Last updated on March 4, 2024 by Stefano Ferro, founder of MEL365, following extensive travelling in New York

2 days New York itinerary – 3 plans with self-guided walks

A 2 days New York itinerary will be challenging, there is so much to see and do.

That being said, plan it well in advance, with maps and walks, and you will be pleasantly surprised by how much you can see and experience.

Below, you will find three types of travel plans for couples, families, and art & culture lovers.

It may be a bit weird to suggest a playground on a 2 days New York itinerary if you aren’t travelling with kids, isn’t it?

You get the point.

You can read also

New York Itinerary in 2 days
New York Itinerary in 2 days

2 days New York itinerary – In a nutshell

In the map below you see the 5 boroughs of New York City. Manhattan is the smallest and most populated one, besides being also the most touristic one, with the majority of the iconic places to visit and experience.

I would suggest focusing uniquely on Manhattan, having just the time for a 2 days New York itinerary.

There are other interesting areas, like the “nearby” Brooklyn, but I would suggest it only on a longer trip, possibly with at least 3 days in New York.

Best areas to stay in New York City
Boroughs of New York City – Check and download my Google map of New York Attractions.
  • 2 days New York itinerary for couples: Start your 2-day break by visiting Midtown, the heart of the Big Apple, and Greenwich, the characteristic and romantic neighborhood made famous by Sex and the City and Friends. On the second day, take the Subway and explore Harlem, one of the most dynamic, still underrated, parts of New York. And if you still have some time left, plan a visit to one of the most iconic places of the city . Read below a detailed daily plan for 2 days in New York for couples
  • 2 days New York itinerary for families: Begin your family stay from the iconic and beautiful Times Square, a hit for the children. Then plan the afternoon to the Museum of Natural History, made so popular by the Ben Stiller movie. The second day will be as intense and including a playground too . Read more below for the best family itinerary with maps and all the attractions for kids.
  • For art & culture: This is a city where you could spend a month visiting every day a different museum, gallery or street art area. Read more below for the 2 days plan. It’s going to be a busy one, visiting some of the most beautiful collections and exhibitions in the world.

I have also created, and shared, a map with all the things to do and places to visit in New York

Things to do and places to visit in New York
Things to do and places to visit in New York – Check the shared Google Map for all the attractions
Where to stay in Manhattan
Areas of Manhattan

2 days New York itinerary for couples

Day 1 – Greenwich Village & Midtown

Begin your romantic break in the morning by visiting the Greenwich Village, one of the epicentres of the American bohemian culture.

Certainly, the Village is now fully gentrified, but it still keeps its romantic and charming style. One of the most characteristic neighborhoods to start your exploration of New York

You can check out this free self-guided walk with a map that goes through 12 stops, iconic ones and a few little gems, almost unknown to the most.

Alternatively, join this organised Greenwich Village Walking Tour that begins at Waverly Place and passes by famous sites such as the Alan Poe House and the Washington Square Hotel.

As interesting and engaging as my self-guided walk, but taking a more historical route with a local guide explaining the transformation of the neighborhood.

Either way, plan a late cocktail at Marie’s Crisis, an iconic basement cafe famous for its drinks and piano live music.

For lunch, head to Bleecker Street, in the heart of Greenwich Village, for one of the many cafes and restaurants like the very affordable Hello Saigon or the hipster Prodigy, just off the main street.

In the afternoon, take the direct subway to the iconic Times Square for a little tour and a few photos (check out here the Subway Map).

Take the 7th Avenue south for a walk on one of the most iconic streets in New York. 

A few blocks down and on the left side you can visit the New York Public Library, an impressive 1895 building, today one of the New York City landmarks.

There are resident and temporary exhibitions and, of course, a few spectacular reading rooms, with impressive arched ceilings.

Keep walking another few blocks and on the right side you have the Madison Square Garden, world famous for its sport events and concerts.

You can also think of joining an organised tour to explore the Madison Square Garden, to discover the behind-the-scenes and the history of this iconic venue.

Finally, head to one of these two observation centers for the unique view of Manhattan and the City of New York:

  • the Empire State Building: this art déco building is such a landmark, one of the most visited places in the city with a spectacular view from the 102nd floor. It’s a popular destination, and it’s suggested buying the skip-the-line tickets.
  • the Edge Observation Deck: one of the highest outdoor viewing points in the world. You can’t get better than this deck in New York. The observation platform is built on a see-through glass floor which adds that thrilling factor too (also in this case, buy your tickets in advance to avoid the queues).

Empire State Building     Edge Observation Deck

For dinner and the night, head to Broadway where you will find plenty of restaurants, musical theaters and bars.

Greenwich Village walking tour
Greenwich Village walking tour

Day 2 Harlem & Statue of Liberty

For a unique experience, spend the morning exploring the vibrant Harlem area, north of Manhattan.

This is a unique part of New York, rich in culture and history, not on the beaten touristic path, and for this reason even more interesting.

In Harlem you can

  • attend a gospel service, unique in New York
  • experience West 125th Street, a great shopping area with an African American touch
  • visit the National Jazz Museum
  • check out one of the most popular street basketball court in the world and even play in it

Get to know the Harlem on this free self-guided walking tour with a handy map.

You can have your lunch at the popular Ginny’s Supper Club, where you can also attend a gospel performance, a great option if you have missed the gospel service at the church.

In the afternoon, you have a couple of options:

Close your stay in New York with a sunset cruise in the bay aboard a schooner.

Accommodations and experiences for couples:

Check more photos below of a 2 day New York Itinerary.

Harlem Walking Tour
Harlem Walking Tour Self Guided

2 days New York itinerary for families

Day 1 – Midtown & Museum of Natural History

Start your family break in Times Square, in the heart of New York. 

Have a stroll around, take a few photos to keep for many years to come.

Continue your walk north-east for 3-4 blocks to the Rockefeller Center where you can access the Top of The Rock observation deck for a 360 degrees view of the city.

If visiting in winter, you will see also the famous ice rink (you can rent ice skates there if in the mood for some exercise)

For a quick and cheap lunch, head to Dos Toros Taqueria for some Mexican food.

The afternoon is going to be a special one.

Surely you have watched Night at the Museum with your kids (it’s such a fun movie).

It was filmed at the American Museum of Natural History, one of the most interactive museums in the world, a great fun for kids and a must visit during your 2 days New York itinerary.

Here you can find some great exhibits about animals, health and the universe.

The Sharks is one of the most popular exhibits. This is a collection of life-size sculptures of this predator.

There are models as large as 33 feet and fossils that will tell the story of the shark, an animal much older than the dinosaur.

Diamonds are forever, and you can view, for the first time, a unique piece known as the Okavango Blue.

It is a piece from the heart of Botswana in Southern Africa and is a whopping 20.46 carats!

Who doesn’t love butterflies?

Well, you can mingle with over 500 different types of butterflies in this 23-year-old conservatory.

It will feel like you are really in the wild.

The museum also has plenty of film exhibitions that touch on health, animals like sea lions and so much more.

I suggest securing your tickets before visiting the museum because they have a limited number per day.

American Museum of Natural History

Tyrannosaurus-rex skeleton on display
Tyrannosaurus-rex skeleton on display

Day 2 Central Park & Museum of Ice Cream

Central Park is one of the most famous parks in the world, besides being a city icon, a great destination for the morning of the second day in New York

It’s a must visit for any family trip, especially if travelling with small kids.

Central Park’s 843 acres are filled with beautiful views, amazing lakes, lovely walks, playgrounds (the best in New York) and even a zoo.

The Adventure Playground is a must, especially on those hot days in summer when you want to cool down between water features.

The Bethesda Terrace is another spot you want to visit, featured in so many movies.

Finally, before exiting the park for lunch at Dig Cafe, you can exhaust your children’s morning energies at the Ancient Playground.

In the afternoon, head to the unique Museum of Ice Cream, a winner for kids.

There is so much to do at the MOIC.

When you walk in, you will start at the Vault, where you get a quick orientation of what you can expect while at the museum.

Fancy a game of ring toss?

Head to the celebration space where you can take a cool video and then play this timeless game.

If you have something you want to get off your chest, head to the Dream space where you will find magnetic letters on the walls. Write what you feel and take a cool pic.

If you want a treat (after all, you are in an Ice Cream museum), there is the Mint Jungle where you can enjoy some mochi ice cream.

If you fancy some cotton candy, Cherry on Top is the perfect exhibit for you.

Head to Rainbow and enjoy some fruit bars among the unicorn exhibits.

For a sit-down meal, visit Marye’s Diner.

Other cool exhibits include the gummy garden, the sprinkle pool (yes, you can play in a pool of ice cream sprinkles!), and the three swings at the tail end of the tour.

You can book your tickets for a quicker access to the museum.

Accommodations and experiences for families:

Check more photos below of a 2 day New York Itinerary.

Approaching the Bow Bridge
Approaching the Bow Bridge

Two days in New York for art & culture

Day 1 MoMA & Midtown

Start your morning at the Museum of Modern Art, also known as MoMA

MoMa has over 200,000 exhibitions and counting, with over 93,000 pieces available online.

When you visit the museum, you can choose the era in time you want to experience.

For example, the 5th floor is dedicated to the 1880s to 1940s era.

The 4th floor is all about the 1940s to 1970s.

You can visit one room and check out sculptures and art pieces from the 1960s with another room with artwork inspired by Harlem.

From the 1970s to the present day, you can visit the 2nd floor and see exhibits like ‘Search Engine’, which is a collaboration between the internet and art-making.

You can also see a cool exhibition called Public Images, where artists talk to the media by taking control of the cameras and television.

If you visit MoMA, you might be lucky to experience some events like films, workshops and other artist exhibitions that happen all year round.

The MoMA museum can be quite popular, especially on the weekends. It’s highly suggested to buy the tickets in advance to save time.

In the afternoon, head to the Empire State Building, one of the most beautiful art déco buildings in New York, with a stunning observation deck on the 108th floor and exhibits on the 86th floor (skip-the-line tickets here).

Fun Fact: The Empire State Building, or ESB, is 90 years old!

It was the first building in the world with over 100 floors.

The ESB was opened in March 1930. It took about 1 year and 45 days to construct.

Its Art déco design is unmatched and is one of the reasons why people visit this iconic building.

Millions of visitors annually come to the ESB, on the Fifth Avenue, to visit the observatory.

The decor and intricate designs in the elevators, ceilings and halls is just unique and outstanding at the same time

At the top of the building is a 200-foot spire that lights up at night, standing as a true NYC beacon.

Keep walking south on the 5th Avenue to see the famous 1902 triangular Flatiron Building, designed by the architect Daniel Burnham.

Finally, walk 2 block west to check out the Poster House, a boutique museum dedicated to the graphic design and history of posters, being either political or advertising. 

Friday is usually a free to enter day (check out the website for more information)

View from the top of Empire State Building
View from the top of Empire State Building

Day 2 Guggenheim & Metropolitan Museum of Art

In the morning of day 2 visit the Guggenheim Museum, with one of the world’s most amazing and unique collections of modern and contemporary art, UNESCO listed heritage site.

You already probably know Guggenheim thanks to its popular and world-wide recognizable rounded architectural design.

An interesting fact is that Mr. Guggenheim was on THE Titanic, but his body was never found.

The museum was built in 1959 and was considered a cultural and educational institution.

Visitors come here to not only check out the building’s design but also the many exhibits.

It is perfect for solo, couple and family tours – there’s something for everyone!

One of the exhibits you must check out is the Vasily Kandinsky: Around The Circle.

Walk along the spiral ramp and experience this innovative artist’s work in reverse chronological order.

It comprises woodcuts, watercolors and paintings.

If you want to check out some sculptures and paintings touching on social issues, visit Gillian Wearing’s Wearing Masks exhibition.

From time to time, films are projected from the museum’s rotunda that touches on art, history and culture.

To save time, skip the ticket line by buying your tickets in advance.

You could spend literally the entire day in the Guggenheim Museum, however, try to limit it only to the morning to leave space in the afternoon for another beautiful destination.

Take the subway to the 86th Street Stop, on the East Side, and have lunch at the cool and affordable Dig Cafe.

After lunch, have a 10 minutes walk to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, hosting one of the world’s outstanding art collections.

Fondly known as The Met, it holds 5,000 years of historical art in 2 locations – The Met Fifth Avenue and The Met Cloisters.

The museum was founded in 1870, and millions have walked through its halls to appreciate art and cultural exhibitions.

There are many collection spots you can check out while at the museum.

If you appreciate African and Ancient American art, visit the Rockefeller Wing that holds over 39,000 pieces.

Fashion lovers can visit the Costume Institute. On display are over 33,000 costumes from all over the world.

Music enthusiasts can visit the museum to view a collection of over 5,000 instruments dating from 300 BC to the present day.

There are many other collections like Asian Art, photographs, Arms & Armor and even Medieval Art.

Come to The Met and let your kids enjoy the #MetKids experience through film and educational tours. There is truly something for everyone.

Also in this case, to save time, skip the ticket queue by buying your tickets online.

Accommodations and experiences:

Check more photos below of a 2 day New York Itinerary.

Long exposure on the Guggenheim Museum of modern art in New York
Long exposure on the Guggenheim Museum of Modern Art in New York

More photos of the 2 days New York Itinerary

Inside the Guggenheim Museum
Inside the Guggenheim Museum
Walking in the Flatiron neighborhood in Midtown
Walking in the Flatiron neighborhood in Midtown
The Flatiron Building on a snowy day
The Flatiron Building on a snowy day
Cityscape of Manhattan with Flatiron Building at Night
Cityscape of Manhattan with Flatiron Building at Night
Cityscape view of Manhattan from Empire State Building
Cityscape view of Manhattan from Empire State Building
Binoculars on top of Empire State Building at Night in Manhattan
Binoculars on top of Empire State Building at Night in Manhattan
The Empire State Building at sunset
The Empire State Building at sunset
Times Square at night
Times Square at night
Time Square on a snowy day
Times Square on a snowy day
New York City Public Library
New York City Public Library
Inside the Public Library of New York
Inside the Public Library of New York
Christmas time at the Rockfeller Center
Christmas time at the Rockefeller Center
View from the Top of the Rock observation deck
View from the Top of the Rock observation deck
New York City Skyline at Night
New York City Skyline at Night
Stefano Ferro - MEL365.com Founder and Editor

About the Author

Stefano is a seasoned travel expert and the visionary founder of MEL365.com, a leading travel website with traffic across 6 continents. With a rich background in the travel industry, Stefano spent four pivotal years at Amadeus Travel Distribution System, gaining invaluable insights into travel technologies and distribution.

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