You are here

How to Spend 24 Hours in New York City

Edge at Hudson Yards

So you’ve been to the Big Apple before, and you’ve already ticked off the biggies; the Statue of Liberty, Empire State, Top of the Rock, the works. This time around your visit will be fleeting – but what should you do with your precious moments in the City That Never Sleeps? After spending just 24 hours in New York City (or more specifically 26, but who’s counting?!), here are my top tips and recommendations for making the most of it:

View from my Executive Suite at the New York Hilton Midtown - (image: Alexandra Cronin)

View from my Executive Suite at the New York Hilton Midtown

(image: Alexandra Cronin)

Pick the right hotel

When time is tight, the most important thing when exploring any city is to pick the right hotel. I stayed at the New York Hilton Midtown, and it ticked all my boxes – and more! First off, it was centrally located – I stepped out of the doors and could be at Central Park or Times Square within 10 minutes. Standing tall on 6th and 53rd, it’s just a couple of blocks from Rockefeller and Radio City Music Hall, and on the doorstep to the Museum of Modern Art. Upgrade to an Executive Suite and you’ll get access to the Executive Lounge with continental breakfast covered (a real timesaver in the mornings!) – not to mention heaps of space (sleeping up to four) for some much-needed rest post-exploring. Most importantly, all the Executive Suites are on the higher floors of the hotel, perfect for admiring the New York City skyline from.

Breakfast in the Executive Lounge at New York Hilton Midtown - (image: Alexandra Cronin)

Breakfast in the Executive Lounge at New York Hilton Midtown

(image: Alexandra Cronin)

Health and safety was a big deal here too: masks are required in all public areas of the hotel, you have to show proof of your vaccination to use restaurants facilities, and regular cleaning and sanitising is undertaken throughout the hotel. If you’re a Hilton Honors member, for speed (and COVID safety!) you can even opt for a contactless check-in with the Hilton App. This allows you to choose your room in advance, confirm check-in 24 hours before your arrival, and request a ‘digital key’, which enables your phone to act as your room key using NFC technology. Total Recall, eat your heart out.

The Hilton Honors App, for my booking at New York Hilton Midtown - (image: Alexandra Cronin)

The Hilton Honors App, for my booking at New York Hilton Midtown

(image: Alexandra Cronin)

Look for the new attractions

There’s always something new to discover in New York. This was my first visit to the Big Apple since the pandemic, so I quickly sought out the latest things to do. First up was Edge, a triangular viewing platform – the highest in the Western Hemisphere – jutting out above the city and into the clouds. Entry starts from US$31pp, with access via level 4 of the Hudson Yards shopping centre. Downtown, I made a beeline for Little Island, undoubtedly one of my trip highlights with its peaceful walkways, landscaped gardens, and interactive exhibits, all floating above the Hudson River on huge stilts – more sculpture than foundation. There aren’t many places you can easily find serenity in NYC, but this really fitted the bill.

Hands down my favourite new attraction, however, was SUMMIT One Vanderbilt. This is not your average observation deck: fun-house vibes fuse with breath-taking vistas here, with artist Kenzo Digital turning three floors into an immersive feast for the senses. Whether you’re gazing out of vast floor-to-ceiling windows, getting lost in an infinite mirror-scape, or stepping into the glass elevator, every part of this installation is a unique experience. Tickets start from US$39pp and can be booked via your Travel Consultant.

Inside SUMMIT One Vanderbilt - (image: Alexandra Cronin)

Inside SUMMIT One Vanderbilt

(image: Alexandra Cronin)

Discover old favourites

New York is constantly changing and developing – it’s one of the things I love about the city. But its longer-standing attractions hold just as much charm for me as the new ones. Indeed, despite visiting multiple times, every time I go I always try and find time for the holy triumvirate: Rockefeller, Empire State and the Statue of Liberty. Of course it entirely depends how much free time you have, but I thoroughly recommend the New York C3 CityPASS, which lets you into – yup you’ve guessed it! – three different attractions, including the gems I’ve mentioned above. You can book timeslots online too after getting your pass, so you can minimise queuing and maximise your time.

Lobby at Empire State Building - (image: Alexandra Cronin)

Lobby at Empire State Building

(image: Alexandra Cronin)

Travelling solo? Head for Broadway

Whether you’re in New York for business (like I was), or as a stop-off en route somewhere else, it’s a pretty common place to find yourself in while travelling on your own. Thankfully, you’re never really alone in a city like Manhattan. With abundant bars, events, festivals and theatres, there are plenty of ways to fill your evenings here. My recommendation? Catch a show! You can get some great deals on last-minute tickets via TodayTix, or simply ask your Travel Expert for advice. I managed to bag a ticket for To Kill a Mockingbird, starring Hollywood legend Jeff Daniels, for less than £45. Move over West End!

Programme for To Kill a Mockingbird at Shubert Theatre, Broadway - (image: Alexandra Cronin)

Programme for To Kill a Mockingbird at Shubert Theatre, Broadway

(image: Alexandra Cronin)

Choose your transport wisely

As anyone who’s been to New York before will know, all the airports JFK, Newark and La Guardia, are a bit of a trek away from Manhattan. That’s why, if you have limited time, it’s imperative to plan your transfers. I flew into JFK this time and, for testing purposes, jumped on a train into the city, and got a cab back to the airport for my return to the UK. Here’s the lowdown:

Feeling adventurous? Train

Time your connections right, and it actually only takes 30-40 minutes to get to Manhattan from JFK. I caught the AirTrain to Jamaica Station in Long Island (10 minutes, US$7.50), then a train from Jamaica Station to Penn Station (20 minutes, US$7.50), in Manhattan. My hotel was a 20-minute walk, so in total the journey was around an hour. I got to see some of the suburbs, and imagine I was in a real-life Girl on a Train (without the thriller/horror vibes of course).

Money no object? Cab

Taking a NY cab is undoubtedly one of the costliest ways to get to/from the airport. Cabs charge a flat rate of US$52-56.50, plus tips and tolls, making it a better option than Uber or Lyft usually, with which prices fluctuate. Despite the lofty price-tag, however, there’s no denying its convenience! Any bellhop worth their salt will flag a taxi down for you from right outside your hotel, and all you need do is hop and enjoy the ride. The only issue, of course, is the traffic. Have a good run and it could take 45 minutes, whereas busy roads could see you bumper-to-bumper for double that time. For me, the journey took around an hour and 10 minutes, so time-wise negligible compared to the train.

Outside NY Pizza Suprema - (image: Alexandra Cronin)

Outside NY Pizza Suprema

(image: Alexandra Cronin)

Seek out speedy eateries

I’m a big foodie, especially when I travel. But when you only have 24 hours to play with, there’s just no time for that 13-course tasting menu, or for an hour-long wait as you queue for that brand-new restaurant. What you need to find is something quick and delicious.

Lunchtimes, of course, are made for by-the-slice pizza. It’s New York, so it’d be rude not to. I highly recommend NY Pizza Suprema, just a stone’s throw from Empire State on 8th and 31st. Open since 1964 the menu is vast but the turnaround is quick. You can eat in (if you’re double vaxxed) or take your slice to go – easy peasy! Dinnertime is a little more tricky, but if you’re happy with fast-food Manhattan has every chain going. Visit in wintertime, and you can also head to festive markets – like Bryant Park Winter Village – and pick up your dinner from a stall, which is exactly what I did. The tasty ”Smart Skater’s Diet” sandwich, was perfect for a quick eat, and the flavours were truly delightful. It also meant I got to do some sightseeing while eating, even if the sights were skaters falling over on the ice at alarming regularity!

Hot sandwich at Bryant Park Winter Village - (image: Alexandra Cronin)

Hot sandwich at Bryant Park Winter Village

(image: Alexandra Cronin)

Know all the COVID rules

You don’t want to be wasting time faffing around with paperwork when you could be off exploring Times Square or chowing down on a slice of pizza (or three). In a pandemic world, it pays to be prepared. New York restaurants, attractions and shows all require you to have proof of your vaccination upon entry, so be sure to have these saved in your phone and handy whenever you’re out and about, to avoid any delays. I highly recommend downloading the NYC COVID Safe app, where you can upload screengrabs of your NHS vaccination status, It’s also worth knowing where your nearest test provider (or streetside tent!) is before you go, just on the off chance you need to source one at short notice. For more info on USA travel requirements, check out our ‘need to know’ blog here.

Written by Alexandra Cronin (Gregg)

Once a roving local news reporter and now a travel-obsessed writer/sub, I'm head-over-heels for nature, wildlife and the ocean. When I'm not getting up close to animals and sea creatures, I'm seeking out the sets of my favourite TV shows around the world. 

More articles from this author >