyed a Smoked-Salmon Eggs Benedict, Croque Madame covered with hollandaise with ham inbetween, and their famous Inferno Pizza with spicy capicola mozzarella and chile oil.
But the best part was the “smash cannoli,” the dessert that the restaurant is known far-and-wide for. Served with a tiny mallet and an extra-large cannoli, this dessert is best enjoyed after smashing into itty-bitty pieces and mixing each of the flavors together We had a s’mores-gingerbread combo that tasted like an open-campfire mixed with the very essence of Winter nostalgia. This was definitely one of my favorite meals in New York!
Other options: Catch NYC, NOMO Kitchen, Cafe Henri, Freemans
2:00 pm Stroll the Streets of Greenwich Village
The epicenter of the city’s 1960s counterculture movement is now one of the most chic places to live in New York. Here you can find popular cafes, jazz clubs and Off-Broadway Theaters amongst the legendary brownstone buildings. Marvel at some of the more expensive apartments and even stumble upon Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment in the Sex and the City series.
As you walk along the tree-lined streets, Washington Square Park, and enjoy the colorful flags of the LGBT-friendly neighborhood, maybe fantasize that you yourself live here. And while you’re there, pick up a cupcake from the famous Magnolia’s!
3:30 pm Meander Down The High Line
I had never heard of High Line until my most recent trip to New York. The High Line is a 1.45-mile-long elevated linear park, greenway and rail trail located high above the street. It was originally created on a former New York Central Railroad spur, but had been abandoned (though still decorated with plenty of unused tracks). Now, tourists come to marvel at the view as it’s sandwiched between the edge of the island of Manhattan and the city skyline.
If you’re coming here for a leisurely stroll, make sure to check out the Urban theater at Tenth Avenue and 17th Street. It is an open-seating area with a window over the avenue providing an aerial view of the west side that could otherwise only be seen from the windows of a Manhattan skyscraper.
5 pm Pop in for a Bite and Shop at the Chelsea Markets
Looking for some of the best grub in a casual setting? The Chelsea Markets are a collection of local shops, eateries and bars enclosed in a building located in the Chelsea neighborhood. Food ranges from sit-down meals to take-away, my favorite being Li-Lac Chocolates and Doughnuttery.
After you’ve eaten and strolled through the market, head back to your hotel to change and refresh before a big night out. If you’re not into the nightlife scene, this might be the time to call it a night!
Other options: Black Tap Craft Burgers and Beer, by CHLOE., Citizens of Chelsea
8 pm Enjoy the View at a Rooftop Bar and Party at the Best Bars in New York
It wouldn’t be a trip to New York without a classic rooftop view over cocktails, would it? If you’re looking to enjoy a view from the heart of the city, head to the St. Cloud Social Rooftop Bar at the Knickerbocker Hotel with a view of Time Square from Midtown, Manhattan. But if you’re looking for a grand view from afar, try Westlight at the William Vale in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Whatever you do, start your evening there and head to the best bars in New York City including The Happiest Hour, Slowly Shirley (located under The Happiest Hour), The Garret and Bathtub Gin. Because if you’re not at any one of these bars, you really didn’t get a taste of the trendy, New York City scene.
Other (rooftop) options: POD 39 Rooftop Lounge and Bar, Refinery Rooftop, Penthouse 808
7 am Play for Breakfast at Boris & Horton
If you spent the previous evening dancing the night away in the city that never sleeps, it’s time for the ultimate hangover cure: puppies! One of New York’s newest cafes, Boris & Horton, is the first dog cafe where you can eat, drink and chill, but with a dog on your lap!
The cafe serves a variety of toasts with exceptional toppings (ranging from avocado to banana to tomato and tahini) as well as premium tea and coffee–perfect for soaking up last night’s liquid dance-courage. And while you’re noshing and recuperating, who wouldn’t want to hold a sweet pup? Most of the dogs are adoptable (see their bandanas), just careful not to snag someone else’s dog as this is a popular spot for people bringing their own pups to play!
8 am Take in the Views at Central Park
After you’ve gotten your fill of dogs and coffee, head to the famous Central Park to meander and see some of the famous sites. No doubt you’ll recognize the rock by Pinebank Arch from the movie Elf, The Bethesda Fountain, Bow Bridge, Columbus Circle from Enchanted, or Bandshell and the Conservatory Water from the famous Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
If you’re not a movie buff, simply enjoy some of the greatest sites within the 2.5-mile long park. Some of the top attractions to see within the park include the Bethesda Terrace and Fountain, the Central Park Zoo, the Conservatory Water, Belvedere Castle and the Strawberry Fields.
10:30 am New York Public Library
One of New York’s famous, but less-visited attractions is the New York Public Library. Keep in mind there are over 20 branches of New York public libraries, but the famous one to visit is the Main Branch on 476 5th Avenue. I’m a bookworm myself so it’s incredibly inspiring to walk amongst the old books that contain so much history (both within the pages and the walls of the building).
And if you’re also into movies, you might notice that this was the set for several movies including Sex and the City: The Movie, Spider-Man, Ghostbusters, and of course, Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
11:30 am Have lunch at Blue Box Cafe
Speaking of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, why not try it out for yourself? If you’ve seen the movie, you know that the only breakfast had at Tiffany’s was during the opening scene while Holly Golightly ate a pastry, admiring the fine jewels from a night out. Unfortunately for Miss Golightly, breakfast was not available at the time.
Lucky for us, Tiffany & Co. decided to open Blue Box Cafe, named after the famous light-blue boxes the jewelry company is known for. Enjoy the Fifth Avenue Salad with Main lobster, avocado and grapefruit or the olive oil poached skuna bay salmon with Ostera caviar. Of course the bill might be a tad expensive, but could you expect anything less by having breakfast within an iconic jewelry store?
Other options: BG Restaurant at Bergdorf Goodman, The Ritz Carlton Central Park, The Pierre
1 pm Marvel at the Flatiron Building’s Architecture
If it’s construction and architecture you’re after, look no further than the Flatiron Building, a “ground-breaking,” triangular skyscraper located at 175 Fifth Avenue in the borough of Manhattan, New York City. It’s famed shape makes it an awesome place to take pictures, but it’s really its foundation you’ll be marveling at.
Other options: Chrysler building, Grand Central Terminal, Trinity Church
3 pm Go All the Way Up to the Top of the Rock
Surely you’ve seen the Top of the Rock on Instagram as it’s one of the best views in town! Located 67 stories and 820 feet above ground is the observatory deck, providing unparalleled views of the city and its impressive skyline. The best time to come here is between 3-5 pm before the rush of tourists come for sunset, though watching at sunset is also marvelous.
If you have the time walk around 30 Rock down below and see if you can spot a camera crew. The crew of Jimmy Fallon’s show often look for people to interview for their show and you could be one of them! At the very least, consider standby tickets for Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers or SNL.
Other options: The Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building
5 pm Have the Most Luxurious, Old World Dinner at the Russian Tea Room
I remember the first time I heard of the Russian Tea Room. Carrie Bradshaw went here on a first date with Aleksandr Petrovsky at around 3 am for a real “Russian” experience. I wanted to learn what restaurant in New York possibly served dinner that late at night. Come to find the Russian Tea Room actually closes at 11:30 pm (unless you’re there for a party), but I ended up finding the pinnacle wonderful dining experiences!
The Russian Tea Room was founded by members of the Russian Imperial Ballet in 1927 and is a famous, New York staple providing continental classics like borscht, caviar & vodka served in a flashy, opulent setting. Three levels of beautiful decor include the main dining room, the Bear Lounge and the Bear Ballroom, each level becoming more ornate and beautiful as you rise.
Did I mention Madonna used to work at their coat check downstairs? Located right across from their cabinet of Fabergé eggs and Matryoshka dolls, you’ll enjoy history at every corner of this famous restaurant!
7 pm See a Broadway Play
One of the best things you will ever experience in New York is a real broadway play! Just like the West Coast is known for its movie and television scene, New York is known for its theater and plays. As the finale of your trip, it only seems fitting to squeeze in a trip to Time Square and see New York in all of its bustling, show-stopping glory.
Personally, I think recommending a good play is like recommending a good book and unless I know your tastes, it’s hard to suggest. But my personal favorites are probably Wicked, The Book of Mormon, Hamilton and Les Mis!
Getting around New York is incredibly easy via subways, trains and busses. Depending on how often you plan to take the subway, you may only need to purchase one-way tickets. If you will be in New York 3 days or longer, I would suggest the 7-day, unlimited pass.
Despite the fact that we all of Uber more than taxis, I still recommend taking a taxi while in the heart of the city. Most of the time, the fare is cheaper and they actually know where they’re going. Ubers use their GPS systems and I can’t tell you how many times they would get lost or take forever.
And if you’re trying to save some money, consider some of the following tips:
- Enjoy picnics in Central Park
- Stay at Airbnbs or hostels
- Walk instead of taking too many cabs
- Eat at local diners