Blinding lights, gargantuan skyscrapers, lush urban parks, and a mixing pot of different cultures and experiences. The City That Never Sleeps is one of the most well-known destinations in the world, attracting tens of millions of visitors every year from every corner of the globe. One of the things I love most about New York City is there’s never a dull moment. The city changes so much with new attractions, restaurants, bars and more that it’s impossible to see all that it has to offer (especially in a couple days!). Regardless, you can still get a healthy mix of both iconic landmarks and lesser-known hidden gems on your adventure. So without further ado, here is my perfect two days in New York City weekend itinerary and travel tips to help you get the most out of your trip.
Getting Around in New York City
There are so many ways to get around in New York City, but the best way of all is to WALK! Depending on the distance, we’ll usually take any walk that’s 30 minutes or less. It’s a nice way to learn your way around and take in all the excitement! Most of the stops on this itinerary each day are within walking distance of each other. Otherwise, the Revel scooters (which are basically electric mopeds) can be found easily in most neighborhoods. For further distances, you can act like a local and take the subway system. It’s relatively easier to figure out – and if you can’t, Google Maps will tell you which trains to take and when they come. Just make sure you enter on the right side of the tracks! Unlike other major cities, you can’t cross over once you’ve entered.
The most expensive option is to grab a taxi or Uber, but that’s usually a last resort if you’re short on time! (Or, if you just want the NYC experience of hailing a taxi).
Where to Stay in New York City
Where you stay largely depends on what’s most important to you when you’re traveling. In New York, something that’s non-negotiable is close access to a subway station as well as a central location. By far, the BEST hotel I’ve ever stayed at in New York is the Conrad New York Downtown! The hotel has luxury amenities, an on-site wine bar and restaurant, and is only steps away from the World Trade Center. New York Hotels are notorious for shoebox-sized suites, but a stay at The Conrad guarantees a large suite, big bathroom, separate living area, and if you’re lucky – a stunning view of the Hudson River.
🛎️ Amazing hospitality, customer service, and housekeeping
🍷 On-site ATRIO Wine Bar and Restaurant
📍 Centrally located within walking distance of World Trade Center
🎨 Over 2,000 unique art pieces on display and a stunning 13-story atrium
✨ Luxury shower, touchscreen lights, fully-stocked mini bar, Nespresso machine, & more
What to Do in New York City – Weekend Itinerary
Day 1: Adventures in Midtown Manhattan and Upper East
SUMMIT One Vanderbilt
Kick off your New York weekend itinerary from 1,300 FEET ABOVE THE GROUND! Imagine standing higher up than the Empire State Building’s tallest floor. At SUMMIT One Vanderbilt, it’s a reality. With its mirrored floors and glass skyboxes, it’s by far the best observation deck I’ve ever seen. SUMMIT isn’t just an observation deck though, it’s an immersive experience. The installation is made up of several chapters – starting with a dark tunnel that spits you out into an elevator ride of flashing lights that reaches 1,000 feet in just 42 seconds. When you’re up at the top, you’ll find glass ceilings, reflective floors, mirrored walls, and art installations. ️The exhibit gets very crowded, so I recommend visiting first thing in the morning.
See the Splendor of Grand Central Terminal
Grand Central Terminal is packed with history, beautiful architecture, shopping, and dining opportunities. This century-old building is the largest train station in the world! Stroll through the world-famous main corridor that has been the site of several popular movies from Men in Black to I am Legend. Shop more than 65 stores, many of which feature local vendors. See the iconic information booth clock – it’s worth $20 million! Since it’s connected to SUMMIT, it’s just a short walk downstairs from the exhibit and totally worth the stop.
Visit Bryant Park
Known as “Manhattan’s Time Square,” Bryant Park is a historic green space that’s a site for fun all year round. In the summer, the public park offers free outdoor concerts and movie screenings. In the winter months, you’ll discover a festive Holiday Winter Market and an expansive open-air ice skating rink. Regardless of the time of year, this urban oasis is always in season.
Dazzling Lights at Times Square
Times Square is the epitome of electricity and excitement in New York City. No matter what time of day you visit, the square is jam-packed with starry-eyed tourists, locals, street performers, and vendors – all under a mosaic of blinding lights. Grab some food from a hot dog stand and take a seat on the red staircase to people watch and take in all the sights and sounds of the city. Be prepared to come across several people shoving tour brochures in your face, Disney characters asking you for a photo (and subsequently, for money), and small inescapable traffic jams of people. Where it may usually seem annoying, something about the experience is so quintessentially New York that you can’t help but smile at the chaos.
Drinks at Magic Hour Rooftop
Dreaming of a bar bathed in pink? Magic Hour Rooftop in New York City is bringing it to life! This Instagrammable bar changes its decor and drinks seasonally, serving festive vibes in hues of pastel pinks and magentas. This December, their Pink Winter Lodge installation features pink logs, frosted pink flowers, and 25,000 faux-crystals – with seats designed as ski lifts! No matter when you visit, you’ll want to snag a reservation in advance – it can be quite difficult to get one at the last minute. The bar sits on the top of the Moxy Hotel Downtown which is only 8-10 minutes walking from Times Square. I definitely recommend just going for drinks – eat somewhere else prior.
Stroll 5th Avenue
Fifth Avenue is a shopping haven, with many well-known international brands having their flagship stores here. Depending on how much time you have, there are many stops you could make along this famed avenue. Here are a few places to stop by:
Empire State Building
The Empire State Building is internationally recognized for its 102-floors, art deco style architecture, and the famous spire that instantly recognizable in New York City’s skyline. Although it used to be the tallest building in the city, it now sits at the 7th tallest right under 30 Hudson Yards. Still, as the first building in the world to surpass 100 floors and a symbol of American resiliency after the Great Depression, it remains an iconic landmark. Definitely worth seeing! If you didn’t make it to the SUMMIT exhibit, there’s also an observation deck here.
Bonus: 230 Fifth Avenue
If you’d like to stop for a bite to eat, seasonal sips, and rooftop views, stop by 230 Fifth Avenue rooftop bar for a STUNNING view of New York’s Skyline and the Empire State Building. With reservations, you can also book an igloo to enjoy your drinks inside of. Otherwise, there’s enough standing room and first-come-first-serve tables sufficient for a quick stop.
New York Public Library
The main branch of the New York Public Library boasts an overwhelming four-story collection of research, books, and catalogs. The building is a National Historic Landmark, a National Register of Historic Places site, and a New York City designated landmark. As a visitor, perhaps the most interesting reason to stop by the library is the incredible architecture. In fact, when it opened in 1911, the structure was the largest marble building in the United States. Towering columns, grandiose archways, marble lions, and intricate murals adorn the many walkways and rooms throughout the space.
Saks Fifth Avenue
High-end shoppers, meet your dream destination: the Saks Fifth Avenue flagship store. From Gucci handbags to Louboutin shoes, there’s no shortage of luxury goods at the 10-story retail haven. Strut through rows of makeup and fragrances on the bottom floor, and make your way up to the upper levels for luxury boutiques, the largest shoe department in NYC, a handbag shopping experience, and even a full-service café.
Any 30 Rock fans out there? From the iconic TV show to ice skating to a beautiful Christmas tree – Rockefeller Center is a well-known cluster of 19 buildings. The area hosts some of New York’s most recognizable attractions, including Radio City Music Hall, NBC Studios, and Top of the Rock observation deck. Stop by and take in all its glory as you gaze at larger-than-life skyscrapers.
The Met (Metropolitan Museum of Art)
The Met is an iconic museum for lovers of artistic expression. Although it’s on Fifth Avenue, it’s a couple miles down from the last three stops – so you’ll want to take a taxi, Revel scooter, the subway or an Uber in that direction. The gallery is one of the largest in the world, featuring over two million unique works of art spanning over 5,000 years. On Fifth Avenue lies the main building, housing original paintings by world-renowned artists such as Van Gogh and Rembrandt. Because the museum is so large, you could easily spend 5+ hours there. If you’d like a quicker museum visit that focuses on contemporary art, the MoMA is another iconic art museum closer to the Times Square side. The Met takes you into Upper East Manhattan, close to Central Park.
Visit Central Park
If you do indeed decide to head up to The Met, this is the perfect opportunity to visit Central Park. New York’s iconic 843-acre park is the first public park in America, featuring expansive lawns, walking and biking paths, row boats, and other biking opportunities. One of the most popular sites to see in Central Park is Belvedere Castle, a miniature castle is located atop the huge rock outcrop known as Vista Rock, the second highest natural point in Central Park. It’s about a 10-minute walk from The Met.
Day 2: Lower Manhattan, Brooklyn, Hudson Yards
Unleash Your Inner Child at Color Factory NYC
It’s a BLUE-tiful day to live in color! And life is like a rainbow at THIS immersive exhibit in NYC. The Color Factory is a 16-room wonderland of hues. Every room is a new experience – from a giant blue ballpit to a golden silent disco. While on your journey, you’ll be greeted in each room with sweet treats like macarons, ice cream, mochi, and more. A few of my favorite rooms:
The room looks like one giant mural of NYC, but a color-changing light reveals new layers of scenes in each surface!
🎧 Silent Disco
Because who doesn’t love a good dance party? 🕺 And it’s fun to take off your headphones and watch people dance to nothing. 🤣
🤝 The Compliment Room
You’re partnered up with someone and draw a line-portrait of how you see them. On the card, you use colored pencils to guess their mood, favorite colors, etc. At the end you pass them your drawing along with a compliment card.
Overall, it’s the perfect place to unleash your inner child – discovering and experiencing the joy of color. From there, walk 25 minutes or use another method of transportation to head South toward the World Trade Center.
Visit the World Trade Center and 9/11 Memorial
The National 9/11 Memorial is located at the site of The World Trade Center, formerly the location where the Twin Towers stood before they were destroyed in the tragic attacks on September 11, 2001. The Memorial honors those who passed away on 9/11, including those at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon in Washington D.C., and the victims of hijacked airplanes. Stop by the memorial to reflect on this tragic event and pay your respects to the fallen. It is free to visit the memorial, however there is an optional 9/11 Museum nearby which requires paid admission.
See The Oculus Shops
When you see the giant, quirky-looking white building with steel tips that reach the sky, you’ll know you’ve landed at The Oculus. Not only is the beautiful structure a transportation hub with 12 subway lines, it’s also home to dozens of stores. Inside hosts the Westfield World Trade Center Mall, boasting a healthy mix of common and luxury retail shops. Stand on the ground floor and tilt your head to the sky to see the architecture in its full glory.
Walk over the Brooklyn Bridge
As many times as I’ve been to New York, I didn’t make it across the Brooklyn Bridge until this past summer. I’m so glad I finally did! The views of Lower Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn are amazing! Add in the rush of being 277 feet above ground with cars rushing by below, and you’ve got a thrilling (yet safe) and free activity to enjoy. Walking across the bridge takes about 30 – 45 minutes, depending on how often you stop. In total, it’s about 1.1 miles of walking which goes by quick when you’re marveling at all the beauty around you.
Take an Iconic Photo at the Most Photographed Street in DUMBO
The most Instagrammable spot in Brooklyn is at the intersection of Washington Street and Water Street. Selfie enthusiasts and professional photographers alike flock night and day to take an iconic photo in this location. You can’t blame them – it’s literally the perfect view of the Manhattan Bridge framed by cobblestone streets and red brick buildings peppered with fire escapes. Sometimes we try to avoid the hype, but this spot is really well worth it.
Take in the Sights and Sounds at Brooklyn Bridge Park
The best walks come with a reward on the other side, and Brooklyn Bridge Park is a fitting end to a nice stroll over the bridge. The expansive park snakes along the waterfront of the East River, where in the warmer months you’ll find street vendors and lots of recreation opportunities. Start at Pebble Beach for a great view of the skyline and Manhattan Bridge. Then make your way over near Jane’s Carousel to see the completely restored historic Carousel made by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company in 1922.
Bonus: Spot the Statue of Liberty
While you could certainly spend time taking the Staten Island Ferry to the Statue of Liberty on a weekend trip, you may want to save time and fit in more activities by viewing it from a distance. Walk down to the Pier 1 vantage point to use on-site scopes to check out the Statue of Liberty from the Harbor View Lawn, and get an amazing view of the entire Downtown Manhattan skyline.
Eat Your Heart Out at Time Out Market
After all of that walking, you’re sure to have worked up an appetite! Luckily, right beside Brooklyn Bridge Park, you’ll find a treasure trove of eats at Time Out Market. The market comprises 24,000 square feet of 21 hand-picked dining spots, so every burger, every taco and every other amazing dish has been personally taste-tested and approved by local experts whose job is to find New York’s yummiest bites. Have a taste-testing tour and take a seat at their rooftop while you enjoy your bites.
Visit the Vessel and Hudson Yards
Although Uber is typically a last resort in my book, it’s worth it to grab one over to Hudson Yards to end the night. The ride from DUMBO is approximately 25 minutes. New York City’s newest neighborhood boasts “a triumph of culture, commerce and cuisine.” The star of the show in this area is The Vessel, an unique centerpiece of artistic expression. Climb its 154 interconnecting flights of stairs (tickets required), or just admire from the bottom. Going inside is constantly in flux of temporary closures and reopenings, so be sure to check prior if you can go inside. Aside from that, you can visit The Shops at Hudson Yards, visit The Edge observation deck, or browse the Mercado Little Spain food hall featuring the delicious diversity of foods and drinks from all corners of one of the richest culinary countries in the world.
Hot Tip: The neighborhood is decorated in beautiful holiday lights during November and December!
New York may be a ginormous city with tons of things to do, but you can still get a pretty great experience in two days. From diverse eats to stunning art to rich history, you’ll be immersed in culture from the moment you step foot into the city. Have the best time on your adventure following this New York weekend itinerary!