Last updated on May 3, 2024 by Stefano Ferro, founder of MEL365, following extensive travelling in New York

One day in New York itinerary

Plan in advance your one day in New York itinerary and you will be surprised by how much you can see.

In this guide I have included also free walks and activities that may help with your budget.

My first tip here is to focus on the most iconic sites of Midtown and Lower Manhattan.

Most of the attractions in this area are walking distance from each other, or easily reachable by subway.

It is quite common to over-plan the day with too many things, hoping to have more time to cover more places and take more shots….more more more, that’s a feeling you will experience in the city.

For your reference, print/save/share the map at the end of the post.

It contains all the sites that should be on the bucket list of any New York visitor.

Let’s start with the journey.

You can read also

Here is my biggest tip of this guide. If you still debating on whether spending 24 or 48 hours in the big Apple, stop and book for 2 days. You will not regret it. 

So many options will open up. That is why I dedicated a more extensive guide to a 2 days New York itinerary, with 3 options for couple, families with kids and art lovers.

More importantly, try to book your accommodation in central Manhattan. Although more expensive, it will save you a ton of time in moving around.

Start your one day in New York itinerary with an early walk in Central Park, the most famous urban park in the world.

Central Park

New York Photography Trip in 24 hours
Central Park in the early morning of April

Walking around this urban park in the middle of Manhattan in the morning will give you so much energy (you will need it along the day).

Central Park is the most visited urban park in the United States as well as one of the most filmed locations in the world.

In the early morning, you will see plenty of people jogging around or walking their dogs.

On the weekends, children are already there to play baseball games.

And it is not unusual to see groups doing yoga, tai chi or open-air gym classes

I would recommend visiting at least twice the park during the day if possible (morning and afternoon).

The direction of the light will change and you can take some lovely photos of the skyline along the Fifth Avenue facing the park.

New York Photography Trip in 24 hours
A beautiful walk on a Spring day

You can spend an entire day in the park. There is even a zoo that you can visit, besides a few playgrounds for the littles ones.

Walk to the north side of the park, closed to Harlem for the quietest area, including lakes and waterfalls.

However, having just 24 hours in New York, try to limit your time to max 2-3 hours.

You can check out this self-guide walk of Central Park that touches 12 beautiful corners.

Considered the limited time you have in New York, reduce your scope only to the southern part, up to the Bethesda Terrace.

You can even think to rent a e-bike to explore more of the park.

Central Park Walk

Central Park Walking Tour
Central Park Walking Tour

Times Square

New York Photography Trip in 24 hours
Steam of Times Square

It is time to walk through the famous Times Square located in Midtown Manhattan.

Brightly adorned with billboards and advertisements, this place is sometimes referred to as “The Crossroads of the World”, “The Center of the Universe” and the heart of “The Great White Way”.

It is also the hub of the Broadway Theater District.

Did you know that Times Square is one of the world’s most visited tourist attractions, with an estimated 50 million visitors annually?

New York Photography Trip in 24 hours
Lights of Times Square
Travel Photography in Times Square
The lively Times Square in the morning

Public Library

Walk 3 blocks south east of Times Square and you will be in front of the impressive New York Public Library.

This is the second largest public library in the United States (behind the Library of Congress) and fourth-largest in the world.

You are free to enter and explore the majestic reading rooms with antique wood ceilings.

Quite often the Public Library hosts exhibitions related to the city of New York that may be interesting to have a quick stroll around.

New York Photography Trip in 24 hours
The Public Library of New York
Inside the Public Library of New York
Inside the Public Library of New York

Grand Central Terminal

Two blocks east and you will be in the Grand Central Terminal.

Once you walk into the terminal, you will be impressed with the atmosphere and the magic of this building.

This is one of the busiest stations of New York, both weekdays and weekends, too.

It is a fabulous spot for a few photos, besides being a popular film location.

You may have seen it empty in I am a Legend (2007) and surely in the 2012 blockbuster The Avengers

New York Photography Trip in 24 hours
The clock at the Grand Central Terminal
New York Photography Trip in 24 hours
The majestic Grand Central Terminal

A detour that you can do (based on your time) is to the iconic Chrysler Building (just one block east).

This is the 1930 skyscraper with the legendary art déco spire, so iconic of New York.

Although now it appears to be an average size building in the tall city skyline, it was once the world’s highest building.

Empire State Building

Next stop, the Empire State Building (also known as ESB), specifically to the 86th Floor Observatory, which sits 320 meters above the New York City streets.

It attracts over 3.8 million visitors each year.

I have been before in a few observatories in different cities around the world, but I must say that this one, in particular, offers unmatched panoramic views, up to 120 kilometres in every direction.

It is an open-air deck which it helps a lot in taking photos without going through a glass window.

Being a busy attraction, especially in the morning and midday, I would recommend going to the ESB after 3:00pm when it is quieter and fewer people are waiting for tickets, security screening gates, and elevators.

I made the mistake once of going around 12:00 pm and it took me almost 90 minutes of waiting to get up to the top.

A great way to save time is to buy the skip-the-line tickets in advance. You will be happy to avoid the queue, trust me.

Also, tripods are not allowed on the observatory so if you are carrying one and don’t have a place to leave it, they can store it for you and you can collect it back once you have finished your visit.

ESB Skip-the-line tickets

New York Photography Trip in 24 hours
Approaching the Empire State Building
New York Photography Trip in 24 hours
View from the Empire State Building
New York Photography Trip in 24 hours
Never-ending view
New York Photography Trip in 24 hours
Multi-layering of tall buildings in New York, including the iconic Chrysler Building

Wall Street

Time to take the subway to the Wall St station to visit the financial district, and more specifically, the New York Stock Exchange.

This is the most famous financial stock market in the world, started in the 17th century as a slave trading marketplace.

The beautiful building itself was built in 1903 in Beaux arts style with Neoclassicism, Renaissance and Baroque elements.

Unfortunately, the New York Stock Exchange is not accessible anymore, however, you can opt to join this 90 minutes Wall Street Insider Tour, guided by a New Yorker with financial background, for a better understanding of the financial district.

Wall Street Insider Tour

New York Photography Trip in 24 hours
The New York Stock Exchange facade
New York Photography Trip in 24 hours
Working on the details of New York

9/11 Memorial and Ground Zero

After the September 11 terrorist attacks, New York’s famous landscape was forever altered

The Twin Towers, along with five other buildings, disappeared and Ground Zero took their place.

In 2014 Ground Zero has been renamed One World Trade Center by New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg.

It’s hard not to be impressed by the 9/11 Memorial Pools, positioned in the foundations of the once Twin Towers.

These pools were built in memory of the victims of the 9/11 attack, as well as the victims of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

You can also learn more about all that occurred on September 11 by visiting the National September 11 Memorial Museum.

Or why not joining this organised tour of the Memorial to understand more about 9/11 from guides who had direct personal experience with it

The Memorial Tour

New York Photography Trip in 24 hours
The 9/11 Memorial Pools
New York Photography Trip in 24 hours
Remembering and never forgetting – The names of the victims of the terrorist attacks
New York Photography Trip in 24 hours
The waterfall at the 9/11 Memorial Pools

Handy maps of New York

Here below a map of the 5 boroughs followed by a map of Manhattan.

Best areas to stay in New York City
Best areas to stay in New York City – Check and download my Google map of New York Attractions.
Where to stay in Manhattan
Areas of Manhattan – Check and download my Google map of New York Attractions
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

This post was written in collaboration with Victor Rodriguez, our US Traveller

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.

4 thoughts on “One day in New York itinerary”

  1. The pictures you have taken are downright amazing. I am heading to NYC in December and am really hoping to get some good shots of the 9/11 Memorial. What time of day did you get there? You said it was packed. Do you think it would be better for me to go early so as not to have as many people about?

    Reply
    • Good day Kati,
      the photos were made around 4:30pm. And I agree, the earliest the better. It is a popular place, unfortunately not for a good reason 🙁

      Enjoy your trip to NYC. I am sure it will be amazing with all the Xmas lights

      Cheers

      Reply

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