How does one spend 36 hours in New York City I hear you ask? Well, I can definitely agree with you that 36 hours is simply not enough, but you can try and squeeze in a lot of things in that short amount of time.
Especially if you’ve seen and done all of the major touristy things on your New York City bucket list.
A little back story
If you’ve been here before, then you’ll know that I spent 13 months living and working in New York during 2019 and 2020. Oh yes, it was one hell of a (pandemic) experience.
Since we weren’t allowed to leave the state for the most part, you could say that I explored almost every inch of the five boroughs during my time there.
Most recently however, I embarked on an East Coast Road Trip from New York City to Bar Harbour Maine and back again with a pit stop in Burlington, Vermont.
At the beginning of that trip, we spent the first 36 hours in the city that we met, our favourite city in the world, New York City. And here’s what we got up to and our favourite things that we would recommend you do too.
Prepare for a lot of walking.
Day One: Arriving in New York City
We flew out of London Heathrow on a Friday morning, very early at 9.30am, arriving into JFK Airport around 2pm.
We grabbed the airport shuttle and then a direct subway train to Canal Street in Lower Manhattan.
Where to stay
We stayed at The Sheraton Hotel in TriBeCa, our second time staying here (and we may have a third coming up soon too (more on that in another blog post).
The location is perfect for us. Yes, it’s on Canal Street which isn’t the prettiest or safest street in Manhattan, but it’s in TriBeCa (where our favourite brunch spot is located), at the bottom of SoHo which makes for a beautiful stroll (probably my favourite area in the city), and it’s within good walking distance of the West Village and East Village. Another two of our favourite areas.
The location is great for us because it’s directly in the middle of the areas that we spend most of our time in. Plus Canal Street has great subway connections should you need to get anywhere.
How to spend a hot afternoon in Manhattan
After we checked in and freshened up, we headed for a walk along the west side of Manhattan, down to Battery Park.
If there’s one thing we love to do in New York City the most, it’s to simply walk everywhere and take in the sights of this incredible place.
We grabbed our first (of way too many) Dunkin iced coffees and headed out into the extremely hot weather and walked along the Hudson River with a view of our old neighbourhood across the way: Newport, New Jersey.
We made it downtown and said hello to the Statue of Liberty before heading back uptown via Wall Street and the famous bull. Then, we took a detour down Stone Street and headed onwards via Seaport.
The best dumplings in the city
By then, it was time for a pre-dinner snack since we hadn’t eaten anything since our flight earlier that day. I was so excited to go back to our favourite dumpling spot in the city, but it seems to have taken off on TikTok since we were last here as the queue inside was almost spilling onto the street.
I managed to grab our usual window seat while himself ordered our 10x dumplings for $4.50, which is insane and London could simply never. Plus they’re the tastiest things ever and I could definitely live on a diet of these if I ever lived in New York again.
Oh, they’re from Shu Jiao Fuzhou Cuisine. That information would be helpful, wouldn’t it?
A Lower East Side staple: Ray’s Candy Store
We then continued on with our food tour, visiting a New York institution that we had never been to before. Located in the East Village, opposite Tompkins Square Park is Ray’s Candy Store.
Ray himself is the main character and attraction of the store, having opened in 1974 and still serves the people of New York today, 50 years later.
We had the famous deep fried oreos and managed one each (they come in a portion of 10) before giving up because they were, although very delicious, very heavy and filling. Plus, we still had one more spot to eat at before calling it a night.
We only had 48 hours in the city remember, so we had to be strategic with our eating.
Our favourite restaurant in the Lower East Side
To finish our first day back in the city, we grabbed a late bite from one of our favourite restaurants that we seem to visit every time we come to New York, the Himalayan Cafe in the Lower East Side.
We weren’t hungry enough for a full meal, and this cafe is known for its very large portions, so we ordered our usual plate of beef momos with a side of the spicy potatoes.
By the time we were finished, it was after 10pm which meant it was 3am back in London, so it was time to head to bed for the night to be ready for our only full day in New York the next day.
Day Two: A full 24 hours in New York City
Plans for the day included: more walking, more good food and my first tattoo!!
The most delicious and healthy brunch spot in the city
We woke up early and himself went to grab us a Dunkin to enjoy in bed before getting ready. Our first stop of the day was our favourite breakfast spot, Two Hands in TriBeCa.
I can’t even remember how I first came across it, but I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve dined here and I’m yet to have a bad or less than great experience.
I order the same thing every time – the Zoe’s Market Plate with a side of smoked salmon. And every time, it hits the spot.
A spot of shopping in SoHo
We wandered around the SoHo shops for a little while, visiting the Glossier flagship store for the first time and finally purchasing Glossier You, my favourite fragrance (well, one of my favourites).
Then we nipped into the New York or Nowhere store for a browse, but didn’t buy anything.
If you’re in the market for a poster or something to remind you of New York, I’d definitely recommend a visit here.
Be like me and get a permanent reminder of your trip
Then it was time to wander around some more and walk along Canal Street to get my tattoo. I’ve wanted this exact tattoo since I was around 16/17 and since I’ve had it on my mind for almost 10 years, it was time to bite the bullet and get it.
But I wanted to get it somewhere that would mean something to me, so I made sure to wait until I was back in New York. I had planned to go to NYC Tattoo Studio, but we rang the buzzer a few times to no answer.
After about twenty minutes, I Googled somewhere else close by and headed there. I ended up at Kings Avenue Tattoo on Bowery, and loved that it was actually a girl that did my first tattoo.
I was feeling quite nervous/intimidated about going into a tattoo studio for the first time as I definitely felt like I didn’t belong there, especially going in to get my first ever tattoo and knowing it was going to be very small too.
But I was made to feel incredibly welcome as soon as I stepped in, and the girl doing my tattoo was so nice and talked me through the whole process.
It didn’t hurt one bit, and if anything, made me want to get a few more. So we’ll see where that leads us in the future.
Rites of passage in New York: A slice of Joe’s and a Levain cookie
After getting my tattoo, we headed towards the West Village to grab a slice of Joe’s Pizza. The best slice in the city (unfortunately not 99c, but still worth it) and another New York institution.
We walked further around the West Village, up past the Friends Building and towards Levain.
We’ve tried Insomnia and Chip cookies, but there’s nothing that beats Levain or that even comes close in my opinion. As a dessert, Magnolia Bakery’s banana pudding is definitely up there, but I do love a Levain.
We headed to Washington Square Park and took in the crazy antics and people watched here for half an hour or so. If there’s anywhere to sit and people watch for a while, it’s WSP. You’ll see everything and anything taking place in that park, all at the same time.
Stop for a drink in Down the Hatch
After a few hours of walking and being outside in the muggy 35 degree heat, it was time for a quick drink.
We hid out in Down the Hatch, an old regular spot of ours and enjoyed a seltzer in the cool basement.
A great bar to watch American sport, or if you ever fancy bottomless beers and wings, this is the spot for you.
A trip to a bookstore or five
Because what is a trip to New York City if you don’t stop by The Strand for a browse?
You’ll know by my numerous book blog posts on this site, that I’m a bit of a reader. And there’s nothing I love more than the bookstores in New York City. In fact, here’s a blog post listing my favourites.
We stopped by The Strand, which is one of my favourites and one of the biggest in the city, but as usual it was quite busy and full of people, and that paired with the hot weather, didn’t make for ideal browsing conditions.
Meditate in Central Park and eavesdrop
Since it was uncomfortably hot (as July in New York tends to be), we headed uptown to Central Park for some shade.
We found a large rock to lie down on and stared at the clouds and talked about our future hopes and dreams.
Plus, it always makes for a good session of eavesdropping as American conversations can be wild.
Walk the length of Manhattan to burn off your dinner before you’ve had it
After a few hours of waiting for the temperature to cool down and having deep chats about our future, it was time to head downtown for dinner.
We made our way down fifth avenue, past the Rockefeller Centre, past St Patrick’s Cathedral, through Times Square and then the entire way down to the West Village again.
Safe to say we walked a lot of steps in our two days, which would make up for the number of hours we were going to be sat in a car for the next week.
Grab dinner in the best Italian in the West Village
To finish off our 48 hours in New York, we had dinner at Malatesta Trattoria, another favourite restaurant of ours.
This is an authentic Italian in the West Village where the food is always fresh, it’s always dark and romantic and always packed full of people having a good time.
A gorgeous way to end our 48 hours in our favourite city in the world.
Day 3: Doesn’t exist
You only had 48 hours, so waking up on your third day means it’s time to check out and head to the next destination on the trip which for us, was the Hamptons.
I’ll have a full blog post coming up on our full day in the Hamptons, and 16 hours in Providence, Rhode Island (that includes a night’s sleep too) but you can check out my YouTube vlog in the meantime!