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NYC in 24 Hours, or Less

If you tell someone you’re going to New York City for a day, they’ll probably chuckle, look at you, and say, “You need a whole week!” Truth is, we’re in college. We don’t have a lot of time, and sometimes a weekend day trip is all we need for a refreshing study break.

After taking two 12-hour trips to the Big Apple, I’ve compiled a guide on how you should explore the city, where the best photo ops are, and tips and tricks to make the most of your short getaway!


Most of the things that you’ll want to see in NYC tend to be in different boroughs of the city. In order to optimize your time, I highly recommend using Map Customizer to plan out all the spots you want to hit. Not only can you number the places you pin and arrange them as you go, you can also save your map to view at a later time, and name each pin.

For some locations, you might not be able to pinpoint a specific address (like the Brooklyn Bridge, for example). If you want the city in the background, you’ll need to be on the Brooklyn side of the Brooklyn Bridge, so I added a restaurant in Brooklyn by the bridge so an accurate depiction of the destination is on the map.


MTA discontinued their single day unlimited use pass a few years ago (unfortunate!), so you’ll need a MetroCard for the day. The card itself is $1, and you can add predetermined amounts at the station, or add any amount you want. A single ride is $2.75.

Most places are actually relatively close. Don’t trust what your phone or Google Maps says because it does not take 40 minutes to walk half a mile. Walk to the destinations that are closer to each other, and save the Metro for longer stretches (I would say two miles or more). You can also grab cool pictures along the way!

Uber or Lyft can be expensive (obviously) but if you are with a large group of people and you’re in a rush, it might be worth it to call one rather than find a metro station.

What To Bring

These are the 3 things you ABSOLUTELY need (besides obvious things like phone and credit card)

1. Water:  You will get thirsty after doing a lot of walking. Pack a small water bottle in your purse or bag to make sure you stay hydrated throughout the day.

2. Charger and portable battery: Most restaurants will actually have outlets that you can use to recharge. A portable battery is also a smart idea, though, in case the restaurants you visit don’t have outlets. Just make sure to charge it the night before!

3. Around $10-$15 cash: No one carries around cash anymore, but you should in New York! Most of the smaller shops have cheap deals on souvenirs (10 postcards for $1), but they don’t take cards on purchases smaller than $10, so having cash on hand will be handy.

City Views

New York is home to some of the most breathtaking views of the concrete jungle.

However, don’t go up to the top of the Empire State Building. I know, the Empire State Building is just the place everyone goes to in New York but the fact of the truth is, you don’t get the best photos or viewing from its observation deck. The platform has cross-hatched fencing, the tickets are the most expensive, and it’s always the most crowded.

Instead, consider visiting the Top of the Rock (Rockefeller Center) or One World Observatory (One World Trade Center)

The Top of the Rock features three floors observation decks, one open-air and two with glass panels. You get the view of the Empire State Building right across, which captures the pulse of the city perfectly. The tower viewers are also a great prop to take a photo with!

The One World Observatory is the highest in the Northern Hemisphere. From the top, your view of the city is absolutely breathtaking, jaw-dropping, and heart-stopping. You get the view of the Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Williamsburg bridges, the Statue of Liberty, and the concrete jungle that is New York City.

Great Photo Spots

LOVE and HOPE Sculptures:

Located a short walk from Times Square, both these sculptures are nice surprises tucked away in corners of the city.

The Oculus:

Stunning and futuristic, the balcony at the Oculus is a hot spot for photos. The mall itself has great stores, and the sleek white building is great to walk through in general.

The High Line:

Although prettier in the summer when the plants are blooming, the High Line is one of those places that you can get somewhere with as well as get great views of Chelsea. As you are suspended midway throughout the city, you get to walk through and feel the city life buzz by around you.

McGraw-Hill Waterfall:

This location is only open during warmer months because in the winter the water has the possibility of freezing over. The secret spot, tucked away in the back of the McGraw-Hill building on 6th Avenue, runs behind the building from 48th St to 49th St.

The Flatiron Building:

The Flatiron is one of the most popular icons of New York. This building is great to pay a visit to get a good photo and appreciate the interesting architectural landmark. Make sure you look both ways before crossing if you want to get a picture in the middle of the street!

Some last minute pointers:

  • Use Pinterest! You can find a lot of good recommendations, I personally used it to plan my trips and since a lot of pins are blog posts, you can get an unfiltered review of where to go and where not to go.

  • The Guggenheim Museum is open 5:45-7:45 on Saturday nights with a pay-what-you-wish admission price. If you find yourself bored after dinner, it’s worth a quick stop by to kill time before you head back home!

  • If there’s even a slight chance of rain in the forecast, bring a light rain jacket. Better safe than sorry!

Well, there you have it! Some quick tips and tricks on tackling New York City in one day or less. So, when are you planning your trip out to the 212?


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Geneve is a sophomore studying public relations at Boston University with a minor in business. When she isn't writing, she enjoys exploring Boston and documenting good coffee shops on her @bean_happens account on Instagram.
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