Best Things to do in 4 Days in New York – An Itinerary
- 1 Best Things to do in 4 Days in New York – An Itinerary
- 1.1 Day 1 in NY
- 1.2 Day 2 in NY
- 1.3 Day 3 in NY
- 1.4 Day 4 in NY
My favorite city in the world? It surely is New York.
New York is one of a kind – if you are planning your New York itinerary, you might be wondering about the best things to do in New York in 4 days.
4 days in New York is surely not enough time, but you will be able to cover the most famous attractions and tourist hotspots in that time.
The atmosphere and energy the city has makes it one of the greatest cities in the world – I guess, this is not only my opinion, but many agree (and only a few would disagree).
When I booked my trip, I was thinking that 8 days in one of the most famous cities on the planet might be too much – but it definitely was not. With that “many“ days, I had the chance to aimlessly stroll around and get lost (sometimes even literally).
However, this 4-day New York itinerary will help you discover the main places as a first-time visitor.
So, ready to find out how to spend 4 days in New York and learn about what to do and see?
TRAVEL TIPS FOR NEW YORK
How to Get to New York
By train: If you are arriving by train, the Long Island Rail Road can bring you in from the east, and Amtrak and NJ Transit from the other directions. The trains stop at Penn Station in Manhattan, and from there, you can catch a cab, subway, or bus.
By plane: If you are flying into NYC, you can arrive to either John F. Kennedy International Airport or LaGuardia Airport. From there, you can take a shuttle, bus, train, taxi, or rental car to your hotel.
By car: If you are driving in, just be aware of the time of day. Traffic and construction are pretty constant in the city. Also, parking is hard to come by.
How to Get Around New York City
Public transportation is good in New York City, and also plentiful. If you don’t want to venture on foot, then I’d recommend the subway or bus. A MetroCard, which is used to pay for subway and bus fares, can be purchased and loaded in kiosks at the terminals and subways stations. Using this instead of paying taxi fares will save a lot of money.
Parking is difficult, so I advise leaving your car at the hotel (or not even bringing one) unless you plan on making a day trip outside the city.
Where to Stay in New York City for 4 Days
Depending on what you have planned and where, as well as your budget, choose a hotel that will make a good base for your outings. New York City is fairly large, but accessible by public transportation. If you plan to take day trips, consider a hotel close to Penn Station (34th Street, between Seventh & Eighth Avenues), where you can grab subways and trains to locations outside of Manhattan.
While there are hundreds of choices within the city, make sure you book ahead of time if you are arriving during busy seasons, like the holidays or Fashion Week.
Weather in New York
Weather in New York is wet and cold in the winter, and hot and humid in the summer. The nicest times to visit the city are from March to June and from September to November.
If you visit in the winter, you might find yourself experiencing snow. This mostly occurs between December and March. It doesn’t rain very much in New York City, and it’s about the same month to month (except in the winter when it is snowing).
New Year´s Eve in New York is also a great time to visit.
What to Pack for a 4 Days in New York City
If you’re wondering what to wear in NYC, let me offer a few suggestions. During the winter, it is best to pack for the cold, so bring warm clothes, a jacket, scarf, and gloves.
I’d suggest comfortable shoes – or better yet, winter boots – because you’ll probably land up walking quite a bit. New Yorkers tend to dress well, so if you want to fit in, pack some nicer clothes as well. In fall and spring, the temperatures are mild, so pants and short-sleeved shirts are good.
In summer, because of the heat and humidity, shorts and skirts are probably best. Sandals are common, too. New York is very diverse, and so are the clothes you will see.
More Travel Tips
New York City is an expensive place in general. But within Manhattan, the prices are higher than, say, in Brooklyn. So, the closer you are to touristy areas and upper-class neighborhoods, the higher the prices for food, clothes, etc. Check out my budget travel tips for NY.
Traveling in New York City can be very safe so long as you use caution. Be careful when traveling at night. Avoid neighborhoods that have higher crime rates. Avoid empty subway platforms at night and badly lit side streets. Stick to populated areas, particularly after dark. And always keep your valuables close to your body and in sight.
New York City has very strict no-smoking laws. Smoking is not permitted in any indoor area (including bars and clubs) or outdoor public area (like beaches and parks). There are also high taxes on cigarettes in the city.
The drinking age in the United States is 21. Even if you are not planning to drink alcohol, most places that serve it will not allow admittance without a proper government-issued id or passport. So, carry yours on you if you plan to go to any bars or clubs.
Itinerary for New York – How to Spend 4 Days in New York
Four days in NYC is not a lot of time for a city as full of attractions as this one. So, in order to see the best things and make the most of this New York itinerary, you will have some busy days. But don’t worry – there are some breaks built in for you to rest and relax while still enjoying this amazing American city.
Day 1 in NY
If you’re doing New York in 4 days, then the best place to start is Midtown Manhattan. The heart of the city, this area boasts many famous landmarks. It’s also home to NYC’s entertainment venues, including Broadway shows, and iconic Fifth Avenue. So, let’s get started…
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Your first stop on Day 1 is this beautiful cathedral located on Fifth Avenue. While it’s not nearly as old as many churches found in Europe, it is one of New York’s landmarks, a tribute to the religious freedom that many immigrants found when they arrived in America.
Built in the mid-19th century, the Roman Catholic church is done in a Neo-Gothic style. If you love architecture and old churches, this is a great stop to make on your visit to New York City. You can wander throughout the church and take pictures as long as a mass is not being held. Exploring the cathedral should take you about an hour.
Probably one of the most well-known streets in NYC, Fifth Avenue is the dividing line between the East and West sides of Manhattan. Once you leave the cathedral, head toward the shops that line this avenue.
Here you will find high-end retailers, like Saks, Tiffany & Co., and Louis Vuitton. If you are in the mood for shopping, then you can spend the rest of the morning exploring the stores. And even if you do not plan to buy, window shopping these luxury establishments can be lots of fun, too. Walking Fifth Avenue should probably take about two hours, or more. Are you getting hungry?
The High Line
After all that strolling, I would suggest stopping for some food and then heading to the High Line. To get there, walk to the 5th Ave/53rd St subway stop and take the E train to the 14th Street station. It’s about a 5 to 10-minute walk to the High Line.
There are a lot of restaurants and small eateries nearby, so you can either sit in and eat or take something to go (vegetarian/vegan foods are available). I suggest take-out so you can enjoy your meal on the beautiful High Line.
Located above the busy streets of Manhattan’s West side, the High Line used to be a freight rail line that was going to be demolished. But instead, it was turned into a public park. It has really lovely scenery, with its high elevation, greenery, and art exhibits. The entire line is almost 1.5 miles, so you may not want to walk the length of it. But it is a gorgeous spot to stop for a picnic on your first day exploring New York. This should take about 1-2 hours.
Of course you have to see Times Square! This famous landmark is great to see either day or night. After you have relaxed at the High Line and enjoyed a nice lunch, it is time to return to the hustle and bustle of the city.
To get to Times Square from the High Line, take the E train again from the 14th Street station to the 42nd St/Port Authority Bus Terminal stop. It is only a few-minutes-walk to reach it.
Times Square is a major destination for tourists, so you can expect it to be busy.
Here you will find stores, restaurants, towering billboards, and crazy characters. I was a little disappointed that I missed the Naked Cowboy who is often there. But there are lots of attractions to enjoy in Times Square, so I suggest you set aside at least 2 hours for this stop.
This is one of the most popular things to do in New York – whether you are here for 4 days, a week, or just a night. Broadway is a street that runs right through Times Square and houses some of the best plays and musicals in the world.
I admit that I did not get a chance to see one while I was here, but for many, it is an absolute must. If you like shows and want to end the night in a relaxing and entertaining way, then this is a good stopping point for Day 1. You can get tickets at the booth in Times Square for some of the shows playing, or even venture off Broadway to see one of the smaller productions there.
Day 2 in NY
For the second day of your New York itinerary, you will be heading to the south end of the city, spending the day in Manhattan and Brooklyn. These attractions that I am suggesting are in the same general vicinity, but they are not as close together as those on Day 1. So, you may want to grab your walking shoes and MetroCard for today.
Brooklyn Botanical Gardens
Your first stop on Day 2 of this New York City 4-day itinerary is at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. You can take the 2, 3, 4, or 5 subway to the Eastern Parkway or Franklin Avenue stations. Once you arrive, admission is about $15 (tip: if you are visiting on a Friday from March-November, admission is free from 8am-12pm).
These gardens are just beautiful. Even if you are not a huge nature lover, you will still fall in love with all the flowers and greenery. It is a really nice change after a day in the busy city.
You can either wander the gardens, seeing everything at your own pace, or they also offer tours. There are seasonal ones that are different depending on what time of year you are visiting. I love a good tour, and this is a great way to learn something about all the beautiful plants in the garden.
Depending on your speed and interest, you will probably finish at the Botanical Gardens within about two hours.
Statue of Liberty
This is one of the most famous landmarks in the world – even little kids know about it.
The Statue of Liberty was a gift given to the US by the French in 1886 to symbolize their friendship during the American Revolution. It is a symbol of freedom for many.
The easiest way to get here from the Brooklyn Botanical Garden is to take the subway from the Franklin Avenue station (the 4 or 5 train) to Bowling Green, and then walk a few minutes to Battery Park, where you will take the ferry to Liberty Island.
If you plan on going up to the pedestal of the statue, get your tickets when you buy your ferry tickets). Important: Only buy tickets from Statue Cruises to avoid getting fake ones from street sellers.
The ferry ride felt great when I was on it because it was a rather hot day. So, enjoy the ride (it takes about 15 minutes). There is a museum on the island, as well as Park Ranger-led tours that last about 30-45 minutes (free). Also, there is an audio tour that comes with your ferry ticket, which you can pick up when you arrive on the island.
If you want to go up to the crown, it’s very limited in access and needs a prior reservation and additional fee. From the pedestal though, you can get panoramic views of New York, New Jersey, Ellis Island, and New York Harbor.
This stop should take about 2 hours, or more if you decide to see Ellis Island as well. The hours are 830am-4pm.
Once you return to Battery Park, walk for a few minutes to the Whitehall subway station and take the N or R train to Canal Street, which is the heart of New York’s Chinatown.
Chinatown is an amazing, lively, and chaotic place. There is so much to see from the shops to the street vendors. There are lots of knockoff handbags and electronic items for sale, and pretty much everything else. Tea shops, restaurants, and other businesses line the streets.
When the Chinese immigrated to America, many of them moved to Chinatown. They opened businesses and moved into the apartments above. So, while this is a popular tourist destination in New York City, it is also a thriving local community.
There are a lot of restaurants along Canal Street, many with options that are vegan and vegetarian. You can stop for lunch/dinner here before heading on to the next stop on the itinerary.
(By the way, if you prefer Italian food, just a few blocks over is New York’s Little Italy.)
Brooklyn Bridge & the Brooklyn Heights Promenade
This was one of the highlights of my trip to New York. Crossing over the Brooklyn Bridge from Brooklyn to Manhattan was one of the most amazing travel experiences I have ever had. I came in the evening, and seeing the skyline and the city’s lights on – it was a great memory. (You may want to move this to the end of the day if you want to cross at night.)
To get to the promenade from Chinatown, take the R train again, this time to Court St/Borough Hall, then walk along Montague Street (here you’ll find lots of brownstones and boutiques) until you reach it. The promenade is a fun place to explore so wander around and see the 9/11 exhibit and take some photos of Lower Manhattan from this perspective.
Tip: there are no bathrooms here so you will need to go to one of the shops – and probably buy something before being allowed to use it.
If you want to head to the Brooklyn Bridge Park, you’ll find other great things to see, including a carousel built in 1922. There are a lot of events and exhibits held in the park, and if you are here in the summer, there is a pop-up pool to cool your feet in.
Since you are in Brooklyn, you can cross the Brooklyn Bridge heading into Manhattan. The bridge is 1.3 miles long and will probably take about 20-30 minutes to cross. I loved my view in the night, but you can cross in the morning or afternoon, too. The views are gorgeous and unforgettable.
Extra: National September 11 Memorial & Museum
The last stop for the night is the September 11 Memorial. This is located where the Twin Towers once stood and is a somber tribute to those who died from the terrorist attacks that day (and from a bombing in 1993).
To get here, take the R train from City Hall to Cortland Street (one stop). Or, you could just walk – it will take about 10 minutes (unless you are all walked out!).
The museum is open until 8pm (last entry at 6pm) and costs about $26 ($46 with the tour). If you arrive by night it will be closed so you can either come here earlier the day or you visit the memorial without visiting the museum.
But the memorial itself is free to see. Here you’ll find the twin reflecting pools, the inscription of nearly 3,000 names of the dead, and the “Survivor Tree.”
The museum gives a lot of information about the 9-11 attacks and also about each of the victims. You can walk through this at your own pace or take a tour if you prefer (for an added cost).
This stop may take about an hour or two.
Day 3 in NY
For the third day of this New York 4-day itinerary, you will be doing a lot of walking, but also a lot of relaxing. After yesterday, this will be an easy day.
Hudson River Waterfront Greenway
Spend the morning at the Hudson River Waterfront Greenway. This greenway runs around the island of Manhattan and is very popular for walkers, joggers, and cyclists.
It is gorgeous, but can also get busy, especially on the weekends. And it is easy to see why. You can see beautiful views of Manhattan and New Jersey. You can visit Chelsea Piers. There are tons of places to stop and rest. There are not a lot of places to get food, but there are some here and there.
You can spend a good amount of time at the greenway if you choose. It can be a really energizing spot to start the day.
The next stop is iconic Central Park. This is 843 acres of park in the center of Manhattan. It’s like a lovely oasis in the midst of the busy city surrounding it.
You can enter the park from multiple entrances, so there are a lot of options for transportation from the greenway to the park. Once you enter this space, you can stroll around and see all the natural beauty. There are benches along the paths, which run all throughout the park.
There are open areas for playing sports or picnicking, too. You could easily spend a whole day here. Try to see as much as you can, especially if the weather is good.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
The last stop for this day is the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This is one of the country’s most famous museums, and it is so large, you will likely not even see half of what they exhibit in one day. But even if you are not a big art fan (as I am not), there are so many things to see that it is still worth a visit.
To get to the museum from Central Park, just exit the park on Fifth Avenue and walk to the museum (should be only a few minutes). Admission tickets are about $25 (and they are good for 3 consecutive days if you want to stop back). The museum is open from 10am-530pm.
Since there is so much to see, I suggest you see whatever interests you most, or stop at the exhibits the museum is most famous for, like the Egyptian Art and Greek & Roman Art. But there are also visiting exhibits that change frequently. It is really a lovely museum and beautiful to stroll through.
After the museum, you can grab dinner at one of the nearby restaurants or even head back to Central Park to end the night with a walk.
Day 4 in NY
This is the last day of the trip. There are still some amazing things to see in NY in 4 days, so today will be a few stops at well-known landmarks and historical sites.
Grand Central Terminal
Grand Central Terminal is amazing. It is not just a place to jump on a train, but a place to visit, in and of itself. I found it interesting and fun, with so many things to see and do.
Built in 1871, the terminal was rebuilt twice to be the building it is today. It is one of the busiest train terminals in the world. You will find restaurants, shops, and artwork here.
I especially liked the Whispering Gallery. There is a place in the terminal by the Oyster Bar where, if you whisper into one corner, a person standing in the opposite corner can hear you (as if you had shouted) because of the way the arches and acoustics are. You have to try it!
I did a free walking tour which is a great way to learn more about the history of the terminal and see all the cool features and secrets inside.
This stop will probably take about 2 hours, or more if you explore thoroughly.
New York Public Library
This is a very famous building in New York and a great landmark you should see during your visit. You can easily walk up 42nd Street from Grand Central Terminal to the library.
It is an impressive building with stone lions guarding the front doors. Inside, there are large windows and beautiful art covered entire walls. The library has an extensive collection, including a children’s section. The architecture of the building, known as Beaux-Arts, is also impressive.
You will probably only need an hour here. The library is open from 10am-545pm (except Sundays, which is 1pm-445pm).
Empire State Building
Once you leave the library, head to the Empire State Building. This landmark will give you amazing views of the city.
Built in 1931, this art-deco skyscraper stands at 1,454 feet high. There are two observation decks that you can get to that offer 360º views of Manhattan. I loved the scenery from the top of this building, looking down over Midtown and beyond.
To get here, you can just walk down Fifth Avenue, which should take less than 10 minutes.
The observation decks are located on the 86th and 102nd floors. I suggest going right to the top for the best views. It’s a beautiful panorama! And on a clear day, they say you can see 80 miles out.
The Empire State Building is open from 8am-2pm, but it is least busy in the first couple of hours. There’s also an Express Pass, which is a good idea for skipping lines.
Visiting here will probably take about two hours, or more if you check out a lot of the exhibits.
230 Fifth Rooftop Bar
This is the perfect way to end your last night in New York City. This bar was another highlight of my trip and I almost didn’t get to see it. I forgot my ID the first time I went, so they wouldn’t let me in. So, remember to bring ID when you come.
From the Empire State Building, walk up Fifth Avenue for about 5 minutes and you will reach the bar. You can choose the fully enclosed lounge, but I suggest going to the open-air rooftop. In the winter, heated igloos are used to keep visitors warm. But in the summer, it is open to the sky.
There is a lovely garden up there and you have great views of Manhattan. It felt very unreal to me, sitting there and overlooking the city and its lights. But it was a really memorable experience.
I hope this 4-day NYC itinerary gave you a good idea of how to plan your trip to New York, and all the things to see and do here. There are so many famous landmarks and attractions, it’s hard to fit them into just four days. But that just means you should visit again, or maybe stay longer. Either way, I hope you enjoy your visit to this busy and exciting city!
Visiting New York in winter? Then check out this NY winter post