There’s not enough time in the world to explore every corner of this magical city, you’re going to need to schedule in some sleep when you get home from your 4 days in New York.
While you’re there, you need to use your time wisely and do your best to squeeze in the iconic things to see in New York, as well as the lesser known locations. Helping you do just that is this rough guide for how to get through all the must sees and feel like you’ve sampled a significant slice of NYC in 4 days.
I can’t even count the amount of times I’ve been to New York City – lucky I know. I spent a summer working in New York state and on days off we’d go into the city. Then the next year I worked at summer camp in nearby Connecticut and did the same.
My favourite photo of me in NYC!
There was also that time I went with my best friend when school finished, and with my very recently ex boyfriend (that was FUN…) and just before Christmas one year. Also, I had to go for training for my job once, not the blogger thing – once upon a time I was a content and social media manager for a travel brand.
Safe to say, I know what to do for your New York itinerary for 4 days!
Day 1 in New York City: bagels, Times Square & up high
There’s no bagel like a New York bagel and given you’re in for a long day of exploring, I recommend lining that belly with the classic salmon and lox combo. Of course, if you’re more of a poppyseed with salted beef or a cinnamon raisin with cream cheese kind of person then places like Best Bagel & Coffee and Ess-a-bagel will still have you covered.
Once you’re fuelled, get to know the city a little better with a walking tour by Free Tours by Foot. They offer a few different ones covering the likes of Soho, Chinatown, Harlem and Brooklyn so it just depends on where you’re staying and which neighbourhood you fancy learning more about.
Lunch time in NYC
Apologies for all the carbs but come lunchtime, especially if you’re in midtown, avoid the overpriced tourist traps and grab a deli sandwich from one of the many bodegas. Not only a cheaper option, these sandwiches are a NYC delicacy and are often so big you can stash half away for a mid afternoon snack. Plus you can eat it while you people watch in a park like Madison Square Park (not to be confused with the home of the Knicks, Madison Square Gardens).
From there, head to the place every tourist dreams of before arriving in the Big Apple: Times Square. But be warned, it’s crazy. With so many people and a lot of traffic, my tip is to get in, get your picture on the red steps and get out. Or, find a spot to sit and just enjoy the craziness – with 4 days in New York City you have a little time to chill.
After this, head east to the Rockefeller Center and Radio City. You can marvel at these legendary buildings from the outside but then head inside for Top of the Rock. Of course, for skyscraper views there are a few different options to choose from but going up to the top of the Rockfeller means you get both the Freedom Tower and the Empire State Building in your pics. Plus on your way up you get a good whack of history and information making it better value for your $38.
Top tip for your 4 days in NYC
If you can time a visit for sunset you’ll be able to get both daytime and nighttime views of the city below.
End the day with dinner at the Lower East Side’s Beauty & Essex. From the outside it looks like a pawn brokers but once inside you’re in a swanky joint full of antiques and artefacts as well as a killer menu. Afterwards, LES is the ideal place to grab a drink in a quirky setting somewhere like The Ten Bells, Nitecap or 169 Bar.
Airbnbs in New York
Book an Airbnb in New York instead of a hotel and you could stay in a real New Yorkers home! Take a look at all the Airbnb possibilities here…
Day 2 in NYC: Central Park, Fifth Avenue & Grand Central
No matter the time of year, there’s no better way to start a morning than with a walk through Central Park. Wander past the zoo, stop by the Imagine mosaic, or even rent a boat at the Loeb Boathouse.
If you can find your way out of the labyrinth of greenery (easier said than done), head to nearby Serendipity III. Made even more famous by the movie of the same name, this Upper East Side cafe is also known for having the most expensive dessert in the world, the Golden Opulence Sundae, at $1,000. The rest of the menu is way more affordable and the frozen hot chocolates are the best.
If you haven’t blown the budget on overpriced ice cream, take a trip down Fifth Avenue where you’ll find everything from Gucci to Hollister. Stop when you get to the New York Public Library and head inside what has to be one of the most beautiful buildings there ever was. You can take a free tour or wander through the rooms yourself, just don’t leave without visiting the gift shop, which is surprisingly good.
Right behind the library there’s also Bryant Park, which is perfect for people watching. You can grab lunch from one of the nearby fast food joints (hello Chipotle) and pull up a chair to watch one of the free events or performances often happening here.
Lunch time in NYC
From one beauty to another, Grand Central Terminal is just a few streets away and has to be the most impressive train station in the world. If you’re still peckish you can pick something up in the Grand Central Market or else explore the shops, but the real treasure is the ceiling and its stars.
Round out the day with a Broadway show.
Top tip for your 4 days in NYC
If you’re wanting to watch the money, purchase tickets on TodayTix.com or by entering one of the lotteries.
Once you’ve been blown away by the likes of Hamilton, Mamma Mia or the Jersey Boys, keep the theatrical theme going with dinner at nearby Ellen’s Stardust Diner. With 4 days in NYC, you can try a few.
Here, Broadway wannabes serve your food with a side of showbiz sparkle performing musical numbers while you eat. Afterwards, walk back through Times Square to see it in all its nighttime glory.
Day 3 in NYC: brunch, Chelsea Market & the Highline
New Yorkers love to brunch and one of the many places to join the weekend ritual is at Citizens of Chelsea where they serve all the staple acais bowls, egg dishes and breakfast burgers.
Next up is Chelsea Market. Forget your traditional fruit and veg situation and instead imagine boutique shops, classy eateries and craft stands. At the back you’ve got the Artists & Fleas with its endless jewellery, on the lower floor you’ve got Chelsea Local and back at the entrance you’ll find Anthropologie. If you’re still wandering come lunchtime, grab some food from the likes of Gorsha, Los Mariscos or Hot Bread Kitchen.
When you finally come up for air, it’ll be in the cobbled-street Meatpacking District, aka NYC’s hippest neighbourhood. Keep your eyes peeled as you walk around because it wouldn’t be unusual to see a celeb or even a movie set around this part of town.
Then head onto the Highline, and what I think is one of the most underrated attractions there is. Once an abandoned railway, it’s now a beautiful public garden filled with art installations, fab architecture and amazing views of the Hudson River. Plus a few celebs are rumoured to live along here. You can jump off at a few different points but if you don’t mind the walk follow it along to the new Hudson Yard shopping centre and quirky Vessel sculpture.
Late afternoon, when it’s a little quieter, is then the perfect time to head uptown to one of the city’s museums. Depending on what you’re in the mood for you could opt for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Natural History Museum or Guggenheim.
Top tip for your 4 days in NYC
Many of New York’s museums and galleries offer free entry on certain days. Check out their websites for more info.
For dinner, go all in in Little Italy. Places like Aunt Jake’s, Da Nico and Il Cortile are some of the best places to continue the carb-loading.
Day 4 in NYC: West Village, Magnolia Bakery & Hell’s Kitchen
Wake up in the West Village and get a dose of pop culture by visiting a few familiar buildings. The outside of 64 Perry Street was used to depict Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment in Sex and the City. (Top tip: they have a chain across the steps stopping you from taking a photo so budge a few doors down instead).
Then walk 5 minutes to the corner of Grove and Bedford for the outside of the Friends building. (Top tip: don’t sign your name on the side of the building, the restaurant owner doesn’t like it). You can then get your morning sweet treat at the original Magnolia Bakery on Bleecker Street.
There are still a few sightseeing heavy hitters we haven’t ticked off so I’d then head downtown and jump aboard the free Staten Island Ferry to see the Statue of Liberty. On the other side, you can choose to explore Staten Island or else jump back on the ferry for free and see her ladyship a second time.
Once back on dry land, walk from the ferry terminal along the river until you reach the Brooklyn Bridge. You can walk across or hail a taxi but the best way is to rent a bike from the likes of Bike and Roll and Blazing Saddles and cycle across it. The pedestrians can get in your way and at times it may feel a little hairy but the 20 minute ride across one of the most iconic bridges is really an amazing experience.
Lunch in NYC
Over in Brooklyn, refuel in Brooklyn Bridge Park. You’ll notice the queue for Grimaldi’s famous pizza and while you could be tempted to join, resist and go next door to Juliana’s Pizza. Owned by the same folks who founded Grimaldi’s, it’s lesser known but the same quality without the queue.
If you’ve explored the park a little and taken some great pics of the bridge and city across the water, cycle back over and return your bikes. Then walking distance away you’ll find the Freedom Tower. If you get lost, just keep walking toward the biggest building in NYC. You can go up it or simply view from the outside and pay your respects at the 9/11 memorial. There’s also the museum nearby that takes a few hours to explore.
Round out the day, well the week, of amazing food in Hell’s Kitchen where there’s hundreds of restaurants to choose from. El Centro is good for Mexican, Danji nails Korean and Wondee Siam has some of the best Thai food in the city. With just 4 days in NYC, can you feel that waistline expanding?
Or else you could choose to have a bit of everything at the Gotham West Market with all of its indoor food stands. Wash it all down with a series of shots at Barcelona Bar where a tipple comes complete with a quick theatrical performance depending on the themed shot. Think Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and Top Gun.
New York itinerary for 4 days
Follow this itinerary for 4 days in New York, and they could just be the best four days you’ve ever had.