How to Spend 4 1/2 Days in New York City

The Bloke and I recently visited NYC on our honeymoon and had an absolutely incredible time. It’s a fast paced, exciting and vibrant city that has interesting things to see and do on every block, but it isn’t possible to do it all in just one visit, particularly on a limited budget.

It is, however, possible to experience an enormous amount of things in a short amount of time and without spending an enormous amount of money, and we’re proof of this as we’ve just done it ourselves.

It is worth noting at this point that we were staying at a fairly centralised hotel – Hotel @ Times Square on West 46th Street, near 6th Avenue, so it was possible to easily walk to a number of the locations we visited on the first few days, but the subway is efficient enough that it is easy and inexpensive to get from one side of Manhattan to another in a short space of time.

Half Day

Grand Central Terminal – FREE
We arrived in the city at about 2.00pm, so after checking in and unpacking we immediately got changed and headed straight down to Grand Central Terminal – 89 E 42nd Street, which was about a 15 minute walk away from the hotel. World famous and featured in countless blockbuster films, we spent most of our time in the main concourse. I was particularly excited to see the escalators (however strange that may sound) that Al Pacino traveled down on his back in Carlito’s Way, one of my favourite ever movies, and it was lovely to see numerous wedding parties have their pictures taken in various places in and around the large staircases.

Grand Central Terminal, NYC

Grand Central

Day 1

Times Square at about 6.00am, just because…

Times Square – FREE
Our hotel was a block away from Times Square, so we visited it at 6.00am. There were no other people around, apart from a group of men filming a RAP video. We still got to experience the atmosphere of the billboards and the lights, without the hustle and bustle of the hundreds of people that consistently populate the area during the rest of the day.

MOMA – Museum of Modern Art – $34 per person
As with all museums in NYC, it’s easy to spend an entire day there so the entrance fee is completely worth it. We went straight up to the top floor and worked our way down, spending several hours looking at the fashion exhibition (including items of clothing from Bruce Lee and Elton John) and art works from Pollack, Franz Kline, Picasso, Dali, Monet, Malevich, Van Gogh, Lichtenstein and Rousseau. We also went through the exhibition of works by Louise Bourgeois – An Unfolding Portrait. Photography is allowed, providing that a flash isn’t used.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral – FREE
Located on the east side of 5th Avenue between 50th and 51st streets, this Roman Catholic cathedral church is as stunning on the outside as it is inside. Photography is allowed, again without a flash. Expect large crowds.

Tiffany & Co.

Tiffany & Co – FREE
Most famously featured in the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s, in which a glamorous Audrey Hepburn stares into one of the windows while eating a croissant, the flagship store is located on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street. Visitors are allowed inside, the staff are absolutely incredible and if you go to the second floor you can see an autographed picture from Audrey Hepburn and the Tiffany diamond. You can also now actually eat breakfast at Tiffany’s – not something that we had the time or budget for, but it is on our list for the next time.

The Plaza – FREE
The Plaza Hotel is located on the west side of the Grand Army Plaza, extends along Central Park South and its main entrance is at 768 Fifth Avenue, which is just a short walk from Tiffany’s.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art – $25 PER PERSON
A fifteen minute walk up Fifth Avenue, along the side of Central Park, will take you to the Met. With two million works of art, it’s probably a good idea if you are time-constricted that you work out what exhibits you wish to see in advance and get a map as soon as you arrive. When we visited you could pay what you wish to enter, but now this is changing to $25 per person. We immediately went to the Egyptian section and the Temple of Dendur in Gallery 131 of the Sackler Wing, and spent some time in the spectacular room with the glass north wall and reflecting pool.

Central Park – FREE
Central Park is 843 acres, so we decided to walk back down from The Met, enter the park near the Alice in Wonderland statue and walk across from the Conservatory Water, along Terrace Dr to the Bethesda Terrace and Fountain, down to the Cherry Hill Fountain and to the Bow Bridge and then up to the John Lennon memorial at Strawberry Fields.

Central Park

Exit onto Central Park West and The Dakota apartment building is opposite. It is most famous for being the location where John Lennon lived and was murdered in front of, but over the years it has housed numerous famous residents, including Judy Garland, Boris Karloff, Roberta Flack, Rudolf Nureyev and Leonard Bernstein.

Walking back down, at 55 Central Park West is the apartment building that was used as Sigourney Weaver’s residence in the Ghostbusters movie.

Day 2

As soon as we woke up we headed straight to the Rockerfeller Centre (which opens at 8am) to purchase tickets for the afternoon. The Bloke worked out that sunset would be at about 4.30pm, so we got tickets for 3.30pm.

New York Public Library and Bryant Park – FREE
With nearly 53 million items, the library is the second largest public library in the US and is located on 476 Fifth Avenue. Featured in numerous movies and TV shows, including Ghostbusters, The Day After Tomorrow, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Sex and the City, I was particularly interested in seeing the frontage with the stone lions, the staircase in the main entrance and the main Reading Room. Photography is allowed, again without a flash. Note: as with the Met, make sure that you work out in advance what you wish to see and get a map as soon as you enter – the staff we encountered were incredibly rude.

The Reading Room in the library

Around the back of the library is Bryant Park, a lovely place to sit and have a coffee.

Madison Square Park and the Flatiron – FREE
From there, we walked straight down Fifth Avenue to Madison Square Park, a beautiful little space located next to the Flatiron, the first skyscraper in NYC.

Pano across Madison Square Park and the Flatiron Building

Top of the Rock – $34 each
We walked back up to the Rockefeller Centre and went up to the Top of the Rock Observation Deck on the 70th floor. Tickets are purchased for specific times but there is no time limit on how long you can stay up there, and it has absolutely stunning 360 degree views of the city. We timed it perfectly to coincide with sunset, which was incredible.

The sunset just disappearing and the view of the city from the Top of the Rock

Day 3

The Empire State Building – $37 for the 86th floor, $57 for the 102nd floor.

The most iconic building in the world, you can’t go to New York and not go up the the observation decks at the Empire State Building. We decided to visit early in the morning as it is open from 8am – 2pm in an effort to avoid the crowds, and we made the right decision. It’s an incredible view of the city and plenty of wonderful opportunities to see the city in all its glory.

The view from the 86th floor

The World Trade Centre and 9/11 Memorial – FREE
This was an opportunity for us to pay our respects to the lives lost, and it was a sobering experience. There are two 1 acre memorial pools with the largest man-made waterfalls in the US that mirror the footprints of the original Twin Towers that were destroyed in the attacks, and the Survivor Tree, and we took a while to sit and reflect under the shadow of the One World Trade Centre.

One of the reflection pools at the WTC memorial

The 9/11 Memorial Museum is located next to the memorial and costs $24 per person. We didn’t go in, preferring to spend some time reflecting outside within the main memorial.

In front of the World Trade Centre is the ‘Oculus,’ an enormously expensive structure and train station at the World Trade Centre transportation hub. It’s an incredible piece of architecture that replaces the PATH station that was destroyed during the attacks and it’s definitely worth spending some time taking it all in. It’s also a fabulous place for architectural photography opportunities for camera enthusiasts…

Opposite the memorial is Liberty Park which includes The Sphere, a large metallic sculpture that once stood between the towers. It was recovered from the rubble largely in tact and now stands overlooking it’s original location. I was a little emotional when looking at this…

The Staten Island ferry

The skyline from the ferry

Staten Island Ferry and Statue of Liberty – FREE
We walked down West Street and past Battery Park to the ferry, but if you have time then go to Battery Park and look out at the view. The ferry operates every half an hour, and goes directly across to Staten Island. From the ferry there are fantastic views of the lower Manhattan skyline, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s a completely free service and can accommodate hundreds of people per crossing, so don’t be concerned about not getting a seat. Note: the top deck will undoubtedly be filled with lots of tourists standing at the windows and blocking the view, so go down to the lower floors where there are hardly anybody. If it’s a nice day, you can go and stand at the back in a small outside space – perfect for photography opportunities.

When you get to Staten Island you have to get off the ferry and go into the terminal to wait for the next one to go back. If you’re quick enough, you can simply walk straight round and get onto the awaiting ferry (you’ve probably got a 5 minute period to do this, and we managed it), which means that the entire round trip lasts for about an hour.

The classic Instagram shot of the Manhatten Bridge from near Brooklyn Park

Take the R train on the subway from Whitehall Street South Ferry to Court Street in Brooklyn. From there it’s a short walk to Main Street Park in Dumbo with the classic shot of the Empire State Building through the Manhattan Bridge on Washington Street, and the Manhattan skyline with the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s absolutely full of tourists all posturing in various carefully chosen outfits for their blogs and vlogs in front of the bridge, and timing is difficult to get a picture without someone stepping in front of you. However, it’s totally worth it, particularly when you get the photograph you want…

Main Street Park and Jane’s Carousel – FREE
This was my favourite place, and if it hadn’t been so cold I would have happily stayed there for the rest of the evening. It’s an incredibly peaceful and beautiful area and perfect for photographs – you’ll feel as though you’re on a movie set and it is indeed a classic image of New York that I’ve seen many times. Be aware that this in a hugely popular place with Instagrammers, so it will be busy. There are plenty of places to just sit and take in the view, and lots of little boutiques and cafes in the buildings behind.

The Brooklyn Bridge and Manhatten skyline

Brooklyn Bridge – FREE
Be careful to stay on the left – the other side is reserved for cyclists and they can get understandably irate if you block their path. It’s a shorter walk than you’d expect, there will be lots of people ready to get in the way, suddenly stop to take a selfie and block your view, so take your time to enjoy it. We timed it for sunset, which meant that we could see the Statue of Liberty with a beautiful orange sky in the background.

Day 4

The Highline

The High Line – FREE
The High Line is a 1.45 mile long elevated linear walkway, converted from the former New York Central Railroad spur. It’s open from 7am – 10pm and is free, offering a nice view of the eastern side of the city and the Hudson River. We walked halfway, taking pictures of the architecture and enjoying the peace and lack of traffic and people.

The Hudson River – FREE
We then walked along the side of the Hudson River. There’s numerous boat tours available and great views of both Manhattan and across to New Jersey, and on a clear and day it’s a lovely opportunity it’s just walk and take in the sights and sounds of the city without having to deal with traffic and lots of pedestrians.

The USS Intrepid – FREE to see from the outside, $33 to enter.
Located on Pier 86, W 46th St & 12th Ave, the Intrepid Sea Museum is a decommissioned aircraft carrier that has been converted into a museum. We didn’t go in, instead we stayed on Pier 84 and took in the view, but there were a number of school trips that were taking place and it was really sweet to see all of the children discussing the ship afterwards.

Don’t forget that in between all these individual sights and sounds, it’s possible to stop and look at various buildings and monuments as you head to your next destination. We personally didn’t focus on the food – we bought most of our food from fast food places and coffe chains to avoid wasting time, but we’ve already decided that during our next visit we are going to find some lovely foodie things to try.

What about you guys? What are you favourite places in NYC?


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135 thoughts on “How to Spend 4 1/2 Days in New York City

  1. New York really is the gift that keeps giving, isn’t it? So much free stuff to do too. Out of everything Central Park will always be my favourite place to go in NYC.

  2. Great itinerary! My one note is that people still have a month to catch the Met while it’s pay-what-you-wish! This change goes into effect on March 1, 2018! ALSO the American Museum of Natural History is still pay-what-you-wish making it a good alternative! The Met has a lot of modern art so starting March 1 I’d especially recommend picking it OR the MoMA, not both. Along those lines- was it worth it to do BOTH ESB and Top of the Rock? My rec would be to only do one, but maybe that’s wrong and it’s worth it!

    • Thanks lovely – I was being lazy there as I knew I would have to go back and change the MET pricing later when the price change happened… The Natural History museum was somewhere on our list but we didn’t have time, so it’s gone on the next one haha! I’ve been to NYC before but The Bloke hadn’t, but we decided to do both the Top of the Rock and the Empire State just for the experience of doing it, but we would only do the top of the rock again next time… I’m totally going to be annoying you for tips on non-touristy places next time!

  3. Great travel blog Suzanne! We only spent two and a half days in New York, and that is definitely not enough – and exhausting! Agree that early morning Times Square I is the best time to catch it…something to be thankful to jetlag for 😀

  4. Sounds like a fabulous trip to one of my favorite cities!

    Some of my faves—writing in the lobby of the Ace Hotel (long tables, lots of outlets, and people bring you caffeine and carbs), the (free!) water taxi to IKEA that scoots by the Statue of Liberty, long Sunday brunch in Brooklyn, visit to the Cloisters (the Met’s medieval collection) and lunch at New Leaf. You’re right—can’t do it all but not for lack of trying.

  5. Well it seems you really take the maximum out of your 4,5 days. My NYC highlights… Free walking tour in Harlem.Museums: the Met, and Moma. And a view from the Top of the Rock and Empire State Building, always amazing:), sure by evening/night. Pity you didn’t take the time to have a short walk on staten island. A nice baseball stadium and an interesting massive 9/11 monument are close to the terminal. Great post, nice memories:).

  6. What great suggestions for things to do in NYC, Suzie. I love NY and haven’t been there for several years. I know that being a morning person is a plus in a city that never sleeps. Especially when you crave a few moments without wall to wall people. I love seeing a broadway show when I’m there. We went to see Phantom of the Opera and it was fabulous. We also walked up the Statue of Liberty which required me to be on ibuprofen for the rest of our trip. Haha! There was a group of students walking with us and as we got closer to the top they started singing patriotic songs in perfect harmony. They were a college choral group. I’ll never forget how beautiful their voices resonated and it gave me the boost I needed to make it to the top. P.S. Walking down was harder than going up.

  7. You guys packed so much into your visit. You must have done some serious research before you left home 🙂
    I’d been in N.Y. tons of times before I got around to walking the Brooklyn Bridge. One of my favourite things, and we found a great little chocolate place on the other side of the bridge, so bonus 🙂

  8. Wow you packed so much in to your trip! I know next to nothing about New York and it’s not somewhere I’ve ever thought about visiting. But it’s nice to know there is so much to do and that it is possible to do fun things for free! When I visit a city I love to walk round and get a feel for a place too! Glad you had a lovely time x

  9. Moma Art Gallery and just wandering the streets were our favourite things to do in New York City. Yes, the costs can escalate when visiting cities. We are on a tight budget and always manage to find something to keep us occupied without spending a fortune! Great information.

  10. I love NYC. In addition to the many great places above: the High Line, MOMA, 9/11 Memorial, Empire State Building, and of course Time Square… I always love taking in one Broadway show and having one new cheap eats experience. Thanks for adding several more new stops for my next adventure.

  11. My daughter wants the two of us to go to New York for her 18th (I’ve got three years to save! No pressure!!) I think I’ll print this post out and use it as my guide book 🙂 Of course, she might prefer Tiffany’s over the Museum but hey ho! 🙂

  12. This is a really useful list, thank you! New York is definitely on mine and my husband’s list of place to go, without breaking the bank! Loads of things to do on a budget by the sounds of it 🙂

  13. Wow, you certainly packed lots into your visit, Suzie. You have taken some beautiful photos and no doubt have some wonderful memories. I love the one that you took from the top of the Rock with the gorgeous sunset. 🙂

  14. Awesome sauce Suzie, I’d like to visit Central Park just because! Sounds like a wonderful trip with the bloke too. Tell me, the post sounds well organised. Do you use the travel equivalent of Buffer to keep to schedules by any chance lol

  15. Aw that brings back so many memories of my Honeymoon 10 years ago! I would love to go back. One of our highlights was seeing the Blue Man Group, absolutely off the wall but excellent. So glad you had a great time!

  16. New York is just amazing. My first trip there was the summer of 2001 and actually I flew out of JFK a week after the tragedy of September 11. Clouds of smoke still bellowed from the skyline. This article makes me want to return even more though! I have been back since but like you say we need lots of time to do a lot x

  17. yes, there really is so much to see and do in NYC for free. (you can go in to the Met for free too). I also love the Frick, the Cloisters, going inside the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, and the tenement museum. But you had a busy 4.5 days!

    • I was being lazy and not changing the price of the met later as I know that they’re putting it up and I couldn’t be bothered to go back again and change it haha! I really want to go to the cloisters…

  18. NYC is one of my favorite cities to visit. I’m east coast Canada. Was interested in how you spent your day as I usually only have a long weekend there. Brooklyn Bridge is on my list, always Central Park. Was interesting in your walks Hudson River and High Line. Now on the list. thanks!!

  19. This has made me quite nostalgic, Suzie….we went to NY 22 years ago when hubby won an award to be presented over there…and your truly was nearly 7 months pregnant. We also stayed centrally on Times Square (posh place paid for by the company), and had most things laid on for us. For me a stand out has to be our trip up the World Trade Centre – for the obvious reason now, but then because my bump was pretty big and the lift operator took one look at me and asked if I was likely to go into labour. We spent 5 minutes convincing him that I wasn’t due for another couple of months….but I’ll tell you what, the speed of that lift could easily have set something off!! Now it is that “bump” who is planning his first trip to NY!

  20. This looks so incredible! I’ve got NYC on my bucket list. I want to take the boys to see the Empire State Building and the 9/11 Memorial. I’m so glad you had an incredible time. 🙂

  21. By readung this full posts of your trip, You and the Bloke packed in a huge amount of events. I have never been to NY, strange but true, so this made me long to try and fit this in for a vacation sometime in future. Inespecially love Staten Island as and the Gardens as we are more nature people.

  22. sounds wonderful! Someday I will make it to NYC!! Hubby has been there, but, I haven’t. Did get us lost in the Bronx once while we were on a road trip… Would love to see Ellis Island, as that is where my grandparents first entered the states. So glad you enjoyed your honeymoon here. Cahti

      • Not certain which city in Ireland my grandmother came from, but, she learned to walk on the boat over and had to re-learn how to walk on land, at least that is what my mom always told me and my grandfather was from Glasgow. That is on my Mom’s side and then on my Dad’s side, my great grandfather came from Ireland and my great grandmother came from the area of the Black Forest in Germany.

  23. I’m not a city girl but this totally makes me want to go! Even if it is just to eat breakfast at Tiffany’s! I just told my friends sitting here now about this and it has us guessing what kind of breakfast they would serve. I would definitely have to do the Empire State Building if only because of Sleepless in Seattle. 🙂 You really got in a lot of the city in less than 5 days!

  24. I visited NYC in Jan 2011 and it was very cold that time. The Staten Island ferry wasn’t operational. So yes, I went to the snow covered Central Park, Times Square and then a bit of walking around the Manhattan. Your post made me think of my trip and the fact that I could see the city when I had the chance. Maybe next time!

  25. We did part 1 of our honeymoon in New York and like you crammed as much in as possible. It’s an amazing city. I’ve been twice but I would definitely return. We visited the 911 memorial centre and heard first-hand accounts of survivors and had a good look around everything harrowing of course but I’m glad we did it.

  26. This is brill. Its one of the places I would love to go.

    I am getting the feeling that you must have written loads of notes whilst you were there as this is so detailed.

    • No I just went on the photos I took and put it into a timeline from that really… The Bloke wouldn’t have been impressed if I had been writing stuff up on our honeymoon haha!

  27. I approve this message, ha! But my absolute cry-like-a-fangirl favorite place is The American Museum of Natural History, which is all kinds of epic and also pay-what-you-wish if you line up for the counters and don’t use ticket kiosks.

  28. I had no idea so many fun things were free in New York! I still haven’t gone to the Statue of Liberty. Shame on me. It does sound like so much fun. We have a few friends in NY and my cousin owns a travel company that helps travelers plan day trips out of the city–ecotourism–I think they call it. So, I have no reason not to go!. I’m saving your post for our trip.

  29. I’ve never been, but us sounds like you both had a fantastic time!!! Someday. Someday I’ll go 🙂

  30. I have never been to NYC but have visited various other states( I have) family in the US…Your post just reminded me that one day I will visit as it sounds just amazing and what an awesome place to spend your honeymoon. My dream is to see NYC in the snow 🙂 Lovely post and memento of your honeymoon…That’s one of the pluses of blogging we can record those special times, can’t we??

  31. Goodness! You really managed to pack so many adventures into your trip!

    I love the mix of free and spendy things you guys did. I’ll bookmark this for if we ever make it to NYC.

    Have you considered doing another post about the amazing things to eat there too!?

  32. I love how you found so much to do that was free! What a great trip and you sure coached a lot in. I remember Melanie telling me all about the Highline and how I must go there one day.

    • It’s definitely worth seeing once. For me it was the history behind it, when you think about the people who have walked there, their stories… I get a huge buzz when I see a film with enormous stars and know that I’ve stood in the same place…

  33. You certainly fitted a lot in. Looks amazing! I like to make the most of my time when visiting places so always try to plan around what’s nearby. What a fantastic place to go on honeymoon.

  34. I absolutely love NYC! I lived there 1 summer for an internship. It’s a hard place to live (unless you are super rich) but a fantastic place to visit. My favorite was going up the Empire State Building. I also love going through the floors of Macy’s. Next time you go, there is a fantastic restaurant called Beauty and Essex where you have to walk through a pawn shop to get to but it’s worth it. It’s decorated like you are in a jewelry box. I can’t explain it, it’s just cool.

  35. I’ve lived in NYC since 1979 and I don’t think I’ve done half the fun things you did in just 4 1/2 days! (kidding, sort of). Seriously, tho. Great list. I actually have done all your suggested Things except go to the Statue of Liberty (always a bad time — summer too crowded and hot; I forget about it in the winter!) And, like many New Yorkers, I just cannot get myself down to the 9/11 Memorial. Too sad, too close to home, if you get my drift.

  36. You really hit of lot of the best spots! Funny thing, I walked over the Brooklyn Bridge this past summer for the first time–and I’ve lived here all my life. LOL

    • Haha! When you live somewhere it’s always something you take for granted – I’ve lived 10 minutes away from the Cadbury’s chocolate factory for 17 years and still haven’t done the tour…

      • If you ever go I hope you blog about it–I’ve always heard that it’s better than the USA Cadbury’s but no one could explain why to me. (Chocoholic here!) 😀

      • Cadbury’s was taken over by American company Kraft a while ago and they’ve started to change the recipe slightly – we’ve not been impressed haha! I’m hoping they don’t change it any more…

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