Bucket List: One Day in New York City

April 11, 2016,

New York City is one of my favourite cities – something about the city just makes me feel alive. It’s an exciting city to be in – and even if everything is so big and busy, you feel like you’re a part of something really cool and special.

NYC is huge – with 5 distinct boroughs (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx and Staten Island), there’s no way you can see it all in one day (or ever, for that matter). But with one day in New York City, you can still cover a lot of ground – all the while enjoying and taking in what the #citythatneversleeps has to offer.

Manhattan by @venetians // A Day in NYC: Bucket List on happiestwhenexploring .comPhoto by @venetians via Instagram

I suggest staying in Manhattan or Brooklyn. Staying in Manhattan is ideal if you’re arriving and leaving by train (Penn Station or Central Terminal). Brooklyn is better than Manhattan if you’re traveling by air (LaGuardia or JFK). But either way, there’s no need to fret because getting around NYC is really easy, and fast – all you need is a MetroCard and your will!

The subway system might seem complicated at first but once you study it for a couple of minutes, you will easily get the gist of it and then be able to travel all over the city using the “train”, as New Yorkers call it.

Now, let’s get into your day in New York City! This bucket list (and mapped itinerary) will allow you to cover more ground, all the while walking the city and experiencing the city. Of course, this is my ideal day in NYC – so you should mix in your bucket list items and make ‘em work! This itinerary is focused on Manhattan – stay tuned for a day 2 in Brooklyn, coming soon 🙂 

We start Midtown
(Metro: 42 Bryant St – B, F, D or M train, depending where you’re coming from)

Breakfast (and some fun!) at Bryant Park
Pick up breakfast (you’re in NYC – there is no shortage of choice! I’m leaving this one up to you) and hang out in Bryant Park. Bryant Park is really great – not only is it a lovely green space to break free (very briefly) from the city, but there is, more often than not, something to do at the park. During the holiday months, there are lovely Winter Village Holiday Shops (handmade items, treats to be tasted, etc.). During warmer months, events include outdoor yoga and meditation classes.

New York Public Library // A Day in NYC: Bucket List on happiestwhenexploring .comNew York Public Library
(Stephen A. Schwarzman Building)
5th Ave at 42nd St
The NYPL feels like a museum – the Beaux Arts building is magnificent, and its interior is quite literally breathtaking – frescoes, wood carvings, grand halls and staircases. Give yourself ample time to peruse the different reading rooms and collections (like the historic maps in Room 117).

Grand Central Terminal by Sopasnor via CC // Bucket List: One Day in New York City on happiestwhenexploring .comPhoto by Sopasnor via Creative Commons

Grand Central Terminal
Literally a 5-minute walk from the NYPL, the Grand Central Terminal is iconic and for good reason.    

Walk (20 minutes) or bus it (M1, M2, M3 or M5) to Eataly

Lunch at Eataly // A Day in NYC: Bucket List on happiestwhenexploring .comLunch at Eataly
200 5th Ave
Eataly is very much like Italy – busy and loud and welcoming, with plenty of delicious (and authentic) food. I started my tour of Eataly with an espresso (Lavazza), then made my way to the freshly made pizza. After having just come back from Italy, I am delighted to report that Eataly’s coffee and pizza is just as delicious as I had throughout Italy (if not more so!) I enjoyed my meal just outside the market, looking out towards Madison Square Park at the Flatiron Building – not a bad view!

Madison Square Park in NYC // A Day in NYC: Bucket List on happiestwhenexploring .comMadison Square Park
Can you tell I love parks? I hope you do, too. MSP is a pretty park to walk through and make a beeline for Chelsea (via 23rd Street) to walk or train-it to your next stop.

The High Line
Yes, another park! There’s just something about walking the city, being outside when you travel – being around people, commuters, locals, other tourists doing “outdoorsy” (but not really) things. The High Line is a park built on a historic, suspended rail track – super cool, right? There are a few entrances to the High Line and 23rd Street has wheel-chair access. Walk to the end of the park and get off at 34th Street and 12th Ave (ramp access, again). For a complete list of entrances, and a map of the park check out their website here.

Columbus Circle by Alex Barth // Bucket List: One Day in NYC on happiestwhenexploring .comPhoto by Alex Barth via Creative Commons

Walk to 34th Street Penn Station and take the train to Columbus Circle (A or C train). If this is your first time in NYC, instead of bypassing Times Square here, you might want to find out what all the fuss is about for yourself and walk through Times Square on your way to Columbus Circle.

Columbus Circle
Right before getting to Central Park, you arrive at Columbus Circle. Make a pit stop and grab a snack at the Whole Foods (yum!)

Central Park // Bucket List: One Day in NYC on happiestwhenexploring . comCentral Park
Visit the Formal Conservatory Garden, the picturesque Belvedere Castle and Shakespeare Garden. Be sure to stop by Bethesda Terrace for a classic Home Alone re-enactment (where my fellow 90s kids at?), and go to Umpire Rock for epic views. You could easily spend hours in Central Park, strolling and admiring the views, walking along the Jackie Onassis Reservoir and reading the sweet messages on the park benches. Depending on time, and if you really wanted to, you could visit either the MET or the American Museum of Natural History – as they are both embedded in the park.

For Dinner, it’s off to the East Village! From Central Park, there are many options to get to the East Village. If you decide to walk, it is about 1 hour of strolling through amazing, iconic streets and by historic buildings. So, if you have the time and the stamina – go for it!

Dinner at the Organic Grill // Bucket List: One Day in NYCThe Organic Grill
123 1st Avenue
After a day of exploring, how does a cozy, (almost) vegan restaurant sound? The Organic Grill serves home-style fries, vegan burgers, tofu-scram, soups, smoothies, juices and even eggs, cheese and some fish.

Visit Erin McKenna's Bakery NYC // Bucket List: One Day in NYC // photo by erinmckennasbakerynyc Photo by @erinmckennasbakery via Instagram

Vegan treats at Erin McKenna’s Bakery
248 Broome St
Erin McKenna’s vegan treats are instafamous, and while I was in NYC I had to see if these desserts were as delicious as they look! Spoiler: they are. Cupcakes, donuts, cookies, soft serve ice cream, brownies… you name it. For those of us who prefer a donut to a drink, this is the way to end the day in NYC! If you do prefer a drink to a donut (or both), you’re in Manhattan – take your pick!

Your turn! How would you spend one day in New York City?
What is on your NYC bucket list?Bucket List: One Day in New York City on happiestwhenexploring .com // REPIN THIS IF YOU LOVE NYC! (For photo credit, visit the link)

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  • Reply Ilena C. April 11, 2016 at 4:05 am

    Great itinerary! I’d love to do this. Thanks! I think taking advantage of the green spaces of NYC is a great alternative to shopping. Can’t wait for your take on Brooklyn. ❣

    • Reply Happiest When Exploring April 12, 2016 at 12:49 am

      So true – green spaces over shopping, I hadn’t even thought of it 🙂

  • Reply Celia April 11, 2016 at 10:44 pm

    New York is an impressive city that’s for sure. I would go back anytime. So much too see and do. So many rooftop restaurants are pretty awesome, with a breathtaking view of the concrete jungle city. Eataly was so delicious.

    • Reply Happiest When Exploring April 12, 2016 at 12:48 am

      You’re so right! And Eataly was delicious – thank you for encouraging me to check it out! YUM!

  • Reply Laura Verbich April 12, 2016 at 8:12 pm

    What a really PERFECT day – we had SO much fun together and I can’t wait to go back, thanks for this super simple itinerary!

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