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New York: The Ultimate 4-Day Travel Guide

To the point New York is the perfect destination for a quick getaway. Here's our ultimate travel guide complete with tips for maximum savings.

New York has always been an easy getaway from Canada. The Big Apple is connected to most major Canadian cities by air and is easily reached by road.

New York poses a unique advantage in that it is possible to discover the city in just a few days. With the Labor Day and Thanksgiving long weekends are coming up, now is the perfect time to plan and prepare a trip to New York.

New York

Having been to New York about 20 times, I suggest the following itinerary that will allow you to make the most of your New York bucket list. However, New York is so close to Canada that you’ll want to return even if you do everything on this list.

New York: a 4-day itinerary

To visit New York effectively, it is best to plan your days well; this metropolis may look small and compact on a map, but it is quite the opposite in person.

Make sure you have comfortable shoes! New York is a city that can be explored on foot!

First day

Central Park is located in the heart of Manhattan; this park is massive! You could easily spend the whole day walking around.

For my part, I particularly like the area to the south with the view of the iconic The Plaza Hotel, managed by Fairmont. The contrast between the park and the density of the buildings is quite something.

New York Central Park

Then, I recommend you visit one of the following three museums in New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met), the American Museum of Natural History,or the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Each of these museums is very interesting and houses works such as Vincent Van Gogh’s ego portrait, the life-size model of a blue whale at the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life, and Monet’s paintings.

Then, if Broadway musicals are your thing, I suggest you go to Times Square to get discounted tickets at the TKTS counter. Lines are often long so it’s best to be there when they open. Discounted tickets are only available for same-day performances.

In Times Square, there are several iconic stores that are worth a small detour like the M&M store, for example. Take a walk!

M&M Store NYC
New York 5th

While waiting for your show time, you can take a stroll down 5th Avenue and do a little window shopping.

Finally, after your show, head back to the center of Times Square to get a sense of the pulse of the place. Times Square comes alive at night with all the lights from the advertisements. It’s a VERY touristy place in New York, but it’s pretty iconic so you shouldn’t miss it!

Times Square
Times Square

Second day

Today, I suggest you continue to explore New York‘s Midtown; several tourist attractions are clustered in the area.

  • Grand Central Terminal
  • New York Public Library
  • Bryant Park
  • Rockefeller Center
  • Top of the Rock Observation Deck
  • Empire State Building
  • Macy’s
  • Madison Square Garden

Grand Central station is still operational so don’t be surprised to see a lot of comings and goings. The hall’s ceiling is particularly impressive.

New York Grand Central

Afterwards, you can take a walk to the New York Public Library which is only a few minutes away. The building itself is majestic.

Bryant Park is right behind the library, which is perfect for sitting down for coffee and a bite to eat.

During the summer, the Movies in the Park event is held every Monday in Bryant Park. The film starts at sunset.

In the afternoon, take a trip to Rockefeller Center and the observatory! The views of New York are breathtaking! This place is very busy, especially at the end of the day.

Rockefeller center
New York Rock
New York Rock
New York Rock

The giant Christmas tree is set up at Rockefeller Center around mid-November and is lit during the annual lightning which takes place on the first Wednesday after American Thanksgiving.

Then, it’s worth making a detour to Macy’s which is a giant iconic store in New York. To end the evening, why not go to a game or a show at Madison Square Garden? There’s always something going on at this place that hosts great artists and sports teams. This venue is home to the New York Rangers and the New York Knicks.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at New York Knicks

Third day

On the third day in New York, I recommend visiting the south of Manhattan.

This area of New York is full of history. First of all, the 9/11 Museum and Memorial are not to be missed. This recent event is a landmark event of the 21st century.

The names of the victims are carved into the 9/11 Memorial and it is quite moving to be at this historic place where thousands of people lost their lives.

New York 9:11

When you think of the stock market and finance, you immediately imagine Wall Street and New York. So, a trip to the New York Stock Exchange building is a must in my opinion; there is also a statue of a bull representing a bull market!

New York Stock Exchange
New York Bull

At end the day, you can take a walk on the Brooklyn Bridge; it will take you about half an hour to get to Brooklyn from Manhattan. The views of New York City are beautiful, especially at sunset.

New York DUMBO

For a great photo and the best view of the Brooklyn Bridge, you have to go to the corner of Front and Washington Streets in DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass).

Fourth day

For your last day in New York, I recommend a trip to the Statue of Liberty. This attraction is the emblem of New York City so it would be unthinkable to miss it on a first visit!

To visit the Statue of Liberty, it is best to get there very early in the morning, as the lines are very long.

The Staten Island Ferry is free and runs right by the Statue!

Staten Island Ferry

There are luggage transfer services in New York like Luggage Free. The company can transport your luggage to the airport. This way, you can enjoy your last day in New York without being crowded and without having to return to the hotel. Fares start at around US$60-70 for a carry-on bag.

Where to eat in New York?

There is no shortage of restaurants in New York! Honestly, trying restaurants is part of the experience, but here are my inexpensive favorites:

  • Ootoya: one of my favorite Japanese restaurant chains. The taste is similar to the Ootoya franchises in Japan!
  • Koreantown: if you can’t go to Korea, Korean food in New York is great. The entire 34th Street between 5th and 6th Avenue is full of great Korean restaurants.
  • Rubirosa Pizza: one of the best pizzerias in New York. The Margarita pizza is particularly good.
  • Shake Shack: the burgers and fries are delicious and not too expensive (it’s the rival of In-N-Out Burger!)
  • Food courts: a variety of options for all tastes and budgets (Time Out Market, Great Food Hall, Chelsea Market, etc.)

What activities to book in New York?

You can consult the activities to book in New York with our partner Viator:

Where to stay in New York?

When people think of a New York City getaway, they usually refer to Manhattan. However, there are five distinct metropolitan areas that make up New York City: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and the Bronx.

For a short vacation in New York City, most people will be in Manhattan, so it is best to stay in this district.

New York 3

For families, the area around Central Park is the best place to be since the best children’s museums are located there, like the American Museum of Natural History. Then, after a long day in a museum, you can enjoy some fresh air in the park!

For fans of musicals, Midtown Manhattan or Times Squares will be the best place to stay in New York. For New York’s best-known tourist attractions, it’s best to find a hotel in the south of Manhattan which is also often less expensive.

Hotels are very expensive in New York, so it’s a great place to use points to their fullest!

When I go to New York City, I especially like to book my accommodations in the Financial District since the accommodations are more affordable in points and the public transportation allows me to get everywhere. Therefore, it is frequently possible to use a free night certificate in this area.

This is an excellent use of the certificate offered by Marriott Bonvoy® American Express®* Card and the Marriott Bonvoy® Business American Express®* Cardas you can see here, the hotel AC Hotel New York Downtown costs close to $520 ($400 US), while the certificates (an annual benefit of these credit cards) when renewing the cards by only paying $120 and $150 for the respective annual fees.

New York Certificat Nuit Gratuite

As a couple, you could each take these cards and accumulate 4 free nights for a total of $540 (2 cards costing $120 each and 2 cards for $150) instead of paying $520 per night! That’s substantial savings for a weekend in New York!

These cards also offer generous welcome bonuses!

How to get to New York for less?

With promotional offers and travel points

American Express credit card holders often have promotional purchase offers like the following:

New York offre Amex United

This offer allows you to receive a $250 credit when you purchase more than $500 on United‘s site. United is also a partner with Air Canada so it is easy to find flights to New York from anywhere in the country.

A search for a long weekend in New York for the Thanksgiving holiday results in a ticket that totals $502. With the American Express promotional offer, your flight will be only $252! If you are traveling as a couple, it may be smart to pay for your tickets separately if you both have the offer on your credit card!

New York offre Amex United 2

This is just one of many American Express promotional offers! This more than makes up for the $155 annual fee of a card like the American Express Cobalt® Card.

Finally, if you received this offer on your American Express Cobalt® Card like me, you can use your Membership Rewards points for a travel credit to cover the remaining amount!

You’ll need 25,200 Membership Rewards points with the promotional offer (or 50,200 points without the offer) to get a totally free flight; these points are easily collected with the welcome bonus from the American Express Cobalt® Card welcome bonus or with your everyday purchases.

In fact, you get 5X points on all spending at the grocery store including the entire gift card display. So you can earn 5X points on a multitude of other purchase categories like gas, Amazon, Walmart, etc. with the gift card strategy!

With Aeroplan points

United Airlines and Air Canada both operate flights to New York. Both have benefits; United is a partner, so the price is fixed at 6,000 Aeroplan points for a one-way trip from Montreal or Quebec City.

On the other hand, it can be difficult to find availability. If you can’t find one, you can use a tool like ExpertFlyer to receive an alert when space becomes available.

Liaison de YUL-NYC
Liaison YQB-NYC

With Air Canada, all seats can be booked with points until the flight is full. On the other hand, the rates can change. This last element can also be positive as it is not uncommon to find one-way tickets below 6000 points on Air Canada!

New York Aeroplan

We usually try to get the maximum value when we use points. So, there is a valuation calculation to be done to determine what is better between paying in points or in cash.

In this case, the cost of the airfare is $512.08 or 11,200 Aeroplan points + $82.60 tax.

New York Passe-boni

($512.08 – $82.60) ÷ 11,200 Aeroplan points x 100 = 3.8¢ per point

Milesopedia estimates the value of an Aeroplan point at 2¢ per point. So using Aeroplan points to go to New York is a great use in this case!

To get to New York with Aeroplan points, you could quickly earn points with the welcome bonus on the TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite* Card; the bonus on this card allows you to take your family of 4 on a long weekend trip to New York!

Plus, you’ll have the added benefit of being able to check in your luggage for free in case you feel like shopping in New York!

With a buddy pass

Do you have a companion pass that is about to expire? The latter can be used on all Air Canada flights in North America, so you can take advantage of it to treat yourself to a little weekend in New York as a couple or with friends!

When using a companion pass, you can get a second free ticket. However, you still have to pay airport taxes.

So, to go to New York with a companion pass with the same fare seen in the previous section :

Person Cost of ticket Taxes
You $355.00 $157.08
Your companion free of charge $157.08

So, between the two of you, your airfare to New York will total $669.16 or $335 per person.

With a car

New York City is approximately 600 km from Montreal, which is great for a long weekend.

With a standard vehicle that consumes 8L per 100km of road, a round trip should cost between $150 – $200 with current pump prices. For a family, this is definitely the most affordable way to get to New York.

To save money on gas, consider purchasing grocery store gift cards with your American Express Cobalt® Card to collect 5X the privilege points! Yes, you can also earn 5X points in the U.S. or elsewhere in the world with your American Express Cobalt® Card.

Gas is a little cheaper in the United States! So, wait until the border crossing to fill up. Then, during your stay, there are several places to park for free in town!

Statue de la Liberté

How do I get to the city from the New York airports?

New York has three major airports:

  • Newark Liberty International (EWR)
  • LaGuardia (LGA)
  • John F. Kennedy International (JFK)

If you use United Airlines or Air Canada, you will be landing and departing from EWR and LGA. Currently, there are no flights between Quebec and JFK; therefore, we won’t spend much time on how to get to JFK.

Of course, you can easily take a cab, an Uber, or a Lyft to reach your hotel, which will cut into your budget by $50 to $100 US. In addition, there is sometimes a surcharge for luggage, toll booths, etc.

Here are some alternative and more economical ways to get to New York City from the various airports.

Traffic is often unpredictable in New York City, so plan accordingly.

New York Airport

Go Airlink NYC is reliable as a door-to-door service and it’s possible to book your seat for between $20-30 US per person from EWR, LGA or JFK. Prices vary greatly and you can get a quote before you buy online. If you are going in a group, it may be cheaper to just jump in a cab.

These transfers are shared with other individuals. Therefore, it is possible to have to wait for the bus to fill up. Sometimes you have to wait, because you can be the first or last passenger to be get off.

To travel cheaper in New York, you will have to take only public transportation, even from the airport!

Newark Liberty International

The EWR airport is located in New Jersey and the trip to Manhattan can take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes depending on the time of day.

The Express Bus Service

There is an express bus that connects EWR and various locations in Manhattan:

  • Grand Central Station
  • Bryant Park
  • Port Authority Bus Terminal

Reservations are not possible on this bus service so you are at the mercy of the ridership. Departures are every 15-20 minutes and a one-way ticket costs $18 US.

The AirTrain

Personally, I love EWR’s AirTrain to New York because you’ll never get stuck in traffic, no matter the time of day.

The AirTrain is accessible from all EWR terminals, runs regularly and arrives at New York Penn Station in 30 minutes. The fee is $15.25 US.

New York Subway 2

LaGuardia

LGA is the New York airport that is geographically closest to Manhattan. However, you will inevitably have to take a bus and a subway to get to the city. You can expect to get there in 1 hour. Some bus lines connect LGA to the subway system such as the Q70 and M60.

To reach Midtown, the Q70 travels to the Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Ave station in the Queens district where multiple subway lines are available to take you into Manhattan. This bus also has a luggage rack.

The fare is only $2.75 US! However, you must purchase a MetroCard for $1. This card is reloadable for your subsequent trips!

If your intention is to use the subway exclusively on your New York City getaway, purchase the 7-day MetroCard Unlimited fare right away when you arrive at LGA! The MetroCard does not operate from EWR, as the train system is owned by New Jersey.

How to get around New York?

New York City is very easy to discover by public transportation; there is a subway station on almost every corner! A MetroCard Unlimited Pass will give you unlimited passes for 7 days for $33 USD. Single tickets cost $2.75 US so it adds up quickly.

New York Subway

Then, the Uber and Lyft apps are very convenient when visiting New York in a group. Yellow cabs are also an icon of New York although they are a bit more expensive than Uber and Lyft, but it’s worth taking it at least once for the experience!

And credit cards are accepted in cabs, Uber, and Lyft, so be sure to use a credit card like the HSBC World Elite® Mastercard® to save the 2.5% foreign currency fee!

New York 4

A travel guide to New York

Don’t forget to pick up a New York City travel guide from the Ulysses bookstore!

Here are two travel guides about New York:

Conclusion

New York City is the perfect destination for a weekend getaway.

Although it is expensive, there are many ways to reduce costs when you play your cards right!

Did you like this guide? Check out the one on Los Angeles in 4 days!

Come to discuss that topic in our Facebook Group!

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