New York! The city that never sleeps. We have visited New York City many times, and still feel we’ve barely scratched the surface of what this incredible city has to offer.
Still, there are many sights in New York City that are a must-visit, especially if this is a first time visit, or if you want to spend a couple of days seeing the highlights of the city.
With that in mind, we’ve put together this itinerary for 2 days in New York. It focuses primarily on what we feel are some of the top attractions in the city, favourites that we’ve visited multiple times across many visits.
Obviously, with only 2 days in New York, there is only so much you can see and do. We’ve laid this itinerary out to be as logical as possible, so you spend more time sightseeing and visiting attractions and less time travelling from place to place.
We’ve also focused our itinerary primarily on the island of Manhattan, with a brief sojourn to Brooklyn. New York City is made up of five boroughs, and whilst we have many favourite places across the other boroughs, we think that trying to include too much if you have a limited window of time will be detrimental to your trip.
Following the step by step itinerary, we’ve also included a map of the adventure, as well as a range of practical information to help you make the most of your trip. From tips on accommodation, to transport, to saving money, this guide should give you everything you need to plan the perfect 2 day New York getaway.
Itinerary for 2 Days in New York City
This itinerary focuses on the highlights of the city, and is ordered by the way we would suggest you do the route.
Of course, as with all our itineraries, this is just a suggested starting point to help you plan your trip. Feel free to adjust this itinerary to suit your particular interests – New York City truly has something for everyone. In addition, many attractions are open quite late, so you can definitely fit a lot in if you are up for it.
It’s also always worth checking each attraction you plan to visit for opening hours and dates. Although most of the attractions on this list are open 7 days a week, some are closed, have seasonal hours, and may be closed for holidays and special events. So we always recommend checking dates and hours for any attractions you really want to visit before your trip to avoid disappointment.
New York: Day 1
Your first day in New York has you focusing on the southern end of Manhattan island, starting with the city’s most famous statue.
Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
We think it’s fitting that the first place you visit on your tour of New York City is the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. When the immigrants were flooding to the USA during the 19th and 20th centuries, they knew they were in touching distance of their dream of a new life when the Statue of Liberty loomed into view.
This is perhaps the most iconic statue in the world, and one which is an unmistakable symbol of New York City, and the USA in general.
Next to the Statue of Liberty, which is found on Liberty Island, is Ellis Island. This was the home of the United States’ busiest immigration inspection centre from 1892 to 1954, with over 12 million immigrants passing through the doors here as they arrived into the USA.
We think combining a visit to these two locations is the perfect way to start your time sightseeing in New York.
To visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, you need to take a ferry. Note that only ferries operated by Statue Cruises, which is authorised by the National Parks Service, are permitted to actually land on the islands. There are lots of other cruises which go round the islands, but if you want to land, you need to take an official ferry with landing rights.
These ferries run year round with the exception of Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Depending on the time of year the first ferry will be at either 8.30am or 9.30am. We’d recommend getting the first ferry so you have plenty of time to see everything and still fit other places into the rest of the day.
You can either book your ferry directly with Statue Cruises here, or you can take advantage of the New York Pass. This attraction pass includes a great many benefits, including round trip tickets to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty with Statue Cruises.
However, it doesn’t include access to the pedestal or crown of the Statue of Liberty, so if visiting these is important to you, you will need to book pedestal tickets or crown tickets directly from Statue Cruises. You can also buy tickets at Battery Park, with the official ticket booth for Statue Cruises found inside Castle Clinton. However we recommend booking in advance to skip the ticket lines.
Another option we’ve done is to take a walking tour which includes the cruise to the Statue of Liberty. We’ve done and can recommend this 3.5 hour Early Access Statue of Liberty Tour with Statue Pedestal Access & Ellis Island Tour with Take Walks, which includes pedestal access. A tour is a great way to really learn about the history of what you are seeing, and Take Walks in our experience offer some of the best guides out there.
Overall, expect to spend around 3-3.5 hours visiting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Ferries depart from Battery Park, which is found on the south western corner of Manhattan.
From Battery Park, it’s just a few minutes walk to the next stop on our itinerary, Wall Street. This is the most famous financial district in the world, home to the New York Stock Exchange and the NASDAQ.
This is a place where fortunes are made and lost, and it’s here that some of the most spectacular financial dramas of our time have played out. The name of the street itself has inspired movies, and a visit here is a popular stop for visitors to New York.
Don’t miss a photo with the famous Bull statue, which symbolises a bull market, a time when stocks are on the up.
9/11 Memorial & Museum
The events of September 11th 2001 left an indelible mark on the city of New York and its people. Two passenger planes hijacked by terrorists slammed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, with two further planes crashing into the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania.
This was the deadliest terrorist attack in history, and it resulted in the deaths of 2,977 people. In the years following the attacks, many more deaths have been directly attributed to the attacks, largely of cancer and other respiratory diseases as a result of the toxic debris released into the air.
Three of the buildings of the World Trade Center collapsed as a result of the attacks, including the iconic “Twin Towers”.
In the years following the attacks, a competition was announced to create a memorial to the victims. The end result was the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.
This is in two parts, an outdoor memorial and an indoor museum. The memorial, which is titled “Reflecting Absence”, consists of two huge pools into which the largest man made waterfalls in the USA continuously pour. These sit in the footprint of the original towers, and the names of all the victims are printed around the perimeters of each pool.
The Memorial is free to visit, and sits in the shadow of the new One World Trade Center, a spectacular glass fronted skyscraper which is the tallest building in the USA.
Below ground, you will also find the 9/11 Museum. This is a paid attraction, which tells the story of 9/11, from the events leading up to the attack, to the attack itself, and the days afterward. This is a moving place to visit, with so many stories of loss and tragedy, although mixed with tales of bravery and heroism.
The museum is open daily from 9am until either 8pm or 9pm depending on the time of year. There’s a lot to see here, so expect to spend a couple of hours on site. You can buy tickets on site, but we’d recommend booking them online in advance to skip the queues. You can do that here. The 9/11 Memorial Museum is also included on the New York Pass.
If you would prefer to take a walking tour of some of the key 9/11 sights, then we can recommend this excellent 9/11 tour, led by a local, which includes 9/11 Memorial Museum tickets. We did this tour and can highly recommend it for those wanting to learn more about the 9/11 attacks and subsequent events from a guide who lived through the experience.
World Trade Center Station
Ok, I appreciate including a train station might seem a bit odd. In fact, I’ve included two on this itinerary!
The World Trade Center Station is a pretty epic building, and I think you’ll agree, well worth a visit. The centerpiece is “the Oculus”, a magnificent white ribbed construction that gave me the impression of being inside a giant futuristic whale.
It’s a great spot for some photos, and I think worth a few minutes of your time at least. It’s also only a short walk from the 9/11 Memorial Museum, on the way to the next stop on this itinerary.
From the World Trade Center Station it’s a short walk to Brooklyn Bridge, one of the most famous bridges in New York, which links Manhattan with Brooklyn.
Opened in 1883, when the bridge opened it was the longest suspension bridge in the world. It was also the first bridge to link Manhattan with Brooklyn.
Today the bridge is used for pedestrian, cyclist and vehicle traffic. It’s appeared in many films and TV shows, and along with the Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building, is an iconic New York sight.
Since opening, the bridge has been a popular tourist attraction, and I’d say that a walk across Brooklyn Bridge is a must for any visitor to the city. Plus it’s free, so what’s not to love. You can walk across the whole bridge to Brooklyn if you want, or you can just take on a part of it, depending on how you feel.
Once you get to Brooklyn, you might feel you have done enough walking for the day. So a nice boat ride around the harbour might in order.
You have a few options, depending on your budget. If you invest in a New York Pass, then my suggestion would be to take the Hop on Hop off water taxi. Your pass gets you free all day access to this service, which stops at four points around New York.
I’d advise hopping on at the Brooklyn DUMBO stop, and disembarking at Midtown 42nd Street. You’ll enjoy lovely views of Manhattan from the water, plus you’ll be well placed to continue this itinerary. If you don’t want to walk all the way across Brooklyn Bridge, you can take this from Pier 11 on the Manhattan side too.
Of course, if you’d prefer not to take the water taxi, you have some other options. First, you could stay in Brooklyn. There’s plenty to see and do here, with the New York Transit Museum a personal favourite of ours. The views from Brooklyn Bridge Park are also excellent.
You can also get up to midtown by using the New York Ferry Service. From DUMBO, you can take the ferry up to East 34th Street, which will bring you close to Midtown and the next stop on our tour.
Another New York icon, Times Square has been wowing visitors with its technicolor billboards since it was given the name Time Square in 1904.
Times Square is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world, with over 50 million visitors coming here every year. It’s the intersection of Broadway and Seventh Avenue, and actually spans a number of blocks. It’s also not actually a square, despite the name!
Since 1907, Times Square has been where New York has celebrated New Year, with the famous ball drop taken place here at midnight every New Year’s Eve. This is a spectacle watched in person by over a million people, with countless millions more tuning in from all around the world.
The real highlight for me of a visit to Times Square is just to gaze in wonder at all the spectacular lights, the throngs of people, and to soak in the feeling of being at what truly feels like the centre of the world.
It’s also the heart of Broadway, which hundreds of shows to choose from. I’ve put a Broadway show on the list for the second day, but of course you can also see a show on your first day if you prefer. This is also a good place to find tickets for TV shows that are being filmed – on one visit to New York, we got audience tickets to see David Letterman just by wandering around Times Square!
Top of the Rock
Our last stop for the day is to the top of the Rockefeller Center. Before you head up, you should definitely explore around the base, as there are some notable sights, including the famous statue of Hercules.
We think the view from the Top of the Rock, 850 feet above the city, is one of the best in New York. From the cruise ship inspired viewing area you are rewarded with spectacular views of Central Park to the north, as well as midtown and downtown Manhattan to the south.
Of course, there are a few other options vying for your attention when it comes to getting a great view of the city. The obvious other choice is the Empire State Building, which we have scheduled for your second day in the city.
We think it’s worth going up both – the views are excellent from both, but you can only see the Empire State Building from the Top of the Rock.
Of course, it’s up to you. As we usually use a New York Pass when we visit New York, we can visit both as they are both included. But it’s up to you of course, depending on your budget and interests. There’s plenty to do in the area around the Rockefeller Center, so we don’t think you’ll run out of options!
Do be aware that the Rockefeller Center operates a timed ticketing system. Holders of passes and advance purchase tickets from third party sites need to book a time in person at the box office on site. We advise doing this early into your trip and waiting times can be long.
However, once you have booked your time you don’t need to wait in line – just return at the correct time for access. If you purchase your ticket directly from the Top of the Rock website then you can specify a time in advance when you purchase.
New York: Day 2
For your second day in New York you’re going to visit some of the best museums in the city, as well as a few more iconic locations. Let’s get started!
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
If you love art, then a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art should be high on your shortlist during your visit to New York.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, usually referred to simply as “The Met”, is one of the most visited art museums in the world, and the largest in the USA.
The art collection has something for everyone, spanning 5,000 years of human history, from the Ancient Egyptians right through to the present day. It includes artifacts, paintings, sculptures and objects from around the world.
There are actually three locations occupied by the Met, with your ticket good for access to all three for three full days. Which we think is pretty great value for money. The main location is on Fifth Avenue, with the Met Breuer and the Met Cloisters being nearby. All are open throughout the week with the exception of the Met Breuer which closes on Mondays.
If you’re not from New York State, there’s an entry fee for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. You can buy your ticket online in advance here, and skip the ticket lines.
Entry to the Met is also included on a number of city passes for the city, including the New York Pass.
If you’d prefer to take a guided tour of the museum to gain more insights into what you are seeing, we recommend this guided walking tour of the Met.
A short walk from the Met on Fifth Avenue (which will give you plenty of opportunity to window shop in some of the high end stores in the area!), is the second art museum of the day, the Guggenheim.
Formally known as the Solomon. R. Guggenheim Museum, this spectacular building is worth a visit to appreciate the architecture alone. It was designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright, and along with seven other properties designed by Wright it actually forms a World Heritage Site.
Of course, the art collection is also impressive. The collection focuses on Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, Modern and contemporary art, with artists including Cezanne, Kandinsky and Modigliani on display. There are also regular temporary exhibitions showcasing other artworks.
The Guggenheim is open daily, and there’s an admission fee. It’s free to holders of the New York Pass, or you can buy your ticket with skip the line access online here.
One of the most impressive things about Manhattan, to me at least, is that a massive part of this island is given over to a huge expanse of park.
Spanning 843 acres – in some of the most expensive real estate in the world – this massive green area will likely be instantly recognisable to you. This is because it’s one of the most filmed parts of the world, with hundreds of TV shows and films using the park as a backdrop.
There’s lots to see and do in the park. First, you can obviously just take a walk. Be aware that the park is pretty big, so it might take you a while to get around. Highlights include the Ornamental Bridge, Bethesda Terrace and Fountain and Strawberry Fields. Central Park also has its own zoo, a 3,000 year old Egyptian obelisk, and a carousel ride.
Another popular activity is to take a horse drawn carriage ride around a part of the park. These are a popular with families and a romantic option for couples.
Central Park itself is free to visit, but visiting attractions within or taking part in any rides of course has a fee. You can also rent bikes, with holders of the New York Pass qualifying for free Central Park bike rentals.
Museum of the City of New York
If you prefer your museums to tell the story of a place and its people rather than art, then you will want to visit the Museum of the City of New York. We really love this museum, and you can learn a lot about the city. We can also recommend the Queens Museum if your travels happen to take you over there.
Dating from 1923, the museum focuses on telling the stories of New Yorkers, through a series of objects and images. In fact, the museum has over 1.5 million objects in its collection! There are plenty of interactive exhibits too, as well as videos.
All in all, this is a wonderful museum to come to if you want to get an insight into life in New York over the years. It’s open every day and there’s an entry fee. You can buy your tickets online in advance here.
It’s also included for holders of the New York Pass.
Grand Central Terminal
The thing about New York is that it has so many iconic locations that you will recognise from film and TV, and many of these are well worth a visit. After all, if they are scenic enough for a movie, there must be something to them.
That’s why I have another train station on the itinerary. But not just any train station – Grand Central Terminal.
Arguably one of the most famous train stations in the world, Grand Central Terminal is primarily a commuter rail station, bringing commuters into Manhattan from the northern parts of wider New York City.
Grand Central Terminal was opened in 1913, and is today one of the top ten most visited attractions in the USA. It’s also the third busiest train station in North America, and is a designated National Historic Landmark.
The highlight for many is of course the main concourse area – a huge meeting area which, like many sights in New York, has featured in numerous movies and TV shows, from the Avengers to North by Northwest.
Grand Central Terminal is free to visit, and there are a range of shops and eateries on site, including a food court.
New York Public Library
I’m a big fan of Winnie the Pooh, a series of children’s books by British author A.A. Milne. So when I learnt that the main branch of the New York Public Library is where the original toys that inspired the books are to be found, naturally we had to visit.
If you’re interested in seeing this wonderful slice of literary history for yourself, you’ll find them in the children’s section of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, which is the main branch of the library.
There’s more to see at the library than Winnie the Pooh. Visitors are welcome in many of the rooms, including the wonderful General Research Division reading room.
If you do visit, just remember that this is of course a working library, with people doing actual research and work. So be mindful and respectful, as you would in any library, and obey any notices regarding photography.
The library is open daily, and is free to visit.
Empire State Building
The Empire State Building barely needs an introduction. Arguably the most famous skyscraper in the world, this 102 storey art deco building dates from 1931.
When completed, it was the world’s tallest building, a title it held for 40 years. Today it’s the second tallest building in New York, after the One World Trade Center. Many other skyscrapers have been built around the world since the Empire State Building opened, but I would say that none has quite managed to be as iconic as the Empire State Building.
In 1933, the Empire State Building started a distinguished career in film and TV, when played host to an angry King Kong. Since then, it has starred in over 250 movies and TV shows!
You can of course visit the Empire State Building, and take a ride up to the observation decks on the 80th, 86th and 102nd floors. The 86th floor is home to the main outdoor observation deck, which is most famous and visited floor, which offers spectacular views across the city. You’ll also find the famous binocular lookouts here, which are always a popular photography element for visitors (although you’ll also find these at the Top of the Rock).
The Empire State Building is open daily from 8am to 2am, so you can visit during the day or at night, depending on if you want to see the city by day or by night. There’s a fee to visit, and it’s included for holders of the New York Pass. You can also buy tickets (with optional skip the line) in advance here. They are slightly cheaper than the official site.
We think it would be a shame to visit one of the world’s most famous theater districts and not take in a show. The Broadway area is home to some of the most well known plays and stage actors and actresses in the world, with performances to suit all tastes.
On a recent visit to New York we took in a performance of Phantom of the Opera. We figured that as this is the longest running Broadway show, it must have something going for it, and we were certainly not disappointed.
There are of course plenty of shows to choose from, across a wide range of price points. We’d advise booking tickets in advance if there’s a particular show you really want to see, as the more popular shows can sell out fast. If you want to save money, consider less popular shows, off-Broadway shows, or matinee performances.
And that’s it for our 2 day New York itinerary! Now let’s summarise what you’ve seen, see a map of the itinerary, and then consider some practicalities for your visit.
2 Day New York Summary
- Day 1: Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island, Wall Street, 9/11 Memorial & Museum, World Trade Center Station, Brooklyn Bridge, Boat Tour, Times Square, Top of the Rock
- Day 2: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Guggenheim Museum, Central Park, Museum of the City of New York, Grand Central Station, New York Public Library, Empire State Building, Broadway Show
Map for 2 Day New York Itinerary
To help you visualise our 2 day New York itinerary we’ve put together this map. You can also see this on Google Maps here.
How To Get Around New York City
New York City is a big place. Even focusing solely on Manhattan, you are looking at an island which is 13.4 miles long and 2.3 miles wide.
So whilst obviously you can get around on foot, you are likely going to want some other options as well. Thankfully, NYC has a plethora of transit options to help you get around which include the metro, buses, taxis, and ferries.
First though, if you follow our itinerary, you should be able to do the majority of it on foot. We set it up that way so you can spend more time sightseeing and less time travelling. Obviously, depending on where you choose to stay, you’ll need to get to the start point each day. Also, if you’re travelling from downtown to midtown, you’re not likely going to want to walk.
Here are some of the options we suggest for you for this itinerary. We also have a detailed guide to getting around New York, which you might find helpful.
Subway / MTA
One of the most economical ways to get around New York City is via the extensive subway system. With over 450 subway stations, this is one of the largest subway systems in the world. It’s also one of the oldest, so be aware that delays are a possibility!
We find the subway is the fastest and easiest way to get around New York when we visit. It’s particularly good for getting you from downtown to midtown, and the prices are very reasonable. You can buy individual fares at stations, or you can purchase a Metrocard which works on a number of transit options in the city.
A contactless payment system called OMNY is also rolling out across New York, although is not due for completion until 2023.
New York’s iconic yellow taxis are ubiquitous and fairly well priced. They’ll get you pretty much everywhere you need to go, although be aware that traffic across New York can be fairly dire, so it can take a while.
There are of course alternatives to the yellow taxi, including ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft. These need to be booked in advance using their apps, and do generally work out cheaper than a yellow cab.
Another option for getting around New York is to take the public bus. There are hundreds of routes serving the city, and prices are reasonable. You can pay using either cash (exact change, coins only), or you can use a Metrocard.
Launched in 2017, the NYC Ferry service is one of the newest options for getting around the city. We really loved using this service when we stayed in Brooklyn – it offers excellent views, and rides cost the same as the subway.
You need to buy tickets from tickets machines near the ferry port, or you can use the NYC Ferry app.
Hop on Hop off Bus
Finally, the other way we enjoy getting around New York, particularly when sightseeing, is to take the Hop on Hop off bus, such as the Big Bus New York. You can buy tickets for this in advance here.
When we travel in New York with the New York Pass, this comes with free access to one of the HOHO lines. We enjoyed the live commentary on the bus we took, and learning about different areas of the city that we might not have heard of.
Of course, this isn’t the cheapest way to get around the city, but we think if you invest in something like the New York Pass, then it’s definitely worth taking advantage of.
There are of course lots of other ways for getting around New York, including the train, bicycles, an even an aerial tram! However, for our 2 day itinerary, we think the above options are likely to be the most common options. Again, you can see all the options for navigating the city in our detailed guide to how to get around New York.
Where to Stay in New York
We have visited New York many times, and one thing we have definitely learnt on our trips is that whilst there is a huge amount of choice in the city, it primarily falls into the mid-range and high-end categories. Budget accommodation is definitely harder to find, and can sell out well in advance. So if you find a good deal, book it early!
Based on our experiences, we wanted to share some recommendations for where to stay in the city for this itinerary. Ideally you’ll want to stay in Manhattan itself, although Brooklyn, Williamsburg, and Long Island City can also be a good option if you stay near a subway station.
Note that different parts of Manhattan will cost different amounts at different times of the week. In our experience for example, downtown Manhattan around Wall Street tends to be less expensive over the weekends as there are fewer business people using the hotels. So definitely shop around and try different dates if you are flexible with your trip.
Here are some options, ordered from less expensive through to more expensive.
- HI NYC Hostel – found in uptown New York just ten minutes walk from Central Park, this Hostel offers great value dorm style accommodation in a good location
- The Local Hostel NYC – just across the river in Queens, this hostel has a kitchen, rooftop terrace, and a range of accommodation options from private rooms to dormitories. It’s a few minutes walk from the nearest subway, and Times Square is just 8 minutes ride away, making this a great value well location budget option
- The Jane Hotel – this quirky 2* hotel found in Greenwich Village offers well priced rooms which are styled like a ships cabin, and all of which offer river views. Bathrooms are shared, but the prices are great for Manhattan, and there’s a restaurant on site.
- Hotel 31 – this is a very well located midtown 2* hotel found just 650 yards from the Empire State Building. It offers a variety of rooms at reasonable prices, including some great value private rooms with shared bathrooms.
- Radisson Hotel New York Midtown – just 200 yards from the Rockefeller Center and within easy walking distance to most midtown attractions, this is a great value 4* hotel offering everything you need for a comfortable stay in Manhattan
- Gild Hall – A Thompson Hotel – well located for downtown attractions and a short walk to Wall Street and the Statue of Liberty ferry departure, this is a well appointed 4* hotel with comfortable rooms and an on-site restaurant. We enjoyed our stay here.
- Warwick New York – this historic 4* midtown hotel is one of my favourite hotels in New York. Its a historic hotel originally built by William Randolph Hearst, the infamous publishing magnate and builder of Hearst Castle. Spacious rooms and friendly staff combine with a great location to make this a great mid – upper end hotel in the city.
- The Sherry Netherland – Found on Fifth Avenue, this 5* hotel is a great luxury option located across from Central Park and The Plaza. It has everything you would expect of a 5* hotel – lovely rooms, helpful staff, stunning interiors, and a fantastic location.
Of course, there are lots more options to choose from across the city, but we think that should start you off well. We’ve also used AirBnB for visits to New York, although in our experience prices are not significantly better than equivalent hotels. However, if you prefer a shared accommodation option, or just prefer an apartment style stay, it’s a great option. See AirBnB options in New York City here.
Walking Tours of New York City
One of our favourite ways of exploring a city is on a walking tour, and New York is no exception. A good walking tour will pair you up with a knowledgeable city expert, and is a really good way to either get an introduction to a city, or to hone in on a particular topic that interests you.
We’ve taken a number of walking tours in New York, all of which we did with Take Walks, our favourite walking tour company. We taken walks with them in cities all around the world, and have always had a good time.
- A tour of the Broadway Theaters with a behind the scenes look at the Disney New Amsterdam Theatre!
- A tour to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, including access to the Statue Pedestal
- A tour focusing on the memory of the events of 9/11 with a trip up the new One World Trade Center building
- A tour of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a great way to get an insight into the museum collection with an expert led tour
- A tour of TV and Movie locations across Manhattan, including a tour of the NBC Studios
Naturally there are lots of other walking tour companies and options. If you invest in a New York Pass for example, this includes a number of walking tour options. There are also a wide range of walking tours available here on Viator and here on GetYourGuide.
Saving Money On New York Attractions
New York is not what you might call a budget destination. Whilst we have tried to include many free sights and attractions on our itinerary, many locations do charge an entry fee, and this can be quite high. This is fairly standard across the USA, and is one of the main costs of travel in the USA.
The good news is that if you plan on visiting a number of attractions, you can take advantage of one of the various city passes that is available. If you take advantage of everything these passes offer, you can end up saving a lot of money. However, you will have to decide if each pass is worth it for your visit, based on the attractions you really want to see.
I’ll go through the main attraction passes you can choose from when visiting New York City, to give you an idea of what’s on offer. I’ll also share an idea of how much you can save with each pass, assuming you follow our 2 day New York itinerary. Prices are correct as of time of writing, and as with all our content, we’ll do our best to keep them updated.
If you want a pass that has pretty much everything included, look no further than the New York Pass. This is our favourite pass for sightseeing in New York, simply because it offers so much.
In fact, at the time of writing, the New York Pass offers free entry to over 100 attractions across the city. These include a lot of high value and popular items like the Empire State Building, Top of the Rock, Hop on Hop Off Bus, Statue of Liberty, 9/11 Memorial Museum, the Met, and many many more.
The card also includes walking tours, bike rentals, rides at Luna Park – even a Yankees Game!
Of course, all of these attractions come at a price, and the New York Pass is definitely one of the most expensive passes on our list. A 2 day pass, such as you might need for our two day itinerary, currently costs $200 per person.
However, if you were to visit all the paid attractions in our list, including taking the Water Taxi and Hop on Hop Off bus tour, you would be looking at over $300 in attraction entry costs. So straight away the New York Pass would save you over $100!
What we really love about the New York Pass is just how much it includes. We find that this means we often end up doing things we might not have done, just because they are included, so why not. So we don’t need to think twice about adding a museum or two to our tour, or taking a walking tour, or hiring a bike.
It also includes skip the line access at a wide range of attractions so in addition to saving you money, the pass can also save you time. Overall, if you are going to follow our itinerary and plan on visiting many of New York’s top attractions, we can highly recommend the New York Pass to save money. Check prices, and buy yours in advance of your trip here. Passes can be activated up to 12 months from purchase.
If you aren’t sure you want to commit to a pass that includes most of the attractions in New York, then you might instead consider the New York Explorer Pass from GoCity.
This pass has you choosing how many attractions you want to visit in New York. You can choose 3, 4, 5, 7, or 10 attractions, and the pass is priced from $94 to $279 depending on how many attractions you choose.
The pass actually covers over 90 attractions in New York. However, you can only visit the number of attractions you pick. However, you don’t need to pick the attractions in advance – just the number you want to visit.
The pass is also valid for quite a long time – up to thirty days in fact. So if you are in New York City for a little bit longer, you don’t need to feel quite so rushed to see everything in two days.
To get the most value out of the New York Explorer Pass you will want to make sure you use it for the highest priced attractions that you want to visit. In addition, the more attractions you choose, the greater the savings.
It’s possible to save up to 50% on attraction entry using the pass. However, this will require you to think carefully about exactly which attractions you want to visit, and plan your use of the pass accordingly.
We think the New York Explorer Pass is a good option if you are a well organised traveller who likes to plan carefully. It’s also a good option if you have a little bit longer in the city, as you can spread out your sightseeing over a bit more time.
Check prices for the New York Explorer Pass, and book yours in advance online here.
We haven’t used the New York CityPASS, but we have used CityPASS products in a number of other cities, and find they offer great value for money.
The CityPASS products generally offer admission to a specific set of attractions, which are usually the most popular attractions in a city.
The New York CityPASS for example, offers the following:
- Empire State Building
- American Museum of Natural History
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art
- Top of the Rock Observation Deck OR Guggenheim Museum
- Ferry Access to Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island OR Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises
- 9/11 Memorial & Museum OR Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
You basically get access to 7 top New York attractions for a fixed price, currently $136 for adults and $112 for children.
Obviously, to take full advantage of the pass savings you will need to visit all 7 attractions. If you do so, you can save over $100. For our itinerary, this pass covers many of the paid attractions we suggest, so depending on what you want to see, this could be a great value option.
Check prices, and buy your New York CityPASS online in advance here.
Practicalities for Visiting New York
To help you plan your trip to New York, we wanted to share some information on some of the practicalities you should be aware of. Hopefully this knowledge will help you prepare for your time in the city.
Electrical outlets in New York City
Like the rest of the USA, New York uses a 110v-120v system. There are two types of plugs, formally known as types A and B. Plug type A has two flat parallel pins, and plug type B has the same plus a round grounding pin.
If you are travelling from anywhere outside North America, you will likely need some kind of travel adaptor like this. You should also be aware if you are coming from Europe, Asia, Africa or Australasia that the voltage is different. So you will need to check your devices to be sure they support the 110-120v system. Otherwise you will need a power convertor like this.
In our experience, most lower powered electrical devices like laptops, camera chargers, phone chargers etc. work across voltages from 110 – 240v. However, higher powered devices like hair straighteners, curling irons, hair dryers, and kettles do not.
You can read more about travel adapters in our guide to the best travel adapters on the market, which includes voltage convertors as well.
Currency in New York City
The United States is the home of the United States Dollar, so obviously this is the currency you’ll be using in New York City. Dollars come in note form, from $1 bills up to $100 bills. There are also a range of coins, ranging from 1 cent to 1 dollar.
Credit cards are widely accepted across the city for everything from dining to attractions. However, you will want to keep currency to hand, as tipping is very common in the USA. Having a good collection of dollar bills on hand will always be useful.
In addition, single fares on buses can only be bought using coins, although Metrocards can be bought and topped up using a credit or debit card.
We would suggest using a credit card for your purchases where practical, as this will save you carrying large amounts of cash around with you. Just make sure you have a credit card which doesn’t charge you for foreign transactions if you are visiting from outside the USA.
Safety in New York City
These days, New York is a relatively safe city to visit- a far cry from the seventies and eighties when crime was rife.
However, as with any major city in the world petty crime is an issue, and you should take precautions with your valuables so as to minimize opportunities for theft and pickpocketing.
Simple things like keeping purse and wallets out of sight in a zippable pocket, and not leaving valuables like phones lying out in plain sight will go a long way to ensuring a safe trip.
Internet Access in New York City
As a major metropolitan city, New York is obviously well connected, and it’s easy to find free WiFi as you wander the city. Coffee shops, hotels, restaurants and attractions are all good places where WiFi should be fast and free to access.
If you want to get online with your phone using data, you have a few options, which I outline in my guide to getting online when travelling. The USA is not overall a cheap destination for data in my experience, but it is possible to pick up a SIM card for an unlocked phone if you wish.
One thing to be aware of, depending on your carrier and device, is that all the huge skyscrapers in New York do impact the passage of mobile signals, creating a sort of canyon effect. Combine this with the sheer number of people in the city, and you can expect network access to be a little sporadic and slow at times.
Well, that just about finishes off our guide to what to do when visiting New York City for two days! Hopefully you’ve found it useful, and it’s answered any questions you had about your trip.
We also wanted to share some more content we’ve written on New York and travelling in the USA in general, to ensure you have all the information you might need. We’ve also got a few third party resources to recommend that we think you might find helpful for your trip.
- We have a detailed guide to getting around New York, which should help you plan your transport in the city
- If you enjoy walking tours, check out our review of some of the Take Walks New York walking tours
- Wondering how much to budget for your trip? We have a guide to how much it costs to travel in the USA to help you plan
- If you’re heading on from New York and thinking of hiring a car, take a look at our tips for driving in the USA
- If you’re looking for a guide to New York, we can recommend the Frommer’s EasyGuide to New York City.
And that’s it for this guide! As always, if you have any feedback, comments or questions, just pop them in the comments section below and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can. Safe travels!