First-Timer’s 4 Days in New York Itinerary: A Complete Guide
Planning a trip to New York City? 4 days in New York is a great amount of time. Keep reading to find out more about our ideal New York itinerary for 4 days.
There’s no city in the world with the same kind of energy as New York. It’s exciting, thrilling, and always moving. There’s always something to do and something to see around every corner.
This makes New York the perfect city for first-timers as well as seasoned New York visitors as there’s always something new to discover. It’ll always give you the excuse to keep coming back for more.
I’ve spent a lot of time planning, executing, and tweaking the best possible itinerary for you for New York and I’m thrilled to finally help you plan your 4 days in New York itinerary.
This itinerary (and all the other New York travel guides on the blog) will tell you everything you need to know to plan your 4 day New York City itinerary.
Keep reading for my exact 4 days in New York City itinerary and find out where to go, the top things to do in New York (including the free attractions), and all my top tips for visiting New York. It’ll make planning a New York City trip a breeze!
*This ‘new york city itinerary 4 days’ contains affiliate links meaning I might make a small profit if you choose to book at no extra cost to you. This helps me to keep providing you with top-quality content for free.
Who is this New York Itinerary for?
This itinerary for New York is perfect for anyone fairly new to the city, looking to plan a New York trip and get the most out of their first visits. It’s ideal for first-timers in New York who want to get an overview of the city or those returning to explore more.
If you’ve already been to New York a few times and you’ve covered the main sights you might want to look at 72 Things to Do Alone in New York to get some more ideas for other amazing things to do in New York City, alone or not.
Are 4 Days Enough in New York City?
The truth is yes and no. 4 Days in New York City is definitely enough time to see the highlights and the main attractions in the city.
Warmer 4 days will give you a great overview of New York City and it will allow you to explore most of the iconic neighborhoods of Manhattan as well as Brooklyn and even Williamsburg.
If it’s your first visit to New York City and you can only commit to 4 days then it is enough to see the highlights.
However, as you can imagine, New York is a huge city that’s always changing. It’s got so much to offer and in 4 days you’ll only begin to scratch that surface.
That’s why it’s always a good idea to keep coming back to the Big Apple- you’ll always have a different experience and there’ll always be something new to see.
Top Things to Know Before You Go
↠ New York isn’t cheap and all the most amazing sights and attractions can add up quickly. Luckily there are a few different ways to save some serious money on entry tickets.
The first is with the New York Go City Explorer Pass. You can choose between 2 and 10 attractions to visit out of 90 of NYC’s top experiences. The pass also comes with a digital guide which is pretty helpful when it comes to deciding what to do. Get your Go City Pass here.
Another great option is the New York Pass where you can also choose between a wide range of attractions and activities including the Top of the Rock, MOMA, Edge, and One World Observatory. You can save up to 40% on entry tickets so it’s really worth it. Check out more on the New York Pass here.
↠ Consider the 7-Day Metro Card. Most people get around by subway and you probably will too. The 7-day metro pass is just $33 and you’ll get a week of unlimited travel. If you’re staying for 4 days and with each trip being almost $3, it’s a good idea to do the math and see if it’s worth it for you.
How to Plan a New York City Trip: Tips
↠ Expect people, crowds, and long lines. New York is a huge city and taking into consideration the local population and the millions of visitors the city gets per year, you can imagine it gets crowded.
My best advice to avoid the masses is to get out with the sun. The earlier you get to places the less crowded they will be.
Also, make sure to book all your entry tickets online in advance. This will save you HEAPS of time and you won’t have to stand in eternal ticket queues just to get into places.
↠ Leave all uncomfortable shoes at home. Seriously. You’ll do so much walking that good shoes are a must.
Looking for the best places to stay in New York? Read Where to Stay in New York City: Top Areas and Hotels
New York Itinerary for 4 Days in the City
Our iconic itinerary will help you plan a trip to New York City. It will take you across the city of New York to the best sights and neighborhoods. We’ve included absolutely everything you must see and the areas to visit during your stay.
Here’s a brief overview of the ultimate 4 days in New York itinerary:
Day One– Midtown– Fifth Avenue, Empire State Building, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Museum of Modern Art, Rockefeller Plaza, Top of the Rock, Times Square, Grand Central Terminal, SUMMIT One Vanderbilt
Day Two – Upper East Side & Lower Manhattan – Central Park, The Met, Upper East Side, World Trade Center, The Oculus, Staten Island Ferry
–Day Three – The Vessel, Hudson Yards, The High Line, Chelsea, Greenwich Village, Soho, Flatiron District, See a Broadway Show
Day Four– Helicopter ride, Brooklyn, Williamsburg – Brooklyn Bridge, DUMBO
NOTE: This New York plan maximizes time by focusing on one or two neighborhoods each day rather than traveling across sights in the city.
You could lose a lot of time in New York traveling around the city to various attractions so I’d highly recommend exploring by area to maximize time.
Day One– Midtown Manhattan
On day one of your 4 day itinerary for new york you’ll start in Midtown and see some of New York’s most famous attractions.
Midtown is what most people picture when they think about New York City- the skyscrapers, yellow cabs, the hustle, and bustle, etc. There’s always something going on here.
In Midtown you’ll be able to see fifth Avenue, the fabulous Empire State Building, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Rockefeller Plaza and the Top of the Rock, the Museum of Modern Art, and more.
Fifth Avenue is one of the most iconic streets in New York City. It stretches all the way from Washington Square Park all the way to West 143rd Street in Harlem.
There’s no need to walk the entire avenue, however, as some of the most iconic sections lie between the Flatiron Building and Central Park. I highly recommend starting in Madison Square Park and walking northwards.
On Fifth Avenue, you’ll find a wide range of stores and businesses and some of the most famous department stores like Saks Fifth Avenue.
Saks 5th Avenue is one of the best luxury department stores in the world and you’ll be able to find grand displays, the latest fashion offerings, and more. It’s definitely something to keep in mind for some quick shopping on your 4 days in New York itinerary.
Empire State Building
It won’t be long until you stumble upon the Empire State Building, possibly New York’s most famous skyscraper.
You can get some pretty amazing views of the Empire State Building from around Penn Station and from other notable skyscrapers and observation platforms I’ll suggest later.
If the Empire State Building however is firmly on your itinerary, by all means, you should definitely explore it. The building is absolutely beautiful with its Modernist Art Deco architecture and the views are also pretty splendid too.
It’s one of the highest views in New York City and you can opt for the extra entry to the 102nd floor!
Make sure to book your Empire State Building tickets in advance however as you don’t want to be wasting a large part of your day in queues. Get your tickets in advance here.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
New York doesn’t have too many impressive churches- you’ll need to visit Europe for that- but St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the exception. The Neo-Gothic Cathedral located right on modern and bustling Fifth Avenue is the perfect contrast between old and new.
Completed in 1879, the Cathedral took 21 years to build and its skyward, impressive architecture halts visitors in their step to this day. Make sure to go inside to see the impressive vaulting and stained glass windows.
Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)
When you plan a trip to NYC, it’s impossible to avoid its amazing museums. One of my personal favorite museums in New York is the Museum of Modern Art. For fans of modern and contemporary art, the Museum of Modern Art is one to consider visiting when in New York.
There are many different rotating exhibitions and the standing collection includes works by artists such as Dali, de Kooning, Picasso, Lichtenstein, and Frida Khalo just to name a few.
New York does have several amazing museums and apart from MOMA, you’ll also shortly find out about the Met. There’s also the Guggenheim Museum- another great choice for art lovers.
If you only have 4 days in New York then I personally recommend choosing one or two museums and visiting those as they are all quite big too.
Otherwise, you might end up spending all your time in museums, which I guess isn’t a problem either, especially in bad weather.
Located at the foot of the Rockefeller Center, you’ll find the Rockefeller Plaza, a great outdoor space. This spot is especially notable during the Christmas period when it’s beautifully decked out.
You’ll find New York’s largest tree here and you’ll be able to get some exercise in on the ice rink too. It’s one of the best things to do in New York City at Christmas time.
Top of the Rock Observation Deck
Manhattan certainly has its fair share of viewpoints and observatories and the Top of the Rock is one of the most iconic. Heading up to the top of buildings and seeing the views is one of the best things to do on a 4 day New York itinerary.
The Top of the Rock is one of the most classic views. With two outdoor platforms and views over three floors, here you’ll get a complete 360-degree view of Manhattan.
They really are stunning, throughout the entire day but especially at sunset. Top of the Rock is especially popular with photographers as the top observation deck doesn’t have any glass so you can take photos free from any glare or reflections.
If you’re planning to visit, it’s a good idea to buy your ticket in advance and choose your time slot but this is easily changeable if the weather doesn’t cooperate. Skip the queues and get your ticket here.
To find out how to visit the Top of the Rock read our guide here.
*NYC Observatories: Much like the museums, New York also has many amazing observatories and viewpoints. With 4 days in New York, it might be challenging getting them all in, especially at sunset so I’d highly recommend choosing a couple.
My personal favorites are Top of the Rock and SUMMIT One Vanderbilt as they are completely different experiences. Top of the Rock simply has amazing views and it’s the best for pictures. SUMMIT One Vanderbilt is a whole experience- more on it later.
I’ve gotta be honest here, Times Square isn’t my favorite place in New York and I don’t like recommending it in an itinerary. It’s kinda tacky, commercialized and a little overwhelming on the senses, but if it’s your first NYC 4 day itinerary, you need to see it to make your own mind up.
I know people that love Times Square, others are indifferent and others hate it.
There’s nowhere quite like Times Square in the world so make sure you don’t miss it even if just for a minute. Check out the latest flashing billboards, stores, and neon lights.
It’s a great idea to visit during the day and also during the night when the neon signs really come to life.
Grand Central Terminal
Before you get to Grand Central Terminal, however, make sure to take W 42nd Street across Midtown to also check out Bryant Park and the stunning New York Public Library along the way.
New York Public Library has some of the most beautiful reading rooms in the US and even though you’ll need to sign up for the tour in advance, it’s well worth it.
Now, you’re only a few blocks from Grand Central Station, probably among the most beautiful train stations in the world.