Finally, you are visiting New York! But, you have only one day. (Hey, you’ve always heard that things move fast here—why not you?)
With the right plan, a one-day visit can be a terrific introduction to NYC. For the best day trip, it’s wise to keep your adventure focused in Manhattan. While each of the five boroughs has its personality and plenty to offer, Manhattan is centrally located and densely packed—so you can see the most there in a single day.
In the morning
Start at Rockefeller Center, a familiar NYC location even for many who have never been to the City. It consistently appears on TV shows such as Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock and Today and during TV specials like the center’s annual Christmas-tree-lighting ceremony. If you get here early enough, you can stand outside the windows of the Today studio and wave hello to your friends back home—a perfect way to start your whirlwind tour through Manhattan and simultaneously immortalize the experience.
Take the elevator to the Top of the Rock Observation Deck. The vantage spot opens at 8 am, and you’ll beat the biggest crowds if you get there at breakfast time (late at night works, too, as it closes at midnight—the elevators go upstairs until 11 pm). The deck provides one of the best views of New York City’s legendary skyline and cityscape, which features more than 100 buildings measuring 500 feet or taller—not to mention the Statue of Liberty, the classic American icon. When you’re back down at street level, head three blocks north to The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) to visit one of the world’s finest collections of contemporary art, ranging from painting and sculpture to film and live performance.
Next, head uptown to Central Park, the massive shared space is a green oasis in the middle of the big city—and perhaps the world’s most famous public park. Its 843 beautifully landscaped acres host meadows, bodies of water, more than 26,000 trees, 58 miles of walking paths, 36 bridges and arches and every kind of outdoor recreational activity imaginable: picnics, ice-skating, concerts, baseball, lawn bowling, nature walks and more. It’s a sight every NYC visitor should see.
In the afternoon
East of Central Park is Museum Mile, which may have more culture per square foot than anywhere else in the universe. Limited time means you won’t be able to enjoy all ten museums on this stretch of Fifth Avenue on the Upper East Side—but you should browse through at least one to get a sense of the unparalleled collection of art housed in the City. At The Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET), at East 82nd Street, you can view limited-time exhibitions as well as objects in the museum’s permanent collection, which consists of more than 2 million works of art that span the breadth of human history. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum features scores of modern and contemporary masterpieces. And El Museo del Barrio, at East 104th Street, showcases Caribbean, Latino and Latin American art.
Subway Ride and Lower Manhattan
Next, take part in another quintessential New York City experience—a subway ride. Catch the nearest downtown train, traveling the way locals do. Find the stop closest to City Hall (one or two stops past Canal Street, depending on the subway line), where you can view the beautiful architecture of the structure, one of the nation’s oldest still-functioning civic buildings. From the City Hall grounds, glance eastward at the Brooklyn Bridge, still an inspiring architectural marvel at more than 125 years old.
In the evening
Enjoy a Broadway show
Nobody does live theater like NYC. Whether you’re into dramas, comedies or musicals, you’ll find them in the City’s Theatre District, where the shows burst with eye-popping sets, A-list celebrities and, above all, pizzazz. You can choose from long-running shows like Chicago and Mamma Mia!, newer smash musicals such as Once, Kinky Boots and The Book of Mormon and projects featuring film stars (Toni Collette, James Franco, Denzel Washington) in stage roles. All of the performances demonstrate why this famed NYC thoroughfare has become synonymous with the theater itself. Visit the TKTS Discount Booth in Times Square for discounted tickets for some shows, and climb the red steps for an unmatched view of the area.