Planning to spend 4 days in New York City? In this post you’ll find all the info you need to organize the perfect New York in 4 days itinerary (what to do & where to stay).
This post was written in collaboration with Hotels.com
New York, the Big Apple, has long been held up as the definitive American city of culture, art, finance and more. Some even have called it “the capital of the world.” The city of New York is so large and jam-packed with sights and attractions, it can be a daunting task for many to decide what to do first. In this post, I’m offering my best advice for planning a 4 days in New York itinerary.
I’ve included a broad range of activities to suit varying tastes, and I hope you’ll find it useful for any future travel plans you have. There are no fixed times allocated, but I recommend you see the attractions on each day according to the order I’ve put them in since it’s what makes the most sense geographically.
I’ve included opening times (valid at the time this blog post was published). Opening times with no days mentioned indicates that the time applies daily.
➤ Before we start, let me remind you that we are living in unprecedented times, and safety needs to be the priority when traveling. Please make sure you travel responsibly and by following the regulations of your destination.
Wear a face mask at all times, wash your hands regularly and bring hand sanitizer with you. Before leaving, make sure to check out the official website for the latest updates on closures and policies. I also always recommend booking a hotel with free cancellation so you can sleep peacefully knowing that you can change your plans at the last minute if something changes.
Table of Contents
Where to Stay in New York City
New York City is huge, and it’s important to stay in a good area and a good hotel in New York, both for safety reasons and for avoiding wasting lots of time moving from place to place.
In my opinion, the best area to stay for tourists is Midtown Manhattan. Here you’re walking distance to many tourist attractions, and you’re well connected to other areas by metro. This is the area of Times Square, the Empire State Building and the Highline.
If you’re looking for a fancier area, look for a hotel in the Upper East Side, which is a quieter, high-end area close to Central Park and all the main museums.
Lower Manhattan is also a good choice, especially for foodies as this is where you’ll find Little Italy, Chinatown, and Greenwich Village. It’s also convenient as in this area you’ll find the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.
Lastly, if you’re on a budget and aren’t afraid to be a bit further out and take buses and metro everyday, look for accommodation in Brooklyn. This hipster, more edgy offers a lot (in fact you’ll explore Brooklyn in your 4 days New York itinerary), and it’s close enough to Manhattan.
4 Days in New York City Itinerary
There’s so much to see and do in New York City, it would take you years to see it all. That’s why if you have four days in New York, every second counts.
This is an itinerary that is packed, but lets you make the most out of your time. However, feel free to adapt it to your needs and interests, and skip some activities if it feels like it’s too much in too little time.
Depending on how many museums and attractions you plan on visiting, it might be convenient to buy a pass and save some money. A pass only makes sense for some people though, so you have to calculate if it would benefit you or not.
➤ The Go New York Explorer Pass offers entry to over 95 must-see attractions, museums, and tours. This pass is different from other passes as you pay for a number of attractions rather than days you can use the pass, so it’s convenient for almost everyone. You can save up to 54% off the price of admission.
Day 1: Midtown Manhattan
Start your four days in NYC with your morning coffee and some food – it’ll be an intense first day in Manhattan, so you’ll definitely need the energy! Today you’ll be exploring Midtown Manhattan and some of the most famous attractions in NYC, so it will be the perfect introduction to the city.
Top of the Rock
Start your Itinerary in New York with the best possible view of the city. To get what is arguably the most iconic and breathtaking views of Manhattan and the rest of New York, you need to head to the top of Rockefeller Center at one of the most famous addresses in NYC: 30 Rockefeller Plaza. You’ll get unbeatable views of Manhattan’s Midtown and downtown skyscrapers.
Some people prefer the Empire State Building or the One World Observatory, but personally I think that Top of the Rock provides the best views of all.
➤ Since your time in New York is limited and precious, book your timed-entry ticket in advance and skip the line.
The MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) is a top attraction with locals and tourists alike. There are always exciting exhibitions of world-renowned artists past and present. Give your day a fresh aspect of creativity with a stroll around some of the most thought-provoking art in New York, America, and the world.
➤ Pre-book your timed-entry ticket to enjoy contactless entry and skip the ticket lines.
To get a real taste of New York’s commercial, cultural and historical flavors, a stroll down iconic Fifth Avenue is a good start. Some people call it Millionaire’s Row, and it’s easy to see why. If you want the high-end stores, then you need to stick close to Central Park.
Alternatively, you could explore the area from Washington Square to the Flatiron building for more great stores. From Fifth, you’ll also get a chance to see and explore St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Empire State Building and the New York Public Library.
Grand Central Terminal
5:15am to 2:00am
Explore one of the most visited spots in New York at Grand Central Terminal. Highlights include the main concourse building, the whispering gallery, Grand Central Market, Park Avenue Viaduct and many more. To get the best of it, try reserving a spot on one of their historical tours.
Arguably the Big Apple’s most iconic and famous square, Times Square is an absolute must for any visitor to the city. There’s a lot to see and do there, including Madame Tussauds, the National Geographic Ocean Odyssey, One Times Square (where they run the New Year’s Eve celebration), Ripley’s Believe It or Not, and many more.
Visit these attractions or just walk around taking in the magnificent billboards and irresistible energy.
Watch a Broadway Show
Round off the first evening of your New York 4-day trip with an unmissable Broadway Show. There are always things playing both for afternoon matinees and evening shows. Each show currently running does about 8 shows per week, with some shows having run continuously since the 1980s and 1990s.
If you don’t book anything in advance, just head to the area around the theaters in the afternoon and grab a discounted ticket for the same night’s show. You might have a more limited selection to choose from, but last time I did so I saved 40% on the ticket and enjoyed a great show!
Day 2: Lower Manhattan and More
The second day of this itinerary for New York City will focus on Lower Manhattan and some of the most famous attractions in New York City.
Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
Who could come to New York and not go see what is probably the world’s most famous statue? One of the best ways to see it along with Ellis Island, the historic landing site for many immigrants and gateway to America, is to do so from a cruise boat. A tour of the area can take around 3 hours and it’s a great way to fill up a morning and see these incredible heritage sites.
➤ Tour the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island at your own pace with an audio guide. You can also visit the Statue of Liberty pedestal if you want to. The ticket includes the ferry from New York (or New Jersey).
9/11 Memorial and Museum
10.00am to 5:00pm
After exploring some of America’s more distant heritage, take a somber and reflective period to visit this important memorial to the recent past. Though obviously steeped in tragedy, the Ground Zero and 9/11 Memorial tours, led by local New Yorkers with connections to the tragic events of that day, are an amazing way to learn about this event and connect more deeply with New York.
I’ve written a whole post about visiting the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. It’s not the happiest of places, but I feel like a visit here is unmissable, even if you’re a foreigner like me.
➤ Visiting the Memorial is free, but for the Museum I recommend booking timed-entry tickets in advance as the lines at the ticket office can be very long, especially if you visit during the summer or high season.
➤ If you prefer to visit with a guided tour, the New York: 9/11 Memorial, Ground Zero, and optional 9/11 Museum entry is the highest rated 9/11 Memorial tour, so it’s a safe choice. You’ll get to visit the 9/11 Memorial and Ground Zero with a guide with a personal connection to 9/11. Choose the option with 9/11 Museum entry to visit the museum as well with a skip-the-line ticket. Highly recommended.
Start your visit to the world-renowned Greenwich Village with a stop in Washington Square Park. After that, explore the sights, take in some delicious local food, and just soak up the Manhattan-ness. As you’re exploring the many sights of the village, don’t forget to try and spot the building used as the exterior for Monica’s apartment building in the sitcom Friends (Hint: it’s at 90 Bedford Street).
7:00am to 2:00am, closes 12:00am on Friday, Sunday: 8:00am to 10:00pm
New York is home to many markets, but few can compete with the variety and quality that you’ll find at Chelsea Market. You’ll find 55 vendors inside, all with their unique offerings. It’s little wonder the market attracts some 9 million visitors per year. That’s up to 35,000 each day.
Weekdays: 7:00am to 9:00pm; Weekends: 9:00am to 9:00pm
See a park like you’ve never seen before. The High Line was built on a historic freight rail line and sits above the streets below on the west side of Manhattan. It opened in 2009 and has become very popular since.
Note that if you go on a weekday, it’s open access. If you go on a weekend day, you have to reserve a spot in advance. Start from Gansevoort Street, 23rd Street or 30th Street.
Day 3: Brooklyn
On the third day of your 4 days in NYC itinerary, head over to New York’s most famous borough outside of Manhattan, Brooklyn.
Start with the gateway to Brooklyn, the world-famous Brooklyn Bridge. It’s a great place to get stunning city shots, especially early in the morning. So get up, have an early breakfast and get there very early for the best morning shots.
If you really want a picture with no people in the background, though, you’ll have to come at sunrise time or around 6 AM.
No, this isn’t a neighborhood of flying elephants. DUMBO stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass. Local highlights include Brooklyn Bridge Park, Jane’s Carousel, the Klompching Gallery…but where you should really spend your time is in Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory (opening times below).
You’ll find it on Old Fulton Street, and it is the kind of ice cream that makes you want to change your life for the better.
Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory Opening: 11:00am to 10:00pm (Mon-Thu); 11:00am to 11:00pm (Fri-Sun)
This is a beautiful green space nestled in Brooklyn and a great space to relax and enjoy your ice cream or just to stroll around. You might use Prospect Park as a way to visit some other nearby sights, like the Brooklyn Museum and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, whatever grabs your interest.
Another great place to hit after Prospect Park if you’re in Brooklyn over a weekend is the always-impressive Smorgasburg open-air food market. Here you can find food from all over the world, so it’s a great place to come with friends and try a bit of everything.
It opened again on June 13, 2021 and operates on Sundays from 11:00am to 6:00pm. It’s the best place to enjoy your lunch after an entire morning exploring Dumbo.
After exploring Dumbo, you might head to Williamsburg, another hip and rejuvenated community of Brooklyn and home to a very diverse community of many nationalities and religions. Williamsburg boasts some of the most amazing nightlife in the city, and has styled itself internationally as “Little Berlin.”
Mon to Thu: 4:00pm to 9:00pm; Friday: 12:00pm to 10:00pm; Saturday: 12:00pm to 11:00pm; Sunday: 12:00pm to 8:00pm
Founded by an English teacher turned entrepreneur, Brooklyn Brewery is another great place to stop in the afternoon or evening to enjoy some frosty cold ones of Brooklyn’s finest brews. Drink responsibly!
Day 4: Central Park & the Museums
Your 4 day trip to New York will conclude with some of the the unmissable attractions that you haven’t had a chance to see yet, for example Central Park!
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Thu-Mon: 10:00am to 5:00pm; Closed Tuesday and Wednesda
It’s your last day and you’ve already done so much! Finish your 4-day New York itinerary with a tour around the Met if your last day isn’t a Tuesday or Wednesday (otherwise exchange days in this itinerary). It’s located right on Fifth Avenue and you will need to book tickets in advance.
➤ Opt for a skip-the-line ticket like this one that is also flexible (you can make your visit whenever you like, within a month of your scheduled ticket date).
Admire the ongoing exhibitions such as the Dutch Masterpieces or the British Galleries, but also take the opportunity to see whatever’s visiting while you’re in New York. You never know if you’ll get a chance to see it again, even if you come back to New York.
You can’t possibly miss New York’s premier green space, Central Park. Some activities are a little more “old hat,” like a horse-drawn buggy ride or rowing on the lake. Check out the other sights too, like Belvedere Castle, Shakespeare in the Park, the Conservatory Garden and much more.
There’s always a lot going on in Central Park, and so much to see. It’s the perfect place to relax and escape from the hustle and bustle of the city space.
American Museum of Natural History
Wed-Sun: 10:00am to 5:30pm; Closed Monday and Tuesday
The American Museum of Natural History can be found on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in Theodore Roosevelt Park, just across the street from Central park.
The museum attracts 5 million visitors a year to see its more than 34 million specimens of plants, animals, fossils and much more. It makes a nice way to wind down an exciting trip to New York with some intellectual stimulus. Don’t miss especially the Cultural Halls where you can learn all about human development.
➤ Buy your entry ticket in advance and benefit from all-day entry; you can also upgrade your general entry ticket to include special exhibitions.
It takes quite a bit of time to see these two museums, but I left this last day less packed so you can have time to add other attractions that you missed in the previous days or that aren’t on this itinerary.
Here’s wishing all travelers an enjoyable, safe and unforgettable trip to New York City, the Big Apple. You’ll quickly discover that this truly is among the greatest cities ever built by mankind. I hope this post was useful to start planning your New York 4 days itinerary – for any questions, let me know down here in the comments or find me on Instagram @everysteph.
FAQ – New York in 4 Days Itinerary
Yes, you can. However, you won’t be able to see everything as it’d take you weeks to do so. In 4 days though, you’ll be able to see the highlights if you plan your itinerary well.
Packing for New York for 4 days is pretty simple. Don’t forget to bring some comfortable shoes (you’ll walk A TON!), dress in layers since the weather can change fast, and bring some nicer outfit/shoes if you’re planning to go for a nice dinner or a Broadway show.
May, June, September and October in my opinion are the best months to visit New York City. The weather is at its best and you won’t find the crowds of tourists you’d find in the summer.