If you’re looking for the perfect, classic travel day in Manhattan, this is it. There are two great parts about this itinerary: 1) It can work perfectly for a single person, a couple, or a family with kids, depending on the way you tweak it, and 2) It’s budget friendly, but feels rich.
BRUNCH WITH A VIEW
Start out at Columbus Circle. For brunch, grab a table at the Bouchon Bakery & Cafe (in the Time Warner Center) and look out at the fabulous view of Central Park. They’ve got a great assortment of delicious baked goods as well as soups and salads. You can also just walk up to the bakery counter for a quick bite on the go.
TAKE A WALK
Cross the street and enter Central Park. From the south side of the park (where you are), you can hire a horse drawn carriage or bicycles, but I prefer just strolling leisurely through the park. Use Google Maps on your phone or a paper map from your hotel to navigate the park, or else just let yourself get a little lost! If you’re with the kids, you may want to take them to the carousel, the zoo, or the pond where you can rent model boats to sail. Kirk and I rented a rowboat on the lake once with a couple of friends, and it made for a wonderful morning.
A DOSE OF ART & LITERATURE
Exit the park around east 79th street and duck into Albertine, the French/English language bookshop run by the French Embassy. Even if you don’t pick up something to read, it’s worth a peek at the hand painted constellation mural on the ceiling and beautiful decor throughout.
Then head up the block to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Although there are suggested fees, it’s pay as you wish, so if you’re only going to duck into one exhibit while your husband gets an ice cream on the front steps for the kids, you don’t need to pay the full fee. Last time I was there, I saw an incredibly inspiring exhibit of John Singer Sargent’s paintings of his friends and community. I actually ended spending several hours in the museum seeing much of the permanent collection, too, and could have kept on going had the museum staff decided not to close and force everybody out! (I know, how dare they?)
OR NATURAL HISTORY, IF YOU PREFER
If Albertine and the Met aren’t your cup of tea, head over to the American Museum of Natural History instead. Exit from the park at West 77th (or if you want to do all of the above, just walk directly across the park from the south side of the Met). Kirk and I took our kids here when they were 3 and 1. The 3 year old was fascinated by all the animals and the 1 year old slept soundly in the baby carrier, lulled to sleep by the hum of the crowd. It really did feel like a magical place, as seen in so many movies.
GET SOME GRUB
After all that walking, you’ll probably be famished, so you won’t want to go far for some good food. And luckily, you don’t have to. There’s a Shake Shack outpost right behind the Natural History Museum on the corner of Columbus Avenue and West 77th street. My order: a cheeseburger (lettuce wrapped), fries, and a chocolate shake. So good!
Afterwards, walk a couple of blocks over to Zabar’s, a charming gourmet market (as seen in You’ve Got Mail) to pick up supplies for breakfast or the plane ride home. Grab one of their canvas tote bags as a fun and practical souvenir from the city, while you’re at it.
If you’re with small kids, my guess is you may want to head back to the hotel/apartment right about now. (At least, I know I would, ha!) If not, you could walk south on Broadway (or catch a cab of the subway two stops) to the Lincoln Center (a la Cher in Moonstruck). See a ballet, opera, film screening, or one of the many other events and shows they host. You’ll probably want to get tickets ahead of time, although you may get lucky with the day of discounted tickets available through the box office.
Last fall, while in New York to attend a couple of trade shows, I found myself with 24 hours to spare before my flight home, and spent a very happy day following this classic NYC itinerary. I’ve also done a version of this with Kirk and our two young kids in tow, so I know it works wonderfully with them, too.
I hope you have a great trip! xo, Eva
You might also like: 5 Local Favorites in New York City.