Is it possible to see a lot of New York City in a little time, on a budget?
Thanks again to CityPASS for my media pass. This article contains affiliate links.
It’s definitely possible to cram in a lot of sightseeing in a little time in New York City! With a little planning and by using the following tips, you can maximize your time and see a lot of cool things in NYC.
I was joined by Christa from Pure Vida Moms for a full-throttle visit to NYC cramming in as much as possible in a day and a half.
We attended TMS Family Travel Conference in Newark and decided to extend our stay for an extra night to spend time in the City.
Check Google Flights For All NYC Area Airports
When I did my search for the conference I found that flights to Newark Airport were cheaper than into NYC. My airfare also did not change by adding on an extra day.
If you do fly into Newark you can use public transportation to get to New York City straight from the airport.
Use Public Transportation & Be Prepared to Walk A Lot
New York City has a great public transportation system that can take you from the airport into the city. You don’t need to rent a car or use rideshare unless you really want to.
If you are flying into Newark, New Jersey you can use the train from the airport to get to New York.
You will definitely get your steps in during a visit to New York. It’s important to make sure that you wear REALLY comfortable shoes that you can walk for miles in.
Another perk of riding the subway in NYC is that you never know what you might see!
Purchase an Unlimited Metro Card
An unlimited Metro Card is the best value if you are visiting more than 1 day. The card gives you access to public transportation by bus or subway train.
You can purchase your Metro card at the bus or subway station.
During my visit, we spent a lot of time using the subway. I would also recommend riding the Metro bus so that you can see some of the sites from above ground as well.
Use Google Maps On Your Phone to Navigate Public Transportation in New York City
I’ll admit that I was a bit overwhelmed with public transportation at the beginning of my visit.
Google Maps was a game-changer!
Select the Transit option after you have entered in your desired location. The app will show you the best route options along with the route times.
See More of the NYC Attractions and Save Money with a CityPASS
If you plan on visiting multiple attractions in NYC, a CityPASS can help you cross off the big attractions at significant savings.
The NYC CityPASS Admission Includes
- Empire State Building
- American Museum of Natural History
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art
- Top of the Rock Observation Deck OR Guggenheim Museum
- Ferry Access to Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island OR Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises
- 9/11 Memorial & Museum OR Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
Many of the attractions have a separate line for CityPASS users which will also save you time.
How to Get the Most Out of Your NYC CityPASS
To make the best use of your CityPASS it helps to be strategic. I would start by prioritizing the attractions and museums that you want to see.
Next, I would make note of each attraction and museum’s hours and location. After that, you will want to check the weather so that you don’t waste a sunny day on an indoor attraction. Once you know the weather and times you have to work with, check the locations on a map.
When you don’t have a lot of time you don’t want to unnecessarily backtrack. You want to see as much as you can while you are in the area and also allow enough time to discover unplanned places along the way.
Get One-Time Admission to 3 Iconic Attractions
- Available exclusively at NYC CityPASS
- Save up to 30% on combined attraction prices
- No need to pick now; select your attractions as you go
- Take your time—CityPASS is valid for 9 consecutive days
- Instant delivery with convenient mobile or printable ticket options
- Skip most ticket lines
- Empire State Building
- Top of the Rock Observation Deck
- Ferry Access to Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
- 9/11 Memorial & Museum
- American Museum of Natural History
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art
- The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) NEW!
- Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises
- Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
- Guggenheim Museum
- Hornblower Sightseeing Cruises
During our day and a half, in NYC we were able to visit the following:
Empire State Building
We went at night and we could have also gone during the day the same day. It was as magical at night as I had hoped it would be. The customer service was excellent by every staff member we encountered.
It also wasn’t as cold as I thought it would be thanks to outdoor heaters we found on one of the sides.
Top of the Rock Observation Deck
We decided to go during the day to get a view of the Empire State Building. I also enjoyed viewing the city from this vantage point.
I highly recommend doing both if you have time.
Ferry Access to Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
I wish we would have had more time to spend here. There is a museum on Liberty Island and at Ellis Island that you could easily spend a few hours at.
9/11 Memorial & Museum
The 9/11 Memorial & Museum can feel overwhelming at times but I’m so glad that we went. It’s a beautiful tribute to the lives lost and heroes of that day and an important reminder to Never Forget.
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
This is the perfect museum to visit during rain or snow. It’s also a short walk from Rockefeller Center.
Free Places to Visit in NYC
Explore Central Park
The Vessel- free (grab a free ticket near the entrance)
Walk the Brooklyn Bridge
Check Out the Bushwick Collective Street Art in Brooklyn
Walk inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Walk Around Times Square at Night
Make Sure that you also climb the red stairs for another perspective of Times Square
Stop by New York City Public Library
Admire the Architecture in Grand Central Station
Walk inside the Oculus
Visit the 9/11 Memorial
Try to eat a few blocks away from the major tourist spots
New York City has so many incredible places to eat. It can honestly be a little overwhelming.
We stumbled upon this great bagel shop called Bagel Belly.
We found this one while walking to another location. The bonus was that I already knew about it from an article on the most Instagramable Food Spots in NYC.
They make hand rolled and kettle boiled bagels. I couldn’t resist this beautiful and delicious rainbow bagel with jalapeno cream cheese.
My friend opted to try two different types of specialty cream cheeses, one on each side. Pretty Genious!
I also recommend checking out Wo Hop in Chinatown.
We ate at the street level location and later learned that the location in the basement has even better food for less.
If you are near the Empire State Building late at night try Little Italy Pizza. You can grab New York-style pizza by the slice for an affordable price.
Formaggi Wonder Wheel is a place that we stumbled upon on accident while we were walking through Midtown. They had me at “cheese wheel.” There is a seating area next to the vendor that also makes a great photo op.
Sign Up to Watch a Live Show for Free
Unfortunately, it didn’t work out to see a taping of a live show during my visit because I only had one morning available.
Before your trip, you will want to get on the list for all of the shows that you are interested in.
You can sign up for free tickets at the 1ioata website has lots of shows to choose from that are filmed in New York City.
How to Save on Your Hotel in New York City
Depending on when you are visiting you might be able to take advantage of last-minute deals.
We booked a room for a Sunday night in November at the Pod. We saved money by booking directly through their site vs by phone.
Watch for additional fees added to the cost of the room from deal sites and compare with prices direct from the hotel.
Location is Everything!
If you have a short amount of time to spend in New York City, location is everything!
You don’t want to waste time traveling back and forth to drop off luggage and pick it back up before your departure flight.
Pod 39 Hotel -145 E 39th St, New York, NY
Evaluate what you really need in a hotel. I shared the mini bunk pod at the Pod 39. The small room had a twin bunk bed with personal flat-screen TVs for each bed.
We both agreed that we wanted a hotel in a great location for a great price because we would only be sleeping there without much downtime.
We also had a bathroom with a toilet and shower in the room.
Some of the pods at The Pod 51 Hotel have shared bathrooms so make sure that you check the room description.
Our room at Pod 39 had the following amenities
- Twin bunk bed
- Private bathroom with rain shower head
- Complimentary wireless Internet
- Air conditioning
- Two flat-screen TV with cable channels
- Work desk and chair
- Laptop sized in-room safe
- Free local calls
What I liked about the Pod Hotel was that there were plenty of spaces to go to outside of your room.
There were indoor and outdoor seating areas on the top floor including a beautiful rooftop deck.
There was also a restaurant/bar that including seating areas designed for hanging out together or making new friends.
Til my next NYC adventure!
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