Traveling to New York City with only one day to explore? It can be hard to decide what to do with such limited time in your schedule.
There are so many exciting New York attractions to visit, so having only one day to explore the city can be challenging. From museums and sightseeing to shopping and nature walking, fitting everything into just one day seems impossible.
Fortunately, we’ve put together a one day in NYC itinerary to help you make the most of your one day in city.
This one day itinerary includes:
- Hop-On Hop-Off Big Bus Sightseeing Tour
- Empire State Building Observation Deck
- Chelsea Market & the High Line (free!)
- 9/11 Memorial & Museum
Save on Attraction Admission
With a New York City Explorer Pass® you can visit these great attractions all while saving up to 50% on combined admission vs. paying at the gate.
Remember, this one day itinerary is just one of many ways to experience New York City.
The New York City Explorer Pass® gives you the flexibility to create your own itinerary, so you can choose from dozens of top attractions and create a vacation tailored to your interests.
Stop #1: Hop-On Hop-Off Big Bus Sightseeing Tour
A hop-on hop-off Sightseeing Tour, like this top option from Big Bus, is one of the best ways to start your trip.
This classic bus tour includes loops of downtown, midtown, and uptown Manhattan. On the Uptown Route, you’ll see top sites like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Madison Square Garden, 5th Avenue, Times Square, and much more. On the Downtown Route, you’ll enjoy sights of Broadway, Wall Street, glimpses of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, and many top skyscrapers.
Every Big Bus double-decker bus features live narration by a professional guide, so you’ll learn all about the city’s history, culture, and more while your guide directs your attention to famous landmarks along the way. There’s also the option to enjoy pre-recorded commentary in 10 languages.
This Hop On Hop Off bus tour is the perfect way to see the city with limited time. Plus, you can pick and choose which areas of the city you’d like to see.
Getting In: Hop On Hop Off Big Bus New York tickets are available as an option on the New York City Explorer Pass.
Stop #2: Empire State Building
Visit New York City’s most iconic building, the Empire State Building, and experience a New York City landmark.
With a newly renovated Art Deco lobby, the historical Dare to Dream exhibit, and the Sustainability Exhibit, a visit to the Empire State Building offers more than just an impressive view (though that alone makes a visit worth the trip!). You’ll learn all about the historical and cultural significance of the Empire State Building, including its importance as a beacon of hope during a time of despair for the American economy.
When you make it up to the 86th-floor observatory, you’ll get spectacular views of downtown Manhattan and the water. You won’t find better photo opportunities than this — be sure to bring your camera for panoramic views of the city. The only landmark you won’t be able to snap is the Empire State Building itself!
Estimating how much time this will take can be tricky, as your entrance is determined by security and elevator lines. Going early in the day, however, should limit the time you have to wait. Plan to spend between 30-40 minutes at the top.
Check out our guide for tips on visiting the Empire State Building Observation Deck before your visit.
Getting In: Empire State Building tickets are available as an option on the New York City Explorer Pass.
Stop #3: Chelsea Market (Indoor Option)
Spend an hour or so in one of the most popular local shopping areas – Chelsea Market. Filled with everything from crafty shops to local food joints and more, you’ll find everything you could ever imagine wanting at this place.
It’s a great neighborhood resource that most travelers don’t know about, so you’ll get a good taste of NYC food culture without the expense of a five star restaurant. Be sure to try some of their French pastries and cheese – a specialty.
Chelsea Market is a must visit if you want to experience the city like a local. Or, if you’re looking for unique gifts and souvenirs!
Getting In: Admission to Chelsea Market is free, but any purchases you make will not be covered by the Explorer Pass.
Stop #3: High Line Park (Outdoor Option)
A rehabilitated stretch of elevated railroad track, the High Line spans about a mile and a half in the Lower West Side.
Today this park is filled with beautiful greenery (with a particular focus on native species) and even some wild creatures. The High Line also hosts special events like stargazing and horticulturist-led tours. You’ll also enjoy fantastic sites of the city and the Hudson River, so it’s worth it just for the photo opportunities alone.
Depending on whether or not you want to walk the entire length, it will take between 20-30 minutes of your time.
Getting In: Access to High Line Park is totally free!
Stop #4: 9/11 Memorial and Museum
If you only have one day in NYC, then your last attraction should definitely be the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.
This poignant memorial to the tragic events of September 11, 2001 is compelling and informative, and is one of the most popular museums in all of New York right now.
In the Museum, explore multiple exhibit galleries that retell the story of the time before, during, and after the attacks, remember the lives lost in the 1993 bombing and the 2001 attacks, and preserve relics that remain from the destruction of the Twin Towers.
The exterior Memorial is striking, too, with its signature water features and light displays. A visit to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum is a moving experience that inspires and touches every single visitor.
The 9/11 Memorial and Museum is a must for any New York visitor.
Getting In: 9/11 Memorial and Museum tickets are available with the New York City Explorer Pass.
If you follow this one day in NYC itinerary with a 3-Choice New York City Explorer Pass®, you’ll save on combined admission vs paying at the gate.
You can also save even more on your one day in New York if you take advantage of any of the included extras that come with your New York City Explorer Pass®.