AD – This post is a paid collaboration with TravelPlanners.
Our trip to New York still remains one of my favourite city breaks. It was COMPLETELY knackering but my god, it stole my heart. Planning a trip to NYC is so much fun but it’s also a little bit overwhelming – a New York itinerary is bound to be jam-packed with sightseeing, eating and plenty of walking. You guys LOVED my guide to spending three days in Venice, so I thought I would put something similar together for New York and show you how we spent our four and a bit days in the Big Apple. If you missed it the first time around, I wrote a post on everything you need to know before you go to New York, so make sure you check that out before delving in deeper to this itinerary. It has details of how to get there, where to stay, when to visit as well as tips on budgeting. I went to New York for a whirlwind trip in December and then went back for longer with Dan. We managed to cram so much into our four and a bit days there so I feel like our itinerary is a really good one for first-time visitors to the Big Apple. We ticked off all the essential sights as well as LOADS of food!
You can get some great package deals which include flights and hotels. TravelPlanners has some great deals for New York city breaks for 2019 and 2020 which will suit all budgets so if you’re planning a trip, they are a great starting point.
4 Day Itinerary for New York City
Day 1: Arrival
I am all for making the most of a trip, so I love getting an early flight. We caught a 9am flight from Heathrow which meant we landed around 3pm NYC time which is perfect for giving you a few extra hours to adjust!
Freshen up and grab a bite to eat – you can’t go wrong with a burger from Shake Shack! They are cheap and all over the city so ideal for when you are tired and need something quick. If you are up for exploring, there is ALWAYS something going on in the local neighbourhoods, so do your research before you go and see if you can find any local events. We arrived on Halloween and we went to the parade in Greenwich Village which was full of locals dressed up in crazy costumes. It was so good to get out and soak up the atmosphere so quickly! TimeOut is a great website for finding out what’s on during your visit. Once you start to fall asleep standing up though, it’s probably time to head to bed…!
Day 2: Chelsea Market, The Highline & Broadway
Jet lag will wake you up at 6am, which is both a blessing and a curse: It means you can fit more into your day but your days will be longer and beware the 4pm crash. For your first full day, escape the tourist traps, grab a coffee and egg roll en route from somewhere like Amy’s Bakery (good, cheap and all over the city!) and head to the Meatpacking District. This was one of my favourite neighbourhoods in New York as it had such a cool vibe about it. You’ll find Chelsea Market and The Highline here which are really worth visiting. The Highline is an old railway line which has been restored by local charities. It sits above the streets and you can get some awesome views of the long, straight city streets. It is kept fully in bloom so you get a real contrast as you walk along – it’s like a mini jungle in a concrete jungle!
Chelsea Market is a must-visit when you are in New York, particularly if you are a foodie. The market sits in a whole block which has been made into a huge indoor marketplace packed with street food outlets, grocery shops selling local produce, farm shops and wine cellars. It’s like a proper little Alladin’s Cave! There is also an Artists & Flea market which is home to lots of local independent businesses. I bought a lovely handmade silver necklace by a jewellery maker from Brooklyn.
The food market is a great stop for lunch – we made our way round a few of the vendors. The lobster mac n’ cheese from The Lobster Place was absolutely delicious and I’d also recommend the pulled pork tacos from Los Tacos No1. Both of these spots are featured in my must-eats in New York post, so check that out if you love to eat!
Once you’ve eaten your fill, walk via Central Park or get the Metro. Central Park is one of the most bizarre places because it’s such a huge piece of greenery in the middle of a huge city! You will definitely be able to kill a few hours exploring it and you will find the New York Museum of Natural History (AKA Night at the Museum location!) and also Central Park Zoo. We were so lucky to visit on a very toasty autumn afternoon so the skies were blue and the trees were the most beautiful shades of orange and gold. We just sat by the boating lake people (and dog) watching. I definitely forgot I was in New York!
It isn’t a New York trip without a Broadway show and there is just so much to see! From Mean Girls to Hamilton, Mamma Mia! to The Waitress, you can literally see something every night if you wanted to! We watched The Book of Mormon at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre just off Time’s Square. The show was absolutely amazing and I feel like I have definitely ticked Broadway off the bucket list now! Our tickets were around £70 (pre-booked) and we had great seats. You can grab cheaper tickets on the day, just head to the theatres you want to go to and see if they have any spare seats.
There are so many restaurants and bars around Times Square so plenty of places to stop for a pre-theatre meal. Just remember the rule: If you can see the lights of Times Square, it’s going to be expensive! Close to the theatre was Da Marino, a proper American-Italian restaurant that I went to the first time around. Unfortunately, the food wasn’t as good the second time but another Italian that came highly recommended was Becco.
Day 3: Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island & Top of The Rock
Yes, we were probably slightly mad for ticking off three of the biggest sights in NYC in one day, but it means we could get everything out of the way! We headed down to the Staten Island Ferry first thing in the morning to get across to Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. We weren’t too bothered about getting off at Liberty Island – you get a much better view of Lady Liberty from the Ferry! We carried on to Ellis Island which was definitely one of the highlights of my trip. Ellis Island was the first port of call for any immigrants wanting to live in America from the 1800s until the mid 1900s. They were recorded, assessed and given their documentation before being allowed into the country. Of course, not all people were allowed in due to criminality or other factors. Naturally, people arrived with illnesses, some contagious and infectious so a hospital was built on the island. It remained one of the most forward-thinking and best hospitals in the United States and treated thousands of people. We did a tour of the Contagious and Infectious disease wards and it was so interesting. Most of the hospital is falling down and some parts aren’t open to the tours but it gave a completely different insight into the of New York. It’s well worth a trip!
After your morning on the islands, head back to Manhattan in search of lunch. If you’ve got time, give yourself a little walking tour and go via the World Trade Centre and Wall Street. The 9/11 memorial will take your breath away.
For a quick, quiet lunch, I would recommend Momofoku. It is owned by American chef, David Chang who is a purveyor of modern Asian fusion. We grabbed a few plates including the infamous pork belly buns, served with siracha dip. The spicy deep fried chicken is also so good – but beware the spice!
Make sure you grab a cereal milk soft serve from Milk Bar which is just across the street. It is SO GOOD and the most amazing combination of sweet and savoury ever. Still thinking about it now.
Next up, it’s time for Top of The Rock. We chose this above the Empire State Building because you can see the Empire State from the Rockefeller and it’s a more ‘New York’ skyline. It was a little cloudy when we went, so the city was shrouded in mist. I have seen it on a clear snowy day though and it’s just amazing! On a clear day, you can see all the way to Liberty Island and out towards New Jersey. The streets of NYC are so long and narrow it can be difficult to get your bearings and see where you are but getting high above the city is the best way to see New York for the concrete jungle that it really is.
For dinner, try Japonica in Greenwich Village. It was literally the best sushi I’ve ever had! The vibe was so cool and it felt like we were amongst all the New Yorkers, it was such a great hidden gem. The sushi platter with the dragon sushi was just amazing!
Day 4: DUMBO & Brooklyn Bridge
By day four, it’s likely that you are feeling the effects of four days of early mornings and long days. BUT KEEP GOING! For your final full day, head to Brooklyn. If you aren’t staying around there, save your feet by getting the Metro. DUMBO is a great place to get ‘the shot’ of the Manhattan Bridge and soak up some atmosphere. Brooklyn is instantly quieter than Manhattan and I so wish we were able to explore the area more! Juliana’s Pizza in DUMBO is the place to go if you want pizza. It’s one of the best pizzas I’ve had outside Italy! 22 inches of thin, crispy base, sweet tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella topping. Pure joy. And It’s like $22 for a whole pizza. Yes, you can definitely share that with your other half. Finish yourself off with a New York cheesecake.
Walk off your food coma by walking across the Brooklyn Bridge. It takes roughly about half an hour and depending on when you go, it is BUSY. But you get the most amazing views of the skyscrapers in Manhattan and along the River Hudson. I absolutely love the architecture of of the bridge too, it’s so iconic!
For your final meal, tick off a steak restaurant. We headed to Tanner Smiths in Hell’s Kitchen for cocktails – which were AMAZING by the way. And then to Gallagher’s Steakhouse for the biggest steak of our lives. It was pretty expensive but when in New York, ya know?
Day 5: Goodbye New York
I’m not sure how I was still standing by day five – New York had gone from feeling so surreal to feeling like we’d been there for DAYS to feeling a total out-of-body experience. We packed up our bags and had a chilled out morning, in other words not leaving the apartment at 8am. We dropped our bags off at a luggage locker around the corner (these are all over NYC, very handy if you have an evening flight!) and then headed for brunch at The Smith in Midtown. On a Sunday morning, this was filled with local New Yorkers, catching up over coffee and food so it had such a lovely atmosphere. The food was great too – I had Mexican scrambled eggs on a blue corn waffle.
Our final afternoon was spent soaking up the last sights in Manhattan and ticking off a few more ‘must-eats’… Namely square doughnuts from Doughnut Plant which were so good. It also happened to do great coffee which kept us powering through our final day.
Our flight was at 8pm in the evening so we caught a cab back to JFK about 5pm and waved goodbye to the city that never sleeps.
So there we have it – an ideal itinerary for New York if you’re visiting for the first time. It is SUCH a crazy city and I’m so jealous if you’re going again. I’d love to go back and explore more – we didn’t get to see Brooklyn properly or even go to Williamsburg so I think another trip is definitely on the cards in the future. I hope it provides you with some inspiration and guidance on planning your trip.
You might find these guides handy…
DISCLAIMER: This post contains a sponsored link but all copy was written by myself and I had full creative control over the content.