Two Days In NYC: Perfect Itinerary for First Time Travelers

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NYC in two Days

NYC in Two Days

Planning your trip to New York City can be exhausting! I’m going to begin by saying that seeing all of NYC in two days is nearly impossible. I have been living here for 10+ years and still haven’t seen all of New York City. But I put together a jam-packed itinerary that will allow you to see most of the main tourist sights in NYC in two days!

A great way to split up your days is to divide Manhattan into two parts. One day arrange your schedule to see everything in Lower Manhattan, and the second arranges to see everything in Midtown Manhattan.

You’ll cut down your travel time by huge amounts! What you will need: a positive attitude, patience, and comfortable shoes because touring can be exhausting!

Tip: A great way to see all of the sights in NYC is to take a Sightseeing Bus Tour. You’ll learn facts about NYC while you cruise around all the top sights. Plus you can hop on and off as you please! 

Another Tip: If this is your first time in NYC and you plan on checking out more than one tourist attraction, you are best off buying an explorer pass that lets you save 50% on admission fees from 80 famous monuments and museums such as the Empire State Building, Top of the Rock, and Statue of Liberty to name a few.


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How to see NYC in Two Days: Day One

Lower Manhattan

Stop 1. See the Statue of Liberty

NYC’s most iconic lady is a must-see when in New York. Instead of hopping on the ferry and visiting Liberty and Ellis Island, I recommend admiring the view from Battery Park.

The ferry ride, especially in the summer can take up to 4 hours round trip due to long lines to board the boat. While in Battery Park, you can explore the newly renovated Pier 11 which offers a variety of restaurants and cocktail bars.

Tip: My favorite photo op of the Statue of Liberty is at the point of the Battery Park Esplanade.


Stop 2: Snap a photo with the Charging Bull

The Charging Bull is one of the most famous statues in Lower Manhattan. Take your picture with the Bull and don’t forget to touch the bronze bull for good luck!

As of March 2017, they have added another statue: Fearless Girl which is right in front of the Charging Bull.


Stop 3: Wall Street

Home to the Federal Reserve and the Stock exchange, Wall Street is a historic and iconic street to see. There are guided tours of the neighborhood that cover the history of Wall Street here like an insider, however, if you are on a time budget I would skip it until your next visit to NYC.


Stop 4: Explore Oculus & Grab a Bite (and a Glass of Wine)

The Oculus is Lower Manhattan’s newest attraction. This spectacular building is a must-see as it operates as the World Trade Center Transportation Hub and includes over 100 retail stores.

If you plan on shopping during your trip, you may find this mall a less crowded option vs Soho or 5th Avenue.

oculus nyc
The Oculus

Directly south of the Oculus is the newest location of Eataly, an Italian market that has different counters offering sandwiches, coffee, gelato, and wine. Just the aroma alone will make you want to shop around!

Another option for food and shopping in this neighborhood is Brookfield Place. You can get there through the underpass in Oculus. This trendy and upscale mall offers luxury shops and Hudson Eats- a large open food hall overlooking the waterfront with outdoor tables.

Restaurants include fast-casual options like the French Market Le District, Blue Ribbon Sushi, Chopt, Black Seed Bagels, Dos Toros, and many more!

Related: 10 Best Things to Eat in NYC | Must Try Foods


Stop 5: Commemorate the 9/11 Memorial

911 memorial images

Just outside of the Oculus you will find the 9/11 Memorial. This site honors those who lost their lives on 9/11. This is an emotional place to experience, but the city has turned it into a beautiful memorial.

You can book a guided tour of the area with admission to the museum here for a closer look at what happened to 9/11.


Stop 6: One World Observatory

Take in the view from the tallest tower in NYC from the One World Observatory. Going to the top is optional, and I highly recommend purchasing tickets in advance to avoid long lines. From the top, you will see unobstructed views of downtown Manhattan, Brooklyn, and New Jersey. 

You can pre-book your tickets here and skip the line! I have been to the top of the Empire, and the Rock, but the WTC views are my favorite.

Be sure to go when the clouds are minimal to get the best out of your experience. If it’s raining the visibility will be very low, so I would visit another day. I suggest booking your tickets in


Stop 7: Take a Walk on the Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge Sunset

The Brooklyn Bridge is about a 15-minute walk from the World Trade Center. The entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge Promenade is where Centre Street and Park Row meet.

Walking the complete bridge after touring all day may be too much, but you can get the gist of it by walking part way and back.

Tip: If you really want to experience to Brooklyn Bridge, I recommend starting your day walking the bridge from the Brooklyn side into the city. Then you can explore this itinerary backward starting with the Brooklyn Bridge, then heading to Stop 6 then Stop 5, etc.

Related: 10 Iconic Things You Cannot Miss in NYC



How to see NYC in Two Days: Day Two

Midtown Manhattan

Stop 1. Grand Central Station

Start your day early and head over to Grand Central Station on 42nd and Park Avenue. Take a walk inside the main terminal hub and admire the vast space and spectacular architecture.

The ceiling is made up of constellation stars which is a pretty sight to see. If you are hungry, there are a handful of restaurants and bakeries to satisfy you. Before you go read up on 100 facts about the station to learn more about this unique stunning building.

You can book a guided tour of Grand Central Staton to learn more about the history and secrets!

Guided Tour of Grand Central Station


Stop 2: St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Next walk over to St. Patrick’s Cathedral by heading up 5th or Madison Avenue until you reach 50th Street. In my opinion, this is the most beautiful church in NYC. The visit inside won’t take long, but you’ll definitely get a glimpse of the stunning stained glass windows and marble interior.


Stop 3: Rockefeller Center

On the opposite side of St. Patrick’s Cathedral lies Rockefeller Center, home to the Rockefeller Christmas Tree, 30 Rock, and the famous ice skating rink.

During the winter months, you can experience the rink and Christmas tree, but otherwise in spring/summer, the area turns into an outdoor cafe. Check out my Christmas in New York guide if you do plan on visiting during winter, I cover the Rockefeller Tree & the Ice Rink.

Optional: Visit the Top of the Rock! If you would like to experience stunning views with the Empire State Building in your photos, I would recommend going to the Top of the Rock vs the top of the Empire State Building.


Stop 4: Times Square

nyc instagram spots: times square nyc

Times Square is a must-see when you are visiting NYC for the first time! The people-watching, the billboard lights, perhaps catching a Broadway show is quite magical.

However, I don’t think it is necessary to stay in Times Square. After a day of bumping into people, I am pretty sure you will develop the same irritation as the locals.

Tip: Check out the TKTS Booth for same-day discounted Broadway Tickets.


Stop 5: Empire State Building

Depending on if you went to the Top of the Rock, heading to the Empire State Building is optional. However, what is NYC without this classic NYC skyline staple!

If you do choose to go to the top, I recommend buying your tickets in advance here to skip the line! Otherwise, you will be hounded by ticket sellers on the streets who will approach you (usually a rip-off). If you don’t have a ticket in advance you can always purchase them inside.


Stop 6: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

If I had to choose any museum in NYC to go to, the MET will always be my first answer! The MET is the second largest museum in the world and hosts some of the most famous art pieces.

However, you will not get through the whole museum to see everything exhibit. I have been living here for years and haven’t seen anything, but that’s okay! I would focus on 1-2 exhibits and explore the topics that interest you the most.

Also, check out the awesome gift shop on the first level! They have unique gifts with an art focus.


Stop 7: Central Park

central park nyc

After you had your art fix, take a stroll, and relax in Central Park. I recommend walking towards the Bethesda Fountain which is one of my favorite spots in Central Park.

From there you can see the stunning greenery of this massive park and if the season is right, you can rent out a rowboat from the Loeb Boathouse and have a relaxing end to your busy day!




Heading to NYC? Check out my other posts: 

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NYC Restaurants:

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26 Best Rooftop Restaurants in NYC (UPDATED 2022)



I hope you enjoyed this guide on ‘How to See NYC in Two Days’. I’d love to hear your itinerary plans while visiting NYC in the comments below! Save this pin to your NYC boards! 


  1. Thanks for this detailed iterenary! love it. my husband and i are going to NYC next month and dont know where to go first. lol this will definitely help us.

  2. We are heading to NY for a wedding in February (fingers crossed for decent weather) and my husband has never been to NYC so we are going for 2 days! One of the most overwhelming parts of this is figuring out where to eat! I would love to see a food guide specifically with recommended places that may be good stops in the midtown and lower Manhattan itineraries above OR places that are easy to get to by subway from these locations. I want to find great places to eat, but don’t want to pick ones that will be too difficult to get to/take all of our time going to and from. Love this guide, it is so helpful to simplify things for us tourists!!

    1. Hi Cristy! Thank you for your comment. I have always thought of doing a foodie guide to NYC! This is definitely something to work on for 2019! I hope you have the best time in NYC!

  3. Hi Dana. I’m taking my (20-something) kids to NYC for the first time. We only have two days so was wondering how to plan an itinerary to make sure we cram in as much as possible, and have stumbled upon your itinerary on Pinterest. Everything we want to see is already included. A huge thank you!

    Next up was to try and work out which rooftop restaurant to book to ensure they get to see the beautiful skyline views at night, and then I spotted your 26 Best Rooftop Restaurants Guide. This has saved me many hours of research. Thank you for your fab insight!

    Best wishes

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