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How to experience NYC in 24 hours
Racing the clock to explore the best city attractions
So, you’re stuck with a long layover in New York City? Before you start making big plans to spend the next 24 hours in the terminal trying to beat your “Angry Birds” high score or catching some zzz’s, consider venturing outside the airport to discover The City that Never Sleeps.
All three of the city’s nearby airports—LaGuardia, John F. Kennedy International, and Newark Liberty International—provide ground transportation to some of the most iconic spots in town. Even if you’re only in New York for one day until your next flight, that’s plenty of time to explore the cityscape.
How to get around
When your flight to New York lands at the terminal, flag down one of those famous yellow taxis or take advantage of the airport’s transportation.
To temporarily escape John F. Kennedy, climb aboard the AirTrain, which services the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) subway and bus stations. As for LaGuardia Airport, the MTA offers rides from the terminal to the Queens and Manhattan stations that connect to the subway, too. Meanwhile, if your layover is at Newark, you can hop on the Newark Airport Express Bus to arrive at the legendary Grand Central Station. If you decide to ride public transportation, check the timetables in advance to ensure you can make it back to the airport in time for your next flight.
To top it all off, there’s always the option of renting a car in New York, but keep in mind, the city’s known for traffic jams and impatient drivers!
Where to go in New York City
You might be wondering what to see in New York in one day, but the better question is where to start? With excitement and entertainment around nearly every corner, choose to be savvy and stick to your itinerary or let the pulse of the city drive your spontaneous sense of adventure. For some inspiration, consider adding some of these attractions to your schedule.
Viewfinder Tip: To avoid NYC traffic, purchase a MetroCard and ride the Subway.
Start your 24 hours in New York City by standing on any street corner and looking up. Buildings and skyscrapers—countless stories tall—dominate the skyline and cast shadows over intersections and New York City hotels. Embrace this concrete jungle with a visit to One World Trade Center, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. Standing at 1,776 feet tall, the “Freedom Tower” is more than just an architectural achievement; it’s symbolic of the city’s strength and resurgence post-9/11. To witness other quintessential New York structures, track down the Chrysler Building and Flatiron Building. Of course, to really get a feel for how massive these buildings are, you must head to the Empire State Building’s observation deck on the 102nd floor. From here, on a clear day, you’ll see the entire lay of the land, all the way up to 80 miles away.
If the skyline gives you a sense of the way New York City looks, Times Square will give you a sense of the way it feels. Excitement buzzes through the air as travelers from around the globe flock to this epicenter to experience the NYC way. At The Crossroads of the World, cars really do honk and screech around pedestrians, and the billboards are just as bright and flashy as they appear in the movies. Sure, it’s made with the tourist in mind, but you can’t go to NYC without at least taking a peek at the commercial intersection for yourself.
Still making good time? Take the ferry over to the Statue of Liberty to continue exploring New York in a day. The ride alone is worth the trip as it cruises parallel to the famous cityscape, allowing you to trace the outline of the buildings in the distance. Standing proudly over Liberty Island since 1886, the symbolic copper statue is 151 feet from base to torch. Climb the stairs to the pedestal or reserve tickets in advance to venture up to her crown and look out over Brooklyn. As an added bonus, you’ll find cruises from Battery Park that offer a two-for-one adventure, stopping at both Liberty Island and Ellis Island, where you can tour the National Immigration Museum.
With time to spare, taxi over to Fifth Avenue, where the retail magic happens. Every year you watch the Macy’s Day Parade on TV, and now you can stand on the procession route and imagine the gigantic floats flying overhead. Do your best Holly Golightly impression as you peer into the Tiffany’s flagship store and get lost shopping among the four floors of Armani’s finest. Save room in your carry-on for your impulsive buys on this famous strip.
A day spent in an NYC airport is a day wasted. When you have more than a few hours before your next flight, get out there and explore The Capital of the World!
What else belongs on a 24-hour itinerary in NYC?
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