It might not be a lot of time, but visiting New York in 2 days is certainly possible if you’re willing to walk and use your time wisely.
I recently had the opportunity to return to the Big Apple after a good number of years, and be it as it may my feeling is that the city has not changed much and remains as exciting, vibrant and perhaps a little bit overwhelming as it did more than ten years ago.
Where to stay: is There Any Budget Accommodation?
If you only have two days to visit the city like I did staying in the cheaper hotels outside downtown doesn’t really make much sense because you’ll be wasting a lot of precious times commuting back and forth.
Your best bet is to find a hotel that suits your budget in Manhattan (forget about finding something cheap) and if possible in lower Manhattan. Why? During the first day you’ll walk to the attractions that are furthest from your hotel, and on the second day, when you’re a bit tired, you’ll comfortably visit those that are closer to it including the ferry terminals for the Statue of Liberty tours (and any others you might want to join).
I was overwhelmed by accommodation prices in NYC- heck even beds in hostel dorm rooms cost almost 50USD/ night!
Eventually I ended up staying in 101 Hotel, very basic, right by Chinatown, but the 50 USD got me my own room (and Wi-Fi).
Visiting New York in 2 Days on a Budget- Day 1
The Empire State Building
I began my day by walking towards Times Square and suggest you do too. Walking at a comfortable pace will take you more than an hour, and you´ll get to see what the area is like during the day.
Along the way head over to the Empire State Building, certainly one of the city’s most famous attractions and probably around the world too.
I guarantee you’ll have to wait in line no matter what time you go, but during mid morning there’s a better chance that the early morning clouds have been blown away and those that appear in the afternoon because of humidity are still not there.
What does this mean for you? Easy: better views, which equals better pictures. Your visit will last about an hour and the entrance fee costs 25 USD. Expensive, I know- this is why the building made 85 Million dollars from tourists in 2012.
After visiting the Empire Sate building walk to 7th Avenue and head North. Just seven blocks later you’ll reach Times Square, another very popular attraction in the city that reminded me of the streets in Hong Kong .
The place is a little bit crazy, full of people walking from one electronics shop to another or looking for the ultimate bargain at the several outlets there are there.
It’s a great place to hang out for a bit during the day, but to really see Times Square in all its splendor head back during the night, once it’s dark.
Grand Central Terminal
Head East on 42nd and you’ll reach Grand Central Terminal three blocks later. You’ve probably seen this train station many times on TV as it has been featured in countless movies, and there’s a great reason for this if you haven’t realized already.
The huge station was built in 1913 and is the largest train station in the world by number of platforms, and was built colossaly to remind visitors that they where arriving to the most prestigious city in the world: New York City.
The station is not only a simple train station, but also has a market, restaurants and regularly holds exhibitions inside in Vanderbilt Hall.
The Rockefeller Center
Leaving the Grand Central on Park Avenue walk Norht and then turn West on 50th. A few blocks away you’ll see Rockefeller Center, which by itself might not be too amusing, but if you’re visiting the city in winter you might want to try ice skating in its also famous rink.
You’ve heard of it, seen it many times in movies, and it’s certainly an attraction you don’t want to miss even if you’re visiting New York in 2 days. Leaving the ice rink behing head North on 5th or 6th Avenue, and you’ll reach it about 15 minutes later.
Central Park was the first public landscaped park in all of the United States and takes up roughly 843 acres of land, which is roughly 16 billion New York apartments and larger than the principality of Monaco!
Entering it from the South there are three main paths to it, the East, Center and West drives.
Take your time to stroll along, sit on any of the more than 9,000 wood benches it has or, even better, lay on the grass! You’ll see plenty of people running, riding a bicycle, roller skating and ods are you’ll find spontaneous roller skating shows somewhere.
If you’re traveling with kids head over to the carousel which has been there since 1871!
After walking through the city you’ll feel you’re in a different place altogether.
While you might feel like walking across it I don’t recommend you do as it is much bigger than what you think, and you still have to make your way back including a couple of required stops.
I walked around a bit and took a small 20 minute break, shot some pictures and movies, and then began my my walk back towards the Empire State Building and Times Square- again.
What to Visit in New York City at Night on a Budget
Of all the things to see in New York once it gets dark there are two any traveller on a budget should not miss, eventhough you visited them during the day: Times Square and the Empire State Building.
Why? While they are both fascinating during the day there is a lot more happening once it’s dark, and you get to see a different side of the city.
Unfortunately this might mean having to buy another ticket, but not necessarily; if you have a New York CityPASS like I did you get the night ticket for free in the pack (visit has to happen after 10 pm).
On the other hand lines are much thinner and the visit is much more peaceful.
And then there is Times Square. You’ll find thousands of people here looking at all the lights, other people or simply letting time go by with friends, family or the significant other.
By the time I got here I was very tired, my feet were sore and I was ready to head back to the hotel, but the vibe is contagious and I was happy to stick around for a while and watch all the action happening around me.
In a Nutshell
Depending on how fast you walk, how much you time you spend during lunch and how often you get sidetracked it will take you around 10-12 hours to do all this on foot, which means that if you’re visiting with small children or aren’t used to walking there are a few things you’ll have to leave out.
I walked from my hotel after visiting Times Square at night, but if you take a taxi you can easily save an hour right there, as well as if you take a taxi from Central Park to times square.
This however, will keep your visit from being budget friendly! Good news is that all of the attractions you will visit on Day 2 are closer to your hotel- thoughtful planning does help!
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Official site of the Empire State Building http://www.esbnyc.com
Offical site of Central Park http://www.centralparknyc.org/
New York CityPASS http://www.citypass.com/new-york
Offical City Guide for New York http://www.nycgo.com/
My New York CityPASS was provided at no cost to me, which allowed me to re-visit the Empire State Building at night. It includes entrances to 6 attractions including the Empire State Building, four museums and ferry tours, one of which I did the following day to Ellis Island.
Have you been to New York? What do you think of the city? What do you like most? And least? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below, and this post too if you think other might find it useful!