One of the questions we get asked most frequently is how to visit New York City on a budget. The thing about NYC is you could literally wander around all day and not spend a dime, other than eating of course, and still be completely entertained. The architecture, the people watching, the window shopping, there is an endless amount of entertainment. Living in New York City for over 5 years now, we’re experts on this city, and have compiled our best tips for how to visit if you’re on a budget.
- To save some money, visit New York during the “off-season”. The cheapest time to visit is January – March, but be forewarned, it’s brutally cold.
- When booking your trip, look for flight fare sales. Prices will vary according to time of year and where you are coming from, but with 3 international airports in the area (LGA, JFK, EWK), chances are you’ll be able to find a great deal. Sign up for e-mails directly from the major airlines in your area. That will be the quickest way for you to find out about fare sales.
- Once you have your dates nailed down, start researching places to stay. While there are thousands of great hotels in NYC, many of them are very pricy. Keep in mind the neighborhoods you plan on spending the most time in when looking for a hotel. Typically visitors want to stay in Midtown, which is a good option if you’ve never visited the city before. One of our favorite places to find hotel deals is Jetsetter.
- Don’t succumb to the hop on/off buses or City Passes. Those are tourist traps and it’s much cheaper for you to do on your own.
- Take public transportation. Not only is it the quickest way to get around the city, it’s also the cheapest. Don’t be intimidated, it’s actually very easy to navigate. All you need to know is which direction you are going (uptown or downtown) and which train you are looking for. Be aware of which trains stops at which stations. Express trains bypass some stations, while local trains stop at each station on the line.
- If you have an interest in seeing a Broadway show, you can get discount tickets for most shows at the TKTS Booth the day of. Keep an eye on their website to get a good idea of which shows they tend to have available. We also love using the Today Tix app. Discount tickets without the crazy line. You just pick up your tickets from a Today Tix employee in front of the theater before your show. We’ve used it multiple times and have never had an issue.
- Food recommendations is a post all on its own, but you can start here. Every cuisine in the world is available here. It’s really hard to go wrong with food in NYC. Just stay away from chain restaurants. You can easily spend a big chunk of your budget on food. If you’re on a budget, try to skip ordering alcohol with dinner at restaurants or hit up happy hour. Most cocktails average $12-15 each.
- Believe it or not, there are tons of things to do in NYC for FREE:
- The Museum at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) is free and always has a great fashion exhibit on.
- The Museum of Modern Art is free on Friday evenings from 4PM- 8PM.
- It seems a lot of people don’t know this, but the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the MET) and the American Museum of Natural History are both pay what you wish admission every day. While not technically free, we’ve paid as little as $1 before. The Guggenheim is also pay what you wish on Saturday evenings between 5:45PM – 7:45PM.
- The Highline, Central Park and Prospect Park are some of our favorite spots in the city and they are all totally free.
- The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is beautiful (especially in the spring) and it’s free on weekdays between December and February and on Tuesday and Saturday mornings the rest of the year.
- TV Show Tapings:
- Most news/talk shows are free. You can head to Rockefeller Center to see the Today Show or Times Square to see Good Morning America being filmed. For some of the other talk shows like Live with Kelly, The Chew, Rachel Ray, Jimmy Fallon, Seth Myers, or Saturday Night Live you can either request tickets online for specific dates or enter a lottery. Each is a little different, but you can find all the details online. Definitely plan ahead though, tickets are usually released months in advance and go fast.
- The Staten Island Ferry, Grand Central Terminal, St. Patricks’s Cathedral, Rockefeller Center, and the New York Public Library are all places you can visit/tour for free.
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