It’s no secret that New York contains plenty of cultures, history, bars, eateries, and sightseeing, but did you also know that much of it can be enjoyed for roughly $100 or less? Read on for a few ideas about what to see and where to go for a memorable trip to New York City without breaking your bank.
Top Free Activities & Things to do in NYC
Start spreading the news: a trip to New York City doesn’t have to cost a fortune. If you’re in the market for free and low-cost things to do in the Big Apple, you’re in luck.
Walk Across the Brooklyn Bridge
At 1.3 miles long, a walk over the East River courtesy of the Brooklyn Bridge takes an average of 25 minutes. Along the way, walkers can expect to enjoy breathtaking views of the city on both the Manhattan and Brooklyn sides of the river, as well as the busy harbor, which plays home to watercraft of all kinds. On a clear day, schlepping from the Brooklyn to Manhattan side is guaranteed to give a lovely sunset view, but foot travelers can pretty much expect a satisfying view 24/7. While adventuring between the two boroughs, be sure to spend some time at the Brooklyn Bridge Park on the Brooklyn side of the bridge. Take in all the incredible sights from the bridge and the park; don’t forget to bring your camera to snap a few photos of all the skyline!
Ride the Staten Island Ferry
Located at the southernmost tip of Manhattan, the Staten Island Ferry is one freebie that visitors shouldn’t miss. Running 24 hours a day with rush hour and off-peak schedules, the ferry takes passengers five miles from Manhattan to Staten Island. Passengers can expect a 25-minute ride that brings them past the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, as well as giving them a view of the city skyline.
Go Skating in Bryant Park
During New York’s crisp, chilly fall days, Midtown’s Bryant Park offers up the opportunity for skaters to take to the ice free of charge at its Winter Village. Skaters are allowed to stake for up to 90 minutes and can get warm afterward at The Lodge, which offers food and drink options like Pierogi Boys and The Stackery. Looking for other fun things to do in this area for your NYC getaway on a budget? Check out these awesome ideas that won’t break the bank, either.
Stroll Through Central Park
At 843 acres and 1.317 square foot miles, this famous public park packs a lot of free options within its gates. Whether it’s walking the trails, finding a spot for a picnic, watching the sailboats, or taking in a show at Shakespeare in the Park, these freebies are sure to please. The park is also home to dozens of free concerts and independent entertainers.
If you happen to get hungry while you’re there and haven’t packed a picnic, not to worry. There are low-cost vendors selling items like hot pretzels, hot dogs, and ice cream around each corner, in addition to several spots within the park to sit and dine in style (for a fee, of course).
New York Attractions Under $50
Tour the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
From 10 AM to 5 PM each day, visitors to the gigantic-ship-turned-museum docked at West 46th Street’s Pier 86 can expect a serious show alongside an informative tour about air and space that does not disappoint. Whether it is a guided tour, education demonstration, or taking a trip courtesy of its simulator, visitors can get into the spirit of the ship. On weekends, the museum also offers programs for children. Plus, there’s an opportunity for visitors to take a tour of a spacecraft, the Enterprise.
Looking for some free museums in the Big Apple? Check out the American Folk Art Museum for art history and outsider art. Learn about the history of the Brooklyn Navy Yard at BLDG 92. And finally, check out the Bronx Museum of the Arts for a massive, multicultural collection of art.
Climb Aboard the W.O. Decker
If you’ve ever wanted to experience life on a tugboat, the W.O. Decker, located at the South Street Seaport as part of its museum family, is a definite must-see. The old-fashioned, well-preserved tugboat offers 60-minute rides that take everyone onboard out into the harbor for views of three boroughs of the city that can’t be beaten. While onboard, visitors can also take a tour and learn about the history of the boat. There is currently a waitlist being implemented for tickets to this activity. Make sure you grab your tickets in advance to avoid scheduling issues while you’re visiting NYC.
Visit One World Trade Center
For those who want to know what it feels like to stand on top of the world, this 104-floor marvel known as One World Trade Center has got you covered. Completed in 2013, the vibrant building and its surrounding amenities offer plenty of dining, fun, and shopping opportunities well below 50 stories, and at the 100th to 102nd floors, guests have the opportunity to gaze at the city from high above. The Observatory also offers dining and exhibits. Tickets start at $35 and go up from there. If you’re feeling like you can splurge a bit at this spot, it’s worth taking the 60-minute tour. You’ll also get $15 to spend at the restaurant. It’s basically the tour, all the sights, and a cocktail for $68. We’d suggest going for it.
Other Activities Under $100
Catch A Discounted Broadway Show
If there’s one thing New York is known for, it’s the bright lights of Broadway, but at upwards of $140 a pop, catching a musical can really put a dent in your vacation budget. Enter the various entities selling the same Broadway tickets that get you into the seats, but at a discount. Check out the TKTS website, which offers up same-day discounted tickets for popular shows like Chicago and Frozen starting at $70 to $80 for top-notch seats. Be sure to get inline early for the show you’re interested in. There can sometimes be mobs of people waiting to snag tickets to the same show you’re interested in seeing. Being there early can really help you ensure you get the ticket you want at the price you can afford.
Feast Yourself on a Chinatown Gourmet Food and Walking Tour
With a reputation for being America’s largest Chinatown, this iconic neighborhood in New York City thrives on its spices, wares, and palate pleasers. With a fee of $69 a person, the three-hour food and culture tour involves walking about the zone and enjoying three sit-down tastings. Past trekkers have enjoyed dumplings, custard, and freshly carved Peking duck. In addition to all the tasty food you’ll get to chow down on, you’ll also learn about the history of the neighborhood. The tour will take you down some winding, hidden streets and is known for being pretty exciting.
Where to Stay on a Budget
Look for a chic apartment in Yorkville, an Upper East Side spot within Manhattan. You can also find some good deals on a rental over in Hamilton Heights. This gorgeous neighborhood is dripping with history and offers beautiful homes and apartments. You’ll also find great deals over in east Harlem. Restaurants, boutiques, and coffee shops are abundant in this area.
This Affordable Adventure Will Be One for the Books!
If it’s your first time in New York City, be sure to read through this guide for all the great tips we have for the first timer in NYC. For a long winded list of the best tourist spots in the city, check out this guide and learn about the dos and don’ts of the city. And finally, if the kids are coming with you, be sure to check out this city guide for families. Learn about things to do with families in the Big Apple, too. With so much to offer, it’s worth doing a little investigating before your trip to NYC. When it comes to finding the perfect rental for your stay, we’ve got you covered. Ready to start planning your trip? Head over to VacationRenter and start the planning today!