There are literally thousands of things to do on any given day in New York City. Tourists simply can’t experience all of the sights and activities available during their short stay.
It’s even more challenging to explore the city if you’re on a budget. The taxi ride from the airport to your hotel alone could set you back $100. However, if you know where to go and how to get there, you can see plenty of the city without spending a lot of money.
General Budget Tips
Let’s start with some general tips. Here are things you might want to know about traveling and navigating the Big Apple.
Don’t be afraid to ride the Subway. For $9 a day (or $3 per one-way ride), you can go almost anywhere in the city. It’s much cheaper – and often faster – than taking a taxi or renting a car.
Also, use Uber and Lyft when the Subway isn’t an option. They go almost anywhere taxis go, but you’ll save an average of $20 to $30 per ride.
You could also take a train from Grand Central or Penn Station.The rail lines go all over the city and beyond. It’ll take longer, but it will cost less.
Rates on hotels and excursions are cheaper between the months of January and March when there are no holidays and it’s colder. You’ll need a warm coat, but all the major tourist attractions will still be there, and you can save big on your trip!
Buy your souvenirs in Chinatown or from street vendors. Prices will be low, and you can haggle with the vendors to lower them even more. Avoid buying souvenirs in gift shops. For example, if you see a magnet for $10 after visiting the Empire State Building, chances are, you can get it for $3 on the street.
Most tours will be overpriced and unnecessary. You can make your way around the city on your own if you plan ahead.
However, a tour can be a great option if you or someone in your party has difficulty walking. A do-it-yourself tour will require a lot of foot time, so a tour can be worth the money if that’s not feasible for you.
These budget tips should save you a lot of time and hassle during your visit.
Free and Cheap Activities in New York City
Though you might want to shell out some extra cash for a popular broadway show or eat out at one of the nicer restaurants in town, much of your trip can remain inexpensive. As you plan, take into account some of these more affordable activities.
You could spend two or three days seeing all the wondrous sights of the city for free or cheap. Times Square, Grand Central Station, the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, the bridges, Battery Park, New York City Public Library, American Museum of Natural History, the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall, and so much more are all free to view from the outside. You may have to pay to go inside or travel closer to some of these landmarks, but the exterior view won’t set you back a nickel.
You might have to auction off your first-born to get into Hamilton (which is currently running for $300 apiece in the nosebleed section), but there are many other Broadway shows that are less pricey and tons of fun.
For example, Phantom of the Opera, which is the longest running show on Broadway, offers dirt-cheap tickets for as little as $15 if you buy them early.
You can also find vendors and websites that sell tickets at a discount. Just be sure that they’re selling legally.
Central Park and the High Line
If you’re looking for a scenic stroll in one of the most beautifully landscaped parks in the world, check out Central Park. It’s free to visit and is approximately 1.3 square miles, meaning you could walk the entire thing in an afternoon.
The High Line is a fairly new development that also offers romantic scenery. It’s an elevated walkway about 30 feet above the city on Manhattan’s West Side. The walk is about a mile and a half long. You’re surrounded by greenery and breathtaking Manhattan views. There are also shows and events held here, so you’re likely to run into some free entertainment along the way.