HOW TO HAVE AN EPIC TRIP TO NEW YORK IN 4 DAYS

TOP THINGS TO DO IN 4 DAYS IN NYC FOR FIRST-TIME VISITORS

My favorite city in the world? It surely is New York. The city 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 NYC is surely not enough time, but you will be able to cover the most famous attractions and tourist hotspots in that time. Whether you visit from within the US or abroad, NY is one of the best cities to visit in the US (if not in the world).

When I booked my trip, I thought 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 stroll around aimlessly and get lost (sometimes even literally). Since I did not use all my days “efficiently”, and most of you probably have less time for your NYC trip, I created this 4-day New York itinerary. 4 days in NY is a good amount to spend – you will get a good idea of this amazing city and get to see some of the best places. 

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links which means I might earn a small commission when you buy a product/service via my link (at no extra cost to you). More about it here.

TRAVEL TIPS FOR NYC IN 4 DAYS

So, ready to find out how to spend 4 days in New York and learn about what to do and see? Here are some quick but useful travel tips before we discuss your NY itinerary.

How to Get to New York For a 4-Day Trip

  • By plane: If you are flying into NYC, you can arrive at 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 train: If you arrive 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 car: If you are driving in, be aware of traffic and construction. Also, parking is hard to come by. So, getting to NYC by car is probably the most stressful option (depending on where you come from, of course).

How to Get Around New York in 4 Days

  • I mostly walked in New York. Of course, only walking will not get you everywhere in 4 days, but with good and comfy shoes it is quite easy to walk to many sights. The city is flat and there are no cobbled-stoned streets which make getting around on foot quite easy. Also, with all the traffic, walking is often the fastest way to get around.
  • If you don’t want to venture on foot, then I’d recommend the subway or bus. Public transportation is good in New York City and also frequent, affordable, and easy.
  • You can purchase a MetroCard for the subway and bus fares and load them in kiosks at the terminals and subway stations. Using this instead of paying taxi fares will save you 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 but most attractions are in/close to Manhattan – which is also the most expensive area to stay. 

New Jersey could be another option if you have to watch your budget closely but it is outside of New York City and includes some commuting. While other neighborhoods in NYC are also quite interesting and are becoming more popular, for first-time visitors I highly recommend staying in Manhattan. 

  • Budget-friendly hotel: This HI NYC Hostel might be a good choice for you if you like staying in hostels and make friends. 
  • Mid-range hotel: East Village Hotel seems like a good choice if you are looking for a decent hotel in a good location.
  • Luxury hotel: The Plaza is one of the most famous in the world and probably a great choice if you want to splurge and spoil yourself with a luxurious hotel.

Keep in mind:

  • On top of the rates for the room itself, the City of New York charges a hotel tax of 14.75 % and also an occupancy tax of $3.50 per day.
  • While there are hundreds of choices within the city, make sure you book ahead of time if you arrive during busy seasons, like the holidays or Fashion Week.

Weather in New York

New York weather is wet and cold in the winter (-3°C / 27 °F), and hot and humid (up to 30°C / 84 °F) in the summer. Consequently, the nicest times to visit the city are from March to June and from September to October when the weather is nice and warm.

If you visit in the winter, you might find yourself experiencing snow. 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). This mostly occurs between December and March (check out my “NY in winter guide“). December is a great time to visit if you want to experience the magical time of the year in a unique city – if you do not mind the cold.

New Year´s Eve in New York is also a great time to visit.

What to Pack for New York City

If you’re wondering what to wear in NYC, let me offer a few suggestions.

  • It is best to pack for the cold during the winter, bringing warm clothes, a jacket, scarf, and gloves. I’d suggest comfortable shoes – or better yet, winter boots – because you’ll probably end 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. But also bring jackets for the evenings or colder days. 
  • 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 Tips for your Itinerary New York in 4 Days

  • 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 stringent no-smoking laws. Smoking is not permitted in any indoor area (including bars and clubs) or outdoor public areas (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.

EPIC 4-DAY NEW YORK ITINERARY

Four days in NYC is not a lot of time for a city as full of attractions as this one. So, to 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 city.

DAY 1 OF 4 DAYS IN NEW YORK CITY

The best place to start is Midtown Manhattan. The heart of the city boasts many famous landmarks and it’s also home to NYC’s entertainment venues, including Broadway shows and iconic Fifth Avenue. So, let’s get started.

Fifth Avenue

A lot of day 1 in New York will be about Fifth Avenue, also known as Millionaire’s Row. This famous street is the dividing line between the East and West sides of Manhattan and it crosses the whole of Manhattan from north to south. It is the city´s most expensive and famous shopping street with some of the world’s most expensive retail spaces.

  • The whole street is about 10km (6miles) so you might (not want) to walk all the way up (or down). You could start at the height of South Central Park and walk down further south.
Fifth Avenue is a must go on any 4-day New York itinerary
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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 morning exploring the stores and buildings. 

There are many places worth a stop – the most famous are probably like the Flatiron Building. It has a very unique and interesting shape and thus has become a famous attraction.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

While you walk down 5th Avenue, you could stop at this beautiful cathedral located on Fifth Avenue – St. Patrick’s Cathedral. 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 many immigrants found when they arrived in America.

St. Patrick's Cathedral beautiful place in NY
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Built in the mid-19th century this Roman Catholic church has a characteristic 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 max.

New York Public Library & Bryant Park

After you quick stop at the St. Paul´s Cathedral, keep walking south 5th Avenue and you will see the beautiful Bryant Park and this library. The New York Public Library is a great landmark you should see during your visit.

New York Public Library a must on a 4-day NY itinerary
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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 10 am-5: 45 pm (except Sundays: 1 pm- 4: 45 pm).

Bryant Park is located adjacent to the New York Public Library and a green, lush park surrounded by some of the iconic NY skyscrapers. It is a great place to rest and have a late lunch/early dinner before you continue your journey.

Grand Central Terminal

Grand Central Terminal is amazing and it is close to Bryant Park, so you can quickly walk there. 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.

Grand Central Terminal Manhattan
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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 several free walking tours in NY, and one of them included  the terminal’s history and see all the cool features and secrets. You can check these tours out here.

  •  This stop will probably take about 1-2 hours, or more if you explore thoroughly.

Times Square

Then it is time for another NYC iconic! Of course, you have to see Times Square! This famous landmark is great to see either day or night. Here, you have the hustle and bustle New York is known for.

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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. The famous Naked Cowboy was not there during the time of my visit – even though I was at Times Square a couple of times! What a disappointment, but the other (interesting) people and attractions made Times Square made it still a fun place to visit. 

  • There are many attractions to enjoy in Times Square, so I suggest you set aside at least 2 hours for this stop.

Broadway Shows

Watching a Broadway show 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 world’s best plays and musicals. 

I admit that I did not get a chance to see one while I was here (long story!), but it is an absolute must for many NY visitors.

If you like shows and want to end the night in a relaxing and entertaining way, 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 or you can buy them online. This is a quite popular Broadway show.

DAY 2 OF 4 DAYS IN NYC

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. So, you may want to grab your walking shoes and MetroCard for today.

Chinatown

Take the N or R train to Canal Street, the heart of New York’s Chinatown.

Street view of Chinatown in NYC one of the top things to do in 4 days
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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.

  •  I would probably plan an hour for Little China (a bit more if you like to do a massage here). You can stop for breakfast/lunch 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 Botanical Gardens

Then head towards Brooklyn Botanical Gardens – it is time to escape the busyness of Chinatown and spend time in a park.

Botanic Garden Walkway one of the top places to go in NY in 4 days
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These gardens are just beautiful. Even if you are not a huge nature lover, you will still fall in love with all the colorful flowers and lush greenery. It is a really nice change after a day in the busy city.  

You can wander the gardens and see everything at your own pace. 

  • Admission is about $15 (tip: if you are visiting on a Friday from March-November, admission is free from 8 am – 12 pm, but please double-check before your visit).
  • Depending on your speed and interest, you will probably finish at the Botanical Gardens within about two hours.

Dumbo

I have not visited, but nowadays (mainly because of Instagram, I guess), Dumbo has become very popular amongst visitors.

With its cobblestone streets and converted Brooklyn warehouse buildings, together with them are the many independent boutiques, high-end restaurants, and cafes, it has become a popular photo location, so I recommend you could add Dumbo to your NYC 4-day itinerary. It might also be time for late lunch/early dinner which you can have in this area.

  • Depending on your speed and interest, you will can spend an hour or two here.

Brooklyn Walking Tour

If you plan ahead, you can also do a Brookly walking tour. There are some tours you can choose from – including free walking tours. I did a couple of them in New York, including a walking tour in Brooklyn. I absolutely loved them. 

And while it is free, it is kind to tip the guide if you enjoyed the tour! You can check out dates and times here – again, I think it is worth it!

  • Tours take about 60-90 minutes. They are offered at certain times, so you might have to plan your day around the tour (if you want to do one).

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.)

Crossing Brooklyn Bridge is one of the most romantic things
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Take a train 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.

Brooklyn Bridge from The Brooklyn Heights Promenade is a must-see in 4 days in New YOrk
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If you want to head to Brooklyn Bridge Park, you’ll find other great things to see, including a carousel built in 1922. There are many 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 (2km) long and will probably take about 20-30 minutes to cross. I loved my view at night, but you can cross in the morning or afternoon, too. The views are gorgeous and unforgettable (and if you are looking for romantic experiences in NY, then it is a must) and I suggest planning a 2-3 hours for this amazing place.
  • 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.

Extra: National September 11 Memorial & Museum 

The last stop for the night is the September 11 Memorial. 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).

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 each of the victims. You can walk through this at your own pace or take a tour if you prefer (for an added cost). 

  • You could just walk – once you cross Brooklyn Bridge and are in Manhattan it will take about 10 minutes.
  • The museum is open until 8 pm (last entry at 6 pm) and costs about $26 ($46 with the tour). The memorial itself is free to see.
  • If you arrive by night, it will be closed, so you can either come here earlier in the day, or you visit the memorial without visiting the museum.
  • This stop may take about 30-120 minutes.

DAY 3 OF 4 DAYS IN NEW YORK

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. Today 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 it 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. 

  • 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.
  • There are not a lot of places to get food, but there are some here and there. So, for lunch, I recommend heading to the next stop.

The High Line

Are you getting hungry? I suggest heading to the High Line

Located above the busy streets of Manhattan’s West Side, the High Line used to be a freight rail line that was supposed to be demolished. But instead, it was turned into a public park. Thanks to the high elevation it has a charming urban scenery, greenery, and art exhibits.

HIgh Line. Urban public park on an historic freight rail line on any NY 4-day itinerary
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There are many 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.

The entire line is almost 1.5 miles long, so you may not want to walk the length of it. But it is a gorgeous place to stop for a picnic on your first day exploring New York.

  • Walking all the way from Hudson River Waterfront Greenway to High Line Park is about 3 miles. But there is also metro station quite close by or a bus stop and then it’s about a 5 to 10-minute walk to the High Line.
  • This should take about 1-2 hours.

Empire State Building

Once you had a delicous lunch, head to the Empire State Building. This landmark will give you amazing views of the city, and if you are into views, it might be one of the highlights of your New York in 4 days trip.

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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. It is a highlight for many who stay come to see New York in 4 days.

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.

  • You can walk all the way from High Line – it is about 1,2 miles (less than 2km) and it should take about 30 minutes.
  • The Empire State Building is quite busy. Check out ticket prices for floor 86 here – it is highly recommended to book in advance. 
  • Visiting here will probably take about two hours or more if you check out many of the exhibits.

230 Fifth Rooftop Bar

This is the perfect way to end your night in New York City. This 230 Fifth Rooftop 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 that they wouldn’t let me in. So, remember to bring your ID when you come.

This view is from the rooftop of the 230-fifth Bar one of the best places to visit in 4 days
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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, and with New York in 4 days, I highly recommend coming here for once. 

DAY 4 OF 4 DAYS IN NYC

This is the last day of the trip. There are still some amazing things to see in NY in 4 days so that today will be a few stops at well-known landmarks.

Central Park

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. 

Central park in New York - what to do in NY in 4 days
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You can enter the park from multiple entrances, so there are many transportation options 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 throughout the park. Try to see as much as you can, especially if the weather is good. There are open areas for playing sports or picnicking, too.

  • You could easily spend a whole day here but I suggest, to focus on the main points of interest and then add two more places to your itinerary.
  • You can also rent bikes and explore the park by bike.

Metropolitan Museum of Art

One of the last stops 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.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York itinerary
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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 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. 
  • Admission tickets are about $25 (and they are good for 3 consecutive days if you want to stop back).
  • The museum is open from 10 am – 5:30 pm.
  • 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). 

Statue of Liberty

This is one of the most famous landmarks in the world – even little kids know about it. The Statue of Liberty!

Statue of Liberty
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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.

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). A museum on the island and Park Ranger-led tours last about 30-45 minutes (free).

Also, an audio tour 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 1-2 hours, or more if you decide to see Ellis Island as well.
  • The hours are 8: 30 am-4 pm.

FINAL THOUGHTS ON VISITING NEW YORK FOR 4 DAYS

I hope this NYC itinerary gave you a good idea of planning your trip and all the things to see and do here.

There are so many famous landmarks and attractions, it’s hard to fit them into your New York itinerary, but you will get a good place in this amazing city. Yes, I think New York in 4 days is a good time to explore the main sights.

And it also means you should visit again, or maybe stay longer. It is one of the most interesting cities globally (sorry, LA and San Francisco) Either way, I hope you enjoy your visit to this busy and exciting city.

TIPS:

Visiting New York in winter? Then check out this NY winter post.

Safe Travels, Arzo
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