If you have just 2 days in New York, you need to plan your visit carefully, so you make the most of your time. There are hundreds of activities and attractions in NYC, which is why I suggest taking multiple trips here to explore everything.
Back when we lived on the East Coast, we would take regular trips to the Big Apple and see something new every single time. However, I understand that some people may only have one chance to visit this famous metropolis, so it’s important to organize a 2-day itinerary for New York City that maximizes your time and introduces you to the most important landmarks.
Speaking of which, many popular places and activities are included in NYC’s attraction passes. I suggest getting the New York Pass, which offers great value for your money and saves you time by avoiding long lines.
So, if you’re looking for the best way to spend a weekend in NYC, I’ve got you covered. I’m sharing my ideal way to spend two days in New York City, including where to stay and what to eat. Just remember that this is just a guide, so you can take or leave what you want and make your itinerary tailored to your interests.
Is 2 days in New York enough?
There are so many things to do in the Big Apple, so we always find something new to do here. The big question is, can you do New York in 2 days?
If you know you’ll visit again, then 2 days in New York is enough to see the most iconic attractions if you plan right. However, if you have the time, I highly recommend spending at least 3 days in New York City.
2-day New York City itinerary summary
Below, you’ll find my suggested two-day itinerary for NYC. Again, feel free to exclude any of these attractions if they don’t interest you. These are just the must-see areas and landmarks that make New York one of the most fascinating places in the U.S.
- Day 1: Battery Park, Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Financial District, 9/11 Memorial & Museum, Brooklyn Bridge, DUMBO, SoHo, and Chinatown
- Day 2: Fifth Avenue, Flatiron Building, Empire State Building, New York Public Library, Bryant Park, Rockefeller Center & Top of the Rock, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Central Park, Times Square, and Broadway
This is just a quick glance, but I’ll give you all the details for this itinerary in a bit.
Where to stay in NYC for a weekend
This is the city that never sleeps, so you’ll want to spend your 2 nights in New York comfortably and safely. There are lots of great options, whether you’re staying with friends, kids, as a couple, or even on your own. We have a guide on where to stay in NYC, but these are some of my favorite hotels:
- ModernHaus SoHo – This NYC hotel has an indoor pool and is in one of the best neighborhoods where you’ll be close to several parks and museums.
- Hyatt Centric Times Square New York – As one of the best hotels in Times Square, this is the ideal hotel if you want to stay close to the action.
- Crosby Street Hotel – This is a top boutique hotel in NYC where you can get a restful night’s sleep and feel right at home, whether you’re with your partner or the kids.
Map for a 2-day New York itinerary
Before we go into this 2-day New York City itinerary in depth, I want to share a map that highlights all the stops I recommend. You can download this map and keep it on your phone so you can quickly locate each attraction during your weekend trip to New York City.
Day 1: Lower Manhattan, Statue of Liberty & DUMBO
As I said, you need a detailed plan if you want to spend a successful weekend in New York City. Use this 2-day New York itinerary as a guide, and you’ll be able to see the city’s most famous attractions and beautiful landmarks.
Breakfast at your hotel or on the way
You’ll need energy for this action-packed 2-day trip in NYC, so wake up early and start your day with breakfast at your hotel or on your way to Battery Park. Inatteso Café at West Street and 2nd Place is right by the park and serves a variety of coffees and quick breakfast bites. There is also George’s in the Financial District, but it’s more of a sit-down place, so you can stop there for brunch later if you want.
Stop 1: Battery Park
Battery Park is one of the best parks in NYC, a beautiful waterfront area where you can watch the ferries go by and enjoy some fresh air.
In addition to the greenery, there is the enchanting SeaGlass Carousel, a fun weekend activity in New York for kids. Battery Park is also where you can board the boat for a Statue of Liberty cruise.
Stop 2: Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island
There are several Statue of Liberty tours available, so I definitely recommend checking them out ahead of time and booking your ticket in advance. For example, this cruise takes you past Lady Liberty and Ellis Island while granting you beautiful views of the Manhattan skyline.
If you prefer getting a closer look, you can take a tour that disembarks on Liberty Island, like this one. It also stops at Ellis Island, where you can visit the Immigration Museum. Just be aware that it’ll take more time out of your itinerary.
That said, the Statue of Liberty is a national symbol, so you should really see it during your 2 days in New York, even if you just sail past it.
Lunch: Fraunces Tavern
After your boat ride, stop for brunch at George’s, which I mentioned earlier, or tuck in for a hearty lunch at Fraunces Tavern. Located in the Financial District, this historic tavern dates back to the 1760s and has delicious pub food.
Stop 3: Financial District
After lunch, take some time to walk through the Financial District, which is home to lots of important buildings and monuments. For example, the Bowling Green is an urban park that’s best known for its Charging Bull statue.
A few blocks north, you’ll find the famous Wall Street, which must be included in any weekend trip to New York City. This is where the New York Stock Exchange and the Federal Reserve are, as well as The Fearless Girl sculpture. If you travel west along Wall Street, you’ll also see Trinity Church, which opened in 1846 and is the final resting place for Alexander Hamilton.
As you can see, the Financial District is one of the most interesting places in Manhattan, so I had to make it part of our two-day NYC itinerary. If you want to maximize your time without skipping this area, consider this Wall Street walking tour.
Stop 4: One World Trade Center and 9/11 Memorial & Museum
Next, head over to One World Trade Center, which is part of Lower Manhattan’s World Trade Center complex. This is a hub for history, sightseeing, and reflection, as it commemorates the tragic events of September 11, 2001.
It’s worth looking through the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, which is full of artifacts, remnants, and touching tributes. Going through the galleries is a sobering experience, but an important one, and a nice way to pay your respects. In addition to being one of the top museums in NYC, it has a gorgeous outdoor area with reflecting pools, a Survivor Tree, and memorial plaques. You can reserve your ticket in advance here.
If you prefer, you can head up to the top of One World Observatory, the sky deck at One World Trade Center. The views are incredible, and the observatory has several special exhibits where you can learn more about the observatory and New York.
If you want to fit both the 9/11 Museum and One World Observatory into your two-day NYC itinerary, you can get a combo ticket here.
Stop 5: Brooklyn Bridge & DUMBO
For your next stop, I suggest heading for the Brooklyn Bridge on the eastern side of Lower Manhattan. You can walk, bike, drive, or take public transportation over the bridge, but you should definitely stop right after you cross the water so you can enjoy the views of Brooklyn Bridge Park. On the other side of the bridge, there is Jane’s Carousel, a restored merry-go-round from 1922 that’s still operational.
Then, walk to DUMBO, one of Brooklyn’s coolest neighborhoods with art, shopping, and entertainment. Visiting DUMBO is one of the best things to do in New York City on the weekend since all the stores and music venues are open. Plus, DUMBO is home to one of the top photography sites in NYC, particularly at sunset. The intersection of Washington and Water Streets is where you can capture the iconic Manhattan Bridge view, so you can keep a piece of the city after your 2 days in New York are over.
Stop 6: Chinatown & SoHo
It’s time to head back to Lower Manhattan. I suggest taking the Manhattan Bridge, which will lead you straight to Chinatown, a wonderland of aromatic restaurants, unique shops, and historic landmarks. Some of the best food in NYC can be found here, such as the noodles and dumplings at Joe’s Shanghai and Xi’an Famous Foods.
If Asian food isn’t your thing, continue on into Little Italy, where you can savor authentic pizza or pasta. Lombardi’s has some of the best pizza in the city!
Finally, journey back to SoHo, where you’ll be closer to your hotel. SoHo is a great place to end your night, as it’s one of Manhattan’s best neighborhoods where you can find nighttime activities and entertainment. It’s home to some of the most popular rooftops in New York City, so I recommend going out for drinks after dinner.
Some of the best spots around here are The Roof at PUBLIC Hotel and Azul at Hotel Hugo. I also like JIMMY at ModernHaus SoHo, which is located right in one of my recommended hotels for your 2 nights in New York.
Dinner in SoHo
If you didn’t grab a bite to eat in Chinatown or Little Italy, I recommend dining at one of the nice restaurants in SoHo, like Blue Ribbon Brasserie or Raku. If you’re checking out one of the rooftop bars, you get a bite to eat there. Then, get some shut-eye for day 2 of this New York itinerary.
Day 2: Midtown, Central Park & Times Square
Day 2 of this New York City itinerary is jam-packed with all the must-see attractions in Midtown Manhattan. I encourage you to take or leave whatever looks good to you, but these are the most important landmarks and areas that make the Big Apple so iconic.
Breakfast: at your hotel or on the way
To start day 2 in New York, I recommend grabbing breakfast at your hotel or heading to a café on your way to Fifth Avenue. LeVain Bakery in NoHo is delicious, and the Grey Dog near Union Square has a great location and good reviews.
Stop 1: Flatiron Building & The Fifth Avenue
For your first stop, check out the Flatiron Building, one of the most famous buildings in NYC. The 285-foot-tall skyscraper is just 6.5 feet wide at its narrowest part, creating a 25° angle that may make you dizzy. The Flatiron Building is by Madison Square Park, so you can take a stroll through there as you make your way to Fifth Avenue.
This is one of New York’s most iconic streets, which you’ve probably seen in movies and on TV. While Fifth Avenue stretches up to Harlem, the portion in Midtown is filled with all kinds of shops. So, if you’re a fan of designer brands, you can browse your favorite luxury stores.
Stop 2: Empire State Building
Just a few blocks along Fifth Avenue, you’ll get to the Empire State Building. I don’t recommend going inside all the observation decks in NYC, but this one is iconic, so if you do want to get the full experience, you should buy your ticket in advance here.
Either way, you can’t miss this famous skyscraper, which is why I recommend adding it to any weekend trip in New York City. If you go to the top, you’ll get amazing views of Manhattan and beyond, and the inside of the building has exhibits, a theater, a restaurant, and shops.
Stop 3: New York Public Library & Bryant Park
What’s great about Midtown is that it has a high concentration of tourist attractions. Just a couple of blocks from the Empire State Building, you’ll find the New York Public Library, which is part of Bryant Park.
The main branch of the New York Public Library is a beautiful Neo-Classical building with four floors, including an entire floor for children’s books. It’s worth going inside to see the McGraw Rotunda and the second-floor study.
Outside, you can admire the greenery of Bryant Park, which takes its design from the traditional parks in France. This urban oasis has outdoor games, food stalls, sculptures, a carousel, and more. If you’re planning your 2-day visit to New York City during the Christmas season, you can check out the holiday festivities here.
Lunch on Fifth Avenue
Bryant Park is close to various cafes and restaurants, so your options are virtually endless. If you don’t want to spend too much time deciding on a place to eat, check out the Bryant Park Grill or Bill’s Bar & Burger. The latter is close to the Rockefeller Center, which is the next stop on this 2-day New York City itinerary.
Stop 4: Rockefeller Center & Top of the Rock
The Rockefeller Center is one of the most iconic places in the city, so it deserves to be part of your 2-day trip to NYC. The entire Rockefeller Center complex consists of several important buildings, including Radio City Music Hall and NBC Studios. Rockefeller Plaza is where you can watch people gliding on the ice rink (or join them yourself).
Another highlight of Rockefeller Center is the Top of the Rock observatory. This is definitely one of the best observation decks in the city, especially since its Midtown location grants you a full view of Manhattan and into parts of Long Island and New Jersey. The views are even more spectacular at night, so if you want to spend a romantic weekend in New York City, consider buying some tickets and enjoying the Top of the Rock with your partner.
Stop 5: St. Patrick’s Cathedral
The next landmark I recommend visiting is right across the street from the Rockefeller Center. St. Patrick’s Cathedral is a beautiful Neo-Gothic church dedicated to St. Patrick of Ireland. You don’t have to be Catholic, or even religious, to appreciate the intricate architecture of this historic building.
The cathedral is about 330 feet tall, with big bronze doors and lovely stained-glass windows, including a heavenly rose window. The religious artwork here is impeccable, such as the relief sculptures of patron saints.
Admission to the cathedral is free, so if you want to go inside, you’ll find several altars and shrines, a replica of Michelangelo’s Pietà sculpture, and two huge pipe organs.
Stop 6: Central Park
For the next leg of your weekend trip to New York City, I suggest heading to Upper Manhattan. The best place to start your journey here is at Central Park, one of the most famous parks in NYC and the entire world.
Central Park is huge, so it’s a good idea to have a plan before you come here. You can get more ideas in our guide on the best things to do in Central Park, but I’ll tell you now that The Lake, The Great Lawn, and the Central Park Carousel are a few highlights. There are several playgrounds, monuments, and sculptures, too, and the park is surrounded by some of the most prestigious museums in Manhattan like The Met, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Guggenheim.
It’s definitely worth exploring one of the museums here, and if you have the New York Pass, you can get in for free. The pass also includes a Central Park bike rental and a walking tour of the park, and both options are great if you prefer a general overview of this NYC landmark.
Dinner by Central Park or Times Square
By now, you’re probably ready for dinner, so consider treating yourself to a fine meal at one of the best restaurants in NYC. For example, Per Se and Marea are two of the finest places to dine, and they’re both by Central Park.
Another option is to head closer to the final stop on this two-day NYC itinerary, Times Square. This area is a hotspot for shopping, dining, and entertainment, so you can find whatever you’re craving here. That said, I recommend Ellen’s Stardust Diner or Los Tacos No. 1.
Stop 7: Times Square & Broadway
After dinner, the best thing to do is to take in the sights of Times Square at night. Times Square is open 24/7, but it really comes alive after dark when you can see all the flashy lights and watch the street performers. With all the fun things to see and do here, it’s one of the best places to visit in NYC at night.
If you’re up for it, I highly recommend seeing a Broadway show in New York. There are several theaters in the Times Square area, and you can even check if there are discount tickets available at the TKTS Pavilion by the Red Stairs. Just keep in mind that you can’t choose which show you’ll see if you opt for the discounted tickets.
We’ve watched a few Broadway shows and musicals, and I can wholeheartedly say that it’s an amazing way to spend one of your 2 nights in New York. The Lion King and Wicked were a couple of our favorites, but there are plenty of other critically acclaimed shows. The sets, the costumes, the passionate acting…it’s a mesmerizing experience!
How to get around New York in 2 days
Fortunately, the Big Apple is very pedestrian-friendly, so you shouldn’t have any trouble getting around. The public transit system in NYC is pretty good, and you can reach all the main attractions by train, bus, ferry, or subway.
Another way to get around is by taking one of the hop on-hop off bus tours in NYC. That way, you can easily travel between different attractions and hop off at any landmarks you’d like to explore. For example, the Big Bus Tour is included in several New York attraction passes, like the New York Pass. That being said, this 2-day New York itinerary is fully walkable and I recommend making the most of it on foot.
Now you should be ready to plan the most exciting 2 days in New York! What did you think of this itinerary? We also have itinerary ideas for NYC in one week and NYC in 10 days, for next time you come back with more time. If you have any questions or you’d like to add your recommendations, leave me a comment below. I’d love to hear what you think!
Stay safe and enjoy your 2-day trip to NYC to the fullest!