Planning to spend 4 days in New York City? Then I have the perfect NYC itinerary for you.
As someone who visited New York City more than 20 times before finally moving to the Big Apple (I couldn’t help myself), I’ve definitely learned a thing or two about making the most of 4 days in New York City.
The majority of my visiting family and friends spend an average of 4 days in NYC and I take great pride in showing them as much as possible. Honestly, at this point I’ve refined and used this exact itinerary with my own family and friends more times than I can count.
It covers all the top attractions for a proper first visit to NYC and checks all the boxes. Plus, I know it works because most of my family and friends request a copy of the itinerary when planning their return trip. And that’s exactly how this 4 day NYC itinerary is designed to work. It’s supposed to make you satisfied, but not content.
With 4 days to spend in New York City, I’m sure you’ll see enough to fall in love with NYC and will be counting down the days until your next visit. To that end, let’s jump right in. 🙂
Who is this 4 day New York City itinerary for?
This helpful guide is for first time visitors planning to spend 4 days in New York City. The guide will cover most of the iconic spots, as well as beloved local gems. I’ll make sure to share links to other helpful NYC posts throughout the article, feel free to explore to your hearts content!
This 4 days in NYC itinerary will guide you through the top sights and food spots you simply can’t miss for your first visit to New York City. This itinerary should give you a robust feel for the best of NYC while giving you reason to return for more.
New York City is large, make no mistake about it, so there’s no way you’re going to see everything during your first visit. Relax and give yourself some grace, you’re going to have a heck of a time regardless!
Visiting New York City? If you haven’t decided where to stay (yet) check out our helpful guide on Where to Stay in New York City (The best neighborhoods for first timers +2 to avoid). Don’t have time? Here’s our favorite hotel in NYC, hands down.
Is 4 days in New York City enough time?
The honest answer is no, but it’s better than nothing and we’ll take what we can get.
Spending 4 days in New York City is a great introduction to the Big Apple, but as I mentioned earlier it’s not enough time to absorb everything, so go easy on yourself because you’ll see a lot of things but you won’t see everything.
New York City is comprised of 5 boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and The Bronx. With only 4 days in NYC, this guide focuses mostly on Manhattan and Brooklyn because that’s where most first time visitors spend the majority of their time.
With that in mind, let’s try to make the most efficient use of your 4 days in New York City!
If you want to become a real New Yorker, there’s only one rule: You have to believe New York is, has been, and always will be the greatest city on earth. The center of the universe.– Ellen R. Shapiro
Tips for visiting NYC for first time
With only 4 days in New York City, we want to make the best use of your time and money. Here are some helpful things to know for your first visit to New York City.
Get the 7-Day Unlimited Ride Metro Card
- New York City has very efficient public transportation and chances are good that you’ll use the subway to get around. The Metro pass is completely worthwhile! For only $33 you’ll have unlimited access to the metro for 7 days.
- If you use the subway without the unlimited ride card, one-way tickets on the local trains cost $2.75 per trip and add up quickly.
Expect long lines, especially at popular places
- New York City gets 63 million visitors per year? Well, that’s a lot of people trying to eat at the same popular place and see the same popular thing. Prepare for long lines.
Comfortable shoes are a must
- New York City is best explored on foot because the city’s amazing skyscrapers are half the fun. As such, you’ll probably spend a lot of time walking from Point A to Point B. Whenever friends visit us in NYC we keep track of steps and typically average 10 miles a day! All this to say, definitely bring good walking shoes.
Further Reading: 20 HELPFUL Tips for Visiting New York City
4 Days in New York City Itinerary
So I went to New York City to be born again. It was, and remains, easy for most Americans to go somewhere else and start anew. I wasn’t like my parents. I didn’t have any supposedly sacred piece of land or shoals of friends to leave behind.Kurt Vonnegut
New York City Itinerary: Day 1
Your first day in the Big Apple is meant to be special and I want to give you a great introduction to the city I love so much. As such, we’ll be covering four iconic NYC experiences during your first of four days in New York City.
Top sights for day one:
- Central Park (spoiler alert: it’s just as magical as you imagine!)
- Option A: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
- Option B: The American Museum of Natural History
- Stroll down Fifth Avenue & Saint Patrick’s Cathedral
- Visit Times Square & Broadway Show
NYC Itinerary, Day 1: Morning in Central Park
Start your first morning in the Big Apple by strolling through the most visited park in country, Central Park.
I can confirm that there’s nothing more iconic (or beloved) in New York City than Central Park. Let me take it a step further — if you could only visit one place during your 4 days in New York City, this would be it.
But take note, the park is massive. Spanning 843 acres, you could easily spend an entire day exploring the park yet leave wanting more. I suggest focusing on the top spots in the park so that you’re not rushing around aimlessly.
Not sure what you can’t miss in Central Park? Here’s a helpful post that highlights the 15 most iconic things to do in Central Park (with far too many photos because I couldn’t help myself).
After you’re done exploring Central Park I suggest popping into a museum. There’s two great museums to choose from — the Metropolitan Museum of Art (located within Central Park) and the American Museum of Natural History (located at the border of Central Park in the lovely Upper West Side neighborhood.
It’s easy to get museum fatigue, so I’d pick the one that appeals more to you. More info on both museums below.
Option A: Visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Founded in 1870, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) is often considered the best museum in New York City so it would be inexcusable not to mention it in this NYC itinerary.
With more than 2 million pieces of art spanning 5,000+ years, the Met is the largest museum in the country and the fifth largest museum in the world.
Averaging 6 million visitors per year, it’s also the most visited museum in New York City and would take several days to explore properly. You simply can’t miss this popular experience during your 4 days in New York City.
Must see at the MET: Washington Crossing the Delaware, The Temple of Dendur, Vincent van Gogh’s Self Portrait with a Straw Hat and Monet’s Bridge over a Pond of Water Lilies.
Option B: Visit the American Museum of Natural History
If you’re more into taxidermy and natural wonders, you may enjoy touring the epic American Museum of Natural History more than the Met.
Welcoming 5 million visitors per year and spanning all aspect of the natural world, the American Museum of Natural History in New York City is considered one of the greatest natural history museums in the world.
Guests are invited in by two massive dinosaur skeletons housed in the entry hall. From there, you can tour the impressive permanent exhibits or take a look at the exciting rotating exhibit.
Don’t miss the Hall of Ocean Life where you’ll have an opportunity to see a life-size model of a 94-foot blue whale — it’s an experience you won’t soon forget. Also, the taxidermy mammals are remarkable and have been captivating both children and adults for years.
Further reading: 15 Epic Things You Can’t Afford to Miss at the American Museum of Natural History
Local’s Tip: When you’ve had your fill of this spectacular museum, head to Shake Shack (just across the street) for lunch. The lines at Shake Shack are usually long but their burgers and fries are worth it. They’re so good and inexpensive (for NYC).
Interested in museums? Good on you! Read: The 14 BEST Museums in New York City & What to See at Each
NYC Itinerary, Day 1: Afternoon in Midtown
After lunch head down Fifth Avenue to experience one of the best shopping streets in the world firsthand. Fifth Avenue is peppered with luxury brands competing for attention by way of stunning window displays. I do not use the term luxury lightly — Fifth Avenue is often referred to as one of the most expensive shopping districts in the world.
Visit Saint Patrick’s Cathedral
Along the way you’ll have an opportunity to experience some remarkable architecture as well, most notably St. Patrick’s Cathedral — one of the most beautiful churches in NYC.
Welcoming more than 5 million visitors per year, this iconic New York City cathedral took 21 years to build because construction halted during the Civil War. Visitors are welcome inside but must be respectfully dressed (no exposed shoulders or short shorts).
Located right off 5th Avenue, this Neo-Gothic style cathedral has been stopping people in their tracks since its completion in 1879. But it’s not hard to see why this is arguably the most popular church in New York City — it stands a stark contract to the concrete and glass that surrounds it.
Explore Times Square at night
I want to be honest with you: Times Square is overwhelming and very touristy. Most of the folks I take here end up telling me they expected something different (ha!). I think the majority of people visiting New York City for the first time have a vague idea of Times Square based on what they’ve seen in movies but the reality is often less …. romantic.
But at the end of the day Times Square is iconic and can’t be missed during your 4 days in New York City!
Times Square swells with tourists all hours of the day, but especially at night. You’ll find yourself sympathizing with sardines in no time flat. Also, brace yourself for whiffs of marijuana, it comes with the territory. Take your time soaking in the massive screens and head to Los Tacos No. 1 when you’re ready to escape the bright lights.
Los Tacos No. 1 serves the best tacos in NYC, if not the entire country. They melt in your mouth! I swing by anytime I’m in the neighborhood because they’re irresistible.
Local’s Tip: The folks dressed up in character costumes can be rather aggressive. They try to pull people in for photos and then demand payment, avoid getting caught up in the schemed by diverting eye contact.
NYC Itinerary, Day 1: Catch a Broadway Show
Let’s slowly start winding down your first of 4 days in New York City by doing one of my favorite things in the Big Apple, catching a Broadway Show! Admittedly, Broadway Shows are so dang expensive, but the experience is truly unforgettable. I would suggest budgeting at least one Broadway Show during your 4 days in New York City.
Something I wish I had known earlier is that certain Broadway Shows have an online lottery system where you can apply to win free tickets. Seems like a long shot, I know, but one of my coworkers won two tickets to Hamilton, which were worth over $1,000.
Maybe you can get lucky too, test your luck by applying directly through the specific show’s website.
Another way to save money on tickets is to purchase last minute tickets directly at the ticket booth. They often have a handful of random single seats left over and sell them at a discount, as long as you’re okay not sitting next to your special someone. Doesn’t distance make the heart grow fonder anyway? 😉
For example, when visiting NYC for the first time with my sisters I was okay not sitting next to them and paid $99 for a $300 seat.
Capping the evening with a Broadway Show is a great way to wrap up your first of 4 days in New York City. If you’re a night owl and would like to test the indulge that never sleeps, I suggest finding a roof top bar in Times Square.
Regardless of how you spend the evening, get a good night’s rest because tomorrow, we walk!
“I love New York, even though it isn’t mine, the way something has to be, a tree or a street or a house, something, anyway, that belongs to me because I belong to it.”– Truman Capote
New York City Itinerary for 4 Days: Day 2
During your second day in New York City I would like to introduce you to one of the most charming areas, Greenwich Village. I’d like you to see firsthand why people choose to live here despite comical rent prices (I’m writing this through watery eyes — the rent is too damn high!).
Top sights for day two:
- Greenwich Village
- Washington Park
- SoHo (South of Houston Street)
- Rubirosa Pizza
- The High Line
- Chelsea Market
Day 2 in NYC Itinerary: Greenwich Village
First things first, let’s start your day the true New York way — grab a bagel! There’s so many great bagels in NYC you could choose from and since I don’t know exactly where you’re staying in NYC, I suggest reading: 15 best bagels in New York City (based on firsthand experience).
Washington Square Park
With your bagel in hand make a beeline for Washington Square Park. This is one of my favorite parks in New York City. This area is especially lively and constantly has performers and musicians generously sharing their craft.
One of my favorite memories from New York was stumbling across a piano concert in this park one summer evening. Watching the pianist serenade visitors in the dark of night was nothing short of magical.
Further Reading: 10 Iconic NYC Parks You Can’t Afford to Miss
Best things to do in Greenwich Village
There’s so many great things to do in Greenwich Village it would take too long to list them all here. Instead, I suggest checking out: 17+ Things to Do in the Charming West Village. Quick highlights include:
Check out the iconic Friends Apartment Building: The show was set in New York City, even though it was actually filmed in California. Regardless, you can see a handful of the iconic buildings from the show. Most notable is the apartment where Rachel, Monica, Chandler and Joey lived.
Visit the starting place of the LGBTQ+ Movement in America: Stonewall Inn is a tavern that is synonymous with the Gay rights movement in America — making a visit obligatory for anyone interested in important historic sights in NYC. The site of the infamous 1969 riots that catapulted the LGBTQ+ community into the limelight and led to the re-evaluation of the relationship between the police and the LGBTQ+ community.
Get drinks at the best bar in the world (no, seriously): What better way to cap off an adventurous 4 days in New York City than by getting a drink at Dante? Dante was rated the best bar in the world in 2019 and appeared on the list again in 2020.
Next, make your way over to SoHo
SoHo (which stands for South of Houston Street) neighbors Greenwich Village to the south, making it the next natural stop. SoHo is a very charming neighborhood best known for great shopping, pricey lofts, quaint cafes and ample art galleries.
Spend some time exploring the neighborhood on foot before stopping by Balthazar Bakery for an afternoon pick-me-up. The bakery is right next to the ever-famous Balthazar Restaurant, which is most definitely worth visiting during your 4 days in New York City but make reservations well in advance.
NYC Itinerary, Day 2: Lunch at Rubirosa Pizza
Once you’ve had your fill of window shopping head to Rubirosa Pizza for lunch. I am ashamed to admit it took me way too long to visit this popular pizzeria but Within seconds it became my favorite pizza place in NYC.
The funny part? I like the simple margarita pizza best. Of all the interesting pizzas a gal could love! Rubirosa has mastered, with incredible simplicity, the art of tomato sauce. This place is a must-try while visiting New York City for 4 days.
Walk the High Line
The High Line is one of the most unique parks in New York City. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, High Line Park was born from an eye-sore.
The High Line opened in 2009 and became an instant success.The elevated promenade stretches 1.5 miles and receives an average of 8 million visitors annually. It didn’t take long for folks to realize this as one of the most iconic and interesting parks in New York City.
As a local, I can tell you that I thoroughly enjoy visiting the High Line regardless of how many times I’ve seen it. This NYC park swells with giddy tourists, so the people-watching opportunities are endless.
NYC Itinerary, Day 2: Evening at Chelsea Market
While you’re walking the High Line make sure you pop off at the Chelsea Market. The Chelsea Market is a famous food hall mixed with unique restaurants and shops. All told, there’s 35 vendors waiting to impress you with tasty treats and fare.
Highlights at the Chelsea Market include: matcha from Chalait, warm donuts from the Doughnuttery, tacos from Los Tacos No. 1, spices from Spices and Tease and souvenirs from Pearl River Mart.
4 Days in New York City Itinerary: Day 3
Your third of 4 days in New York City will take you to one of the most historic areas on the Big Apple & one of my favorite boroughs in NYC: Brooklyn. It would be inexcusable to skip either place in a proper New York City itinerary and I’ll tell you why.
Top sights for day 3 in NYC:
- 9/11 Memorial & Museum
- One World Trade Center + Oculus Mall
- Wall Street + New York Stock Exchange
- Brooklyn Bridge + Brooklyn Promenade
- Explore DUMBO
Day 3 in NYC Itinerary: Explore Wall Street
Grab a quick coffee and bagel before making your way to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. Admission to the 9/11 Museum is $26 per adult and worth every penny because the experience is incredibly moving.
The exhibit that sticks out most to me is a glass-enclosed cutout of a store display with thick layers of dust and debris from the day of the attack. If you enjoy deep reflection and history, this museum is for you.
The line to get in is unbelievably long so I suggest getting the C3 pass if you plan to visit, so that you can skip the line. Whether you go to the 9/11 Museum of not, make sure to take in the grandeur of the moving 9/11 Memorial right next to the museum.
The 9/11 Memorial is a never-ending waterfall into the depths of the earth with names of victims engraved in stone. The overwhelming might of the monolithic One World Trade Center keeps these somber memories safe in its shadow. You can’t spend 4 days in NYC without seeing this.
The skyline of New York is a monument of a splendor that no pyramids or palaces will ever equal or approach.Ayn Rand
The Oculus Mall is right across the street from the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, making it our next stop. The Oculus Mall looks like the spine of a fish long forgotten. It’s quite the architectural feat! Not only is it an actual mall, it’s also a functioning subway hub. Definitely check this out, it’s very unique.
Next, head towards the Financial District and stop to take in the iconic New York Stock Exchange. Then head over to the famous Charging Bull and take a photo. The line for this takes a while but the picture will last forever.
You might notice an old church next to the Charging Bull. This is the historic Trinity Church. The jutting ancient profile is a stark contrast to the concrete and glass surrounding it.
New York City Itinerary, Day 3 Afternoon: Cross the Brooklyn Bridge
Connecting Manhattan to Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Bridge is one of the oldest bridges in the country. Construction began in 1869 and when it was completed in 1883, it was deemed the longest suspension bridge in the world.
One of the most popular activities for first time visitors to NYC is to walk the length of the Brooklyn Bridge and explore DUMBO afterwards. The scenic one-mile walk usually takes 20-30 minutes and offers some of the best views of the city.
Make sure you stop and take photos (an obnoxious amount if needed) because the experience it worth remembering.
Once across, make a beeline for Juliana’s Pizza – the white pie is my favorite, it’s the perfect NYC pizza. Oh, my goodness, just typing this makes my mouth water. Most evenings, the line is out the door and around the block, but if you go during lunch your wait time should be shorter/non-existent. Pies run around $30 each and feed 2 to 3 people.
Now the only dilemma facing you is how to burn those calories! Not to worry, I’ve got your back. Stroll down Brooklyn Promenade for the best views of the famous NYC skyline. Brooklyn Promenade is especially beautiful in the evening, so bookmark this place for a romantic evening spot.
Calories burned and photos taken, walk down to DUMBO for a fun and trendy spot full of photo opportunities. DUMBO stands for Down Under the Brooklyn Bridge Overpass. If you’d like a photo from the iconic Brooklyn Bridge spot, head to the cross section between Washington Street and Front Street.
Walk further down for Jane’s Carousel and the Time Out Market. It’s a food hall chock-full of little restaurants serving up delicious fare. When you’ve soaked it all in head towards the subway and make your way back to the hotel.
I suggest taking it easy for the evening but if you still have energy to burn, why not a fun jazz club or roof top bar? Your 4 days in New York City are slowly wrapping up, live it up if you feel so inclined!
4 Days in New York City Itinerary: Day 4
Day 4 Sights:
- Grand Central Terminal
- The New York Public Library
- Bryant Park
- Rockefeller Center
- Radio City Music Hall
- Top of the Rock Observation Deck
New York City Itinerary, Day 4 Morning
Visiting New York City for 4 days without visiting Grand Central Terminal would be a crime! So let’s head that way after breakfast, shall we?
Grand Central Terminal is a beautiful functioning transportation hub.In the center of the station, make sure to look up for the grandeur of the celestial ceiling. There’s a food hall downstairs if you’d like a coffee, snack or quick bite.
Upon exiting the Grand Central Terminal, you’ll be 3 minutes away from the New York Public Library. Everyone should see the New York Public Library at least once in their life.
When it opened to the public in 1911, the New York Public Library was officially the largest marble building ever built in the country. No small task, considering it took 16 years to construct this monolithic structure, but the wait was worth it — more than 50,000 people showed up on opening day. It leaves a lasting impression on first time visitors to New York City. Pop in for a visit!
Take a break at Bryant Park
After you’re done exploring the New York Public Library, head to Bryant Park, the cute little park right behind the library.
Bryant Park is perfectly tucked into the shadow of towering office buildings that make up the heart of Midtown Manhattan. Located right behind the breathtaking New York Public Library, it’s not uncommon to find all the chairs and benches full during sunny days.
In many ways Bryant Park feels like a little piece of Paris in the heart of New York City. In the summer, a library attendant shares carts full of books for reading enjoyment. Even non-members can pick up a book to enjoy in the park.
If you’d like to have lunch while reading your book, I recommend Sweetgreen for a salad, it’s right across the street from Bryant Park.
Tip: if you’re visiting during summer, Bryant Park hosts “Movies in the Park” every Monday. The lawn opens at 5pm and movies start at sunset. Bring a cozy blanket and arrive early because it gets busy! There’s no better way to end a summer evening in New York City than watching a movie in the park.
NYC 4 Day Itinerary, afternoon
After indulging in Bryant Park, take a 10-minute stroll to Rockefeller Center. This area is a stark contrast to the peacefulness of Bryant Park because it’s so lively.
While in the area, you can’t miss the sweeping views of the the city from the Top of Rock Observation Deck. I dare you to show me a more mesmerizing skyline than New York City’s and the view from the Top of the Rock is the absolute best, especially at sunset.
Visitors can access three separate indoor/outdoor observation decks on the 67th, 69th, and 70th floors. The subsequent panoramic views from this iconic building makes this one of the most popular observation decks in NYC. As such, you can expect crowds practically every hour of the day.
Further Reading: 18 JAW-DROPPING Views of New York City (For All Budgets)
Last night of your 4 days in New York City
The last evening of your 4 days in New York City is yours to take advantage of. This would be a great time to revisit favorite spots or buy souvenirs (here’s my personal list of 10 fool-proof NYC souvenirs) for friends. If you are looking for more ideas or advice, read below.
Best time to visit New York City
- My favorite time to visit New York City is during the holiday season (late November to December) because of the Christmas markets and decorations.
- My second favorite time to visit is during fall (mid-October to mid-November) because of the mild temperatures and beautiful fall foliage.
But there’s no bad time to visit New York City. Just know that winters can be brutally cold (between January and mid-March). And the summer heat and humidity can be tough to handle for those not used it (between July and August).
Is the New York City Pass worthwhile?
With only 4 days in New York City, I do not recommend getting the standard NYC CityPASS. The pass is $132 per person and allows access to six attractions over the span of 9 days. Chances are you won’t have time to take advantage of all six attractions in 4 days.
On the contrary, the New York City C3 Pass is worth considering. The C3 pass is $84 per person and allows access to three attractions over the span of 9 days. The attractions are listed below:
- Empire State Building
- Top of the Rock Observation Deck
- Ferry Access to Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
- 9/11 Memorial & Museum
- American Museum of Natural History
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art
- Museum of Modern Art
- Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises
- Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
- Guggenheim Museum
- Hornblower Sightseeing Cruises
Based on my math, I suggest getting the New York City C3 Pass if you plan to visit at least three of the following places: (plus, the ability to skip lines is invaluable!)
- Empire State Building (regular admission is $20/person)
- Top of the Rock (regular admission is $36/person)
- The Statue of Liberty (regular admission is $19/person)
- 9/11 Museum (regular admission is $24/person)
- The MET (Metropolitan Museum of Art) (regular admission is $25/person)
- The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) (regular admission is $25/person)
Where to stay in New York City for First Time Visitors
Lodging for 4 days in New York City will not be cheap if you plan to stay in a hotel. Anyway you slice it, sleeping in the city that never sleeps is expensive. In fact, lodging will probably be the biggest hit to your budget.
With that said, for first time visitors, my recommendation is to stay in Greenwich Village or SoHo.
- My favorite mid-range hotel for 4 days in New York City is the Soho Grand Hotel. SoHo has a calmer feel than other parts of New York City. We love the location, service and hospitality of the Soho Grand Hotel.
Airbnb Note: Due to the current housing shortage crisis in New York City, the city prohibits rentals of entire apartments or homes for less than 30 days without the owner present in the unit.
Essentially, it’s okay to book through Airbnb if you’re staying in a private room while the owner is present. You might be surprised to hear that prices are not any cheaper for this arrangement.
Getting around during your 4 days in New York City
Uber and Lyft
- Using Uber and Lyft is a great way to get around New York City, especially if traveling in a larger group. The last time I visited NYC with a group of friends Uber and Lyft were sometimes cheaper than the subway split between the 4 of us.
The Metro (subway)
- The subway is quite the New York City experience. I personally love taking it whenever I can but be warned – it gets terribly crowded during commute hours.
- Also, in the summer, some of the subway stations are hot and muggy. Since the itinerary takes you to every corner of Manhattan, I suggest getting a MetroCard during your 4 days in New York.
- What is more iconic than a bright gold New York City taxi? To know if a taxi is available for pick up, check the light on top of the cab. If the light is illuminated, the taxi is eager to take you! Credit cards accepted.
Is New York City expensive?
Yes but you can visit the city on a budget too. The two biggest expenses in New York City are lodging and drinks. If you love 5-star hotels and capping your evening with old fashions, you will not consider New York City cheap.
On the other hand, I visited the city for six days with my mom and two sisters and paid $700 for a hotel, airfare, food, and activities. I figure, the cheaper I can keep it, the more often I can return.
Make no mistake, New York City is expensive but there are ways around the high prices!
More activities for your 4 days in New York City
If you have more than 4 days in New York City (or would like to swap some of the activities mentioned above), this section is for you.
Visit the Empire State Building – This iconic building is so cool from any vantage point. Make sure to see it on your trip. Some people suggest going in ($20 admission) but I personally haven’t and don’t feel like I’m missing out.
Note about museums: It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the cornucopia of museums in the Big Apple. With only 4 days in the New York City, I suggest picking the two you want to see the most and sticking with them. Never underestimate how time-consuming museums can be. A cultural experience should not be rushed.
The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA).
Home to world-renowned paintings like Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night, Claude Monet’s Water Lilies and notable works by Warhol, Basquiat and Dali, it’s no wonder MoMA is constantly crowded with happy visitors.
You don’t have to be an avid art connoisseur to appreciate the real-life paintings you grew up studying in school. The painting are well curated and displayed in a modern and airy environment for an experience anyone can enjoy.
Must see at MoMA: The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh, Andy Warhol’s Campbell Soup Cans, Frida Kahlo’s Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair, Monet’s Water Lilies, The Persistence of Memory by Dali, and Picasso’s work.
New York Transit Museum
The New York Transit Museum is one of the best museums in NYC for kids. Take a walk down memory lane and explore vintage subway cars parked in a decommissioned subway station.
The museum covers a century of subway history and each car displays era-appropriate ads, which makes for some fun age-appropriate humor.
Visitors are able to explore the inside of cars, some dating back to 1903, explore old-school walk signs and transit furniture.Swing by the gift shop before heading out, it’s well curated and has tons of fun transit inspired souvenirs.
The Flatiron Building and Madison Square Park
This iconic building is often considered one of the most beloved in New York City. One fun thing to do in this area is to visit the original Shake Shack location just steps away. Grab a burger and enjoy it in Madison Square Park.
See the Statue of Liberty
The reason I didn’t include the Statue of Liberty in this guide is because it takes so much time to visit this super popular attraction. The line for the ferry can be upwards of an hour long.
If you’re pining to see the statue of liberty during your visit, make sure to go extra early. If you take the Staten Island Ferry (free) it passes right by the Statue of Liberty.
Free things to do in NYC
Take a walking tour. There are so many different tours to choose from! Try a food tour, bus tour, bike tour, etc. Participation is free, just make sure to leave a tip for the guide.
Participate in a show recording. Tickets are free to attend a recording, but they go fast, so I suggest booking 1-2 months in advance. Shows include: Saturday Night Live, The Daily Show, Lake Night with Jimmy Fallon and Late Night with Stephen Colbert.
Summer Activity: Watch an outdoor movie at Brooklyn Bridge Park or Bryant Park. The exact dates and movies change from year to year, so make sure to check their websites!
Carnegie Hall Citywide partners with local community organizations to present free concerts throughout New York City. This is a great way to enjoy a free concert during your 4 days in New York City. For a list of current events, click here.
My Favorite Restaurants in New York City
The Big Apple is a foodie’s paradise and even with just 4 days in New York City, you are in for a treat! Some of the best meals of your life will be had here. You better believe that in a city like New York only the best survive. Just remember the golden rule of vacation: count steps and never calories.
Food Halls. My favorites include the Great Food Hall, the Chelsea Market, Time Out Market and Smorgasburg.
Ippudo Ramen. We love this restaurant for a hot bowl of ramen, it’s especially good on a cold night. I suggest asking the waiter for their recommendation. I had the Shiromaru Hakata Classic and it was delicious.
Shake Shack (peppered throughout NYC) go, go, go! There is no debate between Shake Shack and In-N-Out burger, I don’t understand the comparison. The burgers and fries here are so tasty, plus it’s inexpensive. If you want to let your hair down, try a milkshake, they’re delicious …. or so I hear.
Rubirosa Pizza. I know, I know. But it’s worth mentioning again! Don’t leave New York City without trying the margarita pizza here. It sounds so simple but try it. We ordered 3 pizzas during our last visit and I was fighting people off the margarita. It’s a side of me I’m trying to work on. I think the pizza here is around $25 as well, one is enough for two people.
Domonique Ansel Bakery is a must for the famous, cult-starting cronut. The cronut is a mix between a croissant and donut. The popularity of the cronut is so extreme, the bakery runs out within hours. But the line doesn’t stop. Sometimes folks wrap around the block waiting to get a treat from this spot.
Laduree is a cute French macaroon shop (with a full-service restaurant in the back). It’s worth at least one visit because it’s famous, but during my last few trips I’ve skipped it. I’ve indulged in the macaroons once but have yet to feel inclined to return. Just my two cents, your experience could be different.
Serendipity 3 is an iconic New York City establishment known for their famous frozen hot chocolate. I’m including this because it’s my younger sister’s favorite dessert place in NYC. I still don’t understand how hot chocolate can be served frozen but I’m not going to spend too much time trying to figure it out. It’s a tasty treat worth trying!
Summers NYC (SoHo). We swung by for a quick coffee and toast during our last trip. Super cute tiny restaurant with a nice outdoor seating area. I recommend the avocado toast.
Best Coffee in New York City
A guide to 4 days in New York City and no mention of coffee? I’m not crazy! I know my friends are powered by coffee.
Honestly, any reasonably looking café will hit the spot. But these are the three I suggest trying during your 4 days in New York City:
- La Colombe spread like wildfire and for good reason! There’s no better way to describe it than to say their coffee tastes “real.”
- Think Coffee we got coffee at Think Coffee during the last day of our previous visit and were sad we couldn’t go back for more. The Americano was so good.
- Blue Bottle Coffee hails from San Francisco. They offer rich and decadent cups of quality coffee. So delicious, especially their Americanos and drip coffee. I go out of my way to drink Blue Bottle coffee, regardless of the city I’m in.
- Maman, Happy Bones (in Little Italy) and Birch Coffee as all great options, too!
New York City Nightlife
Tip to the wise: drinks in New York City are very expensive, I once paid $22 pre-tip at a bar. It was a gentle reminder to keep my personal problems to a minimum.
Top 3 bars to visit in New York City
- BlackTail: Call me biased, but I’m a sucker for bars overflowing with plants. But let’s get real, you’re not here to talk about plants. The drinks at BlackTail are out of this world! Any libation your heart desires can be found on the novel-sized menu here. In addition to the drinks, the décor in this place takes you back to simpler times with thick leather booths and beautiful paintings. But my friends, I do not wish to lead you astray, you need a drink to justify paying the price. Coming in at $18 a pop (pre-tip).
- The Dead Rabbit: This little gem is oft considered a swanky version of an Irish pub. This bar came up time and time again from our friends. The menu is full of creative drinks with even more creative names. The drinks promise to please and palate and run around $17 a pop, pre-tip.
- Marie’s Crisis Café has been around forever and comes highly recommended. It’s a cash-only establishment with an upright piano in the middle of the room. A lively pianist serenades visitors every evening, and all are encouraged to sing along. Sing loudly, no one will be able to hear you anyways.
“Quite simply, I was in love with New York. I do not mean ‘love’ in any colloquial way, I mean that I was in love with the city, the way you love the first person who ever touches you and you never love anyone quite that way again.”— Joan Didion
Saving money on Broadway shows (legitimately)
There are several ways to get reduced tickets for coveted Broadway Shows during your 4 days in New York City.
For legitimate discounted last-minute tickets, visit the TKTS booth at Duffy Square in Times Square. The lines get long, but you can view a live webcam before heading that direction.
If you are open to sitting apart from your group of friends, you can get great deals on single seats that are available randomly throughout the theater. Tickets can be purchased same day, directly at the ticket counter.
Try your hand at the lottery system to win free tickets, you never know! To enter the lottery, go directly to the website of the show you want to see and find the lottery button. Hamilton is supposed to be out of this world and I really enjoyed The Lion King.
See a Broadway Show during a weekday instead of the weekend. People are more available on the weekends so things get busier and more expensive. If your schedule is flexible during your 4 days in New York City, try going on a weekday.
DO NOT: Purchase tickets on the “secondary market” or from Craigslist because they could be counterfeited.
Getting to NYC from the airport
There are three airports that service New York City and sadly, none are conveniently located. But have no fear, there are three fairly quick options to get to the heart of the city: taxi, Uber/Lyft and public transportation. Other options are available, but I haven’t personally used them so I’m sticking with the basics.
- What better way to make an entrance to the Big Apple than arriving via yellow taxi? The price for taxis varies between airports but flat rates are offered from JFK. However, it’s worth noting that prices range throughout the day, based on demand and traffic.
- Uber and Lyft are great options and sometimes cheaper than taxis, depending on time of day. I usually take Uber when traveling for business.
- Public transportation tends to be my preferred method because it is the cheapest.
Well, that my friends, is how to spend 4 days in New York City! And then some. I hope you enjoyed this comprehensive guide to 4 days in New York City. Let me know if you have any questions or comments below!
Enjoy the Big Apple!
Until next time!
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Thanks – this was great! Really helpful and got me really excited about my first visit to NYC with my “kids” (20, 18,14) this summer. I know- CRAZY I am 47 and have never been.
What are your thoughts of staying at an Airbnb in Brooklyn for 6 nights and commuting to the city daily if we did a 5 day trip (it saved about 2K since we would need 2 hotel rooms)
Karen H says
Great info! Thanks so much.
Travo Best says
This is lovely. The nicest review I have read so far. Thanks for sharing.
Susan Welsh says
Thank you. I read every word. Very helpful. Now. The hardest part. Getting a room for four under $400 a night. I don’t want to be at Time Square.
nice! this helps. Personally I am going to swap out most of day 4 (which could be tacked on to other days anyway) and include Harlem in our 4 day trip. I hear it isn’t to be missed, even if just for a late afternoon early evening venture.
Thank you for taking your time and provide us with this helpful post.
Soon we will travel to New York and we have already got some things to put in mind and tips.
Happy New Year! ?
We are so very grateful for your 4-day guide. We visited all the sights and followed it pretty much to a tee, with the exception of adding a trip to the Barnes & Noble in Union Square one afternoon (one of our favorite spots) and the open market below it, and using Lyft instead of the subway as we were warned against it by friends due to recent events.
You were so on point with everything and we are now living for flying back even if just to run in to Taco 1 !
Buvette, which we had already planned on visiting, was fabulous.
The only place we didn’t love was Petite Boucherie. The atmosphere was cold and the food wasn’t bad but it wasn’t great either . We reserved and changed our reservation twice without issue; this may be a sign of new management or some other change.
I was a little intimidated with your step count at first but somehow we managed 24,000 steps one day… must have been MOMA!
Thank you so much for all the information and the masterful way the itinerary was planned to maximize our time and Uber fare. You made our trip so much netter than it might have been! We appreciate it so very much
Christina J says
This is one of the best itineraries I’ve come across so far – we are headed there in April with our two teenagers and can’t wait. We added climbing the Statue of Liberty (got tix already) but plan to do pretty much everything else on your list ?
Caleb Wheeler says
Hello! My wife and I are going to Manhattan for 4 days in late March. This guide is super helpful. I might have missed it but what are your thoughts on taxi vs subway vs rideshare? We want to do plenty of walking but know we’ll inevitably need to use one of these for certain destinations. Our hotel is in Chinatown. Thanks!
New York Simply says
We recommend using the subway, but there might be a day your feet are tired and you want to treat yourself to a taxi and that’s okay too!
Morocco Tours says
Great USA tourist destinations
Awesome Outsourcing says
It would be nice to hear more from locals who can provide invaluable insights on lesser-known neighborhoods, restaurants, and activities that visitors may not discover on their own.
Thanks so much! We planned a last minute trip to NY during Spring Break and all of your suggestions were incredibly helpful!!
Your suggestions were incredibly helpful!!