The Ultimate New York Itinerary 4 Days – Highlights in the Big Apple

The Ultimate New York Itinerary 4 Days – Highlights in the Big Apple

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New York, New York

I want to wake up in a city that doesn’t sleep

– Frank Sinatra

New York is just a wonderful place – my absolute favorite city to be exact. Anyone who has ever entered our house can easily recognize this from all my New York souvenirs, which I distribute everywhere as soon as Eduardo is not paying attention.

Below, I’d like to take you with me on my New York itinerary 4 days to the best things to do in New York City. In addition to the typical New York attractions, we’ll also take a look at sights off the beaten track and see New York highlights recommended by locals and fellow travel bloggers. Of course, besides the New York City itinerary for 4 days we’d like to give some helpful New York travel tips to make your trip to the Big Apple a lot easier.

New York City Facts

  • With 8.5 million inhabitants, the most populous city in the United States
  • Shortened with NYC
  • One of the most expensive cities worldwide
  • Named Niuew Amsterdam between 1626 and 1664

Best time to travel to New York

New York is always a great idea!

Whether you want to be enchanted by the city’s Christmas spirit during the winter season, celebrate New Year in Times Square, or enjoy a refreshing ice cream in Central Park in the summer, every season is great to visit New York.

How to get around

Hasn’t everyone secretly dreamed of jumping into one of the famous yellow cabs that we all know from our favourtite shows and movies? However, the truth is you actually often travel faster and cheaper by using the Subway.

The traffic in New York is just super hectic and congestion and stagnant traffic are inevitable. Luckily, New York offers such a well connected subway.

Another option is to walk as much as possible. Sure, New York City is a huge city, and between the neighborhoods it’s almost impossible to go everywhere on foot, but between individual New York attractions, you can easily walk. Fortunately, many roads are numbered as well, which can be very helpful for orientation. (Did I still walk in the wrong direction for half an hour on the way back to the hotel and almost missed the bus to the airport? – Maybe.)

New York Itinerary 4 days

New York City Map

New York City Itinerary 4 days – Day 1

On the first day, you’ll probably be totally excited to finally arrive in the Big Apple. So let’s use the day to see some of Manhattan’s most famous New York highlights.

Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center, New York City Itinerary 4 days

Opening Hours Rockefeller Center: 24 hours

Rockefeller Center is an iconic New York City landmark that shouldn’t be missed on any visit to New York City.  With its central location in Midtown, it’s easy to walk through if you only have a few minutes, or you could spend half a day there if you choose to really take in everything Rockefeller Center has to offer.  While Rockefeller Center is probably best known for having “the” Christmas tree of New York and ice skating during the holidays, it definitely can and should be enjoyed all year round. And with NBC Studios and Radio City Music Hall located at Rockefeller Center, there’s also no shortage of shows to see and promotional events going on around the plaza.

The highlights at Rockefeller Center include:

  • Walking by the Channel Gardens to view the greenery and displays that change with the seasons.
  • Ice skating at the Rink at Rockefeller; something that should be done at least once in your lifetime and is available from October- April each year.
  • Shopping at one of several stores available.  Stop at the newly reopened F.A.O. Swartz to bring back childhood memories and walk by the Lego store to see the Lego replica of the Rockefeller Center in the window.
  • Taking in the beautiful views of the City at the Top of the Rock observation Deck for 360-degree views of the city.
  • Grabbing a coffee at Ralph’s Coffee, designer Ralph Lauren’s antique truck turned coffee stand, and enjoy the people watching.
  • Stopping by the beautiful St Patrick’s Cathedral on 5th Avenue right across from Rockefeller Center.

Recommended by Amanda from Toddling Traveler

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

St Patricks Cathedral in New York, NYC Itinerary

Opening Hours St. Patrick’s Cathedral: 06.30 am – 08.45 pm

Built of white marble, the cathedral is the largest neo-Gothic cathedral in the United States, with 101-meter high towers. While at the beginning it was used by fled French as a refuge and orphanage, this cathedral is now considered one of the most famous cathedrals in the world.

Located right next to the Rockefeller Center, it’s a great way to combine a visit to both of the New York’s attractions.

The Chrysler Building

Chrysler Building, New York attractions

Opening Hours Chrysler Building: 08 am- 06 pm

The Chrysler Building is considered one of the most distinctive buildings in the city. With its size of 319 meters, it is also the sixth tallest building in the city. Unfortunately, there is no viewing platform in the Chrysler Building, such as Rockefeller Center and the Empire State Building.

However, during opening hours (Opening hours being office hours as this building is used as an office building) you can enter and take a photo of the lobby without a ticket.

The Empire State Building

Empire State Building, New York City itinerary 4 days

Opening Hours Empire State Building: 08.00 am – 02.00 am

Tickets: For more information, prices, and booking click here.

Although many locals swear that the views from other buildings and viewpoints in the city are much nicer, the Empire State Building is and will remain one of New York’s absolute highlights.

It does not really matter if you enjoy the view in the light of day or let your gaze wander over the lights of this unique metropolis after sunset – New York City is wonderful and you can easily spot it from here.

At the sight of this impressive 381-meter-high building, it is hard to imagine that its construction took just under 20 months.

The Times Square

Times Square, 4 days in New York City

No trip to New York is complete without a visit to Times Square. Especially in the dark, you feel like you just entered another world. From everywhere, the neon signs and scoreboards illuminate the night, and the color scheme of the environment changes with each ad.

Although many residents of the city avoid Times Square, (which was named after the New York Times) because of its tourist crowds, you should not miss this Big Apple landmark while in town.

By the way, if you are looking for a souvenir, you will definitely find it in one of the dozens of souvenir shops around here. But keep your eyes open, many tourist traps lurk around this area.

Broadway

Tickets: For more information, prices, and booking click here.

For fans of theaters and musicals, visiting the Broadway is an absolute must-do in New York. Pick a show that you’ve always wanted to see, or one that you want to see again and again and enjoy the evening.

During my first night in New York City, I had the chance to see the Phantom of the Opera, and it was a stunning show, even though I do not exactly call myself the biggest musical fan.

It’s also a great way to dress up and shoot some photos in Times Square. 😉

Suggested Itinerary for New York Day 2

After seeing so many amazing things yesterday and probably going to bed late, maybe even still struggling a little bit with the jet lag, today we’re going to have a more relaxed day – Pinky Promise 😉

American Museum of Natural History

American Museum of Natural History, Whale, New York

Opening Hours American Museum of Natural History: 10.00 am – 05.45 pm

Tickets: For more information, prices, and booking click here.

The American Museum of Natural History is a New York Institution and the kids love that it is the setting for the Night at the Museum movies too. You will need the best part of the day to properly do it justice – it is one of the biggest museums in the world after all.  In peak tourist season make sure you arrive early to beat the crowds.

The halls are enormous and the exhibitions diverse although there is a focus on science and ecology.  Make sure you have a comfy pair of shoes on!

The most memorable parts for us were the huge top floor Dinosaur exhibition and the magical Butterfly Conservatory which homes over 500 free flying butterflies flying overhead amongst dense tropical foliage.

There is also the famed blue whale model that hangs in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life, he clocks in at over 94 foot long!

The Museum is situated in the upmarket West Side of Manhattan, just over the road from Central Park.  The Cafe is busy and expensive so why not take a packed lunch and head over to the Park after your visit to enjoy another top attraction.

The Museum is easily accessed by the subway and make sure that you stop to admire the nature-themed murals that are featured on the walls of all the stops at this location.  There are over 250 of them and they are pretty impressive.

 Recommended by Gemma from A Girl and her Dog on the Road

Central Park

Central Park, Park in Manhatten, New York City

Opening Hours Central Park: 06.00 am – 01.00 am

Entrance Fee: free of charge

Let’s continue to another New York highlight that is part of probably every New York itinerary: Central Park.

Next to dozens of couples shooting their wedding pictures here, you can relax a bit from the hectic city bustle. You can also, if you like, place a flower on the memorial mosaic in the so-called Strawberry Fields to commemorate the singer John Lennon who was murdered here.

Imagine mosaic, John Lennon, Central Park, New York Central Park was built between 1859 and 1873 and has since been visited by almost 25 million people every year.The nearly 864-acre landscaped park occupies nearly 6% of Manhattan’s landscape and is therefore referred to as a green lung. Lake in the Central Park, in New York City

Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET)

Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, New York

Opening Hours MET: Sunday – Thursday: 10.00 am – 05.30 pm; Friday + Saturday: 10.00 am – 09.00 pm

Tickets: For more information, prices, and booking click here.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) is one of my favorite places in all of New York City and is an absolute must-do on any trip to NYC.  There are so many great things to see and do at the Met.  The ancient Egyptian section has enormous stone sarcophagi, well-preserved mummies and an actual temple you can go in.  There is an indoor Chinese garden for quiet contemplation, several cafes to relax over a cup of coffee, and a Spanish courtyard to transport you to Europe.  In summer, head up to the rooftop terrace to enjoy the year’s site-specific art installation, incredible views of Central Park and a glass of sangria.

Das Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, View

In December, be wowed by their enormous Christmas tree covered in angels.  There is something for everyone – musical instruments, armor, photographs, African masks, textiles, and famous European artworks.  Plus, of course, an annual fashion exhibition that inspires the famous Met Gala.  The Met has three locations, including the Breuer (the former home of the Whitney Museum) and the Cloisters, which has several relocated cloisters to house their medieval collection.  Whether you are interested in famous art, artifacts from around the world, or just want a coffee or drink in an amazing setting, The Met has something for you.  This is one of the very best museums in the world and should absolutely not be missed!

Recommended by James from Travel Collecting

5th Avenue

Next to Broadway and Wall Street, this may be the most famous street in New York. At the end of this leisurely second day in the Big Apple, you can stroll around or go shopping. Here you will find everything your heart desires.

If you are not a shopping queen nor traveling with one, you can of course also visit other incredible museums or just walk a bit more through the concrete jungle of Manhattan.

4 Day Trip to New York Day 3

Ellis Island

Arrival Hall on Ellis island, New York

Opening Hours Ellis Island:  Different boat schedules each season. You can check the official boat schedules here.

Tickets: For more information, prices, and booking click here.

Ellis Island is a small island located in the Hudson River, in the harbor area of ​​New York (even though it officially belongs to Jersey City).

Historically, this is one of the most important places in the city, as it used to be the immigration office of New York between 1892 and 1954. About 12 million immigrants traveled through this island to the US, many of them were looking  to live the American Dream.

Since 1990, this is the Ellis Island Museum of Immigration, which reflects an important part of the city’s history.

The Statue of Liberty

Statue of liberty, new york city itinerary 4 days

Opening Hours: Different boat schedules each season. You can check the official boat schedules here.

Tickets: For more information, prices, and booking click here.

Name a historic monument that you associate with New York, or with the US in general: The Statue of Liberty is certainly the most popular answer. Of course, this New York landmark should not be missing on any NYC itinerary.

With a height of almost 93 meters, Miss Liberty is considered one of the tallest statues in the world. The Statue of Liberty was a gift from the French and was inaugurated in 1886. Since 1984 it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Inside the statue is a souvenir shop (what a surprise!). But even those who are not in search of a souvenir can easily plan on spending some time on the small island to shoot some wonderful photos or enjoy the views from above.

Governor’s Island

View from Governors Island over the skyline of Manhattan

Opening Hours: Different boat schedules each season. You can check the official boat schedules here.

Tickets: For more information, prices, and booking click here.

A short ferry ride away from Manhattan lies Governors Island, a 172-acre island in the heart of New York Harbor and a green haven that’s somehow escaped the masses till now. During the Summer months, a series of free ferries to this island take families with kids, lovebirds and outdoors fans for a different day out. Also, art lovers and walking buffs will enjoy Governor’s island as it can be easily walked while spotting some interesting art pieces here and there. Sitting on the island grass while having a picnic – visitors are welcome to bring their own food and eat at one of the many picnic tables scattered throughout the Island – and enjoying the iconic New York City’s skyline is something that should be experienced for everyone at least once.

Make sure you don’t miss your ferry to Governor’s Island next Summer as Governors Island will open to the public again from May 1-October 31 and make this unusual thing to do in New York part of your itinerary!

Recommended by Inma from A World to Travel

The Wall Street

Charging Bull Statue at the Wall street, stockmarket New York City

Our tour to the best attractions that New York City has to offer continues. The next stop on the list is Wall Street, which probably everyone has heard of before.

In addition to numerous banks, the New York Stock Exchange, which is considered the largest stock exchange in the world is located here. There is not much to see here to be honest, but a photo of the so-called Charging Bull can’t be missed.

9-11 Memorial and Museum

9-11 Memorial and Museum in New York City

Opening Hours 9-11 Memorial & Museum: 09.00 am – 08.00 pm

Tickets: For more information, prices, and booking click here.

The National September 11th Memorial and Museum needs to be included on your NYC Itinerary.  They are located where the Twin Towers once stood. The artifacts you see inside the museum show how terrible the attacks were and the impact on New York City.

A couple of the pieces that affected me the most were:

  • The Last Column – It was the last column of the buildings to be removed from Ground Zero.  Many first responders were thought to be buried nearby. The column became an unofficial memorial as people wrote messages to their loved ones, friends, and colleagues on the steel.
  • The Survivors Staircase – The Vesey Street stairs which remained largely intact after the attack and were the path to safety for many survivors.

A majority of the Museum’s artifacts are inside the Timeline Exhibit, which shows minute by minute how the events of the day unfolded.  In addition to the artifacts, you can see news clips and hear recordings of phone calls and voicemails from that fateful day. There are so many amazing stories and some are heartbreaking.

The exhibit about before and after 9/11 tells the story of the first attack on the World Trade Center and the recovery process after September 11th.  They also have a Memorial section where you can learn more about each victim. In the Recording Studio, you can record your thoughts about the Museum or the events of that day.

The September 11th Museum is not a museum you want to speed through.  I would recommend allowing five hours for your visit. You can visit the September 11th Memorial at the same time.  Walk around the fountains and read the names of the victims of the attacks. It’s powerful as well.

Recommended by Anisa Alhilali from Two Traveling Texans

Woolworth Building

As you continue to wander the streets of New York, you may also want to take a look at the Woolworth Building, which between its completion in 1913 and 1930 was considered the largest building in the world.

Brooklyn Bridge

View from the Brooklyn Bridge over the Manhattan Skyline

With so many great things to do in New York City, it can be hard to choose what to do, but we think the Brooklyn Bridge should be on your list! The Brooklyn Bridge connects Brooklyn to Manhattan. Construction started in 1869, and is now a National Historic landmark. To get the full experience, I would recommend walking across the Brooklyn Bridge. We started on the Manhattan side and walked most of the way across, it is about 1.5 miles across, so it may take you a little while. We think walking goes best with a coffee, and lots of stops for photo opportunities!

As a reward for your long walk, you’ll have amazing views of the Manhattans skyline. You can also see the Statue of Liberty out in the Hudson!

Walking or driving across the Brooklyn Bridge is free, there are a few subway stations nearby to get you into the area. The bridge is open all year, and 24 hours a day. We had a lovely visit in the winter!

Recommended by Jen from Will save for Travel

Chinatown

As you can almost imagine, this neighborhood is oriented towards Chinese culture. Nearly 100,000 Chinese residents live here, which is why Chinatown is a must for China fans like me.

Over the years, more and more Chinese settled here and even today, the cityscape is characterized by Chinese characters and language (Almost half of the Chinese residents don’t speak English).

So if you are looking for a delicious Chinese snack for dinner, this is the place for you.

Itinerary for New York 4 Days – Day 4

We want to use our last day of our New York 4 days tour to look at a few NYC attractions, which are rather unknown for tourists.

High Line

Graffiti at the High Line in New York City, Streetart

Despite the name, there’s nothing circus-like or illegal about the High Line in New York.

Instead, it’s a quietly beautiful place repurposed from something more functional: a former rail track that ran for one and a half miles across the top of Chelsea and the Meatpacking District.

Today, the High Line blends together a number of features. Urban park life. Open air art museum. And a viewing platform of the city.

Residents and visitors drift along the track, between the plants, between the art. New buildings. Old brick buildings. Construction work.

One section even arranges seats like a theatre with a window-like view onto the streets and traffic below. You can almost imagine someone calling it The Museum of Manhattan as the bright yellow taxicabs zoom on by.

This being New York, you’ll find a range of eateries at the start and end of the route as well as elevator access at certain points too.

Unlike most of the city that never sleeps, here is a place to dream and drift, to take your time and to taste a different slice of the Big Apple.

Recommended by Abigail from Inside the Travel Lab

Chelsea Market

Chelsea Market, Market hall, Chelsea, New York

I’ve been fascinated by the rapid growth in food halls around the world, so for our recent trip to New York City, I knew I had to check out Chelsea Market located in the Meatpacking District.  I love how cities have repurposed old, historic buildings into spaces to showcase local food and restaurants. I also appreciate the opportunity to sample a variety of local foods in one convenient location.

Prior to becoming Chelsea Market, this enormous, brick building was home to the National Biscuit Company. Now better known as Nabisco, this is the company famous for inventing the Oreo cookie in 1912.

The market covers an entire city block and today attracts over 6 million annual visitors. There are over 35 vendors selling a wide range of food. During a recent visit our family enjoyed hot dogs from Dickson’s Farmstand Meats, deep fried oreos from Creamline, and biscuits from Sarabeth’s Bakery.  We went home with several bottles from Heatonist since my husband and son consider themselves hot sauce aficionados.

In addition to providing good food, the developers of the market wanted the interior to be attractive and included fountains, art, unique sitting areas and seasonal decorations. Wandering through the market is an experience for all of your senses.

Fortunately this market is open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner, making it very convenient for visitors. There are many other things to do in the area, so the market could be part of an entire day in this section of the city.

Recommended by Wendy from Empty Nesters hit the Road

Washington Square Park

Washingon Square Park, Arch, New York City

If you need a little break after so much sightseeing, then Washington Square Park is the place for you. This is the place to relax and recharge your batteries. With 9,7 hectares, Washington Square Park is much smaller than its famous brother, Central Park, but still famous for the Washington Square Arch, which you can find inside of the park.

Calvary Cemetery

Calvary Cemetery in Queens, New York, View over Manhatten

One of the nicest surprises we had during our visit to New York was the Calvary Cemetery, situated in the district of Queens. It’s worth getting away from the usual tourist itinerary that focuses on Manhattan and Brooklyn and visit hidden gems like this. This cemetery is the oldest in New York, and it’s full of tombs and crypts of famous personalities.  For instance, infamous members of the Italian mafia such as Joe Masseria and Thomas Lucchese are buried here. You would not find it surprising, therefore, that this place was picked to film Vito Corleone’s burial service in the Godfather a movie.

Apart from the historical scenery, this cemetery is also an interesting destination to enjoy some of best views of the New York skyline. You will be able to take some very peculiar pictures with really olds tombs in the foreground and the skyscrapers of Manhattan in the background. The visit to the cemetery is free of charge and although it’s found Queens, it’s very easily accessible from Manhattan. You just have to take metro Line 7 at Times Square station, and after getting off at 52 St-Lincoln Av Station you will only need to walk a few minutes from there.

Recommended by Gábor from Surfing the Planet

Bushwick Collective

Bushwick Collective, Graffity Quarter in New York, Brooklyn

Bushwick is a small neighbourhood in the northern part of Brooklyn. Since the early 2000’s it has emerged as a haven for artists and musicians in search of inspiration and cheap rent.

This blossoming of artist’s ideas has developed in one area which is now called the Bushwick Collective. The streets, art studios, vacant lots and even some automobiles have become living canvases in which locals and visitors alike can put their mark on the neighbourhood.

For a city famous for its Urban art this is a must-see location. As much of New York’s street art and graffiti is removed the Bushwick Collective stands out as a beautiful show of ingenuity and community spirit.

A great location to visit if you love art, trendy cafes, and restaurants or to simply see Urban life from a different perspective. The Bushwick Collective should be on your bucket list.

Recommended by Eoin from Dolly’s Quest

More time in NYC?

How about a Greenwhich Village Food Tour?

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About the AuthorVicki

Hi, we are Vicki & Eduardo, an international travel couple on a mission to help you save money for priceless travel experience. Follow us through the miracles of this world and you will be rewarded with a bunch of practical travel tips.

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4 thoughts on The Ultimate New York Itinerary 4 Days – Highlights in the Big Apple

  1. We are heading to NYC in December and I found lots of good info in your post! Pinning for travel planning! I’m so excited to enjoy the holiday season here!

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