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This post is a compilation of ideas on how to spend one day in New York City, including itineraries for first-time visitors as well as those coming back for more! 

A big bonus: This itinerary is practically free. You only need to spend about $10 for transportation and the cost of food. 

In the video below, Tour Guide Katie with Free Tours by Foot runs through this itinerary for you, but we've added more details in the content below.

As local tour guides, we compiled this list based on our own experiences, but also answering your questions.

We lead thousands of people each month through the streets of NYC and we know a thing or two about crafting an itinerary.

We also grabbed ideas from the roughly 200k members of our popular NYC Travel Tips Facebook group.

The group consists of locals, like our tour guides, veteran travelers, as well as newbies to NYC.

You don't need to join in order to read the posts, comments, and recommendations.

Check out the group once you are finished reading this post. A link to the group is at the end of this post.


This one-day itinerary takes you to many of the sites, historic landmarks, and attractions that make the Big Apple the exciting place that it is.

You will see historic buildings and beautiful parks all while getting amazing views of the New York skyline from different vantage points. 

We've included time for lunch, a snack, and dinner.

There is a section for night activities if you have enough energy to keep going! 

If you are waiting for a flight or train later in the day, learn where you can store your bags for just $5.99/day.

TIP: If you haven't booked your trip yet and aren't sure how long you want to visit, read our post, How Many Days Are Enough To Visit NYC?


Central Park

Enter at 59th Street and Central Park South 

You've seen it in movies and pictures and now you can see for yourself that it is every bit as lovely as you expected.

Make your way to the Pond and Gapstow Bridge for a great photo op. Wander a bit around the southwest area.

If you are big on photography, head north for Bethesda Terrace and The Mall, both iconic locales in the park.

If you want to explore more of the park, it's best to have a map with you as it is quite large.

Use our self-guided tour and or our GPS-enabled audio tour to find your way around.

We also offer pay-what-you-wish guided Central Park tours.

Backtrack and exit the park the same way you entered, at 59th Street and Central Park South.

Walk south on 5th Avenue in the same direction as the cars are going.

Rockefeller Center

As you walk down 5th Avenue 51st Street, look out for famous shops, like Tiffany's and Saks Fifth Avenue.

You'll pass by Trump Tower on your way to Rockefeller Center. Explore this complex of 1920s buildings using our self-guided tour.

See the famous Channel Gardens and the Lower Level Concourse where, in the Christmas Season, you can ice-skate and see the iconic Rockefeller Christmas Tree.

Pose for a photo in front of Radio City Music Hall.

You may also want to look into visiting the Top of the Rock, one of the five observation decks in NYC.

Walk south on 5th Avenue until 42nd Street.

Cross 42nd Street and walk halfway down the block until you see the big beautiful building with two lion statues on either side of the grand set of stairs. 

New York Public Library 

On the corner of 42nd Street and 5th Avenue is the main branch of the New York Public Library built in 1913.

Walk inside to see the grand Beaux-Arts lobby and the cavernous Reading Room, where a scene from the 1984 film Ghostbusters was filmed. 

Learn more about the daily tours and what to see inside this building.

From the library, walk back to 42nd Street and turn right onto 42nd Street. Walk two long blocks to Park Avenue.

Enter the station (officially named Grand Central Terminal) through the doors at the intersection of 42nd Street and Park Avenue.

Grand Central Station

It's actually a train terminal, the largest in the world, with 44 tracks of trains leading out of New York City. Several main subway lines pass through as well.

Grand Central is a special spot in New York. Even lifelong New Yorkers who pass through every day enjoy the beauty and design of this terminal.

The Main Concourse is dazzling, from the celestial ceiling to the chandeliers and the tiled archways and regal staircases, Grand Central is a beauty.

If you’d like to learn more about Grand Central’s history and its secrets, check out our self-guided tour or our GPS-enabled audio tour.

Be sure to visit the Whispering Gallery on the lower level just outside of the Oyster Bar.

Click here for a very short video demonstration of how to enjoy the Whispering Gallery.


Lunch in the Lower Level Dining Concourse

After visiting the Whispering Gallery, grab lunch from over 35 food stalls.

There are tables to sit at as well as public restrooms. (Click here to see the listings and hours).

There is something for everyone, from pizza, burgers, sushi, sandwiches, soups, and two classic New York desserts:

  • Junior's Cheesecake, the best cheesecake in NYC
  • Magnolia Bakery, where you can get the famous cupcakes from Sex and the City. (Find out about where the original Magnolia is from our post about SATC sites in NYC.)

When you are ready to move on to the next activity, it's time to take the subway.

Read below for all the information you need on how to use the subway.

You will be taking the DOWNTOWN 4/5/6 subway line. The line is represented by green circles. 

There are a few different ways from inside Grand Central to get to the subway platform. They all involve going down one level via stairs or escalators.

Your destination is the Brooklyn Bridge- City Hall station. You can take either the 4, 5, or 6 trains as long as they say DOWNTOWN. 

At the Brooklyn Bridge City Hall Station, there will be several different exits. No matter which exit you use, you will be able to see the pedestrian entrance to the bridge. 

Walk the Brooklyn Bridge and visit DUMBO 

Taking a walk over the Brooklyn Bridge is an absolute must-do on a trip to New York City.

For a more in-depth experience, be sure to download our GPS-enabled audio tour

This is an unforgettable walk with sweeping views of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the harbor.

You can use our visitor's guide to walking the Brooklyn Bridge to help find the entrance to the walkway as well as how to find your way to DUMBO (District Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass), an artsy, waterfront neighborhood with traces of the American Revolution.

There is also incredible ice cream at the Ample Hills Creamery. You can find out where with our post on things to do in DUMBO.

After spending some time in DUMBO, it's time to head back to Manhattan.

Walk to the East River Ferry landing at Pier 1 in Brooklyn Bridge Park (Stop 17 0n this map) to take the ferry to Wall Street. 

Take the East River Ferry back to Manhattan NEw-york-east-river-ferry-300x200

Buy your ticket from DUMBO to Wall Street and have your camera ready to go to get fantastic, unobstructed photos of the Manhattan skyline and the harbor.

For information read our post about the East River Ferry.

The ride costs $4 but the view is priceless. The ride is approximately 4 minutes. Be sure to check the schedule to plan your afternoon. 

Disembark from the ferry and leave the dock. You will be at the intersection of Gouverneur Lane and South Street.

Cross South Street and turn right and walk one block up South Street until you come to Wall Street. Make a left and begin walking along Wall Street.

At this point, you can take a look at our self-guided tour map.

Wall Street 

Our self-guided tour of Wall Street will take you to 13 of the most important sites along Wall Street with background information on each locale.

These are three buildings not to miss: 

  • Federal Hall National Memorial  (picture on left)
  • New York Stock Exchange (picture on right)
  • Trinity Church (center picture)

Walk south on Broadway for approximately 5 minutes.

The Charging Bull 

This 7,000-pound bronze sculpture is one of the most photographed sculptures in New York City.

It was created by the Italian sculptor Arturo Di Modica in 1989, who gifted it to New York City as a symbol of encouragement for a strong stock market year, known as a "Bull Market".

Charging Bull Broadway Wall Street

Click here to read the fascinating history of the Charging Bull. (Photo 1 below)

Keep walking south on Broadway and ahead of you, you will see a huge and beautiful white ornate building.

National Museum of the American Indian

This stunning Beaux-Arts building next to Battery Park was built in 1907 as the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House. (Photo 2 below)

It is now home to the National Museum of the American Indian Museum. It's one of NYC's free museums, so pop in and have a look.

The four monumental sculptures on the building's front side symbolize international commerce with each of the four female figures representing a continent: Asia, America, Europe, and Africa.

Read more about the Museum of the American Indian.

Continue south on Whitehall Street until you reach the Staten Island Ferry Terminal.

Staten Island Ferry

During the boat ride, you get a good view of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island and stunning views of the Lower Manhattan skyline.

The ride there and back is about 50 minutes and doesn’t require a ticket and it's free. The ferry runs frequently during the week and slightly less often on weekends.

Read our post on how to take the ferry(Photo 4 below)

From the ferry terminal, walk back up Whitehall St. until you reach Broadway (back by the Charging Bull).

Walk north on Broadway against the traffic. At Rector St. (about 2 long blocks past the Charging Bull) turn left.

Walk on Rector St. two blocks to Greenwich St. and make a right turn.

You will be walking north, against the traffic. Continue on Greenwich St. for about 4 minutes and you will arrive at the massive 9/11 Memorial Plaza.

National September 11th Memorial and Museum 

Plan your visit to the Memorial with our detailed guide, Visiting the 911 Memorial and Museum

The centerpiece of the memorial is the Reflecting Pools, two massive cascading fountains set in the exact location where the Twin Towers stood.

Inscribed around the bronze edges of the pools are the names of those who died on 9/11.

For details on the other sites within the Memorial, we have a short, self-guided tour and a GPS audio tour(Photo 4 below)

DOwntown collage



Dinner Downtown 

Since you will be downtown already, check out the Food Hall at The Oculus next to the World Trade Center.

Not only are there plenty of food options like Eataly, Shakeshack, and Wasabi Sushi, but there are also fast food options and upscale restaurants.

The space-age-looking Oculus is a shopping center, transportation, and also an incredible example of architecture that honors the victims of 9/11.

Even if you plan to dine somewhere else, check out The Oculus -- and have your camera ready!

The Oculus is open Monday - Friday 10 am to 7 pm and Sunday 11 am to 6 pm.

If your night ends here, you can hop on one of the many subway lines you can enter from The Oculus including the 2/3/4/5/A/C/J/Z.

See a Broadway Show

No reason you can't fit a Broadway show into a whirlwind one-day itinerary.

If your budget allows, you can buy tickets in advance and head straight to your show.

Click here to see what's playing on StubHub when you are in town.

Staten Island Ferry Ride

Instead of taking this amazing free ride during the day, you can have a fabulous experience at night as well, and you won't feel so rushed trying to squeeze in everything before sunset.

See above for a description of the ferry.


Walk the Brooklyn Bridge at night 

Though it's included in the daytime activities above, a nighttime stroll is also a great way to enjoy the bridge.

If you walk the bridge at night, your daytime pace will be slowed down and you have more time to explore a bit more on your own. 

We offer a night tour of the Brooklyn Bridge and 9/11 Memorial several evenings each week as well as a GPS-enabled audio tour of the bridge.

You could also walk the bridge yourself. Either way, it's a lovely evening activity.

Take a pay-what-you-like night tour

We offer a Midtown Manhattan Night Tour, a Dark Side of the High Line tour, and several ghost tours, and in December for the holidays, we offer festive tours such as the New York Holiday Lights Tour.

For more ideas about how to spend your night after your one-day itinerary, see our post, Top 10 Things to Do in New York City at Night.

Traveling with kids? No problem!

This one-day itinerary is appropriate for kids and we think they will get quite a lot out of the day.

If you would like to check out some alternatives, we have an itinerary specifically for families.


New York is known for its diverse neighborhoods. Just wandering around one or two neighborhoods could easily fill up one day.

For a more authentic New York experience choose a few neighborhoods to visit.

Use our self-guided tours and GPS-enabled audio tours that include maps, suggestions for things to do, itineraries, where to eat, and how to have fun just like the locals do. 

The list below is only 1/2 of the neighborhoods we cover! 

See our full list of NYC neighborhood overviews to see each neighborhood in relation to the others.

See our full list of NYC neighborhood overviews.


If you would rather have a real New Yorker show you around, or you would like to meet other fellow travelers, then consider an all-day tour.

We have several pay-what-you-wish tours to choose from including our 6-Hour Downtown Manhattan Tour (see details below). 

In reality, you could put together any of a number of our shorter neighborhood tours (see our tour calendar) as well as our GPS-audio tours.

Searching Availability...

We also have just over 40 free, self-guided tours

Below is the description of our tour and a daily calendar of other all-day tours offered by other companies.

Of course, many bus tour companies can guide you around for the day, and we rate and compare them all

All-in-One Downtown Tour

Our tour utilizes your feet and the New York City Subway to transport you from the Financial District (the birthplace of New York) through Wall St and the World Trade Center and then on to Greenwich Village, SoHo, Chinatown, Little Italy, Chelsea Market, and the High Line Park.  

**We do not visit Midtown Manhattan or Central Park on this tour.**

There will be ample opportunities for memorable pictures. You'll also get to savor NY's best pizza, cannoli, and other treats. 

Free New York Tours

You may also have the chance to learn how to play NY handball, bargain with a shopkeeper in Chinatown, observe a game of street chess in Greenwich Village, or people-watch and window shop in SoHo.

Along the way, you'll master the subway and learn about New York's Finest!

View our tour calendar for the most up-to-date availability.

The All-in-One (AIO) Tour covers about 75% of the material covered in several of our separate walking tours, including Lower Manhattan, SoHo, Little Italy Chinatown, Greenwich Village, and the High Line.

Sites we cover on the New York City One-Day Tour:

  • New York in a DayWall Street
  • Financial District
  • New York Stock Exchange
  • Trinity Church
  • World Trade Center
  • 911 Memorial
  • Woolworth Building
  • Greenwich Village
  • Washington Square Park
  • SoHo's Cast Iron District
  • Little Italy
  • Chinatown
  • Chelsea Market
  • The High Line Park
  • and much more...

**We do not visit Midtown Manhattan or Central Park on this tour.**

*Guests will need to purchase an MTA MetroCard worth at least $8.25, though a card worth $12.50 would cover subway rides to and from the tour.

Be sure to read our post on which MetroCard to buy as well as tips for navigating the subway system.

Tour information

Reservations: REQUIRED. Click here to reserve. Groups of 10 or more should visit our group page.

Where: The tour meets at the George Washington Statue at Federal Hall on the corner of Broad St. and Wall St. (map). Look for your guides with the Free Tour by Foot logo.

Duration: Approximately 6 hours. There will be a break for lunch and a short refreshment break in the afternoon.

When: @10am Tuesdays & Fridays. View our full calendar.

If you can't reserve on the above days of the week, consider our Lower Manhattan tour, the SoHo, Little Italy Chinatown tour, the Greenwich Village tour, and the High Line tour individually.

Cost: This tour is free to take, and you get to decide what, if anything, the tour was worth when it's done. A name-your-own-price tour is a tour for anyone's budget.

  • Does this tour cover Midtown, Harlem, Upper West Side, or Central Park? No, this is a downtown-only tour.
  • Does this tour go into buildings? A few, but you will mostly hear about the history and stories from outside the buildings. If you would like to tour inside the buildings, like the One World Trade Center Observatory, 9/11 Memorial Museum or the Woolworth Building, you will need to make separate plans. 
  • Is this tour suitable for children and strollers? This is a fast-paced tour, and not recommended for those with walking issues, small children or strollers.

View our full Calendar for the most up-to-date availability.


Here for multiple days? Check out our 3 days in NYC post. 

Here are a few of our favorite paid tours offered by partners:

New York City Full-Day Sightseeing Tour

  • Ticket Prices: $74 for Adults | $64 for Children
  • Duration: 6 hours
  • Availability: Daily at 9:30 am

This tour is very well-reviewed (read the reviews) and includes:

  • Statue of Liberty Ferry Ride
  • 9/11 Memorial
  • Wall Street
  • 5th Avenue
  • Times Square
  • Rockefeller Center

New York City Day Tour with the One World Observatory

  • Ticket Prices: $109 for Adults | $99 for Children
  • Duration: 7 hours
  • Availability: Daily at 9:30 AM

This tour is very well-reviewed (read the reviews) and includes:

  • Everything from their 6-hour tour
  • Plus admission to One World Observatory

Statue of Liberty and 9/11 Memorial Tour

  • Ticket Prices: $59 for Adults | $49 for Children
  • Duration: 2 Hours guided; 3-5 hours self-guided
  • Availability: Daily at 9 am.

This tour is also well-reviewed (read the reviews) and includes:

  • Statue of Liberty Ferry Ride
  • Entrance to Liberty Island Museum
  • 9/11 Memorial
  • New York Stock Exchange

USA Guided Bus Tour

This 5 1/2-hour bus package includes a ride around the city where professional tour guides will provide commentary about each stop.

The tour is very well-reviewed (read the reviews) and tickets are reasonable considering it includes all this:

  • Ticket Prices: $89 for Adults | $79 for Children
  • Duration: 5 ½ hours
  • Availability: Daily at 10 am
  • Click Here to get your tickets

Foods of New York

Foodie? Then this tour is for you; You'll visit neighborhoods like West Village, Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and Dumbo as you discover NY-style pizza, juicy kielbasa, and more.

This trip is somewhat expensive, but it includes a lot of food tastings and they currently have a full 5 /5-star rating on TripAdvisor and Viator (read the reviews). 

  • Ticket Prices: $125 for Adults | $95 for Children
  • Duration: 4 ½ hours
  • Availability: Daily at 11 AM
  • Food tastings included
  • Click Here to get your tickets

Tourist Passes

If you are considering purchasing a tourist discount pass, which allows you to bundle tickets for attractions and tours into one discounted price, you may be interested in taking a look at their itineraries. 

We have the definitive post on tourist passes. We analyze each one and compare them for you. 

Each of these tourist pass companies offers sample itineraries to help you plan to get the most savings possible. 


You will only be taking two subway rides if you follow our one-day itinerary.

The subway system is a very efficient way to get around the city. It's easy to use once you know how.

Read our post on everything you need to know about riding the subway.

In the past, you had to purchase a MetroCard to enter the subway, but now you can also use the OMNY contactless payment system at the turnstile.

Read more about NYC Subway MetroCards and OMNY.

If you have a smartphone, you can download a free subway app to make your day in NYC go more smoothly

TIP: Anytime you are on the subway, look out for great musicians, buskers, and performers.

Our post about Where to find New York City Street Performers and Subway Music will lead you right to them!

NYC Travel Tips & Hacks Facebook Group

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,, and more.
Updated: September 25th, 2023
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