Top things to do on a budget in New York City
New York City is a fantastic place to visit, but the high prices for flights and hotel rooms can be a little off-putting to some. Luckily, there are many great, budget-friendly things to do and see in the Big Apple. Here are our tips on saving money during your visit!
Getting around the city
The best and cheapest way to get around the city is a combination of walking and riding the subway. Because this city is structured very efficiently, with streets running east to west and avenues running north to south, orienting yourself is relatively easy.
One of the best things to do in New York is just walking through Manhattan and experiencing the noise, the buildings and the people on the streets. Only by walking through the city and occasionally stopping to look at something in awe, can you truly appreciate the unique atmosphere of New York.
Budget tip for walking through NYC on a hot day: there are a lot of newsstands on the streets that sell refrigerated spring water for $1 a bottle. You won’t find it any cheaper elsewhere in the city.
There are so many great sights however, that it is simply impossible to do everything on foot. Thankfully, New York has a large subway network, which allows you to move around the different districts and boroughs fairly quickly and relatively cheaply. A 7-day Metro Card will currently cost you just 29 dollars. The subway runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Statue of Liberty/Staten Island ferry
One of the most famous sights in New York is of course the Statue of Liberty. Visiting it, however, can be quite expensive. If you just want to see Lady Liberty from pretty close by, but don’t really care about climbing it, you should take a trip on the Staten Island ferry. This ferry runs between the southern tip of Manhattan and the borough of Staten Island and is completely free. It runs at least once every half hour (24/7) and gives you a great view of the Statue of Liberty, the harbor and the skyline of downtown Manhattan.
Top of the Rock
There are three great towers with observation decks in NYC: One World Trade Center (Freedom Tower), the Empire State Building and Top of the Rock. Each of those has its own charm and offers a different view of the city, but visiting all three is quite expensive.
Top of the Rock is probably the least known of these three, but it is the cheapest and offers the most beautiful view of the city. It sits on top of Rockefeller Center and although it is certainly high, it’s low enough to allow you to see Manhattan with more detail than you would standing on one of the other towers. It’s also the only observation deck in the city from which you can see the other two great towers, as well as Central Park. Try to time your arrival at the observation deck just before sunset, this will ensure you have a great spot to see Manhattan in daylight as well as all lit up during the night.
The best way to see Central Park however, is by walking through it. It’s free and no matter the season, the park always looks great. Even though it is located right in the middle of Manhattan, it can sometimes feel like an oasis of silence and calmness. It’s the perfect place to relax in the city and there’s plenty to see.
Located right next to the park are several world-famous museums. Most of these museums allow you to pay what you wish, so make sure you combine a walk in Central Park with a visit to one or more of the best museums in New York: the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met), the American Museum of Natural History (famous from the Night at the Museum movies), the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Museum of City of New York.
The High Line
Another must-see while visiting New York is the High Line. It’s a converted elevated train track that is now an urban walking park. It is free and goes from 34th Street down to the Meatpacking District. The walk is lined with overlooks, gardens, public art, and food stalls. This is easily one of the best places to spend a nice, sunny day in New York.
Although Manhattan certainly has the most famous spots, it’s definitely worth it to visit one of the other four boroughs of New York City: Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island. Out of those four, Brooklyn has the most to offer in terms of sights, food and amusement. Brooklyn is also pretty much devoid of any tourist traps (unlike Manhattan), which means that basically everything is cheaper and quieter.
You can get there by subway, but walking across the Brooklyn Bridge is much more fun, with great views of the city. On the other side of the bridge is a waterfront park which offers a beautiful view of downtown Manhattan, especially at night.
Other free sights
By now you have a pretty good idea of how to save some money during your stay in New York, but there are of course many other famous sights that I haven’t mentioned yet, which you can also visit for free, like for instance: Times Square, Grand Central Station, Wall Street, the 9/11 memorial (Ground Zero), and Washington Square Park.
New York City is so big that there is simply not enough room in this blog post to discuss all there is to do and see. But we know that after reading this, you will be able to save a few dollars when you visit the city that never sleeps!