2 Days In New York City - Best Things To Do In 48 Hours

By Kamilla Khasanova, a lover of all things arty and a New York City dweller shares her top tips for zig-zag-ing through the modern metropolis.
Edited by Holly Stark

48 hours may not sound like long when venturing one of the world’s most visited, but you’ll be surprised by how much you can fit in. New York City comprises of five boroughs and sits where the Hudson River meets the Atlantic Ocean with Manhattan at its core, a densely populated borough that’s among the world’s major commercial, financial and cultural centers. With its iconic skyscrapers such as the Empire State Building and sprawling Central Park, NYC in 2 days is not to be missed. But with a vast choice of New York must see historical attractions, grand structures, hidden gems and scenic beauty to explore, you might be wondering what to do in New York in 2 days? The city is a colourful mix of outdoor activities, off-the-wall breweries and impressive eateries, as well as dynamic art and music spaces. So from visiting the hippy Alphabet City and boarding the Staten Island Ferry to tasting your way through some of the best places to eat in New York to soaking up the vibe of a rooftop bar, this is what I think is the best way to see NYC in 2 days during your stay in the city.

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Day 1 - Morning

Welcome yourself by spending the first 24 hours in New York exploring some of the city’s dynamic food scene - the best kind of welcome! If you’re staying in the East Village or passing by and looking for a non-traditional breakfast or brunch in NYC, then Maharlika Filipino Moderno is an eatery to stop at. If you do check it out, make sure to try out their garlic rice or their strange, but scrummy purple yam waffle. It’s different, but home to some of the best NYC breakfast eats. If you’re closer to the Flatiron District, be sure to check out Almond Restaurant. With the menu on a weekly rotation, the restaurant is constantly changing things up based on their sourcing of good quality, local ingredients from city vendors and suppliers. But their bottomless brunch is consistently one of the best in the city.

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Afternoon

Take a walk on the relaxing Hudson Riverside. Just one block away from the popular High Line elevated park is the lesser known five mile long recreational space known as Hudson River Park, which has transformed the city over the past ten years. Welcome yourself to New York on the peaceful riverside path where you can find locals and visitors cycling, running, strolling, having a picnic or sitting and soaking up the best of the city views. A mix of the city’s urban grandeur and a natural haven, the park covers 550 acres (400 of which are on the water) and runs from Battery Park at Manhattan's southern edge to 59th St in Midtown, Hudson River Park. Dive into Manhattan's playful, leafy back garden; a great alternative to the High Line.

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Evening

When you think of a busy cosmopolitan metropolis like New York, it’s not likely that a picturesque sunset is the first thing that pops into your head. But once you witness the dramatic shadows cast by the NYC skyscrapers as dusk turns to evening, you’ll probably be in agreement that it’s one of the most beautiful sights you’ve seen. Head to 9th Avenue in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District to discover a spectacular sunset while sipping on a cocktail or enjoying some al fresco seafood. At Catch’s rooftop seafood restaurant and bar, you can grab food, drinks and soak up the beautiful views and distant buzz of the district below.

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Night

Spend your evening in New York like a local in the Alphabet City; a bohemian enclave within the East Village with a laid-back vibe and home to cool restaurants, bars, craft cocktail lounges and a German beer garden. The residents comprise of a mix of students, artists and young families as well as a close-knit Puerto Rican community. The streets are dotted with bodegas, charming gardens of local residents and colorful murals. The people there know each other, and it’s clear that they get on well. So head over, be friendly, and pass the hours like a NYC local at the 11th Street Bar. The dim little pub has live music most nights; sometimes it’s jazz, sometimes it’s folk, and sometimes it’s something else entirely.

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Day 2 - Morning

The best way to see New York in 2 days is arguably from a boat with a view. Start the day sipping coffee and looking out onto the water while aboard the free Staten Island Ferry, which connects Manhattan with the Staten Island district and, along the way, navigates near the Statue of Liberty offering everyone on board stunning views of the city skyline. Running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and travelling between Staten Island’s St. George Ferry Terminal and the Whitehall Ferry Terminal (aka. South Ferry) in Manhattan, the Staten Island Ferry is the perfect attraction if you’re only visiting NYC for two days.

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Afternoon

Pick up some food and find the perfect spot of grass in Central Park to enjoy a picnic for a late and lazy lunch. You should stop by Zabar’s for this; a gourmet deli and grocer on the Upper West Side where you can find get seriously good pastrami sandwiches or baguettes with a different cheeses and cured meats. Explore the Gapstow Bridge; the park’s main promenade where artists and vendors gather, and when you reach the end of the Mall, walk around the Bethesda Terrace and Fountain. From there, you can choose between approaching the Conservatory Water, with its remote-controlled boats and the Alice in Wonderland statue; or walk across the Bow Bridge to see the lake from there. If you are a Beatles fan, don’t miss the tribute to John Lennon; Strawberry Fields.

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Evening

If a sit down meal is more your thing, and after a long day of sun, rowboats, and walking, you may want to turn things up a notch with spicy margaritas, great New York grub and plenty of beer at Playa Betty’s. The California-style beach joint is home to a bright, lively backdrop where you can enjoy the best of the West coast fusion cuisine. See the locals roll in wearing grass-stained shorts, eating tacos and guacamole with friends at this fun, vibrant restaurant on the Upper West Side, closeby to Central Park.

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Night

Seeking unique things to do in New York at night? At the Bookstore Cafe, you can expect a fun night of fascinating histories, curious imaginations, books, hot drinks, snacks and booze. Everyone is welcome at the inclusive space. Story lovers can enjoy a word-filled, wine-fuelled night run by the Housing Works; a New York City based non-profit fighting HIV/AIDS and homelessness. Head to the Moth StorySLAM event with 100% of venue proceeds benefiting the homeless living with HIV/AIDS, if you happen to be in town one night when an event is running. If not, still stop by The Soho Bookstore Cafe - it resembles an Ivy League library with spiral staircases, mahogany balconies, and rows of books; a great place to spend an evening in the city and the perfect spot to complete your New York 2 days itinerary.