Visiting New York for the first time is like seeing all your favourite movies come to life in front of your eyes, after all, it is one of the most popular bucket list places in the USA.
Intrigued to know all the must do’s in New York for first-timers? Get reading my New York 4 day itinerary (map included!)
I’ve shared what my first time in New York was like on a separate blog post, and in this post, I will be sharing a New York 4 day itinerary with all the must-do’s in New York for first-timers!
Planning your New York Itinerary 4 Days & Must-do’s in New York for First Timers!
I bet if you’re planning your first visit to New York you have some NYC bucket list attractions on your list already. I’ll be sharing some of the best things to do in New York (including some new NYC hotspots) to see to make visiting New York for the first time the magical experience you always dreamed of!
Must-See Places NYC
Times Square is a buzz of activity day and night. It’s such a vibrant hive of activity with big screens showing popular American adverts and advertising the latest broadway shows, as well as, a whole host of people dressed in Disney/film costumes. It’s easy to see why New York is known as the city that never sleeps when you visit Times Square!
*For this reason, I would recommend staying a few blocks away from Times Square as it sure is noisy! The sirens never stop!
Times Square is the ultimate tourist attraction in midtown Manhattan and is best visited at dusk to see the bright lights New York is renowned for! Find your favourite film character or the famous Naked Cowboy/Cowgirl for a photo opportunity, before escaping to the Marriott Times Square 360 degree revolving restaurant ‘The View’. Once night falls in New York, The View is a great place to grab a drink and watch the different buildings light up the city, without having to leave your seat! Be mindful, a window seat at The View does come with a surcharge of approximately $10 per person and two cocktails and a window seat cost Adam and me $50! But, as I kept telling Adam, it was our first trip to New York, after all!
See a Broadway Show
It’s no first time in NYC without enjoying a Broadway Show! When we visited New York on our first trip I was adamant that I wanted to see a show that was iconic to New York. We saw an intimate showing of Breakfast at Tiffany’s (you can’t find a Broadway Show any more stereotypical of New York than Breakfast at Tiffany’s) at The Cort Theatre. Unless perhaps you see the live Spider-Man on Broadway Show, that has Spidey zipping through the air above you! A must for those visiting NYC with kids, Spider-Man on Broadway was a very close second choice for us!
It was convincing Adam to give up seeing his favourite character Spidey in action that I was worried about. But, somehow seeing Amelia Clarke naked in Breakfast at Tiffany’s seemed to be all the persuasion he needed.
He even got to have a chat about nightclubs in Milton Keynes, get a signed Broadway programme and get his photo taken with Amelia Clarke!
Not bad eh! Either was her male lead Cory Michael Smith!
Head to the red steps in the late afternoon/early evening to pick up some discounted Broadway Show tickets or alternatively download the TKTS app.
The Empire State Building
A definite New York must-see is The Empire State Building and it was something I was most excited to see on my first visit to New York. The Empire State Building is so iconic to the New York skyline.
We visited in the morning and we queued around 9 am. All the staff were really friendly at The Empire State Building and genuinely seemed excited for people to see the view for the first time.
Not only was it great to see the view of New York atop The Empire State Building, which seemed to stretch on for miles, but it was also mesmerising watching New Yorkers rush about and the hustle and bustle of the city below.
*Be mindful, not to get in the way of New York commuters if you’re heading out during rush hour, they really won’t thank you for hogging the sidewalk to take your photos!
Top of The Rock at The Rockefeller Building
When I think of The Rockefeller Building I always think of the scene from Home Alone 2 when Kevin goes to see the huge Rockefeller Christmas Tree.
Like Kevin, we had to see the Rockefeller Building at night, if only to capture some pretty New York night photography of The Empire State Building. We took the last slot to the top of The Rockefeller Building around 11.30 pm and the light-up lift was an experience in itself!
It was so magical at the top and it was an amazing experience to enjoy the spectacular views with only a few people present. The perfect time and romantic spot to get engaged in New York (if there are any romantics reading this post!)
A must-see in New York, The Rockefeller Building at night is a must-do for your first time in New York!
We chose to visit The Rockefeller Building at night, especially to capture some magical shots of The Empire State. It is the ideal NYC rooftop photography spot and a must for your Instagram pictures of New York.
If you go up The Rockefeller Building in the day, you get an amazing view over Central Park. We already can’t wait to revisit New York and to experience The Rockefeller viewpoint in the day.
I spent time in Central Park for two of my four days in New York. I loved this beautiful haven in the heart of Manhattan and Central Park is particularly beautiful in Spring, where you can see pretty magnolia and blossom trees lining Central Park.
New York Zoo is located inside Central Park and there are some Alice in Wonderland statues, and even five species of turtles to discover in the ponds! Why not take a boat out on the water before tucking into some lunch at Loeb boathouse.
On a sunny day in Central Park, grab some picnic items from Katz Delicatessen to eat in the park and to really enjoy some quiet time away from the busy city streets.
Get inspiration to visit Denmark by seeing the Hans Christian Anderson statues. A Central Park must-see, don’t miss the beautiful Bethesda Terrace and Fountain!
Strawberry Fields John Lennon Memorial
John Lennon’s apartment where he was shot overlooks Central Park and the Strawberry Fields John Lennon Memorial is located near the entrance to the park.
It’s hard to believe an icon as famous as John Lennon was shot so close to the beautiful haven that is Central Park. The mosaic memorial with “Imagine” etched into the tiles is a place to visit to honour the legendary John Lennon and visitors often leave flowers as a token of their visit.
Love John Lennon? Read my 2 days in Prague Itinerary to check out The John Lennon Wall.
The Met Museum
On the other side of Central Park, you will find the Met Museum and other New York museums, including The Guggenheim.
Unfortunately, museums aren’t free in The United States, like they are in the UK. Though, different museums have special days to receive a discounted entry. For example, when we were visiting New York for the first time our Gray Line Tour host advised us that it was only a $1 entry to visit The Met Museum on a Sunday. Therefore, it’s worth finding out before visiting the museums to save money in New York.
Of course, if you’re a Gossip Girl fan visiting New York, you can’t miss a New York Instagram opportunity to get a photo on The Met steps wearing your favourite hairband, of course!
There are plenty of Gossip Girl Tours in New York for hardcore fans!
If you really want a Gossip Girl experience in New York, make like Blair Waldorf and shop til you drop on Fifth Avenue.
Here you will find the iconic Tiffany’s featured in Breakfast at Tiffany’s too!
We found a cool Irish bar just off Fifth Avenue where we enjoyed a drink and some Irish pub grub. Head to Connelly’s Pub.
Grand Central Station
Xoxo Gossip Girl – If Serena Van Der Woodson is more your type of girl (mine too) then make like Serena and get your picture taken at Grand Central Station.
I’m not normally one to visit train stations (unless I’m visiting the beautifully tiled São Bento Railway Station in Porto) but, Grand Central Station is a beautiful Station and a New York must see!
Grand Central Station is located across the road from The New York Library, therefore it’s best seeing these must-do things in New York at the same time to get the most out of your New York 4 day itinerary!
There’s even a pizza place to grab a slice whilst seeing the sights! Head to Joe’s Pizza, located between Grand Central Station and The New York Library. The pizza is amazing!
The New York Library
If the New York Library makes you think about Carrie Bradshaw and all things Sex and the City, you’re not alone!
The New York Library is a beautiful place to visit, we even saw someone get married there (with mini candles lining the steps) when we did the Gray Line New York night tour.
Be mindful, that whilst The New York Library is a must-do in New York, it is still a library with people reading and working. Please adhere to signs asking you to be quiet in specified areas.
The Flatiron Building
Why is the Flatiron Building so famous, I hear you ask! Well, This uniquely flat building is said to be named due to its household appliance iron appearance.
The triangle-shaped structure is one of New York’s oldest and well-known buildings. Well worth a snap for your New York photo album if you ask me!
The Statue of Liberty
An absolute must-do in New York City is to get the ferry to The Statue of Liberty! When I visited New York for the first time, it wasn’t possible to explore Ellis Island as it had suffered some damage during Hurricane Katrina.
Though, you can once again visit Ellis Island to climb The Statue of Liberty to look at NYC through Lady Liberty’s eyes. A real New York wow moment, I bet!
If you love gangster films, such as Goodfellas and Once Upon a Time in New York, then Little Italy is a New York must-see for your New York itinerary!
Whilst sadly Little Italy has been greatly reduced for space in recent years, it’s worth stopping by to see the set of some of your favourite gangster movies and to grab an Italian bite to eat!
I know that visiting Ground Zero is a must-do thing in New York for many who wish to visit and pay their respects to all that lost their lives on 9.11 and this is why I have included it on this New York Itinerary 4 days.
Personally, I could not bring myself to visit the place where so many people died on my trip to New York. Particularly, as I experienced a terrifying experience of my own during my first time visiting New York (click here to read.)
One World Trade Center Freedom Tower
The Freedom Tower was built to honour those who lost their lives in the Twin Towers terrorist attack and the building of a new skyscraper left a bad taste in many New Yorkers’ mouths when it was built.
Although, The Freedom Tower was not particularly popular with New Yorkers, today it stands, not only as the tallest skyscraper in New York but as the tallest building in the United States.
A must-see in New York for first-time visitors and a building that is visible from The Statue of Liberty boat ride if you don’t get a chance to visit.
The High Line
Green spaces in New York may be hard to find in big cities! But, not in New York! If you’re looking for free things to do in New York and want a breather from the hustle and bustle, go for a walk on The High Line.
The High Line is a 1.45 mile elevated pedestrian green park and walkway created on a former railroad. Running from The Meatpacking District, past Chelsea and to Hudsons Yards, The High Line is a great way to experience other districts in New York.
Followed The High Line to Hudsons Yards? You’ll want to see the latest tourist hotspot in NYC, The Vessel!
The Vessel opened on the 15th March 2019 and is an artistic New York landmark created by Thomas Heatherwick. Comprising 154 entwining flights of stairs, The Vessel is a must-do in New York to see the city from various angles and vantage points.
Get free time-specific tickets onsite from 9.30 am from the shops, restaurants and interactive kiosks at Hudsons Yards. Please note, all free tickets are on a first-come, first-served basis. For tickets for future dates, head to The Vessel website.
The Bushwick Collective
If you’ve read my posts about Miami, Rotterdam, Lisbon and San Francisco, you will know I have a lot of love for street art. The Bushwick Collective is where you will find some of New York’s best street art.
Founded by Joseph Ficalora, The Bushwick Collective is an NYC graffiti paradise! Look out for NY legends such as Notorious B.I.G and get a photo for me!
The Brooklyn Bridge
New York first time visitors must see The Brooklyn Bridge! A definite New York must-see, my biggest regret is not seeing The Brooklyn Bridge on my first trip and it is something I regretted ever since! I wish I was more proactive! If you’re reading this, make sure you follow this New York Itinerary 4 Days post so you don’t miss The Brooklyn Bridge like I did!
D.U.M.B.O literally means ‘Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass’ and is the perfect NYC Instagram photo spot!
This trendy area has a host of boutique shops, high-end restaurants and pretty waterfront views.
Don’t miss this NYC Instagrammers paradise to capture your iconic NYC bridge Instagram shots. Get ready to pose!
Additional New York Must Do’s to include in your 4 Day New York Itinerary
If your New York 4 day Itinerary allows, here are some other New York must-do’s to incorporate into your New York travel itinerary:
Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment (a must-do in New York for all Sex and The City fans!)
Ghost Busters Headquarters (cos, who you gonna call?)
New York Knicks Basketball Game
Baseball Game (You may not follow baseball, but you’re a Yankee’s fan right?!)
Bryant Park (Ice skating in New York is a bucket list thing to do in NY)
Get a shameless photo with the NYPD (Yes, I am wearing an I ♥ NY top, but I’m doing it for the gram!)
I hope you enjoyed reading my ultimate must do’s in New York for first-timers to help you plan your own New York 4 day itinerary!
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