Historic landmarks, world-renowned museums, the flashing lights of Broadway- New York has a few things to offer its 50-plus million tourists each year. But it could take a lifetime to uncover all the sights sounds, smells and tastes of America’s biggest city. Just ask one of its 8.5 million residents, New York is a tough nut to crack.
Some travelers just do not have that kind of time. They need to experience the highlights of New York in a quick, jam-packed trip of a lifetime.
For those who have an extra-long layover or find themselves just driving through, here’s a 24-hour guide to conquering (or at least beginning to experience) New York’s glitziest borough: Manhattan.
Grand Central Terminal Audio Tour
Travelers taking the train in from one of the region’s nearby cities should take it all the way to Grand Central Station, New York’s transit mecca and the largest train station in the world. Unbeknownst to many New Yorkers who pass through every day, the terminal is over a century old and packed with juicy secrets. Grab a headset from a GCT Tour window located on the main concourse for an audio-guided trek through the station. Those who are short on time can opt for the 30-minute express version.
It’s breakfast time, which in New York means it’s bagel time. Head west on 42nd Street from Grand Central and south on Fifth Avenue to walk through part of New York’s famed high-end shopping district. Turn west again on 35th and walk 2.5 city blocks to Best Bagel & Coffee. Fuel up here or grab some lox to go and get to Penn Station at 34th Street and 7th Avenue. Hop on the IRT Broadway-Seventh Avenue Line 1 Train going north. Next stop: Columbus Circle.
Central Park Bicycle rentals
Welcome to Central Park. Several bicycle rental companies are waiting near Columbus Circle at the corner of 59th Street and Central Park West. Snag an hourly rental and head deep into the trees or follow the trails to the zoo on the east side of the park near 65th Street. Take in a Zen moment at the Strawberry Fields memorial honoring Beatles legend John Lennon at the Columbus Circle corner of the park when it’s time to return the bikes.
Empire State Building
Get back on the same subway line, this time headed south to 34th Street Herald Square. Look up and find the Empire State Building. Now book it! It’s almost 11:30 a.m. and that’s when the lines start to get really long here! Take the elevator up 1,250 feet for the highest view of New York City (the radio antenna sits at a city-high 1,467-feet).
That bagel and coffee are wearing off and it’s time to eat again. A 12-minute walk or 7-minute subway ride on the M1 or M2 south will bring visitors to the heart of the Flatiron District with several lunch options. For pastrami and sour pickle fans out to see where Harry Met Sally, head back to the subway at Herald Square and take a 15-minute ride on the F line to 2nd Avenue. Five blocks east on Houston Street, enter Katz’s Delicatessen. Take a ticket and DON’T LOSE IT until lunch is OVER. For foodies who are looking to spend their 24-hours eating and drinking through Manhattan, check out the Food on Foot tours instead.
9/11 Tribute Center
If there is any place during this 24-hour, non-stop day of sight-seeing to really slow down and take everything in, it’s here. Visit the Gallery or take the 1-hour 15-minute guided tour of the 9/11 Memorial, led by survivors, first responders, and family members of loved ones lost on that tragic day in American history. Gallery visits are $15 per adult and $5 for children ages 8-12 and guided tours are $25 for adults, $10 for children. Tours are often booked out days or weeks in advance, so book ahead of time.
Staten Island Ferry
From the 9/11 Tribute Center, take the 1 Train south to the tip of Manhattan, South Ferry Station. For those with time and energy to walk, there is a photo opportunity with the Charging Bull on Wall Street between the two stops. Ferries depart from the Whitehall Terminal in Manhattan every half hour. No tickets are necessary, but there may be lines to board. Ferry-goers will get great views of the Statue of Liberty and of the Manhattan skyline. Passengers must get off the ferry on Staten Island but are generally allowed right back on the same boat headed back.
Grab a Slice
It’s time for dinner and this 24-hour guide has yet to stop anywhere near a slice of New York style pizza. A short walk from South Ferry Station toward Hanover Square is Adrienne’s Pizza Shop at 54 Stone Street. Since there’s nowhere to go but north, there are a string of places to grab a slice on the way up to New York’s iconic Times Square.
Times Square, Broadway
After a full day of stuffy subway cars and walking long city blocks, it’s time to take a load off. First, snap a few photos in Times Square to properly mark this 24-hour trip that has flown by. Then head over to one of the city’s top Broadway shows. Whether it’s a long-time favorite like the Lion King or Fiddler on the Roof, or one of the popular, newer additions to the theater scene like Book of Mormon or Finding Neverland, finishing the day at the theatre will be the perfect ending to 24-hours of non-stop, Big Apple fun.
New York may be the city that never sleeps, but after this quick trip, you will be happy you still do.