NYC in 12 hours: How to maximize your time in the Big Apple

AP Photo In this Thursday, Nov. 3 photo, skaters take to the ice at Wollman Rink in New York's Central Park.
AP Photo In this Thursday, Nov. 3 photo, skaters take to the ice at Wollman Rink in New York's Central Park.
AP Photo
In this Thursday, Nov. 3 photo, skaters take to the ice at Wollman Rink in New York’s Central Park.

By Evan Penrod & Salena Moran | Staff Writers

You are all ready to embark on a whirlwind adventure to New York City in lieu of the upcoming holiday season, but only for a day. With a limited time and budget, how can you possibly experience the hotspots of Manhattan in just twelve hours and on a budget? Don’t get overwhelmed just yet — this guide is here to help!

From the Empire State Building to Macy’s to Tiffany and Co., there are thousands of places to shop, eat and explore. With a myriad of options at hand, narrowing down your choices to only the prime destinations will make the most of such a short time period.

This guide works around a budget of $150 to $200 (a relatively safe range for a college student) and offers doable suggestions to optimize time in The Big Apple from dawn until dusk.

Meal Time:

Set aside at least $45 to $50 for meals throughout the day because it is better to have money left over than not have enough. A delicious meal in the city will cost a bit extra. That is, unless you plan on eating all your meals at McDonald’s.

First, make breakfast a priority. If you arrive early in the morning, many stores will not be open, so it is best to find a little eatery to enjoy a sit-down breakfast and fuel up for the busy day ahead.

Here are some options for breakfast around Times Square, complete with a list of their price ranges.

  • Evergreen Diner (between $5 and $15)
  • Andrew’s Coffee Shop (between $5 and $15)
  • Kellogg’s NYC (between $5 and $7)
  • Best Bagel and Coffee (between $7 and $10)

Next, if you choose to eat three times a day, make two of the three sit-down meals. Choose a grab-and-go lunch at a sandwich shop, a hotdog from a street vendor or a small croissant and a coffee.

Here are some quick and tasty options for lunch around Times Square to have in the middle of the day.

  • Piccolo Cafe (between $10 and $15))
  • Carve (around $10)
  • Friedman’s Restaurant (between $10 and $20)

After a busy day, relax with a sit-down dinner. There are many excellent dinner options all around Times Square, but if you want a seat you might want to make online reservations to save yourself the hassle.

Here are some options for a delicious end to your day.

  • Carmine’s (between $20 and $35)
  • Lillie’s (between $20 and $30)
  • Glass House Tavern (between $20 and $30)

Activities and Sightseeing:

As a general tip, it is better to schedule out the majority of your trip and expenses before arriving to New York, as it makes walking times quicker. Understanding when tours start, ferry’s travel or buses run can maximize your time in the city.

While a lot your adventures may be purely window shopping, there are still plenty of places to visit and take pictures.

Shopping Hotspots:

  • Tiffany and Co.
    • This elegant and classy store is every Audrey Hepburn lover’s fantasy. Tiffany’s has several floors filled with beautifully exquisite jewelry, vases, china sets, sunglasses and much more. The store is so formal that a man is specifically hired to operate the elevator. Not to mention that it is gorgeously decorated during the holiday season.
  • Macy’s
    • While you may have visited a Macy’s before, you definitely need to experience the world’s largest department store during your stay in the city. One floor is purely dedicated to a marvelous collection of designer shoes, another includes cosmetics and others boast a vast array of women and men’s clothing. If you have watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade as a child, visiting the store in person is like a dream come true.
  • The Apple Store
    • The Apple Store looks quite funny sitting above the sidewalk with its glass cube looking structure. Upon further inspection, there are steps within that lead to an underground cave of Apple products and accessories. One could spend hours scrolling through the various tablets, desktop computers, phones and headphones the store has to offer. It is definitely worth the visit.

Sightseeing Landmarks:

  • Rockefeller Plaza
    • Located at the Rockefeller Plaza, you can see several famous New York scenes. You can go ice skating at the ice-rink and look at the giant Christmas tree. There are also various shops surrounding the Rockefeller Plaza, such as the Lego store and Godiva chocolates. You can also go and see where the Today show is filmed.
  • Radio City Music Hall
    • The famous Radio City Music Hall, located in close proximity to the Rockefeller Plaza, is where Christmas shows such as The Rockettes perform. Perhaps most importantly, it is right next to where Jimmy Fallon hosts The Tonight Show. The outside of the building is always decorated for Christmas around this time of the year and sports a bright red tree.
  • Central Park
    • Many movies and TV shows feature Central Park, however it is not as small as the screen makes it appear. The scenery is a beautiful escape from the concrete jungle and is a great setting for a walk. The best part is that many individuals bring their cute and fluffy dogs to run around and play, so there is plenty of time to get in some doggy love.
  • Empire State Building
    • The Empire State Building is the famous landmark witnessed from any New York City skyline. According to the Empire State’s website, a view and tour from the 86th floor is at a standard ticket price of $34 and a tour of the 102nd floor costs $54. However, if you would rather save your money, a selfie in front of the building will do just fine.
  • Ferry and the Statue of Liberty
    • If you decide to hop on the Ferry, be sure that you give yourself ample time for both going and coming from the island. There are two types of ferries that travel around the waters of New York. One goes directly to Ellis Island with the Statue of Liberty, and the other just travels around the island. The range for ticket prices is around $20, and there are several companies that run tours.

Optimizing your time and spending your money on only the important, must-have items on your wish list will help you make the most of your time whether you are completely new to the city or are visiting again. Most importantly of all: have fun!