24 Hours In New York - The Perfect One Day Itinerary

Updated: 04 February 2020

New York owes its historic supremacy among American cities to its closeness to the sea and its history of immigration, which brought diversity in culture and cuisine to the city. A terrific way to orient yourself with the city is to spend some time in and around Lower Manhattan, where you can enjoy a taste of just some of the great food, views and entertainment which the city that never sleeps has to offer. But with just 24 hours in New York City, you’ll need to arm yourself with a plan. That’s where my one day in New York City itinerary comes in; which will take you to a few of my favorite spots in Lower Manhattan, as well as squeezing in a jaunt to Brooklyn too.

Morning - A Good Start To The Day

Let’s start with the tough question; is one day enough for New York? As a New Yorker, my honest answer is that you’d need a lifetime to get to know this city - but you can certainly make the most of your time here and enjoy an incredible 24 hours. Starting with breakfast! Start the day with a fantastic breakfast at High Street on Hudson where you can grab coffee and pastries from 8 am (full breakfast service begins at 9 am). Located close to the West Village and Meatpacking Districts, right off the High Line, so you could even get an earlier start and begin with a morning walk along the High Line, a public park built on a historic freight rail line which offers spectacular elevated views of the Hudson River. Open from 7am, start at 23rd Street in Chelsea, and end by the Whitney Museum. High Street on Hudson is just around the corner from the museum.

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A Stroll Along The River

Make your way to Lower Manhattan and take a walk along the esplanade of Battery Park City, whose 92-acres sit along the Hudson River. Along the pedestrian walkway, you’ll not only enjoy waterfront views, beautiful parks and gardens, you’ll also find historic monuments and public art. A great detour includes a visit to the nearby Skyscraper Museum; whose core exhibits include hand-made models of Midtown and Lower Manhattan, a history of tall buildings and a chronicle of the rise and fall of the World Trade Center. The museum is small, but well worth the visit. It is open Thursday to Sunday from 12-6pm, but just make sure you don't try and visit it on a Monday or Tuesday as it’s closed.

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Take A Ferry Ride

Many visitors wonder what to do in New York City in one day, but often forget all about making the most of local hacks. Take a ride on the Staten Island Ferry, one of the last remaining vestiges of an entire ferry system in New York City that transported people between Manhattan and its future boroughs before any bridges were built. Located at the tail end of Battery Park, the ferry offers fantastic views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island from the upper deck. A great way to see both icons of the city, within the span of 1 hour - and not only is it a big time-saver, it’s free! You can catch a Ferry every half hour from 12 pm and trips are roughly 25 minutes. 

Afternoon - Explore Stone Street

Now back on land, a stop by historic Stone Street is a must. This narrow cobblestone street in the heart of the Financial District was the first street paved with stone in the city, back when it was a small Dutch farming and trading colony called New Amsterdam. Today, this charming old street, flanked by restored lofts and warehouses from the late 1830s, is one of the best dining destinations in Downtown Manhattan. A great place to take a break or enjoy lunch; this is especially true in the warmer months, when restaurants and bars place long wooden tables in the middle of this pedestrians-only street. This lively spot offers old-world charm and a respite from the noisy traffic this city is known for. A local favorite spot is Ulysses, which is open from 11 am to 4 am and is located at 58 Stone Street / 95 Pearl Street. Another firm favorite is Dubliner, a traditional Irish pub, is located at 45 Stone Street and is open from 11 am to the early hours of the morning.

South Street Seaport

Next up on your one day in New York City itinerary is a visit to the newly transformed South Street Seaport, the gateway to Lower Manhattan’s rich maritime history and a window into the roots of the city’s cultural diversity. Located along the East River, with terrific views of Brooklyn, the Seaport District now features cutting-edge dining, shopping and entertainment. Time is of the essence, but even with only 24 hours in New York City you should make the time to explore. Once very touristic and a bit run-down, this neighborhood is now one of NYC’s ultimate destinations, with a mix of locals and tourists in equal measure enjoying live music, pop-up shops, and small-batch food items. If the food options at Stone Street didn’t work for your palette, try Barbalu, a rustic Italian restaurant where you’ll find simple pastas, salads and sandwiches in a clean, modern environment. This charming restaurant is a hop and a skip away from South Street Seaport, on Front St, and opens between 10:30 and 11am daily. 

The Brooklyn Bridge

Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge is something you absolutely must do in New York in a one day cramming session. Once the longest suspension bridge in the world - the entire length of the bridge is just over a mile long. By foot, you'll need about 30 minutes to traverse it while going at a brisk pace, and up to an hour if you make stops for pictures and to enjoy the view. Designed by the Roebling family and built by migrant workers, the bird’s eye views are incredible. To walk the Brooklyn Bridge you’ll take the walkway, which begins at the intersection of Tillary Street and Boerum Place. Alternatively, you can access it via the underpass on Washington Street. Once you cross the bridge into Brooklyn, you’ll be a few blocks from chic shopping in the DUMBO neighborhood. New York City in one day could truthfully be spent only exploring local pockets like this, a once industrial area that's now home to trendy restaurants (try Italian fare with a view at Cecconis) and cafes, as well as a gorgeous waterfront park and the Brooklyn Bridge Park. But without the luxury of more time, you’ll have to make your visit a little more fleeting.

Evening - Brooklyn Heights

With one night in New York City to spare, don’t miss nearby Brooklyn Heights, a leafy neighborhood full of brownstone town houses whose serene, tree-lined streets hold centuries of profound history. Once a haven of Victorian wealth, this is where Arthur Miller romanced Marilyn Monroe and where Truman Capote wrote Breakfast at Tiffany's. Along the way, stop to taste the area's classic and contemporary foods, from Brooklyn egg creams and baklava to spinach pie. Then on to the Brooklyn Promenade to view the magnificent Manhattan skyline at dusk; the unique, sweeping views are perfect for photo-taking. On warm nights it's a popular place to people-watch, as families, friends and couples come here for an evening stroll. And you’re only steps from the best restaurants in town. A personal favorite is Grimaldis Pizza, a pizzeria on Front St. that serves brick-oven pies and calzones, wine and beer. Over on Commercial Street you will find some fantastic ice-cream courtesy of the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory. This joint was a fireboat house but is now an incredible ice-cream factory. Just make sure you carry cash, as they are a cash only eatery. Snack in hand, head back into Manhattan for round two.

Check out a jazz club

As your one night in New York City nears the end, take in some jazz in Greenwich Village. The Blue Note on West 3rd Street is a popular spot that has hosted some top names. Just check their schedule beforehand as you may need to book tickets. If you prefer something local and a bit under the radar, choose Smalls Jazz Club. Located in a basement on West 10th Street, this is one of the few old jazz clubs left in the area with a truly vibrant spirit. Another great local spot is Arturo’s Restaurant on West Houston Street, a casual pizzeria, where if you arrive late on Monday nights, you’ll experience secret performances by jazz greats.

End The Evening With A Bang

Up for more? Finish your day by grabbing a cocktail at one of these talked about hotel bars. Try Broken Shaker on the rooftop of the Freehand Hotel for sweeping views of the city. Both offer sophisticated drinks and small bites in a warm and inviting environment, open until 2 am most nights. Or, Gibson + Luce, a vibrant mid-century modern retreat located below the Life Hotel which you enter by going through a nondescript door at the back of the lobby is open until 1 am. Another option is Ophelia, rooftop space perched on the 26th floor of Beekman Tower with classic Art Deco design in a space which originally housed a women’s social club. The walls, shelves and even the bar top are scattered with curiosities from the early 20th century: tarot cards, antique flatware, ladies’ accessories and more. It’s worth exploring! Open most nights until 2 am; Friday and Saturday until 4 am.

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