The Big Apple, the first United States capital (okay, for about a year, but still) and the most densely populated city in the country. I’ll start out by saying that if you can spend more than a day in New York City, you definitely should. But if you’re like us and only have 24 hours in this beautiful place, read on for tips to a whirlwind trip.
(NOTE: If you want to do 24-hours in New York solely to take pictures, I would give you very different recommendations for what to do. For us, we wanted a mix of iconic locations, quintessential NYC culture and delicious foods—so our story is below!)
6:00am – ARRIVE AT JFK
I love taking overnight flights—it’s the easiest way to make sure you don’t miss anything and also get an early start. We opted for a redeye flight that was supposed to get in around 6:00am, but due to an impending storm, didn’t land until 8:00am. No matter. We brushed our teeth in the airport bathrooms and then rushed to Brooklyn, backpacks in tow!
MORNING (7-11am) – BROOKLYN
Brooklyn might be one of my favorite areas of New York. Going in, it was a no-brainer to make this our first stop. Grab a coffee or breakfast at one of the many adorably hipster coffee shops (we stopped at Butler Bakeshop and met some friends), and stroll along the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan.
PHOTO SPOT #1: Go to the Washington / Water Cross streets for the iconic street corner shot with the Manhattan Bridge in the background. Word to the wise—Saturday morning is apparently trash day in this part of Brooklyn. Who knew!!
PHOTO SPOT #2: Walk along the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan and snap photos all along the way. I would highly recommend getting here early in the morning on a weekday (around 7:00am) if you want photos without crowds of people in them. However, you can also choose the timing we did—a weekend around 11:00am, but in the MIDDLE of a storm with crazy rain and gusts of wind!!! We were very fortunate(?) to be the only ones on the bridge as we struggled from one end to the other.
(ALTERNATIVE MORNING PLAN: If Brooklyn and bridges aren’t for you, then head straight into Manhattan and stroll around Greenwich Village. If you don’t mind extra walking, the famous flatiron building is only a 20-minute walk away from here as well.)
MIDDAY (11am-2pm) – THE OCULUS / CENTRAL PARK
Once you’ve finished your early morning in Brooklyn and crossed the Brooklyn Bridge, you’re only a 10-15 minute walk away from the Oculus (Westfield World Trade Center). Wander on over to this beautifully designed mall and grab a coffee or do some shopping if you’d like. We stopped in for a just a brief moment to get a shot with the fun architecture (easily photographed from the entrance).
After we were satisfied, we hopped on a train to visit Central Park. Central Park may not be the largest urban park in the world (that title belongs to King’s Park in Perth, Australia), but it just might be the most well-known. You’ve likely seen a film or TV show that had a scene or two filmed here.
At 840 acres, Central Park is still a daunting undertaking for anyone in a rush! But the most notable spots you won’t want to miss include the Bethesda Fountain/Terrace, Boat House and the Bow Bridge.
(ALTERNATIVE NOON PLAN: Go up to the Top of the Rock for one of the best views of the Manhattan skyline! I would recommend this over doing the Empire State Building, because if you’re inside the Empire State Building, you won’t see it as you gaze out at the view.)
AFTERNOON (2-5pm) – BROADWAY
From Central Park we rushed over to Broadhurst Theatre to see a 2:00pm matinee performance of “Anastasia,” one of my favorite childhood films turned into a Broadway musical! If you enjoy musical theater (and even if you don’t), a welcomed and relaxing treat for your eyes, ears, heart and feet is to see a show. A must-do in New York! Plus, this puts you right by Times Square, which you of course MUST see if you’re in New York.
EVENING (6-8pm) – DINNER
Honestly, all food in New York is delicious. It’s so difficult to narrow down what you should eat, but we opted for a delicious pizza dinner at Ribalta. Not only is their Napoli pizza authentic and delicious, but they also have a variety of allergy-friendly options! We compared my gluten-free pizza side by side with a regular pizza, and could not tell the difference at all.
LATE EVENING – SLEEP NO MORE
After dinner, we grabbed a third coffee for the day (needed the caffeine to keep going!) and headed over to the McKittrick Hotel in Chelsea for the critically acclaimed and quirky noir interactive theater experience, “Sleep No More.” Based on Macbeth, this interactive experience has you running up and down five stories of hotel into apothecaries, ballrooms, graveyards and more in search of silent actors playing out scenes before your eyes right in front of you.
No pictures are allowed inside this experience (hence the terrible iPhone shot of the bar area outside the experience). I would highly recommend brushing up on your Shakespeare or looking up the storylines online so that you can better follow what’s happening and choose the actors you want to watch!
(ALTERNATIVE LATE EVENING PLAN: Depending on the time of year it is, hit up one of New York’s many famous rooftop bars!)
After our interactive theater experience, we crashed with a friend in Queens and then headed to the airport bright and early the next day—but not without a traditional New York breakfast: bagels (yes, even a gluten-free one for me)!
All in all, we had a blast with our whirlwind New York experience, and I hope you have fun with yours, too.
ADDITIONAL NYC TIPS
Currency: U.S. Dollar
Transportation: Walking, Taxis, Subway, Lyft/Uber, Bus…there are many options!
Food: Everything in New York is delicious, and you won’t go wrong with whatever you choose to eat. You’d be remiss, however, to miss out on bagels or pizza. Both of these can be enjoyed in a variety of allergy-friendly ways, so don’t worry about your restrictions–whether gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, etc.!