4 Days in New York Itinerary: Perfect for NYC First-Timers
As a local New Yorker, I’d have to say, I am thrilled to be putting this NYC travel guide together for you! With 4 days in New York, this itinerary will be covering EVERYTHING you will need to know for your NYC vacation.
So, is 4 days enough in New York City? I’d say 4 days is the minimum amount of days you need in NYC to really experience the top attractions. With 4 days in NYC, you will be able to see the main attractions and really get a good feel for New York!
This New York itinerary includes the best things to do in NYC (including free attractions), NYC travel tips, navigating the NYC subway, where to eat in NY, where to stay in NYC, photo-worthy places, and much more!
Moreover, you will find tons of New York travel guides throughout this site, since I truly love writing about New York.
So, if this is your first time in New York, this massive travel guide will have you prepared for everything!
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you. Disclosure
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- 4 Days in New York Itinerary: Perfect for NYC First-Timers
- Day 1 in New York City Itinerary: Times Square, Midtown, The Hudson Yards, Chelsea, Flatiron District
- Day 2 in New York Itinerary: Central Park, New York City Museums, Grand Central Station, Bryant Park, Rockefeller Center
- Day 3 in New York Itinerary: Brooklyn Bridge, DUMBO, Finacial District
- Day 4 in New York Itinerary: Washington Square Park, Soho, Special Exhibits, and Alternative New York Day Trips
- Consider Getting One of The New York City Passes
- Where to Eat in New York
- How to Get to New York
- Getting Around New York City
- Where to Stay in New York City
- 4 Days in New York Itinerary: Wrap-up
Day 1 in New York City Itinerary: Times Square, Midtown, The Hudson Yards, Chelsea, Flatiron District
On day one of your New York itinerary, let’s start with some of NYC’s major attractions! This will include Times Square, the Hudson Yards (to see the newest additions to New York’s playground), then making our way down to Chelsea, and more!
The main New York neighborhoods we will be spending time in on day 1 are Midtown South, Chelsea, and the Flatiron District.
Times Square, New York
If you’ve never been to New York, Times Square is a must on any NYC bucket list! From giant billboards, the yellow cabs, and the hustle and bustle, there is something quite magical inside of all the chaos. Start your Times Square adventure on 42nd St. and 7th Ave. and just walk around from there.
While I listed Times Square as your first activity, I highly suggest visiting Times Square at night as well so you can see the city all lit up! I used to always love going into the M&M World store.
New York Food Travel tip: While I don’t recommend eating around Times Square, if you do, I can recommend Carmines which is a family-style Italian restaurant.
Midtown South NYC & The Empire State Building
If the weather is nice, I’d suggest walking down towards Penn Station on 34th St. and 7th Ave. Alternatively, you can take the subway or uber.
From here you will be able to see some pretty epic views of the Empire State Building close to Macy’s (the largest one in the world). Fun fact, I used to work in men’s shoes at this store…lol.
You can totally go to the top of the Empire State Building, however, I am going to recommend some alternative sky observation decks where you will actually get to see the Empire State Building instead!
Hudson Yards, The Vessel, and the Edge
The Hudson Yards is easily one of the best places to visit in New York, especially with 4 days on your itinerary! Offering two of the most Instagrammable places in NYC, you will want to make sure to get a ticket for both.
Starting with the Vessel, a 154 story honeycomb-shaped structure at the heart of the Hudson Yards. Climb to the top and get views of the Hudson River or enjoy it from the ground with tons of photo-worthy opportunities.
If you do plan to climb the Vessel, you must get tickets, and I’d suggest getting them in advance. Additionally, you can only go up the Vessel in groups of two.
Next up on your New York itinerary is the Edge, known as one of the best Sky Decks in NYC! It just opened in 2020 and is known as the highest outdoor sky deck on the West Hemisphere!
Make your way to the 100th story where you will enjoy unobstructed views of the Manhattan skyline along with a partial glass bottom deck. Click here for The Edge tickets.
New York Insider tip: If you happen to be visiting New York around the holidays, the Hudson Yards does a great light display you won’t want to miss.
Hudson Yards Address: The Shops and Restaurants at Hudson Yards, New York, NY 10001 – For the Edge, enter at level 4.
Highline and Chelsea
The Hudson Yards is conveniently attached to the Highline, an abandoned railroad track turned into a New York City greenway! From the Vessel, you can walk 1.45 miles down the Highline to Gansevoort St.
The Highline has plants growing on either side, murals, and tons of photo-worthy spots. If you don’t want to walk the full Highline, consider stopping at Chelsea Market, a food and shopping hall!
There are great bites to eat and in general, it’s a cool little space! Chelsea is probably one of my favorite neighborhoods in NYC, but I also lived and went to school in Chelsea for 5 years.
Chelsea Market Address: 75 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011
NYC insider tip: While in Chelsea, get good bagels and egg sandwiches at Brooklyn Bagel. It is pretty close to the FIT campus.
The Flatiron Building
Still feel like exploring more and love cool architecture? Make it across town to the Flatiron Building, one of New York’s most photographed buildings. Get the iconic photo with the big gold clock!
After, you can head to Eataly (considered the better location) nearby in the Flatiron district, hang out in Madison Square Park, or do both!
Additionally, the new Friends Experience (Friends TV Show Fans) is also close to the Flatiron Building, if this is something you’re interested in.
Address: 175 5th Ave, New York, NY 10010
This will finish up day 1 of 4 days in New York! It is a lot, so if you can’t do it all, you can always add some activities to the next day.
Alternatively, if you want to do more, you can add some additional night activities including a handful of rooftop bars located around Flatiron and Midtown neighborhoods, a comedy show, a Broadway show, or an event at Madison Square Garden!
Wicked and the Book of Mormon are among our favorite Broadway plays.
Also, keep in mind, I have set up this New York itinerary with activities in and around the same location. You can switch up the days you do things, but if you swap in and out activities, check your google map.
Day 2 in New York Itinerary: Central Park, New York City Museums, Grand Central Station, Bryant Park, Rockefeller Center
On day 2 of this New York itinerary, we are going to spend time in Central Park and Midtown New York. You will explore some of the best places in Central Park, experience famous museums in NYC, along with other iconic New York Landmarks!
Explore the best of Central Park
Whether you visit New York during Fall, Winter, Spring, or Summer, there will be something fun and exciting to do. Even with less than 4 days in your New York itinerary, Central Park should still be a must-visit!
If you are looking for those Central Park Instagrammable photos, some of the best photography locations include:
- Bow Bridge: One of my favorite Instagram spots in Central Park. I’d recommend getting there early to avoid the crowds.
- Bethesda Terrace and Fountain: Close to Bow Bridge is Bethesda Terrace & Fountain have offered as the backdrop for many movies.
- The Mall: The Mall in Central Park is one of the most popular photography locations during the fall.
- Belvedere Castle: Did you know there was a castle in New York City? Get the Belvedere Castle in your backdrop.
- Umpire Rock: Cool photo spot in Central Park where you will get Skyscrapers in the background.
- Gapstow Bridge: Another charming bridge in Central Park that offers the NYC skyline in the background making for the perfect Instagram photo!
Besides all the photo-worthy locations in Central Park, other popular areas are Strawberry Fields, Rowing boats on The Lake (during the Summer near the Loeb Boathouse), looking for cherry blossoms in the Spring, hike through the Ramble, Ice Skating in the Winter, and picnicking at Sheep Meadow.
New York Insider Tip: It would probably take you a whole day to see all the above places, so pick some of your favorites! Additionally, please do not take a horse and carriage. The horses are not treated well.
Go Museum Hopping Through in NYC
Even if museums aren’t your jam, you should visit at least one with 4 days in New York! Nearby Central Park, you will find some of the most famous museums. Believe it or not, New York comes in 2nd place for the most museums in the USA.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) is known as one of the largest Art Museums and holds over 5,000 years of art from around the world. You will find famous artists including Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, and Vincent Van Gogh.
For those Gossip Girl fans, you surely can’t miss a photo on the steps.
If you’re an NJ, CT, or NY State resident, it’s pay as you wish. General admission is $25 for adults; $17 for seniors; $12 for students. Address: 1000 5th Ave, New York, NY 10028
The American Museum of Natural History is another New York Favorite. From the Planetarium, dinosaur bones, Egyptian art, the butterfly conservatory (winter), and more, this museum has a little something for everyone!
Admission: suggested price or pay what you wish in person at the ticket counter. Address: 200 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024
If you really love art, you might also want to consider visiting the MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) or the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum which also has modern art and are around the same area.
New York Insider tip: If you love visiting movie-famous desert restaurants, Serendipity 3 is nearby and just broke the genius world record for the most expensive french fries coming in at $200 USD. These fries have truffle and are soaked in Dom Perignon champaign along with a bunch of other things if you’re into that sorta thing. Not everything is that expensive.
Grand Central Terminal
Have you passed through Grand Central Terminal Yet? If not, let’s go now! With 4 days in New York, Grand Central is another must. And to think many of us locals potentially take this iconic landmark for granted.
Grand Central Terminal opened to the public on February 2, 1913, and has around 750,000 visitors a day. It is even said to be the second most visited place in New York, Times Square being the first.
Not only is Grand Central Terminal a beautiful facade of marble with a stunning painted constellations ceiling, but it is also a go-to for their dining hall and shopping.
And if you are interested in history, this iconic train station has a lot of it!
Grand Central was first known as Grand Central Depot (1871), built by Cornelius Vanderbilt. Eventually, the station was completely reconstructed due to a train crash. The construction was known as one of the largest in New York at the time! And back during this time, train travel was a luxury that served meals, rolled out a red carpet, etc, imagine that!
I digress, but if you are interested in more history, you might even want to consider a tour!
You can also see the Crysler building by Grand Central Terminal.
Address: 89 E 42nd St, New York, NY 10017
Summit One Vanderbilt
If you are visiting New York after October 20th, 2021, you are one of the lucky people who get to experience NYC’s newest attraction Summit One Vanderbilt. This building has made seeing the New York Skyline a whole new experience with a deck, unique mirror rooms, and the Ascent is the highest rack-and-pinion elevator system in the world! They are 90 square feet each and are currently the largest glass floor elevators in the world.
There are 3 different types of tickets to choose from. The Summit Experience $35 (day) $49 (night), The Summit Ascent $59 (day) $69 (night), and the Ultimate Summit $73 (day) $83 (night).
The Summit Experience includes access to all 4 floors including being able to step into the glass skyboxes over 1,000 ft. over midtown.
The Summit Ascent includes everything the Summit Experience has and adds access to the Ascent glass elevators to the highest point.
The Ultimate Summit includes everything the two previous experiences offer and includes a signature cocktail or mocktail crafted by Danny Meyer. This might just become one of the most exciting and thrilling new attractions NYC has to offer!
To be honest, this description still does no justice, so definitely check out the Summit One Vanderbilt website to see and learn more!
Address: 45 E 42nd St, New York, NY 10017 Entrance located on the Main Concourse of Grand Central Terminal
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Bryant Park & The New York Public Library
From Grand Central Terminal, take a 6-minute walk or the 7 train over to the quaint greenspace, Bryant Park. If you happen to be visiting NYC during the Fall/Winter, Bryant Park hosts the Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park that includes an ice skating rink, a Christmas Market, a Christmas tree, and a lot of good and Instagrammable food!
Bryant Park is also known for always hosting free events. From exercise classes, movies, etc, there is always something going on. To see Byrant Park events, check here!
Right next to Bryant Park is the New York Public Library! Funny story, I once sat atop one of those lions because I thought I was cool (don’t be me)! Founded in 1895, the New York Public Library has been serving New Yorkers with free books, information, and education all while being an architectural masterpiece!
New York Insider Tip: If you love libraries, you might also want to check out the Morgan Library and Museum. I really consider Morgan Library a hidden gem of NYC and it is really beautiful!
Experience Rockefeller Center
From Bryant Park, you can walk about 7 blocks uptown to Rockefeller Center or take the Subway (B,D,F,M) to 47-50th street station. One of the top attractions at Rockefeller Center outside of Christmas is the Top of the Rock, an epic 3 story observation deck.
I would recommend getting tickets for sunset since NYC has some pretty epic sunsets! Enjoy panoramic views from the 67th, 69th, and 70th floors that include the Empire State Building!
Address: 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10112
If you happen to be visiting New York during the holidays, Rockefeller Center has the famous Christmas tree lighting, Saks 5th ave. light show, Radio City Music Hall Rockettes show, and more!
Other areas to visit near/around Rockefeller Center include Saint Patricks Cathedral, explore around the shops, see live tapings such as the Today show and the Tonight Show, or get a bite to eat.
This will cover a very full day 2 of 4 days in New York. Again, if you couldn’t do it all, that’s ok!
For Dinner around Rockefeller Center: Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse, the Capital Grill, and The Palm – Palm West.
Day 3 in New York Itinerary: Brooklyn Bridge, DUMBO, Finacial District
You have made it to day 3 of 4 days in New York and you have already seen a ton of the big apple! So for our 3rd day in New York, we are going to make it to Brooklyn and explore more of Lower Manhattan!
Cross the Brooklyn Bridge & Dumbo
To start the day off let’s head to the Brooklyn Bridge. This New York landmark is one of the best free things to do in NYC! The earlier you go, the fewer people you will find on the bridge if you are trying to take photos.
To get to the Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan, you can take the 4, 5, or 6 trains to the Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall stop. You can also take the J or Z trains to the Chambers Street stop which is closest to the Pedestrian Walk Way. The walk across the bridge is around 1.1 miles.
Brooklyn Bridge fun fact: Originally when the bridge opened, there was a massive panic due to fear of the bridge collapsing and people even died. To prove the safety of the bridge, they had 21 elephants cross the bridge.
Fun Brooklyn Bridge Fact: It was one of the largest suspension bridges of the time.
Once you cross over the Brooklyn Bridge, take a stroll around DUMBO, Brooklyn. Did you know the neighborhood DUMBO actually stands for down under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass?
One of the most popular places to visit is the Insta-famous Manhattan Bridge photo location. You can find it at the cross-sections of Waters Street and Washington Street.
Additionally, you can wander down cobblestone streets, hang out on the lawns of Brooklyn Bridge Park, or walk down the piers. During the summers, they even have free movie nights at Brooklyn Bridge Park. During certain holidays, they will also do pop-up displays. Most recently they did a fall/Halloween display.
Places to eat in Dumbo, Brooklyn: Check out Ignazio’s Pizza and Shake Shack.
Once you explored the Brooklyn Bridge and Dumbo neighborhood, we are going to make our way back to the Financial District. Depending on how long you spent in Dumbo will determine how much more you will want to do around the Finacial District.
Must-see sites with 4 days in New York would include the Oculus and the 9/11 memorial. One World Trade Center also has an observation deck, but I’d recommend the Top of the Rock or The Edge instead of it.
The Oculus is a very unique train station built after September 11th. Inside this NYC transportation hub, you will find a whole mall and even a farmers market.
You can also visit the 9/11 Museum. The museum is actually free every Tuesday from 5 PM – 8 PM.
Other things to do in and around the Finacial District include seeing the Charging Bull & fearless girl, take a walk down Wall Street, and checking out Battery Park.
If you go to Battery Park, you can take a free ride on the Staten Island Ferry to see the Statue of Liberty or you can take a tour to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
Believe it or not, many New Yorkers have actually never visited the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, but if you have time/budget, I’d recommend taking the tour.
Places to eat around the Financial District: You have Stone Street which is very popular during the Summer with tons of restaurants and you can also head to Eataly (I have a thing for Eataly!).
This past winter Stone Street also featured bubble igloos to dine in.
Day 4 in New York Itinerary: Washington Square Park, Soho, Special Exhibits, and Alternative New York Day Trips
We have made it to our 4th day in New York and at this point, you probably can see why this is the city that never sleeps. For day 4 on this itinerary, we will be exploring neighborhoods and possible day trips. Since this is your last day in New York City, I wanted to give you a lot of different options, so let’s go!
Hang out in Washington Square Park
Washington Square Park, located in Greenwich Village (also known as the West Village), has always held a special place in my heart. As a college kid, hanging out by the fountain at night was one of our favorite things to do.
There is always something going on at this NYC landmark. Besides the famous arch (named after President George Washington). You will find free events, people playing chess, and people just hanging out by the fountain (great people-watching spot).
You can also see the views of both the Empire State Building and the Freedom Tower in the background depending on your angle which makes for a pretty cool photograph.
Washington Square Park is also right by the NYU campus.
From Washington Square Park, make it down to one of my favorite Neighborhoods, Soho. From cobblestone streets, top-of-the-line shopping, art murals, and great restaurants, I wouldn’t miss Soho with 4 days in New York City.
I actually worked in Soho for 2 years at Nespresso on Spring and Prince Street, as well as interning for Chantecaille Beaute, so you can say I’ve spent quite a bit of time here.
Walk down Spring Street for some of the best shopping, stop by the Nespresso coffee bar, or go mural hunting.
Soho and the surrounding neighborhoods (Noho, Nolita, Little Italy) have quite a bit of cool murals including:
- Audrey Hepburn Mural on 176 Mulberry St, New York, NY 10013
- Pietro Nolita Pink heat wall (also Instagrammable NYC restaurant) at 174 Elizabeth St, New York, NY 10012
- Bowery New York Mural on 76 E Houston St.
- Flowers mural by Jet Martinez on 250 Mulberry St., New York, NY 10012
- Yumi Kim trash can mural on 105 Staton St #1, New York, 10002
- Color Factory Wall at 251 Spring St 251 Spring St, New York, NY 10013
NY Insider fun fact: Did you know Soho stands for South of Houston Street (pronounced House-ton)?
Places to eat in/around Soho: Dean and Deluca (food market), Prince Street Pizza, Ladurée (Famous French Pastries), and Katz’s Delicatessen, a famous NYC Jewish deli nearby.
From Soho, you can also explore Chinatown and walk down Canal Street.
Special Exhibits & Activities in NYC
Depending on when you are visiting New York, you might also want to consider seeing some of the special exhibits instead of the activities above. Currently, some of the special exhibits happening in New York are:
- The Floral Escape: New York’s newest popup screaming “I am insta-worthy”. If you love floral decorations and taking photos, consider checking them out at Queens Country Farm Museum. Find Floral Escape tickets here.
- ARTECHOUSE NYC: The nation’s first innovative art destination dedicated to the intersection of art, science, and technology. Located in Chelsea, NYC, it is one of NYC’s newest hot spots! Get tickets and more information here!
- Immersive Van Gogh NYC Pier 36: The largest Van Gogh experience with a 75,000 square foot waterfront space located in Manhattan’s Lower East Side offering views of the East River and the Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges. Get tickets here.
- Helicopter Ride above NYC for the adrenaline seekers.
- See New York by the water with a Cruise.
I try to keep this list as updated as possible, but please double-check.
Additional Day Trips Outside NYC
Here are some additional places you can consider going with 4 days in New York. Feel free to swap out a day, change around the activities, or if you find you have 5-7 days in New York, these could be great additions to your NYC itinerary.
- Consider taking a day trip to Williamsburg, Brooklyn. This new trendy neighborhood has tons of bars, restaurants, great views of Manhattan’s skyline, and Smorgasburg, a food-like festival on Saturdays (closes in the winter). It is located at Marsha P. Johnson State Park.
- Visit Roosevelt Island which has pretty cherry blossoms in the Spring and provides views of the NYC Skyline.
- Head over to Governors Island which encompasses 172-acres and generally has lots of large music events.
- Take the Long Island Railroad to explore some of the best things in Long Island including beaches, wineries, and more.
- Shop at the Woodbury Commons located in Central Valley, NY.
- Go for an outdoor adventure hiking in upstate New York at Bear Mountain.
- Take a day trip to Brooklyn Botanical Garden and Prospect Park in Brooklyn.
- Head to Long Island City for rooftop bars and beautiful views of the Manhattan Skyline.
- Explore Flushing Meadows Corona Park where the World Fair took place.
- Take the train to Coney Island in the Summer, enjoy the theme park rides, walk the boardwalk and eat some good food.
Consider Getting One of The New York City Passes
Since this 4 day itinerary is full of NYC activities, I’d consider getting the Sightseeing Pass or the NYC Pass. They offer a list of top NYC attractions including The Edge at Hudson Yards, the Empire State Building, The Top of the Rock, Museums, and more.
I find the Sightseeing Pass offers more things to see and do than the NYC Pass, but it all depends on what you plan on seeing. The Hop on Hop Off bus can also be a great idea too!
You will have to do the math on it, but depending on how many of these attractions you plan on seeing, these passes can save you a lot of money! Learn more about the City Pass here | Sightseeing Pass | Hop on Hop off Bus
Where to Eat in New York
I have listed tons of places to eat in this 4 Days in New York Itinerary, but I still wanted to add some additional places for you to eat. You can also find more NYC-Must-Eat Food here!
- Artichoke Basille’s Pizza – NYC (multiple locations)
- L & B Spumoni Gardens – Brooklyn Address: 2725 86th St, Brooklyn, NY 11223
- Joes Pizza – NYC Address: 7 Carmine St, New York, NY 10014
- Johns on Bleecker – NYC Address: 278 Bleecker St, New York, NY 10014
- Totonno’s Pizza – Coney Island Address: 1524 Neptune Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11224
- Catch (Italian) – NYC Address: 21 9th Ave, New York, NY 10014
- Tutto il Giorno Tribecca (Italian) – NYC Address: 114 Franklin St, New York, NY 10013
- Carbone (Italian) – NYC Address: 181 Thompson St, New York, NY 10012
- Bar Pitti (Italian) – NYC Address: 268 6th Ave, New York, NY 10014
- Peter Lugers (famous Steak house in Williamsburg) Address: 178 Broadway, Brooklyn, NY 11211
- The Old Homestead – Located in Chelsea NYC (steakhouse) Address: 56 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011
- Magnolia Bakery (multiple locations)
- The Sugar Factory Address: 1991 Broadway, New York, NY 10023
- Dylan’s Candy Bar (multiple locations)
How to Get to New York
Being that New York is such a huge travel hub, there are quite a few ways to get to the city. New York has 3 major airports to fly into. Newark Liberty Airport (EWR) which is in New Jersey, Laguardia International Airport (LGA) in Queens, and John F Kennedy International Airport (JFK).
My favorite airport to fly into would be JFK. However, many times you can find a cheaper flight coming in from Newark. You can check flights on Skyscanner.
All airports offer trains that go into the city. Alternatively, you can hire a shuttle/car service or call Uber or Lyft. I wouldn’t recommend a Yellow Cab that is waiting at the airport.
If you live in the United States, there are also possibilities for you to take a bus (Mega Bus, Greyhound, etc.) or train (like Amtrack) into Manhattan.
Getting Around New York City
The best way to get around New York is by walking and the Subway. Because traffic is so bad, you will find it can take much longer by cab or Uber. Also, you do NOT need to rent a car in New York City!
If you did want to hail a cab, it’s just like in the movies. Stand out towards the street and put your hand up! You will find Yellow cabs will cost more than Ubers and Lyfts though.
Using the subway is pretty easy and I have a whole guide on navigating the NYC subway here!
Besides using Google maps to map out your day, I can also recommend the Citymapper app which helps with the subway.
Where to Stay in New York City
There are tons of hotels to stay at in New York City. You could also stay at a Vrbo or Airbnb, however, it is technically illegal to rent out short-term apartments unless the owner is living on-site. So if you have the place to yourself, you could be at risk of getting kicked out.
Hotels in New York also book up pretty quickly, so it is best to book in advance. Here are some New York City Hotels to consider.
4 Days in New York Itinerary: Wrap-up
Yay, we have made it through this 4 days in New York itinerary! As you can see, New York has so much to offer and this itinerary is mainly just Manhattan! I hope you have the best time in New York City and if you were unable to squeeze all these NYC attractions in, don’t worry, you will probably be back!
If you have any questions about this New York Itinerary, leave them in the comments below and I will get back to you as soon as possible!
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