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2 Days in New York Itinerary

Updated: April 6, 2024

So you have only two days in New York City and are wondering how much you'll be able to see in this limited amount of time.

As New Yorkers, we are excited to tell you that you can see quite a lot in that time!

Since we know the city well, we crafted this two-day itinerary to take you to what we think are 'must-see' sights.

We've also included some of our favorite things to do to give you a taste of what life is like in NYC for those of us who live here.

Now go and enjoy your whirlwind trip to the Big Apple!


OVERVIEW

We created this itinerary specifically for a two-day visit and includes activities for the mornings, afternoons, and evenings.

Knowing that New York City can be an expensive place, we focused on making this itinerary budget-friendly.

One way to get to know NYC while saving money is to take one of our pay-what-you-wish guided walking tours. Our guides are locals who know the city inside and out.

Not only will you learn a lot about NYC's past and present, but you'll also have the opportunity to tap into your guide's knowledge of how things work here!

Questions about using the subway? We've got your back! Getting cheaper Broadway tickets? Just ask us!

Cheap places to eat? Well, that's one of our favorite things to share with our guests!

We also have over 40 free self-guided tours and also many GPS-enhanced audio tours narrated by our guides.

Many of these activities are completely free and those that are not may be included for free with the purchase of a tourist attraction pass.

Some great activities that allow you to see lots of the city in a short amount of time are:

For more ideas on how to spend your time here, check out our post on things to do in NYC, and our posts on what to do at night, family-friendly activities, and things to do for free.

If you only have one day in NYC, take a look at our one-day itinerary for a jam-packed day that takes you to the NYC sites you have always wanted to see.

We also have a general 3-day itinerary as well as a specialized 3-day itinerary for families with kids.

If you need some guidance when deciding how many days to visit the Big Apple, read our post, How Many Days Are Enough To Visit NYC?


DAY 1 IN NEW YORK CITY - Midtown

Times Square

You won't need long in this famous locale to feel the unique energy that NYC gives off. Though the area includes just a few blocks, there is plenty to see and do. 

Our post on things to do in Times Square includes free activities, attractions, and a self-guided walking tour.


New York Public Library

At the intersection of 42nd Street and 5th Avenue, you will find the New York Public Library built in 1913.

Outside this 1913 Beaux-Arts building are the world’s most famous pair of lions. ‘Fortitude’ and ‘Patience’.

For more information about the library and library tours, including our tours and tours given by the library, read our post on what to see at the New York Public Library.

After posing for photos on the grand staircase, continue east on 42nd Street two blocks until you come to Grand Central Station.

Along your walk, be sure to look up to your left for a wonderful view of the art-deco spire of the Chrysler Building. 


Grand Central Terminal

Known more commonly as Grand Central Station, this train terminal is one of the most beautiful in the world. 

You can enter at the doors on 42nd Street at Park Avenue. From this entrance, head to the magnificent Grand Hall.

Our guide to Grand Central Terminal covers the history, architecture, and even secrets of this New York gem.

With our GPS-enabled audio tour or self-guided tour you can explore at your own pace.


Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center is a complex of art-deco buildings that house offices as well as several famed NYC attractions.

Among the things to do here is to take a tour of Radio City Music Hall, tour NBC Studios, or get a bird’s eye view of NYC from the observation deck at Top of the Rock. (read more just below).

If you are here in winter, you can go ice skating, and around the holiday season, you can see the Rockefeller Christmas Tree. 

You can learn about Rockefeller Center’s history and architecture by taking either a guided tour of Rockefeller Center or a self-guided tour.


Top of the Rock Observation Deck

No trip to NYC is complete without visiting one of the observation decks that offer spectacular views of New York City and beyond.

Top of the Rock at the top of 30 Rockefeller Plaza is one of the options. See our Top of the Rock visitors guide for tickets and hours.

The other observation decks are the Empire State Building, One World Observatory, and Edge at Hudson Yards.

If you’re not sure which skyscraper is best for you, you may find our post comparing them.


Central Park

You’ve probably seen the park in movies and photographs. Visit Central Park and see for yourself how lovely it is.

The park is incredibly big and it's easy to get lost wandering around without some sort of guide. You may find our guide to Central Park helpful. 

For a guided experience, we offer several different pay-what-you-wish Central Park tours and also have a GPS-enabled audio tour for you to explore at your own pace.

TIP: This is one of the spots included on our self-guided tour covering Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles filming locations in NYC!


Wrap up your day with a Broadway Show 

There’s no better way to wrap up a trip to New York City than seeing a Broadway show. 

It is even better when you can save on tickets! Find out how from our post on ways to get cheap Broadway theater tickets. 

Before or after your show, there are many things to do at night in Times Square.

For more evening ideas, check out our guide to 40+ things to do at night in NYC.


DAY TWO IN NEW YORK - Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn

Walk the Brooklyn Bridge

Start your second day in NYC by walking over the Brooklyn Bridge. You will start your walk on the Brooklyn side of the bridge and enjoy the amazing views as you head toward Lower Manhattan.

Our guide to walking across the Brooklyn Bridge has helpful tips to make your excursion a smooth one. 

The post details how to get to the Brooklyn entrance, what sites you can see from the bridge, and also the history of the bridge.

We offer a pay-what-you-wish guided tour of the Brooklyn Bridge as well as a GPS-enabled audio tour you can use any time day or night.

When you exit the Brooklyn Bridge on the Manhattan side you will be in Lower Manhattan. Below are some of the most important sites to see in this area.

Note that an alternative activity is to take the free Staten Island Ferry for amazing views of Lower Manhattan. The ferry departs from Lower Manhattan and can easily be integrated into the itinerary.


Wall Street and the Financial District

Not only is Wall Street one of the world's financial centers, but it is also the site of significant American historical events.

At the intersection of Wall Street and Broad Street, you will find the New York Stock Exchange, Federal Hall, and the JP Morgan building. 

One block away is Trinity Church built in 1846. Its 284 feet (86 m) spire was once the tallest structure in New York City.

For details on these buildings and what else to see along Wall Street, you can use our self-guided tour of Wall Street or take a Wall Street tour.

Our pay-what-you-wish Lower Manhattan Walking Tour starts at Wall Street as does our Lower Manhattan GPS-enabled audio tour.


National September 11th Memorial 

This open-air memorial pays homage to the victims of the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001.

It is free to visit the plaza and you can take as long as you want there. 

The highlight of the Memorial is the Reflecting Pools, two immense cascading fountains embedded in the exact location where each of the Twin Towers stood. 

You can find out more details about the Memorial from our guide to visiting the 911 Memorial.

We offer several pay-what-you-wish tours that include the 9/11 Memorial as well as an anytime GPS audio tour of the memorial recorded by one of our tour guides. Here is a sample of the tour.


Freedom Tower at One World Observatory

Like the Top of the Rock observation deck referred to above, you can get a 360-degree bird’s eye view of New York City at One World Observatory (Freedom Tower).

One World Observatory. Image source: Pixabay user photos for you.

It is recommended that you purchase your tickets in advance, as you must select a specific date and time. 

Read our guide about One World Observatory (“Freedom Tower”) to plan your visit, get tickets, and find concessions.


Chinatown, Little Italy, SoHo

You can see parts of these three adjacent neighborhoods in a small amount of time. Each has a unique culture, history, and cuisine.

Chinatown is the oldest Chinatown in the country and though it can be a bit touristy in places, you can find authentic inexpensive restaurants and food shops.

Our self-guided Chinatown tour can help you navigate to the best spots.

Little Italy is quite small and connects Chinatown and SoHo. You can get a sense of Little Italy simply by walking down Mulberry Street. 

Our self-guided tour of things to do and see in Little Italy highlights the sites.

SoHo has a distinct feel due to its attractive cast-iron architecture.

You don't need to spend a great deal of time here to enjoy the charm of the buildings and the flash of the high fashion shops.

To find out the best sites to see, check out our post on things to do in SoHo. 

To see the best of all three neighborhoods in two hours, join us on one of our free Soho, Little Italy, and Chinatown tours.


Greenwich Village

Due to the numerous restaurants of all cuisines and lots of nightlife, Greenwich Village is a perfect place to spend your last evening in NYC.

You can combine a dinner meal with a stroll along the area's historic and lively streets. For a structured exploration, you can use our Greenwich Village Audio Tour.

For help choosing where to dine as well as what to see, see our post on things to do in Greenwich Village.

If you are interested in a daytime tour, you may like to take one of our pay-what-you-like tours of Greenwich Village.


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About The Author

Stephen Pickhardt

Stephen is the CEO of Free Tours by Foot and has overseen the transformation of a local walking tour company into a global tour community and traveler’s advice platform. He has personally led thousands of group tours in the US and Europe, and is an expert in trip planning and sightseeing, with a focus on budget travelers. Stephen has been published and featured in dozens of publications including The Wall Street Journal, BBC, Yahoo, Washington.org, and more.
Updated: April 6th, 2024
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