What to see in NYC when you have only one day or part of a day? What if you have many hours between connecting flights, or you have just disembarked from a cruise? NYC.com has the perfect tour for you. We begin this tour in Midtown West where most cruise ships dock, but you can begin it at an airport or the port in Red Hook, head to Manhattan, and end at any time. For more in-depth look at neighborhoods, stop the tour as you see fit.
First, you'll want to consider what do you with your luggage
. While the options since 9/11 are more limited, we offer some suggestions HERE
. If you consider using a taxi for an hour or more, you could negotiate a rate with the driver. This way you can keep your luggage in the trunk. Better might be to phone a car service and get an hourly rate. Although most have a two-hour minimum, it's the easiest way to ensure your luggage is safe and sound as well as having a reputable driver and an agreed-upon price for services. After two hours, you could break for lunch and hire a different car or head to the airport. Or keep the same car and driver all day! Two well known car companies that can arrange services on short notice are Carmel
at (800) 9-CARMEL or (212) 666-6666 as well as Dial7
at (800) 222-9888 or (212) 777-7777.
Of course, if you are arriving at and departing from the same airport, you could rent a car, but given the amount of time this takes as well as the hassles of driving in Manhattan (as well as trying to see the attractions), this is not a great option.
Our tour proceeds as follows: Midtown West - West Side Highway - Hudson River waterfront - Chelsea - Meatpacking District - World Trade Center area - Battery Park - Financial District - South Street Seaport - Chinatown - SoHo/Little Italy - Greenwich Village - Empire State Building - Times Square - Central Park (carriage optional) - Museum Mile - airport.
Obviously the pace of your tour depends heavily on the time of day and day of the week. While you'll be no match for rush-hour traffic, Sundays are particularly tranquil days to enjoy this tour (although you might get delayed near one of NYC's many Sunday parades on Fifth Avenue). For those who prefer a combination of walking, buses and subways, you can certainly do this tour as well. Keep in mind that a day card valid on all buses and subways is only $7, and is only available from vending machines inside subway stations. Do make sure to ask the subway booth clerk for a free subway map as well as a free Manhattan bus map.
New York historically was a maritime city, so a great place to start your whirlwind tour is in Midtown at the Hudson River near 46nd Street. Have a look at the famous Intrepid Air-Sea Museum
moored at West 46th Street. We now will proceed south towards Battery Park at the southernmost tip of Manhattan. After you pass the West 30th Street heliport, the new Hudson River Park
begins to unfold in all its glory. One of Manhattan's wonders of the new millennium is this beautiful waterfront esplanade, which now features a bike path that extends all the way around the circumference of the island. This section features great views of New Jersey, and in the distance to the south you'll soon see the Statue of Liberty in the harbor. Meanwhile, stay alert for some interesting architecture. As you head into Chelsea
, you'll pass some of the dozens of art galleries that have opened here in recent years. Moreover, have a look at the uniquely-shaped off-white panels of the Richard Gehry-designed building across from the Chelsea Piers complex at West 19th Street. This neighborhood, sometimes also called far-west Chelsea, is in transition as the formerly derelict New York Central overhead railway line is being transformed into the world's first major metropolitan elevated park, called the High Line
If the architecture and galleries beckon you to stop for a bit, make a detour and check out our restaurant
and art gallery
recommendations in the area. Galleries of particular interest are: Barbara Gladstone, Paula Cooper, Anton Kern, Gagosian, and the Chelsea Art Museum, between West 26th and West 22nd Streets. For a delightful meal in an intimate and charming setting, try Tia Pol
nearby on Tenth Avenue just north of West 22nd Street. Or detour somewhat further to Ninth Avenue for excellent French sandwiches and pastries at La Bergamote
. You'll also find two interesting and unique bookstores here, 192 Books
and Printed Matter
, conveniently right across the street from each other on Tenth Avenue.
As you proceed further south on the West Side Highway (which becomes West Street), three large glass towers soon catch your eye: designed by Richard Meier, the stunning architecture nevertheless doesn't allow for much privacy. Nicole Kidman is among the famous residents here. Looking at the Hudson River Park, you'll notice some of the piers jutting out into the river are under repair, but one particularly old one might remind you of the famous movie "On the Waterfront". While shipping has shifted to the Port of Newark and manufacturing gone overseas, there are still numerous old warehouses along West Street, and the area is quite picturesque. You might choose to walk along the waterfront for a few minutes here and soak up the scenery. In summertime, the manicured lawns, flower beds and food carts with outdoor seating give you a feeling of being at the seashore! Lots of evening and weekend events take place on the piers. Meanwhile, in addition to warehouses, you'll see some meatpacking plants, and that's how this area got its name as the Meatpacking District
. These days, however, the area is more well-known for its expensive boutiques, tony hotels, lavish restaurants
and luxurious nightspots
Continuing south, after another mile or so you will pass Canal Street, to the east is Chinatown
and to the south is the Tribeca
historic district. If you're interested in combining some walking, shopping and eating, you'll find our walking tour of Canal Street and Chinatown
both fascinating and well worth the time. Or continue further south down West Street, and you'll soon enter the Financial District. It is here that New York's now most-popular and morbid tourist attraction can be found: The World Trade Center
site. While the new 7 World Trade Center has been finished, you'll notice the big dig around Ground Zero continues in earnest. Take a few minutes to walk around the site and experience this harrowing reminder of 9/11. Oddly enough, many people combine their World Trade Center site visit with shopping across Cortlandt Street at the Century 21 department store
, considered one of New York's best-kept secrets. Great prices on designer clothes can be found here.
Now you are in the heart of lower Manhattan, and America's 18th century history comes alive here. From nearby City Hall
to the Woolworth Building to St. Paul's Chapel
, you'll find classic examples of American architecture here.
First though, on to Battery Park
and a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty
and Ellis Island
. En route, you'll pass by Battery Park City
, some nifty high-rises that came to life when the original World Trade Center site was being constructed; this section of Manhattan was built on over one million cubic yards of excavated earth. It also has a great park. Parking is not so convenient near Battery Park, and you might choose a location to meet your driver after a quick walk around to take photographs of Lady Liberty and to see the sights here, which include Castle Clinton
and the Staten Island Ferry
terminal. Note that the ferry is free, if you have an extra hour to spare and want wonderful views of the harbor. Tours are available of nearby Governors Island
, which in conjunction with the National Park Service is progressing towards an ambitious historic preservation.
As we continue around the Battery and into the Financial District, here in America's financial capital you'll find many tall towers interspersed among historic buildings. This might be a good time for a break, whether at Fraunces Tavern
, where George Washington bid farewell to his troops, or for a more lavish spread at Harry's Cafe & Steak
at the foot of historic Stone Street. The most famous attractions in the area are both on historic Wall Street, the New York Stock Exchange
and Federal Hall
(neither of which your vehicle will be able to drive by). In addition, the nearby Federal Reserve Bank
offers one of the most fascinating tours in New York, but only by advance appointment. It's a classic example of neo-Renaissance architecture. If your time is running short, you might opt to head out to JFK or LaGuardia airports via the nearby Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, or proceed back to Canal Street for the Holland Tunnel to Newark airport.
We proceed up South Street to the famous seaport
that takes its name, where in addition to numerous ships, a museum and quaint shops you'll find a number of terrific new restaurants right on South Street and Peck Slip. Travelling northwards up South Street along the splendid East River, you'll notice several historic bridges in the distance, the most famous of which is the Brooklyn Bridge
, the world's first steel suspension bridge. Further afield you'll see the Manhattan Bridge and Williamsburg Bridge.
At this point, you might decide where you want to focus your remaining time, whether on historic neighborhoods such as Chinatown, Greenwich Village, or head directly to Midtown. For argument's sake, we expect you want to see all three: A left turn at the Manhattan Bridge onto Pike Street quickly takes you into Chinatown proper. Nearby you'll find many terrific restaurants, interesting stores, some Buddhist temples and bustling Canal Street
. You might choose to follow our Canal Street tour in reverse and then head to Greenwich Village, or instead just drive through a portion of Chinatown and find a great restaurant
, then proceed north to SoHo
and Little Italy
From Pike Street you will proceed west on Canal Street for this fascinating look into eastern Chinatown, where different ethnic groups from across the Chinese-speaking world mix and meet. You'll find Fujianese, Malaysians, Cantonese and even Tibetans here. The massive Republic National Bank at Canal Street and Bowery across from the Manhattan Bridge was once a famous tavern where George Washington was seen. Have a look at it as well as the huge yellow façade of the Mahayana Buddhist Temple across the street. If you are hungry, right next door is Grand Sichuan Canal
, a great place for hot pot as well as cheap lunch specials.
While the Bowery is no longer the ramshackle row of downtrodden it once was, lots of new Chinese businesses thrive at this end, and many hot nightclubs and restaurants can be found amidst the restaurant-supply stores in the middle and northern reaches. You might opt to turn on to the Bowery as you proceed to Little Italy, or instead continue on Canal Street to Mulberry Street, turning right into Little Italy's most famous block of restaurants and cafes.
While Little Italy is no longer the huge ethnic enclave it once was, many famous places remain, such as the dairy and pasta stores on Grand Street, Lombardi's
coal-oven pizza (one of America's most famous pizzerias) on Spring Street, and numerous other favorite places such as Ciao Bella
gelato on Mott Street.
Regardless of whether you proceeded up the Bowery or Mulberry Street, make your left turn on Prince Street and head towards Broadway, where you'll find the famous gourmet food store Dean & Deluca
at the corner. You'll definitely want to have a look around, if not a brief visit to the beautiful espresso bar for a quick coffee drink and a pastry. Also note the take-out sushi and prepared foods like roast chicken are fantastic—and would make a great meal to take on the plane with you.
Proceeding across Prince Street, you'll find so many luxurious boutiques and charming stores that you might want to linger. You could always check out the cross streets, for example by turning left on to Wooster Street, then left again on to Spring Street, and proceeding all the way back again into Little Italy.
We assume you want a look at Greenwich Village's quaint streets and charming townhouses, so continue on Prince Street, which becomes Charlton Street at Sixth Avenue. You'll go two blocks further to Hudson Street and make a right.
This is the village that sociologist Jane Jacobs loved so much and wrote about in her famous book "The Death and Life of Great American Cities". Here you'll see neighbors interacting with each other while walking their dogs, at the local newsstand, outside the many bars and restaurants, and tending to their beloved flowers. And it's here that Manhattan's famous grid goes in so many directions, where's you'll find an intersection of West Fourth and West 12th Streets, where tiny blocks like Commerce Street take unexpected turns, and multimillion-dollar townhouses are adjacent to cheap rent-controlled apartments. For a nice overview, proceed up Hudson to Bleecker Street, make a sharp right, then proceed on Bleecker all the way back down to Sixth Avenue. As you do, you'll see a number of famous locales, including Magnolia Bakery
with its cupcakes made infamous by the TV show "Sex & The City".
The most famous block of Bleecker Street, however, is between Seventh and Sixth Avenues, and with everyone from the butcher (Ottomanelli) to baker (Amy's Bread), as well as ice cream artisans (Cones) and cheesemonger (Murray's) and pizzeria (John's). Several Italian bakeries compete for your dessert dollar here, and the entire block is absolutely worth your time.
We assume at this point you're a bit exhausted from so much sightseeing, and the rest of the program is simple: Head up Sixth Avenue to Midtown. At the corner of 34th Street, you're at Macy's
, the world-famous department store like no other. Stop in quickly, or instead turn right and face the towering Empire State Building
just a block away at Fifth Avenue. No time to visit the Empire State? No problem! Numerous vendors in the area sell postcards and miniature replicas of it.
Time to backtrack on 34th Street to Eighth Avenue, where you'll see our world-famous General Post Office, a fine example of architects McKim, Mead & White. Directly across the street is Madison Square Garden. At present, there are plans in the works for the post office to become the new Moynihan Rail Station and possibly for The Garden to relocate to the back of the post office. Proceeding up Eighth Avenue, the hustle and bustle of Midtown becomes apparent, and by the time you hit 42nd Street you might think you're starring in a Broadway musical. With so many theaters
and gigantic stores and oversized restaurants nearby, Times Square is like New York on steroids, where everything is supersized. Take a good look, then keep on going up Eighth Avenue to Columbus Circle. The massive Time Warner Center will be at your left, a gleaming glass structure housing some of New York's most elegant restaurants and stores.
Your car will proceed up Central Park West so you can get a nice look at the luxurious apartment buildings and famous museums. One you arrive at West 77th Street, the well-known statue of President Teddy Roosevelt on a horse greets you in front of the American Museum of Natural History,
and further afield around the corner at West 81st Street is the attached planetarium
, a gorgeous and enormous shimmering glass box. Take a peek inside, and then cross through Central Park at West 86th Street. This transverse allows you to see a slight cross-section of Manhattan's beloved park, itself worth a day trip. Of course, you can get out and have a walk through the park if you prefer.
You'll exit the park at Fifth Avenue, and here get a brief glimpse of stunning Fifth Avenue, here known as the Museum Mile
. Make a right on Fifth Avenue and you'll be at the Metropolitan Museum
, New York's largest and most famous museum. If you have some remaining time, make a left onto one of these wonderful side streets and admire the fascinating architecture of these beautiful town houses. We offer an entire walking tour
of the museums and Central Park area as well as lower Fifth Avenue
. If time is more pressing, then proceed up Madison Avenue to East 96th Street, then back over to Fifth Avenue to see more museums between 96th and 86th Streets. You definitely would not want to miss the Guggenheim between East 88th and 89th Streets! From here, it's a quick trip via the Triborough Bridge or Midtown Tunnel to LaGuardia and JFK airports. We hope you enjoyed your whirlwind tour of New York and we expect to see you here again soon when you have more time!