New York City. The Big Apple. The Concrete Jungle. No matter what you call it, there is plenty to love about New York City. But what if you only have 4 days in New York? This guide will show you exactly how to see New York in 4 days, without skimping on seeing either the must-see attractions or the quieter neighbourhoods!
Can you see New York in 4 days?
The short answer is yes, absolutely! For a first time visit to New York, you can definitely see all the main attractions and even some lesser-known spots in that time. But be warned: your days will be long, you will walk a lot and you will be exhausted. Even if it feels like you haven’t seen much in one day, even just six hours of exploring will tire you out!
So take this guide with a pinch of salt. You don’t have to do everything. And equally, not everything on this list will be up your street (not everyone likes musical theatre or fancies flying in a helicopter after all!). But it should give you a great outline of the areas you might wish to explore in the time you have.
The best place to base yourself for seeing New York in 4 days
This probably won’t surprise you but the best place to base yourself during a short trip to New York, especially if it is your first visit, is Manhattan. While this will be more expensive, there are fun New York activities for every budget, so you can skimp in other places if need be. I’d advise staying as close to a subway station as possible as you will rely on the subway a lot during your trip. Anywhere near Times Square is a great bet because it’s super central to loads of attractions.
We stayed in an Airbnb just a 10-minute walk from Times Square. This was the best of both worlds because we were really central but also stayed on a really quiet street which made for a great nights sleep. Plus, the Airbnb boasted the most incredible rooftop with views across Manhattan. And the best part is that we had the whole thing to ourselves! What a dream.
The best way to see New York in 4 days
The subway is your friend. Whilst it may seem silly because you are only there for four days, purchasing a 7-day metro card is the cheapest and easiest way to get around New York. The metro card costs $33 whilst a single ride costs $3. So if you take 11 subway journeys throughout your time in New York you will easily make your money’s worth. That’s less than three journeys a day! Plus it saves you the time and hassle of buying a single ride each time you need to take the subway.
If you want to tick off all the main New York attractions, I’d advise investing in a New York City pass. At just £115, you can see six of the best attractions in New York: the Empire State Building, the American Museum of Natural History, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Top of the Rock observation deck, 9/11 memorial and museum, and either ferry access to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, or Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises.
New York in 4 Days Itinerary
Day One: Times Square, Top of the Rock and Central Park
Day Two: Hudson Yards and a Helicopter Ride
Day Three: Greenwich, Brooklyn and Broadway
Day Four: The Financial District (Staten Island Ferry, 9/11 Memorial and Museum, Wall Street and Stone Street)
Day One in New York: Times Square, Top of the Rock and Central Park
For your first day in New York, stick to the tourist hotspots. We started our day off in Times Square. Love it or hate it, Times Square is something to experience. The bright lights of New York culminate in the tacky, commercial clusterfuck that is Times Square. Soak up every last bit of it, from the people dressed as superheroes to the street performers begging for cash.
Day One Early Morning: Ellen’s Stardust Diner
Speaking of tacky, what better way to throw yourself into all things American than with a trip to Ellen’s Stardust Diner? This famous diner is well-known for the show tunes, glitz and glam that is so synonymous with Broadway. I thought I might find the diner somewhat irritating after a couple of songs. But nope, I could not have enjoyed it more if I tried. It was like walking into the happiest room in the world. I was grinning from ear to ear!
While I am sure the atmosphere is better later in the day as the place is fuller, I definitely recommend going here for breakfast. Not only is the food cheaper but you’ll also not have to queue for ages to get in (you will usually see a queue piling down W 51st street!). We walked straight in and got a table instantly at about 10:30 on a Monday morning.
Day One Late Morning: Radio City Music Hall
While we didn’t have time to take a tour of Radio City Music Hall, it’s unlikely that you’ll miss this attraction whilst wandering around Manhattan. Housed within Rockefeller Center, this famous entertainment centre is a historic venue of unmatched elegance. You can buy tickets to a music, comedy or theatre show or simply tour the venue!
Day One Lunchtime: Top of the Rock
So you’ve seen the centre of the city up close, now it’s time to see the city in its entirety from above! Head to Top of the Rock for one of the best views of the city. With views across to the Empire State Building and Central Park, it’s a great opportunity to get your bearings and get a little snap happy!
Day One Afternoon: Central Park
After going up Top of the Rock, we decided to head to Central Park for a lazy afternoon basking in the sun. We somehow massively lucked out with 20-degree weather in March so we wanted to make the most of the sun. The best place to spend sunny days is, of course, Central Park, one of the best parks in New York. From listening to live music and picnicking in the park to rowing around the lake and seeing the sights by bike, there are so many great ways to appreciate the beauty that is Central Park.
Depending on time, you might also have time to explore one of the attractions either in or around Central Park. These are included, but not limited to, Central Park Zoo, the American Museum of Natural History, and The Met.
The evening is to do with as you wish! You may be shattered from jet lag and a long day’s exploring so may decide to relax in your hotel. That’s totally understandable! However, despite our tiredness, we headed to Sean’s Bar and Kitchen for drinks with my family who live in the local area. We had a fun night drinking and eating food out of a kitchen sink, as you do.
Day Two in New York: Hudson Yards and a Helicopter Ride
Day Two Morning: The Vessel
Your second day in New York will start at The Vessel. This architectural masterpiece has been doing the rounds on Instagram lately and it was even more amazing to see it in person. The Vessel is a soaring spiral staircase that you can climb right to the top of! Comprised of 154 intricately interconnecting flights of stairs, the climb offers incredible views of the city, the river and beyond.
While the attraction is free, you can’t just rock up and enter at any time. When you arrive, speak to one of the staff members who will show you how to book a time slot to visit The Vessel. This will usually be about half an hour from the current time, though this will vary depending on how busy it is.
Day Two Early Afternoon: The High Line
Visiting The Vessel puts you in the perfect position to visit the High Line. The High Line is a free public park/walkway built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets of Manhattan. Starting right near the base of The Vessel, the walkway combines 1.45-miles of nature, art and design into one of the best walks you will find in New York.
Day Two Late Afternoon: Helicopter Flight
Probably the highlight of our trip was the open-door helicopter flight we took across the city. It was a bucket list experience with the most incredible views imaginable.
Known as ‘the ultimate helicopter photo experience’, we decided to go with FlyNYON because uh, duh, we are avid photographers. Starting at just $89 per person, there are plenty of both doors on and off flights to choose from. We personally opted for the NYC Classic 30-minute doors off flight which came in at $165 each. You can always upgrade last minute on the day though if you change your mind!
To get to FlyNYON, catch a link train to Jersey Square in Jersey City then book an Uber or jump in a yellow cab outside the station to take you to FlyNYON. A taxi man outside quoted us $30 but an Uber was just $11 so I’d definitely recommend catching an Uber!
After a short safety video and getting harnessed up, it was time to take to the skies. The team choose where you sit based on your weight. One person will draw the short straw and sit in the middle – luckily, I got to dangle my feet off the edge!
It felt similar to skydiving insofar as there is a shit ton of cold air rushing into your face. It really took away from the experience and considering all the photos I took on my phone were shit anyway, I would have probably enjoyed it more had it been doors on. Nonetheless, it was so fun to dangle my feet off the edge and wegot some brilliant photos to make up for it.
Day Two Evening: Joe’s Pizza
After our helicopter flight, we finished the day with a few slices of the iconic Joe’s Pizza. Pizza by the slice is something you absolutely need to experience in New York. And Joe’s Pizza is the best of the best. Dotted around New York, it’s hard not to stumble upon one. But Google Maps helps too if you don’t have any luck!
Day Three in New York: Greenwich Village, Brooklyn and Broadway
Day Three Early Morning: Brunch at Jane Restaurant
Start your third day of your 4 day trip to New York by exploring Greenwich Village. This leafy suburb is filled to the brim with edgy coffee shops and jazz bars galore. We started our morning with Brunch at Jane Restaurant where I opted for the vanilla french toast. It’s safe to say I appreciated the banana and strawberries after a few days of bingeing on pure crap.
Day Three Late Morning: Greenwich Village
The perfect place to spend the morning mooching around, there is plenty to see and do in Greenwich Village. I would recommend starting with Gay Street (the smallest street in New York), Washington Square Park (home to the beautiful Washington Square Arch) and Jefferson Market Library (it’s just really fucking pretty). Friends fans can’t miss checking out the famous apartment! And a walk down Bleecker Street never goes amiss – anticipate music and comedy venues in droves.
Day Three Lunchtime: DUMBO
Catch the subway to High Street, Clark Street or York Street to find yourself in Brooklyn. This neighbourhood is a must-see area during your time in New York. With limited time in the city, you won’t have time to explore much further than DUMBO.
Most well-known for the iconic picture of the Manhattan Bridge, DUMBO is an acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass. Marked by its cobblestone streets and converted Brooklyn warehouse buildings, DUMBO is filled to the brim with independent boutiques, high-end restaurants and trendy cafes.
To find the iconic shot of Manhattan Bridge, head down to the waterfront to the intersection of Washington Street and Water Street. Top tip: make sure you frame the Empire State Building right in the middle of the bridge!
Day Three Early Afternoon: Time Out Market New York
Speaking of the bugger, housed inside the rustic Empire Stores, you will find Time Out Market. This was one of our favourite places we visited in New York and should absolutely be at the top of your 4 day New York bucket list. Inside you will discover 21 different tasty street food pop-ups ranging from Japanese and Korean to Italian and American.
While the food is to die for, the best thing about the market is its rooftop. The perfect place to sunbathe and admire the views on a hot summer’s day, the rooftop offers unparalleled views across both Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridge. So buy a cocktail or an ice-cold beer and sip away to your heart’s content. Bottom’s up!
Day Three Early Afternoon: DUMBO Waterfront and Brooklyn Bridge Park
If you thought the view of Manhattan Bridge was great, why not also check out the quieter, less-frequently photographed composition of Brooklyn Bridge? You will find this shot down on the waterfront in front of Time Out Market. You should also use this time to wander down the 85-acre waterfront area. Loved by tourists and locals alike, Brooklyn Bridge Park is a great place to get fresh air, play sports, enjoy skyline views, admire flora and fauna, and eat allllll the ice cream!
Day Three Late Afternoon: Brooklyn Bridge
Now it’s time to embark on one of the most iconic walks New York has to offer: Brooklyn Bridge. Taking only about half an hour, give or take, walking across Brooklyn Bridge is a must-do on your New York itinerary. Walking from Brooklyn to Manhattan is by far the best way to see the bridge as you get to walk soak up the views of the iconic Manhattan skyline.
Day Three Evening: Broadway
After an hour relaxing in our Airbnb, we headed out to Broadway to see a show! Broadway is, of course, an unmissable bucket list item. We bought tickets to see the Tony Award-winning Dear Evan Hansen and it was so beautiful and heartwarming. It’s safe to say I shed a fair tear or two. The cast were ridiculously talented and I couldn’t recommend the show enough. However, my favourite Broadway show will forever be The Book of Mormon, so you should definitely go see that if you get the chance. It is laugh out loud funny!
Day Four in New York: The Financial District
Day Four Early Morning: Bagels
Start your final day of your 4 day trip to New York with one of the city’s finest delicacies: a bagel. We opted for Pick-a-Bagel as there was one near where we were staying, but I’ve also heard Ess-a-Bagel is supposed to be fantastic too. The bagel itself was unlike any bagel I’d ever eaten before and the fillings were delicious too! I couldn’t really think of a better way to start your final day in New York.
Day Four Late Morning: Staten Island Ferry
After devouring all the bagels, head downtown to ride the famous Staten Island Ferry. With views across to the Statue of Liberty herself, the free passenger ferry makes its way between the boroughs of Manhattan and Staten Island, lasting approximately 25 minutes each way. It transports 22 million people a year, made up of locals and tourists alike. You can, therefore, experience both a historic New York transit system and a major tourist attraction all in one!
Day Four Early Afternoon: 9/11 Memorial and Museum
Harrowing and heartbreaking, the 9/11 Memorial and Museum is something you cannot miss off your New York itinerary. Located at the World Trade Center, the 9/11 Museum journeys through the attack, its impact and its continuing significance. It was without a doubt the best museum I’ve ever been to. It was informative and educational, but it also beautifully honoured those who were tragically killed in the 2001 and 1993 attacks.
Day Four Late Afternoon: The Oculus
There’s not much to say for the Oculus other than it is a bloody architectural gem. Oh, and makes it for a darn good photograph. It’s essentially just a glorified shopping area with paths to the metro and the PATH. But hey, if it looks good, I’m not complaining!
Day Four Late Afternoon: Wall Street
Just an 11-minute walk from The Oculus, you will find Wall St. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not exactly the most exciting tourist attraction in the city. But a trip to New York would be incomplete without at least seeing the leading financial centre of the world just that once.
Day Four Late Afternoon: Stone Street
The contrast between Wall St and Stone St is surprising considering they are only a mere 4-minute walk from each other! This little slice of Ireland brings some old world charm to built-up New York. It’s a great place to wind down at the end of the day, basking in that much-loved Irish atmosphere and sipping on a pint of Guinness. Top tip: be sure to pop around the corner to Insomnia Cookies to grab the best cookies in New York!
Day Four Early Evening: The Empire State Building
Spend your final evening of your 4 day trip to New York marvelling at the city you have just explored! If you fancy seeing the city one final time, head up the Empire State Building. While the views aren’t nearly as good as up the Top of the Rock, it’s great to see the city lit up at night! And wow, there you have it. A whistle-stop tour of New York in 4 days!
So what are you most excited to do on your 4 day trip to New York? Some of my favourite highlights of the trip include The Vessel, Greenwich Village, DUMBO, the helicopter flight and Broadway! If you have any other recommendations of places I should visit when I inevitably make it back to New York, please leave them in the comments below.