Broke college student who always dreamed of visiting New York City? Well, HELLO!
I’ve met a lot of people who’ve had NYC on their lists for years but have never made the trip because of the exorbitant prices to get there, stay there, and actually enjoy the city. Well, I’ve spent the last two summers interning there and I’ve been fairly broke the entire time but I had a ball of a time. So yes, it’s possible! Because, EVERYBODY should have the chance to make it to this city at some point in their lives.
When we think of the Big Apple, we think Empire State, Broadway, museums – yep, they’re all quite pricey and not exactly definitely well above some of our holiday budgets. Well, I think rooftops bars. But that’s just me, ha! So, let me tell you some alternatives and how I love to enjoy this beautiful city.
VISIT THE FREE ATTRACTIONS
While a lot of New York attractions do require entrance fees, there are a lot of stellar ones that don’t.
Walk the Brooklyn Bridge
Walk it from the Brooklyn side, so you’re seeing the Manhattan skyline on approach instead of walking away from it. If you can’t get there early before the crowds, definitely go at sunset. There’s not a whole lot that beats the skyline of Manhattan shimmering at sunset and into the night.
Wander the eclectic neighborhoods of New York City
Each neighborhood is so different from the other, each with its own charm and characteristics. My favorites are strolling through Soho for a little window shopping, skipping over to Little Italy for some dinner and gelato (on weekends, it’s bustling with people, singers, accordion players, of course, charming Italian men – just perfect), or the trendy East Village for a night of bar hopping (definitely the place to be for a younger crowd – people in their 20s). Strolling through the city is probably the best way to take it all in and one of my fav things to do. No matter where you go, you’re always going to see something weird or interesting going on that makes you think “…ah, only in New York!” Also, check out the Friends building in Greenwich Village if you’re a friends fanatic like me!
It’s hipster heaven! Wander the flea markets and bazaars of Brooklyn (I particularly like the Brooklyn Flea Market) and if you’re in town during the summer, DEFINITELY hit up Smorgasburg – It’s foodie heaven a.k.a my heaven! I could’ve spent the whole day here, mostly because I’m horrible with options. Especially food options. It’s a massive outdoor food festival with views of the Manhattan skyline – for sure an afternoon to remember.
Visit DUMBO (get that famous shot underneath the Manhattan Bridge) before making your way to the Brooklyn Bridge. That whole area is just a great place to walk because of the views across the river of the skyline.
Walk around Midtown and Times Square
A no brainer. Times Square is on everybody’s bucket list for New York – go at night to see Times Square in all its lit up glory and it’ll have you questioning your sense of day or night. BUT DON’T SPEND ALL DAY / NIGHT THERE!! Because there’s a whole lot more to see than just Times Sq. in NYC. Don’t forget to stop by Rockefeller Center while you’re there. One of my favorite walks is walking from Times Sq. down to the Flat Iron District. It’s a great stroll, taking you past some of the best of New York City – Bryant Park, the Empire State, Herald Sq. and then down to Madison Sq. Park and the Flat Iron Building. Visiting the Flat Iron at sunset is absolutely gorgeous – but then again, everything looks better at sunset, right?
Enjoy the parks of New York City
For me, it’s the days sitting at the many parks of New York that I loved most. One of my favorites is the High Line in Chelsea (an elevated parkway above the city built on old train tracks). Grab yourself some food from the Chelsea Market (another great market stroll – also home to some of the best fish & chips and cajun fries I’ve ever had) and take it up to the High Line and enjoy the atmosphere and views. Cheap food + views = win!
Pretend you’re a stock broker on Wall Street
Ok, maybe not. But definitely make your way to Wall St. and the surrounding area. Get your photo with the bull, or it’s balls because that’s now the new thing. Don’t forget to visit South St. Seaport while you’re in the area – it’s a wonderful little area with cobbled streets and filled with shops / restaurants.
Ride the Staten Island Ferry to see the State of Liberty
You want to see the Statue of Liberty? Take the FREE Staten Island ferry to Staten Island and admire the Statue from the boat. It’s just as good, if not better, in my opinion. You really can’t see much of the statue when you’re on Liberty Island itself because of how big it is. Plus the view of the skyline is unbeatable. I know, I say this a lot, but it’s just that pretty! Again, sunset is your best friend! The ferry runs every half hour so its super convenient – here’s the schedule.
Enjoy a drink and take in the views at one of New York City’s rooftop bars
Instead of paying 30+ dollars to go up to Top of the Rock or the Empire State, why don’t you go to one of the rooftop bars and enjoy the same view with a drink instead AND for cheaper!? I love 230 Fifth Rooftop – drinks are quite large and priced at $14 (which was quite affordable compared to most other rooftops) and you’ve got an unobstructed view of the Empire State. Watch the sun go down over the city with a pina colada in hand! Refinery Rooftop is also one of my fav’s.
But hands down, the 92c cocktails at Hotel Chantelle brunches take the cake!
Eat dinner during happy hour
Happy hour is also your best friend. Happy hours are pretty much everywhere in New York City, usually between 4 and 7pm. Some might stretch to 8, if you’re lucky. Not only are these a great deal for drinks, but they can save you a lot on food too. Dollar oysters on the Hudson?? Yes, please!
Make use of New York City’s food trucks! You can’t miss em’ – they will give you more food than most restaurants will for half the price. A lot of times, a smile will get you a free soda too 🙂
Get a Metro Card
For someone who isn’t used to city life and subway travel, the NYC metro can be daunting. But I assure you, it’s not that bad and you will find people who are nice enough to tell you exactly how to get somewhere! Using the metro not only saves you a ton of money but it is by far the quickest way to get anywhere. It is connected to every part of the city and you can usually get anywhere under 30 minutes. If you’re in New York for a few days, I would definitely think about getting a 7 day pass – it will save you a lot of money.
Watch out for the uptown/downtown directions – I’ve spent far too long on the subway riding in the wrong direction only to realize 3 stops later.
Explore New York City via bike or kayak
If you’re tired of traveling underground, try using the city bikes found all over the city or kayak. Citibikes cost $12 for a 24 hour period and biking along the Hudson river is definitely worth doing. Pier 26 offers free kayaking on summer evenings throughout the week and weekends and it’s such a great and alternative way to see the city and try something new!
Know when to visit museums
New York City is home to some of the world’s best museums. Unfortunately, they’re not exactly cheap. My favorite museums (9/11 museum, MoMa, Natural History Museum, to name a few) will all set you back a dime. FORTUNATELY, a lot of them have “pay what you wish” on certain days – where you can pay anything from $1 to $30!
Museum of Modern Art (MoMa) – free Friday evenings after 5pm
Whitney Museum – “pay what you wish” on Friday evenings
Guggenheim – “pay what you wish” on Saturday evenings
MET – always “pay what you wish”
9/11 Museum – free on Tuesday evenings after 5pm
Natural History Museum – “pay what you wish”
Purchase discounted Broadway tickets
It’s on most people’s bucket lists to see a Broadway show while in New York. Some of the popular shows will set you back an insane amount of money. Look out for the TKTS booths around the city (there’s one right at Times Sq.) You can score same day performances at 20-50% of the original price!
If tickets are still too pricey or you can’t get what you want, head to Ellen’s Stardust Diner where you can get an alternative Broadway experience while getting dinner. All the waiters are aspiring Broadway stars and are constantly singing and dancing famous Broadway numbers while you’re eating. It’s truly an experience and must do while in NYC!