4 Day Itinerary New York
I know you’re here for the New York City itinerary, but I’ve also got some bonus tips for you on what to expect, how to travel around New York safely and the costs. If you’d rather skip straight to Day 1 of the itinerary however just click the link below to jump down to the start of the four-day itinerary.
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4 Day Itinerary New York
Day 1 – Land in NYC & First Sights of Lower Manhattan
One World Trade Center, Wall Street, Staten Island
Day 2 – Explore Midtown
Times Square, Rockefeller Center, Grand Central, New York Public Library, Central Park, American Museum of Natural History
Day 3 – Step Foot into Brooklyn
Chelsea Market, Greenwich Village, Washington Square Park, SoHo and Tribeca, City Hall Park, Brooklyn Bridge, Dumbo
Day 4 – Top Sights of Brooklyn
Coney Island, Prospect Park, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Brooklyn Museum, Williamsburg
This 4 day itinerary for New York City covers many of Manhattan and Brooklyn’s most popular attractions. There are tons of incredible sights packed into this itinerary but you’ll have to wake up early to see everything in 4 days. If you’d like more relaxed travels around New York I’d therefore suggest leaving a bit more time.
New York City is one of the world’s greatest cities, and it’s got something for every type of traveler. Whether you’re a history buff, foodie, night owl, or adore Broadway, there’s never a dull moment in the “City That Never Sleeps.” I love the incredible energy around every corner and each unique neighborhood. It’s impossible not to take photos of every beautiful building, and you can easily get lost in the crowd if you’re not careful.
My plan took me around Lower and Midtown Manhattan the first two days. The first day in Lower Manhattan included iconic places like the One World Trade Center, Wall Street, and the Statue of Liberty. I couldn’t believe the jaw-dropping views of the Manhattan skyline I got to see. If you have more time then I did, and if you plan a bit more ahead then I do, as tickets can sell out up to three months in advance, you should definitely also climb the Statue of Liberty.
The next day was spent exploring Midtown and feeling the energy really take control of me. Going to Times Square, Grand Central Terminal, and Central Park were the highlight of my day.
I’m happy the last two days of my itinerary were spent in Brooklyn to see some of the best sights of the borough. Dumbo, Coney Island, and Williamsburg were among the most interesting neighborhoods I got to check out. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to see Queens, the Bronx, or Staten Island, but New York City is too massive to explore every borough in 4 days.
If you want to see more of New York City, give yourself more than 4 days. I was exhausted each day of this trip and my itinerary only scratched the surface of what Manhattan and Brooklyn have to offer. Each day is an adventure in New York City, and you could spend a lifetime making new discoveries.
Whenever you get the chance to explore New York City, it will be an adventure you will never forget. New York is iconic. The energy is unforgettable, its residents are some of the world’s most diverse, and you’ll encounter some of the most iconic landmarks in the United States. The Christmas holidays in New York are a particularly great time to visit too with all the lights up but it will be freezing.
New York City Itinerary – 4 Days
Day 1 – Land in NYC & First Sights of Lower Manhattan
If you’re arriving in New York City from an international flight, you’ll land in either John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in Queens or Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) in Newark, New Jersey. Domestic flights and some flights from Canada could land in LaGuardia Airport (LGA) in Queens.
Check out the getting around section for info on how to reach Manhattan from each airport.
Unless you arrive in New York City in the morning, you may want to begin this itinerary the next day. That way, you won’t feel rushed during your first day in the Big Apple.
Start your adventure in Manhattan by capturing panoramic views from the One World Trade Center, New York City’s tallest building. The One World Observatory spans three levels and lets you take an interactive tour of New York. Afterward, you can pay your respects to the victims of 9/11 by walking around the 9/11 Memorial where the original World Trade Center stood.
New York City is the center of the global economy and a stroll down Wall Street brings you to the heartbeat of American commerce. Although there are no longer public tours to the New York Stock Exchange, walking around the Financial District gives you a sense of its importance to the city.
Take a moment off your feet by riding the nearby Staten Island Ferry and enjoy the spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline from the water. The ride is free, and you’ll cruise by the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island before arriving in Staten Island.
Once the ferry returns to Lower Manhattan, walk around Battery Park to find all sorts of monuments honoring prominent figures of New York City and the United States. For a glimpse of New York before the age of skyscrapers, travel back in time by walking the cobbled streets of South Street Seaport.
Before returning to your hotel, visit one of the many interesting museums in the area. The South Street Seaport Museum, Museum of Jewish Heritage, and Museum of American Finance are among the most popular museums in Lower Manhattan.
Day 2 – Explore Midtown
The next day of your New York itinerary takes you to the best attractions of Midtown Manhattan. Ride the subway to Times Square and feel the chaos of the massive intersection. The square is filled with gigantic billboards and advertisements inside the heart of New York’s entertainment district.
Midtown features some of New York’s most iconic architectural gems and the best starting point is the Rockefeller Center. The complex is famous for its numerous Art Deco buildings, annual Christmas tree, and the Rockefeller Observation Deck. Nicknamed the “Top of The Rock,” the observatory gives you an incredible view of Midtown Manhattan, Central Park, and the Empire State Building.
Skip over to Grand Central Terminal and check out the city’s most storied transportation hub. Grand Central was once the first stop for many people visiting New York City for the first time, and its main concourse is highlighted by its celestial ceiling and iconic clock. A couple blocks up the street from Grand Central, you can visit the New York Public Library to see another one of Manhattan’s stunning buildings.
Go for a leisurely stroll through Central Park and wander its beautiful walking trails that pass radiant gardens, tranquil lakes, and gorgeous statues. If you walk past the Strawberry Fields and Belvedere Castle, you’ll reach the American Museum of Natural History. One of the world’s largest museums, you could spend a whole day exploring fossils, dioramas, artifacts, the planetarium, and much more.
Day 3 – Step Foot into Brooklyn
Stop by Chelsea Market to fuel up for another day of walking on your New York City itinerary. The food hall has a wide range of dining options featuring snacks and cuisines from all over the world for a tasty meal.
Walk through the vibrant Greenwich Village and wander through Washington Square Park, one of New York City’s most underrated attractions. The unique green space is filled with delightful characters that include inspired artists, four-legged friends, and avid chess players.
Continue your journey into the SoHo and Tribeca neighborhoods to gaze at boutique shops, art galleries, cobblestone streets, industrial buildings, and many of the city’s most expensive homes. Have your lunch in City Hall Park and check out New York’s famous City Hall that still houses the offices of the Mayor and City Council.
Head onto the Brooklyn Bridge and walk across the historic structure connecting Brooklyn and Manhattan. The bridge was the first to span the East River and thousands of pedestrians make the commute each day. After crossing, you’ll be at Brooklyn Bridge Park within the Dumbo neighborhood.
The park features a 1.3-mile path along the waterfront that attracts joggers and dog walkers with its incredible view of the Manhattan skyline. Wander around the area to find some of Brooklyn’s most beautiful homes and the iconic view of the Manhattan Bridge featured in numerous Hollywood films.
Day 4 – Top Sights of Brooklyn
The last day of your New York itinerary takes you deeper into Brooklyn and shows you what makes the borough stand out. Hop on the subway and ride to the end of the line in Coney Island.
The boardwalk draws joyous crowds with its carnival games, street performers, amusement park rides, and entertaining shows. Balmy summer days are popular for beachgoers and the world-famous hot dog eating contest takes place annually on July 4th. Coney Island has plenty of places to eat if you’re hungry such as Nathan’s Famous, Plaza Mexico Dona Zita, and Ruby’s Bar & Grill.
Take the subway to Grand Army Plaza to discover another famous New York City urban park. Prospect Park is one of Brooklyn’s finest green spaces and offers residents respite from the urban sprawl. The park has an abundance of walking trails, grassy areas, forests, playgrounds, and sports facilities for a relaxing day in the outdoors.
Adjacent to Prospect Park, you’ll find the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and Brooklyn Museum. The garden showcases thousands of plant species from around the world, while the museum has an astounding art collection surpassing one million works.
The final stop in Brooklyn on your itinerary is the hipster enclave of Williamsburg. All the cool kids hang out here and the neighborhood has shed its industrial vibe for eccentric fashion. Wandering the area will give you a glimpse of its character by revealing its independent shops, quirky cafés, hip bars, and street murals. If you’re a beer lover, make a pit stop at the Brooklyn Brewery, which reinvented brewing in the borough.
Manhattan sits right across the East River from Williamsburg and it’s an easy subway ride back to your starting point.
As you can see above, I’ve plotted this New York City itinerary for 4 days, but this covers a lot of activities in a short time frame. You could easily stretch it out to a 6 or 7 day itinerary exploring the city at a more relaxed pace.
Top Tips for New York
Keep Walking – New Yorkers are known for their quick pace and you can easily be swept by the crowd when standing still. If you know where you’re going, keep walking to avoid getting in the way of locals. Whenever you stop to check out the sights, walk to the side closer to the buildings to let faster pedestrians pass you.
Comfy Walking Shoes – Any trip to New York City is going to include a lot of walking and you need to have sneakers that are both comfortable and durable.
NYC Sightseeing Pass – Save money on the city’s biggest attractions by purchasing a sightseeing pass for the places you want to see most. Choose from the day or flex pass options to save more money with each attraction you visit during your first time in New York City. Still in doubt? Read this New York pass review, it will answer all your questions.
Unlimited Ride MetroCard – Each ride on the bus or subway costs $2.75 and that can add up quickly during your trip. Buy a 7-day unlimited ride MetroCard to ride the bus or subway hassle-free and hop on whenever you need to use public transport.
Avoid the Subway During Rush Hour – Although the subway can be quicker than walking, riding at the wrong time can be a frustrating experience. If you try to catch the subway when locals are going to or returning from work, expect jam-packed train cars you may not be able to get on.
Free Museums – New York City has tons of museums and many of them offer free entry all the time or waive entry fees certain days of the week. Research the museums to find out if you’ll have the chance to gain free entry to one while you’re in town.
Eat at Local Joints – You can eat your way around the world in New York City and you’ll find many of the country’s most unique eateries here. Don’t eat the same restaurant twice and expand your culinary horizons at this cultural melting pot.
Always Have Cash – Our world is becoming more digital and technologically advanced by the day, but cash is still king for many businesses in New York City. Avoid currency exchange and ATM fees by having some dollars in your wallet before arriving in the city.
Always Tip – This is more geared towards foreign visitors to the Big Apple, but be prepared to tip at every bar or restaurant you visit. Americans are aware of the tipping culture here, but it will surprise unsuspecting travelers from abroad. Expect to tip your server anywhere from 15-25 percent at each venue.
Few Public Bathrooms – New York City is notorious for having a shortage of public bathrooms. Many places don’t have a bathroom and others only allow paying customers to use their facilities. When you’re out and exploring for the entire day, make sure you use the bathroom every chance you get.
Getting Around New York
New York City has a myriad of transit options and each one varies based on your specific budget. With so many options at your disposal, it would be foolish to rent a car and drive around New York City. The traffic alone is a nightmare and finding a free/cheap place to park is pretty much non-existent.
Airport Transfer – Getting to Manhattan from the airport can be confusing the first time you visit New York City. If you’re not prepared before arrival in the USA, you could spend a hefty chunk of change just to reach your hotel. Here’s a breakdown of getting to Manhattan from all three NYC airports:
JFK – Most visitors will land in JFK for their visit. The airport is in South Queens and around 16-18 miles from Times Square, depending on the route you take. A taxi or Uber ride is the easiest but most expensive way to get there. The cost will be upwards of $50 or more, and that doesn’t include tip.
The Long Island Railroad (LIRR) and subway are far cheaper modes of transportation. You’ll have to pay a $7.75 exit fee to use the AirTrain but your total cost will be roughly $15.50-$18.50 taking the LIRR and $10.50 for the subway. The LIRR will take you to Penn Station in Midtown Manhattan, and you can use the E, J, or Z subway lines at Jamaica Station.
Newark – Although Newark is in New Jersey, many flights serving New York City arrive here. The airport is around 16-17 miles from Times Square and a taxi or Uber ride is easily the quickest way to reach Manhattan. Like JFK, the cost will be upwards of $50. The most affordable way to reach Manhattan is by taking the AirTrain and NJ Transit. The train drops you off at New York Penn Station in Midtown Manhattan and costs roughly $13. Alternatively, you can transfer to the PATH train at Newark Penn Station and reach the One World Trade Center for $11.
LaGuardia – If you’re an international arrival, you’re unlikely to fly into LaGuardia. For the domestic and Canadian flyers who land in LaGuardia, this is the cheapest airport to reach Manhattan. You only need to pay for the $2.75 MTA fare, and the journey consists of a bus and subway ride. Take the Q70 SBS bus to reach the 7, E, F, M, and R subway lines at 74 St/Roosevelt Av. Alternatively, take the M60 SBS bus to reach the N and Q lines at Hoyt Ave S & 31 St or the 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, A, B, C, or D lines from 125th St in Harlem.
Buses – The fare for a single bus ride costs $2.75 and you can transfer to a bus on a different route without paying an extra cost. Bus stops are on street corners and can be identified by a tall sign with a bus emblem. You insert your MetroCard when boarding the bus or pay in exact change.
Subway – New York City has the largest subway system in the world and there are hundreds of stations to get you around Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. Fares cost $2.75 per ride and you can fill up your card as your ride. 7-day and 30-day unlimited passes can be bought for those who frequently ride the subway. You can transfer to a different subway line for no extra cost but will have to pay for another ride if you walk through the turnstile. The routes for each subway line are shown on maps inside the train cars, and there is also an MTA app you can download.
Taxi/Uber – You’ll have no issues finding taxis or Ubers throughout the boroughs in New York City, but it will be far costlier than taking public transport. Taxis charge a $2.50 base fare and a metered fare the rest of the journey. You can download the Uber app and punch in your destination address to determine the fare.
Costs for Staying in New York
Accommodation – New York City is one of the world’s most expensive cities to visit, but it’s possible to find an awesome deal if you do your research. One of the best things to do for a cheaper visit is staying in a hostel. Although hostels aren’t big in America, they are slowly becoming more popular. It’s also worth checking out hotels on discount sites or renting a private room on sites like Airbnb or VRBO. If you’re still having trouble finding an affordable rate, try housesitting or couch surfing to save a fortune without sacrificing a terrific location in Manhattan.
Food – Eating out in New York City can take a large chunk out of your budget, but you can find tons of deals if you look hard enough. Instead of going to fancier restaurants for each meal, visit a local grocery store to cook your meals at your accommodation. Also, you can save money by shopping at bodegas for a cheap, filling meal.
I hope you love your 4 day New York itinerary as much as I did. Leave me a comment with your top tips and what you enjoyed the most.
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