Only have two days in New York City? This itinerary covers local places to eat, popular tourist sites and even travel time.
Two days in New York City sounds a bit crazy with how much you can do and see there, but it’s definitely doable if you’ve got lots of energy! You can even get a mix of both touristy and local activities so you don’t feel like you’re missing out on anything.
If you’re just headed in for the weekend from the surrounding states or passing through on an extended layover, here’s my itinerary for two days in NYC.
This two day itinerary covers travel time and general logistics so you’ll explore the city as efficiently as possible.
Get ready to explore and and have two activity-packed days!
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How This Two Day NYC Itinerary Works
Before we begin the guide to your two days in NYC, just wanted to let you know how this itinerary works.
This itinerary assumes that you are physically healthy and active because of all the walking; want to visit the top tourist sites in New York; and would like to eat at some delicious local spots I’ve come to love over the past five years living there.
Each activity or restaurant mentioned has:
- the time that you should be there by,
- how much the activity costs if it’s relevant,
- tips to note for that activity if it’s relevant,
- and most importantly, how to get there from the previous activity.
The suggestions always flow from one activity to the next assuming you are sticking to this exact two day itinerary.
If at any point you decide to skip a part of the itinerary or deviate from it but need directions again, simply use Google Maps to recalculate your directions. You can even use Google Maps offline without data or wifi if you are limited with data.
Now that we have these assumptions out of the way, let’s begin your super fun two days in New York City!
Two Days in New York City: Day One
Day one is a go-go-go type of day. It involves a lot of walking so make sure to wear sneakers and pack a light snack, water bottle*, and small but powerful portable charger in a daypack. Wearing sneakers and packing these three items I own are actually what I did in New York everyday when I lived there! For my other best local tips about New York City, read my best New York City tips.
*Tap water in New York City is very clean and safe to drink– just in case you wanted to know!
9:00am | Breakfast at Levain Bakery
Specific Location: Levain Bakery, 351 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10024, USA
Your first day in New York City jumps you right into the super indulgent life of New Yorkers with one of the most quintessential New York bakery you can visit, Levain Bakery.
If you think you know what a cookie is, then you’ll have to rethink that because Levain Bakery has cookies that are out of this world. They’re crispy and crunchy on the outside and super gooey and soft on the inside. They’re quite large so one could be big enough for two people.
If sweets aren’t your thing first thing in the morning, then at the very least grab a savory bite and a coffee to start your day, and buy a cookie for a later.
Note: There is generally a long line, but at 9:00 AM, it shouldn’t be bad. Usually the line moves quickly anyways.
10:00am | American Museum of Natural History
The American Museum of Natural History is one of the largest natural history museums in the world. It’s dedicated to human culture, the natural world, and the known universe. There are always some type of special exhibitions going on, and in general, so much to explore!
It is recommended to have two and a half hours here, but I’d still plan your trip ahead of time since the museum is so large. By planning, you’ll get to focus on what are must-sees.
Cost: The entrance to the museum is $23 for an adult, but if you get a CityPASS, then you can save $90 on going to exhibits for your two days in NYC.
All the attractions I name in this two day to NYC guide are actually included in the CityPASS so you will save a ton of money by buying a CityPASS ahead of time! You’ll even be able to cut the line at some places.
12:30pm| Lunch at Chelsea Market
When I lived in Chelsea, a neighborhood on the west side of Manhattan, I went to Chelsea Market and the Highline every week. It is “touristy” spot that locals absolutely love because of all the delicious food options in there.
Simply walk around to see the food options, and grab whatever makes your stomach stir in hunger. I’ve eaten at many of the stands there, and they’ve all made me quite happy. You can’t go wrong.
How to Get There: Grab the A or C by the American Museum of Natural History and take it all the way downtown to 14th Street. Then walk one block west.
1:00pm| Walk on the High Line
The High Line is a very special park because it’s not on the ground level. It’s one story above ground built on old subway tracks, which gives you a different vantage point of the city.
They kept elements of the natural environment in the area making it a sustainable place to explore. There’s fun vendors up there selling little baked goods or popsicles and even a tiny cart that acts as its “library”.
Which Direction to Walk: Walk north on the High Line to exit at 23rd street so you can take the 1 to South Ferry Station.
2:30pm| Ellis Island
At Ellis Island, you can learn about the experience of over 12 million immigrants entering the United States. There are a few important things to note:
- The last ferry to Ellis Island leaves at 3:30pm. Aiming to get to the ferry around 2:30pm will give you a bit of leeway in catching the last ferry.
- Because you are getting the ferry after 2:00pm, you will only be allowed to visit Ellis Island. If you want to also go to the Statue of Liberty, then I suggest cutting out the Chelsea Market and High Line and grabbing a quick bite near the American Museum of Natural History before heading on the subway to go down to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.
- The CityPASS includes entry to both islands, but does not give you entry to walk the crown of the Statue of Liberty. To do so, you need to reserve a CROWN TICKET at Statuecruises.com.
- The last ferry leaving Ellis Island is at 5:15pm.
Cost: The entrance to both islands for an adult is $18.50 for an adult, but this is included in the CityPASS, which will save you $90 on going to exhibits for your two days in NYC.
How to Get There: Take the 1 down to South Ferry Station.
5:30pm| 9/11 Memorial
The 9/11 Memorial commemorates the September 11, 2001 attacks. You will not only learn of the attacks day of, but the history both before and after.
Cost: The entrance to the memorial is $26 for an adult, but this is included in the CityPASS.
How to Get There: Take the 1 up to WTC Cortlandt stop.
7:30pm | Dinner in Greenwich Village
You are probably going to be super hungry by now, which brings you to Greenwich Village. I lived in this neighborhood for two years, and it is by far one of my favorite places to eat.
You can grab my favorite slice of New York pizza at Joe’s Pizza, which is the quintessential New York slice, a bowl of hot steaming pho at Saigon Shack, or a delicious falafel wrap at Mamoun’s. All of these foods I named are $10 and under so you could realistically go food hopping!
If you have time and the weather is right, you can take your food to Washington Square Park. It is safe, even at nighttime, and always an enjoyable place to people watch. If you are concerned about safety, which you really don’t have to be, then stay in well-lit areas such as the center.
Pro Tip: Make sure to have cash on you. All these spots I named are cash only.
How to Get There: Take the 1 up to the Houston Street station. (Houston is pronounced How-st-in, not hue-st-in like the city in Texas.)
9:00pm | Top of the Rock
After dinner, there is no really set schedule. You can get to the Top of the Rock as late as you want because it closes at midnight.
Here you’ll have amazing views of the city. I’ve only been during the daylight, but I can only imagine that at nighttime, New York City looks like a sea of glitter!
One awesome thing about the Top of the Rock is that you can see the Empire State Building from there, which is why some people prefer it over the Empire State Building.
Cost: The entrance to the Top of the Rock for an adult is $39 for an adult, but this is included in the CityPASS.
How to Get There: Take the B,D,F,M uptown to 47-50 Streets Rockefeller Center station.
10:00pm | Times Square
Anytime after 10:00pm is my favorite time to go to Times Square because of two reasons: it is less crowded and the lights shine more brilliantly.
Visiting Times Square is certainly no joke. I’ve accidentally found myself in Times Square on the way to meeting up with friends or doing errands and have been stuck in human traffic jams. It may take you 15-20 minutes to walk through Times Square.
The fun thing about Times Square at night (besides the lesser crowds and brighter lights) is that most of the stores are open. You’ll be able to go shopping or go to the M&M store quite late!
How to Get There: Times Square is an 8-minute walk from the Top of the Rock!
Now that your jam-packed day one is over, head to your hotel in Times Square to get the good night’s rest that you deserve!
I recommend staying in Times Square because of how convenient it is to all the places I’ve mentioned here. It’s either on the same subway lines or walking distances from these places.
Head to the Where to Stay section below to see the exact hotels I’ve stayed at before!
Two Days in New York City: Day Two
Day two is a bit more forgiving than day one but does start a lot earlier because the Empire State Building gets super packed, and I’d love for you to experience it without the intense crowds. If you can’t hack the super early morning, you can push this back an hour or two as there is nothing that requires you to be there at a certain time.
Again, make sure to wear sneakers and pack a light snack, water bottle, and small but powerful portable charger in a daypack. There’s really no need to bring a big bulky backpack unless you need to pack a jacket and umbrella.
Don’t forget to read my best New York City tips.
7:30am | Tous Les Jours
This is another one of my all-time favorite bakeries. Tous Les Jours and Levain Bakery definitely make the cut in my top five faves so I HAD to get them both into your itinerary.
Tour Les Jours is a Korean bakery that uses French techniques. If you haven’t had Asian desserts before, what that means is that you’ll get very airy and light desserts that can satisfy any sweet tooth with one bite.
For a light breakfast, I’d grab a coffee and either a twisted donut, donut with red bean paste inside (might be called Soboro bread), apple pie, or if you can handle a lot of sweets, then one of the slices of cakes in the refrigerated section. These are my favorites!
I also put Tous Les Jours in your two day itinerary for New York City so you could experience this one sliver of Manhattan that they call Koreatown aka K-Town. It’s super Asian and super fun to walk through and see all the store signs in Korean!
How to Get There: To get there from your hotel in Times Square (if that’s where you’re staying), simply take the N,R,W down to 34 St – Herald Square Subway Station or walk 15 minutes south of Times Square to 32nd Street between Broadway and 5th Ave.
Tip: Google Maps gives you walking directions too.
8:00am | Empire State Building
Now that you’ve seen the Empire State Building and New York at nighttime, it’s time to see what New York looks like during the day from one of the most famous buildings in the city! Not only will you get gorgeous views of the city, but at this hour of the day, you won’t have to deal with the crowds.
Cost: The entrance to the 86th floor is $38. The entrance to both the 86th and 102nd floor is $58.
The CityPASS includes entrance to the 86th floor and gives you a bonus same-night general admission so you could come back later if you want.
If you decide that you want to go to the 102nd floor, you can pay the additional $20 when you’re on the 86th floor to go up. Click here to get the CityPass
How to Get There: The Empire State Building is right around the corner from Tous Les Jours.
9:30am | Central Park
Central Park is New York’s most iconic public park. Your two days in New York City wouldn’t be complete without visiting it.
Open up your Google Maps and take a look at how big it is compared to the rest of Manhattan. It’s an absolute marvel how much green space there is in such a crowded city.
One of my favorite routes is to start at the west side by the Strawberry Fields black and white mosaic honoring John Lennon, stop at the ever-so-popular Bethesda Fountain, and perhaps walk up to the romantic Bow Bridge.
You’ll then walk to exit out near the East 72nd Street Playground ’cause you’ll be on your way to brunch, which is a very New York meal to have.
How to Get There: Take the B uptown from 34 St – Herald Square Subway Station to the 72nd Street Station.
10:30/11:00am | Maison Keyser or J.G. Melon
Both Maison Keyser and J.G. Melon* are on the same block. Maison Keyser has delicious French pastries, quiches, and breakfast making it a good spot for brunch whereas J.G. Melon has my favorite burger in Manhattan. It’s a no-frills spot that focuses purely on a juicy burger and has a very old school New York vibe.
You can’t go wrong with either spot. Just be prepared for a wait at both.
*J.G. Melon is cash only. A lot of places in NYC are cash only so have cash on you!
How to Get There: Walk from the east to west side of Central Park.
12:00pm | Metropolitan Museum of Art
You could spend days and days at the Metropolitan Museum of Art perusing the halls of endless fine art. But generally, most people spend about three to four hours here. Nonetheless, check their website ahead of time to see exactly what parts you want to see to maximize your time there.
Pro Tip: Not having a backpack on you will make the line going in much faster since you’ll have to leave it at coat check. Leave your backpack at your hotel if possible!
Cost: The entrance to the museum for adults is $25. This museum is included in the CityPASS.
How to Get There: Walk about 15 minutes northwest from Maison Kayser or JG Melon to the museum.
4:30pm | Joe’s Shanghai
Of all my travels around the world, I haven’t found many cities (outside Asia) to have the delectable soup dumplings. So in that sense, I consider soup dumplings to be a New York staple.
Soup dumplings are exactly how they sound, which are dumplings with soup inside them. Their skin has a slight chew, which gives away when you bite into the dumpling’s inner juiciness of simmered broth and flavored meat.
One of New York’s favorite places to have soup dumplings is at Joe’s Shanghai. This dish must not be missed during your two days in New York City!
How to Get There: You can walk 30 minutes south through Central Park if you feel like you didn’t have enough of it, or take the M1, M3, or M4 bus south to 5 av/W 59 St stop (approximately 20 minutes).
7:00pm | Broadway or Free Time
You can use this time to go see a Broadway play or explore any part of New York that you didn’t get to see beforehand.
That’s the end of your two days in NYC! I hope it was fulfilling and oh so much fun.
Where to Stay with Only 2 Days in New York City
As a local, I used to avoid Times Square like the plague. When my friends and family visited, I told them NOT to stay in Times Square. It was only when I moved away that I realized how convenient staying in Times Square is.
I recommend staying in Times Square because it’s a short walk to the Top of the Rock and is situated on the subway lines that’ll get you to many of the places I named above.
For how convenient Times Square is to most places you’ll be seeing during your two days in NYC, the prices are relatively good too! You’d think such a busy area would have higher prices.
On my last visit to see my family in New York City, I stayed at a couple of hotels and loved each one for different reasons. Here are my recommendations:
RIU Plaza New York Times Square
RIU Plaza New York Times Square is a four-star hotel with clean rooms and relatively comfortable beds. The room is a bit small, but for one night this won’t matter.
What makes this place worth staying at is the full breakfast that’s included. It makes the hotel an incredible value.
In January, I got a room here for only $113! Click here to see how much one night will be during your two days in NYC.
Hyatt Centric Times Square New York
Hyatt Centric Times Square New York is a four-star hotel, which feels more luxury than more four-star hotels. The beds are extra comfortable, and the views from the 54th floor rooftop bar can add yet another fun thing to do in your two day NYC itinerary.
In January, I got a room here for about $275. For a better value, I’d opt for the RIU Plaza hotel, but for more comfort, then Hyatt Centric is the way to go. Click here to see how much the Hyatt Centric will be during your two days in NYC.
Pod Times Square Hotel
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Last but not not least, I didn’t stay at Pod Times Square, but I sure did eye it about 100x. It has amazing reviews speaking of how quiet, clean, and comfortable it is and is a great value, especially for single travelers.
It’s also a great place to share a room with a girl or guy friend because of the bunk beds! Click here to see how much a room here will be during your two days in New York City
Cost Breakdown of Two Days in NYC
Only spending two days in New York City is a relatively good amount to keep your costs down while getting in a lot of sites and restaurants. Based on everything I mentioned in this post, your costs per person are:
- Public transportation within NYC: approximately $25
- Accommodation for one night: minimum $115
- Food: minimum $60, not including drinks and tip
- Top six attractions: $132.00 with a CityPASS, $224.05 without ($92 more)
Best Resources for Your Two Days in NYC
If it’s your first time in New York City, or if you’re still feeling very much like a tourist, make sure to read these top New York City tips. It has a bunch of practical, local tips.
For an off the beaten path activity exploring graffiti, I really recommend having pizza at Roberta’s in Bushwick then checking out the blocks and blocks of street art there.
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Enjoy your two days in New York City! You can book your whole trip here.
Thanks for making it all the way down to the end of this post.
If you found it to be helpful, you might like what I share on my Instagram @sarchetrit.
Till then, thanks for stopping by, and have a great day!