Catch the highlights. Catch the spirit. Catch a great time in New York… All within 48 hours or less.

How to Spend 48 Hours in New York City

Ignore the fear of missing out. You cannot see all of New York City in two days. But a streamlined itinerary makes it very possible to catch the highlights and experience the city. If you’ve already booked your flights to New York and have a short trip planned, or you live in the Big Apple and need to give a whirlwind tour like a pro, start with this schedule to plan the time wisely.

Day 1

No time to waste! As soon as you’ve landed from your flights to New York, it’s go-time for your itinerary. Keep your schedule on track by knocking out some touristy stuff first and seeing several neighborhoods — so if you decide to ditch the plans, you’ll know where you want to spend your short amount of time in NYC.

Breakfast in the West Village

Fuel up on fresh, locally sourced food and enjoy the rustic scene at Westville West. Try items from the Market menu for uniquely prepared veggies that will leave you full but wanting more all at the same time. Add some protein to your morning with the Egg Scramble Plate.

For food on-the-go, grab an impossibly delicious schmear at Murray’s Bagels before strolling through Greenwich Village and Washington Square Park. Next, get on the subway toward downtown.

Breakfast at Murray’s / Brian Holsclaw.  Creative Commons

Wall Street and the World Trade Center

Snap a photo with the bull and see Federal Hall where George Washington was inaugurated. The September 11 Memorial & Museum can be experienced in about two hours, or you can simply walk down Broadway to the southern tip of the island, where you’ll see the Statue of Liberty.

Charging Bull (a.k.a. Wall Street Bull)
Charging Bull (a.k.a. Wall Street Bull) / David Ohmer Creative Commons.

Lunch at the South Street Seaport

This historic shipping district is on the east side of lower Manhattan. Today, it’s overflowing with food trucks and pop-up shops. Walk the cobblestone roads and eat at The Paris Cafe, one of the oldest restaurants in NYC.

Soho, Little Italy, and Chinatown

Three iconic neighborhoods lie adjacent to one another, making it easy to enjoy the world-class shopping and authentic street food. Refresh at M’o il Gelato or any of Little Italy’s cafés, or wind up at Sweetwater Social for an aperitif in Noho.

NYC brioche ice cream
Brioche Ice Cream / Courtesy of M’o il Gelato

Dinner and Drinks in the East Village

The formerly seedy tenement neighborhood has evolved, as evidenced by literally hundreds of fantastic restaurants and bars. One option: modern Italian at Frank, a stroll through Tompkins Square Park, and cocktails at The Summit Bar. For a rowdier time: dinner at David Chang’s Momofuku Noodle Bar and beers at Coyote Ugly.

NYC Chilled Spicy Noodles Momofuku Noodle Bar
Chilled Spicy Noodles at Momofuku Noodle Bar / T Tseng. Creative Commons

Start spreading the news, you’re booking today! Grab cheap flights to New York City right here.

Day 2

Already sore and tired? You can find a coffee shop and a shoe store at pretty much every corner. Keep the adrenaline pumping with a jam-packed itinerary on day two!

Breakfast at The Smith

You could just as easily visit The Smith for cocktails at night, but their food is even more of a draw. Grab breakfast here at the southwest corner of Central Park to jumpstart the day.

Central Park

There’s no wrong way to do Central Park. You could rent a bike or climb into a pedicab, or pick a destination like the Central Park Zoo. Snap some photos and enjoy the surroundings!

NYC: Polar Bear in Central Park Zoo
Polar Bear Meditation, Central Park Zoo / Cameron Adams. Creative Commons

Lunch: Soul Food in Harlem

Sylvia’s brought Southern soul food to NYC more than half a century ago, and the neighborhood has become tourist-friendly without losing its edge. Enjoy your chicken and waffles, then meander through Columbia University’s beautiful campus.

Sylvia's Soul Food
A Soulful Meal at Sylvia’s / Bob B. Brown. Creative Commons

The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History

Divide and conquer: you can fit both museums by looking up current exhibits and planning ahead. There’s too much to see — keep moving if you get bored, and around the corner an iconic Van Gogh will stop you in your tracks.

NYC Dinosaur at American Museum of Natural History
Tyrannosaurus Rex at American Museum of Natural History / Don DeBold. Creative Commons

Dinner and a Show in Times Square

No, you didn’t book flights to New York and come all that way to eat at the Olive Garden. If you don’t have tickets to Broadway, grab an interactive performance dinner at the Jekyll & Hyde Club. For the fancier dinner, indulge at the historic Keen’s Steakhouse.

NYC: Times Square
Times Square / Steve Wilson Creative Commons

Late Night Comedy

Avoid the sidewalk hustlers offering you free comedy tickets. The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre has shows as late as 11:30 and covers are often free or $5.

Is there something that everybody absolutely can’t miss? Vote for your must-see and must-eat favorites in the comments!

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