Coco Tran — Curated Aesthetic Travel Blog By Film Photographer Coco Tran https://cocotran.com/new-york-city-itinerary/

The Perfect 4-3 Day New York City Itinerary for first time visitors: An Insider’s Guide to Exploring the Best of the Big Apple

Save To Read Later:

New York City has a special place in my heart. I’ve been lucky enough to visit the city that never sleeps three times already, and each time I fall more in love with its energy, diversity, and endless things to see and do.

Planning a trip to NYC can feel overwhelming, especially if you’re short on time. That’s why I’ve put together this ultimate 4-day New York itinerary based on my own experiences. Get ready for an unforgettable 96 hours in the Big Apple!

The Perfect 4-3 Day New York City Itinerary for first time visitors: An Insider’s Guide to Exploring the Best of the Big Apple

Here’s a sneak peek of what’s in store:

READY TO BOOK YOUR TRIP?

Best Travel Resources for your trip

more helpful travel resources

Day 1: Iconic Central Park, world-class museums, and the dazzling lights of Times Square

Day 2: The hip West Side, from the Vessel to the High Line to Chelsea Market

Day 3: Downtown gems like the 9/11 Memorial, Wall Street, Brooklyn Bridge, and a food tour

Day 4: A deeper dive into local neighborhoods and hidden gems across Manhattan and Brooklyn

Need more specifics? I’ve got you covered with my detailed day-by-day plan, packing in all my favorite spots, insider tips, and tricks for making the most of your time and money in NYC. Let’s dive in!

New York City Itinerary

How To Get from NYC Aiport To Manhattan: The Best NYC airport to fly into and how to Get Around Nyc

I’ve arrived in NYC by train, bus, plane, and car, so I’ve learned a thing or two about navigating the city. If you’re arriving by air, you’ve got three airport options:

  • JFK: The city’s biggest airport, 15 miles SE of Manhattan. Take the AirTrain ($8) to connect to the subway or the LIRR to Penn Station/Midtown. Flat-rate taxis to Manhattan are $52 plus tolls/tips.
  • LaGuardia: The closest to Manhattan (8 miles away) but trickier transport-wise. Connect to the subway via public buses, or take a cab/rideshare.
  • Newark: Located in NJ but convenient train access to Penn Station via AirTrain and NJ Transit. Cabs to Manhattan can run $100 or more with tolls and tips.

Pre-book a private airport transfer so you save time and know exactly how much it’ll cost. I prebook on Viator or Get Your Guide.

New York City Itinerary

Driving in nyc

rent a car ahead of time for the best rates check Discover Cars and Expedia

Prepare for heavy traffic getting into the city, expensive bridge tolls ($10-20 cash or E-ZPass), and astronomical parking rates at most hotels and garages ($40-75 per day). I highly recommend ditching the car if you can and relying on public transit instead.

The subway is hands-down the fastest, cheapest, and most convenient way to get around NYC. Don’t be intimidated – it’s actually pretty easy once you get the hang of it.

I suggest getting an unlimited 7-day MetroCard for $33 (you can share with up to 4 people). Just swipe at the turnstile and you’re good to go, with free transfers between lines for 2 hours. If you have a contactless credit card or smartphone, you can also just tap to pay-as-you-go using OMNY readers.

is there uber in NYC?

Ubers and other rideshares do operate in Nyc.  taxis and rideshares are plentiful but pricey (Uber and Lyft have insane surge rates here). And don’t underestimate the power of your own two feet! Manhattan is super walkable and it’s often faster to hoof it between nearby sites.

How To Get Around NYC

New York City has an extensive public transportation system, making it easy to navigate the city without a car.

NYC Subway:

  • 24/7 service, with trains running every few minutes
  • Flat fare of $2.75 per ride (as of 2023)
  • Purchase a MetroCard or use a contactless payment method

new york Buses:

  • Extensive network covering areas not served by the subway
  • Same fare as the subway
  • Use a MetroCard or exact change

NYC Taxis and ride-sharing:

  • Readily available throughout the city
  • More expensive than public transportation
  • Convenient for late-night trips or when carrying luggage

Walking:

  • NYC is a very walkable city
  • Many attractions are within walking distance of each other
  • A great way to explore neighborhoods and discover hidden gems

Tip: Use Google Maps or the official MTA app to plan your routes and check for service updates.

New York City Itinerary

Where to Stay in NYC 

NYC has thousands of hotels to choose from, which can be both a blessing and a curse. As a general rule, expect to pay at least $250-300 per night for anything decent in Manhattan – and that’s on the low end. To maximize your location and budget, I like these three neighborhood options:

Here are some popular neighborhoods to consider:

NeighborhoodProsCons
MidtownCentral location, close to Times Square and many attractionsCrowded, touristy, expensive
Upper East SideUpscale, quiet, close to Central Park and museumsFarther from downtown attractions
SoHoTrendy, great for shopping and dining, convenient locationCan be expensive, noisy at night
Greenwich VillageCharming, bohemian vibe, plenty of restaurants and barsCan be expensive, farther from some attractions

Where to stay in NYC best Hotels in NYC

NYC Soho Hotels:

Midtown NYC Hotels:

New York City Itinerary

Tip: Book your accommodation well in advance for better prices and availability, especially during peak seasons.

Quick visiting NYC Tips

  • Visit museums in the evening for fewer crowds (many open late 1-2 nights/week)
  • Get a CityPASS or New York Pass for discounted admission to top attractions
  • Make reservations well in advance for popular restaurants
  • Wear very comfortable shoes as you’ll do a lot of walking
  • Ask your hotel to hold your luggage on your check-in or check-out day
  • Always carry an umbrella and extra layers as weather can change quickly

Navigating NYC for First-Timers

  1. Master Public Transit: Get the 7-day unlimited MetroCard or use OMNY for cost-effective subway travel. Download the CityMapper app to stay updated on service changes.
  2. Stay Connected: Download offline Google Maps for NYC to navigate without data. This will also reduce your data usage.
  3. Wear Comfortable Walking Shoes: Prepare for lots of walking – an average of 22,000 steps per day is common. Invest in supportive, cushioned shoes made for urban exploration.
  4. Understand the Grid: Uptown refers to north of 59th St, Midtown is 14th to 59th St, and Downtown is south of 14th St. Learn the neighborhood abbreviations.
  5. Directional Terms: “Downtown” means traveling south, while “uptown” indicates a northward direction.

3 days New York city itinerary Overview

I’ve grouped the activities and attractions that are close to each other so that they can be visited together so you spend less time getting to places and more time enjoying NYC!

New York City Itinerary

3 day Nyc itinerary

Day 1: The Manhattan NYC Musts sees

Morning: Central Park

Start your NYC adventure with a quintessential stroll through Central Park. At 843 acres, it’s an oasis of greenery smack dab in the middle of Manhattan. You could spend days exploring every nook and cranny, but if you only have a morning, hit these highlights:

  • Enter the park at the southeast corner (59th St and 5th Ave) and meander up The Mall, a wide path lined with towering American elm trees. Take a breather on one of the iconic benches and people-watch.
  • Make your way to Bethesda Terrace and Fountain, the park’s most famous meeting spot. Snap a photo of the grand staircase, arcade, and statue-topped fountain.
  • Depending on your interests/mobility level, either climb up to Belvedere Castle for bird’s eye views, take a spin on the Wollman ice skating rink (winter only), or let kids burn energy at the Alice in Wonderland statue and the Billy Johnson Playground.
  • Head west to Strawberry Fields, the living memorial to John Lennon (he was sadly killed at his apartment right across the street). The black-and-white “Imagine” mosaic is a poignant tribute.
New York City Itinerary
NYC Central park during spring in April

My Central Park Tips:

  • Go early in the morning (before 9am) for a more serene, locals-only vibe. The park opens at 6am year-round.
  • Pick up a free map at any visitor center or download the park’s excellent mobile app for self-guided tours.
  • Restrooms are located at most major park entrances and near popular attractions like Bethesda Terrace.
  • If you packed a picnic, the best spots are the Great Lawn, Sheep Meadow, or Cherry Hill.
  • For a fun splurge, rent a row boat at the Loeb Boathouse ($20/hour, cash only) to paddle around The Lake.
New York City Itinerary

Afternoon: Museum Mile

Exit the park around 82nd St and 5th Ave and you’ll find yourself on Museum Mile – literally a mile’s worth of world-class museums! If you only have time for one, make it the granddaddy of them all:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art  MET(1000 5th Ave):

  • With 2 million square feet of gallery space and some 5,000 years worth of art from every corner of the globe, The Met is the largest museum in the US and one of the most-visited in the world.
  • Must-sees include the Egyptian Wing and Temple of Dendur, the Greek and Roman sculptures, European paintings by the likes of Rembrandt and Vermeer, and the mind-blowing Arms and Armor collection.
  • When you need a break from artifact overload, head to the Roof Garden Bar (May-Oct) for a drink with Central Park views, browse the stellar gift shop, or refuel at one of the many cafes.

My Met Tips:

  • Go on a Friday or Saturday evening when it’s open until 9pm – you’ll have some galleries practically to yourself!
  • Admission is $30 for adults but it’s technically “pay what you wish” for NY state residents and students (bring an ID).
  • The encyclopedic collections can be overwhelming, so pick 2-3 must-see areas and go from there. You can’t possibly cover it all in one visit.
  • The Met is absolutely massive, so wear super comfy shoes and pace yourself. Take advantage of ample seating in most rooms.
  • If you’re traveling with kids, grab a free Family Map or borrow a Discovery Pack with hands-on activities to make the art more engaging.
Coco Tran — Curated Aesthetic Travel Blog By Film Photographer Coco Tran https://cocotran.com/new-york-city-itinerary/

Want to explore more of the Mile? Right near The Met you’ve got:

  • Guggenheim Museum (1071 5th Ave) for 20th century art in Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic spiral building
  • Cooper Hewitt (2 E 91st St) for an amazing design and decorative arts collection in a historic mansion
  • Jewish Museum (1109 5th Ave) for Judaica plus contemporary art
  • Neue Galerie (1048 5th Ave) for German and Austrian art, including Gustav Klimt

Evening: Bright Lights, Big City

After an artsy afternoon, immerse yourself in the sensory overload that is Times Square. Love it or hate it, this flashy stretch of Midtown is THE epicenter of NYC tourism (and a pop culture icon in itself). Here’s what to see and do:

  • Dodge the crowds on Broadway between 42nd and 47th Streets to marvel at the jumbo billboards, flashing neon signs, and scrolling LED tickers.
  • Pop into the Times Square Visitor Center (1560 Broadway) for discounted Broadway tickets, city maps, and souvenirs.
  • Line up at the TKTS booth under the red steps for same-day Broadway shows up to 50% off (download their app to see what’s available).
  • Ride the giant indoor Ferris wheel inside Toys R Us (1514 Broadway) – cheesy but fun!
  • Test your wax figure selfie skills at Madame Tussauds (234 W 42nd St) with bizarrely life-like celebs.
  • Grab pre or post-theater dinner at local favorites like Los Tacos No. 1, Shake Shack, Joe’s Pizza, or splurge on surf ‘n turf at Brooklyn Diner.
Coco Tran — Curated Aesthetic Travel Blog By Film Photographer Coco Tran https://cocotran.com/new-york-city-itinerary/

My Times Square Tips:

  • Go at night (after 8pm) to see the billboards in their full lit-up glory. It’s way less impressive during daylight.
  • Be prepared for intense crowds, noise, traffic, and in-your-face characters (both human and costumed). Keep your wits about you and hold onto your wallet.
  • Avoid eating at the overpriced chain restaurants – there are much better (and cheaper) local spots on the side streets.
  • If you see a “discounted” show or comedy tickets hawker on the street, keep walking. They’re usually a scam.
  • Don’t feel pressured to pay the costumed characters for photos – a polite “no thanks” or simply ignoring them works.
Coco Tran — Curated Aesthetic Travel Blog By Film Photographer Coco Tran https://cocotran.com/new-york-city-itinerary/

Day 2: West Side Story

Morning: Rise & Shine at Hudson Yards

Start your second day in the city at NYC’s buzziest new development: the $25 billion mini-city that is Hudson Yards. Built on top of a working rail yard, this gleaming complex of luxury high-rises, chic hotels, and experiential attractions has transformed a once-gritty stretch of the far West Side. Here’s what to check out:

Vessel (20 Hudson Yards):

  • The undisputed star of the Hudson Yards show is this 16-story honeycomb-like sculpture made up of 154 intricately interconnecting staircases.
  • Designed by British starchitect Thomas Heatherwick, it’s like a giant interactive art piece meets jungle gym. You used to be able to climb the 2,500 steps to the top but it’s currently closed due to too many suicide jumps (oof).
  • Even from ground level, it’s a sight to behold – the shiny copper-colored steel and unique shape make for a very cool (and very Instagrammable) visual.
Coco Tran — Curated Aesthetic Travel Blog By Film Photographer Coco Tran https://cocotran.com/new-york-city-itinerary/

The Shops & Restaurants at Hudson Yards (20 Hudson Yards):

  • Shopaholics, eaties, and selfie-takers unite at this 7-story, 1 million square foot luxury mall. You’ll find all the predictable designer brands plus hip concept stores and an eclectic food court.
  • Splurge on swanky boutiques like Fendi and Cartier, or hit up H&M and Zara for more budget-friendly finds.
  • At the “Snark Park” art space you can Instagram yourself in weird and wonderful themed rooms.
  • Grab a meal with a side of epic views at Mercado Little Spain food hall or “smart” fast-casual spot Bluestone Lane.

Edge Observation Deck (30 Hudson Yards)

  • Get a bird’s eye perspective of it all from Edge, the highest outdoor sky deck in the Western Hemisphere at a vertigo-inducing 1,131 feet up!
  • Step out onto the glass floor for a heart-pounding look straight down, then tilt outwards on the 9-foot angled glass walls for the ultimate city panorama.
  • For even more wow-factor, make a reservation at Peak restaurant on the 101st floor. You’ll dine on upscale American fare and creative cocktails with 360° vistas (and get free Edge admission with your meal).
Coco Tran — Curated Aesthetic Travel Blog By Film Photographer Coco Tran https://cocotran.com/new-york-city-itinerary/

Top Of the Rock Observation Deck

  • classic view of the empire state building from top of the rock
  • purchase tickets ahead of time
  • go early in the morning or in the middle of the day for less people

Summit One Vanderbilt 

 The only one on this list not covered by New York Pass. Get ticket ahead of time. Tickets  start at $39-45 

My Hudson Yards Tips:

  • This area is most impressive in the daytime when you can fully take in the architecture and surroundings. I’d aim to go in the morning for the best light and fewest crowds.
  • Before you summit Edge, fuel up with breakfast at Mercado Little Spain – the Tortilla Española sandwich or churros and chocolate are my top picks.
  • Bundle your Edge ticket with the nearby Statue of Liberty cruise for a discount (book online in advance).
  • While you can certainly spend big bucks here, there’s plenty to see and do that’s totally free, like strolling the Public Square and Gardens or taking in the art installations.

Afternoon: The High Line to Chelsea Market

From Hudson Yards, it’s an easy stroll down to the High Line – quite literally since the southernmost entrance is steps away at 34th St and 12th Ave. What was once an abandoned elevated railway track is now a lush 1.45-mile-long urban park stretching from Hell’s Kitchen down to the Meatpacking District.

Coco Tran — Curated Aesthetic Travel Blog By Film Photographer Coco Tran https://cocotran.com/new-york-city-itinerary/

The High Line:

  • 1.45-mile elevated linear park and greenway, opened in 2009
  • Built on a former New York Central Railroad spur
  • Stretches from Gansevoort St to 34th St on Manhattan’s West Side
  • See cool art installations, gardens, city and river views
  • Free timed-entry passes required on weekends (no reservation needed weekdays)
  • Hours: 7am-10pm daily

Some of my favorite spots along the way:

  • The Spur (at 30th St): This is the newest section of the park, with a cool “catwalk” jutting out over 10th Ave for observing cabs down below.
  • 23rd St Lawn: Kick back on wooden chaise lounges and watch the world go by. Great spot for a picnic or people-watching.
  • Chelsea Thicket (at 21st St): Take a breather in this quieter stretch of dense greenery and woodsy pathways.
  • 10th Ave Square & Overlook: Descend the tiered wooden seating for a unique street-level view framed by the cut-out in the High Line structure above.

Hop off around 16th St to explore Chelsea Market (75 9th Ave), a bustling food hall/shopping complex in a former Nabisco factory (birthplace of the Oreo!). You can easily spend a couple hours grazing your way through 35+ gourmet vendors.

Coco Tran — Curated Aesthetic Travel Blog By Film Photographer Coco Tran https://cocotran.com/new-york-city-itinerary/

Chelsea Market:

  • Food hall, shopping mall, office building, tv production facility
  • Located in former Nabisco factory where the Oreo was invented
  • Over 35 vendors selling everything from tacos to sushi to artisanal cheeses
  • Don’t miss: Los Tacos No. 1, Very Fresh Noodles, Mokbar ramen, Sarabeth’s bakery
  • Hours: 7am-2am Mon-Sat, 8am-10pm Sun

Some of my must-eats:

  • Los Tacos No. 1: Hands-down the city’s best tacos. Get the adobada (spicy pork) or carne asada (steak) topped with everything. So good I went back twice!
  • Very Fresh Noodles: Slurp your way to happiness with Taiwanese-style hand-pulled noodle soups and dim sum.
  • Seed + Mill: For all your tahini and halva needs – the raspberry halva soft serve is a revelation.
  • Artists & Fleas: Not hungry? This cool makers’ market has unique jewelry, art, clothing and more from local designers.
Coco Tran — Curated Aesthetic Travel Blog By Film Photographer Coco Tran https://cocotran.com/new-york-city-itinerary/

Chelsea Market Tips:

  • Avoid peak lunch hours (12-2pm) when the market gets insanely crowded with office workers. Go early or late for a mellower experience.
  • If you’re with a group, divide and conquer to avoid long lines. Hit up different stalls and regroup to share your spoils.
  • Don’t sleep on the non-food vendors. Posman Books, Anthropologie, and Pearl River Mart are all great for gifts/souvenirs.
  • Continue your on-foot exploration of Chelsea’s amazing gallery scene – David Zwirner, Gagosian, and Pace are all nearby.

Grand Central Terminal

From the Empire State Building OR one Vanderbilt.  The Grand Central Terminal is a mere few blocks away. Grand Central Terminal is a recognized National Historic Landmark featured in countless movies and shows. 

Coco Tran — Curated Aesthetic Travel Blog By Film Photographer Coco Tran https://cocotran.com/new-york-city-itinerary/

Evening: Showtime! Seeing a Broadway play or musical

is an essential NYC experience. With 41 theaters concentrated around Times Square, you’re spoiled for choice! Here are my tips for scoring tickets:

  • For same-day discounts up to 50% off, line up at one of the three TKTS booths: Times Square (47th and Broadway), South Street Seaport, or Lincoln Center. Download their app to see what’s available and get mobile updates.
  • Enter online lotteries or go for same-day rush tickets (usually deeply discounted general admission seats) – playbill.com maintains an updated listing.
  • Go directly to the theater box office – if you’re flexible on dates/seats you can often find decent deals (and avoid pesky service fees).
  • Use discount codes from sites like BroadwayBox.com or TheaterMania.com, or snag digital rush or lottery tickets on the TodayTix app.
  • If you have your heart set on a hot ticket like Hamilton or The Lion King, suck it up and pay full-price well in advance. Trust me, it’s worth it!

Current NYC Broadway Faves

  • Hadestown (Walter Kerr Theatre): This haunting musical retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth won 8 Tony Awards in 2019. The staging and music are simply stunning.
  • Six (Brooks Atkinson Theatre): Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived. The six wives of Henry VIII remix five hundred years of historical heartbreak into a celebration of 21st century girl power! So fun and catchy.
  • Company (Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre): Gender-flipped revival of the Sondheim classic about love and marriage. Patti LuPone steals every scene she’s in as Joanne.
  • The Book of Mormon (Eugene O’Neill Theatre): Still going strong after 10+ years, this irreverent comedy is as hilarious and cringe-worthy as ever. Written by the South Park guys so you know what you’re in for!
Coco Tran — Curated Aesthetic Travel Blog By Film Photographer Coco Tran https://cocotran.com/new-york-city-itinerary/

My Broadway Tips:

  • Aim to arrive about 30 min before curtain to allow time for security, bathroom break, and finding your seat. Most theaters open the house 30-45 min pre-show.
  • There’s no formal dress code but people tend to dress nicely since it’s a special occasion. Think business casual or cocktail attire. Avoid ripped jeans, shorts, flip flops.
  • Preorder your intermission drink to avoid the insane lines. Most theaters have bars on every level.
  • Be a good audience member: unwrap candies in advance, silence your phone, refrain from talking or singing along. And never record or photograph the stage!
  • Stage dooring after the show is a fun way to get autographs and photos with the actors. Wait by the barricades near the stage door.

Day 3: Get Downtown

Morning: Reflection at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum

Spend a meaningful morning at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum (180 Greenwich St) in the Financial District. The outdoor memorial is a sobering tribute to the nearly 3,000 people killed in the terrorist attacks, with twin reflecting pools set in the footprints of the fallen towers. The names of every victim are inscribed in bronze around the edges – take a moment to reflect and pay your respects. It’s a powerful scene.

A large american flag is flying in the middle of a large building

When you’re ready, head into the underground museum for an emotional journey through the events of 9/11 and its aftermath. The exhibits incorporate salvaged wreckage from the attacks, first-person accounts from survivors, and multimedia displays that will hit you right in the gut. Seeing personal effects like a victim’s dust-covered wallet or a first responder’s battered helmet really drives home the human toll. I was moved to tears more than once.

It’s not an easy experience but I believe it’s an important one.  Plan to spend about 2-3 hours here to take it all in. And prepare for airport-style security to enter (leave the big bags behind).

My 9/11 Memorial & Museum Tips:

  • Go early in the morning (right when it opens at 9am) to avoid the crowds and have a quieter experience.
  • Buy a timed entry ticket online in advance to skip the ticket line.
  • Pick up a free Museum Guide to learn more about the symbolism behind the memorial design.
  • Download the 9/11 Museum Audio Guide app (free on iOS and Android) for a self-guided tour with first-hand stories from witnesses and survivors.
  • Give yourself time after to decompress – grab a coffee or take a walk by the river to reflect.

The Wold Trade Center Museum

  • Moving exhibits on the events of 9/11 using artifacts, photos, videos, oral histories
  • Hear first-person accounts from survivors, first responders, victims’ families
  • See remnants of the towers and learn about the ongoing impacts
  • Located at 180 Greenwich St
  • Hours: Sun-Thu 9am-8pm, Fri-Sat 9am-9pm (last entry 2 hrs before close)
  • Tickets: $26 adults, $20 seniors/students/vets, $15 youth; free Mondays 3:30-5pm

Late Morning: A Wander Down Wall Street

Since you’re already downtown, walk a few blocks over to Wall Street and soak up the frenetic finance vibes. Things to see:

  • New York Stock Exchange (11 Wall St): The exterior of this Neoclassical icon is a sight to behold, with soaring Corinthian columns and a lavish pediment decorated with deities of commerce. You can’t go inside unless you work there, but it’s still cool to see.
  • Federal Hall National Memorial (26 Wall St): Snap a pic with the larger-than-life George Washington bronze statue marking the spot where he was inaugurated as the nation’s first president in 1789. Then pop inside the free memorial to learn about the beginnings of American democracy.
  • Trinity Church (75 Broadway): One of the city’s oldest churches, with a small graveyard where Alexander Hamilton and other Revolutionary War heroes are buried. The surrounding gardens are a lovely spot to sit.
  • Charging Bull (Bowling Green): You can’t miss this fierce bronze bull statue – the symbol of Wall Street optimism and aggressive financial prosperity. Rub his nose for good luck or pose for a pic (just watch out for the crowds).

Lunch & Early Afternoon: Brooklyn Bridge & DUMBO

Walk, bike, or snap your way across the iconic Brooklyn Bridge and explore the super trendy ‘hood on the other side. Built in 1883, the limestone and granite bridge has fantastic views of Lower Manhattan, the East River, and even the Statue of Liberty in the distance.

Coco Tran — Curated Aesthetic Travel Blog By Film Photographer Coco Tran https://cocotran.com/new-york-city-itinerary/

The pedestrian promenade starts at Centre St near City Hall Park and ends in the DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) section of Brooklyn. The whole walk is about 1.3 miles and should take you around 20-30 min to cross, not counting photo stops. And trust me, you’ll want to stop A LOT – between the soaring Gothic arches and web of steel cable, it’s pretty darn picturesque. Go early on a weekday morning for the best light and fewest crowds.

Once in DUMBO, grab lunch with a side of history at Grimaldi’s or Juliana’s pizza, a literally heated rivalry for the title of NYC’s best slice.

Coco Tran — Curated Aesthetic Travel Blog By Film Photographer Coco Tran https://cocotran.com/new-york-city-itinerary/

Brooklyn Bridge Walk:

  • Opened in 1883, one of the oldest suspension bridges in the country
  • Spans 1,595 ft across the East River connecting Lower Manhattan to Brooklyn
  • Pedestrian walkway offers incredible views of the skyline and Statue of Liberty
  • Takes about 30-40 minutes to walk one-way
  • Go early in the morning on a weekday for fewest crowds

For my money, the classic margherita at Juliana’s wins by a hair. Then stroll along the waterfront Brooklyn Bridge Park for an up-close and personal view of the Manhattan skyline framed by the bridges. Wander the cobblestone streets to shop indie boutiques and marvel at how a former manufacturing zone became one of the most expensive nabes in the city.

DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass):

  • Trendy Brooklyn neighborhood known for art galleries, shops, waterfront park
  • Iconic photo spot: Washington St between Front & Water St for Manhattan Bridge view
  • Cool places: Jane’s Carousel, St Ann’s Warehouse, Brooklyn Bridge Park
  • Getting there: A/C to High St or F to York St, or walk from the bridge
Coco Tran — Curated Aesthetic Travel Blog By Film Photographer Coco Tran https://cocotran.com/new-york-city-itinerary/

Tip: Before you head out, line up that famous DUMBO shot: the Empire State Building perfectly positioned under the arch of the Manhattan Bridge, with old trolley tracks disappearing into the distance. Find it at the intersection of Washington St and Water St – then pat yourself on the back for nailing NYC Instagram 101.

My NYC DUMBO Tips:

  • Go on a Sunday morning to hit the excellent Brooklyn Flea market (10am-5pm) under the Manhattan Bridge archway – tons of vintage/antique vendors, local makers, and tasty food stalls.
  • Rent a Citibike from one of the many stations to pedal across the bridge and along the waterfront – way faster and more fun than walking! Download the Citibike app to find available bikes.
  • Swing by Jacques Torres Chocolate (66 Water St) to watch the chocolate making magic and treat yourself to one of the best hot cocoas in the city.
  • Take a spin on the beautifully restored Jane’s Carousel ($2 per ride), then spread out a picnic on the surrounding lawn with your Grimaldi’s/Juliana’s spoils.
  • If you’re visiting with little ones, hit the playgrounds and green spaces around Pier 6 – including the epic Water Lab sprinkler area on hot summer days.

Late Afternoon/Evening: A Taste of the Lower East Side

Across the river and worlds away from the shiny skyscrapers of the Financial District lies the Lower East Side – a patchwork of cultures and tastes, where age-old tenements and hole-in-the-wall eateries rub shoulders with hip hotels and art galleries. The nabe has a deliciously rich immigrant food history, from Eastern European Jewish to Puerto Rican to Chinese.

There’s no better way to experience this diversity than on a guided tasting tour. Most tours last around 3 hours and cover a lot of culinary ground, with plenty of neighborhood history and lore mixed in. A few companies I can personally recommend:

  • Sidewalks of NY Tours: Try a knish from Yonah Schimmel’s, bialy from Kossar’s, pickles on Essex St, dumplings in Chinatown, and cannoli in Little Italy. Super knowledgeable guides.
  • Foods of NY: In business for 20+ years, this crew knows their stuff when it comes to the LES food scene. Think hand-pulled noodles, pastrami on rye, caviar cream cheese, rice balls, and egg creams. Yum.
  • Free Tours By Foot: This company offers great value with a pay-what-you-wish model. They have a few different LES routes but most hit iconic spots like Russ & Daughters appetizing, Katz’s Deli, Vanessa’s Dumplings, and Il Laboratorio gelato.

Many tours end around Katz’s Deli (205 E Houston St), so this is a great opportunity to put your newfound LES food knowledge to the test. Order like a pro at the counter (don’t lose that ticket!) and savor the city’s best pastrami or corned beef on rye. Maybe recreate the infamous fake orgasm scene from When Harry Met Sally while you’re at it. Just, uh, have what she’s having!

Coco Tran — Curated Aesthetic Travel Blog By Film Photographer Coco Tran https://cocotran.com/new-york-city-itinerary/

Must eat in NYC Lower East Side:

  • Olio E Pie : the best truffle pasta in town
  • Joe’s Pizza: classic NYC slice
  • L’Artusi: Amazing Italian feast
  • Russ & Daughters: bagel and lox 
  • Cha Cha Matcha: cute matcha shop
  • Cafe Kitsune in West Village
  • Prince Street Pizza: Thick square with thick pepperoni pizza slices. This is my favorite pizza spot
  • Double Chicken Please: Amazing and unique cocktails and the best chicken sando. It’s a small and popular spot so get reservations in advance

4 Day Nyc iTINERARY

Day 4: Choose Your Own Adventure

Congrats, you’ve made it to your final day in the Big Apple! By now you’ve hit the major sights and gotten a taste (literally) of what makes this city so special. For your last day, I’m giving you a few options based on your interests and energy levels. Mix and match as you see fit!

If you want a locals’ slice of life:

  • Spend a lazy morning in Central Park’s Sheep Meadow with coffee and a book, or take a free birding tour with the NYC Audubon Society (check their site for seasonal walks).
  • Head to the farmers market at Union Square (M/W/F/Sat) to stock up on locally-made cheeses, breads, jams, and more for an epic picnic lunch. The people watching here is top notch.
  • Walk the Brooklyn Heights Promenade for wedding cake mansions, hidden gardens, and cinematic views of Lower Manhattan. Pop into the Brooklyn Historical Society to learn about the borough’s rich past.
  • Check out what’s on at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) – could be indie film, edgy theater, or free live music in the cafe. Very Brooklyn cool.
Coco Tran — Curated Aesthetic Travel Blog By Film Photographer Coco Tran https://cocotran.com/new-york-city-itinerary/

If you’re a NYC pop culture enthusiast

  • Start your day with breakfast at Tiffany’s (5th Ave) – yes, you can now actually eat breakfast here, not just longingly window shop a la Audrey Hepburn. The Blue Box Cafe is pricey but so pretty in Tiffany blue.
  • Live out all your rom com fantasies with a Meg Ryan inspired day in the Upper West Side: get lost in the stacks at Westsider Rare & Used Books, dine at Cafe Luxembourg (aka “Cafe Lalo” from You’ve Got Mail), and catch a flick at the opulent Beacon Theatre.
  • Unleash your inner Carrie Bradshaw with a Sex and the City hotspots tour: shop at Patricia Field, lunch at Chelsea Market, and sip cosmos at Scout (the real-life inspo for Scout).

If you want an adrenaline rush fun things to do in nyc

  • Bike across the George Washington Bridge to Fort Lee Historic Park for sweeping views of the Hudson River and NYC skyline. You can rent cycles from Unlimited Biking near the bridge entrance.
  • Get schooled in the way of the ninja at Iron Clad Fitness in Chinatown – they offer parkour classes for all levels in their tricked out indoor/outdoor obstacle course. Warriorrrr!
  • See the city from new heights with an aerial lesson on the trapeze at Trapeze School New York (locations at Pier 40 and on Coney Island boardwalk). Don’t worry, you’ll be harnessed in the whole time.
Coco Tran — Curated Aesthetic Travel Blog By Film Photographer Coco Tran https://cocotran.com/new-york-city-itinerary/

If you’re a history or architecture buff:

  • Geek out over the city’s most beautiful subway stations on a DIY underground art tour – don’t miss the aquatic mosaics at Astor Place, the Beaux-Arts splendor of City Hall station (now disused), and the space age wonder of the new WTC transit hub.
  • Pay homage to old New York with a visit to the Merchant’s House Museum (29 E 4th St) – the perfectly preserved 19th century home of the Tredwell family, complete with original furnishings and decor. Spooky candlelit ghost tours in October!
  • Take the Staten Island ferry to see the Statue of Liberty
  • Get lost in the stacks at the New York Public Library’s glorious Beaux-Arts Main Branch (aka the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building). Free tours every day at 11am and 2pm.

There you have it – my ultimate 3-4 day NYC itinerary! Of course, this barely scratches the surface of what this incredible city has to offer. You could spend a lifetime exploring and still not see it all. But I hope this gives you a great foundation for your first (or next) trip to the Big Apple.

Remember, New York is a city that’s meant to be experienced, not just checked off a list. Don’t be afraid to wander off the beaten path, chat up locals, and make your own unique memories. That’s the real beauty of NYC – there’s something for everyone and you never know what you’ll discover around the next corner.

I’ll leave you with a few final NYC tips:

  • Wear comfortable shoes and prepare to walk…a lot. The subway is great but exploring on foot is the best way to get a feel for the city’s diverse neighborhoods.
  • Take advantage of free days at museums – many offer complimentary admission on certain days/times. Check their websites for details.
  • Tipping is a way of life here. Standard is 15-20% at restaurants, $1-2 per drink at bars, 10-15% for taxis, and a buck or two for hotel bellhops. When in doubt, err on the side of generosity.
  • Yes, New Yorkers have a rep for being rude. But I’ve found most folks to be pretty friendly and helpful as long as you’re not blocking the sidewalk or subway doors. A smile and a “thank you” go a long way.
  • Don’t try to do it all. NYC will always be here, ready to welcome you back with open arms (and a fresh slice of pizza). Slow down and savor the moments – isn’t that what travel is all about?

I hope you’ve found this itinerary helpful and inspiring for your own New York adventure. May you fall head over heels for this crazy, beautiful, endlessly surprising city…just like I did. Happy travels!

New York City Travel guide & articles

Here are my top travel resources and helpful travel articles & tips to help you get started with traveling.

new york Travel Resources

Save To Read Later:

READY TO BOOK YOUR TRIP?

Best Travel Resources for your trip

more helpful travel resources

Similar Posts