See Top Sights in New York City in 4 Days
Never been to New York City and have a long weekend to see the top sights solo? Here’s a great New York City 4 day itinerary for any first-time, or second-time, visitor to capture the most in four days that won’t break your bank.
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CORR Tips for Your Walking Tour
I want you to have the BEST time in New York City! It’s an amazing city with so much to do and see. It can also move quite quickly, so if you’re not used to this, you may feel out of your element or over absorbed in the diverting scenery. Therefore, I would be remiss not to provide you my little travel and safety tips to ensure you have the best experience in New York City:
- The best time to visit New York City is off season. October and April are lovely. The weather is pleasant, prices are much less than summer prices, and you’ll avoid crowds of tourists.
- Wear good walking shoes. You’re going to cover a lot of ground in this suggested itinerary.
- Do not over exert yourself. Stop as often as you need and stay hydrated, especially if you go in the summer. It can be damn hot and humid, I think I’ve lost 5 pounds in one New York City summer day.
- Don’t be afraid to take public transportation. The subway and bus systems are so easy to navigate, quick, and inexpensive.
- Engage with New Yorkers! Despite what you may have heard, many are friendly and have helpful tips about their city they are proud to share!
- If you find yourself in an area or situation that makes you feel uncomfortable, leave.
- Always keep your belongings on you. Try to avoid keeping lots of things in your pockets. Instead, bring a good day bag big enough to fit your essentials, any emergency items and camera, but not too big or overloaded while you’re pounding the pavement. You want to keep your items safe and secure, and easily accessible at all times. I always travel with my Victorinox Altmont for these exact reasons.
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Arriving in New York City
You have multiple options to get to New York City: plane, train, bus or car. I would avoid driving into New York City if you can help it. Traffic and parking will absorb a lot of your time and money.
JFK and La Guardia Airports
Arriving to the “city that never sleeps”, I would be safe and allow at least 2 hours to commute from either airport to Manhattan. Three hours might be best if you’re arriving during rush hour, which I recommend you try to avoid, just to make sure you’re not stressing yourself out.
If you’re flying into JFK, the subway and most airport shuttles are your cheapest option to getting into Manhattan, but they will take longer. If you have the funds, the easiest and quickest way is to catch a taxi, which runs on a flat rate. Here are some helpful JFK to Manhattan transportation tips.
If you’re flying into La Guardia, again, the taxi is the quickest transportation, but rates are metered and also depend on where in New York you’re staying, so it could be pricey . Look for the taxi stand line outside airport pick up area. The line does move quickly.
You can check for the latest taxi rates. No matter which ground transportation you take, please don’t forget to tip your driver.
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Grand Central Terminal
I love the train, so if you’re fortunate enough to take this transportation, you’re going to head straight into the Grand Central Terminal, in the heart of Manhattan. Lucky you! If not, don’t worry – popping into this historic building is part of this New York City 4 day itinerary!
Arrange to arrive by bus to the Midtown Port Authority location. Like Grand Central, it’s a convenient location, unless you’re staying further south. Then you might want to arrive at the World Trade Center location.
Getting Around New York City
Walking is always the standard form of transportation in New York City. New Yorkers do a lot of walking! They also take public transportation, which is what I recommend also.
You can get a MetroCard for buses and subway services at any one of the subway vending machines for an from an attendant (attendant’s take cash only). MetroCards cost $1 and require a minimum of $5.50 of transportation up front. After that, you have options. You can get a Pay-Per-Ride card, a SingleRide card, or an Unlimited Card that allows unlimited amount of rides within a certain timeframe.
If you want to ‘fix it and forget it’, like I do sometimes, you could just opt for the 7-day Unlimited Card for $31 and you’re covered on this entire 4 day itinerary, with Staten Island being the only exception.
Don’t forget to hang on to your MetroCard so you don’t have to buy a new one when you got back to New York City!
The subway can cover a lot of city blocks quickly, but the bus can also cover ground above ground providing for more viewing of the city if this is your first time to New York City.
Of course, there are taxis galore in the city, as well as the Hop On-Hop Off bus, which can be part of your New York City Flex Pass (see below).
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Where to Stay in New York City
Honestly, this depends on what you want to do and see. Different areas of Manhattan will have different prices. If you know in advance what you’ll be doing, then obviously stay close to those sights and activities. Why waste your precious New York City time getting from point A to point B?
That said, you’ll be all over Manhattan in this itinerary, so I recommend staying in Midtown – it’s centrally located.
Since I tend to be anxious to get out and about, I pick an accommodation that offers breakfast, or at least a coffee and nibble before I venture out. I like to save my meal expenses for lunch and dinner. And on a New York City 4 day itinerary, I’m guessing you may feel the same.
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New York Flex Pass
There are many benefits to purchasing the Flex Pass. By knowing what you want to do in advance, you can look up the price of entry and compare to the Flex Pass pricing, and possible required reservations, on over 100 attractions.
The Flex Pass’s “skip the line” options can also be a huge time saving value. You can also cancel it up to 24 hours in advance, if need be.
You can buy your pass online and download it to your smartphone. If you can’t download it, there are four Midtown locations where you can pick up your pass. Bring your confirmation documentation with you.
The Flex Pass does cover some of the attractions on this 4 day itinerary, like the Top of the Rock Observation Deck, Radio City Music Hall Tour, and the MOMA, for example. Note, it does not cover The Frick, also on this itinerary.
I used the Flex Pass on this itinerary so it’s a great option but certainly not required.
New York City 4 Day Itinerary
Now you’ve got the lay of the New York City land, let’s get you out there seeing top New York City sights!
Day 1 – Welcome to The Big Apple
Since your first day more than likely involves your transportation into New York City, hotel check in, and all that goes with it, let’s spend the first day relaxing and celebrating your arrival.
Staten Island Ferry
The ferry is FREE and takes about 25 minutes one way across the New York Harbor. You’ll get to kick back with fresh are while you take in the scenic views of lower Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and Governors Island. You’ll see why it’s been called, “One of the world’s greatest (and shortest) water voyages.”
Feeling a little refreshed? Great! Hop the subway back to Midtown for some Times Square exploring and shopping.
Warning: This can be a crazy tourist area, but it’s worth at least a bit of time to see the hub of New York City’s commercial, tourist and entertainment district all rolled into one for yourself.
Now’s probably a good time to head back to the hotel and refresh yourself for a classic New York City pastime: dinner and a show!
I know, I know… Broadway tickets can be pricey to downright expensive. I recommend purchasing as far in advance as possible and trying to score some show ticket deals. But this is New York City! How else can you best kick off your first night?
Conveniently located, you’ll be walking distance from your hotel to the Broadway district where shows and restaurants are plentiful. I hope you made your dinner reservations!
After showtime, venture out for a night cap or just do a face dive into your hotel pillow.
Day 2 – Brooklyn and Then Some
I hope you had a great night’s sleep because this day you’ll be getting up early and working your feet!
MetroCard in hand, the York Street station in Brooklyn is a convenient 22 minute subway ride from the Bryant Park station. Walk another 2 minutes and you’ll find the Brooklyn Flea on Pearl Street in the DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) neighborhood.
Open Sundays April through October, you’ll be able to explore the outdoor stalls full of antiques, eclectic clothing, food, collectables, and more. Grab a bite if you missed breakfast.
If you’re not there on a Sunday, then explore the cobblestone streets of DUMBO full of trendy cafes, boutiques and such.
Make your way to the water and hang out at Brooklyn Bridge Park, take in the Manhattan skyline scenery, and ride Jane’s Carousel. St. Ann’s Warehouse has a gallery and regular performances. DUMBO has many things to hold your attention in one morning.
Hang in DUMBO for 2 or 3 hours, then grab some grub to-go for your next adventure.
Within minutes, you’ll be at the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge Pedestrian walkway (watch for any construction) to walk back to Manhattan. Talk about more skyline views! This is why we start the day in Brooklyn.
Just over one mile in length, the Brooklyn Bridge is a leisurely stroll that could take you anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes, depending on how many snaps you take.
A couple of blocks past the base of the bridge is the Brooklyn Bridge City Hall Station where you can catch the Green 4 or 5 line north. This subway ride gives your feetsies a little break.
Get off at the 68th Street station and walk a few blocks west towards Central Park.
The setting and art collection here are simply divine. I have been to this museum more than once.
Set inside Henry Clay Frick’s former 5th Avenue residence, The Frick Collection holds quintessential pieces I even studied in art school. It’s more of an intimate setting than a larger museum. It’s also a shorter visit time than most museums in New York City.
A little note about me: My favorite piece in the Frick Collection is “St. Francis in Ecstasy” by Bellini. The colors mesmerize me. I can look at it forever!
However, if you have not been to New York City and wish to go to the Met, the Guggenheim or other, I completely don’t blame you. These are fabulous places to see, and I will offer that on a separate New York City itinerary. I have been to New York more than once, so of all of the art museums, I include The Frick as the go-to art stop for a four day visit.
No matter what time of year, by now you should still have plenty of daylight to walk across 5th Avenue and relish Central Park with all of its beauty, iconic features and music.
From The Frick, walk eight blocks north and enter the park at 70th Street. There are maps of the park at the entrance or you can download one to your smartphone. You can arrange for a guided tour if you wish. This is the last attraction on your day’s itinerary.
Walking by yourself, zig zag along the east side of the park. I recommend meandering south past the Alice and Wonderland statue, a favorite for kids.
Southeast of the statue is the Conservatory Water holding model bloats floating and racing about. East is the Hans Christian Anderson statue.
From there, keep walking southwest towards the Bethesda Fountain, a great place for resting your feet while you people watch and listen to the outdoor musicians.
From the fountain, head south towards the Mall and Literary Walk. Check out what the local vendors are selling.
Keep walking south past the Naumberg Shell – there may be an outdoor performance – to the Balto Statue.
If time permits, you’ll walking past the Central Park Zoo. It is small enough for a quick diversion, but closes at 5pm on weekdays, 5:30pm on weekends and holidays. It is also available on the Flex Pass.
Past the Gapstow Bridge is the East Drive exit where you’ll walk out to 59th Street and the Plaza Hotel. Pop into their second floor Rose Club to keep your New York City celebration going with a glass of bubbly. It’s a great excuse to rest your feet. Again.
Head back to your hotel to change before dinner or just stay out as-is. You’ve had a long day so it’s your call. If you have beautiful weather, I do recommend trying dining on a roof-top bar and catch the sun going down over the city.
Day 3 – More Free Sightseeing
Take your morning coffee outside today in the memorable Bryant Park. Enjoy watching New York City go by.
Historic New York Buildings
When you’re ready to motivate, start a little walking tour of some of New York City’s iconic buildings and history.
Since you’re there, drop into the New York City Public Library (Stephen A. Schwarzman Building). It’s free and beautiful to see. They also offer free, docent-led library tours at 11am and 2pm Monday through Saturday. Tickets are first-come, first-serve. Tours last an hour.
Two blocks east is awe-inspiring Grand Central Terminal, one of the most popular filming locations in New York City – more than 50 films and TV shows have been filmed in this historic building since its opening in 1913 (after 10 years of construction). Look up at the ceiling. Amazing.
One more block east is the famous, Art Deco style Chrysler Building. You can enter the lobby only, but it’s so worth it to see the red marble and artistry of the period.
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Radio City Music Hall
Rockefeller Center / Top of the Rock
The deck is open 365 days a year and offers 360 degree views of the city. It closes at 12:30am if you want to view the city lights. You can take as much time as you want, but I suggest allowing just an hour should you want to do more than I provide this particular day.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
This marks the end of your third day in New York City. You may have time to catch another attraction, or just relax at your hotel a while before venturing out for your last night of dinner and drinks on the town.
Day 4 – High on Art
I recommend an evening departure so you can still have time for a few more New York City musts on your last day.
Sleep in a bit. Arrange your transportation. Then leave your bags at the hotel when you check out so you can enjoy the day before your flight leaves.
The High Line
Catch the subway blue line south to 14th Street and 8th Ave and walk west to the High Line northern entrance.
The High Line is an elevated linear park and greenway that used to be part of the New York Central Railroad. You can walk its almost 1.5 mile path towards Washington Street if you have the time, stopping to enjoy the art work and murals along the way.
Stop midway through the High Line at the Chelsea Market Passage and pop into Chelsea Market to grab a bite. There are great food vendors and shopping. It’s also a cool place to duck out of the sun on a hot day.
For your final New York City attraction in this fun-filled, New York City 4 Day itinerary, I give you the MOMA. There are a variety of exhibitions and must-view art pieces only the MOMA holds. Sit outside and enjoy a bit of tranquility before your travels start again. If you didn’t get to eat along the High Line, the MOMA also offers a café for travel bound sustenance.
More Top Sights in New York City
I hope you enjoyed your stay with my New York City 4 Day itinerary!
Of course, you can’t see all of New York City in four days. If you’re fortunate enough to have more time in New York City, check out the following top sights and attractions.
- Empire State Building
- American Natural History Museum
- Washington Square park
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art
- The Guggenheim Museum
- Statue of Liberty / Liberty Island
- Washington Square Park
- Staten Island Ferry
- The Whitney Museum
- Prospect Park
- Carnegie Hall
- The Cloisters
- The Roosevelt Island Tram
- 9/11 Memorial and Museum
- One World Trade Center
- The Battery
- Brooklyn Botanic Garden
- Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
- Bronx Zoo
- Lincoln Center for Performing Arts
- Madison Square Garden
- New York Botanical Garden
- United Nations Headquarters
- Apollo Theater
- Tour NBC Studios
- Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises
- Belvedere Castle
- New York Aquarium
- AND MORE!
Let Me Hear From You
I would love to hear if this was helpful to you. Post me your thoughts or questions in the Comments section below!
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