Yessss, this is the city baby! New York City has an electric feel unlike any other. I go between feeling overwhelmed with sensations to feeling like a bad-ass model on a catwalk. New York has that pull over people.
When you first visit and only have a New York itinerary, 2 days’ worth of exploring, what do you do?! It’s tough to narrow it all down, but as a veteran visitor, I’m more than happy to help. Let’s dive into my most recent visit, pick out the highlights and plan a great trip to NYC for you.
2-day New York City Itinerary
- Land at JFK or Penn Station, drop off luggage at Yotel
- Try a walking or bus tour for an overview
- Visit the Guggenheim, MoMA or 9/11 Museum
- Peruse 5th Avenue and check out Radio City Music Hall a block over
- Dinner at Chez Josephine
- Return to Yotel
- Visit Time Square early for less crowds
- Walk to Chelsea for lunch at Momofuku and treats at Milk Bar
- Catch a Broadway Matinee or Ferry to Statue of Liberty
- Dinner at Empanada Mama
- Return to Yotel
Tips for Visiting New York City for the First Time
You can skip over this if you’re a pro, but I have a few things that will hopefully help if you haven’t done an NYC itinerary before.
Get all the passes and tickets you can ahead of time. Lines are already a thing, so plan what you can. Look into shortcuts like CityPass for a few discounts on the staples (Empire State Building, Guggenheim, 9/11 Museum, etc).
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NYC cabs seems fun, but ride shares are much easier to hail and use. Have a few apps downloaded and ready when you land. Uber and Lyft work great in the city!
This might seem obvious, but check the weather. If it’s going to be a blustery day, that 20-block walk will be much less appealing. If you’re trying to see a bit of everything, map out a route ahead of time, or plan on a city walking tour (or bus) to get a lay of the land first thing when you arrive.
Pick the Perfect Homebase for Your NYC Itinerary
When planning trips, you always want to make sure your hotel is perfect. It’s really easy to spend the majority of your budget on accommodations in NYC. Even if you’re looking to splurge, it can be too much. I found a healthy medium at Yotel, situated only a few blocks from Time Square and in a sweet, walkable space. Yotel is great for visitors who are hoping to see all the biggest sights, or those in town for business (like me) who need easy access to the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center (only a 10-minute walk).
Yotel NYC has been popping up everywhere – I’ve seen properties from Gatwick Airport In London to the new joint in Boston. Marie Kondo fans, eat your heart out: Yotel takes inspiration from Japanese tidiness and offers a space for all your belongings in each room. The room isn’t massive, as common in Manhattan. But the ability to hide away your things, stretch out on a smartbed that doubles as a workspace is luxurious. You do have to battle a slightly confusing robotic-and-screen-only check-in process, but it’s well worth earning the sanctuary of your centrally located room. Common spaces in the NYC hotel, like the elegant rooftop bar, is also a special treat for guests.
Food: Get on the Momofuku Train
I know it’s hyped but hear me out. It’s tough to try it all during a New York itinerary – 2 days worth especially is impossible. My best advice is to simply peruse a few favorites, savor them, and bookmark the rest for next time!
As I was staying near Hell’s Kitchen on this trip, the Chelsea neighborhood is only a 25-30 minute walk. This is perfect in almost any weather to earn back all those vacation calories you’re about to dive into!
I was also lucky to be in town for restaurant week. So for a lazy early afternoon, I headed first to the tiny Milk Bar to grab my latte and a treat. The Milk Bar was a dream of Christina Tosi, who’s first shop opened inside a Momofuku restaurant. On offer is everything sweet, from soft serve covered in fruity pebbles to decadent confetti-style birthday cakes.
PS – Milk Bar just recently came to my hometown of Boston (well, Cambridge next door) if you want to get your fix there!
Just a half block down the road is Momofuku’s latest creation – an Italian place! You won’t get the ambiance of Little Italy at this chic and sleek spot. But you’ll definitely get the same tastes, if not better.
Korean-American chef David Chang brings influence to his food from his heritage and home country. Italian is quite the deviation, but it’s done so well at Momofuku Nishi. I had a pile of homemade linguine and pest, finished with a frozen vanilla mousse topped with activated charcoal.
The next night you’re in town you can do something totally different. If you’d like something casual, I’m a huge fan of Empanada Mama in Hell’s Kitchen and make a point to visit every time I’m in the city. The menu is extensive with ton of Latin favorites. Don’t miss the interesting guava and mozzarella empanada for dessert!
Sightseeing Near Times Square on your NYC Itinerary
If feeling stuffed, take the walk back downtown or hop on the subway to do a bit more sightseeing. This would be a good time to walk down 5th Avenue if heading out on a weekday in the off-season (like a warm winter day). Otherwise, you can choose one of the major museums, like the Guggenheim, MoMA or 9/11 Museum. After the sun goes down you could visit the observation deck at the Empire state building, but definitely plan this in advance. People come form all over the world to do it! Otherwise, catch a Broadway (or off-Broadway) show. This also could be saved for a matinee after lunch on your second day.
It’s all about what you like and how much, or little, you’d like to see. An NYC itinerary in two days in tough, but can be a great way to get a taste for one of the greatest cities in the world.
Join the discussion 17 Comments
I spend all my time in NYC eating! I’ve been a few times and love just wandering around gawking at the architecture into it is time for my next meal or snack! You definitely can do the city in 2 days and your itinerary is a great place to start!
Me too! A light plan is good enough for me, I like just walking around too.
I love NYC and was just there last month! Yotel looks really cool and definitely like a place I’d stay if I wasn’t crashing with friends or family. And I’ve heard amazing things about Momofuku – I wish they had GF options!!
Ugh bummer to hear they aren’t GF I’m sorry. Luckily NYC s full of other great gluten-free options!
We were just in NYC for the first time too. I got to walk through the Yotel lobby and the luggage robot was really interesting. Of all of the New York attractions we saw, I think we enjoyed eating the most. We went to a Zagat rated Italian restaurant that was simply divine.
It was so fun meeting you guys! I definitely go to NYC for the eats 🙂
I haven’t been to New York in so long that this was a great refresher for me. I love the brief overview and especially like the Yotel. I am one that loves to save on the hotel, so I have more for touring and experiences. Great photos btw.
It’s a pretty good deal without compromising on comfort!
I actually just got back from NYC 5 days ago!! It was my second annual trip (although I’ve been countless times). I’m right there with you on the electricity. There’s just something about the city! I wanted to hit up Milk Bar but failed to do so this trip so it got moved to next year’s trip. I like that Yotel though! The rooms are cool! And yes, if you want to eat in NYC (which is definitely the thing to do) then walk as much as you can. I did nearly 50 miles in my 6.5 days!
I hit those steps like no other in NYC! I think I’m going to make it an annual trip too now.
Such a helpful post! My children have never been to NYC and I haven’t been there in 20 years. I keep thinking we need to take a trip there, and this is great insight into thinking about where to start. I especially wanted hotel recos, so thank you for that. I don’t know if 2019 will be our year, but hopefully we’ll get there in 2020!
I LOVE going to Manhattan as a kid. All the interactive museums, the kid-friendly food. I was a big Broadway fan too and got to see all the fun shows, I was a lucky kid!