How to Spend 4 Days in New York City

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what to do in New York City

Short on time? Follow this link to a Google Maps version of our guide to spend 4 days in New York City with all of our favorite spots labeled! You can “follow” the guide, and the saved locations will automatically transfer to your own Google Maps account.

It would take a lifetime to uncover all that New York City has to offer, and that’s why we consider it one of our favorites. We’ll never get tired of it.

Tyler has a joke that he likes to bust out every now and again about how my personality changes in different cities. “New York Ruth” is one of the punch lines he uses most. Haha, very funny.

I can’t help it that a stroll down Madison Avenue just so happens to bring out the side of me that’s always wanted to be Serena Van Der Woodsen. Who can blame me? There’s just something about the energy of New York that I can’t get enough of.

4 days in New York City
4 days in New York City
4 days in New York City

Tyler and I have been to New York together a few times over the years, so we are starting to get the hang of our favorite things to do and see. This list of how to spend 4 days in New York City OBVIOUSLY just barely scratches the surface, but it’s a good start if you are visiting for the first time.

We’d like to take a second to thank all of our friends who have taken the time to send us their recommendations the past couple of times we’ve visited (I’d also like to thank the other travel bloggers I stalk. Also Gossip Girl).

4 days in New York City

Where to Stay in New York City

As far as lodging goes, we’d stay away from the Midtown/Times Square area. We made this mistake on the weekend, thinking it would make the most sense to stay in a central location. However, Midtown ended up being our least favorite part of Manhattan – it was crowded and dirty, the two things people hate about New York. We did really love our stay at the EVEN Hotel, but overall we recommend picking a less insane area.

Highline Hotel: Between the flawless location in Chelsea and the decor, this is one of my favorite hotels ever. This boutique hotel sits right under the High Line (more on that later) and has the coolest 1920’s vibes. The hotel’s building is a brick, refurbished former seminary and has an Intelligentsia coffee shop in the lobby. We are obsessed.

where to stay in New York city
where to stay in New York city

If you are traveling with a group or prefer the “local experience” of apartment living, check out Airbnb. Also, you can use this link for $40 off your first stay!

New York City Chelsea

Guide on how to spend 4 days in New York City
Guide on how to spend 4 days in New York City

Getting Around New York City

We usually do a mix of the subway, Ubers, and walking in New York (and, of course, occasional bike ride, see below).

The subway is by far the cheapest, and it’s pretty easy to figure out if you use the Google Maps app. We typically use the subway during the day and Uber at night if we are tired and just want to get home safely and quickly.

If we are really ambitious and the weather is tolerable, we’ll just grab a coffee (or a cookie) and walk across the city. Walking is certainly not efficient (Tyler always rolls his eyes when I suggest it), but it’s such a fun way to see the city.

Guide on how to spend 4 days in New York City
Guide on how to spend 4 days in New York City

What to do in New York City

Walk the Brooklyn Bridge

Bundle up and head over the bridge first thing in the morning. This walk is one of the most unique in the world, as you can look back at the Manhattan skyline and towards Brooklyn. It’s one of my favorite ways to experience NYC. The reason we recommend walking the bridge first thing in the morning is because it does get crowded (we apologize on behalf of all travel bloggers).

What to do in New York City
Brooklyn bridge walk
what to do in New York city

Stroll through Central Park

We know how obvious this one is, but Central Park really is so beautiful. We went through the entrance by the Plaza Hotel and walked through to the 79th St. transverse and then out to the Upper East Side.

What to do in New York City

There is something for everyone here. You can check out the zoo, lounge or picnic in Sheep Meadow, ice skate at Wollman Rink (though many argue that the rink at Rockefeller Center is the best in the city), or walk through the Conservatory Garden.

Ice Rink in Central Park
What to do in New York City

Bike down the Hudson River

This is a must if you are at all coordinated enough to operate a bicycle. You can easily reserve and rent bikes using the Citi Bike app on your phone and pick up a bike at any of the stations around the city (you can also just reserve and pay for it right at a kiosk at the bike station). There are stations literally ALL over Manhattan. Get a day pass for $12 or a 48-hour pass for $24. We picked up our bikes at one of the Citi Bike stations at Riverside Park and rode down the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway to a station near the 9/11 Memorial (a little over 7 miles). If we had ridden just a bit farther, we would have made it to Battery Park which is a cool spot from which to see the Statue of Liberty. This was such a fun way to see the city (and I really needed the exercise).

NYC travel guide

Visit the 9/11 Memorial

It’s 100% worth the trek downtown to see One World Trade Center and the 9/11 Memorial. The memorial itself consists of two huge pools of water, each signifying one of the twin towers with the victim’s names etched around the sides. It is one of the most stunning and powerful things we’ve seen. It was really humbling to see this memorial because we remember so vividly when 9/11 happened. The memorial itself is free, and the museum costs $24 for adults.

what to do in NYC
9/11 memorial
nyc travel guide

The High Line

This is also a really fun way to see the city. The High Line is a 1.45 mile long park located on top of an elevated old railway. We recommend starting on the north side and making your way south. If you are freezing like we were, hop off and grab a coffee at the High Line Hotel. Then, finish up your walk at Chelsea Market.

walking the highline in New York city

See a Broadway show

Tyler becomes an avid “theater fanatic” once a year: about 3 hours before we see a show. It’s one of his most obnoxious traits.

For his inaugural Broadway show a few years ago, we bought mezzanine tickets to Wicked for $100 each. It was INCREDIBLE. Yes, it was my third time seeing it (never before on Broadway), but I had an inkling that Tyler would appreciate Wicked more than Phantom of the Opera. To this day, he is still aggressively humming “Defying Gravity,” and I even spotted him listening to “For Good” through his precious AirPods once. On your way to the show, use the opportunity to quickly walk through Times Square – a place that is fun to see but not fun to be in for more than 5 minutes.

Last year, we saw The Book of Mormon and it was hilarious (but very crude, fair warning).

Check out TodayTix for discounted, last minute prices on tickets to almost every Broadway show (except, you guessed it, Hamilton – you can drop a grand for those or test your luck at the in-person or online lottery). This is a must-do, especially with 4 days in New York.

Driving Range at Chelsea Pier

After stuffing yourself with gourmet (what we call gourmet anyway) fare at Chelsea Market, head up a few blocks to the The Golf Club at Chelsea Piers. We did this because it had started raining like crazy, and there is only so much precipitation I can take. The stalls are fully covered and heated, so it’s the perfect “outdoorsy” thing to do on a rainy day in the city. Tyler was over the moon. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him happier than when he was hitting golf balls into the Hudson River.

Class it up at a world class museum (or two)

Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to visit any of the museums (we know, we know), but we definitely plan on hitting a couple the next time we are in town. A few on the top of our list are MoMA, the Met, and the American Museum of Natural History.

what to do in new york city
travel guide to nyc

Where to Eat and Drink in New York City

We can be honest and admit that we aren’t food critics and are really not that high maintenance when it comes to eating at fancy restaurants (we are on that “filter by two dollar signs” game right now). So if you’re a snobby eater (hey, you do you), take this with a grain of salt, and maybe check out Vogue’s NYC Directory for some more upscale options.

Here are our top food/drink/sweets picks for 4 days in New York.

Refinery Rooftop: I found this place on Instagram and new we just HAD to go. This rooftop bar has such fun cocktails, trendy decor, and a perfect view of the Empire State Building and surrounding skyline. We aren’t big on paying for views (that’s why the Top of the Rock, etc isn’t on this list). We will, however, throw down money for an expensive cocktail that comes with a good view.

refiner rooftop NYC

The Rum House: Having a panic attack from the crowds at Times Square? Duck into this vintage, candlelit piano bar just around the corner and order a classy cocktail from a bowtied bartender. We loved the vibes and the live music here. Very Chuck Bass.

The Ides Bar: This rooftop bar in Brooklyn holds a very special place in my heart. It’s where the thought first crossed my mind that I might be late for my period LOL (more on that story here). Anyway, this bar is so glam and has the best views of the Manhattan skyline. Perfect spot for a mimosa after you complete your walk across the Brooklyn Bridge as I mentioned above.

Chelsea Market: Chelsea Market is an absolute must. This is an indoor “food court,” and I use that term VERY loosely here. So no, you won’t find Hot Dog on a Stick, and no one will be shoving toothpicks topped with cold teriyaki chicken at you. This market is full of cute shops and restaurants, and it can be a little overwhelming. We used this guide to help us narrow down the seemingly endless amount of options – but PLEASE just do yourself a favor and start your meal marathon off with a pork taco from Los Tacos No. 1.

Via Quadronno: This without question is one of our top recommendations. Via Quadronno is a tiny Italian spot on the Upper East Side that serves AMAZING paninis, salads, soups, and espresso. And I can’t even talk about the tiramisu. This little cafe was busy and intimate but didn’t feel touristy at all–perfect place to stop in-between museums or shopping.

Artichoke Basille’s Pizza: DON’T @ ME–this is the best pizza in New York. The last time we were there, we literally had this pizza for second dinner, every night at 12am (come to find out 3 days after our trip that I was pregnant, but I don’t know what Tyler’s excuse was).

Minetta Tavern: Fun and expensive French steakhouse in Greenwich Village. Make a reservation, and definitely order the Black Label Burger and the souffle for dessert. Look, I’m not trying to name drop or anything, but we sat two tables away from CONNIE BRITTON. Poor Ty was in shambles. Maybe I was, too. This restaurant is definitely more of a “go with your rich aunt” or “so sorry I worked all night on our anniversary” type of suggestion, but it’s worth mentioning because the food was pretty amazing.

Rubirosa: This is my favorite kind of date night. No-nonsense decor, dim lighting, housemade pizza and pasta, and a glass of Italian wine. Sigh.

Katz’s Deli: This bustling deli serves up their world-famous pastrami sandwiches to never-ending lines of tourists. Their pastrami sandwich really is incredible. Tyler was in heaven. If you do add this place to your itinerary, just prepare yourself for long lines.

Katz deli NYC travel guide

The Crooked Knife: We LOVED this spot for dinner in the West Village. This pub has a really great happy hour ($5 beers – unheard of in New York), and the standard menu was pretty reasonable too. We loved the cozy, brick-lined atmosphere and extremely friendly staff. I’m still dreaming about the fried shrimp sliders.

Agave: We found out quickly that if you aren’t standing in line on the sidewalk in the West Village waiting for brunch, then you are not doing life right. Rain or shine, New Yorkers don’t mess around when it comes to brunch. Agave has a really good deal (by NYC standards) for a $32 entree and bottomless mimosa deal, and they take reservations. We both ordered the breakfast burrito and loved it.

Jack’s Wife Freda: Another great brunch. We went to the location in SoHo one Saturday morning, but they have a couple of different spots around the city. The menu is really unique, and we had such a hard time choosing what to order (I got the Maya Breakfast Bowl, amazing). I had no idea how to describe what type of food they serve, so I’ll go with how New York Magazine explains it: “South African Israeli Jewish Grandmother Cuisine.” So fun, right? Definitely recommend.

where to eat in NYC

Best Bagel & Coffee: Speaking of brunch, perhaps a bagel would be a better option for your morning nutrient needs if you are pressed for time (and cash!). I actually consider myself a (reluctant) bagel connoisseur after spending four years in college ringing up hungover freshmen at Einstein Bros. Bagels. Consequently, I haven’t touched a bagel since March of 2013, and it was going to take one heck of a piece of boiled dough to impress me. Tyler dragged me to Best Bagel & Coffee on a Saturday morning, and we stood in line for 30 minutes. But I have to say, I didn’t hate my egg, bacon, and cheddar on everything, and Tyler was practically hallucinating from happiness. As it turns out, New York bagels are, in fact, much better than the frozen trays of cinnamon raisin that give me nightmares to this day.  

NYC best places to eat

Levain: We’ve all seen these ginormous cookies on Instagram, and I’m not one to pass up a cookie that’s often referred to as the best in the world (I’m not one to pass up any cookie ever). We just HAD to see for ourselves if these bowling ball sized treats were worth the hype. So we endured the cold and teasing scent of freshly-baked goodness and waited in line in the Upper West Side for 30 minutes. By the time the sweet cashier handed over our chocolate walnut and dark chocolate peanut butter chip bundles of heaven, I snatched that bag so fast out of her little hand that I think I scared the girl in line behind me. And, let me tell you, IT IS WORTH THE HYPE. THE HYPE IS REAL. These cookies are so good and so DARE I SAY MOIST. Definitely, definitely, definitely swing by on your way out of Central Park – it’s just a few blocks away, and the cookies are unbelievable.

Milk Bar: Another day, another cookie recommendation. I first heard of Milk Bar when a coworker of mine was telling me about how his girlfriend had been trying to master her version of the “Compost Cookie” from a place called Milk Bar in New York. I stopped listening to what he was saying and immediately researched and starred it on our Google maps (the way we plan every trip). And, of course, the second we touched down at JFK a month later, I started bugging Tyler about making our way over to own of Milk Bar’s several locations. And while the Compost Cookie didn’t change my life in the way that Levain’s did, I still loved it and definitely recommend a stop.

where to eat in New York

Black Tap: This is kind of a fun one. We decided to swing by Black Tap after we saw Wicked. They have burgers and fries that are allegedly really good, but we came for one reason and one reason only. The shakes. These things are like 18 inches high, and they hold nothing back. Each shake is topped with about 3 pounds of whipped cream, every sprinkle in all of America, full slices of cake, oreos, chocolate chip cookies, Jeep Grand Cherokees, you get it. I don’t say this often, but two people can EASILY split one.

Shake Shack at Madison Square Park: While we don’t necessarily believe that the burgers and fries at Shake Shack live up to the hype, there is something magical about drinking a chocolate shake in the middle of a beautiful park with views of the Flatiron Building. We loved taking in the city and relaxing over some delicious shakes on our first night. Worth it for the experience alone.

This is obviously just a very small list. Th has SO much more to offer, but these are just our favorites that we would recommend for 4 days in New York City.

For even more ideas about where to dine in New York City, we HIGHLY recommend checking out The Infatuation, a restaurant guide that will give you more information than you can possibly process about where to eat.

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4 days in New York
4 days in New York

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