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Stopover Guide: How to spend 48-Hours in New York City

what to do on a layover in New York City | what to do on a stopover in NYC | 48 hours in New York

New York, New York: so nice they named it twice. As one of America’s biggest cities and home to two airports (three if you count New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport just across the border), it makes sense to plan a stopover in this incredible city.

But where to begin?! I’ve put together a list of some of the cities must try sights to ensure you have an unforgettable 48 hours in New York City!

PS: Want to see New York’s sights but save big?
A New York City Pass is the perfect stopover companion!

view from One World Observatory | 48-hours in New York City

What to do with 48-hours in New York City

This is my suggested itinerary for a 48-hour layover in New York City:

Start your day Downtown

Start your day like New Yorkers do and grab a strong coffee and a bagel before you join the hustle and bustle – there’s no time to waste on a stopover in New York!

There’s a reason New Yorkers rave about their bagels. Light, fluffy (they will swear it’s the water), and budget-friendly. Depending on where you choose to sleep in New York, I have a few choices.

While Katz’s Delicatessen is a must-see and must-taste, the lines can be long and price expensive. Nearby 2nd Avenue Deli provides an authentic Jewish culinary experience without the line.
If you are closer to Times Square, I’m a fan of the ‘everything bagel’ at Best Bagel and Coffee on 5th Avenue, toasted and taken to-go.

From there head south to Downtown New York. A sombre but fitting place to start your trip is the Ground Zero and the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. Pay your respects to the nearly 3,000 people who lost their lives on that fateful day. It’s a moving experience and the tranquillity of an early morning visit here seems well-suited for the occasion.

After you leave Ground Zero, head to One World Observatory to get a birds-eye view of the city. Take part in the virtual reality (VR) experience which will see you flying over the city in a helicopter. More of a foodie? Discover the best little known restaurants in the city, or just enjoy the incredible New York skyline.
You can also take in a sky-high dining experience. Join One Mix & Dine for lunch, dinner or a drink on the 101st floor!

Other cool activities to see and do in downtown New York:

  • See the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island – take the free Staten Island Ferry if you want to enjoy New York’s harbour. If you want to see Lady Liberty up close, book ahead of time to ensure you have tickets to climb the Statue of Liberty!
  • Stop by the New York Stock Exchange – one of the world’s top financial markets. Don’t miss out of seeing the ‘Charging Bull’, the bronze bull sculpture that stands in Bowling Green.
  • Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge – take the walk across the iconic bridge that connects Manhattan and Brooklyn. Feeling peckish after that walk? Have lunch at the stunning River View Cafe on the Brooklyn waterfront before riding the ferry back to Manhattan.
  • Shop at Century 21 – looking to bag a bargain to take home? Century 21 is where the locals go to find designer clothes at up to 65% retail price!

Find out how to get tickets to the Statue of Liberty when they are sold out!

central park in fall| 48-hours in New York City

Get back to nature in the City

After the rush hour has subsided somewhat, head to Grand Central Terminal on your way to your next stop.  One of the busiest train stations in North America, this station is a place that’s always in motion, just like the city itself. A terminal tour will show you popular and hidden gems — like the whispering wall.

Next, head to Central Park. This sprawling urban park is over 840 acres, so rent a bike and explore on two wheels! If you prefer to walk, take a guided walking tour and enjoy the lush greenery for a couple of hours before lunch.

There are many landmarks in and around the park:

  • The Pond – a serene spot in the park’s southeast corner offers a retreat from the bustling city streets. It’s also where the famous Gapstow Bridge, which you’ll likely recognise from photos and films, is located.
    The view of Gapstow Bridge, Central Park with the Plaza Hotel and city skyscrapers flanking it is one of the most iconic sights in the city. (Really elevate your New York getaway by booking into this iconic NYC hotel!)
  • Strawberry Fields – the peaceful retreat was created in memory of John Lennon, who lived (and was murdered) just across the street. The centrepiece is the Imagine Mosaic, often decorated with flowers by devoted Lennon fans.
  • Belvedere Castle – perched high on. a hill, this stone castle gives visitors magnificent views of the park and city beyond.
  • Central Park Zoo – this popular attraction allows visitors to view animals from three global zones – tropical, temperate and polar. The nearby Children’s Zoo allows little ones to interact with goats, sheep, cows and other domestic animals.
  • Wollman Rink – this seasonal rink is open each winter. Rent ice skates and experience the magic of ice skating with some of New York’s most iconic buildings as your backdrop.
view from the top of the rock | 48-hours in New York City

Get Sky High for Sunset

It’s not an easy decision, choosing between heading up the Empire State Building or to Top of the Rock. Both viewpoints offer pros and cons, and odds are that your New York travel plans don’t allow time to visit both.

I recommend visiting the Empire State Building if you want classic views of the New York skyline and the best views of Lower Manhattan and the Financial District. Oh, and it’s the tallest of the two Midtown viewing points. Also, the Empire State Building has a fascinating history! Learn more about this iconic building as you make your way to the top. One con is that the lines can be long!

Top of the Rock is brilliant if you want the Empire State Building in your photos. It’s also perfect for beautiful photos of Central Park and if you don’t want the crisscross wiring installed at the Empire State Building to distract from your photos. While you are at Top of the Rock, take the opportunity to do The Tour at NBC Studios to learn more about the production of TV shows and television history!

HOT TIP: For the best photos make sure you arrive at the
Empire State Building or Rockefeller Center around
90-minutes before sunset for the best photo opportunities!

how to get cheap tickets to broadway shows

A Night Out in NYC

A trip to New York wouldn’t be complete with a stop by Broadway. After grabbing dinner at one of the many Hell’s Kitchen restaurants, continue towards Times Square to see a show.

Hot tip: Want to see a show but tickets a little on the expensive side?
A few shows host Broadway lottery drawings for seats at a deep discount.

Be sure to spend some time in Times Square. While some may say it’s touristy, I have a particularly soft spot for the place and make sure I spend some time there on every layover in New York I have!

If your stopover in New York City is on the weekend, consider going down Greenwich Village to catch a late-night comedy show. If you can’t get into the big-name spots like the Comedy Cellar, walk around the nearby streets and a low-price – or even free! – show may have door tickets. While the quality of the show varies, I have had many a good night at The Lantern Comedy Club with their cheap margaritas and eclectic mix of comedians.

visiting the statue of liberty in winter | 48-hours in New York City

If you have a little extra time

Choose one if you are short on time or choose a few if you manage to wrangle more than 48-hours in the city:

  • Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island – a must-do experience during your experience to NYC. Be sure to check out the brand new Statue of Liberty Museum while you are there. Click here to find tickets.
  • United Nations Headquarters – take a guided tour of the UN Headquarters for a behind-the-scenes look at the space and learn more about the work they do. Remember to bring your passport!
  • Greenwich Village – referred to simply as ‘the Village’ by locals was the epicentre of NYC’s 1960s counterculture movement. Now home to jazz clubs, Off-Broadway theatres and NYU, this is a great place to explore small boutiques and cheap eats in an area that locals love!
  • Natural History Museum – located in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, this NYC institution is dedicated to exploring human cultures, the natural world and the known universe. A great rainy day activity for the young, the young at heart, and the curious.
  • New York Museum of Modern Art – one of the largest and most influential museums of modern art in the world, come spend hours gazing upon works by the likes of Dali and Warhol in the middle of NYC.
  • Spyscape – this interactive museum combines true stories and relics of spy agencies – like the CIA and M6 – espionage technics, with movie memorabilia and interactive games. Great fun to unleash your inner child or spy!
cheap hotel in New York | 48-hours in New York City

Where to stay on a stopover in New York City

With so much to see and do, you’ll be spoilt for choice when choosing where you book your stay in New York City!

The best place to stay in Times Square:

New York hotels can be expensive so save your dollars but upgrading yourself to the futuristic YOTEL Times Square. With compact rooms being functional (your bed can double as a couch with a push of the button!), these rooms are in the perfect central location for a 24-hour or 48-hour stopover in NYC with a price your wallet will be happy about!

boutique hotel in Midtown New York | 48-hours in New York City

Where to stay with friends in New York City:

The hip design and excellent Midtown location of the Moxy NYC Times Square make this a great spot to choose if you are travelling with friends.
Be steps away from the glittering lights of Times Square and Broadway, close to subway stations to get you across town, and plenty of late-night eats like Shake Shack!

With free and fast WiFi, rain showers, smart TVs and a very cool rooftop bar – the largest of its kind in NYC, you’ll be perfectly prepared to take on New York City from this location. Make sure to take advantage of the lolly cart available for guests each evening in the lobby!

where to stay in New York with views of the Statue of Liberty | 48-hours in New York City

Where to stay with views of the Statue of Liberty;

Treat yourself to a room with a view on your New York City stopover when you book into the Marriott New York Downtown! Some rooms enjoy views of New York harbor and Liberty Island.

While rooms with a view will cost extra, unlike most other hotels with views of the Statue of Liberty, you can see her from standard rooms and not just suites.

The convenient location is perfect for exploring the southern tip of Manhattan before heading back to one of New York’s airports to continue your journey!

TWA Hotel at JFK Airport | 48-hours in New York City

The coolest hotel near JFK Airport:

Set in the iconic former TWA flight center designed by architect Eero Saarinen (who also designed this gem!), TWA Hotel is a chic airport hotel on the ground of John F. Kennedy International Airport. With modern rooms in a retro-style, this is a great place to stay in you have an early flight. Enjoy a comfortable nights sleep in this historic hotel or geek out if you love aviation – many rooms have views of the runway!

While you are there, be sure to have a drink inside the Connie Cocktail Lounge. Connie – the sleek Lockheed Constellation, now cocktail bar – services up vintage-inspired cocktails onboard.

how to get from New York Airports to Manhattan | 48-hours in New York City

How to get from New York’s Airports to Manhattan

It might seem complicated to get from New York’s Airports to Manhattan, but with a little research, you’ll find it surprisingly easy. This is how to get from JFK airport, Newark airport, and LaGuardia airport to Manhattan.

The easiest: taxi or ridesharing

By far the easiest way to reach Manhattan from any airport is by taxi. They have set fare prices depending on where in the city you are travelling so you know the price up-front. If departing any of the airports make sure to get the taxi stand receipt. This denotes the price (from JFK it costs $52, including tolls but not tip) on it. Some drivers have tried to rip me off in the past so stand firm!

If you seek ease, consider riding with your favourite rideshare app. Uber and Lyft reign supreme in the States.

For comfort but saving big: Shared airport shuttle

Want comfort and convenience without having to navigate the NYC subway system? Then book yourself onto a shared shuttle.

I prefer to use Super Shuttle who offer shared transfers from all New York Airports, starting at just USD$17/person or discounted. Rides are available 24-hours a day, though wait times for shared transfers at night may vary.

For those on a tight budget: public transport

How to get to JFK Airport by public transport:

Located in Queens, one of the cheapest ways to get to JFK Airport is by taking the AirTrain.

If you are staying in Midtown, board the LIRR at Penn Station and take the train to Jamaica Station in around 20-minutes. From there, transfer onto the AirTrain which will take you to all of JFK’s terminals in 12-15 minutes.

You can also take the E train to the LIRR/JFK Airport Airtrain (Sutphin Blvd) station and connect onto the AirTrain, but this ride will take around 45-minutes.

You will have to pay twice for this service (first for the Subway and then USD$7.50 for the AirTrain) but your yellow Metrocard will work on both services.

How to get to LaGuardia Airport by public transport:

Located on the other side of the borough than JFK, Queen’s-based LaGuardia Airport is the only major NYC airport with no direct rail link.

Take the M60 bus from all terminals at LaGuardia airport bus to 125th street in Manhattan, which allows for a free transfer onto the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, A, C, and D subway lines. Alternatively, you could take one of several Q buses to the N, Q, and R or E and F lines in Queens.

How to get to Newark Airport by public transport:

Newark Liberty International Airport is located in New Jersey, just across the New York border. There are numerous options to connect you to Newark Airport from Manhattan but the easiest is taking the NJ AirTrain.

The NJ AirTrain connects passengers from all terminals with NJTransit and Amtrak train station, both of which will bring you into Manhattan.

HOT TIP: with so many airports on the USA’s East Coast,
it’s easy to bag a bargain-priced flight if you shop around!
Click here to read how to find the cheapest flights!


Read these to help plan your NYC stopover!

City Guide: New York City

How to save money in New York City

Super Hero Movie Tour in New York City


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