How to See the Best of NYC in One Day!

A visit to New York City is on the bucket list for many families. And for good reason! There is no city like it in the world. However the scope and variety of what NYC has to offer is almost endless and can quickly get overwhelming!

Only have a day to visit NYC but want to see it all? Try this itinerary to see the best of NYC in just one day!

Double Decker Bus Tour

NYC double decker bus tour review, NYC bus tourRiding on top of the double decker bus with a view of Saks 5th Ave to the right.

Start by booking your tickets for a NYC double decker bus tour. The key to being able to see as much of NYC as possible is this tour! What would take days to cover by foot, you can do in a matter of hours on the double decker tour bus.

Plus it’s fun! You get a unique perspective of the city from high atop the bus, with completely unobstructed views. And if your bringing kids with you? This tour is worth it’s weight in gold. Kids (and adults!) quickly tire of walking, no matter how fascinating the sights. Riding the bus is a fun adventure and allows the whole family to see a much larger area versus walking.

All of the bus tours offer headphones so that you can hear either a live tour guide or a prerecorded narration. Humorous stories and interesting facts are given and it’s a great opportunity to learn the history of what you are seeing.

The bus tour is especially convenient as it is hop on-hop off. This means when there is a destination you want to explore further you can get off, take as much time as you’d like sightseeing and then hop back on the next bus.

With buses arriving and departing each stop every 30 minutes it is makes it very easy to see the city. No worries about calling a taxi or uber, everything is included in the price you pay upfront.

One World Observatory

one world observatory, world trade center

Once you’re on your bus tour, hop off at the stop that serves (City Hall/World Trade/Brooklyn Bridge/ 911 Museum) Be sure to check out the One World Observatory at the top of the World Trade center. Tickets can be purchased in advance here or bought onsite. We highly recommending pre purchasing tickets so you can reserve the time that suits your schedule and you don’t have to waste time waiting.

The One World Observatory offers much more than just an amazing view from the top. Once you clear security you are led to your sky pod (elevator) for a one of a kind experience. As the elevator ascends 102 stories you view NYC as it has changed and been developed over the years. It starts with a view of NYC in 1500’s with wide open spaces and only a few homes. You continue on a visual journey until you reach the top and see New York City as it looks today.

The large observatory at the top offers stunning vistas of the city. There is an option to rent an iPad that you can point at any building or location and be given a detailed description about what you are looking at. For only $15 our family found it a great tool to really appreciate what we were seeing.

9/11 Memorial

9/11 memorial

When you’ve finished the Observatory you can walk a short distance to the 9/11 memorial. The memorial is free to all and is located outdoors. This moving water tribute to the thousands who lost their lives is a powerful way to remember that tragic day in our nation’s history.

The 9/11 Tribute Museum is also located at this stop. Tickets can be purchased here.

Rockefeller Center

Home of the Today Show, Top of the Rock, Radio City Music Hall and The Lego Store, you’ll want to get off at this stop to take some time and explore all Rockefeller Center has to offer.

Check out the Rockefeller Plaza where the Today Show films and where the iconic Rockefeller Christmas tree and ice rink are in full display during the winter.

Be sure to take your picture in front of the iconic Radio City Music Hall, and even schedule a behind the scenes tour for the chance to meet a real, live Rockette!

If you’ve got kids you’ll want to walk through the awe inspiring Lego Store and stop by the American Girl Place. These stops are sure to be a hit with the kids!

Times Square

nyc with kids, nyc chrismas, christmas with kids in NYC

You can’t come to the Big Apple and not take in the spectacle that is Times Square! Nothing can quite prepare you for the hustle and bustle and general madness of this top NYC tourist destination. You’ll be mesmerized by the giant billboards covering every inch of the buildings and the stores to visit are to numerous to mention.

New York Harbor Cruise

End your epic day in NYC with a sunset cruise. After all, the only thing better than riding the streets of NYC is seeing the Big Apple from the water! Our tour operator, CitySightseeing included a ferry tour as part of the tour package deal we purchased. We boarded a large boat at Pier 78 and spent a magical 90 minutes touring the NYC harbor.

nyc bus tour, nyc double decker bus tour, citysightseeing ferry tour

This was far and away my favorite part of our trip. I highly recommend timing your ferry tour so you can be on the water at sunset. Our visit was in December so we took the 4:00 ferry and it worked out perfectly to see the sun set behind the Statue of Liberty. NYC at night from the water is spectacular!

nyc ferry tour, citysightseeing ferry tour

There are several double decker bus operators that run NYC tours. I chose CitySightseeing based primarily on price and services offered. If you’re looking for a fancier bus or the weather forecast looks questionable, The Ride is completely enclosed and looks like it would be an amazing experience as well.

This is the itinerary my family enjoyed, but the great thing is, with a bus tour you can completely customize which stops you are interested in. Study the route map provided online here, and decide ahead of time where you will stop and when.

Preparing in advance and having a specific plan will go a long way to ensuring you have an enjoyable and epic day in New York City!

Questions about the bus tour or a specific landmark? Email me at or comment below. I love to answer questions from my readers!

P. S. Visiting New York over the holidays? Don’t miss my must see Christmas in NYC itinerary here!

















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