How to Enjoy New York City on a Budget
All the Things you can do in NYC that are Free or Almost-Free
Maybe, it's your day off. Maybe, you have some time on your hands. Maybe, you opted for a staycation. Maybe, you are spending few days in New York City ... Whichever "maybe" applies to you, let's say you want to enjoy New York City but realized you don't have much money to spend -- what then?
New York City is often thought, correclty, an expensive city to live and to visit. I thought to share with you all the things I love to do that don't require a lot of $$$. I'll divide them into two groups -- "COMPLETELY FREE" and "INEXPENSIVE." There is no particular order, only how they popped in my head. Those things that I do more often are probably listed at the top.
Of course, the most obvious FREE thing you can do is -- walk around the city! If there is ONE thing that never gets boring here is WALKING. The parks, the neighborhoods, the bridges, etc. I will list here some ideas divided by themes. Feel free to reach out in the comments below if you have some questions or need some help.
Love the Views?
Walk a Bridge. I would recommend the Brooklyn Bridge or the Manhattan Bridge first, alternatively the Williamsburg or the Queensboro Bridge. Preferably early in the morning or at sunset for the best colors. Remember to walk towards Manhattan for the best Skyline Views.
Love Mother Nature?
Walk around Central Park. You have lots of itineraries you can follow inside the park. You can do a "Movie theme" walk to see the most iconic places featured in movies such as Wollman Ice-skating Rink, Bow Bridge, Gapstow Bridge, Bethesda Terrace, and The Mall. Or maybe you want to "Get lost in Nature" then you should walk around the Ramble, Belvedere Castle, The Ravine, and the North Woods. ALTERNATIVE: If you are in Brooklyn, then you have Prospect Park to delight you!
Love the Arts?
Walk around the East Village and Lower East Side for some of the best Street Arts the city can offer. Especially the Lower East Side with its "100 Gates Project" is very colorful. You might decide to also include Chinatown in your itinerary after all they are all next to each other and they are quintessential NYC.
Looking for something Peaceful?
In Roosevelt Island, go walk around the "Four Freedoms Park" for incredible views and a healthy dose of peace & tranquility.
If you have your own skates than go to Bryant Park! It's the only FREE Ice-skating rink in the city. Of course the caveat is that if you do not own skates then you must rent them for $21 ... You can make your reservation here.
If you love Fashion, even if you are not buying anything, but you just love looking at the different styles and extravagant clothes -- go to SoHo! You will also have the incredible Cast-Iron Architecture to delight you while you window shop.
Love Architectural Contrasts?
Walk the iconic elevated Highline Park. I would recommend starting from the South Entrance and make your way up towards the new Hudson Yards Complex. Here, you can admire this new multi-billion-dollar complex which include a very luxurious Mall, the Vessel and the Shed (a performing art center).
Want to Pay Tribute?
Visit the 9/11 Memorial. A piece of NYC will never come back, and it's our duty to make sure we shall never forget. It's beautifully done with the 2 large pools carrying the names of those we lost.
The new Moynihan Train Station (Amtrak Station) located on 33rd & 8th Avenue. Why would I send you to visit a Train Station? Well, if you are familiar with Penn Station you know how horrible it was ... to finally have such an elegant train station, is like WOWWWW ... We are so very excited! Make sure you check the little details including the lamps and the art-works found throughout the train station.
The Oculus (World Trade Center) also a train station (for the subway and the NJ PATH only) less new-ish than the Moynihan but still iconic. It's the impressive work of art by the Spanish Architect Calatrava. Took an extra 2 years & extra 2 billions to complete but the final look is quite spectacular.
Grand Central Terminal. Although it's under renovation right now, GCT is quintessential NYC from the movies to the countless appointments, you must visit.
Visit the Urban Farm. A 40,000 SF environmentally-sustainable garden located at the southern end of Randall Island. Although, this space is mainly used as a classroom for students and children, they offer Exploration Days during the Summer months so the public can go and learn about sustainability and farming.
People Watching, Live Music & Chess Games?
Go to Washington Square Park. Here you can watch how people interact with each other, local artists perform regularly, musicians, and of course the iconic Chess Games!
Love the Water?
Ride the NYC Ferry ($2.75 per ride.) There are several routes you can choose from, depending on where you want to go. This is a perfect way to go to Dumbo, Williamsburg and Long Island City. They have both indoor and outdoor seating. Each Ticket comes with a 90-minute free-transfer to other routes.
Love The Arts?
Visit a Museum during their free days or "Pay as you Wish" days so you can make a donation that's comfortable to you. Here are some of my favorite: The Met Museum (pay as you wish must be a NY resident,) The Whitney (Free on Fridays pms,) The American Museum of Natural History (pay as you wish, must be a NY Resident,) The Guggenheim (Pay as you wish on Saturdays) -- if you need more ideas, comment below.
Love the Heights?
Ride the Roosevelt Island Tramway. It's an elevated, oversized, Sky Gondola that runs parallel to the Queensboro Bridge. You can use your MTA card to swipe in. It's the price of a subway Ride. Beautiful views over Midtown East and the UN Building.
Depending on your actual budget, there are also lots of things that might still be reasonably priced for your.
- You might want to try sitting down at a local diner for breakfast and you will see you can eat a lot for only $10!
- Get a Foot Massage. There are a lot of places especially down in the Village where a foot massage is between $20 to $30 for 1 whole hour!
- Same goes for Mani & Pedi. Lots of offers and deals that will not break the bank.
- If you want to shop, there are many Thrift Stores. Some of my favorite are Goodwill and Housing Works ...You might find a steal for $5 - $20.
I wrote this article mainly to list few ideas. If you need details or have questions, just add them in the comments or feel free to reach out.