Travel & LeisureTravelHow To Spend One Day In New York And Make The Most Out Of It

How To Spend One Day In New York And Make The Most Out Of It

On yet another escapade to the Big Apple, I was determined to see as many of the perennial favourites of NYC as possible over the course of one day. Whilst outlining my itinerary, I was stunned by the sheer variety of things to experience. From dozens of impressive museums and monuments, to a myriad of grassy green parks and towering skyscrapers, I didn’t quite know where to begin.

Obviously, I wanted to tick off the most popular sights and attractions of my list – I couldn’t have traveled all that way without climbing up to the crown of everyone’s favourite Lady, or ascending to the 86th floor of the Empire State Building for that matter.

I quickly realized that the costs of each attraction, sight and museum quickly add up, particularly if you’re keen on seeing it all. And who isn’t?! I certainly don’t want to look back and regret missing all the iconic bits of the Big Apple. I picked up a CityPASS – which helped me save on combined admission, in contrast to paying at the gate. They offer a ticket booklet which will enable you to experience NYC’s finest attractions for a fraction of the cost.

It is no secret that New York City is busy, bustling city, so if you truly want to get a real slice of New York life, serious investment of time and effort into planning is required. Pressed for time? No worries! Read on to see how I got the most from a short trip – maybe this New York City 1 day Itinerary will help you in your planning!

Empire State Building Observatory

Opening Hours: Daily, 8 A.M. – 2 A.M. | 338-350 5th Avenue
I started my day with visiting the observatory of the 102-story Empire State Building, boasting unbeatable views of the city. The view from the top offers postcard-perfect views, but to really get the most out of this amazing experience, take your time and explore every nook and cranny.

Pro Tip: tickets to the Empire State Observatory sell like hot cakes and queues are extreme! From what I’ve heard, you’re in for a two-hour wait if you choose to go during peak tourist times. Arrive 15-minutes prior opening and you will most likely have secured a spot on one of the first elevators up.

Empire State Building



Double Decker Uptown Tour: Times Square to Central Park West

Uptown Tour available: 10 A.M – 4 P.M. | Stop #3: Times Square North to Stop #19: American Museum of Natural History
After enjoying the incredible photo ops of the NYC skyline, I had my mind set on exploring the Natural Museum of History, so I took a 10-minute leisurely stroll to Times Square, where I hopped on a Double Decker bus with GONYTours. From there, the bus took me through Theatre District and  Columbus Circle, after which it ran alongside green and grassy Central Park – all while providing informative narration. I alighted from the bus at the American Museum of Natural History, nestled on the cusp of Columbus Ave. and West 77th St.

Pro Tip: If you’re catching the Uptown Tour, make sure to secure a seat on the very front right-hand side, as you get unobstructed views of beautiful Central Park.


Enjoying a piece of NYC with GONYTours



American Museum of Natural History

Opening Hours: Daily, 10 A.M – 5:45 P.M. | Central Park West at 79th Street
Stoked about the current exhibition, Dinosaurs Among Us, I quickly throttled up to the fourth floor and joined the crowds flocking over the fossils of the gigantic Allosaurus. I learned to see the resemblance between extinct non-bird dinosaurs and living birds, that the Velociraptor had four-inch talons similar to those of a harpy eagle and that many dinosaurs had hollow bones, just like so many birds!

The globe in the photos below shows some of the site where evidence has been found for possible cause of the mass extinction that killed the non-avian dinosaurs. The evidence includes an impact crater left by an enormous asteroid or comet. Furthermore, the globe also illustrates some areas of volcanic activity at the time of the mass extinction.

American Museum of Natural History

American Museum of Natural History

The extinction took place …

American Museum of Natural History

… over 65 million years ago.


Double Decker Uptown Tour:  Central Park West to Museum Mile

Uptown Tour available: 10AM – 4PM | Stop #19: American Museum of Natural History to Stop #24: Guggenheim Museum
After having spent countless of time at the American Museum of Natural History, I decided to continue the Uptown Tour. The hop-on-hop-off bus picked me up just outside of the museum and provided a quick, carefree and efficient way to cover the historic sites sights of the upper part of Manhattan. On this second leg of the tour I got to see more of Central Park, the magnificent Cathedral of St. John of the Divine, Museum of the City of New York – after finally reaching my third destination; Guggenheim Museum.

Pro Tip: If you’re going with GONYTours, most of their passes include a Night Tour, which lets you see the best of NYC when all the buildings are illuminated.

Cathedral of St. John of the Divine

Cathedral of St. John of the Divine


Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

Opening Hours: Sun-Wed + Fri 10 A.M. – 5:45 P.M and Sat 10 A.M – 7:45 P.M | 1071 Fifth Avenue
As a photography buff, I was exhilarated about finally having the opportunity to experience this iconic building designed by renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The structure is a piece of art in itself, rich in stunning architectural details, beautiful both inside and out. The spiral walkways extended beautifully along the edges of the building and up towards the majestic ceiling.

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum | NORDH.ME

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum | NORDH.ME

Pro Tip: When attempting photography in the Guggenheim Museum, use a wide-angle lens and use manual white balance to correctly capture those impeccably white walls.


Metropolitan Museum of Art

Opening Hours: Sunday–Thursday: 10 A.M. – 5:30 P.M, Friday and Saturday: 10 A.M. – 9 P.M | 1000 Fifth Avenue
The MET is situated only a 7-minute walk from the Guggenheim, so I couldn’t let the opportunity to explore New York’s most visited museum and the largest art museum in the United States go unmissed. The collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art  is extremely  extensive, as it boasts over 5,000 years of art from all over the world – no wonder I could’ve easily spent several days here alone. I tried to keep my visit to 2 hours which gave me plenty of time to delve into Egyptian Art and explore The Temple of Dendur.

After a long and adventurous day, my feet were sore but but my spirits high. I hopped on the Double Decker bus, once again stopping just outside of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and enjoyed a leisurely ride back home to my hotel in Midtown.

Metropolitan Museum of Art | NORDH.ME

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Pro Tip: The MET closes at 9 P.M. on Friday and Saturdays, as opposed to 5. P.M on weekdays. If you’re visiting on a Friday or Saturday, you will have a few extra hours to enjoy the MET’s extensive collection.


Double Decker Night Tour & Empire State Building During the Night

Double Decker Bus Night Tour available: top of the hour from 7 P.M – 10 P.M | Empire State Building Opening Hours: 8 A.M – 2 A.M
If you really want to maximize your stay, hop on the GONYTours’ double decker bus for their New York Night Tour. It departs from Times Square on the top of the hour, from 7 P.M to 10 P.M, and will take you down 5th Avenue past the Empire State Building, down through Greenwich Village, Chinatown and Little Italy, as well as cross the Manhattan Bridge over to Brooklyn. The ride continues through the Lower East Side, the East Village and Gramercy Park before getting back to Midtown. The night tour lets you see New York City in a whole different light – literally. Take this opportunity to admire Manhattan’s icons that lit up the sky so beautifully.

After the New York Night Tour, round off your day by heading back to the The Empire State Building Observatory for spectacular night views. The CityPASS includes same-night general admission, which enables you to enjoy a same-day second visit as long as you go after 8 P.M (September-April) or 10 P.M (May-August). The observatory is open until 2 A.M. – which gives you plenty of time to snap some Instagram-worthy photos.

New York 1-Day Itinerary | NORDH.ME

There is nothing quite like Times Square during the night

New York 1-Day Itinerary | NORDH.ME
New York 1-Day Itinerary | NORDH.ME
New York 1-Day Itinerary | NORDH.ME
New York 1-Day Itinerary | NORDH.ME


Even a Short Trip to NYC Can Be Rewarding

Even a short trip to NYC can be rewarding if you know how to make the most of your time. The CityPASS offers great value for money – and the hop-on, hop-off bus tours are convenient if you’re pressed for time. A visit to New York is not complete without these experiences, and hopefully this article has helped making your trip planning a little easier.

Do you feel that tourist passes and Hop On, Hop Off Buses are a good way to see as much as possible if you’re only staying for a very short time? Or do you have any other tips for when touristing for a weekend and wanting to see it all? Share your tips with us in the comments below!


  • Elizabeth O.

    I think if you’re spending just a day, you might as well see the places that the city is famous for. The main attractions. It’s a great idea to get a citypass!

    • Nordh

      I agree! I’d never travel to NYC and -not- visit the Empire State or the Guggenheim, for example. The CityPASS helped me sort through the myriad of attractions available and focus on NYC’s main attractions and sights.

  • Carol Cassara

    I can’t imagine just spending a day in NYC and not getting enough time to see everything that’s worth seeing. But there will be circumstances like this and I think your post is a great guide.

    • Nordh

      Thanks Carol! I’ve spent so much time in NYC, and I’ve still barely scratched the surface. I know a lot of people only have 1 weekend or even less (for example, if they’re just passing through) so hopefully this 1-day itinerary would be helpful for those.

  • Krysten

    I honestly never thought that you could do all of this in one day! That’s amazing. I am going to have to follow this guide when I’m there over a couple of days!

    • Nordh

      It’s definitely possible – careful planning is the key. The Empire State Building Observatory opens at 8 a.m. and closes at 2 a.m.. The Met closes at 9 p.m. (Friday and Saturday), and the last HOHO night tour with GONYTours is at 10 p.m. – so if you’re really pressed for time but want to see as much as possible, you could start off with ESB, continue on to the other attractions I mentioned in my post, hop on a night tour at 10 p.m., and head back to the EBS for spectacular night views around 11.30 (or later) p.m. The CityPASS includes same-night general admission, which means if you go during the day, you’re could return after sunset free of charge!

  • Czjai Reyes-Ocampo

    I love going to museums, and this is a fun way to spend the day in NYC. I doubt that I will stay there for just a day, though. 🙂

    • Nordh

      Me too! The American Museum of Natural History is a personal favourite, even though I thoroughly enjoyed the others as well (Intrepid is also a great choice if you like sea, air and space, and it’s included in the CityPASS too. I’d recommend you to stay as long as your schedule allows you, at one time I stayed for several weeks, and even then I barely scratched the surface of what New York City has to offer!

  • Julie Syl

    This is one of my place I want to visit. Thanks for this post. It helps me now what should I do when I am traveling in New York.

  • Marissa Zurfluh

    Yes, please! NYC is totally on my bucket list to visit with my family. We are lovers os history and exploring new places.

    • Nordh

      I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s on everyone’s! It’s such a bustling place, there’s something to do for everybody!

  • Joanna

    I would love to visit New York one day, it is on my top 3 list of places to visit in America, together with San Francisco and The Grand Canyon. I would love to see the National Museum of Natural History. I have seen the one in London and i know how entertaining it can be, with a lot of interesting facts and games to play and learn.

    • Nordh

      The Grand Canyon is absolutely stunning, you will NOT regret your visit. The Golden Gate alone makes a visit to San Francisco well worth it. I too really enjoyed the National Museum of Natural History (my latest Instagram post features it).

  • Hendrik

    Stunning photos, I love them… they give NYC really that special touch!
    Funny, we have visited New York a couple of weeks ago too and fell in love with the city (how not to do?). To be honest, I could not have imagined to spend just one day there, but you show that it is possible and even see so many things. This is really impressive and I think you made a very good mix of points and places to be seen. Great post!

    • Nordh

      Thanks Hendrik, I’m happy that you like the photos and that you had an enjoyable stay in NYC! I get asked ever now and then for a 1-day or weekend itinerary (especially by people who only do a stopover) so there’s absolutely a lot of sight-seeing that could be done in one day.

  • Chloe

    Ahhh so many great tips for visiting NYC! I live here and love your tips! We recently used the city passes in Paris, Berlin and Amsterdam and loved it. We also did the bus tour in London. We literally came home and decided we wanted to try the pass in NYC, even though we live here!

    • Nordh

      Thanks for the comment, it means a lot coming from a native New Yorker! Thanks for sharing your experiences with the city passes. The CityPASS in NYC offers great value for money if you end up doing most of the attractions that are included. I do however think it’s important that you choose to do the attractions not because they were offered as a part of the pass, but because you’re genuinely interested in them. Since I was, and really wanted to see it ALL, this was a done deal for me.

  • Arnav @ Eat, Travel, Live and REPEAT

    The double decker tour seems a fun way of exploring the bustling city of New York, and the fact that its hop on hop of, is like a cherry on top.Thanks for the info about the CityPass, which sure as hell turns out to be a budget friendly option. Am definitely going to keep your tips in mind when I get a chance to visit the states.

    • Nordh

      Agreed, what I also like about the Double Decker tours is that it provides the optimum height and a sweet vantage point over the bustling streets. In regards to the CityPASS, if you have your heart set on visiting most of the attractions that are included, it is indeed a budget friendly option. Hope you get to visit the States soon enough! You will have a blast!

  • Only By Land

    That is a great tip about going before opening to the Empire State building, I wouldn’t have gone otherwise worried about a long line! I’m not a museum fan but the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum photographs brilliantly, I’d get my fish eye out in there to make a great capture, pro tip about the white balance too, it would be so easy to over expose. Isn’t the museum of natural history where Night at the Museum was filmed?

    • Nordh

      The lines can be insanely long, so I’d definitely recommend going around 8 a.m. and then back again after 10 p.m. (CityPASS includes a same-day second visit after 8 P.M or 10 P.M. The cityscape looks completely different during the night, and both views are equally stunning! As for the Guggenheim – I went mainly for its architecture and to shoot the ceiling. I LOVE a proper fish eye whenever I’m travling, it’s a must for interior photography! Night at the Museum used a building constructed on stage based on the American Museum of Natural History in New York City!

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