4 day NYC itinerary

4 Day NYC Itinerary: How To Spend 4 Days In New York City

Dale P. Art & Culture, Discover NYC, Families, Food & Drink, History, Manhattan, Travel Tips Leave a Comment

By Dale P & Jessie Festa. This comprehensive guide sharing the ultimate 4 day itinerary for NYC contains affiliate links to trusted partners!

Are you looking for the perfect 4 day NYC itinerary? Then you’re in the right place!

This itinerary — created by NYC locals — is great for first-time visitors to New York. It contains suggestions on how to spend 4 days so that you can see all the highlights.

This is the best NYC itinerary for visitors who want an introduction to the city — with some more unique and local experiences mixed in too.

You can use this as a sample schedule and tweak it according to your own interests and preferences, and we’ll offer some alternative ideas that you can mix in to help with this.

On that note, here’s what to do in New York for 4 days. Get ready for a truly unforgettable trip!

Need help capturing the best of NYC in 4 days — with you in the photos? Book one of our Private Photo Journeys, a walking tour that includes photos of your group to keep. Or get a styled, custom shoot that tells your unique story through an NYC Influencer Shoot or Professional New York City Shoot. Email [email protected] with inquiries.

Getting To NYC

There are three main airports that serve New York City: LaGuardia Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport, and Newark Liberty International Airport.

LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy are both in NYC, while Newark is nearby in New Jersey.

All three airports make it easy to get into Manhattan, where you will probably be staying during your 4 days in NYC.

From LaGuardia, you can take the free LaGuardia Link Q70 bus to the Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue subway station, where you can then connect to the subway to get into Manhattan.

From JFK Airport, the AirTrain will take you to Jamaica Station, where you can connect to the subway.

And from Newark, the Express Bus will take you directly into Manhattan, stopping at Port Authority, Bryant Park, and Grand Central Terminal.

It’s also possible to take a taxi or Uber/Lyft from the airport into Manhattan, though note this will be more expensive than public transportation. Also, while it’s typically more convenient to take a car when you’re carrying luggage, it’s not always faster due to traffic. Check Google Maps to find the quickest route.

If you are traveling to NYC from the Northeast or Mid-Atlantic region of the United States, you can take an Amtrak train or a bus to New York. This can often be less expensive than flying.

woman walking around Grand Central Station on a 4 day NYC itinerary
Grand Central in NYC. Photo by Stephen H via Unsplash.

Getting Around NYC For 4 Days

NYC is known for having one of the best public transportation systems in the world. Very few New Yorkers own cars, and most rely on the subway and bus to get around.

As a visitor, getting around the city by public transit is a breeze.

The subway is one of the fastest and most convenient ways to get around New York, and there are numerous subway lines connecting Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx.

A one-way subway fare is $2.75. You can opt to purchase a refillable MetroCard for $1, or simply tap your credit card or digital wallet at an OMNY turnstyle scanner.

If you’ll be in New York for 4 days, you’ll likely take the subway quite a bit. Well, you’ll be happy to know that after tapping 12 times within a week (starting Monday), the rest of your rides are free. Alternatively, you can opt to purchase a 7-day unlimited MetroCard for $33.

In addition to the subway, you can also use your MetroCard on MTA buses.

Another way to get around NYC is by taxi or rideshare apps like Uber or Lyft, although this can quickly get expensive and it can take even longer than the subway depending on traffic.

Renting a Citi Bike is another way to get around the city. There are hundreds of Citi Bike stations around NYC for convenient pickup and dropoff. It costs $3.99 for the first 30 minutes and $0.23 per minute after that. Citi Bikes are a nice way to travel around, explore bike-friendly areas like Central Park, or ride the city’s greenways like the Hudson River Waterfront Greenway.

You can also get around New York by ferry. This is a great option if you want to get from Manhattan to Brooklyn or Queens. The NYC Ferry costs $2.75, but you cannot use your MetroCard and you will need to buy tickets on the NYC Ferry app or at a ferry terminal.

The Staten Island Ferry is another boat that connects Manhattan and the borough of Staten Island, and it’s totally free. You can check the schedules here. Also note that while it’s often skipped over, it can be interesting to explore Staten Island, even if just for a few hours.

Pro tip: Take a ride on this ferry for an amazing view of the Statue of Liberty and New York Harbor. It’s one of the best free views in NYC!

Finally, walking is a great way to get around New York City, which is one of the most pedestrian-friendly cities in the world.

traveler taking the underground subway during their 4 days in NYC
The subway is one of the best ways to get around NYC. Photo by Jenna Day via Unsplash.

4 Day NYC Itinerary Hotels

New York City is made up of five boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island.

For a first-time visitor with 4 days to spend in New York, Manhattan is the best place to stay; however, if you’re on a budget and don’t mind spending more time on the subway, you can find some great deals on hotels in Brooklyn and Queens.

Some of the best neighborhoods to stay in on your trip to NYC include:

Midtown: If you want to be in the heart of all the action in New York, Midtown Manhattan is a great place to stay. This neighborhood is popular with tourists because it’s centrally located and there are tons of hotel options for every budget.

Click here to view top-rated Midtown hotels!

Upper East Side: If you want to stay in a neighborhood with a quieter and more residential feel, the Upper East Side is an excellent choice. This neighborhood is ideally located near Central Park, some of NYC’s best museums along Museum Mile, and luxury shopping. It’s also a top pick for Gossip Girl fans!

Click here to view top-rated Upper East Side hotels!

Chelsea: Chelsea is a hip neighborhood in Manhattan that is close to the top attractions of Midtown, as well as the bohemian West Village and Greenwich Village. This is the best place to stay in New York if you don’t want to be in an extremely touristy area like Midtown, but still want an action-packed neighborhood that’s close to everything.

Click here to view top-rated Chelsea hotels!

Long Island City: If you want to save some money, Long Island City is a fantastic neighborhood to stay in. Hotels are much more affordable than in Midtown Manhattan, but you are just a short subway ride away from all the action. Many hotels in Long Island City also have incredible views looking out over the East River and the Manhattan skyline.

Click here to view top-rated Long Island City hotels!

Remember that most neighborhoods in NYC are well-connected by subway, so you don’t have to worry about the location of your hotel too much because you’ll be able to get everywhere that you want to go easily via public transport.

New York City Itinerary Planner

While we’ve laid out an unforgettable 4 day NYC itinerary below, if you’d prefer something created just for you, NYC Photo Journeys also offers custom itinerary planning.

You can choose between a private Zoom call to ask questions or a day-by-day New York trip itinerary crafted based on the responses you input into our planning survey.

Alternatively, you can take our free quiz to get suggestions for NYC experiences tailored to your personality and interests!

aerial view of Central Park
The best 4 day NYC itinerary should include Central Park. Photo by Jermaine Ee via Unsplash.

An Unforgettable 4 Day NYC Itinerary

Are you looking for the best New York City itinerary for 4 days? The following sample schedule can be adapted to suit your interests and travel style.

For example, if you’re not really into museums, swap out an afternoon visit to a museum for a Yankees baseball game or another activity instead. This itinerary is meant to serve as an outline for you to customize and modify according to your own specifications.

If you don’t have a full 4 days to spend in the city, you can also condense this into a weekend in NYC itinerary to hit many of the highlights in a shorter period of time.

Some of the activities and sights covered on this itinerary for visiting New York City include:

  • Times Square and Midtown
  • Central Park
  • Popular museums like the American Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Financial District
  • Brooklyn Bridge
  • DUMBO
  • Chelsea High Line Park
  • Greenwich Village
  • Empire State Building
  • Top Of The Rock Observation Deck
  • And more!

On that note, here is how to spend 4 days in New York City:

NYC Itinerary Day 1

Morning

Start off your first day in New York on a private photo tour with NYC Photo Journeys (yes, that’s us!).

Our licensed guides are also professional photographers, and you’ll leave the experience with interesting New York knowledge and beautiful photos of your group to keep.

You’ll get to visit some of the most popular places in NYC including Times Square, Central Park, the Upper East Side, Brooklyn Bridge, Grand Central Terminal, and DUMBO — all while making and preserving cherished memories.

Along with the photos, another highlight is getting a lay of the land as well as local tips on how to ride the subway, where to eat, unique things to do in NYC, and more.

guests in Times Square on a private photo tour
Guests having fun in Times Square on a private NYC Photo Journeys tour

If you’re only interested in the photos and don’t really care about the tour aspect, we also offer a Professional NYC Photoshoot — which includes more photos, looks, and poses. It also comes with a pre-shoot call to go over your vision and exactly what you want to get out of the shoot.

And yes, your local photographer is still happy to share tips for experiencing the best of NYC in 4 days even if you don’t book the tour!

Afternoon

Spend the afternoon in Midtown Manhattan. This neighborhood is mainly for visitors and commuters who flood into Midtown’s offices every weekday; but, it’s where many of the top NYC attractions and famous landmarks are.

No trip to New York is complete without spending at least a little time in Times Square, if only to briefly take in the colors and chaos and snap some photos. Although it’s extremely touristy, visiting Times Square is a must and there are several cool attractions nearby — not to mention loads of fun and interesting tours.

One avenue over from Times Square is Bryant Park, a public park in Midtown that is a great place to visit. During the winter months, it is transformed into the Bryant Park Winter Village, complete with an ice skating rink, food hall, local vendors, heated igloos, and a giant Christmas tree.

During the rest of the year, it’s home to many free public events, yoga classes, movies, outdoor games, and more.

Right next to Bryant Park is the Schwarzman Building of the New York Public Library. This grand building is free and open to the public to visit, and always has interesting exhibitions of library artifacts.

Afterward, walk down Library Way — a section of E. 41 Street embedded with bronze sidewalk plaques featuring quotes from literature and poetry — to Grand Central Terminal.

Grand Central Terminal is a historic train station with a fascinating history, which you can learn about on an NYC Secrets Of Grand Central Walking Tour. Make sure to grab some tasty food in the Dining Concourse, chat with a friend through the walls of the Whispering Gallery, and take in the Mediterranean winter sky painted in gold leaf on the ceiling of the Main Concourse.

If you aren’t tired of books from earlier, head to the nearby Morgan Library & Museum next, an impressive private library and collection.

Another can’t-miss place to visit is the Flatiron Building and nearby Madison Square Park, which are about a 15-minute walk from the Morgan Library & Museum. Take in the distinctive triangular shape of the Flatiron Building, and make sure to also look north for a prime view of another iconic New York City landmark, the Empire State Building.

Hungry? You’ll be in the perfect spot for a delicious Italian meal at Eataly, which is also home to the seasonal rooftop SERRA by Birreria.

Alternatively, Madison Square Park is home to the original Shake Shack if you’re craving a burger.

As New York is a very walkable city, you can visit all the attractions above on foot! In fact, much of this NYC trip can be done by walking. There is a lot to see in New York, and the great thing about walking is you won’t miss any of it.

peeople reading at tables in the New York Public Library
The New York Public Library. Photo by Patrick Robert Doyle via Unsplash.

Evening

Make your way over to Midtown West, where the gleaming Hudson Yards neighborhood has grown in recent years. Here, you can explore the unique and modern Vessel structure, do some shopping, and visit Edge, one of the best observation decks in NYC with stunning 360-degree views.

If you’re an adrenaline junkie, you can also choose to do the City Climb at Edge. This entails scaling the exterior of a skyscraper more than 1,200 feet above ground, before leaning out and looking down from New York City’s highest outdoor platform. It’s certainly not for the faint of heart!

Finish off your first night in NYC with a boat cruise.

An architectural tour by boat or a sunset sightseeing cruise with a Champagne toast are both fabulous ways to end the evening. You’ll get to see breathtaking views of NYC and landmarks like the Statue of Liberty from the water, and watch as the lights of the city sparkle after sunset.

You can see a full list of cruise options here.

Alternatively, head back to Times Square to see it lit up at night and enjoy a drink at one of the many rooftop bars in NYC like 230 Fifth, Magic Hour, St. Cloud, or Haven Rooftop. And if you’re looking to explore NYC after midnight, these venues are also open late!

Pro tip: Consider booking a nightlife tour to really experience the best of NYC after dark. Click here for some top-rated options.

traveler visiting the Vessel during 4 days in New York City
Enjoy the unique architecture of the Vessel. Photo via Clay Banks for Unsplash.

NYC Itinerary Day 2

Morning

Start off your second morning in New York with a stroll through Central Park for a few hours. The park — which is a New York City bucket list item for many — is 2.5 miles long, and stretches from 59th Street in Midtown to 110th Street in Harlem.

Exploring Central Park is fun in all seasons. During the winter, you can go ice skating at Wollman Rink and observe the snowy landscapes of the park.

In the spring and fall, the foliage is absolutely stunning. This is a great time to check out some of the top Central Park photo spots on your own or book a private NYC photoshoot if you’d like have someone else take your photos.

And during the hot summer months, there’s nothing better than bringing a blanket to Sheep Meadow — one of the best picnic spots in NYC — and sitting in the sun while enjoying an al fresco lunch. You’ll also find a full calendar of (mostly) free concerts and events through the annual SummerStage programming.

While in Central Park, don’t miss walking across the romantic Bow Bridge, strolling through Bethesda Terrace, or taking in the views from Belvedere Castle. While these are all fun on your own or with friends, they’re also very romantic if you’re looking for couple’s activities in Central Park.

Other activities to try include renting rowboats on the lake, renting a Citi Bike to explore the park on two wheels, or booking a guided tour to learn some of the park’s fascinating stories and secrets.

You could easily spend all day in Central Park. There is truly so much to do and see — not to mention it’s one of the top free things to do in NYC.

travelers rowing canoes in Central Park during a 4 day itinerary in NYC
There’s lots to do in Central Park, including renting rowboats. Photo by Megan Bucknall via Unsplash.

Afternoon

On either side of Central Park, which is half a mile wide, you’ll find the neighborhoods of the Upper East Side and the Upper West Side. Both of these neighborhoods are known for being upscale, quiet, and residential. They are also home to some of NYC’s best museums.

In particular, a stretch of Fifth Avenue on the Upper East Side is known as “Museum Mile” because it’s home to famous museums like Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the Frick Collection, the Neue Galerie, the Jewish Museum, the Museum of the City of New York, and more.

For first-time visitors, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (AKA the Met) is a must. This is one of the best and most impressive art museums in the world — showcasing over 5,000 years of art from around the globe.

Alternatively, you can visit the American Museum of Natural History, which is located on the Upper West Side. This is another great museum and a good option for families with young kids, especially as the institution is home to the skeleton of a 122-foot titanosaur — the biggest dinosaur ever found!

If you still have energy to explore, head further uptown to West Harlem, where you can see landmarks like the legendary Apollo Theater and the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine.

traveler visiting the Guggenheim Museum during a New York itinerary for 4 days
The Guggenheim Museum in NYC. Photo by Cody Martin via Unsplash.

Evening

The next stop on this New York itinerary for 4 days is an evening on Broadway. No visit to NYC is complete without taking in some of the entertainment that the city is famous for. A Broadway show is one of the best activities you can do in NYC.

On any given night, you can choose from many Broadway plays and musicals in New York’s Theater District and treat yourself to a world-class performance. You can find discounted tickets online or at the TKTS booth in Times Square.

You can expect to pay between $50 to $150+ for Broadway tickets, with prices being higher on weekend nights or for prime seats and popular shows.

For a classic pre-show meal, head to Sardi’s, which has been serving the theater community for over 100 years.

Alternatively, head to 9th Avenue to explore the many restaurants of the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood. Our personal favorite is Tavola, which serves regional Italian cuisine and bakes all of its dishes in an oven made from Mount Vesuvius clay!

Pro tip: Love theater? Consider booking a Broadway Theaters and Times Square with a Theater Professional Tour to get a behind-the-scenes look at the unique history and culture of Broadway.

sign for Hamilton on Broadway in New York City
You can’t miss seeing a Broadway show in NYC. Photo by Sudan Ouyang via Unsplash.

NYC Itinerary Day 3

Morning

Start your morning off by exploring the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan. Here you can visit the 9/11 Memorial, which honors the victims of the 2001 attacks, or spend time at the 9/11 Museum, a somber yet eye-opening and educational experience.

Within the World Trade Center complex, you can also see One World Trade Center, the gleaming tower that holds the title for the tallest building in NYC. At the top you’ll find the One World Observatory, which offers incredible views over the city.

While you’re exploring the World Trade Center, also stop by the Oculus — a transportation hub and shopping mall with a unique architectural design that depicts a dove leaving a child’s hands — and pose in front of the inspiring street art of the Mural Project.

Afterward, continue making your way downtown to the Financial District, which is within walking distance. This is the oldest part of New York City, originally settled in the 1620s by the Dutch.

Here you can catch glimpses of New York history on Stone Street, a cobblestone street that’s one of the oldest in the city, and at Trinity Church, the final resting place of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton and other significant figures from history.

Speaking of churches, nearby St. Paul’s Chapel is one of the most fascinating historic buildings in the city. Dating back to 1766, it’s New York City’s oldest public building in continuous use as well as Manhattan’s oldest surviving church building. George Washington actually workshipped here, and his pew is sectioned off.

During 9/11, this church was actually where the rescue workers slept, where thousands of meals were donated daily, and where people came from around the city to give their time and talents to help with the recovery efforts.

In the Financial District, you can also walk along Wall Street, where the famous bronze Charging Bull statue is located. This is one of a few famous local statues, as you can also pose for a photo with the Fearless Girl statue outside the New York Stock Exchange Building.

Next door is Federal Hall, where the USA’s first president was sworn in.

By the way, there is a lot of George Washington history in Lower Manhattan. If you’d like to continue further in his footsteps while visiting New York City, make sure to grab a bite at Fraunces Tavern where Washington famously ate. It’s also where, on December 4, 1783, he thanked a group of his officers for their service after the Revolutionary War ended in an emotional farewell speech. Today, the tavern acts as both a restaurant and a museum, and is a National Landmark.

Pro tip: To really maximize your time in Lower Manhattan and learn the rich history of its many sights, it’s recommended to book a tour with a licensed guide — like an NYC 9/11 Memorial, World Trade Center & Financial District Walking Tour.

In Battery Park, at the very tip of Manhattan, you can catch the free Staten Island Ferry. This boat ride offers a great view of the Statue of Liberty and Lower Manhattan skyline from the water.

If you do head to Staten Island, consider spending some time in this often-forgotten borough — which contains some hidden gems like the Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden.

waterfall at the 9/11 Memorial in NYC
The 9/11 Memorial in NYC. Photo by Axel Houmadi via Unsplash.

Afternoon

In the afternoon, it’s time to head to Brooklyn. And there’s no better way to reach Brooklyn than by walking across the Brooklyn Bridge from near City Hall in Lower Manhattan. This iconic bridge, which opened in 1883, stretches across the East River and offers great views of the city.

It takes about 30 to 45 minutes to walk across the bridge, which spans 1.3 miles.

Once you get across the bridge, you’ll be in DUMBO, which stands for “Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.” To get here, walk down Washington Street, a beautiful cobblestone street offering an incredible view of the Empire State Building framed by the arch of the Manhattan Bridge.

From there, enter Brooklyn Bridge Park, which showcases 85 stunning acres and epic skyline views stretched out across the DUMBO waterfront and Brooklyn Heights Promenade.

After admiring the elegant brownstones of Brooklyn Heights, grab lunch in DUMBO, a once-industrial waterfront neighborhood that has grown into a popular hotspot in recent years with loads of local shops, flea markets, street art, trendy bars, and restaurants.

You can wait in line for lunch at the famous Grimaldi’s Pizzeria, savor a bowl of soup at Tsuta (the world’s first Michelin star ramen restaurant), or grab a bite to eat at Time Out Market — a large indoor food hall.

At the top of Time Out Market is also a rooftop restaurant as well as a rooftop park offering amazing views of the skyline and a unique perspective of the Brooklyn Bridge up close.

Pro tip: Walking the Brooklyn Bridge into DUMBO is a highly recommended option on an NYC Photo Journeys photo tour or photoshoot. We recommend opting for a route with these locations for a stunning mix of architecture, skyline, and classic New York scenery.

traveler walking across the Brooklyn Bridge during a 4 day NYC itinerary
Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge offers incredible views. Photo by Colton Duke via Unsplash.

Evening

Make your way back to Manhattan in the evening for some nighttime entertainment. There’s so much more to nightlife in NYC than just seeing a Broadway show.

A fun activity to do tonight is going to a show at a famous comedy club like Comedy Cellar or Gotham Comedy Club. You can find cheap tickets for comedy shows, and it’s guaranteed to be a fun time.

You could also get tickets to a performance at Lincoln Center, home of the New York City Ballet, the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic, and others.

For a more low-key evening, listen to some live music at a jazz club like Village Vanguard, Blue Note Jazz Club, or Smalls Jazz Club.

No matter what you’re interested in exploring after dark, you can find it in NYC.

woman visiting Lincoln Center after dark while visiting New York for 4 days
Catch a ballet, opera, or symphony performance at Lincoln Center. Photo by Seth Hoffman via Unsplash.

NYC Itinerary Day 4

Morning

Start the final morning of your 4 day NYC itinerary by walking down the High Line.

Once an abandoned elevated train track on the west side of Manhattan, the High Line has been transformed into a beautiful public park and a popular place for Manhattan skyline tours.

It starts on 34th Street in Hudson Yards — where you can shop the mall and see the beehive-like Vessel — and runs down to Gansevoort Street in Chelsea, for a distance of about 1.5 miles.

Stroll all the way down the High Line to Chelsea, one of the coolest neighborhoods in Manhattan. Here, you can grab a bite to eat at Chelsea Market, before exploring the neighborhood’s many art galleries.

Pro tip: For an enlightening and delicious morning, opt for a Chelsea Market & High Line Food Tour, which immerses you in the history and food of these two hot spots as well as the Meatpacking District.

If you’re up for a museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art is worth a visit. The museum showcases a mix of modern and contemporary art across over 25,000 works and from over 3,700 American artists.

Another cool attraction in Chelsea to check out is Little Island, a floating park on the Hudson River at Pier 54 made from 132 concrete “tulips.” Here you can wander the scenic walking paths to take in the gardens and views, see a performance at the on-site amphitheater, or sample local eats and canned adult beverages from the food stalls.

lush gardens of the High Line in Chelseea
Stroll along the 1.5-mile Chelsea High Line. Photo by Max Harlynking via Unsplash.

Afternoon

From Chelsea, make your way to the West Village and Greenwich Village.

These two neighborhoods were historically the bohemian heart of Manhattan. Spend some time exploring the charming and eclectic streets of these neighborhoods, where you can discover independent bookstores, record stores, boutiques, and more.

Visit Stonewall Inn, a gay bar that was the site of the 1969 riots that launched the gay rights movement. Today, it’s considered a National Historic Landmark. Across the street you can relax in Christopher Park and see the Gay Liberation Monument, a sculpture honoring the gay rights movement and commemorating the Stonewall Uprising.

Stop in Washington Square Park, one of the best places for people-watching in NYC. There are always talented musicians and performers in this park, which is located in the youthful heart of NYU’s campus.

Making your way further downtown, you can discover the neighborhoods of SoHo (South of Houston Street) and Nolita (North of Little Italy.) You’ll find some of the best shopping in NYC here, along with great restaurants and cafes.

SoHo is actually home to the world’s largest collection of full and partial cast-iron buildings, so make sure to spend some time admiring this beautiful architecuture — either on your own or on a private NYC photoshoot! This will certainly be a highlight of your visit to New York in 4 days.

Pro tip: Another thing these neighborhoods are known for is food, and the best way to explore this is through a tasty tour. A few highly-rated culinary excursions include the Greenwich Village Walking & Food Tasting Tour and the SoHo, Little Italy & Chinatown Food & Culture Tour.

traveler visiting the Washington Square Park arch during a 4 day itinerary for New York City
Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village. Photo by Simi Iluyomade via Unsplash.

Evening

It’s time to end this best 4 day itinerary for New York City with a memorable experience: getting one last view of the skyline from an incredible viewpoint.

Two of the best observation decks in NYC are the Empire State Building and the Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center — right near Radio City Music Hall, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and Saks Fifth Avenue. While both observation decks offer stunning views of the city, Top of the Rock has an advantage because you can actually see the Empire State Building in your view of Manhattan.

The Top of the Rock is also slightly cheaper than the Empire State Building ($40 vs. $44); however, both attractions are included in the New York Pass, a sightseeing pass that grants you access to dozens of popular tourist attractions for one price.

Another epic observation deck option is the SUMMIT One Vanderbilt, which includes three floors of fun! A few highlights include front row views of the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building, mirrored floors that give a reflective effect (cool for photos), a room full of reflective silver orbs you can throw around, and a cafe at the top with an unforgettable vista.

Here is a short video of the experience taken by NYC Photo Journeys founder, Jessie Festa.

4 Day NYC Itinerary Map

To help give you a visual of where all of the top NYC attractions mentioned above are, here is a map:

Click here for the interactive version of this Google map.

Alternative 4-Day NYC Itinerary

Does the NYC 4 day itinerary above sound a little too touristy to you?

If the thought of queueing to go to the top of the Empire State Building or standing in the crowds of Times Square makes you shudder, here’s an alternative 4 day itinerary for NYC that contains less touristy neighborhoods and attractions:

  • Day 1: Work your way from Greenwich Village and Chelsea to the hip and edgy East Village
  • Day 2: Start in Brooklyn’s charming Cobble Hill, Brooklyn Heights, and DUMBO neighborhoods before walking over the Manhattan Bridge into Chinatown and then heading to Nolita to explore upscale boutiques, cute cafes, and art galleries
  • Day 3: Head uptown to visit Central Park, local museums, and Harlem (lunch at Red Rooster is highly recommended)
  • Day 4: Explore the Lower East Side and walk over the Williamsburg Bridge to enjoy the many things to do in Williamsburg — including shopping along Bedford Avenue and taking in skyline views from the waterfront — before heading into Bushwick to explore street art, delicious food, and epic nightlife

This alternative 4 days in NYC itinerary is perfect for anyone who wants to focus more on exploring neighborhoods, trying new restaurants, and experiencing nightlife than ticking tourist attractions off a list.

You might also visit less known museums like the Met Cloisters (located way uptown in Inwood), the New Museum in Nolita, SPYSCAPE in Midtown, or the Brooklyn Museum in Prospect Heights (Brooklyn).

Another idea: learn about immigrant history at the Tenement Museum in the Lower East Side, which offers a great introduction to NYC and how it came to be the cultural melting pot it is today.

In terms of unique experiences, some of your many options include taking a cooking class with grandmas from around the world through League of Kitchens, eating in a local home through EatWith, taking in the views from Governors Island, or getting into nature by exploring some of the hiking trails in Manhattan.

Here is a full list of non-touristy things to do in NYC.

Need help capturing the best of NYC in 4 days — with you in the photos? Book one of our Private Photo Journeys, a walking tour that includes photos of your group to keep. Or get a styled, custom shoot that tells your unique story through an NYC Influencer Shoot or Professional New York City Shoot. Email [email protected] with inquiries.

How Much Will I Spend In New York For 4 Days?

As you probably know, New York City is not a cheap destination to visit. In fact, it regularly ranks as one of the most expensive cities in the world.

Breaking it down to a per-day budget, you may have these costs for a higher-end (but not over-the-top) trip:

  • Hotel: $250 per night
  • Meals: $100 per day
  • Entertainment: $150 per day
  • Transportation: $50 per day

This assumes you stay in a 4 star hotel, eat one or two nice meals out per day, splurge on entertainment like Broadway shows and other experiences, and take Ubers instead of the subway. It doesn’t include buying souvenirs and other shopping, which would be an extra cost.

In total, this type of trip could cost $2,200 or more for 4 days.

However, you can also have a more budget-friendly trip to NYC:

  • Hotel: $150 per night
  • Meals: $50 per day
  • Entertainment: $50 per day
  • Transportation: $15 per day

This would mean staying in a 3 star hotel, eating only one meal out per day, choosing more budget-friendly activities, and sticking to public transportation.

Overall, this type of trip could cost you $1,000 for 4 days.

So while a trip to New York City is still not cheap, you can save money depending on how much you are willing to budget for your trip and by finding ways to cut down on your spending.

Also keep in mind that depending on how many people you’re traveling with, certain costs may be shared, such as hotels and taxis.

If you’re traveling solo in NYC, you’ll need to remember that you alone with be responsible for all of the costs as you plan your budget. This is an important consideration when it comes to how to travel solo successfully.

travelers taking a yellow cab in Times Square during a 4 day trip to NYC
Opting for taxis and Ubers over the subway can make your 4 days in New York more expensive. Photo via Taton Moïse for Unsplash.

How To Save Money In NYC

If you want to save money in NYC while still having a good time, there are several ways to accomplish this.

There are plenty of fun and cheap things to do in New York, like visiting museums that have pay-what-you-wish times (almost every museum offers this on select days) or going for a bike ride in one of NYC’s many parks. These are great additions to your 4 day NYC itinerary.

You can also visit NYC on a budget by choosing a hotel outside Manhattan. Hotels in Brooklyn and Queens are often much cheaper, and if you choose a location with good subway connections, getting into Manhattan will be a breeze.

Sticking to public transportation instead of taking taxis or Ubers/Lyfts is another excellent way to save money.

You can also cut back on your budget by limiting how much you go out to eat. Grabbing a quick meal like pizza or a falafel wrap from a street cart is much cheaper than sitting down at a nice restaurant. When you do go out to eat, avoid low-quality tourist traps in areas like Times Square or Little Italy and keep in mind that alcohol is often the thing that really increases the bill.

Finally, consider getting an attractions pass like the New York Pass. This allows you to access dozens of popular attractions like the Empire State Building Observatory, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, and the Museum of Modern Art for a discounted price.

New York is an amazing city, and even when traveling on a budget it’s possible to have a very memorable NYC vacation.

Empire State Building in NYC skyline
How to spend 4 days in New York City. Photo via Christian Ladewig for Unsplash.

Travel Tips For Visiting NYC For The First Time

This sample NYC itinerary showed you how to spend 4 days in New York. Here are some additional tips for visiting New York for the first time:

Use public transportation and walk.

New York City has one of the best public transportation systems in the world, and the subway will get you almost anywhere you need to go for just $2.75. It’s often faster than traveling by car too.

NYC is also extremely walkable, and you can get around easily on foot, especially in Manhattan.

Think about the best time to visit.

When planning your trip to NYC, consider the time of year you’re visiting. New York is a great place to visit during all seasons, but some times are better than others.

For example, the summer months, especially July and August, can be very hot and humid to the point of being uncomfortable. In the winter, January and February are the coldest months of the year and the weather is similarly extreme (although there are much fewer crowds at this time of year due to it being brutally cold).

Fall and spring are great times to visit NYC for nice weather and lower crowds. December is also a popular time to visit to enjoy Christmas in New York, but it can get very crowded at this time of year.

Another time to consider visiting is early November — right between the summer and holiday season crowds. This time of year also typically has mild weather that isn’t too hot or too cold.

visiting Central Park during 4 days in NYC
NYC Photo Journeys tour guests enjoying stories, photos, and fall foliage

Don’t stay in an Airbnb.

Unlike other cities where you can rent an entire apartment on Airbnb for a vacation, renting apartments for less than 30 days is actually illegal in New York City and contributes to a housing shortage among locals.

Instead, stay in a hotel. Hotels have comparable prices to Airbnbs in NYC and are usually a better option. Or if you do stay in an Airbnb, make sure you are renting a room in someone’s home, and not an entire apartment.

Observe the rules of the sidewalk.

Many visitors to New York come from places that aren’t as pedestrian-friendly and don’t realize the unspoken rules of the sidewalk in NYC. New Yorkers walk quickly and always seem to be in a rush.

As a visitor, don’t block the whole sidewalk when walking in a group, don’t stop abruptly in the middle of the sidewalk, keep to the right when walking, and watch out for others.

If you follow these simple rules, you’ll avoid getting elbowed by a New Yorker who’s in a hurry.

Get out on the water.

There is a good reason we recommend having your birthday party on a boat in NYC!

New York is a city that’s surrounded by water: the Hudson River, the East River, New York Harbor, and even the Atlantic Ocean if you go out to the beaches of Brooklyn and Queens.

You can get an amazing perspective of the city from the water. Whether you take a sightseeing boat tour, a sunset dinner cruise, or even just a free ride on the Staten Island Ferry, make sure you get out on the water at least once during your trip to New York.

Click here for a full list of boat and cruise tours in NYC.

Lower Manhattan skyline as seen from the Staten Island Ferry
View of the New York City skyline from the Staten Island Ferry. Photo via Tobias Reich for Unsplash.

Don’t get pickpocketed or scammed.

New York has come a long way from its crime-ridden reputation of the 1970s and 1980s, and it’s a very safe city to visit. But that doesn’t mean you can let your guard down completely.

One of the most important travel tips to remember is to always be vigilant, especially in crowded places like the subway or in touristy areas like Times Square. Don’t keep valuables like your phone or wallet in a place where they could easily get snatched, like an unzipped purse or your back pocket.

Also, avoid touts trying to sell you unofficial tickets, tours, and attractions — chances are high it’s a scam or a total rip-off.

Use newsletters and websites to discover fun NYC experiences.

In terms of newsletters, a few favorites include The Skint and Nifty NYC.

For events to add to your 4 day NYC itinerary, a few websites to check out include Fever and Bucketlisters.

Buy cheap souvenirs in Chinatown.

If you want to purchase that classic “I Heart NY” t-shirt, a New York City snowglobe, or some other NYC souvenir, head to Chinatown to find the best prices in souvenir shops. You can find particularly good deals on Canal Street.

Chinatown is also a great neighborhood to explore on its own — especially if you book a tasty food tour.

You may also consider buying some more unique and authentic NYC souvenirs.

stack of I Love NY t-shirts on an outdoor table
An “I Love NY” shirt is a popular souvenir. Photo via Artem Zhukov for Unsplash.

You won’t be able to do and see everything.

While 4 days is a great amount of time for an introduction to NYC, know that you won’t be able to see and do everything you want to on one trip.

New York is such a large city that you could spend a lifetime here and still never run out of things to do. For your first trip, prioritize the special activities and experiences that really matter to you, and don’t try to cram in absolutely everything at the expense of being able to enjoy your trip.

Fun Guided Tours For Your 4 Day NYC Itinerary

One of the best ways to explore a new destination is through an interesting tour with a local sightseeing guide. A few we recommend adding to your 4 day New York City itinerary include:

Classic NYC Tours

New York Helicopter Tour: Manhattan Highlights

New York in One Day Guided Sightseeing Tour

Flatiron Food, Architecture & History Tour

Wall Street Insider Tour with a Finance Professional

Greenwich Village Pizza Food Tour

Unique NYC Tours

Private Graffiti & Street Art Walking Tour in Brooklyn

Asia in Queens: Exploring NYC’s Largest Chinatown

New York Catacombs by Candlelight

NYC Bus Tour of Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens: Contrasts, Color and Character

New York City Lower East Side Culture and Food Tastings Tour

Click here for a full list of New York City tours.

Statue of Liberty in NYC
See the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island on a guided tour. Photo via Crystal Jo for Unsplash.

Where To Eat During 4 Days In NYC

NYC is known for having some of the best food in the world. Since it’s such a diverse city, you can get authentic and delicious food from all around the globe.

Some of the best places to eat that should definitely be included in a first time New York itinerary include:

  • Joe’s Pizza: This little pizza joint is a Greenwich Village institution that has been serving oversized slices since the 1970s. For a taste of what makes New York pizza so good, you must eat here. Note that they also have a Times Square location.
  • Russ & Daughters: You can’t come to NYC without trying a classic New York bagel and lox. Russ & Daughters has some of the best.
  • Sylvia’s Restaurant: Harlem is a part of NYC that you shouldn’t miss, and Sylvia’s is one of the best restaurants in Harlem with a menu of hearty and delicious soul food.
  • Xi’an Famous Foods: This family-owned restaurant has multiple locations around New York City that are perfect for grabbing a quick meal. They serve authentic Chinese food from the city of Xi’an.
  • Tavern on the Green: If you want to splurge on a nice meal, this historic restaurant in Central Park has a wonderful ambiance and an “old New York” feel to it. It’s sure to be a highlight of your 4 day NYC itinerary!

These are just a few of the thousands of delicious and unique restaurants in NYC. You can truly find anything you’re looking for, whether you want to have an NYC boozy brunch, find New York City’s most Instagrammable restaurants, sip coffee in cute NYC cafes, or something else.

And of course, make sure to book at least one food tour to sample a variety of locally-made food and drink! This is a must on your visit to New York.

You can’t visit New York for 4 days without trying some local pizza. Photo via The Nix Company for Unsplash.

Best NYC Nightlife

There’s a reason that NYC is known as “The City That Never Sleeps.” These are some of the best nightlife experiences to add your 4 day NYC itinerary:

  • 230 Fifth: This rooftop bar offers stunning views of the Empire State Building and the surrounding skyline. During the winter, they offer heated igloos.
  • House of Yes: For a unique experience, head to this funky venue in Bushwick, Brooklyn that has DJs, dancers, acrobats, and cabaret performers.
  • Comedy Cellar: Catch a late-night comedy show at this famous comedy club in NYC.
  • Tao: One of the most popular nightclubs and lounges in NYC, located in the Chelsea neighborhood. It’s the perfect place to go if you want to dance the night away.
  • Village Vanguard: For a low-key night listening to some great jazz music, head to this iconic jazz club in the West Village with a long and storied history.
  • Westlight: This chic rooftop lounge in Williamsburg, Brooklyn offers 360-degree views, including one of the best views of the Manhattan skyline you can find.

Nightlife is big in NYC, and you’ll never be bored with so many late-night activities to choose from.

Need help capturing the best of NYC in 4 days — with you in the photos? Book one of our Private Photo Journeys, a walking tour that includes photos of your group to keep. Or get a styled, custom shoot that tells your unique story through an NYC Influencer Shoot or Professional New York City Shoot. Email [email protected] with inquiries.

Travel Insurance For Your 4-Day NYC Itinerary

When visiting NYC — or anywhere else in the world — getting insurance is a smart idea.

One of the best travel medical insurance for travelers is SafetyWing as they’ve got a large network and offer both short-term and long-term coverage — including coverage if you’re traveling for months as well as limited coverage in your home country.

Additionally, SafetyWing is budget-friendly and offers $250,000 worth of coverage with just one low overall deductible of $250.

Click here to price out travel insurance for your trip in just a few clicks.

What would you add to this 4 day NYC itinerary?


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