How To Spend 48 Hours In New York City

How To Spend 48 Hours In New York City

New York City is huge. Manhattan only would take days to explore. Imagine, if you’d want to do the whole tour and also see Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island. Not achievable in 48 hours for sure. However, there are solutions to make the most of the Big Apple in 48 hours. Sure, it may involve hoping on and off buses quite a lot, but you’d get to see a lot in a short period of time and without spending a lot of energy.

I moved to New York City back in May 2019 and of course, I made it my mission to explore all corners of the city. Have I seen a lot? Well, no. Of course, the pandemic is partly to blame. But I also have not been very organized nor efficient. I also have to admit that I am a bit of a creature of habit. Once I find a spot I like, I tend to hang around there a lot.

Have I been to Central Park many many times? Sure did. Have I been to Queens? Not once. Except if JFK and Rockaway count but for the sake of the argument, they won’t. But now that things are going better, I want to spend more effort visiting the city. Also, it would have helped a lot when my parents visited back in August 2019 if I knew where to go and how to get there.

Now I do though.

 
 
 
 
 
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Where to stay in New York City

Again, the city is huge. You could literally stay anywhere. However, if you want to make the most of your 48 hours in New York City, I’d advise to stay in Midtown Manhattan. After all, that is where most of the action happens. Or at list, where you’ll find most items on this list.

There are plenty of hotels, whether luxury or more affordable, in Midtown. If you are coming for a weekend staycation, but will not want to spend time at your hotel, don’t splurge too much. However, if you want an incredible hotel experience as well, then go big.

Very famous amongst Gossip Girl fans is the Lotte New York Palace. It’s in the name, it is a palace. Pricey but great for photos. There are various hotels you’ll recognize (Westin, Hilton, and Marriott) in Midtown. Yet, I’d recommend staying somewhere like the Radio City Apartments or Moxy Times Square.

The important thing is that your accommodation is central, close to most attractions as well as easily accessible with public transport. If you were thinking of getting an AirBnB, think again. Most short-term rentals are prohibited in the city, especially in multi-family buildings.

How to get around

Ah, my favorite thing ever. I moved to New York City from London. Those who currently live or have lived in the Big Smoke will know. The tube is pristine. It is efficient, it works well, it is reliable. What a shock I had when it came to the New York subway. Yes, it sure gets you around. However, if you can avoid it, then do so please.

There are more efficient ways to get around the Big Apple, especially if you do not need to travel too far. My personal opinion is that bikes are the best way to get around New York City. It may come as a surprise to a lot of you, but the city is very bike-able with bike lanes all over Manhattan. It may take some time to get used to the traffic and rules of the city, but overall it is a very nice way to go around the city.

If you want to take the subway or any other MTA means of transportation, you can use your contactless card or phone with Apple Pay (or Google Pay) to get around. Don’t buy a MetroCard, just go contactless. Each ride is $2.75. If you are interested in biking, utilize the Citi Bike system. It is amazing. You can download the app and get a bike. The first 30 minutes are free. You’ll fine bike stations pretty much everywhere in Manhattan.

Spending 48 hours in New York City

Day 1 in New York City

Morning

Considering you’ll be staying in Midtown, I’d advise to start there. There are plenty of things to do in the area. Start with the Rockefeller Center. You’ll find a lot of things to see and do there, so make sure you’re getting your timing right. Again, there is always so much to do in the Big Apple that you’ll probably have to pick and choose. Here are a few things you can do:

    • Top of the Rock: A classic. A fantastic opportunity to get a panoramic view of the city and take amazing pictures. Tickets start at $34 per person. Because this attraction is very popular, I advise that you get there early so that you don’t queue too long.
    • Sask Fifth Avenue: Saks is an institution in the city. Especially during Christmas as they have their Light Show on multiple times a day every day. If you are coming over the Holiday Season, it’s a thing you do not want to miss out.
    • Radio City Hall: Did you always wonder where Good Morning America is filmed? Well, there you go. Radio City Hall is a building located close to Rockefeller Center and a great backdrop for pictures. Your Instagram will love it.
    • St Patrick’s Cathedral: Very close to Saks is St Patrick’s Cathedral. It is a towering Neo-Gothic church from 1879 with twin spires & storied history. You can visit the cathedral, it is free to enter, but you can always make a small donation.
    • Lotte New York Palace: Just an avenue away from St Patrick’s Cathedral is the Lotte New York Palace. Putting that here just in case you are Gossip Girl fan.
    • The Museum of Modern Art: Walk on 5th Avenue to 53rd St and you’ll find the MoMA. Tickets include access to all galleries and exhibitions. 16 years old and under are free. Tickets starts at $14
 
 
 
 
 
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Lunch

Now that you had a very busy and active morning, it is time to get on with lunch. But before that, let’s take our 48 hour exploration of NYC one step further. Walk to either the Rockefeller Center (Stop 2) or the Empire State Building (Stop 5) and board a TopView NYC bus. All their buses are double-decker buses and will get you around town in no time. I recommend starting with a Downtown Tour.

The bus tour will take you to major landmarks in the city, that you’ll get to see above street level and avoiding the crowd. The Downtown route goes by the Rockefeller Center, Bryant Park, Macy’s, the Empire State Building, Washington Square, Soho, City Hall, Wall Street, etc. You’ll get to see a lot with no effort. Once your tour bus gets to Stop 11 or City Hall, hop off and head down to Seaport District.

FIY, the 48 hour NYC Sightseeing Pass also includes a free Liberty Cruise so that you get to see the Statue of Liberty up close. More on that later.

So, you are on your way to Seaport District. It is within walkable distance of Downtown Manhattan where City Hall is located. Newly refurbished, it is an amazing place to get seafood and other delicious foods. There are plenty of restaurants along with amazing views. Wherever you’ll go for lunch, you’ll get to sit by the East River and enjoy beautiful views of the DUMBO skyline and the Brooklyn Bridge.

 
 
 
 
 
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Afternoon

After lunch, walk up the East River Greenway until you get to Pier 36. There, you’ll be able to board the Liberty Cruise included in the bus pass. The cruise will take you down the East River and around the tip of Manhattan, then up the Hudson River until Garment District and back via Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. It does not dock on Liberty Island, where the Statue of Liberty is. However, it sails pretty close and gives you the perfect opportunity to snap a selfie with Lady Liberty.

The cruise is narrated by a live guide that will share with you a lot of anecdotes and historical facts on key landmarks and monument along both rivers. After the cruise ends, walk back towards City Hall and head towards Wall Street, where you’ll be able to see:

  • The New York Stock Exchange;
  • The Fearless Girl statue;
  • The Wall Street Charging Bull;
  • The 9/11 Tribute Museum;
  • Zuccotti Park.

Everything is within walking distance. You can then head over to the World Trade Center. You’ll find there the 9/11 Memorial as well as the Oculus. All three are must-sees if you travel to New York City. You can even get a ticket to the One World Observatory.

Then, I’d recommend you enjoy a bit of a walk and head over to the Hudson River Greenway. You may walk or get a Citi Bike and enjoy some time along the Hudson. If you feel in the mood for some more exploration, carry on to Hudson Yard where you’ll get to tee the vessel as well as the Edge. Although the Vessel is now closed to visitorsthe Edge has an amazing observatory deck. Better book ticket ahead of time for the Edge, though. The views are amazing and the photo opportunities endless!

 
 
 
 
 
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Dinner

Spending 48 hours in New York City means that you’ll have to pick and choose what you want and can see. It does not mean your time there will be any less intense. Just a thing to keep in mind. Once you’re done with Hudson Square, head over to Stop 15 of your bus tour. The 48 hour pass offers unlimited hop on and hop off so you may get back on anywhere you want and as many times as you want.

The bus will take you back to Midtown and I recommend hoping off for the last time of the day at Stop 17, which is Port Authority. If you walk along 42nd St, you’ll get to Bryant Park. It is a very nice square that has a Christmas market in the winter as well as an ice rink. In the summer, it offers a lot of live performances as well as a reading space. The Bryant Park Grill is an amazing place for dinner as it has a view on the park.

You may also go have a look at the New York Public Library which is on the other side of the square. So much to see and do in the same area. 

Evening

One thing you can do after dinner in Bryant Park is walk to Times Square. It is really close. Even though it is very touristy and always busy, it is still worth a shot if you are visiting New York City for the first time. While it is super cool during the day, it is spectacular at night. The whole place is lit up with billboards on all the buildings. You’ll sure spot some cartoon characters hanging out there too.

Another option is to hop on the Night Tour with TopView Sightseeing. It is also including in their 48h Sightseeing Pass and  departs from Port Authority (Stop 17). The first tour goes at 7pm in the spring and summer, and then every hour until 11pm. You’ll get to see the city at night, with all the sparkling lights, from Midtown to Soho, Chinatown, the Manhattan Bridge, Brooklyn and the East Village.

 
 
 
 
 
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Day 2 in New York City

Breakfast

I think it is safe to say that you already covered quite a bit on your first day already! But there is still so much to see! One thing that is so convenient about staying in Midtown, is that it is very easy to get food super fast. You can go anywhere you’d like, even though so much choice can definitely end up being overwhelming. Angelina Paris NYC, Le Pain Quotidien or Bluestone Lane in Bryant Park; or Banc Café, The Gem Saloon or Penelope in Murray Hill, you really cannot not find something!

The list can go on and one as you walk down to the the Flatiron District, Grammercy and the Union Square area. So really, there is something for everyone. A lot of restaurants and cafés have outdoor seating. Breakfast in the early hours of the morning, outdoor, is absolutely amazing. Now, since day 1 was sort of dedicated to downtown, let’s spend day 2 uptown!

 
 
 
 
 
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Morning

Uptown is absolutely amazing. There is so much to see everywhere, but especially around Central Park. Now, again, it is a very big area. However, what I would recommend is hoping on the TopView NYC uptown tour, which is part of the 48h Sightseeing Pass. You can take off from Port Authority and let the double deck bus drive you around, starting with the Upper West Side, then Harlem and then the Upper East Side.

If you are a fan of museum, you may have to choose which you’d like to do. Both sides of the Parks have quite a few museums options and it won’t be possible to do them all. I personally love the Upper West Side and would always recommend that visitors go explore it. The American Museum of Natural History is located on Central Park West and 81st for example and would be a great way to start your day.

Lunch

If you decide to have lunch in the Upper West Side, here are a few options that are definitely super worth it. I have tried most of those places and they are absolutely amazing. I definitely recommend!

  • Tiki Chick, if you’re fine with bar food and want to try some cool cocktails, on 517 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10024.
  • Jacob’s Pickles for a test of Southern food, fried chicken biscuit sandwiches, house-made pickles & beers, on 509 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10024.
  • Bluestone Lanes for a menu in line with modern Australian food trends, and designed with versatility in mind, on 417 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10024.
  • Cravefish Bar, if it is oysters and seafood you are after, on 428 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10024.
  • Tacombi, if you are in the mood for Mexican food, on 377 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10024.
  • Serafina, for some delicious Italian food, on 2178 Broadway, New York, NY 10024.

In all honesty however, Amsterdam Avenue is a succession of amazing restaurants, cafés and bakeries so even if none of the options above suit you, you will still be able to find something you like! Once you’re done with lunch and after a little walk in the Upper West Side, I recommend hop back on the Uptown Tour via any stops along Central Park West.

 
 
 
 
 
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Afternoon

The Uptown Tour will take you through Central Park West to Columbia, Harlem, West Harlem and the the Upper East Side with the museum mile. You can hop off the bus there. There is a lot to see here so you will need to pick and choose. Basically, you have a museum every other block, including:

Central Park East has a lot to offer. I would always recommend going to the MET if you are on your first visit to New York City. Then, I’d suggest spending some time in Central Park because it is one of my favorite places in the city and it feels like stepping in another world. The Park has a lot to offer including:

    • The Harlem Meer and the Conservatory Garden;
    • Bethesda Terrace and Bethesda Fountain;
    • The Bow Bridge, the Lake and Cherry Hill;
    • The Swedish Theater and Shakespeare Village;
    • And more.
 
 
 
 
 
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Dinner

Assuming that you’d spend your afternoon in the Upper East Side and Central Park, I shall think that you’d be around there still at dinner time. You may want to maximize your time in the park and either have a picnic there or dinner at one of the two restaurants: Tavern on the Green and Loeb Boathouse. If you’d like to have dinner in the Upper East Side, here are some options:

  • Bluestone Lanes for a menu in line with modern Australian food trends, and designed with versatility in mind, on 1085 5th Ave, New York, NY 10128.
  • Brasserie Cognac East, for traditional French food, on 963 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10021.
  • Nello, for some Italian food, on 696 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10065.
  • Le Bilboquet, if you are in the mood for French food, on 20 E 60th St, New York, NY 10022.

For some reason, the Upper East Side has a lot of Italian and French brasseries.

Evening

Spending 48h in New York City can quickly become intense. You’d want to make the most of your time and see as much as possible. But a weekend away must also help you relax and rest a bit. So, after two days of exploring New York City, you can end day 2 by simply walking through the streets back to your hotel or accommodation. Walking those avenues is always so great and a very New York experience.

Apparently, real New Yorkers walk everywhere.

How To Spend 48 Hours In New York City

That is it for my guide to spending 48 hours in New York City. I hope this itinerary will help you make the most of your visit and see everything that you want to see in the most convenient way!

Have you been to New York City already? If so, how was it, and what did you see? If not, are you planning a visit soon? Will you want to see some of the attractions and sights mentions in this post?

Thanks a lot for stopping by. Hope you liked this post.

See you soon,
Love,
Corinne.

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