New York in 48 Hours. The ultimate guide for time pressed travellers.

In this posting, we visit the city that never sleeps. The one was named twice, New York New York. So many people have so little time to explore this huge city, and so this post is what to do if you are a time pressed visitor with just forty-eight hours in New York.
It’s an action-packed, not to be missed itinerary, for those of you with limited time, like a weekend. There is so much to do in New York, and so you can spend absolutely weeks there and still not do everything. I know that because I have actually spent weeks there doing just that, and still haven’t seen everything.
So this is all about how to have fun and see the most important things in forty-eight hours in New York. At the end of the post I have links to other ideas and things to do if you have more time, ort any of the tips do not appeal. There are also links to hotels that I have stayed in both in the city and surrounding area.
So, you’ve got two days in New York and so you want to do the right things. You will need to start sharp and early in the morning to get everything done!
My tips for travellers looking to get the most out of their limited time in New York are:
So here’s what you do:
Day One
#1 Two alternative tour options to spend the morning doing.
Option1: Circle Line Tour: This is my main recommendation. These are boat tours that depart from just near the end 42nd Street. The tours have been running from about the 1940s. There are 2 different tours, one takes you more round the base of Manhattan. There is great commentary and you do get to see the Statue of Liberty close up, and much of the key parts of the island. It is perfect as you get great photographs of the city, and importantly you get a good sense of where everything is in relation to each other.
They have a longer tour, which goes right the way round Manhattan. It is great, but will take a too much time if you have limited time. Visit their site:
It’s great, you just sit there, they tell you lots of anecdotes, you get great photographs, it tells you where everything is. So that’s what I would suggest.

Option 2: Ellis Island & Statue of Liberty. This tour leaves from Battery Park, right at the bottom of Manhattan island. To do this tour, you will need to be early – and also pre-book online your tickets. The queues to get on the boat that does this tour can be very long and you could lose huge amounts of your valuable time.  The tour site:

If you do not pre-book you can buy them at Castle Howard close by the departure point, but again you could queue a while and lose more time. Your ticket takes you to the Statue of Liberty where you can get off, but if as you have limited time I suggest you just take photos this trip and stay on the boat to Ellis Island. Ellis Island is where all the immigrants came in. You can get off and spend time at Ellis Island and explore, but make sure you know the time of the boat back to have most efficient use of your time. To read more about Ellis Island read my review: click here.
On this 2nd option, you must be early or you could queue for two or three or more hours to get on that boat.
#2 Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum
After the morning on your chosen tour, next door to the Circle Line Tour is the Intrepid Sea Air and Space Museum ( You cannot miss it, as the Intrepid Intrepid is a very large battleship aircraft carrier. It is absolutely monstrous.
This is an amazing and interesting museum, which has various combat and civil planes, tour of the ship and also a British Airways Concorde plane and the Space Shuttle Enterprise. The tour and exhibitions covers just how powerful these ships are, and you get a sense of how war and battles are raged with these massive pieces of equipment. Until a few years ago, many cruise ships would dock next to the ship as this was one of the main docking points. Many now dock in Brooklyn now, but you may still be lucky.

#3: Get along to Time Square

Next time to head to the iconic and famous Time Square! It can be difficult to get a cab from where the Circle Line/ Intrepid is so be pushy and grab a cab when people are being dropped off. Don’t let one get away.
If you’ve got energy, walk along either 42nd or 43rdstreet all the way along there up to Times Square. It’s a couple of blocks walk, so make sure you have the energy. But you eventually get to Times Square which is really worth spending time at. (
After the Statue of Liberty, Times Square is probably the next most photographed and famous spot in New York. It’s always very busy. There’s so much going on, and a number of flagship stores (like Toys R us) and restaurants (Like Hard Rock).
You’ve got to see it, you’ve got to take some pictures in the daytime as you will come back on the second evening take some pictures at night. It can be frustrating, it’s can be claustrophobic, as there’s lots and lots of people there, but you’ve got to do it, you’ve got to see it.
One of the things you should do there is take a visit to TKTS, which is right slap-bang in the middle there. They sell cut-price tickets to shows for that evening. The queues are quite long, but they are quite fast moving. What I would recommend is try to get yourself to see a show, so you can say you have seen a Broadway show or an off-Broadway show.
Now what you should really do is about three months before you go, if you’re organized is visit And about literally three months to the day before a show, they release the tickets. Broadways shows are very expensive thought, and so TKTS is a good option.
#4 Rockefeller Center:

Next you should head across to the Rockefeller Center. Walk up Broadway away from Time Square to 49th street and then walk along until you get there. You can check directions on one of the maps you get in your hotel. You amble up the road first you will see the famous Radio City Music Hall.

If you’re going to be in New York around Christmas, it is worth booking to see the Radio City Hall Christmas Show with the Rockettes. You can go on a tour through the Radio City Music Hall, but it’s probably on this whirlwind tour it is best to just take photographs of the outside of this fabulous Art Deco style building.
Then head past it, to the Rockefeller Center itself. In winter it has a large ice rink and the massive Christmas tree. There are a number of options at the Rockefeller center which include: NBC studios, shopping or the “Top of the Rock”. This takes you to the top of the tall Rockefeller Center building and has stunning views across the city. Read more: click here. But you do not have time to do it on this trip, as you should do the famous Empire State Building (which I will cover later) on Day 2.
#5: Fifth Avenue
On this trip, head past the Rockefeller Center to the famous Fifth Avenue. This famous road is home of the prestige brands and many flagship stores. Head up the road, and pop into the Trump Center to “admire” the gold and glitz which is the trademark of all the Trump buildings. Keep heading up the street heading towards Central Park, and eventually you are get to the Plaza Hotel.
Across the road is FAO Schwarz, the big toy store is going to be there, and the huge Apple Store. But more importantly, you are now at Central Park. 

#6: Central Park
You will see all carriages with the horses that you can go on a ride around Central Park. I don’t advise you do it, as you will end up spending a lot of money but if you are feeling flush and your legs are killing you, you might just want to pop into one of those horse drawn carriages and go for a little flit around Central Park.
What I would advise if it’s summer, is to head into the park a little bit and you will see signs for hire bicycles. Take a cycle around Central Park where there is a large lake to sit and relax in the sun. If it’s winter you probably just want to walk a little bit through the park.
If it is winter and so the park is not ideal and it will be dark by now, pop into one of the museums along side the park. On the right hand side of the Central Park, you have the great looking Guggenheim Museum with its swirly architecture, which you will want to take pictures of anyway. If you are going to go a museum and you got limited time that’s the one to go to. It is not a monstrously big museum but they have a nice big cross section of art. They also have a really nice gift shop in there which you can always find great little gifts and things to buy.
Now if you really want to immerse yourself in art of course you have the Metropolitan Museum of Art a little bit further down there, but you could probably spend three days there. So that is for another trip.
#7: Evening at theatre or relaxing!
By now it will be getting late and will be time to get ready to go to the theater you booked at TKTS earlier in the day. And get a good night sleep ready for another busy day!
Day Two

#1: Empire State Building

It is best to be prompt and head down to the Empire State Building, in mid-town. Again, you should book your tickets online at It can be long queue to buy tickets and it is a slow process.
But get there prompt for opening times so you do not waste time in a long line for the elevators to get up this famous Art Deco skyscraper. The Empire State Building is still the most iconic building in New York. On the 86th floor is where you have an observatory and stunning panoramic view. It opened in 1931 and over three and half million people have been up there.
They have all other gimmicky, touristy things like the Sky Rider which I wouldn’t really bother with. Even with getting there early, you are still going to spend most of the morning at a visit to the time at the Empire State Building.
#2: Macy’s
When you come down you should pop across the road to Macy’s. Macy’s is a huge department store and one of the best and most famous places to go if you are going shopping. It covers a whole block and is a series of buildings connected together. There are many places at all price ranges to have lunch at.
#3: Ground Zero
Then I suggest you head down to Ground Zero, which was the site of the World Trade Center. It is being redeveloped after the 9/11 attacks destroyed them, and now there is the 9/11 Memorial that includes large memorial pools with all the names of those who died built on the footprint of where the Towers were.
It is very moving and it’s very understated what they’ve done there. And I think that is very tastily done.
If you are still in shopping mode, just across the road from ground zero next to the Hilton Millennium is Century 21. Century 21 sells designer names at low prices. It is not a very great looking shop inside, but you just got to go and get great bargains.

#4: Battery Park and Staten Island Ferry

To head off the afternoon, I suggest you head down to the Battery Park area. You could walk down from Ground Zero but is a longa long walk, so either jump in a cab or use the metro system.
Explore Battery Park and go on the Staten Island ferry. The Staten Island ferry has been running for years from Manhattan to Staten Island. It is free to go on and so you can just jump on it and head across Staten Island and back. It is well worth doing as you get great views of New York, Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and skyscrapers.
There are five ferries that take about seventy thousand passengers daily on 104 trips daily, and it’s really worth doing, especially if it is dark – which based on the time of the year it is likely to be.
#5: Time Square at Night
At some point in the evening, try and revisit Time Square at night. It has a buzz and energy and air of excitement that sums up and will be a good wrap up for this hectic 48 hours of touring!
Well hopefully you will enjoy this 48 hour New York! To see all of my pictures over the years of New York on Flickr: click here

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Gary Bembridge

I grew up in Zimbabwe, but I have been based in London since 1987. My travel life spans more than three decades and that includes more than 95 cruises. In 2005, I launched Tips for Travellers to make it easy and fun for people to discover, plan and enjoy incredible cruise vacations. And the rest, as they say, is history. I have the largest cruise vlogger channel currently on YouTube, with more than 3 million video views per month.

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