Ahhh.. New York City. The Big Apple. The City that Never Sleeps.
New York is a city like no other! The only city that can be exhausting and exhilarating, all at the same time. If this isn’t #1 on your bucket list, well, go on.. add it now!
There is SO much to see, how do you see all of New York City in just 48 hours?! This guide is going to take you through all the highlights on best things to see for first timers. If you have been to New York City before, I would take a more relaxing view of the city and just see all the sights you missed.
There’s a high chance this post contains affiliate links. I may receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you), that goes directly towards little Rosie’s dog treats!
What to Pack for NYC
Before we jump into the guide, I also like to recommend a few “must-have’s” for a specific itinerary. I’ve been to New York City so many times and in many seasons that I can confidently say you will regret not bringing these in your luggage!
1. Good pair of Walking shoes
My one and only travel shoe is Rothy’s sneakers! They are seriously the best shoe I have ever owned (and no, this is not an affiliate link). They are comfortable, have no break-in period, machine washable, environmentally friendly (made out of recycled plastic!), and most importantly…. actually cute! I have the all-white pair and it goes with anything from jeans to sun dresses.
NYC is a huge and bustling city with so much to see! If you plan to walk a lot (which, you should!), you will likely be using your maps to get you around. Every time I’ve been to NYC, I end up doing so many things in a day so I never go back to the hotel room to charge my phone. I would HIGHLY recommend bringing a portable charger to charge your phone throughout the day.
It’s always such a fun idea to bring a guidebook to read on your flight to a destination! It really puts you in the traveling mood and gets you so excited to hit the ground running! I always like to buy a guidebook with the most current date you can find so it has the most up-to-date things to see. Click here to check out prices!
48 Hours in New York City
I traveled with my boyfriend’s family, who were seriously the best possible people to go to New York with. Being from the east coast, they were the ultimate tour guides!
TIP: New York City’s traffic is horrid. Try your absolute hardest to avoid rush hour traffic when arriving or leaving the city.
If this is your first time in New York City, I recommend staying right in Times Square. I know it’s touristy, but…. you are a tourist! This 48 hours in New York City guide is jam-packed with all the major sites, so you want to be sure to stay as central as possible.
My favorite hotel that is extremely fairly priced is The Crowne Plaza. I have stayed here every time I’ve been to New York and never leave disappointed. They give you a free drink at check in, they are right in the middle of Times Square, and they have a really yummy restaurant at the hotel.
Check into your hotel and spend your night strolling around Times Square, which feels like your walking through a movie set!
Grab a bite to eat FEAST at the popular restaurant, Carmines right at Times Square. You will be blown away by the portion sizes. This is only a few blocks from the Crowne Plaza hotel, so you’ll get the chance to walk around NYC like a local!
Instead of going rooftop bar-hopping, we just like… slept. Hey, we were jet-lagged and in a serious food coma, okayyyy.
If you only have 48 hours in New York City, I would highly consider signing up for the hop on hop off tour. These will take you to all the highlights, provide you history and local viewpoints, and you won’t have to worry about driving in a VERY hectic city to drive in!
I signed up for an 8 hour tour that saw the main highlights and the best part… the bus was air conditioned! If you are traveling to NYC in the summertime, I would not recommend the double-decker buses that are not air conditioned. You will be miserable in the humid weather and you will not enjoy the sights nearly as much, especially considering 90% of the sites are outdoors!
The only two tour sites I recommend are Viator and Get your Guide. These are both reputable companies that provide authentic reviews and fair prices. I have used them both on countless occasions and have never had a bad experience.
Stop 1: St. Patrick’s Cathedral
This beautiful and timeless cathedral is in the heart of NYC and stands out like a sore thumb! The old architecture is such contrast from the modern sky scrapers. This is often your first stop of the day since it is so close to Times Square – less than 15 minutes.
Plus, it’s free to walk inside and who doesn’t love free stuff? 🙂
Stop 2: The Rockefeller Center
Near the Rockefeller Center you can check out the NBC news station, have lunch at their adorable cafe (where the ice skating rink is normally at), or take an elevator ride to their observation deck!
In my opinion, the view from here is much better than the Empire State Building view. It is cheaper, less crowded and you get the Empire State Building in your view! This is a very popular spot for sunset, so it will be more crowded during this time of the day. For good reason though, look at that sunset!
You can relax at the many levels, the inside seating areas or have a drink at their bar. The drinks are known to be VERY pricey, but then again… everything in NYC is!
Stop 3: Wall Street
Has anyone else watched Wolf of Wall street like way too many times? (If you can’t tell my reading any of my other posts, I obviously watch way too much TV ha ha.. ha.)
You can people-watch the fast paced, suit wearing business men on their way to make $1,000 / hour! Seriously though, everyone always seems to be in a huge rush in this city, if you can’t tell by the 24/7 honking!
Don’t forget to take a insta-worthy picture with the bronze-bull statue in the middle of the finance district. Be expected to wait in line to get your shot or just have a ton of people in your backdrop.
Stop 4: Central Park
After seeing Central Park, I am determined to go back to NYC to spend a full day there! You can go bike riding around the park or even rent a rowboat and have a picnic out on the lake.
On this trip to NYC, I only got to see a small tidbit of the park and the tour guide only showed us where the well-known philanthropist and widow of John Lennon, Yoko Ono, lives. If you have more time, you could easily spend an entire day strolling this massive park.
If you are there in the winter, you can take a horse and carriage ride through the park! How magical! Click here to read more things to do in NYC during the winter!
Stop 5: Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island
You will take the scenic ferry ride over to the Statue of Liberty while getting a perfect view of New York City’s skyline. I get sea sick like, standing in the ocean.. So if you’re afraid of getting sea sick – If I can do it, so can you!
The ferry ride is extremely short, 15-20 minutes, and costs around $25.00 if you don’t want to do a tour. This ferry price includes entry to the base of the Statue of Liberty + museum.
They only allow ~200 tickets to the top of the crown per day (which is not a lot in comparison to the thousands of visitors), so tickets book a year+ in advance! If you don’t think that far in advance (so, everyone?), you can go to the pedestal instead. The strenuous, 215 stair-climb to the pedestal will definitely make you regret drinking all those fancy cocktails the night before! If you don’t want to exercise on vacation, there is an elevator you can use to get to the pedestal.
If you go all the way to the crown of the statue of liberty, there are 354 steps to the top and no elevator access. The staircase is a narrow, spiral staircase that looks like this:
Stop 6: 9/11 Tribute Center
On one of your last stops of the day, you visit the outside of the 9/11 memorial. Here, you can see the two large fountains that are in place of the twin towers.
We had an amazing guide who was a local during this terrorist attack. He explained the attack from his point of view and allowed us to feel what it was actually like to be there that day. This is one of the biggest reasons I opted in for the tour because you get to learn so much about New York’s history from not only a textbook standpoint, but a local’s stories.
We did not have the time to see the actual museum, but I did see it on my other trip to New York. You can easily get lost spending hours reading the horrifying stories and seeing the remains from the towers. I would not plan anything for the remainder of this day if you plan to see the museum (which, I really encourage you to!) because it really puts you in a sad state of mind.
Stop 7: Empire State Building
The last stop of the tour was optional because it did cost extra. We decided to spend the extra money to see the top of the Empire State Building because we felt it was one of those iconic things to see in NYC!
In my opinion, you can’t go to New York without going to the Empire State Building. It’s like going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tour! After seeing the Empire State building and the Top of the Rock, I felt the Top of the Rock was a better view and far less crowds.
If you don’t do a tour, the Empire State Building costs you around $40 for the standard pass. You can purchase tickets here!
Super cheesy and “not-posed-at-all” picture of us looking off into the distance, ha!
Even though I was exhausted from the day, if you only have 48 hours in NYC you have to push through!
We did some shopping at the largest Victoria’s Secret in the world, which was 3 stories high! If you’re OCD like me and have to look at every single piece of clothing to be able to sleep at night…. don’t go in there.. I warned you.
To wrap up your last 48 hours in New York City, time for the ultimate breakfast for a new yorker… a Bagel sandwich! If you are staying near Times Square, you MUST go to Best Bagel & Coffee. I still dream about this place from time to time, the greasy sausage, fresh egg and fluffy New York bagel.. WOW. Just WOW.
Now that you got all the touristy stops out-of-the-way, next time you back to the Big Apple you can spend your time soaking in the culture and good food!
Pssst… Don’t forget to check out my other guides for NYC!
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