Skip to Content

How to Spend FOUR DAYS in New York City: 4-Day Itinerary

How to Spend FOUR DAYS in New York City: 4-Day Itinerary

This blog may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure policy for more info.

Out of all the cities in the world, New York is perhaps the most iconic (you’ll hear that word a lot in this blog!). It is the pinnacle of pop culture in the United States and has a rich history that drove it to the top. It’s safe to say it’s high on many travelers’ bucket list destinations – at least it was for us!

But there’s just one problem – if you only have four days to spend in NYC, how do you craft the perfect itinerary? With epic sights like the Empire State Building, and fun activities like the Bateaux Dinner Cruise, you don’t want to have to pick and choose. And, on top of that, how do you plan your days so that you don’t spend hours in taxis and navigating the subway?

That’s right, you need to plan all of your activities (food included) perfectly to squeeze it all in!

We recently got back from a relatively quick trip to NYC and we crafted this perfect 4-day itinerary full of all of our favorite things to do in NYC so that you can make the most of your limited time in this dazzling city!

We followed this itinerary almost exactly and it works great. Not only will you visit top attractions, but you’ll also eat the best food, tick off some bucket list activities (like a helicopter tour over the city), and spend less time traveling around since we’ve grouped activities together that are in the same area – enjoy!

Don’t have time to read the full article? We loved using The New York Pass because it gave us discounted entrance to so many activities. We were able to see the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, the Statue of Liberty, and have a luxurious dinner cruise along the Hudson River! Oh, and I can’t forget about the helicopter tour– it was an epic 4 days in NYC!

Day 1 in New York City

Get a New York City Bagel (Breakfast) 

Bailey with a bagel in New York City
The famous bagels!
The New Yorker Bagel from Liberty Bagels in New York City
This is known as the New Yorker!

There is no shortage of amazing food in New York City. Trust me when I tell you, you’ll be eating a lot! New York bagels are one of those random food staples that are somehow better in this city than anywhere else in the world.

Starting your 4 days in New York City with a classic NYC bagel will be the perfect introduction to the city. 

Liberty Bagels is one of the most well-known bagel shops in New York. They are famous for their homemade cream cheese and kettle-boiled bagels that are the perfect consistency of crunchy outside and doughy inside. Don’t just take our word for it– go try it for yourself! They have locations in Midtown (which is where you’ll be this morning), Broadway, and Fifth Avenue

Their Everything Bagel is award-winning, so you know it’s great, but we opted for the bagel sandwiches! I had the New Yorker, which was roast beef, eggs, and hashbrowns sandwiched between their tasty bagels. It was incredible, to say the least, and the necessary fuel to begin adventuring NYC!

Go up the Empire State Building

Bailey poses for a photo at the top of the Empire State Building in New York City
It’s so cool that you can step outside and enjoy the view without a glass barrier!

Nearly every other activity we did can be considered an “iconic NYC” activity. This city has a lot of history and culture that draws in all types of people, so it really feels as enchanting as it sounds! Your first major stop on your 4-day NYC itinerary is possibly the most iconic activity out there– visiting the Empire State Building

The Empire State Building was built in the Art-Deco era in 1931, so the architectural style is quite beautiful. It was constructed in the property developer’s “race to the sky” as they strived to build the tallest building in the world. The Empire State Building is 1,250 feet (380 meters) tall and was the tallest building in the world for 40 years. Now it’s a symbol of New York’s mid-20th century boom that led it to job and population growth and became the pinnacle of culture in the United States.

While the Empire State Building is certainly striking to visit, the real appeal is the impressive views from the top. There are two observation decks at the Empire State Building, the main open-air deck on the 86th floor and an enclosed deck on the 102nd floor. We visited the 86th floor and were blown away by the views! Tickets to the 86th floor are $48 USD for adults, $46 USD for seniors, and $42 USD for kids. 

For a unique Empire State Building experience, you can visit at sunset for $11 USD more and see this already beautiful view at the best time of day! You can also purchase a “skip the line” ticket in advance for $92 USD, which is great as it can get a little busy here. The Empire State Building is open every day of the year from 8 am to 2 am, so you can visit at nearly any time!

Even with just a quick 4 days in New York City, visiting the Empire State Building is a must!

Note: You must book your visit to the Empire State Building in advance because only a limited number of people can visit at any one time. If you don;t book ahead, you may have to wait for a long while, or worse, get turned away completely. Book the general ticket here, the sunset ticket here, and the skip the line ticket here.

Related Read: Curious about booking a tour through Viator? We have used Viator for years and want to share our expertise with you, so check out our honest review of Viator tours before you book!

Visit the New York Public Library (quick stop)

Bailey stands out the front of the New York Public Library in New York City
So many shows and movies have scenes here!
Bailey walks down some stairs at the New York Public Library
Inside the New York Public Library.

The New York Public Library is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city, and it has a long-standing history that has been integral to New York’s culture. Its Beaux-Arts architecture style represents the era, as its construction began in 1897 and it officially opened in 1911– so this building has been around for a while! 

Plus, it’s the perfect next stop on your 4-day NYC itinerary because it is located just down the road from the Empire State Building and en route to your next stop as well.

Even if you’ve never really heard of the New York Public Library, you’ll quickly recognize it when you see it. It has been featured in many TV shows and movies, including Ghostbusters, Spider-Man, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Sex and the City, and Gossip Girl.

Two lion statues guard the front entrance and were named Patience and Fortitude during the Great Depression to inspire New Yorkers to encapsulate those traits to get through. People stop by here simply to take a picture with these famous lions, but you should go inside and explore– it’s even more beautiful!

You’ll reach Astor Hall, which has a grand marble staircase and arches. It is rented out for weddings and events frequently, you don’t even need to be a bookworm to want to get married here! You can also explore the Rose Reading Room, which is a cozy picture-perfect library room. Finally, stop by the Children’s Center, the Winnie the Pooh stuffed animals that inspired the original books are kept here!

We spent about an hour in the New York Public Library, and think it’s a perfect activity especially when it’s raining in NYC since the entire experience is indoors.

Admire St. Patrick’s Cathedral (quick stop)

the outside of St Patricks Cathedral in New York
It’s a stunning building!
Inside the St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City
Inside the St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City

We love Midtown Manhattan because everything is so close! Just a 10-minute walk down Fifth Avenue from the Public Library will take you to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The neo-gothic style cathedral is just as dramatic looking as it sounds with its tall steeples and stained glass windows from the exterior, and its crossbeams like a ribcage on the inside.

And all of this was built in 1879 – crazy!

We think that it’s worth an addition to your 4-day NYC itinerary just to stop and see its old, historic beauty! 

St. Patrick’s Cathedral is one of the best places to visit in New York City for free and you’ll just need a few minutes to admire its architectural beauty. It’s conveniently located across the street from Rockefeller Center and near the Museum of Modern Art and Grand Central Station (if you have time you can squeeze in a stop at one of these attractions as well.)

Angelo’s Coal Oven Pizzeria (lunch)

Angelo's Coal Oven Pizzeria in New York City
Photo credit: Angelo’s Coal Oven Pizzeria

New York-style pizza is yet another food staple of the city. The best part is that it’s delicious and pretty cheap, so we ate an embarrassing amount of pizza during our time in NYC (is there really too much pizza, though?)!

I can’t think of a better lunch stop for your first day in the city than Angelo’s Coal Oven Pizzeria

Angelo’s was established by an Italian immigrant, the original Angelo, in the 1930s and it’s been family-run ever since. They specialize in authentic thin-crust pizza, with recipes straight from Italy and the freshest ingredients possible. Trust me when I tell you, this is some of the best pizza in New York! 

What I really love is the coal-oven cooking method. It gets the thin crust nice and crispy and gives it that coal-fired taste. They’ve perfected the New York-style pizza! They also serve lunch specials like pasta, panini’s, and salads, and have a huge dinner menu, so you can stop back here another time during your four days in New York and try it all!

Angelo’s Coal Oven Pizzeria is open from 11:30 am to 10 pm on weekdays and until 11 pm on the weekends. It is located just two blocks from Central Park, where you can go to walk off all that pizza you’ll eat!

Explore Central Park (afternoon)

Views of Central Park with the New York City skyline in the background
It’s so cool to see the city meet greenery!

You’ve probably heard of Central Park, this giant greenspace is one of the largest parks in an urban area and a lovely escape from the bustling city life. It’s another place that’s been used in films, books, and songs, and locals flock here to enjoy the wide open grassy fields, walking paths, and recreation areas. 

It has been a quintessential New York location for over a century, as the first park area opened in 1858. At the time, it was much smaller and outside of the city center, but the city grew around it and Central Park expanded to accommodate the large population! It stretches for 51 city blocks, covering 1.3 square miles (3.4 square kilometers). Within these bounds, there is a lot more than just a park.

Sheep Meadow is 15 acres (6 hectares) of grassy lawn space, where you’ll see people laying out on a sunny day or different sporting activities taking place. You’ll also find two ice skating rinks that are open from October to April, a carousel that dates back to 1971, and the Belvedere Castle which is a strikingly beautiful building! 

Central Park is huge, so it’s hard to see it all in one day. To fully soak up all the sights and history, I suggest taking a Central Park tour. You can also spend a relaxed afternoon walking along the paths or rent a bicycle if you’re up for a bit of excitement!

Bicycle rentals are available for $26 USD for an entire day, so you can spend as much time here as you’d like. I recommend reserving a bicycle in advance, especially if it’s a nice day outside. 

You can also reserve a horse-drawn carriage ride in Central Park for a lovely afternoon activity! A 45-minute carriage ride is $75 USD and can fit 4 people. This activity is straight out of a rom-com movie, I mean when else will you ride in a carriage through Central Park!?

See a Broadway show (night)

The packed Broadway Theater that shows The Book of Mormon in New York City
It’s such a fun experience to see a real Broadway show!

Your first day in New York really hits some bucket-list experiences, seeing a Broadway show being one of them! With our limited time in NYC, we knew seeing a Broadway show was at the top of our priorities, so we booked tickets for the Book of Mormon and had a wonderful experience!

Broadway takes theater productions to the maximum level, with fantastic acting, music, and theater logistics that blew my mind. Even Daniel, who normally doesn’t enjoy musicals, had a good time here!

There are 41 Broadway theaters, so at any time you can have your choice of epic shows to see. The Lion King is one of the most popular and it’s been running since 1997, it sets the bar high in terms of entertainment and logistics, plus it’s a Disney classic! Tickets to the Lion King start at $145 USD for rear mezzanine seats, and prices vary depending on availability and seat choice. 

You can also take a deep dive into the history and logistics of Broadway with this walking tour of Broadway Theaters and Times Square. Your tour guide is a real Broadway performer, so you really get the behind-the-scenes take on things! This tour is $39 USD and ends just in time to catch a show, making it an even more meaningful experience. 

Day 2 in New York City

Visit the Chelsea Market (late breakfast/morning)

Bailey outside the Chelsea Market in New York City
Welcome!
Bailey in the Chelsea Market during our free time on our Chelsea Market food tour
The Chelsea Market is huge!

Chelsea Market has been a huge part of the Meatpacking District since the 1890s. I can’t think of a better start to day 2 of your 4 days in New York City than a big late breakfast after a late night out on Broadway! This historic food hall has 40 stalls that have cuisines from all over the world, so you are sure to find a wide variety of incredible food!

The building that is now Chelsea Market was originally the Nabisco Factory, which is where Oreos were created! The Meatpacking District changed from an Industrial area to a trendy neighborhood, and the Chelsea Market was established in 1997, quickly becoming a New York staple. Over 6 million people visit the Chelsea Market every year, and the food scene is adored by locals and food enthusiasts from all over the world. 

I’m not going to lie, 40 different world-renowned food options is a little daunting– how can you possibly try them all!? That’s why we decided to take a food tour of Chelsea Market, and I can confidently tell you it was worth every penny! On the food tour that we did, not only did we get to try a special variety of foods, but we also got to skip the lines, which left more time to eat the yummy food!

While everything was really tasty, we couldn’t get enough of the mini donuts at the Doughnuttery, which is Kim Kardashian’s go-to donut spot in the city! The Tacos at Los Tacos No. 1 was a stand-out, as well as the NY-style pizza at Filaga Pizzeria

Plus, going on a food tour while you’re in New York is a must, so the Chelsea Market is the perfect place for it.

You can book this tour online here for $84 USD for adults, and be sure to book in advance as it’s a popular one!

Walk the High Line Trail

Wide angle shot of The High Line traveling avoce NYC streets
The High Line Trail!

After all that food at Chelsea Market, you’ll want to take a little walk! The High Line is the perfect place to get outside for a bit, and it just so happens to be right next to Chelsea Market. If you booked the food tour we mentioned previously, it takes you to the High Line anyway!

The High Line is a unique area because it’s a park that is built on elevated railway tracks. The abandoned freight railroad tracks were planned to be torn down by the city, but were lobbied to be converted into a park that New Yorkers could enjoy– pretty ingenious! The High Line is a 1.45-mile (2.3-kilometer) park that sits 25 feet above ground level, so it’s great for walking and gives a unique perspective of the city. 

The trail goes from Gansevoort Street to West 34th Street, near the Hudson Yards area. It is wheelchair accessible with elevators bringing you up to the High Line trail, and you’ll find parks, playgrounds, and cute restaurants all along the route. We grabbed some coffee because we were too full from Chelsea Market to try anything else, but there were a lot of options!

Next time I’m on the High Line, I want to try the Hearth on the High Line, a cute little wine bar that sits along the Hudson River. Malai Ice Cream also piqued my interest, as it has South Asian-style ice cream– yum!

Go on a helicopter flight over the city (afternoon)

Bailey looks out the window of our helicopter on ascenic helicopter ride in New York City with views of Ellis Island and Manhattan
Get out of Manhattan and see the entire city!

New York City is a city of epic experiences, so adding a helicopter flight to your 4-day NYC itinerary is a must! With all of the incredible views of the city and things you’ll see, a helicopter tour over Manhattan will be hard to beat! While this is certainly a more expensive activity, we thought it was worth every penny.

We went on this 15-minute helicopter flight, but it felt a lot longer. We had a blast seeing epic sights like the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, and the Brooklyn Bridge from above. Our pilot did an excellent job of showing us all sorts of things. Plus, we got to ride in a helicopter, and that opportunity doesn’t come up very often!

While $229 USD is a lot for a 15-minute activity, we can assure you it was worth it! It gave us an entirely new perspective of this iconic city. You can book the same helicopter tour that we did online here.

There are other fantastic Manhattan helicopter flights to choose from, such as this 25-30 minute Empire Helicopter Flight which gives you even more time to see the sights from above! And if money is no object, helicopter rides also make for some of the best private tours in NYC!

Whichever helicopter flight you choose, it is a unique and exhilarating experience to add to your four days in New York City.

Visit New York City’s oldest pub (afternoon)

Bailey with two beers at McSorley's Old Ale House in New York City
Double fisting!
Daniel poses for a photo at McSorley's Old Ale House in New York City
Cheers!

One of my favorite parts about New York City is that even the most hole-in-the-wall joint can turn out to be a legendary establishment– you never know what you’ll find! McSorley’s Old Ale House is one of those places. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but it’s actually the oldest pub in NYC and dates back to 1854!

McSorley’s was first opened by an Irish immigrant, John McSorley, and brings the rough-and-tough Irish/New York vibe. It remained open through Prohibition by serving “near beer”, a beer that had such little alcohol content the government didn’t even count it! Luckily, they no longer serve near beer that was made in a bathtub, but their only options are light or dark beer– straight to the point! 

During its time of business, it has welcomed Abraham Lincoln, Harry Houdini, Woody Gutherie, and John Lennon. It’s almost like a cultural museum as they’ve collected artifacts throughout the years, like Harry Houdini’s handcuffs or a “wanted” poster from Lincoln’s assassination. And while McSorley’s was part-owned by a woman for many years, women weren’t allowed to drink here until the 1970s! There’s a lot of history that has stepped foot in McSorley’s. 

This place really is perfect if you love old bars. They still put sawdust on the floors, which is what bars used to do back in the day to soak up spilled drinks (and other liquids that we’d rather not think about!).

Today, they serve beer two at a time for $5.50 each, which is a fantastic deal for New York prices!

Related Read: After NYC, we visited Philadelphia and had a blast! This old historic city has a lot to offer, so read our guide on the top 33 things to do in Philadelphia and start planning your next itinerary!

Go for dinner in Little Italy (dinner)

Biley enjoys a meal at L'Amore Restaurant in little Italy New York City
L’Amore!
Bailey in Little Italy, NYC
Little Italy!

To continue your food tour of New York City (let’s be real, that’s really what a 4-day NYC Itinerary is!) head to Little Italy for dinner! If you love good Italian food, you will be in heaven visiting Little Italy. Not only does it have fantastic restaurants, wine, and bakeries, but it also has that slow, romantic Italian charm that we see in movies. It’s the perfect date-night spot!

Before you sit down to dinner, I recommend taking some time to explore the area. There are a lot of quaint specialty stores, so if you enjoy cooking you can pick up a few Italian staples here. I loved exploring all of the street art that is in Little Italy. The Lisa Project is a nonprofit art collective that has helped make this area quite beautiful– head to Mulberry Street to see my favorite mural of Audrey Hepburn!

We stopped at L’Amore Ristorante for dinner and had a lovely experience! There are so many restaurants, so you can’t pick a bad one, but we loved the ambiance paired with amazing wine and pasta to blow your mind. We still daydream about how tasty the food was here!

If you’re looking to maximize your food-tasting experience, you can take another food tour to Little Italy and Chinatown! It will take you to see the highlights of both areas, each unique and tasty in a totally different way. This 2-hour tour is $70 USD and it works perfectly with your itinerary as they have a 5:30 pm departure. You can book it online in advance here.

Why We Book Tours with Viator

Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:

  • Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
  • Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
  • Lowest price guarantee – If you happen to find the same tour at a lower price elsewhere, Viator will refund you the price difference.
  • Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
  • Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.

Check out the Viator website here! Or, for more info, read our detailed review about Viator here.

Day 3 in New York City

Breakfast at Johny’s Luncheonette (breakfast)

Who doesn’t love a good old American diner experience? The kind with big fluffy pancakes, bottomless black coffee, and the smell of greasy bacon and eggs on the griddle. Well, you can find that at Johnny’s Luncheonette, it is the go-to New York City diner for locals, so it’s the perfect start to your day of exploring! 

Johnny’s Luncheonette was voted as one of the top 10 brunch spots in New York City by Manhattan Magazine. Not only is the food great, but it’s got that local, family-owned vibe and you can usually see Johnny himself running around the diner. It’s a fast-paced restaurant, so even if it’s busy you won’t have to wait long to get a seat! 

Johnny’s is open daily from 8 am to 2 pm, so you can swing in for brunch or lunch! Even with all of the diners in New York City, it’s hard to top Johnny’s Luncheonette!

Walk around Greenwich Village

Beautiful buildings in Greenwich Village New York City
Greenwich Village is so cute!
Cute door at Greenwich Village New York City
So cute!

Greenwich Village is one of the most popular neighborhoods in NYC. Known as “the Village”, it has a big bohemian art culture, small local businesses, and simply a lot to look at. While four days in New York City isn’t a lot of time, an afternoon here is a must!

The Village became the central point for New York’s counterculture in the 1960s, which established its artistic roots. It was full of beatniks, artists, and musicians! Its cultural significance runs deep, as Jimi Hendricks and Bob Dylan both lived here, as many celebrities do. The Village is also home to the modern LGBTQ movement, so many pride events will take place here!

You can spend an afternoon wandering around the streets, but there’s so much to learn about the Village’s history that I recommend booking a tour. We took this Greenwich Village Walking Tour which was led by a local and they showed us all the best places to eat and the history behind these star-studded streets.

For $95 USD you’ll spend 3 hours exploring this historic area, eating at the best spots, and getting to learn a lot– not a bad deal for everything you’ll see! You can book this Greenwich Village tour easily online here.

Note: The Village is also a fun area to have a night out. You can catch an Off-Broadway show at Cherry Lane Theater or stop by the Comedy Cellar to see new comedians perform 15-minute sets. When you hit MacDougal Street, you’ll find the central point of the Village, full of restaurants, dive bars, and maybe even some live music. Cafe Reggio is another notable bar, as featured in The Godfather!

Get a New York Slice at John’s of Bleecker Street (in Greenwich Village for lunch)

The front of John's of Bleecker Street-2 in New York City!
It’s one of the most famous pizza places in NYC!

I wasn’t kidding when I told you we ate a lot of NY-style pizza! While you’re in the Village, stopping at John’s of Bleecker Street is a classic New York activity. This pizzeria has been open since 1929 and is arguably one of the best pizza places in NYC– and that’s a big claim to make! 

John’s of Bleecker Street focuses on quality over quantity, meaning that simplicity is the best ingredient! Using a coal-brick-fire oven, they make a super thin crust that gets crisped to perfection. They also use just a few ingredients that work together to make an unbelievably good pie. John’s does get pretty busy, as it’s a popular lunch spot, but they move quickly and it’s worth a bit of a wait. 

You’ll find Bleecker Street to be a fun area of the Village to explore. It has a lively vibe and is full of vintage shops where you can find designer brands hidden in the shops. Bleecker Street has also been featured in multiple movies, TV shows, and books, such as six Marvel movies and the original comic series! 

Whether you just stop by Bleecker Street for lunch or spend a bit of time wandering around, you will surely find something unique happening here!

Relax

You’ve had a busy three days of exploring, so take some time to relax! There is a lot to see in New York, and the fast-paced energy can get a bit exhausting. So take the rest of the afternoon to go back to your hotel and chill out for a bit. 

Our evening activity on the agenda is more upscale, so you’ll need time to freshen up at the hotel and get ready for dinner!

Bateaux New York Premier Dinner Cruise (dinner)

Bailey looks out the window on the Bateaux New York Premier Dinner Cruise and admires the view of the city skyline
So beautiful!

There are a lot of cool activities on this 4-day New York City itinerary, but taking a dinner cruise on the Hudson River was our favorite activity by far! There was something so fun about getting all dressed up and setting sail just as the sun was setting, giving breathtaking views of the city and a gourmet 3-course meal!

Out of all the things to do in New York City, this might be the best use of your time and money. 

We took this Bateaux New York Premier Dinner Cruise, and I can honestly say it was the best dinner cruise I’ve ever taken. We’ve been on dinner cruises all over the world, but this NYC dinner cruise was special because it was an all-glass boat, so we could catch the views the entire way! 

On this 3-hour cruise, we sailed all around the Hudson River, watching the skyline light up, and getting views of the Statue of Liberty up close! We had the chance to see New York City from some unique perspectives throughout our time exploring, but there’s something special about seeing it from the water. The food was also fantastic, I was impressed from the starter to the dessert! Plus, with a live band on board, the ambiance was unparalleled. 

The cost of this dinner cruise ranges from $200-$300 USD depending on the day you select and how far out you book it. I recommend booking this tour as far in advance as you can to secure a low price because this is one experience you don’t want to miss out on! You can check availability and book online here.

Related Read: Toronto isn’t far from NYC, so spending 4 days in Toronto is a great add-on to your itinerary! While here, be sure to check out bike tours of Toronto and the epic food tours!

Day 4 in New York City

Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Cruise (morning)

The Statue of Liberty as seen from a cruise in New York City
We loved the Statue of Liberty cruise in NYC!
Building on Ellis Island on tour in New York City
Ellis Island!

Seeing the Statue of Liberty is at the top of many travelers’ bucket lists, I know it was for me! This iconic statue was gifted to the United States from France in celebration of 100 years of independence and the alliance between the two countries. Lady Liberty, as she is affectionately referred to, sits on Liberty Island in New York Harbor and faces Southeast, so she is the first thing people see as they sail into the harbor. 

Just across the water is Ellis Island, which previously operated as a processing center for immigrants. From 1892 to 1954 more than 12 million people sailed through New York Harbor, catching their first look at the Statue of Liberty, and went through Ellis Island before settling down in the USA. Ellis Island has a checkered history, as it’s not all heart-warming stories of new beginnings, and today it stands as a memorial and museum. Visiting Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty is a great way to dig into New York’s history, and understand how it grew to be such a diverse and eclectic city!

We took this tour to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, and it was the easiest way to see them both. It includes a ferry ride, entrance to museums at both locations and a tour guide. The tour guide was a fountain of information, as there is a lot of history within these areas that I wouldn’t have known without their guidance!

We liked that this tour had a few different tour options, so you can choose the one that fits best with your schedule. Tours are available for 30 minutes, 2 hours, or 4 hours– we took the 4-hour tour and thought it was the perfect length. It gave us time to explore both places without feeling rushed and to take in all the sights and information, as they are really beautiful locations! The 4-hour tour to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty can be booked in advance here for $79 USD.

Visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum (afternoon)

Bailey walks through the 911 Memorial and Museum in New York City
The steel beams that collapsed at the 9/11 Museum.
The 911 Memorial and Museum outside Memorial with the skyline of NYC in the background
The memorial!

Today is all about history, and we continue our historic stops in New York City by visiting the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. While this is certainly a more solemn activity, I didn’t feel like a visit to NYC was complete without paying homage to this site. This is exactly why this memorial is included in the best sightseeing tours of New York City.

Visiting the 9/11 Memorial and Museum was eye-opening and gave us a good look at what New York went through and how they were able to rebuild after such a tragedy. 

The memorial was constructed where the Twin Towers once stood. You’ll find two large pools that span the width of the buildings, and the names of the victims are carved into the side. It really puts into perspective just how many people’s lives were taken during the attacks. 

You can enter the memorial for free, but you will need to purchase tickets beforehand to visit the museum. The museum was highly worth visiting, as you could see artifacts from the victims, building rubble, media reports, and eyewitness accounts of the attacks. It was heavy– but so worthwhile!

The museum has specific entry times so you must arrive at your scheduled time, but once you’re in you can stay as long as you want. You can expect to spend about 2 hours here, including time exploring the memorial. Tickets to the museum can be purchased online here for $33 USD for adults, $27 USD for children, and $21 USD for seniors. You must book in advance to secure a timeslot for visiting.

The 9/11 Memorial and Museum is also included in the New York CityPASS®, the New York Pass, and Go City’s Explorer Pass. If you haven’t explored New York City’s different Attraction Passes, it’s a great deal for sightseeing!

Walk the Brooklyn Bridge (afternoon)

bailey walks along the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City
A must do!
Bailey poses for a photo along the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City with Manhattan in the background
The views are magnificent!

New York has an amazing ability to make something rather mundane, like a bridge, and make it celebrated. The Brooklyn Bridge is another legendary site in New York City, and luckily, you get to stop at it! 

This bridge was ground-breaking because it was the first of its kind to be built using modern underwater explosive techniques- it was quite literally groundbreaking! It connects Manhattan to Brooklyn Heights and was constructed in 1883, so it has that neo-gothic architectural style that was popular in that era. It’s very pretty to check out, and the best way to do so is by taking a stroll across it!

The Brooklyn Bridge stretches for 1.1 miles (1.8 kilometers) and gives one of the best viewpoints of the skyline. It is wildly popular among locals, 30,000 people cross it each day! I recommend visiting early if possible, as it can get hot by mid-day if you’re visiting in the summer months and rather busy later in the day. We spent about an hour walking here, taking in the views and checking out the vendors along the way.

You can best reach the Brooklyn Bridge by taking the subway to Chambers St. Station or Brooklyn Bridge City Hall, which will drop you off right at the entrance to the bridge. You can walk the entire length, or simply walk halfway and then turn around to stay on the Manhattan side! 

Visit Times Square (night)

Crowds of people in Times Square in New York City
Times Square!
Times Square in New York City at night
It’s such a cool place!

For your final night in New York City, end it on a high note by checking out Times Square! You might have stumbled upon this area while exploring Manhattan– it’s hard to avoid– but seeing it at night is something else entirely. There are giant screens everywhere and with so many people, cars, and activities surrounding you, you can feel the energy of the city, just like everyone talks about! 

Simply walking around Times Square is entertaining enough, but you can also take a tour to learn more about what makes this square so famous. This night bus tour will hit other iconic New York sights but highlights how the city that never sleeps got its name, and Times Square is the pinnacle of that statement (and tour)! You can also take this theater district walking tour which focuses on Broadway, as well as Times Square!

We like these tours because there is more to Times Square than meets the eye, and most travelers don’t take the time to learn about this lively area! Times Square is the perfect finale to your four days in New York City!

Go to a Speakeasy (night)

Daniel rings the phone at Please Don't Tell Speakeasy in New York City to gain entry
The pay phone to get into Please Don’t Tell!
Bailey enjoys a cocktail at Please Don't Tell Speakeasy in New York City
Cheers!

Spend your last night in New York City out on the town by hitting a speakeasy! Speakeasies have a long history in New York’s culture, and they are usually cozy, quaint, and have amazing cocktails. These hidden bars came into effect when the Prohibition Era of 1919 discontinued legal alcohol sales and consumption. However, you can’t tell New Yorkers what to do, so organized crime rings began opening hidden bars, now known as speakeasies. 

Though it is no longer illegal to drink alcohol, speakeasy bars have remained popular. It’s become a fun and trendy thing to seek out these conspicuous watering holes, and New York has hundreds of them!

We found a rad little place called Please Don’t Tell, and while it’s now searchable on Google and not nearly as well hidden as it once was, it’s still fun to seek out. It is situated behind a hotdog restaurant, and to enter you go into a phone booth and dial 1. Once you’re inside you will find old-school decor and amazing drinks! I recommend making reservations in advance, as it’s very popular!

We also fund The Woo Woo right by Times Square to be a fun speakeasy. I thas a 1980s dive bar vibe with neon signs and graffiti on the walls. However, if you’re looking for a more immersive speakeasy experience, take this speakeasy tour! You will get to find even more hidden bars, skip the line, and learn all about Prohibition from a local guide. 

This tour is $39 USD and you still have to pay for your own drinks, but it’s a fun experience and a great way to end your 4-day NYC itinerary!

Know Before You Go

Bailey looks through the Binoculars on the 86th floor of the Empire State building viewpoint
The Empire State Building Observation deck is included in the New York CityPASS®
A man inside the 911 museum looks at a steal beam that fell during the World Trade center terrorist attack
So was the 9/11 Museum!

What are the New York Passes you can buy?

NYC Passes are a great option if you’re planning on doing some major sightseeing while visiting New York City. You’ll essentially pay one flat fee for the pass, and have admission to various sites covered. It actually ends up saving you almost 50% of sightseeing costs, which is fantastic as traveling in New York can get quite expensive! There are a few different passes to choose from, so let me break them down.

The New York CityPASS® covers entrance to 5 attractions, which is perfect if you are planning on hitting one sight every day on your 5 day NYC itinerary (and one day with 2 sights!). It already includes the Empire State Building Observation Deck and the American Museum of Natural History, and then you’ll select three more attractions from a pre-set list. This pass is valid for 9 days and is $138 USD, which for 4 days of sightseeing is a pretty good price! 

The New York Pass covers over 100 attractions and has prices tailored for how many days you’ll be using it. This is my top pick, as you can choose a 4-day option for $289 USD or plan to do all of your sightseeing in 2 or 3 days if you want to save a few dollars. The New York Pass has the most extensive list of attractions and gives you a lot of flexibility as you plan your 4 days in NYC. 

The New York City Explorer Pass by Go City allows entry for between 2-10 attractions, depending on which tier you choose. This is great if you have a handful of “must-sees” or enjoy tours, as there are a lot to choose from with this option. Prices start at $79 USD for 2 attractions and go all the way up to $264 USD for 10 attractions, depending on how much you want to see! The Explorer Pass by Go City covers a lot of sights, so check out what they offer before you decide on which pass to purchase!

Can you explore New York City without a car?

taxis parked on a busy street in New York City
Taxi is one of the most popular ways to get around for both locals and tourists!

Yes, this is actually the best way to explore New York City. You can use public transportation and walk to all of the main sights. The subway system is used by travelers and locals alike, just add some extra time into your itinerary to figure the system out. You can download the NYC Subway App and get a 7-Day Unlimited Ride Metrocard for $34 USD, and trust me, you’ll be using that a lot! 

Most of the time, you can take the subway close to whatever attraction you’re going to see, then walk a few blocks to find it. Uber and taxis are also an option if you don’t want to take the subway.

Is it safe to visit New York City?

Overall, New York is a safe city to explore. As with any major city, use caution at night, don’t carry valuables or large amounts of cash on you, and use your smart-traveler senses. If an area feels sketchy– it’s probably best you get out! But for the most part, New York is safer to visit than many movies and TV shows like to depict it – so don’t stress and enjoy your NYC trip!

Where to Stay in New York City

TBA Times Square Hotel Room
Our room at Delta Hotels by Marriott New York Times Square– classic, clean, and comfy!

New York City is huge – there is just no other way to put it! Even Manhattan (the area you’ll want to base yourself in) is a lot bigger than you think. That’s why choosing the right hotel in the right location is so important during your stay in New York.

Below, we’ve simplified it all for you by choosing a couple of the very best hotels available in the city. All three of these options have ideal locations close to attractions and the subway system. They all have amazing reviews, too, so just choose the one in your budget category and you’ll be ready to pack your bags!

Motto by Hilton – $$$

Motto by Hilton is a gorgeous hotel located in the Chelsea neighborhood only 600 meters from the Flatiron Building. The hotel features modern decor that has “speakeasy vibes”. In fact, they have a beautiful bar onsite that looks like the perfect place to sip an Old Fashioned. There are a variety of rooms on offer including some that are a little more budget-friendly, and some that are pure luxury with city views!

Prices start from about $400 USD per night plus tax. You can check prices and availability for Motto by Hilton online here!

Delta Hotels by Marriott New York Times Square – $$

Delta Hotels by Marriott New York Times Square is where we stayed the last time we visited New York, and honestly, we loved it! This hotel is the perfect combination of comfort and value for money. It was clean, modern, and our room had all of the amenities we needed for an enjoyable stay (air conditioning, k-cup coffee maker, steamer, large shower, big windows, etc). Plus, the location is ideal – it’s only a couple blocks from Times Square!

Prices do range, but they do go as low as $200 USD per night plus tax depending on the time of year and day of the week. You can check prices and book online here!

Nap York Central Park Sleep Station – $

For those traveling on a tight budget, Nap York is a budget hostel that’s an ideal choice. Although affordable, this property is immaculate and offers a ton of amenities for a great stay including air conditioning and a shared kitchen. The rooms are modern and the location is about as central as it gets! This property only offers dorm rooms, but they are affordable at as little as $150 USD per night.

You can check prices and book Nap York online on either Booking.com or Hostelworld.

Thanks for reading!

Daniel and Bailey take a selfie on the 86th Floor Observatory in New York
Thanks for reading!

New York City was the experience of a lifetime and truly lived up to the hype! There is so much to explore, that 4 days in NYC barely scratches the surface but will give you a good taste for it. We certainly intend on returning to this famously beautiful city, and I am already looking forward to it!

Hopefully, you found this 4 day New York City guide helpful as you plan your travels. If you haven’t looked into the New York City Attraction Passes, like the New York CityPASS®, the New York Pass, and Go City’s Explorer Pass, I highly recommend it! You can check out our other blogs about the USA to assist in your planning, and also check out our Canada blogs for some travel inspiration!

10 Things to Know BEFORE Booking a Philadelphia Food Tour 

12 Things to KNOW Before Visiting the Hockey Hall of Fame 

What is The New York Pass, and is it worth it?