By Jessica Festa
(Photo by Erik Drost)
While NYC is known for being pricey, it doesn’t have to be. All you need are a few insider tips and you’ll enjoy the best of the Big Apple on a budget. From free tours to complimentary nibbles, here are some top tips for New York on a budget, as told by a local.
1. Opt for free experiences
It’s a myth that everything in NYC costs a fortune. In fact, the city is full of complimentary experiences to enjoy. Wander lush and fun-filled grounds like Central and Prospect Parks, head to Bryant Park to learn juggling or take a yoga class, wander the inspiring Socrates Sculpture Park, see a show at Upright Citizens Brigade ($0-$10), take a free class at the New York Public Library, and keep your eyes peeled for free tastings at wine shops like Astor Wines & Spirits and Big Tree Bottles.
A number of world class museums offer donation-only based entry, like the American Museum of Natural History, Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, National Museum of the American Indian and the Leslie–Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art. If a museum isn’t free, check their website to see if they offer any special free days or evenings, as many do.
(Photo by Tassilo von Parseval)
2. Skip the taxi
Depending where you need to go, you’ll often be able to reach a destination quicker when taking the subway, as you’ll skip the street traffic. Although NYC’s extensive transport map appears similar to a scary alien creature when you first look at it, it’s actually simple to understand — and can take you literally anywhere you need to go. The easiest way to navigate the subway is with an app like Embark or HopStop, which both tell you exactly what you need to do to get from Point A to Point B. If you don’t have a smartphone, HopStop provides subway directions through its website.
3. Complimentary walking tours that rock
When planning a budget-friendly trip to NYC, don’t just book the first excursion that shows up in a Google search. First, check the offerings of Free Tours by Foot . This sightseeing company works on a tips-only basis, so the walking excursions themselves are no charge. You’ll just need to make a reservation to reserve your spot. To show you just how varied their tour offerings are, some options include Ghosts of Greenwich Village, Gramercy Thrift and Vintage Shopping Day, Central Park, Brooklyn Graffiti And Street Art, and Harlem Food, to name a few.
(Photo by Phil Roeder.)
4. Use tools for hotel savings
Accommodation is often the most expensive part of an NYC stay. Save money by downloading apps and using tools designed just for that. For example, Hotel Tonight allows you to save on unsold hotel rooms up to seven days before your trip. Moreover, Tingo is a travel booking website that offers price drop refunds, meaning if your hotel room becomes cheaper after you book you’ll get the difference back. And with Priceline you can bid on hotel rooms — although you’ll only know the class of the hotel before you pay — and often score business and luxury class hotels for 50% or more off. You can also use tools like Groupon and LivingSocial to find discounted hotels and travel packages — not to mention attractions and restaurants — typically offered at more than half off the original price.
(Photo by Jessica Festa)
5. Find happy hours serving free food
Happy hour is a great time to score discounted food and drinks. Not only that, but at select venues in NYC you can also get free food, often with the purchase of a drink. While Agozar! offers free tapas between 5 and 8pm, The Watering Hole serves a free buffet between 5:30pm to 6:30pm on weekdays. Head to restaurants like Crocodile Lounge, Alligator Lounge and Charleston and you’ll be savoring your very own personal pizza pie. Do some research to see where you can stretch those dining dollars even farther with complimentary bites.
Jessica Festa is the editor of the online food, culture and responsible travel magazine, Epicure & Culture as the solo and offbeat travel blog, Jessie on a Journey. Some of her favorite travel experiences have been teaching English in Thailand, trekking her way through South America, backpacking Europe solo, road tripping through Australia, agritouring through Tuscany, and volunteering in Ghana. You can also follow Jessie’s adventures on Facebook , Twitter and Instagram.