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4 Day New York Itinerary For First Time Visitors

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Ahh, New York City… a bucket list dream for so many people. But if you’ve only got 4 days in New York to spare, then how can you make time to tick off lots of things on your NYC bucket list? With a well-planned out itinerary, of course!

Read on to see our tried and tested 4 day New York itinerary, which is perfect for first time visitors and those of you who want to fit in some of the most famous attractions in the city. Enjoy!

4 Day New York Itinerary For First Time Visitors

Here’s how this 4 days in NYC itinerary looks at a glance:

4 day New York itinerary at a glance

Now, take a look at how we’ve broken down each day into bite-sized chunks. While you won’t be able to see all of NYC in just 4 days, there’s still plenty for you to see and do. Here’s how…

Day 1 – Soak Up Some Culture

Central Park

Why not start your first full day in New York with a stroll through Central Park? Grab a coffee to go and enjoy watching commuters on their way to work and fitness fanatics on their morning runs.

There are also plenty of trees, flora and fauna to see in Central Park; not to mention its more infamous attractions as well.

There’s the Alice in Wonderland statue as seen in the Netflix TV series, Dash & Lily and the art deco stylings of the Bethesda Terrace and fountain as seen in Gossip Girl. 

Don’t forget to look up at the 19th-century Minton tiles on the ceiling of Bethesda Terrace – they’re stunning!

Minton Tiles at Bethesda Terrace, New York City

Take your time wandering through this most infamous of parks before making your way to some of New York’s most prestigious museums; two of which sit on opposite sides of Central Park.

Metropolitan Museum of Art OR the American Museum of Natural History

As you’ve only got 4 days in New York, you may need to make some choices between what to see out of the larger attractions to do them justice.

Ideally, you’ll need to spend a good four hours (at least) exploring each of these popular museums, but they’re both well worth it.

Although we had time to do both during our trip to New York, if we could recommend just one out of these two then it would be the Metropolitan Museum of Art

That said, we’ll still talk about both of these museums so you can make up your own mind about which one to include in your New York itinerary.

First up is the Metropolitan Museum of Art (aka the MET), which is split across several levels.

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

Even for those of us who aren’t really into art perse, this museum is different from what you might imagine!

Firstly, the exhibits don’t just feature portraits and paintings – although they do have a lot of striking pieces for you to see.

Artwork in the MET, New York City
Stained glass window art at the MET

But you also have the opportunity to walk through incredible attractions where you almost feel like you’ve entered different worlds and countries.

There’s the Egyptian Art room, for example, where genuine artefacts from Ancient Egypt await, such as hieroglyphics, sarcophaguses, statues and even entire tombs and pillars. It’s incredible!

Egyptian exhibit at the MET in New York
Egyptian exhibit at the MET in New York City

Then there’s the Asian Art section where one of the exhibits includes a wander through an ornate zen garden.

Asian Exhibit at the MET

Alongside permanent exhibits like these, the MET also features various limited-time exhibitions, so there’s always something new to see.

We’ve never been to an “art” museum quite like this before and we highly recommend it.

Skip the line with a pre-booked entry slot >>

If you have longer to spend in New York, or simply don’t fancy visiting the MET, then there’s also the American Museum of Natural History, which is on the opposite side of Central Park.

Once again, this museum is split across multiple levels and showcases so many incredible exhibits.

There’s the Hall of Ocean Life where a lifesize model of a Blue Whale hangs suspended from the ceiling.

Then there are dinosaur fossils, skeletons and models to see – some of which are lifesize, including a cast of a 122-foot-long dinosaur and a T-Rex.

But I think my favourite sections of this museum were the Halls of Gems and Minerals where sparkly objects abound!

Check prices of advance entry tickets now >>

Mineral fossil at the American Museum of Natural History, New York City
Mineral fossil at the American Museum of Natural History, New York City

McGee’s “How I Met Your Mother” Pub

Once you’ve had your fill of museums, it’s time to grab a bite to eat for dinner. 

If you’re a fan of the TV series “How I Met Your Mother” (HIMYM), then you might like to visit McGees Pub on West 55th Street (south of Central Park), which served as the inspiration for McLaren’s Pub in the show.

You’ll probably want to make a reservation as – understandably – it’s a popular place to go for TV lovers. 

They serve decent food and even have a HIMYM inspired menu and cocktails on certain days and times.

And while you’re eating, you can look at the many photos taken of the cast during filming, which hang all around the pub.

Simply a must for HIMYM fans!

Day 2 – Tick Off Multiple NYC Bucket List Hotspots

Grand Central Station & Whispering Gallery

Head to Grand Central Station on East 42nd Street early and you’ll have the chance to see the station at its best.

It might sound strange to suggest you visit a train station during your trip, but there are two very good reasons why.

Dash & Lily Filming Locations: Grand Central Station

Firstly, Grand Central Station is quite possibly the most beautiful train station we’ve ever seen.

The main lobby features windows on almost every wall with glints of gold and art deco features adorning everything else.

Not to mention the painted zodiac and star-studded ceiling, which will make you want to stop, look up and admire.

And secondly, on the lower floor of the terminal where most people go to dine, you can find the Whispering Gallery.

If you and whoever you’re with each stand on opposite corners of the arched entryway, face the walls and speak normally, you’ll be able to hear each other as if you’re standing right next to one another. Cool, huh?!

Discover more of Grand Central’s secrets with a guided tour >>

Grand Central Secrets - The Whispering Gallery

Walk along 5th Avenue and see the Chrysler Building & the Empire State Building

After you’ve admired all there is to see at Grand Central Station, it’s time to see some of New York’s most iconic buildings.

The Chrysler Building is just a quick five-minute walk away from the terminal, while the Empire State Building is roughly 20 minutes south of there.

And the best bit? You can arrange for part of your walk to be along 5th Avenue, which is home to some of New York’s most iconic stores with Macy’s just around the corner as well.

From here, the Rockefeller Center takes about 20 minutes to walk (this time north back towards Grand Central). But you could easily take a different route to allow you to see more of this infamous city on foot.

Rockefeller Center & Top of the Rock at sunset

NYC Sunset

The Rockefeller Center is another iconic sight to see within New York City – especially if you’re visiting in winter.

You might recognise it as the home of an ice rink and Christmas tree, which we often see in the movies.

Take your time to have a look around. There are also lots of interesting shops in this area including Nintendo NY and The Lego Store on Fifth Avenue.

Next up, it’s time to head to the Top of the Rock.

This is where you can head to the 70th-floor open-air roof deck to take in 360-degree views of the city.

Along the way, you can also take a look at some of the exhibits, which offer information on how the Rockefeller Center was built.

Plan your visit to take you to the top about an hour before sunset and you’ll also see several iconic views of the city within just one experience: by day, at sunset and at night.

While many people recommend you go to the top of the Empire State Building, we’d recommend doing the Top of the Rock experience instead. 

This is because from up here, you have the opportunity to see (and photograph) the Empire State Building as part of New York’s skyline. Not to mention Top of the Rock tickets are cheaper as well!

Check prices for Top of the Rock now >>

Compare prices for the Empire State Building experience >>

Top of the Rock, New York City

Times Square at night

Your final stop for today is Times Square – best seen at night when all the giant billboards light up the night sky… well, almost! *wink*

Times Square is a short eight-minute walk from the Top of the Rock, making today the perfect day to tick this one off your NYC bucket list.

Day 3 – See The Sights On Foot

See Manhattan Bridge

Let’s begin your third day in Brooklyn at the Manhattan Bridge Lookout. 

Manhattan Bridge, New York City

From here, you can see this iconic bridge as well as a couple of parks and streets that you’ve likely seen plastered across Instagram and in the movies.

Walk across Brooklyn Bridge

Once you’ve finished admiring Manhattan Bridge, it’s time to head for another of NYC’s iconic bridges; this time Brooklyn Bridge.

Brooklyn Bridge, New York City

From the Manhattan Bridge Lookout, head south for about half a mile (about a 15- to 20-minute walk). The Brooklyn Bridge Walkway starts at the intersection of Tillary Street and Boerum Place.

It takes about an hour or so to walk across Brooklyn Bridge; maybe a little longer if you’re stopping for photos.

You may even find artists along the bridge selling their work. We couldn’t resist snapping up this gorgeous artwork for just $10.

Brooklyn Bridge Artwork from New York City

Staten Island Ferry

After Brooklyn Bridge, let’s head south for about a mile (another 20-minute walk) towards the Whitehall Terminal.

Don’t forget to check out the Charging Bull statue on your way!

From Whitehall Terminal, you can hop aboard the Staten Island Ferry for FREE and be treated to picture-perfect views of the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline during the journey.

Statue of Liberty, NYC

RELATED: Common New York Scams & How To Avoid Them

The ferry takes about 25 minutes each way. While you have to disembark the ferry at Staten Island, you can hop onto another one going the other way fairly quickly… for yet more views of NYC’s most iconic statue.

Walk the High Line

Once you’re back on the “mainland”, you’ll probably want to get the subway to your final stop of the day.

You can hop on a subway at South Ferry to 14 St station, which is about a 10-minute walk from the start of the High Line at Gansevoort Street.

The High Line is a public park, but one that has a big difference – it’s 30 feet off the ground!

But it wasn’t always a public park. Between the years 1924 and 1980, it was used to transport goods through the city.

It wasn’t until 2009 that they began to transform The High Line into a public park and unique walkway.

Depending on what time you finish walking it, you may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the sunset across the Hudson River.

Dash & Lily Filming Locations in NYC

READ MORE: The High Line – Escape the Hustle & Bustle in NYC

BONUS: Stick With Me

If you have extra time during your trip or fancy making a slight detour on your third day, then why not check out Stick With Me in Nolita near Soho? 

This tiny chocolate shop packs a punch when it comes to originality and delicious flavour combinations. 

Stick With Me Sweets

You might have seen their chocolates splashed across social media as they’re just as heavenly to look at as they are to taste. Check out our full review.

Day 4 – Take The Time To Remember & Reflect

Westfield World Trade Center

Before 9/11, the World Trade Center had an underground shopping mall attached to it, which sadly was destroyed when the Twin Towers fell.

But in August 2016, a new mall was opened, which is what you can see today.

The Westfield World Trade Center mall (also known as The Oculus) has an interesting structure – and naturally – we wanted to find out what it symbolised or why it was designed like that.

Westfield World Trade Center Mall, New York City

This article from Architectural Digest features an interview with the building’s designer, Santiago Calatrava, who explains why he chose this particular design for the building. 

Every September 11th, the ceiling is opened to reveal a strip of sky. The sun shines through the strip most intensely at 10.28 am, which was the exact moment when the second tower fell. 

World Trade Center Memorial

Just across the street from the mall, you’ll find the haunting World Trade Center memorial. 

Where the Twin Towers once stood place, you’ll now find two large waterfall pools which sit in the footprints of the former towers.

The pools also feature bronze plaques the whole way around; upon which they’ve engraved the victims’ names from the attacks. The plaques also feature names of those who were victims of the 1993 attacks as well.

What some people don’t know is that the names have been engraved in a very special way. Friends’ and colleagues’ names appear alongside each other and the victims’ next of kin could also request certain names to be placed together when the memorial was designed.

When visiting, you may also see a single rose next to some of the names. These are placed here each morning to signify whose birthday it is that day.

9-11 Memorial New York City

This is a place of remembrance and contemplation, so please do your best to respect the memorial and the reflective atmosphere.

9/11 Memorial Museum

For those of you who want to learn more about the memorial and what happened on that fateful day, then you may wish to visit the 9/11 Memorial Museum while you’re here as well.

You’ll need to set aside at least 3 or 4 hours for the museum as there are a lot of exhibits here.

911 Museum Exhibit, New York City

It’s also well worth visiting if you want to pay further respects to the victims as the museum seeks to honour those who lost their lives and displayed such courage. 

It’s a humbling and harrowing experience, but also brings a lot of meaning to your trip to this infamous city.

Check prices of advance tickets >>

Where To Stay For Your 4 Days in New York

For our trip to New York, we chose to stay in Long Island City (LIC) and we’d highly recommend it.

LIC is part of the Queens borough and is just across a principal bridge connecting it to Manhattan (where you’ll likely spend most of your time). 

Although it depends on where you stay in Long Island City, it’ll take you about 20 to 30 minutes to reach Manhattan via the Subway. 

But it’s much cheaper to stay in LIC than Manhattan and is also on the same side of New York as the JFK airport, so you’ll find getting to and from the airport a little easier as well (assuming you’re flying into here and not, say, LaGuardia or Newark).

We stayed at LIC Hotel, which is a comfortable stay and offers good value for money (especially in New York!). Your stay should include breakfast, which – when we stayed there – was a choice of cereals, pastries, fruits or a cooked breakfast. The hotel even has a rooftop terrace, which offers fabulous views of the Manhattan skyline (especially at night!) The subway to take you into Manhattan is also just a short walk away – super useful!

In case this hotel doesn’t suit you, here are a few others you might want to check out that are in a similar area and come highly recommended by other guests:

And there you have it! Our tried and tested 4 day New York itinerary. I hope you find it helpful and full of inspiration ahead of your trip to “The Big Apple”.

Do you have any questions or feedback for us? Let us know in the comments below…

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4 Day New York Itinerary For First Time Visitors
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Justine Jenkins

Justine is one half of the married couple behind the Wanderers of the World travel blog. She lives in Bristol, UK and has travelled extensively within Europe and beyond since 2013. After her trips, she shares detailed travel itineraries, helpful travel guides and inspiring blog posts about the places she's been to. When she's not travelling overseas, you'll find her joining her husband, Scott on various day trips, weekend getaways and walks within the UK, which she also writes about on Wanderers of the World. Aside from travelling and writing, she also loves reading, crafting and learning about nature.

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