A Local’s Perfect BUDGET, 4 Day New York City Itinerary
A 4 day New York City itinerary is not nearly enough time to see all the best attractions in New York City. I mean, it’s barely enough time to explore Manhattan, let alone all the other boroughs of New York City
Let’s be real. I’ve lived here my entire life and still haven’t seen it all, even with all the New York City itineraries I’ve done.
No matter how much time you spend in New York City, or how many New York City travel itineraries you complete, you probably won’t be able to see it all. Whatever that means. LoL. I’m legit still trying to see it all.
Four days is enough time to visit many of New York City’s major attractions, as well as some of New York City’s more local neighborhoods, where some of the best hidden gems in New York City lie.
You can get a feel for the realities of everyday life in New York City.
Some notable New York City tourist attractions will not be on this list.
Honestly, I just don’t really like them and think that they are super crowded and super overrated (#gross).
I’ll leave any final decisions up to you. I mean, I may not be a fan of going to the top of the Empire State Building (cough, major New York City tourist trap, cough), but that doesn’t mean you won’t love it and think it’s the most amazing experience since the Dominique Ansel Cronut.
That’s Why You Should:
Use this guide as a rough New York City tour itinerary and adjust it to your own interests and preferences as needed.
***Most of this New York City trip itinerary will cover Manhattan since most visitors to New York City tend to stay in and around midtown.
DAY 1 (Optimally a Friday)
Rise and shine campers! It’s gonna be a swellerific 24 hours in New York City!
Yeah, I’ll Stop.
That was obnoxiously enthusiastic. No one needs that kind of saccharine sweet optimism in their life, especially in New York City.
I would suggest starting your day with a bagel because I mean really, how much more NYC does it get than that?
My personal fave?
The cinnamon raisin bagel with chocolate chip cream cheese from Ess-A-Bagel. But if you can’t get here or if the line is way too long then no worries. There are a ton of cheap and super delicious bagel places all over the city.
Yeah, it’s just amazing and right near Grand Central Terminal so that’s why I threw this bagel mecca onto this New York itinerary.
Oh and that bagel with cream cheese will probably cost you around $5.00.
Grand Central Terminal! Not only is it free to explore this architectural icon, but there is an amazing food court downstairs that has a ton of gastronomic deliciousness that won’t cost you an arm and a leg. You know, things like Donut Plant, Shake Shack, Magnolia Bakery, Zaro’s Bakery, etc. (I also love the Great Northern Food Court and Grand Central Market).
Since We Just Ate:
I recommend getting some take away from Grand Central Market. Between the amazing cheese shop, a bakery with Eli Zabar baked goods, a sushi counter, and a multitude of fresh fruit and vegetable stands, you certainly won’t go hungry or broke for that matter.
I’ll round up and say that this will cost you $10.
Before You Leave:
Take in all the majestic beauty of the grand concourse, where constellations seem to shimmer and dance across the building’s enchanting ceiling.
***If you want to explore more of Grand Central Terminal then check out the tour office, which provides visitors with free guided tours of the terminal. You can also check out the whispering gallery, which is located under the four archways that are right outside the Oyster Bar. Simply have a friend stand on the opposite end of the underpass while one of you speaks into the wall at a normal volume. Tada! Magic!
Believe it Or Not:
The other person will be able to hear you perfectly even though you are a good 10 meters away and facing the opposite direction. Just make sure the corridor isn’t insanely noisy because then you won’t be able to hear the echo over the general din of the corridor.
After You’ve Gotten Food and Explored the Building, We’re off to the New York Public Library!
Not only are their free exhibits on the bottom floor of the main entrance, but there is also a picturesque reading room upstairs that is quite photogenic.
The library also has an original copy of the Guttenberg Bible (first printed book in the world), as well as the original stuffed animals that inspired the creation of a little book series known as Winnie the Pooh.
Not sure if you’ve heard of it:
But it’s kind of sort of a big deal in some parts of the world.
Walk behind the library and explore all that Bryant Park has to offer.
Between the carousel, the reading room, the ping pong tables, and the small tables and chairs that are sprawled out across the great lawn, this park makes an excellent spot to sit, eat some lunch, and watch all the people stroll by.
***Breads Bakery and Wafels and Dinges are two of my favorite food stands in Bryant Park. If I had to pick just one though, I would get the chocolate babka from Breads Bakery. It is to die for!
After you’ve relaxed for a bit, walk down 42nd street and you’ll hit Times Square.
I HATE Times Square and stay away from it as much as humanly possible.
I know people always like to visit and get some photos here. Just leave as quickly as possible since it is insanely crowded and virtually everything in the area is a tourist trap.
Stroll down Fifth Avenue and you’ll see some of the most iconic buildings in all of New York City.
From Rockefeller Center to St. Patrick’s Cathedral to Saks Fifth Avenue to Trump Tower to Tiffany’s to the Atlas Statue to the Plaza Hotel to Central Park, Fifth Avenue has it all, and it’s free!
I won’t go into any more detail since all of these major New York City attractions are free and you can spend as much, or as little, time as you want in each place.
You’ll know that you are heading in the right direction if the street numbers go up.
I would spend some time in Central Park and explore such amazing places as Belvedere Castle, Bethesda Fountain, Strawberry Fields, the Alice and Wonderland Statue, Tavern on the Green, and more.
You could easily spend the day here, but there is so much to see and so little time.
***On the way back, stop by Little Collins for some Avocado Smash or theMuze, to go, for $12 (667 Lexington Avenue and they close at 4 pm on the weekends and 5 pm during the week).
If You Are Here on a Friday:
I would walk back down Fifth Avenue and visit MOMA (the Museum of Modern Art) since this museum has stunning contemporary art exhibits that are free to the public on Fridays between 4:00 pm and 8:00 pm.
Yes, it will be crowded because no, you’re not the first person who would rather not pay $25 for admission.
If You Have Time:
Stop by the Morgan Library. Not only does this library look like something straight out of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, but they also have original copies of the Guttenberg Bible, as well as some of Mozart’s original musical composition.
If you visit the Morgan Library on Friday night, between 7 pm and 9 pm, not only will admission be free, but you’ll be treated to some free live jazz as well!
Admission to the Morgan Library will cost you a whopping $20. Yikes.
TOTAL SPENT: $5 for a bagel +$10 for takeaway in Grand Central + $12 at Little Collins = $37!!!!
At this point, we will take a brief intermission for sleep and refreshments before we move on to Day 2 of this most epic of New York City Travel Itineraries!
So Let’s Start a New Day With A New Location…
LOWER MANHATTAN! Or the Occulus to be Exact. Just take the 4 to Fulton Street and you’re literally right there.
***You’ll need three trips on the subway for a total of $8.25
It can’t get much easier, otherwise, you’re teleporting there.
The Oculus is a true marvel of modern architecture. And since this building is right near the 9/11 memorial, I would stop and pay tribute to all those people who lost their lives on that terrible day.
Probably one of the newest and most iconic pieces of architecture in New York City. Plus it’s free so totally worth a visit. Even if I almost fell on my ass because I thought the seats were swivel seats and they aren’t. Whoops. But a great part of the city to explore. Between the world trade center memorial, St. Paul’s Church, and Century 21 department store, there really is something for everyone in lower Manhattan. I also recommend walking up west broadway and then fifth avenue. You’ll walk through Washington Square Park, past the Flat Iron Building, past the Empire State Building and eventually hit Rockefeller Center and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. A long but great walk on a nice day! And if you’re really energetic, start at battery park and you can see the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street and the charging bull too. #girlwiththepassport
You may need a little-caffeinated goodness. Therefore, I would head over to Aroma Espresso bar, grab an espresso drink of your choice, and check out the Woolworth Building
***At Aroma Espresso Bar, a caffe latte and two eggs and toast will cost you $12.
The Woolworth Building is absolutely lovely inside, and free, like everything else except breakfast.
The Irish Hunger Memorial which sits right along the water in Rockefeller Park. This beautiful structure stands as a tribute to all those who lost their lives during the great Irish famine; a truly moving place that is vastly underrated, in my humble opinion.
Wanna Try Something Different?
Stop by the Ring Ding Bar at 179 Duane Street for a unique twist on this classic dessert, which comes in flavors like Dulce de Leche, Nutella, Red Velvet, Funfetti, PB&J, Pistachio Raspberry, and Lemon Crème ($5 for a Ring Ding).
Simply enjoy a stroll through the park as you walk towards Brookfield Plaza: a beautiful mall that has an ice skating rink and an exquisite luminaries display during the winter season.
Not only will you see a piece of the Berlin Wall, but you’ll eventually hit Battery Park and be treated to some stunning views of the Statue of Liberty.
While in Battery Park:
I would definitely take a ride on the Seaglass Carousel. Probably the must unique carousel I have ever been on and completely worth the $5 admission.
Hop on the Staten Island ferry to get an amazing view of the Statue of Liberty that is 110% free!
Head towards Bowling Green and you will see the charging Bull Statue, as well as the National Museum of the American Indian, which is a great free museum that is open from 10 am to 5 pm every day.
If it suits You:
You can check out the Stock Exchange and grab something to eat at Bluestone Lane. This quaint little coffee shop is a great place to get some healthy food at a reasonable price. I personally love their avocado toast but anything here is delicious (the Avocado Smash is $12).
After You’ve Had Your Fill:
Hop on the 4 or 5 at Wall Street and head uptown to the 86th Street Station. While here, stop by Albertine Bookshop and check out the amazing architecture and beautiful ceiling of this French American bookstore.
If your budget is a little bit flexible, I would suggest stopping by the MET, which is now only free to residents, with a valid ID, from Connecticut, New York, And Pennsylvania. Otherwise, admission is $25 but totally worth.
The museum is open until 9:00 pm on Fridays and Saturdays so you’ll have plenty of time to explore all the stunning pieces of art on display here.
If $25 is too Much:
That’s cool because the Guggenheim is right down the street and has pay what you wish hours (cash only) every Saturday from 5:00 pm to 7:45 pm. A ton of amazing photo opportunities as well as amazing contemporary art for you to enjoy.
If You Have Time:
Stop by the Copper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum. A fun and interactive design museum that offers pay what you wish admission on Saturdays between 6 pm and 9 pm.
So if you’re up for it:
I highly suggest checking this museum out AFTER you explore the Guggenheim.
They have a scratch and sniff wall a la Willy Wonka. Need I say more?
Feeling a Bit Hungry?
Get a yummy and decently priced meal at Shake Shack, which is located at 154 East 86th Street. A burger and fries will cost you around $10.
After you’ve had your fill of burger awesomeness:
Head to the 86th Street subway station where you can hop on the subway, get to your hotel, and recuperate before day three!
TOTAL SPENT: $12 for 2 eggs, a latte, and toast +$5 Ring Ding +$8.25 on the Subway +$5 for the carousel + $12 for Avocado Smash + $25 for the MET + $10 for Shake Shack = 77.25 (or 42.25 if you want to skip the MET, Ring Ding, and Carousel)
DAY 3 (Sunday Funday!)
Do you feel like you’re in a triathlon yet?
I know, I can be a bit intense in pretty much everything I do but NYC is huge, so we gotta make the most out of the limited amount of time that we have.
So Today Will Start with…
A ride on the scenic 7 line to the 34th street and Hudson Yards station ($2.75).
Totally joking about the scenic part. This subway ride is pretty unscenic.
That’s cool because as you ascend the escalators from the cavernous subway below, you’ll see the Highline.
The former railway track that was recently converted into a scenic, above ground park and walkway that gives you with views of Chelsea and beyond.
Dotted along the Highline are intriguing pieces of modern art, as well as stunning pieces of street art that really enhance your journey through this eclectic mixture of both natural and man-made beauty.
The Highline is about a mile and a half long and has a ton of amazing places to stop along the way, many of which are food because yeah, I think with my stomach and not much else,
So Once You Hit 10th Avenue:
Skidaddle down one of the stairways and check out Artichoke Basille’s pizza.
Now Just to Be Clear:
This pizza is not really traditional New York City style pizza. Instead, they combine the best parts of New York style pizza with the richest and yummiest spinach artichoke dip and poof, you have one hell of an amazing slice of pizza.
Oh, and the Slices are Huge!
Like King King size pizza. That’s why you’ll only need one slice, which will set you back about $6.00,
I Bet You’re Thinking:
Geez, that seems like a lot of money for a piece of pizza, but trust me, these slices are filling, and by filling I mean you won’t eat for a week.
Chelsea Market, which is legit right here.
Okay, I Get It:
I sound insane because we just ate but Chelsea Market is way more than food.
Not only do they have a killer bookstore called Posman Books, but there is also an Anthropologie clothing store that I cannot afford, Artists and Fleas (which is a trendy and quirky hipster store that has an eclectic assortment of items), and so much more.
In Terms of Food?
I would get something to go since you’re probably stuffed.
There are a ton of grocery stores and shops to choose from, but some of my faves include Ninth Street Espresso, Doughnuttery, Morimoto, and Creamline for the griddled PB and J (a grilled cheese costs $5 and a cheeseburger is $9.50)
But in Fairness:
I haven’t tried it all so there are definitely other amazing restaurants that you should tell me about so that I can try them as well.
Gut Check Time! What Do You Do?
As You Can Guess:
We’ve come to another fork in the proverbial road. Your choice will basically depend on how financially viable you are.
If It Were Me:
I would pay the $25 and explore the Whitney Museum of American Art. It is a fantastic museum that explores the artistic creativity of a multitude of contemporary, American artists from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries (ha, I sort of sound like I know what I’m talking about).
They have an exhibit entitled, “An Incomplete History of Protest”, which offers a fascinating look into artists from the 1940s to today, and how they have used art as a way to protest and shed light on current political and social issues that demand public attention.
Truly Inspiring and Completely Worth the Price of Admission.
***The Whiney has Pay What You Wish admission on Friday nights between 7:00 pm and 10:00 pm if you want to check this museum out instead of the Morgan Library.
But if You’re Broke Like a Really Bad Joke:
Then you can walk over to Washington Square Park; a walk that will take you about 20 minutes (you can also take the A, C, or E subway lines from the 14th Street station to the West 4th Street station).
You can check out DŌ, the edible cookie dough shop, grab a cupcake from Molly’s cupcakes (my fave), or simply people watch in the park and explore the NYU campus.
This area is very quaint, historic, and filled with exquisite brownstones that should definitely be the focus of a photo or two.
If You Have Time:
Get your heiny to the Strand Bookstore, which is about 6 blocks away. and probably the coolest used bookstore that I have ever been to.
This place is huge! With three floors that are filled with an untold number of used books, it is easy to spend a day here.
They have super cool and super quirky bookish apparel that basically made me want to spend all my money.
Before you Leave Though:
Check out the third floor, which is filled with rare books (no appointment needed). So much fun to see original copies of some of the most iconic books of all time. Seriously worth a look.
Feeling Like a Frisky Biscuit?
Well, if you want to strut your stuff and party like it’s 1929, LoL, then head on over to the Frying Pan.
From May to October:
This historic Coast Guard lightship is home to a vibrant bar scene, at Pier 66, where you can sit, eat, relax, and drink while overlooking the beautiful Hudson River.
Skip the upscale bar menu that features, burgers, tacos, salads, etc. The food isn’t my fave but the atmosphere and views are worth a visit unless you’re old like me and are in bed by 10:00 pm (open from 12:00 pm to 12:00 am).
TOTAL SPENT: $5.50 on the subway + $6.00 for pizza + $10 for a burger + $25 for the Whitney = $46.50 or $24.25 without the Whitney
DAY 4 (Monday! I know You’re So Sad That It’s Almost Over)
You know what they say?
You can’t fight City Hall and you can’t fight corporate America! Actually, I don’t like that and think you should fight city hall.
I just bring this up because I have the attention span of a Titisi Fly and I always get sidetracked by my easily distracted thought processes.
So what am I really trying to say?
We are going to start this day by taking the 4,5, or 6 to City Hall ($2.75)
Nah, City Hall isn’t that fab. This is just the stop you can get off at to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, from Manhattan into, DUH, Brooklyn!
And go early!
This is not the most original idea on this New York City tour itinerary so not shockingly, everyone and their brother’s dog’s cousin likes to do this.
If you don’t want a selfie that is photobombed by twenty strangers, then hit the bridge when most other people are still deciding what to eat for breakfast.
But Time Out:
What do you do once you have walked the expanse of the Brooklyn Bridge? Oh my dear friend, explore DUMBO of course!
And DUMBO = Down Under Manhattan the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.
This formerly gross, center of industry has been transformed into a bunch of trendy, hipsters hotspots, I’m definitely not hip enough to hang out here but they’re nice and accepting of me and all my uncoolness.
Sad but True!
Between the gorgeous street art that decorates the walls of these cobblestone streets, the stunning views of the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges, and the unique retail stores, you may never want to leave!
Before you leave, here your new favorite New York City to-do list:
Make sure you grab an ice cream at the fireboat house, listen to some music on the historic barge, walk through Brooklyn Bridge Park, ride the carousel, read a book at Powerhouse Arena, grab a slice of pizza at Juliana’s, and take in some theater at St. Ann’s Warehouse.
***Do all of this either over July 4th Weekend (when the city is dead) or any time other than the summer when this area is literally MOBBED with people. Also for a reasonable breakfast, stop at Westville Dumbo and get a pastry or an egg scrambler plate for $11.
I know it’s a lot but let’s be real, you’re in the city that never sleeps.
So did you really expect to sleep? Exactly!
I’d take the 4 or 5 and take them back Uptown to Union Square. From here, transfer to the L line that is going towards Brooklyn and get off at the Jefferson Street station for the Bushwick Collective ($2.75 and $5.50 if you get off once).
***Are you a fan of New York City’s most Instagram worthy foods? If you are then get off at the Lorimer Street station on the L and grab a unicorn latte from the End Brooklyn ($9 ridiculous). You can then get back on the L and get off at the Graham Avenue station to visit the Bagel Store, the original home of the rainbow bagel ($6).
***They also have an Artichoke Basille’s Pizzeria at the Bushwick Collective if you want to get a piece of pizza instead.
Okay, With All That being Said:
We have FINALLY made it to the Bushwick Collective!
Just walk out of the subway and you’ll be amazed by the insanely diverse and totally beautiful number of murals that proliferate the walls of this quirky, and a little grungey, neighborhood.
Everywhere you look you’ll find amazing examples of street art that are beautifully symbolic of the political and social issues that currently plague New York City.
Have your camera ready and take your time exploring the fabulous artwork here. just explore.
The art here is something to be savored and not just rushed through so that you can tick it off your New York City bucket list.
Definitely meander through the streets and contemplate the meaning behind many of these powerful pieces.
Once You’ve Had Your Fill Of Artistic Beauty:
Grab a falafel from Queen of Falafel. The falafels here are fresh, hot, delicious, well-seasoned, and reasonably priced ($8 for a sandwich and $4 for a side of four).
No bathroom but I guess you can’t have your falafel and eat it too. Lol. Am I right?
Okay, I’ll stop with the Lame Jokes. At least for Now.
TOTAL SPENT: $11 on the subway + $11 for egg scrambler breakfast + $6 for a rainbow bagel with cream cheese + $8 for a falafel sandwich = $36
Say Adios to this Budget 4 day New York City Itinerary!
I know my friends:
Parting is such sweet sorrow.
Our 4 days in New York City has come to an end, sob.
But the good news?
You can easily spend about $40 a day and still see and eat some pretty amazing things.
In my humble opinion, “New York City is too expensive” is no longer a valid excuse to avoid a trip here.
Unless of course, you’re talking about New York City hotels.
Because then yes my friends, the hotels here are ridiculously expensive. But no worries because we’ve got a post on budget New York City hotels for that.