One Day NYC Itinerary

Finding yourself in New York City for just a single day is a classic glass half-full, glass half-empty situation. On one hand, there’s just no way at all to come within light-years of seeing or doing even a fraction of everything there is to experience in New York City—people live here for decades and don’t accomplish that feat. On the other, having an entire day in New York City at your disposal is a pretty sweet situation, and you’ll want to make the absolute most of it.

We’ve put together the following sample itinerary designed to help you plan that perfect New York day. There’s no right or wrong way to go about this tough task, and everybody’s go their own particular interests, so feel free to tweak this as you see fit. Still, we think the schedule you’ll find below makes a great starting point for a day full of New York City fun.

Take a Guided Tour

The early bird gets the worm, while not the most pleasant of visuals, is a time-honored cliché for a reason, and it’s true for visitors to New York City, too. The earlier you start your day here, the more excitement you can cram into it. Likewise, the earlier in the day you partake in a guided tour, the less crowded this guided tour is liable to be—which is always a good thing.

We recommend starting your day with Big Bus New York’s Hop-On Hop-Off Sightseeing Tour. Even though your one-day schedule means you can’t see and do everything, with a well-organized sightseeing tour like this one, you can at least feel like you’ve seen most of New York’s most famous attractions firsthand. You can use this tour as a scouting trip for the rest of your day, too: maybe you’ll see something along the way that you weren’t previously thinking of doing, but really piques your interest. Plus, you can use the hop-on hop-off aspect of the tour as a means for getting between different attractions, which will save you time and money.

Explore Central Park

Central Park is a special place, and you’d be wise to clear out some space in your schedule to see what it’s all about while you’re in New York. At the very least, take a stroll past or along some of its highlights like Belvedere Castle, The Mall (and its fabled “Literary Walk”), and Bethesda Terrace. If you’re in the mood to be daring, you can always rent a bike, go on a paddleboat, or visit the Central Park Zoo.

What’s more, when you make a point to spend some time in Central Park during your one day in New York, you put yourself in a fine position to audible in real time and check out any number of other nearby famous attractions. That’s because all sorts of landmarks (as well as plentiful shopping and dining options) can be found not all that far from Central Park, including the Museum of Modern Art, Radio City Music Hall, Rockefeller Center, and many, many more.

Meet at The Met

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, conveniently adjacent to Central Park. It should be acknowledged straightaway that The Met (as it’s lovingly known) is the sort of place you could spend a month exploring and still not truly take in everything. Still, don’t let that deter you from at least spending the afternoon there. Its incredible collection numbers over 2 million pieces dating back some five thousand years. There’s genuinely something here for everyone, but if you need a gentle nudge, head straight for the ancient Egyptian art collection. You won’t be sorry.

If you somehow find yourself with extra time on your hands, or if you suddenly start feeling super ambitious, The Met’s location a few blocks south of the Guggenheim Museum, and just across Central Park from the American Museum of Natural History, makes it perfect for combining with another world-class attraction.

End Your Day at an Observation Deck

Let us suggest concluding your unforgettable day of sightseeing by soaking in the sights of this amazing city one last time from one of New York’s fabulous observation decks. And, consider if you will, doing this post-dinner or even after the sun sets. New York’s viewing platforms are typically less busy at night—although the moment just at sunset is very popular with photographers—and you’ll be seeing a whole different side of the city as its twinkling lights and colorful light displays come alive.

Since you’re able to check out just one observation deck on this whirlwind day of yours, the most natural choice might be the Empire State Building. It’s the most famous, and well worth the visit if you’re so inclined. But might we recommend picking Top of the Rock? Its remarkable views include the Empire State Building itself, as well as Central Park, and its location at Rockefeller Center means there’s plenty of places to grab a late-night bite or memorable nightcap afterwards.

Don’t Forget to Enjoy Yourself

It may sound simple, but make sure you’re taking the time amidst all your adventuring to enjoy yourself. Trying to pack as much as humanly possible into a single New York City day can make for tremendous excitement, but it can also be stressful if you go too far and bite off a bit much. Don’t get hung up on trying to do everything. Instead, remember to take your journey step by step and embrace anything you’re able to do.

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