New York City is known for many things, such as its bright Broadway shows, huge Central Park, world-class restaurants, and skyscrapers. But it’s not known for being inexpensive.
Even a short trip to New York City can cost a lot of money. The city will never be a “budget break,” but there are ways to save money while you’re there.
Here are some tips on how to visit New York for less money, such as how to find cheap food and free things to do and how to plan your trip.
1. Find things to do for free
Some of the most interesting things to see in New York City are free. If you get up early and walk over the Brooklyn Bridge, you can see the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Heights, and all of Lower Manhattan lit up by the sun.
There is no charge to get into either the National Museum of the American Indian or the Bronx Museum of the Arts. The National Museum of the American Indian has a large permanent collection that includes reliefs, clay heads, and musical instruments. You can also look around the famous Rose Main Reading Room at the New York Public Library for free.
Feel like getting out on the water? On Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays during the summer, you can get a free kayak from the Boathouse at Brooklyn Bridge Park.
2. Eat cheap food.
In New York City, you get the most for your money when you buy food. In the morning, street carts pop up on Midtown corners to sell hot coffee, breakfast tacos, and Turkish eggs for just a couple of dollars to office drones and construction workers. A warm, toasted everything bagel with spring onion or veggie cream cheese is also a cheap and tasty way to start the day.
New York pizza is the best fast food there is. It’s a good deal whether you buy a slice or a whole pie at one of the many pizza shops all over the city. The same is true for hot dogs; Nathan’s Famous on Coney Island is a place that a lot of people like.
In this city, you can find cheap restaurants that serve food from all over the world. You can get dim sum at Nom Wah Tea Parlor and lamb dumplings at Xi’an Famous Foods if you go to Chinatown. Or, go to Zooba in Nolita for an Egyptian beef patty called hawawshi or 7th Street Burger in the East Village for a juicy American cheeseburger.
3. Make travel plans for Restaurant Week
During Restaurant Week (more like Restaurant Month), many of New York’s best chefs, like Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Daniel Boulud, Marcus Samuelsson, and Leah Cohen, offer fixed-price meals for $21, $39, or $125, if you want to go all out.
This is the best way to eat at five-star restaurants like Pastis, Union Square Café, Gramercy Tavern, Lafayette, Sylvia’s, and Babbo.
4. Find a place with greenery
There are some nice parks in the Big Apple, and spending an afternoon in one of them won’t cost you a dime. The best park is Central Park. Choose the path that takes you through Sheep Meadow, past the Bethesda Fountain, around the lake and the boathouse, and out by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Prospect Park in Brooklyn, which was also made by Olmsted and Vaux, is another winner. The Concert Grove Pavilion, which has just been fixed up, and the huge, picnic-friendly Long Meadow are two of the best parts. Don’t forget to walk through Brooklyn Bridge Park, which runs along the East River.
5. Save money on tickets to Broadway shows
You can get tickets to a Broadway show for a fraction of what they usually cost. Get in line at the TKTS booth in Times Square or download the app to get cheap tickets for the same day or the next day.
On the TodayTix app, you can book tickets weeks or months in advance. Tickets start at £25 and go up from there. Pick them up from the friendly employees in red T-shirts who are standing outside the theater before the show.
6. Visit museums at the right time
Some of the city’s museums can be seen for free if you know when to go. Many museums have free or “pay what you want” hours once a week, like the Frick Madison on Thursday afternoons or the Guggenheim on certain Saturday afternoons. On Saturdays, you can also get into the Jewish Museum for free.
The Neue Galerie in New York, which has a large collection of Gustav Klimt’s paintings, is free to visit every first Friday of the month. On Friday evenings, you can also go to the Rubin Museum of Art for free.
Families should go to the New York Aquarium, which is free after 3 p.m. on Wednesdays (but you still need a timed ticket).
7. A cheap place to sleep
Hotels in New York are known for being pricey, but there are a few gems that are less expensive. You can get a room at Pod 51* in Manhattan for less than £190, and it will put you close to the city’s most popular sights. The elegant Harlem Flophouse and the West Village The Jane are also good deals for the money (by Big Apple standards, anyway).
Outside of Manhattan, you can always stay at a big-name hotel like the La Quinta in Long Island City or the Comfort Inn in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park.
8. Take a free tour on foot
A walking tour is a great way to get to know the neighborhoods of New York City, and many of them are free. As the name suggests, Free Tours By Foot is one of them. It offers pay-what-you-want trips to Greenwich Village, Harlem, Brooklyn’s DUMBO, and other places, with themes like food and street art. SANDEMANs is another great option. It gives you a deep look at Central Park and explores food-focused areas like Chinatown and Little Italy.
9. Use Happy Hour to its fullest
In the City That Never Sleeps, drinks aren’t always cheap, so it’s a good idea to join the after-work crowd and make the most of Happy Hour.
Every day, the cozy wine bar Jadis on the Lower East Side sells pours for $7 until 7pm. From 5pm to 9pm, the popular bar Bunton’s World Famous in Brooklyn has drink specials. Cocktail fans should go straight to Verlaine, where the specialty is lychee martinis and happy hour lasts until 10pm. Beer lovers will also be happy to know that on Sunday afternoons, tours of the Brooklyn Brewery are free.
10. Seek out free views
Even though they have great views of the city, observation decks like Top of the Rock at the Rockefeller Center and the 86th floor of the Empire State Building are expensive and always full. There are some options that won’t break the bank, which is good news.
The High Line, an elevated park made from an old railroad track, has great views of Manhattan, and the views of the Manhattan Bridge from Brooklyn’s DUMBO neighborhood are also very popular. There are so many tall buildings in New York that a rooftop bar is another great place to drink. Try the Cloud Social at the Nyma Hotel in Koreatown. It has great views of the skyline and reasonably priced drinks. Happy Hour is from 3 to 7 p.m.
11. Know how to use public transportation
Even though those yellow taxis are often seen in movies, they are not cheap. Instead, learn how to use New York’s public transportation. The subway system is pretty big and easy to use. If you use it a lot, it’s worth getting an unlimited ride MetroCard, which costs $33 for seven days and lets you ride the subway or bus as many times as you want.
The Statue of Liberty looks great from the Staten Island Ferry, which is also free and a great alternative to the full tour. Citi Bike, the program that lets people share bikes in the city, can also be a great way to save money.
12. Look around for tickets to sports games
Are you ready to watch the New York Yankees play on their home field? Check out the Yankees ticket exchange to see if there are any cheap seats available. The New York Mets basketball team also has an exchange site. There are sometimes cheap, last-minute tickets available on official websites, so check them out when you get there.
13. Attend free events
Use your time in New York City well by going to a free festival. People who like to read should plan their trip for the fall, when the Brooklyn Book Festival is in full swing with free readings, author talks, and discussion groups.
Shakespeare in the Park brings a lot of people to the open-air Delacorte Theater in Central Park in the spring. The free GMA Summer Concert Series features big names like the Black Eyed Peas and the cast of Hamilton, while the SummerStage Festival has everything from jazz recitals to dance shows. Both of these events take place in the city’s “Green Lung.”
14. Think about a CityPass.
If you plan to see a lot of sights, a CityPass could be a good investment. It costs about £120 for one adult and gets you into the Empire State Building, the American Museum of Natural History, the Top of the Rock Observation Deck or the Guggenheim Museum, a ferry ride to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island or a Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise, and either the 9/11 Memorial and Museum or the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum.
If you do everything on the list, you can save about £80 on attractions, but it’s only worth it if you do it all.
15. Don’t stop at Manhattan
You might be blinded by the bright lights of Manhattan, but venturing out into the other boroughs of the city could save you money and show you a lot of cultural and culinary gems you would have missed otherwise.
In the past few years, the number of hotels in Queens has grown, and most of them are much cheaper than their Manhattan counterparts (the same goes for Airbnbs). Long Island City is a cool neighborhood in Queens that is known for its huge flea market.
Make sure to spend some time in The Bronx as well. Beyond Yankee Stadium, you’ll find the New York Botanical Garden and mom-and-pop restaurants with cheap Italian food for the whole family.