The Best New York Itinerary for Visiting NYC on a Budget by

The Best New York Itinerary for Visiting NYC on a Budget

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Planning a New York itinerary is no easy feat – choosing from the incredible number of sights, many things to do and endless options of delicious food can be overwhelming. And, as New York City is ranked as one of the most expensive cities in the United States, visiting NYC on a budget can add even more anxiety to the planning process. No need to fret! Our New York City itinerary is packed with everything your need for your trip to NYC!

On a recent trip, we challenged ourselves to experience NYC on a budget. Even on a short trip, costs can add up quickly when paying for expensive admission to sights, pricey meals and high-dollar accommodations. However, thrifty travelers need not worry. There is plenty to do and see (and eat!) in New York without breaking the bank. We planned 4 days in New York City and created an NYC itinerary that includes iconic sights, a ferry ride, neighborhood walks and classic, cheap NYC eats.

We think this is the best New York itinerary for budget travelers, as we focus on free things to do in NYC. However, we also happen to think that these are some of the absolute best things to do in New York City! So, even if you are not on a rock-bottom NYC budget, you can use our guide to help plan your trip! For those who have more – or less – time in the NYC, see our NYC itinerary planner tips for 1 day in New York to 7 days in New York at the end of the post.

New York Itinerary Planner Top Tips

Before we dive into our incredibly comprehensive New York City Itinerary, we have some essential tips to share:

  • Our suggested itinerary for New York covers some ground (up to 10 miles a day)! In order to keep up, you will need two things: comfortable walking shoes and a MetroCard. An unlimited weekly MetroCard costs $32 USD, plus $1 for the card. More info about using the subways and MetroCard are included at the end of the post.
  • If you are visiting New York City for the first time, a NYC map is essential! In fact, we recommend getting a New York City map in advance of your trip to New York and spending a little time studying it. Buy one now on Amazon. Understanding the layout of the city will help immensely in navigating the city. Carrying a separate Subway map is also highly recommended.
  • Our New York trip itinerary does not include visiting any museums or skyscrapers (many of which cost more than $30 USD to enter!). However, our NYC sightseeing route passes by many of these high-dollar attractions. If soaring to the top of a skyscraper (like the Empire State Building, Top of the Rock or One World Observation Deck) or spending time at a museum (like The Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Museum of Natural History) is high on your New York travel itinerary, budget for it and be sure to make room in your sightseeing schedule to enjoy it! (Tips on money-saving NYC Sightseeing Passes below!)


New York Itinerary 4 Days

The Best New York City Itinerary on a Budget by

With 4 days in NYC, you can see the major NYC attractions, feel the distinct vibe of New York neighborhoods and get a taste of some of the city’s best food! To enhance your NYC trip planning, we have included a few more key details to our NYC itinerary: 

  • Our New York tour itinerary includes facts about each sight (and a link to more info) – make sure to bookmark or save this information for your trip!
  • At the beginning of each day, we have indicated which is the closest subway station to the first sight and linked to it in Google Maps. All you need to do is click the link to get directions from wherever you are!
  • If public transportation is required to get from one sight to the next, we have included a link to Google Maps that will provide the recommended subway route. 
  • We provide a map for each day’s exploration that can be used to get walking directions from one sight to the next. 
  • Our New York Itinerary includes long stretches of being outdoors and eating on-the-go, so we’ve indicated where there are convenient public bathrooms along the route. (And, McDonald’s, Starbucks and department stores are good options for open restrooms, too!)


Day 1 in New York

On the first day of your 4-day trip to New York City, see the city’s most iconic sights. Start in Lower Manhattan to get a view of the Statue of Liberty; then embark on a self-guided walking tour through midtown to the most iconic NYC buildings and sights. Start at Subway Station: South Ferry or Whitehall St.


Map of Sights in Lower Manhattan for Day 1 of our New York Itinerary

Link to Lower Manhattan Sights on Google Maps


Statue of Liberty via the Staten Island Ferry

There is no doubt that Lady Liberty is one of New York’s most recognizable sights – and every visitor to NYC should get a look at her. Statue of Liberty tours allow visitors to get up close and personal, but are a bit spendy! Enter: Staten Island Ferry. The free ferry transports passengers from Lower Manhattan to Staten Island. The route passes by Ellis Island and Liberty Island, providing a stunning view of the Statue of Liberty…and the ride doesn’t cost a dime! Simply go to the Whitehall Terminal, get on the ferry and get a spot on the starboard (right) side! Boats make the journey every half hour. Tip: Some boats offer plentiful outdoor space on the upper deck, but the boats that don’t have an outdoor upper deck allow passengers to stand in the open air at the back of the ship. Staten Island Ferry Website.

{When you arrive at Staten Island, get off the boat and circle around to the entrance and ride back to the city (this time standing on the port side for a second look at the Statue of Liberty). Once back in Manhattan, spend a little time exploring the NYC Financial District.}

The Battery

The Battery (previously known as Battery Park) is the reserved green space at the southern tip of Manhattan. The name dates to the time when the area housed a fort and artillery batteries for defense purposes. The Battery Website

Charging Bull

The iconic Charging Bull sculpture was created by artist Arturo Di Modica in 1989 (following the stock market crash of 1987) as a nod to the self-determined (some might say bullish) spirit of America to prosper. Weighing 3.5 tons, the bronze sculpture made its first appearance in front of the New York Stock Exchange, left there mysteriously by the artist in the middle of the night. It was quickly removed and relocated to nearby Bowling Green, where it stands today. It is estimated that 1,000 tourists stop to see the sculpture each day, many posing with it for a photo and then rubbing its nose, horns and genitals (no joke) for good luck.  Charging Bull information.

Wall Street

Wall Street is at the center of Manhattan’s Financial District – and standing at the corner of Wall Street and Broad Street is the New York Stock Exchange, one of the world’s top financial markets. The street, which runs 8 blocks to the East River, is also home to the Museum of American Finance, the Old Stonington Custom House, the Trump Building and Federal Hall (where George Washington was sworn in as the first United States president in 1789). Wall Street information

Trinity Church

The first Trinity Church was built on the location in 1698, but was destroyed by the Great New York City Fire of 1776. The second Trinity Church was built in 1790, and was the place of prayer for President Washington. The current Trinity Church with its soaring spire was built in 1846 and, at the time, was the tallest building in the US. Trinity Church Website.

The Sphere in Liberty Park

Opened in 2016, Liberty Park is located south of One World Trade Center. The raised park provides an elevated view of the National September 11 Memorial. At the center of Liberty Park is The Sphere. The 25-foot-tall sculpture once stood in the plaza between the Twin Towers. After the 9/11 attacks, The Sphere was recovered from the rubble at Ground Zero, surprisingly intact. Left in the condition in which it was found, The Sphere was first placed in Battery Park, but was relocated to Liberty Park, closer to its original location. The Sphere information.

9-11 Memorial

The National September 11 Memorial honors and remembers the nearly 3,000 people who were killed in the September 11, 2001 attacks. In place of where the Twin Towers once stood are now two reflecting pools. Etched in the railing surrounding the pools are the names of the victims who died during the attacks (in New York, Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon, as well as those who died in a World Trade bombing in 1993). Among the many trees at the monument is The Survivor Tree, which was discovered in the wreckage but still lives. It serves as a reminder of resilience and rebirth. The 9-11 Memorial Museum offers detailed information. 9-11 Memorial Website.

One World Trade Center

Also known as Freedom Tower, One World Trade Center was built from 2006 to 2013 on the north side of the 9/11 Memorial. The building stands at 1,776 feet (the year of US independence), which makes it the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere and the 6th tallest building in the world. On the 102nd Floor is One World Observatory, where visitors can take in the view (tickets start from $34). One World Trade Center Website.

The Oculus

To the east of the 9/11 Memorial is The Oculus, which was designed to look like a dove in flight. The unique building, which serves as a memorial and houses both a train station and a mall, cost an astounding $4 billion to build (most certainly NYC’s most expensive train station ever). Public Bathrooms. The Oculus information.

{From here, walk to the Cortlandt Street subway station and take the subway to East 23rd Street Station. Stop for lunch before embarking on a self-guided tour of the iconic buildings of NYC Midtown.} 


Map of Sights in Midtown for Day 1 of our New York Itinerary

Link to Midtown sights on Google Maps


LUNCH – Shake Shack

In 2001, Shake Shack was just another food cart in Madison Square Park. However, by 2004, they transformed from a cart into a permanent residence in the park, grilling up hot dogs and burgers for long lines of waiting customers. Today, the popular fast-food chain has more than 150 locations…but nothing beats the original! A burger at Shake Shack costs $5.50. Read this article for tips on what to eat at Shake Shack. TripAdvisor Reviews for Shake Shack.

Flatiron Building

The 22-story, triangular Flatiron Building was completed in 1902 – at the time, one of the tallest buildings in the city. The name comes from the design resembling a clothes iron. Tip: Stand with your back toward the Flatiron Building for a great view of the Empire State Building. Flatiron Building information.

Empire State Building

The Art Deco Empire State Building has been a symbol of New York since it was built in 1931 – and survives as an American icon today. It’s total height, including the antenna, is 1,454 feet and it reigned as the world’s tallest building from 1931 until 1970 (now it’s the world’s 28th tallest building). For many visitors, a trip to the 86th and 102nd story observation decks is a must-do in NYC! Empire State Building information.

New York Public Library

The main branch of the New York Public Library opened in 1911; in 1965 it was listed as a National Historic Landmark, in 1966, it was added to the National Register of historic Places and in 1967 it became an official New York City Landmark. At the entrance, two stone lions (named Patience and Fortitude) guard the doors. However, the real gem of the library is the Rose Main Reading Room, which is lined with thousands of books. New York Library information.

Bryant Park

Behind the library (to the west) is Bryant Park. Designated a park as early as 1847, it was named Bryant Park (after New York Evening Post editor William Cullen Bryant) in 1884. In the mid-1900s, the park was the site of rallies and drug deals. In 1988, the park was completely renovated, including the bathrooms, which had been closed for 35 years. Today, the bathrooms are an odd highlight of the park, as the public toilets are said to be the nicest in the entire city (complete with floral arrangements and an attendant). Bryant Park Website.

Grand Central Terminal

Grand Central Terminal has been a hub of NYC transportation since the year 1913. Today 750,000 people pass through GCT every day, not only to hop a train, but also to visit the shops and restaurants within the terminal. First time visitors, however, will want to pass through the Main Concourse to look up at the impressive zodiac ceiling and the classic opal clock perched above the information booth (which has an estimated value of $10 million). Public Bathrooms. Grand Central Terminal Website.

Chrysler Building

Built in 1930 for the Chrysler car corporation, the Art Deco building features an iconic ‘crown’ of steel (not a crown of hub caps, which is a popular urban myth). The building held the title as tallest building (beating out 40 Wall Street, aka Trump Building, that was constructed at the same time), but only for 11 months when the Empire State Building was completed. The observation deck has been closed for decades, but fans of Art Deco and historic places might want to take a peek inside the lobby, which is the only portion of the building open to the public. Chrysler Building information.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Build between 1858 and 1878 (and replacing Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Little Italy), St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the largest Neo-Gothic Catholic church in North America (taking up an entire city block). Main features of the church include the 330-foot spires, the stained-glass Rose window, the Tiffany & Co altars (of St. Louis and St. Michael) and the organ. St. Patrick’s Cathedral Website.

Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center is a complex of 19 buildings, originally designed and developed between 1930 and 1939 by the Rockefeller family. The Art Deco structures were declared both a New York City Landmark and a National Historic Landmark in the 1980s. Among the most popular buildings are the Top of the Rock and Radio City Music Hall. The two most recognizable statues at Rockefeller Center are Prometheus (a glittering statue in the Lower Plaza fountain of the Greek Titan bringing fire to man) and Atlas (a 45-foot-tall sculpture across from St. Patrick’s Cathedral of the Greek Titan holding the heavens). The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree and ice-skating rink are main attractions during the wintertime. Rockefeller Center information.

Radio City Music Hall

Home of The Rockettes dance company, Radio City Music Hall opened in 1932 featuring (at the time) the world’s largest auditorium. In 1978, the building was designated a New York City Landmark. Today, the 7-story-high neon signs still glow bright and the theater is still used for performances and shows. Radio City Music Hall information.

Times Square

Nicknamed “The Center of the Universe,” Times Square is part of the entertainment district in NYC. It is probably the busiest, most congested area of the city (an estimated 330,000 people walk through Times Square each day) and, not a square at all, in fact, but two triangles created by the crisscrossing of 7th Avenue and Broadway. Electronic billboards featuring video advertisements light up the square – day and night – and brand name shops line the streets. (Pop into the Hershey’s Store for a free mini-chocolate bar.) The Times Square Ball that drops annually at midnight on December 31 to mark the new year is located at the southern end of Times Square. The popular discount theater ticket seller, TKTS, office is in Times Square. Times Square Website.

Broadway Theater District

Although there is only one Broadway Theater, there are actually 41 theaters in New York’s Theater District that are collectively known as “Broadway”. Highly regarded as the top theater performances in the world, play tickets are a bit pricey (easily more than $300 per ticket). However, there are Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway shows that cost less – and TKTS sells deeply discounted tickets the day of the show. Tip: Besides the one-and-only Broadway Theater, other theaters of interest to many visitors are the famous 1970s disco, Studio 54 and Concert Hall, Carnegie HallBroadway Theater District information.

DINNER: The Halal Guys food cart or Xi’An Famous Foods

The Halal Guys is a classic New York success story. What began in 1990 as a hot dog cart transformed into filling a void in the Halal food market – and now they have more than 200 franchised locations. However, the original cart at West 53rd and 6th Avenue still operates, cranking out platters and sandwiches of chicken or gyro (or mix) topped with their secret ‘white’ or ‘red’ sauce for as little as $6. TripAdvisor Reviews for The Halal Guys.

Xi’An Famous is another well-known budget food stop in Midtown (with more locations around the city). The menu features a combination Chinese and Middle Eastern fare, which is found in the city of Xi’An, China. The ‘cheap’ option is their Spicy Cumin Lamb Burger for about $4, but for a little more, the dumplings are even better ($8)! Yelp Reviews Xi’An Famous Foods

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Day 2 in New York

On Day 2 of your 4-day trip to New York, wander the city’s most-loved and largest park and explore two often-missed neighborhoods. Start at Subway Station: Cathedral Pkwy


Map of Sights in Central Park and Roosevelt Island for Day 2 of our New York Itinerary

Link to Central Park Part 1 Google Maps | Roosevelt Island detour Google Maps | Central Park Part 2 Google Maps


Every New York Itinerary should include a visit to Central Park – and with four days in New York, there is ample time to see the park’s many attractions. Begin at the northwest corner of the park and make your way south on the west side of the park. NOTE: At the south end of the park, we make a detour to Roosevelt Island via the Roosevelt Tramway and then return to the park for more sightseeing. The detour can easily be eliminated if you would rather stay in the park. Central Park Website.

  • 1. North Woods, 2. The Ravine, 3. The Loch: One of the most secluded and natural sections of Central park. The wooded area features ponds, streams and waterfalls.
  • 4. North Meadow: 23 acres of open space, most often used for organized sports in the summertime.
  • 5. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir: Built as a temporary water supply for the city in the 1860s, the reservoir holds one billion gallons of water (which would only last the city 4 hours today!). It is named in honor of Jackie Kennedy Onassis, as it was one of her favorite spots to run. Other celebs who have been spotted on the 1.5-mile track are President Bill Clinton and Madonna.
  • 6. Great Lawn: Located in the center of Central Park, the Great Lawn has been the site of many concerts, like Simon and Garfunkel, Bon Jovi and the New York Philharmonic. Public Bathroom at south end.
  • 7. Belvedere Castle: Built in 1869, the fairytale castle provides fabulous views to the north (over Great Lawn) and to the south (over the Ramble). Weather instruments are hosted on the castle’s tower, allowing weathermen around the world to report the current weather in Central Park.  
  • 8. The Ramble: Designed as a natural landscape, there are several intertwining paths through the 38 acres of woods.
  • 9. Strawberry Fields (and 10. The Dakota): Dedicated to famed Beatles member John Lennon – and named after one of his songs, “Strawberry Fields Forever” – the tear-shaped garden (designed by Yoko Ono, Lennon’s widow) is classified a Quiet Zone for meditation. At the center is a black-and-white tiled mosaic, spelling out “Imagine,” the title of the best-selling single, written and performed by John Lennon. The Dakota, or The Dakota Apartments, is the historic building on the northwest corner of 72nd Street and Central Park West. John Lennon lived in the building from 1973 until 1980 when he was murdered. He was on his way home when he was shot in the back while walking through the archway of the Dakota Building.
  • 11. Tavern on the Green: A restaurant since 1934 (and a sheep fold for the 700 sheep that grazed in Central Park’s Sheep Meadow before that), Tavern on the Green is an NYC landmark restaurant serving upscale cuisine and classic cocktails.
  • 12. Central Park Carousel: The carousel first opened in Central Park in 1871 (when the carousel was powered by a mule and horse that were hidden below the ride). In total, there have been four carousels on the site; today’s carousel dates to 1908 and was restored for the park in 1990. There is a $3 fee to ride.
  • 13. Wollman Rink: The Wollman Rink, with NYC’s incredible skyline as a background, was opened in 1950 and has been featured in several films (like Serendipity and Love Story).
  • 14. Gapstow Bridge: The picturesque bridge was built in 1896 and provides stunning NYC skyline views.

LUNCH: Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Cart

Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Cart was started in 1916 by a Polish immigrant with a secret spice recipe. The original stand was on Coney Island and, back then, hot dogs only cost a nickel (today, they are a bit more expensive at $3.50 a dog). There are several Nathan’s Famous carts around the city – including one one the southeast corner of Central Park by the William Tecumseh Sherman Monument.

{Exit Central Park from the southeast corner and walk east on 59th Street. Pass Bloomingdale’s and continue another block to the Roosevelt Tramway Plaza.}

Roosevelt Tramway

The 3,100-foot-long Roosevelt Island Tramway is an aerial commuter tram connecting Manhattan’s Upper East Side to Roosevelt Island (which sits in the middle of the East River). Opened in 1976, the tramway has two capsules, each of which can carry 125 passengers on the 3-minute ride. Tip: The ride costs $2.75, but is included with the weekly unlimited MetroCard. Roosevelt Tramway information.

Roosevelt Island

Roosevelt Island is a slender, 2-mile-long island in New York’s East River. In the 1800s, the island was used to conceal the ill and poor from the rest of society. A smallpox hospital, almshouse, penitentiary and asylum were built on the small spit of land that was renamed Welfare Island. Today, apartments are clustered on the island, but a few historical structures remain and the southern tip (Public Bathroom) hosts a memorial dedicated to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. From the west side of the island, there are fantastic views of the NYC skyline. Tip: Spend time walking around the island (at the very least, walk to the southern end) or take the inexpensive bus that makes the loop around the island. Roosevelt Island information.


Central Park

Re-enter the park where you exited (on the southeast corner) and start your discovery of the east side of the park, traveling all the way to the northeast corner of the park. Central Park Website.

  • 18. Balto Statue: Balto is the famous Siberian husky that in 1925 led a team of sled dogs from Anchorage, Alaska to the town of Nome with the necessary medicine to stop a deadly epidemic. The dogs were considered heroes and Balto’s statue in Central Park commemorates the dogs’ efforts.
  • 19. The Mall: The elegant and wide pedestrian path (not a shopping center) is canopied by towering American elm trees. The Literary Walk begins at the southern end of The Mall, featuring famous writers of the past. Follow The Mall to the north, which ends at Bethesda Terrace.
  • 20. Bethesda Terrace, Fountain and Arcade: The grand and opulent Bethesda Terrace is a highlight of Central Park. The terrace overlooks The Lake and Bethesda Fountain. Beneath the terrace is the tiled arcade where musicians perform and wedding couples are photographed. Paddleboats can be rented nearby and The Loeb Boathouse restaurant is a popular spot to stop for an afternoon refreshment.
  • 21. Hans Christian Andersen Statue: Author of The Ugly Duckling and The Little Mermaid, Hans Christian Andersen’s statue is a favorite for children visiting the park.
  • 22. Conservatory Water Pond: Conservatory Water is a well-known pond used for navigating model boats.
  • 23. Alice in Wonderland Statue: In 1959, the bronze cast of characters from Alice in Wonderland was installed at the park.
  • 24. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, or just The Met, is New York City’s most popular museum. The Met opened in 1880 and features art from all over the world. A ticket to the museum is required for entry.
  • 25. Cleopatra’s Needle: The Obelisk, often called Cleopatra’s Needle, dates to the year 1450 BC, which makes it the oldest object in Central Park. It stands at 69-feet and weighs 220 tons and was erected in the park in 1881. A matching Obelisk stands along the Thames River in London.
  • 26. Conservatory Garden: The formally-planned Conservatory Garden features flowers, manicured hedges and fountains.
  • 27. Duke Ellington Circle: At the northeastern tip of Central Park is Duke Ellington Circle. A statue of the famed jazz musician, Duke Ellington, stands in the center of the plaza. (Public Bathroom behind the statue)


Map of Sights in East Harlem for Day 2 of our New York Itinerary

Link to East Harlem on Google Maps 


East Harlem – also called Spanish Harlem or El Barrio – is the district that lies between the Upper East Side and Harlem. Once settled primarily by Italians (and earning it the nickname of Italian Harlem), the area saw an influx of Puerto Rican and Latin American immigrants in the mid-1900s. Today, it’s a diverse neighborhood filled with bodegas, inspiring street art and a variety of Latin American restaurants. East Harlem information.

Graffiti Hall of Fame (and street art throughout)

East Harlem is a hotbed of street art. The walls of the Jackie Robinson Educational Complex Playground are covered in paint; the spot is now known as the Graffiti Hall of Fame. However, it isn’t the only spot to find murals and painted messages in El Barrio. Tip: Street art is ever-changing, so we suggest taking a walk around to see what you can find. That being said, a few of our favorite murals when we were there were: Tito Puente Oye Como Va at 110th and 3rd Avenue; Angel Wings under the tracks at Park Avenue and 111th; and a sketch by local street artist, James De La Vega, at 111th and Lexington Avenue. Graffiti Hall of Fame information

Want to find more Street Art in NYC? Check out this Street Art Guide for some of the murals in the city!

DINNER: Drink and Eat in East Harlem

There are a variety of restaurants in a range of prices to choose from in East Harlem. 

Drinks in East Harlem

Drinking at bars/restaurants in NYC is expensive. However, seeking out Happy Hours can definitely assist in keeping the budget in check. In East Harlem, we found a couple of places offering great happy hour prices for drinks. Craft beer enthusiasts should head to East Harlem Bottling Co for a great selection of beer. For those craving a Latin-inspired cocktail, go to Cascalote where happy hour margaritas cost $5. While there, if it’s in the budget, splurge for dinner – as the prices are fairly affordable (by comparison) for the modern Latin fare. At the very least, pony up for a snack of beef empanadas ($8), which pair perfectly with a classic margarita!

Restaurants in East Harlem

Hardcore budget-travelers also have a nice choice of food options in East Harlem. We recommend eating cuchifritos – Puerto Rican soul food – at aptly named Cuchifritos on 116th Street or El Chevere Cuchifritos on 3rd Avenue. Meals of whole roasted chicken with sides and a large drink cost less than $20 and are enough to feed at least 4 people! Don’t need so much food? Sample an array of the fried Latin goodies displayed in the window; each nugget costs about $1. Pizza can also be found for cheap in East Harlem. We recommend the Make and Bake $1 Pizza shop on 3rd Avenue where they serve tasty (and large) cheese slices for a buck.

If you are interested in dining at a historic establishment, try one of the Italian restaurants still operating in the neighborhood. For a classic (although not technically cheap) restaurant, go to Patsy’s Pizzeria (a large coal-oven Margherita pizza costs $18). Opened in 1933, Patsy’s legendary regulars include Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra and Francis Ford Coppola (who used the scene at the restaurant as inspiration for The Godfather films).


Day 3 in New York

On Day 3 of this NYC trip itinerary, take a walk on an elevated park, then spend the rest of the day immersing yourself in a few of New York City’s best neighborhoods. Start at Subway Station: 34th Street-Hudson Yards

Map of Sights for Day 3 of our New York Itinerary

Link to Day 3 NYC Sightseeing on Google Maps


The Hudson Yards Vessel

Just opened in 2019, The Vessel is a unique architectural structure of intertwining staircases and viewing platforms…and it’s completely free!  Tickets should be booked in advance, but some same-day tickets may be made available in the morning. Find out more here.

High Line Park

The High Line is NYC’s elevated-tracks-turned-park that hovers above the Meatpacking District in Chelsea. From 1934 until the 1980s, trains ran along the tracks on Manhattan’s west side transporting meat and other goods from the industrial zone. When the use of the trains became obsolete, the tracks were set to be demolished, but residents took up the cause to turn the relic into usable green space. Throughout the modern park are art installations, amazing viewpoints and a few remaining railway tracks, which can be seen running through flowerbeds. Walk the length of the park from north to south. (Public Bathroom at 16th Street) High Line Park Website.

{At 16th Street, take the stairs down to street level, cross the street to the south and enter the Chelsea Market}

Chelsea Market

Briefly detour from the park into the Chelsea Market. The upscale fare at the uber-hipster Chelsea Market (which is essentially a fancy food court) is most likely over-priced for budget travelers, but it is still worth a walk through. Tip: Check for free samples on the counter at Li-Lac Chocolates (which claims to be the oldest chocolate house in NYC). Chelsea Market Website.

{After walking through Chelsea Market, return to the High Line and continue walking south to the end of the park.}

Hudson River Greenway

The Hudson River Greenway is part of the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway walking/biking trail that follows almost the entire shoreline of Manhattan. Walking south offers fantastic views of the Hudson River and the Lower Manhattan skyline. Hudson River Greenway Website.

Greenwich Village

Greenwich Village – or simply The Village, as locals call it – is known as the artsy, bohemian district in Manhattan. The Village is home to NYU and Washington Square Park. Greenwich Village information.

LUNCH: Percy’s Pizza or Mamoun’s

Percy’s Pizza is hands-down our favorite dollar pizza in the city! It’s not just the crispy crust and ample cheese pizza for $1 that gets us excited, but also the friendly neighborhood vibe and shake-it-yourself Parmesan toppings that make it a great deal and fun place to go. TripAdvisor Reviews Percy’s Pizza.

Mamoun’s Falafel has been serving up their signature Falafel sandwich (just $4) from the original Village location since 1971. The tasty sandwich gets bonus points for having fresh lettuce and tomatoes (a true delight to the digestive system!). TripAdvisor Reviews Mamoun’s Falafel.

Tip: It would be a shame to have to choose between pizza and falafel! We recommend getting just one slice of pizza and then getting the falafel sandwich as well. Seriously, you won’t regret it!

Washington Square Park

Centrally located in The Village, Washington Square Park has the most interesting history of any NYC park. Originally marshland, then farmland, then graveyard (20,000 bodies are said to still be buried below the park!), then Military parade grounds, and (since 1950) a park. The notable features are the Washington Square Arch (which commemorates the inauguration of President George Washington) and the large, center fountain. (Public Bathroom) Washington Square Park information.


Today, top-end retailers and art galleries line the streets of Soho, but history buffs and architectural nuts will enjoy a stroll around the neighborhood without ever stepping foot in a store. Within the district is the Cast Iron Historic District, which consists of more than 200 buildings featuring cast iron design – and has been listed on the national Register of Historic Places and designated as a National Historic Landmark. Tip: Follow this useful self-guided walk of Soho for tips on what to see in the neighborhood. More Soho information

Fun Fact: The name Soho comes from the location of the district South of Houston…and Houston is pronounced House-ton.

Little Italy 

In 1910, 10,000 Italians lived in the area of Lower Manhattan nicknamed Little Italy. The district’s borders were Houston Street, Bowery, Worth Street and Lafayette Street – and many high-powered members of the Italian Mafia lived in Little Italy. Since that time, however, the district has dwindled to just 3 blocks on a single street, Mulberry Street, that mostly caters to tourists (who, like myself, are enthralled by the tales of NYC’s crime families and the feeling of stepping into the scenes from The Godfather). Tip: Follow this useful self-guided tour of Little Italy for tips on what on see in the neighborhood.  More Little Italy information.


Manhattan’s Chinatown is a thriving community of Chinese people. Walk down Chinatown’s Pell Street, with neon signs displaying Chinese symbols and dried fish products overflowing from markets, to get a vibe for the neighborhood. Known for a high concentration of Asian restaurants and street vendors hawking knock-off merchandise, a stroll through the neighborhood is truly a feast for the senses. Tip: Follow this self-guided tour of Chinatown for tips on what to see (and eat!) in the neighborhood. More Chinatown information(Public Bathroom in Columbus Park)

Top Tip: Join a FREE (tip-based) tour of Soho, Little Italy and Chinatown offered by Free Tours By Foot to get a 2-hour guided tour of the three districts. Tours begin at 2pm on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays and at 9:45am on Mondays. Reservations are required. 

DINNER: Eat in Chinatown

Taking the tips from the above mentioned self-guided walking tour of Chinatown, we found a few cheap eats in Chinatown. We started with a portion of $1.25 pork dumplings from Fried Dumpling (which I loved, but many in our group thought they were too greasy). We then headed to Mei Li Wah Bakery for the $1.20 baked pork buns, which earned unanimous thumbs up from our crew. Tip: For more dinner options, check out this list of cheap places to eat in Chinatown. 


Day 4 in New York

On the last day of your 4-day trip to New York City, spend some time in Brooklyn before ending your stay with a classic NYC deli meal. Start at Subway Station: Bedford Avenue Station

Map of Sights on Day 4 for our New York Itinerary

Link to Day 4 Brooklyn Sights on Google Maps




Brooklyn borough is three times larger than compact Manhattan island and quite a bit more time consuming to travel around…today will test your skills – and patience – at riding the subway. The once inexpensive, diverse neighborhood has seen a sweep of gentrification in recent years…but it’s a process that is still on-going and there are many enclaves in Brooklyn to check out during a visit. Brooklyn information.


Williamsburg is the original hipster district in Brooklyn known for its incredible nightlife and trendy brunch spots. Tip: Follow this Williamsburg Walking Tour for a quick look at the district. Williamsburg information.

{Take a stroll around the stylish neighborhood and then continue your journey via subway from Bedford Avenue Station to Jefferson Street Station.}

Bushwick Collective Street Art

Unlike polished Williamsburg, Bushwick is an industrial neighborhood with plenty of wall space for artists to use as a canvas for street art murals. Most of the art in what is now called ‘The Bushwick Collective’ is not commissioned, but rather the artists get permission to paint (and, we overheard a tour guide say some of the artists actually have to pay the building owners to paint on their walls). Tip: Find the best street art in the neighborhood using this self-guided tour complete with helpful map.

{From the Bushwick Collective, take the subway from Jefferson Street Subway Station – transfer at Broadway Jct – to Nostrand Av.}

LUNCH: A&A Bake and Doubles Shop

If you are wondering what a ‘doubles’ is, you’re not alone. I had to look it up…and the description might not sound appealing: fried bread stuffed with curried chickpeas, which is typical Trinidadian fare. According to raving reviews, A&A Bake and Doubles Shop (also known as A&A The Doubles King) apparently make the best ones outside of the Caribbean. As a bonus, they are soft on the budget at only $1.50 per doubles…so, go ahead, get two! Yelp reviews A&A Bakes and Doubles Shop.

{From A&A Bake and Doubles Shop, walk west to the Franklin Avenue Subway Station and take the subway to Prospect Park Subway Station.} Tip: If Trinidadian cuisine isn’t for you (or if it’s Sunday, when the shop is closed), take the exact same route to Prospect Park and stop at Nagle’s Bagels for a classic NYC bagel with cream cheese ($3) before heading inside the park. OR, if it’s a summer Sunday, head inside the park to the Smorgasburg Market, an open-air market with 100 food vendors. 

Prospect Park 

Designed by the same duo who laid out Central Park, Prospect Park features open fields, ample paths, a zoo, a amphitheater and several lakes. Wander through the park to the northwest to the Grand Army Plaza. (Public Bathrooms in park) Prospect Park Website

Brownstones of Park Slope

The term ‘brownstone’ comes from a type of sandstone building material used in many structures in NYC, but also refers to the architectural element of a staircase rising from street level to the front door on the second level (designed to avoid the animal waste that covered the streets). There are a high concentration of brownstones in Brooklyn, with some of the most beautiful buildings in Park Slope. Tip: Head south on 8th Avenue from Grand Army Plaza and zigzag through the neighborhood or follow part of this walking tour. Brooklyn Brownstones information.

{From Park Slope, take the subway from the 7 Av Subway Station to York Street Subway Station to DUMBO.}


DUMBO, which stands for “Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass,” was once an industrial district in the city. Today, the warehouse buildings are being used as galleries by artists and as offices by tech firms. The riverside park, Brooklyn Bridge Park, offers stunning views of the Manhattan skyline. DUMBO information.

{Walk under the Brooklyn Bridge on Prospect Street to the stairs that lead up to the Brooklyn Bridge Promenade.}

Brooklyn Bridge 

Taking 14 years to complete, the Brooklyn Bridge opened in 1883 to connect Manhattan to Brooklyn over the East River. At the time, the 1,595-foot-bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world and an instant icon for the city for its distinguishable towers and web of cables. Often referred to as the 8th Wonder of the World, the bridge is crossed by an estimated 150,000 vehicles and 4,000 pedestrians every day. Those who walk from Brooklyn to Manhattan are treated to spectacular views. Brooklyn Bridge information.

New York City Hall 

At the west end of the Brooklyn Bridge is City Hall Park. At the center of the park is the landmark New York City Hall, which was completed in 1812 and is the oldest city hall in the United States. The Office of the Mayor of New York and city council chambers are still located inside the building. NY City Hall information.

{From City Hall Park, walk north on Center Street and take the subway from Chambers Street Subway Station to the Essex Street Station. Walk north to Katz’s Deli.}

Katz’s Deli

With a history that dates to 1888 and meat that takes 30 days to cure, Katz’s Delicatessen is legendary in New York City. Many movies and TV shows have filmed scenes at Katz’s Deli, including a famous scene from When Harry Met Sally (the table where they sat is marked with a sign hanging from the ceiling, which reads, “Where Harry met Sally..hope you have what she had! Enjoy!”). Pastrami on Rye is the thing to order, but it’s a bit of a budget-buster, costing more than $20. However, it can easily be shared with two people and is so worth it.  TripAdvisor reviews Katz’s Deli. Katz’s Deli Website.

Pro Tip: The nearby Ukrainian restaurant, Veselka, is a favorite NYC diner for hearty yet inexpensive eats. Established in 1954, the restaurant is open 24/7…but we have yet to dine there!

McSorley’s Old Ale House

Claiming to be NYC’s oldest continuously operated pub, McSorely’s Old Ale House was opened in 1854. The historic ale house, which was a “men’s only” bar until 1970, has been visited by many famous people (including Abe Lincoln, Dustin Hoffman and the New York Rangers hockey team after they won the Stanley Cup in 1994). Inside the cozy tavern, newspaper articles and old photos cover the walls, sawdust covers the floor and classic bartenders pour the beers. They keep it simple with just two choices of house beer: light or dark…and every beer ($5.50) is 2-for-1! TripAdvisor reviews McSorley’sMcSorley’s Old Ale House Website


Watch our video highlights of NYC



New York Itinerary Suggestions

Whether you are trying to see New York in a day or have a week in New York, we have a few suggestions for sightseeing, using our New York City Itinerary 4 Days as a base.

Tip: You will want to take full advantage of your time in NYC! If you arrive to the city before you can check into your accommodations – or are in New York on a long layover and want to explore the city – store your bags at one of the many convenient luggage storage locations through Bounce. *A 10% discount will be applied when you use this link!

1 Day in NYC

Trying to see NYC in a day? Just follow Day 1 of this guide – and walk through the southern end of Central Park after sightseeing in Midtown.

2 Days in NYC

If you have just a couple of days or are trying to create a Weekend in NYC Itinerary, we recommend following Day 1 of this NYC itinerary – and then combining Days 2 and 3 by spending half a day in Central Park and half a day exploring the vibrant neighborhoods (Soho, Little Italy, Chinatown). Alternatively, a New York weekend itinerary could include Day 1, then on Day 2 spend the morning in Central Park and the afternoon in Brooklyn.

3 Days in NYC

With 3 days in New York, we recommend following Days 1 and 3 of this itinerary then on Day 3, spend half the day in Central Park and half the day in Brooklyn.

5 Days in New York

Having 5 days in NYC is ideal! Follow our guide of what to do in New York in 4 days, then use your last day to see any of the sights you had to skip or add more neighborhood exploration (like Hell’s Kitchen and/or Harlem). Alternatively, you could create a New York Itinerary 5 Days that includes one day of splurging on experiences, like Top of the Rock or The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

7 Days in New York

Looking for a 1 week in New York Itinerary? Check out our suggestions for New York Itinerary 7 Days in our New York City One-Week Itinerary.

Tip: We think the truly best New York itinerary is one that suits the traveler! Our New York City Itinerary 4 Days is packed with sightseeing on foot (which we happen to think is the best way to tour NYC!), but that much walking might not be for everyone. Use our NYC itinerary as a guide, but make adjustments in order for your New York itinerary to fit your travel style!


Trip to New York Cost

On our 4-day trip to New York City, we were determined to experience NYC on a budget – and we did! As outlined in our New York Itinerary, our only costs while sightseeing were the MetroCard ($33) and meals (which can cost as little as $10 per day). However, there are other costs involved in a trip to New York City…like a place to stay and flights! 

Finding Cheap Places To Stay in New York City

On our trip to New York, we were house and pet-sitting – so our accommodations were free. However, had we needed to find accommodations in NYC, it would have been the biggest cost of our trip. ‘Cheap’ hotels in NYC don’t really exist. Less expensive hotels can be found outside of Manhattan, but finding anything for $100 or less can be a struggle – even a single bed in a hostel dorm costs $50 (at minimum!).

Start your search on to find a NYC hotel or hostel that fits your budget.

For more affordable accommodations, consider staying in an Airbnb apartment. (Not already a member of Airbnb? Use this link to create an account and save money on your first stay!) We have found that staying in apartments is often less expensive than hotel rooms – with the added benefit of a kitchen and, usually, more space. While an entire apartment in Manhattan will still cost a bundle, there are private rooms in Queens, Harlem and Jersey City that cost around $50.

New York City holiday apartments can also be found on FlipKey (which is part of TripAdvisor) or on VRBO – Vacation Rentals By Owner. True budget travelers will want to consider Couchsurfing, where hosts allow guests to stay with them for free.

Tip: Be sure to choose accommodations that are close to subway access!


Cheap Eats in NYC

Eating at sit-down restaurants in NYC is expensive, which is why we chose eat-on-the-go food for our NYC Budget Itinerary. However, if you have a week in NYC – or if you just can’t stomach ‘street meat’ – pop into one of the many New York grocery stores, corner markets or delis, where you can easily buy affordable food, snacks and fruit.

Note: Our guide to NYC doesn’t include breakfast recommendations. Instead of eating out for breakfast, we started our day with a healthy granola bar and inexpensive apples we picked up from the store.


Cheap Sightseeing in NYC

Our New York Itinerary includes incredible sightseeing that doesn’t cost a single cent. However, if visiting some of the iconic New York sights is high on your list, buying a sightseeing pass might be financially beneficial. Top NYC sightseeing passes promise to save you time and money. We recommend researching the different cards to find that one that will provide you with the best experience at the best price. Some cards offer unlimited sights for a specific number of days (1 to 10 days) or a number of sights (2 to 12 attractions) that can be visited over a 30-day period. The Sightseeing Pass offers both types of passes. Get details, like included sights and prices, for the Sightseeing Pass. You can also save money with discounts of up to 40% on New York City tours and Activities with Viator.


Getting Around NYC for Cheap

Cabs in NYC are expensive, which is why we suggest buying a weekly unlimited MetroCard for access to the subway, buses and the Roosevelt Tramway. The weekly pass becomes financially beneficial if used for at least 12 rides. Our itinerary (assuming each day will start and end with a subway ride), includes 16 rides.

In our New York Itinerary, we recommend specific subway routes that will get you from one sight to the next. We do not, however, give recommendations on bus routes, which may be more direct and save time. For the best, up-to-minute NYC public transportation options, we recommend using Google Maps (just make sure to carry a portable power bank for your phone, as we needed the extra boost for our phones by the end of the day!). Tip: If you would rather take a car than the subway, consider taking Uber over a taxi. They are still expensive, but less than a cab.  

Tips for using the NYC Subway

  • Before entering the subway, check for a direction on the station sign. Some stations are direction-specific, but not all.
  • Swipe your card at a steady pace. Going too fast or too slow won’t work. Keep swiping until it unlocks the gate.
  • When a train approaches, check the sign on the front and side of the cars to ensure it is the train you want (several trains use the same platform).
  • Forget what you’ve heard about New York attitudes – most New Yorkers are actually incredibly nice and helpful, especially when it comes to assisting with the subway. If you are unsure where to go, just ask a fellow passenger!
  • For more tips on using the NYC subways and buses, go to the official MTA Website


Getting To NYC

Our preferred method of getting anywhere is by flying (we are JetSetting Fools, after all!) and when we need to purchase plane tickets, we start our search for the best deals on airline tickets on Skyscanner or Flight Hub.


Essentials for your NYC Trip: 

  • Good walking shoes are a must for our New York itinerary! I have used shoes by Columbia and Kris likes his by Merrell
  • Having a good paper NYC Map and Subway Map can help immensely when trying to sort out directions. Phones rarely work in the subway and batteries lose their charge quickly in the city. (Which is why having a portable charger is also key!)
  • Most of the sights on our itinerary are outdoors. Be prepared for any weather by carrying an umbrella, travel poncho, sunscreen and a hat.
  • We think travel insurance is absolutely essential – even when on a budget! If you haven’t already obtained travel insurance for your trip, travel protected with World Nomads.

Start planning your trip to New York! Search for the lowest airfares, the best accommodations and fun things to do…then start packing!  Want more travel planning tips? Head over to our Travel Planning page for more information and tips on traveling – and for country-specific information, take a look at our Travel Guides page!


We want to know:  What would you add to our New York Itinerary? What are your New York must-see cities and sights? Give us your best tips and advice in the comment section! Also visiting Boston? Read our perfect Weekend In Boston Itinerary!


Traveling To More USA Destinations? We have detailed blog posts for your visit to Austin, weekend in San Francisco, Flagstaff AZ, San Diego, Denver, DC, Philly and Chicago!


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