4 Days in New York City // A First Timer’s New York City ItineraryHey there! Travel looks a little different right now. Please be sure to follow local restrictions and double-check openings and guidelines for places you visit. And stay safe and wear a mask! Also, his blog post likely contains affiliate links, including Amazon Associates links. If you make a purchase through one of them I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
New York City is one of those places that everyone dreams about. It’s in all of the movies and is on everyone’s mind what seems like 24/7. For such a tiny little island, though, there’s a million different things to do. There’s no way that you can fit it all into one short vacation of 4 days in New York (although you can definitely try).
With only a few days on your hands, deciding what to do can definitely seem overwhelming, but not to fear! This 4 day New York City itinerary should provide the perfect starting off point for planning your travels in the Big Apple, and hopefully make your life a little bit easier.
So without further ado, here is what I like to call the itinerary for 4 days in New York City!
Read my other posts about New York City:
How to Get to New York City
New York City is home to a whopping THREE airports, so you should definitely be able to find a flight from wherever you are in the world. John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and LaGuardia Airport (LGA) are both located in Queens, while Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) is just over the border in New Jersey.
New York City has two main train stations: Grand Central Station and Penn Station. Amtrak serves Penn Station from destinations all over the US.
For more detailed information on how to get to New York City, check out this article from NYC Go.
Where to Stay in New York City
New York City has so many amazing hotels and other places to stay it’s almost impossible to choose! Thankfully, I’ve done a ton of research. Here are my top picks for every budget.
Freehand New York – $ – One of my favorite boutique hostel chains, Freehand focuses on excellent design and local experiences. Their location in New York is close to all the action in the Flatiron district.
The Local NYC – $ – For a truly excellent hostel experience in New York City, turn to The Local. Their passionate staff will give you all of the best recommendations, and it’s super clean and comfy!
Moxy NYC – $$ – Moxy is a chain hotel with a little bit of personality, which I love. Their New York hotel is just a 10-minute walk from Times Square.
The Hoxton – $$$ – If you’re looking for a truly trendy hipster experience, then The Hoxton is absolutely your best bet. Located in Williamsburg, you’ll be a bit far out from the main sites, but in one of the trendiest neighborhoods.
The Plaza – $$$$ – For the ultimate iconic New York City experience, you simply HAVE to stay at The Plaza. They even have an Eloise Suite!
How to Save Money in New York CITY
Traveling to New York City on a budget? Not to worry!
Although New York is the kind of place where you can spend a lot of money if you want to, there are also ways to do it on the cheap–from $1 pizza slices to staying in a trendy hostel.
My favorite way to save money in New York City, though, is by buying a city pass.
If you haven’t used a city pass before, basically you pay one flat fee and then have access to a certain number of attractions all included. You usually save a decent amount of money with them, as long as you actually go to all of the attractions!
There are a BUNCH of different city passes for NYC out there, but here are a few of the best:
- New York City Explorer Pass – Save up to 55% off admission to over 85 attractions and iconic landmarks including the Empire State Building.
- New York City Sightseeing FLEX Pass – Choose up to 12 attractions from a list of over 100.
- New York: Freestyle Pass with 3, 5 or 7 Attractions – 72-hour hop-on-hop-off bus ticket plus entrance to 3, 5, 0r 7 attractions.
For even more budget tips for New York City, check out this post!
4 Days in New york City Itinerary // Day One
Empire State Building
Start your trip off right by doing one of the most iconic New York City activities out there. Take the trip up to the top of the Empire State Building!
The views from the 86th floor are absolutely breathtaking. It’s also a great way to get acquainted with the city you’re going to be calling home for the next few days.
If you can, buy tickets ahead of time. And make sure to get there as early in the morning as you can so you don’t have to wait in line for as long!
Once you’ve gotten a birds eye view of the city take to the streets and walk along 5th Avenue towards the Flatiron Building. This iconic piece of architecture is definitely not something that you want to miss. To get a better view make sure to take a step up onto one of the many concrete blocks along the street in front of it.
New York Public Library & Grand Central Terminal
On your way to your next big stop make sure to pop by the New York Public Library and Grand Central Terminal, both iconic landmarks of New York City and great photo ops.
Museum of Modern Art
The Museum of Modern Art is a definite must see while you’re in the city. The four floors are enough to keep you occupied for the afternoon, but not so overwhelming that you won’t know where to start.
If you’re lucky enough to be around on a Friday you can stop by after 4pm. That’s when admission is free to the public – but you better be willing to brave the crowds.
While I was there I went for their free Friday. Surprisingly, I actually found that the huge amounts of people there actually really helped the art to come alive. So if you’re up for the challenge I would definitely suggest it!
If your 4 days in New York don’t include a Friday, then you can get skip-the-line tickets here.
4 DAYS IN NEW YORK CITY ITINERARY // Day Two
New York is rife with iconic landmarks, and the Brooklyn Bridge is yet another one of them. But it’s still awe-inspiring all the same.
Make your way there in the morning. Be sure to walk all the way across it if you have the time. You can take the subway to either end of the bridge, walk across, and then catch another train on the other side. That way you don’t have to worry about walking both ways if you’re not about that life.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Met is easily my favorite museum in the world. It’s an insanely overwhelming place, with a million different things to see. You’ll definitely want to dedicate almost an entire day to it.
Make sure to take a map when you get in the building. This way you can plan out what you’re going to see, and also to make sure that you don’t get lost!
Take your time as you walk through the museum, and enjoy everything that it has to offer (even though there’s no way you’ll be able to see it all in one day).
Harbor Lights Cruise
After you’ve taken in as much art as you can bear for one day make your way over to Pier 83 on 42nd Street for the harbor lights cruise given by Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises.
The boat will take you all around the bottom half of Manhattan and back again. That way, you’ll have two chances to get the best photo possible, all while taking in the beauty of the city at night.
4 DAYS IN NEW YORK CITY ITINERARY // Day Three
High Line Park
Though the less famous of the two parks you’ll be visiting today, the High Line should definitely not be missed. The old elevated rail line turned park is a great walk to take, especially in the morning before the crowds get there.
Enter at the Gansevoort & Washington Street entrance in the Meatpacking District and walk along to the end before taking a bus to your next destination.
No trip to New York is complete without at least a short stop in Central Park. You could easily spend several days exploring this huge mass of land. But since you only have four days in New York you’ll unfortunately have to devote only a short amount of time to it.
Take a walk along one of lakes, check out the Alice in Wonderland Statue, and pretend to be royalty in Belvedere Castle.
If you can, be sure to make your way north to south (towards 59th Street). That way you’ll be a lot closer to your next destination.
Rockefeller Center & Top of the Rock
Many people enjoy the observation deck from the top of Rockefeller Center even more than that from the Empire State Building. Why? For the simple reason that you can actually see the Empire State Building from it.
The tickets for Top of the Rock are all timed. So if you buy them ahead of time you can be strategic and schedule your entrance for just before sunset. That way, you’ll be able to see the city both in the day and at night, as well as through the beautiful lens cast by the setting sun. I’d definitely suggest doing this, as there’s no way to guarantee you’ll be able to get in for sunset if you buy your tickets at the building.
If you have some time to kill before your timed entrance, you can take a look around the iconic Rockefeller Center, or even go skating if the rink is still around!
Just a short walk from Rockefeller Center, Times Square is just one of those things that you can’t leave New York without having seen – even if it is one of the most tourist-y places there is. By being at Top of the Rock for sunset you’ll be able to see Times Square in its best light – at night – before heading back to your hotel.
4 DAYS IN NEW YORK CITY ITINERARY // Day Four
9/11 Memorial and Museum
Start your morning off with a trip to the newly opened 9/11 Memorial and Museum. Gaze up in wonder at the new World Trade Center. Take a moment to reflect as you read the names on the sides of the reflecting pools.
While some might only want to stop for a quick moment to pay their respects, I would definitely suggest making the time for the museum as well. It’s incredibly well put together, and a great reminder of the tragedies that happened on that fateful September day.
TKTS South Street Seaport
Most people will head to the Times Square TKTS booth for discounted Broadway tickets. But I would highly suggest the alternative of the the South Street Seaport branch.
Not only is it much less busy, but you can stop at on your walk towards your next destination and pick up tickets for that night! We didn’t even have to wait in line when we went. So it is definitely worth the short detour if you ask me.
Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island
From TKTS make your way down to Battery Park, the southernmost tip of Manhattan. Once there, board one of the ferries to take you out to the Statue of Liberty.
If you plan several months ahead you’ll be able to get tickets up to the crown, which is definitely a must do if you can. If you’re unable to get crown tickets you can probably still manage pedestal access, which I would also suggest.
Make sure to look away from the statue and gaze back at the Manhattan skyline, which is seriously beautiful from this vantage point.
After you’ve taken in all that the Statue of Liberty has to offer hop on the same ferry you came in. This will take you straight to Ellis Island.
The museum here is seriously fantastic, and offers a great insight into what many immigrants to the US had to go to.
If you had ancestors who went through Ellis Island you can even look up their records, which is definitely a chance you should take. Just make sure you have their names on hand!
See a Broadway Show
Once you’ve made your way back to the mainland head back uptown. Once there, take your seats for the show that you bought tickets for earlier in the day. No matter what show you choose it’s sure to be amazing. So sit back, relax, and enjoy your last night in the city.