Suggested One Day NYC Itinerary: A Self-Guided Tour of New York City

New York City is the most populous city in the United States and the 11th most populous worldwide.

With a city as large as NYC, it can be difficult to create a single comprehensive travel guide when the choices are essentially limitless. There’s only so much you can see within a 24-hour window so please feel free to make changes to the following itinerary as you see fit.

The purpose of this suggested itinerary is to inspire and create a starting point for tourists who have never been to New York City before. You can use it as a foundation while planning your trip.

How to See NYC In One Day

The following NYC itinerary is based on my first-hand experience creating a one-day itinerary to help two of my European friends who were visiting NYC for the first time. I hope it also helps inspire your trip as you prepare for a visit to New York City yourself!

Note: I listed the destinations in my suggested order to optimize the route and reduce backtracking. Should you make changes, consider the geographical location of anything you add or replace.

1. Bryant Park

Begin your day at NYC’s lovely Bryant Park. Assuming you arrive in New York via public transportation, this park is only a short walk from both the Port Authority and Penn Station.

This park is famous for having a wide range of events and activities year-round. In the winter, there is a lovely holiday market and ice skating rink. During the summer, you may find the park hosting movie nights, cultural celebrations, or even free outdoor fitness classes.

If you’re dressed comfortably enough, you can even choose to have a seat at any table and enjoy a coffee or light snack from any of the vendors selling treats at the park.

Dinner with Dan in NYC

When I went to the city with my friend Dan recently, we went to the Bryant Park holiday market and we both ordered a pickle flight from Pickle Me Pete!

Music Source: Natalie Burdick’s Pickle Song.

(The verdict: Full Sour is the number one pickle. Horseradish packs a punch!)

2. The NYC Public Library

The NYC Public Library is another famous destination near Bryant Park. It faces the park so you don’t even have to travel far if you’d like to see it up close.

Depending on the hours, you may be able to enter the library to have a look around. In the interest of time, we chose not to enter to save time for other attractions, but I have been inside the library back in 2017 and there is a very impressive collection to peruse for those who step inside.

2A. Kinokuniya Bookstore

Along the same lines, if you enjoy reading, I’d suggest you also visit this bookstore on the opposite end of Bryant Park: Kinokuniya.

Kinokuniya offers a variety of books, magazines, and stationery from Japan. They have everything from travel books, to cookbooks, to manga, and more. Many collections are available in either English or Japanese.

I’m warning you now: this bookstore is typically very crowded. If you don’t tolerate crowded spaces well, you may not enjoy shopping here. However, it’s well worth the visit if you can tolerate those shopping conditions!

3. The Empire State Building

While walking to the next destination, you will pass the Empire State Building if you walk along 5th Ave.

If you would like, you can purchase tickets to go up to the Empire State Building’s observation deck. The main deck observatory is located on the 86th floor.

This location has been selected as the setting for dozens of movies and television scenes. With an open-air observation deck wrapping around the building’s spire, it grants a 360-degree view of New York, Brooklyn, Queens, and beyond.

4. Madison Square Park

From there, you will continue until you arrive at Madison Square Park. This is a cute area to have a look around.

This park is a nice escape from the busy midtown area of Manhattan. You can grab a seat on a bench and spend 15-30 minutes people-watching, admiring dogs running around and playing, as well as soaking in the New York City scenic architecture that surrounds this famous area.

5. Harry Potter NYC

As soon as you’re ready, it’s time to enter the nearby and somewhat new Harry Potter New York store.

I know this is a bit of a niche interest that only those who are part of the fandom might appreciate. You’re welcome to skip this store if you don’t have an interest in Harry Potter.

For those who do belong to a Hogwarts house, you’re surely going to want to check this out.

This store opened in the Flatiron District on April 20, 2021. At the time, this was exciting news for me because the very next month (May 2021), I completed my goal of finally reading all of the Harry Potter books and watching all of the movies.

Harry Potter taught me a lot and it’s all outlined in the blog post I wrote about it!

6. Chelsea Market

From the Harry Potter store, we walked west until we arrived at Chelsea Market.

Chelsea Market is a famous indoor marketplace near the Chelsea neighborhood in New York City. The business spans an entire block and is full of a wide array of eateries making it a great destination for any fellow foodies!

I’d definitely recommend choosing your favorite place inside to have a quick bite to eat. At this point in your day, I am sure you are probably getting hungry again after visiting so many places in the city.

7. Walk The High Line

Not far from Chelsea Market, you can enter the High Line that follows a path along Manhattan’s West side.

The High Line is popular for its lush greenery, contemporary landscaping, and art installations.

There are excellent walking paths that lead to some really impressive views of New York City. It’s neat to see New York City from an elevated perspective!

The High Line was built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the city. It’s a great way to enjoy some time walking outdoors and, best of all, it’s totally free!

8. The Vessel

Not far from The High Line, you can exit and walk over to the Vessel at Hudson Yards.

The Vessel is a striking architectural stricture in Hudson Yards that has led to quite a bit of controversy over the years. Some people love it, others hate it. Personally, I find the shape really interesting!

It’s made of bronzed steel and concrete. The Vessel is a honeycomb-like structure of interconnected staircases that rise 16 stories and contain 154 flights of stairs with 2,500 steps.

Unfortunately, the Vessel closed on July 29, 2021 (only 2 years after its opening date: March 15, 2019) because numerous people had committed suicide from its upper levels. For this reason, it remains indefinitely closed to the public.

9. Time Square NYC

You can’t visit New York City and not stop by Times Square!

This is a fun commercialized area that is crowded 24/7. Many people including myself find it to be a lot of fun to walk around here because you can see all of the huge signs, brand-name stores, and tourists everywhere you look from all over the world.

Times Square is the “New York City” you’re most likely envisioning based on what you see in the movies. You can’t leave without spending some time here first. I generally advise going here once the sun has set so you can appreciate all of the city’s lights!

10. Food and Drinks In NYC

I added this to the itinerary because, while it doesn’t matter where exactly you go, you can’t leave New York City without choosing a place to have dinner. There are so many phenomenal places to go.

The city has no shortage of choices for exquisite food and drink.

We chose to go to The Flatiron Room – Murray Hill (formerly known as Fine & Rare) where a friend on the staff was able to get us access to a VIP room that we shared only with the singer who was performing live music that night.

It made our night really special to be given entry into such a private section of Fine & Rare.

The restaurant you choose to visit is entirely up to you. I’m happy to give recommendations based on places I’ve been but the city has too many outstanding places to list. If you are above the legal drinking age and plan to consume, remember to drink responsibly. 😊

Additional Destinations to Consider

I hope you enjoy your time in New York City! If you’ve followed this itinerary, I’d love to hear how it went and what you thought of your visit.

In this section, I will list other popular destinations that you can use as a reference to swap out with anything I’ve included on this itinerary that you’d like to omit. Again, this is not a 100% comprehensive list since New York City is home to countless hidden gems.

Just because it’s not shown here doesn’t mean it is not worth visiting. I’ll leave the final decision up to you. Please only use these ideas as a kickoff for your own brainstorming!

  • Central Park
  • The Statue of Liberty
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Brooklyn Bridge
  • 9/11 Memorial & Museum
  • The Museum of Modern Art
  • Grand Central Terminal
  • Top of The Rock
  • Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
  • Rockefeller Center
  • Washington Square Park
  • The Audubon Mural Tour

If you think I’ve missed something, I welcome you to leave ideas down in the comments!


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The Rocky Safari